Just in time to escape the brutal winter weather in Michigan, we said good-bye to family and friends at the end of last October and made our way along Route 66 to the southwestern desert. We spent the winter camphosting at Lake Pleasant Regional Park near Phoenix, a Maricopa County Park, and thoroughly enjoyed the warm, sunny winter weather.
We enjoyed beautiful sunsets, desert hikes, boat rides, balloon glows, classic car shows, and even some snow!
When our camphosting duties ended in April, we continued west and north, exploring the Pacific Northwest and the northern states on the way back toward Michigan. Our 2nd year of travels added 8 new states to our map, completely filling in the western half of the country (except for Kansas!),
and we visited 15 more National Parks in 2014 (making good use of our National Park Pass), bringing our grand total to 41!
We wanted to be able to spend some of the summer on Michigan’s beautiful beaches, so we arrived back in our home state on July 14th (in the Upper Peninsula) and spent almost 2 months enjoying this great state!
We enjoyed some beautiful summer days,
and spent some time with some good friends!
Both boys were able to experience driving over the “Mighty Mac”,
and we managed to collect a few nice petoskey stones.
He drilled a hole first, then polished them with the dremel tool, and then sprayed them with a clear gloss.
I think they look pretty good!
Here’s a close-up of the finished stones.
Amid all the travel and adventure, Nicolas graduated high school,
As we continued our travels around the country, he checked in with different recruiters, which gave him several different perspectives on preparing for bootcamp, and the Navy in general. We’ve also met lots of military retirees in our travels, and they always had great advice to share with him.
So, now that we’re back in Michigan, he’s meeting regularly with his recruiter and continuing to prepare for bootcamp.
His departure date and subsequent graduation date will determine our plans for this winter, so we’re definitely working with jello this year! In the meantime, we’re helping him get everything in order – what he’s taking with him (luckily, he doesn’t have much stuff!), and his “adult” finances. He’s really looking forward to this new adventure, and he’s ready to move forward with his adult life. We’re very proud of him, and confident that he’s going to be successful in whatever he does!
This year will be a new experience for us, too, with only 3 of us travelling now, and still 2 vehicles to drive. Nicolas drove the RV at least half the time, if not more, and now Tom will have that job all to himself! By the time we leave, Bryce will have his level 2 license and will be able to drive alone, so he and I will take turns driving the car, with the one not driving riding in the truck with Tom to navigate. It’ll be a little more challenging, but we’ll manage . . .
With this in mind, Tom has started his search for a new RV. We’re looking at class A motorhomes, which will put all of us in 1 vehicle, but does not have the best sleeping arrangements. We’ll probably continue looking for a while, staying with our current rig for now. I can turn Nicolas’ room into my sewing room, and Bryce uses it for lifting weights. The two of us are not in as much of a hurry to change!
I’ve had several people ask us how we like the toyhauler for fulltiming with a family, and the answer is that it has served us pretty well. We like that each of the boys has their own queen-size loft and cabinets for their clothes and stuff, and the 14’ garage offers lots of carrying space for bikes, grill, dog, chairs, etc.. When we get to where we’re going, and staying for at least 3 nights, we empty out the garage and convert it to living space.
It’s a pretty good Man-Cave, but it’ll make a good Mom-Cave, too, I think!
I can take down those Mustang posters, and hang up a quilt or two!!
Financially, our second year was pretty comparable to our first. With 4-1/2 months of camphosting, our camping fees averaged out to just over $500/month, which was a little higher than last year, but still not bad. Once again, July and August were our most expensive months, especially August (over $1200!) which was all in Michigan! We live in an expensive camping state, I guess!
In the last 12 months, we put almost 11,000 miles on the truck, averaging $350/month on diesel, and almost 21,000 miles on the car, averaging $250/month on gas. Not too bad, and pretty much right where we expected to be.
Once again, food was a major category for us, although groceries proved to be less expensive in the west than they were in the south and rocky mountain region. Our monthly average for groceries was $775, with an additional $350/month spent on snacks and meals eaten out. It will be interesting to see how much that drops when we are down to just 1 teenage boy mouth to feed!!
Our vehicle insurance has remained pretty stable, and as long as I am working we don’t have health insurance expenses. Entertainment expenses averaged us about $250/month, with our big expenses being 4-wheeler and jeep rentals, tours in San Francisco, and our annual National Park pass.
Our next year is going to be spent in the eastern half of the country, and we probably won’t cover as many miles, but there is still plenty to see that will be new for all of us . . . we’re looking forward to continuing the adventure!