The first post in our series about solo women RVers comes from Judy Patton of Ladynomad on the Road to Nowhere. Since she has been full-timing for 9 years, she is an ideal person for kicking off this series. If you are a solo woman RVer who would be interested in contributing to this series, please let us know.
Bio: My name is Judy Patton. I am in my mid-50s and prior to my RVing, most of my career was as a logistics analyst within the aerospace industry, although I also worked as a Federal Investigator, a tax accountant and before/after school care provider. I have been a full-time RVer for 9 years. My journeys are recorded on my blog: www.ladynomad2005.blogspot.com.
I started my RVing lifestyle with my husband, Jim, in 2002. We traveled throughout the U.S., including Alaska, doing volunteer work about 5 months a year with MMAP (Mobile Missionary Assistance Program), Everglades National Park and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Florida. This went on for 3 years until Jim became ill and died of cancer in 2005.
For the next 2 years I was a volunteer at French Camp Academy (a Christian Boarding School in Mississippi) during the school year, traveling to visit family and friends during the summer months. But in the summer of 2007 things changed and I ended up back on the road again full-time. I had left to meet up with friends at the Winnebago Grand National Rally in Forest City, Iowa, planning to return and go to work full time back at French Camp Academy when the summer was over. I was going to sell my RV and everything. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the lifestyle, but I did not enjoy doing things alone. I’m a very active person, enjoying hiking, biking, and sightseeing, and although I could do these things by myself, I didn’t want to. But at the rally in Iowa I met Sharon Del Rosario who was at the time president of the Solos, the singles chapter of the Escapees RV Club. She invited me to attend one of their rallies in Kendallville, IN, in September 2007. It was there I found out about several other singles RV clubs such as the SI’s, the singles chapter of FMCA; the LOWs, Loners on Wheels, a national club with chapters in every state; and the WINs, Wandering Individual Network. Although I remain a member of the SOLOs and the SIs, I spend most of my time traveling with the WINs.
I was surprised at how many single women were out there traveling in their RVs, some full-time and others just part-time. The ratio is about 50/50 men to women within the clubs. Each club has its own benefits and style. The SIs and SOLOs usually meet throughout the year for rallies, staying a week or so, doing some sightseeing and lots of visiting and socializing, but then they scatter until the next rally. The WINs, on the other hand, give you the opportunity to travel with other singles virtually 52 weeks a year if you desire. Their style is gatherings within a circuit or caravan, moving each week or so to a new location. Many times there are multiple gatherings going on at the same time.
Let me explain. Last summer the group started in St. Louis about mid-May and ended up in Astoria, OR, Labor Day weekend, following the Lewis and Clark Trail. They kayaked various locations along the way, including an overnight trip on the Missouri in Montana.They biked several rail-to-trails, including the Hiawatha Trail in Idaho. This upcoming summer will see one group heading to the east coast, taking in Niagara Falls, NYC and Washington, D.C., while another group checks out the Pacific NW. The newsletter announces the dates and locations of gatherings and you show up at the ones you want to participate. Some people attend only a few gatherings a year, while others travel along the caravan route most of the time. To join the WINs you must own an RV, be single and under the age of 70. During the winter the club hangs out in Arizona and southern California, starting with Thanksgiving at Borrego Springs, Christmas and New Years in Yuma, AZ; moving on to Quartzsite for the RV show in January and ending with a dance rally in Casa Grande in February. In between these gatherings the group may be on the beach in Mexico, hiking in the Superstition Mountains, visiting ghost towns and dancing wherever they can. We rarely stay in organized RV parks, choosing instead boondocking locations. We find places to stay on BLM land, forest service campgrounds, National Park campgrounds and other locations. Most of us are equipped with solar panels (I have 3) and inverters. I have gone months without hooking up to electric, just finding a place to dump my holding tanks and filling up with water every 2 weeks. Many of the group belongs to various fraternal organizations. I belong to the VFW, Eagles, Elks and Moose. I can usually find one of these lodges somewhere close to where I am heading and if there parking lot is large enough and there is no prohibiting city ordinances, the lodges welcomes travelers. I truly feel like a modern day nomad, traveling with a group of friends which have become family. People come and go from gathering to gathering, but like any other community, you have friends with which to enjoy the activities of this lifestyle.
For more information on the WINs, check out their website: www.rvsingles.org.
A while back, we took to some of our most trusted RV forums to ask what research our users (that's you!) did before making the transition to Fulltime RVing in preparation for a future post. Some of you replied with the names of books, e-books, and websites that you used for your research. That particular blog post is still coming but we did want to share one recommended website, Travels with Andy in the meantime. Below Andy shares with us his RVing back story and a couple of popular tips from his book, "From Camping to Fulltime" and his CD "Eureka 2 - Bright Ideas for your RV".
Upcoming Contest: We'll be giving away a couple free copies of both Eureka 2 and From Camping to Fulltime in the near future. So make sure to come back on Monday, 2/28 for the upcoming details for how to enter to win!
Eureka! One RVer's Bright Idea
I fell into RVing almost by accident. A friend was looking to upgrade from her small, 15-year-old motorhome to something larger; I had become fascinated by her tales of adventure, and when she mentioned that “Gertie” was for sale, I ended up buying the rig.
Once the initial thrill of having a cozy home away from home had worn off, I began to notice things that could be improved. After leaving my gas cap behind at a filling station, I made a simple wire gas cap holder so I’d have a place to put it while filling up. Then I worked on organizing Gertie’s storage space. I added a few halogen interior lights. It seemed there was always something more to do.
And I took photos, at first mainly to show my friends the enhancements I was making. But pretty soon I realized that I had the makings of a website, which I called “Improving Gertie.” I started getting a lot of compliments on the site. Complete strangers would email me to say things like “You have a well written, interesting site... Any wannabe, newbie or someone wanting fresh ideas (‘RVing 101’) should read ‘Improving Gertie.’ ”
The email that really caught my eye, though, was this one: “Have you thought about getting ‘Improving Gertie’ published in book form? I think it would be a great read, and a help to anyone thinking about RVing.” That set me thinking... and writing. I ended up expanding the “Improving Gertie” website into an electronic book with more than three times the material, covering everything from “home improvements” of all kinds to safety tips. I called it “Eureka! Bright Ideas for Your RV,” and it’s now in its second edition.
What is Eureka?
Over the years I’ve done a lot of tinkering with my rigs, and I’m always looking for ways to make them better—more comfortable, more space-efficient, more home-like. Eureka is a cornucopia of hints, tips, and projects based on my experiences. Everything from how to shower with less than a gallon of water... to plans for making a quilt that turns into a pillow... to ten useful things you can make with coat hanger wire... with more than 800 photos and illustrations showing how to put Eureka’s ideas into practice. But heck, why just talk about it? Here are a few quick examples.
The school of hard knocks
Here's a true story. When I was one year old, I fell down a flight of cast-iron stairs at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and landed on my head. Some of my friends would say that this explains a lot. It may account for the fact that I can't seem to see a shiny silver awning strut until I walk right into it.
Well, I'm not completely stupid. After a few bruises and a lot of embarrassment, I got the bright idea of slitting a couple of foam swim noodles lengthwise and slipping one over each awning strut. Now the struts are not only visible, but padded. No more black eyes!
Another tip: if your dinette table, like mine, has a leg that sticks out, you can cut off six inches or so of the swim noodle and put it on the bottom of the leg, where it'll keep you from stubbing your toes.
A stretchy solution
The small items in my medicine cabinet tended to wind up in a jumbled heap. Here's what I mean:
So I stapled a strip of 1"-wide elastic across that area, and now everything is nice and neat!
The first time I tried this, I put the elastic halfway up the space... but then discovered that it was difficult to remove or replace the items. Keeping it low (about an inch above the shelf) worked much better.
Turn up the pressure!
My old rig’s shower spray was a bit anemic, which made showering less enjoyable, not to mention taking longer. But I came up with a simple fix: plug half the showerhead's holes, and the flow from the remaining holes is twice as strong. I tested the idea first with tape, and it worked... so I laid a bead of epoxy glue around the outer set of holes, giving me a much more vigorous spray at the same water-saving flow rate.
Many RVers use the Travasak “sleep sack”, a sleeping-bag-like pair of comforters with a removable bedsheet insert. It’s nice, but pricey at $150 to $230. I made my own sleep sack from a couple of sleeping bags and a couple of twin-sized bedsheets—an easy job for anyone with access to a sewing machine. Eureka includes my plans for making your own under-$60 sleep sack.
Doorstops in the cupboard?
Yup! In my kitchen cupboards I use doorstops—the kind that resemble tightly coiled springs—mounted upside-down on the cabinet shelves. They keep the stacks of dishes from sliding around, yet still make it easy to pull them out.
There’s more to Eureka than quick tips, of course. Full-length illustrated chapters cover topics such as understanding and troubleshooting your electrical system without being a technical wizard, connecting to the internet while on the road, keeping your refrigerator cool, building a pantry closet, and making the most of your limited storage space (I have lots of tips on that topic!). For example, here’s a link to Eureka’s complete chapter on electronic books and ebook readers—an increasingly popular way to save space and weight while traveling.
The best part of putting together Eureka has been the enthusiastic response from folks who’ve bought it. Comments have ranged from “Wow, what a gold mine!” to “A must for everyone with an RV” to my favorite: “Eureka is the best money I have ever spent.” No matter what kind of RV you own, you can pick up some bright ideas from Eureka. To get an idea of the book’s scope, you can take a look at the complete index or visit the Eureka homepage for more information.
Andy Baird was plodding along at a desk job, convinced that he couldn't afford to retire... until a friend introduced him to RVing, and he learned that as a full-time RVer, he could retire and live comfortably on a fraction of his salary. Since then he’s traveled over much of the US, and has written several books and many articles about his adventures. You can read about his experiences on his “Travels With Andy” website.