I honestly don’t remember when I first got into the idea of a long-term RV trip, but I think it probably came sometime in 2019. I had taken about six months off in late 2018 where I traveled from DC to Los Angeles via three Amtrak trains, and drove almost 2,000 miles from West Texas through New Mexico and Arizona to Las Vegas, with trips in between to Kentucky, the Florida Keys, and Pittsburgh (on a week where low-temperature records were shattered.) The west, particularly the southwest, is intoxicating. I think growing up in the suburbs at the edge of the woods on a mountain in northern New Jersey (where you can barely see the end of your block) makes the allure of wide-open spaces particularly captivating.
In some ways, I feel like I never completely came back from those trips. I do love DC and I’ve mostly enjoyed my time living here, but it’s far past time to try somewhere new. Lucky for me, I have a partner who feels the same.
And then, COVID. We’d bought a 2-bedroom condo less than a year before with no outdoor space. And the sad truth is there just aren’t nearly as many reasons to live in a dense, crowded part of a city if you can’t even take advantage of the stuff that made the neighborhood great.
Three Big Limitations to Planning Our Fulltime RV Life
For us, planning an RV trip was informed by three major but unavoidable limitations. To put it simply, while we’re happy to upend most of our life to do this, there are certain things we just can’t work around, or don’t want to.
Visiting All 48 Contiguous U.S. States in Our RV – in Two Years or Less
I’ll be 31 by the time we leave on this trip. It’s not lost on me that I’m not a kid anymore, and in fact, more people of my age are *having kids* instead. Speaking for myself, I don’t feel particularly satisfied with what I did in my 20s. For most of them, I worked too much at a job that stressed me out, killed my social life, and barely paid the bills. Ultimately, I felt like I was doing more harm than good to the world. “Making up for lost time” feels both cliched and just too sad, but it’s not far from the truth of how I’ve tried to spend the past few years.
But neither I nor Morgan (who is four years younger than me and not possessed with so much existential angst about her age; she actually likes her birthdays!) want to spend the rest of our lives hopping from RV park to RV park. We’re both looking forward to getting on to the “adult” part of our lives. A house instead of a condo, a dog, some land. My parents are older, and candidly, I’d like them to be around to get to know their grandchild someday.
So how does one see the entire lower 48 in two years or less, while working full time or close to it? Very deliberately. Or…not, depending on your perspective.
As much as it might resemble it, I promise I’m not looking into Pepe Silvia.
This route (read in order: Green, orange, purple, red, pink, teal, yellow, white, black) is NOT optimized for the shortest distance to visit every state. Obviously. It has more to do with the next limitation…
Keeping the Cat (and us) Safe and Happy While RVing – Avoiding Extreme Hot or Cold Weather
Everyone, meet Linus.
He is a joy, and a terror, and he is coming with us on this trip. Linus was originally Morgan’s cat, but like all adoptive cat dads (so I hear), I spoil him. I would run through a wall for this cat.
Naturally, he’s one of our top priorities in planning an RV trip. Since he’ll have to stay in the RV most of the time when we leave, his safety is a big concern. While we plan to only leave him for longer periods (8-10 hours at most) while at a campsite with shore power, I’ve also found some backups and fail-safes to help alert us if the power fails and our AC or furnace goes out. Something happening to Linus because of this trip is one of my worst fears, so on top of all this, we plan to try to keep our traveling to areas with tolerable temperatures during the time of our visit.
Plus, we don’t like the cold very much, either.
We’re not quite “chasing 70” exactly, but it’s not far off. But perhaps the most important issue here will also do quite a bit to dictate our trip…
Staying Connected and Working On The Road
For me, this is actually relatively easy. When you’re part-time/freelance/semi-self-employed, I can pretty much do what I need to do from just about anywhere with a mediocre data connection. But what I do (whatever that is these days) isn’t the issue, because we, unfortunately, can’t travel the country on what I make. At least, if we don’t want to live like some of the folks in Nomadland, which…let’s say I’d like to avoid having to use a bucket for any reason.
Unlike me, Morgan has a great job, and a legitimate career. As a partner, it’s been amazing to watch her climb the ladder and advance at work. She has been working completely remotely for over a year now, with no issues. But like any company they have some questions that need to be answered before we get the green light working remotely from an RV, hopping from place to place every week or two. The biggest of these, unsurprisingly, is how to ensure she can always stay connected, regardless of where we are. This was among the steep learning curves in planning an RV trip for me since I had only the vaguest sense of mobile data.
But thanks to the Mobile Internet Resource Center, I feel pretty confident in the plan we’ve put together. I’ll share more about the specifics in the future as the pieces start to fall into place. But if this is something you’re curious about, check out the link. These guys are everywhere (podcasts, RV conferences, private Facebook groups) and having everything you need in one place is incredibly helpful. Plus, they have a very helpful app called Coverage? that overlays the coverage maps from the big cell carriers over an interactive map
As you can see, our plan involves AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile together. And when you have these three, there’s really not many places in the country you can’t go.
All The Other Stuff – Must-See Stops, Visiting Friends and Family, Seasonal Events, and More
Oh yeah, what about…everything else that goes into planning an RV trip? Morgan and I are both big fans of national parks, so most of them made our list of must-see places. We also want to spend time in cities like Nashville, Atlanta, Denver, Portland, and Santa Fe (among others), and experience the remoteness of West Texas and Wyoming. We’re not planning on coming back to DC. So for the first time in almost 15 years or so, I’ll be considering new places to live, and for the first time ever I’ll be picking that place with someone else.
Like most people, we’ve also got a few dozen people among our friends and family scattered throughout the country – lots of whom we haven’t seen in a long time, especially considering the pandemic. This is part of the trip I’m particularly looking forward to. After such a tough and strange year, it feels important to affirm our connections with people who I still think of regularly but rarely see, even if we don’t speak often.
Plus, there’s like…Mardi Gras. Sturgis. State Fairs. The Kentucky Derby. Burning Man*. I don’t expect to be back to some of these parts of the country very often, so the goal is to take advantage of our ability to be just about anywhere at any time and do some things we’d never get the chance to otherwise.
Watch This Space
I’ll be posting periodically with updates on all these issues and how we’re tackling them. As always, thanks for reading.
*I don’t think we’re actually going to Burning Man.