When we first started Full-Timing over the road we found ourselves quickly frustrated at our first new “home town”. We were unfamiliar with the stores (mostly different chains) and found ourselves struggling with directions. The entire town consisted of one-way streets or detours. We would ask locals for information, but mostly it was wrong or too confusing.
Often we found ourselves there by sheer dumb luck! Only we weren’t really sure how we got there and had just as much trouble finding the place the next time. This made our short stay (two months) rather chaotic.
So I decided to create a journal for our next “home town”. That worked so well for us that I do it for each area that we will have an extended stay (two or more months).
Whenever we decide our next route and where we would like to stay, I purchase a blank journal. If I have limited information on the region, I visit the local visitor’s center or chamber of commerce’s website for information, brochures and maps. I print out important information (such as medical clinics, banks, post offices, favorite stores, RV supply stores, etc…) and then cut and paste it in the journal. I make sure to include special directions, phone numbers and business hours in the journal.
If there are unfamiliar stores and restaurants listed at their websites, I quickly research them online. Most stores, especially grocery stores, have their weekly sale flyers posted online (by zip code or state) and it is a great way to learn the store’s product selection and prices. I put notes in the journal about these stores so that we have some background on them when we arrive (ie. need a frequent shopper card at this store, this store open 24 hours, etc…).
I do the same for local attractions and areas of interests. I also make a note of any special events the attraction or community is having.
After I have this information included in the journal, I then either print out a map of the area (if available online) or I contact the local chamber of commerce for one through the mail. When I have the map, I note where stores our in location to our campground. This way we have something to start us off with.
Many campgrounds and RV resorts provide maps, but often these are only a few miles and contain stores and companies that paid to be sponsors of the map.
When we arrive at our location and we pick up brochures and found other places of interest, I add them to the journal. If we find short-cuts or better routes, I make sure to include the directions.
We make sure to stop in at the local visitor’s center within our first week. That way we can obtain additional information on the area. If we are staying in the area for longer than three months, we try to obtain a free phone book or business directory. When we are ready to move on, we just leave the phone book or directory in the campground laundry area (or at the office) for other Full-Timers to use during their stay.
When we leave for the day, our journal comes with us. It has been a life saver! Currently we are in Texas and we are not use to the never-ending frontage roads, turnabouts, FMs and RMs! The journal has gotten us around our new “home town” and safely back to our home (the fifth-wheel) several times. Without it, I am sure we would be on I-10 circling Houston for the millionth time right now!
I save each journal so that if we do return to that particular area we already have the information. This is also great for Full-Timers we met on the road, who are headed in those areas. I have pulled out the journal and told them what exit number a mall was on or the best place in town to order pizza (very important information for Full-Timers). 😉
It does take a great deal of research, but it is well worth the time and effort. Now when we pull into a new area, we quickly find ourselves at home!