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Severe weather shouldn’t be taken lightly in a recreational vehicle. If placed in a situation to evacuate your RV – either from a weather alert warning or a mandatory evacuation order – there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Flash/thumb drives with important files or photos
  • Computer with wireless access (notebook, tablet)
  • Two days clothing
  • First aid and toiletry kits
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Bottled water
  • Energy bars or snacks
  • Canned meat/fruit
  • Pet food
  • Pet medication

If you know you are going into an area that has a history of hurricanes, tornadoes or other severe weather, you should consider putting some emergency items in a plastic tote ahead of time – like flashlights and batteries. Make up a list (laminate and tape inside one of your RV cabinets) of items to grab in the event of an emergency evacuation. Have some canvas bags or backpacks handy for each family member to quickly place additional or last moment evacuation items in.

If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND STORMS

Wind storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids. Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Consider putting your slides in, especially if you have double slides in the back
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

If you decide to ride out the storm, keep your battery-operated radio handy. After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow Campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes. Hurricanes alerts give you several days warning. As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Put your slides in
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage. Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored. Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.  Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions. Do not risk your life over your RV or vehicle. Sadly, we know of Campers who have tried and lost.

SEEKING SHELTER

Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on. Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need. Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other Campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

My family and I have weathered hurricanes, wind storms, tornado alerts, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can live to tell your own storm tales!

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A funeral party on campsite #1 ~ Yes, really!

A funeral party on campsite #1 ~ Yes, really!

After I explain that I am a Full-Time RVer and what that means, the second round of questioning usually involves how boring it must be to live in a campground.

Honestly, I am surprised that Hollywood hasn’t picked up on the idea of a campground as a site for a reality TV show. I’ve seen more action, drama and comedy from our RV kitchen window than Hollywood can dish out!

I think one of the most amazing things I ever witnessed at a campground goes back to when I was a teenager. My family had a Coachmen motorhome at the time and we were vacationing (not Full-Timers yet!) at a campground on Lake Okeechobee (Florida). Our campsite was on the canal and we had our own boat dock. I was fishing from the dock while my parents were soaking up the Florida sun in their lawn chairs when we heard shouting coming from the boat ramp area. A friend of ours who was camped a few sites down ran over and told us that we didn’t want to miss the excitement. Curious, we headed down to the boat ramp area only to see a new boat (still attached to the trailer) and pickup truck slowly sink in the canal. The young man had “borrowed” his father’s new pickup and boat to go fishing. The ramp was slippery (I remember how scary it was for us to back our boat down with the motorhome) and he didn’t bother to engage the parking brake. The poor boat, still strapped to the trailer, didn’t have a chance! To this day I get a chuckle at the memory of that young man shaking his head saying, “I’m so grounded.”

One of the funniest things was to see a RV sink. Not just any RV – an American Eagle Motor Coach! It was actually my first year as a Full-Timer (and I was living alone in a RV resort in South Florida). I was preparing dinner and heard a commotion outside. I saw the motor coach backing into the empty site on the opposite corner. Immediately after backing into the site, the rear tires of the RV sank into the soft sand. His wife was yelling at him to pull forward, unfortunately, this buried it even deeper. By the time he got out of the motor coach, half of the back section was buried in sand.  It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather and offer help. The man started shoveling, trying to dig out the tires, while others found items to try to drive up on. After digging out the tires, the man started up the RV and tried to drive forward. Of course, this made it worse and once again, he was digging not only sand, but the boards that got broken during the attempt. When he made the second attempt, he took a tow chain that a fellow Camper offered and he had his wife get in their tow vehicle (which had been dropped prior to the backing) and start it up. She began backing their vehicle while he drove forward in the RV. Needless to say, the language was rather colorful after that attempt! Another Camper offered to use his 3/4 ton Chevy truck to pull the RV forwarded and that did work. Once he had the motor coach back in the street, he ordered his wife to walk every campsite first. It was hilarious watching her walk nearby available sites, stomping the ground madly, as if that would prove the ground wouldn’t sink their RV. Unfortunately during all this, I didn’t think about getting it on video. I’m pretty sure that would have gotten me $10,000 quite easily!

One day while living at a Florida RV resort we saw a brand-new motorhome drive by. We could hear Campers already going over to see if the new arrivals needed assistance and we continued eating. Suddenly we heard the motorhome backing up and then a load crash. We bolted from the picnic table only to see a group gather around the back end of the motorhome. The man hit a palm tree and the RV “bounced” forward. While a crowd gathered around to help, they really didn’t – as they were too busy talking to the man’s wife commenting on how beautiful their new motorhome was! No one was even watching him back-up! Fortunately the palm tree was spared. 😉

I could literally write a book (or a soap opera) on campground living, but the one thing I never, ever thought I would witness in a campground is a funeral. Not only that, but one right outside our living room! We were staying in Washington at the time and our campground was on the edge of a historic cemetery. The very first site of the campground actually overlooked the cemetery. We were camped two sites away from it, but joked that we had “dead quite” neighbors. As it turned out, during our last week there, a member of one of the local tribes passed away and was buried in the cemetery. They held his funeral party on the first campsite. Since it was a chilly day, they even started a campfire. (That’s our rig in the photo above.)

From seeing pot-bellied pigs in tutus (with their own tents I might add) to watching a man wrestle a wayward gator, I would never consider living in a campground boring!

You can't take it all with you!

You cannot take it all!

No matter what anyone tells you, you can’t take it all with you. If we could, you’d see a line of U-Hauls at the cemetery during every funeral service!

If you have a stick-house, it’s no problem, you just keep shoving the stuff in the attic, garage, basement and spare closets. When you run out of room, you buy a bigger house or find a storage unit to rent.

Of course, most people only keep important stuff right? Like my friends who moved into a bigger stick-house 4 years ago… who still haven’t unpacked half of their boxes. I’m sure this stuff they “just had” to keep was very important, so important they have left it packed for their next move to an even bigger house. 😉

Face it, we are a society of pack rats! I have mentioned before that downsizing is not that difficult once you reach that “letting-go plateau”.

One thing Full-Time RVers learn very quickly is that you can’t take it all with you. Most smaller motorhomes and travel trailers have very limited storage space. Larger motorhomes and fifth-wheels usually do have adequate storage, but extra items (such as a washer and dryer) take away from this valuable space.

You can’t live in a RV and own 40 pairs of shoes. Oh you could, but you wouldn’t be taking any food or supplies with you! Full-Time RVers have found the delicate balance of living with the basic needs of life and their personal wants.

We learn to simplify our needs and reduce our wants. You may need a skillet to cook your eggs in the morning, but do you need 6 different sizes? Only if you are a traveling chef! Full-Timers think about items that will be used the most often or items that offer multiple uses. If we don’t use it, we don’t need it!

Reducing your wants is a little more difficult for some folks and RVers are no exception. Temptation is all around us – buy this, buy that. We can’t help ourselves. Fortunately for RVers, “home” keeps us a little more grounded. We can only buy what will fit in our RV!

And we also have to live by the unwritten law of “In-Out-In”. If we want to bring more items in our RV, we must eventually move some out  to allow room for more to come in.

Most campgrounds and RV resorts have yard sale days or trader shelves (usually books, games, puzzles, maps, craft supplies) where we can unload some of the extra stuff we have picked up. Many of the Full-Timers I know donate their items to local charity thrift shops or use services such as Freecycle, BookCrossing and BookMooch.

After you simplify your life it just makes sense – this is how life should be. I think back at the days we when had all this stuff (see photo) and shake my head in disbelief. Don’t let material items weigh you down. Lighten your life and allow yourself more time to simply live.

There is a long definition of what makes someone a workamper, but it basically states that if you live in a RV and work, you are a workamper.

You do not need to travel vast distances to work – your RV can be sitting on a pad in a campground somewhere indefinately – and if you get up in the morning to do some sort of work (for pay or trade) or a have a volunteer job, you are a workamper. So if your grandma in South Florida lives in a travel trailer at a 55+ park and works at the local fabric store part-time, she’s a workamper!

Although most Full-Time RVers are retirees with pensions and/or Social Security, there are many who are not. In fact, this number is on the rise. Singles (or “solos”), young couples and families are discovering that you can not only make a living from this lifestyle, but you can also have more free time.

Work-campers are a varied bunch – from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community. Work-campers are usually very flexible. And they offer something that folks stuck with a house does not – mobility.

There are countless seasonal jobs in this country – from working NASCAR races and amusement parks to campgrounds and resorts to casinos and ranches to Christmas tree lots and fruit and vegetable harvests. Seasons vary as well as the duration of each position. NASCAR races maybe just two-three days a week for a number of weeks, but a resort position may be year-round. Salary benefits vary depending on the position. Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government, corporate and sales positions available to work-campers.

The first thing you need to do is research what types of jobs are available. If you are a “Wannabe” (what Full-Timers call those folks who want to try this lifestyle, yet are not ready) then you have time to discover what is available when and where and for how much.

Most books on Full-Time RVing contain a section on finding work or at the very least, Camp Hosting. There is one book devoted to the subject that I recommend and that is Support Your RV Lifestyle by Jaimie Hall. This book cites many places to seek additional information and it is a great reference book to keep (even after you have secured a position and think you know what you are doing).

The next step is to subscribe to a work-camper-related publication, such as The Workamper News or The Caretaker Gazette. Read all the listings, learn the terminology and see where the work is, when it is and the benefits that come with it. Some jobs only provide a free campsite with utilities, other may include a long list of benefits (as well as salary) such as laundry, propane, store or cafe discounts, Cable or SAT TV, WiFi, phone service, golf cart usage, etc… It may not seem like much, but if you start adding up your site costs and the extras, you may find that you are saving several hundred to over a thousand dollars a month from your own pocket! And longer term positions even offer medical and health benefits to their work-camp employees.

When it is time to pull-up stakes and make that transition to a Full-Timer you will have a better understanding of what is available. Begin applying for the upcoming season at least three months prior and do not limit yourself to one position! If you want to stay in a region for a period of time, then apply to all those that interest you and you believe you are qualified for in that region. If you wait on just one place to call, you may find yourself waiting a long time!

If you know when you will be available, advertise yourself. Many work-camper employers do not place ads. They either rely on repeat work-campers or “position wanted” ads. Many places online offer free ads, as well as subscribers for various publications, including The Workamper News.

And once you secure a position – especially if it is only a couple months – start seeking another one. The more you work-camp, you find this actually becomes much easier. And many work-campers prefer to work the same regions or even positions, season-after-season. They like the familiarity of the work and area and return each season.

If you are one of those already on the road or in a RV and find that your monthly income is not stretching as far as it was before the economy went South for the winter, then there are some things you can do immediately to start searching for a job.

The first one is to put yourself online. Advertise, advertise, advertise! There are several websites where you can post information.

If you just cannot get that money to stretch as far and the campground fees are eating your pension, then consider contacting your state’s website for information on being a Camp Host (usually termed “Campground Host program”). Other places to seek this type of work are from the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Corp of Engineers. You can conveniently find their opportunities at http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/ under the “Volunteer Opportunities” section (by state and job). Some of these Camp Host positions may offer a small daily or monthly stipend.

Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in. These are wonderful programs to get involved in, especially if you have no or very limited hosting experience. Several states even have yearly rallies for their Camp Hosts.

Another option is that many smaller campgrounds cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff and rely on work-campers to volunteer – a “work for site” deal. The campground you are staying in right now may need your help.

Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This can help you save money immediately.

And as previously stated, you do not have to even move your RV. If you want to find a position in the local community and work a regular 9-to-5 job, you can! That is another perk of the work-camp lifestyle.

Every day thousands of people go to work and return “home” to their RV. The only difference for a work-camper is where home is parked!

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Although many campgrounds today are advertising they are “Big Rig Friendly”, most campgrounds are not. Many campground were designed decades ago when RVs were smaller and did not have slides. For those RVers who have larger rigs or multiple slides, these older campgrounds can make arrival and departure a very frustrating time.

If you find yourself in a tight situation (such as these folks in the photo who came within inches of hitting a truck parked on its own campsite, while backing into their assigned camp site), there are several things you can do to make the situation a little better.

At check-in, be honest about your rig length. Yes, some campgrounds still charge for larger rigs – but there is a reason for that. Bigger rigs get bigger sites! Don’t say you are 30 feet in length when your rig is 35 feet! A few feet can make a major difference.

If you have any slides that are problematic (deep, long or perhaps double-sided) ask the reservationist if there are trees, high electric boxes, lamp posts or other obstacles on your site. If they are uncertain or do not know, ask to view the site first.

Pull-thrus are the preferred sites for Full-Timers because often you do not need to unhook your rig and these sites are usually close to the entrance. However, they are often bordered by smaller trees (“awning eaters” is what I call them!) or lamp posts for late-night arrivals.

When you are assigned a camp site (or if you are allowed to find one on your own) get out and walk it. Look for your hookups. Make sure the electrical box contains enough amps (especially if you paid a higher price for 50 amp service) and that – if applicable – it has Cable or Sat TV hookup. Locate your water and sewer hookups.

We have noticed that some older campgrounds still have shared water hookups. To temporarily correct this, they have placed a Y-connect on it. Make sure that if your water is shared it has such a connection and if it does not, contact the campground office before you get set-up. If you have your own Y-connect, you can use that, but keep in mind that if campers are (or will be) beside you, you will have to turn off their water and disconnect their hose to get your Y-connect back when you leave.

If there are any movable obstacles in your way, such as a picnic table, make sure you drag them out of your way.

The next step is to discuss the site with your spouse and/or family. If it is a back-in site, make sure that your spouse or family members help you. They need to remain in your mirrors and also in the back corner of the rig to watch for any problems. Some RVers use radios to communicate. This is okay, but often hard on the driver trying to maneuver the rig and maintain contact. Larger rigs sometimes have back-up cameras. This is good, yet someone watching outside is still recommended.

Maintain communication with your helpers! Discuss the terminology you will use. Does “HOLD IT!” mean you are going to hit something or you should just stop? What does “straight” mean? Should the driver try to straighten the rig or do you really mean he should “follow” the rig and it will be straight? This may seem trivial but to a driver this is crucial information. And remember to maintain mirror contact at all times. If they can’t see you behind the rig, they cannot hear you!

If you are arriving at a campground at night you will find yourself having more difficulty getting in a campsite. Why? You’re tired from a long day and everyone is cranky. Plus, it is dark and you cannot see everything. Do not let that add to your frustration. Make sure everyone has flashlights and walk the site as you would during daylight hours. Move obstacles, locate hookups and potential problems. See where you want to put your rig and have your family stand on both sides of the back corner of the rig (yet in your mirrors) with flashlights. Use the light as a guide where to center the back of your rig. If you are traveling alone or with just a spouse, place two flashlights on the ground where you want to have your rig.

A great set of flashlights to get are Craftsman rechargables. They stand-up and when the batteries are weak, you can recharge them. We have helped people back-in after midnight, in blinding rain, during wind storms and heavy snowfall with these flashlights. They are very heavy-duty and well worth the cost. They can save you quite a bit of frustration during late-night arrivals!

Once you are in your campsite and level, walk around and verify if your slides will clear any identified obstacles, especially electric boxes. If you cannot judge or if it appears close, carry a small tape measure with you and measure out the width of your slide from the RV. We have a slide 40 inches deep. May not seem like much, but since the slide is over 10 feet long, that can make all the difference in the world with a tall electric box! So if anything appears close, measure before putting your slides out. Do not let a damaged slide ruin your trip.

Most often when you arrive at a campground you will find a few folks who will flock around you and “try” to help you get into you campsite. If this makes you nervous, all you have to do is let them know their offer of help is appreciated, but you and your family have a system.  Most are very understanding and will return to their own site or stand aside so you can get into yours.

If you do arrive at a campsite that is too narrow or not long enough, let the campground office know immediately. Do not try to damage your rig or cause yourself a lot of grief trying to fit in a site that is too small. Most are very understanding of RVers needs. And if you find another vehicle or RV on or encroaching on your assigned campsite, ask the office before you do anything. Occasionally some Campers will spread out more than they should. Although most are apologetic and will move, some will not. Try not to put yourself in a bad situation with your new neighbors. Ask the campground office about what should be done in this situation, as this is something they need to be aware of. You may try to handle it yourself, but if your neighbors have extra vehicles on your site, they may not have paid for extra vehicles (or extra people) and the campground office may not be aware. Some campgrounds restrict the number of vehicles and/or people allowed per campsite.

Fitting in a campsite does not have to be a hassle each stop of the journey. Ask for a large enough site to accommodate your rig and walk over the site before pulling or backing-in. Locate your hookups and any obstacles. Have your companions help you and communicate with each other. If you have a system or plan at each stop and you will soon find “fitting in” less of a hassle.

I don't sleep on a bench, but I am homeless.

I do not sleep on a bench, but I am homeless.

I had the most interesting conversation recently. I was asked how long I had lived in the area and I explained that I wasn’t from the area, that I was just passing through. I then went on to explain that I was a full-time RVer.

“So, you’re homeless?” she questioned.

I explained a little more about the RV lifestyle in hopes that she would have a better understanding of Full-Timing.

When I arrived “home” to the RV, I found myself curious as to the definition of “homeless”.  Because we do not have a stick-house (what Full-Timers call a wood house), I always considered us “houseless”, but not “homeless”, as we do have a place to call home (which just happens to have wheels). Naturally I went online to see what I could find on the subject.

According to Wikipedia, homelessness is:

Homelessness is the condition and social category of people who lack housing, because they cannot afford, or are otherwise unable to maintain, regular, safe, and adequate shelter…. A small number of people choose to be homeless nomads…. www.wikipedia.org (Homelessness)

I also found various nomadic subcultures of interest and began to widen my search. Those who practice the nomadic lifestyle are undergoing “planned mobility rather than forced mobility” [www.wikipedia.org (Homelessness, “Voluntary homelessness in nomadic cultures”)]. Unlike those who have financial troubles (eviction, disaster…) or other problems (illness) and cannot have or maintain shelter, nomadic cultures have reasons to be homeless. They move seasonally to where there is food and/or to work or trade.

In a sense, those of us who are full-time RVers have our own subculture – we truly are “modern nomads”! Yet we are not homeless by financial means, we are homeless by a lifestyle choice. And most move seasonally for work or trade opportunities in other areas.

And apparently, when I said I was a RVer, she was thinking of the classic stereotype.

There is a stereotype that people who live in RVs full-time do so because they are poor and cannot afford more conventional housing. However, an increasing number of people are opting to sell their homes and live in their RVs, which can cost as much as their home did. www.wikipedia.org (Recreational Vehicles, “Features”)

So yes, according to what I have read, I am homeless. I am not homeless by financial means, I am homeless by a lifestyle choice.

I am nomad.

I am a modern nomad!

After a winter storm, the beach was littered with debris and driftwood. (WA)

The wonderful thing about RVs is that they are self-contained. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster to remind us that we need to be self-reliant as well.

            When we think of disasters, many think of natural ones. Yet most of us are just as likely to encounter some sort of major traffic or chemical incident. If placed in a situation to evacuate our RVs within minutes there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Jump drives with important files or photos
  • Laptop computer
  • Two days clothing
  • Toiletry kit
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries

            If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND AND WINTER STORMS

            Wind and winter storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids.

            Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Plug in ceramic heater(s) to save propane in anticipation that the electricity will be going out
  • Help hold your inside temperature by banking heat (closes blinds, cover windows and, if necessary, pull in slides)
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and insulate your water tank and hoses if needed
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

            If you decide to ride out the storm, begin layering your clothing and turn down your heat.  Keep your battery-operated radio handy.

            After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

             If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes.

            As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

            When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage.

            Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored.

            Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

            If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.

            Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions.

 SEEKING SHELTER

            Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on!

            Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

            Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need.

            The road to disaster does not always have to be a rough one. My family and I have weathered three hurricanes, wind storms, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can make that road to disaster a lot smoother.

One thing that concerns Full-Time RVers is communication from family and friends. With modern technology, it is so much easier to know where everyone is and how they are doing.

If you have a cell phone with a great long distance plan and no concerns with roaming, you are all set! If you don’t and are locked into a contract where you can’t change or upgrade, there are other options for you. The first is a pre-paid cell phone such as a TracFone. This service is actually on the rise and you’ll be surprised to find these “throw away” phones have more features than yours!  Prices for pre-paid phones start as low as $10 and go up to $50 if you want a camera phone and texting ability. The phones do last a very long time (I know one person who has had one for two years) if you keep them properly charged. The only thing is to remember to “reload” (purchase more minutes) before it gets too low or you get too close to your end date. This is displayed on your phone and you will have plenty of reminders long before that date comes. You have pre-paid for your minutes and can call anytime and anywhere you wish. You can even make international calls. The secret to pre-paid phones is registering them or reloading them when they have specials. Usually these are advertised at their website. You can often double your minutes just by taking advantage of a special. And the cell signal reception in an area will be the same as a contracted cell phone!

Another option to consider is getting a calling program through your personal computer, such as Skype. Most programs are free to download with a minimal charge for the calls. A nice pair of headphones with mic can usually be purchased for under $10. Some instant messaging programs (IMing) even offer free voice and webcam connections through their software program.

A Full-Timer who wants to stay on top of the news, weather and travel information should have a laptop computer.  If you don’t have a notebook or netbook computer, then you should consider getting one. Getting online is just as easy today thanks to more businesses, campgrounds, truck stops, cafes and libraries offering free or cheap WiFi access. Being online allows you quick access to family and friends via email, instant messaging  and calling.

If you do have a computer and haven’t a clue how to enable WiFi (or even if you have it) – run down to your local computer shop and ask them. If you don’t WiFi capability, as them what it would cost to upgrade. Once you have WiFi enabled, it is very easy to log in to the local access.

Relying on campgrounds with free (or cheap) WiFi access is a good way to stay in touch, but not all campgrounds have the greatest WiFi service. Some have limited range and if you aren’t camped in particular sections you may have no signal at all. There are antennas that can be purchased to help amplify your signal. Those can be found advertised in RV magazines and websites, as well as RV dealers.

However, there are still places on the planet with no WiFi or phone signal  (believe me – I know!) and having another means of net access is necessary. Most Full-Timers are purchasing AirCards through their cell phone provider. If you don’t have a cell phone provider, don’t worry! Companies like Verizon will set you up with an AirCard, although you may pay a little more a month since you have no other service (ie. cell phone) with them.  The nice thing about having your own means to connect to the internet is that you don’t have to drive all over town in your RV looking for places that offer WiFi.

Mail service is another concern for the Full-Timer. Most people now pay everything electronically, which saves on getting monthly bills received or sent out via regular postal mail. However, not everything is that way. In every RV magazine (ie. Trailer Life, Motorhome Life, etc…) you will find a section in the back devoted to companies that offer Full-Timers mail service. These companies do have a fee (which varies on the “plan” you get) but are good ways to keep the mail coming. Plans can vary from letters-only to limited packages to unlimited packages. Many RV clubs, like the Escapees, will offer a reduced mail service for members. A new feature to mail services is electronic mail, and I mean that literally. They will scan your postal mail and email it to you. You can choose what types of mail they send to you this way. Some services will even look out for certain pieces of mail and call you when it arrives!

If you are a Seasonal RVer, chances are you have a stick-house or place to call “home” for part of the year and your RV to call home the remainder. In this case, you have a physical address to get mail for part of the year. When you are in your RV, you can get mail either temporarily forwarded to the campground you are staying at or a local PO Box.

Many larger campgrounds and RV resorts have mailboxes (free, unless they offer private boxes for a fee) available for extended-stays. The only drawback to this is you have to wait until the campground staff sorts your mail. On a busy day in a busy campground, you may wait several hours. In addition, if it is a generic mailbox arranged alphabetically, you have to wade through a stack of campground mail until you find all of yours. And there is the issue of privacy. We have seen folks look over everyone’s mail, curious to see what they are getting. If it is around a holiday and you have a package from the Swiss Colony, believe me – every Camper within 100 campsites will know before you do! It’s annoying and time-consuming, but is a free service most campgrounds offer.

So there really is no reason not to stay in touch while you are on the road. Let your family and friends know you wish they were there (or not)! 😉

If you are in the market for a used RV and have decided to look at a private seller’s camper, you may come across a “homemade” or conversion camper. A conversion is usually a rebuilt or redesigned bus.

There are many pros and cons when considering a conversion.

School Bus Conversion "Camper"

School Bus Conversion Camper

This photo is of an actual school bus conversion camper that was allowed in one of the campgrounds we recently stayed in.

From the photo, you can see why some RVers (especially the Campers these folks parked right on top of ) are not always happy to have conversions as camp neighbors and why many campgrounds will not allow conversions in their parks. And even if it is not mentioned in their park rules, a glance out the entrance office window toward your conversion may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up as all campgrounds have the right to refuse service to anyone.

In this particular case, these folks didn’t even change the original bus colors (which is against the law in most states). If that isn’t enough, just seeing the standard home window air-condition sticking out the back should be a clue that the folks who “converted” this school bus had no idea of the laws or safety issues involved in recreational vehicles. This conversion could possibly be a hazard with electric or propane issues. Imagine a fire or explosion in the confines of a campground! That is why many campgrounds prefer vehicles that have been inspected at a factory and manufactured by known companies.

Yet there are conversion campers that are skillfully designed and have had professional repairs and installations made. These conversions are usually very expensive (usually the same price, if not more than the cost of a new RV) and it shows. They are the ones that make television specials and articles in DIY magazines. When they pull in a campground that allows conversions, other RVers often flock around it in awe hinting for tours!

If you are seriously considering a conversion, you should first be aware of the laws within your state. Contact the appropriate local government agencies and get the information you need about what is legal and what is not. This will save you a great deal of heartbreak later on if you find yourself with a traffic ticket-bound conversion.

When you find something that does comply with state laws, make sure you get the full history of the conversion. Find out if anything is under warranty and if the manuals for all items are included. Unlike a new RV (or even a used one from a dealer who offers limited-warranties on purchases), you will find yourself paying for any and all repairs that are needed. If you can’t make those repairs yourself, you will be forced to go to a RV dealership. Since your conversion is not standard, you may find yourself waiting for parts and paying heavily for repairs.

If the conversion has had professional work on it, get all the information you can on what they did and who to contact if you have a problem. This will save you a great deal of hassle is there is a major problem later on down the road.

Insurance companies may treat this a bit differently than a recreational vehicle, since it is a converted commercial vehicle. You should contact your insurance company and ask them about how conversion campers are handled and get an estimate on how much it would cost you for insurance.

If after searching for a conversion you find that you would rather build your own, than you have to do a great deal of homework! Talk to people who have lived and designed their own conversions and ask them to tell you the pros and cons they have discovered. Read all the books and articles you can on the subject before you even start to look for something to transform into a “camper”.

There are many pros and cons to a conversion and only after you do some research will you know if it is a good idea for you. This is a type of decision you can’t jump into. If you do, you may find yourself with a costly, never-ending project.

Double Rainbow in Florida

A double rainbow appears after a storm in Florida.

One thing that does concern Full-Time RVers is severe weather. RVs are self-contained and can withstand reasonably cold temperatures and moderate winds. Yet it is foolish to intentionally weather any type of severe storm in a RV.

The first thing every RVer should invest in is a NOAA weather radio and/or weather alert radio. In case a weather Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information. This information can not only save your lives, but those around you.

If you are staying in an area prone to severe weather, especially hurricanes and tornadoes, then you should find out where the local shelters are. Make a trip, finding the route.  Ask the campground staff if they notify their campers about severe weather alerts and what they advise campers to do in stormy situations.

Many campgrounds do have recreational buildings or concrete block buildings, but if they are not designated shelter areas, the manager will probably not allow you to stay (insurance reasons). If there isn’t time – such as a tornado – by all means, evacuate your RV and head to the closest secure structure you can – even if it is the campground restroom. But if you have time and know that severe weather will effect your area, make sure you seek an official shelter.

We have RV’d through all sorts of weather, including hurricanes. Fortunately each time our RV only had minimal damage, but we have seen horrible things happen to them. They flip over, they are crushed by trees or large debris, they blow-up (not literally, but it appears that way) and they disappear! Do not ride out a strong storm or a hurricane. RVs can be replaced, people cannot.

There are preparations you can do to help protect your investment if you have the time. Many RV books devote sections to storm and winter/storage preparation.

If you are told to evacuate, you must. If it is a volunteer evacuation or if you want to leave on your own accord with your RV, make sure you have: Fuel (and extra cans if possible), Cash (ATMs do run out of money prior to disasters), Canned Foods, Water, Flashlights, Batteries, Weather Radio, Personal Information (insurance papers, contact information, etc…), Cell Phone (don’t forget extra batteries and the charger), Camera, Medicines Needed (and prescription information if they need refilled while you are away), Laptop Computer and an Overnight Bag (with clothing and toiletries). The overnight bag may be needed if you find yourself stranded and are suddenly forced to leave your RV.

In addition you will want to make sure your tank is filled with water, holding tanks emptied, propane tanks filled and RV and tow batteries charged. You cannot plan on arriving to your evacuation destination. We know too many RVers who have evacuated only to find themselves stuck only two or three hours from where they left. And most times, especially if it is a hurricane, you find yourself in a worse situation! So be prepared, even if you are fleeing from disaster. Do not take Mother Nature for granted.

If you decide to stay and go to a shelter closer to the impending storm, then you still should prepare your RV for emergency living after the storm. Living in storm aftermath is not fun. It is chaotic and frustrating. Most likely you will not have electricity for at least a week (we have went three weeks without after hurricanes), propane and gas stations will not be able to pump without electricity (which means no refrigerator, stove, hot water, heat and/or generator fuel for you), lift stations (if your campground has one) will not be able to pump sewage and water will usually be by boil-order for days after the storm.

And you will be forced to stay at or near your campground, as the roads will be filled with debris or not drivable. Officials will close roads to non-residents and some roads will be dangerous without traffic lights and signals. This may sound silly, but people cannot drive without STOP signs or signal lights – they run intersections without stopping or yielding in the storm aftermath. In a storm aftermath situation, each intersection (without signs or working signal) becomes a 4-way STOP. We have seem many accidents caused, especially living in hurricane aftermath because of folks not following the traffic law.

Storms bring out the best and the worst in people. After the second hurricane we were in (as Full-Timers), we witnessed things we didn’t think possible. Scavengers were driving through the RV resort looking for aluminum scraps (especially off older trailers and venting). For those who weren’t able to return or were Seasonals away for the summer, belongings that were scattered were targets for scavengers to steal.

But again, storms also bring out the best in people. Many of us gathered folks belongings and secured it back on their property. We also shared food and supplies with other campers in need. We helped cleaned up debris (as much as we could until the professionals arrived) and offered generator usage time for those who didn’t have generators.

If you find yourself on the road to disaster, I have more information at: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/on-the-road-to-disaster/

A popular place to boondock is Quartzsite, Arizona.

Last month before the winter “snowbirds” began to arrive, we made a trip to Quartzsite to see exactly what the area looked like and what it had to offer.

It pretty much looks like this for about one hundred miles. Quartzsite does have some small businesses and several campgrounds (that do offer full-hookups and some amenities).  The closest Walmart is in Yuma, which is about 90 miles (one-way) south of Quartzsite. Lake Havasu which is just north of Quartzsite does have many chains and franchises, as well as Blythe (California) directly to the west.Off the road in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Boondocking is an option that many regular RVers try (even for a short while). It is affordable and it is a great way to test your independence. There are many books and articles written on the topic and if you are interested, you should do your research. If you know someone who has had experience boondocking, you should also pick their brain on tips and advice on this type of living.

One of the biggest concerns when contemplating the Full-Time RVers lifestyle is – how do I make a living? For those with an already stretched pension or Social Security check, campgrounds and resorts can eat up a great deal of money. $300 to $1200 a month for full hookups and extras. And for those who are relying on a part-time or even full-time job – what do you do to make ends meet?

If you live in a RV and work or volunteer from it – you are a work-camper. It does not just apply to those working in campgrounds, RV parks or resorts. If you work as a florist and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you are a volunteer at the local library and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you work 12 hours a week at a campground to pay for your campsite and you live in your RV – you are a work-camper. If you sell on eBay and live in a RV – you are a work-camper.

Work-campers should not be stereotyped (although I know some readers will still be thinking of old trailers and shady characters in a trailer park). Work-campers are a varied bunch – from singles to couples to families with children; from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community.

If you have some income and just want to live free, consider volunteering at a local state or national park. Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This would mean hundreds to thousands of dollars being saved for you with free site and utilities! Most states have Campground Host programs – Google the state you are interested in to sign up for their program. Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in.  Many smaller campgrounds that cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff also look for volunteer hosts and work-campers.

If you do not have an income, you can easily find outdoor hospitality jobs that would include full hookups (Although some Southern states where the temperatures require constant air-conditioning, often make you pay metered electric. Some campgrounds do offer electric “allowances” for their work-campers to reduce their monthly bill.) In addition, you would want one that paid to make your monthly expenses. Remember, some areas are only seasonal – so if you require a steady paycheck, you need to find something reliable.

If you are Full-Timing with a spouse or travel companion, one of you could work/volunteer just for your campsite, while the other found a regular job nearby. This would guarantee free living, while generating another income. Most volunteer or “work for site” situations do not require many hours (usually under 20 if you are getting full hookups and perhaps a Cable or SAT TV service) and the extra person could work a paying job if needed.

If you find a volunteer or “work for site” job that requires more than 20 hours, you should get some additional perks, such as free laundry, propane allowance, store discount (if they have a camp or general store) and any other services they offer such as free WiFi and Cable TV. If not, you should get a breakdown of the hours and site costs. Some campgrounds have been known to take advantage of “work for site” folks. I know of one campground owner in Arizona that actually has the nerve to take a $500 deposit from it’s “workers” in case they leave suddenly. This is not right as you are working weekly for your site and should be working in accordance to your stay.

The best thing you can do when you find a position, even if it is as a Camp Host, is to ask for a Work-camper Agreement or some sort of contract that states what your arrival and departure dates are, what you receive (full hookups, etc…) and what the hours and job duties involve. If you are told you only need to work 10 hours a week for your site handing out camp brochures, then that is what the contract should read. Some places will try to take advantage of work-campers as they “have them” and most people will not be able to just pack up and leave. So protect yourself with some sort of contract.

There are many places to look online for a job, especially Full-Timers. The most popular is Workamper News. The have a daily job hotline emailed to you and a bimonthly magazine. However, there are many other publications, such as The Caretaker’s Gazette,  where employers seek out work-campers. You can also place an ad offering your own skills and have employers seek you out. Several websites offer free ads (maximum word count) or free ads with a subscription to their site or publication.

Word-of-mouth or recommendations from other work-campers works just as well. If you are interested in working outdoor hospitality, you should try to work a Camp Host position first, to give you an idea if this is for you. Working with the public can be…well, it can be a pain in the behind! So if you are able to volunteer for a month or so as a Host, that would be ideal. That way you won’t find yourself locked in a position at a campground or RV resort for 6 months and hating it.

There are many options out there and the more you do your homework and speak to other Full-Timers, the better off you will be. You will be surprised to find how varied work-camper positions are! From working NASCAR races and Amazon.com to casinos and ranches to amusement parks and apple harvest pickers!

Another growing area for work-campers is security or caretaking properties. Not much (or any) experience required, yet you are provide with a free place to stay and life for a minimum number of hours.

Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government jobs available to work-campers. There are a number of businesses who specifically want work-campers because these folks offer a diverse workforce and are often very flexible. Being a modern nomad is a good thing!

If you don’t need an additional income and don’t want to volunteer, then you may consider boondocking. Although this is something you should really discuss with other Full-Timers, especially those who have boondocking experience. Boondocking is just that – living in the  middle of nowhere (usually!) with no or partial hook-ups. You must live independently with your own batteries, generators, propane, solar and whatever else you can. You’ll require regular visits from a honey wagon (pumps your holding tanks) or must have your own tote tank and nearby sewer dump station to do it yourself.

We recently visited Quartzsite, Arizona which is the boondockers hangout in Western Arizona, about 90 miles north of Yuma. You can get a space in the desert  with a cheap permit from the BLM. The drawback to this type of lifestyle is most areas that are open to regular boondockers are very far from modern amenities. So if you only shopped at Walmart and it was a 90 mile drive (one-way, as in the case of Quartzsite), you may find yourself limiting your trips or suffering from the isolation. Yet again, it’s free (practically) living.

There are websites online that tell you places you can camp or stay free as well. Most are short-term, but it’s money saved! So you can live free, or close to it by either work-camping or boondocking.

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

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DYING TO WORK CAMP (Book #3)

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