How to Ditch Convention, Buy an RV, & See the U.S.

by Gigi Griffis

This is part of my new interview series, designed to demonstrate the wildly varied ways we can live, work, and chase our dreams. Please keep in mind that, since these are interviews, the opinions, methods, and websites contained within do not necessarily reflect my own views or experiences. (Which is, in my opinion, part of what makes them wonderful.)

Today, I’m super excited to introduce you to my fabulous aunt and uncle, Bobbi and Don, who spent last winter traveling around the US in their RV. They are here to talk about the adventure, how they chose their RV, and why they love traveling this way.

Without further ado, then…

Tell us about you and DT. Where do you live? What do you do? What do you like to do with your free time?

Don and I live in Canon City, CO, where we have a Peruvian Horse Ranch. We have been retired for 15 years from our own companies and careers in Indianapolis, IN. The ranch started as a “retirement project,” something to learn and do together.

As of late, we are scaling back from that full-blown adventure to retire from our retirement and have more leisure time to travel, relax, enjoy the horses in a more casual setting, play golf, pursue remodeling projects to our current ranch, and explore new activities. Purchasing the Fifth Wheel was part of that strategy to try something new.

When did you first start traveling and what made you fall in love with it?

Both Don and I have always loved traveling. We dreamed of it when we were young, tasted it as young adults, and have thoroughly enjoyed it over the last 20+ years that we have been together. We love it because it offers something new and different each and every time we go somewhere. We love the thrill of new discoveries…the people, the sites, sounds, and tastes of many cultures. It is exciting, stimulating, and educational. We are continually challenged to learn new things and it keeps our lives fun and we always have something to look forward to with the next travel adventure. Life is never boring or sedentary.

What made you want to buy your RV and start traveling around the US?

The initial interest in the RV (fifth wheel) was to have a way to compete in the NATRC 50 mile horse races that required you to be in “camp” for the three day event. Since we don’t do the tent thing and did not own a horse trailer with living quarters, we felt this might be an option to participate and still have the creature comforts of home while riding our horses in these remote places.

We rented an RV America for one such weekend and found it to very interesting (and we were thrilled to have our bed, bathroom, shower, and heater when the weather turned cold that weekend). Additionally, many of our horse friends had campers, RVs, motor homes, and horse trailers with living quarters, and this would enable us to join them on social horse-riding weekends in the wild. We thought it would be another fun adventure to explore and, once we started looking, it was exciting to think of all the places we could go even without the horses.

What kind of RV did you buy and why?

After much shopping, comparing, looking, and thinking what would suit our needs best, we chose the Coachman, “Chapparal” fifth wheel. We liked the idea of a fifth wheel vs a motorhome because once at your destination, you can unhook your truck and have transportation wherever you want to go (vs. having to tow a car behind a motorhome). For the remote locations where we planned to go, fifth wheels are easier to get in and out (and many National and state parks have restrictions on size). Also, fifth wheels are less expensive than motorhomes since you are not purchasing another full motor. And since we own several trucks, it didn’t make sense to spend the extra money for another motor.

We didn’t choose a horse trailer with living quarters because we wanted something more versatile to take on trips when we were not going to have the horses with us. Plus, the fifth wheels had more living space and that was appealing. It has the open floor plan we like, the price was right, the thought of the new adventure and a different way to travel was intriguing, and we thought: “why not us?”

You call it the Love Shack, yes? How did you choose that name?

We purchased the fifth wheel on Valentine’s Day (2/14/13) and, thus, named it the LOVE SHACK, just seemed fitting. People name their boats, so why not name our RV?

Tell us about this winter’s big adventure: Why did you decide to go? Where did you go? How long were you away?

Our first adventure loop began only weeks after we sold our big ranch in Guffey, CO. We wanted to try the RV out and celebrate that sale.

We traveled down through Texas and across the bottom of the US, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. In addition to the thrill of the new adventure, this trip was to visit friends and relatives we had been promising to see over the years. The trip took one month.

In the summer, we spent multiple long weekends with our “Dinosaur Ranch Club” horse and social club members throughout the state of Colorado. Plus, some side trips to jazz festivals and to see new territory we had not experienced. The Love Shack proved to be an effective way to travel, we could take our dog (Miss JR) and have all our personal things with us, and we found that we really liked the whole concept.

So, in the fall, we decided to go again…this time the trip was wrapped around going to a “Cowboy Christmas” event in Las Vegas in early December. That was always on my bucket list to attend. In order to get out of town before the bad weather set in, we left November 25, spent 10 days in Arizona before going on to Las Vegas for the one-week event. Since Palm Springs, CA is only five hours from Las Vegas, we decided to go there for a month to escape more of Colorado winter. The initial plan was to return to Colorado mid January, but we ended up staying in Palm Springs, CA until April 1.

Love shack road trip 081

What was your favorite place on this trip and why?

Palm Springs, CA was definitely the highlight of the winter trip. The weather there was exquisite, the RV Resort was top-notch, and the area offered everything we love to do: abundant live entertainment, golf, festivals, extraordinary restaurants, horse events, shopping, car shows….the list was endless. The Love Shack also made it very affordable to extend our stay.

What tips do you have for others who want to RV around the US?

If anyone wants to RV, they should really evaluate what they want to use their RV for to determine the size, length, weight, set up, where they will be going with it, and how many people will be traveling in it. Don also remarks that you must be mechanically minded, as there are always things to check, fix, review, and do to keep your RV in top working order. Also, you need to be comfortable in pulling a large load. We have had boats and horse trailers, so this was not an issue for us.

Tell us about traveling with your dog, Miss JR.

We have taken our dog, Miss JR, on most of our trips and it is wonderful to have her with us. Most of the time when RVing, you are outside doing things and exploring, so having a larger dog wasn’t really that big of a problem. You do have to be aware which RV Parks are pet friendly and which are not before you just show up. Also, your dog has to be well mannered, trained, and on a lease at all times while in RV parks. This could be a problem for some. And you must always pick up after your dog, so if that bothers you, leave your dog at home.

Additionally, even if RV parks are pet friendly, not everyone in the park likes animals and you may have neighbors who aren’t too fond of having your pet so close to them, so be aware and respectful of other people’s space. Barkers are not appreciated, for sure. If you plan to leave your pet inside your RV while you are out and about at a warm destination, you’ll need to have air conditioning.

What do you love most about RVing?

I think what we like best about RVing is the flexibility and comfort of having all your stuff with you, your own home on wheels, no packing and unpacking as you move from place to place. You can change locations easily, see quite a bit, and it is quite an affordable way to travel in the U.S. In the first year of owning our RV, we spent 53% of our time in it vs. our big, beautiful home, so that is a testimony to how we much like it.

Where are you off to next?

Our next big trip will be to do a loop up through Wyoming (Grand Tetons/Yellowstone), Montana (Glacier National Park), Calgary, Canada for the Calgary Stampede (another bucket list item to see), Banff, Canada, Lake Louise, Coeur d’lene, Idaho (including Boise), Sun Valley, Nevada and Goshute Lake, Nevada where the wild horses are, the Great Basin National Park, Fish Lake National Forest in Utah and finally back into Colorado through Grand Junction/Gunnison. I figure this trip will take about two months and, of course, we will need to go during the summer months. It won’t be this summer, since we just returned from being gone for five months, but perhaps next.

For now, we will continue to use the Love Shack for short exploration trips within the state of Colorado both with and without horses as exciting events emerge and we need to have a place to stay to enjoy! And in the meantime it operates as a great “guest house” on our ranch property for visiting friends and relatives. (It does open a whole new world of possibilities.)

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