RV Life – Maiden Voyage

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
Our rig configuration when starting the RV Life in 2017.

The final preparations are in place. The checklist complete. The countdown has commenced. The maiden voyage is about to launch!

If you’ve been following my articles about the RV Life, then you know this story, the Maiden Voyage, is our moment of truth. It’s about the day we had been preparing for since taking A Trial Run in 2016 out to the Grand Canyon.

  • We worked through the many questions to understand Why Go RV?
  • We worked through the selection process, deciding on What Kind of RV we wanted.
  • We worked through the budgeting process, answering the question, Can I Afford It?
  • We worked through the many steps needed to Prepare for Launch.

Our final preparations were coming together. The checklist nearly complete.

We laid in our RV bed each night in the driveway as launch day approached, running through scenarios in our minds and imagining what we might be forgetting, or still needed to do.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
Baron & Amber with their rig. Thank you for all the excellent advice!

We had many wonderful conversations with Baron & Amber, our family members who were very experienced with long-term RV living, getting as many tips and ideas from them as we could.

We joined Facebook groups for RV Living, watched YouTube videos, and read dozens of articles.

Our household goods were packed away into the storage unit and the RV was staged for full-time living. Our camping and outdoor gear was loaded and ready to go.

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We implemented a lesson learned from A Trial Run, Part 1, placing bubble wrap in-between dishes, pots & pans, and secured just about anything that might move while in transit.

We realized that the truck would be an extension of our home, especially on travel days, so we staged it with several convenience items and comfort accessories, such as pillows, seat cushions, phone chargers, books, snacks, etc.

The change of address was submitted to the Post Office. Our places of business were updated with the new address and converted to paperless where possible (banks, bills, subscriptions, etc.)

The new cellular data plan was set-up and the tablet device was tested as a hot spot to ensure I could access my company network. The signal booster was installed and tested.

Medications were filled and our doctor was notified of our new mobile lifestyle plans. Medical records were collected and brought along in case we required care in another location.

We updated our insurance and added an RV roadside assistance plan.

Good Sam Roadside Assistance

We stashed some emergency cash in case we encountered issues with our credit cards while on the road.

We explored various online tools and apps, selecting the ones we thought would help us, such as …

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
Hundreds of mobile apps are available to help you plan your RV lifestyle.
  • The Good Sam App – to research campgrounds all across the country, learning about their rates, amenities, customer reviews, etc.
  • Apple Maps – to help us plan our routes from one campground to the next, avoiding tolls or tight clearance areas (low bridges, sharp turns, etc.). Maps is also an excellent tool to find local merchants, using the “Find Nearby” feature.
  • Yelp – to help us avoid bad merchants when traveling to areas completely new to us.
  • Blue Beacon App – to help locate truck wash locations for our 60-foot rig (40 feet of trailer plus 20 feet of truck).

There was just one more thing to do, one of the hardest. We said our goodbyes to family and friends. At our final Sunday service before hitting the road our church family gathered around and laid hands on us, lifting up prayers of protection, safety, and provision. Psalm 91

We were finally ready! The countdown commenced. Just a few days until launch day, Friday, April 28, 2017.

Where To Go?

We wanted a good first road test but didn’t want to wander too far from our Tennessee home base in case we ran into trouble. We needed a camp site close to a populated area for good cell signal with full-service hookups (water, sewer, electric), so Cheri used the Good Sam App to find a beautiful campground about 3 hours away in north Georgia near Cartersville, right on the shores of Lake Allatoona, called Allatoona Landing Marine Resort.

My plan was to work a partial day on Friday and head-out in the afternoon. That should put us in our camping spot by dinner time. Well, this rookie had some learning to do.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
Towing safety requires quality equipment. Photo courtesy of Weigh Safe.

I didn’t realize how important it was to align the ball and hitch just right in order to properly engage the coupler latch.

I’m embarrassed to say that even with Baron on the phone I spent almost 2 hours figuring out the sweet spot before finally learning how to make a proper connection!

There was also the WDH (Weight Distribution Hitch), which I had zero experience with except for dealer orientation day when I picked up the trailer and drove it home for the first time. It took me twice as long as it should have to properly engage and secure the bars.

  • Rookie mistake #1 – I should have practiced the hook-up procedure beforehand.
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The time delay caused us to arrive at the RV park much later than planned. I was not prepared for that and never expected that I’d be parking and setting up the RV in the dark. Maneuvering the rig into place at night was a challenge, but not as bad as I expected. I did knock over a pylon at the campsite across from me, but luckily no one was there. The pylon wasn’t damaged and was easily reseated into the ground.

One saving grace for me that evening was a tip from Baron. He suggested I get a headband flashlight. This helped immensely, allowing me the use of both hands rather than holding onto a flashlight.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
Campfires and a night skies can sooth the day’s hassles. Photo by Josh Willink.

It took me way longer than it should have to set-up camp, finally enjoying a late dinner and a cold beer under the stars.

  • Rookie mistake #2 – I should have practiced the leveling and set-up procedure beforehand.
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Our reservation was for the whole week, with plans to return to Tennessee the next Saturday. Besides enjoying the lake and the campground amenities, two main points of interest were on our agenda.

Red Top Mountain State Park

Surrounded by the 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona, this state park is ideal for swimming, water skiing and fishing. Visitors can bring their own boats or rent from nearby marinas. A sand swimming beach is nestled in a cove and surrounded by trees, providing a great place to cool off during summer. Picnic shelters and group shelters can be rented for meetings, parties, reunions and other celebrations.

Red Top Mountain is also a hiker’s haven. More than 15 miles of trails wind through the forested park, providing opportunities for exercise and nature photography. A short, paved trail behind the park office is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, welcoming guests to explore a reconstructed 1860s homestead. The gravel-topped 4-mile Iron Hill Trail is open to both hikers and bikers, offering pretty views of the lake’s shoreline.

Named for the soil’s rich red color caused by high iron-ore content, Red Top Mountain was once an important mining area. Iron pour programs are occasionally held near the Vaughn Cabin behind the park office. The park also maintains Allatoona Pass Battlefield, a historically significant battlefield due to the well-preserved trenches and earthworks.

We spent a couple evenings driving around and exploring the park, enjoying several beautiful vantage points overlooking the lake. We stopped at the Red Top Beach Road area one evening as the sun settled over the horizon to watch the lovely Georgia light show.

  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - The Maiden Voyage

Stone Mountain State Park

Georgia’s most visited attraction, covering more than 3,200 acres, the park is a unique destination where guests can experience an exciting variety of attractions, entertainment, and recreation. The largest high-relief sculpture in the world depicts hand-chiseled figures of the Civil War. At Memorial Hall, visitors can see the carving’s original designs, scale models, and an 11-minute feature film.

Sadly, we never made it to the park. Why? Atlanta traffic!

We attempted to make the 1-hour drive from the Cartersville area one evening after work, but after sitting in traffic for 2 hours and not moving even 20 miles we gave up and turned around.

  • Rookie mistake #3 – Avoid metro areas for after work sight-seeing, especially Atlanta!

We found a neat alternative on the way back from the traffic jam, called the Etowah Indian Mounds. Home to several thousand Native Americans from 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D., this 54-acre site protects six earthen mounds. Etowah Mounds is the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast.

Despite the rookie mistakes, we had a successful and enjoyable Maiden Voyage. The equipment worked fantastic, we learned some valuable lessons for the RV Life, we experienced new and interesting sites, and enjoyed nature’s beauty together.

The adventures were just beginning!

Deuteronomy 31:8

See next story, Year One – Spring.

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Steve Coryell