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Where We Got Our Full-Time RV Inspiration

I’d like to dedicate this post to those who have inspired us in our RV journey. Getting off the ground with such a non-traditional lifestyle is a challenge and feels very lonely. When you are going through the stress of buying or selling a house, at least you have friends that can relate and give you their reassurances of “it will all work out”. When buying a used RV, renovating it, and then leaving your old life behind to go on the road full-time? Not so much. When you don’t know anyone else in the same situation, it makes it more difficult. This is where we got connected with other full time RVers who were already on the road. We had 3 main couples who both helped and inspire us, and I’d like to highlight them here. If you are in a similar situation, please get in touch with us. We’d love to pay it forward and help you, too!

Less Junk More Journey

The same day the RV idea hit me, I found a post about Nathan and Marissa (their blog/Youtube is Less Junk, More Journey) in a forum from my first Google search. We gobbled up their YouTube videos. We’ve watched every single one (except the most recent ones, since we are a little behind on TV watching) and they documented their journey all the way from their first RV (a huge 42′ fifth wheel) to their Newmar motorhome to their current setup of an Airstream and a van. We relate to them because they are our age and have a young daughter just like we do. As we’ve been on the road for awhile now ourselves, we’ve discovered that we also have a similar travel style fo Nathan and Marissa – we prefer state/national/county parks over private campgrounds.

If you are interested in RV life, check out their YouTube channel (links below). They used to have an awesome series called “What What Wednesday” where they answered viewer questions, so look for those specifically. They were our favorites as we were considering the lifestyle. We looked to them for videos about choosing a rig, diesel vs. gas,  fifth wheel vs. motorhome, how to choose a campground, how to RV with a toddler, etc. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’m not sure if we would have ever ended up doing this if it wasn’t for discovering Nathan and Marissa’s blog and YouTube channel. They are very relatable to us, and the information they shared was extremely valuable. Now that we have been creating content ourselves (although it’s “just” a blog) we also appreciate the time and effort that go into both their blog and videos. It’s not trivial to do these things and to share your life so openly.

Nathan, Marissa, and Hensley of Less Junk More Journey

Nathan, Marissa, and Hensley of Less Junk More Journey

Check out Less Junk, More Journey here:

YouTube

Facebook

Instagram

Swept Together

Annabelle of Swept Together was introduced to me through our mutual friend Emily. Annabelle and her husband Christian have been on the road in their renovated motorhome, Gulliver, since April 2017. They host the Swept Together podcast and Annabelle runs Evergreen Lane Productions, a video production company. Their RV remodel is so well done, so we looked to them for inspiration and advice for ours, as well as in many other ways (their podcast is also chock full of RV life advice).

I sent Annabelle a lot of e-mails with a lot of questions about full-time RV life, and she was always very generous with her responses. Annabelle’s advice that sticks out in my mind is related to working + this lifestyle. First of all, it’s not a vacation. You can’t expect to see the same amount of stuff in one stop as you would if it was a vacation. Secondly, visit each place as if you will come back. It can get overwhelming to think of everything you are missing out on or COULD be seeing if you didn’t have to work. This lifestyle does let you see much more than if you were stationary in a house, but there are only 24 hours in a day, so what you didn’t get a chance to do can be a source of regret if you let it. Visiting as if you will visit again takes the pressure off. Thank you, Annabelle and Christian, for the advice on everything from vinyl flooring to WeBoost to entrepreneurship!

Swept Together Podcast Host

Annabelle and Christian of Swept Together

Check out Swept Together here:

Website

Podcast (iTunes)

Instagram

188 Sq Ft

I got connected with Mandy and Kevin of 188 sq ft after meeting Leslie, the owner of JuJu in Pittsburgh. Mandy and Kevin lived in Pittsburgh before they got into full-time RV life, so it was really intriguing to meet someone local – Pittsburgh is not a RVing hotbed! I think I first e-mailed Mandy in March, and we didn’t end up leaving until August, she probably thought we’d never actually get on the road! But here we are, and I owe a lot of thanks to Mandy.
She gave me a lot of advice on our RV renovation. They renovated their fifth wheel (named Keystone) and from looking at the pictures of Keystone, I knew that Mandy has the sense of style that I wish I had, but I just can’t seem to grasp. She was kind enough to take a look at some pictures/videos of Trudy and give us design advice on our renovation. She truly has an eye for design (something I most certainly do not have, yet I can appreciate when others do) and in my humble opinion every RV manufacturer should be hiring her to design interiors! Mandy and Kevin may also have the 4 (I think?) cutest pets on the face of the planet, so don’t forget to check out their Instagram. Mandy’s advice for anyone just starting out in the full-time RV lifestyle is this – “Embrace the journey. This lifestyle is amazing, but you have to be ready for the slight bumps in the road.”
Mandy and Kevin of 188 sq ft

Mandy and Kevin of 188 sq ft. Photo credit: Trinity Walker Keefer – http://trinitywalkerkeefer.com/

Check out 188 sq ft here:

Website

Instagram

Full-Time RV Life: Planning a Route and Choosing Campgrounds

A Bird’s-Eye View

When you first start planning a route, it’s fun and easy.  You can quickly string together some great places to go and things to see.

However, actually living that plan takes far more effort.  Sure, you want to stay near this city, or in that park, etc. – but how do you connect things?  What days will you travel?  What days can you travel?  Getting from point A to point D without having points B and C disappoint can be challenging sometimes.

 

Keeping Travel Days in Check

Before we hit the road, we had heard of other full-timers following the “2-2-2 rule”.  That means that you don’t drive over 200 miles in a day, that you’re in your site by 2pm, and that you stay for at least 2 days.

We don’t strictly follow that rule, but we completely agree with the concepts.  Simply put, driving a big rig is a lot more stressful than driving a car.  Every turn and every slowdown takes a little out of you.  Staying fully alert, watching for tree branches, road hazards, and bad drivers takes effort.  This is particularly important to us since we have a toddler – it’s not fair to her to drive for hours on end.

Our personal guidelines are a little different – we usually drive 150-225 miles (never over 250), which equates to 2.5-4 hours driving on average.  We usually drive over Calla’s nap time, so we usually leave in the late morning and arrive mid afternoon.  And we definitely try to stay at a place for at least 5-7 days.

A word of caution: Google Maps time RARELY EQUALS RV DRIVING TIME.   This is especially true for us since our toad’s manual (Ford Escape) states to never exceed 65MPH when towing behind a motorhome.  Our trips almost always take longer than Google estimated, and that’s because we’re always going under the speed limit.  This can really affect drive time when you spend hundreds of miles doing 63MPH on a major highway that allows 70+MPH.

 

Route Planning – Under the Microscope

Despite the fact that our home has wheels, we try to spend as little time as possible driving it.  It’s expensive and pretty stressful to pack everything where it goes and start rollin’ with 26,000 lbs under you.

Because of that, we try our best to make our routes as efficient as possible while still letting us go where we want.

To do this, we heavily rely on a few specific tools:

  1. RV Trip Wizard
  2. Google Maps
  3. RVParkReviews (and to a lesser degree, Campendium)
  4. Other full-time RVers’ suggestions/blogs
  5. Tarot cards (kidding)

Trust the Wizard – the RV Trip Wizard

Before we started our journey, Hannah’s cousin told us about her friends that use RV Trip Wizard.  It’s a website where you can build out routes, plan trips, track costs, see accommodations, etc.  It’ll even track your fuel usage and costs.  It’s not free – I believe it’s $39 per year – but it’s definitely worth it.

We decided to give it a try (I believe there’s a trial period during which you can get a refund), and thought it looked promising.  As we continued south and started planning ahead, I started to “get in the groove” with RV Trip Wizard and started to really like it.

The real value is in its database of campgrounds and points of interest.  Once you have an idea of where you want to go, you can scroll around, zoom in and out, etc. and easily find places where you could stay.  Once you find a place you want to stay, you can add it to your trip – and also track how much it costs and how much gas it’ll take to get there.  You can set how many miles you want to drive in a given trip – and RV Trip Wizard will show a circle around your starting point (however many miles away you selected) to give an indicator of how far out you may want to look for your destination. Little things like that really help.

 

Hover for more info!  The green icons are campgrounds (we have most points of interest turned off)

 

Another great thing about RV Trip Wizard is that you can easily copy a trip, make drastic changes to it, and see how things pan out and connect.  Maybe you can squeeze in a stop at the awesome place you just heard about.  Or if you’re current spot is disappointing, you can easily scope out alternate spots and figure out how to connect back up to your overall plan.

 

Note the distance circle and the itinerary on the side

 

We don’t use RV Trip Wizard on the road or for directions.  It can share directions with your phone (or you can print them), but I rely on Google Maps for that.  It just works better than everything else.

 

Seek Out First Hand Experience

Once you find a possible place to stay – whether through Google Maps, RV Trip Wizard, whatever – it’s always a good idea to read reviews about the campground.

RVParkReviews.com has reviews for almost every campground out there (private, state parks, national parks, you name it).  Reviews often cover cellular signal, site condition, price, nearby attractions, and other aspects important to RVers.  You can also easily search for campgrounds here, but I usually stick to RV Trip Wizard for that.

Google Maps also has valuable reviews and pictures, but I generally consider them to not be as informative.

Better yet – if you have follow full-time RVers or have friends that are full-time RVers, their suggestions are extremely valuable.  We’re always interested to hear other RVer’s favorite places to stay or suggestions for certain areas.

 

Anteing Up

Once you start getting a trip put together, you might want to consider making campground reservations.  We often had trouble finding sites at popular state parks in Florida and had to skip some parks that we really wanted to see entirely.  However, the size of your rig is also a large factor here – some of the older parks out there simply don’t have many sites for a rig over 35 feet.  Lots of national parks don’t have any sites for rigs that size from what we’ve heard.

Most state parks use Reserve America for reservations.  The site is pretty poor but it works well enough to reliably get our money.  National parks/forests use recreation.gov to manage reservations.  Make some online reservations at county parks if you want to see truly awful reservation websites – that’s you, Fort De Soto Park (but don’t worry, that park is absolutely worth the headache)!

 

Select Your Site Carefully

There’s another level of depth that we’ve learned to consider.  At many campgrounds, some sites are WAY better than others.  Being near water, or away from the road, or out of the pet loop, etc. can make your stay much better.  Some campgrounds make this information easy to find, but most do not.  This is another benefit of reading reviews on RVParkReviews since many people state what site they were in and the pros and cons to it.

 

Comparison between Google Maps and the campground map on ReserveAmerica

 

Planning a route can be overwhelming, but it’s really not that bad – you just have to break it down and take it step by step.  I’ve actually come to enjoy the planning aspect of our journey more than I expected.  It’s always great when the a site or reservation actually exceeds expectations!

 

The perfect site at Fort De Soto Park (unfortunately it wasn’t our site)

5 Things to Consider when Shopping for an RV for Full-Time RV Life

RV shopping….this feels like a lifetime ago to us, but we definitely learned some lessons along the way. There is SO much to consider, and everyone’s situation is unique. I hope these general considerations help you if you are starting to shop for a RV for full-time RV life.

1. Don’t spend too much time in the theoretical

Tim and I are researchers, about almost every purchase we make. We watched tons of YouTube videos, read so many forums – it was complete information overload. At some point you have to stop the madness of countless hours researching on the internet and go out and physically step inside some of the RV’s you are interested in. Don’t be surprised if this doesn’t magically lead to clarity, though. We still struggled with what to pick, even after visiting multiple RV dealers. We also knew that ideally we didn’t want to buy from a dealer – we preferred a private party sale, which is what we ended up doing.

I’d suggest that you go to an RV expo (we went to the Pittsburgh RV show), because you can walk through a hundred or more units in the same day if you want to. We also went to 4 different dealers. One in Pittsburgh and we drove to Akron, OH for the rest. Pittsburgh doesn’t have many RV dealers. We also told the salespeople at each one exactly what we were looking for, which they took down on paper along with our e-mail address and phone number. None of them ever called us back. I think this is common, but a huge missed opportunity on their part. We would have definitely considered buying one from a dealer if the right one came in through the doors. One of the dealerships in Akron – I think it was Camping World? – leaves all of their RVs unlocked and you can just go walk through them. I preferred this to having a salesperson following us around, but either way, you need to physically go see these RV’s in person. Sadly I have zero pictures of the RV expo or RV shopping…boo!

2. Go in with a firm budget

It’s not surprising that any RV used for full-timing is going to be expensive. It’s one thing to spend $5,000 on a small popup for weekend camping, it’s a whole other thing to buy a motorhome or truck/fifth wheel combo that costs as much as your house. Luckily, there are plenty of options in between. Choose a budget that you’re comfortable with and stick to it. Trust us…it gets very easy to start to think “Oh, $90k doesn’t sound like THAT much” when our original budget was half that. When these RV’s are marked at $200k, $150k, etc – $90k starts to sound cheap, even if it is double what you wanted to spend. And RV dealers know this. Their pricing is a big game. You start to lose perspective quickly. They will also pressure you to put in an offer on an RV the day you see it, because if you don’t, someone else will buy it. Is this true? I don’t know. But also remember that this is a common sales tactic and to not spend more than you wanted to simply because someone is pressuring you.

The cost of the RV is only one piece of the budget puzzle. We spend more living life in our RV than we did in a house. Gas, insurance, staying at RV parks – it all adds up to be a lot more expensive than we thought. So take into consideration that unless you are mostly stationary, RV life is expensive. And save a couple thousand dollars in the budget for all of the gear that you need to buy just to hook the RV up to power, water, and sewer. You want to be able to enjoy your travels, not worry that all of your money was spent on the RV itself.

3. Consider what you already have

One large consideration in the “which RV is right for us” puzzle is looking at what you already have. Do you already have a heavy duty pickup truck? Maybe a fifth wheel or bumper pull trailer is right for you – after all, your only cost would be the trailer itself + the mounting hardware  (not that this is cheap…). We did not have a pickup truck, and the ones that are robust enough to haul a large fifth wheel or trailer are expensive. So by the time we looked at a truck + trailer, the cost was high, and we already had two cars, so we’d have to sell one. We also found out that the one car we have (2012 Ford Escape) is towable behind a motorhome, eliminating the need to purchase yet another vehicle. So, I think if you already have a car that can be towed 4 wheels down (this is also called dinghy towing), this would be a pro for considering a motorhome. If you already have a heavy duty truck, that would be a pro for considering a towable.

Ford Escape TOAD

We tow the Ford Escape with Trudy. The Escape was my daily driver for 5 years before this.

4. New vs Used

This is always a consideration with a car, and a RV is really no different. You will find people on both sides of the fence, but do your research on this topic (trust me, there is a LOT out there) and go with what feels right to you. We decided pretty quickly that we would only consider used units. The depreciation factor on a new RV is crazy high, and new doesn’t necessarily mean without issues. From what we read, used RV’s tend to have the kinks worked out by the previous owners. The minute a brand new RV rattles down the road, stuff breaks. This is just a factor of life in an RV – they aren’t built well, first of all – and second of all, no matter what kind of build quality there is, the prolonged periods of shaking down the highway at 60mph eventually causes things to break.

I’ve also read that getting any work done under warranty is incredibly difficult and involves months of waiting, which I knew we’d never have time for considering our RV is our house. Lastly, we found new RV’s to smell terrible. It’s the chemicals and glues that the RV is held together with (yay particle board) off-gassing. There are ways to speed up this process, such as leaving your RV in the sun (the heat speeds up the offgassing) but we wanted one that didn’t smell. So “Used” quickly became the obvious choice for us, but plenty of people feel differently.

5. Your first won’t be your last

In all likelihood, your first RV will not be your last. Very few people pick “THE ONE” the first time. It’s impossible to know exactly what you want in an RV until you live in one for awhile. There are things you just can’t anticipate until you get on the road. So don’t bend yourself out of shape trying to find the perfect RV. I’d say do your research, go see them in person, find a price point you’re comfortable with, find one, get it inspected (ugh..we have a bad story about this…PLEASE find a RV shop you can trust), and go for it. There can definitely be an “analysis paralysis” factor with this decision if you don’t pull the trigger sometime. We would definitely change some things about our RV if we could, but are they deal breakers? No. They’re more in the “nice to have” category. We had many people tell us that it’s really hard to get it 100% right on the first try and we could always choose a different one, which was comforting when making a big decision. You do the best you can, knowing that it doesn’t have to be forever. We still have envy over Airstreams and some fifth wheels. It’s all good – keep dreaming, right?

Tim driving Trudy for the first time ever. Canton OH Fairgrounds – April 2017

Attack of the Rhesus Monkeys: Silver Springs State Park

After our time in St. Augustine, we had to head west. My friends and I were meeting up for a girl’s weekend in Crystal River FL, which is on the gulf side of the state. We gradually started making our way to Crystal River, and decided to stop at Silver Springs since it  was on the way, had some open sites, and would be a good in-between stop. Let me preface this by saying that this was over a month ago, and since staying at Silver Springs, we’ve stayed a few other places in central FL as well. My conclusion on central FL is that it’s pretty quirky. Silver Springs was no exception to this, but it was quirky in all the right ways. What an experience!

FL State Park Sign

The slogan of the FL State Parks: “The Real Florida”. They aren’t lying!

Silver Springs State Park Campground

This is the nicest state park campground we have seen in 3 months of traveling. You can tell that the volunteers and the rangers really care about the park, because it was extremely well kept and the rangers were on constant patrol. We read online that the campground entrance is separate from the actual park entrance, so if you are headed to this park, make sure you look for the campground-specific entrance, which is about 1.5 miles from the park entrance. The sites were huge, private, and level. Ours had a large area surrounding the picnic and fire table that was a great play area for Calla. We were right next to the bath house, which normally we wouldn’t prefer, but turned out to be a perk because I had to do laundry, and the washer/dryer was only $1 here. We also didn’t have a sewer hookup at Silver Springs, so we used the bath house for showers. Super large, clean, and they even had heat lamps in the shower area! That’s the first and last we’ve seen of the heat lamps.

 

Campsite - Silver Springs

Campsite at Silver Springs – so spacious

 

Our campsite at Silver Springs

Our campsite at Silver Springs

There was also a large playground, multiple picnic pavilions, and tons of trails at Silver Springs State Park. This was all in addition to the springs themselves. I love state parks that have multiple things to do. It really helps to keep us busy for multiple days! I enjoyed a run around the “Sinkhole Trail” but it was so remote that I got a little freaked out being in the middle of nowhere with nothing around but giant banana spiders. I felt like I was just waiting to see a snake or a bear (there were multiple signs warning about both). The run was a loop, so I finished it, but I think I may have set some personal records for my pace due to the circumstances!

Boat Launch

Boat Launch

Pretty view from the trail

Pretty view from the trail

 

One of the trails at Silver Springs State Park

One of the trails at Silver Springs State Park

There are also some really, really nice looking cabins for rent at Silver Springs State Park. They were far nicer than any other state park cabins we have seen. In fact, they were in line with renting a house on Hilton Head Island or something. Beautiful large screened in porches with tons of rocking chairs, surrounded by Spanish moss covered oaks. If you are looking for a family getaway, these cabins would be an awesome place to stay.

From the campground, you can take a really long (3+ miles) sandy trail to the springs, you can ride your bikes along the road, or you can drive your car. We asked the ranger about it, and he suggested that we ride our bikes over on the sidewalk since no one uses it. The road to get to the springs is a highway, so we were happy with the sidewalk solution.

Silver Springs

The springs…ah…where to begin? The setup is sort of strange. It looks like an old amusement park….well, because it is! Silver Springs was originally privately owned and is considered the first tourist attraction in Florida. All these years later, it has since been purchased by the state park system, but the original amusement park look still remains in a lot of ways. There is a ticket booth, fountains, and a lot of covered “shops” (most of which are empty, although one of them is a little nature center). It’s definitely a different vibe from most state parks.

Another strange thing: the entrance to the park is right next to the entrance to an abandoned water park. From what I could find online, this park was operational until Summer 2016, then it closed. It was so covered with vines and other foliage that I assumed it closed years ago! I guess that just goes to show what a jungle Florida truly is. As soon as the maintenance is stopped, it all comes right back. I find abandoned things like this fascinating (part of the reason I like the Vice show Abandoned so much) so the creepy water park next door caught my attention on multiple occasions.

Silver Springs Tickets

Example of some of the amusement park vibes at Silver Springs

 

Silver Springs Entrance

The Entrance to the Springs

The park is centered around the freshwater springs in the area. And they are so, so beautiful. Pictures really can’t do them justice. Picture a body of crystal clear water, so clear that you can see the fish, rocks, and plants 50 feet deep on the bottom. These springs put out millions of gallons of fresh water per day. You weren’t allowed to swim at Silver Springs (we’ve since been to some springs that you can swim/snorkel in, which is a really cool experience) but they do offer glass bottom boat rides. I think it is $14 dollars per person, so it’s not included, and the captain wasn’t too proud to beg for tips. We took advantage of the boat, and it must have been the time of year – it was us and another couple on the boat. Semi-private tour! It’s about 30 minutes long and the guide takes you to various springs in the area and provides some interesting facts. Silver Springs has been a filming location in many movies, and there are some props still stuck on the bottom of the springs. We weren’t sure if we’d find the boat ride to be worth it (we read mixed reviews) but we were happy we did it. We learned a lot and got to see a lot more of the springs than we could from the shore.

Jungle Silver Springs

Pretty foliage at Silver Springs

 

Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs

Glass Bottom Boat

 

Water at Silver Springs

Water at Silver Springs

Us on the Glass Bottom Boat

5 people total on the boat = winning

Tim & Calla checking out the sights

Glass Bottom Boat

Glass Bottom Boat

Rhesus Monkeys

Within 30 seconds of being at the park, you are made very aware of the fact that the park is inhabited by monkeys. Apparently they were brought to the Silver Springs area back when it was privately owned to make it more of a ‘destination’ and to attract tourists. They are NOT native to Florida. What they didn’t think about, though, was the fact that they’d reproduce and eventually expand beyond Silver Springs. Now they are a nuisance both in the park and to homeowners in the area. When googling about the monkeys, I found that they had attacked a family last summer in a pavilion in the park. I noticed that this pavilion is now fenced off!

These signs were everywhere

We really wanted to see the monkeys, and one of the days we were there, we saw LOTS! And it was kind of unnerving, especially after reading the signs, hearing the attack stories, and the fact that we had a tiny human with us! So Calla and I watched the monkeys from a distance while Tim went up close and personal for his encounters. The monkeys did leave us alone (no attacks!) but they get very close to you and definitely do not seem afraid of humans.

Tim Monkey

Tim and his new friend

Monkey at Silver Springs

Yep, we were able to get close enough to take this with a cell phone camera.

 

There were tons in the trees. Look up – monkeys!

 

So between the monkeys and the weird abandoned amusement park/water park vibes at a state park, maybe now you can understand why I call this place quirky. What I hope I also conveyed was just how much of a cool experience Silver Springs State Park is. The campground is truly top notch, with lots to do nearby. We went down to the springs, either by bike or car, every single day we stayed there. We loved the glass bottom boat ride and seeing the monkeys, even if it was a bit unsettling. If you’re ever passing through central FL, we give an A+ rating to Silver Springs State Park.

If you’re interested in learning more about this odd gem of a place, some YouTubers that we really like came here earlier this year and made a video about it. Check it out!

Furnishing Our Motorhome’s Living Room – RV Renovation

RV Renovation - Class A Motorhome

 

I know we’ve touched on it on the bottom of the “About” page, but in case you haven’t read that, here’s a little bit about our motorhome. She is a 2006 Damon Intruder. Damon was purchased by Thor somewhere along the way, so you won’t find any new Damons – just used ones! We named her Trudy from the Intruder model name. She is 38 feet long and is gas-powered.

When we bought her, she had some minor cosmetic improvements already done. The people we bought her from had a new couch and chair installed, and they also re-did the window coverings. Although it made it look better (they took the curtains from blood-red to blue/green/white – yay!) it still wasn’t quite to our taste. It was very, very BROWN. Like ten different shades of brown/tan. We’ve found this is a common theme in the RV industry, even in the new ones. If we were just planning on using Trudy on the weekends, I don’t think we would have bothered renovating her. But since Trudy was going to be our home on wheels, we decided to do some major improvements.

 

2006 Damon Intruder

Our 2006 Damon Intruder Class A Motorhome

 

After re-doing the flooring and window coverings (we will have to write separate posts on those – Tim would be the person to write about the floors, and I want to interview Tim’s mom, an amazing seamstress who worked tirelessly to create our beautiful bright white window coverings, for a post), Trudy was kind of a blank slate in the living area.

First, let me share a couple things with you that we did NOT change: Our captain’s chairs. These sit in the front of the RV, and are used as the driver and passenger seat. They swivel around so that they can also be used for relaxation once the motorhome is parked. We don’t find them to be very relaxing, however. They may look cushy and plush, and they are, but they also have no support! So as much as we’d like to swap these out, they aren’t bad enough for us to do anything about, and they will likely be staying.

 

Driver's Seat - 2006 Damon Intruder

Driver’s Seat – This picture was taken before we re-did the floors

 

Passenger Seat - 2006 Damon Intruder

Passenger Seat

 

Here are some before pics. First of all, this area in this picture where the recliner is – that area was reserved for a safer car seat situation for Calla. We ended up installing a bench seat from a Ford Transit van so that Calla could rear-face. With the previous setup, we would have had to strap her into the couch, which would have meant she was side-facing. We felt more comfortable having her rear-facing. The downside is that we lost the space where the recliner was to a bench seat, so in a way, we lost some seating space. A bench seat from a van is nowhere near as comfortable as a recliner! A lot of these pictures were taken with really dark lighting, so I had to lighten them up so you could see better, hence the strange colors. I ended up quickly selling the recliner + tan couch on Facebook marketplace to someone who was re-doing his motorhome, too! I set the old dining room table and chairs on the curb at my brother’s house and someone picked them up within 5 minutes.

 

Damon Intruder Living Area

The living area pre-renovation, with the slide closed. The recliner was removed and a bench seat from a Transit van was added for carseat purposes.

 

Trudy's Living Room, Pre-Renovation. Dining table + couch with seatbelts

Trudy’s Living Room, Pre-Renovation. Dining table + couch with seatbelts

 

Another pic from Trudy pre-renovation, standing from the kitchen

 

Here’s a picture from during the renovation. A lot of things are only half done in this picture, but as you can see, once all the old furniture + carpet were out and the new floors were in, we had blank space to work with. Looks better already.

 

A (semi) blank slate. New floors in, walls painted

A (semi) blank slate. New floors in, walls painted. The black bar is where the couch attaches to the frame of the motorhome

 

After taking measurements and considering where electrical outlets were and weren’t, we concluded that we had to keep the same layout. It just didn’t make sense to switch the location of the couch and the dining room table, so we kept the location the same.One thing I can’t stress enough is how careful we had to be with our measurements. As we shopped for a table and a couch, we had to make sure that they would both fit within the small portion you see in the picture above. We had some close calls with tables, especially. We thought they’d fit, but then it turns out, it might fit, but then you couldn’t access the one side because it would be up against the couch completely.  We knew we needed that side for Calla’s highchair, so we had to leave some wiggle room. By the way, this hook on highchair that we got has been an amazing space saver. For awhile we were considering using our big high chair from the house, but we have commented multiple times how thankful we are that we didn’t. This compact high chair stays out of the way and we can unhook it and use it outside on a picnic table, too.

To make a long story short, after lots of research and shopping, we ended up buying a couch and dining room table from Ikea. In general, we are not fans of Ikea. We don’t think the quality is that great, we hate the store experience, and we don’t like the assembly. However, in this case, the whole “assembly” piece became the reason why Ikea furniture worked so well for our situation. Because it’s in a million little pieces, we could actually fit it through our little RV door, and assemble it inside. Most couches we researched would have never fit in the door. So I guess the self-assembly piece was actually a pro instead of a con for once?

One possibly unexpected con of putting different/residential furniture in an RV is that you also need to figure out how to securely attach it to the RV frame.  You don’t want it moving around while driving the motorhome!  And, heaven forbid, if there would be an accident, things need to be as secure as possible so they don’t become projectiles.

Right after putting together our new couch, Tim had the drilled four holes through the frame, strengthened the area with steel plating, and secured the couch to the frame with the highest strength cable, eyelets, and eye bolts available (each can withstand several thousand pounds of force).  The table is also secured to the frame through its main structure via 6,000 lb rated strapping, eye bolts, and 6,000 lb rated carabiners.  Funny thing – the table and the RV-specific couch and recliner that the previous owner paid a dealership to install?  Yeah, they weren’t secured at all.  They literally just carried them up the stairs and set them on the floor.

We chose this Ikea gateleg table because we liked that we could make the table smaller if we wanted to. Times we have actually made the table smaller? Zero. So I don’t think that feature was necessary by any means, but some things can only be learned as you live in a small space. There is only so much you can anticipate ahead of time!

So far, we are decently pleased with our Kivik sofa, but the dark cover shows dirt REALLY easily, which is hard with a toddler. The good thing is that it is machine washable. We also bought a coffee table from Ikea, but we never use it. Turns out, in a limited space, a coffee table becomes nothing but a sharp corner for a toddler to bang her head on. If it was just Tim and I, we’d constantly use the table. But it takes up a lot of space that Calla needs for running around. Currently we store it in the back of our bedroom, but we are looking to sell it soon.

Post-Reno Dining Room Table

Post-Reno Dining Room Table. We’ve since installed new light fixtures.

 

The new couch + coffee table

The new couch + coffee table

Since these pictures were

taken, we’ve added white curtains, some decorations, and 2 dining room chairs which we bought from Costco. We also added more modern light fixtures between the couch and the table and above the table. We are happy with the new furniture and think it freshens things up a bit. It was tricky to find furniture that could work in a small space AND be assembled in the space instead of come pre-assembled.

One last thing we did in the living room was remove this cabinet in an attempt to open the space up and add more light:

RV Cabinet

Bye-bye, 50 shades of brown. RV living room cabinet before renovation

 

Less brown, more white. The cabinet is gone!

Less brown, more white. The cabinet and mirror are gone!

I think it looks a lot better and more modern, but I still have a long way to go with decorating the wall. I bought a print from Etsy that I really like, but we aren’t sure how a frame would hold on the wall going down the road – things rattle and fall off very easily. I also need wall accents other than just the print because it’s too small to be the only thing on the wall. Ugh, decorating is not my thing. In my next life I’m going to hire an interior designer because it’s not something I enjoy. Do I appreciate a well decorated space? YES. Probably more than most people. I’m just not very good at creating it myself. Creative block, maybe. Any suggestions for my white brick wall?!

There you have it – a peek into our living room both before and after renovating!

Rolling On A Whim - Our RV Life

We are a family of 3 who began full-time life in an RV in August 2017. The only real plan is to enjoy ourselves and see both the hidden gems + the main attractions in the USA. We hope you'll follow along as we adjust to RV life with a baby, and reflect on what it took to get here.

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