August 10, 2021
Our journey began on August 10th. We had been planning to visit Luke’s mother and grandmother at their new summer cabin in Buckhannon, West Virginia and they had expected us to get there days ago, but we were still waiting for our hitch to finish being installed. You know how that went this year. You ordered something, it took forever to arrive, then it shows up with the wrong parts. That’s about what happened with our hitch being installed. I had my last day of work on August 6th which was bittersweet. My team gave me a thoughtful bunch of gifts. My favorite may be the scratch off map of the US that I hung on our bedroom wall. Of course, I had to make specific rules for scratching a state off. After some thought, I settled on the idea that we would have to have felt that we saw a significant number of the good sights in the state including at least a national or state park as well as spent more than a night there and eaten at least one of the foods the state was famous for, as well as learning some things about the culture and history of the place.
Let me back up as bit here. We decided in late June 2021 that we should take the plunge and go RVing for a while. We talked about it for just a few days and decided it was the right decision and we could always go back if it wasn’t working out for us. It seemed like the most awesome adventure. Luke said that there are no guarantees of good health and long life so we should do it now while we know we can enjoy it. We had a bit saved up and we knew we could live cheaper and find work along the road. Luke had started a media company a little over a year ago and was doing work for a client still so we knew we could still earn a little with this. At first, we thought we would rent out our home and do this for a year or two. We bought an RV within a week or two after making this decision. The first camper we bought was a class C motorhome. It was a modest size and felt like driving a delivery van or Home Depot box truck. There were a few red flags when we bought it, but we were excited and had been reading that buying campers was so popular now, that it could be hard to find them in stock so we bought without doing too much research.
Luke drove it down to North Carolina to deliver some fancy speakers. We had just started selling some of our possessions that we knew we would not need for the foreseeable future and may be obsolete and worth less if we just let them sit in storage. On his trip he lost power steering and brakes. It must have been so frightening for him, but somehow he was able to safely get to a nearby truck stop. He ended up stranded there for days unable to get a town from our Good Sam’s roadside assistance or anyone else. He was hot, miserable, angry, and probably a little scared. If I had been with him, I surely would have refused to get in an RV again. We soon found out we had bought our motorhome from the dealership with the worst reputation in the country! Luke launched a media campaign against the dealership on social media with careful tagging and graphics and was able to get his expenses covered, a plane ticket home, a promise to rewind the loan on the camper, and his belongings shipped home. It took a hell of a fight though.
After this debacle we were much more careful. We did more research and talked to more people. We realized a fifth wheel would give us a lot more space and flexibility to make full time living for us and our two dogs more comfortable. We shopped around for a dealer with good reviews and a manufacturer who would warranty their RV’s for full time living (which is rare). We also made the decision to put the house on the market and get rid of most of our belongings. This wasn’t always the easiest decision, but we reasoned that everything is replaceable and we would likely not want to settle in New England if and when we decided to stay put for a while again. Still, Luke had to get rid of his music recording studio and I had to let go of most of my fabulous shoe and clothing collection. The housing market was insane though so we could not pass up the opportunity to get more than our house was worth in the sale. All of this was going on in July and we listed our house by the end of that month.
I worked like mad selling stuff on Facebook marketplace. My mother came over and helped me clean out my dressing room and took maybe 10 bags to donate. I took another 10 trash bags full to my best friend Nikki. I also gave some huge bags full of shoes to co-workers who sent them to Africa to their church. We had some items we did not want to part with that we stored at the photography studio. We shared this studio with another photographer who was willing to take over the costs and take care of it while we were gone which was lucky for us. We sold the big stuff first. Namely, our gun collection, music equipment, and exercise equipment. This stuff was easy to sell. Some of the other stuff was harder, but continued to sell up until the day we left. I also donated a ton of stuff on the free town site. Everything from kitchen and cleaning supplies, to bras, to gardening tools. Some of the bigger stuff went to family members that wanted or needed it. My brother Bob took a whole lot from us and was such a help coming up a few times to fill his truck on his days off.
Now, back to where the journey really begins for me. August 10th, the hitch finally is installed and we get the truck back that evening. Luke wanted to hitch up to practice towing and backing up with it in a local parking lot. We had the camper all packed for our trip to West Virginia and had been spending evenings in it to get used to it and have the dogs get used to it. Luke had towed a trailer before, but nothing like this. We had bought a Ram 2500 just recently to be able to tow with it and I sold my car to our mechanics. I drove the truck around town a couple of times, but it’s big and I was nervous about hitting something as I have only really ever driven cars (except for a few short trips years ago). Our driveway was steep and turned at the top which is where the fifth wheel was parked when they delivered it. That meant that in order to hitch up, Luke had to back up to it at an angle. This was not a simple thing. We made our first mistake that evening while hitching up. We learned that there are two positions we could put the hitch in and that we had it in the wrong one for maneuvering. We learned this when the front of the RV exploded the back window of the truck. Oopsie daisy. We put tape and cardboard over the back window and then went to a parking lot for our practice. This part all went fine.
After this, we decided we didn’t want to try to back it back into our driveway at night so Luke said, “let’s just go. We can spend the night at a truck stop when we get tired.” Sounded like a fine plan to me as this would also probably mean we could miss the worst of city traffic while getting out of New England and NY. We drove until 2am and din’t even get tired. I think we were too excited and nervous to get sleepy. We spent our first night of the journey in a Cracker Barrel in Fogelsville, PA. I booked us at a campground called Broken Wheel in Weston, WV and we planned to finish the journey the next day.
It was a lot of change to go through in a short period of time, but we both felt confident and excited about our decision. We were about to embark on a radically different lifestyle in which we were free and always exploring and learning. The dogs seemed to be adapting to living in the RV surprisingly well. We had a more recently adopted dog who was still terrified of all people and noises, including us most of the time, but being in a smaller space with us seemed to be good for him as he was becoming more comfortable and starting to let us pet him.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents the journey through her photography and blog to share with others.