The Roving Vegans Full-Time RV Adventures
May 31, 2019 | by: Jacqui Letran and Joseph Wolfgram
We have seen the "Out Day" in our minds so many times over the years. Each time we imagined it, it was magical... so easy, simple, and filled with joy! We would just pack our fur-babies into Bernice, attach our TOAD (as a towed vehicle is called in the RV world) and off we would go with giant smiles painted across our faces. "Out Day" is something we have coined to represent the day we leave the rat race of the traditional work world and pursue a life of freedom and happiness on our own terms. That freedom lifestyle includes living in and traveling across the US in our RV that we lovingly named Bernice, along with our four cats and one dog.
3 Months Prior...
We have been talking about our “Out Day” for a years, and with great anticipation. Joseph’s employer has been going through the process of acquisition for a little over a year. We knew that any day now, we would finally learn the details of what that would mean for Joseph’s position within the company. I had been quietly hoping and sending messages to the universe that Joseph’s position would be eliminated on “day one” of the takeover. I was so ready to begin this new chapter in our lives.
When we finally got word that Joseph’s position was, in fact, going to be eliminated on day one, we were filled with excitement and joy, and of course a little apprehension. Even though we’ve been planning this for a few years, it’s still is a little stressful to think that soon, the days of a steady paycheck would be over.
We sat down and started planning the exact steps needed to make this transition go as smoothly as possible. After a few iterations, we had what we felt was a good plan. We gave ourselves 2 months to button-up business in North Carolina and head out on the open road.
The proceeding 2 months would be an absolute whirlwind. Joseph still had to go to work for the first thirty days after he was given formal notice of position elimination, and I still had my business to run. In addition, we had to sell or give away most of our possessions because we were moving into a 280-square foot motorhome. We knew we didn’t have the luxury of extra space. Only the absolute necessities would make it into Bernice with us.
It was exhausting, and at the same time, completely liberating to get rid of so many material possessions. We had been conditioned for so long to believe that we needed so much “stuff”. We realized that we had an excess of practically everything! By the time we were finished sorting our clothes, we had a couple boxes each that we were taking with us and over 10 large garbage bags filled with clothes to donate -- many that haven’t been worn for years, and some with the store price tag still attached!
Room by room, we sorted, sold, and gave-away our things. Most items were easy to part with, while others were lifelong memorabilia that we had to decide how to handle. It was definitely a bitter-sweet endeavor deciding what would go with us and what to say goodbye to. [Joseph's note: This process was SO time-consuming! Hours upon hours bent-over paperwork and small items to triage, prioritize, and disposition...]
In addition to all the packing, we had to prepare our beloved mountain cabin for sale. When we bought Colbie a little over a year ago, we thought this would become our retirement home. We loved everything about Colbie, from the beautiful log cabin design to the magical mountain air and the peaceful energy that exuded all around us. However, with our plans to travel full-time combined with the sheer size of Colbie and the surrounding land, we decided it would be best to simply part with her. We found the perfect buyers for Colbie within a week of listing. All was set for the new owners to take possession a few days after we planned to leave for our new adventures.
However, two weeks prior to closing, the buyers had to back out. The wife, a lovely lady who we had become internet friends with, had fallen ill. Her health was rapidly declining so they needed to exit the buyer market and focus on her recovery. Although saddened by this sudden turn of events, we completely understood and did what we could to support their decision. We were also very grateful that we both were in good health and about to embark on an exciting life journey. It was difficult for us to leave Colbie empty, but we knew she would sell when the time was right.
As part of the preparation, Bernice had to be de-winterized and have some cosmetic maintenance done as well. We waited until the last possible moment to de-winterize her because we knew we could get freezing weather into April. We finally decided to de-winterize her in late February and took her to Asheville Auto Armor for a facelift (removal of 16-year old "Diamond Shield" and new vinyl wrap and paint protection film applied) right after that.
Bernice is a 2003 Tiffin Allegro BUS and her years of age was starting to show -- especially on the roof paint just above the windshield. I’m not one to place a priority on how Bernice looks cosmetically, but I know that many RV parks will reject older RV models, especially if it looks weather-worn. So reluctantly, I agreed to get Bernice’s worn out sections wrapped with vinyl to match the paint. This was the fastest and least-expensive approach we could find for this bodywork.
We took her in for what was supposed to be a three to the four-day job. As poor luck would have it, it rained continuously during that time and they couldn’t start working on her. By the time we got her back two weeks later, we were behind on our planned departure. Bernice needed a deep cleaning after being stored for several months, and we needed to go through all the lower storage compartments to get rid of unneeded stuff to make room for our essentials.
And the Troubles Begins
On the way back to our place from the facelift, Joseph noticed that Bernice was having a hard time climbing the hills. He didn’t think much of it until white smoke began coming out of the exhaust pipe just a few miles from where we normally store her. Luckily, we made it back safely, even if well below the posted speed limits.
For the next few hours, we called around to different repair shops hoping to get a quick appointment. Previous experience had taught us that it could take several weeks to get someone to look at our RV for mechanical repairs. Even though we didn’t want to delay our trip, and of course we didn’t want any engine problems, we felt so grateful that this problem showed up now, rather than on the road loaded down and carrying 5 fur-babies.
Fortunately, we were able to get a service appointment the following week. Even though this put a damper on our schedule, we continued with our preparations for the big adventure. We even started shopping for a replacement RV, just in case the issue with Bernice’s diesel engine was major.
Bernice was in the shop for a few days. If you have ever had a Class-A diesel pusher motorhome, you know that nearly every trip to the repair shop (a.k.a a "Bernice Spa Day") is usually followed by a four-figure invoice to pay. This time was no different, although, thankfully, the problem was a lot more minor than we had feared.
Silviah, Dora, Lacee, and Bella
Part of the prep work for our full-time RV living is figuring out what car to take with us and what to do with the rest. We recently purchased Silviah, a 2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance. We love Silviah and all her technological capabilities. However, we cannot tow her flat (with all four wheels on the ground) and we would have to buy a trailer just to bring her along. After all that downsizing and liberation of getting rid of stuff, it was difficult for us to make yet another major purchase.
Up until this point, we had been towing Bella, our 2018 Honda Goldwing, on a motorcycle lift attached to the back of Bernice while flat-towing Dora, our 2011 Ford Explorer. This combination worked out well for us in the past, but if we tow Silviah on a trailer, we would need to remove the motorcycle lift completely.
There were so many pros and cons to each option we discussed. The simplest was to continue towing Dora and Bella since we are already familiar with the set-up and we had everything we needed. We toyed around with leasing out Silviah, or just parking her in a garage for the rest of the year. In the end, we decided we wanted Silviah with us, which means we would have to sell Dora and buy a new trailer for Bella and Silviah.
This seemed simple enough, but as with so many things with full-time RV living, it wasn’t. Complex logistics would once again come into play. Since we didn’t have a trailer for Silviah, we couldn’t tow her to our first destination - Palm Bay, Florida. We didn’t know much about trailers so we didn’t want to rush the process. Besides, we figured there would be many more options for trailers in Florida than we had in rural western North Carolina.
We decided that Joseph was going to take a road trip to Palm Bay with Silviah and leave her at his brother’s house. That little road trip gave Joseph an opportunity to have a break from the packing, enjoy his favorite toy, Silviah, and get a taste of freedom that his early retirement should provide.
We also decided to take Dora (the Explorer) with us to Florida and sell her there since she was RV tow-ready. We figured we could get a higher price since there were so many RVers in that state for the winter. In addition to figuring out what to do with Silviah, Bella, and Dora, we also had Lacee, an electric Fiat 500e to sell. We listed Lacee on Facebook Marketplace and sold her within a few days to our good friends in Miami. It appears that we're not the only ones that were headed for Florida!
Instead of it being a magical day where the dark clouds parted, giving way to a bright new future, it was rather anti-climatic. In fact, nothing went as we had planned. We were up still up to our eyeballs with work and completely exhausted on the final day. And it even rained!
For the past ten weeks, we worked our butts off and today was no different! The two days leading up to our Out Day were 18+hour days filled with physical labor. Our bodies were tired, our minds were numb, and we were crawling toward the finish line. Yet, we were determined to push through.
We had so much stuff that we couldn’t part with because we knew that someday, we would get another house and we didn’t want to have to re-furnish everything. We have some limited storage options in Florida, so we decided to take the best stuff with us.
We packed Bernice with boxes. We packed Dora with boxes. We crammed stuff into every corner we could. By the time that was done, Dora was so heavy it didn’t feel safe to tow her along with the 1,000-lb. GoldWing. So instead of loading up and riding off into the sunset together, Joseph drove Bernice with Bella on the back. I followed, driving an over-loaded Dora with Frosty as my co-pilot.
Even though we didn’t get to start this new adventure side by side as we had envisioned so many times, we did it! We are finally doing what we have dreamed about for many years. We don’t know exactly where we’re going to end up, or how it will all turn out, but we are ready and excited for our adventures. Thank you for coming along with us.
About the Authors
We are Joseph Wolfgram and Jacqui Letran, a dynamic husband-wife team of roving vegans and mindset mentors!
We just started living and traveling the USA full-time in our 34’ motorhome on March 9, 2019.
Come join the fun and see how we navigate the adventures of "living big" in a tiny space, along with our 4 cats and a dog.
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