The main advantage of fulltiming is that you’re not running back and forth from a home base to where you want to be – you ARE where you want to be. Picking where you want to be also allows you to pick your weather, within the limits imposed by the seasonal cycles. Here is our “circuit” – a long, lazy loop around the continent to maintain comfortable conditions while seeing the sights. I still drive 15,000 miles a year in my Roadtrek, the same amount as I did before retiring and fulltiming, but it’s mostly being there driving and very little getting there driving.
Each winter we visit family in Florida. Fortunately for us, our former home and where our friends and relatives stay has an agreeable climate during the holiday season, so there we are, eating turkey and opening presents in the only really tolerable weather Florida has all year. A cold snap will blow through now and again, but it’s back up to 70 and sunny for beach camping, picking oranges, all those typical Florida pastimes.
By February, though, we start getting antsy. The redbuds are blooming and spring is in the air, and our migratory urges kick in. Saying goodbye to our loved ones for another ten months, we head out I-10. We could stay in the east and follow the spring weather north along the Atlantic coast, but the west has two advantages the east doesn’t – vast stretches of public land to camp on, and altitude variation. Altitude is the key to regulating temperature if you’re a fulltimer, especially in the spring and fall when things can change fast.
We usually drive a thousand miles before we start looking around – the Gulf coastal plain is pretty much the same climate from Florida to east Texas – Spanish moss, alligators, and mosquitoes – and we’re anxious for a change. The Texas hill country is nice in February and March, as is the Big Bend area further south and west. We stop off for a week or three and watch the redbuds come out – again – as we let spring catch up with us. One year we went south and boondocked on the beach at Padre Island.
By March, the southern desert of New Mexico is consistently above freezing at night, so we head over and usually pick up a New Mexico annual camping pass. We spend another week or three in the southern parks, and will get to see the poppies come out if there has been sufficient rainfall. Other than the occasional windy days, it’s ideal – the dry, dry conditions that we have been missing all winter.
In April, it’s getting up to 80 in the desert, and time to make a choice – do we head north up the Rockies, or out to the coast? Decisions, decisions… much lively discussion ensues in our household about the relative merits of oceanfront camping vs. mountain majesty – we settle things democratically in our household, but the cat always votes with my wife, so off we go. The coastal option involves crossing Arizona, with maybe a stop in the Mojave around Joshua Tree to watch the weather and wait for the spring rains to stop on the coast, then around LA and up California’s beautiful coastal highway 1. The mountain option means heading north into New Mexico’s upland areas, where the redbuds are blooming yet again, maybe some camping in the Rio Grande Gorge or on the San Juan River through April and May, and then up into the high Rockies after Memorial Day.
We have spent June and July in the mountains around Silverton, CO at over 9000 feet, in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and on up into Idaho and out to the Cascades in August, hitting the coast after Labor Day. If you stay inland, it’s “island hopping” from mid-June to September- the islands are the mountain ranges, and you avoid the valleys and low-lying areas. One time in July we had to go down into the Salt lake City area to buy a hard-to-get item, and it was well into the nineties. We did our shopping and got out of there in a hurry.
On the coast, however, it’s just a matter of drifting north as the weather warms, and watching the whales doing the same thing. We usually blow through southern California speedily because of all the people and overcrowding, slowing down north of Santa Barbara, and REALLY slowing down once we hit the Los Padres National Forest in Big Sur. May and June go by in a hurry if you’re staring out over the Pacific Ocean, and nobody’s around to bother you. There are National Forest campgrounds right on the water, which is a good thing, because Monterrey County has one of the most restrictive anti- RV ordinances in the country. It’s illegal to sleep in your RV in your own driveway there, so the campgrounds come in handy.
North of there, it’s on through the bay area in a hurry – more of those bothersome urbanites again – and on up to northern California. We cross into Oregon, which has a friendlier policy toward beach boondockers, and while away the summer months, once again staring at the ocean and enjoying ourselves. Sometimes we head in to the High Cascades for a change of pace. Not too long after Labor Day, however, it’s time to start heading south – winter comes early in the Pacific Northwest, and the sun is getting lower each day.
Regardless of whether we spent the summer in the mountains or going up the coast, we usually come back down the coast in September and October, with all those infernal children back in school where they belong, and the place to ourselves. By November, we’re down in Big Sur again. As the days tick away and we contemplate the drive back to Florida for Thanksgiving, we milk the last good weather of the season out of our coastal stay, and head in through Paso Robles, across the desert through Bakersfield, avoiding the LA metro area, and across I-10 – all 3000 miles of it- back “home” to Florida for another holiday season. One year I took I-40 across to Amarillo before angling down, just out of a desire not to spend a week on I-10.
I do my maintenance and repairs while in Florida, and it’s nice to be near your address of record so you can order parts, new clothes, etc. We usually also do a little redecorating inside the Roadtrek as well – one year I sewed new curtains. This is “down time” compared to the rest of the year because we can take things apart and sort things out. But sooner than you know it, the redbuds are blooming again… this year we were headed up the inland circuit, but had an unscheduled trip east in May and are now out along the Montana – Wyoming border, working our way out to the Oregon coast by September on a different route. We will NEVER run out of places to go, and it will always be 70 and sunny.