A growing subset of the RV Lifestyle community is fulltime retired solo women RV Travelers and in this post and episode 361 of the RV Podcast we meet one of them, a 65-year-old woman who retired after a long career as a high school teacher to embrace a nomadic life of fulltime travel in her RV.
In our Interview of the week segment, you'll meet Cynthia Waldrop, who has some great tips and an inspiring tale for all of us, whether the fulltime RV life is on the horizon or whether we just want to get out there on weekends and holidays.
Cynthia shares her experience as an older solo female RVer, the good, the bad and everything in between.
You will not want to miss her story! Plus we have RV News, we answer your RV questions and we offer up a simple trick to help with storage problems in your RV.
Below is a video version of the entire podcast, including Cynthia's interview.
Below is our audio podcast player that you can hear right on your computer or phone. You can also listen, of course, through your favorite podcast app.
Tablor of Contents for Episode 361 of the Podcast
Below is the timecode for each of the main topics we discuss in the podcast. Just move the slider to the time listed for the subject you want to listen to.
- 00:10 – Mike & Jen update their whereabouts
- 1:58 Changing the format a little
- 2:30 Looking ahead to the fall season
- 3:40 Military Campgrounds discussion
- 4:10 The RV Lifestyle Interactive Map of great places to camp
- 5:22 – Win a SoftStart RV for your Air Conditioner
- 8:50 – Escapees RV Club requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests for all events
- 12:10 – “Airstream” truck camper
- 13:25 – Bison Rush Hour at Custer State Park in South Dakota
- 14:04 – A “Catio” for cats
- 15:02 – Partying kids and “Venmo me” signs
- 16:10 – Ohio “Don’t Camp” in Left Lane campaign
- 18:45 – Wildfires across the county, National Forests closed in California
- 20:50 – Camper drowns in Rifle River logjam in Michigan
- 22:48 – RV industry keeps setting sales records
- 24:01 – Global chip shortage delays new pickup truck sales, too
- 25:12 – Timed entry requirements end at many National Parks
- 28:24 – RV Question: Are dogs welcome at National and State Parks?
- 32:25 – RV Question: About the Internetonthego.net Mike & Jen are testing in their RV
- 38:00 – Interview of the Week with solo retired woman RVer Cynthia Waldrop
- 01:04:30 – Tip of the Week: Solving RV storage problems with ZipLock Bags
Interview of the Week: Tips for fulltime retired solo women RV Travelers
Meet Cynthia, a new fulltime retired solo woman RV Traveler
Mike Wendland: Well, we're delighted now to be joined by Cynthia. Cynthia, it's a pleasure to see you here today.
Cynthia Waldrop: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for asking me.
Mike Wendland: Everybody's going to want to know, is that your RV? but those look like a bunch of Coleman lanterns. Is that what we see behind you?
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes. Yes. That's my son's collection. This is actually in his garage. He collects and restores old Coleman lanterns. But I do have one in my RV that he did for me.
Mike Wendland: Good for you. I think we do, too.
Jennifer Wendland: That's great. Cynthia, if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and about what RV you're traveling in.
Now that I'm an empty-nester…
Cynthia Waldrop: I have a Kodiak Cub 196. I hope I'm saying that correctly, bunkhouse. And I got the bunkhouse. I'm single, but I got the bunkhouse for the grandkids who I wanted to travel with me at times.
It's a 19-foot travel trailer, Kodiak Cub. And it's a 2021. I'm 65 years old. I taught high school for 29 years. I really wanted to do 30 years of teaching, but COVID in the classroom sort of took its toll on me a little bit mentally. It was hard on all teachers.
My mother was in assisted living, and I could not be with her from March all the way to her death in December. So that made it a difficult year. And then she passed away December the 18th.
I am an empty-nester. My younger son lives in Virginia, my older son in the military here in New Jersey where I am right now. The school year was coming to an end. My mother had left me a little money, and it had always been a dream of mine to have an RV. I had been looking at them for years and years and years.
My parents raised me camping, traveling all the national parks; my sons and I both, I've hiked with both of them. We always choose the great outdoors.
A couple of years ago we got together at Shenandoah and stayed in one of the little lodgings there. I've always been happiest outdoors, exploring, traveling.
It hasn't been unusual at all for me, I don't like to fly, to get in the car and drive from Texas to Virginia to see one son, Texas to Albuquerque, Texas to New Jersey to see the other.
Time to make a change?
So it just kind of all came to a head in April and May. And I started thinking, I'm tired. I would always stay there because mom was in the area, but now she's gone and passed on. My sons don't even live in the state of Texas anymore.
She left me a little money, which gave me the ability to do this, so I just went for it. It was a huge, huge-
Mike Wendland: It's a huge step. Yes, yes it is.
Cynthia Waldrop: It was a huge step, and I was very afraid. Will I be able to afford this?
My younger son helped form a budget spreadsheet for me. I started looking at the idea of getting an RV, and if I looked outside for other people's opinions, I would have 50 different opinions of if I should or not.
Eventually, you just have to look to yourself, what decision… I know I'm fearful of getting out and leaving sticks and bricks. I was in an apartment at the time, and leaving a job that I loved that really defines me and has defined me for a very, very long time.
So I'm going into the unknown. What in the world is a black water tank? What's the difference between the black and the gray?
Mike Wendland: Don't ask Jennifer, because she doesn't know. That's my job, but it's going to be your job now.
Fulltime Retired Solo Women RV Travelers — biggest fear?
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes. And the biggest fear is, should I spend the money? I'm 65. Should I spend that money? Should I hang on to it? I'm probably going to need it for an assisted living or something someday.
Am I going to be able to learn to pull this trailer? Am I going to be able to learn to back it up? Finally, it really comes down to how disappointed would I be if I did not even tackle it with my fears, and I had to go forward.
Jennifer Wendland: That is so well said.
Cynthia Waldrop: I just had to do it.
Jennifer Wendland: You have to do what your heart tells you to do.
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes. And I thought about my parents a lot, and they did a lot of hunting, and they would travel with a little fifth wheel hunting in Colorado sometimes. And we were always on deer leases when I was growing up, we were always camping. And I thought, they would want me to. Yeah, they would want me to.
Mike Wendland: Let me see if I understand the story. So you started off early this summer, then you moved out of the apartment. Did you put stuff in storage? Or did you sell everything?
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes. I have a 10-by-10 storage in Boerne, just north of San Antonio a little bit. I gave away some of my furniture. I gave some of it to friends. I gave my furniture to people who had helped me over the years. I didn't really sell anything.
I should tell you the truth, it was time of COVID. I really didn't want a lot of people coming to the apartment, and it just felt better, it just felt good to give some of it away and to give back to some people.
Making the break to become one of the Fulltime Retired Solo Women RV Travelers
Mike Wendland: So you made that break. What did your friends and your relatives, obviously your sons approved, because they helped you with this and they understand that. But what did your friends say when you say, “I'm moving out of the apartment, I'm buying an RV, and bye.” What did they tell you?
Cynthia Waldrop: I am very blessed, because they were very supportive. They were very, very supportive of it, because they know me so well. And they knew that staying there and continuing to teach and living there with both of my parents gone now, with my sons so far away, and they knew how much I like to travel to see my sons and how I always wanted to see things while I was traveling and on the road.
Every vacation, every spring break, every summer vacation from teaching, I was gone.
Mike Wendland: So then you were used to this lifestyle. How did what you thought it would be and what your past experiences were jive with you actually now doing it? How have those two meshed? What are the things you've learned?
And what was harder than you expected? What was easier? Give us a sense of your experiences now that you've actually done it.
Cynthia Waldrop: After I purchased the RV, it was about an hour-and-a-half away at a dealership, away from me, about an hour-and-a-half away. And I had to get it to the RV resort. I still had a couple of months left to teach, and I wanted to have that time with it, learning it stationary before I took a trip in it.
So the most frightening thing was I had to… I had bought the truck, which was a big experience, because I went from a little Corolla to a 2500 Dodge Ram. I think I received the most comments about that. You don't need that big of a truck.
But I fell in love with the truck and I thought if I ever upgrade from a 19-foot to something a little bigger, because I had a lot of dealerships tell me this 19-foot, you're going to feel cramped after a while. It's not going to be big enough for you, but somehow I just knew I'd be okay with it, because through the years I've been downsizing, so why not just keep going?
And I didn't want to worry about any mountains, because I knew I loved to go to the mountains, and I knew I would be full-time in it, which I am. So I wanted the bigger truck, which was an experience, especially when you have a salesman on the truck lot turning to you and saying, “Does your husband know you're out here doing this?”
Mike Wendland: Yeah, I bet.
Cynthia Waldrop: It's been experience to go, as a single older woman, to go into buying a trailer hitch for it, to buying the lock, the lock that goes on the hitch, to buying the trailer, to buying the truck. That's where I received I think the most advice, not necessarily from my friends, but from salesmen who thought they knew better than I did. And I'm sure they do.
Innovative way to learn
Anyway, so I'm going to have to pull this trailer for the very first time in my entire life pulling anything at all from the dealership an hour-and-a-half back to Boerne through San Antonio. I found an RV transporter, a very nice older man who hauls RVs for people. I called him up and I said, “I don't want you to haul it for me, I want you to ride with me while I pull it.”
So he met me at the dealership. I paid him for the day, and he rode shotgun with me for the very first time I ever pulled it. And it was a great experience, because he was constantly talking to me; you want to watch out for this turn, you want to pull a little wider. You're doing fine. You want to slow down a little bit. And then he got me into the parking space at the RV.
By this time, I had gone through the dealership, spent about two hours showing everything to me and teaching it to me. But I videotaped it on my phone while they were talking, and I videoed what they were showing me on the trailer. And so I had hours and hours in my apartment to go through the video, stop, start, stop, start, and take my notes.
Then I went through my notes with this gentleman, Walt is his name. I went through my notes with Walt, and a few other people over the next few weeks, until I fine-honed it down to what I thought were the step-by-steps that I need to do. So I paid him about three weeks later, I paid him again to come out.
Private coaching worked
This time I needed to be more hands-on. So he watched me disconnect everything, and we hooked it up. He drove around town with me for a couple of hours. We went into my high school where I was teaching, my parking lot, empty on a Saturday. And he taught me the basics of backing up into the parking spaces.
So I was getting my feet wet. I was getting my toes wet, but nothing that I had nothing that I had confidence in.
Mike Wendland: I'm going to stop you for one second here, because I've never heard of that before, and that is such a good idea. How did you find Walt, if other people who are- I know people are going to say, how did she find him?
Cynthia Waldrop: Yeah. I was talking to my salesman and I said, “I'm concerned. How am I going to get this trailer to Boerne? I've never hauled anything before.” And they gave me Walt's card, and they said, “He'll take it for you.” And then I had a better idea. He'll take me, I'll take him.
Mike Wendland: What a great idea.
Cynthia Waldrop: So I called him and I said, “I know you haul for people, but would you do this for me? Would you ride along with me?”
Mike Wendland: Great idea.
Jennifer Wendland: That's the best advice for anybody, what you did. Awesome.
Videotape the RV intro and demonstration
Mike Wendland: And what you said about videotaping the walkthrough, as they call it in the industry. And we've been advocating that for years, and it's so good to have you reaffirm what we've been saying. Since then, you obviously have gone from Texas to all the way to the East Coast, in New Jersey, I would imagine other places.
What other things have you learned along the way that you would want to share to maybe encourage other people who are thinking about this?
Cynthia Waldrop: It was when I finally left Boerne, when everything was said and done, everything's in the storage, I'm out of the apartment, I'm ready to go. I think I have the trailer inside as I want it. I think I've packed things up.
Learning the 330 Rule the hard way
You can tell what's coming. I set out from San Antonio, Texas, to Kinder, Louisiana, where Coushatta Casino has a very nice RV resort. I violated rule number one by going too far the first day. I believe I learned from you, the number three.
300 or 3:00 in the afternoon.
Mike Wendland: We give you a little longer. We give you 3:30, so 3:30 or 330 miles. You went a long way from San Antonio past the Louisiana border there.
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes. Yes I did. I went to Lake Charles and then went up north to Coushatta. But unfortunately Texas is having huge renovation on the highways, construction, and there was nothing but construction from San Antonio all the way to Lake Charles.
I didn't realize it at the time, but as I'm bobbing along and being jostled along in the truck, I had no idea what was happening in the trailer behind me. I thought everything was secure. But when I arrived at Coushatta after dark, setting up with the mosquitoes and everything after dark, and this was my very first day, remember.
Mike Wendland: We're only smiling because we've been there, done that.
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes, and I opened that trailer door. It was as if a tornado had gone off in there. What was so amazing to me, Corelle dishes, unbreakable, actually do break. What was so amazing is, above the sink, there's a cabinet that I really have to pull hard on to get to open, and I have to really push to get it to shut.
What happened is at some point along that journey, that cabinet door flung open, flung out all of my Corelle and everything else in it, and somehow managed with such violent force somewhere along the way, to shut it again. It was completely shut.
Jennifer Wendland: All of this, this didn't discourage you in the least. You continued on.
Cynthia Waldrop: No. Well, I'm in it now. I mean, I'm committed. There's no apartment to go back to. I have this truck, I have a 2017 truck, I have a new trailer, and I'm determined.
I think the two things that come to mind, we may get discouraged, and I had a lot of discouragement on that trip, but I was determined. I wanted this to work. I needed this to work. I woke up in Louisiana the next morning ready for my second travel day.
And I just remember lying there on my four-inch foam mattress on top of the horrible mattress that came with it. I love Kodiak. The trailer's been just great, but that mattress. So I remember lying there. I think I laid there for a couple of hours, and just to get up and get going again. But that was kind of my defining moment.
I laid there. I was really nervous. Can I do this? I'm going to have to get in it and go again. But I need to back up.
Pride and Joy
When you asked me what gave me the most trouble, the thing that gave me the most anxiousness was not pulling it on the highway and doing turns well, I can do all of that. And I really actually took a great amount of pride and joy looking in the mirror and seeing it behind me.
That was just an excitement to know that it was finally behind me. I've wanted this for years, and I'd always dreamed about it. And thanks to my parents, it was finally coming true. I was just so proud that I was in that truck and pulling it. But the very first day, and everybody had said… Well, here it is, getting gas.
That gave me the greatest anxiety the first few days, because everyone had said… Well, first of all, the truck guzzles like no tomorrow. I'm not used to that, from my little Corolla to this truck, so I watched the needle quickly, quickly, quickly.
So when I had about a fourth of a tank, I started looking, which is a mistake. I start now at half a tank.
I start looking for a place at half a tank, but at fourth of a tank, I'm in the middle of Houston. And I have discovered, I already know from a few hours' experience, I'm not going to exit in the middle of Houston to try to get gas. So I find, everyone had told me the big truck stop areas. So on the edge of Houston, there was a sign that said I could go to one of the big truck stops.
In my ignorance, I had always seen trucks there. If a truck can get in there, I can get in there. So I pulled into where the trucks go.
We've all been there
Mike Wendland: Oh, no.
Cynthia Waldrop: But I didn't know that they don't have any gas for me there. They only have diesel there. So I looked over at where all the cars are getting the unleaded, and I thought, there's no way I can get in there. I can't get in there.
And it was on a two… I had gone down five miles off the interstate onto a little two-lane road with all these huge semis, because somewhere there's a big truck center at the end of that road. I ended up, I couldn't get any gas.
So I ended up back on the highway after going terrible little horrible little neighborhood roads where the GPS is taking me, and the trailer's just going crazy back there, bouncing in all the potholes and everything.
Then I finally am able to stop somewhere and get gas. But then I discovered, I started researching on all the internet sites. I pulled over on the side of the road. How do I do this? How do I manage this gas situation? And they said, look at the satellite of the gas stations coming up. So that's what I started doing.
Mike Wendland: Using Google Earth, yes.
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes. So I could see this looks pretty big here. Long story short, it just started getting easier and easier. And I would pull into some places and reject it, and go on down the road. I always take the outside tanks, the outside.
But the biggest thing that helps me more than anything at all is when I'm ready to leave and pull away from the gas pump, when I'm ready to leave the outside pumps, I will actually walk, leave the camper there. And I will walk my exit through the gas station.
Mike Wendland: So you know where to turn, what not to hit when you're pulling out.
Cynthia, we have gone way over on the interview. We want to tell everybody that on the RV Lifestyle blog with this interview and our podcasts, we will have a full story from Cynthia of advice on how she processed this. I don't want to end the interview with frustration. You've been doing this now enough, I can see in your face that you like this lifestyle.
Cynthia Waldrop: Yes.
Is it worth it?
Mike Wendland: Just a couple of quick takeaways for somebody who… If you could have talked to yourself a year ago, you're talking to people in our audience who are where you were a year ago. What would you tell them, particularly the single older woman who has some traveling that she wants to do in an RV?
Cynthia Waldrop: The same advice that I read, other older single women putting out there in blogs and on the Facebook posts, yes, you can do it. You can absolutely do it. Absolutely. And it is worth it.
At the end of the first week, there was no doubt in my mind. I wasn't afraid of the gas anymore. There's people along the way to help. There are tons of people. You pull into any RV place, state park, or wherever, and there's somebody there that's going to help you. Always.
Mike Wendland: You have found a whole new community that I bet you never knew existed because you're now a full-timer.
Cynthia Waldrop: I'm keeping a journal, and I'm writing down how these people helped me, because I would love to write about the people along the way at some point.
Mike Wendland: We're hoping that we see some more stuff by you as we continue with our RV Lifestyle travel blog. I know people are going to be delighted to listen to your story over again and to share it with others.
Cynthia Waldrop: Thank you.
Mike Wendland: Cynthia, we'll probably have you back in another six months and find out what else you learned.
Jennifer Wendland: As the adventure continues.
Cynthia has a few other wonderful ideas for you to explore. Here are 4 more tips for a retired solo woman RV traveler
Tip #1: Realize It’s Just Another Step…
For the older single woman, the decision to live an RV lifestyle can be fearful and full of insecurities and doubts, so she searches for an affirmation or for “permission” from all sources except the most important one—herself.
The answer isn’t found on the sales lot or in the videos or from the advice of the longest and dearest friend.
The answer doesn’t depend on whether you can hitch or unhitch or back up or empty a black tank.
If you are reading this, then you probably know, in spite of your fears, that you want to travel the open road, yet the doubts and insecurities in taking the first steps toward adventure can be overwhelming; however, first steps aren’t reserved for babies or graduates or marriages.
First steps also include retiring or empty nesting or burying loved ones, spouses, parents.
First steps always signal new beginnings and hold just as much promise and hope and happiness in later years as they did in younger years. Your life has been one first step after another.
In the “golden” years, however, you’ve experienced more and have more people who worry about you; your experiences include long lists of “should’s” and “shouldn’t’s”. Well-meaning naysayers really do have your best interests at heart, but they can’t offer any new warnings that you probably haven’t already paced the floor over in many a sleepless night.
But those who weigh the risks and take the chances and step forward know that they’ve been doing just that their entire lives with every birth certificate and marriage certificate and job resume.
The steps taken now in more mature years are steps nonetheless and need not be fearful. Now you are older and wiser and have time to finally look in the mirror and pursue your dreams.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. expressed an analogy to inspire all to continue to live and dream: “The riders in a race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voice of friends, and to say to one’s self—The work is done, but just as one says that, the answer comes. The race is over, but the work is never done while the power to work remains.”
Yes, there will be planning and questions and uncharted waters and doubts, but haven’t there always been? This is just another step.
Tip #2: Move Forward
Once you have decided to travel, explore, and live your dream, think about focusing on the coming changes to your current living situation.
Whether you will full-time RV or keep your residence as home base, now is the time to spring clean your life. Donate, sell, place items in storage, return the childhood treasures to your grown children, and while you are literally “cleaning house,” set aside mementos and treasures you would like to travel or decorate with in the travel trailer or RV.
It is true that the big box stores offer enticing decorations and gadgets, but your new home on wheels will truly be home if you surround yourself with the items you cherish.
Even though you probably won’t be able to use all the treasures you set aside, you will have many to choose from and can simply store the items that didn’t make the cut.
While boxing up items for storage, leave the boxes open until moving day so a second or even a third scan and cut can be made. If you do return to a sticks and bricks residence, you will be grateful.
If the purging is too emotionally difficult, no need to pressure or rush the process: No doubt these possessions have been a daily fixture in your life for many years.
A storage unit will give you the time you need to emotionally process and decide later. After the excitement of being on the road for a while and enjoying new experiences and friends, the decisions will be easier.
Tip #3: Take it Step by Step
While readying your home for travel, begin a three-ring notebook with tabs and notebook paper, or open files on an iPad or laptop.
You will begin reading information and watching videos about the RV life, and if you haven’t had any experience, the information can seem a little overwhelming. Take some notes. Save some links. Begin collecting information and resources.
A bit of old-fashioned advice: Using technology can result in simply “saving” a wealth of information without mentally processing it, but taking the time to read or watch and jot down notes will enable you to begin a thoughtful understanding and questioning of the information.
Whether or not you use the information, whether or not it is helpful, this is an important step because it is moving you forward and giving a feeling of control and accomplishment; as a result, fears and doubts will lessen.
Set up a calendar with goal dates from cleaning out a closet to making an appointment to look at travel trailers or RV’s, but don’t pressure yourself with rigid timelines. Simply keep moving forward.
Tip #4: Embrace this Exciting Adventure
Try not to rush this process; instead, treasure it as life-changing—and life-affirming.
Be thoughtful through the process and appreciate it. It will be emotional, yes: Every item needs a decision to keep, store, toss, or donate.
Travel may take you miles from a decades-long home and friends. There are so many new tasks to learn!
This may be the first venture without a loved one. However, there is comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone; more and more older women can be found on the open road, in the RV parks, boondocking, traveling solo or in caravans.
Every one of them took the first step and embraced the adventure—many with fear and trepidation. It is the unknown, after all. But then again, it’s always been the unknown, hasn’t it?
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