In this week’s podcast, we introduce you to two of our RVing friends, Jeff and Deb Spencer, who live and work fulltime in their RV, traveling all across the country checking off their bucket list as they pursue their passion of endurance running and visiting new places. Now your passion may not be running 100 mile races and climbing mountaintops but I think you’ll enjoy our conversation because as Jeff and Deb say, you too live out your dream on the road. They’ll tell you how they did it and you can, too, coming up in our interview of the week.
Also this week, RV news you need to know and the questions you want us to answer.
Show Notes for Episode #242 May 15, 2019 of The RV Podcast:
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
It’s been a busy travel week for us as we traveled to Holland, MI to take in the spectacular Holland Tulip Festival. We saw hundreds of thousands of blooming tulips, watched parades, attended a huge street dance done in wooden shoes by more than 700 people and enjoyed Dutch food, entertainment and hospitality in Western Michigan. Look for a video on our RV Lifestyle You Tube Channel this coming Thursday.
This week, we are scheduled to travel to Elkhart, IN and the RV Capital of the World to learn about new advances in solar and battery energy management systems for RVs and maybe a factory tour or two. We also has a slew of RV-related products to test and review, including a new cell phone booster system made just for Class B and C RVs, a new rear view wireless camera and some RV cleaning products. Naturally, we’ll do reviews on them all, letting you know if they are a hit or a miss.
Also, you may have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing. If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990. If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Nation’s newest national park to start accepting camping reservations this Wednesday
Interested in checking out the nation’s newest national park? Indiana Dunes National Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan, will open half the spots in its Dunewood campground for reservations this Wednesday. In past years, all 66 sites at Dunewood campground were available on a first-come, first-served, basis. Under the new system, 34 sites can be reserved up to six months in advance. The remaining 32 sites will remain first-come, first-served. The price is $25 per night. The campground is open April through October.
Five new glamping spots open near Yosemite, one a loaded Airstream camper
Five new glamping spots have opened near Yosemite National Park permitting camping in a covered wagon ($279 per night), a loaded Airstream camper ($225 per night), an air conditioned yurt ($145 a night) and more. While glamping is definitely a growing trend, I think at those prices, I’ll stay with my camper van, thank you.
Three men who illegally killed a mountain lion at Yellowstone banned from hunting anywhere in the world
Three men who illegally killed a mountain lion in Yellowstone National Park late last year were given their sentence recently in a federal court. Their punishment includes a three year worldwide ban from hunting, fishing or trapping, and a fine, among other things.
Kansas RV dealer fined $40,000 for selling salvaged RVs to unknowing buyers
Central RV in Kansas agreed to pay $40,000 in fines and fees for selling salvage recreational vehicles without informing buyers. The charges came after a Kansas state attorney general investigation, and they show the importance of buying your used RV from a reputable dealer. For some tips on what you should know before buying a used RV, listen to an interview we did on the subject some time back by clicking here.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping
LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
A listener called the Voicemail line and asked about the hitch we use for our Rad Power Bikes.
By email, we received this question:
Hi, Mike. We have a brand new 2019 Unity MB LLplus, LTV. We are new to RV’g. Right now, our biggest challenge is technical. We do not want to get on the roof to switch out the SIM card for our Winegard Connect2.0, in order to get a Verizon Plan. However, from what we are reading, it looks like we will have to do so! Any other suggestions?
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
Over the years that Jennifer and I have been RVing, we’ve met lots of people who have truly become friends, kindred spirits, so to speak, who embody all the things the RV Lifestyle can bring. You are about to meet two of our favorites, Jeff and Deb Spencer. They live on the road fulltime in a fifth wheel after giving up their 9 to 5 jobs for the RV living so they can pursue their passion as endurance athletes.
They run long, long races. Like 100 mile runs. Marathons are training runs for these guys.
Jeff had a big corporate job. Deb left her practice as a chiropractor. They both work from the road for the Dometic Corporation and are extremely well known and well respected by manufacturers, suppliers, campground operators and RV clubs and organizations.
We asked them on to share how they live, work and play from the road and how you can, too.
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Mike Wendland: Well, joining us now from, looks like you’re in your tow vehicle, Jeff and Deb Spencer. And you are at the Grand Canyon right now, if I’m not mistaken, right?
Jeff Spencer: Yes.
Deb Spencer: Yes. We made a little pit stop. We were in Las Vegas at an event there, and we had a week in between the next event over at Overland Expo West, and so we just decided to pull in to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Mike Wendland: Oh my gosh. They did more than that, folks. These guys, as we have said, are endurance athletes. And knowing them, they ran around the canyon, down the canyon, up the canyon. And fortunately it looks like-
Jeff Spencer: We have done that. We have done that a few times, but this time here, we just finished up a few weeks ago at Boston. We did the Boston Marathon, and then went to, like Deb said, Las Vegas, to Mount Charleston Marathon, and then we worked in the National Hardware Show. So we did a little… Mixed the business with some pleasure.
Mike Wendland: Well, let’s let everybody get a quick idea of all the things that you do. As I mentioned in the introduction, you guys are living your dream. And we’ve had a couple of people that you helped us be introduced to, and some that we’ve known who… And we’ve kind of been talking about that for so many people, about living your dream and how you can really do that out there. Just go out there and try it. The worst case scenario, it doesn’t work, you’ll do something else.
Mike Wendland: But the proof is right in front of us with Jeff and Deb Spencer. Tell us a little bit about one, what you do to earn your living while you’re out there on the road, but what you do full-timing and also what you full-time in.
Deb Spencer: Well, we full-time in our 32-foot fifth wheel, a 2009 Carriage Domani, and we’ve been out on the road full-time for four years now. We decided that when we got married, one of our compatibility things was that we both wanted to be traveling in an RV across the country. And so, after looking at RVs for 20 years, we finally bought our first one in 2014.
Deb Spencer: And we started out with a little travel trailer and then we did a lot of shorter trips. We still had our house then, but four years ago, when we sold the house, is when we bought the fifth wheel and went full-time.
Mike Wendland: Yeah, Jeff, you worked for, I guess we can say, right, you worked for Walmart, ran some of their biggest stores. Deb, you, by training and profession, were a chiropractor, still are a chiropractor. But you guys left all that behind and are now out there working from the road and enjoying your travels and your athletic competitions. How do you earn enough money to live that lifestyle?
Jeff Spencer: Well, as you alluded to, I worked for Walmart and then I started working in the supplier community supporting Walmart. We domicile out of Bentonville, Arkansas, which is the headquarters for Walmart.
Jeff Spencer: And so, we’re formalizing our vision, like Deb mentioned, about traveling the United States, and it was very specific. It was traveling the U.S. in a fifth wheel.
Jeff Spencer: We were fortunate enough to meet a guy that you had on your show, Dan Miller, who wrote a book called 48 Days to the Work You Love. Dan shared that if you don’t like what your life, then create a new one. And we have the ability to be able to influence the things that we do.
Jeff Spencer: And so, Deb and I had a dream of traveling the United States in a fifth wheel, and then we put plans in place to live that dream. In order to do that, it required us to financially look at some opportunities on how we could leverage our backgrounds and add value to some organizations to create income to sustain this dream. And that’s what we did is we met with some different suppliers that sell to Walmart and that work in the RV industry, and we were able to leverage our skillsets to help add some value, and that helps fund our lifestyle.
Deb Spencer: Yeah. Dan Miller really challenged us to consider Jeff’s experience at Walmart and our love for the RV industry, and so we just went into the Walmart store and looked at the shelf space, and looked who was on the shelf in the RV department. And then we reached out to some of those companies and said, “Hey, this is our experience. This is Jeff’s experience with Walmart in the supplier community, and we love this lifestyle. How can we provide a service to you?” And that kind of led us down a path of actually being hired into Dometic eventually to help them not only with Walmart but in their retail sales.
Mike Wendland: So, let me maybe use a couple of summation words. You’ve become, in a sense, consultants, really, for the RV industry in helping… Right now they’re working for Dometic, which if somebody doesn’t know what Dometic is, if you’re in your RV, look around. You’ll see a Dometic product in there, be it an air conditioner, a toilet, a heating system, a refrigerator, many, many other things.
Mike Wendland: Jeff and Deb, my audience, I can tell you, are very well respected in the industry. And they have contacts with all sorts of them, so they’re being kind of modest as they describe it. But what I hope you heard them talk about is they just took their dream and mapped out a way that they could sustain it.
Mike Wendland: And the way to sustain it and to finance it was to leverage what they already had been doing and to broaden it, in the sense that how could they do it for the road. How’d I do? Did I describe that pretty good?
Deb Spencer: Excellent.
Jeff Spencer: Very good.
Deb Spencer: Yes.
Mike Wendland: Okay. We’ll put a link to that Dan Miller episode that they talked about, that we had a few weeks ago in the show notes [inaudible 00:06:39].
Mike Wendland: Now, let’s talk about living out there on the road. You travel around. Tell us where you stay.
Deb Spencer: Yeah, we mostly prefer boondocking, so we look at BLM, Bureau of Land Management, forestry roads, moochdocking, driveway surfing, that kind of thing. Some places really, we have to go into an RV park. So when we were in Las Vegas, for convenience sake, we stayed at an RV park there. But for the most part, we really prefer boondocking.
Mike Wendland: And the last time we were together, we talked about a good neighbor policy. Many of our people know, Walmart, that’s the largest RV campground in the world. Everybody overnights at Walmart.
Deb Spencer: Yup
Mike Wendland: But it’s not just Walmart. There’s others. There’s Cracker Barrel and Cabela’s and many, many other… Some of the big box stores.
Mike Wendland: Let’s talk a little bit about being a good neighbor on the road. Help people understand what a good RV neighbor is all about.
Jeff Spencer: We’re members of the Escapees, and actually they have a subgroup called the Xscapers. Those are the younger, full-time, mainly, RVers that are still working. And the Escapees have a policy called the Good Neighbor Policy, and it really is about the etiquette RVers overnighting at places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel, even truck stops. And it just gives good behavior policies for us.
Jeff Spencer: And it’s things like it encourages no more than one light, to not put your slides out or your awnings out or do not put your jack stands down into the parking lot. It encourages you to appreciate and maybe shop at one of those places, giving back, because it is a nice benefit that they offer.
Deb Spencer: We’ve seen examples of how not to do things, so setting up your camp chairs for days, detaching your tow vehicle from the RV to go somewhere else, take in sightseeing or so forth. You don’t want to leave your vehicle there over daytime. It’s just something to briefly stop for the night and then move on. So, not setting up camp. Just set up for the night and then move on.
Mike Wendland: Now, another hat you have worn in your travels is you have also been, at least this past fall, I know, in California, were camp hosts. Talk a little bit about what you learned about being a good neighbor from the campground camp host perspective.
Deb Spencer: Oh. I tell you what. It was our first experience of doing camp hosting. And we’re actually signed up to go back again, to the same park, even though we did experience some of the challenges. But it’s funny that when we… There were no hookups in the campground. It was Doheny State Beach, and so that campground was established in the ’30s, so we see folks who were trying to wedge 40, 43-feet of RV into a limit of 32 feet stated on the website.
Deb Spencer: Of course, since it’s dry camping and we’ve got generators, so we have to go around and remind people of the generator policies. And through the experience of talking to folks, they all have a reason why they don’t want to adhere to the rules. But it’s just a matter of just being cordial and asking them to be good stewards of the campground.
Jeff Spencer: I think that, to add to that, we love camping, we love RVing, we love being around RVers. And so, that checked the box.
Jeff Spencer: It also helped us understand the recreational campers a little bit. A lot of times, we’re around full-timers. As part of the Xscapers and the Escapees, we’re around and immersed with this community of full-time RVers. And it was a good opportunity to be around recreational campers.
Jeff Spencer: And then, personally, selfishly, it was on the ocean. And I did grow up in California and it was on the Pacific Ocean. And so, to mix, again, pleasure and business, it was really a fortuitous opportunity for us, and one, like Deb said, we’re going to go back and immerse ourselves in that again.
Mike Wendland: So, now tell us a little bit more… I think that interests a lot of people, too, to realize that your work, the way you fund your full-time activities, can also play right into the reason you want to RV. And in your case, so much of it has to do with endurance athletes and long-distance runs and swims and boats and bikes, and all that stuff. How do you choose where you want to go?
Deb Spencer: Our primary direction comes from work. So, if we have particular RV shows or conferences, rallies, those kind of dictate our primary focus of where we go.
Deb Spencer: And the beginning of the year, usually from January to April, May, is really heavy show season. So we have a pretty tight schedule for the first four months of the year.
Deb Spencer: And then the rest of the year kind of spaces out a little bit. So, when we have a little more freedom, then we can start implementing, okay, where do we have to be, to like this Overland Expo… Actually the Hardware Show in Las Vegas, we had to be in Las Vegas on a certain date. So then we say, okay, are there any races kind of in the area that we can coordinate with our time that we’re going to be there? And that happened to work out with… Mount Charleston Marathon and Half Marathon was within a week of the Hardware Show in Las Vegas. And we happened to have 100 folks from Bentonville, Arkansas from our running club actually sign up for the same race, so it was actually kind of a three point visit, where we got to see our running folks, our friends, our running friends, the Hardware Show, and then actually compete.
Jeff Spencer: So, we’ll head to Flagstaff, and of course there’s a lot of trails around there that we’ll jump on. And then from there, we’re going to… Our next event will be in Colorado.
Jeff Spencer: And so, the Xscapers have Convergences, so they have these meet-ups throughout the United States, and it’ll be an opportunity for us to connect with that group. Well actually, before that is the Outdoor Retail Show in Denver. So, that’s kind of [inaudible 00:13:58] that we have. Those events in the state of Colorado.
Jeff Spencer: And then we have a friend that’s part of our Xscapers group that’s going to be in competition in Leadville, Colorado. And so, we’re going to go out there and help support her as she attempts to run 100 miles in Leadville, Colorado at 59.
Jeff Spencer: So, that’s an example of how we can be intentional and finding a calendar of events for business, and then laying in our activities that help move us towards some of our bucket list items that we have that happen to be a lot active events. Deb wants to summit all the high peaks in the lower 48, and so we’re looking at driving over to Taos and climbing Wheeler Peak over there on the way.
Deb Spencer: New Mexico, so.
Jeff Spencer: Yeah.
Mike Wendland: Now, you said earlier in the interview that you quote domicile in Arkansas. And for people who haven’t really dug too deeply into full-timing but it’s on their bucket list as well, what does that mean when you choose to domicile? Because you really are not in any place long enough to make it a traditional sticks and bricks home. What does domicile mean, and why is that important for RVers?
Deb Spencer: Yeah, so, when somebody decides to go full-time and they decide to sell everything, their sticks and bricks, their home base, they still have to have a state of registration. So, they register their vehicles, they pay some sort of taxes-
Jeff Spencer: Place to vote.
Deb Spencer: … a place to vote. So, you really have to have some sort of a state to claim as your domicile. And so, for full-time RVers, typically the top three states are South Dakota, Texas, and Florida because of certain state… Some states don’t have state income taxes, there’s some advantages for RVers, it makes it easier for RVers to register without having a physical address, which is becoming more and more challenging with regulations. So, you have to have a state to register your life into.
Deb Spencer: And so, for us, we continue to have our domicile in Arkansas because we still own property there. So, for us, it continued to make sense for us to domicile out of Arkansas because of our property there. For our health insurance it’s also a big problem, since we’re not under Medicare yet, to find a health provider that’ll cover you anywhere in the country.
Mike Wendland: When you’re out of state, yeah.
Deb Spencer: And Arkansas does have BlueCross BlueShield, where a lot of other states don’t have BlueCross BlueShield anymore. They have other companies that might be state-specific, where ours is nationwide.
Mike Wendland: Now, we’ve talked a little bit about how you guys make your living on the road, or how you fit the lifestyle that you want to live around those goals. Now talk about those people who are listening to this and saying, “Well, I’m not an endurance athlete but I like antiques,” or maybe, “I like to attend air shows,” or whatever hobby or interest someone has. Talk about how what you have learned over the years can translate, and why this might work real well for them too.
Deb Spencer: Yeah, I think it’s the landing on a hobby, and then just doing a search of the areas that you’re interested and seeing when they have certain shows, antique shows, farmer’s markets, flea markets. And then that can help direct you to a certain location to go check out.
Deb Spencer: You were at the Tulip Festival last week, and that’s a big draw for folks. And so, knowing the dates for those from year to year helps you direct your focus on where you want to go camping and the experiences that you want to have.
Mike Wendland: So, based on your experience, as well as in the industry where you’ve watched this recreational boom and many, many new people coming in to RVing, but also as being out there yourselves, when people are considering this, what trends related to this increase in RVers out there would you have people be aware of, that they need to take into consideration? That it’s not all, I guess, those idyllic scenes that you see in some of the industry ads that need to have a little practicality now thrown in? Give us a wake-up call so we can count the costs, so to speak.
Jeff Spencer: I think planning is very key. When you’re looking at the schedule of activities, we’ve been working on our 2020 calendar already. But if we look at this plan, we’ve got certain events that we have to go to.
Jeff Spencer: Some of the trends we’re seeing as we come into the summer time, and this is peak season for RVers, we were just talking this morning that Memorial Day’s coming up and that we need to make sure that we have a place that we can camp, whether it’s boondocking or we go into an RV park. If you’re going into an RV park, or, where we’re at right now, at the Grand Canyon, the sooner you put in your reservation, the better. The place that we were camp hosts at, they were filling up six months in advance.
Jeff Spencer: And it’s hard for a lot of people to figure out what they’re going to be doing in six months, but we did see people that would… If you think that you’re going to be at the Grand Canyon, you’re going to be at a state park, go ahead and make the reservation, and in most cases you can cancel those if your plans change. There’s Campendium and Allstays are both great apps that we utilize to be able to find back-up locations.
Jeff Spencer: So, Deb’s really good on doing the logistics planning, and she’ll look for a A spot, and maybe a B spot as a back-up. We’re fortunate that our rig… We built it, we did a lot of after-market things to allow us to boondock. So, we have full solar, we have big holding tanks, and we understand that gives us more flexibility and more freedom to be able to choose places that we can camp. And in those rare cases where they are filled up, we’ve maybe had to expand our search to go to another location.
Deb Spencer: Yeah, and one of the things we learned at Doheny State Beach is most of the time, the campground, there were some sites that were still available. So, they do have a lottery situation where you can go in and at a certain time, usually you can find this out on their website, say, at 11:00 each day, they’ll have unclaimed campsites or canceled campsites that might be available. It might only be for one or two nights, but at least you get to park for the night. But if you’re trying to stay one or two weeks at a place on short notice, it’s very difficult to do that, unless, of course, you’re doing boondocking and so forth.
Deb Spencer: Another tip is when we are going into an area say, like the Grand Canyon here, and coming up on maybe a holiday weekend, is to get there the week before or a Monday or a Tuesday before the holiday weekend so you’ve got your place already set. And then you’ve got the weekend warriors that come out on Friday or Thursday evening, you’ve already got your site. But if you’re waiting until the last minute on that weekend, it can be a lot more challenging to find a campsite.
Mike Wendland: Well, folks are going to want to know more about you guys. Is there a website we can send them to where they can learn more about Jeff and Deb Spencer and what you do?
Deb Spencer: Yeah, we’re at rollingrecess.com.
Mike Wendland: We’ll also put a link to the Xscapers and the Escapees. Those are two great organizations that are really hitting that sweet spot for people who are heavy-duty campers, RVers, full-timers, and we’ll send them there as well.
Deb Spencer: You’re sweet.
Jeff Spencer: Thanks, Mike.
Deb Spencer: Thanks, Mike. Take care.
Mike Wendland: Bye bye.
Jeff Spencer: Say hi to Jennifer. Bye bye.
Mike Wendland: God bless.
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