Solo RV Life can seem scary and lonely to some. But for the woman we meet in Episode 470 of the RV Podcast, it has been anything but. It has brought new friends, a strong sense of community and the joy of discovery.
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Solo RV Life with Teri Rostberg: Interview of the Week
For years, Teri Rostberg worked as the executive director of a hospice company and saw many people who simply waited too long to retire.
Determined not to have that happen to her, Teri retired at age 57 and set out to explore the country in her 21-foot 2016 190 Popular Roadtrek, often using work camp jobs to help with costs.
From Yellowstone to Grand Canyon to Alaska to a whooping crane refuge in Texas and more, Teri has been all over, loving every minute.
Here's an edited transcript:
Tell us why you decided to retire. Was it really because of what you saw in your hospice work?
Well, you know, people would reflect on the end of their life. And you never, ever heard anybody say, I wish I'd have spent more time working. You know, usually, it's travel plans. You know, they may be retired at 65 and were planning to travel and then got a cancer diagnosis. I was even seeing some of the people that I've worked with get cancer and they were younger than me. So yeah, I just, you know, wanted to have a good work-life balance and didn't want to have any regrets, so I figured I could always go back to work.
Well, I'm curious because you kind of have worked all the way through this, but oftentimes as a volunteer, how did that come about?
Well, sometimes people do say, when are you going to retire? And I said, I am retired. This is fun. You know, this is my hobby. This isn't work to me. And most people that do work camping, I don't think, feel that it's work. You know, they're going places they enjoy going. I feel like I'm living places I could never afford to live otherwise. Unless you're working a full job with the Park Service, how do you enjoy that beautiful environment of the National Parks besides work camping?
I mentioned some of the intro, but tell us about the places and how you discovered work camping in the first place.
How she started Solo RV Life
I'm a researcher, so I did a lot of research, watching shows like yours, reading some of the Escapee Club news articles. Anytime I would come across someone, I would ask them, where they've been, and just kind of made a list in my mind and on paper, and went back and researched some of the places. Also looked at places I wanted to go and then would google, volunteer, and sometimes things would come up.
What kind of stuff have you done and where?
My very first job was a volunteer at the National Park in the winter at Grand Canyon South Rim. And I was a volunteer with the National Park Service doing interpretive talks and working at the visitor center at Mather Point. And I kind of applied on a whim thinking, oh, there's all sorts of kids that are just out of college that have degrees that would be more interesting than mine for a National Park Service, but I got the call and figured, well, this must be a sign it's time to retire. And I went ahead and did it and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Tell us about your family a little bit and how all this came about because you are a solo traveler at this point, right?
I am. I guess I've always enjoyed traveling. Out of college, I lived 10 years in Hawaii and then went to Iowa. When I was growing up, we'd take Sunday drives and that was always kind of a highlight of my week to take Sunday drives with my mom and dad and sister. They're both gone. I had actually started looking into RVs when my mom was alive.
I was thinking that it would be kind of a traveling kennel while I was taking care of her because she couldn't have pets in her apartment. I had a golden retriever at the time and the golden retriever and my mother both passed before I started traveling. But that's kind of what got me researching this whole new lifestyle I knew nothing about.
Do you have a sticks and bricks place that you return to every year or are you on the road all the time?
I have no sticks and bricks. My house sold in Wisconsin. And after a couple of years, I heard about the Escapee co-op parks and put my name on a waiting list for that. So I have a RV lot that's rented out when I'm not there up in Chimacum, Washington near Port Townsend.
Solo RV Life Travel Routes
Do you have a route that you travel every year?
So right now you are in at the back of a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Tyler, Texas. And I saw you two and a half, three weeks ago at one of our gatherings in Nashville, Tennessee. Where have you been since and what are your plans? Where do you go from here?
Well, I stayed longer in Nashville because I heard Garth Brooks was gonna be at the Opry. So I went and saw Garth Brooks in a tribute. He just did three songs, but still that was a good thing. So I wanted to stay for that. I had also gone to an open mic in Leipers Fork, which I discovered when I came off the Natchez Trace totally by accident, this cute little town and made reservations for the open mic there.
Some of the destinations that attract me are music destinations, certainly national park destinations. I'm not a big hot weather person. And I don't always go south for the winter because having a house in Wisconsin, Washington to me is a piece of cake.
So tell us then you also do a lot of work camping. So how do you balance the travel and the music festivals with work camping?
Well, pre-COVID, most of my time work camping prevented me from doing gatherings. So I said, once I get on social security and have a little bit more supplement than I might otherwise, I decided to do some rallies. And then I made my routes coincide with the routes of the rallies I wanted to attend.
Is the Solo RV Life Lonesome?
The questions I get often from, uh, people who are curious about solo RV Life is, , do you get lonesome? Do you get lonely for family or friends?
Well, I've been single most of my life, so I guess I'm used to being solo. For someone who has recently lost a husband or something, it might be a little more difficult for them. But I do have friends everywhere. In fact, right now I'm on my way to visit a friend near Dallas, and we're going on a cruise, and I met her work camping. So, I do have friends everywhere.
Sometimes I'm planning solo gatherings with them and it just doesn't seem to be an issue. I always find something to do and I'm not afraid to go to a concert by myself.
What are the advantages of work camping and how does that help with people who want to be on the road a lot? And tell us about some of your favorite things that you do when you work camp.
Well, you were talking about loneliness. There's a sense of community, I think, among work campers. In general, if you're just at your work camping location, but also kind of researching future work camping. And sometimes people will do work camping gigs together. My friend that I'm seeing in Texas here is someone that I wanted to go back and work a second time with at Medora Campground in Medora, North Dakota. So, you know, there's a nice community there that helps you keep from maybe getting lonely on the road and connecting for future adventures.
I know that campground because I know the Medora musical that they do every year, that amazing musical that they put on, and that campground is like a stone's throw from there.
So, what do you do when you work camp? You say there's all these different jobs that you can do, and I think when people think work camping, they think they're going to be cleaning out toilets. I guess that's probably part of the job.
But what are some of the other jobs that you have done? What are your favorite ones?
A lot of people think campground host and I don't like doing campground host. I did it one time for a month just to help somebody out. But they kind of expect you to hang around the campground and I'm usually exploring the area when I'm not working. So, it's not the best fit for me. I'm not a big fan of cleaning restrooms. So volunteer centers are my favorite. It's a nice learning environment.
You also get to work with multiple generations. I enjoy helping people learn about the area as I'm learning myself. It's just a fun thing to do.
Solo RV Life Maintenance
You're on the road pretty much full-time. What about breakdowns? These are the questions we get from people. they say, I'd love to do it, but I don't have any mechanical abilities. Talk about that a little bit, about life on the road and how a solo RV person handles all those things. Are you mechanically inclined at all or have you had to learn that?
I am not. I'm a big believer in preventive maintenance, so I get everything checked out before I leave on a big trip. This is my second roadtrek. I had a '96, 210 Popular, and it had 223,000 miles on it. I knew I didn't want to drive that up to Alaska, so I waited to go to Alaska until I bought a new rig.
I guess the worst thing that's happened is in Medora before I started working there, my alternator went out when I was at the national park there at the Cottonwood Campground and stopped at the little gas station there.
And it's like Mayberry RFD, the sheriff's playing cards with the folks in the little gas station. And they took me over to the shop and got a battery that would take me where I needed to go and made arrangements for a mechanic in the middle of nowhere to put in my alternator. The people that are working in tourist destinations like that are friendly. Small town America. I love a small town.
Solo RV Life Favorites
What's your favorite thing about life on the road?
Seeing new things all the time. I'll have a route planned and I'll see something that looks of interest and it'll take me totally in a different direction. I'm a planner but I'm serendipitous, too, so it's just stumbling across things like Leipers Fork. That and that being such a wonderful music event for me was the highlight recently.
What's your advice to those who are considering solo RV Life based on the experiences you've had now?
Well, I'd say if you're hesitant, start close to home, maybe go out with another friend or meet somebody in between. When I first started doing this and was still working, I was on, this was before Facebook, on emails with some other single RVers that were in the Midwest and we met up in Iowa. I came from Wisconsin, they came from Missouri, three of us.
Anything else you'd like to share about your experiences and your solo RV Life out there?
Well, in the last couple of years I had two hips replaced and then COVID. So I've been chomping at the bit to get out and about. And I've missed not traveling during those two years.
So don't let anything stop you. Even some hips that need replacing. You can get that done and get out again.
It was a delight for us to meet you in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, and I'm delighted now that we get to introduce you to our whole audience. We look forward to seeing you on the road again sometime this year. Thank you, Terry.
I'm sure we will. Thank you.
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Social Media Buzz with Wendy Wendland
Wendy Bowyer reports on the hot issues most talked about on our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group:
The camper looked like a big steel metal can of beans! The camper was part of a promotion by Bush's Beans where the winner got to go on a free camping trip in this unique travel trailer that looks like a long steel metal can on its side- with wheels.
The comments in this post were super fun to read. Some had entered this contest – I mean, who wouldn't want a free camping trip in a can of beans travel trailer?
And many loved seeing the picture, joking it gave new meaning to the phrase “living in a tin can.”
Next, Mary Lou wrote: What three things do you carry in your RV? And air fryer, a Crockpot and a ……..
Now Mary Lou was trying to remember what someone had shared in a previous post. She remembered two of the three kitchen items, but she couldn't remember the third.
So many people chimed in. Some suggested the essential third item should be an ice maker. Others said a griddle, and yet others, an Instapot.
And a few said that the third item needed to be a coffee maker – that was my favorite.
Then finally, I'd like to share a fun post with you. Karen wrote: What are some phrases you wouldn't understand if you were not an RVer?
Karen said she'd go first, and she wrote: “A Class A toy hauler just arrived. It's massive.”
From there, the phrases just kept coming.
“Fill the honey wagon and dump.”
“Plug in the watchdog.”
“Don't step on my stinky slinky.”
“Boondocking at the Cracker Barrel”
Hundreds of people joined and it made me think: RVers really do have their own language.
(editor's note: if you really want a Challenge… read 125 Phrases Only RVers Understand: How Many Do You Know?)
RV NEWS OF THE WEEK
The RV Industry Association's latest report shows wholesale shipments of all RVs in September 2023 are down 12.9 percent from September 2022.
But what really caught my eye was a line in the report that showed RV shipments are down 42.8 percent from last year for all RVs.
The monthly report compares shipments for every kind of RV from September 2023 to September 2022, and it provides year-to-date comparisons for 2022 and 2023.
Every category of RV, be it a Fifth wheel, Class A, Camper van, camper truck, or more, showed a decline from 2022.
The type of RV with the biggest year-to-date decline was travel trailers with a 46.2 percent drop. The type of RV with the smallest year-to-date decline in shipments was the Class C at 8.4 percent.
To see the report click here.
To see our story with proven tips for buying an RV, click here.
Yellowstone National Park will close most entrances and roads this Wednesday (Nov. 1) to prepare for winter.
The east, south and west entrances of the park, along with most of its roads, will be closed Nov. 1-Dec. 15. The north and northeast entrances will remain open.
The closed roads will re-open Dec. 15 for winter snowmobile and snowcoach travel.
If you are considering a trip to Yellowstone, be sure to check out our 7-Day Adventure Guide for ideas on where to camp, what to see, and how to plan for this iconic park.
A Class A's brakes caught on fire last week in Pennsylvania, with flames spreading to the vehicle it was towing and nearby brush, causing an 8-mile traffic back up.
The RV and the pulled vehicle were completely engulfed in flames. And the fire in the nearby brush burned for a mile. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
Officials are still investigating why the RV's brakes caught on fire.
The accident happened on I-81 South in central Pennsylvania.
Access to all shorelines and bodies of water in Canada's Kootenay and Yoho national parks (both near Banff) is closed because of whirling disease recently discovered in fish.
Parks Canada is closing the British Columbia National Parks' waterways to protect the trout and salmon which live there. If the disease is not contained, experts say as much as 90 percent of the fish population there could be wiped out.
Whirling disease is caused by a parasite that can be fatal for some fish but is not believed to harm humans. The parasite causes skeletal deformities, and infected fish swim in a whirling pattern – hence the name.
Prohibited activities include fishing, swimming, diving, wading, using a boat, paddle board or other vessel on the water. Also hiking, walking or cycling within three meters of the water's edge is prohibited.
The waterway closure is in effect until March 2024 but could be extended.
RV QUESTION OF THE WEEK
QUESTION: GPS and mapping is our biggest issue so far. Good old fashioned maps are hard to find. – Douglas
ANSWER: I am old enough to remember when they were free at gas stations. AAA insurance offices still have free maps, believe, And welcome centers along the Interstates near the various state boundaries almost always have them. But in these days of apps and GPS, there’s no doubt paper maps are often more difficult to get.
We also really like to have paper maps and the first one I have and the one I recommend all RVers get is a single foldable map of the entire United States from Rand MacNally. We’ve gone through several of these over the past 12 years of our RV Lifestyle and we love this map. For one thing, it allows you to see the entire country and thus your entre route all at once. That includes all Interstate and U.S. highways, along with clearly indicated cities, points of interest, airports, boundaries, and much more.
It is particularly handy when you’re on an Interstate that is suddenly shut down for road work or an accident or weather. With this foladable map, you can quickly find an exit and an alternative route.
This map only costs $7.99. At https://amzn.to/45MwPpb
If you’d like a little more detail, they have similar folding maps for the different regions of the country – like the western states, the central states and so on. And they have individual state maps and even road atlas-type booklets that have maps of each state, National Parks, parts of Canada and Mexico, and major metropolitan areas.
The one we recommend is the Rand McNally 2024 Large Scale Road Atlas. It is spiral bound so it opens flat and they call it large scale because it is a third larger than most similar road atlas books.
Where are you planning for next year?
Explore Arizona with our RV Adventure Guide
We start our Arizona adventure guide at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then move west in a slow semi-circle to hit all of the highlights, including Sedona, Lake Havasu, Quartzsite, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Apache Junction, and Saguaro National Forest.
Throughout this guide, we explore incredible rocky vistas, historical and mystical sites, inspiring scenic byways, charming Southwest towns, national and state parks galore with wonderful wildlife. No matter what your interests are, you are sure to find something to awe and inspire you in Arizona.
Get the Home Study Course today and worry about the road, not the repairs!
Every time you move your RV it's like driving through a hurricane during an earthquake. Parts break and many items need to be maintained, this program will show you how you can save time and money by gaining the confidence to take on the majority of the issues you’ll come across. Don’t get caught with your RV in the shop! Learn how you can maintain and repair your RV at your own pace and at the most convenient time for you! This course is produced by the National RV Training Academy.