Mixing It Up

RV Entropy NC

The truth is, we never intended to buy a house-sized RV. We never intended to have an RV instead of a house… but life has a funny way of working out the way you least expect.

Ernesto AFG rear-2
Capt. Howard on the left

The genesis of this crazy life sprung from the throes of emotional overwhelm. After eight long months deployed in Afghanistan (following a year of overseas training) our family was ready to have our Hero back – only to be told the Marine Corps was sending him to San Diego for ten months training, unaccompanied,  while we stayed in North Carolina.

In other words, they were sending him without us! I hadn’t had my husband and the kids hadn’t had their father in two lonnnnng years. And I wasn’t about to let the military whisk him away so quickly after his return. Especially if he was merely going to a stateside training command- it made no sense.

Please pardon my French, but the response when I read the military orders was something along the lines of “Like hell they are!”

Ernesto Homecoming-2
Homecoming 2013

And in that moment, it was settled (probably because I never use French unless I reeeeeally mean it.)

We were going too.

Mom, the kids, the dog and the cat- we were ALL going to sunny California to be a family again. The trick was how to “do San Diego” on a North Carolina budget, with only three weeks notice!

Five days later we were the proud owner of the enormous Coachman trailer you see above. Knowing absolutely ZERO about campers, we did as much research as time allowed and found a functional floor plan at a dealership 5 hours away. Then hubs went on an expedition to buy it & drive it home – all 37 ‘ of it – what could be so hard about that? Well, apparently he was white- knuckled and sweating profusely the whole way home. And this from a guy who flies fighter jets for a living.

And THAT’S when we learned RV Lesson #1:

1️⃣ Dealerships will tell you anything just to make a sale.

Come to find out, our Chevy 1500 was grossly inadequate to tow this beast of a trailer. It strained desperately to climb even the smallest hills and then careened dangerously down the other side, despite the trailer brakes. And with the smallest wind from a passing trucker, it was evident that the cart controlled the horse, not the other way around. Bear in mind, this was the EMPTY trailer weight – we still had to load the contents of our life into it – and we had 3,000 miles to travel in less than two weeks.

Needless to say, the very next morning we upgraded our truck.

RV Entropy driveway
Chevy 2500. Bonus points to anyone who can spot the cat making his escape…

And THAT’s when we learned Lesson # 2:

2️⃣ RV mistakes can be quite costly.

So we packed up ALL THE THINGS- way too many things, to be sure. Books and headlamps and bikes and hammocks and boogie boards and at least 500 lbs of military uniforms. Dog food and cat food and stuffed animals and legos and computers and umbrellas – you know, just the basic necessities for camping life.

Finally the day of departure had come! There we were, all loaded up, the kids and dog in the car, all hitched & ready to go. Everyone had stocked up on snacks, filled their water bottles, and used the bathroom per Mom’s command. All we needed was the cat… who conveniently was nowhere to be found.


We spent HOURS searching for that darned cat. Calling over the neighbors’ fences, checking and rechecking the empty corners of the house. He was always, ALWAYS milling around… until he wasn’t. Time was ticking away and we still had six hours of driving ahead of us. At one point we seriously debated leaving the cat for lost, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times along this journey that I fantasized we had.  When he finally came sauntering across the front lawn, stretching luxuriously from some delicious nap somewhere, it was almost lunchtime. The snacks were gone, everyone had to pee again and worse, the kids were totally bored from being in the car all morning- and we hadn’t even left the driveway!

And that’s when we learned RV Lesson #3:

3️⃣ Traveling with cats is a huge pain (much more on that later…)

I wish I could say that was the end of the fun, but it was only just the beginning. Before we had managed even one singular mile, the law of entropy was in full effect. Little did we know, but this constantly devolving state of chaos would be our way of life for the next 6 years… so we figured it’s high time we started sharing our journey- because maybe you’ve experienced entropy too . Maybe you can relate, or at least laugh at our expense.


I’m totally fine with that!

Along the way, we suspect you might even learn something- especially what not to do– like letting your cat outside the morning of a travel day.  What this lesson lacks in profundity it makes up for in comical ineptness.

Isn’t that what life lessons are- a collection of laughable (often avoidable) errors that both instruct and entertain (although the entertainment comes decidedly after the fact…) And for whatever reason, we RVers seem compelled to learn more lessons than most.

Because despite blown tires, broken awnings, clogged sewer hoses and lost cats, we keep on DOING IT ANYWAYS.

Either we are serious gluttons for punishment, or we have discovered a deep wellspring of dreams that never ceases to flow. I like to think it’s a healthy mix of both. And that’s what RV life is all about- mixing it up!

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