RV – Snowbirding newbies. Our big mistake.

written by Lee Strauss | Ginger Gold Mysteries, travel

October 14, 2021

I've never imagined myself as an RVer. Though I've always pictured myself living in the tropics during the winter ~ faint-hearted Canadian here ~ that dream involved flying. Which is something my husband, Norm, and I did for three years.

What we learned during that time of staying in different hotels and bungalows:

  1. We like having our own bed.
  2. We like our own stuff.
  3. We like accumulating stuff.

What we also learned was that our new snowbirding friends (in case you don't know, a snowbird is someone from the cold north who travels to the warmer south in the winter) DROVE from Canada to Mexico every year. It wasn't that we didn't know this was a fact, we'd just never became friends with anyone who did it. These people were adventurous, courageous, and, in most cases, older than us.

If they could do it, why couldn't we?

I admit the whole concept was intimidating. And fascinating. I could live on the beach in my own tiny home with my own bed and my own stuff and have a place to store my stuff.

We'd decided we'd do it in a few years when we were comfortably retired.

Then Covid hit. We were actually in Mexico when the Canadian prime minister made a plea for everyone to come home, and we had to cut our Mexican travel adventures short by five weeks. After a year in isolation (and a loss of a dear friend), we came to the conclusion that we really shouldn't wait to do the things we want. No one knew the future. Seize the day, and all that.

In the spring of 2021 we started looking for an RV. Something that was more than a weekend camper, but not too big either. Neither of us had experience RV driving, so we wanted something manageable to us, yet big enough to be our winter home.

Long story short, on Norm's 60th birthday, we bought Scout, our 2018 Winnebago Intent. Being super newbies, we wanted time to learn the ropes before taking it on the road, and good news! Things were opening up and should be close to normal by the fall!

Yeah, about that.

Anyhoo, we did a couple of weekends boondocking (no hook ups) in a couple of provincial parks, testing out all the systems. Boy we wished we'd figured out how to use the furnace that first night! (Turns out, you just adjust the thermostat, pushing the little level one notch to the left).

There are a  LOT of systems in an RV, if you weren't aware. Electrical, propane, water, battery, sewage management, air conditioning, inverters, jacks, furnace, generator, fridge, and propane stove–a steep learning curve. Thank goodness for that owners' manual! We did a longer trip mid-summer, fleeing smoke to clearer northern skies and back again, avoiding forest fires, but not the ash. We learned to hook up electrical and water, and drain the gray and black water tanks. We were ready to snowbird!

Unfortunately, the borders didn't open as we'd hoped.

Fortunately, I'm a dual citizen!! Yay! I could drive the RV across. Only Norm couldn't come with. He'd have to fly and meet me there. Which meant I had to drive this 26′, class A motorhome by myself.RV life, RV adventure

I sweated buckets. Okay, not buckets. But there was sweat involved. I talked myself through every traffic light through my city, across the bridge and down the highway, through town after town, and winding roads along pristine lakes, until I was finally at the border.

No line up at all.

I showed the guard my American ID. He asked me what I was doing, I told him my husband and I were going south for the winter. He said, let me guess, you're American and your husband is Canadian. I said yes, he's flying in to meet me. He said, that's crazy. It doesn't make sense. I said, I agree.

He never asked me for the rapid antigen test I paid 120 dollars for, nor asked me about my health or vaccine status. I admit, this surprised me, with all the fuss and bother about keeping the border closed so Covid from Canada couldn't get into the US.

I drove into Oroville, bought groceries and then pulled into a nearly empty state park where I hooked Scout up by myself for the first time. All in all, I was pretty proud of my accomplishment. I drove another 70 miles south the next day to Bridgeport where I met Norm. He'd flown into Seattle that morning–three airports and two planes–and rented a car, driving five hours to meet me.

Hey, what about that big mistake? 

The whole concept of snowbirding is to escape winter, but we took the wrong route to do it. We turned left when we should've turned right. Drove south through Utah instead of Nevada, and winter is on our tail. Rain storms in Idaho, bracing wind in Utah. SNOWFALL on the hills. Poor Scout is rattling. We'll get to warmer climes in a few days as we head to Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and into Arizona.

I'm posting pictures, videos and info daily on Facebook and Instagram, so if you want to see more travel proof, be sure to follow me there. I'll add more to this blog about our travels as well.

In Book News:

Though I don't have a release in October, I do have a sale coming up next week, so watch for that. And, OMG, so excited about the COLORING BOOK. In time for Christmas, the 1920s Coloring Book will be out on November 2. This is so exciting. Check out this sneak peak!

1920s Adult Coloring Book

Isn't this awesome? Illustrations are by artist Joel Strauss. I'm contributing commentary which adds a little background history to the images.

Get your coloring pencils out and plan to relax as you create! I know a few people who'll find this book under the tree.

In the meantime, check out this contest and help spread the word.


PS: there isn't a preorder for this one because preorders aren't available for paperback books.

What about you?

How do you like to spend your winters? Are you into winter sports? Do you cozy up to a fire and read? Are you traveling south like we are? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Old eh? I’m sure that’s S&T you’re speaking of. Enjoyed your blog, you’ve had quite an adventure already. And just to think, it is only beginning! Safe travels!

  2. I’m so impressed you drove Scout by yourself! We moved from Arizona to Mexico a couple of years ago. Too bad, I would have loved to meet you! I’m on the 2nd book of the Clockwise series. I’ve never read any time travel books, thought they would be too weird. I love yours! They make me laugh and I’m not scared. ha

  3. My family progressed from backpacking, to tents, to a pop up trailer, to a motorhome. I drove the motorhome (don’t know it’s size, it was eons ago) while I still had a learner’s permit. The main challenge was the width, especially the rear view mirrors! But we managed.
    The downside was my parents wanted to spend weekends with a local group and they were into drinking and lawn jarts! Not a thrill for a teen.
    I could definitely seen using one, but my husband is totally against it. Ah well.
    Enjoy your trips and good for you for heading out on your own.

  4. We bought our motorhome a couple of months after my husband and I got married, several years ago. Our first day outing, he tore the awning off our motorhome. Fortunately our insurance covered it. But he had to use ties and anything else he could think of to tie the awning to the motorhome until we got home. Yes, the awning was folded up. He got a little too close to a tree while trying to turn it around in a tight space. Fortunately it was just the awning and NOT the motorhome itself. While it’s funny now, we certainly were not laughing at the time.

  5. We’ve just returned from a six day trip north, crossing the border Into Canada, being escorted back to Sumas for a rapid test (Covid-we we’re both negative) and registering with ArriveCAN. It took five hours to get across into British Columbia! We missed the snow but our puppy screamed all the way across the Coquilhalla highway, poor baby. Finally arriving at 10:00 pm in Vernon, my childhood summer home and a cozy B&B. After a nice sleep and delicious breakfast we met up with beloved cousins, helped out in a famous pumpkin patch, attended a surprise birthday party and had Canadian Thanksgiving twice! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCdqMitz-Xg

    In two weeks we are off to California, Arizona and Nevada. Back in time to celebrate Christmas in our island home in Washington.

  6. Like you, my daughter and I don’t like winters. We left the UK and spent 12-15 years in Samui, Thailand, very hot all the time. When Covid struck we were able to leave, mu daughter was a Scuba Dive Instructor, no tourists, no work. So she sold her house, car, only one of the two Studio flats, and we moved lock, stock and barrel, with 3 dogs and 2 cats to Ecuador. Never having been there before. Finally settled on a farm where she grows coffee, cacao, ginger and lots of citrus fruit. Many teak trees and lots of space. The weather can start at 21 degrees C. in the morning and work up to 29 C. around 4.30pm then usually a breeze gets up and by 6pm it is cooler and reachesl about 21 degrees at 10pm. Lovely not the 28-32 degrees we got all day and night in Samui!!!! We also speak Spanish having spent many years in Argentina. Thai is a very difficult language and in all the years we were there only learnt a smattering of words. Much happier here, the animals love it, we have adopted 2 other dogs, one presented us with 8 puppies, we kept one and found homes for the rest, and the other older dog gave us 1 puppy, he is so sweet, we are keeping him. Enjoy your holiday.

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