The journey south: a home divided

By: Kevin

Time came for our first assignment to come to an end. Friends were made, but it was time to move along. We were preparing to head to sunny Florida for the winter. Our next assignment? Daytona Beach! However, my contract did not end until the middle of September. My sister was starting a college course in Florida, and we had committed to watch her youngest child while she attended class since we would be within a driveable distance from her. The catch? Her class started in late August….a full two weeks before my contract in Ohio ended. So, Heather and the two kids loaded up the minivan and headed south ahead of me. It took them two days with an overnight at a hotel just south of Atlanta, GA. Their trip was uneventful and they arrived in Clearwater, FL at my sister’s house to find eager cousins ready to visit and play with the kids who they had not seen in over a year.

Then it came time for me to make the journey south. I had the truck, a Chevy 2500 (non-HD) 6.0L gasoline tow vehicle and the 32′ fifth wheel. This would be the truck’s maiden voyage with the trailer since towing it to Mansfield almost a year prior. The trailer was now fully loaded and had my motorcycle strapped down in the back of the RV. It was heavy….around 14,000 pounds of trailer. Needless to say that it was a bit (or more) over the approved towing limits of the truck. But I had no fear, the suspension had handled it well and we had moved it empty before without any issues, so we should be fine, right?

I hitched up the RV and pulled out of the campground. I was on the road! Everything was going well, I had made it from New Paris through Dayton and was approaching Cincinnati. I started experiencing slower traffic and ended up in rush hour traffic in Cincinnati. My engine started to heat up a bit with all the stop-and-go, but well within the acceptable limits. I made it across the I-71/I-75 bridge over the Ohio river and found a long uphill pull that proved to be too much for my transmission. While the engine and suspension were up to the task, the transmission became the weak link in the system. Half way up the hill my transmission temp shot up over 300 degrees (210 degrees is normal) and the transmission went into limp mode, with a maximum speed of 10 MPH. I am sure I annoyed many drivers as I made it across 3 lanes of traffic to the side of the road and assessed my situation. Had I destroyed the truck? I let the truck idle for about 30 minutes to allow the transmission fluid to circulate and cool. I put the truck back in gear and to my relief I started rolling up the hill again. While my temperatures were still high, I was rolling southbound! It took less than an hour to determine that I could get my truck up to about 3,000 rpms before it would kick back into limp mode. I learned to feather the gas peddle between 2,000 rpms where my truck started rolling and 3,000 rpms where my truck started limping. Obviously my speed was now limited and I while progress was slow, I was still moving. I made it through Kentucky and was now facing the Tennessee smokey mountains. Let’s just say the following hours were extremely stressful, slow, and many miles were driven in the break-down lane to the right of the solid white line. I drove through the entire night, not necessarily because I wasn’t tired, but because I was so angry that I was unable to sleep. By morning Heather was urging me to stop and sleep as I had been driving for many stressful hours. I was able to get 2 hours of sleep in a freeway rest stop before I was back on the road.

Finally I made it across the Florida-Georgia line. I had made it to Florida! I had not, however, made it to my destination. I kept trucking, but the margin of usable tachometer was narrowing. I was now down to about 600 rpm instead of the original 1,000 rpm margin, which severely limited my speed and was now going into limp mode when I tried to cross a simple overpass for roadways that crossed under the freeway. It was now mid-afternoon, and I had been driving for 20 of the past 24 hours.I had had enough!! Heather had called around and had found a towing company that didn’t charge an exorbitant amount of money, and I took them up on their offer to make it the last 100 miles to the campground. The heavy duty tow truck, capable of pulling semi-trucks, arrived and hooked up the truck. After the drive shaft had been disconnected we started off down the interstate with what resembled a small train. A large tow truck…towing my truck…towing the RV. We arrived at the campground in Flagler Beach, FL shortly before dark and I was pleased to find that my site was a pull-through site which meant the tow truck could pull the whole rig through my site and drop the truck and trailer right where it would need to sit.

The next test was to determine if I had destroyed the transmission or whether, once unloaded, my truck would function as normal. The moment of truth had come, and HALLELUJAH! The truck functioned perfectly after being unhooked from the heavy RV. My driving was not done yet however. I traversed I-4 for 3 more hours to my sister’s house in Clearwater, arriving shortly before midnight. Needless to say I was dead! I slept for about 10 hours that night, but I had officially arrived.

Greenville/New Paris, OH

April-September 2015

By: Kevin

Greenville, OH. Our first travel assignment.

It took a little while to really get moved in, everything arranged, and into a normal routine. We discovered a sharp learning curve exists when transitioning from a house to an RV. We learned that everything must serve multiple purposes and occupy minimal space since we downsized from 2,000 sq. ft. to less than 300 sq. ft. We learned that the hot water heater has bypass valves that must be turned to fill the tank after winterizing, and that the element will in fact melt and burn out if turned on with no water in the tank.

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I started living at Arrowhead Campground before it officially opened for the season, so I found the nights at the camp to be very quiet, and very DARK! There were no security lights around our site, so a flashlight became a necessity after sun-down.

Once other campers started to move in for the season we started developing friendships and the kids were quick to find play companions around the camp.

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We enjoyed the outdoor pool at the campground, and explored Richmond, IN which was actually closer to the campground than the city of Greenville, OH where I was working. We found a number of city parks around Richmond, IN including Richmond Falls. There was also a very nice bike trail that we rode multiple times over the course of our stay.

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Below is the view of the campground from our RV door. The second picture is the large wooden deck at our site complete with rope lighting that was left by the previous campers. I really enjoyed sitting out on the deck at night with the lights on. It was very peaceful.

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While in the area we visited the KitchenAid Experience which included the retail store as well as a small museum detailing the history of KitchenAid mixers. It was actually more interesting than one may expect. We also visited Dayton, OH and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY.

In addition to exploring the area and working, I was working on my BSN which required a good deal of study time, which sometimes proved difficult in such tight quarters. I used two bedside stands as a makeshift desk. With my Crazy Creek camp chair, this setup seemed to work fairly well for me.

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In the Beginning…

By: Kevin

We started thinking of traveling back in 2014 when my mother-in-law suggested travel nursing as a means to a higher income within the field of emergency nursing. We discussed and evaluated our options, and decided to go for it. We started looking for an RV that would fit our needs and after researching tiny houses, school bus conversions, Class As, Travel trailers, and Fifth wheels, we decided on a used 2008 Forest River 32SRV fifth wheel toy hauler. We went to look at it, offered cash, and towed it home the same day. However, our travel plans were put on hold due to the quickly approaching Northern Ohio winter, as we purchased it at the end of the season. The RV sat in the side yard of our rented 2,000 sq. ft. farm house until spring. However, we did perform some upgrades over the winter, such as changing all the interior 12-volt lighting to LEDs to reduce heat and energy use.

In the early spring we started moving items into the RV with an anticipated launch date of May or June 2015. That abruptly changed when I was offered my first travel nursing contract starting in mid-April in Southern Ohio. With the bare essentials moved into the RV, I moved the RV to a campground 3 hours away to start my first contract. This move was made possible thanks to Heather’s grandfather’s diesel truck, as my truck was currently in the shop getting major bodywork done. Apparently telephone poles don’t move much….oops.

For the next few weeks Heather sorted the majority of what remained in Mansfield, OH and organized a garage sale. The garage sale occurred over three days, one of which was sunny, one was rainy, and one day it snowed. That’s typical Ohio weather for you! We shuttled our remaining belongings one vehicle load at a time to Southern Ohio, and officially moved in to the RV as a family around the end of April. I should note that over these few weeks I was working 36 hours a week in Southern Ohio as well as running back and forth to Mansfield which made for a busy schedule, especially since I had started an online BSN program.

And so started our RV travel adventures…