This book entertains and informs readers as it follows a couple during their first year of full-time RVing.
Reviewed by K. Stephen Busick, F45180
Whether or not you are dreaming about becoming a full-timer, if you enjoy reading about RVing or reading about people’s personal experiences, I predict you will find that Steeles on Wheels; A Year on the Road in an RV goes by all too quickly. It’s a fact-filled, practical book spiked with adventure.
The Steeles are Mark and Donia “” 50-somethings from the Virginia suburbs near Washington, D.C. Mark was an award-winning journalist who became an editor and later owned his own home inspection business; Donia has been a professional writer and editor for many years. The Steeles are owners of a fifth-wheel trailer, and as such, do not qualify for membership in FMCA. However, their experiences are similar to those of full-timers living in other RVs.
Like most full-timers, the Steeles dreamed, studied, and prepared for leaving their stationary home. But unlike most other full-timers, they had never spent one night in an RV before they set about purchasing their pickup and trailer, giving most of their furniture to the children, and putting their house up for sale.
The book’s chapters are short, topical, and authored by Mark, Donia, or from the imagined perspective of Cleo, their dog. The odd-numbered chapters are written from various locations around the United States and are in “letter” form, telling of their experiences in that part of the country. The even-numbered chapters address the questions that many people have about on-the-road living, and have titles such as “How Do You Decide on an RV?”; “How Do You Get Your Mail?”; and “Is It Difficult to Travel with Pets?” The writers are very forthright, honest, and revealing as they take on these and many other issues.
The 291-page book also includes a glossary of RV terms, an index, and a listing of information resources. In the latter, incidentally, the authors note that they have heard many good things about FMCA and that “the group’s mail service and publications are top-notch.”
The Steeles willingly discuss their first RVing disaster “” a black water holding tank that emptied before the hose was connected “” and other problems, such as the post at a fuel stop that got a little too close to the trailer. And leave it to Cleo to relate that “a few cracks are beginning to show” in Mark and Donia’s “lovey-dovey relationship” in an 8-foot-by-34-foot RV. Folks who have spent much time living in an RV will not be surprised by the battle of lightweight kitchen wipes versus old-fashioned dishrags. Donia won that round by tossing out Mark’s dishrag while he was gone on an errand.
Donia admitted that she and Mark “both love to be in charge,” but “as the newness wore off, I’m happy to report, these petty control issues mostly evaporated.”
In addition to the freedom that the lifestyle presents, the Steeles remind us that living in that “non-routine” situation also means that many decisions need to be made daily. Questions such as whether to dump today or wait until tomorrow to get a full-hookup site must be constantly addressed.
And for Cleo, a 70-pound mixed sheepdog, meeting strangers and frequently changing “jobs” proved to be too much of a challenge. After several months on the road, the Steeles regretfully opted to let Cleo live with family friends in a traditional home.
To counter the belief many people hold that full-timers are constantly driving, the Steeles explain that they normally only spend six or seven hours a week moving the RV. The rest of the time is spent exploring and enjoying the locale where they are parked. They point out that it is a terrific way to research various areas of the country if you are contemplating a move. You can stay in the location long enough to see if you really enjoy it before you make the sizable investment to move there permanently.
And, although it may surprise some non-full-timers, the Steeles remind us that, even when full-timing, you can’t see everything you want to see. As Donia says, “When you’ve seen one historic fort, you have not seen them all.” Their list of things to do and places to go is getting bigger rather than smaller as they continue to full-time. They vow that when they have more time they will return to see all the things they missed.
The Steeles are very honest in admitting that some issues are complicated when you live on the road. From finding local television stations and returning defective products that you purchased miles away, to banking, taxes, insurance, pet ownership, and, very importantly, health care, they explain how they have coped and offer suggestions that others may find helpful.
To those who are still wondering whether they should take this or any big step, Donia makes two comments that I felt were extremely relevant. On the issue of vehicle maintenance and mechanical problems, she asserts, “They reinforce the sublime lesson we keep learning over and over in our life on the road: Don’t sweat it, everything is going to be all right.” And to those who may fear that taking that “big step” might lead to disaster or regret, Donia’s words should provide some comfort. “When you realize that even the biggest decisions aren’t necessarily forever, it makes them a whole lot easier to deal with.”
Early in the book the Steeles list a dozen questions under the heading “Could You Be a Full-Timer?” Under the list they note, “If the answer to all these questions is yes, then what are you waiting for?” That is indeed a good question.
Steeles On Wheels ($15.95, Capital Books Inc.) is available from bookstores or online booksellers, or from the publisher at 22841 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166; (703) 661-1571; www.capital-books.com.