Zero-Time to Full-Time RVing in No Time
Zero-Time to Full-Time RVing in No Time
A look back on the first 18 months in our Winnebago EKKO.
By: Paul LeMair
The seed was planted more than 35 years ago when Vicki and I were just dating. We borrowed her parents’ Winnebago RV and traveled from Washington D.C. to Florida. Ever since then, we’ve been called by the open road.
Finding the Right Retirement Rig
The year before I retired, we began our search in earnest for a versatile RV that could take us everywhere—from the backcountry to cities and towns alike. It was a tall order because everything with RVs is a trade between space and capabilities. This meant getting all we wanted wasn’t possible in a rig that could be parked on the street or in a grocery store parking lot.
Just when we were about to settle on a van-size RV we learned about a brand-new model: the Winnebago EKKO. It was due out at the time of our planned retirement. The EKKO hit the sweet spot we were looking for!
We knew there would be some challenges with being early adopters of a brand-new model packed with the latest technology, but nothing else came this close to matching our wish list. So, in January 2021 (in the midst of the pandemic), we placed our order for a rig we had only seen online.
As first-time RV owners, we had more to learn than we had ever imagined. The EKKO community generously shared their experience. Meanwhile, we worked feverishly at many ideas for customizing our EKKO (called GEKKO—it’s a thing to name your RV) and shared our mods with the community as we went.
Getting Used to Life on the Road
We finally hit the road in earnest on April 22, 2022. As if we hadn’t yet committed enough to the planned adventure, we put our house of 20 years up for sale. We rolled out of our driveway in Herndon, Virginia, and traveled south through the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains.
With a rig designed for use off-grid up to seven days at a time, we’ve seen little need to pay for campgrounds when other options have been available. RVers call it boondocking—camping without electrical or water hook-ups. A variety of apps help us locate sites, and at times that means parking at a friendly Walmart or Cracker Barrel—usually in the company of other like-minded RVers. Other times the parks are the objective.
We’re also traveling with our two dogs, Zulu (13) and Tango (6). I designed an elaborate bed for Zulu in the front of the rig and a bed for Tango in the back. We tested the beds in our driveway, and they worked great. But, on the road, it was another story ...
Both dogs wanted to sleep in the back with us, so we tried that for a few nights and got no sleep. One night, we blocked off the back with our bathroom door, forcing the pups to sleep in the front. The next morning, we woke up to signs of protest in the bathroom, the hallway, and the shower!
The story has a happy ending though. Since that fateful night, the pooches have peacefully shared the front of the rig.
Making the Most of the Travel Lifestyle
Our first destination was to see Vicki’s parents whose travels had inspired us so many years ago. We thought we would take our time getting there, slowing down to really appreciate retirement and the beautiful country around us.
We saw friends and family in Tennessee, western North Carolina, and South Carolina. Then we drove through the blooming cotton fields of Georgia on our way to Tallahassee. We spent a wonderful week with Vicki’s folks, which was fortunate because the next time Vicki saw her mom was in the hospital, where she passed away.
Life on the road sounds idyllic, but real life still happens. Mom was fully vested in our travels, often pitching in on planning. Her spirit is with us on our travels.
From Tallahassee, we followed the Gulf Coast to New Orleans, then tracked the Mississippi up to St. Louis before heading west to Colorado. We battled an early spring heat wave for most of this stretch.
Our 320-amp-hour lithium battery made it possible to leave the dogs in the air-conditioned rig for a few hours at a time, like we did for a musical tour of Memphis. But with high heat, we could not go much longer.
After weeks with high temperatures in the 90s, we reached Nederland, Colorado, and got nearly 18 inches of snow! While in Colorado, we closed on the sale of our home … remotely.
Officially Becoming Full-Time RVers
With the house sold, we wound our way back to Virginia to pack out. Along the way, we visited iconic places like Devils Tower, Mt. McKinnley, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. It took us six weeks to pack.
First, we downsized with runs to charity, items sold on Facebook Marketplace, and multiple trips to the dump. The rest we put in long-term storage and a small self-storage unit we can access as needed.
By the time we were done, summer was in full-force with temps back in the high-90s! We aimed our rig to the coolest spot we could find within a day’s drive and made a beeline for the New York Finger Lakes.
Chasing the cooler weather over summer, we ran a big arc from Niagara Falls around Lake Ontario—visiting Montreal and Quebec City—up the St. Lawrence to Gaspe’, over to Prince Edward Island and through Nova Scotia.
We timed our travels to visit New England in the fall. As soon as we reached the shores of Maine, however, we got an SOS from our daughter in Colorado—she needed surgery to fix an ankle broken in a scooter accident.
Looking back at the past 18-months since retirement, we’re still working at slowing down. We settled on taking a year to see the country and then returning to the places where we want to spend more time. But it’s a BIG country!
We’re now winding our way through Texas with plans to visit New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah before rolling back to Virginia for our son’s wedding.
We didn’t know when we started if we’d go for a month and call it quits, or maybe even go more than a year…. looks like we’re in it for the long haul!
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