Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Fulltime solo RVer Melissa Dafnis living her RV Dream, her way

Fulltime solo RVer Melissa Dafnis and her traveling rig.
For more than 15 years Melissa Dafnis of Maryland had dreamed of living and traveling in an RV.

"I wanted to live the lifestyle of freedom and adventure that full-time RVing involves," said the former professional jockey.  "I love to travel, I love a challenge, I love freedom.  And RVing is all of those things and more."

About five years ago, Melissa, 52, started researching rigs and going to RV shows to help her decide on the exact unit she wanted.  She decided on a toy hauler because taking her Honda 750 motorcycle along was her number one priority. "I also plan to spend at least five, maybe 10 years in this RV and I wanted to make sure I had the options to do that."

Melissa Dafnis on cross-country motorcycle adventure.
Three years ago, she bought "a brand-new, ordered from the factory (with every option I wanted) 2014  44-foot Heartland Cyclone toy hauler fifth-wheel trailer." She pulls it with a 2013 Ram 3500 Diesel Dually. "Because of all the research I did," she said, "I was able to save 30-percent off the purchase price." 

Melissa says she gets some strange looks when she pulls into a park and jumps out of the cab of her big pickup. "People see a 5-foot tall woman get out from behind the wheel of that truck towing a 44-foot fifth-wheel and they say, 'You drive that all by yourself?'"

Melissa in her pro-jockey days.
"I knew if I wanted to live my dream, I have to do what it takes," she said.  "Besides, it's not really that hard if you take your time, learn what you need to do, and practice in a safe environment.  It took me 45 minutes the first time I backed it into a driveway, but after a few more times I can do it pretty quickly now."

Life on the road with Tigger and Roo

Since 2014 Melissa has lived in her RV with her constant traveling companions: Chihuahuas Tigger (male, 10) and Roo (female, 9).

So far they have spent their winters in Florida and summers in Maryland "with full hook-ups in my Dad's yard because we're very close and we like to do a lot of motorcycling together.  He will be 80 years old this year and I don't want to miss a minute of time that I can spend with him."

Melissa with Tigger and Roo.
She 'snowbirds' in the Sunshine State for three months because it was part of her dream -- wintering in Florida. "I spend at least a month in each RV Park, sometimes more, because the monthly rate is less expensive than the weekly rate."

"My best experience to date was being able to walk my kayak to the canal, paddle to the manatees in Homasassa Springs, Florida, and rub a manatees belly as he rolled up right next to me on my kayak," she recalls. "He even held my hand with his flipper."

Then she added: "One of the happiest moments of my life was as I skipped along the beautiful white sand beach in Destin, Florida, with the realization that I had, indeed, made my dream come true. Everyone deserve to feel that."

To read more about how Melissa Dafnis runs her own business while on the road, click here for an RVWheelLife post on her podcast series: “Your RV Dream: Discover the Lifestyle, Make Money While You Travel, and Live a Life of Freedom and Adventure”.

--  Julianne G. Crane 

... For more on the RV lifestyle go to RVWheelLife.com

Photos: Courtesy of MelissaDafnis.com  (Click on images to enlarge.) 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pennsylvania gal tours West, South 'light'

Dawn and Bell on a windy day in west Texas. (Julianne G. Crane)

One windy afternoon in Balmorhea State Park in west Texas, I spotted a solo woman traveler walking a sweet little Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix.

After striking up a conversation, Dawn, a former health care administrator, revealed she was on the backside of a five-week cross-country trip, camping in her 2004 4X4 Ford Ranger extended cab pickup with an A.R.E. canopy.

According to Dawn, her truck and canopy are easy for traveling and camping because there is "nothing to pull, nothing to set up, and has a low profile in windy conditions."

Dawn and Bell
There is "plenty of room for one person and a dog and all our necessary equipment," she said. "I considered adding a roof carrier, but decided I’d rather limit how much I carried." 

She left her home-state of Pennsylvania, traveling through the southern states to the California Coast. She made her way over to Death Valley National Park, then south through the desert to the Gulf Coast and Florida before heading north back to the Keystone State.

Death Valley National Park was the most memorable. "The mountains were truly awe inspiring for me," she said.  "The flat parts of Death Valley did not interest me, but the mountains--the variety of colors, textures, sizes and how they changed as the light changed--were just breathtaking."

She added, "I discovered on the trip through the southwest states that it was interesting to see deserts for the first time. But they are not somewhere I want to visit again."

For her next trip, she plans to take her kayak and "camp for a few days near bays or lakes along the East Coast," she says. "My dog has a life jacket, so she’d be riding along on my paddling adventures."

--  Julianne G. Crane  (click on images to enlarge)

For more on the RV lifestyle go to RVWheelLife.com

Photo: Dawn and her rescue puppy, Bell, traveled five weeks in her Ford Ranger with an A.R.E. canopy. (Julianne G. Crane)


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Solo RVer Jacque Green travels with paint brushes and an energetic canine sidekick

Jacque Green paints landscapes inspired by her travels. (Julianne G. Crane)
"Building up your self confidence is freeing when traveling," observes novice full-time solo RVer Jacque Green of Tulsa, Okla. "After years of being an accountant and always on a schedule, it is nice to come and go at a whim."

In early 2016, Jacque says, she almost died.  "Laying in the hospital," she recalls, "I would visualize walking on a beach with my dog, Johnson. I had long dreamed of RVing but kept putting it off."   After recovering, she purchased an RV in April and by June she hit the road on her first extended RV trip to Colorado. "On my way home, I made the decision to do this lifestyle full time." 

It took Jacque only two months to give, donate or sell almost "a lifetime of stuff."  She closed on her house in October and has been on her RV journey ever since.  "It really felt like lifting a weight off my shoulders," she says. "I no longer wanted to care for all that stuff."

Jacque Green's rig: 2013 Coachmen Prism (Julianne G. Crane)
Her Rig: 

Jacque found a previously-owned 2013 Coachmen Prism 24G Class C motorhome with one slide. At the time, there were only 7,000 miles on its  Mercedes-Benz diesel engine.

Jacque says she zeroed in on the 24-foot Prism because of its length and ease of handling. "When I started looking for an RV the most important thing was that it had to be something I could do myself."

Her tow car is a Honda CR-V, "which doubles as extra storage," she jokes.

Jacque & Johnson (Julianne G. Crane)
Her sidekick:

Jacque's puppy, Johnson, is an energetic two-year old, blended English Cocker and Clumber Spaniel. "Most people think he is a bird dog," says Jacque, "however, he is really an old lady's (50-pound) lap dog."

As with all active dogs, Johnson loves being outdoors and needs exercise several times a day. Jacque is always looking for campgrounds near good dog parks or walking trails.

A few of her observations:

"There is a learning curve to handling an RV," she says.  "I went to the Escapees RV Club's Boot Camp and learned a lot. I also met other solos."

She says that by living day-to-day in an RV, she is aware that there are still ways to further simplify her life. "I find myself continuing to lighten my load," she reflects.  "Some items I thought I couldn't live without and had to bring with me are becoming unnecessary." 

As a daughter, an artist and a former accountant, she says: "I will keep my mother's silver tray and all my tax receipts. There are still a few things you cannot escape from." And she will keep a small amount of art supplies. "I try to capture on canvas my impressions of places I've visited."  To read more about Jacque's artwork, click here.
-- Text and photos by Julianne G. Crane (Click on images to enlarge.)  

... For more on the RV lifestyle go to RVWheelLife.com