The Random Numbers of a Year on the Road

Well, we’re sitting here in a chilly camper on a snowy, windy day in Amarillo, and now seems like a great time to review our past years trip statistics.  In some ways it hasn’t seemed like a whole year has passed since we left Raleigh on the 29th April 2016, but in other ways it seems like we’ve been doing this a while.  We’re used to having military showers (quick in and out, turn off water when soaping up), to having less toilets than the number of people (our Raleigh house has 3….), to staying out of each others way when we’re in the camper (it’s an intricate dance, similar to the tango but without the gracefulness), to packing everything up every few days and unpacking it again.  We’re a well oiled machine.

Here’s our wiggly, non linear route through the US – red dots are 2016, green dots are 2017:

So many more places to go!

These are some of the things we’ve been tracking on our trip:

Number of states visited = 20 (in order: NC, TN, KY, IN, IL, MO, KS, NE, CO, WY, MT, ND, SD, ID, UT, NV, CA, AZ, NM, TX)

Number of places stayed = 56 different campsites.

Average stay at a campsite = 5.47 days

How much we’ve spent on campsites since we left Raleigh = $7,233.13 (see all the other numbers below)

Most expensive campsite = $45 in Napa Valley during our ‘Month of Rain’ (actually it was more like 2 months…….. and it felt like forever).

Number of nights camped for free = 74.  The vast majority of those were nights with friends and relatives, the others were BLM, Harvest Hosts or National Recreation areas.  We’re going to do a better job of seeking out the free BLM campgrounds, now we know we can go for a while without hookups and now I’ve got the inverter hooked up.  We have a generator, but I’d really like to put solar on too……. it’s just a quite expensive accessory if we’re going to sell the camper in a year after we’ve finished our odyssey….. and like I said, we have a generator.  But solar is so much cleaner and quieter.

Number of friends visited = not enough!  We spent some good times with lots of people – stayed in friends driveways in Knoxville, Webster Groves, Berthoud and Lubbock, and had friends visit us at campsites in KY, SD, ND, WY, NV, CA and AZ.  We are truly blessed to have shared some great times with friends, and deepened our relationships with others.  But, if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen us on the road ………. there’s always this year! We welcome visitors.

State we stayed the longest in = California at 69 days (not including the time we parked the camper when we were in Europe).  Second longest was Arizona at 42 days.

Number of miles Fat Henry towed the Shady Lady = 8,110 miles

The average number of miles in transit between each campground = 135.16 miles

Number of miles we drove altogether = 20,248 miles

Average number of miles driven per day = 54.9

Number of gallons of diesel Fat Henry has drunk = 1495.36 gallons

Highest price we’ve paid for diesel per gallon = $3.499 in Cambria, CA.  What!  It was an emergency, so we put $15 and went 50 miles down the road and filled up with $2.759.

Hitchhikers = 2.  Then we exterminated them (as detailed here).  Just like the daleks.

Number of times we filled up a propane tank – 2.  We’re not too sure how much we had when we started, but we think they were quite full.  So we’ve probably used about 120lb propane since we’ve been on the road (each tank is 30lb).  We use propane for cooking inside, and also powering our fridge, water heater and furnace when we’re not on shore power.  In the summer we use less, in the winter we use more.  Simples.

Number of haircuts on the road = 3.  All Berts.  None of Kats head hairs have been harmed in the making of this road trip.  No comment on the other types of hair.

Camper modifications and repairs we have done:

Before we left, Katie (of the amazing 507Designs) did a fantastic job re-doing our crappy window coverings.  We had very dated waterfall window surroundings in a nice 70’s pattern.  The side bits got removed, the top bits got re-covered and sprayed and now it looks a lot better.  She also made a cute little curtain and covered the 70’s sofa (see the theme here – the camper was made in 2005, but the camper designers all live in the past.  They probably all listen to disco music, wear tye-dye and eat fondue when they have dinner parties).

Two new 30lb propane tanks – the old ones were over 10 years old and therefore nobody would fill them up.  We could either get them recertified for another 5 years (~$35) or buy new ones (~$55) that would be good for another 10 years.  We went with the new ones, because it’s easier to get a new one shipped to us rather than have to try to find somewhere that recertified the tanks when we were travelling…….. addendum……. Just a day after writing the last paragraph (but obviously before publishing this post) we went to get the new tank filled with propane.  The lady there told us she would have recertified the tank for $4.  Doh!  Just shows how much difference it is regionally – Napa Valley CA prices vs Amarillo TX prices.

Added 2x6v batteries to the battery bank, with a switch to swap between the two ‘sets’ of batteries (1x12V or 2x6V).

The battery compartment. The original battery is on the right, and the two 6v batteries that were added are on the left. The inverter (see below) is mounted on the plank in the middle, with a 100A fuse switch.

The switch that we can either disconnect batteries, use battery bank 1, or battery bank 2.


A 1000W inverter so we can run things like fans and charge computers when we’re on our house batteries.  We installed a dedicated outlet for it in the camper as we don’t really need to run everything when we’re not on shore power.

The dedicated inverter outlet installed in the camper, with the inverter on/off switch above. And the retro cassette player above that (original equipment)

Adding a little voltage readout in the camper, so we don’t need to go outside and put the voltmeter across the battery terminals every time we need to see how much battery we have left.

Small display showing the battery voltage

Replaced the front landing legs for the Shady Lady – less than a month into our trip they broke in Nashville

Added a shock that didn’t seem to be there anymore on the camper.  Oops.

New taps for the bathroom and the kitchen

Replaced the dining chairs with ottomans for more storage.  Then broke the dining table in the first couple of weeks of being on the road, so we’re now using a ‘temporary’ folding table, which actually is way more versatile.  ‘Temporary’ being an attitude and not an actual period of time.  Obviously.  As we still have it….

As you can see – the original dining room table that bit the dust. And the old ‘waterfall’ window accoutrements.

Restrung the blinds numerous times- thank goodness we bought 9 miles of nylon string!

Recaulked bits and pieces- still a lot to do now that it is washed and waxed.

Replaced the roof vent caps.  Repeatedly.  They shouldn’t really be treated as a disposable, but we are leery of replacing them and creating a leak in the roof.



Here’s the spending summary – I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for so you can live vicariously through our budget:

 Annual TotalAverage Per MonthAverage Per DayComment
Campsite$7,377.5$614.79$20.16Cheaper than a mortgage
Fuel$3,134.43$261.2$8.56Fat Henry drinks a lot. Not quite as much as twice our drinking line item, but close…….
Grocery$4,412.69$367.72$12.06We like eating……. Too much sometimes.
Restaurant$2,665.59$222.13$7.28See above.
Alcohol$1,891.07$157.59$5.17‘Nuff said.
Household$783.26$65.27$2.14Things like paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning materials, propane for the grill and other things like that.
Camper$2,118.8$176.57$5.79Repairs, upgrades and maintenance to the camper itself.
Equipment$331.58$27.63$0.91Things like camp chairs,
Truck$498.88$41.57$1.36Fat Henry is pretty cheap – no major repairs or expenses yet. But the big service will be upon us soon.
Parking$78$6.5$0.21Not enough of a category to be a category next year. You are the weakest link. Goodbye.
Entertainment$971.7$80.98$2.65Museums, National Park Pass, bourbon and wine tastings, firewood for camp files, rodeo, generally paying to enjoy ourselves.
Gifts$520.41$43.37$1.42Most of this was postcards and stamps. Money well spent.
Fixed Costs$2051$170.92$5.6Truck and camper taxes and insurance
Laundry$130.66$10.89$0.36Cleanliness is next to godliness. As we only spent 36 cents per day, we’re probably not close to either of those things.
Miscellaneous$1,433.4$119.45$3.92Some clothes, some transportation (ferrys, Uber, buses, trains etc) and a Shady Lady Wash N’ Wax (Ooh-Er Missus)
Membership/ club/education$708.9$59.08$1.94Good Sam, Passport America, Harvest Hosts, RV Dreams Rally (a lot of fun – maybe should have been in entertainment)
Health/Medical$6,150.73$512.56$16.81Cost of being self employed in the US
Phones$1,755.67$146.31$4.8Cricket and Verizon. It’s not till you don’t have WiFi at home that you realize how much you use…..

When we first left, we wanted to try to keep it to $1500 per person per month ($18k per person per year, $36k per year total).  Looks like we’re around that mark, or a tiny bit above.  Next year, I’d like to keep it to the same amount, but as health insurance has gone up, something else has to go down.

Sidenote:  (Not to get into politics, but health insurance in the US is a non-negotiable expense for me – I have to have it.  The way I see it, I have worked too long and hard to risk it all being taken away if I get cancer or have an accident, or need an appendectomy or anything like that.  Coming from a country where having access to ‘free’ basic healthcare is a right (like ‘free’ basic education is) and not a privilege, the thought of having to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars if something untoward happened to me is unconscionable.  If anyone wants to discuss this further offline – I’d love to engage with you!)

So the biggest areas that we can make a difference are our campsite and our eating/consumption habits.  So now we have the inverter, we’re looking at doing a bit more free camping – we can run for a week-ish on our water tanks, and we have a generator that can top up the batteries every 3 – 5 days.  We’ve got a month in Oregon doing volunteer work lined up (Bert will tell you more about that), and we get our campsite free…… so that will bring it down a little.  And if we like it, we’ll do more of it.  If not, we’ll live in Walmart parking lots, and underneath underpasses.

I collected a LOT more statistics from our year on the road, but as this post is getting super long, I’ll leave it there.  If you have any other statistics that you would like to know, let us know in the comments!

And I’ll leave you with one other thought:

Your regular program of unicorns and rainbows will be resumed by Bert shortly.  Thank you for your patience.

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9 Responses to The Random Numbers of a Year on the Road

  1. Rich and Debra says:

    You are welcome to visit us in St. Louis again if you want a few nights free camping…

    • Kat says:

      Thanks Rich – we had such a good time with you last year…….. 4th of July won’t be the same without you, but we’ll be in Oregon this year. Hopefully we can stop by on the way back, depending on the weather and time of year!

  2. Melanie Knisely says:

    I live for these updates, I even hear Kats accent. I miss y’all….yes. y’all. You are always welcome back home too, ya know? Kat, I’d love to discuss healthcare with you, you know my existing issues. Hit me up. Bert, I love your hair long. I didn’t see any numbers about margaritas on Cinco Dr drinko….xoxo. Mel

    • Kat says:

      Just a point to note – I don’t have an accent……. y’all do! And for the margaritas on Cinco de Drinko….. none. We’re attempting to dry out after an exceptionally boozy couple of months. I could give you the stat for how many bottles of 1.75L vodka we bought from Costco, but that’s just embarrassing. But there were free fresh grapefruits, so how can you pass over the opportunity for a salty greyhound or two?
      And as for healthcare…….I could go on forever. And often I do. Bert rolls her eyes and tunes me out. A topic best left for the next time we have a drink together!

  3. Tracy says:

    Loved the post. You guys did really well for year one…way better than we did!! I also like the fancy color coding on your spreadsheet. Makes it much easier to read…definitely going to steal that. You know I love all the statistics all the time so feel free to do post 2 with more facts and figures if you are so inclined!

    • Kat says:

      Post 2? Post 2?!? What would even go in that post? Person to comment the most on the blog? Number of things Fat Henry has killed? Number of times our fridge has been up to 50oF in normal use? How many wine glasses broken and replaced (98 cents each at Walmart, gotta love it. But maybe I should start buying in bulk?)
      And by the way – properly formatted tables in WordPress are not as easy as copying and pasting from Word. Another stat – the number of hours I tried to get a readable table. In the end I used TablePress and I found some html code for the every other line. But I still can’t get the column width the way I want it. Life is so hard sometimes 😉

  4. Tracy says:

    Loved the post. You guys did really well for year one…way better than we did!! I also like the fancy color coding on your spreadsheet. Makes it much easier to read…definitely going to steal that. You know I love all the statistics all the time so feel free to do post 2 with more facts and figures if you are so inclined!

  5. Nice recap of expenses and you guys did a great job of managing your costs! Definitely like the comment section!!

    • Kat says:

      Thanks! Great to see you this week in the VOTG….. new stats for the blog – number of tires with a screw (ooh err missus), number of people it takes to change a tire, tools we are lacking and need to buy after raiding pretty much all of y’alls tools to change a tire, and how happy we were to meet you on the road out of ten: 20 (it would have been a 10 anyway, but you got a bonus 10 for changing the tire!). See you on the road!

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