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Extended Travel and Pets

Extended travel with pets
Tabitha curls up with a good book at an Econo Lodge

You want to travel the world. You love your pets. What do you do?

Reconciling your dream life with the real-world constraints of your existing life is no small challenge. Few of those challenges are harder than incorporating the needs of pets into your travel plans.

It’s probably because of how much we struggled with this issue that reading the blog post Letting Go: What about the Pets? made me so sad. In fairness to the good folks at Meet, Plan, Go, I think they simply buried the lead. The article really does have good, useful, information, which is typical of their work. To get to the best stuff, though, you need to read past the title and the first three testimonials of people who gave away their pets to pursue a life on the road.

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How to Become a Global Citizen

It is absolutely the most bizarre thing we encountered while preparing for a life on the road. We intended to live nowhere; flitting from place to place according to whim. We’d be residents of the world with no fixed address to call home. There was only one small problem. Read More…

7 Lessons From a Year on the Road

Cadillac Mountain

One year ago today we set out on a grand adventure. At the time we had no idea how things would turn out. Whether we’d take to the road or return home with our tails between our legs was a complete mystery. Well, a year later we’re still going and have no plans of stopping anytime soon. But as much as we’re enjoying ourselves, no life altering change can happen without learning a few things along the way. Here is my list of the seven biggest lessons from a year on the road: Read More…

Fit To Be Towed

The convoy has rolled to its final stop. We traded in our Audi for a Jeep in New Jersey, and got our tow assembly installed in Washington, D.C. For those who’ve asked us, incredulously, over the past several months why it’s taken us so long to set up, it’s because the whole thing is a bit of an ass ache. You can’t just throw a couple of bungee cords on the bumpers of any two vehicles and head off. The list of stuff needed to make this work reminds me of an earlier “Reality Bites” post. Things are never as easy as they should be, or as they seem.

To get ready to tow we needed to trade in our car. Call this “Ass Ache Number 1.” We liked our car and didn’t plan on parting with it for a long time. So running off to get a new one wasn’t something either of us was excited about. And our choices of new vehicle were severely limited. Most cars can’t be towed with all four wheels on the ground; even fewer with automatic transmissions can be. So we had to give up a car we liked for one that we were lukewarm on, at best. Yay! Our choices were further constrained by weight issues. The trailer hitch and the motor home itself are only rated to tow so much weight.

Height also ended up being a limiting factor, and one that we almost overlooked. Tow bar manufacturers recommend a vertical difference of no greater than four inches between the motor home trailer hitch and the tow vehicle base plate connection. After some research, we discovered that the base plate pegs for the Honda Fit, our original tow vehicle of choice, were 13.5 inches off the ground whereas the tow receiver on our motor home is 22 inches. Math is hard, but even I can figure out that 22 minus 13.5 is quite a bit more than 4. It is more than 4, right?

A robotic breaking system for our Jeep

Keep in mind that there isn’t anyone who will tell you this. You have to figure nearly everything out on your own, and hope you don’t mess it up too badly. Had we bought the Fit as originally planned, we probably wouldn’t have been able to tow it without a dolly. That would have qualified as a bad hair day.

After we side stepped that landmine, all we needed was a tow bar, base plates, safety cables, wiring to connect the tail lights of the motor home to the tow vehicle, a supplemental breaking system, and a mechanic to install it all. Piece of cake.

Setting this all up adds about thirty minutes to the front end and probably fifteen minutes to the backend of our travel time. It adds 20 feet of driving length to our 35 foot motor home and raises a whole host of potential problems, limitations, and hazards while in transit. But somehow this still seems more sensible than driving across country in tandem. Not by much, though.

A Virtual Stroll In Montreal

As with just about everything recently, we’ve had to adapt our style of travel to the realities of living in an RV. In the past, we would land in a city, pick up a map, and stroll around to get our bearings. We’d always feel helplessly lost at first, but within a couple of hours we usually owned the city. We’d know what could be done reasonably on foot, where we’d want to take the metro to, and what might require a taxi. We’d also have a strong sense of which things on our to-do list should be grouped together.

But now we don’t have a city hotel room to retreat back to after our stroll. If we want to explore the city, we have to get there first, and even that takes some degree of planning. Do we drive in or take public transportation? Where is the best place to park for what we want to do? In what order should we do things? All this, and more, has to be decided before we’ve even set foot in town.

Thankfully, Google has this neat feature where you can plot destinations on an interactive map.  This allows us to visualize our itinerary for Montreal, and capture some of the benefits of our stroll virtually. For example, we know we want to catch a free jazz concert on Thursday night, but we don’t know what else on our itinerary made sense to do the same day. After plotting a bunch of ideas on Google Maps, we can easily see what else is in the neighborhood.  The “walking directions” feature tells us that a walk from Notre Dame, to the Archaeology Museum, to Marie-Reine-du-Monde Basilica to the Jazz venue takes about 40 minutes; a pretty good day’s itinerary. More importantly, it tells us that the botanical gardens and the Jean-Talon Market are probably too far to walk, and too much of a pain for the metro. So we’re grouping them together and driving.

You can play around with our map here, to see how it works and maybe create something similar for your own next trip. In the future, we’ll be plotting more of our itineraries this way to get a feel of a city’s geography, if not its culture, before we arrive.

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