Nomads for Life
Over the past decade of traveling together, we have taken on quite a few interesting jobs along the way. We currently don’t earn any money from our blog, so we choose other avenues to maintain our full-time travel lifestyle. Our main source of income is as Tour Managers for mobile/experiential marketing tours. Basically, this means we spend much of our time traveling from city to city, setting up and managing events for a particular client so people can be introduced to their products or services. We work on a contract basis, so between contracts we are free to travel on our own itinerary (although we stop getting paid!). On the other hand, while we’re “on tour” for work, we have almost no expenses, so it’s a good time to save up for the next journey! It’s fun to look back and reminisce about some of our crazy adventures on the road for work along the highways and byways of the US.
Our Season of College Football’s Gameday
The ESPN GameDay program is a 3-hour, live broadcast previewing the week’s big college football match-ups. It usually takes place on the university campus of the the marquis match-up of the week. Students are already gathered for tailgating, and it’s one big party that advertisers try and capitalize on. For those unfamiliar with tailgating, American football fans arrive to the area surrounding the stadium several hours before the game to meet up with friends. Some set up grills, tents and even TVs to gear up for the game. Food and drink are plentiful, and everyone is usually dressed up in their team’s colors and brandish banners and flags to show their support. As a major sponsor that year, Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) launched a coordinated marketing tour. As part of it, we worked as Tour Managers to oversee operations on the ground, attending the tailgate each week. Our staff interacted with the crowd, explaining the cell phone providers services, showing off new phone models and plans and running contests and games.
Where to Next?
Since the following week’s event is determined by the outcome of the current week’s games, we spent every Sunday night through Monday morning refreshing our emails to see where we might be driving next. We’d never know for sure where the next college campus for the next game would be. Between September and December, we drove a total of 27,000 miles, crossing the country several times. The longest drive was 4240 miles from Arizona State University in Phoenix, AZ to Penn State University in Happy Valley, PA. The previous week we had started from Virginia Tech to get to Arizona. It was exhausting, but our events were only on the weekends, and we enjoyed our new RV travel lifestyle.
So . . . after about 2 months Donny finally let me drive. All the excuses had been tried: “Too much traffic.” “You don’t like to drive at night.” “Looks like rain.” “I’m not tired yet.” Finally I got my chance, driving a few hundred miles across New York state. There was another long stint through Arizona and New Mexico, battling the wind. The big, boxy shape of RVs makes them really blow around! Donny even felt confident enough in my skills to sneak off to the bed for a nap a few times.
Big & Rich and TurtlesTravel Comin’ to Your City
If you haven’t heard of them, Big & Rich are a country music duo. The two songwriters, vocalists and guitarists are probably best known for the song, Save a Horse! (Ride a Cowboy) from 2004. In 2005, their song, Comin’ to Your City was chosen by ESPN to open the Saturday College GameDay television broadcast. The lyrics were edited a bit to mention different college football teams. Our tour vehicle was wrapped in life-sized graphics of Big & Rich, with a bright orange color scheme to reflect the Cingular Wireless branding. It got a LOT of attention to say the least. Behind the 40-foot RV, we also pulled a wrapped trailer filled with additional equipment. Fans of Big & Rich sometimes asked if the duo was inside, or if they traveled with us. In Texarkana, logically located at the border of Texas and Arkansas, we came out of our hotel one morning to find a perfumed love note under the windshield. It read something to the effect of, “My name is Ellie May, and I’m your biggest fan. I’m right upstairs in room 242 and I’d just love to meet you both!” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Perks of RV Travel
Having to cover so many miles in a relatively short amount of time, we loved the convenience of being able to keep food in the RV’s refrigerator to prepare while we were driving. Donny could continue behind the wheel, while I made a sandwich or snack. We used truck parking at rest and truck stops. Since the vehicle was to be awarded as a prize at the end of the tour, we didn’t sleep in it, getting a hotel most nights. Admittedly, the “prize” may have been slept in a time or two on especially long drives, though the plastic never came off the floors or the bed. We were told we could use the RV’s bathroom for “#1, but not #2,” but we opted not to let anyone use it at all, or guess who would have had to clean it!? If we had been traveling on our own, the bathroom would be a great convenience. While working, it was great to be able to get out of the elements into the shelter of the RV. The RV had plenty of space to move around, and when parked, slide-outs on the sides expanded to make the floor space even bigger. We were hooked up for satellite TV for events, so as long as we pulled over and pointed the dish the right way, we didn’t have to miss a single episode of that season’s Amazing Race.
We had a multitude of small repairs to be made during the season. Road rattle (the shaking that occurs over many miles on the highway) can result in all kinds of things coming loose: drawer, cabinet and door handles. We even had the driver’s side mirror blow loose (Donny fixed that with zip ties for weeks), as well as some of the under-panels on the RV’s body. While we were able to rig things up that were cosmetic, finding RV shops to get us in and out in a day’s time was a big challenge. Branded vehicles are also big targets when it comes to vandalism and theft. In Katy, TX, someone broke into the RV overnight and stole several large-screen TV’s and other equipment: NOT fun to handle any time, but especially when time is of the essence. Our other big challenge was parking and transportation. An RV that size is by no means advisable for taking to any downtown area, never mind a decent restaurant. We were limited to shopping centers with massive parking lots, and hotels far out of town that we could count on to have 7 or 8 parking spots in a row available. We did a lot of walking (which is a good thing) to find food, but options were always very limited. Take-out pizza and Chinese were sadly frequent.
What We Learned
Our four months of RV living made us curious for more. We dreamed of having a vehicle we could carry bicycles in, or maybe a set-up where the RV portion could be detached from a truck pulling it. We loved chatting with other RV’ers when we crossed paths, and vowed to one day rent an RV ourselves somewhere to explore at our own pace. The closest we’ve come so far was living for a month or so in a converted van in New Zealand. It wasn’t outfitted for power, so it was quite a different experience, much more like camping. The freedom of being able to stop wherever we wanted and change plans on a whim suited us perfectly.