From Hotels to an RV: Life on the Road with Two Dogs and a Cat

(Editor's Note) Not long ago, I met a couple from Atlanta who travel the country with two dogs and a cat. The story of how they came to be RVers was so interesting, I asked them to write a guest column. – Mike

By Darryl and Taera 

Like most things in our lives, we came to Roadtreking from our own unique angle.

We have always been dog lovers. Our wedding gift to each other was a toy poodle. That dog was soon joined by another and — except for the occasional unfortunate event — we’ve had two dogs for our entire 27-year marriage. Today, we have another toy poodle (five pounds), but we eventually fell in love with a breed called the Bullmastiff, which at 140 or so pounds is a sizable dog.

But a strange thing kept happening to us: every time we went on vacation, a dog passed away soon after we got back. Not through poor care, nothing anyone could have done. Just terrible luck. But it happened three times. That’s when we went from being dog lovers to Crazy Dog People. We resolved to always take our dogs with us whenever we go on vacation. At first we went only to places such as Walt Disney World that made it easy to bring pets, but that was fairly limiting. We were always afraid to leave the dogs in the room, even if we could find a hotel that accepted dogs as big as ours. Even when hotels accept dogs, most have weight limits or only allow a single dog. Eventually we rescued a cat, and most hotels don’t accept cats at all. Finding kennels was always a chore in a new place, plus we would spend a good part of our vacation going to and from the kennel.

Finally, we saw a Sprinter van and wondered if any company built a motorhome on that platform. Our thinking was when we do activities, like going in a museum or even just stopping on the road for lunch, we could leave the dogs (the cat thinks she is one of the dogs) in the RV with the generator and air conditioner or heat running. Basically, the RV would be a rolling dog kennel. Since we weren’t campers, we thought we would sleep in hotels and only use the RV for transportation.

Once we settled on our 2010 Roadtrek RS-Adventurous, we immediately set out to go from our home in Georgia out to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Death Valley. Every night along the way we would stop and check in to a hotel. We would then spend about an hour moving into the room. We had to bring a litter box, three dog beds (including one size extra-large), three dishes (also one extra-large), animal food for dinner and breakfast, two dogs, and a cat in her pet stroller. Oh — and a small bag for us. In the morning, the whole process was reversed to move back into the RV, and took just as long. We also had to take turns having breakfast so somebody could be with the animals.

Even with all the extra work it was a great trip. We saw things we never expected to be able to see, and we even had our son fly out and spend a little time with us. We have pictures of the whole family — complete with animals — at the Grand Canyon, in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, at the sand dunes in Death Valley and many, many others.

On the way home, we were certainly getting tired of the nightly check in / move in / move out ritual. We had been doing that for a couple of weeks by that time (we don’t stay in one place more than two or three nights). As we were driving along, Darryl mentioned that he had read it was possible to stay over in Walmart parking lots, and Taera mentioned she had noticed there were Walmarts just about everywhere. We stopped at one that night and received permission to overnight. And the world got just a little bit bigger. Our Roadtrek is going on five years old now, and we haven’t stayed in a hotel since.

Other than speed, traveling in a small motor home is like private jet travel. You have food and drinks on board. Your own private sanitation facilities. The seats even convert to a very comfortable bed. And it leaves when you are ready. Even better — the days travel can be over when you are ready, too!

Now days when en-route to some destination , Darryl will typically wake up in the morning earlier than Taera, take care of the animals, make some coffee and take off. Taera wakes up when she is ready. Let’s see you leave on a private jet before you even wake up in the morning! We pull over when we’re tired, and sleep when and where we want. It’s just a beautiful way to travel.





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The Roadtrek has been a wonderful solution to our problem. The only fly in the ointment has been Darryl’s concern that the generator might stop when we are relying on it keep the dogs comfortable. Since we are from Georgia we spend a lot of time in warmer climates and on more than one occasion that has indeed happened. Fortunately, we were able to put together a little system to monitor the temperature in the RV, and send us an email to our phones if it gets to warm or cool. But that’s a story for another post.

There are

5 comments

    • Darryl DeFreese

      Folks here and on Mike’s facebook group have been asking about my temperature monitoring system. I put this thing together out of parts back in 2010 when we first got our Roadtrek. Since we vacation in Florida frequently, it has saved our animals’ lives more than once when the generator has conked out. Even with reflectix in the windows, the temperature can go up really fast down there.

      The basic idea is a piece of laptop-connected hardware that senses the temperature, and some software on the laptop to monitor the temperature and send me an email if it goes outside the range I specify, either hot or cold. I also set it up to send me a scheduled email every 30 minutes. I once had an electrical problem that shutdown the A/C and rebooted the laptop. In that case, I knew I had a problem because I *didn’t* get the regular update!

      What used to take a laptop back in 2010 is now possible with a small computer the size of a stack of playing cards. I’m planning to revisit this thing fairly soon, and make it an all-in-one unit. If folks are still interested whenever that happens, I’ll post about that.

      The temperature sensor I used was made by a company called TEMPerHUM. The online store I bought mine from back in 2010 doesn’t seem to be around any more, but now Amazon has them. They are very reasonably priced at about $25 or so, depending on the exact model.

      The included software is pretty bad, so I looked for other options. I found a free program called ThermoHID, and is available here: http://www.thermohid.co.uk/. It is a windows program, which poses new challenges since I’m a Mac user.

      This software seems to have been written specifically for these devices and some of it’s close relatives. You have to make sure you order one of the specific units it supports. It seems to work very well. I haven’t been able to make it do anything wrong, which is rare for software. Configuring it to send out the emails is a little technical, so if you don’t have that kind of background you might need to get some help. It’s not hard, but it is a little involved. But the two big selling points are 1) it works and 2) its free.

      So at this point, you can monitor the temp (and humidity, if you’re interested) in the RV, and have it send you an email if it gets too hot or too cold.

      This assumes you have internet access in your RV. We use a mifi in the RV, and bring our smartphones with us to get the emails and check status.

      Sorry that was so long winded! Also, like I mentioned before, I’m a geek and I (used to) do this for a living. If you aren’t, you might want to find one to help you get everything configured.

      Darryl

  1. Diane

    I use a device called a TemperatureGuard (made by http://www.temperatureguard.com). It uses a SIM card to send text (SMS) messages to my phone if the temperature goes below or above my low/high settings. No need for Wi-Fi, Mi-Fi, laptop or checking emails every 10 minutes. I use an AT&T GoPhone SIM card and pay $4.99/month for text-only service (200 texts per month). There is also the availability to attach extra probes to the TemperatureGuard unit, which can be used to monitor your fridge/freezer temps.

  2. DennisLubrano

    I really appreciate your dedication to your animals, as we are the same way. We are always volunteering with animal rescues. We are researching a Roadtrek B class and wonder how is the aisle sizing for all of you? Do the animals normally sit on the rear sofa area while you prepare meals etc? Our concern is always barking to strange sounds when we are not around. We are thinking of the Chevy platform rather than a sprinter chassis concerning costs and size factors. We hope to park it in our driveway. We also thought of moteling it, however why spend the money on an RV and not utilize it 100% as one. I would like to hear more about your family travels and problems you may have experienced with the animals and how you solved the, We have 3 labs, yet only one is a larger sized one, the other 2 are medium. Thank you for sharing your adventures. Safe roadtreking!

  3. captainmike

    I have been reading around but still unsure of the answer
    my wife and I are thinking of buying a 19 foot RV and driving cross
    country for several months. we have two Dachshunds (that are not that
    well behaved barking wise)
    what I have not figured out is if we want
    to go visit a museum in Chicago as an example, what do we do with them.
    if we leave them in the RV and park in a lot we don’t trust them not to
    bark at every noise outside the RV and the police constantly being
    called out to the RV.
    I would love to figure this out before we even buy the RV.
    what do others do ?