Tag Archives: observations

Just thinking: for those who dream of going fulltime in a RV

PHOTO_20140922_162438.jpg No one knows just how many fulltime RVers there are. For one thing, there’s no official definition of just what a fulltime RVer is! It’s obvious that there are a lot of us who are, as it has been called, “living the RV dream.”

Since I post a lot of fulltime budget information my blog has attracted folks who are still in the “dreaming” stage and researching information on the lifestyle. While I’m no expert and there are lots of people who know more about this stuff than I do I’m glad to share what we are learning. This post is directed to those dreamers who want to sell everything and hit the road in a RV. (It isn’t for people who have jobs that require or allow them to travel or people who have lost their jobs and are thinking of getting a RV as a source of housing, etc.)

Recently one of the better known fulltiming couples had a health emergency. I’m glad to have received good news on the immediate prognosis but this crisis will quite likely change the rest of their lives. Some folks have concluded that one lesson to be learned from this is that they should stop dreaming of going fulltime and jump to it while the jumping is good. On one hand, I agree that for some people this is a good takeaway. For instance we met a couple who actually retired and went fulltime. However, his previous employer made the man an offer he couldn’t refuse so he went back to work for a short stay. That short stay has now lasted three years! It’s their business but I can’t help but wonder if the day will come when they will wish they had returned to the RV dream rather than stay in the 9:00-5:00 environment.

Frankly, though, I’m not sure “just do it” is the right message for everyone. Again, these remarks are in reference to those who see fulltiming as pursuing a dream and not for those who are considering the RV life as alternative housing and such so please read this from that point of view.

  1. First, “now” isn’t the right time for everyone. There’s a right time and a wrong time for all the stages of life. While I’m not saying that you need millions of dollars socked away before you go fulltime you do need an income that will support the lifestyle and that includes a source of health care insurance. Put more directly: if you can’t afford to go fulltime then don’t. Instead, continue working toward a fulltime RVing retirement by planning, preparing financially, and taking care of yourself physically.
  2. Second, don’t get in if you don’t have a way out. Don’t mortgage your future for the present. You may not have an exact plan but have a way to conclude your fulltime life and move to the next phase of life. Aside from those who suddenly pass away, sooner or later everyone has to hang up the keys. Hopefully, that will come as the result of the decision that you’ve “been there and done that” but it may come in the form of a trip to the emergency room. As you contemplate entering this lifestyle be sure to include at least a basic framework and capability for leaving it. Also, related and worth mention, is that your vehicle(s) and RV have a limited lifespan. While you don’t need money to replace them hidden under your mattress there needs to be at least some thought given to what you will do if and when your need to upgrade these vital items.
  3. Third, remember that life is uncertain but is also a blessing. Don’t squander today dreaming only of pie in the sky. Appreciate what you have right now: family, friends, health, and other good things. Make planning for the future part of the joy of this day.
  4. Fourth, know that real life continues even out on the road. Hitting the road in your RV means leaving a lot of things behind. However, a lot of stuff will follow along too, some things good and some things bad. Fulltime RVers get sick, as did the person I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Vehicles break down and accidents happen. If you think that pursuing the RV dream means everything will always be wonderful you are in for some big disappointments.

Don’t get me wrong, we love being fulltime RVers. It’s our chosen retirement lifestyle and we would do it all over again if we had to choose. If this life appeals to you then we’d say come on in, the water’s fine. Still, remember that part of moving to this lifestyle is preparing for getting into it, maintaining it, and then leaving it. Don’t forget that being a fulltimer doesn’t exempt you from real life problems. Beyond all that, remember that life is precious. Appreciate the blessings of each day even while dreaming of the next big thing coming down the road.

Why RVs are better than hotels

Chuck Woodbury nails it in this video:

2014 Adventure Lessons Learned


Some of our lessons learned during our 2014 Adventure are:

  1. Our Thousand Trails membership was especially valuable on the west coast where there are many nice TT campgrounds (some are excellent, others not so much).
  2. Having said that, this year I concluded that I had to make peace with camping without a sewer hookup. Way too often we found ourselves picking a campsite, not because we liked the spot, but because it was one of the only spots with full hookups.  By buying the macerator pump I increased our campsite potential.  That really paid off at places like Ponderosa Thousand Trails where we were able to camp right along the river.
  3. When one camps in the Pacific Northwest they should probably accept the fact that they won’t have satellite TV all the time. Often the biggest challenge I faced when arriving at a campsite wasn’t parking and leveling the camper but finding a hole in the trees where I could get the satellite.  At a few places we had to give up and do without.  No biggie, but still an inconvenience.
  4. On a related note, my Verizon cell and data did pretty good, especially when using the Wilson Sleek booster. We did without a few times but not often.
  5. From my records both this year and last, it appears I can generally estimate that we will drive the same distance sightseeing/living as we will towing. That’s helpful for future planning.
  6. I learned that I need to do a bit more weather research as I plan our schedule. I knew it would be cool along the coast but didn’t realize how hot it would be in the Sacramento area!
  7. I learned that you can’t see it all. No matter how much you sightsee someone will ask you I’ve you’ve been to some feature you didn’t see.  I’ve decided that’s a good thing – now I have reason to go back!
  8. I learned that I did, indeed, have enough pickup for the mountains. In theory I knew I was good to go, but it takes actually descending and pulling up some grades to be fully convinced of it.  There were several steeper roads, but I think the New Priest Grade near Yosemite was the biggest challenge we faced.   Jackie adds that if one suffers fear of heights they had better be ready to deal with it on this itinerary.  She says chocolate helps.

Now we’re ready to start thinking about 2015 which already has a couple of interesting wrinkles – I’ll post about them another time.

2014 Adventure Wrap-Up

image_map.gif We’ve now wrapped up our 2014 Adventure.  Our destination was the great northwestern United States with a focus on the Pacific coast.  It was a wonderful trip – really, everything we hoped it would be.  Early in our journey we found southeastern Utah to be a pleasant surprise.  We’ve heard so much about the vicinity of Moab; especially Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  These were even better than we expected and some of the most beautiful spots we’ve ever been.

P8019712.JPG We spent a couple of months visiting different places along the Washington coast and then another month along the Oregon coast.  We loved it all and I especially enjoyed the splendor of the Oregon coast.  If a person loves nature they will love that area.

We continued into northern California and soon moved inland to the Sacramento area and points east and south.  After wearing jackets and even needing heat in the camper the warm temperatures were a shock to the system.  Still, camping along the whitewater of the American River and then staying in the high country of Yosemite was a real pleasure.

P9259743.JPG It was with some sadness that we turned east and headed for Arizona because that meant we were now winding down our big Adventure.  Still, we’re talking about Arizona here; long one of our favorite states.  We spent a month there, working our way from the northwest corner of the state to ultimately exit at the southeast corner.

Before long we were back in Texas – enjoying the splendor of the state’s southwest.  We’ve always liked the Texas State Parks and it was a pleasure to visit three of them, especially Davis Mountains State Park, as we worked our way east.

After almost seven months we’ve now arrived back where the Adventure began: Lake Conroe Thousand Trails. We towed the 5th wheel about 6300 miles and then drove about the same distance sightseeing and “just living.”  We stayed in about 40 different campgrounds, generally for a week and a half at a time with several shorter stays when we were in “repositioning mode.”  In January I’ll release our budget figures but we pretty much stayed on target through the year.

It was a great trip and I’m already looking forward to return visits to and through these areas.

My motorhome versus 5th wheel story

2013-07-18 12.07.51.jpg The sure-fired, guaranteed, spirited discussion topic among fulltiming RVers is, well you know what it is: which is best for fulltiming, motorhome or 5th wheel.  The obvious thing is that both are quite suitable.  After all, there are thousands upon thousands of people happily and enthusiastically traveling and living in both.

Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  Just for fun, here are my comparisons (note: I’ll update this list when I come across more “pros” either way):


  1. Easier to park and set up – important for people who move often or are challenged by such things. One thing that helps is that the driver is sitting right up front over the wheels – and the steering on a mothorhome lets the driver turn the rig very sharply
  2. Lends itself to the famous “in motion passenger pit stop” and it’s less famous cousin, the “honey grab me a soda from the fridge” in motion request
  3. Better for “bugging out” from a rest area or Walmart parking lot if things sound a bit strange outside
  4. If you tow a car you have a small, economical daily driver – also nice for scouting out the campground for sites upon arrival
  5. Most comfortable travel vehicle
  6. It provides the famous, “we don’t have to even go outside if it’s raining when we arrive” advantage
  7. While there are more steps to get inside, once inside it is all one level

5th Wheel

  1. More room inside – important for people who stay in one place longer
  2. The “house” and the vehicle are separate – really important when the vehicle has to go in the shop – you don’t have to get a motel room for, say, a transmission rebuild
  3. Cost of maintenance on tow vehicle is generally less – doesn’t require “big rig” service oil changes, and camper tires are less expensive
  4. Depending on your taste, startup costs are generally less
  5. Greater variety of floor plans
  6. More stable when driving in windy conditions (assuming a well matched tow vehicle and 5th wheel)
  7. Propane tanks can be removed and taken to a refill station
  8. When you want to upgrade you can upgrade the tow vehicle and 5th wheel separetly rather than having to greater expense of trading motorhomes
  9. A 5th wheel is easier to level on sites that are unlevel front to back – you don’t have to worry about putting the front tires up on blocks or having them dangling in the air if using an automatic leveling system
  10. Here’s a real biggie: a husband towing a 5th wheel is somewhat less likely to drive off without the wife aboard. 🙂

Here’s our story: when we began our search we set a budget for our fulltiming rig.  We started off looking mostly at diesel motorhomes but soon became discouraged that the nice ones were over our budget.  We began pricing bigger pickups and 5th wheels.  It became apparent to us that we had a better chance of staying under our budget while getting something we liked if we went the 5th wheel route – and we did.

A big influence on us was the living space available in the 5th wheels as well as the better floor plans.  We wanted a normal living room set up, including a more natural location of the television.  Most motorhomes we looked at didn’t offer such a floor plan.  A lot of 5th wheels didn’t either, but some did.

Now that we’re fulltiming, I admit that there have been times when I wished for a motorhome/towed vehicle.  The truck uses a lot of fuel, towing or not.  When we arrive at a campground, I really dislike driving around with the 5th wheel in tow while I cruise up and down narrow roads trying to pick out a campsite.

Most of the time, though, I’m convinced we made a good choice.  We like the living space the 5th wheel provides.  We think some of the advantages of the motorhome are minor at best.  After all, we would have to stop motorhome or 5th wheel for the driver to make a pit stop – not to mention that walking around in a motorhome in motion is somewhat dangerous and likely illegal.  We haven’t had to set up in any downpours, and if we did, we’d just get a little wet moving from the pickup to the camper where we’d wait it out.  Also, we don’t do camp Walmart or stay in rest areas so the possibility of needing to make a run for it from some undesirable situation really isn’t that great.

Then, we’ve had the pickup in the shop three times now, once overnight.  It was nice not having to take our whole house in to the shop and vacate it just for new radiator hoses!

Maybe, someday, we’ll join the motorhome crowd.  When we do, we’ll enjoy some of the advantages of living and traveling in a motorhome.  At the same time, though, I think we’ll miss some of the pluses of our 5th wheel.