Revised Budget for 2020

We are wraping up our stay in Livingston Texas and I’m working on a blog post regarding area day trips.  Now that we have been living in our RV for five months, and as it was the beginning of a new year, I took a look at our 2020 Budget.

If you missed the background information here is a link to the original three part series regarding budgeting which included general notes, living expense budget as well as the budget to equip the RV.

Based on feedback from others and my own observations I wanted to pass along a few important notes and then posted below are the numbers.

1. When you hit the road fulltime with a spouse you give up some privacy and independence. Your budget probably should include a line item for discretionary spending by each person. In Karen’s and my case we each have an income and decided not to lump it into one account. As was the case in our sticks and bricks house we both just assume responsibility for certain expenses and spend/save the remaining individual income as we please.

2. Spending is a matter of discipline and behaviors. In my case I do not plan to spend much time tracking the actual expenses. I generally know what we can spend on big expenses, such as looking for campsites in the $25 daily average range. Karen makes a list and knows what she can spend when grocery shopping.  I know our budget allows us to fuel the truck roughly seven times a month. The majority of our expenses are now placed on a credit card or paid online. The process of tracking expenses for me will be a quick look at the bank account to see if we are looking okay. It’s made easier by having a specific amount left in the account each month. If that leftover amount is lower than expected then I might look into it. As a side note I’ll mention a few line items in our budget are more annual costs spread out over 12 months and in some cases we will be moving that amount into our credit union account to spend later.  In the case of our medical expense budget we use our Health Savings Account.  Whatever we don’t spend each month of our medical expenses will be contributed to our HSA account to make use of the tax free income as well as to continue building the fund for medical emergencies.

3. We budgeted heavy for our first year on the road which may result in a need to supplement our monthly income. When first planning I expected the supplemental amount to be around $500. Now I’m guessing it’s closer to $125 and may end up being nothing. Before we hit the road we saved up the extra income requirement for a year and placed that in an account with our four month emergency fund and the money we have left from our RV/Truck purchase budget.

4. We have already experienced unplanned and sudden incidents on the road. I’ll write about that later. The point is there will be unexpected expenses such as a breakdown on the road. Sometimes “throwing money at the problem” fixes it best.  When emergencies happen you may not have time to shop around for the best price and the stress is far less if you are not concerned about the finances.  Before you hit the road I recommend having ample savings.

And now for the revised numbers and notes:

Taxes and Insurance (non-medical)- was 736.00 – Revised to $434

  • We have not added the life insurance – less 126
    • This was to come out of 401K
  • RV Insurance was $87, but came out at $80 – less $7
  • Truck was $137, but came out at $97 – Less $40
    • Probably will go up after fender binder.
  • Roadside Assistance was $12.50 but included in RV/Truck insurance – Less $12.50
  • State and Fed taxes was figured at $331  – actual is  Less $117
    • Have to keep combined income under $32,000 to avoid paying income tax on Karen’s social security.
    • Having no state income tax is a big thing. I also figured our annual income higher than what is expected for the calculation of subsides received when using the Affordable Care Act for medical insurance. This might later result in a slight federal tax break that’s not included.

Camping Fees – was $787 or $25 a night. We are seeing on average about $20 so far but leaving it the same. We enjoy state and federal parks. We also tend to use weekly rates in other parks.

Medical – was $451 and keeping it the same for now, although so far our actual is way less.

  • Currently $8 a month for health plan. – Yup you read that correctly!
  • Keeping Dr. and Dental at $75
  • Prescriptions are about $70 a month
  • Whatever we do not use goes to health savings account (HSA) to replenish or towards annual contribution limit. Goal has always been to have HSA cover our max out-of-pocket costs in the event of a catastrophic illness.
  • Medical comes out to about 12% of our budget which is a number in the range of what I’ve seen used by others

Fuel – was $550 a month to include gasoline, might go to $495 but leaving it the same for now.

  • Maybe get 5 gallons of generator gas a month x $3 = $15
  • We fuel truck maybe 1.5 times a week 32 gallons x $2.50 x 6 = $480
  • But we have not traveled as much as we wanted so leaving the extra $55 in the budget for now. Which means we can fuel the truck up to 7 times a month.

Travel and parking – leaving it the same at $26 for tolls

Grocery – was $450. Karen says closer to $600

Eating out – was $150 – increase to $200

  • $50 x 4 times

Entertainment – Leave at $241

Department Stores – leave at $30

  • This is clothing purchases. We shop at thrift stores when possible.

RV and Truck Maintenance was $130 – Now at $100

  • $130 a month was $1560 a year. Our rig is new and covered by warranty, going to $100 a month.
  • Some say put what is left each month in an account to cover large repairs, especially if you don’t have an extended warranty. We already fully funded an emergency fund before we left on the road.

Utilities – was $40, now at $38

  • We find ourselves using weekly camping rates rather than monthly. Historically monthly rates have an added electric charge. Right now, we could not see staying more than a month in one place maybe once a year at $75 for electric or about $7 spread out over 12 months. And then in the case of a monthly stay the camping fees are reduced and hence cover the electric surcharge.
  • Propane usage this past winter, given the climates we anticipate traveling in so far have totaled about $105 over three months. And when not using the furnace my experience has been maybe $30 a month in propane for cooking which would be another $270 for the remaining nine months. Total propane would then be $375 a year or $31 a month.

Phone/Cable/Internet – was at $160 a month – now is $110

  • We switched off to a Togo Roadlink which had an upfront cost for the hardware. The annual unlimited data through AT&T is $30 a month. We link the Togo to the campground WIFI when it makes sense.
  • My part-time office job provides a cell phone which is through T-Mobile and offers unlimited data but is at a reduced speed in about a week’s usage.
  • Karen’s phone is AT&T and costs us $70 a month. It has a 20-gig data plan that also reduces speed and otherwise is unlimited. She has never hit her data limit.
  • We use over-the-air channels for TV or stream through a Roku stick. Streaming is through Amazon which costs us $125 a year or $10 a month.

Misc. – was $46 a month, now is $79

  • Haircuts (for me) remain $18
  • Memberships was $9 but is $21 a month
    • Escapees annual membership is $40 annual or $3.50 a month
    • Keeping Good Sam’s for now at $2.50
    • We already bought an America the Beautiful lifetime pass for 1/2 price camping at Corp of Engineer parks and free admission into National Parks.
    • We have Texas and Michigan state park passes but those costs are included in camping fee budget.
    • I’m a Mason and dues are about $7.50
    • Will probably add Passport America at $3.50
    • This year I subscribe to rvtripwizard.com for route planning at $3.50
  • Laundry was $19. Karen does laundry about every two weeks for about $20 so new total is $40

Big Ticket Items – keeping it at $100

  • We actually have money left in a separate budget used to equip the truck and camper. But for now I’m leaving the $100 a month in the budget that can, along with the maintenance budget, be used to replace expensive stuff later.

Mail Service – was $21 a month, revised to $16

  • My part-time job employer helped cover some of the first year-start up fees. I have a slightly upgraded service because I get some work-related documents that are time sensitive and can be scanned by the service. Going forward, I’ll be paying for the basic service portion which is annually $95 a year plus maybe $100 in mail forwarding costs. Total is about $16 per month.

Extras – was $95, revised is $75.

  • This was somewhat of an arbitrary slush fund amount. I believe in 2% variances in annual budget amounts, if that be spending 2% less or 2% more. So 2% of our annual budget amount would be $3,762 monthly x 2% is $75 a month.

This budget is $46,044 annually ($3,837 monthly) before taxes for our first full year of travel.

 

Setting Up Domicile In Texas and Our Internet Solution

This post is a summary of the remaining steps Karen and I took to establish our domicile here in Texas along with a few non-domicile related tasks. There is an abundance of information on the web regarding specific steps in setting up a legal domicile and links are provided below for some of the information I used. Hope you find this blog post to be informative beyond what you might find elsewhere.

Livingston Map

Our new home is in Livingston Texas

Here are sources of domicile information for Texas and other states:

  • There are detailed lists on setting up domicile. A must read is at this link.
  • If you want an abbreviated list of setting up domicile here in Texas go to this link.
  • If you are interested in Texas, Florida or South Dakota as a legal domicile here is a link to start your research through the Escapees Club.
  • If you are domiciling in Texas, as well as many other states, and the combined gross weight of your rig exceeds 26,000 pounds, then you must have a special license. Here is a link to a long forum thread with the details. Here is a list of what each state requires.

Beyond the usual considerations for selecting a domicile, we decided on Texas which is close to our family in Missouri, lots to see in Texas and a place we could call home on a permanent basis. Eventually I’ll complete a blog post regarding the diversity of travel in Texas. We have been in the state now for about six weeks and I’m impressed. You can go from pine forests to open plains, ocean front, desert and mountains – all in one state. There were compelling reasons for us to consider setting up in other states such as the process in South Dakota may have been easier and for now Florida has a health plan with nationwide coverage that is not short-term coverage.

If you are not planning to live in an RV this information may not be important. But if you are interested in the process then stick around. Domicile means setting up a legal address to which you intend to live and have substantial connection with. Had we planned to just give this lifestyle a try or set a shorter goal such as RVing for a year or maybe two, I’d certainly not suggest someone go to the point we have which was selling everything and breaking legal ties to our home state.

For us, we hope to make it on the road at least six years and hence it was worth it to move to a new domicile. This six-year goal is not arbitrary nor based upon an abundance of personal experience. It came after much discussion between the two of us and frankly largely to steps I took to meet with and communicate with many successful fulltime RVers. There is a substantial number of RVers who make it five or more years on the road.

So, in a format that allows me to cough up the information best, here are some details which are close to the order of  completion. Feel free to skip to categories that interest you. I’m putting all this out there in case it helps:

Healthcare and establishing doctor relationships:

This is perhaps the number one decision when making the move to this fulltime RV lifestyle. There is plenty on the internet about it already. Wheeling-it blog is a good source for information. They moved to Europe to RV but last years info is still good from what I can tell.

You may be in a different situation than us. Karen is eledgable for Medicare in nine months and neither of us have any concerning pre-conditions. After I left my job in October there were several selections for healthcare. It was overwhelming until Karen suggested I was considering too many possible solutions and to just hurry up and go with the one that appeared to make the most sense for now. I was hung-up on the national coverage and being out of network decision. Every year these plans are subject to change. I’ve seen folks change domicile a second time, chasing better healthcare plans. I tried to use Kyle for advise at rvinsurance.com for healthcare where his website provides a lot of useful information. I’m thinking they have a set of products that make sense for them to sell and spending hours on the phone with folks trying to make a healthcare decision is way more than should be expected. Good place to start research for sure.

We could take the expensive option of Cobra benefits, get short-term insurance, go with the Affordable Care Act (known as the marketplace), take a hospitalization/injury plan only or go with ministerial alliance programs. During our first month on the road we decided to enroll in a TeleMed service for $20 a month. This service allows us to talk to a doctor online 24 hours a day and seems like a good solution for minor healthcare items. We both have had colds and we used the service once so far. Eventhough our new doctors were 10 miles down the road at the time we used the online service. For now, we are keeping the service although I’m still doing the math to see if it makes sense to cancel TeleMed and use a similar service provided as part of our new healthcare plan which is through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. In our case Blue Cross offers the service but there are deductibles and from what I can tell as long as you don’t have to call a doctor more than two times a year the Blue Cross plan offer is a decent deal compared to the $20 a month we are currently paying for the separate plan.

We decided to enroll in the Affordable Care Act (known as the “marketplace”). We know our budget for insurance and medical care. We have a fund setup in a health savings account (HSA). I maxed-out the annual fund contribution limit this past year, even putting more into it after I left the job. If you are 55 or older you can add an extra pre-tax $1,000 to a health savings account which is usable if you select a high-deductible healthcare plan. We have a monthly budget for healthcare and I’m planning to move whatever we don’t spend into the HSA account. Even if you become Medicare eledgable or later do not select a high deductible plan, you can still use the funds from your HSA but will not be able to contribute pre-tax income to the HSA account.

I found it easier to purchase our plan through the government web site at Healthcare.gov rather than Health Sherpa or any one of several other services that offer assistance. At our estimated income level, taken from our annual budget, we qualified for subsidies. There were 14 plans available in our zip code. We have always appreciated the service level with Blue Cross Blue Shield, so we selected a plan with them. All along in the process we received reminders from the Healthcare.gov website which walks you through a series of steps in selecting a plan. The annual deadline to select a plan is normally December 15. Because we moved or left a job our deadline would have been later.

There is more I could write about this decision to include reasons we did not go with other options. Let me know in the comments section if you have questions so other readers can learn from you.

There is plenty of information on this decision on the internet some of which is more complete than others but none of which I found to 100% cover all the details. For example, I had no idea when you estimate your income for the year, which sets the federal healthcare subsidy amount, you can go back during the year and report income changes. If your income changes, then the subsidy could change, even resulting in an income tax refund if your subsidy ends up being more based on a lower income. Or you could get stung with a tax bill if you underestimate your income. No worries just go back and report income changes during the year through the website.

I’ll add a note that years ago I was against the Affordable Care Act and I still have minor issues with it as well as in general the concept of high-deductible plans. I’d prefer not to get into the politics of it.  I’ll simply say there should be a way for people to afford healthcare and I would prefer that be through a reduction in the actual costs of the service rather than through government subsidies. You have to start somewhere.

Karen and I found a list of doctors in the area which are advertised through the local Escapees Club. There is also a Care Center here in the Texas Escapees Club RV Park for those who are sick or can no longer travel but want to stay in the RV lifestyle. I could have asked the Care Center employees for doctor recommendations but instead we handled our own research.

I’ll add that if you have a serious pre-existing condition a primary care doctor may not accept you as a new patient! This is something important that I learned by watching others go through this process. I don’t mean to alarm anyone, and I can see the doctor’s point of view. The nurse explained it to me in a more delicate way I presumed. She says the doctor wants to make sure he is the right fit for me and if not might want to refer me on to someone else who is more familiar with handling a pre-existing medical condition. The pessimistic side of me wonders if it’s more about liability and surge in prescription drug addiction. The point to get out of this is you may have to see more than one doctor to get the right fit so plan on it.

Don’t think you can just quickly drive to a domicile state and leave with everything done the next day. My doctor (Perez in Livingston) wanted to setup an appointment before he decided to take me as a new patient. I like that about him. My first appointment was free, and the next visit was setup 10 days later after the holidays. My doctor wants blood work to check on me even though I had an extensive physical before I retired. By luck on my part, this doctor knows about fulltime RVing and was acquainted with the founders of the Escapees Club back in the 1970s. Karen found a doctor who asked that she schedule lab work as well.

I’m in nearly new condition other than as expected my cholesterol levels are high. I’m working on that through diet which according to the doctor may result have marginal success. He wants to see me in two months. As we will be traveling I may check into getting the lab work done and sending it to him? I noticed even Walmart will check your cholesterol levels.

Getting a plan that provides healthcare benefits anywhere in the nation is preferred to expensive out of network costs. Many go to Florida for the current plans. I also considered the short-term healthcare rules where those plans are nationwide but they don’t cover pre-existing conditions and the ones quoted to me were higher in price. Here in Texas, and other states, laws have changed. “Short-term” coverage can be extended for longer periods. Post in the comments section so others can read the information if you have specific questions.

Establishing a budget for medical care will help you decide which approach to take. And then do some research before taking off on the road to see what that money will buy.

Truck and trailer insurance:

I’ve used an insurance broker in the past but decided to do it on my own this time. I checked with USAA, Progressive and Geico. I had planned to do some serious shopping around. But I found Geico to be well within our budget and liked working with them. They know RVing and are easy to do business with. So, I stopped and ordered our insurance, receiving the proof of insurance certificate an hour later. Our coverage for the trailer is better than we had. We saved about $250 a year even with the conversion of our trailer insurance to fulltime living. You must disclose you live in the trailer. Our policy includes roadside assistance, $10,000 for contents. And up to $3,000 for temporary living expense in the event we can’t use the trailer such as after a crash. It includes full replacement cost of the trailer at a dollar amount we agreed to.

I printed a copy of our prior policy coverage to use as a quick reference hoping to make sure the new companies quoted comparable coverages. Each state has minimum coverage requirements. As I’ve always done I took a $500 deductible. The 2018 Ram dually Laramie came in at $584 for six months and our 2019 Vanleigh Vilano came in at $480 for six months. I probably should have asked for a one-year deal just to prevent price increases, but time will tell. Total comes to $177 a month. I paid the entire six months in advance to cut down on the hassle in paying monthly bills.

By the way, we did not take out separate insurance for our storage unit. I’ll except the risk which is made less in my opinion as the storage unit is located inside for climate control with good gate and door security. Our unit happens to share a wall with the storage facility office area. There is not much of financial value in the storage unit.

Roadside assistance:

This was an easy one but took some thought. There are things in this lifestyle you put off when you are first getting on the road. Just because there is not necessarily time to do it all at once. Like buying a tire monitoring system or worrying about roadside assistance. Those things happen over time. We have roadside assistance through Vanleigh RV for a year as the trailer is new. Dodge has roadside assistance on our 2018 truck. And our new insurer, Geico has service at a cheap price. I wondered why then some buy a separate roadside assistance policy through someone like Good Sam’s or whomever? I’m guessing, and asked others, that all those various service plans make use of basically the same system for service, which is when you break down, they contact the same people for help that all the competitors use. For us it made since to just use the service provided as part of our truck and trailer insurance. I wrote the roadside service phone numbers down and keep them handy in the truck.

Order and setup internet connection:

I know this topic is not domicile related but it’s something we finally took the time to setup. When you get right down to it, we all want a fast and dependable internet connection like we used to have in our sticks and bricks house. The quickest solution for internet service on the road in my opinion is a Verizon hotspot from your phone or a jet pack. We have had excellent connection though AT&T. My part-time office job provides phone and limited data service through T-Mobile which is not good for this lifestyle. Arguably the best advise can be found at rvmobileinternet.com although I found our solution elsewhere.

I wrote years ago that I’d not make this decision until we hit the road as technology changes. I purchased a Togo Roadlink which is built by Winegard. The devise was $340 and a full year of unlimited data though only AT&T is $360. This Togo device is designed to permanently install on the top of the RV. It contains antenna for both cellular and for times when the campsite has WIFI, an antenna to connect. It requires only a 12-volt connection. I set it up temporarily, directly to our RV battery. The Togo works even when stored in our front basement. I’ll have the Vanleigh Service Center install it on the roof although I could do it myself. The Togo weighs three pounds and you can only use AT&T for the mobile service. Winegard builds another nearly similar model that can use any cell carrier’s data plan. Another difference in the Togo compared to other Winegard products is the GPS capability of the Togo. They say they are adding more features, but one is the ability to track where your RV is located. I bought the unit mostly because of the unlimited data plan for $30 a month on a decent network. I’ll add it does pickup campground Wifi better than just our phones and Roku streaming stick. I like not having to enter a password at every campsite more than once as the Togo is similar to a router in those cases.  Karen can also hook into the Togo cellular signal from inside the truck when we are moving. Another feature I like is connection to the Togo from the computer or phone is so quick it is ready to go as soon as the computer boots up.

Another feature I like about the Togo is the phone app where you can switch from cellular data to campground WIFI reception. After you change the connection all your devices that were hooked up remain hooked up, seamlessly.

Space X and Amazon are launching rockets with satellites capable of internet service. I’ll bet that will mix things up someday. I recently read that even Apple has set a goal to provide service between their phones within five years that is not dependent on any cell carriers.

Truck and trailer inspection:

In Texas the truck and trailer are to be inspected each year. If you are out of the state you can renew your tags without the inspection but once you return to the state you have to be inspected. I got a couple inspection location off the internet and from other RVer. I drove to the inspection station without the trailer to make sure I could get the RV in and out easily.

We had the trailer weighed which is not part of the licensing process, and then took the truck and trailer in for an inspection. I used Soda Auto at 6709 East 190 Highway (936-563-4234). Again, I got lucky and Soda Auto was very familiar with us Escapees. I’m finding that to be the case all around town. The office at Escapees stays current on good inspection stations so check there first.  By the way, Karen and I are really liking Livingston. And this is not an advertisement for joining Escapees.

I had the truck and trailer weighed and inspected on the same day as we had to move the trailer from our current spot and then back again. I had considered having the inspection done upon first arriving in Livingston then taking it to the RV park. But – and this is a good thing – I’m learning to slow down. Sometimes it’s okay just to do one thing a day and call it good. I’ve learned not to set myself up for frustration by over-committing my time.

In Texas both of us had to go to the license center to get tags. Our Missouri title was registered to me, TOD Karen. They don’t use TOD (time of death) in Texas registrations so they treated this as both of us owning the truck and trailer, therefore Karen had to sign the forms and bring her driver’s license photo with her. There were three forms to fill out which I got ahead of time at the license center. I took a photo of the weight sticker on the side of the trailer to prove weight. Don’t forget to bring proof of sales tax paid from whatever state you originally paid taxes in. I was surprised Texas did not require VIN verifications which is when law enforcement looks at the VIN and completes a form to make sure it’s not a stolen vehicle when transferring the title. Later, you can use your vehicle registration papers to help prove residency when you obtain a driver’s license.

Using our mail service:

I must throw this topic in because it’s an important part. Even if I’ve written about it in the past. I’m 100% impressed with the mail forwarding service with Escapees. Livingston is their main location and I could see the top of the building from our RV spot. I see two or three semi-trucks come here every day with mail. We can walk up to the window and get our mail and we have male forwarded through the Escapees service to camping spots in two other states. If you go with Escapees service in South Dakota or Florida, your mail will go to the Livingston Texas location first and then be sent on to wherever you are. This is such a large operation that they have their own zip code (77399) and a formal agreement with the US Post Office.

Changing our address with banks and insurance companies was a hard part of the process and the zip code and address format, which include a box #, worked well. Our address is 152 Rainbow Drive #5220, Livingston Texas 77399-1052. I put that out there not to get mail from you but to demonstrate how it looks like any other apartment number when the address is just a box in a building. I researched other mail services as well and they work but were not the best fit for us. Escapees started the service in 1985 which is housed in a 10,000 square foot building with about 40 fulltime employees. Here is a link to how RVer’s get their mail. My advise is to select a mail forwarding service that has an address within the state you want to domicile.

Sometime ago, I noticed a mail forwarding service in South Dakota shut down. Bet it sucked to have to do all the address changes again, “moving” to a new domicile address which might not have been in-network for healthcare. If you are planning for your future in an RV one thing you can do now is start cutting everything over to online banking and billing.  Make a list of all your accounts to work from. I should have also setup our new mailing address two months before we moved out of our house in Missouri but things got in the way.  That would have saved setting up a temporary post office box then changing that address to Texas. You may also recall from a prior post that as soon as you change your address the Post Office will send notification out which will alarm your insurance companies who want to know why you moved.  We told them we were snow birding in Texas and wanted to get our mail there. A couple months later we got new insurance. If took about three months before I felt comfortable everyone had our new address and I would not miss any important mail if that be through forwarded mail or emails.

Okay by this point in the process we had been parked in Livingston for a week. Taking it easy in the warm winter weather and knowing we were there over the holidays and moving 10 miles down the road to a state park later. And knowing we have a time window created by scheduled appointments with our new doctors anyway. Next comes:

Truck and trailer tags:

Here in Livingston this is handled by the county tax office located at 416 N Washington. I looked up the list of proper forms to take but decided to just go in one day and ask for them. Parked behind the building and went in the back door. There was no line and the lady at the counter highlighted what blanks to fill out on the form for our trailer and truck registrations to include title transfers from Missouri to Texas. Make sure you have lean waivers if you paid-off a loan on either vehicle and the finance company is still on the old title. We received our new Texas titles within two weeks.

I had Geico Insurance fax our coverage limits to the office at their request. Just the proof of insurance card was not enough. They need to see the actual limits of the coverage which Texas called the “declaration page.” Amazing service from Geico when I called. I was still on the phone talking about the trailer portion of our insurance as the truck portion started appearing on the county fax machine.

Karen grabbed the forms for voter registration while in the office. Or you can just check a box for voter registration when you later go in for a driver’s license.

This was the first-time meeting anyone from local government. They did not mind joking with me at the counter and talking about places to eat in town. We really do want to be a part of this community. After the short visit we walked on the square downtown for lunch. A local sat down to eat at the next table. Turned out he was born in Livingston 60 years ago and really knew the local history. He called Karen mam and me sir. I was raised the same way and a long-long time ago I had neighbors from Dallas Texas who used to tell me that was the proper way to address an adult. The habit stuck.

Cost us a little over $500 to register the truck and trailer. I expected that as some are first time Texan fees and title work. I asked the clerk if the fees included property tax and she looked at me as if confused. I asked about next year when I renew our tags if I needed to pay property tax first. She says no. Texas has no property tax on vehicles if it’s not leased or used for income. However, I’ve read if you buy a residence those taxes are high. I still can’t get over not paying taxes at the grocery store for most basic food needs. I’m really starting to think Missouri and our home county/city were a tax rip-off. Anyway, no worries paying the fees as we are saving in the ballpark of $2,700 annually on income tax. Grocery store food taxes in Texas are cheap.

According to a CPA at this article link, Texas ranked 46th in tax burden overall in 2016. I’ve not researched the numbers for accuracy in this article for the most part.

Register to vote:

We picked up a voters registration card at the same place we registered the truck and trailer which is the county tax office located at 416 N Washington, Livingston. Filled it out and mailed it back with the included postage paid card. Did not have to have a Texas driver’s license and signed we were residence. We received our cards a week later. We could have also just checked a box on a form when we went to get our driver’s license which is the easy way to do it.

Change our wills and file Intent to Domicile form:

So far, we have not finished this yet. The lawyers say complete the Intent to Domicile form and file it with the county court. But then again, the lawyers are selling something. I’m leaning towards an online service for our uncomplicated will? I’ll probably never get around to filing out an Intent to Domicile form. All our financial accounts are in both our names and a third person listed in case we die.

Driver’s Licenses:

Licensing here is handled by the Department of Public Safety located at 1737 N Washington in Livingston. I first read up on the requirements for new residents to make sure we have the propery identifications.

Because our fifth wheel rig exceeds 26,000 in combined gross weight, I’ll have to get a Class A license. Motorhomes that exceed this weight get a Class B.  The regular Texas license in a Class C which Karen got with a simple eye test.

When we arrived in Texas, I downloaded the commercial vehicle license manual to study chapter 14 and 6 which is what I understand a special license will require testing on. Thanks to blog reader Jerry Jones of Keep up with the Joneses who was a little ahead in the process I also discovered to make sure to look at the state’s internet page for the CDL driver test locations. Make sure you schedule the driving portion well in advance because sometimes there is a waiting list. I’ll have to take a test with the rig and as Karen does not pull the trailer she does not. You have 30 days to get your vehicle tags once becoming a resident. You have 90 days to get a driver’s license.

The process went well for the most part. Nothing I read explained that you first file for your Class C (regular license) then get back in line and file for a modification to a Class A or B. After passing the written exam I was able to go online and schedule the driving portion at any center around the state. Fortunately, there was a testing facility in Livingston Texas, where I’d gotten to generally know the roads.

For proof of citizenship and residence we provided our social security cards, birth certificate, truck/trailer registration and insurance documents which have our Texas address printed on them. Had we not had our vehicle registration and insurance documents we could have used two bank documents or bills (any but cell phone bills) which have our Texas address printed on them.

I took the Class A written test in 10 minutes and missed one question when you can miss six out of 20 and still pass. I studied way too much…. I read the two chapters in the book twice, to include the day before the test. I took the online practice tests until I was able to score 100%. Karen so far has not applied for the Class A license although the lady at the counter suggested she at least take the written test and for the first 90 days she can pull the trailer without the license. She decided against that.

I kept my motorcycle qualification. I also checked a box to have it listed on the driver’s license being a veteran. I had to show them a copy of my DD 214. Still waiting to see what that looks like on the license as I plan to use the ID for discounts such as at Lowe’s for 10% off.

I had the driving portion scheduled but had a delay, so I’ll get that done soon. I’ve read online to get a general idea of what others went through during the road test. All report it was easier than they thought and took 20 to 30 minutes. Here in Livingston when you take the driving portion I was told to park on the shoulder of the road out front where there is a fire hydrant. The license center employee pointed to a second hydrant nearby, saying it’s okay as the hydrant we would be parked at was a distance off the road and the second hydrant can be used.  Karen can’t be with me during the drive and as our fifth wheel will be with me we have to come up with a plan in case it’s raining during the test. She will have the dog and the license center can only have 10 people waiting inside.  And the outside waiting area does not have an awning. Maybe she will stay back at the RV park with new friends or I’ll just keep the dog in the truck during the test while she waits outside the building.

I should mention in the event you have to get a Class A license (for a rig with combined gross weight over 26,000 pound) you have I believe 90 days after you pass the written test to take the driving portion at any of several dozen sites around the state.

Other Tasks Completed or Considered:

I cancelled all the state income tax withholding for my retirement accounts and part-time office job as Texas has no income tax. Although I moved some of that savings by having extra taken out for Federal taxes for now.

While stopped in one place for so long I caught up on some of annual maintenance and things I had put off. I also scheduled our appointment at the Vanleigh factory service center which requires three months’ notice. For months now I’ve been building a list for maintenance items and after I use it for awhile I’ll share it in a post. It took a while to get through the owner’s manuals, manufacturer’s websites and reading what others are doing for maintenance.

I ordered replacement bank checks with our new address.

We have not moved our 10×5 storage unit from Missouri to Texas. I’m thinking in terms of what personal property we still own, the 10×5 unit is a minor amount. 99% of the value of our personal property is here in Texas with us. I would think the 10×5 storage unit in Missouri is no different than leaving property in your parent’s basement and for now may just be a temporary thing. I’m confident our travel history and domicile efforts will show Missouri is no longer our home state. Some suggest moving storage to your domicile state to further prove you live there. One fear might be the state you left coming after income tax or there being a dispute in the event of a civil court action such as estate planning.

We are beginning to consider ways we can become part of the Texas community, especially here in Livingston/Polk County. You could spend months making all the camping stops here in Texas. Southern Texas winters, even just north of Houston, are not bad and tend to run at least 20 degrees warmer than what we had in Kansas City. Several times this “winter” we had to run the air conditioner to remove the humidity even in mid-seventies temperatures.

2020 is the year for the US census. I put it on my calendar to follow up to make sure we are counted as living in Texas. I’m already reading up on the process and how it went down in 2010. The census begins on April 1 and at the time we don’t plan to be parked in Texas. From what I’ve read if you travel like us you will be counted in the census in whatever place you happened to be parked at the time.

Final Thoughts

I try not to put out any bad information and I am starting to recognize that just because some other person did something as a fulltime Rver does not necessarily mean they were the expert either.

Personally, I’m not a rules breaker and finding a way around the system is not something I’m comfortable with. Having a domicile address in a state I never intend to visit again is not something I’m willing to do. And it would not be fair to others should one of us die and there be an issue in probate court.

I hope you will agree, as well as the legal system, that the above represents a considerable effort to become Texans.

Had Our Rig Professionally Weighed

Merry Christmas to all.  We miss our family but had a great day despite it. Had a meal with eight strangers at the park event and met some new friends. The park organized the event. We donated $4 each for the meat and drinks. Everyone at your assigned table brings two dishes and we sat around like a family at the table.

I am keeping detailed notes regarding establishing our domicile while here in Texas. I planned to include other non-domicile topics that we just happened to have completed during the same timeframes. It became apparent with the amount of data that I should report about our rig being weighed in a separate blog post.

We paid the $55 and had a Weight Master here at the Escapees RV Club weigh the rig. I wrote in the title we had it “professionally weighed” because this is no drive on the truck scale and get a printout. The Weight Master goes over the results in detail and can provide recommendations as needed. The lady who handled the scales teaches at the Escapees Bootcamp. Among other discussions I asked about people having their rigs weighed and complaining about tire blowouts.  She says almost always those people have overweight RVs and do little to maintain proper tire inflation.

I tried but could not get a PDF file to work correctly within this post.  The file has a feature that allows you to hold the pointer or click on a highlighted area on the downloaded form, notes would then appear regarding each highlighted area. Please email me at mseneker@hotmail.com and I’ll send you the PDF with the ability to view the notes.  Otherwise, below is a link to our weight form.

Vilano 320GK and Ram 3800 Dually Weights

If you are towing or buying a fifth wheel in the 16,000 pound class, which are common for full-timers, then our weights will really help.

Because I could not get the darn PDF form to work correctly and to save you asking me to email it; I’ll include two areas of my notes from the form that are most important:

Regarding Combined Gross Weight Ratings for the Truck:

Before I knew more, this weight limit was what I used to pick a truck. I knew I wanted something capable of hauling 19,000 pounds or less. Because a couple of the heavier trailers we liked had max trailer weights that were 18,000 and 19,000 pounds.

The gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is a specific maximum weight limit determined by the truck manufacturer. The GCWR takes into account two individual (yet attached) vehicles — the tow vehicle and the trailer. Doing the math, our truck is maxed out with a 19,800-pound fifth wheel trailer. (33,800 gross combined weight limit less the max truck weight of 14,000 GVWR).

This was a tricky number for me as the weight charts for our truck clearly indicate it has a max trailer weight rating of 25,020 pounds. I assume this is based on the truck not being at its max weight load to start with.

Our actual truck weighs 9,500 with occupants – and the dog, full fuel but no trailer hitched. Therefore, if the gross combined rating is 33,800 less the actual truck weight of 9,500 you would think I could tow around a 25,020-pound trailer. Apparently I can tow the 25,020 as long as I don’t have the truck packed with cargo.

Our truck has a 3.73 axle ratio. Change that to a 4.10 axle ratio and the gross combined weight limit goes up to 39,100 pounds.

As I found out talking to the Weight Master the truck can only handle the weight limitation of any one component such as on an axle, tires and more.

Regarding the Rear Axle Rating for a Truck:

The rear axle on our dually truck is rated at 9,720 pounds. That’s the max weight of cargo the rear axle can handle. The rear axle, on the same truck without dual rear wheels is rated at 7,000 pounds. I downloaded the charts way before I went truck shopping. And I don’t mean the charts that merely provide the “towing capacity” as those are close to worthless. Get the charts that show the axle weight ratings at the very least. And here is why:

THIS IS IMPORTANT

With the trailer attached the weight on our trucks rear axle is 7,450 pounds. This includes the stuff we are hauling in the bed of the truck, the hitch/pin weight of the trailer, loaded the passengers, fuel and whatever is shifted to the rear axle.

At 7450 pounds on the rear axle the weight exceeds the rating of the same truck that does not have dual rear tires by 450 pounds. Our hitch alone weights 220 pounds. I suspect if I took everything out of the bed of the truck, other than the hitch, I’d be closer to 7200 pounds. THE REAR AXLE RATING may set the actual limit of what you can tow.

Our trailer is rated for a gross weight of 16,000 pounds. We are 800 pounds under weight with a full tank of water and loaded for full time RV living. The rear axle weight on our truck would go up if we add more weight to the trailer.

If you want to guess at what would be the pin weight of a fifth wheel RV you can take the gross max weight of the trailer x 20%.  The Weigh Master  suggests using 25%. Either way, also add in a little for whatever you think you will have in the bed of the truck.

END OF MOST IMPORTANT – Know your truck’s rear axle rating.

I can see why not having a dually, long bed, diesel truck would be a benefit when you drive it every day. I really can.. Any long bed truck is harder to park and turn especially if you add two extra outside tires. If I only used the trailer while on vacation, there is no way I’d want a dually. But then again, I would not have bought the trailer we have if that was the case. Or if I flat out would not tolerate driving a dually then I’d buy a lighter trailer regardless, maybe something under 14,000 gross weight capacity or less.

The best advice I received before buying a truck was to get one setup to tow. Because towing is when you need to be the safest you can get.

I figured as we are fulltime RVers then our chances of having a crash or weight related issue would be more likely than if we used the trailer for vacations, if for no other reason than we are towing a lot of miles in one year compared to someone who uses their RV for vacation. And these dually trucks are very stable in high wind. If a tire goes flat in the back I’ve got three left to handle the weight while I drift to a stop.

The decision is yours to make.

I don’t have the charts for Chevy and Ford truck capacities. I had them when shopping for a truck however. All three brands build great trucks with almost identical warranties.

If you are towing anything near a 16,000 pound fifth wheel with a single rear wheel truck please watch what you put in the truck bed as you may be very close or just above the max weight the truck can handle per the manufacturer.

It was good to know that at this point we have 2,780 pounds of cargo in our trailer if you include a full fresh water tank with a weight of about 660 pounds. With no water we are at about 2,120 pounds of cargo.  Glad I set a minimum cargo capacity of 3,000 pounds  when we were shopping for our trailer. Deciding on your budget for a new RV rig and the minimum cargo capacity sure helps lower the number of RV’s to consider. Of course some required a lot less stuff when they travel.  And others travel with an overloaded RV.

When the tires of the trailer are weighed individually we are more than 1,000 pounds under weight per tire.  These Westlake G rated tires are rated at 4,400 pounds when the Goodyear G’s are rated for less weight. That’s a big reason you are seeing Westlakes on new trailers. Some call them China bombs but they are actually a South Korean Company.  So are car companies Kia and Hyundai. So are the tires on all new Ram heavy duty trucks (Nexen).

Now to get Karen used to driving this truck. She drove our last truck but it was not this huge and the long truck bed is harder to turn around corners or in parking lots. Use of mirrors is important. She should have the freedom to drive wherever she wants.

Little Rock Arkansas to Texarkana Texas

Little Rock Arkansas – Maumelle Corp. of Engineer Park

We have completed a nine day stay near Little Rock Arkansas. Later, on the day we pulled out heading to Texarkana, Texas Karen and I joked the leaves were falling from the trees so it’s time to leave and head further south.

Way back in September 2015 I added a stop to our want to see spreadsheet list for Maumelle Corp. of Engineer Park outside of Little Rock, having read about it on the Travel With Whippets Blog.

We successfuly had driven south on US 65 Highway from Branson Missouri down the Ozark Mountains. I figure sometimes it’s our turn to get lucky. Maumelle was easy to get to with plenty of spots for larger RVs. Our spot, A14, was located directly along the river. Our living and dining room windows had a direct view of the river. A paved driveway, river rock covered camping area with a fire ring, covered concrete picnic table, water connection and 50-amp service added to our enjoyment. And as we avoid using our shower when conserving waste tank space, even the short walk to the showers was a plus. I should however add I noticed some of the larger pull-thru spots with sewer connections were reserved and used by people visiting the University of Arkansas Medical Center. Our neighbor had been there three months while being treated for Leukemia.  Karen had purchased a life-time America the Beautiful pass at the visitor’s center on Table Rock Lake near Branson Missouri. So now all our stays at Corp. of Engineer parks are half price. Can’t beat the view for $13 a night!

We decided to skip a day trip or taking our fifth wheel the 50 miles or so from Little Rock to the national park at Hot Spring’s Arkansas. We lived in Excelsior Springs Missouri for 17 years and after reading up on Hot Springs with its museums and bathhouses it seems a lot like what we knew in Missouri. Vanleigh RV is holding their next national rally in Hot Springs anyway although so far, we don’t have plans to attend. With that America the Beautiful pass we could get free entrance to national parks as well.

Our spot on the Arkansas River

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Not much boat traffic on the river but I saw this barge a few times.

We skipped the tourist stops in Little Rock, such as the President Clinton Library (He and Hillary were in town at the same time). We spent all our tourist time outside. And that includes just sitting around a campfire or enjoying the river views. When we booked our spot at Maumelle I wanted one on the river and the ability to extend our stay if we wanted as no one had our spot for a few days after us. Check in time was 4:00 pm and as usual I checked to see if someone had our spot before us just in case we wanted to arrive earlier. We arrived at about 3:00 pm and thankfully the previous owner had pulled out already.

Yep, we ended up extending our stay having decided that the day we arrived, bringing our stay to nine days. While at Maumelle we booked our next stop in Texarkana. So far, we don’t like to book spots far out ahead of us, especially this time of year when camping spots are not so crowded. We like having the flexible to change plans.

The interesting parts of our stay in Little Rock is without doubt the parks and their hiking trails. One day we walked along a mountain path. The next day we walked over a high pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River into a pine filled forest along a flat paved path.

Karen and Huck on our walk in the pine forest in Little Rock

High pedestrian bridge to the park in Little Rock. Huck got scared in the very center portion.

The faint red arrow points to a mountain top at a state park where we climbed the stairs to a lookout point. Photo taken from the pedestrian bridge at another park

Sometimes you just have to look up for a view and hope the camera can capture it. So many pine forests from Little Rock to Livingston Texas

That’s me on the walkway at the top of a mountain. We drove the truck to the base.

Texarkana Texas was Next

We then moved on to Rocky Point Corp. of Engineer Campground on the Wright Patnum Lake near Texarkana, Texas for 14 days and from there we headed down US 59 highway to Livingston Texas. Again we found ourselves spending all our time in the campground at Rocky Point, parked on the lake with a wonderful view. Here we spent Thanksgiving with plenty of neighbors.  It was still easy to find a parking spot and the day after the holiday only eight rigs remained in the park. There was nothing much we wanted to see in Texarkana in the way of tourist spots.

Photo from our spot at Rocky Point C.O.E in Texarkana. There is a God! This is his view for us to see. This one is going in my all time favorites photo file.

Most every night the sun cast its final light over the water.

I’d say a flock of 2000 of these birds landed directly in front of us. No Zoo can stock these in such great numbers. Karen and I agreed we had never seen such a thing before. This folks is a reason we RV.

A new RV hobby is continuing to cook new things on the grill, in this case a large turkey breast from Thanksgiving. I also dug out the cast iron pot using coals from the fire to cook stew and jambalaya. I really want to master cooking with cast iron. Thank you to my buddy Dave Foster at the Sheriff’s Office for the fine gift of a cast iron pot!

As of 12/8/19 we are located at the Escapees RV Club Headquarters Rainbow park in Livingston Texas. We will be here about three weeks getting our domicile setup and enjoying the warmer weather. Livingston is about 45 miles north of Houston Texas or about an hour and a half from the Gulf of Mexico. Livingston is a rural town. Houston is the 4th largest city in the country in the second largest state. It was 78 degrees in Livingston yesterday and it snowed 6″ back in Kansas City.  Is it wrong to enjoy seeing the winter news we left behind?

I’ll report back on our to-do list such as vehicle and drivers licensing, healthcare and doctors. Vehicle insurance and more. We will soon be Texans. Lots to update you on in the next post about our stay in Livingston. There should be a lot of information in this upcoming blog! All good stuff for those planning their future in an RV.

Karen and I decided to move around this winter rather than staying at a single snowbird park for months at a time. Maybe head to the Gulf and then inch our way east to Mississippi then slowly north.

Living Two Weeks With Our Water Tanks

Currently we are parked at Wright Patman Lake, south or Texarkana, Texas Rocky Point Corp of Engineer (COE) Campground. We have 30 amp electrical service (fine for this time of year) and a freshwater hydrant. We are moving to a lakeview spot tomorrow in the same park.  With our America the Beautiful Park Pass the cost is $13 a night. Temperatures are in the upper 50’s and low 60’s during the day and moderate at night. We have had a couple 70 degree days. This post however is about our goal to make it 14 days on our freshwater and wastewater tanks.

Rocky Point COE – Texarkana, Texas

We enjoy longer stays at county, state and federal campgrounds. From our experience we find most of these campgrounds limit your stay to 14 days. Hence, our goal to live off our freshwater and waste tanks for two weeks. A quick summary of this blog post would be that on average we are using seven gallons of freshwater per day with only basic water conservation practices. Our grey/black wastewater tanks will handle that for two weeks, but we may not have enough freshwater capacity without resupply. Someday I may purchase a water bladder and transfer pump.

Continue reading

Branson Missouri Visit

We uprooted and hauled our home the 100 miles from Carthage Missouri to the mountains of Branson Missouri, traveling I-44 to US 65 Highway southbound. Only a few taller hills along the way on this smooth patch of divided highway.

The drive was good practice in getting ready for the next leg of our journey which was continuing south on US 65 Highway through the Ozark Mountains into Little Rock Arkansas where we are now parked. While in Carthage Missouri talked with several people regarding our planned route into Texas, passing through Branson, Little Rock, Texarkana and finally Livingston Texas. I also referred to a spreadsheet I’ve kept now for about five years which has links back to other’s blogs for specific locations. I find it interesting to re-read posts about the actual stop as well as earlier and later posts showing how they arrived and departed the area. Us newbies appreciate it when folks outline the route they took. That’s one of the reasons I’ve concentrated on reading blogs where the owners pull larger trailers or drive big Class A motorhomes.

We stayed two weeks in Branson Missouri. The RV park manager where we stayed in Carthage used to live in Branson and highly recommended America’s Best Campground (ABC). Plenty of larger RV sites with full hookups atop a hilly lookout. And easy to get into from US 65 Highway having come nowhere near the busy main part of Branson which is 76 Country Highway. It’s been years since I had been to Branson and Karen had never visited Branson.

We won free show tickets (valued at $65)

Upon arrival at America’s Best Campground we were welcomed by a large sign at the entrance bearing our names in lights. Yup, we apparently had won two free tickets to a show. The office management knows how to run a park. We had mail delivered from Amazon and our mail service in Texas. A small detail but interesting is that the park has a white board in front of the office where they write your last name if you have mail or messages. Saves going in the office to check. Inside the two-story office was a game room and book exchange upstairs. Real homey place where we could also buy discounted show tickets for in town and a morning cup of decent free coffee.

Our spot among the hills at America’s Best Campground

From camp we can see the lights of Branson

Around the first of October the entire place turns into a Christmas wonderland. Lights everywhere with displays. Especially at Silver Doller City amusement park, which I understand was voted one of the top Christmas attractions in the country. The state has added a few highways since my last visit and label their routes by color codes so it’s easy to get around. America’s Best Campground was just minutes away from whatever we wanted to do to include all kinds of shopping and restaurants. The  camping fees are reasonable for a resort town. Had we been able to arrive earlier we might have considered a month-long stay. Karen liked the fact the clean laundry at the park had 10 washers and 10 dryers. I’ll be adding a post latter about how she is handling laundry without a machine in our RV. She has been thinking through the process as we prepare to decide if we will have a washer/dryer installed at the factory service center maybe, or not, in March or April of 2020.

We enjoyed the drive through the hillsides and took in a few shows and some free hiking. We used our free tickets to the Abba music tribute, spent time walking the beautiful lakeside trail in the state park, went to the Dolly Parton Stampede dinner show, toured a trout fish hatchery and spent a couple hours at the two-story Titanic Museum. (See more photos at bottom of page)

Sorry for the photo quality. I want to keep the file size down. This is Table Rock Lake along the three mile paved walking trail between the state park and visitors center.

Scenic overlook on the way from Branson to Table Rock Lake State Park

We spent an afternoon in an area by the lake known as the Landing. When I used to vacation on Lake Taneycomo, near the area called the Landing, was a campground and marina where I’d stop and ask the locals what the fish were biting on. That’s all gone now, having been replaced by this shopping district. They do have I think the most wonderful water fountain display which is equipped with high shooting water, lights and fire timed to music on the hour. We walked from the Landing to a fine store called Dick’s 5 and 10.

Shops at Branson’s Landing

Karen and my sister Mary at the Landing. My sister’s Lisa and Deanna with family would join us later during this trip.

Don’t miss walking to Dick’s 5 and 10 from the Landing as you pass the Scenic Railroad Depo

Had I not been there twice before, we would have absolutely gone to the Shepherd of the Hills to see the live outdoor play. At one time the Shepherd of the Hills was the second most read book just behind the Bible. John Wayne stared in a move about the Shepherd of the Hills which was nowhere near the story told in Branson nor in the book. So much to do in what some call the live music capital of America. I’ve been to Nashville three times and although its’ a wonderful city to tour, Branson offer more variety in my opinion especially if you consider the non-music venue.

We were visited by friends from Kansas City and my sisters arrived for a show and to see us off as we left Missouri. Karen and I really enjoyed our stay. She says Branson is a place she could live. The surrounding communities make for enjoyable drives and they have reasonably priced condos/apartments scattered in scenic areas.

At this point in our fulltime RV journey we both are preferring the longer stays of a week or more. And for sure moves of 200 miles or less are preferred especially if the route does not take us over interstate highways. But we are just three months into this lifestyle so there will be more to consider as we go along. The trip to Branson was more of a vacation for us. We enjoy just living in the moment at campgrounds and so far, don’t feel an overriding urge to see everything when we are in the area. We are thinking our campground selections will include the campground itself being the destination. Such as the one we are now parked at in Arkansas.

This is starting to feel like home. The emotional lows, which can be a part of a move to this lifestyle, are fewer for sure. I’ve got a lot to report back on such as our goal to make it two weeks on our fresh water and waste tanks, more RV maintenance stuff, how my part-time mobile office job is filling a need to be productive, living with no satellite television or cable TV bill, anticipating an updated budget, route planning tips and my research/final selection regarding healthcare insurance. For sure there is no lack of subject matter to write and learn about.

Yes – Southern Missouri has stocked trout fishing! Here is one trying to swim up a fall.

Two headed snake on display at the nature museum below Table Rock Damn at the Shephard of the Hills Fish Hathery

His two brothers call him Pork Chop – singing at the pre-show at the Dolly Parton Stampede. He caught Karen taking a photo.

Even a Christmas section at the Stampede

Dolly Parton Stampede. The show and food were out of this world worth it!

The Titanic Museum. Located in the main section of Branson. Takes two-three hours to go through

We are currently located at the Maumelle Corp. of Engineer Park on the Arkansas River outside Little Rock. We are moving to Texarkana on Tuesday 11/26/19 where we will stay over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Water Connection and Cold Weather

Currently we are located in Branson Missouri. On 11/18/19 we will be stopped outside Little Rock Arkansas, moving south to Texarkana and then eventually to Livingston Texas.

Here is a quick post regarding how we are handling our water connection during below freezing temperatures.  Any feedback or suggestions is appreciated.

We have been in our fifth wheel in temperatures as low as 12 degrees outside. It handled it well and we are impressed with the heating and insulation.  This campsite (America’s Best in Branson Missouri) had a note posted in the office. If you leave your water connected to the spigot in freezing temperatures and there is damage to the spigot the repair costs start at $250. I’ve heard other parks have the same warning.

We don’t have a heated hose so we disconnect our water hose during freezing weather. And as we do not expect to stay longer term in freezing weather I don’t intend to buy a heated hose which costs between $80 and $120.  If you do plan to buy a heated hose then I refer you to Bill and Kelley’s American Odyssey blog for an option to build your own as part of your research. I’ll be saving the storage space and skipping the heated hose for now.

I keep an eye on the expected low temperature and unhook our water hose, drain the hose and put it in the basement so it does not freeze. We have a fresh water holding tank that is 70 gallons plus the hot water tank at 10 gallons for a total of 80 fresh. Make sure your water heater tank is full before turning it on or it will be damaged by the way.

When temperatures are freezing I add water to our fresh tank to feed from while unhooked from the city water spigot. I turn on our 12 volt heat pad tank warmers. I’ve read that even if the tanks are dry the 12 volt heat pads will not hurt the tanks. We figure about 10 gallons of fresh water per day. I put at least that much in the fresh water tank for overnight when unhooked, maybe more if we are going to take showers and don’t want to run out. If it’s above freezing during the day we will reconnect to city water and take showers.

For now, I do not use our external charcoal water filter when I’m adding water to the fresh water tank. Seems to me if we remove the chlorine from the water then it would go bad over time in the fresh water tank.  Although on occasion I can drain the fresh water tank and sanitize it (another maintenance item I need to do).  Our trailer has an inside water filter which I understand will filter the water from the tank to the faucet.

If you stay hooked-up to city water in freezing temperature, even with a heated hose, beware of the external water filters as they will freeze and the cheap plastic may rupture. I saw that at our last stop and turned the guys water off as he was away from his trailer. I notified management who said the external water filters (like the blue one’s at Walmart) are very likely to crack in freezing temperature. The below photo is an idea using a bucket to heat the spigot if you leave it on and it’s short enough to cover with a bucket:

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Bucket covers spigot

Our water pump is somewhat loud. I’m in the process of researching if I can get in the basement and maybe install some rubber under it to help with the vibration. I’ve also intended to buy a spare water pump in case ours goes out. I’d use the spare to pump water into our holding tanks from a water bladder someday.  If the spare pump is of better quality, I may install it in the camper and use the old one to transfer water from a bladder.

We are getting ready to travel in some hilly areas so I’ll be keeping our fresh water tank weight down. Before we leave I’ll be draining the remaining water from the tank and using my water counter (gauge) to add back maybe 10 gallons plus what’s in the hot water tank.

I’ll post more later about how we are heating our trailer. Just a quick reminder to run your furnace at times if your basement and utility bay is heated or the water lines inside the trailer may freeze.