Truck Research and Snow in KC

Just when you think winter might have shown its face for the last time it snows in Kansas City.  Fortunately, it was beautiful to look at and gone later in the afternoon as the temperature went up.  I’m hoping our plumb trees bear fruit because they have already bloomed and there are a couple freezing nights ahead of us. The boys find a place to hang out when it’s bad outside.

Ringo found a pile of sheets to sleep on because Huck already took up a position on the dog bed.  We also have two cats.

Sylvester appears in the above photo in a typical position after he eats. Sylvester prefers moderate weather and often stays inside when its bad outside. We don’t plan to travel with all these animals in the future. The dogs are getting older so we will have to see who is with us in a couple years.  Sylvester came home with Karen from the veterinarian’s office as an adoption (two years ago). She is looking for a new home for Sylvester which I hope goes well. The dogs love to travel but the cats are used to roaming the acreage outside which is not going to work in an RV.

I spent time inside as well. Finally gathered up all the canning jars, pressure cooker and such to post on Craigslist.  I’m trying to sell off items in larger groups. Next might be the motorcycle, helmets and bike pack. The end of my vegetable growing hobby reminded me of my Uncle Don at about my own age. As I recall, we were standing in his backyard near the base of the stairs leading from his deck and noticed his garden plot was not planted. Don said he stopped planting because it was too much work.  I am like him in a lot of ways. His garden included a watering system therefore so did mine.  Life is a heck of a lot shorter when you think about others who have passed and what they were up to at your own age. No doubt Uncle Don figured out everything he wanted to know about gardening so he moved on to something else. That’s a family trait.

I’ve been hacking away at truck research, adding a new section on the blog to keep my notes. You can find the truck page here.  I stayed up late one night building trucks online to get the base prices. I know what our budget is and am working on finding out the price points each of these monsters come in at. That way it might narrow the search to a model or two from each truck manufacturer that is in line with our budget. These diesel suckers are expensive. I can remember when $10,000 would buy a new Cadillac.

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The starting prices shown include necessary options such as fifth wheel hitch preparation, on-the-fly electronic 4×4, minimum of cloth interior and running boards. The prices include rebates or incentives as of today at the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP).

It’s interesting to note additional options sometimes come in a package when selected. Such as Chevy/GMC requires you get a spray in bed liner if you select the fifth wheel hitch preparation.  I also found the base price between all the trucks are within about $500 to $720 of one another. Not much of a price difference to be concerned about.

I’m in the process of learning about what options influence the trucks weight capabilities. Hopefully learning what others mean by a “properly equipped truck can handle” a specific fifth wheel weight.  And along the lines of weight. There are a ton of places to consider such as gross cargo weight and rear axle weight where the front of the camper rides over the truck.  There are assumptions that might factor in such as what is the average cargo weight stored in the front of a fifth wheel. And people are posting in forums you can’t always trust the fifth wheel manufactures posted weights. Some are suggesting pin weight is 10 to 20% (update, a couple readers said their pin weight loaded is 19 and 21%) of the total fifth wheel weight. But then again cargo loaded in the rear of the fifth wheel will offset some of the weight in the front when it pushes down on the rear of the camper, like a teeter totter.  So much to learn. I may be sick in the head but I’m enjoying the research.  Those guys over on the truck forums really are proud of their trucks!  Someday I hope to know enough to ask intelligent questions. Give it a try. Go online and build a truck. Watch how the weight capacity changes when you select gear ratio, 4×4 and engine.

Once I get the spreadsheet done I may post a link to it so folks can look it over.  I’m off to start learning about all the optional equipment so I can build one of each truck online and get closer to the actual MSRP with the options we are interested in. What’s cool about building the truck online are the links to similar equipped trucks for sale in the area.

 

new flash  Here is an informative blog post by Hebard’s Travels titled How to Travel with Cats in an RV

Started Truck Research

I suspect this will be the first of several blog posts I write concerning truck research. I’m hoping to get advice from those more knowledgeable.

Karen and I decided on a fifth wheel because we plan to be parked for longer periods of time while workamping or volunteering. And of course, we will be living in it fulltime. If we were going to move around most of the time we would go with a Class A. We have also decided to start off with a one ton dually truck because of the stability it offers when towing as well as the increased pin weight capabilities. We know this truck might not be the best option for a daily driver but are going to try and live with it. Pulling a car behind a Class A might be the best option for a daily driver or even her driving a second vehicle might work. We prefer to travel together rather than driving separately. Personally, I would not own a pickup truck without four-wheel drive because trucks just don’t have great traction in bad weather without it. My past three trucks have been gas F150 Fords with four-wheel drive.

After touring fifth wheel floor plans we find ourselves attracted to trailers weighing in the ranges of 16,000 to 19,000 gross pounds given their construction, cargo capacity, amenities and our budget should we buy new. Pin weights, or the part that rides over the rear axle of the truck, vary by sometimes large margins. And it is this pin weight that steers us to the dual rear wheel trucks. We are attempting to buy a fifth wheel that we will not want to trade out of sooner than later.  However, if we do we want the option of having a heavier trailer without switching out the truck.

I’ve not come to a definite conclusion but could see picking out maybe three trailers we are interested in for our short list. As we would know the trailer weights I feel safe in buying the truck a little earlier. In the forums, most are recommending ordering the trailer first. I don’t see the difference in buying the trailer first or having three specific trailers we’ve selected to choose from before the truck is purchased, especially as we are looking at well-equipped dually trucks.

To me the advantages of having the truck first is we plan to pay cash for the truck, trading in at least one of our existing vehicles. The trailer will be financed, at least in part, until we sell our home.  We would have the truck to help move our household belongings when sold, to storage, given away or trashed.  Although a lesser concern, we would also have a period of time to get used to driving the larger truck before we hookup a 35 to 40-foot trailer to it. Most of all, if we find the trailer we want parked on a lot for sale, we would be able to purchase it on the spot. Rather than waiting for our truck to be built at the factory or hoping to find a used or new one ton truck for sale at a fair price and locally.  Certainly, we all have read where others had no problem purchasing the truck and trailer at the same time however. And some already owned a good truck and found a trailer it would tow.

The truck research so far has been easier than researching the trailer. I’ve met a few people online who are truck experts and can count on their help. It appears any of the big three truck builders have trucks that can handle the weight we are looking at so the field to search from is far smaller than it was for fifth wheels.

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Standard extra leaf spring in dually F350, you can order the same in an F250

An extra two rear tires is not all one gets with a dual wheel one ton truck.

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Dual real trucks have larger axles and other components

I’ve been stopping by dealerships and picking up their 2017 truck brochures. So far, I’m just trying to get my head wrapped around what options each truck offers and what all the terminology means such as gear ratios, gross cargo or combined weight, and more. And what amenities are standard or can be an option in which models. The words “properly equipped truck” has a lot of meaning in that adding certain options can significantly add to the trucks towing capacity. Real important if we plan to buy a truck with greater towing capacity than we might currently need.

And then there are decisions to be made such as what margin of safety is best to build into the truck such as X percent more cargo weight capacity above what we are routinely hauling.

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This F350 dual rear wheel truck has lower bed sides than the F250

I’ve run into several other concerns, some more minor, which will require a decision. Such as are the truck bed sides tall and leave very little room between the top of the truck sides and bottom of the fifth wheel which could cause damage when you go over large pumps on the road. We have already decided on a long-bed truck so there will be no concern when turning the trailer that it might strike the rear cab of the truck if a slider hitch is not used. I can see having an axillary fuel tank/tool box combination in the truck someday so a long-bed would be important for that as well. And what about color? Do we go with white and put stripes on it later or add a second paint color to match the fifth wheel or what?  I’m hoping by selecting three potential fifth wheels we might buy we can just pick out a color that looks okay with all three. Then again, I’ve never worried much about vehicle colors. Keeping options open with color in the past has allowed me to find better deals because of the larger selection compared to wanting any one color. Not a deal breaker for sure.

The trucks I’ve owned have been one year old when purchased at a substantial discount. I like to buy vehicles with around 20,000 miles on them and still in warranty. I’m finding these dually one-ton trucks hold their value at that low mileage so am certainly considering purchasing a new one as well. A local dealership has always been good about finding a used truck for me at a fair price markup. I’d hope he would do the same with a new one. I’m not brand loyal to any one manufacturer but have the most experience with Fords. So, I started researching what’s important in a truck hauling heavy weights with the Fords, hoping what I learn will be applicable in the Dodge and Chevy. We will most likely purchase a model between the years 2017 and 2019. It should not be hard to find out the differences between the years.

If your interesting – Here is a Link to my truck shopping and research page where I’m parking notes.

 

new flash Forest River revises it warranty parts policy, telling dealers to get the part using the most expedient delivery method. They will cover the increased cost. The hope is to shorten the wait to have RVs repaired.

Life in Kansas City – Hired a Financial Planner

140530_roadtowealth_savingIn September of 2014 I dusted off an old retirement plan where I had planned on retirement at age 55 which for me is in 2018. I had created that plan in my early 30’s. I’d guess the plan was similar to what many others considered retirement. Everything paid off, a monthly income through pensions and savings that equal what I anticipated would be our monthly expenses.

The idea of what retirement would look like had changed considerably by 2014. I was no longer content to just have everything paid off and an income that just met my monthly bills while living in a small house, in the city, until the day someone pushed dirt over my grave. Karen and I had moved to the north side of Kansas City onto four acres with woods. We loved to garden and created our own oasis with walking trails through the trees lined with garden spots. Life was good other than having now lost both my parents, one to a heart attack and the other through cancer. I’ll not go into that other than to say both taught me a final lesson which influenced my own future.

So, dusting off the old retirement plan including a new meaning of what retirement will be for me.  I’m so lucky to have a wife who is an adventurer. I’m the planner, worrier and the type that must have a plan A,B and C before I’ll make an important move. She is the one with the survival instincts that includes faith that it will all work out even without a plan. I learn from her everyday how good life could be if one just lets it happen. Fortunately, we both like to camp, be outdoors and travel. Neither of us are afraid of big change even if we have different approaches in how we get there.

By 2014 I’d planned to move my retirement date to 2023 or age 59.5. By then there would be no need to work even part-time. We could stay on our property, in our current home and garden – until someone pushed dirt over our graves!

After thinking of the final lesson my parents taught, in 2014 I came up with the idea to travel in an RV after retirement and before we set down permanent roots. Karen was on-board after the first conversation.  Although I work in law enforcement, business was my college major. My father was a cop for over 50 years. We had a talk when I was around 17 years old. He suggested I go to college and get a business degree while working part time as a police officer. Over the years, I’ve owned my own business, worked for a corporation and handled my own financial planning. I’m the type who must have a 100% understanding of what is going on financial to feel comfortable with the plan. In other words, until recently I would not have felt comfortable with someone else investing for me or planning my financial future.

Like many others planning to fulltime in an RV, we moved our start date ahead by a few years. I adjusted the financial plan in anticipation of leaving in 2019. I call it my save and leave early plan. Late last year I took a hard look at the earnings on our retirement investments. I talked to a few people I trusted who were already or nearing retirement. At the time, most of our investments were with Waddell and Reed. I should have done it years ago, but for the first time I compared their rate of returns against just the simple index funds. Waddell and Reed had always done a little better than the “market” when things were good and a little less poorly when the market was down. That had been changing in the last few years as their returns were not up to expectations. I know exactly what our rate of return must be before and after retirement. Over the past ten years, Waddell and Reed had just been clearing that rate of return by less than half a percent. Not good when their funds are expensive to own in terms of what they charge to get into a fund and their annual expense ratio. So, I arranged a couple meetings with our account manager at Waddell and Reed who by chance was also preparing for his own retirement.

Waddell and Reed is a large financial company. They have independently owned branch offices scattered around the country who are affiliated to Waddell and Reed where they can invest in only their mutual funds. I’ve over-simplified that a bit because it’s boring to write about. Anyway, the guy who I’d worked with for years told me he was selling out to a Waddell and Reed corporate executive as part of his retirement succession plan. He wanted me to meet with him and the new owner because I’m one of his “different customers.” By that he meant he wanted the new guy to know he would have to explain every move he made to me in detail and put up with my type A personality.

Fast forward a few months to the point where I’d evaluated my Waddell and Reed account over a 10-year period. I was not satisfied and called the new guy. He asked me to come by their new office which had been moved to a more affluent area of Kansas City (Briarcliff).  I intended to tell him I was moving away from Waddell and Reed. To my amazement, he told me he was doing the same for the exact reasons I was which included Waddell and Reed mutual funds were no longer performing to expectations. Shocking news to say the least. Because the new guy has only had one job since he got out of college more than thirty years ago, and that was with Waddell and Reed where he rose through the ranks to become a devoted executive. He was moving his office to offering financial planning services with investment options to include all forms of investment rather than just Waddell and Reed funds.

I was faced with a decision that for the first time included detailing my financial condition and all investments to someone else to manage. Or simply leave and go to just another mutual fund company. I thought a small test was in order! I handed over my current retirement plan to the new guy expected the salesman side of him to shine which would include him telling me there was no way I was going to be in financial shape to meet our goal to retire early and travel. I thought he would tell me to retire later and give him more money to manage and charge for that management. Turns out he has other clients traveling in RVs. He has learned from them and was excited for us.

The new company is part of LPL Financial.  I told the new guy Karen would be coming to our second meeting because I wanted her to know everything about where our money was kept. That was in case I was hit by a bus and she needed help. I told him if that happens he should expect a call because I only wanted Karen to have to call one person to help with financial considerations in the event of my death rather than all the other account managers where our funds had been scattered to include the bank, Waddell and Reed, credit union and Fidelity Mutual Funds. And eventually the money we keep in savings after selling our home.

I walked out of that meeting with a total sense of relief and for the first time felt comfortable with someone else holding the purse strings. For a control freak like me, that was quite an accomplishment I might add. The new guy has already given me some homework which is to look at structured notes as a place he might put some of the money from the sale of our home. In this case, he would build-in protection of the principle investment. He is also considering structured notes for part of his own retirement savings. I had told him we would like access to the house money in about six years after we retired to an RV which might be a time we would either settle down or stay on the road which is somewhat of a guess. I’ve not finished my homework assignment, nor sold the house, so have not given him the go-ahead with that type of investment. The new guy has already met with the other 12 financial planners in his group to decide which mutual fund investments they are moving clients towards. As our Waddell and Reed account was converted to cash and moved to the new company, he has also yet to invest those funds. He and others think the stock market has generally run-up and may go down in value soon. He is waiting until March to dollar-cost average into the market thinking others have invested early because of expectations in market growth based on the new president’s policy. Neither of us believe in market timing where you take a guess at when the market will be low or high and invest accordingly. It’s just that for the first time in years my account is sitting with all cash needing to be invested so it’s being done wisely and at intervals.

What does all this come down to for me?  For the first time, I’ve hired someone to manage my investments and to trust their opinion. That’s costing me 1.5% of my portfolio annually. And Karen has only one person to call if that bus hits me. And, if we need the income in retirement I’ll simply have to call one person and tell him to set it up based on how much we want each month.

 

In the meantime, we continue to down-size our stuff at home. I’ve been doing a lot of research on trucks and will post about that later. And I had a few internet links of interest I wanted to share with everyone but will do that later as well.

 

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sales Chart for 2015/2016 Fifth Wheels

At the local RV show I took a photo of this chart on the side of a Keystone Montana fifth wheel:

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A factory representative had posted this chart.  He also had a list in a file comparing the Keystone Montana’s features against the Grand Design Solitude. He would not let me take a photo of that! I nearly missed it on the chart but noted it represents the top 20 models by sales. The charts source of information is listed as Statistical Surveys Inc, Grand Rapids Michigan. Per their website, Statistical Surveys (founded in 1958) is a provider of market research for marine, manufactured housing, trailers and recreational vehicles. They report an impressive list of publications where their research has been posted to include RV News, Trailer Life and the Wall Street Journal.

From what I could gather at the Statistical Survey’s website, companies can purchase the data. It might be reasonable to assume those companies would then present the data in whatever light they feel might shine brightly on them. It is however common knowledge the Montana has been the best-selling fifth wheel for years. The above chart combines three different full profile trailers from Heartland those being the Bighorn, Landmark and Big Country.  I thought it important to note the Montana full profile line includes the High Country which was not listed next to the Montana. Nor was the Cedar Creek Silverback listed next to Cedar Creek. To me, it’s important to note the High Country has a drop frame basement and the Silverback does not. I understand drop frames are more expensive to build and the basement space is considerably larger. One obviously needs to keep these construction variations in mind when comparing trailers in each price point. It is good to see some of the relatively lighter weight trailers on the list such as the Forest River Sierra and Sandpiper. The

Here’s what else we have been up to: I’ve been busy studying up on one ton trucks. Real glad the selection is limited to the big three. The hard part has been trying to figure out all the equipment options available that influence their towing/cargo capacity.

Karen and I are steadily working on downsizing. At this point selling larger items on Craigslist and trying to fill the trash can each week. I just ordered three large capacity CD/DVD wallets to reduce the footprint of our music and movie collections. I’m also getting close to having important personal and business documents completely scanned as part of going paperless. My photos have been scanned and Karen wants to get her’s finished up soon. It’s been very convenient to view old photos on the computer that I’d not taken the time to look at for years as prints.

And for the first time I’m working with a financial planner and may write about the decision and how it has been going in a future blog post.

 

new flash  Today Show video about workampers where the average age of workers is 53.

new flash  Highland Ridge fifth wheels recently put out a new factory tour video.

Trip to Kansas and Purhased a New Popcorn Popper for the Road

Work took me to Hays Kansas a few weeks ago, unfortunately I was not able to make any stops along the way nor while in town. Later I found a website listing I-70 roadside stops in Kansas. This would have been a great reference if given the time to stop. All my work partner and I could do along the way was to view the sites out the car window. These include having to pass the New Horizons RV Plant – twice – without stopping! We ended up working 28 hours out of 48 and had no energy to tour anything.

I was fascinated by a large windmill farm, especially at night when the red warning lights on each tower flashed on and off like a 10-mile-wide Christmas tree.

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Drove Through the Kansas Flint Hills

I used to bird hunt in Russell Kansas (home of Senator Bob Dole) but never paid much attention to the scenery while driving west from Kansas City. I’d heard the term Flint Hills but never did figure out their location until this trip.  Viewing the history of the land area on my cell phone helped pass the time. The Flint Hills is a region in eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma named for the abundant residual flint eroded from the bedrock that lies near or at the surface. It consists of a band of hills stretching from Kansas to Oklahoma. The Flint Hills has the densest coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Due to its rocky soil, the early settlers were unable to plow the area, resulting in the predominance of cattle ranches, which are in turn largely benefited by the tallgrass prairie.

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I took some interesting photos out the window of our moving car. I imagined how other areas of the country must compare to the Flint Hills where I’d seen desert and hilly areas while following RV’er blogs.

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And somethings never change like when we passed Fort Riley. I was stationed there for a short time as an Army Military Policeman in relief of the garrison MP’s who were tasked out of country. That was many years ago. The Post looked the same from the highway as it did way back then. It’s the home of the Big Red One – 1st Infantry Division. Originally the Fort was one of many spread across the prairie to safeguard settlers, having been established in 1852. General Custer and the 7th Calvary called it home for a brief time as did Wild Bill Hickok as a scout. Not far west of Fort Riley is Abilene Kansas. I’ve always wanted to stop there and check out the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

If you find yourself wanting to make a trip to Kansas here is a string of blog posts worth reading by the On the Road of Retirement blog.

Our air popcorn popper broke. So we went shopping for a new one. We replaced it with another that would be usable in our future RV.  After several weeks of usage we find this collapsible microwave version to produce better tasting popcorn than our older one.

 

In terms of planning for our future in an RV I’ve shifted to learning about one ton pickups.

Finally Selected a Basic Floor Plan

Below is a long, but hopefully informative blog post related to floor plan selection. Karen and I just got back from the local RV show. This is the fourth straight year we attended and often spent two days looking over the trailers. Finally, we have decided a rear living room plan with three slides is for us. We decided on a fifth wheel a couple years ago.

This year at the show we ran into my first cousin Lee and wife. They have lived on the south side of the city and elsewhere. First time we ever met up in town. Go figure. He is an engineer by trade. He moved into sales and had some additional training. Lee said people are going to buy what they most want. Some use a spreadsheet and all kinds of data to justify decisions they have already made. I can agree with that. Lee was not carrying a notebook – never thought I’d see that out of him. Fortunately, I was already aware of the risk of justifying a decision by fudging numbers on a spreadsheet.

dmc-zs50s_alt01-470x352  I want to send out a thank you to Ingrid at the Live Laugh RV blog for helping me decide on a pocket camera purchase. It’s nice to depend on someone who had already done all the homework. Ingrid, I went with the Panasonic DMC-ZS50S (silver). Found it on Ebay as a factory refurbished for $210. It came with a 90-day warranty and I passed on the $34 extended warranty. Love it so far. I bought a small camera case with a shoulder strap that only holds the camera and kept my hands free. Learned that from another fulltimer.

I thought it might be a good idea to get a few questions out for those not interesting in reading further.  We would appreciate any answers you offer for these questions:

  • With wide body trailers, have you found any concerns?
  • A couple floor plans we were interested in lacked overhead cabinets above the recliners in the living room.  How much do you use yours? (update, met up with one of the Cedar Creek designers who said they will never put cabinets over the theater seating because it cuts into the view out the window. Personally, I think their slide is not as tall as some which is another reason.)
  • What about not having cabinets over the bed?
  • Should we rule out any trailers that do not have access to the bedroom and refrigerator with the slides in? It is a given with us that we want access to the bathroom when traveling.

 

Hit the continue reading button if you are really interest in floor plan opinions!

Continue reading

Life in Kansas City – Spending Time at Home

We spent Christmas and New Years at home in Kansas City. Last year we donated our tree to charity. Karen kept her collectable ornaments that includes many hanging Santa Claus figures. She still has not decided to give them up before we hit the road. 

Although Karen did decorate a small tree!  It’s a stick with a broken bulb hanging from it. I lost the photo somewhere.

We got a big dose of Christmas spirit by visiting the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs. The facility was built in 1937 as a place to bottle and distribute the healing, medicinal mineral waters of Excelsior Springs. It now serves as our City Hall.  Per their website, the city was founded in 1880 on a site where 20 springs were discovered. There are four distinct varieties of water that gives Excelsior Springs the distinction of having the world’s greatest group of mineral waters. The springs include two of the world’s six known iron-manganese springs. We sure are going to miss our wonderful water once we hit the road!

Lined along the walls of the building during the Christmas season are decorated trees. Local businesses and organizations decorate their tree with various themes.

 

 

Karen and I both hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I’ve had a fun time reading about where each of the bloggers I follow spent their holidays. And thank you to my sister Lisa for hosting the family over at her house! That was very special.

Next week I should be posting about the basic fifth wheel floor plans Karen and I have been able to narrow down to during our search.  Our local RV show is next week! It’s like a holiday for me.