Life in Kansas City – D Day

I title posts “Life in Kansas City” which I’d consider more interesting to family members who read this blog. Of course you are welcome to read along to the end as the story comes together.  This post is about an ironic occurrence in my life.

June 6, 1944 marks the day of the invasion at Normandy. A family member was on Omaha beach that day and as destiny would have it, set an example that would effect my father’s decision to become a police officer. In turn that would influence my decision to follow their footsteps. 

Last Saturday Karen and I went to Home Depot to order carpeting for several areas in our home before it goes on the market. The sales clerk was very informative. So much that it was decided we would order carpet through her. She handed me a business card and I noticed the last name was Orr. I asked where her family was from and she said Orr is her husband’s last name and his family is mostly from Mt. Vernon Missouri. I let her know my grandmother is an Orr from Mt. Vernon and hence we are cousins.

Karen and I left the carpet section to pick up a few items. Maybe a half hour later a gentleman came down the lumber isle and asked if my name was Mark to which I said yes, and this is my wife Karen. The gentleman’s name is Ed Orr, son of Thomas Orr who landed on Omaha Beach, earning the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Tom was my grandmother’s brother.

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Well Ed was very excited to learn he had family living nearby for all these years. I told him I did not recall Uncle Tom had more than one son, with the other having passed away years ago. I said, Ed I want to pass along something about your father that is very important to me. I became a police officer indirectly because of your father. I used to swing by your father’s house while on-duty for a visit every now and then. I am very proud of my uncle. My father made sure I knew Tom’s story.

My father has passed away put left behind a 71 page document which summarizes his life in short descriptions. Dad was a cop for over 50 years. Among those stories is one about Uncle Tom Orr which reads as follows:

“I got to write a V-Mail letter to, I think, Uncle Tom in Europe. You wrote it on a special form which the government microfilmed and sent in rolls to Europe where they were blown up a little and printed like photographs of letters. We got them back the same way. This was something new, after the War had been going on for a couple of years, maybe ‟43 or ‟44.

Just a little about my Uncle Tom Orr, because I followed him into the Army Military Police and that pretty well set my life’s pattern. He was a platoon sergeant in an MP company in the Normandy invasion, Omaha Beach, 2nd wave. Bad place to be. They had the door blown off their landing barge, half the platoon, including the lieutenant, were killed right off the bat. When he got to shore he crawled into an 88 hole (shell crater of a German 88mm cannon). Another incoming shell blew him out of the hole but he crawled back in, The 88‟s had been zeroed-in before the invasion so they could hit any square yard on the beach at will.

If you saw any movies about Normandy, like The Longest Day, or D-Day, you know the Americans were pinned down on Omaha Beach and getting murdered. They had to get a hole punched in a wall before they could go in, which was done by some brave army engineer troops. As soon as a hole was opened the troops and tanks started pouring through. Problem was, it caused a big traffic jam, with every tank and other vehicle wanting through at once to get away from the incoming artillery on the beach. Uncle Tom looked over there from his shell hole and realized that traffic jams were something MPs should take care of. So he did. I think he stood there 24 hours without relief, exposed to fire, directing traffic. He was awarded the silver star and not too long after that was promoted to lieutenant.

So the army got off the beach, the invasion was a success after all, and we won the war. Thanks to my Uncle Tom and the Military Police Corps. Nine years later I was an MP too. It had to be.”

Now back to the irony in all of this. And I’ll preface this by saying in no way would I want someone to think I’m minimizing the event that took place on Omaha Beach; I just want to pass along how my great-uncle influenced events in my own life.

As stated early in the story, Karen and I ran into Uncle Tom’s son at Home Depot during which I passed along much of this story. My father became a Military Policeman because of Uncle Tom and then a police officer. I became a Military Policeman because of my father and then a police officer.

I was with a city police department which has a retirement plan through the state. I later moved to the Sheriff’s Office which has an additional retirement plan for county employees. This plan requires a minimum number of years before one is vested. And a year of credited service is based on having at least 1000 hours worked in a given year. 2019 became my retirement year as I want to be vested in the additional county employee retirement plan. I’ve been literally counting the hours on a board in my office.

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This is a board in my office where I’m counting the hours.

On the left of this board is the date 6/5/19 which is today, followed by 4 hours which is how many hours I have left before being vested in the county retirement plan. Tomorrow, June 6th, I’ll be vested in the plan – D Day! 

So this retirement event is far less important than the achievements of my Uncle on the beach with his dying friends. But, if you can hear me Tom – Thank You for your service and I want you to know how influential you are, generations later.  I’m working for myself now, tomorrow at noon, four hours into my work day – I’ll be telling my co-workers the goal is reached and how it all began. They will hear the story of my Great-Uncle Tom!

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Equipping Mobile Office

I’ll be taking a part-time job along with us on the road. About 10 hours a week, sometimes more and sometimes less, I spend working as an office manager for a small construction contracting company I once owned. Sold it to the superintendent in 2010 but kept the job in the office since then. The job includes mostly QuickBooks accounting software for typical business needs such as taxes, account payable/receivable and payroll. With the addition of I usually bid all the work from construction drawings, typically received online in files. I’ll split the 23″ screen in half at times with QuickBooks on one side and a spreadsheet on the other.

The boss wants me to have the best setup possible for the road to make it as easy on me as possible. -Thank you Jeff!  I’m still thrifty and believe there are still things better done without extra expensive equipment. I also believe when you do buy electronics, then get something you can keep for years rather than trading it out more frequently. I also tend to take advantage of a slightly older technology when the prices are favorable. I know that once we are on the road there might be a need for additions such as internet connectivity or cellular signal improvement. I’ll save that topic for later.

I want to be able to work from the dinette table, living room sofa, picnic table, truck or down the road somewhere I can get a connection to the internet the couple of times each week it’s necessary.

I’ve used a 23″ all-in-one computer for many years, along with a larger multifunction laser printer and a larger printer for 11″ x 19″ printing. I’ve done a lot of thinking about my work processes and have come to the conclusion that a laptop with smaller laser printer, and possibly smaller external monitor will do the job. I’m also keeping the small  Epson Workforce DS560 sheet feed scanner. There are lower cost versions of the scanner which, by the way, has been wonderful for quickly scanning all our photos and documents. Although I may keep the scanner in storage and use a phone application or small handheld scanning wand when on the road.  

So here is my selection for a laptop, having looked at Dell and HP. As well as what I’m considering for a laser printer and maybe a mobile second monitor.

Dell Inspiron 15 – i5570 15.6″ screen

This computer comes with a DVD/CD player with 12 GB of RAM, the 8th generation Intel i5 processor (model 8250U), a 256 gig SSD drive and an additional installed 1 terabit hard drive. I’ve owned Dell computers in the past and know they offer excellent customer service and a good value for the dollar. If you are interested in discussing the details just post a comment to get the conversation started. I could have gotten by with 8 gigs of RAM and no DVD/CD player as I have a small portable unit. I found the best pricing on Ebay and found a deal on this one with better specs then what I was looking for within my self-imposed budget of $600.

Laser Printer

I cannot tolerate inkjet printers where the ink dries up faster than you can use it or the slow printing speeds.  Although if I had to have color, I’d consider the inkjet. A must have is wireless connectivity and I’d prefer having an option to hardwire the printer to the computer via a USB cable as well. I need to run stock bank checks through it and envelopes at times. So far the two smallest laser printers under consideration are the HP LaserJet Pro M15w Wireless Laser Printer and Samsung Xpress M2024W Wireless Monochrome Laser or something similar. Note, HP bought out the Samsung printer business in November of 2017 which are still sold under the Samsung name. (Update 6/3/19 I went with the HP)
HP Printer
Samsung laser

These printers have a small footprint at about 13.6″w x 7.5″d x 6.3″h with an initial cost of under $100.  I’ve always kept an extra toner cartridge around for the current larger laser printer and never once had it go bad before I could use it.

Mobile Monitor

I’m still undecided on adding a second monitor for the laptop. Given the way I use the current single 23″ screen, I like to split views and run more than one application at a time which is mostly the accounting software in one view and a spreadsheet on the other. At under $150 there are several options available. I’ve done some reading and understand with a Windows based machine the laptop screen and mobile monitor do not have to have the same resolution. I’m also looking at power consumption as these monitors get their power and data via a single USB hooked to the laptop rather than a separate plug. Although just having four hours or more battery life is all I’m interested in.

The two I’m considering so far are something like the ASUS MB168B 15.6″ WXGA 1366×768 USB Portable Monitor or AOC e1659Fwu 15.6-Inch Ultra Slim 1366×768 There are slightly more expensive models with full HD resolution but I’m not sure the higher resolution is necessary given the small screen size. (Update 6/3/19 I went with the ASUS 1366×768 resolution. The built in stand works perfect).

Karen and I are taking a longer trip to Michigan in a month or so and I’d like to get the mobile office in place by then.  I should add for now we have Verizon and AT&T hotspots on our phones for internet. Selling off the office furniture in my home and current equipment might very well cover the cost for the mobile office!

Equipping RV, Preparing Home for Sale and More

Well it was 10 days ago that I posted we had brought our new fifth wheel home and stuck it in storage. We are committed to spending this month preparing the house for sale and fiddling with the RV while it’s in storage.

I’ve come to grips with the house will not be 100% perfect before it goes on the market. We don’t want to miss the better window to sell it. When we moved in 17 years ago we were a family of three. The folks most likely to buy this house could be roughly the same age we were 17 years ago with one or two children or in other words at the same place in life we were when we moved in. That’s our best guess anyway. So selling while school is out for the summer is the most likely option for a quick sale.  And should it sell quickly then we have our new home on wheels to move into.

It really has helped to have kept a list of possible purchases for our RV. Karen and I are being very selective in how we equip our fifth wheel, knowing we will learn more on the road. Some items are essential and a few items are just fun to have.

We plan to load up the truck if it’s not raining tomorrow, taking a load to the camper. I turned off the main electrical disconnect to prevent draining of the two batteries but know there remains a small electrical draw according to what I’ve read on owner’s forums. So I’m taking the 3400 watt portable generator to juice up the batteries while we are there. For now the batteries are hard to get to as the battery box has a ton of screws to remove to open the cover. I’ll change that later when we might upgrade our batteries.

We had a couple issues develop during our maiden voyage and have the fixes ready to go. Our elderly dogs had trouble coming down the bottom two steps of the RV (Lippert Solid Steps) so we purchased 23″ x 18″ stair rugs for the bottom three stairs.  We are hoping they will give the dogs better footing. We went with the Campco brand with double ribbed texture. I read where others have bought less expense carpet runners and cut them up. They wrapped them around the stairs and used Velcro or wire ties to lock the ends together. Apparently you can purchase longer lengths of carpet runners off a roll at Home Depot but I’ve not confirmed that.

 

When we left the last campground I drained all the water out of the hot and cold water lines and discovered a low water point drain valve was malfunctioning. When we arrived home I sent an email to the Vanleigh RV Service Center where an operator emailed back 20 minutes later with a contact name and email. I emailed the technician who sent a reply 10 minutes later.  The next day a new valve showed up in the mail at home as did another email making sure I received the valve and phone number to call if I want any help installing it. I talked to a factory service technician on the phone and believe I can handle it on my own.

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New Low Water Point Drain Valve to Install

A few equipment related decisions have been harder to make then expected. Finally decided on a coffee pot! You may have read the earlier post regarding how important coffee is to us. Finally it struck me I was looking at the decision completely from the wrong view point. I’m not buying a coffee maker for a large house with all kinds of counter space nor at times infinite supply of electricity. We already have a smaller French press but wanted to replace the older large machine we have now.  I considered all the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) certified expensive brands. But after thinking like someone who is going to live out of an RV, decided on – believe it or not – an old fashioned electric Presto percolator.  Takes up 1/4 of the space compared to a machine, uses 1/2 the energy (think batteries at 800 watts) and makes good tasting hot coffee. Yes, it is slower than a automatic coffee maker. And does not have a digital clock that might cause one to have to reset the time when moving from camping spot to camping spot.

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Still can’t decide on a surge protector – size and hardwired or not.  And if I was to purchase a tire monitoring system, with heat and pressure detection, I’d go with the TST 507 model without flow-through valves for the trailer. Others say the valves with caps take no more time to remove when checking the air then standard valve stem covers.  The larger flow-through valves, which can remain in place when airing a tire, stick out from the sides of the tires and are easier to knock off if you hit a curb or whatever. The only thing stopping me from buying one is I’ve yet to figure out if our 2018 Ram truck’s system can handle add-on sensors rather than having to add yet another stand-alone monitoring device (update, the 2018 Ram does not allow for adding more wheels to the factory tire monitoring but the 2019 trucks have it as an option)

Also decided to skip the RV specific GPS for now. The trucks GPS is awesome and I’m getting a better paper atlas. Finally figured out there is a difference between trip planning and navigation in that it’s hard to find one thing that can handle both aspects. So after we use whatever to come up with a route I’ll just check it against the truck’s GPS. A friend added he has a phone app to check low bridge clearances. I like the Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ paper atlas but am having a hard time deciding between it and the large print standard atlas. Personally I prefer to look at a paper map for local highways when first starting to plan a route. Then use the digital stuff, like Google Earth Pro, Allstays and such.

Sometime in the next two weeks I’ve got to check my vehicle and insurance to see if they cover roadside assistance. And make sure it’s not covered under the factory warranty which is doubtful.  Also for safety I’m getting a pull-over reflective vest and some triangular roadside markers in case we break down in a busy area.

Lastly, knowing this may seem minor, I’m changing out the disposable 3.5 mil gloves I use when dumping the black tank. The ones I bought earlier tear easily. I got with our Evidence Technician at work regarding the brand and thickness we use for touching gross stuff and ordered the same. Adenna Shadow 6 mil are the ones to get!

We have a local camping trip planned for the first of June, then a couple weeks later we are off to central Missouri for a family campout. We are also considering another trip to Michigan and have booked a two week stay in Carthage Missouri in October for the local Escapee Chapter Rally and a festival in Mt. Vernon Missouri. There is a better than average chance come October 4th we will not be returning to “home” but setting a course elsewhere. Karen and I are leaning towards a trip to the Vanleigh Service Center the first of November in northern Mississippi, then on to Tennessee. From there we should be in Texas maybe by December to establish or domicile.  Here in a few months I’m going to setup our mail service so I can start changing the addresses. More on that later.

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Still looking to get some photos out of our new home when the time is right.

Taking Delivery of our RV and Trip Home

Here I sit at our dinette table in our new home on wheels with a view of a wonderful state park from every window. On the way from Kansas City to the dealership in Tulsa Oklahoma we stopped at each point we would be visiting again on our return trip. Such as one fuel stop and a campsite. Being new to towing a fifth wheel, especially a larger one, I wanted to help ease the tension by reducing the chances of any sudden surprises. As it turned out, after spending three nights camped near the dealership, we received a sudden call from a Oklahoma Park Ranger that a campsite we planed to spend time in at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees was flooded. Darn, I thought as I’d visited the actual spot we intended to back into during the trip down. The Ranger offered an alternate site which I had not researched. I was ready to find a commercial RV park but rightfully, Karen insisted this is a vacation and we are staying in a wonderful wooded state park near a lake. So blindly I agreed with the Park Ranger we would just find a spot when we arrived at our new destination which was the Honey Creek State Park in Grove Oklahoma.

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Our New Home at the Factory

Just had to share this because Karen and I are very excited…  A Vanleigh employee sent us a few pictures of our new home sitting at the factory nearing completion.  Can’t say enough how the Vanleigh team has been over the top responsive to our every question. The last one being would you send us a few photos.  We are very excited to see the finished interior. Karen asked for the ultra sheen cabinet finish which is an option taken from their upgraded Beacon model.  Sorry, no photos of that yet.

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Preparing For RV Delivery

Karen and I just finished our second successful garage sale.  We learned a couple valuable tips. Seems minor but really made a difference that she sorted all the books by topic and placed them in displays around the garage in like areas rather than in one general area containing all the books. For example the gardening and landscaping books were next to gardening tools and cookbooks were next to kitchen items.

This time around the books flew out the door. We had been having trouble selling a work bench on Craigslist. So in both the garage sale advertising and in a separate adds we noted having the work bench for sale and that during the garage sale the buyer could come out and look at it.  Sold fast!  We invited a couple friends out, one of which had just bought a new home. Karen took them through the house looking at our remaining furniture. They made a list of items they will purchase before and after the house sale. Our realtor has completed a walk-though and suggested a few furniture items be removed and some she wants to replace with other loaner furniture to stage the house. Tomorrow we are boxing up a few items that did not sell to place in our final sale. The rest is to be donated.

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Garage Sale Tip – Place Books by Topic Near Like Items

I mention the garage sale in this post about preparing for our RV delivery because the house goes on the market most likely the first of June. Six weeks or so from now. They are selling fast in this area. Two people at our garage sale say they are living in rental property because they can’t find a house or when they do by the time they get there with the realtor it’s sold.  Well, should our house sell fast then our new RV very well could become our new home, making it important to equip it sooner than later.

I may have mentioned it in a prior post that I’ve keep a spreadsheet of items, prioritized one through four, that we want to equip the RV with on day one and beyond. The list is based on much advise from others and our experience with RVs. Below is a PDF with our priority one or basic items we are equipping our RV with:

Priority One RV Items

Or fifth wheel is to soon arrive at the dealership from the factory. For security reasons, I’m not posting the delivery date because it’s not a good idea to tell the social media world when you will be gone from home 🙂

Karen and I are boxing up items we will be taking with us to the RV. We decided to label the boxes as to where they go in the RV to make quick work of unpacking. We are using older storage containers we’ve had for a long time. Once we get settled maybe we will take a look at container sizes best suited for the RV basement and cabinets.

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Labeling Boxes for the RV

I’ve been able to communicate with our salesman Terry at Bob Hurley RV of Tulsa Oklahoma as well as the financial office via email and phone calls. They will have the paperwork ready upon our arrival. We are taking a short term loan and they easily beat my credit union’s price for financing.

We are booked in a pet friendly motel the day before we take delivery. It’s a five and half hour drive from here and arriving the day before will give us a chance to start the delivery inspections early the next day.

We are booked for three nights at Warrior RV Park site 9 in Tulsa Oklahoma. The park is directly across the street from the dealership. Only three turns to make from the dealership. I called the office and told them I’d never pulled anything that big and the operator said we can literally pull directly through site 9 as we enter the park. Friends suggested three nights at the park to get used to the trailer and give the dealership time to fix anything minor.

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Our First Three Nights – RV Park Near Dealership

We have our pre-delivery inspection check list ready to go and when our salesman called to verify the deliver date I broke the news our inspection will take maybe four hours. I told him we have RV experience and I located two videos for our specific RV type (Vanleigh Vilano) with a lot of details about how components work. The dealership has the trailer for a week before we arrive and the salesman says they spend a couple days going through it. He’s on notice we will be particular. An obviou risks one takes when buying out of town is there will be a serious problem preventing you from bringing it home. Also, we are depending on the dealership to make good on minor repairs when we are there. I’d suspect we can’t drive it off the lot until we sign the papers. If they will take more than the day of delivery to make minor repairs then I’ll trust they will handle those over the next two days. And if there are big problems we obviously will not take delivery. One selling feature of Tiffin’s Vanleigh RV is fabulous factory support. I really can’t say enough about the importance of factory support.  For full-timers it’s critical. A trip to the factory someday with a laundry list of repairs and upgrades is in our future.

Day four through six will be spent at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake of the Cherokees. We have friends that spent vacation time there and offered advise. Right or wrong the second time I park our 34’11” trailer will be a back-in spot. I’ve got experience backing trailers but not a fifth wheel. I spent a lot of time over the past few years watching videos and talking to others. We are staying at Grand Lake – Bernice Area State Park. Just as when planning the trip to our first park, I’ve watched all the Google Earth images for every turn or tricky spot for towing I anticipate. We selected the spot at the State Park after talking to a ranger on the phone. There is no one across the street to hit with the truck and its just before a curve were we can better lineup to back “directly” into the site.

Grand Lake One_LI

Second Time Parking – Will Be a Back-In

Grand Lake 2_LI

The trip to the Lake from the dealership is 80 miles and we have plenty of time to get there. I might try and find a vacant parking lot to practice in before getting there.  I forgot to ask the dealership if they have anyone to take us on a test run.  I did remember to let them know our fifth wheel hitch may or may not need adjusting once we are hooked-up. We are arriving at the campground during a week day.

The trip home includes a rest stop, maybe for fuel, at Lamar Missouri (one time home of Wyatt Earp). I know the route well and the truck stop.  Only three turns to make. We are heading home during a day we expect to have the least traffic. Goggle Earth (Pro) is my new friend.

Lamar Truck Stop

Our First and Only Refuel Point

Okay a blind man should be able to pull directly off the road and directly in these pumps and make a huge right turn around the pumps then another right onto the road.  There is a restaurant off the parking lot. Figure that will be a good place to let my hands stop shaking.  This part of the trip is 91 miles from our lake spot.

I know everyone’s tolerance of learning how to pull these heavy long trailers is relative to whatever…  I’m approaching it as if anyone else can do it then so can I. It helps to know there are actually people who have never pulled a trailer,  that had their first time pulling one in a much longer RV. I’ve been driving my SUV and truck using the side mirrors at all times for backing and checking traffic – as if I was pulling a trailer.  I’m thinking I’ll be able to find the best mirror position and the RV has an observation camera on the back with a huge viewing angle. The camera has a one-way microphone so Karen can scream at me.  We also have two walkie-talkies. Over time I suspect we will learn the best place for her to stand when I’m backing. Friend says at the driver’s door works for him.

We have one of three possible storage areas to plan for when we return to Kansas City. The north side of town involving traveling through heavier traffic. Although we are bringing it home on a day and time when I expect traffic to be the lightest.  Here enters a plan B.  We can stop on the south side of town, well before any heavy traffic, and store it at an RV park.  Our next planned trip takes us through the same area. We are stopping at the RV Park’s storage area on the way south to get the RV. If my nerves are gone by then I’ll park it on the south side of town.  The trip from the fuel stop is 144 miles if I bring it all the way home through town. That’s a travel day of about five hours.  I’m going to setup the storage spot in town before we leave, knowing one way or another the RV will eventually be parked there. I called the RV Park on the south side and they charge a fee per 28 days and require no advance notice to store it.

I’m seriously considering buying the online training video for 5th wheel towing by RV Education 101. Forty dollars seems like a fair price to pay to better my chances of not damaging the RV and perhaps not learning any bad habits. Or better let it looks like you can buy used DVD’s for the same RV Education 101 topic at Amazon.

The below photo is a view we will miss at our existing stick and bricks home. This is off our backyard sunroom. That sunset is behind a few twinkling city lights on the distance hills.  Both Karen and I stood there looking.  She says the red is caused by pollution.  Sounds good to me.  We both know our views will be replaced with those not able to be captured in a photograph.

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View From Our Current Home

During the garage sale a few neighbors stopped by. We were receiving the “where are you going first” question. It sinks in that this lifesyle is about to get real.  I believe my new answer to that question will be  –  Hawaii.

Truck Bed Cover and Locks

A concern we all share is how to protect our property while traveling or parked. I had no idea spending time in the crime prevention unit would come in handy years later as we prepare for our future in an RV.

Its been awhile since I looked up the statistics. Nationally maybe 26% of property crimes are solved and maybe half of those solved theft crimes result in recovering any of the stolen property. The Sheriff’s Office I work for had been in the upper 40% success rate which is rare. I feel for the victims who might not experience justice  when the criminal is captured and does not pay you back for what they have stolen or escapes punishment.

Perhaps the best approach to property crimes is protecting yourself and not becoming a victim, or at least lowering the chances of becoming one. Two topics come to mind those being target hardening and natural surveillance.  Not to get wordy in this post but I feel the need to lay some foundation, much of which very well could be self-evident.

Target hardening is using such measures as locks, alarm systems, and planting rose bushes below windows to make it difficult for property to be stolen or increase the time the criminal is at the scene, improving the chance of detection.  Natural surveillance is designing a building, city park or whatever to increase surrounding neighbors and visitors view of the area. Or perhaps adding lighting as long as the light does not trespass through the neighbor’s windows. Folks who live in downtown spaces and residential neighborhoods become more territorial and are more likely to notify authorities when someone is up to no good. I suspect in a mobile lifestyle people might pay less attention as they are not vested by “living” in the neighborhood.

I’d think both target hardening and natural surveillance would  be more difficult to deploy when your home is mobile. And surely a few of you have figured out some interesting ways to accomplish this. In my relatively limited RV travel experience I generally have the opinion folks that are camping are good people. And certainly there is a chance of making friends when parked for a longer period.

I’m approaching target hardening, or adding locks, to cover times when we are traveling and when parked. Right or wrong I added a truck bed cover. But still have to secure items in the bed of the truck when traveling which leaves the bed cover open where someone could quickly lift property at a highway rest area.

During my research for a truck bed I narrowed the field of what is available to a soft cover that rolls up, a hard cover that folds over and a hard cover that retracts into a cannister. I kept in mind the mounting rails for the cover could impact with a fifth wheel pin box on sharp 90% turns such as backing in.  Generally speaking, others told me rails and covers that do not extend above the truck bed sides better avoid the chances of the hitch impacting the truck cover rails. But, in some cases you might need a slightly raised bed cover to allow room for your fifth wheel hitch.

The least cost approach is the soft cover that rolls up to the back of the truck. Two popular models are the Truxedo and Access. Depending on construction materials, folding covers and retracting covers can be comparably pricy. Our truck is a long bed so folding covers would be less likely to get in the way of the hitch when open. Popular brands include Bakflip with it’s four folding sections. It’s high dollar and certainly there are less costly brands.  Arguably the best retractable cover would be the Retrax.

My list of wants included a cover where the rails of the cover were relatively level with the sides of the truck, provided some measure of security that would make it more difficult to cut through, handy to open or close and did not require a separate key to unlock.  Keeping items dry under the cover or being able to close the cover half-way were secondary in my list of wants. Some covers are designed with rail locking systems that allow you to open them just enough to attached the fifth wheel hitch, leaving the remaining portion of the truck bed covered presumably to protect the contents from weather.

I was torn between a hard surfaced folding cover and a cannister model which is expensive. That decision became much easier when I suddenly found a manufacturer I was interest in had a 20% off sale.

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Pace Edwards shipped their Switchblade cover to our home in two boxes. Alone, I installed it in about two hours. This cover does not lock half way back, leaving it fully open or closed when traveling. The cover top is not metal but made of a durable vinyl. I’ll use 303 protectant on the vinyl. The underside of the cover consists of aluminum slats. The cover retracts into a box which this manufacturer designed the box to take up the least bed space as possible. The locking mechanism requires you to open the tailgate and squeeze two small handles to open it. Our truck bed is locking and the key fob can be used to unlock it. No extra keys to haul around was important to me.

Yes, it leaks a little with heavy rain but is rated for a reasonable snow load. I suppose had I not opened it with standing water on top, there would have been less water leaking through the cannister where the cover retracts. The center of the truck bed and hitch, even in a heavy rain, were dry.  I should also mention our B&W hitch is at least two inches below the cover when closed.

So we have some level of security for our stuff in the truck bed but I wondered about security with the truck cover open and the fifth wheel RV is hitched up. I’d not want someone lifting something out at a truck stop or campground.  Locks and cables/chains might be the answer. You see, Karen and I decided to go with the shortest fifth wheel we would feel comfortable living in. Our 34’11” trailer has less main basement space than a 40′ model. We are making up for that by anticipating using truck bed space, the trailer has 8′ tall slides and hence taller cabinets and we bought a portable generator rather than a built-in model to free up front basement space.  Our RV as configured is rated for 3,600 pounds of cargo so it’s possible we might be able to make use of it’s storage without going over the weight limit. The frame of the RV is also engineered to handle optional heavier axles for increased cargo capacity.

Criminals will do what is easiest. In the crime prevention profession, we call property left in view, like a purse in a passenger seat or generator sitting freely in the bed of a truck – an attractive nuisance. Criminals will go after the neighbor’s property if it’s unsecured rather than yours if the target is hard to get at. And any security measure is only as good as the weakest link in the system. I’ll also add sometimes expensive security measures, when it comes to personal property, could be more expensive than the property you are protecting. Safes, for example, are rated by how long it takes a professional to break into them. The theory is if it takes someone a long time to break-in then the chances of them giving up or being detected increase.

So now I need a solution for padlocks, chains or cables. Or any ideas how to secure the fifth wheel from being stolen, items taken from the truck when the cover is open and maybe attractive items exposed at the campsite.

The solution I’m considering is as follows:

Purchase enough padlocks that are keyed alike to secure our 5×10 storage locker we are keeping, the arm of the fifth wheel hitch so someone cannot unhook the trailer at a rest stop, a lock for a chain or cable threaded through the hitch, generator, toolboxes or whatever is in the bed or the truck, maybe a bike rack and maybe a cable at the campsite.  I add “maybe” because I’m not sure yet or in some cases I might wait and see what others are doing.

I’m thinking of starting off with five or six padlocks keyed alike because I don’t like carrying keys or figuring out which one opens which lock. I’ll buy one spare lock as well. I’ve got zero ideas for which cables or chains to use.

In over 30 years of law enforcement I can’t recall but twice where an RV was stolen but I’m still getting a king pin lock that will make use of one of my keyed alike padlocks. The lock type I’ve found crooks pass up the most are ones with protective shrouds making them harder to cut. Although someone with above average skills can pick many of the common padlocks in a few minutes.  And, not to be giving crooks any ideas, we are also finding them using battery operated cutting tools more often than in the past.

King Pin Lock

King Pin Lock – Thank You Rick for the suggestion!

Master is the most popular padlock brand and affordable when you need five or six of them. I’ve been researching the German made brand Abus for something a little more sturdy with better internal parts which are harder to pick and smoother to open with a key as well as having long-term durability.

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Again, keep in mind the security methods we select are only as good as the least secure point, such as the cable or chain. And when boondocking in the middle of the desert I’d suspect all beats are off other than having good neighbors or an internet linked trail camera that send images to your phone such as ones offered by Verizon. Those trail cameras really work. I’m hunting down three people on a case right now because of them…

Mark your valuable with something that makes them different such as the last four digits of your social security number. At work when I find items that might be stolen I always call the phone number that some write on the item. Calling a phone number is something a cop can easily do and crooks are too lazy to wipe off the numbers. Write down serial numbers on the owner’s manual or whatever. That way the cops can input stolen items into databases which can be tracked nationally. You would be surprised, and I’m not going to reveal, some of the technology law enforcement have today to find your stolen stuff. But then again who wants to drive thousands of miles back to attend court!  Best secure our stuff and hope the crooks go to an easier target down the road. In my opinion, take the N.R.A and any stickers off your truck or RV that suggests you have a gun aboard. Crooks appreciate the advertising as there is a big market for stolen guns.