Downsizing – Garage Sale Preparation

Just finished up a couple 60 hours weeks at work. Karen has been busy working on garage sale preparation back at home. Thankfully I’ve got two vacation days planned for the end of this week. Just in time to finish the setup for our first large garage sale.

Perhaps the best advice I would give to anyone who is in the initial planning stages to move into an RV is to STOP BUYING STUFF NOW!  And the second advice I would give is hold a garage sale now, clean out some corners of the house. It will boost your morale and perhaps solidify the fact “this is really going to happen, we are really going to take the leap to a great journey.”  Karen and I are touching about everything we own, asking ourselves, do we need this in the next year? Do we think we might use it in an RV or give it away to a family member? Are we not sure and have to think about if we need/want it?  And is this something worth putting in a 5×10 storage unit we plan to rent?

Every Room is a Mess from Sorting

Sorry, not sure we can have any guests at the house for the next year. Most every room has a pile of stuff in it. We have been busy sorting and filling the trash receptacle each week. Thank goodness neither of us are particularly clean freaks. This would drive us crazy if that was the case. 

Sent a text to the neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use for the garage sale. His church loans them out for a small deposit. He even volunteered to take his trailer and pick the tables up with me.  Damn glad Steve moved in across the street.  Wonderful guy and hope to be able to return the favor. 

We cleared out some of the bookcases in the house and are moving those to the garage sale area to setup displays. I’ve been shopping around for camping tables we would want to take on the road. Buying at least one early so we can use that in the garage sale as well. Leaning towards a 5′ table that folds in the middle. Should be easy to store in the fifth wheel basement.

As for non-garage sale events there has been a little progress in planning. We are still trying to buy our truck by September. Darn, found the perfect one, used with 4,000 miles, about three hours from home. Just not ready to buy yet. So, I sent the owner an email and told him don’t worry if he does not sell it by September, I’d come over and give him an offer.  It’s a 2017 Ram Laramie Longhorn with a B&W hitch, nice bed cover, 3.73 gears, Aisin transmission and air bags. Well within our budget. Karen says to buy it now. I still have three goals to accomplish before the truck and I’m sticking to it.

Friends I’ve met online, some moving to an RV this year and others in 2019, have been communicating with us regularly. Thank you to all who are sending the emails and text message. Really learning a lot from you!

And finally; I sent in the paperwork for my first retirement check. This is from a corporate job I held years ago. First check should arrive in September:)  Also figured out technically I only have to be at work 71 days next year. Karen and I have not formally moved up the retirement date from November of 2019. However, we sure are looking at what month would be more practical which is not the first part of winter as planned. Maybe we will head north from Missouri, where the RV prices are better, as early as April of 2019 and see what happens if we find our new home on wheels.

I was looking at Craigslist to see how people were posting garage sale adds and found this one.  Funny stuff.

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Life in Kansas City – Downsizing and Family Time

May and June have been busy months as we occupied our time with family and getting the homestead ready to sell.  For those already on the road I’m sure this will bring back memories. For those thinking about, or in the clutches of preparing for a life on the road, my advise is get started as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this in less than a couple years.  Although the prize of freedom is quit large and certainly is a motivator.

Officially I’ve left our take off date as November 1, 2019. However we got to thinking; does it really make sense to leave as winter is starting? Especially as we want to see family in what would be colder climates before Karen and I crawl off into our winter hibernation in a deep southern state. That date of November 1 will more than likely be adjusted up a little.  Recently Karen and I have began talking at a very conceptual level about what we want to do the first couple months on the road. More on that later for sure.

For two years now, family has gotten together for a three night campout at Pomme de Terre State Park and Lake. Ninety degree weather each day was a bit hard to endure but we found ways to make it work. Such as building a tent city under the best shaded spots. I gave our tent to a nephew once the trip was over. No need for it next year as we will have our fifth wheel by then – and air conditioning!

Start of Tent City

Add on eating area. We also had three other spots full of tents and family.

Setting Jug Lines for Fishing

Ringo Likes the Water

Back at home I’ve been working to over-haul the front yard landscaping. Building curb appeal I’m hoping. Two years ago the front yard grass was re-seeded and this last spring I spent a lot of time controlling weeds to build the yard up.  I cut out all the overgrown bushes and tilled the planting beds. I’ve been driving by my favorite plant store waiting for plants to go on sale and finally scored a 50% off deal for a trunk load of replacement plants. We have 13 planting beds scattered through-out the property and along our wooded walking trail. Those are looking good as well. Most importantly, we have been spending time enjoying the place as much as possible.

I’ve also been painting on various sides of the house over the last couple years and have a contractor coming in to help with the two-story side. Karen has always taken photos around the property, especially when the flowers and trees are in bloom. A couple years ago I started adding to the collection in an attempt to capture the hills behind and in front of the home in photos. Our plan is to print off the best photos for an album which we are going to leave out for potential buyers to view. The scenery changes so much with each season that I’m thinking it would be a good idea to document it.

Hills out back with no leaves on trees.

Zoomed in view from the front yard.

And the purge continues. I gave myself a goal to complete four major tasks before purchasing our truck, preferably by around September. Well the first of four is done as the hot tub was carted off by it’s new owner last Friday.
We have a list of contractors to call, such as our alarm guy to move and repair some connections, carpet guys and such. Contractors should speed things up a bit.  The plan is to finish all the outside work before winter so we only have to spruce the yard up before the house goes on the market. Over this winter we are finishing up the inside stuff. Next month is our first of at least two garage sales and we have been selling off more expensive items on Craigslist.

Life in Kansas City – Graduations and Last Events

Karen and I are busy enjoying life around our home and with family. I’ll get back to truck discussions soon as I’ve started preparing a post about the Ram truck options, hoping to gather input from others.  We have been mildly busy downsizing, posting more expensive items on Craigslist and considering our first of probably two garage sales. More on that later.

There are life choices that  become our achievements and add to the public welfare or not. We can spend 30 years in a job, doing good for others and improving our community. Unfortunately, most of our role and notoriety goes away, fading into dim memories once we retire from it. I’ve been watching friends leave the workforce and thinking back about those long gone. Attending volunteer meetings, committees and public events that are now becoming part of the past. I think about life’s achievements and what parts are truly long lasting and something to be proud of. I agree with a last piece of advice I received from my Uncle Don – I should have said no to a lot of things and spent time elsewhere. Guess in a way I’m following the advice and moving on. Darn glad Karen is taking the plunge with me. She has a survivor’s personality and is the strength in that category between the two of us. Fearless…

Here is a photo of a group of retired co-workers who were part of my first lessons on the job. I was invited to attend one of their regular luncheons. What a great group of guys. Many retired years ago and now sit around telling war stories. I have no plan to be part of a similar lunch group. It’s the open road for me, never slowing down to leave deep roots in one place. Experiencing the next part of the journey with my wife. This is more important now than going back in time to relish in the accomplishments which meant a lot at the time and little in the future.

Proud Parents – Fantastic Child

Here is a photo of what means the most and perhaps is the only legacy that will give back to our community for years to come. Catherine is her name and graduating with her master’s degree was the game. I have no doubt she is busy right now making a difference in other’s lives and setting a fine example that will be passed along to the next generation. I’m proud she thinks for herself. Together with her husband their future is bright. How wonderful it is to have no fear for your child’s future which someday will be without her mom and me. Even for shorter periods of months and someday when Karen and I make that journey from which no one returns. Smart girl; taking time after she graduated from college with her under-graduate degree (a double major) to find a career path and then moving on to post-graduate study in a field she enjoys. Really like the fact the school loans are paid off as well!  Now try and beat your mom and I by becoming debt free before 55!  Had to throw that lesson in. One never stops being a parent.


Here is a photo of a recent family get together. What jumps out at me the most are those that are not in the photo. Which happens to be the entire generation of family before myself, sisters and brother. Among those in the photo are the faces of nieces, nephews and their friends. It was not that long ago when I and my siblings were part of the children and young adults in a family photo. Those days are no more. What a great group of young family. They are all making a difference in this world for the best. In about 30 years this young group will write their own stories. And those stories will no doubt include thinking back when they were the young ones in the photo and what was the older generation’s part in setting them up to better meet life’s challenges. By the way, they will also oversee how well, or not, we live as old people. Now I wish we had done even more for their future success.

And here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to for perhaps the last time or season. Well, at least while living in this house and perhaps forever. The yard and gardens are looking wonderful this year. This time next year it will all be for sale. It’s odd how when one gets ready to make a major move we think about this being the last time to do something, for good or bad.  For the gardeners out there, who may travel from fantastic place to place in their RV – I hope these photos make you as jealous as I get looking at your photos of mountains and lakes.

 

And above are photos of how life regenerates itself in the form of buildings. Our ancestors stacked the bricks that make up our town. Those buildings they invested so heavily in became in disrepair as if no one ever cared after those fellow citizens moved along on their own next journey. Thank you to the generation who built the national parks, scenic roadways and community we all enjoy today. The building on the left is a revitalized hotel, called the Oaks. Restored to its prior beauty and now houses people 55 years of age and older. And the hotel on the right, which happens to be on the opposite side of the road from the Oaks, is known as the Royal Hotel. If you look closely, a tree is growing from a window. I recall spending time on the top floor, overlooking the city in its café.  A joyful memory from the past which those in the future may now be able to experience. The Royal has been purchased and is to be restored. Well, maybe, in a small way, being on the planning and zoning committee meant something.

If Tom Brokaw really thinks the Great Depression and World War II generation is the “greatest generation” then he is wrong. I don’t mean to be disrespectful and certainly not unthankful. But without much effort I can think of a half-dozen events during the so called greatest generation that were not that great for the next generation. No worries, we have all done it. Fortunately, through experience passed on to our young families there is always a chance to make things better. I have no doubt our daughter, nephew and nieces will make up for our mistakes. When I think hard about it, those millennials are not the creators of problems any more than the baby boomers like myself. Or the “greatest generation” who might have referred to males with long hair as hippies. Need I remind them that judging by the images of Jesus Christ – he also had long hair.

Downsizing – Sold Some Guns

If you want to motivate yourself while getting ready to leave for a future in an RV, sell something!  It works for me. I sit around thinking about what stuff we must get rid of and it seems overwhelming. Then I finally get off the couch and get it done. Each time I sell something it feels like I accomplished something. It’s a little hard to explain the feeling. It’s kind of liberating to sell items off, especially the stuff we have not used for a long time. I got to tell ya, if you have years to wait in your own journey to going full-time, I’d sell something now just for the emotion of it.

I used to be a bird hunter so had the nice shotgun to go with that. I’ve had the need for various handguns I use when not at work (that’s seems like a strange comment when I read it again). They change the policy on weapon types and ammunition caliber we can carry when off-duty, so I had a couple guns laying around.  Sold it all!

I’ve been wanting to purchase a new Glock model 43 which is a single-stack 9mm. It’s on the “approved list” for off-duty carry. I told myself I’d not buy one until I sold off all the other guns. Ya, it’s adding back something to get rid of later, or not.  But waiting to buy the new gun motivated me to sell the others. And law enforcement gets a major discount using the blue label purchase program available from Glock. Thought I should take advantage of that while I can. I’m not wanting to start a thread covering if someone should have a gun when on the road in an RV. That’s a personal decision. I’ve heard some very good arguments that just having bear spray is enough. For you gun enthusiasts, I want to let you know I was leery about going to a 9mm because of the ballistic qualities. Our weapons people at work say the new ammunition is outstanding and I agree 9mm weapons are a easier to shoot because of reduced recoil. Area departments here are making major moves back to the 9mm from the 40 caliber. Enough of that.

In deciding to sell off my other guns, I investigated several paths. Selling them online, to friends or whatever. I’ve decided not to sell any handguns to private individuals and to just go through a gun dealer. Here in Missouri the gun laws, especially for selling them, are liberal. What I did was research the gun values online and went to a local reputable gun store that buys used guns. I figured they would ask what I wanted for them. I’d figured out what they might sell for if I sold to an individual. I gave the dealership a price equal to 2/3 of that price and they excepted the offer.  Off I went with my check and my new 9mm gun thrown into the deal.

On another subject, I’ve been working on a couple blog posts regarding truck options for Rams and Fords. Our purchase will come only after a few other items are first sold (there’s that motivation to get it done again). During my hunt for a truck I’ve made a few decisions on what optional equipment I’d like to get in a truck.  I’m still thinking about an article regarding clothing to have for full-time RV living. And I’d thought about a post on avoiding extreme weather situations. But most of that just got covered by the  Hebard’s Travels Blog. For all you current full-timers, I for one could use a little more advise for dealing with the dangers of extreme weather and certainly how to handle it if your stuck in it!  Perhaps that’s an idea for your own blog post!

Financial Decisions

Updating our financial plan annually has become much easier since the major overhaul in 2014 when Karen and I decided our future was going to be in an RV. It was encouraging to see in print where we had made quit a lot of progress over this past year. And there were a few decided and pending decisions I can highlight for your review and input. If you’re really into the topic, just go to the blogs financial category for past thoughts. I’m happy to report we are still on track for my “retirement” date of November 1, 2019. Actually, it might be the last day of October, so I can setup retirement benefits to begin on the first of the month. Here are a few comments regarding our plan as it stands today:

Be Conservative

Keeping estimates reasonable has been in our plan for not only estimated expenses, but also income and the value of assets we are selling. I know our current effective income tax rate is lower than what I’ve estimated. I’m still planning for federal and state taxes at the same rate as during our “working years”.  I’ve included state income tax among our expenses knowing we will domicile in a state with none.

Other examples of being conservative has been using the lowest Kelly Blue Book price for what our current automobiles can be traded in for at a dealership. Another is after selling property through Craigslist, or wherever, I know the price we get will be lower than we might think. To that end, I’ve estimated household goods very low (I think) to include tools, yard equipment, guns and electronics. And I’m betting most of our furniture, clothing, rugs, artwork and such is relatively worthless.

Make Decisions Earlier That Benefit the Future

We have sold off and banked the money for more expensive property as early as possible. Although their book value was not much, the extra truck and boat went sometime ago. Both were maintenance hogs and it’s nice not to be paying property taxes and insurance on them for what would be our final two years or so before moving on. Next to go, and soon I hope, will be one of our two remaining cars and a motorcycle. Months before any of the proceeds are used in buying our truck for travel.

We all know healthcare expense is the number one concern for us pre-Medicare retirees. Karen and I decided to max out the tax deferred contribution to our Health Savings Plan which is $6,500 annually in 2018. And we took advantage of the $1,000 extra you can put aside for those who are 55 or older. Hopefully we will have a decent balance in the account once we hit the road. Does not sound like a lot of money to some. But on my wages, it is. Because of reduced expenses elsewhere it was made easier. I even called the cable company and told them I’d be on a fixed income (someday) and asked it they had any deals. Saving $40 or $50 dollars a month here or there makes a difference over time. No worries, we are still enjoying life and really don’t have any financial concerns. Not because our income is way out there. We became debt free last January when the house was paid off.

Friends at work are retiring off and passing on what they learned. One figured out that our retirement plan is based, at least in part, on the two highest years of salary. So, he suggested to skip taking the overtime pay and ask for comp. time which we are never expected to use believe it or not. Being paid for all unused sick time and comp. time the final year will significantly increase the final years earning and hence, the amount retirement benefits are figured against.  Seems strange work will be paying for those hours I earned years ago at the much higher current salary rate.

Don’t Procrastinate When Big Decisions Have to be Made

It would be hard to tell that Karen turned 62 but she did.  And we decided it was best for her to start taking her social security benefit. I’d be happy to discuss the reasoning behind this with you in the comments section if you’re interested.

In August I’ll have to look at the pros and cons of receiving an early pension from a past employer. That decision is on my calendar for the day I’m elidable. We planned on taking it in November of 2019 anyway. But when one micromanages finances, even 16 months can make a difference in the decision process.

Not having delayed estimating what it will cost on the road I hope will prove to be beneficial. And perhaps even more importantly, knowing the cost could be higher the first year compared to years after. Karen and I decided to fund a travel/reserve account. In the past we called it our safety net in case we lost our jobs.  We decided to compromise between what she wanted to do and what I wanted to do. So we included in our financial plan to have the equivalent of four months expenses rat holed away on top of the additional $7,656 our first year of travel will cost compared to the second.  I’d suggest not waiting to decide what you need to save. Nor just assuming it should or could come out of the proceeds of something you sell – like your house. For us, it’s been a little easier to save as I have a part-time job that only requires 10 hours a week of my time. Not that the hours, on top of my day job, don’t suck. I’d not have the positive attitude about the extra work if it were not for knowing our traveling lifestyle is not far off.

For now, we also made the decision to purchasing a 10 year life insurance policy rather than taking a reduced pension that has surviving spouse benefits. I say for now because I’ve only shopped for term life insurance policies online. If the actual prices come out different I might change my mind. Again, that’s a big decision we can discuss in the comments section if anyone is interested. Simply put, the life insurance is cheaper per month than what we lose with a reduced pension benefit. And we have other assets should one of us croak earlier than the other.

Truck and Trailer Budget is Huge

I’ve kept our budget for the rig the same as it’s been over several updates to our financial plan. For those of us who are not “wealthy” the cost sure seems to be huge. Perhaps because as we get older it seems like stuff costs a lot more. It’s easy to overspend, thinking this could be the last ride of one’s healthy life. And when we first start researching it’s possible we think we need to spend more.

As our expectations of what we could or should spend have come down, the budget stays the same. I suppose this is another example of being conservative, believe it or not. I’d rather over-estimate and spend less. Just because the bank account will be fat from selling everything and increasing savings because our expenses are now less, does not mean it did not take a lot of effort and time to accomplish saving up that much. Not to mention the truck or trailer will be worth less than half of what you paid for it when you decide to sell it. Can’t get that money back without an honest job. Reading about other’s travel experiences in the RV lifestyle or meeting with them in person really has helped to gain a sense of what is important about it all. I’m planning to come in under budget which will perhaps be an excuse to have spent that much:)

Know-it-all’s Should Listen to Other Opinions

Thanks to Karen, our house is worth more.  At least more than business major/financial savvy me thought it was. No, we have not had a real estate agent appraise it’s worth. And no, we have yet to put it on the market where it could sit for months. The house is in a unique location and agents tell me they are having a hard time even getting enough houses to sell (listings). Karen took a look at what I’d valued the home at for the purpose of planning. She shot a new number at me that know-it-all me thought was at first ridicules. Then I found even more ridiculously prices houses in the general area that don’t have acreage to go along with them.  I know she will prove to be right. But, other than adding in the cost of a new sewer connection to the city system, I barely increased the estimated value in our financial plan just in case.  We will make sure and use something closer to Karen’s number than mine once we meet with our real estate agent. Damn, things just seem so much more expensive today.  Hay, another reason to justify the RV budget!

Do you have other opinions to offer?  Such as when is the best time to put it on the market? Should we allow the agent to expect 6% for the fee to sell when we are not buying another home afterwards? Fortunately, we have already completed a few major upgrades to the 16-year-old home. And Karen will finally be getting the new carpet she has wanted replaced 10 years ago. I’m planning to finish up the outside painting and landscaping this season. While next winter (our last here!) will be spent on inside repairs and heavy cleaning.

Plan Ahead – But Maybe Not Too Far

If you have been following this blog for long you already know our financial plan includes an exit strategy for when we come off the road. I’m still satisfied with the decision to estimate our time on the road to be six years for planning purposes. As well as our plan B for income which is to make use of retirement accounts or rely on being young enough to go back to work.

After crunching all the numbers again this year, I’m a bit more comfortable with the funds we are leaving behind for a new home someday. Maybe that number will be larger as Karen opened my eyes to the potential value of our current home! One thing for sure that has worked out was deciding back in 2014 to dust off an older financial plan and review it every year since. I know other’s have made the move to fulltime RV living with only a few months of planning. We will see how that works out for them. Or maybe without realizing it they amassed the funds to do so over more years or with a better paying profession. A couple blogs I am reading include some scary financial stuff I’d not be able to cope with.  But maybe those folks are younger and yet to move through the years where they can achieve their maximum financial potential. But spending your last X dollars from your 401K plan to continue the journey is, well, not to call names – stupid.

I took a look at the portion of our financial plan that included a timeframe beyond just simply what we had to spend once we come off the road. I actually started to consider how that money could be spent, such as renting a place while we wait for our truck and trailer to sell. Or maybe we could get a small loan to buy a new car, paying it off with my social security check. Well that’s also stupid. There are simply too many variables to consider that far out. I think I’ll just stick with the advice we were given by another RV full-timer. That is make a deal with Karen to give the other at least six months’ notice when they are ready to come off the road. Then we can plan the next journey from there on.

It’s All About the Travel – Cost to Equip a Rig

It would seem to be common sense that one should know there are additional costs beyond just buying a trailer and truck as part of a new full time RV lifestyle. I had not actually written down a specific list of additional equipment costs until now. A long time ago I simply came up with a budget based on how much of our net worth we would be willing to spend on a rig, guessing we might use it for six years. That became the budget.

I had little to no real idea which trailer and truck we wanted and therefore what the true cost would be. Heck, I didn’t learn what the dealerships were referring to as a “price point” until well into my research. Of course, the “budget” should have quickly become more of a limiting and necessary factor as Karen and I began to tour trailers and learned what the anticipated discount off the listed price might be.

I should go ahead and apologize for the sarcasm that you are about to read. It has a point in that it demonstrates how I can become ridiculous in my quest to find a simple trailer and truck.  I’m also not intending to criticize anyone that has the means to purchase whatever rig they want. And hope I don’t loose any readers over this one as I depend upon your comments and suggestions. I am hoping this post helps others in a similar position come closer to selecting their own rig.


Luckily it did not take but a few hours at an RV show to know a big Newmar diesel pusher was not in our future. Internet searches taught me there were specific categories of fifth wheel trailers lumped together within any one manufacturers list of products. In our case this category was the luxury full profile trailers. Simply put, these are the ones that are nearly 13′ tall in the front. Examples being perhaps the Heartland series to include the Big Country, Bighorn and Landmark.  Or the Keystone Montana and Alpine. The choices for a new trailer are overwhelming. Especially if one throws in the idea used trailers from several higher price points might be within a budget. So I kept them on one large list within this blog site thinking I’d eventually know the pros and cons of each trailer.

For some sadistic reason, I also decided to learn about all the nice options one could add to a trailer, pushing the base model into a higher price point.  I had to go out and read a dozen blogs about what others had added to their campers, sometimes a short time after buying the trailer. Such as a MorRyde independent suspension, heavier axles, H rated tires, full body paint jobs and disc brakes. What to do? I guessed just check them all out and see how much the stuff, I mean excellent equipment, costs added at the time of initial purchase. And then dream as if the budget could be increased to a magical level. As if my pension and savings would grow to the necessary level by the time I retired six years early.  Hmm – that seems reasonable…. for about 10 minutes when you think about it.  At least that mindset took less time to flush out of the decision process compared to the “let’s spend more of our savings now on a depreciating asset and buy a shed to live in later.”

Then a voice came out of heaven (actually from a blog follower’s comment). That comment was “it’s all about the travel” and not the trailer. Thanks Ingrid! I have thought about that comment for many months and it truly helped. I should have included the concept from day one when the initial budget was created.  To me “it’s all about the travel” includes a long definition. Among which at the very least might be the trailer and truck get you from point A to point B so you can enjoy the scenery. Intuitively we all know a new car, boat and RV will someday loose its luster and become just another object to get rid of or replace. Just like the homes many of us are now downsizing and selling off.

All this being said, for us we still don’t want to take the fun out of travel by moving into a new home we will not enjoy. Or worst yet, perhaps be the deciding factor why we give up the lifestyle. I’ve owned a popup camper and there is no way that would work for us. Nor do I have any dreams of quickly mastering backing into a spot with a 45’ trailer towed by a Volvo semi truck after avoiding the trees, vehicles and other objects next to the campground roadway.

I was thinking it would someday be nice to go back to a few ideas mentioned in prior blog posts and let the reader know if the idea or plan worked once we had been on the road for a period of time. I think I can attempt that now even without having spent a day in our future fifth wheel. At least when it comes to developing a truck and trailer budget. And I might add I am taking to heart and very much appreciate all the great advice I’ve learned from experienced travelers . There are so many ways to travel in an RV and all methods offer great points of reference.

I think I did it right in September of 2014 when I dusted off the old financial plan for retirement and brought it up to date. Also later when I took an inventory of financial assets at the time and future in the case of investments. I’ve got a fairly good idea of what will be our net worth at the time of retirement. Karen and I have discussed ad nauseam what our expectations will be for purchasing a home once we come off the road and how much cash to hold back for that. It’s not fun for Karen but is amusing to me that some of the conversations include her telling me we already talked about that three times. Someday I’ll be able to tell her “don’t you remember we talked about that three times” should there be a flaw in the plan. I do like it when she suggests we may not need to worry about a new place to live beyond buying a new trailer to continue the journey. I however like plan B’s that allow us to change course 180 degrees if necessary.

I’ll get to the point now.  And that is I should have taken the time to come up with a close list of extra costs to equip a trailer and truck rather than just assuming it would fit in the budget. Because that would have helped narrow the selection of a rig even further. Admittedly, much of these costs would be learned perhaps after finding them on someone’s blog, an article or through my own study. Others appeared to have figured out the real costs rather quickly, having bought their rig in a matter of months.

I’ve been compiling lists on pages in this blog as I learned about equipment others are purchasing for their trucks and trailers over years of travel. I’ll never have those lists complete with every possible item to choose from. In about four hours I wrapped that research up using a large Camping World catalog. And had fun dreaming about all the cool junk, I mean important equipment, one might need that was not already on the list.  I then took 30 minutes to go to my States Department of Motor Vehicles website to get an idea on what the taxes and fees would be to register a new to us rig.

I don’t have this perfectly worked out and don’t intend to even attempt that. But I’m assuming we will spend 5.25% for State and local taxes on the truck and trailer purchase which could be in the neighborhood of $5,400.

For equipping the new truck and the trailer that could start out as low as maybe $2,517 to drive it off the lot and plug it into full hookups at a campsite. This includes a fancy fifth wheel hitch. But more likely we will want to spend about $6,367 on new equipment initially to include more costly items Karen and I have talked about, apparently during at least three individual conversations.

Yup, I did a spreadsheet with all those items listed using the catalog price, my notes or taking an educated guess.  If I’ve linked it correctly you can look at it here: Items to Purchase

I went a step further and ranked each item in order of priority based on what we might purchase at the start and at various increments.  In total that list came out to $25,308 if one was to add all the previous mentioned upgrades, solar, built-in surge protection, a truck bed cover and much less expensive items.  You can look at the list for ideas. I could see us spending up to $9,775 in the first year or two of ownership to equip the trailer and truck on top of the $5,400 to license it. That’s a $15,000 bite out of what we have decided to be our rig budget. That pushes several trailers out of our budget by price point.  To include many if bought used that I’d want to own.

I do want to make one very important point that I learned from those more experienced than myself.  For the most part, we will do our best not to purchase any of these non-essential items until we have lived in our trailer for a period of time. Yes, we did buy an inflatable boat and use it now. Karen has an Instant Pot and uses it now. I guess I must also admit we bought a $15 grill top and a new light on a camping trip. But I did pass on the 50% off Weber Q 1200 grill at Walmart.  Bet I’ll regret that one.

It has been fun researching and dreaming because I had the past three years to do it. Kind of my right now RV fix I suppose. But realistically, deep down it surely must become all about the travel rather than the junk we will someday want to sell off. Especially for most of us who are on a budget. And for those who are not on a budget, it might be safe to assume they already bought their rig and spent the $25,000 for extra stuff. And it’s all been parked in their driveway at home for at least the past six months. For me, I’ve been there, done that and have a motorcycle to sell to prove it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you found this post amusing yet beneficial.

 


R.I.P Officer Gary Michael of the Clinton Missouri Police. Last call August 6, 2017.

These Things Break – Do You Really Want to Buy One?

This blog post may turn out to be just another summary of the bad side of RV repairs as reported by so many other writers.  I’ve thought about the topic for the past several months and had started research well before that.  I found myself asking why post it at all? I thought surely everyone has read about the potential for catastrophic RV repairs blamed on poor manufacturing. I suppose the best reason to write this is to make sure my wife has an idea of what can go wrong with our future RV and maybe readers would appreciate sharing this information with their spouse.

It is no secret that RV sales are at a historic high and the forecast for next year is even more units will be built. Record production has the potential (that’s a safe way to describe it) of putting an increased demand on repair shops and manufacturers/dealerships completing warranty service.  Unfortunately, my research has been focused on fifth wheels so you will have to bear with me if you own another class of RV.

Most have surely read how RV manufacturers can be terrible at handling after-sales service. Even if we have not owned a unit for years, it does not take long to drift through the forums and read even owners who have few problems will write “they all have issues.”  If you look back in the recent history of RV manufacturing you will discover many of the existing companies are not that old. Many have closed their doors and many have had their brand names bought out by another. All this causes management change and perhaps a step back in customer service.  A short list of what I’ve seen in the past three years include; NuWa stopped building the Hitchhiker then Peterson (builders of the Excel) produced the Hitchhiker only to shut down operations a short time later. NuWa invented the fifth wheel so what a shame they could not stay in business. Lifestyles Luxury RV was said by many to be a dependable brand but suddenly closed their doors.  Some say because of losing financial backing and others said they were so intent on fixing every warranty problem they could not stay in business. Management came from another defunct company to run Lifestyles. What about the Carriage brands which were also popular by full-timers as late as 2010. Gone – sold the brand names to Crossroads who has stopped building the Carriage and the Cameo is just another among average fifth wheels (in my opinion). I could go on. The point is even todays companies who care about the customer may be gone when RV sales eventually decline. And especially if management does not think long-term, guiding a company in a better position for the future.

Now for the meat of this blog post. I want my wife and others to know there is a chance so many things will be defective in an RV that you might decide to leave the road, be injured or take a financial hit.  Personally, I believe the chances are relatively rare as a percentage of RVs that are on the road today. But then again, they are not all used as full time living quarters.

I have been following full-timer’s RV blogs since October of 2014. So far, I have read or talked personally with four of the 23 RV owners I follow who had significant issues with their unit. The brands include DRV, the original Carriage Carri-lite, Lifestyles and Forrest River Cedar Creek. In one case, the person left the road disgusted after trying other brands.  Another had their RVs frame welded and eventually continued on their journey. Another sat in a motel room for months, even working a part-time job, until the manufacturer built them a new trailer. And finally, another has sent their trailer back to the factory for 70 or more issues to be addressed.  Yes, they “all may have problems.” Yes, these may be just a few unique examples. And yes, they may have eventually been repaired. But, these four examples represent 17% of this small sampling. Each was built by what are considered good companies. But most of all – what if we become one of the percentage with major issues? And is it ever satisfactory that any single purchaser, much less these 17%, should have to worry about it. Especially when manufacturers can get banks to finance these things for 20 years which to me implies they will last that long. Of course, if you buy a vacation travel trailer for a lot less than a $60,000 – $120,000 fifth wheel which is built as a “full time or extended stay” unit, most would not expect to get the same longevity.

Okay you can stop reading if you agree or feel warned there could be major issues with an RV that could cause major inconvenience when you are on the road – Or dare read on-

Please don’t get this blog post confused as only a rant, because it’s not. The chance our RV will breakdown in a major way is really a concern of mine. I’m personally willing to risk it and buy a trailer for the likely chance we will not be hindered with a catastrophic repair. If you want to read about the true nature of these issues then click here. This is the only place you will need to go to learn about what is truly behind the problem with RV manufacturers.  Greg Gerber is the past Editor of RV Daily Report and wrote this series of articles titled “RV Industry Death Spiral.” To me, he is a whistle-blower and I appreciated his candor.  Mr. Gerber may have correctly forecasted 2017 would be the year of lawsuits for the RV industry. If his research is correct, there are more than 2,500 active lawsuits by customers after the time he wrote the articles. He predicts 2019 will be the legal turning point for the RV industry as state and federal officials look to pass consumer-friendly legislation. I’ll leave out the politics of his prediction relative to if or if not government is willing to push forward with legislation.

I first became aware of government influence when reading in 2015 Forest River got themselves into a little trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for not sending out prompt recall notices for safety issues.  Later Forest River announced positive changes potentially effecting the timeliness of RV repairs and certainly response to recall notices. Now their dealerships are taking issue with the new warranty policy per an RV Daily Report article written May of 2017. Why is this example so important? Because Forest River is among the top producers of RVs and is one of only a few competing against fifth wheel brands, and others, owned by Thor. And just think, Forest River gained that market share during their short 11-year history.  Personally, I view Forest River’s initiative as a good thing in that they are trying to introduce a system to better supply parts to customers in immediate need. RV Business published an article by June of 2017. Called a Parts Initiative in which they wrote; “An all-industry working group led by members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and RVDA of Canada continues to quietly work on a series of parts delivery issues that could ultimately help improve dealers’ abilities to expedite warranty and other consumer repairs in the field.” Is this the start of RV manufacturers finally taking responsibility for producing sometimes inferior products?

Yet other manufacturers are taking a slightly different approach to better avoid major repair issues in their new units. During my research, I’m finding Grand Design, founded in 2011, is a company where potential customers are looking to provide exceptional customer service. Grand Design recently sold the brand to Winnebago. The founders came from Keystone which is a company claiming to be the #1 builders of recreational vehicles in North America. Keystone is another relatively new company founded in 1996. By 2001 they were owned by Thor. Talk about management changes!  Now back to the Grand Design’s business model, designed to catch flaws before they leave the factory. They built a huge facility where all their products pass through an inspection – after construction.  In their own words;

“Following construction, every Grand Design product goes through an initial quality inspection process. This is usually the final step other manufacturers take before shipping their units. We at Grand Design RV believe that this “industry standard” process falls far short of producing what we would regard as a quality unit. So, at this point in the manufacturing process, we send each unit to our dedicated pre-delivery inspection center where it is meticulously taken through a rigid point-by-point inspection process and final finished.”

I am not qualified to tell any RV manufacture how to run their business. I’ll let my purchasing dollars influence that – to a tiny degree.  But Dr. Deming is qualified!  And I’m not sure Grand Design’s model would be part of the way Deming would suggest the business be run in terms of checking for problems after the fact. How about building quality into the process to start with! In business college, I learned where during World War II Dr. Deming worked in logistics with the US Air Force. Deming would eventually draft what he called the 14 points for management. From what I was taught, Deming took his skills to Japan after the United States drifted into an economy based upon, in rather simple terms, why build it good when you can throw it away and buy another. At the time it might have been easier to get away with poor quality when most of the worlds manufacturing overseas was bombed into oblivion, while ours went untouched. But not for long.

US business management would not listen to Dr. Deming’s ideas. Well, the Japanese listened and with Deming – trashed the US auto market. Legend has it one Japanese executive was in the audience during a day Deming presented his principles. Kaoru Ishikawa listened and later was noted for his own quality management innovations. If you have studied the topic you may have heard of an Ishikawa Diagram which some refer to as a fishbone chart. This is a process of breaking down a problem into its root cause to truly fix the problem.

Dr. Deming believed in erasing anything wasteful. I was taught his motive was not to increase profits, but to rid the world of waste. This included wasteful human effort that could be better spent building something with zero imperfections rather than checking something later to make sure it is built right and if not, build it again. But I get it and I’ll bet Grand Design management gets it better than most. Sometimes things are currently out of one’s control. Perhaps the labor shortage in Elkhart Indiana is having even more of an impact on business. Perhaps Grand Design can’t trust their employees to build it right. Or maybe they have given up during prior attempts.  Who knows for sure.  Maybe they are driven by short term profits because the next recession or major gas price increase will bring an end to them. After a few short years of research, I’ve come to my own opinion of the current RV labor market. And I don’t blame the majority of the employees. If I must blame someone, then I think I’ll blame management because that at least goes with the salary!  I suppose there might be an argument that the consumer could be blamed because they are not willing to pay more for a better built trailer. Personally, I would have to disagree with that, especially since a lot of the parts that are installed into one particular brand of trailer are the same as another brand’s.  More on that later.

Certainly, the way employees are over-worked and paid in a manner that encourages speed over quality could have a little to do with it. Here is a  Reuters article on RV construction labor in Elkhart. Sorry in advance as portions of the article discuss politics. One model is to pay employees by the “piece” where in the employee can go home after producing X number of units with the same pay as if they were there all day. Some manufacturers do not subscribe to this “incentive” and still elect to pay by the hour. Augusta RV and New Horizons come to mind.

I’ll near the conclusion by saying there has to be hope the RV industry will improve either through increased competition, their own initiatives, or hopefully not – through government regulation. Seventeen percent of the 23 full timer’s RV experiences I started off writing about is not going to cut it. Perhaps there will be an awakening in this industry just as there was in the US auto industry brought about through stiff competition by the Japanese. Can you guys remember when one could buy a foreign car at a fraction of the price that lasted a lot longer than a domestic built car? Thank goodness those days are over.

I’m not ready to say the issue is profit driven although it might be. A reader posted this link to See Dealer Profit (thank you Ryan). If what the website is reporting is accurate, RV manufacturers sell to dealerships between about 35% to 50% less than manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That would mean an RV manufacturer producing an RV with an MSRP of $100,000 is building it, with included cost and profit, for maybe $50,000.  Some may say “these things go through an earthquake everyday” when they are pulled down the road as if to make excuse for repairs even in a new unit.  Well, is that not what they are supposed to be built for? To me $50,000 is a lot of money and is more than most earn in a year.

Why can’t we ask that at least when an RV manufacturer installs another’s part such as a slide motor, water tank or refrigerator as well as their own plumbing and electrical runs or whatever, can’t they do it right the first time. And why would you pay an employee for doing it wrong to start with? And why would you pay a vendor for furnishing defective parts? That makes no sense, especially if it might be at the root of the problem.  And if they cover themselves with short one-year warranties and only build something to last that long well then shame on them. Because that RV might be financed through a bank by an unsuspecting family. And if the management and owners of these companies don’t care beyond a year then there might be a good seat in hell for that attitude.

I’m still buying one!  I’m taking my best shot at finding a good one and crossing my fingers from there on.  Maybe that sums it up as to why they are still selling so many. Maybe my second full-time RV will be a Toyota RV. I hope not.