Setting Up Domicile In Texas and Our Internet Solution

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

Livingston Map

Our new home is in Livingston Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare and establishing doctor relationships:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truck and trailer insurance:

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

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

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

Roadside assistance:

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

Order and setup internet connection:

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

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

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

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

Truck and trailer inspection:

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

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

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

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

Using our mail service:

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

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

Sometime ago, I noticed a mail forwarding service in South Dakota shut down. Bet it sucked to have to do all the address changes again, “moving” to a new domicile address which might not have been in-network for healthcare.

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

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

Truck and trailer tags:

Here in Livingston this is handled by the county tax office located at 416 N Washington (also known as Business 59). I looked up the list of proper forms to take but decided to just go in one day and ask for them. Parked behind the building and went in the back door. There was no line and the lady at the counter highlighted what blanks to fill out on the form for our trailer and truck registrations to include title transfers from Missouri to Texas. Make sure you have lean waivers if you paid-off a loan on either vehicle and the finance company is still on the old title. We received our new Texas titles in the mail within two weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

Register to vote:

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

Change our wills and file Intent to Domicile form:

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

Driver’s Licenses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had the driving portion scheduled but had a delay, so I’ll get that done soon. I’ve read online to get a general idea of what others went through during the road test. All report it was easier than they thought and took 20 to 30 minutes. Here in Livingston when you take the driving portion I was told to park on the shoulder of the road out front where there is a fire hydrant. The license center employee pointed to a second hydrant nearby, saying it’s okay as the hydrant we would be parked at was a distance off the road and the second hydrant can be used.  Karen can’t be with me during the drive and as our fifth wheel will be with me we have to come up with a plan in case it’s raining during the test. She will have the dog and the license center can only have 10 people waiting inside.  And the outside waiting area does not have an awning. Maybe she will stay back at the RV park with new friends or I’ll just keep the dog in the truck during the test while she waits outside the building. (Update – I took the driving portion. The examiner said this was going to be way easier than I thought it would be. She directed me through easy driving areas with easy turns.  Had to back up straight for about 25 feet.  You can have a total deduction of 30 points and pass. I lost three points total. Two for not keeping both hands on the wheel and one for backing as I moved slightly away from the curb.  Glad I took the test in Livingston where I had gotten to know the roads. Folks – get your Class A if you require one. It really is no big deal.)

Other Tasks Completed or Considered:

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

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

I ordered replacement bank checks with our new address.

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

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

2020 is the year for the US census. I put it on my calendar to follow up to make sure we are counted as living in Texas. I’m already reading up on the process and how it went down in 2010. The census begins on April 1 and at the time we don’t plan to be parked in Texas. From what I’ve read if you travel like us you will be counted in the census in whatever place you happened to be parked at the time. There was a sign posted at the RV park where becoming a census worker pays $20 an hour!

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Leaving the Job and Camping in Our Home State

For the most part the emotions of leaving the job and house are starting to slip away. We are settling into this lifestyle and learning new stuff all the time. The move has been a process that’s getting easier at times but certainly has it’s ups and downs at this point.

My last day on the job was October 4th. By then Karen and I had been camping in a long-term spot for a month or so. We left that spot in Platte City Missouri and moved on April 9th to southern Missouri. Before we left the immediate area of our hometown – for the winter – there were several things to finish up. If I had to do it again, I would have stayed an extra week in the area after retirement (or retired earlier) to allow more time to wrap things up. Oh well, flexibility is the name of the game now and we really need to get on with traveling to interesting places.

It’s best to break this blog post down into headlines so you can skip around to topics of interest.

Retiring from a Job

Law enforcement is more than a job; it’s a way of life. The phone can ring at any time calling you back for whatever. You go home thinking about it while awake and while asleep at times. In the end the hardest part for me was leaving the relationships with co-workers. The day before I left, I was asked if I was going home earlier on my last day? I said I’ll leave when I’m ready. By then I had purposely completed most of the process of turning in equipment and the paperwork. I’d parked our Ram 3500 dually truck at a co-worker’s house. He was to give me a ride to his house the last day as I had turned in the company car.

Leaving that last day was like pulling a Band-Aid off. You know when it’s the right time and then just jerk the Band-Aid off and feel the moment of pain. Early afternoon on the last day I suddenly told my co-worker it was time to leave. There were hugs out the door. I refused to have a large going away party. I’m just not good with goodbyes. Earlier I had walked around to different departments and told everyone goodbye and recalled stories of good times and jobs well done together. The night before my immediate workgroup had dinner with Karen and me.

Retirement photo with a few of the guys

Emotional moments came to include when deciding it was okay to send an email out to about 40 of the many people I’d met on the job. I wanted to let them know the day had finally come for me to leave, to pass the word around and provide a new contact person for our agency. I used my email contact list for some of the names. Over the years I made it a habit to keep business cards where I wrote on the back when and where I’d met the person. Those contacts came in handy over the years. Those who do a good job and are helpful also tend to meet others of like mind. That creates a tight group of friends and contacts. I’ve not wanted to delete email contacts or throw away business cards for friends who died over the years. Flipping through those business cards sure was emotional.

I want to pass along something very important about my co-workers. It will be a glimpse into our mindset. I don’t think I’m breaking any rules – as if it matters! I was sitting in our patrol area talking with the dayshift. It’s a recently remodeled area of the building that’s decorated with posters by the officers. The writings on the wall say it all. I took some photos which are as follows:

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

We always have each other

Setup Mail Service with Escapees in Texas – Insurance Companies Panicked.

One thing we had to finish up while in town was establishing our mail service with Escapees in Texas and then driving to the post office to fill out mail-forwarding to the new address. In those final days I also did the best I could to change our address online or by phone. Of course, going paperless as much as possible for bills. I was not aware the post office will send a notice to various places if you change your address. The post office notified our insurance companies which prompted the insurance companies to send a letter asking what was up. Also one of the pension companies received a notice and called asking what was up.  Our insurance agent knew what we were up to and that we had to first setup a PO Box to collect mail from our old sticks and bricks house and then on to Texas when our final mailing address was established. I had the agent handle the insurance companies who apparently get concerned that you might be living in another state while having insurance in another.  He told them we are leaving as snowbirds early and just want our bills sent to Texas.  He also set us up for paperless billing. Once we get to Texas maybe the first of December, we will be changing insurance companies. Sorry to be loosing my agent whom I’ve been with for more than 20 years.  I’m thinking we will find another agent in Texas who is an insurance broker rather than going directly to individual insurance companies. I’ve got a list of several brokers whom are frequently recommended by others in the area.

I’m extremely happy with the Escapees Club customer service! They even have a feature when you call and find the wait for an operator is too long. You can select an option to have them call you back.  When the computer calls you back and if you are not ready for the call there is an option to have them call back in 20 minutes.  For now we are paying the extra $10 a month for the option to have mail scanned and available online if needed.  You have to join Escapees first to enroll in the mail service. So far, we have saved about half our annual Escapee Club membership fees with campground discounts at none Escapee parks. And as I type this we are camped with a local Escapees Club chapter where experienced RV members are as helpful and friendly as can be. Friends from the chapter invited us to attend their monthly camping rally as their guests.

Saying Goodbyes to Family and Friends

I wrote in my last post that we are not leaving friends and family as part of this fulltime RV journey. We expect to see them more than before and spend quality time with them. Just after we purchased our RV we took an extended trip to Michigan to visit part of Karen’s family. We are in southern Missouri now and among other things we are getting with family. Before we left Kansas City we spent the day with our daughter. It’s good to see she has a good group of friends and modern methods of communications keeps her in touch with her mom. 

Karen has been shopping for post cards she says she will enjoy mailing out. In an RV there is not space to buy and store stuff. If you like shopping then post cards are a brilliant way to get that urge out of your system. Personally, I can’t wait to shop at farmers markets all over the country.

360 degree photo my sister Lisa took with her iPhone. On the phone you can pan around and see the interior of the camper.

After my retirement day in our hometown my sisters, friends, niece and nephew came from three directions to see us. My sister Mary was the first to sleep on our sofa bed and approved of its comfort (it’s an actual mattress and not an air bed). My sister Lisa rented an RV spot for her wonderful Class C. My sister Deanna brought us a big bag of Jelly Belly candy. I thought of her every time I get a cup full to enjoy. Karen and I are enjoying the new zero gravity chair the family got us as a retirement gift.  Glad we waited to replace our existing chairs. We have our eye on a rocker style as well.  There are plenty of examples of good chairs to sit in at other’s campfires.

When folks write about all the new friends they discover on the road it’s no lie. Karen gets text messages from some of them and is now added to her Facebook friends list. I’m thinking about adding a new column in my spreadsheet to include home addresses for new friends who want us to stop by if we are in the area. I can import the spreadsheet into Google Maps and add pins on the map for friends. We have new ones in North Carolina, Colorado and more. The last night we were in Kansas City at the RV park Karen dog sat for the neighbors until midnight while they were at a concert. Karen loves dogs. She gets five new dogs every day it seems as people move in and out of the parks. She meets all the dogs and their owners in short order.

The final step in leaving the park back home was to check to see if a package had arrived in the office. Outside I ran into Gary whom I worked with for a long time. He retired a year ago and it sure was nice having him and Connie camping at the same park as they are also fulltime RV travelers. See ya next time guys.

Living Together in Small Spaces

I’m probably going out on a limb to write about this topic as I’m clearly no expert but am willing to learn and change. We are a ways from having this done. We continue with our rule that the first person to a spot has the right of way in our tiny home.  Like everyone else, we both have our emotional moments. Just give the other person some time and space and it all works out.  Treat others as you would like to be treated for sure. All good advice or what I’m thinking will work in the long run. I love – love – love the time with my wife. I can now even leave that darn cell phone wherever and just enjoy the moment. 

Trips to the grocery store are perfect for rainy days when getting outside is less appealing.  As we get closer to wrapping up all the administrative tasks with becoming fulltimers there will be increasing time for touring the local sites. We both agree doing one thing a day is plenty for now. Today we met the Escapees Chapter group we are camped with for lunch and games. Now we are sitting typing a blog or reading a book under the canopy of our fifth wheel while sun shines around us.

There are opportunities to have our own space. RV and truck maintenance, walking the dog, watching TV in the bedroom, visiting with neighbors, walking to the laundry and just the daily tasks offer opportunity to do our own thing. I’m learning to cook on the grill as a hobby and eventually I’ll be learning to use the cast iron covered skillet Dave gave me as a gift at work.  I’m planning to master all forms of cooking outside. 

I’ll quickly add something else you have to work out is what kind of place you want to park your home. I’m not that particular at this point. Karen definitely has an interest in picking spots so she looks a few up in the area and then I get a pick with special attention to trip routing. We really do enjoy parking for days at a time and spreading out in the space a fifth wheel offers. The weekly camping rates are easier on the budget which so far, for us, is closer to $30 a day on average with discounts.

Electronics, Internet and TV Access

I left most of the electronic decisions for the year we went fulltime. Technology changes fast and the options are way different than years ago.  We increased Karen’s AT&T phone account to unlimited data with a hotspot to link her tablet or my laptop computer to.

I still have an unlimited data plan on a T-Mobile account which is provided to me with the part-time remote office job I took on the road. WIFI internet at campsites has been better than expected but there are periods of times when connection is lost or slow. If needed we may add a mobile cellular device on the Verizon network offered by my employer at the office job. Redundancy is the key.

I’m finding AT&T data will often work better than the Verizon phone (hotspot) I turned in when I left the Sheriff’s Office. Probably because so many people are on the Verizon network there are times it slows down.

I’ve read and researched where one best understand how adding antennas or signal boosters can effect cellular data if that’s an option you decide on. It might not always be the best thing to do. I’ve not added any boosters or external antenna for the time being. We are just using whatever signal we can pick up.

Togo Roadlink is a new device available with AT&T unlimited data for the cost of the roof mounted device and $360 a year for unlimited data. This looks interesting especially as you only have to run a 12 volt line to the box on the roof rather than a bunch of cable. We are fine with what we have for now.

I bought a Roku stick to add to the television. We kept our Amazon Prime account for fast delivery of packages while parked.  Prime video is something we use as we left the cost of satellite TV behind several years ago. If I was to add satellite TV I for sure would have a device that finds the satellites automatically. A guy parked nearby was adjusting his manual satellite and yelling to his wife inside the trailer to see if the picture was good. I understand you can get a handheld device to help point the satellite dish if needed. Automatic sounds better to me.  With the new digital television channels we find plenty to watch just using the trailers over the air antenna.

Beware – using campground WIFI internet can make you vulnerable to hackers seeing what you are doing. I use our cellular connections for confidential access. I’m no expert but understand setting up a virtual private network (VPN) is a security solution for campground WIFI. I’m still researching and for now, right or wrong, am using the free Hotspot Shield program for a VPN.  I’ve got more research to do on this so don’t have any good recommendations for a solution.  I know running the campground WIFI through a router device would also help with security. If you know more about campground WIFI security please comment so we can all learn from you.

How is Our 5th Wheel Holding Up

Our Vanleigh Vilano is holding up wonderfully. So far there has been nothing break that left us stranded or inconvenienced such as having something like a slide, air conditioner, furnace or whatever go out. I’ve called the factory service center twice now to have small parts shipped and they arrived the next day with zero hassle. I’ve got a list of minor stuff for Vanleigh to fix once we migrate to the service center in northern Mississippi probably next spring. We will probably have them install some upgrades at the same time. After living in the fifth wheel for awhile we will figure out where extra shelving might come in handy. And by spring we might have a list of other upgrades like suspension, washer/dryer and electronics. I suspect I’ll get them to do the annual mantainance items if needed.

Karen is having issue with the dry air as a result of the electric fireplace heat and gas furnace. We talked about getting a small room humidifier.  Any thoughts about that would be appreciated.

We really are happy to have ordered the rear living room air conditioner with the heat pump option. The front bedroom heats up a few degrees warmer as heat rises. I still don’t understand why anyone would put a heat pump on the front bedroom AC unless they figure the cost is minimal. We also appreciate the second awning that covers the large rear window on the passenger side. It’s a nice place to cook or eat at the picnic table in the rain. More importantly the second awning keeps the sun off that side of the trailer. I’m most likely being over cautious about leaving the awning out in any wind condition even if we are home.

We love our new home! But just like buying a new sticks and bricks house you will find minor flaws that have little to do with the important quality aspects. Tightening a screw, gluing something down is no big thing.  I’m still reading on the owner’s Facebook page about maintenance and developing my list. Watching others and talking with them about maintenance when we are parked is helping. I believe I now have most of the cleaning supplies, grease and more that is needed. 

Places We Have Been and Old Friends We Met Again

I figured this would be a good section to wrap up what our travels have been since going fulltime on 8/22/19.  As I’ve written before we first stayed at the local county park at Smithville Lake Missouri and got some practice with our waste water tanks.

Then we moved for five weeks to an RV resort near Platte City Missouri. I worked most of those five weeks. Karen and I developed several friendships which I’m thinking helped with the stress one might experience when you are new to this lifestyle. Our good friends Russ and Kay from the Destination Unknown blog travel through Kansas City from the east coast and this would have been I think the third time we have met up. They travel in a toy hauler pull behind trailer and frequently use their Harvest Host campsite membership. They rerouted to another overnight spot closer to us which turned out to be a church parking lot. It was a good visit.  Forgot to take photos as usual. While in Platte City we met several fulltimers and part-timers. Even met a couple who were from Canada, having immigrated there from Germany. That one campsite netted at least two other couples we got to know well over a week or two. Sure we will see them again someplace on the road.

From Platte City we moved for five days to a campsite near family at Mt. Vernon Missouri for a visit and to attend the usual annual Apple Butter Making Days festival. My sister Mary has given considerable thought to becoming a fulltimer someday and right now would go as a solo (meaning with no partner). I sent her a few resources regarding camping as a solo but if you have any good links send them our way in a comment. We stayed at Beagle Bay RV Haven in Sarcoxie Missouri. It was a spot in the trees and met our needs. If you are traveling down Interstate 44 between Springfield and Joplin in Missouri it’s a nice spot for a few days that includes all shaded areas with full hookup pull-throughs.

From Mt. Vernon/Sarcoxie we moved just 15 miles to Carthage Missouri for a week long Escapees Ozark Chapter campout. We are there currently for another week and staying at Coachlight RV Park. It’s right behind an RV dealership and way easy to get in and out of. Unfortunately I’ve got to travel back to Kansas City for a murder trial next week. Karen is going with me. We will leave the fifthwheel behind and just make the drive to a motel. While here at the rally we get time to spend with our wonderful friends Dean and Cheri of Travels with Bentley blog. Come November they will have been fulltimers for two years. They and others in this Escapees group are a wealth of information. I’m watching and listening to everything about the lifestyle the group has to offer. 

With the part-time office job I kept there are frequent chances to visit local post offices to mail work related stuff. I should have started a list of all the post offices I’ve visited. While here in Carthage I visited a unique older building. I did not take photos inside as I did not want to alarm anyone. Later we are going to visit some Civil War sites in town.

Carthage Missouri Post Office

Well that’s about it for now. Our immediate travel plans appear to be Branson Missouri for vacation.Then on to maybe Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Then on to Livingston Texas which is the headquarters for Escapees and where we will get our driver’s license and truck/trailer license plates. As our rig totals more than 26,000 gross max weight I’ll be taking a driving test which is the law in Texas.  We will most likely make a stop between Arkansas and Texas before arriving in Livingston. Between now and then I’m going to finalize our healthcare options and more.

First Month of Fulltiming – Domicile State Selection and More

As part of planning for our future in an RV we toured local RV parks over the past couple years. I’d still be working for weeks after we moved into our new fifth wheel home and needed a longer term parking spot for camping. Our first 11 days were spent at a county park which is on a local Corp. of Engineer Lake and then we moved to a “long term” spot at Basswood RV Resort for the next five weeks.

Basswood Resort – Platte City Missouri. We are parked at the extreme opposite of the main office which is good for exercise.

We had time to complete some of the more mundane processes of moving to the fulltime RV lifestyle. We have also decided where we would be for the month of October which is in Southern Missouri. Then maybe in November and December we will move to northern Arkansas over to Mississippi and then down into Texas.

I have to say it has been wonderful to be parked in one spot for a five week stay, even this early in our move to fulltiming. I recommend a longer stay for those new to the lifestyle even if you are not having to stay in an area, as we are, waiting for a final day at work. It really helps with adjusting to the change. There is plenty of time to get to know your rig and finish up the final administrative tasks required for fulltiming such as mail service and domicile.

The kitchen in our 35′ home. Longer stays not only saves campground fees but gives you a chance to spread out and enjoy the RV.

In the final days of the rush to sell the sticks and bricks home I completed task based on priority because there was just to much to do.  Many of those tasks remained to be done after we moved into the fifth wheel. It’s sooooo nice to have time to take my time in completing this. Before we moved out of our stick and bricks house I went to the local post office and setup a PO Box. I’m not changing our address to the new PO Box as we are domiciling in Texas and setting up mail service there. I just needed a place to temporarily forward our mail. Had there been time I would have setup mail service in Texas two months before we moved out of our sticks and bricks and then started changing our mailing address as needed. But the PO Box has come in handy as a quick fix.

We kept our space where the fifth wheel had been stored for a few additional weeks. For now we still have Karen’s car, my work car and the truck. So the storage space came in handy for juggling cars in and out as most campgrounds did not allow for more than two vehicles.  Eventually a friend offered a spot to park the truck at his place so the storage space is now gone.  Karen’s car is to be sold but has came in handy as she has not yet decided to drive the truck. I’m hoping she does because not having a vehicle takes away part of one’s freedom.

I forgot to cancel the homeowners insurance but the agent dated the cancelation as being the same day we sold the house.  Got a refund from the insurance company. Cancelled a lot of other bills and I have to say I’m noticing a change in our bank account in a positive way. Even if this long-term RV spot is $680 a month to include electric.

As part of setting up or mailing address in Texas we had to swing by the bank to have a form notarized. I was aware that Bank of America had acquired Merrill Lynch, an investment company. So we sat down and opened an investing account at the same time.  Our remaining sticks and bricks house money is going into a well protected place (not the stock market) that’s FDIC insured with the best interest rate I could find. We have other funds already in the market. I keep enough in the checking account for monthly expenses and our slush fund at the local credit union where I can easily move it electronically to the bank account. This is a secure and flexible setup I believe. I should define “slush fund.”  This is an account that has our emergency fund of three month’s expenses, an extra amount for our first year of travel and what money remains in our budget for equipping the RV and truck.

Now, regarding domicile!  For those non-rvers domicile is simple a legal address you call home. The three most popular states for fulltime rvers is Texas, Florida and South Dakota. Lots of reasons for that which I’ll not go into.  We wanted to stay in the Midwest which is close to family and generally an area we plan to spend a lot of time in.  South Dakota would have been way easy to setup a domicile in because other than showing up in the state to get a driver’s license everything else can be done through the mail.  Each state has mail services you can pay for. Those mail services are a physical building where your mail is sent and a unique number is assigned for your mailbox. That number becomes part of your legal address. The Escapees Club is perhaps the premiere mail service. They have service for all three states however any mail sent to the Florida address or South Dakota address is then sent on to their main facility in Texas.

For us the health insurance decision became the deciding factor between South Dakota and Texas.  Karen will be Medicare eligible in a year. I’ve got a few years to wait. This makes a difference in which state you select. I’ve been corresponding with Kyle at rverinsurance.com. This is what he wrote about South Dakota regarding health insurance:

“Hello Mark, I am sorry I was not able to get to this sooner so we could talk on Friday the 6th. I would definitely consider TX instead of SD…health insurance options in SD are horrible. To even get short term medical you have to have a gap in coverage of 64 days now. Nonsensical rules there and ACA carriers will not take RVers nor will they cover you outside of SD even if they did take you.” 

I’ll get into our healthcare selection once it’s setup.  For sure I’m not taking COBRA benefits at work which are very expensive unless we have to. I’m also leaving the job the first of the month because I’m still on their insurance for the remaining days of the month! Short-term nationwide coverage is available for those with no pre-existing conditions and in Texas that insurance can be extended for a longer period of time. Again, more on healthcare later.

So I sent off our application for mail service to Escapees in Texas which is our next big step. Then we will eventually make it to Texas for our driver’s license, vehicle registration and more.  Here in a couple weeks Karen and I are attending an Escapees Chapter rally in Southern Missouri for a week.  Plenty of time to pick everyone’s brains for more advise.

Howell Michigan Camping

We are stopped at a state park near Brighton Michigan for six nights to visit family. Running on electric only. Our tank sizes are 70 gallon fresh water, 10 hot water, 90 gray and 45 black. We are being more conservative on water usage than our last longer stay without hookups. So far it looks like we will have no problem spending a week off hookups. Paper plates and taking a shower at the public building is about all we are doing to preserve water and tank space.  Karen is being more careful when washing dishes as well.

We have finished 850 miles of a 1700 mile trip. I purchased a one year subscription to RV Trip Planning Wizard and really like it.  I also jump over to campground reviews.com for additional ideas for camping areas. Those years of planning are coming in handy as I’ve got an arsenal of ideas for trip planning provided by friends and readers.  Thanks for that!

One comment that makes since is trip planning and navigation are two separate concepts. Navigation might be using a GPS or map during the drive. Our 2018 Dodge navigation system is working great. As I’m still so new at hauling a monster fifth wheel, I still look at Google Earth for the entire route to check for tight areas. Used to even look over interstate’s on Google Earth as well but now feel comfortable with only checking lessor roads, especially if they are not divided highways. RV Trip Planning Wizard also contains a low bridge database so at this point I’ve not bothered to find a third party application to check for low bridges. At this point, I’ll not purposely take side routes that are not part of the original route planning. Tried that in Indianapolis to get around major highway backups. Was a fun trip to include my first time on a larger road in a residential area and a first time trip through a round-a-bout. That got my nerves sparking but keeping it slow and watching those back tires in the mirrors, along with reassurance from Karen I was going great, were big boosts to morale. Have I said I really, really love Ram’s tow mirrors!  They are awesome. Even if you get a 2500 to tow with, make sure you have the factory tow mirrors!

For now, when I book a camping spot I copy all my notes to Google Calendar. That way we can look things up quickly while traveling or upon arrival.  Click this link to see what my typical notes look like:  Calendar view

For now, because I’m so new at this, I print a campground map prior to arrival so I know how to get to our spot and where dump stations are located. Before we park I make sure I know how I’ll pull out assuming all the surrounding spots are taken and I’ll be maneuvering around cars and other campers. For that matter, when I park in a cramped grocery store lot in the dually truck, I make sure I can get out if someone parks on both sides of me and the travel lanes are narrow.  On the way into the current state park there were two low branches (ya have to look up to see them). It was like driving threw a serpentine course as I weaved in and out of other camping spots to avoid low branches. Just learned I’ll be keeping my tree trimmer with the extendable handles. And I hope not to go to jail for cutting a branch every now and then.

This lifestyle is really going to be healthy. I’m walking more and am generally more physically active. Karen and I are loving our time together. It’s nice to wake up in the morning in our new home then step outside to remember you are dead center in a wonderful state park. It would be hard to explain the wonder of it all in words. Just imagine if you are in your sticks and bricks house, unaware of what is outside, then open the door to amazement.

We are going to try out spending two nights at each stop on the way back to Kansas City. We had a couple overnight stops on the way here and tried to stay around 200 miles for each travel day. RV Trip Planning Wizard has an excellent system for showing travel distances between stops. Really helps with picking campgrounds along the way. So far we are booking our stops when we can. All this helps keep the stress level down for us new guys.  Finding less stressful ways to do things is important during this first year I’m sure.

One stop on the drive to Michigan was at a county campground which does not take reservations. We called and the lady at the county office said there would be spots. At $20 a night with 30 amps, within five miles from the highway in a secluded location, what a find that was. Get your notepad out and mark this one down.

Snap 2019-07-26 at 09.15.54

 

I’ve been using my make-shift office setup to get some work done. Right now I’m sitting at a chair outside the camper. But for more serious work I take five minutes to setup a more involved space at the dining table. Like most everything else, the way we do things seem to be evolving into something that works well.  I might add the process of evolution is also occurring for places we store things to include the basement space where for the most part we started off with containers we already owned. Yup, I’ve already discovered how you setup for the stay has a lot to do with how long you stay. For example, moving a storage containing out of the basement to under the camper to make room to pull other stuff out. I’d say don’t sweat over all the details such as how you arrange storage. Your unique system will just seem to happen on it’s own.

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Current office arrangement

 

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Yesterday’s view from the “office”

For the short-term you may notice a few changes in my writing style. There is a lot going on that I want to report on. I’ll just have to bang out the thoughts more quickly for now.

A sad note is that we lost our dog Johnny-Ringo to illness on this trip. I can’t write much about it. I live around death nearly every day on the job back home. Loosing a dog hurts just as much as when other loved-ones die. Seeing Karen sad hurts . Dogs have such unique personalities. He had a long-term breathing problem and it finally caught up to him. I can’t find the strength to even post my favorite photos of him. At least my mom now has another dog to play with in heaven; I like to think.

We went to bible study with Karen’s mom the other day. It was wonderful. The minister is so educated and smart about the bible. We are looking forward to stopping in at other churches on this journey. Tonight the minister is coming out for a campfire. His wife appears to be equally knowledgably. There were several older folks at the bible study and I got a lot from listening to their wisdom.

To my sister Mary – We saw an R Pod camper across the street from us being pulled with a full size SUV. Most of the campers of that size in this campground are the hybrid travel trailers with hard sides and the pop-out beds at the end. During this week I’ve noticed what appears to be moms with kids coming out during the week presumably when dad is at work. I’ll bet you see the same in your trips.

By the way, we have a contract on the house. Closes August 26th if all goes well. I’ve got to hook-up to the city sewer system and there might be a delay in getting that done as the contractor is backed-up. With the help of the real estate agent, who knows how the city and contractors work, we have a plan B should the sewer connection be delayed. We gave the new residence permission to store personal items in the basement. They are staying with relatives but had to get the kids registered in school. I’m thinking we are going to have a good relationship during the process with the new owners who are over the top excited about the house. They already finished their inspections and I’m waiting for the results. The realtor has us sign everything on-line and I can tell is making sure to allow us to enjoy our vacation time.

A final thought for sure is that I’m thankful to all our new RVer friends and readers of this blog for the last four years or so of planning. So much of what we learned and are now applying will ensure we make it through the curves in the road that pop up in this lifestyle.

Mark from Missouri

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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RV Ordering Process/Negotiations

There are several subjects worth writing about in this post such as; come hell or high water we are putting the house on the market no later than July, I already have enough hours in at work this year that I can leave anytime, getting the truck ready to travel, another garage sale and more.  However, while it’s fresh in my mind I’ll pass along what I learned while negotiating a price and ordering a new RV. Hopefully enough of this applies to all RV brands and not just the one we ordered.

Negotiating a Price

First of all, I’m not very good at negotiating for the lowest price possible. Personally if the deal is fair to me and the other guy thinks so then lets come to an agreement. Just do the necessary homework so you have a good idea of what price with options to expect before entering negotiations. Of course there is always sticking to your budget to add a dose of sanity.

In my humble opinion the prices displayed at RV shows, particularly in the price range we bought within, are not even close to the bottom dollar deal. And in my experience RV show units lack some of the hidden options such as dual pane windows or an extra awning if you want them.  In our price point 30% off true MSRP is possible when ordering from the factory and 35% (or better) off one already on the lot from last years model is possible.

For the Vanleigh Vilano we ordered I started off finding three dealerships within a partial day’s drive from home. I used the Owner’s Facebook page to research referrals for dealerships. And there was an online map of them provided by the manufacturer. Seriously, there was no need to phone anyone until late in the game. Emailing or texting back and fourth worked well.

I drafted a document outlining exactly the options we wanted on our fifth wheel.  Here is that document if you are interested: Seneker Vilano 320GK

I then sent the document to each of three dealerships, having first sent them an email via their website which prompted a salesman to reply. Other than the local dealership where I’d gotten to know the Sales Manager and phoned him. I found out one dealership (the Kansas RV Center) gave up their Vanleigh dealership so I contacted the Vanleigh National Sales Manager via email and he recommend another dealership who turned out to come in second after it was all done.

Keep in mind we are going fulltime so a local dealership is not that important. We are leaning towards Texas as a domicile and as it turns out the dealership we ordered from is on the way there. And Vanleigh is at the top for customer service where you can go to the factory and have things fixed or options added the RV did not come with. If I was to purchase one off the lot I’d get a factory price sheet so I knew the actual MSRP based off the options on the RV. Then you would be able to compare apples to apples between dealerships who have the RV on their lot. Just make sure the RV has the options on it that can’t easily be added later and happen to be important to you.

It was hard to determine the actual shipping cost that is part of the MSRP until one dealership at least broke that down on their bid.  After I had all the initial bids I emailed or phoned two of the three that were way high and simply said they had to do better to which they lowered their price substantially. Yup, it was as simple as asking for a better price.  Then for the final blow I notified each dealership of what price they would need to meet to make the deal. I gave them an exact figure which I had already calculated to be 30% off true MSRP to include freight and dealership fees. One met it without hesitation and the other two came down yet again but not to my price. I warned them the one that met the price got the deal. The local dealership lost out and the Sales Manager complained (slightly) I should have given him another chance. To freaking bad for him.  Keep in mind I’d decided all three dealership were worth buying from so just going at the low ball bidder was not part of the plan.  I had a price in mind before I started.

I’ve met several other’s online who have or are ordering the same fifth wheel and now know I could have maybe done 1%  better on the deal. But – the price we received was fair, I trust the dealership and it’s only four hours from our current home and a couple hours from family we frequently visit.

The Ordering Process

We are buying from Bob Hurley RV out of Tulsa Oklahoma.  Our salesman is Terry Jelinek at 918-630-8304 or email terry@bobhurleyrv.com. I noticed they deal in new Alpine, Cardinal and Cougar fifth wheel as well.  They claim to be a top 10 volume dealerships with many brands.

The first price Terry sent me in writing combined everything into one total price and did not list freight separately. In other words the bid was not as detailed as I would have preferred but was based on the options I provided in writing. They asked for $1,000 down to place the order to Vanleigh. I thought that was fair given the dealership would be stuck with a custom trailer if I backed out.  And using only open source search areas on the internet I found out Terry is from a town in Michigan near where Karen grew up. And I know he would most likely have to try and make it through Missouri if he went home for a visit. So it’s doubtful he would play any tricks!  All jokes aside, Terry came down with the flu during the bidding process and I waited for him to get well before sealing the deal with his dealership. So far, he has been great to work with and his sales vocabulary must be limited to “Yes, we can do that and let me know if we can do anything else for you.” When I called back and asked for my price, along with the extra battery and whatever he sat the phone down, went to his manager and agreed to the deal.

I knew from contacting others on the Vanleigh Facebook Owner’s Group that the current lead time to build our trailer was 10 to 12 weeks. I also had the email and phone number for every vital person at the Factory involved in the process. After the order, the wait to get the conformation from the factory was next. That took too long so I sent an email to the lady that processes them at the factory and got our possible build date. Maybe two weeks later they sent the same information to the dealership who then forwarded the factory build sheet to me confirming all our options were correct. Then I told Terry I was happy so far and wanted to make sure there would be no surprises the day we pick up the trailer. He sent the price we agreed to in an email, including that was the out the door price and there would be no surprises from him.

I am to get with the dealership  in a week or so before the trailer is ready at the factory, to work out a few delivery details and the paperwork.  I know the dealership does their own inspection of the new trailers but I’m armed with my own, having received a Pre Delivery Inspection List from another owner.  Here is a link to the  PDI_Check_List (1) if you are interested. Karen and my inspection, along with the dealership walk-though, should take half a day.

Here is another version of a PDI as well. PDI Inspection List from Travel with the Tanners blog on Heartland Forums

When Terry notifies me of the delivery date that’s when I’ll let him know we should plan for a full day to get our inspection and delivery in.  I figure he will know I’m taking the pre delivery inspection seriously so best have that RV is top shape when we arrive. There is a campground directly across the street from the dealership with pull-through spots.  I’m sure we will be expected to take delivery at their lot before moving it across the street. Assuming there are no major issues during our inspection that will be no problem. If we find other minor issues that night at the campground I’m planning for worse case is the dealership will not care and want to schedule those repairs. And we already plan to go to the factory during the first year for repairs adding at least some more shelving.

So there you have it.  This is what I have experienced so far when ordering our new home.  We are planning our route home from the dealership to include maybe one fuel stop. Or we might just take a week off and do some camping along the way home.  I’ll report back after we get it home. First time pulling anything that big so I’ve got the common concerns.  YouTube videos are helping with what to expect.

Tools

Selecting what tools to hit the road with has been a harder decision than I expected.  Watched all the YouTube videos as to what others are using and talked to a lot of friends in the process.  It became apparent that until we are on the road we may not have a great idea of what tools will come in handy. For sure, the types of tools one keeps depends on how much of the truck/RV maintenance and modifications one plans to perform on their own compared to hiring it out. For me, I plan to learn as much as possible and do as much as possible.

For me, the starting point is taking inventory of what tools I already own. I sold off some of the larger items in our first garage sale, keeping for sure what I know I’ll need to finish home repairs before our house goes on the market.  Then I looked around at all the boxes and bags, sorted by tool type, and wondered how to consolidate all those into just a few bags for the road.

After years of reading other’s blogs and the Facebook users group for our trailer brand I’ve got a reasonable idea of what to expect. For example, common problems where bolts were not checked and may have led to mechanical failures in the suspension systems.

As our 35′ fifth wheel has a smaller basement than a 40′ model, I suspect the bed of our truck will someday include a larger container for whatever will fit in it.  Here are a few of my tool decisions and what I’m wondering about keeping or not.

Tree branch trimming and wood cutting:  This is a hard one for me. Do I keep the battery operated Sawzall, longer axe or hatchet, buy an electric chain saw or just keep the ratcheting  loppers?  I suspect, but am not sure, there will be times when we at least collect small dead tree branches to start fires and for sure there will be those times when low hanging tree branches may need to be cut from the roof of the fifth wheel before we back in?

Hand tools and electrical stuff: This was an easy decision. I took my two boxes and consolidated what I thought I would need into a single bag. I should have done this a long time ago because more times than not I ran back to the garage for yet another small tool that happened to be stored in a different bag than what I had with me.  I kept a couple extras of some tools, such as a screw driver, for a drawer in the fifth wheel for quick work and a spare set of pliers to store outside with the RV water hose connection rather than having to get the entire bag of tools out. I ended up buying this bag to consolidate everything into:


Mechanics Set of Tools:
  Over 30 years ago I purchased my first set of 3/8″ sockets. Over time I bought a small 1/4″ socket set and had amassed dozens of miscellaneous sockets which I kept in a box, bought more than likely at yard sales.  I would purchase a wrench here and there.  It was time for something more substantial and all inclusive.   Something in a single box I could grab and run with.  Adding a mechanics tool set, along with my new single bag of hand and electrical tools, brings together 90% of what tools I think I’ll need.  Keeping weight in mind, or something reasonable to carry around, I researched a new mechanics tools set. I decide on a 1/4″ and 3/8″ set.  I just do not think I’ll need a full 1/2″ drive set so why add the weight to the box.  I discovered mechanics sets after watching a YouTube where a guy was changing fuel filters on his diesel truck. This is what I purchased:

20190212_120550 (800x600)

Dewalt DWMT73802 142 Piece Mechanics Tools

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Lifetime Guarantee

 

Tool 1 (800x600)

No One Builds Better Latches than Dewalt

Power Tools:  Of course I’ll take along a cordless drill. But what about the remainder of the set I already own that include even a small skill saw?  I’m still undecided and might just keep what I don’t take in our 5’x10′ storage unit until I see if I miss them.

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Not Sure If I’m Keeping These?

Other ToolsFor More Specific Usage: Following the Facebook user’s group for our brand of fifth wheel has netted some great advise. Folks provided specific recommendations for various tools and sizes of wrenches. Adding a torque wrench and one single 1/2″drive deep socket with 6″ extension is apparently all I’ll need for the major suspension components. I’m hoping to avoid bolts backing out while bumping down the road by keeping them tightened at the manufacturers recommendations. Of course take a caulking gun and make sure to have tape and caulk for repairs. I’m also wondering if it’s worth keeping my electric buffer for waxing the trailer? And what about a small shovel, maybe a folding entrenching tool would work. I’ve got a heavier 25′ extension cord which will work, especially as I can pull out the generator if I need to be closer to something. Here is what I bought:

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Tekton 24335 1/2″ – 10 to 150 Pound Torque Wrench

Air Compressor: I own a pancake model with a small tank that is capable of the air pressures I would need. But it’s heavy and takes up space. I’ve looked at the popular Viair portable brand, but they are expensive and slow to inflate. I might get a smaller pancake model that has a tank now that I’m not running any air nailguns nor plan to use air tools. Finally figured out how to air up dual wheel tires and have the basic chucks for that, along with a quality air gauge attached to the air hose. Might write a blog post later on that. I’m not concerned with having a model that hooks to a car battery because we have a generator if needed. I’ll be taking another look at the hoses that are available, especially the space saving type. Although it makes since to go with what I have for now.  I also have a gun attachment that blows air which is invaluable for cleaning dusty parts and even blowing out the garage floor. Wonder if that might work for blowing off the tops of slides? (update 6/19/19 need to replace current pancake model which apparently is to old to inflate anything higher than 104 pounds.  I’ll sell the old one grouped with my nail guns).

Gas Powered Equipment: Figure these are not coming along but not sure yet.  We have a 3500 Watt gas generator already so will already be hauling around a few gallons of gas.  What about keeping my gas leaf blower and collapsible weed trimmer?  These two items come apart for storage. The leaf blower could come in handy for blowing off the slide tops or outside mat. I’ve stayed in more than one camping area that needed weeds trimmed.

Ladder and Stool:  Not technically a tool but something to consider. We have a two step folding stool to be used to reach high shelves in the RV and I use it to get in and out of the truck bed. Really thinking about keeping the two step stool in the camper and buying a shorter three step model to keep in the back of the truck. I also have a 12′ heavy folding Werner ladder. I’ve considered going to a collapsible ladder in place of the folding ladder:

Two steep

 

LadderLAdder 2

 

I’ve got a place at home we are storing tool and camper accessories we are not using right now. We plan to take several boxes with us when we pick up our fifth wheel from the dealership. There is time now to put all this together.

Karen and I were talking yesterday about pricing items for sale. We both agreed although we had paid X amount for something new we had, for lack of a better word, joy in using it. That joy cost something and the item is now worn. For me, some tools are harder to dispose of because even after years of usage they are not even close to worn out.  So when you are downsizing it might be helpful to keep in mind you had joy in owning and using something. You can always buy the same worn item again later at a yard sale or any of the same places you used to dispose of them.

Thanks for following along and providing comments. I’ve been shopping for a new truck hitch and still considering a truck bed cover for all the stuff we want to secure. More on all of that later.

Planning Update – Our Final Year

The clock is ticking down quickly. We expect to be off on our future in an RV by October and spending vacation time on the road before then.  So what are we up to regarding planning this close to take off?

Regarding the Truck: I replaced the front floor mats with the Husky X-Act Contour rubber mats. I also considered the Weather Tech brand but went with the Husky’s which are more rubbery and pliable for removal to clean. The feel of these mats are nice against our shoes. I am seriously considering adding a truck bed cover and plan to report back on that is a future post. Within reason, getting the truck ready to travel is important. I know we can finish it up later on the road and once we learn how we are using the bed space.  I’ve also selected the B&W as our hitch. Might buy that and install it in a couple months.

Regarding the RV: We decided to order a new Vanleigh Vilano 320GK. We both have been members of their unofficial Facebook Group where others have provided advise.  Karen and I agreed to a list of options and I contacted three dealership via email. So far we have pricing from two and are waiting for a third bid. I’ve corresponded with the local Factory Representative and the National Representative who have been incredible to work with. Build time right now is 10 to 12 weeks for delivery. We are looking forward to trips while on vacation and getting to know the trailer. More on this in an upcoming post as well.

Regarding Domicile:  This is a big one and right now we are down to Florida and Texas, having considered what other’s said are important factors such as available healthcare, taxes, vehicle licensing and insurance. I had planned to setup a mail service a couple months before we take off in order to start mail forwarding.  Having contacted a longtime RVer it was suggested before we settle on a state to contact an insurance agent for healthcare. We had wondered if we could get away with visiting family beginning in October and then heading to our domicile state in December to finish up the transition. He suggested transitioning from our current healthcare provider to a new one might effect the timing of the domicile move.

Regarding Tools:  I’ve been seriously looking into what tools I want to pack for the road. I suppose much of the decision has to do with how much I want to work on the camper and truck compared to hiring it out.  More on this topic later in a blog post for sure.

Regarding Cooking on the Road:  Over the past few months I really have enjoyed cooking on our Weber Q 1200. Keeping odors and sometimes heat outside the trailer is a good idea. Plus, I enjoy cooking outside especially as it gives Karen and break.  I had been wondering how to expand the food types we can cook on a common grill. After getting with a friend I purchased a set of BBQ mats. I’ve cooked bacon, eggs and all types of vegetables on these mats which are designed to sit on top of the grill grates, blocking food from falling through. The Weber and these mats have my vote of confidence for sure. Karen also found a roasting pan that sits on the grates used roast a whole chicken or ribs.

Grill Mat

Eggs – Make sure the grill is level 🙂

Roasting pan I used to cook a whole chicken

5.5 pound chicken came out perfect!

Regarding Budget:  I had updated our financial plan the last time in March of 2018, having adjusted it annually for several years.  Now that we are close to leaving, having made the truck purchase, getting bids on the RV, selling major assets and more the budget is more realistic. I’m happy to report we are within budget so far. I’m glad there have been no major surprises so far.  I’ve always been big on keeping track of the numbers in case we have to adjust something. For example when we built our current home if we were over budget in one area then we cut another. That way you don’t wait to the end when there is no chance of making up a deficit.

Regarding Preparing the House for Sale:  This has been hard because we are so busy. And we know that everything we have left to do can actually be condensed into a month or so of great effort. I’m guessing the closer we come to wanting to leave the harder we will work on the house. But, one piece at a time we are making progress. Boxes from work are full of stuff going into a future garage sale, a 5×10 storage unit, our future fifth wheel and family. We finished cleaning out our basement storage area and are now using it for box sorting.  Several rooms in the house have boxes sitting out for trash, burning and more. I’m happy with the progress but have to say, downsizing is always on my mind and is a major source of stress that’s hard to avoid.

Trailer Selection – Boondocking With Our New Generator

Last post I left everyone out in the open regarding what Karen and I have selected for what will become our new home.  I’m still working on the post regarding our fifth wheel selection. I’ll later attempt to bring together about four years of research which will explain our selection and perhaps give you something to think about during your own search.

Our trailer will be a Vanleigh Vilano 320GK fifth wheel. Here is a link to my 2016 blog post about it for those anxious to know more. The unit with options has changed over the years. I’ll highlight those later.

Vilano 320GK – Stock Photo

One of reason I delayed making this announcement was to get in touch personally with a few readers whom I’ve been corresponding with for a long time. Many have already bought their trailer. I wanted them to be the first to know. I’ve always tried to preface my research that it’s based off what is important to Karen and me. Other’s choices will be different. For those who have decided on their new fifth wheel or those still shopping, I hope my research has been usable and never misleading. We purposely waited years to make a final selection because each model year there are changes in what trailers are being built. The 35′ floor plan we selected, for example, came on the market last year and is now duplicated by four different companies. More on the trailer decision in next months blog posts.

Items we might use on the road which are influenced by technological changes for me are targets for delayed decision making. Perhaps even more than a new fifth wheel, which can often just be a revamping of an old floor plan, electronics change rapidly. Generators are in that group. There was no better time to buy a generator than before a trip to southern Missouri to spend time with my sister, boondocking in her wonderful new to her camper. I delayed the decision until it could wait no more.

Pull Start Generator

I’ll spare you the winded version of why I went with this generator.  The Champion pull start 3400 watt inverter generator is what I bought.

In short, I decided I did not want to take up any more room in the camper storage area than necessary, I did not want to spend $5500 on a self-contained unit that drains propane when in use, being able to operate a 15,000 BTU air conditioner was a necessity and I wanted the weight to be as light as possible. Of lessor concern for me was dual fuel (gas and propane), having to carry around a small gas can and having electric or remote start. I’ll add I was not particular fond of the idea that you could get two smaller units and hook them together for increased electrical capacity. That would mean taking care of two engines rather than one. It’s also an expensive option.

It’s worth noting some air conditioners, to include bedroom AC are 13,500 BTU. Ours will be 15,000 and the Champion 3100 Watt version of this generator may be borderline for running a larger AC.

It’s also worth noting if you decide on a remote start model it’s suggested you not start it with anything plugged into it. That’s in the Champion generator manual.  In other words, the remote start feature, where you can start it up to 80 feet away, will require you kill the main shut off in your camper before starting. Or not…

The dual fuel version may be more popular as well as having an electric start or remote start. I lifted all three models and the 3400 without the electric start is considerably lighter.  Other brands I considered were the Honda, Yamaha and Harbor Freight’s Predator.

The Honda 3000 inverter generator is a beast. A friend brought his over and I needed help lifting the 130 pounds. Another friend bought his Predator 3500 on sale as Harbor Freight frequently runs adds. The Predator is an economical choice.  I preferred the 3 year warranty that comes with the Champion.

We ran the Champion gas generator over-night to power a larger heater for three nights. I would not want to have to make the several trips that would have been required to re-fill a 20 pound propane bottle. Although had I purchased the dual fuel version there would have been the option to use gas.

I most liked the handle the 3400 Champion has. It’s like pulling around a cart. I could lift the 78 pounds in and out of the back seat of my car. Other models are heaver with their battery and push button start. It ran quiet and even comes with a 30 amp RV outlet.

Boondocking During Annual Festival

Mary has her trailer all decked out.

Karen still has a smile on her face after being able to decide between four trailers. She picked a version of the Vilano out four years ago and kept quite about what she wanted. Her happiness is priceless. I’m personally satisfied with the trailer which would not have made the final four had the new floor plan not recently come out.  I’ve read glowing reviews of Vanleigh’ s after-sales service. Most important!

How We Meetup with Fulltimers

Karen and I met up with our friends (for the third time) Kay and Russ from the Destination Unknown blog a couple weeks ago as they were traveling through the area on the way to Colorado. I was sorry to hear about the catastrophic frame failure on their last travel trailer. It was very informative to talk about how they replaced that trailer – during a trip! Karen and I both would drop what we are doing to meet the couple from New Hampshire as we consider them good friends. I could write an entire post of what we have learned from them about the fulltime RV lifestyle. Maybe someday they can be our tour guide while we follow them to a wonderful winter spot in Mexico. They participate in the Harvest Host program and have picked a scenic winery for boondocking while near Kansas City.

Russ found out there is 110 power on that pole for their usage!

Wonderful landscape – and no lawn mowing required.

Price for this view – nearly nothing with Harvest Host membership

And today Karen and I are driving to Topeka Kansas, the half-way point to meetup with Bill from the bkamericanodyssey blog. Kelly had to make a trip out of town. See ya on the road Kelly! They came to the area while Bill installs yet another solar system as he works with RV Solar Solutions.  Kelly – I’d planned to talk to you about a number of more advanced topics, such as using the Amazon Affiliates program. Hit you up about that later.

Meetup with Bill in Topeka Kansas right after this blog was posted.

It’s worth repeating that a good way to reduce the chance of failure is through planning.  “Piss poor planning leads to piss poor performance” to quote my Command Sgt. Major father. Be Prepared is the motto for us Eagle Scouts. And to a large degree this blog is about the planning process for becoming fulltime RV travelers. This blog started just as a place to park my notes. It’s become the gateway to developing wonderful relationships, from planning a meeting, sending long emails back and forth and more.

This post can only cover half the story. The other side will have to come from you fulltimers or others that might post in the comments section. The half story includes views from myself who is parked at our sticks and bricks home.  I could not come up with a do’s and don’ts list for meeting fulltimers – perhaps someone else can do that in their own blog. Top 10 lists seem to be a popular format. So I’ll just write about what comes to mind as I think through the topic.  I have a special message at the end of this post as well.

How We Generally Discover RV Travelers 

First the best source I’ve had for meeting fulltimers, and part-timers for that matter, is reading blogs. I’ve even poached a couple to meet from the blog comment sections. And some have contacted me first.

A majority of the blogs I’ve subscribed to are from those in the class of 2014. That was the year I began planning for what is happening next year when we go fulltime – yay. That class of 2014 had just finished up planning and had moved onto the road. Following their blogs from the near start has obvious advantages. I also bookmark several in my internet browser to go back to and read. And not to be stalking anyone, I’m a free to be member at RVillage where I have 21 friends as of today. I’m fairly selective about friends links but am always on the lookout for readers of this blog to be-friend as we have commons interests and are often at the same point in our planning.  Really like the mapping feature where with one click I can see where our friends are parked anywhere in the country. You can search the membership area for Mark and Karen to find us at RVillage.  I’m not much of a Facebook user, having an account for various reasons. That might have to change – or not.

How Our Initial Contact Usually Occurs

Generally there is an email link within other’s blogs or at RVillage. Sometimes it only takes responding to a readers comment in another’s blog. I’ve considered it an advantage that we live in Kansas City which is part of the country fulltimers usually “fly-over” as their perspective might be there are better places to see when in Missouri such as Branson and St. Louis. Offering to be a tour guide while in town is a way of giving back for their time and frankly is enjoyable. Generally the second time we have contact I try and give them my phone number and email. That way they can select the best method that works for them to contact me. Email, texting and phone calls come at various intervals. The majority will send emails until they are in town and then switch off to text messaging. Don’t get in a panic if they don’t respond the same day. Remember, the lifestyle is often about slowing down and enjoying the journey. 

Firm Commitments Are Usually Not Part of the Plan at First

You have heard it before, plans are made in jello. Things change, emergencies come up, sometime we get sick and sometimes we just change our minds and want the day to ourselves. In no way would I want to cause someone to go out of their way because of a sense of obligation. We have changed or cancelled plans as late as the day of our visit. I’m totally okay with that. See ya next time is a phrase we all should use.

Where to Meet and What to See

Be prepared to make a drive if it’s needed. Today, we are meeting Bill at a half-way point to cut the drive down for both. Some ask for suggestions in selecting an RV park. I keep a list of the local spots that I’ve researched for not only their benefit but for ours during expected longer stays when we come home. Sometimes they even have a better idea that makes my list. Most prefer a certain type of atmosphere such as a State Park. If they ask for a recommendation they usually have a list from their own research. Knowing the area for shopping, closeness to attractions, traffic patterns and maybe even ease of getting in with a large trailer is advise I can help with.  I feel I should be the one to offer flexibility in meeting times, after all I’m not the one dragging my house to a new area.

I’ve learned that 95% of the time they have their own ideas as to what they might like to tour, or a restaurant they want to check out. If I’m asked for suggestions I usually point them towards special places they can only see here such as a national museum, a Kansas City BBQ joint, or a special historical location.  Leave it up to them to ask. I generally offer to be the tour guide if it’s a place both Karen and I want to see, otherwise I’ll decline spending the day with them. We especially like to meet-up at their RV for a tour and in those cases try and always bring food with us. Personally I also prefer to buy lunch if we decide on a restaurant. And to drive – in our family car – if we decide to check out a site together. I know it can be awkward when you first begin setting up the meeting. I truly mean it when I let them know we are flexible and will leave the decision up to them. Lastly, sometimes these plans begin months ahead as folks are making their way across the country. There is no need for constant contact along the way. They let us know if their plans change.

The Day of the Meeting

Most of this is common sense.  We have a meeting spot and time, usually coordinated through texting. I’m big on letting someone know if we are going to be late by 15 minutes or more. Generally we have already decided if we are meeting at their RV and leaving for lunch or a tour. Sometimes we just sit around talking about RV stuff and then decide to go somewhere. If we are meeting in public, such as a local farmers market, I describe what we are wearing or our car. Sometimes we just meet under a sign or in front of a building. Once the meeting is coming to an end, some will be staying another day or two and touring the local attractions. I personally never offer to tag along. Once our new friends even came out to the house later that evening. Really enjoyed the extra time and sharing a homecooked meal. And every now and then I’ll come up with a special stop along the way or coming back from a restaurant when we drive. A spot they may have not been looking for such as a wonderful city scape or extraordinary water fountain or little known historic spot. I’ll first ask if they have time to run by there and by now hope they feel comfortable to say no.

After the Meeting

Friends for life – or at least the best you can be until we see ya next time. And for sure really adds special meaning when you read their blog, or see a post on social media or their name comes up in another forum. And for sure, a good point of contact when you are researching a topic. After all, those fulltimer and part-timers really are as close to an expert that you can find. Thank you all for the times we have had so far. 

And now for a special announcement!

Actually it’s one of those check back later for the full story thing. Karen and I have finally selected a fifth wheel trailer. It’s may not be what many are expecting. Our plans are to buy it early this coming spring. Four units made it to the top of our list. My sister had a wonderful idea. Let Karen pick it from the four from the research. Karen and I have been in every one of our top four models and the specific floor plan twice. I purposely waited these nearly four years to narrow the list to a few trailers. Why? Because floor plans and companies constantly change. For us, we are trying to buy our third trailer first. It’s expensive to change your mind later and trade these suckers in. The depreciation hit in the first five years can be terrible unless you buy a new trailer at an awesome price or find a decent used one.

I’m not ready to announce the specific fifth wheel because I’m planning a decent blog post on the reasons for the selection. Thank you again to my sister for the great idea to propose the four trailers to Karen that made the top four list. They were so close in scoring I could live with all four. Karen took all of about 5 seconds to point to the one she wants. Now I wish she would pick the truck.  Hmm, just thought of that one.

See ya next time! Thanks for reading, commenting and the emails.

Mark from Missouri