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.

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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

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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:

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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