Bought an Outdoor Grill and Table

Okay, so I know it’s not always good to go out and buy a lot of stuff for your RV until you actually own it and discover how you like to use it. Just not sure I agree to wait for some purchases, especially if you can use them immediately. Fortunately I also have time to do the research and wait for items to go on sale.

I kept some notes on a separate page to refer back to.  Here’s the page if you are interested. Otherwise following is a quick summary.

Went with the Weber Q 1200. Karen and I saw them go on sale at Walmart last year around September at a huge discount. So we watched for a sale this year and picked one up for about 30% off. Living in our sticks and bricks does come with a side benefit of having time to wait and shopping local stores for deals.

I already had an extension for a propane line and an extra propane tank, although the grill can run off the small disposable bottles.

I like the fact this grill has a thermostat, built-in shelves on the sides and electronic ignition. So far we cooked steak, bratwurst and thick pork chops. Came out perfect with the food tasting better than I could have expected.

A runner up during the search was the Blackstone 17″ griddle. In the end I figured it would be hard to cook a whole chicken on it and we can add griddle plates to the Webber or just cook griddle type food on the stove in in the kitchen. Although watching my sister Mary cook breakfast in a frying pan on a conventional gas outdoor grill is a sight to behold.

Blackstone 17″ griddle

The table is an all aluminum Coleman. Caught that on sale as well as I had time to wait. It rolls up into a small bag. I found out about them after I posted on the forums for advise. We may also be looking out for a 5′ folding table as our 4′ table is trashed.  When we are setup in a campground for a couple days we like having a longer table under the awning without dragging a big wood picnic table under it.

Once we get our fifth wheel, and I’m still working fulltime, we plan to equip it before we hit the road fulltime. Maybe in a couple years I’ll look back and see how that worked out.

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Coffee Anyone?

Let’s take a moment to discuss a most important topic – coffee…

I’ve been looking over our arsenal of products we use to make the “perfect” cup of coffee.  It’s no trivial event here on the Seneker ponderosa. We switched over to the Keurig system years ago and figured out a way to make my own single serve cups. Not just because of the price of the coffee pods, but to allow use of our own selection of coffee. 

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Look at our bottom freezer drawer, full of different coffee brands if you think I’m not serious about the topic.

 

 

I believe I’ve found the perfect method to make my own K Cups.  I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, here is a look at the experiments that lead to my current method.

Foil lids

Started out purchasing boxes of full K Cups and recycling them. Dumping out the old coffee grounds and washing out the cup and filter. Then using foil discs that are ironed onto the old plastic cups once filled with whatever coffee brand we were drinking at the time. If I had a stack of recycled cups I could iron on 30 lids in five minutes. And not even ruin Karen’s clothing iron doing it!

Then decided to skip the iron trick and just buy thin plastic lids that snap on recycled cups.  I get about three reuses of each lid. But added another step which was washing the lids along with a second recycling of used cups. Spraying water all over the area around the sink.

 

And finally, drifting to my current system for making our own K Cups. I purchased these reusable plastic mesh cups. And small filters to go along with them. You can place coffee directly in the cups without filters. However using the filters makes cleanup as easy as pulling the used filter/coffee and replacing it.

 

Now for the next decision. Knowing space is limited in our future RV home, what do we keep making coffee with? 

Figure we will keep the Keurig and maybe add something to use over an outside burner  when we don’t have electrical service. I assume if you have installed an inverter in your rig you can run a coffee maker off batteries when not on electrical hookup? 

Coffee Pot inside

 

I’m trying not to purchase anything new and just go on the road with what we have. But I may just scrap it all and purchase an electric pot with a metal carafe that holds heat all day.

And maybe use our existing single burner gas stove and buy a stainless pot for outside usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

Cargo Capacity

One specification that will get a fifth wheel knocked off the short list of what we would buy are those with a lighter cargo capacity. Since first starting to research trailers in late 2014 I consistently read 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity or more is suggested for fulltime RV living. A quick check of nine full-timer rigs, who weighed their trailers and posted results, averaged closer to 3,448 of cargo capacity.  Some say their next trailer will have way more than that. I would really appreciate your opinions on the matter!

For us we might be hauling around the following “extra” items:

  • Full grey and black tanks at times: We plan to boondock at times so I could see hauling in fresh water and adding to that tank from jugs. If we are looking at trailers having in the range of 75 grey water capacity and 45 black water I suppose just the water in these tanks if full would be 996 pounds. What’s the chances of having to haul that any distance outside a camping area to dump? I have considered we might purchase a blue boy. We have stayed at electric only sites and found not having to worry about water or sewer connections for shorter stays is a bonus.
  • Hobby items for entertainment: We are not yet sure of what hobbies we might haul around with us. Board games, bikes and tent camping equipment. We already own an inflatable kayak and love it. I’d think all that could add up to less than 200 pounds. And Karen loves real books she can hold in her hands so we are going to haul a few around.
  • Extra battery and maybe solar someday: Although we are leaning towards an RV gas/electric refrigerator we might go with a residential. For sure we are starting off with at least two batteries. If we add a solar system we could see adding several more batteries. At 60 pounds apiece or so that can add up. Six batteries could be around 360 pounds plus the solar panels and components.
  • Washing machine: Karen wants at least a combo washer/dryer for smaller loads of laundry. We have used the ones in campgrounds and she is thinking it would be convenient to have a unit in the trailer. I’d rather just have two weeks worth of clothing and haul it to a laundry twice a month. That adds 148 pounds. I don’t view any compromise as reasonable if both persons can’t live with it. In this case if she wants a combo unit then we are getting it.
  • Generator: For sure we will have at least a portable setup that can power up to one air conditioner. That adds about 94 pounds. And if we were to go with a full size 5500 watt propane unit that would add about 279 pounds.

These above items total at least 1,973 pounds. We could see having a few other lighter weight amenities we read about such as solar shades that hang from the edge of the awning, a screened room for the picnic table and such. From what I understand when an RV manufacturer lists the estimated cargo capacity in their advertising the weight assumes what comes with the basic build. The advertised cargo limit does not include optional equipment such as a second outside awning, backup camera and more that are of lighter weight. But what about upgraded insulation packages, larger propane tanks, a heavier pin or whatever?

Realistically one should be able to compromise and just be willing to give up what would not fit within the weight limits. We can do that. But I’ve read where people can’t fill half their cabinets because of weight capacity limits. Or they found out they enjoyed Rving so much they were going full time and only had a couple hundred pounds capacity remaining, having used their trailer for extended stays.  In one extreme I read where a motorhome technically did not have the carrying capacity to haul all the passengers.

I started this year looking at 38 trailers with the basic floor plan we were interested in which is a rear living room fifth wheel. The list is now 24, chiefly because the floor plan comes with less than 3,000 pound of cargo capacity. More importantly, this knocked out a few serious brand names which are trailers commonly used for full timing.

We are going with a dual wheel truck and I suppose one needs to research methods of storing items on the truck rather than the trailer.

Am I thinking in the wrong direction on this one?

(8/17/17) Update: The more I read about possible upgrades to a trailer and the stories people tell about being over weight, the more I want to go with a high cargo capacity trailer. For example, for those of you who might want to upgrades your suspension, tires, axles brakes and such, read this forum thread.

(9/3/17) Another update: I’ve been zooming in on the labels for various trailers as I pull up photos. I’ve found a few that advertise X amount of cargo capacity on the manufacturers website, which I know is an average figure. However, the actual labels of any given trailer might show less cargo capacity. I assume this is because of all the options such as heavy dual pane windows. It still remains reasonable, I’d think, a trailer that starts with a larger cargo capacity will be left with the greatest capacity after the options are installed.


July 13, 2017 the 100,000th Keystone Montana rolled off the factory line.


Good video compilation on what we wish we knew before we started Rving from seven full-timers.

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

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

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

flint-hills-map

Drove Through the Kansas Flint Hills

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bought an Inflatable Kayak

Karen and I decided to brave the Labor Day crowds at the local state park to try out our new inflatable kayak. Having a portable hobby will be nice while we travel as it will provide yet another way to explore. Paddling should also be a great way to exercise.

I spent loads of time researching inflatable boats and accessories such as life vests and water proof bags. Here is a link to my notes if you’re interested.

The boat dealer suggested we inflate the kayak overnight to check for any problems before we took it to the lake.  Of course, photos were in order even if it’s at dry dock (our basement).

Although the Sea Eagles FastTrack 385 is rated for class two whitewater, we plan to stick with open lakes while we learn to paddle. Fortunately, there are two lakes within 30 minutes of our home. I found a nice map with descriptions of places to kayak at Paddle.net.

Sea Eagle FastTrack

We left the camera in the car so we did not get any photos while on the lake. The boat performed like a champ! Took 20 minutes to set it up and then another 45 minutes when others at the dock wanted to look the boat over before we could got it in the water. We were amazed at how fast we could go with two people paddling.  We were also able to quietly move up to a few birds who were busy fishing which was awesome.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments. We are totally new to kayaking and would appreciate any suggestions you can offer.

RV Batteries – An Update

I had forgotten to report what RV batteries we might go with once we get our rig. I had mentioned this within an earlier blog post. Shawn at ktmissouri.blogspot.com, recommended we start off with two batteries which is what we will do.

Here is a link to my notes on batteries if you’re interest.

 

Tour of the Columbus Fifth Wheel

Karen and I met friends at a local restaurant that happened to be down the street from a Liberty Missouri RV dealership. We are hoping to find a couple floor plans we like which is step three out of seven in our search for the nearly perfect home. So we drifted over to the dealership and spent time looking at Palomino’s Columbus fifth wheels.  Palomino has been around since the late 1960’s and is now owned by Forest River.

On a side note, I had figured the last step in purchasing our rig would be buying the truck.  I’m now leaning towards getting the truck first knowing the trailers we are considering are under 20,000 pounds in gross weight and by then we should have a couple trailers in mind that we would buy. I’ll explain this decision in a future blog post related to transitioning from a stick and brick home to a trailer. My seven steps to selecting a trailer are:

  1. Decide on budget.check-mark-md (2) (update 11/20/16 – we are considering increasing the budget)
  2. Fifth wheel vs Motor Home?check-mark-md (2)
  3. Then decide on floor plan and basic needs (such as 4 season rig) of a “full time” unit.
  4. Then decide what manufacturers build the floor plan or close to it.
  5. Then decide which of several manufacturers appear to have best quality for price and the best after purchase service.
  6. Reduce selection to one manufacturer and buy new or used depending on budget.
  7. Select a truck capable of pulling the rig with a safety margin.

I’ll get to my notes about the Columbus shortly.  In the rating system I’m using it comes in at 167 points out of a possible 260 which makes the Columbus, for our wants and needs, one of the lowest rated.

Last Christmas I bought a family member one of those gifts that you want to keep for yourself. Well, after nearly eight months thinking about it and at least a few incidents needing one, I bought a portable jump starter power pack for myself. What took so long to decide is the notion Karen and I are limiting what we buy knowing we will be disposing of our stuff and hitting the road in a few years.  I also try and avoid buying camping gadgets thinking we will need them later.  A friend at work bought a similar power pack more than a year ago and highly recommended getting one. He has jump-started several cars and never recharged it. This included a diesel engine. I checked the specs on his power pack and went a couple sizes larger in terms of battery capacity and cold cranking amps. Two weeks after the purchase Karen’s car would not start. Not a problem. I opened the engine hood and 30 seconds later she was on her way to the store. I threw the power pack in the back seat after showing her how to use it.  No more having to fetch an extra vehicle to jump start the car. No more having to worry about getting close enough to jump start a car. And as a bonus we can charge our phones, have a handy flashlight and a very bright blinking LED light as a warning devise. I bought the power pack at Amazon because Walmart had a limited selection.

Regarding the Columbus fifth wheel. It comes in two variations, one being the better equipped Columbus and the other being the Compass model.  Frankly, in this price point the Forest River Cedar Creek or Cardinal may be a better option for full time living. Here are my notes on the 2017 Columbus 320RS 38’ rear living room (video) for those interested:

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