Trip to Michigan via Nashville – Visit with Fulltimers and RV Shopping

Karen and I finished up a trip to see her mother and family in Howell Michigan a couple weeks ago. We first stopped off in Nashville Tennessee to pick up her brother who joined us on the trip. Unfortunately we did not have much time to spend in Nashville touring. Karen’s brother is a professional musician and has lived in Nashville for years.  Figure we will make an extended trip there in the future. I’ve already got some ideas for a campground which is Seven Points Campground, a Corp of Engineer Park.

Karen ran off shopping with her sister and mother in Michigan while I took a couple day trips.

Ryan and Deanne from California

Montana with Nice Ram

For quite a while I’ve been sending emails back and forth to a reader of this blog. Ryan and Deanne are from California. Ryan is originally from Michigan and as luck would have it they were in town visiting his father. So off to the south of Detroit I drove for a day trip. I got a grand tour of their wonderful 2018 rear living room, 35′ Montana 3120RL. And a ride in their new beautiful Ram truck that’s equipped for maximum towing with 4:10 gears, dual rear wheels, Aisin transmission and the high-output Cummins diesel engine. We drove to a local joint for Coney style hotdogs which is apparently a Detroit original. As would seem to always be the case, when meeting fellow lovers of RV’s, it took only a few minutes to feel like I’d known the couple for a while. Great conversation for sure. Thank you Ryan for all the valuable conversation in-person and through the internet! Thank you Deanne for the tour or your home. She had a list of what she would change in this fifth wheel. Wonderful input for us who are still looking to buy one.  As a side note, one of the things I like about the Montana is the very large user group. The Montana Owner’s Forum is huge.

My second day trip was to the Haylett RV dealership in Coldwater Michigan. Home of my favorite RV tour videos and one of several dealerships we might buy from if we go with the Montana. Although I’ve known three people who bought their Montana fifth wheels at Lake Shore in Muskegon Michigan. It’s the volume – lowest price dealership. All three seemed to have had good experiences.

While at Haylett RV I was able to compare the 2019 Montana with the newer 2019 Anniversary Edition.  Funny how in just a few months there have already been two significant changes to the same 2019 trailer! I’ve also been reading Keystone is incorporating more technology in their upcoming fifth wheels. That will be the third significant change in one year! So far they plan to hardwire cellular and WIFI into the trailer using some kind of Furrion system.  Here is part of the news bulletin:

“At the end of September, Keystone RV Company will launch another industry first, all Keystone RVs will be 4G LTE and WiFi ready, standard. New Furrion technology offers an antenna that integrates 4G LTE and Wi-Fi with standard VHF/UHF/AM/FM reception. WiFi and cellular signals are routed to a wall-mounted base inside the trailer.”

The trip to Michigan from Tennessee lead us through Kentucky. This was the first time I’d been on Interstates through south to north Kentucky. I was impressed with the scenery. Karen’s brother Steve had made the trip a number of times and alerted us to an upcoming view of Cincinnati Ohio as it entered our view on Interstate 75/71. I cut some photos out of Google Maps that don’t do it justice. Basically, as you approach from the south, down a hill there is a curve. As you make the curve Cincinnati’s tall downtown buildings suddenly come into view.

Here is the view approaching Cincinnati

WAIT FOR IT

 

 

Bam! As soon as you come around the corner the city appears.

North of Cincinnati is Jeff Couch’s RV Nation’s Dealership. Home of the low price volume dealer for the Forest River Cedar Creek. A trailer which has a ton of changes for 2019. Most importantly is their introduction of a 35′ trailer in direct competition with the Montana 3120RL. Wish we would have had time to stop to look over the new model. Karen likes the double bowl sinks in the Cedar Creek which come at the expense of a deep pantry.

Keystone Montana 3120RL

Forest River Cedar Creek 34IK

So that now makes a total of four RV companies who are building our top floor plan. The others are Vanleigh with their Vilano 320GK or Beacon 34RLB and Grand Design’s Solitude 310GK. Subtle differences in some parts and major difference in others among the four trailers. I’ll not get into that unless someone asks in the comments section. If you are looking for a 35′ “luxury” fifth wheel, these are the four we looked at.

We drove four days on this trip with a little over 500 miles between destinations each way. Karen and I really enjoyed the quick brake from our sticks and bricks home. We both still can’t wait to get on the road sometime next year. Till then we keep downsizing and fixing up the house.

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You and I

As I begin writing, I’m having trouble coming up with a title for this blog post. So I’ll just wait until it’s written and see what falls out.

We all have so much in common this I know.  I’ve been spending time watching YouTube video and reading blogs in search of content where the author is at the same junction in life – one year from a major change. I’m sure you can relate. It’s fun to have already passed the earlier stages of planning where one learns basic things such as STOP BUYING STUFF you cannot later sell or take in an RV.  Or there is no perfect RV or floor plan or truck or whatever.  Most of our choices are just that – our choices.  Some of us have to over-think it all and prove it to ourselves.

You, Me & the RV is a YouTube channel of some newbies.  I’m thinking it is going to be a good one if you want to check it out. I’m trying to learn from folks like them so I know what to anticipate and try to avoid or duplicate.

Karen and especially me started planning September of 2014 for an anticipated take off date in 2023.  No surprise that date moved up to 2019. Everyone told me it would.  I’ve been using a series of critical dates to help me get past wanting to leave now.  Most of those dates had to do with savings, paying off debt and such. Here is a good one.. I turned 55 years old on August 13th. Another critical date because I decided in my early 30’s that 55 would be the dream age where I’d do whatever I wanted in life. Rather than following a typical trajectory of work till 65, retire, have a few years of health to fix my house and have the best yard in the neighborhood, travel a week or so at a time uncomfortably, move into assisted care and then a six foot by thirty inch condo in the ground. No thank you…  I’ve got a couple more critical dates in mind that will help get me to the finish line. Next spring is going to be a wonderful time around this household.

Not to get off topic, but do any of you other bloggers have a problem with the “I” word or is that just me?  This person (I) am always trying to find a way to replace the letter because it seems self serving, braggadocios and self centered.  After more thought, so what..  It often is the perfect letter for the job so bear with me now and forever when I use it.

A couple emotions have come up in the past few weeks I’d like to share. Not sure why but seems like the right thing to do. You full time RVer’s have been through them and I’m figuring at the same point in the plan I’m in.  First is a little bit of anxiety that I can feel in my chest if I give it much thought. This anxiety is not related to the process but anxiousness to get it all done. I’m so glad we started years ago. Second, I know there are some critical dates that are approaching where this is about to get real. Such as putting the house on the market.

I went to the doctor some time ago for a checkup. I call it my “fit to retire” checkup. Just making sure all systems are a go before I loose paid sick leave and better health insurance.  So far so good. Although I’ve got the final check-up planned for this coming Wednesday which is a cardiac stress test.  Been through it before so no big deal.  Doctor says my symptoms are stress related but just wants to make sure.  I’m sure the discomfort will go away once I’m off the job and on to something real.  Better get the test anyway says the doctor. If I start thinking about all there is to be done and all the crap at work the feelings become uncomfortable so I try to occupy my mind elsewhere. Update on the chest discomfort: Dr. had me get a CT scan called at calcium scan. Cheap at only $60. The scan also checks for masses in the area as well as clogs. 100% zero issues there.  Talked to a guy at work about it and he reminded me I stopped chewing tobacco last April. He had the same issues when he stopped. Go figure he’d know more than the Dr. on this one, but worth the tests anyway. I went to Walmart and bought some 2 mg nicotine gum for the very stressful times. It worked to a large degree and now I focus on recognizing the stress coming on and finding a better way to cope with it rather than focusing on my concern there is something medically wrong.

Okay so I’ll get past the anxiety of the present, this I know. It’s all mental and there are critical dates in the future that will come and go along with the stress of them. But what about the unknown and for the first time shifting to a more carefree and unscripted lifestyle? With the first really big step being placing our home on the market early next year. We have that to look forward to as well as the “what the heck have we done” once it sells.  I know there is and will be a phycological component to all of this. Each of us is able to handle it a little differently but with similar results. I know my ability to cope with it is based on past experience, the current environment and mental health. We just seem to get past it after a few very stressful emotions.

I continue to enjoy the blogs I started reading years ago. Many of you are in your fourth year on the road and have put miles upon miles on their rigs. I even continue to follow blogs where you have come off the road and are living in your exit plan.  Some bloggers have just disappeared. I assume they were having to much fun and are in a Mexican prison.

Human nature really is predictable isn’t it?  Karen and I have met a few of you personally and it takes all of about five minutes to get comfortable enough to talk about anything. Some we have met more than once and consider our new friends for the foreseeable future. Hope you are seeing some similarities in my emotions at this stage in the process as it was for you.  I also hope you are thinking to yourself about what Karen and I have coming in the process in terms of emotion. Because if we are thinking alike then I know this is all part of it and it shall pass.

I was planning to write about more downsizing stuff. We can actually hear echoes in some of the rooms in our house as stuff disappears. But I now have a title for this blog in mind so I’ll just end it.

Weekend of Downsizing and Painting

Today was our family reunion which is held annually in Southern Missouri. I decided to stay home this year. Weekends are valuable commodities around here. Especially with just about a year left before we move on to the great RV adventure. Spent the time downsizing and painting.

Selling the motorcycle is among four things I’d like to get done before purchasing our dually truck.  Selling the hot tub happened a few weeks ago. Yesterday the motorcycle left the driveway and I was not riding it!   SOLD…

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This was one of many bikes I’ve owned. Had one since I was 18 years old. This latest bike was a big 1500cc which Karen and I much enjoyed riding through the scenic hills that surround our home. Sold it to a friend of a friend. I’ve actually had good luck selling stuff to co-workers and their friends. They all know we are leaving next year.  Sold a freezer to a co-worker’s daughter. She thanked us for the great deal, how clean the freezer was and the fact she had a young family and can now shop for bulk foods.  Win – Win deal for sure.

I should add an update regarding the truck I found in Springfield Missouri. It sold before I had a chance to make a move on it.  Was not meant to happen I’m sure. A part of me really wants to stick to a schedule leading to the purchase. However, after a lot, and I mean a lot, of shopping around I can say it’s fairly difficult to find a decent used truck equipped the way you want for hauling heavy loads. If I had to do it all over again, I’d figure out a way to be in a better position financially to buy a truck when I find it. We are debt free as of last January and I really don’t want to change that with a truck loan.  Meanwhile, our truck fund is growing so that’s a good thing.

I’ve been surfing the web for new blogs to read.  It’s an easy search in that for the most part I just hop over to blogs I follow and look at their list of other blogs they happened to follow. Especially from the list of bloggers who happened to be over-planners like myself. Here is a list of blogs I follow in case you are looking for a few to read.  I have several more bookmarked and check in on them every couple months.

At this point in planning what works good for me is to take a look at a blogger’s lists of past postings, selecting one that is written in the same time period we are at right now. For example, as we are into heavy downsizing and selling stuff off, I tend to be attracted to those pages. Finding all kinds of tricks and hints others are using. A blogger mentioned using Freecycle.org to get rid of personal belongings. Although the program is international, our local group does not appear to be very large. Check it out for your area. Basically, Freecycle is a not-for-profit created years ago to reduce the amount of materials going to landfills. Everything listed is free for the taking or giving. Another lead I got off a blog was Bagster.com. Here you buy very large bags and a boom truck comes around to haul them off.  Might be cheaper than a dumpster. Personally, I may just borrow a dump trailer from a friend once we have our truck for a trip to the local landfill. Already did the dumpster thing back in June when at the time we had plenty to fill it.  Dumpster are so convenient.

As I wrote earlier, we skipped the family reunion this year and spent time painting on the outside of the house. Believe I’ll never use a paint brand again other than Sherwin-Williams. It may sound funny but I had it down as a goal to paint one side of the house each year for the past four years. I’m behind schedule. Thankfully we are painting everything the same color and using a high quality paint so one coat coverage may be the time saver we are needing.  Karen read where if you paint something blue it will cut down on the number of bugs that cling to a surface. It works.. She painted the ceiling of our porch as an experiment a few years ago. 

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I repainted the blue ceiling with the local Ace Hardware paint she had originally used. Took about 25% more effort compared to the better Sherwin-Williams paint I’ve been using on the remainder of the house. You can’t see the blue ceiling from the street or sidewalk for that matter. So it does not stand out unless you are underneath it. Then it’s rather attractive.

I’ve sold three houses I’ve lived in. I painted all three.  A brush and roller are the main tools in my opinion after trying all the gadgets.  I really like the How to Paint a House Videos for tutorials. And here is a video on cleaning a roller and paint brush. This guy has it right. I personally don’t use a wire brush to clean a paint brush unless it has a lot of dry paint on it and then I also apply paint thinner. If you trust your method to clean a brush and roller completely then it’s not so hard to swallow the price of a decent roller and brush.

We are hiring a contractor to paint a taller side of the house because I don’t have the proper ladders for that. And now that I’m old I don’t bounce very well when falling off ladders.

We have one other blue ceiling in our home. I know it can be risky to “experiment” with colors in a home when you are looking to sell. We certainly have appreciated the differences while living here.  We added the sunroom maybe 10 years ago. The ceiling is vaulted so you don’t see it until you are in the room.

It’s a little difficult to see in these photos. From our kitchen you walk into the sunroom through a cased opening seen in the left photo. The photo on the right is the blue ceiling. This is actually a relatively expensive option for paint. Because it’s applied by the drywaller. First you paint the ceiling a flat color. Blue in this case, although a pale yellow is beautiful as well. Then the drywaller adds white paint with his ceiling texture before spraying it on the ceiling. Really gives the room an open and airy feeling.

Karen enjoys this room on a daily basis. When we starting using our third bedroom/office for a staging area to sort junk, she moved her desk into the sunroom. Now she gets to look across the back yard towards the treed hillside. Next year we both should have views like that – out our future RV windows.

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Karen’s view from her desk – Nice

Karen says our cousin Kathy posted photos of the family reunion. Believe I’ll head over to Facebook to check them out.

Garage Sale Success

Well, we finished up our two day garage sale and deemed it a success. Both financially and just getting rid of stuff.  We had purchased a package with 1000 stickers that had prices stamped on them. I’d say based on the number of stickers remaining we sold off at least 400 items of various sizes. Thought I’d share a few observations about the sale.

We actually found it less of a challenge to decide what would go in the sale than we thought it would be. Especially on the emotional side of giving up stuff. That may have been made easier because it’s not our final sale and we have come to an agreement a 5×10 storage unit could later house, at least for a while, items we are not willing to part with or are not sure if we will need it on the road. Boy did I have a few questions to ask others about what we should keep for the road. Fortunately, an opportunity came up where I had to travel to Joplin Missouri for work. Our good friends and full time RV’ers Cheri and Dean were parked in their home town. Cheri writes the Travels with Bentley Blog. I took a detour on the way home to pay them a visit. Not just to ask questions but to see how they were doing. They kept a larger storage unit after selling their house. I ran a list of items past Dean, asking if we should keep them for the road. The couple are doing good and preparing for their trip north to see family and more.

I’ll just bullet point a few comments about the sale:

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  • We advertised on Craigslist, Facebook and the local paper. Taking into account the households within a 10 mile radius of us, I’m thinking the advertising could have reached up to 35,000 homes.  We are also fortunate to live on a corner lot with a major street so a well placed sign pointed folks to our home.  We had plenty of customers. Surprisingly this also turned out to be a great way to meet neighbors we had never spoken with in the past. We also received cards in the mail from local realtors asking to be interviewed or considered as an agent once we get ready to sell the house. One of our adds mentioned we would be selling the house next year.  That add also had an unanticipated effect at work! Several fellow employees apparently read the add and asked others what was up, was I leaving now. Not a big deal for me but something you might want to think about should you advertise for your own sale someday.

 

  • Items over $60 in price did not sell well. People were looking for deals. I’ll not go into the details of how to setup garage sale displays as I’m sure you can find that advice online. We moved all the leftover large items to one side of the garage and will post them individually on Craigslist.  That got me to wondering if it would have been a good idea to have posted them for sale on Craigslist or Facebook, individually, prior to the sale. Then just use the sale date to have people show up to buy. The lack of selling more expensive items has us worried how we should plan our final sale, when way more expensive or larger items are to be sold off. I’ll talk about that in a few moments.
  • A good way to look up what you might want to price something at is not to use a laptop for searching. Use you phone’s voice to text feature and just ask “eBay or Home Depo (fill in the blank)”. The Google search should pull up what others are selling the same item for and if they had any bids on the item. We priced most everything below the online price because we wanted to get rid of it.
  • We essentially have a three car garage with two overhead doors. We moved everything that was not for sale behind an area draped with tarps hanging from a soffit. We moved all our shelving from inside the house to the garage to setup displays. The shelving will be sold in the next sale. I sent a text to a neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use. He volunteered to get four 10′ tables from his church where only a small deposit was needed to insure the tables came back in good shape. Steve even hauled them to and from the church for us. Karen and I plan to take Steve and his wife to dinner as a way of saying thank you. He also has a power washer I can clean our concrete with – score!
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Cleaning Station

  • By far the most time consuming part was cleaning everything. We setup a washing station outside and a bucket with stool in the garage.  I used Windex and a rag for a few final touches. I also bought a can of black spray paint for a couple lawn mower attachments that had been in one of our two storage sheds.
  • We planned for the sale to begin at 8:00 am but opened the doors earlier. Friday was full of what I’d call professional garage sale shoppers. I asked a couple if our prices seemed reasonable based on their experience. The answer was yes and they were impressed how we organized everything.
  • Here’s a big reason the sale was so successful – we started Saturday morning by posting signs that everything was 50% off the labeled price. We had watched people looking over items on Friday that had not sold. We also wanted to give the people who were at work on Friday a chance at finding a few bargains. As expected, more than once I heard someone on Saturday say something similar to; “well I don’t need this but for the price I’d better buy it.”  After all, the goal was to get rid of stuff!
  • We decided not to make any donations to charities who resale goods – yet.
  • We pushed our shelving together and put a tarp over the leftovers for the next sale. There are a few other leftovers stored in boxes in our basement as well. Lot of totes were freed up to go in our future fifth wheel basement later!
  • A good trick to get ride of stuff that might not sell individually is to throw it in a box with other stuff. Charge a single price for the entire box.  Good thing we saved up a few boxes for that. During setup I had several boxes pre-marked for sorting. Those boxes were labeled HVAC and Plumbing,  Electrical, Nuts and Bolt, Electronics.  I made sure to have at least one good item in plain view in the box to encourage someone to buy the entire box just to get the good item.
  • Another special category worth mentioning is books.  We priced hard covers at $2 and soft covers at .50 cents regardless of actual value.  Karen loves her books and said they are hard to let go of. We arranged them by subject, sometimes stacked on the top shelf. We found people would buy most of the same group of books by subject. We have thought about donating some to local RV parks where we know they have books in their library for campers to enjoy or trade other books for.

A few final points:

I was worried we might sell something that was a gift from a family member. That stayed on my mind because I don’t want to be ungrateful. One suggestion I’d heard was if this is an issue then call the family member and let them know you enjoyed the gift but now our lifestyle had changed. Offer to give them the gift back or see if they would be offended if we sold it.  That might come up in our final sale.

I should not have put any money into fixing anything up. I should have just sold it as is. Specifically, I’m thinking adding new parts to an old BBQ grill would not have been required to sell it. People who know a good grill when they see it already are aware they can order the replacement parts and could have looked up the price for those parts. I made $10 on a great grill that would have sold for maybe $50 as is.

I want to thank my sister Donna, who lives hours away from us, for sending her friends to the sale via Facebook Messenger.  And Mary, thank you so much for the offer to help setup the sale. We had it under control or would for sure have needed the help. There is a chance we will take you up on the offer at our next sale.

And speaking of our next sale. A dilemma has developed. Do we host a larger “garage sale” or hire/hold an estate sale?  Knowing now that more expensive items do not sell, in our area at least, at a typical garage sale? Also knowing an estate sale requires more extensive and experienced setup? I’m worried if we hold another “garage sale” too much will be sold off and an estate sale business would not be interested in setting up an estate sale should we want to later hire them? And I’m worried if we held an estate sale we might have to allow people in our house after spending the winter fixing up the inside for the pending home sale?

One final step or idea that’s worth mentioning. Some time ago Karen moved her cooking utensils into lower kitchen drawers. As she used them she would move them to drawers above. After awhile, the utensils that still remained in the lower drawers became obvious ones to get rid of. Smart…..   Bet the process would work equally as well for clothes.

Test Drive – 2018 Ford F350 Lariat

As luck would have it, a friend (Jeff) bought a 2018 Ford F350 Lariat diesel dually a few months ago.   Jeff had been wanting to drop it off at our house for the weekend to give me a chance to play with it – what a nice guy!  The only thing better than owning a truck like this is having one you can borrow.  So today I drove over to Jeff’s home as his wife Ester had a few questions about Microsoft Windows 10. After a couple hours of computer training I asked for the keys to his truck and off I went.

Santa Fe Trail Map
Bonus that Jeff lives next to Fort Osage (Lewis and Clark thing) down scenic roads that were once part of the Santa Fe Trail just 35 miles from our home. Nice place to test drive his truck I’d have to say.

I have owned two F150 4×4 trucks with the 5.7 gas engine and drove an older F250 diesel all of about three miles in the past.  That’s the extent of my pickup truck experience. I had been worried this monster F350 long bed truck would be intimidating. Well, in about five minutes I discovered it drives just about like every other truck I’ve driven.  It was not overwhelming at all.  I had been worried the power of the truck would cause it to lurch from a stop as I pressed on the accelerator pedal which was not the case. Yes, the back of the truck was distant. The monitor for the backup camera was large and crisp to view. I felt 100% comfortable backing the monster truck.

The seats were more comfortable than I had remembered sitting in at the auto show. They would not be a problem for long drives.  The steering wheel, seats and pedals were highly adjustable leading me to believe Karen would have no problem driving this truck as well. I really don’t want to sentence myself to driving her around everywhere for years on end, so adjustability of the driver’s position is important.

Like so many others, I watch all the YouTube video I can find to include test drives. I’ve never counted on the audio portion of the videos to reflect what the actual sound levels are in the truck. I can tell you this Ford truck was quiet as a passenger car inside.  The diesel engine outside was remarkably quiet to me as well. Really was impressed with that.

Yup, the ride was bumpier than our luxury car, my work SUV and such. But, it was not unbearable nor constant. What I did notice was this Ford’s turn radius – sucked.  Turning the wheel to enter his driveway at a 90-degree angle was not as bad as the old days with no power steering. But as I turned I felt the need to crank the wheel hard during the turn, thinking for a moment I was glad to have turned wide to avoid a light pole at the corner of the drive. Jeff said the Ram truck he drove has a tighter turn radius and his 2016 F250 turns on a dime. He came by my office a week ago. A road crew was working on a corner, thereby temporarily narrowing the lane for vehicles to pass. He told me he went around the block rather than trying to make a tight turn into a narrow space. I’d not eliminate the Ford just because of this. I had  never driven an F350/3500 class truck so don’t place much weight on my opinion regarding truck turning abilities.

A few people have posted in various truck forums one reason they eliminated this all new in 2017 Ford truck from their list is all the plastic in the interior. Well – I say BS.  Yes, it has a few hard surfaces, but the rest is soft in all the right places.  I must disagree with their opinion. At least in the Lariat trim package which, judging by the number of Ford trucks for sale online, is the most popular of all trims.

Jeff’s truck has all the electronic options he could get to include a way fancy trailer towing camera setup.  I did not have much of a chance to play with most of it. I did notice when the backup camera came on, a small truck picture showed up in the frame as if I could see if I was going to hit anything at any corner. I was most wanting to see the blind spot warning system.  Way cool. The sensors are on the outside of the rear tail lights. This is one feature I understand the 2020 Ram 3500 may add. The blind spot warning includes sensing other vehicle next to you – 35’ down the side of a trailer. I told Jeff a reader commented his blind spot sensor did not work with his trailer. Jeff tows a wide body toy hauler trailer and said the blind spot warning works perfect with his trailer. This must be an advantage when one is entering the highway on a ramp or needed to switch lanes quickly. As I began to back out of his driveway a vehicle passed behind the truck. Well in advance of the other car passing, the system set off a warning. I could see that being nice when backing out of a parking spot at the grocery store.

I forgot to ask Jeff what gear ratio he got with the truck. No need anyway. Unlike the Ram and Chevy trucks The Ford F350 dually has less of a chance of someone selecting the wrong transmission and gear ratio for a heavier fifth wheel. This turbo diesel has one automatic transmission to select from and conventional fifth wheel tow capacity is 27,500 pounds with a 4.10 gear and 27,300 with a 3.55 gear.

I have to say, I like the idea this is the second year for the all new Ford. Better chance of finding a used one in the next generation configuration. By the way, in my opinion Chevy’s television commercials where they throw a tool box in the back of Ford’s aluminum bed is BS.  Look closely; the metal tool box they are throwing is an antique. I’m sure they had to buy a heavy metal tool box at a garage sale. And anyone that does that to their truck deserves a hole in their truck bed. I’ll bet the factory bed liner helps a bit as well – and excluded from the Chevy commercials. And if you are worried the engine will outlast the body, I’d have to think aluminum will hold up better in the long-term because it does not rust. I’ve wrote it before that if any one manufacturer thinks they are the best then why are the warranties the same for important features like the engine and transmission?

I played with the fully electric tow mirrors on the truck. Ford is said to have the best mirrors. Jeff says the Ram truck mirrors reach out further. I sure like the idea of hitting a button inside the Ford to extend or fold the mirrors in. The view down the side of the truck was exceptional.

Sitting on the floor of his garage was a B&W Companion fifth wheel hitch. What a monster piece of engineering. The thing looked tuff with its huge jaws. Jeff says you can hitch up and unhitch easily even when the trailer is not level in a spot as if the fifth wheel pin was binding up at the hitch. Not a problem with B&W. He also looked at the Curt for all of 10 seconds. He said it just did not seem to be as well built as the B&W. Then again these hitches are rated for certain weights and I’m sure both hitches would be fine, as would many others for the weights we are looking at.  Jeff offered me a chance to lift the two hitch parts, those being the head and base. The head of the hitch has handles and was easy to lift. The base was heavier. I could lift it myself, but two persons would be better. Jeff said no worries moving the hitch from the truck with the F350 because it has old man stairs mounted inside the truck tailgate. Those stairs are another exceptional feature exclusive to the Fords.

These are the features I was most interested in testing out. Online videos do a better job of describing the finer details. I came away with feeling if anyone has driven a pickup truck for any length of time, the F350 diesel dually will not be intimidating to operate. I could not find any single reason not to buy this truck. Lee over on the Campers Chronicles blog may have the best approach for evaluating the details. I recall him writing once that it’s easier to look for the suckier parts.  For me, maybe feeling like the truck would not make real sharp turns or the brakes did not feel as responsive as a passenger car could be called the suckier parts in my humble and somewhat inexperienced opinion.

Here in a few weeks I’m going to call a buddy with a Ram dually. Better than test driving one at a dealership and being pestered to buy it. Oh, forgot to add I hit it lucky. Jeff’s son tows a fifth wheel trailer for a job.  Can’t believe I might be getting some towing lessons from someone I’ve known since he was four feet tall!

Here are a few internet links of interest:

Super Ike Gautlent by Fast Lane Truck for 2018.  Ram barely won over the Ford. They wanted to get as close to maxed out tow ratings as possible. The Chevy cannot pull these weights, so they were left out of the test.

Roads Less Traveled blog is the best for the Ram and general discussion of selecting a truck.

B&W Hitch has a neat page on their website to figure out what the tow ratings are for individual trucks. Of course, you can also surf the web to find the manufacturers charts. Or go to RV Tow Check if you really want to play with the numbers.

All this is most important to me because we are buying the truck before the trailer and I’d hate to make any mistakes. And that includes getting the right options such as fifth wheel prep on the truck which includes the puck systems that are pre-installed for hitches. These systems are a series of holes in the truck bed in which the hitch is mounted, making it easier to remove the hitch when you need to haul stuff flat in the truck bed. I’d be scared to buy the truck before the trailer other than we already know the top five trailers we are selecting from and their weights. Also, a one-ton dually diesel will pull anything in our top 16 trailer choices with plenty of room for moving to a heavier trailer later if configured appropriately. And has the cargo capacity for the pin weights were are considering. One best be nervous if you are looking at buying a single rear wheel truck before the trailer decision because of pin weight.

Ford F350 Truck Options

We all know (and sometimes dread) those emails or blog posts that are laced with questions, some of which warrant a reply or comment. The hard part is reading the entire post while remembering what you might want to write as a reply without taking notes. Well, this is one of those posts.  I’ll apologize up front.  If you’re inclined to comment, feel free to just go after anything that’s way out of line or invokes a strong opinion. I should also add I’ll not be commenting about the F450 truck.

I can’t recall it ever being such a challenge to buy the right vehicle. Perhaps knowing the truck purchase would be a “final” decision in terms of what we live with long-term, caused the decision to take on a new meaning. And of course, adding on the need to tow a huge fifth wheel safely, eventually over thousands of miles in all kinds of weather has a little bit to do with overthinking the purchase. After years of owning two vehicles, we are moving to just one to share as a tow vehicle and daily driver.

I had planned a couple times to post in detail about selecting a gear ratio but decided not to bore you with it. I parked those notes over on this truck page and included a few brief comments below. If you know what a “gear ratio” is then some of what follows in this post might be elementary. For me, it’s been a learning curve for sure.

I’ve had quit the dialog via email with several readers that have been very helpful. Thank you!

As you may recall, I’ve already decided to look at 2017/2018 Ford F350 and Ram 3500 trucks. If I had an unlimited budget, selecting options would be easier. For this post I’ll cover the Ford truck options I’m considering. Should we decide on the Ford, I’ll let our budget dictate if we buy the very popular Lariat model or less popular XLT. If we can’t find a truck equipped with most of what we want, we may have to order it new. With the options I’d want, there is about a $6,000 difference between the XLT (cloth seats) and Lariat (leather seats) trim packages.

2017 Ford Trucks

Before getting into the list of options to consider, here are a few Ford questions for the benefit of us soon to be new – first time diesel truck owners.

  1. Heavy Service Front Suspension Package? Yes or no when pulling trailers under 19,000 pounds? I understand the option is for heavy-service front springs that will degrade ride quality. I’ve read a few forum posts but still don’t understand when one might want this option. Seems like this option is geared towards snow plows and truck campers or when you expect to tow a trailer that is near the capacity the truck is rated to pull.
  2. Individual Trailer TPMS/Trailer Camera Prep Kit? At $750/$1375 this option adds tire pressure monitoring for your trailer tires. This option forces you to also add a high mounted camera option (if not already equipped) that has a view of the truck bed that could be handy for hitching up the fifth wheel. It also upgrades the screen display size on the center of the dash to Sync 3 (if not already equipped). I’m thinking it might be nice to limit the number of gadgets one has attached to the truck dashboard or wherever. This includes a standalone system for monitoring trailer tire pressure which is 100% something one needs to monitor. But, some of the aftermarket devises also monitor tire temperature so you know a problem is coming as the tires heat up. I jumped on Amazon to price out a system for the 10 tires a dually truck and double axle fifth wheel would need and generally found they start at $405 with temperature monitoring. Another confusing option. Just a quick reminder. Get metal valve stems that are more durable!
  3. Skid plates for fuel tank and transfer case protection? It’s only $100 but do you really need it if you are not figuring on any heavy off-road travel?
  4. Engine ideal shut down? Okay, what the heck is this all about. The option comes in three values ranging from five to 20 minutes. Is it okay to idle diesel engines for long periods? Does this option just turn the truck off in case you forget? And if so, when would you want it shut down in 5 minutes, 10, 15 or 20 minutes?
  5. Operator command regeneration? I added this question because it’s yet another diesel engine thingy for those of us who never owned a diesel can find confusing. I understand regeneration burns off soot in the particulate filter. I read this is button you can push if a warning light comes on. It also has a feature to prevent regeneration if you’re sitting on grass and you don’t want to burn your truck. The Ford website says contact the dealership for details. Okay.. I’ve read it’s a bad thing to allow the soot to build up. The filters are expensive and the truck limps along if there is a problem. Thank goodness for owner’s manuals, I for one am going to need to read it!

 

warning sign     (Warning opinions ahead)

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Financial Decisions

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

Be Conservative

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

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

Make Decisions Earlier That Benefit the Future

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

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

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

Don’t Procrastinate When Big Decisions Have to be Made

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

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

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

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

Truck and Trailer Budget is Huge

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

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

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

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

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

Plan Ahead – But Maybe Not Too Far

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

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

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