Truck Shopping

Just started truck shopping….  I dread shopping for automobiles in general because of the dealership process. From walking on the lot to telling the finance guy you’re not interested in what he/she has to offer. The best part of the process is getting home and finding something to take off the dealership stickers that trash the new ride.

Truck shopping for something to pull up to a 18,000-pound trailer is a new experience all together. I’ve done most of the homework and posted about that some time ago. We are looking for a one-ton dually diesel pickup truck and are targeting Fords and Rams.  What I’ve been finding is the Ram seem to be more “affordable” or dare I say, might be a better value for the dollar. I’ll get this out of the way and say all three manufacturers will get the job done so I’m not downing the Chevy/GMC. As part of the research, just like with RVs, I’ve read the truck forums, watched the videos and bugged a lot of new RV friends for ideas.  Today, I received an email alert to a new YouTube video from a site I follow.  The guy that puts on the videos is a Ford guy, even if he does not admit it. I enjoyed this video where he talks about the value of a Ram truck.

We are looking to buy a truck by next August. Yes, before the RV which may come as late as November of 2018. I know the top six trailers we are looking at and am confident we will buy the right truck with the capacity to haul any one of the six. We have a need for a truck to haul stuff off from the house, haul stuff in to fix up the house and it might be the right timing to go to one family car (truck) in the process.

I’ll let you readers in on another observation I’m hoping not many people are figuring out. One way we might buy our trailer is as last year’s model. From my research, the 2019s will be announced around March of 2018. Then the 2019s will arrive at our local RV dealerships around June/July of 2018. Then we should see the prices on the 2018s coming down around that time and surely by September of 2018. Last year the prior year’s model were relatively plentiful in September. But this year, they were almost non-existent by November.  So, the secret I wish others would not find out about is everyone else is looking for the same last year’s models. Guess it’s not a secret after all. Just be aware of it. That’s another reason we are looking for a truck by August and as soon as possible thereafter looking for the trailer. I’m figuring if we find a trailer we best be able to drive right there and get it – before they start to disappear in September. Or we might have to order the trailer or settle on a used one.

Having spent more time looking at specific trucks has brought up a few more considerations. Mostly, the difference in gear ratios such as the Ram 3.73 vs 4.10 or the Ford 3.55 vs the 4.10. I’d written up a blog post discussing the subject in more detail but decided to skip posting it. I’ve got charts showing the towing capacity of each truck and every combination of these gears works for the weights we are looking at.  In the truck forums most people ask about fuel mileage nearly as often as they ask about towing capacity. The best advise I’ve had is select the truck for towing and forget about the narrow fuel mileage differences. We can discuss this more in the comments section if you want. The second best advise I received, for our truck situation, is to not buy one with the 3.55 gears and most say just get the 4.10 gears. Here is the best blog post I’ve ever read about truck shopping. If you don’t have much time or desire to research your purchase, just read that post and go buy a truck.

The second observation I’ve had is it’s hard to find a truck equipped exactly like I want without ordering one new from the factory. This is even more apparent when only searching within 100 miles of our home. And especially if we want to trade in one car when we do it and therefore don’t want to drive a long way to only find out the deal is no good. I’m looking at trucks with less than 20,000 miles on them and don’t intend to order a new one. This plays a role in that I’ll have to make compromises to find a decent used truck which might include going with a different gear ratio, color or whatever.  I like the burgundy two tone trucks by the way. However, our current silver cars sure don’t show the dirt as much nor did the white ones. If that’s important.

I’ll keep you posted on the search….  And I’m still pecking away at our first-year budget for fulltime RV travel and will pass that along later as well.

 

Mark

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Downsizing Efforts

Took a “break” to finish up scanning my final business documents. Beginning with 2016 documents, the scanning went much quicker as I had stopped using staples for the most part.  If you have done any heavy scanning, then you know STAPLES SUCK.

Karen has been going through a lifetime of photos and is about ready to start scanning those. A couple months ago she must have had a wild hair because she scattered then sorted paperwork all over the living room floor.

Here is a link to my December 2015 update post regarding going paperless. Yet another benefit of planning so early is having time to adjust our paper habits to include having a reason to convert to digital services for bills, banking, the part-time office job and more. I’ve also added a small external hard drive to our arsenal of computer appliances. It’s a very fast drive that connects to our tablets for mass storage of all our scanned documents, old and new photos.

Karen decided to move her desk from our study to the sunroom. The view out the window is a lot nicer as the trees have dropped their leaves, revealing the rolling hills beyond them. Should have done that years ago as it’s a nice space to work out of.  A side benefit was clearing more room in the study (our third bedroom) to make room for sorting through stuff.  There are pills of stuff out in the open in several other rooms. No big deal as long as we can walk around it 😊.

Click to Enlarge Photos

Started a few garage sales boxes and planning for maybe one sale next year.  I’ve also started posting more expensive items on Craigslist with more regularity. Maybe this winter we will learn how to eBay and Karen has used the local Facebook swap and shop page where she sold some purses. There are lots of benefits to taking years to plan for our mobile future. Among which is saving money by not buying anything that we can’t take on the road later.  And “trash day is Tuesday” so we often fill the bin weekly with what we can’t sell. Before all this we might have cleared some space only to fill it with junk stuff later.

I’ve also been sorting through older scanned or digital photos of views outside our home. We live on a flat hilltop where the views out back and front change dramatically with the seasons. I’m hoping to take one of our old photo binders, which was freed up by scanning photos, and fill it with outside landscaping photos for potential buyers of our home to see when touring the house. Our current plan is to put the house on the market the spring of 2019.

I’ll bet for you on the road, all this sounds familiar!  I’m working on a blog post regarding budgeting. I’d done some earlier estimating for the sake of financial planning. And know our first year on the road may be the most expensive. I’m hoping to bring together all the notes and such I’ve tracked down from other’s blogs and the great advice I’ve received over the past couple of years.  Figure I’ll come up with a first-year budget and then adjust it while on the road from then on.  I’m hoping you will get something out of the upcoming post on budgeting.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank you all for the comments on my last post regarding emotions. There was much advice passed along which I’m taking to heart. If you are not one to read the comments section, the ones from that post are worth it. I felt comfortable putting it out there because I consider you all friends. And being as honest as possible brings the issues as close to the root problem’s as possible so the advice really hits home.  Thank you again.

I’ve also been picking away at the 2017 list of things to do and decisions to make.  As we moved our takeoff date from 2023, to 2020 and then to 2019 I had to move a few decisions forward to earlier years.  Got to get busy with those items during this winter. We will let you know in 2019 if we plan to rent a storage unit or not.


Outdoorproject.com
is a website Karen found.  It contains a tremendous amount of information on outdoor journeys such as hikes, national parks and more which are included in its 6,152 adventures (and growing).

Emotional Stuff

Planning for a future in an RV is not all about the finances. Money is just the means to an end. Whether one wants to retreat to an RV roaming the country or just stay put inside a home while the world swirls around them, to me it still is about the emotions of it all.

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a long, long time. Mostly because it involves putting myself out there and disclosing the person I’ve turned out to be – at least to some extent. I’ve read other’s awesome blog posts or stories about their journeys in life and have always appreciated their willingness to post about, for lack of a better word, emotions. I know they open themselves up to criticism. Maybe because others may not have caught the jest of the message or the writer failed to come up with words to explain something important to them.  For those that take the time to let their feelings out, I for one thank you. Seeing the not so good sides of a lifestyle helps paint realistic expectations for those of us getting ready to start navigating down the same road. And for sure, reading about the good times is refreshing.

The stable person in me can respond to a catastrophe such as a terrible car accident or horrible things that happened to a person or family. I can take charge and know 100% what needs to be accomplished. There will be little emotion in those decisions as they are based on experience and training.

The not so stable person inside of me I tend to regard as the emotional person. I am unable to have a 15-minute conversation with anyone about the crucifixion of Christ without crying. Especially if I give much thought to the Trinity wherein God is three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit just as water takes three forms (a liquid, solid and vapor). Each is the same in different forms. What gets me emotional is when I think of God doing what he did for people like me. Being nailed to a cross and having the ability to make the pain go away but not saving himself. Or as the Father, watching his Son in agony to the point his Son asks why he has forsaken him. I don’t deserve it and cannot imagine the love God has for sinful people like myself.  If you have not watched the movie The Shack, do so.

I’ve given much thought over the years as to what has made me the man I am today and how these features in myself will play out in the future. Coming up with a format for this post has been next to impossible. I found myself wanting a template to follow and even refreshed my understanding of  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, referred to as personality theories. Fundamentally I know we all are very similar. That is how it’s possible to guess how each of us might respond to life’s issues or more specifically, why it’s possible to understand where a person is at mentally or as part of a society.

I tend to think, in terms of Maslow’s theory, that we bounce between lows and highs in his triangle of needs. At times we feel we have everything under control. And then other times we fear for or safety which is a primitive need per Maslow. At the top of his list as we develop as a person is self-actualization. This level of need refers to what a person’s full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. I’ve read that in his later years Maslow explored a further dimension of needs he titled self-transcendence. As I understand it, this next step is when we find our “actualization” by giving to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality. Personally, I’ve got a better way to describe the ultimate realization of being all you can be.  My father used to say all we can hope for is being content with where we are at in life. My uncle told me anything can change in ten years. I witnessed the greatest person I had ever seen. He was not a famous movie star nor ruler of man. He was my grandfather. I watched him in his hospital bed sometime before his death, he was holding his son’s hands as they flanked each side of his bed.  He gave them comfort only a father could do. My uncle and dad were strong men, well advanced in their understanding of life but still needed a father’s hand. I personally had to leave the room, standing in a stairwell to keep the tears to myself.

I am a complainer by nature. I was that way as a child and am as an adult. I’m not proud of it. I sometimes complain when there is not something to complain about, that’s how bad I am.  I don’t want to become the elderly person that lives near us, alone in a house. This person is a complainer and family does not even come around anymore. I’m glad the roof of the house is relatively flat because when she lands on her broom on top of her roof she will not fall off. She can be a witch and every other word that rhymes with it. I’ve also been around her when she was a caring, giving person. But she drifted in between these good and bad emotions and now is surely lonely. That is not the person I care to become.

I’m a type A personality. If you look up the definition in Webster’s book, you will find my name listed in the description of what the word means. I’ll look it up – “related to, characteristic of, having, or being a personality that is marked by impatience, aggressiveness, and competitiveness and that has been implicated by some studies as a factor increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease – see Mark Seneker.”

I don’t want to die of a heart attack before I get a chance to see the Grand Canyon. But I now where these personality traits come from. And if I know that then I also know how I can change for the better. This trait comes from at times having to take care of myself as a child and at times not trusting anyone for my safekeeping other than myself. The only way, I assumed, to make sure things worked out was to do it myself and therefore to depend only on myself.  I know that’s not reality because we all need each other.  I know that’s not reality because there are so many good people in life that care about others. I know that is not possible because every time I look at my wife and her caring personality, that wraps herself around another’s needs while at the same time doing her best to take care of herself. She humbles me, and I trust her. For my own Maslow step in life, I need to be around more people like her.

As a youngish police officer there was an RV park in one of my patrol districts. There were older trailers parked there, which I now know can be referred to as long-term campers.  And there were newer RV’s that stopped for the night. The place was run down, and I never could understand why anyone from out of town would stop there. Now I know that’s all they were doing; just stopping for the night to rest and today would just post a comment on rvparkreviews.com warning others what to expect. As a cop, I viewed everyone in the park as a potential problem. Although now that I think about it, I met a lot of good people when responding to calls there. Some had financial problems, and some were just parked to work construction in the area.  Some had children they sent off to school while they worked nearby minimum wage jobs.  Others were drunks and received all the wrath I had to offer if they did not behave. Boy does life change in full circles. Now I’m looking to move my wife and I into RV parks at times. Little did I known there were people in that RV park in my patrol district that were just stopping by on their way to a wonderful location where no camera can take a picture of its wonderfulness. I guess I’m growing and reaching another step. Karen and I live in Missouri. As part of a future RV family we have met people from New England and New York, from Kansas and California, from Texas and Michigan.  All are wonderful people and I never once wished the visit would end.  I for one need those kinds of people around me. Maybe it’s because of their ages and having completed similar life challenges and that is what binds us. I care not to overthink it, I’ll just assume we are likeminded people with common goals.

Another personality trait of Mark is I get frustrated with others. To the point it causes stress and brings on a pain in my right chest. I’ve had many discussions with counselors about this. Two preachers, a phycologist and only my closest friends of which there are not many. I’ll describe when I get frustrated as briefly as possible. Co-workers who are not doing the best they can drive me nuts. Children and adults who are not taking responsibility for what they have done or have not done, drive me nuts. People drifting through life, seemingly unaware of nor caring about those around them, drive me nuts. Preachers said pay attention to those that are not doing any of the above and ignore those that are. Counselors say come up with coping mechanisms.  Some friends would not say anything, thinking it would harm our relationship. But close friends say shut-up and find something to be happy about because there is a lot of good people I’ll meet in life.  Fact is, I’m positive at one time or another I have not done my job the best I could, or I’ve not taken responsibility for my actions or I ignored those around me.  I hope others have not judged me the same that I have judged them.

I had first intended to lump this post into categories which have nothing to do with finances but are another part of RVing. Such as relationships, standards of comfort, ability to compromise, physical limitations and it’s time for a change. No need. Those out there new to the lifestyle, planning for their trip or have been there done that, all understand. Just like those that were police officers understand the emotions of the job and we don’t have to talk about it much with one another. Other’s may not understand our humor or coarseness.  I hope one preacher got it right. That once I leave the job I’ll find out 80% of people are good and not anything like the 20% I lock up.  He also says that will be the hardest part of it all, that is becoming part of the good society. I’ll admit, I use the struggles of the job as a crutch to blame the pain on.  And the guys and gals I work around really are the best this country has to offer. I’ve been to their funerals, retirements and picked them up off the side of the road after they were injured.  They do their jobs everyday which at times might include just showing up. I’m pretty sure I’ve not violated any department policy about posting on public media about the job with these comments.

Fact is, there is much to my life outside of work and my past experiences in general. I’m failing to recognize the good in life. To sum it up, Mark needs a change and my family, especially my wife, deserve a changed Mark. I think I’m getting a handle on myself, or at least trying to. Planning for a future in an RV, the travel, the down time, being with family and you sure is making the waiting more tolerable. I don’t know if I can ever become the man my grandfather was. But if I intend to I best get started.

I’ll close this emotional me with this.  There are many times in life when a change is in order. It helps us grow as people. It renews our inner selves. It pushes us up a step in Maslow’s chart. It makes the pain go away. And, for sure, there will come another day when change will be in life’s order. I tell myself I’m getting ready to release the new me.  I’ve earned it and so have others around me.

I read this through for typing errors. It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to.  Even if it’s about my emotions. 

Preparing for Mobile Office Work

Mobile, by definition, means the ability to move or be moved freely or easily. These are my long-term goals as I prepare to move a part time job from my home to our future in an RV.

Back in December of 2016 I posted an update on our financial planning. That month I’d brought up the idea a current employer wanted me to keep a part time office job.  Doing so would prevent having to draw from retirement funds while on the road. What a great opportunity and a good business deal that was good for both of us.  It did not take long for me to accept the offer. Since then I’ve become more confident keeping the job will work out. Especially after meeting others who are already working an office job from their RV and contacting others online regarding connectivity such as phone service. I really appreciate those of you who spent time answering emails or responding to comments on the topic. Thank you!

In January of 2014 I sold a small construction contracting business which employed five people. I sold it to the then superintendent who kept me on as it’s office manager. In short, the job requires about 10 hours of my time each week. I work from my home on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and again on Saturday mornings. The hours are flexible, but I always try and make myself available on the phone on those days for consistency.  Folks know they can get in touch with me during those days.

For the past several months I’ve kept a notebook at my desk and wrote down by category each major task I typically accomplish on the days I work. Usual office stuff such as payroll, customer invoicing, monthly/quarterly tax preparation and such.  Maybe not so typical is bidding floor plans from prints.  I came up with 20 titles for tasks I perform in my job where I needed to figure out how to get them done on the road.  Always keeping in mind, the greater goal is to make the move in a way which will cause the least inconvenience to my boss, customers, vendors and employees. I suppose success will be that few people will even know I’m sitting in sunny locations hundreds of miles away from them.

I’ve got the list sitting next to me as I write this. There are a few areas that have been more challenging to figure out and I would appreciate any advice you have to offer.

  • Mail service when a business is involved: Karen and I will establish a mail service in whatever state we decide to domicile within for personal use.  I’ve read everything I could find regarding how the Escapees RV Club mail service works for example. They are a little vague about business mail but state they provide the service. I’ll most likely end up calling each service for an explanation as to how they handle business mail. I’ve starting moving everything possible over to online service to avoid mail but there simply will be a need to receive some mail and for sure scanning services where they open the mail and scan it when requested.
  • Computer hardware for tiny homes: I’ve already decided a laptop and external monitor will be the way to go. When I’m out of range for WIFI or cellular service I’ll have the ability to drive down the road to connect. But what about printing?  Again, I’m doing what I can to go paperless. I mostly receive floor plans, maybe three to four a month, via PDF files. I may try and find a software to use in taking measurements but generally must print them off on an 11×17 printer.  Maybe half a dozen times a year, it’s better to have them printed in larger format by a service provider such as Office Depot. The boss says this one is easy. Tell the customer to send prints in a format I can use, or they will not get the best quotation (price estimate) possible. For lack of better ideas, I’m thinking to just go with the smallest laser printer possible and keep the 11×17 printer in a box for those times I need it.
  • Changing the business office address: Correspondences come to my home address now. The business address will change to the boss’s office once we leave in an RV. There will be times he has to forward items on to me. And there will be times I mail items to him to sign and expect him to forward it on in the mail, such as quarterly taxes. I’m thinking about training him on using a phone application to take photos to send to me and maybe getting with his wife, whom I’ve worked with in the past, regarding items he needs to sign and mail.

I’m hacking away at the list of converting the home office to a mobile office. It will help that we are planning to purchase the RV well in advance of going full time. That will give it a chance to test everything out from a local RV park or wherever. If anyone wants to have a longer discussion on the topic, just post in the comments section. I’d love to talk about it.  Here are a few more areas on my list to improve for a mobile office:

  • Signing up for mobile tax payments and filing forms. (In progress)
  • Customer invoicing. (Some already prefer emails)
  • Cutting down on business “junk mail”. (Faxing a form letter to take me off their list)
  • Cutting down on need to print stuff.
  • Working with accountant to submit end of year documents for taxes. (Will use their file server)
  • Researching affordable internet and cell service. And signal boosting.
  • A work area in the trailer.
  • Having all or most all vendors submit bills electronically.
  • Finish scanning old documents.

I suppose my office space can be the dining room table or sitting on the floor in the living room. But I’d rather figure something out that can be setup and torn down easily when not in use. Karen came up with a few interesting photos of mobile offices and I’ve been keeping a list of ideas I’ve heard about.

 

new flash  Vanleigh RV is introducing a new fifth wheel targeting the fulltime RVer. It’s called the Beacon. Click here for a brief video. I hope they do a better job with cargo capacity than the Vilano model has. I think they will because of 8,000-pound axles.

new flash Quick list comparing the 2016 Keystone Montana vs Grand Design Solitude differences per Camping World. I saw a similar list at the local 2017 RV show. This will give you an idea of what to look for that might not be easy to see.

A System to Evaluate RVs Before Buying

The Six Fifth Wheels I Would Buy Today
And How I Came to the Conclusion

October 2017 marks three years of blogging. Starting a blog seemed like a good place to keep notes and better yet meeting those that have done it or are going to live fulltime in an RV. Last evening Karen and I meet a wonderful couple from New Hampshire. We met last year also. It was excited to go and check out their solar setup and see how our new friends have been doing.

Before you read any further, it’s okay to skip this if you are not interesting in shopping for a new RV.  And beware, this is a very long blog post with lots of information compiled after three years of research. You may think I’m strange by the time you get to the end of this. I enjoy figuring things out and the research – I really do have a life!

As I read back it appears I’d spent considerable time analyzing and discussing with readers what makes for the best RV given Karen and my expectations for living in one. It has been a fun process and I thank everyone for the input.  Although we have not decided on the exact trailer, the field has been narrowed considerably. Not wanting to make this a two-part blog post I’ll try and be thorough when describing the process I’ve been using to select a fifth wheel. It begins with this list of steps and comments:

First decide on budget.

  • Currently maximum is $84,655 for the camper and $65,000 for the truck.
  • Budget includes inflation because we are not buying this year.
  • Budget includes everything to equip the trailer, truck, taxes and licensing.
  • I’m making a run at staying under budget.

Then decide what type of RV.

  • We decided on a fifth wheel because we want to be more comfortable when parked rather than during travel days. If we thought we would move around constantly, we would have gone with a class A motorhome.
  • We have owned a travel trailer, borrowed and rented a class C motorhome and decided against them.

Then decide on floor plan and basic needs of a “full time” unit.

  • We decided on a rear living room.
  • The best space in a fifth wheel is in the rear area. We expect to spend the most time in the living room so selected that floor plan.

Then decide what manufacturers build the floor plan or close to it. 

  • A lot of discussion went into what Karen and I believe to be our list of needs or choices.
  • After three years of following typical luxury fifth wheel brands I’ve come down to a short list of contenders and have an evaluation system I’ll report about later in this blog post.
  • A difficult part is deciding what gross weight class you want to buy from. Heavier trailers generally have heavier construction such as in the suspension. For us the decision was do we go with something around 16,000 or 19,000 pounds. In my humble opinion trailers weighing less do not require the heaviest suspensions. A few areas of construction from the heavier trailers come to mind as something we might also want in a 16,000-pound trailer. Those are disc brakes, 12” main beams, G or H rated tires and cargo capacity. We now only look at trailers with good storage with no less than 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity. Because we plan to camp without water, sewer and electrical hookups at times, the water/waste tank size was also heavily considered. For example, lack of cargo capacity or good size water/sewer tanks took a couple manufacturer’s floor plans off the list. We could upgrade the tires and brakes later.
  • It helped to have decided we wanted to stay at 40’ or less in trailer length. A few manufacturers do not build a floor plan we were interested in. I followed blogs where others travel in 40’ trailers. They always seem to find a place to park. However, as we are not wanting to limit the places we stay anymore than necessary, we both felt a shorter trailer is preferred. For example a park may have one space left that could handle a 40’ but even more spots for a 36’ trailer. It seems the floor plans changed considerable at the 35’ mark for fifth wheels.  We could not find a trailer under 35’ with a floor plan we wanted to live in full time.

Then decide which of several manufacturers appear to have best quality for price and the best after purchase service.

  • Done and will report on the system I used later in this blog post.
  • Everyone’s needs are different, and this is just based on what we think are important.
  • It took a lot of time to learn about RV construction. There was not one place I could find to go to for comprehensive reports or explanations about all construction methods.

Then select one manufacturer with a floor plan we prefer and buy new or used depending on budget

  • We are leaning towards buying last years model as a new unit. From my research this appears to be the best way to get a new RV at the greatest discount, maybe as much as 35.7% off MSRP.
  • We tour specific used units every time we go to a dealership to get an idea of how they hold up. We had no way of knowing if the trailer was used full time or not. I’ve read plenty of blog posts regarding required maintenance or stuff that breaks in less than three years. I’m worried about hidden problems a used unit might have if I don’t know the person that owned it. Although it’s fair to add one can hire an inspector and hope they don’t find problems after you spent months shopping.
  • Over time, I’ve studied the 2015 through 2018 models, to include each year’s model changes to get a good idea of any major changes.  Years 2017 and 2018 are most likely to be from the years we buy and hence those are the years I’ve spent most of my time studying.
  • I started seeing 2018 models announced as early as March of 2017. It seemed like by around July the new models started to arrive at local dealerships.
  • I’ve not eliminated buying a current year model if there is good value for the price and a new floor plan.

Select a truck capable of pulling the trailer with a safety margin.

  • I’m keeping in mind that no matter how much planning we do, there is a chance we would upgrade the rig later so the truck should have more capacity than what we are using. A dual rear wheel truck with four rear tires can handle more pin weight and cargo than a single rear wheel truck with its two rear tires.
  • We are going with a diesel one-ton dual rear wheel truck.  It will most likely be a Ram Laramie edition or a Ford Lariat.  And it will most likely be last years model with no more than around 20,000 miles because from my research you can save at least 22.24%. After finding a survey conducted on the Keystone Montana forum I was shocked to see the Ram dually owners (178) outnumber the Ford owners (76) by more than double. If you combined the numbers for the GMC/Chevy owners (71) they were nearly equal to the Ford owner numbers.
  • We will most likely wait until around September for our purchase as the pricing come down and make sure a new truck is outside our budget.
  • Because we have a short-list of specific trailers we are buying from, and it will be a dually truck, I feel safe in buying before the trailer.

For those interested, for the first time, I am willing to provide links to my spreadsheets, word documents and everything else used to make our selection. I’m putting it all out there for better or worst. I wish someone would come up with a subscription service where you could check a bunch of boxes and it would create a list of specific RVs you might be interested in. The program would be relatively simple to design however I suspect the data collection from RV manufacturers would be an issue.

Several have commented in the past they would be interested to see what we end up buying.  Well, if I had to decide today it would be one of the following six trailers in order of preference:

My Top Six Fifth Wheels for Full Time Living

  1. Forest River Cedar Creek Hathaway Edition 34RL2 (37’11”)
  2. Heartland Bighorn 3270RS (35’2”)
  3. Heartland Bighorn 3160 Elite (35’10”)
  4. Heartland Big Country 3155RLK (35’10”)
  5. Keystone Montana Legacy Edition 3720RL (39’7”)
  6. Redwood 340RL (36’9”)

I’ve mentioned it before but want to make it clearer that everyone has an idea of their needs, budget and favorites which may be different from Karen’s and mine. And, for my cousin Lee, I did not manipulate the spreadsheet scoring to justify any pre-conceived idea of the trailer we most wanted😊

I did however, keep the Redwood 340RL on the list when initially intending to get our selection down to the top five. Because it was one of those trailers we walked into and said, “we could live in this.” Thank you to a local RV sales manager for pointing the trailer out. Redwood started making changes in their price point and I think they made the right move. So does the local sales manager. I called a new Redwood 340RL owner who lives in North Carolina. Got his name off the Redwood Owners forum. The trailer is at the top of our budget as a current model year (he told me what he paid for it).

Not that I would do it, but if I threw out a few categories of what is important to us, such as trailer length, cargo capacity, tank size and budget, the list would change for trailers under 19,000 gross trailer weights. I have come to the opinion the Heartland Big County may very well offer the greatest value for the dollar out of the trailers we have considered.  And the Augusta RV Ambition is my favorite overall. This year Keystone bought the Redwood brand and it’s yet to be seen how that will go. I am very impressed with the “Heartland Family” to include their owner’s forum and owner’s association. The Heartland Landmark is comparable to the Redwood but does not have our desired gas/electric refrigerator option in their Oshkosh model.  As a side note, Thor bought the DRV Mobile Suites brand and it’s under the management of Heartland.

I’m prepared to back up my humble opinions. We all learn from one another and I certainly am willing to reconsider anything I’ve posted. Thank you again to those who have posted comments during this search for a rig we would like to own and to those who have been emailing me at mseneker@hotmail.com.

An important note is Karen and I are planning to spend up to six years in whatever we buy and do not intend to trade out our trailer during those six years.  Others have convinced me the average time someone is on the road full timing is under five years. And I’m convinced with the proper research, and having a reasonable amount of experience RV camping, one really can “select their third trailer first.”

So here are the four tools I’ve been using. I trust the links in blue text will work: 

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Current Grading Criteria: This is a Microsoft Word document that lists what is important to us by category. It’s not perfect but it’s the best I can do without another three years to study. Each category shows what it takes to get a score of up to five points. If you do nothing else in terms of making a list, do this step. After you have spent time walking through trailers and surfing the internet, stop and make a list of what features are most important to you in an RV. You will not find the perfect rig. It’s all about compromises.

 

Snap 2017-10-22 at 15.55.46

2018 Luxury 5th Wheel Decision Matrix Notes: This is the above grading criteria for actual trailers I evaluated out of the 2018 models. It contains every note I found important. In some cases notes are highlighted. I take those notes to the RV show or a dealership to get the answers I’m looking for. I have the same document for trailer years 2016 and 2017.

 

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2018 Trailer Ratings: This is an Excel document I use to score each trailer by category. This is a decision matrix and each category is weighted by what features we believe to be most important.  If I believe a trailer is somewhere between a 3 and a 4 rating then I’ll use 3.5 for the rating. The points are determined by multiplying the category weight by the rating.  An example would be I think insulation is very important so I weigh that category as a 5 which is the highest. If I decide a trailer’s insulation is a 3 based off the grading cratering then the score in the insulation category is 15 (3×5).  I hope when you load the spreadsheet you will have a better understanding of this part of the process.

 

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Spreadsheet of Scores for 2018(update – I’ll be using this spreadsheet when I look to buy. I’ll use the actual selling price to see where the trailer comes out in the ranking.) This is a summary and evaluation that considers the cost of each trailer.  I may need to write a separate blog post on how I used this document. I’ll try and explain it here.  I’ve concluded you basically get what you pay for in a fifth wheel RV with a few exceptions.  In this document I have considered what is the closet manufacturers suggested price (MSRP) I could find for a specifically equipped trailer. During my research, using the above documents I scored each trailer using the points system I wrote about which has evolved over time.

Try and stay with me here because it is an important point. I divided the MSRP by the total points score I gave to each trailer. I call the final product a Value Score. Here are examples of how this can change where a trailer ends up on our short list to purchase.  The trailer that ranks the highest in points, based on what features are most important for us, is the 2018 Redwood 340RL. But when you look at the price we would be paying for it as a new 2018 unit, the value of it is ranked as 17. The Heartland Big Country 3155RLK price makes it the number one trailer for us based on price. But when compared in points it scored eleventh. The Forest River Cedar Creek Hathaway Edition 34RL2 comes out overall the best when I averaged the price and my points rating.

Wow, I think I got through that in a clear way.  Or just confused you.

Now that is all out in the open, there is one final point to make and is the reason I can’t tell you today which fifth wheel we are buying.  Unfortunately for us it’s because of financial considerations.  Full timing in an RV is more than finances for sure. Emotions play a role as does everything else in our individual hierarchy of needs.  I’ve tried to not make this all about finances, but overspending could ruin an otherwise pleasant future. I mentioned already we are considering buying last years floor plan to save a little. Well, I’ve a got spreadsheet for that.

Snap 2017-10-22 at 16.38.08

2017 Trailer Prices End of Year: (update – buying last years model appears to be the best way to get around 35% of MSRP on a new unit.) Here is a list of 2017 fifth wheels using the same system of evaluation but at advertised prices in September of 2017 after the 2018 models were out.  Again, the advertised pricing is the best I could find. The Heartland Bighorn 3270RS advances to the top and the Forest River Cedar Creek Hathaway 34RL drops to third place.

I’m hoping to use all this when we finally go to the dealership’s negotiating table for a trailer.  In short, the trailer we most want could change if the price is not right.

I really would like to get the list down to maybe two trailers. So far, I have been researching dealerships who sell the trailers on our short list. And, although we are not ready to buy a truck, I’ve found a couple we would be interested in.  If we find the right truck I’ll buy it early because we have a need for a truck to haul stuff off as we downsize and repair our sticks and bricks house. Karen and I also talked about downsize to one family car.

Oh, almost forgot to answer another question. When are we making the move? Our house will be paid off this year and is our largest expense. We have no other debt. Figure we will get the truck the middle of next year and the trailer by September of 2018. We will be able to haul it around during the nine weeks of vacation I’ll have to burn up and make sure everything works before we go full time in an RV. Karen is already retired. That way we will already have a fifth wheel to stay in if the house sells early in 2019. And to have for vacation!

 

P.S – Here is a good September 2017 Trailer Life article on the subject of a full time fifth wheel. As usual the article does not list every trailer brand in the class they are describing. Articles like this, lacking comprehensive content, is the reason I found myself needing to come up with my own system.  It’s still a good article however.

Meeting Fulltimers Steve and Debbie

Karen and I were excited to spend a couple days with Steve and Debbie from the Down the Road Blog. In late 2014 Karen and I made the decision our future would be in an RV – someday. Doing like most I started surfing the web for ideas. Got lucky and found the class of 2014 whom had attended the RV Dreams Rally together. Debbie calls them the 14teeners or however that’s spelled. For us future-timers meeting those we have followed during their journey is like meeting a rock star.

Really appreciated Steve and Debbie diverting to Kansas City as they made their way up from southern Missouri. As is the custom in our house, we ask out of towners what their interests are. In this case, western stuff, history, breweries, hiking or outdoors and BBQ. Debbie and I communicated via email and then texting as the couple arrived near town. Karen and I came up with some ideas based on what the couple suggested were their interests and then just played it by ear, doing whatever made sense.

They camped at Fleming Park/Blue Springs Lake, south of downtown Kansas City near the sports complexes. This was our second visit to the campground having met out of towners there in the past. It’s a county park. Karen and I drove out to Steve and Debbie’s where we learned several new tricks about picking a spot in a park, towing a fifth wheel, working on-line, nice features to look for in a fifth wheel and a bunch more. As is the case most of the time with those coming to town, Steve wanted to eat at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. I decided taking them to the original location would be a special treat and give them a chance to see a little of the Kansas side of Kansas City, Missouri. But first we made a stop at our local “famous” brewery which is Boulevard. North of Kansas City is Weston Missouri which has a history of distilling and scattered all around the area are wine vineyards. Most don’t know Missouri is also wine country, given the French influence before the area was part of the United States. Owners of a winery down the street from our home told me wine gets its flavor from the soil which is the reason they picked this area. Here are some photos. Karen says Debbie is very photogenic.

City scape from porch at top of building

We took a tour – beer served before and after!

After dinner, because it was not far away, we drove over to the Plaza Shopping Center. This is the countries first outdoor shopping center. The developer (JC Nichols) was friends with the King of Spain. Kansas City has a sister city in Spain and Nichols modeled the buildings after Spanish buildings. Missouri is called the Show Me State. We are also the Cave State and Kansas City is the City of Fountains. The Plaza is a great place to see fountains although they are spread all over town. Not far from the largest fountain near the Plaza is a Vietnam War memorial. Steve and Debbie are into locating geocaches. We walked down to one at the memorial and then Steve and Debbie bought us ice cream to (more than) replace the calories we burned.

Debbie – Here is a view of the Christmas Lights on the Plaza I told you about.

The world may be coming to an end, the 20 something year old we got to take this photo asked me how to take a picture with my cell phone. Wow

The couple spent the next day on their own touring western/history stuff in nearby Kearney Missouri which is centered around the Frank and Jessie James home. Then they came out to the house for a meal. Really hope we meet again. Karen and I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our time with the couple. Wish we would have had time to show them around our town of Excelsior Springs Missouri.

As a lore (on my part) to visit the state, Debbie says a new Springfield Missouri museum, located by Bass Pro is now open. I recalled some time ago seeing city blocks cleared away in Springfield to make room. It’s called the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.

I meant to post something about the decision to take a social security benefit at age 62 and how I rate fifth wheels. That will have to wait until next time.

 


Forest River fined
by Indiana OSHA for safety violations. Beginning in 2015 they were also in trouble with the Feds for failing to recall trailers when needed. The Cedar Creek is at the top of our list for a new fifth wheel, but violations like these is hurting my opinion of the company. Also, a sales person at another manufacturer, whom I trust, used to work at Forest River and told me a few other facts that were bad to hear such as employees racing around throwing trailers together so they could go home early.


Rollin’ On TV Series has a number of interesting and well-done videos.

Bees and BBQ

I had trouble figuring out how to start this blog post. It’s about family and a hobby. I sat around thinking, “how the heck should I start this.” Finally decided just to jump in. No reason to make a literary work of everything. I hope you find it a little more interesting than a couple future posts I’ve been contemplating which are taking a social security benefit at age 62 and my system for evaluating fifth wheels.

We traveled to our daughter Catherine’s home for BBQ. Her husband John is one of those (us) people who researches the heck out of everything. He purchased a very heavy Green Egg grill to smoke meat. Catherine has been a vegetarian forever. We did our part in trying to eat all the meat and keep it out of her fridge. Of particular interest was a wire hanging out of John’s BBQ smoker. It’s attached to a meter that sends signals to his phone telling him important data such as temperature. It even has an alarm to wake him up at night to let him know he is about to ruin our meal by sleeping when he should be adding charcoal to the grill. Speaking (writing) of charcoal John says Missouri is the leader in production of the best chunk wood charcoal that being manufactured by Rockwood.

John's Smoker_LI (800x448)

John’s Big Green Egg smoker with wire for temperature monitoring

Regarding BBQ, Karen has been perfecting her recipe for BBQ wings and pulled pork using her Instant Pot. It’s wonderful!

Switching topics now to honeybees, not that honey is a great ingredient for BBQ sauce. The start of fall weather marks the time we extract honey from our beehives. This year was special as my sister Mary and friend Russ were visiting and gave a helping hand.  They really seemed to enjoy the process while I thought I was glad they liked it because it’s one of the more labor-intensive parts of the process. Briefly the process is; nectar is gathered by the bees and in this case stored within separate boxes known as supers which are above their living quarters known as brood boxes. After the bees reduce the moisture content of the nectar, which has been mixed with enzymes they produce, it becomes honey. The bees secrete wax which they cap over the honey.  Each of these boxes contain nine or ten frames on which there is comb the bees stored and caped the honey on. We remove frames and cut off the wax with a hot knife. We place the frames containing now exposed honey in an extractor. The extractor spins thereby using centrifugal force, throwing the honey to the sides of the extractor. Then we open a gate at the bottom of the extractor. The honey gushes out into a series of filters on top of buckets. Later, the honey is bottled from the buckets and enjoyed by all.

Here are photos for those more inclined to learn that way:

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Run – There are Bees!

Honey in frames in super (314x800)

Frames in super (honey) boxes

Honey on frame (385x800)

Mark gorged with honey holding frame to place in extractor

Frame in extractor (425x800)

Frames are placed in extractor which has a handle to spin the contents

Honey from extractor 2 (440x800)

Open gate at bottom of extractor and honey strains through filters – And dog wonders if he will get some!

Regarding bees:  They seem to be one of natures several varmints folks can be afraid of. A number of people have come out to our beehives to get over that fear. Personally, 70,000 bees in a managed beehive or even a large swarm don’t even get my heart beat up. Now, throw in a snake and I’m running for cover.

For those afraid of bees there is not much I can write to get you over that. But… here are a few points to keep in mind when you run into them. Foraging honey bees have no interest in stinging you. Stinging occurs when they get swatted by you trying to brush them away such as when they get stuck in your hair.  Certain times of year, when nectar flow from flowers is low, they also tend to be more protective of their hives so stay away. Bees flying well above your head from a hive are no issue. Our bees tend to gain altitude about 20 feet from the hive at which time they are overhead. When I mow the grass in front of their hives I drive the mower slow. That way the bees have a chance to maneuver around me as they want to avoid contact.  When bees swarm, in that big black cloud so many are worried about, they are at their most docile state. Before leaving the hive to swarm they gorge on honey which has a side benefit of them not wanting to sting anyone..

In some southern states Africanized bees have made homes. They are a different creature and tend to be more protective of their hives. Wish I could tell you more about Africanized bees but I have no experience with them. I can tell you this, when a bee stings they sometimes put out a pheromone that smells like a banana. Beekeepers use smoke to mask the pheromone. If you do get stung and smell bananas the bees have marked you as a threat. On another note, it takes about 20 seconds for a bee to inject all of their venom into you. More precisely, they sting and their stinger, attached to the venom sack, is left behind which kills the bee. Don’t grab the “stinger” with your fingers because by doing so you are squeezing venom into your -whatever got stung place. Use something with an edge similar to a credit card to brush the stinger off.  If you are in Kansas City within the next two years I’d be happy to let you play with my bees to get over that fear!

Honey bear (800x448).jpg

Final Product

Debbie and Steve of the Down the Road Blog are heading to Kansas City tomorrow on their path through Missouri. According to their blog she is afraid of bees. This jar of honey is for you guys!