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:

P1000155 (598x416)

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!

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Life in Kansas City – A Laundry List of Ideas

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted anything on the blog. It has been busy at work and I’ve been spending most of my RV research time looking into electronics and evaluating the 2018 trailer models. I’ll most likely write about that later.  I keep a list of ideas that may be worthy of a blog post as the ideas come up. Thought I’d take a quick moment to write about a few and hope at least one area is of interest to others:

  • Missouri celebrates 100 years of state parks: On April 9, 1917, a state park fund was created to buy land in Missouri. Parks are funded by a one-tenth-cent sales tax passed by voters in August 1984, with monies generated split evenly between state parks and soil and water conservation efforts. The tax has since been reapproved by voters three times. I found a wonderful PBS video that highlights a century of Missouri State Parks for those interesting. Click Here for Video.
  • Spectrum RV of Australia is entering the US fifth wheel market. They claim to have a European look and build trailers to withstand the rough Australian roads. Their USA website is not complete. Here is what I believe to be a link to their Australian site. These trailers have an interesting interior. I played around converting Australian currency rates to US dollars and believe the MSRP’s on three fifth wheel models are somewhere around 100K (US)  and below when sold in Australia. According to Spectrum they have imported American RV’s and modified them. They claim “Australian roads demand better suspensions.” They reinforce the chassis, the outriggers are doubled in strength to support the walls. They dismantle the nose and strengthen the pin box area and add steel reinforcing to prevent cracking and breakage.
  • Still researching trucks. A favorite YouTube Channel is Big Truck Big RV. I’ve been reading early information suggesting the 2018 Ram dually one ton will have a tow capacity of 30,000 pounds and is rated higher in torque than even the all-new 2017 Ford F350. Not for sure yet, but on some of the truck forums there is talk Ram will have a complete new design for their heavy-duty truck in 2020 – but who really knows for sure! We are hoping to find a slightly used and more affordable 2016/2017 Ford Lariat or Ram Laramie. I’m not sure it is legal to cut and past an interesting poll found in the Keystone Montana fifth wheel owners forum so I’ll just mention a few results comparing 3500/350 one-ton dually trucks. 846 people responded to the poll. Of the total, 70 pull with a Chevy/GMC, 75 with a Ford and 177 with a Ram truck. The remaining pull with a variety of trucks. Check out the link above for more.
  • I had been wondering if checking out live web cams would be a good way to find interesting places to tour. Earthcam.com is an excellent place to spy on a few areas. Here is an interesting one at Seaside Height, New Jersey that includes audio. The Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan is where we have thought about workcamping. I’m thinking the Old Faithful Geyser is most interesting.
  • After reading a few blogs where folks were traveling with a theme in mind, such as following the Louis and Clark Expedition, I found another that might be worth a trip. Route 66 in Missouri starts in St. Louis and runs down I-44. My grandfather recalled when the road where I-44 is now located was dirt. Then the feds decommissioned it. Missouri is the first State to recognize it as a historical landmark and put up signs on the route with Springfield Missouri being the first to install the signs.  RV dealerships are banding together to provide RV repair service along Route 66.

Well – that’s a long list of a few research projects I’ve been into over the past few months. On the family side, I spent some time learning how to throw a Frisbee. There is way more to it than what I recalled there being. I received a quick lesson from my son-in-law John. He carried out a backpack full of different colored Frisbees with each disc serving a specific purpose such as long, medium and short-range shots. Some curve in a particular direction when thrown. I’m just wanting a disc that goes in the basket when thrown! John tells me this is a sport one can get a lot of exercise out of. His instruction included several grips and throwing positions. After looking at the photos I got to wondering if he just wanted me to look like a clown when I did it.

All jokes aside, I’m thinking with all the Frisbee golf parks popping up in the country, this might be an excellent hobby for a mobile lifestyle. Three discs may be all one needs. That does not take up much RV storage space.

John’s a good guy and it’s darn nice to have him in the family. I know his own father is proud of him as well. John is somewhat of a jokester however. Karen and I gave his parents a trail camera to guard their home one Christmas. John got ahold of the camera’s disc and added a few scenes his folks might have found alarming when they returned home from a trip. I had nothing to do with it other than maybe egging him along.

How would you like to come back to those images on your trail camera!

 

 

 

Trip to Jacksonville Florida

Work took me to Jacksonville Florida. Unfortunately, I did not have time to do much siteseeing but managed to sneak in a few places. 

Photo looks like it should be on a post card – beautiful City of Jacksonville

Myself and a couple co-workers were in town to testify at a trial.  Across from our hotel room was a truly unique tree which I happened to find just by taking a walk. I’m sure world travelers may have seen a tree like this but for me it was a first-time experience.

The Treaty Oak is huge, with limps growing to the ground. It is said to be the oldest living thing in the city at around 250 years. Funny what you can find just by taking a walk. Reportedly the Tree is named because of agreements signed underneath it by Native Americans and the Spanish or American settlers.

I jumped on a very short train line that runs between the downtown area from the hotel area. It’s free for the riding and I found a couple local people who told me where to get off for areas of interest. I only had time for one stop which was to the St. Johns Riverfront (Jacksonville Landing) area. 

The ocean’s not that far away but there was no time for that. While downtown it began to rain very hard. And me with no hat or rain gear. No worries, I looked around at the tall buildings which were spaced closer together and had outside covered walkways. Ran from building to building and used their covered walkways to make it back to the train station.  What a sense of freedom it was to just wonder around a big city and take things as they came.  

Just about a half mile from the hotel was an extensive riverfront walk which was a pleasant surprise to find.  Being from the Midwest I’m not used to seeing such beautiful tropical plants. Of further interest is Jacksonville is located just a half hour from wonderful St. Augustine.

Back in Kansas City a few days later Karen and I met up with our part-timer RV friends Dean and Cheri. Both are retired and now are preparing to go full-time. They  were on their way home after an extended trip.  We met up about a year ago as well. Cheri sent an email they would be passing through. Karen and I really enjoy time with the couple. We just hit it off so well for whatever reason.  Dean showed me a few of his new travel tricks such as the way he runs gas to his grill while Karen and Cheri were off taking a walk around the campground. Thanks for the burgers and visit guys! 

For you folks that are just starting to plan for a future in an RV, one of the best ways to learn is to meet up with those that have done it. It’s exciting and they don’t seem to mind the company. The best way to meet them for me has been reading blogs. The second-best way is over at the RVillage site. Emails seem to be the preferred way to communicate at first. When they get to town text messaging may be the best method to firm up plans on the day of the visit. 

In conclusion, I want to write how wonderful it was for Karen to pop-on the last blog post in the comments section and have readers respond to her. Karen and I talk a lot about RV related stuff and what we want to do in our future. I try to include her input into my blog post the best I can.  


Only In Your State:
Fantastic places to visit sorted by state. Karen found this website that included12 locations in our home state of Missouri.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

Trip to Independence Missouri and Visit with Full-timers

Independence Missouri is a rather large suburb of Kansas City with a population of 117,000. A couple weeks ago we were looking for a day trip. Karen had never been to the square at Independence. So off we went. What a wonderful day it would turn out to be.

Jackson County Court House – On the Square

Upon arrival in the area I wanted to show Karen the Latter Day Saints Church which is a magnificent building nestled in the heart of Independence. Most people are familiar with the Mormon journey to Utah and that Joseph Smith founded the church in New York.

If you’re not from Kansas City, you may not know the history behind the Mormon journey in that Missouri played a role; all be it not a very proud part. I’ll mention a couple other famous New Yorkers that made a trip to Missouri a little later in this post.

Joseph Smith and his followers moved to Missouri, and later Illinois. The larger part of them went on to Utah with Brigham Young leading. They were met with hatred in Missouri. As I understand it, in 1831 Smith declared the righteous would gather in Independence Missouri to greet the second coming of Christ. Thousands of followers moved to Missouri and the start of a bloody Mormon War would begin. The Missouri governor, believe it or not, issued an extermination order to expel Smith’s followers. The order literally legalized the killing of these settlers. The conflict was proceeded by eviction of the Mormons from Jackson County for which Independence is the county seat.  The order was issued after a clash between Missouri Militia and Mormons north of Kansas City, just miles from Karen’s and my home.  Then Governor Lilburn Boggs declared the Mormons had committed open defiance of the law and were at war with the people of Missouri. They were treated as enemies and driven from the State to Illinois. During the Mormon War Joseph Smith was briefly imprisoned in nearby Liberty Missouri. The jail site is now one of the church’s historic locations and open to the public. As I wrote earlier, this is not a proud part of my State’s history.

Karen was fascinated by the seemingly dozens of smaller churches of varying faiths scattered around the historic Mormon Church area in Independence. She and I had also previously visited a cemetery near where a Mormon battle was fought. Interesting enough, not to tour the Mormon gravesite and monument but to find the resting place of Bloody Bill Anderson. He was a Confederate bushwhacker during the Civil War who was killed, beheaded, dragged through the square in Richmond Missouri and buried in the worst place at the time – which was the Mormon Cemetery – in an unmarked grave. Bad day for Bill to say the least. Of course, the grave was marked by the time we found it. Legend has it Jesse James’ brother Frank marked it and a funeral service was put on by their fellow bushwhacker, Cole Younger, of nearby Lees’ Summit Missouri. At one time, the James and Younger brothers had been at least brief members of Quantrill’s Raiders. Admittedly I might have the order of occurrence wrong in that it may have been Cole that marked the grave and Frank that held the funeral. I digress…

One stop on that weekend was to be the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence. But first we found a fantastic pizza restaurant on the square. Figures the name of the establishment is Square Pizza.  Some may find it square that I took a photo of our food, a square pizza with the best ingredients.

Harry Truman became President with the death of Franklin Roosevelt. It’s fun for us to know in the 1948 election, when Truman was elected President, he stayed the night at the Elms Hotel located down the hill from our home. He is known as an Independence Missouri native but was born in Lamar Missouri. Also of interest is that Lamar is the same town Wyatt Earp’s family had moved to from California and Wyatt would become the town’s Constable. Lamar is located a couple hours south of Kansas City.  I digress…

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Truman Library in Independence to me is learning about the total gutting and rebuilding of the White House interior while Truman was in office. The museum had  a collection of photos taken during the re-construction. Truman decided to keep the exterior of the White House in place for historical reasons.

Also of interest was an exact model of the Oval Office set in the time Truman occupied it. I wandered around looking at old photos of Truman in his office, comparing it to the furnishings in the mockup. I must say they got it exactly right to the smallest detail. They even got the book titles correct on the shelves.  It was fascinating to see the President’s reading interests. Several artifacts are from the White House.

One sign told the story of how Truman would work out of the Independence Library nearly every day. He was known to answer the phone if someone was not around to answer it for him, informing the caller that he was the real Harry S. Truman. The museum is like a walk through two generations of American history and includes important displays of Truman’s presidential and personal life with exhibits of Americana spread throughout its two floors. Harry, Bess and daughter are buried in the manicured courtyard.

I’ve known people in my life who met the Trumans. Apparently, his door was open to visitors and he was often seen walking the sidewalks of Independence with a City Police Sargent. Truman was raised as a Master Mason in the same Masonic Lodge I attended in nearby Belton Missouri. An older lodge brother recalled when they built the new Lodge he met Truman at his office (to solicit a donation).  Truman pulled out his checkbook. Truman said one of the greatest achievement of his life was being the Master of the Missouri Masonic Grand Lodge. My lodge brother told me before he left Truman’s office he had a brief talk with the President. The brother had been on a ship at the end of World War II destined for the invasion of the Japanese homeland. He thanked the President for ending the war, by dropping the bomb, thereby saving his life. Truman said he had rarely been thanked by someone personally for that.

I should also point out during the summer, entrance to the library is free to those that served in the military. There is an RV campsite down the road which we did not have a chance to tour.

Karen and I were able to meet up with full-time RVers Fred and Bonnie from New York. They had started a recent trip in St. Louis Missouri and are now following the foot/boat/RV steps of the Louis and Clark Expedition. You can catch a two-part blog post of their visit in Kansas City at HappiLeeRVing.

We had a wonderful time visiting after dinner in Kearney Missouri. The couple had lots of advice and experiences to share. At times Karen would drift into conversation with Bonnie while Fred and I talked about something else. Fred says do this fulltime RV thing before you’re too old to handle the physical part. Bonnie was talking to Karen about clothing at the same time so I did not catch that. I think it had something to do with Fred keeping too many jackets. We talked about trip planning, this trips theme of following Louis and Clark, decision to stick with an RV gas/electric refrigerator, and attending the RV Dreams Rally.

The couple agreed there is much more to see in the Kansas City area than they had imagined. Fred likes to plan stops weeks in advance. When asked how they can force themselves to leave an interesting area before they saw everything, Fred said their attitude is “they will catch it next time.” We talked about planning for stops, how long they stay and how far between moves. We even talked briefly about an exit strategy should they ever want to come off the road.  The couple really seemed happy! That was a joy to see. We finished coffee and headed over to visit Jesse James’ grave where the price of admission was only having to put up with a history lesson by yours truly.

I’ve been busy going over a couple future blog posts in my head. Stay tuned for a few ideas on hobbies while on the road. And a list of items we plan to equip our RV with. Heads up – I’m not sure if it’s the same at your local Walmart but ours has 50% off on Weber Q 1200 grills. I suppose because it’s the end of the season.

Cargo Capacity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I thinking in the wrong direction on this one?

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

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


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


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

These Things Break – Do You Really Want to Buy One?

This blog post may turn out to be just another summary of the bad side of RV repairs as reported by so many other writers.  I’ve thought about the topic for the past several months and had started research well before that.  I found myself asking why post it at all? I thought surely everyone has read about the potential for catastrophic RV repairs blamed on poor manufacturing. I suppose the best reason to write this is to make sure my wife has an idea of what can go wrong with our future RV and maybe readers would appreciate sharing this information with their spouse.

It is no secret that RV sales are at a historic high and the forecast for next year is even more units will be built. Record production has the potential (that’s a safe way to describe it) of putting an increased demand on repair shops and manufacturers/dealerships completing warranty service.  Unfortunately, my research has been focused on fifth wheels so you will have to bear with me if you own another class of RV.

Most have surely read how RV manufacturers can be terrible at handling after-sales service. Even if we have not owned a unit for years, it does not take long to drift through the forums and read even owners who have few problems will write “they all have issues.”  If you look back in the recent history of RV manufacturing you will discover many of the existing companies are not that old. Many have closed their doors and many have had their brand names bought out by another. All this causes management change and perhaps a step back in customer service.  A short list of what I’ve seen in the past three years include; NuWa stopped building the Hitchhiker then Peterson (builders of the Excel) produced the Hitchhiker only to shut down operations a short time later. NuWa invented the fifth wheel so what a shame they could not stay in business. Lifestyles Luxury RV was said by many to be a dependable brand but suddenly closed their doors.  Some say because of losing financial backing and others said they were so intent on fixing every warranty problem they could not stay in business. Management came from another defunct company to run Lifestyles. What about the Carriage brands which were also popular by full-timers as late as 2010. Gone – sold the brand names to Crossroads who has stopped building the Carriage and the Cameo is just another among average fifth wheels (in my opinion). I could go on. The point is even todays companies who care about the customer may be gone when RV sales eventually decline. And especially if management does not think long-term, guiding a company in a better position for the future.

Now for the meat of this blog post. I want my wife and others to know there is a chance so many things will be defective in an RV that you might decide to leave the road, be injured or take a financial hit.  Personally, I believe the chances are relatively rare as a percentage of RVs that are on the road today. But then again, they are not all used as full time living quarters.

I have been following full-timer’s RV blogs since October of 2014. So far, I have read or talked personally with four of the 23 RV owners I follow who had significant issues with their unit. The brands include DRV, the original Carriage Carri-lite, Lifestyles and Forrest River Cedar Creek. In one case, the person left the road disgusted after trying other brands.  Another had their RVs frame welded and eventually continued on their journey. Another sat in a motel room for months, even working a part-time job, until the manufacturer built them a new trailer. And finally, another has sent their trailer back to the factory for 70 or more issues to be addressed.  Yes, they “all may have problems.” Yes, these may be just a few unique examples. And yes, they may have eventually been repaired. But, these four examples represent 17% of this small sampling. Each was built by what are considered good companies. But most of all – what if we become one of the percentage with major issues? And is it ever satisfactory that any single purchaser, much less these 17%, should have to worry about it. Especially when manufacturers can get banks to finance these things for 20 years which to me implies they will last that long. Of course, if you buy a vacation travel trailer for a lot less than a $60,000 – $120,000 fifth wheel which is built as a “full time or extended stay” unit, most would not expect to get the same longevity.

Okay you can stop reading if you agree or feel warned there could be major issues with an RV that could cause major inconvenience when you are on the road – Or dare read on-

Please don’t get this blog post confused as only a rant, because it’s not. The chance our RV will breakdown in a major way is really a concern of mine. I’m personally willing to risk it and buy a trailer for the likely chance we will not be hindered with a catastrophic repair. If you want to read about the true nature of these issues then click here. This is the only place you will need to go to learn about what is truly behind the problem with RV manufacturers.  Greg Gerber is the past Editor of RV Daily Report and wrote this series of articles titled “RV Industry Death Spiral.” To me, he is a whistle-blower and I appreciated his candor.  Mr. Gerber may have correctly forecasted 2017 would be the year of lawsuits for the RV industry. If his research is correct, there are more than 2,500 active lawsuits by customers after the time he wrote the articles. He predicts 2019 will be the legal turning point for the RV industry as state and federal officials look to pass consumer-friendly legislation. I’ll leave out the politics of his prediction relative to if or if not government is willing to push forward with legislation.

I first became aware of government influence when reading in 2015 Forest River got themselves into a little trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for not sending out prompt recall notices for safety issues.  Later Forest River announced positive changes potentially effecting the timeliness of RV repairs and certainly response to recall notices. Now their dealerships are taking issue with the new warranty policy per an RV Daily Report article written May of 2017. Why is this example so important? Because Forest River is among the top producers of RVs and is one of only a few competing against fifth wheel brands, and others, owned by Thor. And just think, Forest River gained that market share during their short 11-year history.  Personally, I view Forest River’s initiative as a good thing in that they are trying to introduce a system to better supply parts to customers in immediate need. RV Business published an article by June of 2017. Called a Parts Initiative in which they wrote; “An all-industry working group led by members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and RVDA of Canada continues to quietly work on a series of parts delivery issues that could ultimately help improve dealers’ abilities to expedite warranty and other consumer repairs in the field.” Is this the start of RV manufacturers finally taking responsibility for producing sometimes inferior products?

Yet other manufacturers are taking a slightly different approach to better avoid major repair issues in their new units. During my research, I’m finding Grand Design, founded in 2011, is a company where potential customers are looking to provide exceptional customer service. Grand Design recently sold the brand to Winnebago. The founders came from Keystone which is a company claiming to be the #1 builders of recreational vehicles in North America. Keystone is another relatively new company founded in 1996. By 2001 they were owned by Thor. Talk about management changes!  Now back to the Grand Design’s business model, designed to catch flaws before they leave the factory. They built a huge facility where all their products pass through an inspection – after construction.  In their own words;

“Following construction, every Grand Design product goes through an initial quality inspection process. This is usually the final step other manufacturers take before shipping their units. We at Grand Design RV believe that this “industry standard” process falls far short of producing what we would regard as a quality unit. So, at this point in the manufacturing process, we send each unit to our dedicated pre-delivery inspection center where it is meticulously taken through a rigid point-by-point inspection process and final finished.”

I am not qualified to tell any RV manufacture how to run their business. I’ll let my purchasing dollars influence that – to a tiny degree.  But Dr. Deming is qualified!  And I’m not sure Grand Design’s model would be part of the way Deming would suggest the business be run in terms of checking for problems after the fact. How about building quality into the process to start with! In business college, I learned where during World War II Dr. Deming worked in logistics with the US Air Force. Deming would eventually draft what he called the 14 points for management. From what I was taught, Deming took his skills to Japan after the United States drifted into an economy based upon, in rather simple terms, why build it good when you can throw it away and buy another. At the time it might have been easier to get away with poor quality when most of the worlds manufacturing overseas was bombed into oblivion, while ours went untouched. But not for long.

US business management would not listen to Dr. Deming’s ideas. Well, the Japanese listened and with Deming – trashed the US auto market. Legend has it one Japanese executive was in the audience during a day Deming presented his principles. Kaoru Ishikawa listened and later was noted for his own quality management innovations. If you have studied the topic you may have heard of an Ishikawa Diagram which some refer to as a fishbone chart. This is a process of breaking down a problem into its root cause to truly fix the problem.

Dr. Deming believed in erasing anything wasteful. I was taught his motive was not to increase profits, but to rid the world of waste. This included wasteful human effort that could be better spent building something with zero imperfections rather than checking something later to make sure it is built right and if not, build it again. But I get it and I’ll bet Grand Design management gets it better than most. Sometimes things are currently out of one’s control. Perhaps the labor shortage in Elkhart Indiana is having even more of an impact on business. Perhaps Grand Design can’t trust their employees to build it right. Or maybe they have given up during prior attempts.  Who knows for sure.  Maybe they are driven by short term profits because the next recession or major gas price increase will bring an end to them. After a few short years of research, I’ve come to my own opinion of the current RV labor market. And I don’t blame the majority of the employees. If I must blame someone, then I think I’ll blame management because that at least goes with the salary!  I suppose there might be an argument that the consumer could be blamed because they are not willing to pay more for a better built trailer. Personally, I would have to disagree with that, especially since a lot of the parts that are installed into one particular brand of trailer are the same as another brand’s.  More on that later.

Certainly, the way employees are over-worked and paid in a manner that encourages speed over quality could have a little to do with it. Here is a  Reuters article on RV construction labor in Elkhart. Sorry in advance as portions of the article discuss politics. One model is to pay employees by the “piece” where in the employee can go home after producing X number of units with the same pay as if they were there all day. Some manufacturers do not subscribe to this “incentive” and still elect to pay by the hour. Augusta RV and New Horizons come to mind.

I’ll near the conclusion by saying there has to be hope the RV industry will improve either through increased competition, their own initiatives, or hopefully not – through government regulation. Seventeen percent of the 23 full timer’s RV experiences I started off writing about is not going to cut it. Perhaps there will be an awakening in this industry just as there was in the US auto industry brought about through stiff competition by the Japanese. Can you guys remember when one could buy a foreign car at a fraction of the price that lasted a lot longer than a domestic built car? Thank goodness those days are over.

I’m not ready to say the issue is profit driven although it might be. A reader posted this link to See Dealer Profit (thank you Ryan). If what the website is reporting is accurate, RV manufacturers sell to dealerships between about 35% to 50% less than manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That would mean an RV manufacturer producing an RV with an MSRP of $100,000 is building it, with included cost and profit, for maybe $50,000.  Some may say “these things go through an earthquake everyday” when they are pulled down the road as if to make excuse for repairs even in a new unit.  Well, is that not what they are supposed to be built for? To me $50,000 is a lot of money and is more than most earn in a year.

Why can’t we ask that at least when an RV manufacturer installs another’s part such as a slide motor, water tank or refrigerator as well as their own plumbing and electrical runs or whatever, can’t they do it right the first time. And why would you pay an employee for doing it wrong to start with? And why would you pay a vendor for furnishing defective parts? That makes no sense, especially if it might be at the root of the problem.  And if they cover themselves with short one-year warranties and only build something to last that long well then shame on them. Because that RV might be financed through a bank by an unsuspecting family. And if the management and owners of these companies don’t care beyond a year then there might be a good seat in hell for that attitude.

I’m still buying one!  I’m taking my best shot at finding a good one and crossing my fingers from there on.  Maybe that sums it up as to why they are still selling so many. Maybe my second full-time RV will be a Toyota RV. I hope not.