Who are we

Eventually, Karen will get around to posting what she wants to say about herself.

So far she wants to say she loves her dogs.  That shows you where I rank! Karen is originally from Michigan. Spent much of her working life in the health industry where hospital billing is her specialty. She retired in 2015.


As of 2014 I’m a year past 50 and have lived in the Kansas City area my entire life.  I’ve worked in law enforcement one way or another since 1985, working both full and part-time. Spent a few years in the corporate world as well as running a side business.  I’ve always been an outdoors type beginning with family camping trips, Boy Scouts and all the free outdoor vacations paid for by my Uncle Sam while in the Army.  I’ve owned a pop-up and 30 foot travel trailer in the past, as well as renting a 25′ Class C in 2015.

Decided to major in business while in college which made me a numbers person – on top of being a micro-planner. Married my lovely wife Karen and never looked back.  Now I’m looking forward to our retirement years and trying to not “wish my life away” waiting for the day to come.  Feels like I’m 15 again, wishing I was 16 and could drive.

When Karen and I decided traveling fulltime in an RV was in our future we initially thought 2023 was the year we would leave.  Like so many others, we tried to figure out a way to leave earlier. To that end, I came up with our estimated retirement income and used budgets for our style of travel which other full-timers had posted. Then we started saving to leave earlier.

In August of 2019 we sold the house and moved into the fifth wheel full time. I was still working for about the next five weeks before we left Kansas City.

My user name on forums is generally MDS1.  I also tend to sign or tag my post as Mark from Missouri.  Hope to see you on the forums.

We ended up ordering a 2019 Vanleigh Vilano 320GK and bought a one year old dually Ram 3500.

I appreciate your comments and wisdom as you read our blog!


21 thoughts on “Who are we

  1. Mark – this is a GREAT blog! We are in the same planning / research / homework mode you are in, so I’m anxious to read your results and conclusions. Luckily, we are closer to pulling the trigger than you because of age, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not! We live south of you in Joplin and have spent some time out in Grain Valley at the dealers there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dave, a lot of my family live in the Mt. Vernon area. I’ve been thinking about stopping at some of those dealerships outside of Carthage or maybe the Springfield area.

      Spending too much time looking at rigs right now, but it’s fun. Figure our purchase will not come before 2017. Right now floor plan is most on our minds. So far the KC show and those dealers in Grain Valley seem to have the most selection.


      • Yeah we are doing the same. After looking and reading a lot, we have narrowed our future choice to (probably) a DRV, Landmark 365 or a Redwood. There is no DRV or Landmark dealer in the area (Chanute and Grain Valley). The local dealer Coachlight is a Thor dealer but does not have the Redwood model – he does have Carriage, which is nice, and Columbus/Rushmore, which are ok. We like you are a ways out, so the decision is yet to be made. We were at the Springfield RV show this past weekend and saw a Jayco Pinnacle which was very nice; then today I read on one of the forums that Jayco is coming our with a new high-end model (the Designer) in 2016 which is a FT rig – so it might be worth checking out.


  2. I am retiring on October 1, 2016. Kay has been retired for a few years. We have bought a 31 foot travel trailer with a bunk house. Not because we need more beds, but we need space for Kay to have a studio to create her art while we travel. We tore out the couch and put a table in the bump out in the back. What I like about the travel trailer is the outdoor kitchen (sink, cook stove and refrigerator) built in. Portable grill, mounting bracket and hook up built in. Outside entertainment center and Bluetooth connectivity. TV outside connection. It is amazing what is available now. We will stay in touch and let you know how things are going. Here is our blog: http://kayandruss.blogspot.com/. It has pictures of our travel trailer. If you decide to follow by email, you can perhaps learn from our mistakes and from our success.
    Regards, Russ


    • Thanks for stopping by Russ. I popped over to your blog and see you are just getting started on it. I’ll be following you guys so we can learn together. I owned a 30′ travel trailer at one time. Kept it parked at the lake.


  3. Love your blog! We’re from Kansas with a daughter living in north Kansas City, Missouri! We plan to go full time in June 2016. Can’t wait! I am curious about WordPress. Is it hard to learn? I want to get a blog up and running but although I have lots of computer experience, I have no blog experience. Any good tips?


    • Hi Kathie and thanks for the complement on the blog. I started it to have a place to keep notes and solicit advise from others. I work in Clay County (Liberty) and we live in Excelsior Springs. You are a few years ahead of us in your plans to go full time. We hope to buy a trailer not later than 2018 and then hit the road late in 2019.

      WordPress is not that hard to learn if someone has lots of computer experience. I used WordPress because I felt it could be customized to meet my needs in organizing information. Compared to Blogger which is better for just posting blogs about your travels. With reasonable computer skills you should be able to get up and running with WordPress in a few hours then add customization as you go. Again, if you just want to report about your travels then Blogger might be a better solution.


  4. Hi Mark:
    Just wanted to thank you and tell you we appreciate the info on your blog.
    My wife and I are selling one of our houses and downsizing to do some travelling. We plan to purchase a LUXE next year, and pull it with a RAM 3500 dually with the big transmission. Our intent is to move around the country and stay in various places for a while (few months?) with a home base in Montana.
    I am a geologist and traveled some on business but never really got to enjoy anyplace, and we want to remedy that by staying places long enough to explore a bit. If I can figure how to do it with the WordPress thing, I will start a blog to document our travels so the kids can follow us.
    My biggest question is the mail. I can do all the bills and stuff online, but things like drivers license, etc., have to come to an address. How do people handle this?
    Also, when we get the LUXE, we have a choice between Dish or Direct TV installed. Is there a preference?
    Ben and Julia Licari


    • Hi Ben, thanks for reading the blog. The Luxe is a beautiful fifth wheel. As is Augusta’s Ambition.

      I use WordPress because I felt it was more customizable but blogger looked easier to use for just keeping a travel blog.

      We are planning to use a mail service in which our mail is sent to the company’s address and then when we stop I’ll have it sent from the company to a close Post Office as general delivery. For example if Texas becomes our home base then we will most likely use the Escapees Club Mail Forwarding Service. There are different mail forwarding services in various states. A friend travels part time and their kids send their mail to them. I’m in the process of going paperless which includes cutting everything possible over to email/internet such as bank statements. I’m hoping to have very little that has to be forwarded.

      We have Direct TV in our sticks and bricks and a couple RVing friends use it on the road. The price was right and the service has been dependable. I’ve read when people are parked in a spot for longer periods they can call Direct TV and have their plan changed to receive the local channels for wherever they might be. I’ve wondered if it might be more interesting to leave the local channels set to our home town to follow news there. I’ve not had any experience with Dish so can’t remark on that. Make sure your satellite system is compatible with whatever service you go with. I’m leaning towards one of the portable satellites rather than a roof mounted unit which require a clear view of the sky in a particular direction for the roof unit to work. You can move the portable unit out from under the trees. But then again the portable units could be easier for someone to steal. A friend has a portable unit hooked to his rear ladder. He also has a place to mount it on the front of the trailer as well.

      Regarding electronics like satellite; I’m not 100% sure what we will end up with. I’ve not been doing much research on it because I suspect the options will be different in two years which is when we expect to be the earliest we purchase a fifth wheel.

      I’m looking forwarding to researching cell phone technology. A friend works in the industry and says he is not concerned because anywhere he has internet he will have phone service by using WIFI calling. I may write about this soon because some may not know about WIFI calling. My T-Mobile service and I believe my wife’s AT&T service has WIFI calling. I have a work phone with Verizon and plan to check into if they provide it also. Again, I’ll get more serious about the options later.

      Good to hear from you,


  5. Great blog Mark. I (Darrall) was researching pin boxes and getting bleary-eyed when I somehow stumbled on your comments/ research. My wife, Cheryl and I are in process of selecting/ buying a Fifth Wheel in 2017
    So we can pull it with our just obtained 2017 F350 Super Duty SRW Diesel Crew Cab Long Bed (gets you the 48 gal tank) w/factory 5th Wheel tow prep etc… We’re in California but my wife is retiring from teaching This Year! And we’re looking for a new home -probably Northwest- but plan extensive stays in our RV and many miles as well. I’m looking seriously at a Bighorn (Heartland) – at least This Week!-in the 15,500 lb GTW and 35 foot range. It seems they have very good insulation ratings and features for price. We could even be nomads for awhile not sure. Good info on the pin boxes and your information is greatly appreciated and I’m definitely looking to include an upgrade in negotiating my purchase. (Not to mention better tires than many come with) Now I’ll have to explore your other writings which I’m sure are equally informative.
    Hope you get to ‘escape’ Sooner than later.

    Darrall Dalberg
    San Jose (Silicon Valley), California


    • Hi Darrall, Congrads on having the truck decision out of the way. Those 2017 Fords are way nice. I have a brochure in the bathroom and have been reading it for months!

      I know two people who have Bighorns and they really like them. I had done a blog post on that trailer as well as the Big Country. Liked them both as well as Heartland’s Landmark which would be out of range for a truck without dually – I’d guess. Seems like more and more are starting to build 35’ in the luxury class which is nice to see. A reader crpeine has a Bighorn and goes to Heartland rallies. Think they may actually be trying to get her to take over/start a Kansas club – not sure how that works. Travel’s with Bentley is Cheri and Dean’s blog.

      Stop by the blog when you can and let me know your opinions because we can use all the help we can get.


  6. Mark, Indeed, we can all use help from others knowledge in these RV decisions and travels.
    I went with single RW as I just didn’t want a dually and I can still go as high as a ~17,500 lb pushing to 18,000 lb 5th wheel and stay below the 28,500 max Combined Weight Rating on the new F350. But I like the idea of keeping the length to about 35 ft (many campgrounds have a 35 ft limit) and the weight to 15,500-16,000 lb max with room to wiggle, so I stayed with single rears. I recently averaged 18.5 MPG on a trip from Bay Area up to Mendocino on California north coast- mostly highway but some climbs over 2,000 feet of elevation. Around town it’s 12 to 13 mpg but if you get rolling and don’t stop, good stuff. I am glad I went ahead and got the truck first as I’m getting to know it and break in those gears. It also gives me some leverage when I visit RV dealers that I’m not playing around! I like the Bighorn as many have a Payload/Carrying capacity well over 3,000 lbs and giving one a lot more options for needed/wanted stuff. I agree that one needs at least a 3,000 lb payload for Full-Time or near Full-Time. I’m with you in that I’m not sure about the washer/dryer even if rig is plumbed for it. I see extra weight and I don’t have problem with visiting a laudromat that has bigger (faster) dryers. I’d use that space for more clothes and the weight for a Kayak, bikes etc.
    If you already haven’t been, one of The Best sites for All things RVing full time is roadlesstraveled.us.
    Amazing well- done site Full of info. Mark & Emily Fagan have been Full Timing since 2007! Including 3+ years on their 44′ sailboat in Mexico. Since 2014 they’ve been in their Dodge dually pulling a NuWa 5th. They’ve published articles/photos in a variety of magazines and have sections on gear, repairs, installing this and that, money/ costs etc…and they boondock a lot- 2,200+ days off the grid not including 900 days on their boat.
    Warning! You will spend Hours reading their articles and viewing their amazing photos. He’s very technical and knows immense knowledge about creating a robust true Solar Power recharging system and they both are into very good photography.
    I Just viewed from their home page, under 2016 Travel to National Parks their amazing photos in Canadian Rockies***** Look at time lapse photo of their rig under the Milky Way at Waterton Lakes NP, Alberta- I can personally attest to the amazing beauty and hidden gem that Glacier National Park, Montana is along with it’s Canadian sister Waterton Lakes NP. The Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise up to Jasper in Alberta is definitely on our ‘bucket list’- along with Yukon into Alaska.
    (I did warn you about hours…it will suck you in) Enjoy.

    Regards, Ciao Darrall

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Mark and Karen,

    Thank, thank you, thank you! I’ve been researching rigs and trucks for a while now and your blog is the best sight I’ve come across. The information you’ve documented is just the right stuff. There is so much garbage information out there to weed through.

    I am 51 and have had a long career in IT. Early retirement is hopefully in a few short years. I’ve spoken with many retired folks and every single one of them wishes they would have done it sooner. I’ve also known a few that retired and did not live long enough to enjoy their time.

    I plan to buy a fifth wheel used, two to four years old. The tow vehicle will also be used, around five years old.

    I’ve been focusing on the Keystone Montana (recommended by a friend that owns one) and both the Cedar Creek SilverBack and Cedar Creek Champagne. The Forest River Riverstone is another nice unit on my radar.

    My tow vehicle of choice is a Ford F450 Diesel. Hope to find a nice King Ranch edition. Those seats look awesome!

    I will definitely stay tuned to your blog.

    Thanks again for all the great information and best of luck to you,



    • Thanks for coming by Derek. Glad to be of help with my blog. I started it to get ideas from others and to keep my notes rather than just sticking them in a file folder. I’ve toured the four rigs you mentioned and like them all. The only exception Karen and I had was with the 2016 Riverstone which seemed like it would be something one would anticipate staying in full hookup spots a lot because of the electrical needs such as residential fridge and induction cook top as a standard. Not sure if Forest River added any replacement options for the 2017 Riverstone. I’d heard that was an old brand name they resurrected. We are leaning towards whatever we get being able to boondock for shorter periods without a lot of solar or running the generator all the time. We don’t want to limit where we stay because it kind of hurts the purpose of an RV which is to travel and stay where you want.

      The Cedar Creek Silverback was the only one that did not have a drop frame so the basement is a bit smaller. We like the new Riverstone but they are heavy. No problem with a 450 Ford. I read where the F350 actually has a higher cargo capacity because it weighs 1,000 pounds less. As you may know, the F450 has heavier components that cut into the cargo capacity. Not an issue as long as the truck can handle the pin weight of whatever trailer, loaded with stuff, that you may get. Ford being the #1 seller and the Montana being the #1 for years now has to say something about both. We toured the new front master suite model of the Montana (3810MS) and really liked it. But it’s 40’9″. Not sure how they measure it. I’m going to call all the major manufacturers and find out how each measures theirs. I’ll post something when done.

      I like the range you mentioned of 2-4 years for used. We are thinking the same way if we go with one of the relatively higher priced, and better built, trailers. Maybe sticking with new if we get something in the 16,000 pound range but not sure yet. I’d really be interested in your ideas for used ones as you search them out.

      We have switched to looking at floor plans in the 35 to under 40′ range. Knowing the approximate size and that we are after a rear living room has sure cut down on the huge list of what is out there. So far we are having trouble finding a 35′ that does not have the smaller corner shower and the living room theater seating not being smaller. Friend told me after years of travel (100,000 miles) he thinks 38′ is the sweet spot for him. Then again others say they would downsize from their 40′ to under 35′. Everyone thinks different and are at different spots in terms of their travel experience. We just want to be comfortable when stopped for extended stays which is definitely in our plans with seasonal workamping being a possibility. What do you think about size?



  8. Mark and Karen,
    My wife and I live in Cibolo, Tx just out of San Antonio. I just stumbled across your blog last week and was amazed at the research you have done! My wife and I are in the midst of doing our research also. I am retired Army with a 100% disabled rating so essentially it’s 2 retirements, Retired School Teacher, and just applied for my SSI a couple of weeks ago. My wife is now receiving her SSI but still working F/T as am I. My wife is 65 and I will be 65 early August. I, like you, tend to be anal about stats and specifics so my research is geared mostly in the what and how 5th wheels are constructed. It’s almost scarry..some of the horror stories I’ve heard and read. So I am trying my best to do my due dilligence and make the best educated guess as to what to get. All your reseach to date mirrors mine except yours is much more detailed and written down. I’ve kept a lot in my head but have done many spreadsheets to keep specifics staright. It would seem that the naughty and nice list of RV’s you have supplied is right in line with mine. One thing that really ticks me off is no one give shower floor to ceiling height! I’m 6 ft and a lot of the shower stalls I stand in has my head stuck in a skylight! I have to find a video walkthru of a particular brand/model I’m looking at to see if they give a shot of the shower. Most videos stop short of showing the full top of shower to ceiling so I have to travel to any one of 5 different RV dealers in the area to check out models. I especially like your scoring system. Mine is not as elabortate but yours covers so much more Your blog has savee me hours of work and research. I look foreward to keeping up with you and your search/research endeavors. Please feel free to contact me anytime. I’m sure I have questions that you many have answers to thru your research. Our RV show in S.A in not until January so maybe we can do some corresponding before then. Good Luck!


    • Moses, it would be awesome to bounce ideas off you. Please feel free to post them here or my email is mseneker@hotmail.com I have learned so much from others on this blog, other blogs and via email or personal messages on forums. We have also met with five full-timers who came through town.

      I’m glad for you guys not having to fight the battle for healthcare, assuming now that your are 65 and should also have the military stuff. If I had to place my concerns in order I would say Healthcare is number one as I’ll be under 65 by the time we hit the road.

      As for the shower height, seems like each trailer is typical of others by floor plan. The front living room models have a nice height as the bathroom is on the lower floor. Seems like the best space in a fifth wheel is in the rear where the ceiling height is the tallest. We are going with a rear living room with the kitchen in the center because that’s where we will be spending most of our time. Makes sense to have those areas in the best space. Glad I’m only 5’9!

      In late 2014 I had decided to keep my notes in an electronic form. Never knew much about blogging before then but decided why not keep them in a blog. I routinely go back and look at information. I’ve got two spread sheets and a word document I’d like to share at some point. It’s my notes and system for evaluating trailers. May not be the best approach but it’s all I could figure out as a way to cut the number down to my top three selections. May post them yet this year. Although we are not going to make a decision until next year.


  9. Mark ~ You are so missed. Reading your blog, I realized a) the amount of thought you put into something is literally SCARY. LOL. I am so happy to read all of this info and trust the source it’s coming from. I am thinking this would be a fantastic way to spend my retirement years. Chris isn’t quite on board yet. I have a feeling that one Sport Show would probably be all it would take though. Please keep writing.

    Stay safe, stay well and know that this gal is reading every word and pretty much living vicariously through you.


    • Kat, thanks for posting in the comments. Beth just sent one as well. I suppose you found the blog together or heard about it from Dave Foster whom was, as I recall, one of no more than a few I told about it as I left my final days on the job.

      This fulltime RV living is more of just another way to live life. Not a perpetual vacation. Lots of daily tasks to get done that are the same as being back home. However….. Today we went to a 100,000 acre national preserve to view the only remaining flock of wild Wooping Cranes that winter here in the Corpus Christi (Rockport) area. Got to see my first wild alligator and Karen had an Armadillo digging a hole two feet in front of her. Then we went back to our home (trailer) to familiar surroundings. Even had to put sunscreen on today and left the AC on for the dog. Wonderful.

      Some nights we sit outside by the fire and wonder at the stars and moon. Then go back home 10 feet away to a familiar bed.

      Best both want to do this lifestyle as it does take compromise and living in a 400 square foot box together. The planning helped get me through the last years of my time on the job. Lots of daydreaming while looking forward to the future. I try and remind myself everyday this is the wonderful time of life and to just let the temporarily bad stuff go. Meeting lots of great people and enjoying having them around me.

      Keep reading. I’ll keep writing.. Mark


      • Oh trust me, I will keep reading. Chris and I are a ways away from our retirement, but you sure showed that it does involve some really important planning and we really needed to see that. Knowledge is power right?!?! I am so happy to see you and Karen out there experiencing your life in this way. You really have it made. Living an adventure but also have the home to retreat back to when your tired. Until we meet again Mark… keep living and keep writing because we are amazed and following.
        P.S. why aren’t you a professional writer??? You really are good at it.


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