One Year of Full Timing
June 9, 2002 Denver, CO. It has been over a year since I disposed of the house and gave all the stuff to the kids and hit the road as a full time RVer. To read an abbreviated log of the travels, see the Wandrin columns.
This column's material is random thoughts regarding the full time life style.
The Home ... is named Wandrin Wagon. It is a 28 foot fifth wheel with a single slide manufactured by New Horizons in 2001. To see some photos of the home, go to Virtual Tour.
The Truck ... is a 2000 Ford F-350 Diesel Truck and is dubbed Silver Slug. It is the tow vehicle and provides local transportation when ever Wandrin Wagon is parked. Why Silver Slug? Silver Streak was the first name suggested by TJ. I allowed that is not what a diesel truck does. He then suggested Silver Slug. That was it!
Mileage ... During this first year, I have moved Wandrin Wagon about 10,000 miles and stopped a total of 60 times. The stops ranged from one day to two months. Silver Slug has accumulated 25,000 miles -- 10,000 when towing Wandrin Wagon and 15,000 miles when Wandrin Wagon was parked as I explored the local area.
Costs ... My expenses average just under $3000 a month. Major elements averaged over a nine month period:
-- 22% Space rent
-- 17% Truck insurance, service and fuel
-- 12% Medical including insurance
-- 12% Capital Expense: remodeling, bicycle, etc.
-- 10% Groceries, personal items and Crown Royal
Crown Royal in with the groceries? ... California and Arizona grocery stores sell liquor and wine. All grocery stores sell groceries, personal hygiene, vitamins, cleaning items, etc. You've been there. As a note to myself: when the grocery category is in first or second place of expenses, I will check my Crown Royal consumption.
Cell Phone ... Using a one rate plan from AT&T, I am able to call anywhere from anyplace. This has worked fine. When I was in Organ Pipe N.M. in southern Arizona and on the Mexican border, the cell phones display indicated that I had a message. I called to get the message, but I received a prerecorded message in Spanish and I was disconnected.
No doubt I was connected to a cell tower that was in Mexico and my one rate plan does not include making calls in Mexico -- only the US. When I did retrieve the message a few days later, it was from a Ford dealer informing me that my truck was due for service. For that I need a cell phone!
US Mail ... To register vehicles, vote, insuring vehicles, and health insurance. you must have a permanent address some place. For the past year, I had an address at Mail Boxes, Etc. in Greeley, Colorado. Once a month, I send an email or call them and they forward mail to a specified address. That address would be some RV park where I would be parked for at least a week. Initially, I had it sent USPS's Priority Mail which would take anywhere from four to five days. Then I switched to having it sent UPS ground. It was there in three days every time.
As this time, I am establishing a mail box in South Dakota. The reason for establishing a residency there is that there is no state income tax. I do not have much income, but I would rather keep as much as I can.
Income and bills ... All checking account transfusions are done automatically. A charge card is used for most expenses. If the merchant does not take a charge card, I write a check. Once a month the charge card company transfers money from the checking account to clear the charge card. After this has all been done, there are no invoices to pay each month.... No late payments! No worries!
Oh yes ... I do carry a little cash around which I draw from an ATM. There are times that cash is most suitable -- for Chai tea at some coffee store or Cinnamon Rolls from a bakery.
Internet and email ... Many of the RV parks have a complimentary modem hookup. Alternatively, a connection can be made through a pay phone.
The e-mail is composed off line and about once a week, I connect to send and receive the latest email. Once a month I will have a couple of pages to add to the web site. To connect I may use the RV park's modem hookup or if I am near a Kinko's Copy Center I will use their courtesy phone lines and/or Ethernet connections.
There are rare times that I surf the Internet to search for some little tidbit of knowledge. That is done when I am at Kinko's or when I am in a library.
Libraries... I have rediscovered the amount of wealth that is contained within the walls of those institutions. In addition to the usual large collection of books and reference materials, the current periodicals section has been known to keep me occupied for a couple of hours on a cool or rainy afternoon.
They also loan out books, but not to homeless person.
Dining out ... Most times I eat at home (Wandrin Wagon). When I do have a notion to eat out, I look for something that isn't just another link on a restaurant chain. When I do eat out, it is lunch. It's the best value meal of the day as far as I am concerned -- human sized meals for a reasonable price.
Filling up the day ... Frequently, I am asked what I do with all my time. Well. That depends ... If I am parked some place for a few days, I will be checking out the local spots that interest me. For those few days, I can be quite busy.
When I am parked for weeks or months in one location, I try to schedule at least one event each day. By doing that, there is always something to do each day. That single item might be a visit to a local tourist stop, National Parks Service place, a State Park stop, a museum, a hike, a neighborhood walk, a shopping day or -- even a laundry day.
When nothing else is scheduled or I am filling the remainder of a day, there are books to read (mostly non-fiction), sit at the computer (answer emails, web page creation, create greeting cards for the "unconnected", creative writing and computer Scrabble -- I always win because I make the computer an intellectual idiot) or watch my favorite movie genre -- Westerns on the Encore Westerns Channel.
... and if I run out of things to do, I can...
Wash and detail Wandrin Wagon ... In all the years that I have owned cars, I have NEVER detailed a vehicle. I buy a house on wheels and what do I do? I wash it frequently and every six months it is waxed. This wax is a "sun block" to keep the exterior surface looking bright and new.
When towing Wandrin Wagon down the road, insects are attracted to it and squash their gooey bodies to the front. One of the main reasons for waxing is to easily remove the carcasses and stains of the insects. In fact, the front end is waxed more frequently than the rest of Wandrin Wagon. Cleans much more easily!
When I finally decide that it is time to wax all of Wandrin Wagon, I plan for the process to take at least a week of longer. There is no point in rushing the effort and besides it is hard work; up and down a ladder and alternately moving the left and right arm in circles. ... I'm ready for a nap just writing about it.
Mass media on the road ... Above I had mentioned Encore Westerns channel. I have a satellite dish on the roof of Wandrin Wagon. If there are trees in the way, most times I am able to set up my portable dish to get satellite reception. When parked in an urban area, the TV antenna on the roof will suffice to get the local channels. Other times, cable TV hookups are available at some RV parks.
An observation ... The true sign of a veteran full time RVer is the time it takes to set up a portable dish and and get signal from the satellite dish. I have been able to do that in ten minutes or less. That was the record!
Another time, I couldn't find the right satellite. Did you know that there are several satellites? Since I use a "satellite signal finder", it tells me that I am focused on a satellite; it doesn't tell me if I am on the right one. That was another of those learning experiences. Okay. So I like to learn.
All this talk of TV, makes me sound like a couch potato. After two hours of TV watching, I am onto something else. Two hours of NPR's morning or afternoon programs is also enough.
Once every two weeks or so, I will pick up a local newspaper. When I plan ahead, I go to some coffee outlet, have Chai tea and recycle the newspapers that someone has already read.
Another place to catch up on newspapers is the library. I am not a New York Times reader, but finding the Sunday issue in small libraries across the country was an interesting discovery. In one library, I found it so crisp, I assume no one had read it before I touched it.
How long to set up camp ... Depending upon the RV site, in less than 45 minutes I can be parked and set up. Breaking camp is completed more quickly.
Miraculous discovery ... When I started out on the road, connecting the water hoses is the one thing that caused cuts and bruises as I attempted to get the connections water tight. I have since discovered the "Hose Quick Connection" for the water connections. With the addition of a "Hose Quick Connection" on the flush valve for the black water tank, I have reduced the knuckle scrapes to nil. That is a great invention!
Boon docking ... or camping without hookups. During this past year, I have parked without hookups four times. It was for one or two days each time. Once it was done just to see if it could be done. During one particular cloudy stop, the solar panels were not able to recharge the batteries.
The ability to boon dock allows more flexibility in places to park. To allow more frequent and longer periods of boon docking in the future, I will upgrade Wandrin Wagon with two additional panels, two batteries and a propane generator.
Traveling the roads ... Since I am a solo traveler, I have no "nagivator." When I do start out, I have already researched the travel route. Notes are made regarding the highway numbers, distances to travel between turns, cities along the way or any points of interest. It is a guide for the travel. Most times I follow it, but I have been known to abandon it.
My preferences are not to travel the freeways, but to travel the secondary roads and go through the small towns along the way. This makes the journey much more interesting and less stressful. ... and ... Finding a bakery on a freeway is impossible!
Reservations at RV parks ... My goal is not to travel more than 250 miles a day. With that objective, I can be camped by two in the afternoon and have always found space. During the first year, I didn't make any reservations. I never had a problem. If I wanted to stay for longer periods, I may have had to move to a different space in the same park.
It is totally out of character for me to make reservations. However, since I am staying in one place for longer periods of time during the summer of 2002, I have made reservations through August except for three weeks when I will be traveling from Colorado to Wisconsin. I will take my chances!
Since many parks fill up with reservations for summer weekends, I plan ahead to make reservations. I would rather not do that, but it reduces the stress.
For this first year of my travels, I have joined no camping clubs. Each time that I do look at the possibility, there seems to be no park where I can make use of the membership.
Wal-Mart camping ... Haven't done it! Too many people use this as a place to "camp" rather than a short term "emergency" stop. They will abuse Wal-Mart's courtesy and eventually Wal-Mart will disallow it and ruin it for all of us. ... My philosophy is to use it when it is late in the evening and I need a secure place to stop overnight before I hit the road again. The odds of being in that situation are almost nil since my plans are to be parked by mid-afternoon.
Anything missed ... from the great give away of the stuff that was in the house? Not a thing. In fact, I cannot remember what was there. Out of sight -- out of mind!
Regrets about taking something ... Over many years, I have accumulated albums full of photographs. I also have my mother's photo albums representing the last 100 years. It all amounts to about 200 pounds of material. I have selectively scanned all those pictures to CD and sent backup copies to TJ and Vanita. So why do I continue to haul the originals around the country? ... I have not a clue!
Best part ... about living full time on the road is having the freedom to do what I wish on any particular day.
Worst part ... about full timing. ... Haven't come up with anything. If I do, I will let you know.
What's it like not having a permanent home? ... Well. I do have a permanent home. Whenever I unhitch, I remember where I left it and so I know where to find it. ... or another answer to the same question ... Not too bad considering that I am trailer trash and I live in a unit described as tornado bait.
Would I design Wandrin Wagon differently? ... Next time there would be no slide. The main reason for a slide is to add floor space and the only reason for needing the floor space is so two people can pass each other easily. Since there is no second person with me, all the slide does is add weight to the total unit.
The new design would be 26 feet long, slightly different floor plan, double walls, double paned glass, top end solar system and propane generator.
Would I do a fifth wheel again? This is more difficult to answer. The possibility of a Class C towing a small car was an initial alternative. However, I found nothing that I liked. And I have not looked at any RVs since that time.
My current thought is that a shorter and lighter fifth wheel would be fine.
Since one of the options in any decision is to do nothing, that is mine at this time. I will wait a few years so the depreciation hit doesn't look so bad. Now if there is some one out there who fell in love with my unit, I am sure we could make a deal!
...Oh. One more question....
Do I miss work? ... is a question that I get frequently from former co-workers. Ya' gotta be kiddin'! ... I don't miss the work, but I do miss the opportunities to interact and talk with people. ... but ... If I really want people interaction, I can always go to the grocery store. At the checkout line, they always ask, "Paper or plastic?".