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Things I have Learned the Hard Way.


After more than seven years of full time Rving, I am still in the process of getting a degree from the school of hard knocks.  I would like to share with you some of the problems I have come across and some solutions for them.

Know the height of your RV.  I think of the height of our RV as thirteen feet.  This gives a couple of extra inches of clearance.  We recently came to a bridge, which read 12’ 8” high.  I came to a screeching halt and had my wife get out and eyeball me through over the bridge.  The scariest part was that it sloped down dramatically on the sides.  Lucky there was no other traffic on the road.  I took the road straight down the middle and had room to spare.  Another thing about bridge heights is that they lie.  The road might be repave and raised up an inch or so.  When in doubt, stop, get out and eyeball the situation

When driving down a tree lined street look up at the branches.  We drove down a familiar street at our old home and tore off part of our roof. A branch of a tree extended over the street and was lower near the curb.  This was an expensive lesson and had to change our summer plans.  One thing about Full time Rving is that you have plenty of time.

That leads us to our second point.  What’s the hurry?  Slow down.  Take the side roads.  Frequently they are quicker than the Interstate Highways.  There are more interesting places to see on the byways of Americas that is missed on the Interstates.  Sometimes the Interstates are a necessary evil, if we have to do some long driving. 

Try to keep to 60 miles per hour or less.  The price of fuel is not going down and the faster you go the more you use.  You also lose looking at the scenery, because you have to concentrate more on the road.

Television Antenna: Make sure you television antenna is completely lowered.  We lost ours in electrical wires at a campground, while changing campsites.  It was dusk and I did not see the wires.  OOPS!!

Duct Tape: Duct tape is my best friend.  Yes, trailers will develop cracks and nicks. Our trailer looks like a wounded veteran, which it is.  We have clear duct tape covering cracks, a hole in the trailer, on the roof, and holding a drop down door in place.  Some of these problems happened by making too sharp turns.   Getting into some campsite with a rig that is fifty feet overall in length can sometimes be very daunting.

Walkie-talkies: Another great help is having a good set of walkie-talkies, when backing into a parking space, especially tight ones.  Learn your turning radius.  We need a lot of room to turn.  So much of this is trial and error.  Be patient and it will come eventually.  A problem occurs when you are parked for three or four months.  You forget what to do.

Remember there is a  learning curve. 

 

Some mistakes can be costly.

 

 
 
   

Get yourself an RV solar panel, and | kiss buying gas for a generator goodbye]

The days are upon us when solar technology has become more affordable than other technologies with similar benefits.  An RV solar panel is a perfect way to get power, silently, cleanly and with much less cost than traditional alternatives like a generator or a battery that gets charged at home or by your engine.

Here is a fact about the RV solar panel: Today, an RV solar panel is available at Harbor Freight tools that is under $100.It will huice up your batteries while you sleep , topping them off for your next trip without you doing anything.  Think about the savings that provides over filling a generator’s tank.  By the time you do it 15 times, the RV solar panel will have paid for itself!

Also consider the environment.  Most people just don’t let that factor in still, even with industry and government taking the first move toward green energy .  The tax benefits that motivate big corporations are already beginning to get individuals to act.  As an example, your RV solar panel might qualify you (in some states) for a subsidy from your local power company.  And, when people go with green, renewable systems , we make a better place for our future .

Another benefit is noise.  With an RV solar panel, you aren’t the guy in the campsite with the loud generator, keeping everybody within hearing distance up all night.  Sure, those generators say that they’re quiet, and it’s true, they are much better than they used to be, but they still bother the heck out of me and most friends I have when they’re on at night in the next campground over.

Mounting your RV solar panel is not a tough job either.I did my own in a mere forty minutes, including the sealant for the hole I made in the roof.  Most panels come in kits that allow for mounting with a handful of tools in minutes.  So take a few minutes to look at the economic benefits of an RV solar panel.You’ll be impressed with the money you can save over the long run .

   
 

 

Choosing Your RV.

The best advice I can give to someone who wants to do full-time Rving is to attend a large RV show.  These are usually held in the winter season in many cities.  Rosemont, Illinois and Tampa, Florida are just two that come to mind. Get a RV magazine, like "Camping Life" or "Trailer Life" and find one close to your home.  You will also see advertisements about close out sales at different dealerships in your area.  Remember that there are hundreds of different types of RVs out there.  A dealership can have only so many.  That is why a show is so good.  There are many different dealerships and manufacturers.  When we bought our 2002 Avion Platinum 33' fifth wheel we had gone to the show in Rosemont, Illinois (near O'Hare Field). We knew what we wanted in a RV: two recliners and a bedroom, which was higher than 6'2", because that is my height.  Those were our demands.  We also wanted large storage space, because both of us are pack rats.  One of the first RVs we walked into was this Avion by Fleetwood.  I never heard of it, but knew of Fleetwood's reputation for trailer construction.  I had been in the trucking business for twenty years and Fleetwood made our fleet.  Since then we have gone through a learning curve.  We are still in love with the Avion.  Others hate them, because of the many problems they have occurred with them. 

We spent the rest of the day looking at and sitting in RVs.  Some had slanted roofs and wasted a lot of interior space.  Some had short bedroom ceilings, where I had to stoop over to get into bed: unacceptable.  Some had space between the cabinets and the ceiling: a waste in my opinion.  We must have looked at over fifty fifth-wheel trailers.  We settled on the Avion and got a good price because of the RV show.  We would have even gotten a better one, if we had driven it off the lot.  We were not ready to start traveling for another four months.  Today many manufacturers have adopted a flat roof and a high ceiling in the bedroom.  There are more options out there.  One other thing is price and budget.  What can you afford?  Even some fifth-wheels can cost as much as six figures: not in our range.

That is our story.  How about you?  Each person has different tastes and needs.  In choosing a RV for yourself, you have to address these issues.  Do I want to fix a meal while driving down the highway?  Where do I want to explore?  Do I want a resort with all of the amenities: pool, club house, activities, etc.?  Do I want to find a secluded beach or mountain lake? O how about all of the above?

Let us look at the different options in buying a RV.  There are pros and cons for each one you consider.

First, the Motor Home: Class A.  The motor home is a self-contained unit, looking like a bus.  They come in all sizes and with every comfort of home.  Their cost will be less than $100,000 to $1,000,000+.  There are some resorts that will accept only the high-end motor homes as residents.  Motor Homes have all of the creature comforts: captain chairs, lot of interior and exterior storage space, and the comfort that you can fix a meal while driving down the highway (not the driver, but the passenger).  There is a story about someone driving down one of the lonely straight roads out West and wanted to fix lunch.  He put the Motor Home on Cruise control and went back to fix lunch.  Miles ahead was a turn in the road.  He was still fixing lunch and ran off the road. Another plus for a Motor Home is security.  I a worse case scenario where there are pirates who want to attack you, all you have to do is get into the driver’s seat and pull away, leaving them empty handed.  This does not happen too often.

The cons about a Motor home are that you have to have a tow vehicle.  I have seen them as small as a Scout and as large as a full size Hummer. I have seen his and hers motorcycles.  I have seen trailers with Corvettes inside or other sports car.  Each person has his and her own lifestyle.  You do not have to give it up to be a full-time Rver.  Remember that for each vehicle you need a license and insurance, and mechanical upkeep.

Second, the Travel Trailer (TT).  I have seen travel trailers the size of an egg, less than ten feet to ones over forty feet with numerous slide outs.  I have seen some that the roof collapses and travels behind the car or truck.  They are becoming more popular.  Airstream is a well-known manufacturer.  These are the silver bullet ones.  Many people swear by them and have Airstream Travel Clubs.  Travel trailers come in many sizes with a variety of slide outs and other amenities.  One advantage is that you can use a car to pull some of them, i.e., the lighter ones.  The cons are swaying in the wind while driving down the road.  Sway bars are available to diminish some of this.  They are not as steady as Motor Homes or fifth wheels.

Third: Fifth –wheels.  These look like travel trailers, but have a gooseneck extending in front over the bed of the pick-up truck.  They come in sizes from <26 feet to >45 feet.  The longer the trailer, the less option you will have of finding a suitable parking place.  Our overall length is fifty feet: thirty-three for the trailer and seventeen for the dually pick up truck.  We have white knuckled into a parking space many a time.  Turning corners is another challenge.  You need extra room to do so.  Look at Semi drivers who have to make a sharp turn.  These are professional drivers. Fifth-wheels are wonderful to travel down the road.  I forget that it is behind me.  I remember when I have to brake, change lands, or come to a viaduct with a low clearance.  Remember the height of your trailer.  The cons are dropping and hooking.  At our website I have a couple of checklists for exterior and interior dropping and hooking.  These need to be adhered to or else you might be going down the road with the television antenna raised.  It will not be like that for long.  I know from experience.

Fourth: Class C Motor Homes.  These are on a truck chassis and can range from <twenty feet to >thirty feet.  Like Motor Homes, you need a tow vehicle so you can travel while in a campground.  I have seen some very nice Class C Motor Homes.  They are very suitable for the single traveler, male or female.

Fifth: truck bed drop ins.  These are units that fit on the rear of a pick up truck.  Lancer manufactures a very nice model, which hangs over the rear of the truck.  One advantage is that you can drop the unit and drive away in the truck.  One con is the about of weight you put on the rear of the truck.  Be careful about destabilizing the load.

Sixth: Class B Motor Homes.  I have not seen too many of these lived in by full-time Rvers.  They look like custom vans and come in various sizes.  I would feel claustrophobic in one of them.

Finally: pop up trailers.  Yes there are some full-time Rvers who live in a pop up trailer.  These are hearty souls who do not mind being in the elements.  I have seen one that is no more than six feet long.  The occupants put up a kitchen tent, where they did their cooking and relaxing.  The trailer was for sleeping.

As you can see, there are many options from which you can choose to live the lifestyle of adventure as a full time Rver.  I recommend googling on RV trailers on the Internet to see what is available.   Se what the price ranges are for each one.  But before you buy.  Make sure you sit in one and check out all of the amenities.  You have to answer one question; “Can I live in this?”  If you have any qualms about your answer, go somewhere else.  This will be your home.

Remember to visit our web site for more updates about RV living: http://www.jmpelley.org.

 
       
       

 


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