RV Wars: Mine is Better Than Yours

Almost every week it seems, on one or more of the RV related Facebook group pages we frequent, a topic we call ‘RV Wars’ happens and sometimes…no…EVERY time, it gets very heated.  Comments end up getting deleted by the Admin of that group or the discussion is just plain shut down.  They always end badly…ALWAYS!


I kid you not, some of them get so heated, it just makes you want to stick your head in a block of ice and stay there.  The looming question that always takes center stage is “Motorhome vs. 5th Wheel/Towable”  As with any topic like that, ‘opinions’ are like *ahem…clears throat* well…you know.  Motorhome owners seemingly always claim their controversial ‘easier and faster setup/take down’ or ‘the wife can make sammiches or use the bathroom while going down the road’ while 5th Wheelers brag about ‘better floor plans and more space’ and ‘RV maintenance is simpler and easier because it doesn’t involve an engine’.  Its like watching a scrappy hockey game; posters typing punches back and forth about how much better “theirs” vs. “ours” are. 


*face palm*


We are members of approximately twenty RV related Facebook groups.  On a good note, if it weren’t for those groups, I don’t know where we’d be…well, yes…we’d be broke and be living in a S&B again.  There’s such a plethora of good information and lessons shared from other fellow RVers who have BTDT.  Some of the groups we frequent are ‘RV Tips’, ‘RV Parks’, ‘RV Roads and Routes’, ‘Military Retired RVers’, ‘RV 5th Wheels’, ‘RV Healthy Eating’, etc.  Mostly, we are just readers but if its a subject we are quite fluent with, either by experience or mistake, we do try to help others saving them from costly mistakes or headaches we’ve endured.   That’s how its SUPPOSED to work, right?


*slurps coffee*  


Anyways, this morning, I rose with the sun, grabbed my big cup of hot joe and sat down to see what excitement I missed our favorite pages since during the eight hours I slept.  All was going well until…yeah, until I start reading a new member post the forbidden, nails-on-the-chalkboard question that had me snort coffee out of my nose.  There it was, staring right back at me on the computer screen…“Hi!  We are newbies and were wondering what is the best RV type we should buy?”  Now if that ain’t a loaded question, I don’t know what is.  If only facebook groupies knew how to use the ‘search bar’ for said group’s page and typed that question instead of posting it,  we wouldn’t have this come up almost every week…oh, and my laptop screen would be cleaner, but I digress.  We wouldn’t have these perpetual ‘forgive me if this has been posted before but…”; its like watching the movie ‘Groundhog Day’.  


Hold onto that thought… 

*Grabbing another cup of coffee…with rum*

…which brings us to the point of this blog entry.  You want answers, right?  


Look, there is no right or wrong answer or best or worst RV out there.  Its all a matter of perception and opinion.  Everyone’s journey and dream is different.  There is no ‘one size fits all’.  Our perspective and experience will be different from others.  We each find what fits our situation, family size, interests, toys, cost, floorplans, etc.  So when someone posts that unnerving comment, “well, motorhomes are better easier…” or “5th wheels are so much better because…” or the bold faced question in the previous paragraph, you can begin to understand why it is such a controversial subject.  So to help with that, we’ve compiled lists that may help answer those unnerving questions or comments.  

For hypothetical comparison, we’ve listed the much debated pros and cons of motorhomes vs. towable (5th wheel and Travel Trailer) RV’s.  The pro/con lists of motorhomes are merely what we’ve read from other’s opinions since we don’t nor haven’t owned one.  The pro/con list of 5th wheel/Travel Trailer Pros are based on our personal experience, perspectives and what we’ve read.  Note: this comparison is based on same length/size and owner experience.

MOTORHOMES – Class A or C

Pros:
  • Easier to set up/take down (this is hugely debatable)
  • Huge windshield for awesome viewing and photography
  • Comfy passenger seat with platform area for laptop computer working in transit
  • Passenger(s) can watch tv/movies while in transit
  • Passenger(s) can make sammiches or go pee while in transit
  • Generator enabled at the push of a button from inside
  • Driver/Passenger(s) don’t have to leave the inside of the coach
  • Large propane tank which results in less visits for refill
  • More comfortable ride in transit
Cons:
  • Price tag; much more expensive unless you hit the lottery or heir to the queen
  • Engine and Maintenance Costs are significantly higher
  • Two vehicles to finance; Motorhome and Toad (transportation vehicle)
  • Insurance Cost is higher; don’t forget to add in the Toad
  • If your engine breaks down, could cost $$ for lodging while motorhome gets serviced
  • Built in generator malfunction requires garage service
  • Bigger Propane and Fuel tanks scream OUCH at the pump
  • While in transit, driver and passenger(s) hears every shake, rattle and roll of everything inside
  • must use high clearance/truck stop type fuel stations because of height
5th WHEEL or TRAVEL TRAILERS

Pros:
  • Affordability (new and pre-owned)
  • Maintenance is much simpler and less costly
  • Space inside RV is not taken up by engine, transmission or cockpit
  • Don’t lose RV home to a garage if mechanics needs to go for service
  • More floor plan options and roomier
  • More homey feel; residential recliners, fireplace, large entertainment centers
  • Larger kitchen/galley with island 
  • Storage is inside the RV (cabinetry) and not underneath
  • Extra storage space in truck bed away from hitch (if needed)
  • Insurance is substantially less
  • Easier to resell
  • Can fuel truck at any fueling station without tow
Cons:
  • No making sammiches or potty breaks while in transit; need rest stops
  • Setup/Take Down requires precise hitching/unhitching & leveling
  • Smaller windshield and cockpit
  • Must be proficient in large vehicle towing and backing up
  • Most states disallow passengers to ride in the trailer in transit
  • Lighter in weight means less stability during transit
  • Riding all day in a pickup truck can be uncomfortable
We hope to clear up the big raging debated misconception regarding setup/take down comparison.  Class A owners claim it takes less time to setup/take down than a 5th wheel/travel trailer.  Both still have to secure their belongings inside and prepare to bring in the slides; each are done ‘inside’.  


Both still have to hook up or unhook utilities outside (ie. electric, water & sewage) taking the same amount of time.  The only difference we’ve observed is that Class A owners can auto-level from ‘inside’ whereas 5th Wheel owners must level or auto-level from an ‘outside’ cargo compartment, however, that said, if both measured on a stop watch, the task length pretty much equals.  


Class A owners claim that 5th Wheel Owners must take extra time to hitch and unhitch however, if Class A owners are towing a toad, they still have to take that same time to hitch or unhitch their toad, sometimes taking longer.  As well, Class A owners claim in foul weather, they can pull into a campsite or park, lower their jacks and be done with it while its assumed that those towing a 5th wheel or travel trailer must get out to unhitch to do the same.  Not true.  If its nasty weather, as 5th wheel owners, we can stay hitched, level the front jacks quickly to take the weight off of the hitch and go inside to put the slides out.  We can properly unhitch and fully level in the morning or when the weather breaks.

There probably are more that we’ve not listed but it gives you a basic idea.  Really, its six of one; half dozen of the other.  All in all, if we were to compare the same level of experience of setup/take down of a Class A vs. 5th Wheel/Travel Trailer, they’d be about the same.   The thing is, its your journey and clock.  Don’t let anyone dictate, compare or boast about how much better, easier or nicer theirs’ is to yours.  Its whatever works for you, your family and your journey.  Enjoy it, regardless of where the steering wheel is located or if your RV leads or follows.  So, we don’t get why there are these ‘RV wars’.   Who cares!  We certainly don’t and neither should you.  


Just keep “living YOUR dream”!










So, you want to RV? Here’s how to buy one!

You’re sitting in your living room and looking around at your life’s possessions aka “STUFF”.  You start to wonder if its really all that worth it.  Then, your mind wanders…you’re yearning to throw caution to the wind and travel.  You’re thinking ‘time is too short to be sitting here’.  Whether you’re a man or woman enjoying the single life, young newly married couple, with a family, just the two of you, or new/seasoned retirees, you think to yourself, ‘hey, let’s do what the Liberty Crew is doing’.  And so, it begins…..




When contemplating this way of nomadic life in an RV, the biggest decision you’ll make is “buying your new house on wheels”.  Careful considerations must be made when deciding what kind of RV you want to live in.  This certainly is not an overnight decision to make.   Like S&B’s (Sticks and Bricks aka ‘houses’), all RV’s are not created equal. You need to take time to find the one that’s just right for you.  



Here are the most common types of RV’s and Campers:

Click on graphic for larger image
There are others such as bus conversions (coach and school bus), hybrids, box truck conversions, etc. that we also share the road with.  This purchase us such a personal one and only you can make this decision.  Whatever you choose, don’t ever let anyone downplay or destroy your dream.  This is YOUR JOURNEY!

First, we highly recommend doing your research:

  • Budget (how much are wanting to spend?)
  • Are you looking for New or Pre-owned?
  • Assess your/your family’s needs and wants (family size, pets, etc.)
  • Will you want to RV weekends, part-time or full-time?
  • Consider what parts of the country you may be traveling at what time of the year
  • If you’re going to be at full or partial hookups or boondocking (self contained)
  • How long you’re going to be traveling vs. living in or using/living in your RV
  • Activities you are going to want to do (ie. sightseeing, hiking, motorcycling, etc.)
  • Working on the road? (Will you need a work space/office?)
  • How many meals will you be ‘eating in’ vs. ‘eating out’?

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about before taking the plunge and your head will hurt…A LOT…before actually getting on the road.  Appreciate this journey though.  Its what will build you and your family’s experience.  We recommend sitting down yourself, as a couple or family to discuss some or all of these factors.  What may be important to one family member, may not be to another.  One thing to remember, because RVs are much smaller than the homes we’ve all been accustomed to living in, we must appreciate ‘we can’t have it all’ (ie. toys, crafts, tools, etc.).  Space is premium.  Enough said about that.

If you have never RV’d before, there are RV rental companies out there who offer the opportunity to ‘try it out’.  

You might find out that your family of four just simply can’t get along in a 25′ camper on a rainy weekend or you might find out that a Pop Up camper just doesn’t suit you and your spouse’s taste or…you buy a big honkin’ 5th wheel and just can’t seem to get it right hitching or unhitching.  If you have a friend or relative that trusts you with theirs, GO try it out! This is a great way to test the waters before making a costly investment.  Once you decide you want to do this, then you’ll want to decide ‘new’ or ‘pre-owned’.   

Think about that for a minute…  


One thing one must accept is purchasing a brand new RV depreciates as soon as you drive or pull it off the lot; just like a car or truck.  However, there’s sort of an inside RV-buying-secret that when you see an MSRP price on a brand new coach or trailer, you’re not going to pay that. No No No!  Of course, the dealers would HOPE you would however, arm yourself with some RV buying tactics.  RV dealers don’t want you to know is the significant discount off MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) ranges from about 25-35%.  Again, this is for NEW RV’s and Campers.


For example, if you have your heart set on a ‘brand new’ fifth wheel with an MSRP of $100,000, keep in the back of your mind that your first price negotiation offer should be approximately $65,000.  Always start off low; you can always work your way up.  Immediately expect the dealer salesman to look at you like you have three heads, but it’s okay because they know this game.  They just are praying you’re not as good at the game as they are.  All of that said, before making your initial offer, there are things to keep in mind…like “options”.  


We recommend that you ask for a ‘build sheet’ that lists exactly what is in the RV you’re wanting to negotiate on.  Do extensive research before even putting in an offer.  Naturally, if you get a ‘loaded’ RV, its going to cost you much more than the standard build.  In many models today, you can get luxuries like dishwashers, king size beds, washer/dryer setups, residential refrigerators, nicer cabinetry, induction cooktops, convection microwaves, high powered generators, larger holding tanks, etc. which drive the price up, up, up.  So, ‘know before you go’!  


EXPECT TO WALK AWAY!!  Before we purchased our current 5th Wheel, we sat THREE WEEKS in negotiation.  


All brand new RV’s come with a stem-to-stern warranty; usually one year but some higher end offer two-year warranties.  Then, after your RV warranty expires, some of your RV’s components (ie. furnace, AC, refrigerator, etc.) have individual warranties that may extend by the manufacturers of those components.  Whether you purchase a new vs. preowned RV, there are ‘extended warranties’ out there.  We can’t recommend either way if you will need one.  Again, personal choice.  We didn’t opt for one.  Like all insurance or warranties, its a risk to weigh.  


If you are wanting to buy ‘new’, you can shop for one on the lot that is already set up or if you know exactly what you want, you can ‘order’ however, you must go through the dealer to do so and typically may take up to a few months for it to be built.  Be advised, RV manufacturers have their models; designing your own floor plan isn’t going to happen…well, unless you have unlimited room in your wallet filled with Benjamins.  


In very rare cases can you order from the manufacturer themselves.  Very very few manufacturers do this.  Do know though, what one dealer may not have on their lot, another RV dealer may have.  Not all dealers carry every manufacturer therefore, if you are ‘brand loyal’, you can find a dealer that showcases the particular manufacturer you’re looking for.  For example, if you’re looking for a Heartland product, you must find an RV dealer that sells Heartland products.  


We highly recommend attending an RV Show or Camper Expo where they have hundreds of units.  Walk in them.  Sit in them.  Lay on the bed in them.  Take the whole family and sit in it together.  Move around together in them. Open cabinets to look at the hinges; open drawers to see the construction quality .  Collect brochures from those you like.  Then, take them home, research the products and manufacturers. One thing to remember is don’t expect a $100,000 unit for $25,000.  Higher end units will absolutely show differential such as cabinetry, flooring, furniture, hardware, and construction quality. 


Also know that there is a huge difference between a regular camper/RV and one that is a ‘full-time’ camper/RV.  So, judge based on what you’re going to need.  If you will be using your unit up in South Dakota in the winter or Texas in the summer, there’s much comparison you need to be aware of such as wall insulation, plumbing insulation, HVAC expectations, etc.  You will pay more for a unit that is of ‘full-time’ quality because essentially, they are built for all weather and elements.  If you’re getting a unit to be your weekend getaway or two-week a year family vacation, then those won’t be of your importance.  Assess your own family’s needs before even looking as it will rule out units you won’t need or won’t meet your needs.


We highly recommend taking a factory tour of a few RV manufacturers (we did up in Elkhart, Indiana where the majority of travel trailers and 5th wheels are built) to see and understand the build and quality of their construction.  Find out which is close to you or if you’d like to take a mini vaca to go take a look see.  

Now, if you don’t want to buy new risking depreciation, buying pre-owned is your other option.  Again, know what you’re looking for.  Please be extremely cautious about who and ‘how’ you shop for pre-owned.  While Craigslist and Ebay ‘can’ be wonderful avenues, we’ve seen first hand on the downside of dealing with sellers.  We’ve seen and read about countless people fall victim to criminal actions (fake sellers, no such RV for sale, weird payment requirement, etc.).  If you choose to go this route, be very cautious about giving your credit card info out, paying cash, etc.  Also, check around online.  Oftentimes, a fake seller will post photos of a hypothetical RV for sale yet, really, there is none.  They will use real address but never show up with the alleged RV.  Read about this scam that left a couple penniless: Texas couple stranded in Omaha after falling for RV scam.  Please do your research.  If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.  We recommend you to familiarize yourself with scam tactics.  Before making any monetary transaction, have friends and relatives look into also.  It never hurts to have extra sets of eyes to see alerts that you may not.  Just be careful.


Okay, enough of that.  Yes, there ARE honest folks selling their RV’s and campers.  When you find them, you’ll do fine.  Make sure you have your checklist of questions to ask:

  1. Does it have a VIN #
  2. How old is the RV or Camper
  3. Who is it registered to?  State?
  4. Where is it located?
  5. Has it ever been involved in a wreck?
  6. Is there a lien on the RV or Camper?
  7. Is it a ‘one owner’?
  8. Can you see the RV or Camper anytime you wish?

Also, here is a good checklist guide regarding buying an RV or Camper:  RV Checklist: Know the Right Questions to Ask


We all have different standards of living; RV’s are no exception.  Look at the condition first (ie. cabinetry, carpeting, flooring, etc.  Look around windows, doors and ceilings for water damage.  Water is an RV’s biggest foe.  Your nose is your best indicator.  If, at a dealer, it smells like an air freshener, RUN…FAST…because you have to wonder ‘what are they covering up’ unless you are willing to accept the risk.  


The best way and time to see a pre-owned on their lots or even someone else’s yard is a surprise visit.  Say ‘hey, we’re in the neighborhood and would love to see the inside of your camper/rv’.  If it smells musty or moldy, it means there was or is a moisture issue.  Look in corners behind furniture; look for black, brown or white powdery issues.  Always, when buying a pre-owned, not everyone is honest about previous ownership and care.


One thing we highly suggest, before signing papers and writing the check for a pre-owned RV or Camper…like buying a S&B (sticks and bricks home), you pay an independent RV inspector to go through your pre-owned RV with a fine tuned comb.  We suggest not using an RV inspector recommended by an RV dealer; they most likely will have an underhanded reward by working with an RV dealer.  Hire your own; research their credentials; they should cost no more than $500 depending on the size and type of rig.  Ask a potential inspector if they are NRVIA certified (National RV Inspectors Association) and ask for a copy of their certification.  Here’s a great article Why Do You Need a Certified RV Inspection.

Like home inspections, inspectors should look intensely at every inch of the RV or Camper. They will look at roof structure and age; a new roof can cost upwards to $10,000!  They will focus on all engineering of the coach; plumbing, sewer, electrical, and all mechanical features (ie. slides, awnings, etc.).  They will look for water intrusion and critter invasions.  Do appreciate that there are younger RV’s that are pre-owned that have ‘all the bugs worked out’, there are also dumps that we wouldn’t even let our two cats walk in.  A good inspector should be honest and precise; providing you with a written report of their findings.


Here’s an ‘approximate’ what current inspector rates are.  One thing to consider is rates may be regionally based, so keep that in mind. 

For more info regarding hiring a pre-purchase inspector, here is a great article:  
NRVIA & RV Inspection Connection

And then there’s the whole ‘learning process’ about owning an RV…


Prior to taking the plunge, we can’t stress enough to NETWORK with like minded and those who are doing it or have done it.  However, realize, when asking ‘who makes the best RV?’ is like asking ‘which truck is better?’; it could potentially open up a very opinionated dialog. We call them ‘truck or RV wars’ and those discussions…er ‘arguments’ always end badly.  Just do your homework and research.  


There are several Social Media avenues to get information, advice and suggestions from (ie. Facebook, etc.)  Take lots of notes; written and mental.  Keep a folder.  Visit lots of RV dealers and step foot in tons of RV’s.  Ask lots of questions.  Before deciding and buying our current Heartland Landmark 365 Ashland, we reviewed approximately 30 other models of various manufacturers and floor plans.  Arm yourself with information and questions to ask the dealer or seller.  


Okay, onto the money part… 



Today, you can finance an RV (depending on RV type, age, and size) all the way up to 20-30 years just like a house.  But remember, when budgeting, one must consider also campsite/park/resort fees, fuel, RV and vehicle maintenance, and other finances (we will cover this on a later blog post).  There are so many options out there on price.  Once you find a comfortable budgeted amount, stick with it.  Don’t over extend your finances when it comes to your purchase price.  


Shop around for finance rates.  Some RV dealers will offer financing but just remember, they are making money on ‘their’ financing also.  Don’t ever feel you must finance through them.  Do comparison shopping and if they offer financing, ask if they would be willing to match rates of your banking institution to make buying easier and benefit either of you.  If you prefer to not finance and have the cash, you’re golden! 


NOTE OF CONSIDERATION:  If you are ‘selling it all’ to RV full-time, it is our recommendation that you purchase your RV first before passing papers on your home.  You will need that address to set up financing from the bank.  Once you sell and move into your RV, you can claim residency elsewhere as you wish.  If you sell your home and THEN buy an RV (especially a larger one), banks are and will be reluctant to finance due to lack of you not having collateral assets. 


And then there’s the insurance part…




Most insurance companies that insure your vehicles will also insure your RV or camper.  Just read the fine print on what they will cover, deductibles, etc.  Know the difference between ‘full-timer insurance’ and part timer.  


Oh, and one more thing…



You will need ‘a roll to roll’; meaning you will need to outfit your camper or RV and it will cost you a small but necessary fortune.  Always set aside approximately $3000-5000 to outfit your RV or Camper with necessities (another detailed blog post about that very soon!).  You will need important ‘stuff’ so you can roll.



Your RV is out there!  Just be patient.  Its like buying a house.  Your head will hurt (I think I’ve mentioned that before) but the end result will take you to places you’ve dreamed about; sitting on beaches, hiking mountains, visiting museums and eating at cool diners all across the good U.S. of A.!  








How We Shop at the Farmer’s Market

 

Before we began our full-time RV Life, we would visit Spencer County’s Farmer’s Market. In our little resident town of Taylorsville, Kentucky, we’d shop for freshly home-grown produce and other provisions.  For twenty bucks, we could fill our cloth tote bags with organic vegetables and grass fed raised beef, handmade soaps and natural tinctures. For a little treat, we’d bring home a loaf of baked bread or sweet rolls and an occasional bouquet of flowers.

Continue reading “How We Shop at the Farmer’s Market”

Good Afternoon, We’d like to make a reservation please!

Typical Trip & Destination Planning Protocol


When it comes to trip and destination planning, its a tedious job.  Its probably the hardest thing we endure in our travels.  Extensive research and considerations are made before we actually make a reservation at a campground, RV park or resort.


One of the most frequented questions we are asked is ‘how do you decide where you’re going to park?’ 


That’s a good question, because really, there’s no simple answer.  We will tell you that in our year and a half OTR (on the road), we’ve learned what works for us and what works for us may or may not work for others who we follow or who follow us.  As well, what works at one location may not work for another location.  There are so many variables that makes our choosing a bit of a task; it takes considerable research.  Admittedly, it can be a little stressful in our planning.



1) SIZE MATTERS!  


No really!  Joking aside, its probably THE most important issue we contend with when considering a reservation or where we moor.  Liberty is 42′ (actually 41′ 6″ but who’s counting, right?) and Captain America (our dually truck) is about 20′ and we now have an 8′ Idaho Tote extension off the back of our coach.  So ‘hooked up’, we are 70′.  We need space to maneuver to hook, unhook and wiggle ourselves into our site.  Typically, to reach our comfort zone, we ask for sites at least 85′ or longer; the more the merrier.


Liberty fully hooked up and ready for the road.  
Our leveling jacks and wood blocks
not only protects the site surface
but also helps reduce shake or
instability due to full jack extension.

That said though, if no pull-through sites are available and/or we opt for a back-in site, we can try have our back wheel of our coach on the edge of the concrete or gravel site pad depending on other contingencies (read on).  There are times though, campground/park/resort owners will not allow our auto leveling jacks sit on 10″x10″ blocks to sit on the grass aft of the site.  As well, if we backed our back coach tires to the most rear of our site, this may not allow proper placement of our utility hookups (electric, water & sewer).  That would put our aft leveling jack pads & blocks on the grass which most park and resort owners disapprove of because of landscaping.  If we opt for a back-in site, we unload our toys from our Idaho Tote prior to pulling in.  

Now, not only our length is a determining factor, we also consider site width.  When we park, we certainly don’t want to have our coach entry door and steps out into the grass, dirt or mud.  Nor do we appreciate ‘tight’ spacing where literally, our awnings touch the coach next to us.  That’s too close for our comfort.  Most parks or resorts have enough site width to include a small patio with methodical placement of where ‘most’ coach doors ‘would’ be however, depending on the age of the facility or site planning, that’s not always the case.  Our width during tow with slides in is 8′ however, when fully set up, our slides add another 4-5′ so typically, we need a site at least 15′ wide or wider.  Again, the more the merrier.  Older campgrounds, parks and resorts may have been surveyed and designed with narrower sites back before slide-out concepts appeared on RV’s.





Here’s a good example of tree issue.
The big front tree doesn’t affect Liberty, however,
the rear awning over the slide out cannot be fully extended
because of tree branches that hinder extending and retracting.

Then there’s the issue of trees and obstacles (ie. permanent grills, poles, concrete or wood parking barriers, etc.).  A lot of older parks or campgrounds may have nice shade trees and think they are doing you a favor however, if they are too close and not pruned or cut back, we run the risk of scratches on our full body paint and slide-outs or awnings being hindered from full operation of extending or retracting.  Trees can be a double edged sword for us.  Yes, they protect from wind and shade from hot sun, they also can be damaging to our coach.

Older campgrounds, parks and resorts have been surveyed and setup for smaller campers (ie. under 36′), so door placements are quite different than many of the bigger rigs.  As well, there’s a difference between entrances of a Class A Motorhome than a 5’er or travel trailer.  Most times, entrances to Motorhomes are near the front of the coach with 5’er and travel trailer more centered.  


2) PAVED vs. GRAVEL vs. DIRT vs. GRASS:  


We try to avoid dirt sites the best we can.  Personally, just the idea of tracking in dirt constantly or wind blowing dirt around isn’t our forte’.  It’s a choice most don’t mind however, we are finicky.  We just put dirt sites last on our list.  Nothing worse than the Captain having to go out after a torrential rainstorm to clean up what has splashed up all over the coach and her underbelly…and Captain America (our dually).  Grass sites aren’t as bad however, we have to deal with mounds and leveling issues.  Not forgetting to mention, critters tend to hide in the grass which can result in a short journey up to our rig in places we wouldn’t think of them entering.  Gravel is ‘ok’; prefer finer gravel vs. larger chip stone because finer gravel allows our leveling jacks to settle better and more evenly.  We noticed we get less shake.  So, paved sites are ideal for us but not a deal breaker if they’re not.  Its cleaner and nicer.  You can ‘see’ things on the ground (ie. creepy crawlies, etc.)  Also, you can store a few things under your coach and not worry about ‘things’ making homes around them as opposed to being on dirt or gravel.  

Liberty on a ‘paved’ and level site on Galveston Island, Texas

3) LEVEL…KEEPING LIBERTY ON AN EVEN KEEL:  


This is hugely important when parking.  Yes, we are gifted with a 6-point hydraulic auto-leveling system and it’s awesome!  With a push of the button, Liberty automatically levels itself giving us a message beep when its completed its leveling process.  ‘Usually’, its right on within a degree or two.  Sometimes though, we have to override the leveling system manually to get it to our liking.  Nothing like trying to cook soups or having your peas roll off our plates because were not as level as we thought; kind of like being on a yacht…or a ship…or a boat…or a canoe.  You get the picture.  We can tell if Liberty is off a degree or two just by how cabinet doors and drawers close.  We are now skilled by eye and feel when our coach is off a couple degrees.  Captain Dan has this wonderful CLINOMETER app on his phone that he pulls up and places it on the floor if we feel ‘not level’.  We always ask parks and resorts how level their sites are when making reservations.  Nothing is more unnerving than having part of our site level with a slope or crowning which makes hooking and unhooking frustrating.  



4)  UTILITIES:  


Ha!  Boy did we learn our lesson on this one after our first few parking experiences.  We would get all cocky thinking we were all set and unhook…well, that was until we start to put our slides out only to see that we were inches from the water spigot or the electric box or couldn’t extend fully. So, we’d have to button it all up and reposition Liberty.  Placement of Liberty on a site is contingent on where the utilities are, where our slides coincide when extended and our entry steps.  Again, older outdated facilities are more than likely to give us issues because back when they built and configured their campground in the 1940’s, slide-outs didn’t exist.  Our electric on our toyhauler was mid-coach but on current Liberty, our electric cord is aft.  We now have an extension if we find ourselves in a predicament of odd electrical box placement. 


5) WiFi CONNECTIVITY:


WiFi connectivity is extremely important to us.  We’ve learned not to depend on their ‘free’ WiFi (*eye roll*); most times is weak at best to nonexistent.  Nothing is ‘free’.  You always get folks who take more than they should and stream videos or movies leaving the rest of us out of connectivity.   So, we need for our own service providers give us data coverage.  We have an AT&T hotspot with 40 GB monthly data which we use mostly for Lisa’s work and trip/destination planning and a smaller data bank with Verizon for a backup in case AT&T doesn’t work and for keeping connectivity with family and friends and for leisure.  For some RVers who work OTR, that’s a very small data plan; we know others who use upwards to 500 GB per month *GASP*.  We have been in areas where neither work; mostly and coincidentally at military bases/posts.  We think it has something to do with communication jamming because campgrounds on military bases/posts are usually near air command facilities.  Its at those places where we concentrate less on internet and more on going out and doing things.  We can always catch up later.


So, there’s the five things we research prior to making a reservation.  Those are the necessities.  Now that we’ve discussed all that, let’s now talk about our destination planning.


We usually sit together over morning coffee or campfire cocktail and talk about places that interest us (ie. National Parks, great hiking places, friends and family we wish to visit, etc.)  Then on trip/destination planning day, we set up our table with laptop, IPad, and both of our cellphones, our road atlas, calendar book, two pencils, two pair of reader glasses and a couple books.  This is when we need good connectivity.  


We open our laptop up to a website called RV Park Reviews which is a compilation of campground and park reviews of fellow RVers.  We rely on their reviews however, they also are ‘opinions’, so we take those into consideration.  We also belong to several online forums and network with RVers with ‘like-minded interests’, standards and coach size/requirements.  We all keep our own notes and those of us who blog, have our own RV Park Reviews section that we all can resort to; thus, we open a window to their blog or website.  We also will open a window or two of potential park or resorts we’ve narrowed down to look at their rates, park site map, rules and other essentials.


We open our IPad to Google Earth.  This is an incredible tool for not only locating the park and seeing its location in relation to the roads leading to it but also the park/resort site layout, obstructions, how many trees, close approximities to neighboring sites, how wide roads leading into sites, etc.  


We use our phones to check out our interests (ie. National Parks, historic sites, hiking adventures, etc.) on Facebook groups (ie. RV 5th Wheels, Full-Time RVers, etc.) which we will post our queries on Facebook groups.  In a matter of minutes, we oftentimes get our answers which is wonderful…and we reciprocate.  Its called ‘networking’ and it works.  We ask ourselves, ‘how on earth did RVers do it before the internet?’ 


While one of us is looking up the location we want as a destination, the other will research the park/resort reviews and Google Earth it to make certain of accessibility.  We work as a team.  Once we narrow down our choices, we make our phone calls to check availability.  We have learned, to ALWAYS nail down reservations for holidays well in advance (ie. Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend, Labor Day weekend, etc.); sometimes even 6-12 months in advance.  We’ve learned the hard way in regards to that subject…which…is a very SORE subject between ourselves and vowed never to leave ourselves without a place to go.  


Once we’ve made our phone call and made a concrete reservation, we enter the information in our paper date book.  Yeah, call us ‘old school’ but its what works for us.  Other’s do it electronically but we like to have a datebook where we can pull it out at moment’s notice and see where we will be, when and for how long.  We use highlighters to differentiate reservations.  We make notes of the campground/park/resort, phone number, address, confirmation from whom we spoke with, and our total amount.  Most places require a credit card to make the reservation and some don’t.  For one or two night reservations, we pay cash (and tell them) and longer term, we pay via credit card.  We always read the fine print of what the penalty is if we have to cancel a reservation or arrive later due to weather, RV or vehicle repairs or other unforeseen events.


When we arrive at our destination, I always have in hand a) our datebook, b) credit card or cash, c) any discount card (ie. military ID, Good Sam, Passport America, KOA, etc.) and good manners, a smile and patience.  Once checked in, we go park; sometimes escorted by staff or volunteers but most times, we do it on our own.  We NEVER allow anyone else other than ourselves to direct whomever is driving into our site.  We work very well together with hand signals and commands.  When we get positioned correctly, we unhook, level up, and plugs into electricity.  Captain Dan puts out our yard art, puts up our flagpole, awnings out (if its not windy), outdoor carpet, grill, firepit and outdoor chairs while Lisa puts the slides out, checks for water leaks when Dan hooks up the water,  and pretties up the inside and VOILA!  


Liberty fully moored and flying her colors





Its HAPPY HOUR TIME!!
Words not needed














RVers Take Mother Nature Seriously – A Teaching Moment –

What started out to be a beautiful, relaxing Sunday of sightseeing and shopping Bandera, Texas ended up, as RVers, being a teaching moment.  



We decided after breakfast to drive to Bandera (the Cowboy Capital of the World) that scheduled a well-planned craft show, parade, cowboy demonstrations and bands.  However, when we got there, it was apparent that everything was cancelled.  There was this sad aura once we parked our truck in front of the courthouse.  The courthouse lawn, where there were supposed to be craft vendor tents, posted a stark reminder of how nasty storms can be in Texas.  Instead of seeing busy vendors with shoppers browsing and buying, the only thing we saw was a mangled mess of vendor tent frames all knotted together.  They were set up the day prior so all vendors had to do was set up their exhibits and their wares, but seemingly, God had other plans.


Last night (May 29, 2016), our regular television programming was interrupted several times with weather warnings of high winds, heavy rain (again), hail and flash flooding.  This was a daily occurance which I think is why it may not have been taken as serious as it should have or at least to the RV Park in Bandera that abutted the Medina River.


We walked a short block from our parking space in front of the courthouse down to the municipal recreation park near river’s edge.  We had to literally tiptoe on the grass as it was a soggy mucky mess.  Usually, on a weekend day, its difficult to score a picnic table however, today was a different story.  There were quite a few vacant tables scattered amidst the soggy grass and some of the picnic tables were even gone.  The park usually is quite a popular family outing area; kids playing tag, teens playing frisbee and families gathering around the picnic tables with their coolers on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  We speculate the tables were swept away by the raging flooding river just a few feet away the night prior.  


We looked up and down as far as we could see and saw the ravaged remnants of uprooted trees, trash cans, floating logs and debris riding the rapid current of the river.  






Then we walked under the bridge of Rt 16 that lead to the Pioneer RV River Resort.





We didn’t have to walk far to see the result of how powerful flash flooding is.  These RV’s were about 50′ from the risen ‘new’ water’s edge; normally, it would be double that distance. 


We posted photos of what we saw.   

Notice the camper on the far left.  That camper was moved completely around.
These sites were supposed to be back-ins.
We’ve heard of ‘tight’ spaces at RV parks but not like this!
This is a sad sight to see.
As RVers, we never want to see the underbelly of any camper or RV.  

Notice the log impaled the RV’s sidewall from the force of the raging river.
This ‘should be’ the generator storage compartment of the RV.
RVers and Campers literally unhooked and got the heck out of there.
A sewer hose left after a quick disconnect from an RV or Camper.
This poor motorcycle lived through it but didn’t come out unscathed.
The bicycle wasn’t so lucky.
Look at the debris that clung to the bike



This camper was taken by the flash flood current.
The trees stopped it from going into the overflow access.
We almost stepped on this little fellow in the grass on one of the ‘now’ vacant RV sites.
This ‘was’ a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic.
The owner most likely cried when he saw it today in this condition.
These flash floods happened so fast.
This RV’er was trying to get out of the park but the flooding river decided otherwise.
This truck and camper was swept about 100 yards before settling on the hill.
Yesterday before the storm, all of these sites were occupied.
Today, vacant.
We stopped to talk with a young family who revisited the RV park to see the aftermath.  They lived through this scary ordeal last night.  What saved them is they saw headlights coming down the road which reflected off the creeping river in the darkness.  The father said he stepped outside to see the river only feet from his camper and truck.  They and about 40 other campers were scrambling trying to get out of there as the river crept closer.  They said they literally got out of there just in time.  They saw one camper being swept past them as they were pulling their camper away.
Since our sightseeing and shopping day was shortened, we started to drive back to our own home on wheels and passed this not far from the RV park…
The river flooded over the roadway leaving reminders of it’s ravage

…and then this camper and truck were swept off of the roadway into the raging river.  A man and his 10 year old son were inside the truck; probably fleeing from the same RV park we had visited minutes prior.  According to news sources, they climbed out of the truck and clung to nearby tree branches awaiting help.  They were found 5:00am this morning…alive.  Thank God!



So, this was our ‘teaching moment’, not only as RVers but anyone who is in the vicinity of raging rivers and flash flooding.  These weather and flash flood warnings are no joke.  They are swift and deadly.  


As RV’ers, this was a visual teaching moment for us to be more attentive and choosy when it comes to selecting RV parks, resorts and campgrounds that may be located near rivers and streams.  We also will watch and take considerable care in what the weather specialists and meteorologists report to us.  We also will make certain to ‘hook up’ when serious inclement weather is forecast.  We will make certain all ‘yard goods’ (ie. camp chairs, rugs, etc.) are put away as to not hinder safe and swift escape.  We will ALWAYS HAVE A QUICK EXIT STRATEGY!


Oh, and we WILL be contacting our insurance company ASAP.  We heard a couple of campers tell us that their RVs are not covered in flooding.


In other words, our Coast Guard motto is SEMPER PARATUS aka ‘ALWAYS READY’.  We will preach and practice it.   Don’t argue with Mother Nature.  She always wins.