Full Time Dreams Becoming Real

We have worked our entire lives with one goal in mind… to be able to travel freely whenever we wanted to and however we wanted to. We had always thought that we would probably keep a home base, but that concept has changed as a result of knowledge and circumstances.

Besides having worked for and with realtors most of my life, and spending seven great and successful years in luxury apartment management, plus owning several rentals of our own over a period of the past thirty years… we have come to one conclusion… that long distance ownership and management never work. I could write a book on the horror stories and the realities of financial matters on such things, but to keep it simple, it simply has never worked.

The decision to abandon a permanent home hasn’t come easy for us. We have always had a home base, even when we were out full-timing for months or years at a time.  But let’s face it… no one is going to look after a place like we would ourselves. ALL of the times we have entrusted others to do so, it was with dismal results and much expense.

We even talked about where we would go if we didn’t have this place. We had to take everything into consideration… the climate, the traffic, the crime rate, how large a place we would have to have, and even family. Would we need to be close to family? Would we be willing to go back (or at least “closer”) to snow country in order to make that happen? Would we be better off going somewhere with less humidity and a more moderate temperature to save on utilities? What would we do with all the “large” furniture items if we had to down-size? Would I be willing to give up all my tools and shop equipment, most of which I have had most of my life? And what do we do about this house and three lots, which needs, and is going to continue to need, continual improvements and maintenance in order to make it what we would really be happy with?

We have come to the hard decision that we are not getting any younger. I just turned 65 two days ago, and we are both tired of working our entire lives. We simply can’t do the things we used to do, even though we still know how to do it. We aren’t going to repair or replace a roof when the time comes. We aren’t going to lay concrete. We aren’t going to do flooring or carpet. We don’t even mow our own yard anymore (for the past three years). Even inside tasks like painting are tiring these days.

And on top of all that, we would have to spend at least another $20,000 and many years of saving for each task, as well as doing them, to make this place what we really want. All that is going to take that much money away from doing what we really want to do, and that is to travel.

So we had to ask ourselves, “why would we want to put ourselves through all of that?”

The family issues are still there, but we don’t need to be close by “all year”. We can be around family from our home resort, which is less than an hour away from them. We can park at our home resort from April to October if we would need to, and never move! Or, we could still pull out once in a while and take some time to see the northern part of the country during the summer. When October comes, we plan to be headed to warmer areas of the country.

OK, so what about furniture and other “large” items. For me, the largest things I own I am willing to part with. For my wife, it has always been her piano, bought for her by her parents. A piano simply doesn’t fit into a fuel efficient RV, as much as we had thought about going that route. There are also two other concerns… the weight and the need for additional tuning of it.

We have decided that the piano will fit in place of any standard dinette area in an RV. If it’s a slideout, we had a another concern… of weight. However, the piano weighs less than 400 pounds, so it must be rationalized: what do four adults weigh sitting at the same dinette? Yes, the weight would be more “constant”, and might create additional stress from the normal bouncing of an RV going down the road. But I do believe a simple 3/4-inch plywood base under the piano will help distribute that weight as well as can be expected. Some flush-mount tie downs (like the kind used in cargo trailers) with a solid 1/4-inch steel reinforcing plate under the floor should hold the piano in place with nothing but ratchet straps. After all, if they will hold a 1,000-pound motorcycle, they should hold a 400-pound piano!

Everything else is normal size and weight for carrying in a RV, so now it becomes simply a matter of how much storage space and weight we need to allow for.

After already owning two huge Class A’s (34-foot and 40-foot) we know the problems with each.

First, some of the parks that we would have liked to get into, have length restrictions. From our own experience and research, it seems that 32-feet is the magic number, although there can be exceptions either way.

Second is the sheer expense of owning and operating a huge RV like those. The bigger you get, the more it costs for fuel and maintenance.

But the biggest realization of all is that of all the “stuff” that we took with us because we “thought” we needed it… in reality we only used less than a fourth of it! When we cleaned out both of those RV’s we found “stuff” in storage compartments that we had forgotten we owned! And we were paying premium prices in the cost of those motorhomes as well as the fuel to get them down the road, just for the pivilege of having all that useless junk with us!

On the other hand, in order to full-time and not give up literally everything that we have worked for all our lives, we still have to find a reasonable compromise between too small and too large. We have determined that a 30 to 32-foot Class A, with a couple of slides on it, will do the job nicely for us. With not having to be back at jobs, we can drive shorter distances between our resorts, using other low cost or totally free boondocking spots between resorts as needed, and keep the mileage on the motorhome to less than 400 miles per month (on the average). That’s considering that we can stay up to two weeks at a time at any of our resorts around the country. We will do all our daily driving in a much higher mileage tow car, as we have always done before.

Our two-year plan…

In order to make this happen we have to be at a certain place with both house equity as well as paying other bills down. We want all credit card debt gone, as well as our time-shares paid for. The home equity will take care of some things that we feel is necessary to fix on this house in order to make it more sellable (which will require a refinance prior to the sale), as well as to make a nice down payment on a suitable RV, and leave us sufficient reserves for emergencies. Our two existing vehicles, plus the truck camper and two trailers can be sold and will more than pay for a suitable tow car.

We have had a target date of July of 2015 to be able to make the move, but if things fall into place before that, it could happen earlier, although we don’t expect it to be more than six months earlier.

In the meantime we are thinning this place down as fast as we can (which we have been doing for the past year). Anything that isn’t used at least once in six months (with the exception of certain holiday items) is GOING! Things of value are going on eBay, other things will go in yard sales (probably more than one), other things will be donated, and still other things will go to the landfill.

Other items (LP’s, cassettes, slides, VHS tapes, and printed photos) will be digitized. Some may be done before we move into a motorhome and some may be taken along, converted, and disposed of later. We will have much more time to deal with doing that after this house is gone!

We have been researching potential Class A’s, with two main things in mind…(1) it must have room for a piano and still allow for sleeping quarters in addtion to the rear queen bed, and (2) it will have to have a washer and dryer.

The smallest we have been able to find is in a 30-foot length. We are considering anything up to a 32-foot length, but we don’t want to go bigger than that. And of course, we are looking at something with structural quality, in business a long time and financially sound, well-known and has a good resale value. We probably won’t be going with new, but yet we don’t want something too old. Up to seven years old (give or take) with low mileage will fit our needs nicely.

So for now, we are in a “sell-down” and “research” mode. Since this site was originally designed to be a spin-off of the minivan camper thoughts, I will probably create a new blog leading into this new venture, but I don’t want to start it too early. It will be filled with more travel stories and a LOT of pictures as we head out on this new adventure. Our future tow car could still be a minivan camper, in case we would need to be away from our motorhome for a day or two, but that is yet to be determined. I am still in the process of finalizing that project, as well as working on ideas and drawings for many more types of RV’s.

Years ago Radio Shack had some small books, with schematics hand-drawn on plain graph paper, and they called them “Engineer’s Mini-Notebooks”. That concept is what I will steer my sites and books toward. My expertise is in ideas and solving problems, not CAD drawings. Besides, everyone’s use for those ideas are going to be different, so detailed and dimensioned drawings are going to be useless to the general public.

Also, many drawing programs require special readers to be able to see them because of the file types. I draw most of my drawings on the free OpenOffice(dotorg) spreadsheet program using the drawing tools. It is already on many computers and is free to download. Anyone with the expertise to build any of my designs should know how to adjust the dimensions to suit their own use.

My concepts will just be the ideas that they can use as is, or combine into what works for them. I will make my drawings available as downloads, in both pdf as well as original files, so they can continue to modify them as they see fit. The blog will also have posts about other designs for RV’s, including trailers, trucks and vans, and links to those sites as I run across them. Hopefully, it will be of use even to existing RV’er’s, with little ideas for things that they can add to their own “already-built” RV’s. And I may even create some ebooks as well as spiral bound books out of my designs, as well as continuing to write other books about our travels.

OK, that’s where we’re headed in the future. Any thoughts?