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?


10 thoughts on “Full Time Dreams Becoming Real

  1. Congrats on your decision to go full time. We have been planning this also using the last year for lots of research. Sounds like we are a lot alike with similar plans. Our latest retirement date for my husband is Oct 2015 but we are hoping that will happen sooner. We are in the downsizing process having had our first sale this last week, mostly small stuff, and are now working on staging the house which will go up for sale June 1st. I know first hand how hard it is to prepare to sell all those tools he spent years accumulating (I watched him sell his Harley yesterday also, was tough) but it will be worth it and we are very excited about this. We too have decided on a 32 to 36 ft motorhome and will be towing a small jeep. Just a thought on the piano, we are going to rent a small storage unit for a few things such as my grandma’s dresser, my mom’s oil paintings and a few pieces of furniture hubby built for me. Maybe store the piano and take a really nice keyboard?? At least if we ever come off the road we have what we consider to be a few of our favorite things. I am taking my sewing machine but I’m guessing the first year on the road I’ll be pretty preoccupied with the new experiences to use it much.
    Glad you started your blog also, it’s nice that those of us preparing can share the process. I will definitely have hubby check it out also, he’s a “drawing” type for all his projects. You had me at quad pads, lol. I have a computer program to design my own quilting patterns but working it out on a quad pad with my colored pencils seems to be more enjoyable. Good luck, Kris and Dan Jackson

    • Hi Kris,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m still trying to figure out what the “quad pads” was about, and see no reference to that in my blog.

      We too have talked about storage, and even had an idea for a travel trailer for our “home” towed by something like a Road Trek, so we would have our amenities with us for day trips, and also a way to keep our Angel (our snow white German Spitz) cool while we are out sightseeing, but the more I thought about the sizes of everything, and how we would use it, we’re back to a Class A and a minivan again. We’ll just set up the minivan with a freestanding A/C and a generator and will be money ahead, both in cost as well as MPG. Although we wouldn’t have a problem with storing items not affected by temperature or humidity, furniture items (especially pianos) are extremely subject to such things, and we didn’t want to store the piano. Also, we didn’t want the expense for an undetermined amount of time, and have the hassle of backtracking across the country to retrieve things. If we ever get too old to travel, and choose a home base, we will want all new furniture to go into it, anyway.

      When we moved our things to Mesa in ’96, we didn’t have our new park model yet, and had to put everything in THREE storage spaces for nearly 2-1/2 years at a cost of almost $250 a month! We could have sold everything and bought all new and been money ahead! And after we got our new room addtion finished, so we could bring our stuff home, we still ended up getting rid of over half of what we stored! For anyone thinking about storage, please think about what it would cost to replace those items with new, and how long you intend to store them. Many times, you will find that storage isn’t justified. And if you have to make special trips to retrieve items, that just adds to the cost.

      Part of convincing ourselves to do this (rather than try to hang onto a home base) was financial, and by designing a comparison spreadsheet (which I will be glad to send a blank copy to anyone requesting it) which proved to us that we would save over 31% of our income by full-timing, whereas we would be almost breaking even with hanging onto a home base. The expense of a home base would have only drained our excess, and prevented traveling freely. We would much rather use that excess for having fun!

      I will be posting more thoughts on the process of “downsizing” and getting ready for full-time travel as time goes on, so we hope you will stay in touch. And by the way, I corrected your link on this post to match what you said in your next comment.

      Best wishes to you… and I will sign up for your own blog posts.

      • sorry for the confusion, I was referring to the “mini notebooks” aka graph paper.
        Sounds like you have worked hard comparing all options and costs. We will enjoy following your journey and ideas. When we started this we had no idea how much there was to consider but are finding the downsizing quite freeing. We are taking it day at a time and keep trying to learn as much as we can along the way. Kris

        • Hi Kris,

          Yes, after thinking about it, I figured you were referring to “quadrille paper pads”. And I agree, that even though we are seeing many things “go”, it also comes with a contented feeling of knowing that there are better things ahead. I signed up for your blog, so will be anxious to catch up and follow along.

  2. Have you thought about a 5th wheel trailer with the living room in front over the 5th wheel? Or a toy hauler 5th wheel? Toy haulers are very nice and the rear portion of the 5th wheel is designed to haul motorcycles or small cars. That should support a piano.

    I can see tuning being a problem. 5th wheels have quite a bit of motion when traveling down the road, as do motor homes.

    I can understand your wife’s attachment to her piano. If she were to give it up, she would probably regret it.

    The one thing I most regret not bringing with me is my sewing machine.

    Good luck on your adventure. It may happen sooner than you think. (It did with us by about four years.)


    • Hi Susan,

      Great to hear from you, and thanks for commenting. I signed up for your feed, and will add you to my folder of blogs.

      The probem with a fifth-wheel is that you have to drive around a big truck as your daily driver. I have seen some of the big trucks get good mileage (our neighbor gets up to 16 MPG with his Dodge/Cummins and 30-footer). But it really doesn’t save anything to buy a fifth-wheel because the truck to pull it comes at premium prices. We prefer a driveable RV, and then take a high mileage daily driver as a “toad”. Our old Rabbit diesel got 45 MPG consistently.

      As far as toy-haulers, that is defintiely out, as the back end of any rig, trailer or otherwise, is the section that bounces the most. Anyone who has ever had a rear kitchen fifth-wheel and suffered broken dishes can attest to that! And putting a piano in a front living room only adds to the hitch weight on the truck. The best place for heavy items is near the middle, and slightly ahead of the axles, or in a motorhome, anywhere between the axles, as long as it doesn’t add too much weight to the front. (Rear axles and suspension always carry more weight than front axles.) Between the axles is also the easiest riding place, because there is less bounce.

      Speaking of sewing machines, my wife is also an excellent seamstress, but our old cabinet-mounted machine is nearing 40 years old, and the bobbin doesn’t want to stay down anymore, so we are selling it in the next yard sale and buying a new portable model to take with us. We can always set up a temporary table in the living room for “serious” work.

      I really hope that everything comes together before July of 2015, but as I said, all things have to come togther at the same time, and will only happen by paying things down. It might be a matter of either waiting for more equity and bills paid off, or going with a less expensive motorhome and using the excess proceeds to pay off bills. We may not be able to determine that for another year, but it could still cut off some time. In order to sell this place, we have to have a new septic system and water line put in, and will have to do some “creative” refinancing on the house to make that happen, but as yet, we don’t have enough additional equity for anything much more than that. Even if the house sold so we could buy a motorhome, and we couldn’t pay off other bills, it still wouldn’t help. Timing is going to be critical. We are experienced park managers, but we really don’t want to have to work again if we leave here. We want to be totally done with working for anyone else. Until then, “we’re working the plan, and the plan is working”.

  3. Wow you have obviously given this a lot of thought! But you seem to have worked out all of the issues logically and sensibly.

    The idea of taking a piano made me laugh but I suppose if you have the room then just do it, I would. Is a modern, electric version not suitable or comparable?

    I am looking forward to reading future posts, best wishes in all of your endeavours 🙂

    • Hi Dave,

      We have thought about the piano for a long time, but Sharon isn’t ready to give up on it yet. It’s an Estey spinet style that her (now deceased) parents bought for her when she was still in school, so it has sentimental value. The time may come when we realize that carrying it with us is impractical. The weight is no problem, but the tuning of it may be, if the vibration ruins it every time we move. It has already been across the counry twice, but had to be re-tuned both times.

      We also have a dual manual Lowery MX-1 that also weighs about 400 pounds, that we bought brand new in 1982, but it holds no sentimental value to us, so it can be sold. And yes, we do have a Yamaha PSR-500 keyboard, but if we get rid of the Estey piano, then I’m sure Sharon is going to want a much better instrument to replace it… like a Korg professional quality keyboard. She’s just not emotionally ready to do that yet. The electronics on these older ones are far outshadowed by what’s available on the market now, and Sharon wants to eventually sell her own CD’s with her own compositions, so we need a something suitable for recording.

      She lost her mother to cancer just a couple of years before we met in 1980, and four years prior to her mother’s passing, she lost her father to a major coronary. He was only 54 and her mother was 58. I never had a chance to meet them. So the piano means a lot to her. We both think they would have wanted her to continue her music however we have to do it.

      Thanks for your input.

  4. I am pretty much the target market for your site and/or books. I even have Open Office. I’m not as much a builder as I’d like to be, but I am very good at finding ways to use thrift shop or similar items with minor modifications. That would work very well with “concept” drawings rather than fully detailed and dimensioned formal plans.

    • Hi Calvin,

      Thanks. That’s the kind of input I’m hoping for, and that what I intend is what other people can use,too.

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