Sunday, June 16, 2019

Cargo Trailer Remodeling Again

With the medical news we received prior to the last post, we were seriously considering giving up our full-time travel. It seemed too many issues were against us, mainly, the ability to get Sharon's medical supplies. We had always considered ourselves healthy for our ages, and not in need of any medications, so we never had a Plan D supplement, which covers prescriptions. And we can't get on a Plan D until the open enrollment begins in October, and then a new plan does not take effect until after the first of next year.

We had no reference (yet) as to how much we would have to pay out of pocket until her medications could be covered. When she returned from her sister's care on May 17th, we finally had time to discuss much of which I already suspected. At first, we thought that full-time travel would cost us too much, and that being in a stationary situation for awhile would be better for us. Sharon's medications have to be obtained once a month right now, and she needs to be close to her doctor for a few months. Insulin prescriptions can't be transferred between pharmacies like most other drugs. There must be a prescription sent from the doctor to the specific pharmacy where it will be picked up. All of these are a hindrance to traveling full-time... but not an impossibility!

One of the apartment complexes we had considered.

An apartment was on our radar, but finding one suitable wasn't easy. One was an hour and twenty minutes away, and the other was more like four and half hours away! Either one would have meant having to settle in snow country again for awhile, a fact that neither of us were happy about. Since we are retired, we figured we could just stay in during inclement weather, and deal with it as best we could.

The clincher came when we looked at the comparison spreadsheet that I had devised four years ago, before we ever made the decision to travel full-time. You can click on the link to go to that page and download the spreadsheeet for your own use. In using just the last two columns, (1) remaining in a house or apartment, or (2) traveling full-time with no real estate, it helped to make the decision for us!

The difference in cost, between remaining stationary, and traveling full-time was over $1200 per month! A house is not what we wanted, as it is too labor intensive. We wanted an apartment, where everything inside and out would be handled by the management company with a phone call. And we wanted professional management. Too many private landlords are nothing but slumlords, and even on most rented houses, they still expect you to mow your own lawn... something which we don't want to deal with anymore!

So getting into an apartment starts with a processing fee for the paperwork, a deposit plus first months rent, (and in our case) a pet deposit plus an increased monthly rent for the pet to live there, utility bills for at least the electric (sometimes other things, like internet and cable), and then (since we don't have any furniture anymore), we would gradually have to acquire the furniture to make the place livable! And if we decided next year (after being locked into a lease for at least a year, in snow country) that we wanted to move on... we would also have the task of disposing of all that furniture!

No thanks!

So, we came to the realization that remaining "mobile" is in our best interests for now. At some point down the road, as we age and our health declines, we may decide on an apartment again, but for now, there is still a lot of country to see, and we don't want to see it from our computers while watching snow and freezing weather through our windows! When we do settle somewhere, we hope it will be somewhere with moderate weather year round!

Unfortunately, this gets us back to the expenses of RV travel, the way we have been doing it. At eight mpg and having all the issues we have had with this RV, and having to pull a trailer and drive a daily driver separately, it's just not working for us. Something has to go! It has to be the RV!

In reading back through the menu tabs at the top of the page, regarding our "tow-er" and "tow-ee", the reasons for that combination were valid at that time, and still remain valid today. We wish now that we had stuck to that combination (especially after putting nearly $4500 in upgrades to that Chevy van), and put our excess stuff in storage until we could part with it. Now, we are seeing that we had chosen the right combination to start with!

The only reason we wanted the RV was because Sharon insisted that her piano had to go with us. It started out in the cargo trailer, and then last November, we finally moved it to the RV. It was wasted effort, because now it is still going to have to go to storage in order to travel the way we want to... and need to. Sharon has finally come to realize that it is not practical to try to travel with it. The tuning of it isn't affected by travel nearly as much as we thought it might be, but after spending two winters in Florida, the humidity is causing keys to stick. It can't even be played right now. And weather that is too dry can also cause the wood to crack. It needs a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.

Without the piano, we have no reason to have anything as large as this RV. We realized after traveling all last summer in the van, that we don't need a lot of space. The cargo trailer that I built out when we started, is plenty of space... with a few exceptions. The width of the trailer has always been too narrow for me to sleep crossways in it. And after the bad fall I took on the mountain bike in Flagstaff which screwed up my wrist for over a year, I realize that neither of us need to tempt fate anymore! The mountain bikes need to go! What's left is basically the same size as an extended cargo van, without the cab and engine area!

Our cargo trailer with the original Chevy van.

As of this writing, I have already torn out the rear bunk and bulkhead wall in the back of the trailer. We will use the trailer to haul the piano and other things to storage, and then I will build a two-person dinette/bed where the piano used to be. That will allow longer bed length for me, and I can sleep comfortably. Shelves will be added on the left side over the gray water tank, and one cabinet (the one that was at the end of the piano) will be moved back father to accommodate the longer bed along the side. this will also give us a walk-through space, so we can use the ramp door as a deck in nice weather. Everything else will remain as it was, as it worked well for us for the first seven months that we lived in the trailer when we started out... except for the power situation.

Below is a floor plan and elevations for the trailer. If you click on it, you can probably enlarge it, but due to file changing, it may be blurry. If you want a clear copy of the original file on Open Office odx or pdf, please let me know and I will send it to you by email.

Our trailer plan created on OpenOffice drawing program.

I now have in hand a new roof rack that will be added behind the original roof rack, and I have two more 100-watt solar panels to be added to the roof. These new ones will straddle the rear Fantastic Fan, lengthways on each side of it. This will give us 500 watts total, and will be more than enough to meet all of our electrical needs. The previous 300 watts was borderline. The existing 225-amp-hours of batteries will be sufficient.

With the addition of the increased solar power, we also have a charging circuit on the van and trailer, so that the trailer batteries will charge anytime the van's engine is running. That should be more than enough to keep the batteries topped off with what we will be using in the trailer. 120 volts will be supplied constantly by the 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter.

One new addition in the trailer is a 19" LCD TV that only draws 35 watts on 120-volts, and new digital booster that doubles the number of channels we can pull in over the air from a new 200-mile digital rooftop antenna. And we still have our two-door compressor fridge/freezer, 700-watt microwave and our phones and laptops. If we find that we need air conditioning, the under-couch unit will provide that, but we'll go somewhere that shore power is available.

Also, I discovered that Dexter Axle makes a lift kit for torsion axles, so adding that will add another two inches of overall height to the trailer. That will solve many of the problems of being too low for getting into some places, and also will make it possible to add a pull-out single step under the side door.

Dexter single torsion axle lift kit.

Let's not forget the van. The van is also being outfitted for complete livability for shorter trips, as it was last summer. It will have a new floor plan, and a few other features that will allow it to be used in more places than was possible last year. Although we will have the trailer attached "most" of the time, this also gives us the ability to drop the trailer in safe, secure places, and still get away for extended times while getting better mileage. And no, for privacy, I will not be showing photos of the van. I have my reasons.

At this point, we don't know how long we will be at our current location. It could be the end of June or any point between there and the end of September. One thing is certain... we won't be spending this winter in snow country! We don't know yet whether we will head back to Florida or head for the Southwest again, although we are leaning toward the Southwest. It seems that any reasons we may have had for going to Florida in the first place, have been resolved. Nothing was as we hoped it would be.

We lived through two major hurricanes, and put up with humidity for as long as we needed to. We never got to visit with any of the people that we had hoped to see. On the brighter side, we learned of new places where we can stay for free, and some are much farther south, where we could go during the coldest months, rather than remaining in the cold shoulders. But I've had enough of cold shoulders for awhile. If the shoulders ever warm up, maybe I'll be back!

The problem with going to Florida too early is that hurricane season doesn't officially end until the end of December, and that's too late to stay up here in the cold! Unless we can find a place along the top of the southern states that's warm enough to hang out from the end of September until the first of the year, we may not go that way at all!

I have a lot of research to do yet, on locating places to park. Some may be just overnight stops, but we don't want to be on the move every day and use up fuel. There has to be a good balance with places we can stay for free for up to two weeks at a time. I know they are out there. I just have to plot our potential path on a map. And if we have to pay for a COE park or a state forest once in a while, we can do that, too. But we don't like organized campgrounds, where units are parked six feet apart. We don't need any kind of hookups with the setup we will have. We want quiet and peaceful places, preferably out in nature and as far away from cities as we can get!

I'll post some photos of the trailer as it goes through the updates. For past photos, you can click on the archives in the right sidebar and go back to the beginning of the project in early 2015. If you are reading this on a mobile device, you can go to the bottom and click on the link to view the web version, then you can see the sidebars, as well as the menu bar at the top of the page. I'll update here as often as I have time.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please use the form below. Instructions are on it as to how to use it. Or, if all else fails, leave a comment on Facebook. Thanks for reading!