Friday, March 25, 2016

Six Months and Ten Revelations of Full-timing in a Cargo Trailer

Our full-time travel in our converted cargo trailer got away from us, and I just realized today that as of the 11th of this month, we have been living in the trailer for six whole months! We didn't leave Arkansas until November 19th, but those who have followed our blog know that we actually moved into it the day before we left for Indiana... on September 11th, and then we stayed in the trailer after we returned to Arkansas in early October.

I forgot to mention a few more things that we got done recently. 

One was that we were able to obtain our senior passes for most federally operated lands and concessions. With these we can save 50% or more on both admission and (in most cases) camping fees, so the $10 each for the cards are well worthwhile.

The other item that we obtained was our passports. It was the second one for Sharon, as her old one had expired years ago. For me, this was a first one. Neither of us has had occasion to go out of the country since before the laws changed.

And since we left the confines of the RV gate (mentioned in the previous post), we have gotten out to meet up with another full-time traveling and blogging couple that many of you will recognize as Eric and Brittany Highland, from RVWanderlust.

Eric and Brittany from and Sharon and John.

We have followed their blog and also their page on Facebook for some time now, so it was nice to finally meet them in person, although the visit was way too short. Hopefully, we will cross paths again later this summer.

We also had been following the progress of some friends of ours from back home in Arkansas, who are also out for their first year of full-time travel. Their progress led them to an RV park nearby, and we have been meeting with them a couple of times a week.

We had actually spoken with the manager of the park they are at before we came here, and he told us about a website called, where RV auctions are held online every week. The company has several places around the country, and our friends knew about it, so we went with them one day to look at the RV's up for auction.

The CrankyApe storage facility had all kinds of stuff, including cargo trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, Class C motorhomes, Class B motorhomes (but not at this site at this time), Class A motorhomes, and even boats and other vehicles. As expected, many of them were not perfect, as some may have been repossessed. Many were nice, and some needed a lot of work. We have been watching the site and have seen many nice units sell at much less than book value. Some even have no reserve!

Unfortunately, they had nothing that we were interested in at this time, but it doesn't hurt to watch the action online. With different auction location sites in various parts of the country, you never know when something might show up where we will be when we get there!

Another time, we went with our friends on a little day trip about 30 miles away through beautiful mountains to a little touristy area that I will tell you about later. I don't like to publicize our current location until after we have left, except to certain people on certain media.

We have also gone out to eat several times, both by ourselves and with our friends, to enjoy some familiar places as well as try some new ones. In between outings, we have been staying close to "home" (our trailer), and enjoying the RV Park we are in, getting as much digitizing done as we can.

I even assisted the grounds person here when he was informed that a pop-up canopy just two doors away from us had collapsed in the high winds we had this past Monday. This brings up a warning for anyone traveling, but especially here in the Southwest.

The high winds collapsed this canopy while the owners were away.

Winds can come up in the desert in less than an hour's time. It also happens in other places in the country, but especially here. Short lived micro-bursts can come up without warning, so please be aware... NEVER, EVER go away for more than 15 minutes with an awning or canopy out, unless you have a wind sensor on it!

We made that mistake on the 40-foot Bounder we used to have, and in 1995 we came home to the front awning (it had two 16-foot awnings on the passenger side) wrapped up over the top of our roof, with the lower anchors ripped out and the support arms bent beyond repair! And we hadn't even left the park!

In this most recent case, it was a free-standing pop-up awning two spaces away from us. The owners had staked the four posts to the ground, which was the only thing that held it in place, and even that was surprising, after seeing the size of the stakes. But the winds were gusting heavily out of the southwest, and hit two sides of the roof, pushing it right down on the picnic table under it! The scissors arms that extend the length of the sides were bent in the middle. The roof had a wind vent built into the top, but it didn't do much good for winds pushing down on the roof, rather than coming up under it.

The maintenance guy tried to call the owners, but they were about 50 miles away and in an area without cell coverage, so all he could do was leave a message. Between him, me and the neighbor next door, we managed to secure a rope to another ground stake, and attach it and two long ratchet straps to the roof, and tie the straps off to a nearby tree, until the owners could get back to the park and take it down. They came around later in the evening with our ratchet straps and a bottle of wine for us and the neighbor as a "thank you".

Our next door neighbor had a personal interest in helping because if the canopy blew away, it would have headed right into the side of his beautiful (and very expensive) Beaver motorhome! So please, don't just tie down your awnings or canopies when leaving your site. Take them down or roll them up and put them away. It isn't just your own property that can be damaged! We all have to look out for each other out here!

Redundancy is always good!

Another thing that we have learned to live by from all our previous years, is to always carry a duplicate set of keys on each other! Last night we got home late from meeting our friends for dinner, and I went to unlock the door, and my keys were gone! I have one small ring that I keep the door key, the receiver lock key and a small nail clipper on, that is separate from my main key ring. The latter is large enough that if it falls, I will likely hear it. Not so with the small one.

I had locked the trailer door as the last thing before we left last night, so there could only be so many places I could have lost them, one being at home, and the other as we were leaving the restaurant parking lot last night. I was freezing cold and had the chills from the wind, the sudden drop in temperature, and all the iced drinks we consumed there, and the last thing I wanted to do was go back and search a cold dark parking lot, either there or here. Once we used Sharon's keys to gain entry to the trailer, I called the restaurant to alert them to my lost keys, in case anyone found them there and turned them in. I didn't even want to go back out and look in our own driveway until I could warm up again.

This morning, I retraced my steps out to the van, and sure enough, the keys were on the ground about four feet out from the driver's door, where I apparently pulled my main keys out for the van, and accidentally pulled the others out without knowing it!

I think it's time to rebuild my key rings and get rid of ones I don't use every day, and put the rest all on one ring! Thanks to our habit of each of us carrying duplicate keys. or we would have been sleeping in the front seats of the van last night, and Angel (in the trailer) would have to fend for himself all night... without a potty break! We were gone from about 4:15 until 10:15 already... obviously having "too much fun"!

We have come to a few realizations during this past six months in this trailer:

  1. The first is that we will be more than ready when something "a little larger" comes along, but yet we are very particular about what we want, and aren't ready to get desperate... yet.
  2. Since we don't have room for our normal coffeemaker, we are finding that Folger's Crystals with microwaved water is a suitable substitute... for now. Of course, when we are boondocking, we usually use the Coleman butane stove for heating the water.
  3. No matter how small the space is, things invariably get lost. Previously, it was my two clear assortment boxes of crimp-on wire lugs. I finally found them in the bottom of one of my boxes of other hardware in the storage unit, and yet I swear I looked in that box a half dozen times! Now it is our 3-1/2-inch USB disk drive. Since our newer computers don't have them anymore, we have to have that to check our old disks before disposing of them. Some of them are photo disks from our old Sony Mavica camera, and there are pictures on there that I want to save to different digital storage media!
  4. If something does get misplaced, it seems to always end up at the bottom of a huge stack of boxes that are packed in tight, and that take half a day to pull out, sort through and then repack! Hopefully this situation will lessen as we dispose of more and more boxes.
  5. No matter how much time you think you have in a day, it is impossible to spend eight hours doing anything anymore! The butts get tired of sitting, and the bones and muscles get stiff and sore from lack of movement. Every couple of hours, something different has to be done for awhile, and if it's more fun than what we were doing, we often don't get back to what we were doing in the first place! Welcome to retirement!
  6. Plans change for how things are used, and often change back again! I designed the trailer with a couch at the front that can be pulled out and made into a bed. With only the two if us here, we thought, "why not just leave it made up as a bed, and use the oversize cushions to build the back out from the wall so we can sit on it?" Well, we tried that for way too long. With the seat of the couch being flat, it causes one to lean back and continually slide forward, taking the seat cushions with you. The posture is not good at all for trying to work at a computer. So now we are back to my original plan, of making up the bed into a couch every day, and then back to a bed at night... about a 15 minute task. It also allows us to use the small table on the tripod legs in front of the couch and be able to move it out of the way when needed.
  7. I think this is true of anyone starting out, even seasoned RVer's like us with a 30-year history of owning nearly ten different RVs of different types. We still tend to bring WAY too much stuff with us and continue to hang onto things in storage that should have been disposed of long ago! They say it takes the body at least two weeks to get used to major changes. But I think the mental conditioning of "saving" things because they "might" come in handy someday takes WAY longer than that to overcome! In some cases it can take years... as it probably will with us!
  8. We have literally been without TV for six whole months now... and surprisingly, we don't miss it. As much of a TV and movie fan as I am, I have come to realize that most of it is just "entertainment" and holds no real value. I do watch an occasional personal video by some of our online RV friends, but only the better videos. If they drag on without saying anything of value and stumble over their words, I won't waste time with them. But at least it's real life, and the better ones do have useful information to this lifestyle. Even with short YouTube videos, we still have to be careful of data usage. We have 18 gigs of data, and we manage to come very close to using it all nearly every month. If we started to use the internet to watch TV again, as we did in our home in Arkansas, we could probably burn through 50 gigs or more every month, and unfortunately for travelers, that's just not affordable, unless you are one of the lucky few who are "grandfathered in" with an unlimited data plan. And forget about free WI-FI at the parks. Any seasoned traveler will tell you that less than 10% of them have enough speed for videos.
  9. We have been keeping this rule for living under control for the most part, and that is that you can't start out a full-time life as though you are on vacation every week. I have read of so many couples that start out wanting to go see and do everything as fast as they can, and before they know it, their budget is shot and they find themselves going back to work to recover lost funds. It can get very expensive out in the world, because the entire economy of the world is built around sales. There isn't anything within your vision other than what is in nature that isn't there because a sale was made first. Think about that. Nearly everything is a tourist trap anymore, and most of the physical products that are being sold at such places are junk. Besides, in a small RV, where would you put all that useless junk? Even visual things, like museums, are there because someone is paying for it. Food? Well, we all have to have that anyway, and it gets consumed, so it doesn't really take away space, at least for very long. But with anything else, it pays to live a full-time life just like you would at home. Don't worry, you'll see plenty of country and other interesting things in your travels without seeking them out and paying ungodly fees for them every day. Relax, enjoy your hobbies at "home", and keep your money in your pocket... at least for a few days at a time. It will last a LOT longer!
  10. Whatever projects you find to do at home, you can easily find in RV life as well. People who aren't handy are going to be very particular, and buy a nice RV that needs very little done to it, just as they would buy a house that was ready to live in. If you like to build things and putter with things, you can do that in an RV, just as well... from buying a fixer-upper and remodeling it to suit you, to simply adding a few things here and there to make it feel more "homey". Just as in houses, there's something for everybody, and nobody is wrong in doing whatever works for them... at their own speed and their own cost.
So whatever it is that YOU want to do, go and DO it. There's no time like the present. None of us are going to get any younger, and tomorrows are not guaranteed. Make the most of your life while you can. The most important thing is to LIKE whatever it is that you are doing, whether it be a job, the place you live, the people you associate with, or whatever you feel adds real value to YOUR life. No one is ever right or wrong in making the choices that they feel are right for "them".

We can't think of a better place to be right now!

Our weather here has been great! Even in January, when we got one very light dusting of snow one night, it quickly warmed up with bright sunshine. The snow stayed on the mountains at the higher elevations for a few days.

A view of the snow-capped mountains that surround our current location on all sides.

Even though it may have been cooler than we would have been farther south, it still beats the weather that the Midwest was (and still is) having. And we have nearly everything we want within a mile or two, as far as shopping and restaurants. This area has a lot to offer, and we will likely be back again someday.

We will likely be leaving here at the end of this month, and then we will share (with photos) what we have been up to while here. The weather is warming up in the high country, and it will be time to start enjoying a cooler, drier summer than we have had for the past ten years! We will have to make a short trip to the hot and humid Midwest at some point this summer, but we don't intend to stay any longer than necessary. That's all I am going to say about our travel plans for now.

As always, questions or comments are always welcome. Thank you to those who have made purchases through our links. The small commissions we get from vendors help with expenses.

Stay well and travel safe.


Brad said...

Hi John. I'm enjoying reading your informative and candid posts. They show both the good sides of RVing and some drawbacks.

Like you, I often lose small things. When I finally find them, they've already been replaced. That's why when I re-did the van, I actually lessened the number of storage spaces! I used to carry all kinds of contingency food such as boxes of oatmeal. None of it was ever eaten! Then again, I'm just doing a little camping here and there - no longer living full-time in the van.

As so many have said (including myself) you learn so much as you go when living in a confined space. I'm a tv/video junkie so the TV and living room style chair were a priority but for you folks that stuff wasn't needed at all.

I found the coffee discussion interesting. I now carry a hotpot with a sandwich bag of goodies so I can warm up some instant cider or a hot cup of tea. Later this spring I'll make sun tea while fishing. It seems we never stop learning each time we sleep overnight in a vehicle... and that adds to the enjoyment. I can't wait to do it again soon but Iowa just got hit with a lot of snow up north...

Take care! I'm enjoying your posts!

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Amen and Amen, Brother! Your experience, though much more extensive than mine, parallels mine. Other than a few items you mentioned in your article, I could have written it myself. What's the old saying, John? "Live and learn?" Ain't that the truth. But, it sure beats sitting and stagnating on one's butt in a fixed home somewhere while the world and all the beauty and wonder of our "Garden of Eden" goes on without us. Live the dream and Rock on, Bro!

John Abert said...

Hi Brad! Thanks for commenting! I think you are right (for your situation) in eliminating unnecessary storage places. People don't often use all the things that they take with them, even for weekend outings.

However, without a home base, there has to be a place for some things, even if it's a rented storage unit. But eventually, we hope to be able too purge enough stuff to get away from storage fees, too, although that could be a year or more down the road. The worst thing is that you can't do "anything" with the stuff if you don't have it with you, and the farther away you are from it, the fewer the chances to get to it.

On the coffee situation, we do have one of those 12-volt hot-pots, too, but it's buried in a tote somewhere with stuff we would more likely use in the van. They work great n a vehicle that is on the go and gets charged often. In our case, we may leave the trailer set for days if we're boondocking, and we have to be careful of adding any unnecessary loads on the batteries. Even the microwave (which will now run on the new pure sine wave inverter) will only be used for quick lunches or drinks while in transit somewhere. That way, the solar charging has the rest of the day to recover before stopping for the evening. For evening meals, we'll use the butane or propane stoves or get out the BBQ grill. We have to conserve power for the refrigerator, above everything else.

John Abert said...

Hi Ed! Thanks for commenting! Yeah, we both think along the same lines in most things. Even our favorite saying, "no bigger than necessary" applies to both of us!

I see some of the nice diesel pusher motorhomes out there, and many of the older ones, even with very low miles on them, can be bought for little money. Most of them have nice huge "basement" storage, and lots of space up top, especially with slide-outs. But from experience, I know what it costs to operate them, and how much trouble they are to get into certain places with them.

When I run the numbers against operating something like that, as opposed to keeping things in a rented storage unit for a limited amount of time, it still makes more sense to be looking at smaller Class C's (28-feet or less). We like the wide-body B and B+ Classes, but everybody wants them and the prices are still too high for the age.

Besides, as is always said, if you have the space, it is human instinct to fill it. The basement storage of a Class A would only delay our purging stuff that we need to get rid of anyway, and then if we did get rid of it, we wouldn't need the space of a Class A.

For all (of our own) practical purposes, a smaller Class C that can be used as a daily driver, and keeping the trailer as our "studio", still fits our needs better than anything else. That way, we have "guest quarters" when we need them, so we don't have to get into a situation like we found ourselves in this winter, and we don't have to haul the piano around with us "all" the time. Dropping the trailer as a place marker and leaving all the heavy stuff parked has always served us well. But everyone has their own ways of doing things, and our way is not for everybody.