By Mike Sherman
Having full-timed now for 5 months, we have learned a lot. Here’s an overview of our experience and lessons learned.
After 30 years of RVing, we finally reached retirement and jumped at the opportunity to sell our home and belongings and see America full time. We started out with a 12′ trailer many years ago and gradually moved up….or longer….having gone through a 22′ and then a 24′ travel trailer. Then it was on to a 32′ Class A motorhome which was a real pleasure and made RVing easier. No pop-outs, automatic levelers, and all the creature comforts. It worked well….we did not pull a ‘toad’, and were not concerned about the lack of additional floor space offered via slide outs mainly because we were still employed and restricted to time limits on the road…..one of two weeks max.
Choosing the right retirement ‘housing’ was difficult. We settled on the concept of a truck and 5th wheel for maximum usable living space and having a vehicle to drive after setting up our campsite. The difficulty was the struggle to determine the right truck and trailer combination. Knowing the decisions would be permanent with no options to look back, we took our time in determining exactly what truck and exactly what trailer we wanted.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Do we buy the truck first, then a trailer, or the trailer first, then the right truck to tow it with? We concluded that the truck would be just as important as the trailer. We did not want to be restricted in what trailer we could choose due to a lack of towing capacity, so we bought the truck first, and went big….a Ford F-350 1-ton dually extended cab (for the dog – she gets the back seat) with the famous 7.3 liter diesel, a 6-speed manual transmission, and an engine brake. We placed ourselves in a position to choose and tow just about anything we wanted.
After a couple of months of shopping, we found what we thought was the perfect unit. Our thinking at the time was we need space….storage and living space, since it would be our permanent home for the foreseeable future. So we went big….40 foot long with 4 slideouts. After loading up everything, we were relieved to discover our weight factor was within the proper limits. So off we went. Right smack dab into major problems.
Our motorhome had a generator, so dry-camping for a day or two was not an issue if the temperature climbed upward. Our new 5th wheel lacks a generator. We did not feel we’d need one as we dry camp only in transit situations. Weight and fuel issues for the generator was also a determining factor on taking a pass on that accessory.
We discovered almost immediately we perhaps bought too big. We can’t fit in a lot of campgrounds. We need full hookup with 50 amp service whenever it is hot. Campgrounds that could meet our needs were usually full. It was a struggle finding adequate facilities because it seems everyone now has an RV. We were used to camping mostly in the off season, and seldom needed to make reservations at our destinations. It is obvious more campgrounds are needed!
So we are faced with having to avoid certain roads due to our size, we can’t fit into many of the campgrounds, and finding a vacancy is difficult. Those that do have an opening are not always acceptable due to a variety of factors.
We have had to alter our perceptions based on the reality of our decisions that cannot be reversed. However we are not discouraged, it just provides us with challenges and other opportunities to overcome our choices. We love the truck and new home, so we adjust. When we find a suitable place, we stay longer. It is more relaxing and the setup/breakdown of the campsite is not as stressful.
We have learned our 5th wheel is really not an RV – one does not recreationally do sightseeing with a 40-foot house attached to the truck while traveling from point A to point B. We are, in fact, towing a house. Buying fuel, groceries, and parking is a challenge, so we are learning to land somewhere, disconnect, then shop and run errands. Unfortunately, the destination does not offer many services and one must stop while enroute for essentials.
In the meantime, we are fortunate to be in a position to camp host for the State of California, on the coast, and not deal with miles and miles of traveling at this juncture. We will have a few months at the ocean to sit and enjoy. This will enable us to lay out a new strategy for our eventual adventure of seeing America because we still have every intention of going here and there….we just have to have a better plan than expected.