Our fifth wheel is going on eight years old and, like most RV's, wasn't built for full-time living. That wasn't more evident than with the living room carpet. We researched our options but no matter what we chose to do, we couldn't get an installer to work in the rig. We had two alternatives- go to an RV repair shop along our route and plan on leaving the fifth wheel for a couple of weeks or do the job ourselves.
We watched several Youtube videos and chose to install vinyl plank flooring from the Home Decorator Collection at Home Depot. The Stony Oak Smoke style comes in cases of 8"x 48" planks for a total of 18.22 square feet in each and a cost of around $40 per case. We bought 7 cases and used 5.5 cases for the living room/kitchen (we'll use the remaining planks in the hall and bathroom).
We decided against replacing the slide carpets at this time. The Stony Oak color scheme is mostly gray with a hint of brown, which is what we are converting our main space to over time. We had already bought furnishings and curtains in the gray/brown/white scheme.
We also purchased an installation kit that has plank interlock tools, which I found absolutely necessary, a razor knife and some matching replacement trim. All told, this project cost us around $400 in materials and took two days.
We decided to place the planks on top of existing linoleum in the kitchen but we did have to pull up the living room carpet. Like many videos showed, there were a great many staples but the only real problem we had was rear side walls, which apparently were installed right on top of the carpeting. I used the razor knife to cut it as close to the wall as I could. Fortunately, trim would hide the leftover.
Rather than having to cut planks lengthwise along both slide frames, which extend the length of the slide on both sides of the main space, I decided to make one side the baseline, placing the left edges of that line of planks along the frame and tack them down like they were along a wall.. You would think the frame would be installed in a straight line, right? I ended up moving the baseline row out from the slide frame about a half-inch to avoid its bulges and crooked edges.
The vinyl planks are made to snap together and tapped tight. It looked easy and even the videos made it look simple. For some reason, they didn't exactly line up all that snugly. I finally did get the hang of it after nearly half the floor was laid and I just couldn't bear to leave the furrows showing. I tore about 2/3 of the flooring out and re-laid the panels, this time with my newly-learned plank-installation skill. The result was much, much cleaner.
The one thing that did live up to its hype was the ease in cutting the planks. I set up my Workmate bench just outside on our patio mat and used a combination of t-squares, clamps and a razor knife to score, bend and snap the flooring pieces apart for installation. The sheer number of cuts was time-consuming but simple to perform.
The process includes starting on one corner and working down and across until you reach the opposite corner. Planks are cut down to stagger seams, just as with regular wood flooring and the unused ends are saved to cut to size on the opposite end of the floor. I made sure that none of the planks joined right above the linoleum edge, but otherwise, it all went as laid out.
From start to finish this project took most of two days. I still have a few pieces of trim to tack down in the kitchen, but we're pretty pleased with the final outcome. The bathroom doesn't seen as daunting now, even though nearly every plank will have to be cut to fit.
Two years before our planned launch into the full-time RV unknown, we decided to purchase a Thousand Trails membership, especially after doing a fairly thorough investigation. We had seen a few Youtubers talking about it and the formula seemed pretty simple: Pay a big membership fee upfront, pay a small annual fee each year and camp for free at any of their 80 or so campgrounds around the country, mostly in the east and west coasts. We did the math and it seemed like a good plan, and you'll see below that it actually has been working in our favor.
The first thing we did was discuss the purchase with a reseller. He was able to get us a Platinum Thousand Trails (TT) membership for about $2,100 and an annual fee of $549 that gave us access to all TT resorts for up to 21 days at a time and no required out-of-network time. In other words, we could move from park to park without a waiting period in between. Keep in mind that the current initial price of such a membership from TT directly is between $5,000 and $7,000. There is also a reservation lead time of only 60 days, though the current (expensive) Elite plan allows up to 180-day lead times.
Last year we added the Trails Collection to our annual membership fees, which went up to $849, to add several Encore properties to our availability list, giving us 168 total resorts to stay in. These come with a few caveats: The max stay in the Trails parks is 14 days (or less, depending on the park and season), you have to be out of the system for at least 7 days between Trails stays (a non-Trails TT stay counts as out of the system), and some Trails parks charge up to $20/night out-of-pocket.
So, there we were in Colorado, fresh new TT members and nowhere to stay. We were both still working full-time and the midwest is terribly lacking TT resorts. There were none within a reasonable distance for a long weekend. We bided our time and were finally full-time on the road in April this year. However, our first several stops were still in Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming, none of which sported TT campgrounds.
Eventually, in June, we stayed for 14 days in a TT resort for the first time. It was a huge park, the O'Connells Yogi Bear Park in Amboy, IL, with over 600 sites plus a small village of seasonal residents. But the campground was very clean and spacious, and other than a bad rust problem with their water lines and huge numbers of mosquitoes, we enjoyed our stay. As advertised, we were not charged a camping fee, but did pay an up-charge of $3/day for 50-amp service. We have only had to pay this fee in a couple of resorts and it seems a small enough fee, if annoying.
So, the math:
Up until next Sunday, 10/28/18, we will have stayed in TT parks for 82 nights. By the end of the year, that will total 119 days and nights of camping. Keep in mind that we didn't go full-time until April and our first TT stay wasn't until June. At an conservative average of $35 per night in equivalent full-hookup resorts (i.e. O'Connell's Yogi Bear Park charges the public $75 per night, Hershey's Thousand Trails is $108 per night, while most KOA's are between $30 and $70 per night) we would have been out-of pocket $4,165 in 2018. In 2019, we have tentatively planned 230 nights in TT and Trails parks, which would be over $8,000 using the $35 average cost per night. This year we will be money ahead, even adding in the past annual fees and next year is golden.
There have been downsides. Thousand Trails parks are typically older and less maintained, though usually clean. TT corporate actively sells seasonal sites, often selling park models for those sites, but some of the parks we've stayed in felt more like trailer parks than camping resorts. The 60-day reservation limit is a pain, since our plans are laid out well beyond that timeframe. There should be more visibility of the available hookups and additional fees at each park. Finally, when you want to call in a reservation in from spring until fall, you may spend up to 45 minutes on hold waiting for the next specialist to pick up. However, the good news is the their online reservation system is working now and that has made reserving space or changing reservations faster and much simpler. They also have added a feature on the account page that lists all the resorts available to us in our membership contract. In the past, with all the different plans and park groupings it was often difficult to tell what park was on our plan.
We would definitely recommend a Thousand Trails membership as a cost savings device for full-timers who don't spend a lot of time in the Midwest. You could spend the big bucks and purchase from Thousand Trails directly and still expect cost saving over time, but these savings will come much quicker if you get a "used" membership from a reseller. Make sure you read and understand the contract fully before pulling the trigger.
We lived near Buffalo, NY, for several years but did not yet own an RV, so most of our travel back then consisted of day trips and the occasional long drive to visit relatives. Since becoming full-time RV'ers last April, we have worked our way across the country from Colorado and spent most of the summer in far eastern Midwest and the northern east coast.
Most of this was new to us, especially staying in the areas' campgrounds, and we have made several observations about travel in the northeastern United States, especially compared to travel in the west. Here are the top 9 of those observations.
9. Even though we were at or near sea level for most of the summer, in many places (when we had the elusive clear skies), the lack or blocking of city lights made the night sky enjoyable. Often the Milky Way was visible, as were the Pleiades and Little Dipper, constellations that are seldom seen near cities. Before this trip, I had only seen them from the mountains or high deserts in the west.
8. It rains a lot in the summer in the Northeast. Like someone said, it takes a lot of rainfall to keep all those trees green. But, c'mon, a dozen clear skies in three months? I now have a full assortment of scenic photos featuring white sky.
7. The entire east coast and as far inland as Upstate and Central New York seems to be one gigantic forest out of which cities, towns, streets and neighborhoods have been carved. I sometimes felt claustrophobic, with dense woods closing in on me wherever we drove, and the abundance of trees left little in the way of viewpoints or scenery.
6. Speaking of lack of scenery, I have been taken aback by the sheer amount of shoreline, both lake and ocean, in the eastern US that is privately owned and not accessible to the public. As I tried to get photos of certain lakes and seashore, I was foiled again and again by the lack of access, and a couple of times got into some hot water by sneaking a shot or two from in-between houses. Ditto on access for fishing, too. If you don't own a boat (I don't), good luck.
5. Cigar smoke often permeates campgrounds at evenings and nights in the east more than I've ever experienced. Unfortunately I am allergic to cigar smoke so it's more than an inconvenience for me, but I do hate the smell. I'd rather have skunk odor...
4. Speaking of campgrounds, it's astounding how many easterners do their best to convert their campsites into cityscapes. Why come to the forest if all you want are bright colors, flashing lights, complete tiki bars, carpet and big screen TV's (outdoors)? It would be so nice sometimes to experience nature while you are actually visiting nature.
3. For many reasons, streets can be very narrow in New England and surrounding states. I found myself in a Philly neighborhood with at most two inches of space between my rig and the lines of parked cars on both sides of the street. I have had to be very deliberate about my driving path, even when driving my 1-ton pick-up and not towing. I was told that when the Mormons came west and created new towns, they made streets wide enough for a 6-oxen-drawn wagon to make a full U-turn. That may be why the west doesn't have the same street-width issues as the east coast.
Sticking with the driving theme, low-clearance bridges are everywhere in the Northeast. The aforementioned Philly drive was caused by a bridge over the Delaware River only having 13' 5" of clearance. Rather than chance it (my fifth wheel is 13' 5" tall), I took the last exit and that's where we landed. We now use a trucker's app to avoid low-clearance bridges and overpasses, but it's not infallible. In Binghamton, NY, I turned a corner and was greeted by an overpass that had not been mentioned in any apps and had a clearance of only 11' 2". That would have left a mark. I was profoundly fortunate to have spotted the sign in time. It took nearly a half-hour to stop traffic and back out and onto a side street to turn around.
2. In the entire time since leaving Colorado on the road, we have seen a sum total of zero wild animals that aren't your regular turkeys, crows and other ordinary birds -- no deer, no elk, no moose, no rabbits, no bear, no porcupines, no possums, nothing. We have stayed in or near the forest nearly every stop longer than a day and have made many day-long excursions through the most remote geography in the Midwest and eastern US with no sightings at all. We've never NOT seen deer and antelope in Wyoming and usually see a moose or a bald eagle as well, not to mention the abundant wildlife we often saw in the Rocky Mountains. The funny thing is there are moose crossing signs throughout New England, but I still don't know why.
1. If you don't like lobster, rarely will you experience food in northeast restaurants that is particularly good. Nadyne and I both dislike shellfish, including lobster, and every restaurant we visited (in Maine, Cape Cod, Central New York, Vermont, etc.) had mediocre food. Yes Buffalo and New York City are exceptions, but they were a very small part of our journey this summer.
Honorable mention: Easterners often use their horns before their brakes. This is definitely an east coast thing.
The advantage of purchasing a three-year-old fifth wheel was that everything worked, far beyond the initial break-in period when most mishaps occur. However, the older floor plans were not really set up for full-time living, so each room needed upgrades, modifications and updates. I've already posted about updating our master bedroom and this post is regarding our rig's entryway.
I've numbered several items on the attached photos so you can see what I'm describing. Who would have thought I could find 26 things we did just in the entryway?
4. Solar motion-sensor lights
We found relatively inexpensive motion-sensor lighting that are powered by solar cells built on them and install six of them around the fifth wheel for safety and convenience at night.
5. Screen-door lever
It's a minor thing, but always having to slide the screen panel over to open the screen door with the main door open was a small frustration that installing this lever removed. Just lift the lever up and the door can be easily opened.
6. White metal storage cubes
We installed a pair of metal cubes along the ceiling of the hallway into the bedroom for additional storage. It's well out of the way and we store prescription drugs and overflow meds from the bathroom in these nicely-sized cabinets.
7. Cherry wood coat rack with mirror
One of the few pieces of furniture that we moved from our sticks-and-bricks house, this coat rack has a mirror, two curio shelves and two spaces for pictures
8. Door valence (re-covered)
We re-covered the valence over the door to match the valence updates we made in the living room.
9. Baseball cap holder
I had a couple dozen caps I didn't want to get rid of and this was the best storage device for them I could find. It's a vertical strip that has hanging flaps from floor to ceiling and I've attached it to the wall.
10. Wooden CD cabinet (converted)
We took a large CD/video cabinet from our house, painted it with chalk paint, distressed it for an antique look and covered its glass panels with a semi-clear treatment. I attached it to the hallway wall and added tie-downs so it would be secure in transit. We use this cabinet as our primary backup storage space for bathroom and first aid supplies
11. Carpet strips
We cut three carpet rolls to fit the steps up to the bedroom. The original carpet underneath is very low quality and was always dirty.
12. Wood carving (decor)
We have a wood carver as a friend and I had him make us this artistic tree bark carving as a birthday gift for my wife.
13. Wood handrails
There were no rails in the stairway to the bedroom so we found molding that would fit the bill and not intrude into the space very far.
14. Fire Extinguisher
15. Magnetic pinup board
We found a neat sheet of metal with magnetic "pins" and baskets and installed one across from the main door. It is a convenient spot for keys, RV remote, flashlight and other items that come and go often.
16. Entry mat
This is the space that accumulates the most dirt in the rig, so we put an extra-heavy duty mat there. It is easily shook and cleaned.
17. Wire birdcage coat rack
The space between the slide and the door was wasted, so we placed a nice metal coat rack there that also has artistic value.
18. Wood board with weather station
A small craft project was all that was needed to create, stain and install this mounting board, then we added the weather station with three sensors (outside, freezer and refrigerator) . The unit itself senses inside temps and humidity.
19. Shoe rack
Shoes were always piling up around the door and into the living room and kitchen, so we made a shoe rack out of coated particle board and large coat hooks. Four pairs of shoes fit perfectly and we make sure we don't let other pairs creep into the space.
20. Wire bins
Again wanting to use otherwise wasted space, we installed two wire baskets next to the door that we use for dog cleaning supplies and other canine accessories.
21. Motion-sensor LED light strip
Night-time lighting was deficient in the hallway, so a specialty light strip was the solution.
22. Coin sorter
Another item that made its way from the house to the RV, this coin sorter uses standard paper coin rolls and is battery-powered.
23. Wicker bin
We attached a small wicker basket on the white cabinet for odds and ends.
24. Antler hat rack
What can I say? Antlers belong in an RV somewhere...
25. Over-door hanging rack
It's the only door we have, so we put a hanging coat rack on the hallway side and a hanging towel rack on the bathroom side.
26. Framed US map
This was a gift from our friends in the New Directions RV group so we always know where they are.
Next up: Updating the Kitchen
A Thousand Trails Resort
Address: 493 S Mt. Pleasant Road, Lebanon, PA 17042
Phone: (717) 867-3967
# of sites: 320
Full hookup price: From $108/night
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Warnings: mosquitos, caters to families
This park was and still is our favorite Thousand Trails park (so far). It's a large park, set on 200 acres of rolling forest and farmland in the vicinity of the Chocolate World theme park area. We wished we had been able to stay longer than the three days we had planned, but we are certain to return.
Very well maintained, there are a ton of amenities at this resort, including all the services one would expect at a high-end park plus fishing ponds, pickleball and basketball courts, a nice game room and a hot tub accompanying the pool. They have family-oriented events and crafts going nearly every day.
I had a really good experience at a craft beer tavern called Funck's. I still wear the neat cap I got there, too.
While this is a well-maintained park, some things didn't make sense, such as making the check-in staff cover the propane supply tank. I had to wait quite a while for him to be free, then he closed the entrance gate to help me a hundred yards away. Mosquitos were an aggravation we had to endure. Though not unusual in this part of the country, I still believe there is more a park can do to help limit the problem.
That it's a tourist area is a double-edged sword. Traffic was difficult, and the narrow roads didn't help with my larger pickup. Tourist prices were common for gas and groceries.
Hershey RV & Camping Resort is a very lush, well-run and maintained park that has an abundance of amenities, I rated this campground 5 out of 5 stars, one of the few parks to receive a perfect rating from me. We are anxious to return and spend more time here.
We knew when we bought our 2011 Crossroads Cruiser 32' fifth wheel that we would eventually move into it and be full-timers. The fact that it was three years old was both an advantage and a concern. The advantage was that everything worked, far past the initial new RV break-in period when most mishaps occur. The concern was, besides being seven years old by the time we hit the road, that the older floor plans were not really set up for full-time living.
Each room needed upgrades, modifications and updates. I'm starting with the master bedroom and I'll work my way back over the next few parts of this blog series. I've numbered several items on the attached photos so you can see what I'm describing.
3. Battery fan with AC adapter
Definitely needed for warm summer nights.
4. Cup holders
I mounted a fold-up cup holder on either side of the bed.
5. Metal wall art (trees and a bear)
Nadyne found a piece of metal art to replace the large one we used to have over our bed in our sticks-and-bricks house.
6. White wooden cabinet
We utilized the space over the window with an inexpensive wall shelf and a couple of tension rods.
7. Mattress and bed spread
One of the things we did early on was replace the original RV mattress with a memory foam unit. We owned (and loved) a very expensive memory foam mattress before buying the fifth wheel but it was too large for the RV bed. The replacement we purchased was not as expensive but is good quality, comfortable and it fits. We wanted a little whimsy in the room and both liked the cute moose-in-the-woods bed set.
8. Bed window valances
RV window valances suck! Nadyne made these.
9. Quartz/Rock panel headboard
The bed definitely needed something to improve its appearance and the quartz laminate really classed up the room. Since the peel-and-stick panels are notorious for not coming off later, I stuck them onto a corrugated backing and put the headboard on the wall in one piece.
10. White vinyl linen cabinet
We saw this heavy-duty vinyl cabinet at an RV show and knew we could use it somewhere in the RV. In this case, we needed space for linens and had an empty spot over the bed we didn't know what to do with. The cabinet has a thin wood floor and ceiling inside and I attached it with double-sided foam tape and screws with 2" washers. After two years, it's still holding very well.
11. Wooden shelves
Never enough shelving in RV's...
12. Facial tissue holder
Installing this Kleenex box holder near the bed has been extremely convenient.
13. Fold-out hanging rod
We occasionally need extra room for hanging clothing, especially when doing laundry, and I installed a couple of retractable hanging rods that fold in flat to the wall to conserve headroom.
14. Various hooks
Like shelving, never enough clothing hooks in RV's
15. Headboard shelving
After installing the quartz-panel headboard, we thought that a couple of wooden decorative boxes and a shelf for knickknacks and souvenirs would finish the space.
16. Hanging laundry bag
With the air conditioner taking the space previously taken by a plastic laundry hamper, we had to get creative. It turns out the A/C unit is the perfect height to support the weight of a laundry bag hanging above it on the wall as it fills up. We actually have two bags and swap one out when it gets full.
17. & 18. Wire rack shelving and clothing bar
We decided we needed more options for the double-door closet that had two wooden shelves installed. I removed the shelves and replaced them with wire shelving on the right side and a clothing bar across the top for a backup spot for hanging clothes. We normally don't need the hanging space and found it was perfect for storing the vacuum cleaner, sewing supplies and other odds and ends.
19. Decorative wire bowl
This bowl is kept in place with museum gel.
20. Canvas cubes
11" canvas cubes fit perfectly across the top shelf of the closet and keep stored items from falling during travel.
21. Six-Cube cabinet
Not only did we find a cube cabinet that fits in the large closet, but I angled it back when I attached it and now clothing doesn't fall out of it. We also use canvas cubes in it to make swapping clothes in and out easier.
22. Thin clothes hangers
You'd be surprised how much more clothing you can fit in a closet when you use extra-thin hangers.
23. Bed pockets
The bed lifts up and has storage beneath it but the sides of the pedestal seemed to be wasted. The set of pockets attach across the bed frame under the mattress and hang down for filling on the sides. We use them for slippers, spare shoes and for bedtime storage of our phones (while charging), reading glasses and other items.
24. Next-to-bed protection
This baseball bat, a Louisville Slugger I got in Cooperstown, is a placeholder for our shotgun...
25. Bedroom TV
We are the kind of people who like to fall asleep to the TV (we use a timer), but there was no mounting in the room for one. I installed this LCD TV on a mounting bracket near the ceiling power and cable. There is also a pair of hooks to secure it with a bungee cord while in transit.
26. Curtains and blinds
The bedroom window treatments were not ideal and when the blinds finally broke, Nadyne replaced the entire treatment, including blinds and light-blocking curtains.
27. Decorative wood bowls
One of the very first things we did for storage in the bedroom when we bought the RV was to install these rectangular wooden bowls on the wall. Four years later, they're still holding strong and being used as mini-valets.
28. Alarm clock
We needed an alarm clock in the bedroom but unfortunately this one is AC only. We're still looking for one that is LED and battery-powered for boondocking purposes.
29. 6-way outlet
Three outlets were installed, including two by the bedsides that have USB power outlets.
30. Not Visible (behind the TV): 200W inverter and Amazon Fire Stick
The inverter has helped so we can watch TV while boondocking without the generator running, and the Amazon Fire is how we stream TV, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, Sling and other channels.
31. Higher Hangers
For longer clothing and those that we hang in the short closet, the Higher Hangers hold the clothes about 4 inches higher off the floor.
32. Jewelry holder
In lieu of bulky jewelry boxes, we opted for a hanging holder and store it either in the closet or on one of the retractable clothes rods. No, there's nothing valuable in this holder.
Next up will be the RV entry-way. Let me know if you have any questions about any of our modifications or upgrades.
Address: 3064 SR 43, Mogadore, OH 44260
Phone: (508) 385-3616
# of sites: 120
Full hookup price: From $34/night
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Warnings: mosquitos, no sewer, few 50-amp sites
This family-owned and oriented campground has two small ponds, one for fishing and one for swimming and pedal boats in both. The park is incredibly green and the sites are spaced out with plenty of room. When we were there during 4thy of July weekend, the park had arranged a parade of thoroughly decorated golf carts for the kids in the camp, who seemed to love it. They scooted around the park a half a dozen times with patriotic music blaring from a couple of the carts. They also provide a tractor=pulled hay ride on the weekend evenings.
The price of this park is very reasonable for a large, clean, comfortable space.
Mosquitos! The ponds on-site and swampy land around the area are breeding grounds and we experienced many bites.
This is a smaller park with few amenities. About half of the sites are taken by seasonal renters, which meant that they maintained their own relationships and weren't interested in socializing with us interlopers.
The lack of sewer hookups in each site is a pain. They do have a central dumping station on the way out of the campground, which we used, but the opening into the septic tank was overly large and I lost the rubber seal from my Lippert sewer hose when it fell right into it.
We have been RV-ing for over five years now but only full-time since April. There have been many accessories and gadgets we did without when weekends were all that we had to worry about\ but would greatly miss now. Some we even had on hand but seldom used until we hit the road permanently. There are dozens of these items, but here are the top 9.
Note, I didn't include items that come with or are usual for a 5th wheel, like TV's, new hitch, awning, battery-powered fans, etc.
9. WorkMate (by Black & Decker)- With all of the work I've done on the rig, including organizing and installing shelving in the basement, making a rear bumper rack, and several interior projects, life has been much simpler with my WorkMate adjustable workbench. It provides a unique vise and other support for cutting, sanding, drilling, filing and all sorts of other treatments of wood, plastic, tile, etc. With the floor project coming in the near future, this will continue to be an extremely important accessory.
8. Air Fryer (by Dash)- We have only had our air fryer for a few weeks and it has already become one of our go-to kitchen appliances. We experienced its use when we visited family and found one that was sized better for our use in the RV. It fries wings, hot dogs, pierogis, tater tots, french fries, and just about anything else that we could have oil fried, and then some. It's also very fast in cooking time and easy to keep clean.
7. Amazon Fire Stick- Satellite TV is rather expensive and has the unfortunate requirement of a mostly unobstructed southern sky. Instead, we opted for the Amazon Fire Stick (two of them, actually) and have subscriptions to Sling TV, Netflix and CBS Online. We were already members of Amazon Prime, so all of that content is also available to us. We do need Internet but our AT&T Mobley device has been mostly successful for us in that regard.
6. Exterior RV Steps (by MORryde)- We did have steps that worked before, but the new MORryde apparatus is a dozen times more steady, since its legs are firmly on the ground. Nadyne actually fell to the ground from the original RV steps and we have always been worried about the possibility of injury with the rickety set. As a side benefit, we installed a locking toolbox in the original steps' storage frame. Here's my product review for these steps.
5. Countertop Ice Maker (by RCA)- Our RV refrigerator does not have an ice maker built in and I am a huge fan of ice in my drinks. Before purchasing the ice maker, we were buying a bag of ice about every other day, when we could find it, and that has been all but eliminated. When we know we're going to be boondocking, we store some ice in freezer bags to get us by. The ice maker we bought makes a few cubes every 12 minutes and it recycles melted cubes so we can leave it on indefinitely, adding more water as needed.
4. Portable Air Conditioner (by newair)- Our single A/C rooftop unit takes a ton of power, so much in fact that anything lower than a 50 amp supply renders it unusable. Unfortunately, we were heading to the hot, humid northern midwest and then New England, moochdocking in a driveway and finding only 30-amp service available in more than a few campgrounds. Nadyne is not pleasant to be around when she's overheated and we decided we needed an alternative. After exhaustive research we chose a newair brand portable free-standing A/C unit that runs on a 110v circuit. While in the driveway, we ran a 2nd extension cord from the house to accommodate the A/C and otherwise it runs great whether we're hooked up to 30 amps, 20 amps or to the generator. Much unpleasantness has been averted.
3. Washing Machine (by Giantex)- Laundry facilities are a great unknown on the road, often difficult to find, and even more often in disrepair or ill-kept. That's not even counting the number of times the machines took quarters but didn't provide change machines. We don't have washer/dryer hookups, so that wasn't an option, and we didn't like the hand-crank style of machines that were available on the market. We came across the Giantex unit, which is a real 110v +washer that is slightly smaller for RV use. It has water intake, a spin cycle and a drain. We wanted to place the unit in the shower (see this article for my water solution) but found out that the weight of the machine would eventually crack the shower floor if we left it in there, so I re-purposed some bedroom wall cabinet space and made a support base there.
2. Cell Signal Booster (by weBoost)- A Godsend, the weBoost enhances cellular reception, both voice and data, by up to 40 times. In other words, a 1-bar signal can be boosted to 4 or 5 bars. We use an AT&T Mobley with an unlimited plan and a Verizon Mifi with a couple of dozen gigabytes of data. Between the two, and our WifiRanger wifi booster, we have only been in one spot with no Internet or cell service at all in over 4 months on the road, and that was on a cliff overlooking the Badlands in South Dakota. The weBoost won't boost 0 signal, but we've nearly always had some signal on which to perform its magic.
1. 2000W Inverter Generator (by Wen)- Evidently we're power hogs. During the night on almost every boondocking session, we woke up in the morning to zero battery power. We usually found out by needing to flush the toilet and had no water pump. Even after upgrading my lead-acid batteries to Lithium-Ion, our comfort level requires all the power we have. I purchased a very quiet 2000W inverter generator (the 56200i) and all our problems were solved. Last week we boondocked at Walmarts in back-to-back nights and were able to use the induction burners, air fryer, portable A/C, large-screen TV, cell booster and toaster oven (not all at the same time), as well as keep our batteries charged until we were ready for bed. I think we left it on for 4.5 hours at one stretch without it overheating or being distressed.
That's the Top 9 list. We probably could have a Top 30 list, but most people probably wouldn't read it. Additional Top and Bottom 9 lists will be coming out in the next few weeks as our full-time RV life becomes more and more normal for us. Please use the social media links to share this with all your camping and RV buds, or to anyone thinking about the RV lifestyle.
A major shift in residency has taken place in this country over the last few years. Like ourselves, many couples have taken to the road full-time, and not just retirees. More and more families are selling their houses and moving into RV's to embrace the nomadic lifestyle. Along with an outdoors lifestyle, fishing is of great interest to a good portion of these people. One big difficulty is the non-resident status for fishing licenses, wherever we may be.
This isn't as much a cost issue as inconvenience. Cost is certainly high, with three-day freshwater licenses upwards of $20 in many states ($23 in Maine plus $2 seller's fee, $23.50 in Massachusetts, $15.59 in Illinois, etc.) and more than half that for a single day. But actually purchasing the license within the time frame desired can be extremely difficult when you're on the road.
Here in Maine, where I'm currently camping, I'm about 11 miles to the nearest fishing store (actually a Walmart). I knew I wanted to fish but didn't know when the weather was going to be good enough during my 2-week stay, so I waited. When the weather finally cleared, I didn't have the license and I had to wait. Sure enough, rain returned. I ended up not fishing at all during my stay here, even though the campground I'm in is on Patton Pond, a great fishing lake. In fact, I haven't actually fished anywhere since I left Colorado four months ago.
A national license would be of great help to me and my fellow nomadic fishermen (and fisherwomen). I would easily pay $200 per year to be able to fish wherever I am on the road, especially when I am often in rural areas where licenses aren't readily available.. Fees collected could be split between all 50 states, so all those governments would get their share.
What say you, BASS (Bass Anglers Sportman Society) or Professional Catfishing Association? Are you on board, Good Sam? How about you, Escapees or Xcapers? Heck, even AARP should help pave the way. How can we make this happen?
I have a nice Wen 2000W inverter generator and since we bought a portable A/C unit that will run on generator power (the main A/C won't), we've been using the generator almost every time we've boondocked this summer. It has been amazingly helpful to be able to cool off the rig instead of suffering in the heat and humidity on the eastern seaboard.
However, retrieving, setting up and re-storing the 40-pound machine has been more than a small headache. We recently sold our motorized bicycles and still had the bike rack installed on the rear bumper and thought we might be able to purchase a generator box that would fit on one of the rack supports, but could find nothing under $400 that would work. Undaunted, I located a steel storage cabinet for garages and patios that locks and decided to make it work. This project cost me $85 for the cabinet and another $75 in wood, water seal and hardware.
I had a lot of options for securing the cabinet and decided to build a shelf across the bike rack supports (pic A). I bought three 2x6x8 boards and cut them to 78" long, which is the distance from the left edge of the rig to just off the left edge of the ladder. I drilled holes in the board closest to the rig so that I could easily place it over the nuts and bolts holding the bike rack to the bumper.
I purchased some water seal and applied approximately five coats on the wood boards (pic B), then let them sit overnight. I wanted to attach the boards using 1/4" x 3" lag bolts but the hardened steel rack presented a little difficulty in lining up the bit to go through the wood and into the 1" steel rails. Instead, I drilled the holes in the rack first, the drilled upwards through the holes and into the wood from the bottom. That worked very well. Pics C and D show the first board placed and the 1/4" holes drilled for the second board.
To attach the second board, I used mechanical pencils as spacers (pic E) similar to building a picnic table, then clamped them to facilitate the drilling from beneath the rack (pic F). The second plank was bolted in (pic G) and the process was repeated for the third board (pic H). The bumper shelf was complete.
I selected the cabinet while considering several factors: price (under $100), steel construction, lockable, adequate inside space, modifiable for venting and height (I didn't want the top of the unit to block any portion of our rear picture window). The Homak SE Series (pic I) seemed to fit the bill at 27"x27"x12", however when I built it, the inside depth turned out to be only 10.75". The generator is 11" deep. But my solution of adding 1" spacers between the sides and the back (pic J) actually killed two birds with one stone -- making enough interior room for the generator to fit and providing airflow all around the generator so that it could run while locked in the cabinet.
I used four 5/16" x 4" lag bolts, washers and nuts to secure the cabinet floor to the shelf, then added some wood board to give a better support for the generator's base (pic K). I used a wide bit to drill out the spots on the wood base that cover the lag bolt heads so it would sit flat on the cabinet floor.
The final result was a storage cabinet that locks and allows the generator to be easily connected and run without dragging it out from basement storage. There is also more space on the bumper shelf for future storage (cooler?) or other use. Since the cabinet is not waterproof, my wife will be making a cover that can be tied down over it for the road.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.