Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Adventures in RV Buying

We have purchased six recreational vehicles; all of them used. We have owned gas powered, diesel pushers and 5th wheel trailers. I now know a seller will tell you just about anything in order to sell his or her RV. While this may not be surprising, buyers need to be especially wary because repairs can cost thousands of dollars. If you're a full timer this can be particularly concerning because you lose your home while repairs are conducted. Here are just some of the things we have experienced since diving into the world of RVing.

Water damage is the number one thing to look for. Walk away from any damage, indicated by delamination (bubbling of the gel coat or outer skin), stains, sealant in odd places and soft spots on the roof. By the way, an annual roof inspection and reseal will pay for itself over the life of the RV.

If you purchase a motorized RV, you really need two inspection specialists to help you. One to look over and inspect the drivetrain and one to inspect the RV side. They are two distinct specialties, like cardiologists and podiatrists.

Before you tour a unit give the outside a thorough look over. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if it has been cared for. The key here is that you do not want to buy a project.

Tires are especially important, with age being the dictating factor most of the time, due to RVs sitting so much. There is a date code on every tire and you can Google how to translate it. RV tires should be changed every 5-6 years, regardless of how good the tread looks. Two tips. Most trailer manufacturers put the cheapest tires they can get away with on RVs; usually a LT or light truck tire. Because of blowouts most trailers can greatly benefit from the installation of G rated tires (it means more plys or belts, making it a meatier tire). Get with a tire pro as you can sometimes up the tread width, giving the trailer a wider contact patch, which spreads the load and increases traction. Finally; purchase a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and/or check your tire pressure every time before you move. It's cheap insurance.

I believe that an inspection by a certified RV technician is a good investment, especially if you're not familiar with the inner workings of an RV. Make sure every major component works while connected to water, sewer and electricity. Then disconnect the unit and ensure everything needed to be self contained also works. You cannot take too much time conducting this inspection. Believe me, you will discover things you missed after spending some time in the RV and then it will be a lot harder to get them repaired.

There is a world populated by predators out there that take advantage of folks with limited funds and lower credit ratings. We went that route couple of times while we worked to pay off debt and increase our credit rating. It was very frustrating in many ways, especially because the selection is limited and the condition questionable. We are dealing with a reputable dealer these days and the change is palpable. We are treated better, the selection is better and the knowledge that we have a reputable dealer to lean on is invaluable. It would be nice if everyone selling RVs would just be honest and above board, but that simply is not the case. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research before making the plunge.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Fulltimers Story

I thought I knew much more than I really did about RVs when I finally purchased one. (Where have we heard that before?) I had coveted an RV and the lifestyle that went with it for most of my life. Other than my turn in the Scouts our family did not camp much, if at all. I remember a disastrous trip that my parents had in California. They rented a small Class A gasser, packed up their things with their friends and set out; only to break down on the road. That was the end of RVs as I remember it, until my sister got into them. She purchased a Class A diesel coach which I loved. I decided to make the plunge and bought a Class A gasser built by Fourwinds. Other than a minor roof leak, it was great place to start. I sold the Fourwinds and purchased a diesel pusher and then the economy and my health crashed. Unbeknownst to me, I had set myself up for a fulltime life, working out of a RV. After heart surgery and with limited opportunities for employment, we set out to make a living on the road. At the time I had a Holiday Rambler diesel pusher, which served us well till we exposed it to the caliche backroads of Southern Texas. After nearly starving as workampers we decided to try gate guarding in the oilfields; but that is a different story. The Holiday Rambler ate more money than we should have put in it and; after a radiator hose blew and cooked the engine, we decided to get rid of it. Ironic as it may sound, we still believe for a life traversing the highways there is no better RV to do it in than a diesel pusher. They just aren't meant to sit for extended periods and don't hold up well on unimproved roads. We ended up trading our diesel pusher for a 5th wheel, something I believe we should have done to begin with. The thing that held me back was the requirement and purchase of a reliable, strong truck to pull the 5th wheel. A one ton pickup dually (with four wheels and tires on the back axle) of any decent quality costs upwards of thirty thousand dollars, usually much more. Basic math puts a small 5th wheel and pickup truck at well over fifty five grand. We have bought two diesel pickups and I believe we need to find a third to finally get the necessary power and hauling capacity. The problem with towables is not so much having the ability to haul it, it is the ability to stop all that mass. Even though the oil field gate guard gig pays well my health issues and other circumstances have held us back. We are on our sixth RV and our third 5th wheel and have finally purchased a quality 5th wheel. Fate has conspired to prevent us from owning a decent RV till this point.  I see a light at the end of the tunnel for us; really, I do. I want a toyhauler with a 12 foot garage and a one ton dually to haul it with. I believe that will eventually happen one day. If you want to full time and work out of an RV I recommend you purchase a quality, used 5th wheel and the proper pickup to tow it.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Guess Who Won?

Trump won the electoral college vote. It was clear and a overwhelmingly fair process, according to our law(s). I believe the vast majority of Americans have accepted this fact. I am particularly concerned that there are pros fomenting and riling the malcontents. Although I am sure that in elections in the past that organized protests occurred, this election saw a whole new level. Instead of individuals, we saw organizations paid and supported by the opposition, used to thwart the democratic process. This all leads up to folks with nothing better to do getting swept up in the dangerous nonsense. I would love to see more of a focus on apprehending and punishing the perpetrators of assault(s) and destruction of property. Publicize the cost of rioting and make it prohibitive and (IMHO) you will see less folks joining the fray. Peaceful protesting is part and parcel of our democratic process, up to and including civil disobedience. It is a right that should be cherished, not abused.

I believe that there are radical organizations in our society willing to go to great lengths to protect and promote their agenda(s). While at face value this may not seem like something to get alarmed about, you could not be further mistaken. A great percentage of our problems in this great country can be directly attributed to our porous borders; especially our southern one. People have illegally immigrated to this country for years and we have done little to stop it. It's a dirty little secret in this country that whatever onerous task we choose not to do, we farm out to immigrants. That unfortunately has led to illegal immigrants having a sense of entitlement as to their status. We encourage and abet them by allowing them to occupy a gray area in our society that allows them all sorts of financial support from governments, organizations and others. We even allow them to serve in our armed forces and protect them in so called sanctuary cities. We allow passion and emotions to obscure the simple fact that they are here illegally. I do not want to see anyone hurt, but stopping this and the degradation of our nationalism is paramount. The very fabric of our country is being torn apart, just because some segments of our society refuses to assimilate. I am no expert, but I believe a lot of this can be accomplished by simply enforcing existing laws. We have allowed immigration to get so far out of control that we risk not being able to stem the tide. And I have not even begun to mention how terrorists can and do use our immigration policies to their benefit. As an American and patriot this should alarm you. How odd that the people most up in arms about it are the ones here illegally and those that support them.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Getting Off the Merry Go Round

I kind of wandered through life. I grew up in the sixties and seventies, just as life long professions started to die out. I was also born with a wanderlust and insatiable curiosity. After a stint in the Marines I tried several professions and finally ended up in the airline industry. That was at the cusp of upheaval in the business when the government deregulated it. Start up airlines sprung up like weeds and stalwarts like TWA and Pam Am faded away. It was difficult to maintain employment at one particular entity. About the only thing I got out of the airlines industry was realizing that I enjoyed managing and leading a group of people in pursuit of a common goal. I also was woefully inept at the politics which are part and parcel of life in business. When I had had enough I found what seemed to be one of the few professions that would take someone in their fifties and train them and put them to work. I drove eighteen wheelers for the next ten years till my heart started to go south. As I recovered in a recliner Missy started packing up the house and we decided to semi retire and work out of the RV; something that is known as workamping. I cannot speak for everyone, but to succeed in workamping you have to have supplemental income. Most campground/workamping opportunities will not employ you full time to avoid having to treat you like an employee. It turned out to be a love hate relationship; I loved what we were doing but I hated nearly starving to death to do it. We had heard rumors of work as gate guards in the oil patch of South Texas. We were terrified that we might end up in the boonies somewhere in South Texas with our last $20 in our pockets. Research finally led me to Andy of www.myoldrv.com fame. Through him we gained the confidence and knowledge needed to get licensed and started as gate guards. I have endeavored to pay if forward since then and now, over six years later, we find ourselves reflecting about the journey.

This is our experience and my opinion(s). You truly need a boatload of patience, a sense of adventure and some money in your pocket to become a gate guard. There is so much more help out there these days (in comparison to when we started), especially on social media. It has also taken on some aspects of a regular job in that it has become more and more competitive and demands on guards have risen. It is no longer the "gold rush" and "wild west" of years past. There are simply too many quality guards available for too few openings. Full time guards are especially revered and usually get first dibs on any openings, further limiting the available gates. If you're determined to become a part of this demanding and rewarding profession I recommend that you establish a relationship with an active guard(s) and mine their knowledge to get started. I DO NOT recommend that you come down to Texas and jump in, expecting to go to work right away. It just doesn't work like that; especially these days. We have made a great many sacrifices in pursuit of decent wages and a sense of stability. Our weekends and holidays are non existent and long stretches away from family and friends have become the norm. We do, however, get to meet some of the most intriguing people in the world, get to commune with mother nature and learn the invaluable lesson of how to live off the grid. If you want to get off the merry go round and make some money having an adventure, gate guarding might be the answer for you.