Join Date: Feb 2004
A lifetime RV ADVENTURE
MIGHT FIND INTERESTING IF INTO RV'ING.
LONG READ THOUGH!
AN RV LIFETIME ADVENTURE
(NOT QUITE FINISHED)
SAME 36 FT CLASS A MOTORHOME V1O FORD – 22 YEARS
8 ½ YEARS FULLTIME – 13 ½ YEARS HALFTIME
153000+ MOTORHOME MILES
250000+ DRIVEN / SIGHTSEEING MILES ON 3 TOWED VEHICLES (JEEPS)
ALL 49 STATES (MOST SEVERAL TIMES) – ALL CANADIAN PROVINCES (MANY SEVERAL TIMES) PLUS NEWFOUNDLAND
HI! My name is Phil (Philip) and my wife’s name is Bev (Beverly). We have been married 54 years, have 2 sons and 4 grandchildren. We spent our working career (beginning in 1962) entirely in the Sacramento, California. Beverly retired from the Department of Defense in 1986 and I retired from private industry on 31 December 1999.
The following pages contain the relatively condensed version of our story on how we accomplished our long held dream of being footloose and fancy free and to wander through the USA and Canada and to visit our many friends and relatives throughout this great land. I was born and raised in Old Town, Maine. Beverly was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.
We both believe we have been very blessed and also lucky in our life’s adventure. My belief that we were very blessed does not mean that some luck was not involved. Seeking Divine guidance in our life does not preclude that natural events (both good and bad) won’t play a part in our lives. We are humans and live in a natural world (that was Divinely Created) but is controlled by natural laws (step into the path of speeding truck and you are going to get injured or killed or be in the wrong place at the wrong time, possibly the same result). Well, enough philosophy.
My objective for this book is to inform, instruct, entertain and inspire you as you begin or continue your own great adventure. May you be blessed and “lucky” during your own great adventure.
WHAT WE DID AND HOW WE DID IT
Our adventure began many years before we retired. In our early life we did some tent camping. That didn’t last too long before we decided there had to be a better way. We graduated to a large Starcraft pop-up tent camper which served our family very well for several years. Once the kids got into their mid / late teens and didn’t camp with us most of the time we disposed of the tent camper and bought a 10 ½ foot Lance cabover pickup camper which then allowed us to tow our boat. That worked very well for about 8 years. In 1992 we (Beverly and I) took an extended five week / 5000 mile trip through the Northwest USA, into Western Canada and then down the entire West coast as far as Point Reyes National Seashore in California. We pulled a large utility trailer which carried our 18 foot Old Town canoe, a 250cc four stroke Honda, dual purpose motorcycle, a relatively large barbecue grill and miscellaneous camping gear. It turned out to be a marvelous trip. The camper was self contained and had a SMALL wet bath. We found we could stop pretty much anywhere we wanted, at least for a couple of days. Of the 5 weeks, we stayed about half the time in established campgrounds and the other half of the time stopping and staying at some of the most beautiful and serene places imaginable. The trip was essentially trouble free (blessed & lucky) this was about 1991. After this trip and over the next 3 or 4 years is when we began to consider and made the decision to go full time in an RV upon retirement.
THE PLANNING AND HUNT FOR A FULL TIME RV
About 1995 /1996 we got serious about finding a rig that would meet our requirements. We pretty much ruled out “tag alongs” or fifth wheels (there were not very many suitable toy haulers at that time). Over the course of three years (1996 to 1999) We frequented RV dealers, RV shows, some motorhome manufactures on the West coast ( Fleetwood, National RV, Rexhall, Monaco and Country Coach (test drove many, many class a motorhomes - most brands - 32 feet to 40 feet) both gas and diesel pushers (remember, there was not the variety or selection that has existed the past several years in terms of slide outs, interior designs, fully painted exteriors, engine choices etc.). We had decided (after several of these excursions) that we wanted a class A motorhome for a few primary reasons. First, it was because of the spectacular view / visibility out that front window; second, we could stop virtually anywhere to eat, rest, nap, use bathroom without ever getting out of the RV; third, we wanted to tow a 4 wheel drive vehicle so we could sightsee the backroads / trails in all our travels; last, we wanted to have enough room and at least 3000 pounds of weight carrying capacity for all our stuff. For the first couple years of searching it appeared that we would need a diesel pusher to meet our requirements. However in late 1998 / early 1999 (may not be exactly right) Ford Motor Company introduced a larger RV chassis with the V10 engine. I believe they had an 18000# and a 22000# chassis and for a very short time built an 18000# chassis with a tag axle with a total GVWR of 22500# (7000# front, 11000# rear duals, 4500# tag). All the chassis came with 19.5 inch wheels / tires. The net of it all was that we found OUR motorhome. It was manufactured by National RV in Perris, California in May / June 1999, we took delivery in July 1999. We thought we were ordering a 1999 model year and ended up getting a 2000 model year with a totally different exterior graphics design / color which we greatly preferred over the 1999 colors and design (lucky once again). The model was the 6351 Tropical with the tag axle setup. It was slightly over 36 feet long, had one long living room slide, large walk thru bath with two pocket doors and tons of storage (drawers and hanging closets, a north / south full queen size bed and a very good size shower).
By the time we took delivery we had sold our home and did a one year lease on a home in the same area (which gave us until April of 2000 to dispose of a lot of our “stuff” and to make provisions to store what we wanted to keep). We rented a 10’ X 20’ storage bin for approximately $130.00 a month. We paid rental on that storage unit for 8 ½ years. We put all we wanted to keep, but did not want to take with us, into the storage unit and the rest we loaded into the motorhome. We moved out of our rental unit and began our full time travel on 4/18/2000. When we took delivery of the motorhome in July of 1999 it was stored at a 24 hour access storage lot nearby. There was no room to keep it at the rental unit. From the time we took delivery (July 1999 to 18 April 2000 we had taken 14 trips and put about 4500 miles on the odometer – it had about 320 miles registered at delivery).
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT TOWED VEHICLES
About 2 1/2 years before retirement I purchased a new 1997 Jeep Wrangler Sahara in anticipation of towing it behind a motorhome. If there had been a 4 door Wrangler at that time I would have purchased it. We towed the Wrangler until October of 2001. At that time we had towed it 30000+ miles and driven it for sightseeing more than 25,000 miles.
In October of 2001 we purchased a new 2002 4 wheel drive Jeep Liberty limited 4 door. We sadly sold the Wrangler the following month. The Wrangler was a great vehicle to tow and was great off the beaten path. The reason for going to the Liberty was because of the 4 doors. It was much easier to bring friends and grandchildren with us because of the easy access to the back seat plus the extra room to carry “stuff”. The Liberty was also an excellent back road / trail vehicle. It would go about anywhere the Wrangler would go but not as nimbly nor without incurring a dent or two. We towed the 2002 Liberty for a little over 14 years and a little over 100,000 miles. In addition to towing it for over 100,000 unregistered miles we put over 167,000 miles on the odometer sightseeing and exploring everything and anything that caught our fancy / interest in all the lower 48 states, all provinces of Canada as well as Alaska, the Yukon Territory and last but not least Newfoundland.
In November 2015 we traded the 2002 Liberty for our third and current towed vehicle (and last – I plan to take full advantage of its lifetime warranty – I figure its and my warranty might well end about the same time). It is a 4 wheel drive, 2012 4 door Jeep Liberty Latitude which had already been set up for towing. At the time of purchase it only had 12400 miles on it. It had been purchased by the original owner to tow behind his motorhome but because of health reasons only towed 4 times and about 5000 miles. It was a Jeep certified vehicle and I was able to purchase a lifetime Jeep Mopar / FCA warranty that covers virtually everything on the vehicle other than normal maintenance. The lifetime warranty works as long as the repair does not exceed the then current value of the vehicle. When and if it does equal or exceed the current value of the vehicle, they (Mopar) have the option of canceling the contract and just paying me what the value would be of a fully functioning similar vehicle. I had looked specifically for this year Liberty. The 2012 Liberty was the last year of production for this model. It is also an excellent on and off road performer, especially with full time 4 wheel drive on any surface / speed with 42% front and 58% rear torque bias that automatically can shift torque to a full 100% front or rear depending on road conditions. Very capable over the road performance (end of Jeep Liberty commercial). Its primary limitation is the ground clearance and being a bit on the heavy side – about 4500# (heck, I’ve lost a little ground clearance myself and also could stand to lose a pound or two). The lifetime warranty is not transferable. Jeep then begin producing the Cherokee (I’m not sure you are allowed to call it a Cherokee any longer – very sad – political correctness run amok! - end of political comments – who knows?).
SOME MORE INFORMATION YOU MAY OR MAY NOT FIND HARD TO BELIEVE
AS I RECOUNT THESE FACTS, I LOOK AT THEM AND FIND SOME HARD TO BELIEVE MYSELF – AS I STATE LATER ON, I FEEL WE HAVE BEEN MIGHTILY BLESSED AND LUCKY
WE WISH THAT YOUR EXPERIENCES AND TRAVELS WILL ALSO BE AS WELL BLESSED AND LUCKY
BEFORE I SHARE THE FOLLOWING WITH YOU WE ARE SAYING A PRAYER AND KNOCKING ON WOOD SO THAT ANY FUTURE TRAVELS WE CAN ACCOMPLISH WILL GO AS WELL AS THE PAST AND NOT BE JINXED BY THIS LIST
IF WE END UP JINXED, SO BE IT
WE HAVE HAD A GREAT RUN
THE FOLLOWING FACTS LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER OF IMPORTANCE
• We currently have the same RV we purchased in May of 1999
• Suggested Retail was $105,648
• Actual price paid – out the door, as the say was $82,460
• We have travelled, to this point (1/9/2022) slightly over 153,000 miles
• We have never had a breakdown that required any emergency service
• Any service we have needed has always been planned – whether it was routine or something that needed repair. Total instances of ever going to a service facility is less than 20 (includes getting new tires). I have done 90+% of any repairs ever needed.
• We never had a flat tire. Twice we have had slow leaks in our tires (this RV has eight 245 70 19.5 tires. The first leak was due to a nail in the tread area while in Anchorage Alaska and discovered while we were in a campground. I removed the tire myself and took it to a shop for repair and I reinstalled it myself in the same position. The second occurrence of a slow leak happened when I was having 6 new tires installed for the first time (had the two best old tires moved to the tag axle to get two more years of life out of them). I let the tire installer move my valve extensions on the duals from the old to the new tires. I originally installed the stainless braided extensions myself. Needless to say I ended up with a slow leak on one set of duals. The fix was to properly reinstall all the extensions myself. Since then I have never let tire people touch the valve extensions and never had another problem. I am currently on my 5th full set of tires (It has been two years). If we continue to be blessed and maybe lucky, we might even have one more replacement cycle to look forward too. During 2021 there have been a few health problems preventing any extended travel (NOT COVID). 2021 was the first year that we have not spent several months on the road.
• The RV has both its original windshields. There about 16 rock chips / dings total. None that have evolved into cracks or in any way impair our view / vision or driving. I have carried a rock chip repair kit since the beginning. When we get a chip or ding I always fix it with the repair kit within the same day or at most the second day. Most of the chips / dings virtually disappear and can only be seen if you look very closely.
• The RV has the original carpeting (not bad but not wonderful either), original sofa and captain chairs in essentially good to very good condition, one original rooftop air conditioner – other one was replaced about 5 years ago by an RV repair shop because I could not determine how to get it on the roof myself without damaging it or the rubber roof.
• Has original house water pump which gets a fair amount of use.
• has original black tank dump valve – grey tank valve replaced about 8 years ago, was a simple procedure – the black tank valve would not be nearly as simple (said I was lucky).
• Water heater was replaced about 12 years ago because of faulty factory install during build – a wood support under the aluminum tank shifted slightly and allowed the tank to bounce up and down while going down the road and the wood support finally wore a hole in tank, replaced tank myself.
• Replaced the 35,000 btu furnace completely because blower started to bind / make noise which prevented enough air flow to prevent ignition - replaced myself.
• has original rubber roof - had it coated about 5 years ago at an RV repair facility as a preventative measure – might redo it myself next year.
• Still has the original MAXX AIR vent covers which I installed during the first year over the two roof vents (Fantastic Fan vent and bathroom vent). It is hard to believe they still seem fine after being fully exposed to the elements for over 20 years.
• Incidentally the RV has never been under cover of any kind. It has lived its life mostly on the road or parked beside our house in the Yuma, AZ winter sun, with full hook ups for the past 12 1/2 years.
• All the brake hardware is original and never been touched except it is on its 3rd set of OEM brake pads (tried a premium set of pads from a major brand and they failed after several months – chunks were ripping out of the pad surface). I do the pad replacements. The tag axle has hydraulic drum brakes. I replaced the shoes about 7 years ago. There was at least 35% life left. I flush the entire brake system with new fluid every 2 to 3 years.
• I replaced power steering pump three years ago because at idle /coasting speed there was no power steering assist and the pump also supplies boost to the brakes.
• The engine is still on its original coolant / heater hoses. Coolant system has been cleaned / flushed and new coolant added approximately every 50,000 miles. I bought a full set of replacement hoses about 14 years ago. When I examined the old ones, at the time of flushing, they looked perfectly fine to me. I put the new hoses in a basement compartment and there they still sit. I examine the hoses regularly and they still look as good as 13 years ago. The plastic radiator overflow / fill tank started to crack and seep 2 years ago and I replaced it in an O’Reily’s auto parts store parking lot outside of Albuquerque, N.M. In fact the engine would still have its original serpentine belt if I had not had to change the power steering pump. I still carry the original belt as a spare.
• The engine provided air conditioning system has never been touched and still works as good as when new.
• The engine oil & filter get changed as well as a lube job to the 14 grease fittings approximately every 5,000 miles. The very first oil change was done at 3,000 miles. I converted it to Mobil One full synthetic at that time and have used it ever since. It uses from zero to about ¾ of quart between changes depending on how many mountains we climb.
• RV still has the original transmission and works perfectly (unbelievable to me also - it has shifted between 2nd, 3rd and overdrive (I’m guessing hundreds of thousands of times at least). At 17,600 miles I drained all the fluid (including torque converter – it has a drain plug also) dropped the pan cleaned it and replaced the filter, changed all the fluid to Mobil full synthetic ATF. Since then I have changed all the transmission fluid (about 17 quarts) every 50,000 miles. I also have installed a Scan Gauge which is programmed to show water temperature, cylinder head temperature, transmission temperature and I occasionally cycle the fourth reading amongst the other selections available (I usually leave the 4th gauge on mpg). The highest water temperature I have ever observed was 214 degrees while climbing an 8% grade with an ambient outside temperature of 111 degrees. That was also the day I saw the highest ever transmission temperature of a 194 degrees. The water temperature usually runs about 193, trans temperature usually runs about 167 degrees and the cylinder head temperature always runs 2 degrees above the water temperature. The engine has never overheated. We have driven over most, if not all, the highest passes in the lower 48 states. Some very slowly, 1st gear 25 mph, towing our toads, which weighed around 4500#.
• The RV has a Generac 5.5 kw generator which currently has approximately 600 hours on it. I have done routine service on it about every 125 hours ( oil / oil filter, fuel filter, air filter). The plugs have been changed once when it was around 350 hours. It usually starts easily (but takes a little cranking if temps fall into the 40’s). I had to replace hose from generator to the fuel tank in June, 2006 in Livingston, Tx Escapee park. Had to drop fuel tank to accomplish. Still good (lucky again).
• We have only ever required emergency road service one time on any of our 3 vehicles we have towed. A water pump on the 2012 Jeep Liberty froze up and failed on our way to visit friends in San Antonio Texas 4 years ago and required the jeep to be towed to a local San Antonio Jeep dealer.
• We have had road service insurance with Coachnet from the beginning up until 2018 when we switched to FMCA Road Side Assist because of the cost difference. In all our 22 years we only used road service that one time 4 years ago.
• In these last 22 years we have never had to file an insurance claim. We have incurred a few dings and dents along the way. Our insurance deductible is $1000.00 so we have either fixed things ourselves or leave them alone and let them serve as reminders that sometimes we need to pay more attention.
As you can tell from the foregoing narrative we have had a number of great and good experiences as we have travelled this path. We have also experienced many mishaps / repairs and many that I haven’t mentioned, like running over a road alligator and destroying our exhaust system near McCloud California 16 or 17 years ago and spending two hours under the RV hack sawing off exhaust components so we could continue. In fact when it was all cut away I sort of liked the new exhaust sound. Also this little misadventure caused me to purchase a Banks intake and exhaust Git Kit which I believed gave us about 25 or 30 more horsepower which worked out very well for the 1000’s of hills and mountains we climbed (dare I say “a blessing in disguise”).
I will summarize this section by saying that blessings and good luck are helped enormously by preparedness, attitude, resourcefulness, independence, good planning and in the case of things not working to have the ability to do many repairs yourself. These newer recreational vehicles are pretty sophisticated and if you need to have them repaired / serviced very often it can be a serious drain on your financial condition and even more importantly on your enjoyment and peace of mind. There are many, many thousands of people out there enjoying this RV lifestyle successfully. You can join them.
SUMMARY OF ACTUAL TRAVEL STOPS AND ANNUAL MILEAGE SUMMARIES
• We have kept daily trip logs of every overnight stop we have made along with gas cost / gallons, cost of the camp ground (if applicable), total miles traveled that day, length of stay (with date of arrival and departure and finally note any comments we may have about the day and / or about the area where we are staying. I periodically transfer most of the information to an excel spreadsheet. With that summary I am able look at any day in the past 22 years when we were travelling in the motorhome and see where we were, where we parked, what we paid (if anything) and how many nights we stayed. This has proven indispensable when speaking with anyone who asks about our travels, when trying to recall who we travelled with or visited, helps immensely when reviewing the thousands of digital pictures (which records date ) we have taken over these 22 years so we can relate the pictures to the exact place where we were. Senior moments come somewhat more frequently these days and we would be lost without this travel log. For the first several years, Beverly would document all our adventures for the preceding 2 or 3 weeks in a long email to our friends and family. These have also served as great memory joggers and also has allowed us to relive some very special moments. Now many travels have “blogs”, YouTube channels, Facebook, etc., etc. Had we had those back then who knows but we might have become “influencers”, famous “YouTubers” or “bloggers” with many thousands of viewers / subscribers. Might of even made some money on them (yeah right – ha ha).
• Over the last 22 years we have spent a total 12.4 years (4527 days) living in the motorhome.
• We have stopped to spend at least one night to a few months 647 times. On many occasions we stopped multiple times at the same places over the years. About 80% of those stops had full hook ups, the rest were boon docking, truck stops, roadside rests or just an overnight stop getting from one place to another.