Wednesday, March 28, 2012


While we have some down time awaiting South Dakota registration documents which will release us to travel, we will do a couple of posts on this transition time from staying with the In Laws to hitting the pavement. Teri is being kept busy cramming carefully strategizing and organizing our belongings into the limited space. My final must do project that is keeping me busy-- selling our 1996 Mazda pickup-- has gone up for sale here.

Since almost all fifth wheelers have their bedroom compartment in front over the hitch, there can be some instability. OK-- we will give you 15 seconds to let your mind dive into your sexual septic tank..........................................................................Ok, thanks for returning to the surface. 

My father-in-law, who just retired himself, had a solution --welding together a tripod stability bar for the fifth wheeler. I did the spray painting (about max performance for my handyman skills). The 4" square metal box atop the jack stand simply ratchets up into the king pin where it rests snugly and assists the front legs in carrying the forward weight. The result is we can snore without the rig looking like an earthquake tremor to our neighbors.

Hat tip to my father-in-law Harry Nunn who actually perfected his welding skills in his late 60's by attending a series of Saturday morning classes at a local community college. I totally believe we are never to old to learn new things!

Best of all, we paid for the materials and we got the favorite son-in-law daughter labor rate-- free.

Countdown to travel continues...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me....

Well, just when it felt like it was all falling part after two months of hunting for an RV solution (motor home or fifth-wheeler w/truck) and I started tuning up on Costa Rican culture, God put together a plan for us.

First, the pristine fifth-wheeler was acquired. This is where it got interesting as the RV seller rolled up in his nice 2002 (mint condition) F250 diesel, 4x4, super cab, tow vehicle with the industry renown 7.3 engine. When I asked if he wanted to sell it as a package deal, he got the well-recognized, Texas "you ain't taking my truck from me partner" look. But, I did sense what you always look for when you pop such a question-- a pause.

So, I pushed back a little and told him I had a year left to live put on my best Basset hound face and asked him to think about it mentioning he certainly didn't want the hassle of Craigslist trespassers coming to his nice home plus continued insurance and having to remove the hitch, should he decide to sell it later. He emailed me back 24 hrs later and said he did not fit well in the outdoor dog house would happily agree to work out a price.

Now, the mounds of paperwork await us-- insurance on two different vehicles using our South Dakota address....mailing about 10 docs to SD, as well, to get license plates on both rigs...paying SD sales taxes on them both--gulp....

Up next, we will begin to load our belongings, practice driving/hitching up, setting up and await the license plates from South Dakota to arrive, probably about 7 days, or so.

So, while we did our part in stimulating the economy today, there was a bit of a depression that struck the checking account.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


We were in Houston the day before going to the super-mega RV lot to shop and I had an unsettled feeling, one of immense frustration. We had yet to go to the locale where certainly amongst 400+ units we would find something in our price range and I wasn't feeling right. I even quipped to Teri "Forget the RV experience, let' just find us a place in Costa Rica to park our lives for a year".

The next day as I posted here we thought indeed we had found "the one". Well, as you know, we decided against it. We then went to a different lot to pursue another one we had seen and, lo and behold, it had water damage. The next day we would strike out again at two more stops, but, on my way home I told Teri "I have no idea why, but I have a peace about our lack of success. I just feel something else is going to pop up". It was a God-peace kind of thing.

We weren't back more than an hour from our 2 day, 5 stop, 500 mile trip when I got a notification via my Google/Craigslist feeder that a new 5th wheel listing had been launched. I looked it over and, wo-lah, sent Teri an email entitled "This is it".

We bought "This is it" today. The vacillation from motor home to 5th wheel has ended.

It is a 4 year old, pristine 5th wheel rig owned by a retired couple that took meticulous care. They included the remaining 2 years of factory warranty, great tires, all supplies (sewer hoses, chocks, levelers, camping chairs, pots/pans, silverware), an automated awning, flat screen TV with surround sound, etc.

The below YouTube video is one exactly like our buy, except our interior has the not-so lovely blue tones that I will have to solve with some spray paint or Teri's creative designs. Why does it seem like every interior design school flunkey was farmed out to RV manufacturers? They are like walking into a bad 70's LSD trip, even in a 2008 model.

So, "home" shopping is done. Now we need to find the "mobile" piece. While Teri begins the loading process (owner delivering it to us Monday), truck shopping continues. You would think that would be the easy part----in Texas. Who knows, at the price of fuel, maybe we will just install sails and a rudder on this one and call it good.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Removing the Emotion...

Our whirlwind 60 hour RV shopping tour of the Houston-Seguin-Austin triangle, including visits to 5 different dealerships and viewing over 20 units, resulted in zilch. Well, it did result in $500 less in our bank account due to travel expenses, but we will call it a return on investment for the education gained.

To take the emotion out, we developed a process before embarking on our 1st lot that we want to share for future reference, as well as others who may benefit from the information.

We selected (via on line info) the units we would be viewing in advance and then marched to their location on the lot. While we both did an interior/exterior walk-around, Teri was tasked with scoring the inside while I did the dirty work.

Teri's areas being scored: Kitchen counter top/storage, clothing storage, decor, flooring and overall feel/potential. My chart had: tires (huge issue for RV), roof components, overall exterior condition and overall value. Once we finished the dozen we looked at, we sat down in the final unit and came up with our Top 3. Our top one ended up being the same unit and was so far ahead of #2 and #3 we simply decided to go to the next phase of the process.

Next up: Pounding the internet researching the following three areas B E F O R E offering a contract:

1) A search across the US looking for the exact same RV for sale to determine fairness in pricing for our desired unit at rvtrader .

2) Scoring out what a bank thinks about your RV's asking price (loan value) is equally wise. Again, if you are looking for value as we are, you want the RV to be below Low Retail.We used the NADA site.

3) Google search "Common Issues" for your year/make/model. If you find a pattern of similar concerns, then you search for "Preventative Measures".

Our favorite candidate fell apart at #3, known roof issues (moisture buildup between ceiling and roof) with no way to minimize chances of a significant expense. It was to the point where enough owners were chattering the dreaded words: "class action lawsuit". Again, in the RV world, roof and frame issues equate to an automobile having a history of engine or transmission issues. In most case, you simply move on. We did.

Oh, as a sidebar, the city of Houston---- Louisiana needs to annex you. You really need to stay away from hiring road engineers and traffic pattern experts who went to Texas A&M. And what is up with the $3.93 gal per gas? There appears to be a refinery or two in the area.

Hunt continues tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Humm....which one?

We have contemplated what mode of RV to purchase now for 4+ months and have gone full circle. The only type we have ruled out--travel trailer-- just a bit too much instability for our taste on the USA autobahn.

What we have narrowed down:

1) Fifth-wheeler being pulled by a 3/4+ ton pickup (that we have yet to acquire to leave #2 and #3 possibilities open). 
Good: only one engine to deal with and we would have local vehicle. 
Bad: Diesel is $4+ per gal, although improved mileage might offset and we would have to spend $1K to get hitch installed. Also, budget-wise, any diesel vehicle would have 100K miles, all be it that is about 50% use for such a vehicle.
2) Motor home (gas) towing our 1996 Mazda pickup behind it. 
Good: No decision to make on a pickup and local/rescue vehicle always attached. 
Bad: 2 engines to worry about, plus spending another $2K to set up tow system, plus insurance on both and all be it cheaper per gallon, mileage with gas engine will suffer.
3) Motor home sans pickup, but with bikes: 
Good: we could leave as soon as Mazda pickup sold, which should be quick. 
Bad: No local vehicle, but could use Enterprise rent-a-car when we desired. If we broke down on side of road with no cell coverage, Teri would have a long bike ride in a lightening-filled sky seeking an ATT ping. I would have to stay behind to protect the cold beverages. Good: Exercise for Teri. Bad: Sleeping outside for Dave.

It is rather interesting how our quest for simplicity has complicated this process. We have very little obsession over floor plans and age, so we are open to almost anything that appears dependable, which means there is a ton to choose from. Translated: HOW DOES ONE DECIDE?

Ultimately, our my goal is to make a wise investment as the proceeds we are using are from our home sale and, if once this adventure ends, we will need to recoup much of the money spent to buy a stick home...again.

We spent 2 hours at two different lots in Houston about 1 mile apart, a couple of possibilities at one lot. In 16 hours, 415 units, not a single one new, will be amassed in one tarred pasture at PPL.

Essentially, we are about to become kids in a candy store...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Check Out Our New Digs...

We closed at noon on our Texas home sale and courtesy of the supersonic speed of Internet Airlines, we moved to Madison, S.D. four hours later. Any thought by my wife that I am a procrastinator can now be laid to rest.

Since the new space is a bit cramped for an Open House, let me give you a virtual walk-thru:

What we like:
  • Great neighborhood with a nice ethnic mix. While mostly white, there are a few browns mixed in, all different shapes and sizes. A few international visitors, too.
  • Holidays will be very quiet, I mean really quiet.
  • One of the real attractions-- Federal police protection. It's like living on an Indian reservation, without the alcoholics.
  • No worries about sleepless nights, no barking dogs around here!
  • Maintenance free.
  • Our monthly mortgage: $8. We felt it was a steal. And it includes utilities.
  • Downsizing accomplished. 1,747 square feet was a bit too much for empty-nesters, so we are now minimalists-- new pad is 32 square inches.
No sub-division is perfect, so these are our dislikes:
  • Parking can be a bear, especially early mornings and after school/work hours.
  • There may be a few unwelcome guests, but most of the time they are simply lost.
  • Landlords--what cantankerous and snarly folks! They're a bit like the Gestapo, all in their uniforms and such.
You ready to see our property ??? Here ya go....

    That's right, we own ourselves a post office box in Madison, S.D.! I love cookie-cutter subdivisions.

    All perfectly legal as when you sell all your belongings, you get to decide what state you want to domicile in. We picked the RV-friendliest of them all.

    Why South Dakota you ask?
    • No state income tax.
    • 3% sales vehicle/RV sales tax (Texas 6.25%).
    • No annual vehicle inspection/emissions required (Texas 1x per yr).
    • Annual renewals can be done on line and are very affordable.
    • Easy absentee voting process.
    • RV insurance is about 60% less than Texas rates (translate: fewer illegals)
    • The company we are using walks in your vehicle info. Once I buy the RV/truck in TX, I mail our service the docs, they mail me the plates.
    • Mail forwarding can be provided if my in-laws tire of the duties.
    • Cost: $8 per mo., plus postage on mail you decide you want forwarded.
    • The ONLY time you have to appear in person is to get a SD Driver's License. It is $20 and all you do is take a vision test.
    While our hearts will always be in Texas, our wallet has moved to South Dakota! Out with BBQ, in with chislic...

    Tomorrow, off to PPL RV Consignment in Houston, against a forecast of pouring rain for 2 days...oh well, should be easy to check for roof leaks...

      Saturday, March 17, 2012

      One Journey Ends, Another Begins....

      Well, the Texas Farmville adventure ended this week and the Hallock Mortgage Bank, Inc. began. Yes, to get to the finish line, we had to finance our buyer, but with 50% down payment as leverage, it became a rather simple risk to take for 12 months while she seeks a conventional loan. Bottom line: if it goes paws up, we keep the down payment and then resell it again for the full price. Somehow, that sounds better than the .01% bank interest rate.

      We moved 30 miles to the southeast and have been temporarily adopted by Teri's folks as we search for an RV solution. We will travel 225 miles on Tuesday and scope out the world's largest trailer consignment lot at PPL in Houston. Today, I am leaning 60-40% in favor of a 5th wheeler over a motor home, primarily for fuel efficiency reasons. I would have preferred to find an Obama-algae powered motor coach with a telescoping sail mast and solar panels, but no luck. Teri favors the 5th wheel style 100-0% as she prefers their layout options. Translated: In the interest of marital harmony, we will buying a 5th wheeler rather than a motor home.

      The one advantage to a motor home purchase would be (would have been) owning a 1996 small Mazda pickup that is ready to go as a tow-behind vehicle. The challenge with buying a 6 ton fifth wheeler is it also necessitates buying a beefy 3/4-1 ton diesel truck as a Mazda with multiple hernias going down the road is not a pretty sight. So, we are in the market for both a towing vehicle and a recreational vehicle, neither which will be new. Yes, Craigslist is my default web page.

      We now have a chicken-egg conundrum--what should we do 1st, the tow vehicle or the RV? We are going the RV route first as there are transport services that will haul a fifth-wheel from Houston-Austin for about $450 or so. The savings by purchasing at a consignment lot where the owner, not the dealer, determines the bottom price should offset the cost of the transit. This arrangement allows us to begin the pre-load process and test out the living features while simultaneously looking for the Cowboy Cadillac that is going to yank it around the USA.

      So, in a nutshell, house sold...internet degree in home finance completed..temp housing secured....RV and truck hunting season in progress...hit the road in 21 days, less if I get evicted by my in-laws...