Thursday, January 31, 2013

Random Acts of RV'ing, Version --Uh, I Lost Count

Well, we have moved. Oh, not into a sticks and bricks, just a mere 29 miles northwest from southeast Austin to Leander, TX. It was a move of convenience as we wanted to be in the same town as our realtor and not face Austin's quasi-Los Angeles traffic nightmare each time a property surfaced.

Arrived at the KOA in Leander, TX, the fastest growing area in the USA, on Tuesday. How fast--a property surfaced in our price range--had 18 showings. Oh, yes, that  would be 18 showings on the first day it was offered for sale.  Sold day one.

Yesterday, we headed out to look at 4 properties (as it was the same day we were expecting our monies from our buyer who we financed for one year). Ok, we were not impressed. A homeless family would  have opted to remain in their cardboard abode. Stained carpets, cat pee smell, tobacco smoke and wood rot weren't exactly screaming "BUY ME!". Did I miss the sub-division name: HazMat? I may take a pair of my black tank disposable  gloves next go around. Never thought our 4 year old Jayco would  seem so luxurious.

Turns out God's timing had a role. Returned  to the campground and an email from our home buyer indicating her closing had been nixed---date and time unknown. Ruh--roh, Scooby.  We feel sorry for her as she has fulfilled all of our requirements. It seems like men with briefcases laptops would be beating down her door to give her a loan as she is only requesting 40% of the property valued amount, so the institution would have 60% equity. Humm, guess banks still only prefer risky deals. So, wanting only to pay cash for a home, we have suspended an active search until the bank account sees a rare entry in the DEPOSIT column.

We are back in the same locale near the animal shelter I used to volunteer at before departing, so I am returning to help them out on Saturday. Also fortuitous is the opening of a new bike trail last week which can take us miles into the suburbs and starts right outside of the campground. Ran 3.1 miles today on it to make sure it could handle my weight. It did, unfortunately, my knees can't much longer. Time for pedals. Also, our best friends are now 10 minutes away and we are 10 miles closer to our youngest son. Most importantly, our favorite Mexican food place is 29 miles closer to us.

"Hey Dave, how is that job hunting going?" Glad you asked. So excited this morning as I saw an entry level aviation job open up at a nearby, but rather busy municipal airport, with an open deadline. I completed their  application, adjusted my cover letter and uploaded my aviation-specific resume. Went to look for the "Submit" button. Huh--where did it go? Refreshed the job home page. Gone. What? Yup, per the City, it was closed while I was working on my app. Face meet palm. Funemployment continues.

Hey, who is all in for a hot tub on these cool Texas winter evenings? OK, put your hands down cause it's not happening here. Yup, open April 1st-October 31st, cause everyone loves soaking their sweaty loins in a pot of boiling water in late July as the sun sets. Their explanation--only one heater that serves pool and hot tub, all run on propane, so it becomes too expensive to operate during colder months.  KOA recognizing something as TOO EXPENSIVE--that there is some irony, aint it?

Alex, I will take "Program Ideas Not Well Thought Out" for $200. Really--bring your  own chili slop and we will blend it all together and have a good ole' time? Mr. and Mrs. Flip Flop Vector will be bringing a crock pot and labeling it "Barf Bucket". Seriously, there must be some kind of investment relationship with a nearby urgent care center. We are passing and heading to the In-Laws. The rest of the campground will be passing, too--gas.

 I have no idea why you stop by, but thanks regardless.

The journey continues, approaching 10 months of life on axles....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

9 month budget report

Time for the 9 month fiscal check-up. I sincerely believe in 3/4 of a year, you are going to experience enough of life's ups and downs to give you a pretty good picture of what RV full-timing is going to cost you per month.

For those new here, we have just started our second half century of life, have no children with us and no pets. On average, we moved a little more often than once per week, which weighs heavy on the budget. Officially, we gobbled up 11K miles, 34 states and 50 campgrounds during this budget time period. When we sold our paid off home, we used proceed to buy our RV equipment, so no financing for us--cash outlay for truck and RV--$32,000.

I struggle with Excel, so I manually charted all the data, I call it my "Exasperate" spread sheet. The footnote section with corresponding numbers below the budget section will offer a bit of elaboration for clarification purposes. And no, I am not BWI (blogging while intoxicated), Blogger and making columns are not a happy couple. Take some Vertigo meds and you will be fine.

       ITEM                                       BUDGETED                         ACTUAL

1.    Aetna-                                             190                                    190
2.   Samaritan-                                        150                                    150
3.   VSP Eye care-                                     9                                        9
4.   Cell Phone-                                        80                                       80
5.   RV Parks-                                        600                                     723
6.   Diesel-                                             600                                     419
7.  Truck/RV Maintenance-                     500                                     311
8.  Groceries-                                        369                                     362
9.  Entertainment-                                  176                                     174
10. Incidentals-                                       87                                        84
11. Health-                                             15                                        14
12. Tolls-                                               15                                         19
13. Laundry-                                          30                                         32
14. Veh Insurance- (Full coverage)          41                                         41
15. RV Insurance-                                   28                                         28
16. Life Insurance-                                  33                                         33

TOTALS:                      $2,923                           $2,669

1- Wife's private health insurance plan. 100% coverage after $5k deductible is met. As of Jan, this amount goes up 12% to $214, thanks to the Affordable (LOL) Health Care Act--thank you Americans for being fooled TWICE.
2- I chose not to participate in conventional insurance, instead opting for a Christian health care sharing ministry where we help with each others' health related costs. Check out Samaritan Ministries. Message me if you  want more info.
3. Leftover benefit from my COBRA program. Cheap enough eye care insurance for 18 months, so why not.
4. Wife's Iphone has the lowest data plan offered on her older phone. I have the plain vanilla plan--rings, I answer-- sometimes.
5. Only boondocked 3x, otherwise we stayed at RV parks, most would have been rated 8+ or better. In the nine month period, only stayed 2 places long enough to get their  monthly rate, so it was easy to exceed this line item. Passport America, Good Sam and KOA discount cards helped.
6. The trade off for an average price of 3.75 gal. during the journey was 13 mpg with our diesel rig. Again, moving often often had us in the red.
9. Our entertainment is eating--out. Otherwise, Duck  Dynasty suffices.
10. Incidentals-- "Catch all" or "Misc" category. LPG refills, haircuts, postage, gifts, mail fwd., clothes,etc.
11. Health- over the counter meds,ie, aspirin, eye drops,condoms--I kid, I kid--just seeing if you are still awake.

The bottom line to the bottom line: if you are having budget problems-- slow down, travel less, stay monthly and keep up to date with preventative maintenance. 

There you go, our final round of budget posts as we venture back toward conventional living. Coincidentally, our next post will tackle one of the biggest curiosities of the RV full-timing lifestyle---which is cheaper, living on cement or on axles? Yes, the good ole Sticks/Bricks vs. RV'ing budget battle. Stay tuned!

In case you missed it, our Fiver and Truck are looking for a good home! 

Wife's giveaway ends tomorrow morning, so if interested in something useful this time of year, check it out here.

For the working folk, enjoy your 3 day weekend and MLK's birthday. 

Day 285 on the road.... 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A home in need of a good home....

Like a Twinkie, we will keep this short and sweet.

It looks like we are set for closing as our buyer feels 99% sure she has found conventional financing and will be paying off her lender---which happens to be us. So, we will now have the proceeds to return to a life of permanent hot water, soaking baths and a permanent foundation. Oh yeah, barking dogs, the same view and property taxes. Give and take, such is life.

This leaves us with a need to sell both our fifth wheel and the truck located in Austin, Tx. Instead of going into all of the details, just click the link under each photo and you will be taken to the 2 web sites we created to sell them. Our desire is to sell it to another RV'er, so we will list it here and at other RV selling sites. If you know anyone, let 'em know--Austin as an airfare destination is one of the better bargains.We are trying to avoid the local Craigslist option---you know, scammers, low ballers, dealers and bad photographers.

Oh, and if you like the design of the selling websites and you have a big item (home, car, boat, plane, etc) you want to sell, contact me. End self-promotion.

And, of course, we would like to sell them as a pair, but will sell them apart. All you would need is new license plates--all other amenities to begin your travel immediately will be included!

As to what has been otherwise happening the past 7 weeks, the wife sums up well here. Oh, and speaking of her, she has a nice giveaway here.

Next post--the average budget for our previous 9 months on the road. Post after--a comparison of our final Sticks Bricks home (Jan 2012) budget vs. our life RVing---which is cheaper? Are you sure? Find out soon...

Day on wheels continues...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Craigslist--Some Skills Required

Isn't Craiglslist hunting fun? I would suspect many of us RV'ers started our journey at their site. The only 2 RV's we seriously pursued were on Craigslist and ended up buying the second one. Even as we traveled I checked their local city listings, mostly out of curiosity, but at one point was seeking a men's bike as we trekked through AZ and CA. 

Now that we have decided to stay in the Austin area, a search for a big city, economical car has begun. So, we are back spectating at the Cars and Trucks link over at Craigslist. 

Anyone who knows me knows my strategy--I buy the person more than I do the item. I don't have a high standard for spelling, but I expect the 3 letter words to be pretty much spot on. If you are a "dealer" but list it over at the "by owner" link, you are immediately dismissed from consideration.  If you can't state the basics which include year/make/model/mileage/price, the ax chops you

Finally, my biggest peeve, pictures please. No pictures, no chance---this is Craigslist, not blind dating. And if you include photos, make an effort to present an informative image. In my most recent search, I snagged a few photos of sellers who couldn't spell KODAK if you spotted them the K-O-D-A. These pictures are completely unaltered. I came up with a caption I WANTED to email back to them, but because my 2013 resolutions of happier, gentler, kinder, more peaceful Dave are still fresh, opted not to.

Is the zoom lens back at the camera shop?

Can you let me know when the fog clears?

Awesome, I always wanted to buy a 1/4 ton truck stressed out by a 1/2 ton of hay.

You did set the parking brake, didn't you?

Thanks for demonstrating both car doors work. (This was the only image for the ad which had no description whatsoever).

I see the furniture in the background, was it easy getting your car into the living room?

Is it still available or did someone steal it over night?

Need some quarters for the car wash?

Is the car limited only to members of Little People of America?

I can't tell where your truck ends and darkness begins.

 Fred Flintstone, is that you?

Expecting high winds tonight? (Listed as perfectly drivable car)

Your listing said "clean interior"--please define "clean" for me. 

 I am 6 ft 2 in., think I can squeeze in the cab?

I  am convinced your car is clean. Grandpa included as a chauffeur?

 If I pay full price, promise to buy Photoshop V 13.0?

There you go, sellers at Craigslist who have no idea how poor images influence the number of responses they receive.  

Doan't even geet me starded on grumadical content that is scene with these adds, thats another hole post!'s

And what's up with the hyper-links? Blogger, where one never knows why changes are made, and perhaps, they don't even know.

The journey continues in monsoon Austin....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Gadgheat

...well, a tad bigger than the standard gadget...guess my radiant personality was insufficient to heat the big rig. I know one thing---if you folks in Portland are missing your weather, I believe we have found it in Austin. Please come and retrieve it.

While we were in Pennsylvania back in September, our furnace thermostat had a hiccup which prompted the need for a backup plan in the event of a continuous interruption or if we were to unexpectedly be depleted of our propane (like happened to us just the other night as reported by our RV neighbors). Off to Target to purchase us a cubed style, electric heater. For $20, it held up well---for 3 months. However, most recently, we noticed the cord beginning to get super hot after about 40 minutes of continuous interruption. Not wanting to test our fire insurance, it was time to activate my God-given skill--Research!

We doubled the budget to $40, because we are big spenders like that, and began exploring. The Pelonis, 3 speed, oil-filled radiator heater from Home Depot seemed to be the best reviewed in this price range. Off to Home Depot we went where the fun began. The only Pelonis heater in stock was the cubed, fan style like we already had. However, they had one by Cuori that appeared to be identical to the Pelonis model that had been seen on the Home Depot website. Pulled out the wife's Smartphone to review the Cuori----nada---not even a mention of Cuori on Google. Hummm.

We pointed out the discrepancy to the first Home Depot employee and indicated to him the website said the store had 95 units in stock. He checked the SKU# on the display rack and confirmed they had 95 in stock--all Cuoris, not Pelonis. Took another peek at the Smartphone and sure enough--the Pelonis SKU# on line and Cuori's in store were both the same. This pretty much prompted a store emergency as 2 more employees arrived to sort through the confusion. When it was all said and done--"Not sure, but they appear to be the same unit" was the best response we could get. So did Cuori buy out Pelonis and someone missed the memo? Who knows, perhaps CUORI is Chinese for PELONIS.

Got her home and fired up--improvement by about 3-5 degrees! Again, it is oil heat, so it is not instantaneous. It takes about 30 minutes to get the oil in the fins warmed up enough to bring adequate heat to the rig. The benefits:
  • Radiant heat---flowing out and up vs. the one direction of the cubed fan.
  • When turning it OFF, metal fins stay warm for about 30 minutes vs. immediate loss of heat with fan style.
  • Quiet--do not have to grab the TV remote control to raise the volume every time the thermostat kicks it on---it is a quiet "click".
  • Energy efficient. Good option if you are in a metered electric site at an RV park.
  • 3 settings allow us to keep it on Low--less amp draw.
  • At $22 a bottle per 30 lb. propane tank, there will be some savings.
  • When your RV laundromat dryer fails you, it can serve as a nice towel dryer backup.
  • No noise at night when thermostat engages unlike the Space Shuttle launcher also known as an RV furnace.
  • Unless you like the smell of burning dog fur or baby flesh, probably not the safest solution as the fins do heat up.
  • The "radiator-look" does not bring as much ambiance as a fireplace (although the instruction manual describes it as "beautiful"--it seriously does).
  • Does not give instant heat.
  • Pretty bulky size which never bodes well for the limited space of an RV.
You have to be realistic when it comes to RV heat. As I have commented several times before, most units are not "four seasons" by design containing single pane windows and almost no insulation. I am guessing Jo-Ann's yarn section is the supplier for RV insulation. Our all aluminum frame is a temperature retainer---when it has been in the 40s-50s as highs for several days with zero heat from direct sun, guess what temperature your walls are at? FRIGID. As a matter of fact, I drank from a can of soda that I retrieved from the cabinet below the sink and hardly noticed any difference from refrigerator temp. On the other hand, we can now buy more refrigerated groceries and can serve as a backup morgue. Yes, optimism is a 2013 goal.

Our 9 month anniRVersary is 3 days away--same number of days it is predicted when we will have 20% chance of snow.....the journey continues...send heat.

UPDATE: Made $22 investment and have solved our heating challenges--finished Reflectix installation--what a difference!