In your last two travelogues, you mention a book titled "The Mountain
Guide" but I can't seem to find it on Amazon.com. Can you tell me where
I might find it?
You bet! That book is called The Mountain Directory West (they also
have a east edition) and is published by R&R Publishing. Says here
that you can order one by calling 785-594-2489.
Your Financial Follies page doesn't show any costs for depreciation
of your truck and rig, nor any estimated replacement costs... what's up
Truly, I didn't intend to do a financial analysis of the F/T lifestyle
in depth, but just provide the data and thought processes from my own (admittedly
unique) RV adventure. To this end, I have recorded all of my expenses and
included some of the original estimates and such from my own planning stage.
I knew when I started out that this gig had a limited run... but even if
I was planning on extending it indefinitely, I'm not sure that I'd be in
the market for a rig/truck replacement down the road. A well built rig
and decent truck will actually last indefinitely, barring accidents (which
I am insured against) IF it is properly maintained. Hey, my truck is 22
years old right now! The rig is going on 14. I believe that this 'requirement'
to replace an aging rig is based on the desire for 'something new' rather
than actual definite need. Properly maintained machinery doesn't 'wear
out', although at some point, the cost of ongoing maintenance may make
it financially desirable to replace it with newer machinery. Still, no
matter how you look at it, the cost of discarding existing machinery in
favor of new stuff is steep! Hey, I'd love to have a brand new Dodge dually
4X4 but it just aint gonna happen. Financial Follies is intended to speak
to the daily cost of fulltime travel, thus it's design as a 'daily cost'
chart. In my case, 'depreciation' doesn't remove any $$ from my nest egg,
therefore I do not list it as a 'cost'. If I had to replace the truck due
to, say, a fire, then I would be showing that cost under 'unplanned expenses'
and it would definitely hurt my bottom line, but wouldn't change the way
I keep track of my funding. Hey, many folk start fulltiming with paid off
rigs that they've owned for years and others run down to the RV dealer
and buy a brand new rig, complete with mortgage payments, etc. Whichever
way they go, they will incur similar 'daily' expenses related to living,
traveling and paying bills. However, the calculation of depreciation into
the picture would be radically different for these two situations. Add
in the 'need' of some folks to replace an old RV with a nice new one every
few years and it gets a lot more complex. I'm no accountant and I work
hard to avoid pretending to be an 'oracle', so I stick to reporting my
actual costs and experiences with a small sideline on opinions (this is,
of course, one of them). YMMV, of course. I think that says it all.
of health insurance do you have, being a fulltimer and retiring young?
The first 18 months after I quit working, I was covered by my work
supplied Aetna full coverage plan as provided under Cobra, but it ran out.
I could have extended it by paying the full premium, but it amounted to
more than $400 a month. There was just no way that I could afford it. Finding
health insurance is very difficult for the younger fulltimer. The big problem
is that when you are traveling all over, you can't take advantage of HMOs
and such, as they are always tied to a specific area. Full up insurance
plans are terribly pricey. If you are over a certain age, then lots of
options are available to you, but if you are under 65, you are going to
have to foot the bill entirely on your own. Currently, I am taking advantage
of my Veterans benefits and getting my health care through the V. A. This
works reasonably well if you happen to be a vet, but isn't available to
most folks out there. To date, I can offer no better suggestions. If any
of you out there discover any worthwhile plans in your search, I'd sure
like to hear about them! Good luck finding something that will work for
I have been trying to find a two gal. water expansion tank like the
one you have in your hint column, Home Depot said that they don't have
them. Could you give me the manufacture's name & model number?
Why, sure! I got that tank in Florida and it's required to be installed
on all water heaters there by ordinance. There may not be such an ordinance
where you live, hence no tanks at the Home Despot. Here's the info from
the tank... perhaps a web search will turn one up. Good luck!!
Therm-x-spand model G5
Water heater safety tank
Ashland, OH 44805
I see you have a short bed truck... what kind of hitch are you using
and how does it work.
I sort of inherited the short box... however, I like the fact that
the wheelbase is a little shorter and I find that I have had no problems
with it . I am using a RBW lil-rocker hitch and the hitch center point
is about 6" behind the rear axle. I actually had no choice on where to
mount it. If I had positioned it directly over the axle, I'd have had to
relocate BOTH fuel tank fillers... no small job! It haven't noticed any
handling or towing problems with the hitch mounted in this manner and due
to the shape of the front of the trailer, I can cramp it fully without
the trailer hitting the cab of the truck. The only possible problem that
I can see is in the weight distribution. When I had the rig on the scale,
it appeared that all the pin weight of the rig is on the rear axle rather
than spread between the rear axle and the front. In fact, the front axle
of the truck is slightly lighter loaded with the rig on than it is when
the truck is weighed solo. That's not so good, but there's still 3000 lb.
on the front axle, so it's not floating or anything. It's running a bit
over 4000 lb. on the rear with the rig on. This weight distribution hasn't
been a problem for me, and the rig tows and handles well. A lot of folks
will tell you that you can't do a short bed with a 5ver, but I see a lot
of folks towing with them. Some use a sliding hitch arrangement, but those
I've talked to say they never actually use the slider... lets face it...
how many times are you actually going to jackknife the rig that much? Almost
never, in my experience. Some trailers will accept an extended pin box
on the front that will give you more clearance for a short bed. The bottom
line is that it's OK to tow a 5ver with a short bed, provided you use a
properly set-up hitch and pay attention to the clearances between the truck
cab and the front of the trailer when turning tightly or backing at tight
Do you belong
to any camping clubs?
I have been with Passport America for about a year, and it has been
a very good deal for me! It's very inexpensive to join, and you get 1/2
off at participating parks. Definitely worth looking into. I also recently
joined Happy Camper club. They are another 50% off club and are quite similar
to Passport. These clubs are a good value with annual dues under $50. You
have to be careful not to plan your whole life around finding member parks,
though.... it would be easy to miss neat stuff along the way just because
there were no "member parks" close by. I tend to plan my direction first
and then see if there are any member parks along the way. I belong to the
Escapees, which I personally consider a "must" for anyone planning to fulltime.
They offer a lot of unique support capabilities designed for the fulltimer,
and are a real friendly bunch. The Escapees club has their own voice
mail and mail forwarding services, Discount camping directory, special
deals on insurance, a number of member campgrounds, a bi-monthly magazine,
free lifetime email address and a real support organization for their members.
I highly recommend that you go have a look at them! See
for more info! And, of course, I am a Good Sam, mostly for the monthly
Do you camp at Elks lodges a lot?
On occasion.... Many lodges have area to park your RV and some even
have partial or full hookups. I tend to stay at an available lodge when
there is no reasonably priced campground near where I want to be. Some
lodges are more friendly than others, but it has been very handy at times
to park with the Elks! Although there are few lodges in the eastern US
that offer RV parking, a fair number of the lodges in the central and western
US do. You need to be a member, and it's worthwhile to buy the Carmichael
Elks Travel guides. For info on the guides, write the Carmichael Trav'l'n
Elks, PO Box 765, Carmichael, CA 95609.
How do you deal with vehicle maintenance on the road?
I do most of it myself. Some camping situations lend themselves to
working on your rig and some do not. When it seems acceptable to do so,
I work on my equipment and am very careful not to make a mess or a lot
of noise. A little discretion goes a long way! For large jobs, I take the
vehicle to someone else and have the work done.
What about safety issues on the road? Crime?
A lot of people wonder about this.... in my experience, campgrounds
tend to be very safe and crime almost non-existent. I don't park in dark
Walmart parking lots in big cities... nor do I camp in major tourist locals
on 3 day weekends, so maybe I am avoiding some of the potential. I have
a cell phone and the means to defend myself, but so far I have not had
any bad incidents. I tend to stay clear of major population centers for
the most part, but the times I have stayed within the boundaries of big
cities, I have had no problems. It seems that fellow campers look out for
each other as a rule, and there's always someone around to help when you
What do you like most about the Fulltime lifestyle?
The ability to go where you like and do what you like when you want.
The chance to see all the things that you have always wanted to see. The
fact that where ever you go, you're still home.... the front yard just
changes! And the great people you meet along the way!
Don't you ever get bored? Or lonely?
Sure... on occasion... doesn't everyone? For the most part, the ability
to go somewhere else at will helps undermine the boredom problem... there's
an awful lot to see and do out there, and there's always something that
needs doing "around the house" as well. RVs tend to be sort of high maintenance
when you live and travel in them fulltime. As to being lonely, well there
are always folks around and most of them tend to be real friendly. I have
met a lot of really great people traveling! I do miss my old friends back
in California, but the lifestyle has enabled me to go and see a lot of
old friends who are scattered all over the country... it sort of evens
out. Still, 4 or 5 days of shitty weather and I'm starting to get cabin
fever. It helps to have reading material around, and I have a few computer
games for when I get desperate!
What kind of motorcycle do you have? How do you carry it with you?
The bike is a 1982 Honda CT110. Same as a Trail 90, but with a slightly
bigger engine. It gets about 100 MPG and will go just about anywhere. I
have taken it places out in the boonies that would surprise you! Top speed
is about 50 mph, but it cruises nicely at 45. It weighs about 200 lb..
so you can even pick it up and manhandle it around when necessary. The
light weight makes it a perfect bike to hang on the back of your RV. I
designed a simple rack for the rear of the 5ver and had a local welding
shop fabricate it and attach it for me. It's basically a piece of 4" steel
c-channel that the bike rides on, and some supports to keep it snug against
the back of the rig. The c-channel is attached to the frame of the RV using
a couple of pieces of 1" angle iron. I use a couple of nylon ratchet straps
to secure the bike for traveling. There's a lot of up and down movement
back there, so I also have a couple straps to secure the wheels in the
c-channel. I use a short ramp to load and unload it. The ramp stows in
the bed of the truck when not in use. Unfortunately, Honda has mot made
these bikes since the mid-80s, but you can usually find them for sale used.
Parts are still available from Honda.
What are you using to take those pictures on your pages?
For all the logs before June 1999, the pictures were taken with a Olympus
D-200L digital camera. The pix are 640X480 JPEGs, 24 bit color, and the
quality is quite good.... The pix were downloaded directly to my laptop
through a serial cable. All the pictures starting with the June 1999 travel
log have been taken with a Olympus D400Z digital camera. This camera has
a number of excellent features that the D200L lacked. It takes SmartMedia
cards, so the picture capacity is much higher. It also has a zoom lens
and the pix are 1200X960 JPEGs. The pix are then resampled down to 640X480
for use on the webpage. The picture quality is much better with the D400Z
but I still think that the D200L had much better color purity and white
balance. I have taken a LOT of pictures 'cause there's no added cost
for developing, etc. These cameras have all the standard features of a
good point-and-shoot film camera plus a small preview screen that you can
use to look at and delete pictures in memory.
What kind of computer system are you using?
I have a MegaImage Megabook 911 laptop. It has a Pentium 133 TCP processor,
32Mb ram, 6X cd and the 12.1" active screen. It's a really nice unit and
has performed very well so far. I have had no problems with it. I'm running
Windoze95 and using Netscape as my browser.
How do you build your webpage?
I designed and currently build my website using Netscape Communicator
4.7, and the page is hosted by Cal City Internet Services in California.
Many thanks to Mark and Tammy at CCIS for donating the space for the page
and for taking care of the updates each month! I complete the travel logs
and updates on my system and then put the files on disc and mail them to
Mark at CCIS. That's actually a lot cheaper and easier than FTPing them
across the net.
How do you
get access to the net while fulltiming?
To manage Internet on the road you almost have to have a laptop! One
with some battery life, as phone jacks and a/c power seem to be mutually
exclusive! I wouldn't recommend spending money on an acoustic coupler...
most pay phones use a carbon mic element that will limit your connect rates
to 4800 or less. This is so slow as to be strictly unusable for just about
anything you need to do, including email. Here are some of the places I
find to hook up:
1. Most truck stop cafes have phones on the tables or at the counter.
These phones allow only 800 numbers. This is a good way to hook up, as
you can sit back and surf. I always order something to eat and make sure
to plug everything back in and test it after I'm done.
2. Mail boxes, etc. or other copy/fax stores will often allow you to
use one of their lines for a nominal charge... usually $2.50 per 15 min.
This is great for doing email, but not so hot for surfing, as you usually
have to stand at the counter.
3. There are some campgrounds with phone hookups at the sites, and most
of them aren't live when you pull in.... the idea is that you can have
a phone if you stay for more than a month, just send the local phone co.
money and they'll hook you up. Not much help for me, as I like to move
around more than that. There are also more and more Modem Friendly parks
out there that offer instant phone hookups right at the site. These are
still more the exception than the rule, but as time goes by, more campgrounds
are jumping on the internet bandwagon. The good news is that it's getting
easier to get connected! Most campgrounds now recognize that internet access
is desired by more RVers all the time and usually provide a dedicated phone
jack for internet access... just ask at the office when you check in.
For campgrounds that don't advertise a dedicated internet connection,
sometimes I can still beg the use of a phone line at the campground office
where I'm staying.... This really depends on the manager being receptive
to the idea. I never push. I will usually say something like this while
checking in: "By the way, I was wondering if you know of anyplace nearby
where I can hook up my laptop to a phone line and get my email? It's a
800 number that I have to dial to get online and it usually only takes
a couple of minutes." Sometimes, upon hearing that it's a 800 number, they
will allow me to do it on their business or fax line. Some folks will tell
you about someplace nearby where you can hook up .... it never hurts to
ask. If they don't offer, I let the subject drop. I have had pretty good
luck at campgrounds by asking... sometimes when folks find out that I understand
computers, they will ask for help on their systems. Sometimes, I can even
fix them! 8-)
4. Friend's houses. Self explanatory.
Never miss a chance to plug in! It could be a long while before the
next opportunity presents itself! In general, I'm doing good to hook up
once a week.
How do you deal with your mail and bills on the road?
I have a mail box through Mail boxes, etc. in Rapid city. I pay $120/yr
for the box and forwarding service and pay actual postage costs for the
mail that I have forwarded to me. I just call up and tell them where to
send it... I use general delivery at post offices a lot.
I use a debit card for almost every purchase I make, and most of my
bills I either pre-pay a year or so in advance, or utilize auto-billing
to that same debit card. You will be surprised at how many businesses will
auto-bill your credit card and that saves you the stamps and hassle of
Why did you choose South Dakota as your home state?
Several reasons... They have no state income tax, no vehicle inspection
requirements and very reasonable registration costs. Also, insurance costs
are a lot lower for my vehicle and "homeowner's" insurance.
How do you go about setting up a "residency" in a state when you are
If you maintain a residence or a job in your current state, then it
would be best to seek legal advice about changing your state of residence.
It may not be possible to do so legally. However, if you have sold off
your home and quit your job then you can register in any state you like...
all you need to do is establish a mailing address there. Then, you can
contact the state's DMV and get your vehicles registered by using that
address. One easy way would be to join the Escapees club. Then, you are
eligible to use Texas as your home state and they offer a mail forwarding
service and can assist you with vehicle registrations, etc. If you want
to do it on your own, you can contact a remailer business like Mailboxes,
etc. and set up a mailbox through them and then contact the DMV, etc. yourself.
That's what I did.
I have a mail box through Mail boxes, etc. in Rapid city. This gives
me a "street address" and that's enough for the DMV. I pay $120/yr for
the box and forwarding service and pay actual postage costs for the mail
that I have forwarded to me. I just call up and tell them where to send
it... The folks at this MBE are extra great! They've been a real asset!
If you like, I can turn you on to their phone # and the Rapid City offices
of the DMV as well if you're interested in becoming a South Dakotan.
I have had great luck dealing with the DMV in Rapid City. It would be best
if you were to eventually go to SD so you could get a SD drivers license...
it's best to have everything match up.
MBE: 877-461-8361 Please tell 'em Mark Nemeth sent you ...
If you want to check out the Escapees and get more info on registering
in Texas, go to www.escapees.com
or call 888-757-2582. They can assist you with info and membership application,
etc. It's a good club for fulltimers and they offer a lot of services at
very good prices.
Who is your internet service provider? Do you like them?
I am using Earthlink and they have been a good provider... I don't
think I have EVER gotten a busy signal! They are nationwide and have local
access numbers in most larger cities. Earthlink bought out Mindspring shortly
after Mindspring bought out Netcom, so they now have a huge list of local
access numbers all over the country. I have a standard, unlimited account
($19.95/mo) and use their 800 number most of the time. There's a $5/hr
surcharge for the 800 number use. Most of the places that I hook up will
only accept a 800 dial-out, so you need to have that capability. I use
Eudora for my email and Netscape for my web browser, both outstanding (and
What sort of reference books/guides do you use while traveling?
I've got a bunch of books.... I use the Good Sam directory a lot, and
I am an Elk, so I have a set of the Carmichael elk's guides. For boondocking,
I have the "save a buck" and "free campgrounds" guides sold by TL. I also
get a lot of use from my "exit authority" book when I'm on or near interstates.
Of course, the Trailer Life guide is a must-have, and my Escapees discount
directory has been handy as well. My latest new book is the "Mountain Directory"
western edition. It's basically a listing of all the steep grades on roads
on a state-by-state basis. It's a really great book, well laid out and
VERY useful when traveling in and around the Rockies! The thing that I
find most handy is the mapping software from DeLorme. I have street atlas
7.0, the phone books and map-n-go. Coupled with the tripmate GPS, I never
get lost. Delorme has a web site where you can check these excellent products
This page last updated on Feb 13, 2015