As we continue our journey toward the full time lifestyle. Things continue to change. As the song says “nothing remains quite the same”. It’s with great sorrow that I share with you the loss of my dear Jeeruck.
We didn’t buy this camper as a full-time unit we bought it as a replacement for the pop-up and a little more comfort when camping with friends, family and for longer trips. Then life changed and we decided we had the opportunity to hit the road full-time while still working.
After we got this camper and ended up spending more than 50% of the last half of 2021 camping. My work officially gave me the OK to work remotely from the camper as long as I stayed in certain states that we had agreements with for remote workers.
We de-winterized the camper the third week of February and we’ve been in it full-time, except for one week. We quickly figured out that while we could live comfortably in the camper and get by, it really wasn’t going to work well once Cathy joined the remote workforce and we started traveling.
So like most people who own a camper we started to talk about the things that were great about our camper and the things that we would improve. I’m very analytical and I usually consider use cases when making buying decisions. The Grey Wolf was serving us very well for the reasons we bought it and our plan was to keep it till closer to retirement. However, for full timing it just wasn’t comfortable enough and it was not configured for four season camping. So we quickly identified our needs and I began my research.
Since, by this time we had already transitioned to full timing and rented our home. We were presented with the conundrum of the chicken or the egg we couldn’t exactly go change campers because we were at the limit of what the Jeeruck could tow and nothing it could tow was going to work for us.
Say Hello To Big Pearl
So that meant that we had to change the tow vehicle before we could even consider a larger camper. The good news was that I could get what I paid for the Gladiator nine months earlier. The bad news was that no one had any heavy duty trucks. I found one new F250 in the whole area for sale. Then there’s the sticker shock. When you start looking at Diesel trucks, you might want to have a stiff drink, meditate or whatever you do to calm yourself.
I was looking everywhere and at all brands. My research indicated that I could save money by ordering the truck custom from the manufacturer. Well, delivery times were ten to sixteen months, so I quickly dropped that idea. I prefer new vehicles so that I know what I’m getting. Especially being a Jeep guy, People do a lot of upgrades themselves and often poorly. With HD trucks they are often used harshly so I really wanted a new one but they were just too much and too hard to find so I expanded my search.
I ended up narrowing the my choices to a new Ram 2500 from the same dealer in Kentucky where I bought my Gladiator and a local 2019 F350. So out went the gladiator and in came the Ford F350 which my wife has affectionately named Big Pearl after the pearl white color. I call it Big Ass Pearl. The main deciding factor between these two. 16,000 lbs vs 26,600 lbs towing capacity.
So even though I’m very sad about my precious Gladiator and every time we walk around the campground and see them scattered all through the campground. I get a little sad I can’t be unhappy with the Big Ass Pearl, it’s a beast. It’s towing capacity is great and it is fully appointed heck it even has air-conditioned seats.
So now that we have the truck in place it was on to the camper. Having obtained a truck that will pull most anything we would want. We took our “needs list” and our “wants list” and started looking at campers. We had already taken a quick look at A-Class’s and decided it was not the right time. So next was fifth wheels and travel trailers with the fifth wheel floor plans. It’s hard to beat a fifth wheel’s living spaces
One nice thing we found was that manufactures have started putting desks in their MB (Mid Bunk) models. This was our preferred floor plan as it basically provided a private office space. However, most models still have thin dresser/tv configuration instead of a desk and over half of the desk configurations are poorly thought out. Its like they said hey people are working from campers now and proceeded to find the cheapest way to accommodate them. Let’s throw this tiny shelf on the wall and call it a desk. The one we found with a really usable desk situation had other things missing on our need list.
Then we found the perfect camper. It was a Solitude with a raised rear kitchen that gave the RV A-Class level storage. Unfortunately, for us it was just outside of my comfort range budget wise. The other thing here is there is a wide range in quality. You can buy a new 5th wheel in the $40K range or you can spend $400K. The structure, the leveling system, real wood cabinets, length, four season, 3 inch walls, generators or generator prep. There are so many things that affect the price. What we found interesting was that some with cheaper trim were the same price as some with a nice level of trim.
We would highly recommend you go physically and look at as many models in your price range as you can. You are probably not going to find a new fifth wheel with good quality trim and build for less than $70K. I had to keep telling myself that the truck and camper is our home now because it was like we were buying a house.
We finally settled on a 34ft Montana High Country. I grew up in 30 foot Airstreams and a motor home. But I have never pulled a fifth wheel. I’m glad we started with this one instead of the 41.5 ft. dream camper we considered. 34 feet has turned out to be a good decision. Two important things to note. It took me about 2-3 moves to get the hang of connecting and disconnecting the hitch. A fifth wheel is a much better towing experience. Some of this is due to the size of the truck but a lot of it is the hitch placement. I went with an auto slide hitch which gives me a tighter turn radius and helps prevent the camper from hitting the cab of the truck since I have the shorter bed.
One thing to consider when upgrading to larger motorhomes or campers is site availability Most larger units have dual or triple air, a must in hot weather, and therefore run on 50 amp electric connections. You couple this with the size of the rig and finding a site you will fit on as well as having 50 amp connections causes immediate limitations. The good news is that as 50 amp units have become more popular most, but not all, campgrounds have added at least some sites with 50 amp service. Be sure you check this when reserving.
Our Grey Wolf was 30 ft. long and you would be amazed how many sites the extra four feet disqualifies. Also the truck is bigger and has less of a turn radius so even with the hitch located over the back wheels, maneuvering space is a challenge. So we have to pay more attention when booking and have less sites available. We have had to pass on at least on campground already because they did not have a site open that would accommodate us.
Also, fifth wheels and motorhomes are taller. This means careful route and site planning. We have already had some challenges with limbs on campsites. Plus the camper has slides on both sides which is a new consideration that affects placement on the sites. The other challenge is routes. There are many overpasses that are too low. Our hometown of Ringgold has a rail road that gets a semi or RV stuck in it about once every other year. Ramming your RV into an overpass or a tree limb is a bad day.
I found an app that helps with this. RV Life. Look for it in the App Store. You can look up your RV or add your dimensions manually. It has an RV safe GPS feature that has routed us around a low overpass once already. I don’t like the overall GPS map and voice experience as well as Apple or Google maps, but it keeps you from getting into a bad situation where you are holding up traffic trying to backup and reroute.
So as you know if you read the previous article. This post was originally written over two months ago. It was written and planned to post just after we purchased the new truck. We found the camper before I could get it posted and 3 days after picking the camper up, my dad had a stroke. In the mean time we found Cathy a new job where she can work remotely. She has 3 weeks of training and then we get to officially hit the road. If all goes well we will be growing this site and adding other types of media to the mix, as we had initially planned to do years ago when we decided to start a blog.
We have stayed in several campgrounds while dealing with mom and dad’s life changes. We will post some reviews and info about them. Probably in a single post. So we have pulled the fifth wheel around a bit but we have not “camped” or had anytime to enjoy our surrounding. If all goes well this will change in the next 3 weeks.
Currently our we are planning the first destination to be Asheville, NC. We are looking forward to some campfire sitting, mountain view watching, hiking and brewery hopping.