RV Camping - HappyVagabonds.Com Copyright © 2020

A Lifetime of Preparation for Our RV Retirement

Article Contributed By Marcus Murray In the 50's our family's tent was erected like an umbrella. It was heavy canvas so dad would crawl into the dark inside, find the grommets for the center pole and its four metal spokes and then pop up the main room. There were 5 us in those days and to be sure we had a little extra space to move about, our model had a side room that was held up with shorter poles from the outside. I didn't learn until many years later that the models less expensive than ours didn't have floors. When it rained we adapted to living inside. It seemed at lot smaller during those rainy days but my sisters and I managed to get along well enough while never touching the canvas. Its true you know; if you touch the inside of those old canvas tents the water really does leak through. When my little brother arrived our tent camping trips became rental cabin vacations somewhere along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes. It was a real adventure to ride the ever smaller ferries as we progressed across the Mackinaw Straits, the Soo, and finally the little 3 or 4 car ferry to our final destination island where the big log cabin had real bedrooms, a wood burning stove for heat and a separate cook stove that ran on bottled gas. Neither rain nor cold were any longer a problem if we had to be shut-ins. Again we adapted to living inside. But this time we could stay dry even a bit outside under the porch roof. We fished, we picked blueberries with the resident indians and we waded in the water so cold we would actually wear our coats and just venture deep enough to cover our legs and pose for a photograph. But we found a way. We adapted, we beat the cold water and “swam.” Then in December of 1959 Dad decided to build us a houseboat. The plans were available from Popular Mechanics magazine. We owned a lumber yard and cabinet shop so lumber and an indoor workspace were no problem. By spring she was ready to launch. Now we had a our own “floating” camper. Big enough for all 6 of us, dry from rain, warm, and at 24 feet, it was small enough to trailer. Again we adapted to a new kind of camping. We were boat campers. Dad passed away before the spring of '63 but for three seasons we had camped nearly every weekend aboard that houseboat. The lake where we owned a dock didn't permit overnight occupancy of a watercraft unless someone was fishing. And so while we slept, dad kept the lantern lit and bait in the water so as to be legal. We had once again learned to find a way. Over the next few years our family continued to downsize. Mom replaced the house boat with a nice run- about we could handle easier on the road and on the water. My oldest sister graduated in the spring of '63 and left for college that fall. A year later my next sister moved out and mom, my little brother and I moved from our big house off main street into a smaller house near the outskirts of town. Mom had taken a full time job by now and with two sisters in college the vacations that had become so much a part of our lives were no longer possible. Neighborhoods in those days were closer than they seem now days. So it was that my brother and I were invited along when the next door neighbor family went camping. Theirs was a pretty big tent. It was supported from outside and had no center pole inside like ours did. It had room enough for the four of them as well as the two of us. And it was so nice that it was made of the new polyvinyl material that didn't drip if you touched it from the inside during a rainstorm. Handy indeed with two adults to referee four active boys. Once again we had adapted to our changing world. The turmoil of the 60's passed and when my wife and I honeymooned in the Great Smokey Mountains we chose to use the old family canvas umbrella style tent as our base camp while fly fishing in the park's streams. After a really long night listening to one of Cades Cove black bears ravage through trash cans, we arose the next morning to see several of the neighboring tents literally destroyed by the previous night's visitor. That was the day we must have decided it that if we were going to camp in the forests it might be nice to have a travel trailer. In early fall of 1973 we finally bought our first travel trailer. It was only twenty-one feet long but more than enough room for the now three of us. With a new weight compensating hitch system installed on the Oldsmobile Delta 88 we set out to make some business calls across the South. By the time we reached Florida I had gotten pretty confident with towing and even parking our new rig. I think the turning point (no pun intended) was perhaps the evening I dropped the passenger side tires into a culvert in a Georgia state park campground. What that taught us was that when the spotter says “left” it should mean the rear of the trailer, not the front of the car. No real price paid for a valuable lesson. The new trailer saw only one more short weekend trip before a tornado destroyed it. Our insurance policy booklet seemed to be good news – it even had a picture of a tornado. But the bad news came when we learned we had to be on vacation for the tornado coverage to be in force. Unlike that Georgia culvert, this was a really big price for this most valuable lesson: be sure to understand the insurance policy. That same tornado also destroyed our home – along with several hundred others in its path through a half dozen Ohio cities. Our new home was in a private lake community so instead of replacing the trailer we bought a motorboat. We realized that if we wanted to take a trailer to go camping near a big lake we couldn't take the boat, and if we wanted to take the boat we couldn't take the trailer. We decided the answer for us would be a pick-up truck and a slide in camper. Now we had the advantages of a hard side camper for at least some protection against forest visitors and we could trailer the little boat. The pick-up camper / boat combination worked pretty well for us for several years. That is until we decide to expand our boating adventures into the great lakes. We traded in the little boat for a cabin cruiser that could accommodate six or more SCUBA divers on weekend trips onto the lakes for some great diving adventures. As of this writing neither of us can recall what we ever did with the slide in camper. We must have traded it in with the pick-up when we once again adapted to our changing recreational needs. We bought a cargo van and adapted it to carry SCUBA gear and people on trips to the boat on Lake Erie and the occasional trip to an ocean resort. For the record, that Ford straight six engine topped out over a million miles. We kept that ol' modified cargo van even after we upgraded to a real conversion van with what was at the time really cool features like a television / VHS player, and very comfortable captain's seats. It was that new conversion van in which the granddaughters had their first camping adventures. While it was comfortable for two, the four of us were okay if “inside” sleeping was the call of the night. But without a stove or a toilet the van was really more like tent camping in a really nice tent than it was like camping in the trailer or even the cabin cruiser. Make no mistake though, the ease of getting out to camp in that van left a lasting positive impression on us that lives on in vivid memories 25 years later. Our desire to be able to live a vagabond-boater lifestyle finally culminated with the acquisition of an even bigger boat. The 65 ton converted trawler had all the comforts of a two story home on water. Three bedrooms and even a bathtub made travel in this tub a real glamping adventure. But the disadvantages of a vessel this size might seem obvious. Travel was pretty much limited to the oceans. Since we decided to make home port in SE Florida our cruises were primarily limited to the Bahamas and Caribbean islands. And at a blistering speed of around 16mph, weekend trips had to be short or required sending the boat ahead to be waiting for us to arrive on distant islands. It was on one of those trips when we sent the crew ahead to the outer islands that we once again learned that bigger isn't necessarily safer. A tropical storm so small it didn't even get a name proved too big for the crew member left on watch while the others went ashore for dinner. While not lacking in creature comforts, the vessel's big anchors had to be man-handled; a task too big for the small stature of the lone crewman. The Bermuda triangle claimed our waterborne cabin and once again we were wondering how to start over. But not to leave you wondering, the crewman was rescued unhurt. While we still had the conversion van, time didn't stand still and the granddaughters by now had outgrown the little tent. The four of us were no longer so comfortable cramped into the van during bad weather. We either needed a bigger camper or a bigger tent. Remembering the night visitor experience of our honeymoon, we decided there is no tent big enough to stop even a small bear. It was once again time for a hard sided camper. In preparation for a new lifestyle in fast approaching retirement years, I had volunteered to be a camp host in a national park. The idea was to build a resume and find out if campground hosting or workcamping was practical for us. The campground where I was assigned was deep in the wilderness and regularly visited by grizzly bears. Since the access road was narrow and wound through the forest with tight switch backs, any trailers – even short ones – were discouraged. Just days before leaving the answer as to how to be safe and comfortable in bear country presented itself in the form of a slide in camper up for sale – cheap! The fellow had sold his truck but not his slide in. More than a year had gone by and his wife wanted her side of the garage back. The philosophy of “happy wife happy life” motivated a reduced price and combined with “right place right time” we once again had a pick-up slide in camper. Its been some five years ago now and that slide in is still with us. It is ideal for those really remote camps accessible by four wheel drive vehicles only. It's really comfortable for one and accommodates two so long as there is somewhere to stow away auxiliary gear like fishing, boating, and even diving equipment. One solution for equipment storage is a tent. A fairly inexpensive tent works well as a storage shed and doubles as a spare bedroom for visitors. Add one of those portable showers with a solar hot water bag and even wilderness camping gets a whole lot more comfortable. But make no mistake about it, this is not ideal for the kind of long term living required for the best camp host positions. Carrying debt into retirement can be a real burden. Our plan was simple; buy a travel trailer we thought we could live in for longer periods of time and have it paid off before we retired. With a five year clock ticking, we listed our 'must haves', our 'wish list', and our top prices. We knew we didn't like to use the table as a bed so we wanted enough permanent beds for ourselves and some guests. We wanted as much privacy as we could get for the price we wanted to pay. And we wanted a separate outside door entrance to the restroom because we track in snow and mud when we go elk hunting. Besides reducing the mess, since it often dips below zero during hunting season, keeping as much cold air as possible out of the living space saves gas. These then were our minimum requirements. Once we started shopping we added another 'must have' to our list. We decided we needed what the industry calls an 'arctic' package for cold weather camping. These packages vary by manufacturer but most include foam insulation underneath the entire trailer. Some also include electric mesh heaters enclosing the water and wastewater tanks. These packages are far more than just a plastic board enclosing the frame. The downside of these packages is that the electric heaters require – you guessed it – electricity. Generator power is necessary if boondocking in cold weather. Check the power requirements of your heaters and pack a big enough generator to avoid frozen water tanks and possible damage to your systems. Or simply avoid cold weather camping. With our lists in hand we shopped. We had no brand or dealer preferences, We found a unit that had our required minimums and the dealer's price was within our budget. But this particular dealer only offered a financing plan that exceeded our five year maximum. While there would be no penalty for early pay off after a year, in these types of loans the interests charges are retired earlier than the principle. Moreover, if we chose not to finance through the dealer the price was $3000 higher. The combination of high interest rates, longer terms than we wanted, and that deal breaking penalty for not financing through the dealer combined to kill this first deal. We realized we needed to arrange for payment on our terms before we continued shopping. Travel trailers with permanent sleeping quarters, a kitchen and a toilet/bathroom are eligible for the interest on the loan to be tax deductible . This applies only if the trailer is used as security for the loan. Any trailer that met our minimums would certainly qualify so we chose to go to our bank and arrange a loan on our terms before we continued shopping. The downside to this system is that the maximum price is less flexible and the bank does hold the mortgage. Perhaps the most unattractive feature of our 5 year plan was that the payments are much higher than if we were stretching out the financing over 12 or more years. This is just personal preference. We resumed shopping, and shopping. We attended an RV show. Finally we found one trailer with all our 'must haves' and a price within our limits. The 28 foot Jayco isn't the best built trailer in that class, but it also isn't the worst. In fact it comes with a better warranty than most which we opted to extend it for a reasonable extra cost. This is the final year of our 5 year plan. We have only actually taken the trailer vacation camping a couple of times. We have taken it into the forest for hunting 4 seasons now and can report that even when temperatures fell to -15 degrees with wind howling at 30 or 40 mph we stayed warm and the water tanks didn't freeze. Family that came to visit have used it as a spare suite several times and we keep the heat on throughout these Colorado winters just in case we get company. So far our only modifications have been the addition of 40lb propane tanks to give us more capacity than the original 20lb bottles and a combined system of solar panels and a wind generator for charging the batteries. For an extended trip with plans for side trips, we can tow the trailer while hauling the slide in. Our boat? Well these days we pack a nice inflatable with an electric motor. We might not be ready to sail the oceans but we can camp at the beach and enjoy the waves. Our lifetime of preparation seems to have begun to pay us dividends. About the author: Marcus Murray is a retired industrial engineer. In addition to having been a guest instructor at several universities he has been a ghost writer for multiple newspapers and books. Currently he is the editor and contributing author of conservative essays.
Inspiration for Murray family houseboat
Inspiration for Murray family houseboat
A tent will not stop this bear
Murray family truck and slide-in camper
Learn about being a work camper and work camping jobs on our Work Camper Jobs page.

A Lifetime of Preparation for

Our RV Retirement

Article Contributed By Marcus Murray In the 50's our family's tent was erected like an umbrella. It was heavy canvas so dad would crawl into the dark inside, find the grommets for the center pole and its four metal spokes and then pop up the main room. There were 5 us in those days and to be sure we had a little extra space to move about, our model had a side room that was held up with shorter poles from the outside. I didn't learn until many years later that the models less expensive than ours didn't have floors. When it rained we adapted to living inside. It seemed at lot smaller during those rainy days but my sisters and I managed to get along well enough while never touching the canvas. Its true you know; if you touch the inside of those old canvas tents the water really does leak through. When my little brother arrived our tent camping trips became rental cabin vacations somewhere along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes. It was a real adventure to ride the ever smaller ferries as we progressed across the Mackinaw Straits, the Soo, and finally the little 3 or 4 car ferry to our final destination island where the big log cabin had real bedrooms, a wood burning stove for heat and a separate cook stove that ran on bottled gas. Neither rain nor cold were any longer a problem if we had to be shut-ins. Again we adapted to living inside. But this time we could stay dry even a bit outside under the porch roof. We fished, we picked blueberries with the resident indians and we waded in the water so cold we would actually wear our coats and just venture deep enough to cover our legs and pose for a photograph. But we found a way. We adapted, we beat the cold water and “swam.” Then in December of 1959 Dad decided to build us a houseboat. The plans were available from Popular Mechanics magazine. We owned a lumber yard and cabinet shop so lumber and an indoor workspace were no problem. By spring she was ready to launch. Now we had a our own “floating” camper. Big enough for all 6 of us, dry from rain, warm, and at 24 feet, it was small enough to trailer. Again we adapted to a new kind of camping. We were boat campers. Dad passed away before the spring of '63 but for three seasons we had camped nearly every weekend aboard that houseboat. The lake where we owned a dock didn't permit overnight occupancy of a watercraft unless someone was fishing. And so while we slept, dad kept the lantern lit and bait in the water so as to be legal. We had once again learned to find a way. Over the next few years our family continued to downsize. Mom replaced the house boat with a nice run-about we could handle easier on the road and on the water. My oldest sister graduated in the spring of '63 and left for college that fall. A year later my next sister moved out and mom, my little brother and I moved from our big house off main street into a smaller house near the outskirts of town. Mom had taken a full time job by now and with two sisters in college the vacations that had become so much a part of our lives were no longer possible. Neighborhoods in those days were closer than they seem now days. So it was that my brother and I were invited along when the next door neighbor family went camping. Theirs was a pretty big tent. It was supported from outside and had no center pole inside like ours did. It had room enough for the four of them as well as the two of us. And it was so nice that it was made of the new polyvinyl material that didn't drip if you touched it from the inside during a rainstorm. Handy indeed with two adults to referee four active boys. Once again we had adapted to our changing world. The turmoil of the 60's passed and when my wife and I honeymooned in the Great Smokey Mountains we chose to use the old family canvas umbrella style tent as our base camp while fly fishing in the park's streams. After a really long night listening to one of Cades Cove black bears ravage through trash cans, we arose the next morning to see several of the neighboring tents literally destroyed by the previous night's visitor. That was the day we must have decided it that if we were going to camp in the forests it might be nice to have a travel trailer. In early fall of 1973 we finally bought our first travel trailer. It was only twenty-one feet long but more than enough room for the now three of us. With a new weight compensating hitch system installed on the Oldsmobile Delta 88 we set out to make some business calls across the South. By the time we reached Florida I had gotten pretty confident with towing and even parking our new rig. I think the turning point (no pun intended) was perhaps the evening I dropped the passenger side tires into a culvert in a Georgia state park campground. What that taught us was that when the spotter says “left” it should mean the rear of the trailer, not the front of the car. No real price paid for a valuable lesson. The new trailer saw only one more short weekend trip before a tornado destroyed it. Our insurance policy booklet seemed to be good news – it even had a picture of a tornado. But the bad news came when we learned we had to be on vacation for the tornado coverage to be in force. Unlike that Georgia culvert, this was a really big price for this most valuable lesson: be sure to understand the insurance policy. That same tornado also destroyed our home – along with several hundred others in its path through a half dozen Ohio cities. Our new home was in a private lake community so instead of replacing the trailer we bought a motorboat. We realized that if we wanted to take a trailer to go camping near a big lake we couldn't take the boat, and if we wanted to take the boat we couldn't take the trailer. We decided the answer for us would be a pick- up truck and a slide in camper. Now we had the advantages of a hard side camper for at least some protection against forest visitors and we could trailer the little boat. The pick-up camper / boat combination worked pretty well for us for several years. That is until we decide to expand our boating adventures into the great lakes. We traded in the little boat for a cabin cruiser that could accommodate six or more SCUBA divers on weekend trips onto the lakes for some great diving adventures. As of this writing neither of us can recall what we ever did with the slide in camper. We must have traded it in with the pick-up when we once again adapted to our changing recreational needs. We bought a cargo van and adapted it to carry SCUBA gear and people on trips to the boat on Lake Erie and the occasional trip to an ocean resort. For the record, that Ford straight six engine topped out over a million miles. We kept that ol' modified cargo van even after we upgraded to a real conversion van with what was at the time really cool features like a television / VHS player, and very comfortable captain's seats. It was that new conversion van in which the granddaughters had their first camping adventures. While it was comfortable for two, the four of us were okay if “inside” sleeping was the call of the night. But without a stove or a toilet the van was really more like tent camping in a really nice tent than it was like camping in the trailer or even the cabin cruiser. Make no mistake though, the ease of getting out to camp in that van left a lasting positive impression on us that lives on in vivid memories 25 years later. Our desire to be able to live a vagabond-boater lifestyle finally culminated with the acquisition of an even bigger boat. The 65 ton converted trawler had all the comforts of a two story home on water. Three bedrooms and even a bathtub made travel in this tub a real glamping adventure. But the disadvantages of a vessel this size might seem obvious. Travel was pretty much limited to the oceans. Since we decided to make home port in SE Florida our cruises were primarily limited to the Bahamas and Caribbean islands. And at a blistering speed of around 16mph, weekend trips had to be short or required sending the boat ahead to be waiting for us to arrive on distant islands. It was on one of those trips when we sent the crew ahead to the outer islands that we once again learned that bigger isn't necessarily safer. A tropical storm so small it didn't even get a name proved too big for the crew member left on watch while the others went ashore for dinner. While not lacking in creature comforts, the vessel's big anchors had to be man- handled; a task too big for the small stature of the lone crewman. The Bermuda triangle claimed our waterborne cabin and once again we were wondering how to start over. But not to leave you wondering, the crewman was rescued unhurt. While we still had the conversion van, time didn't stand still and the granddaughters by now had outgrown the little tent. The four of us were no longer so comfortable cramped into the van during bad weather. We either needed a bigger camper or a bigger tent. Remembering the night visitor experience of our honeymoon, we decided there is no tent big enough to stop even a small bear. It was once again time for a hard sided camper. In preparation for a new lifestyle in fast approaching retirement years, I had volunteered to be a camp host in a national park. The idea was to build a resume and find out if campground hosting or workcamping was practical for us. The campground where I was assigned was deep in the wilderness and regularly visited by grizzly bears. Since the access road was narrow and wound through the forest with tight switch backs, any trailers – even short ones – were discouraged. Just days before leaving the answer as to how to be safe and comfortable in bear country presented itself in the form of a slide in camper up for sale – cheap! The fellow had sold his truck but not his slide in. More than a year had gone by and his wife wanted her side of the garage back. The philosophy of “happy wife happy life” motivated a reduced price and combined with “right place right time” we once again had a pick-up slide in camper. Its been some five years ago now and that slide in is still with us. It is ideal for those really remote camps accessible by four wheel drive vehicles only. It's really comfortable for one and accommodates two so long as there is somewhere to stow away auxiliary gear like fishing, boating, and even diving equipment. One solution for equipment storage is a tent. A fairly inexpensive tent works well as a storage shed and doubles as a spare bedroom for visitors. Add one of those portable showers with a solar hot water bag and even wilderness camping gets a whole lot more comfortable. But make no mistake about it, this is not ideal for the kind of long term living required for the best camp host positions. Carrying debt into retirement can be a real burden. Our plan was simple; buy a travel trailer we thought we could live in for longer periods of time and have it paid off before we retired. With a five year clock ticking, we listed our 'must haves', our 'wish list', and our top prices. We knew we didn't like to use the table as a bed so we wanted enough permanent beds for ourselves and some guests. We wanted as much privacy as we could get for the price we wanted to pay. And we wanted a separate outside door entrance to the restroom because we track in snow and mud when we go elk hunting. Besides reducing the mess, since it often dips below zero during hunting season, keeping as much cold air as possible out of the living space saves gas. These then were our minimum requirements. Once we started shopping we added another 'must have' to our list. We decided we needed what the industry calls an 'arctic' package for cold weather camping. These packages vary by manufacturer but most include foam insulation underneath the entire trailer. Some also include electric mesh heaters enclosing the water and wastewater tanks. These packages are far more than just a plastic board enclosing the frame. The downside of these packages is that the electric heaters require – you guessed it – electricity. Generator power is necessary if boondocking in cold weather. Check the power requirements of your heaters and pack a big enough generator to avoid frozen water tanks and possible damage to your systems. Or simply avoid cold weather camping. With our lists in hand we shopped. We had no brand or dealer preferences, We found a unit that had our required minimums and the dealer's price was within our budget. But this particular dealer only offered a financing plan that exceeded our five year maximum. While there would be no penalty for early pay off after a year, in these types of loans the interests charges are retired earlier than the principle. Moreover, if we chose not to finance through the dealer the price was $3000 higher. The combination of high interest rates, longer terms than we wanted, and that deal breaking penalty for not financing through the dealer combined to kill this first deal. We realized we needed to arrange for payment on our terms before we continued shopping. Travel trailers with permanent sleeping quarters, a kitchen and a toilet/bathroom are eligible for the interest on the loan to be tax deductible . This applies only if the trailer is used as security for the loan. Any trailer that met our minimums would certainly qualify so we chose to go to our bank and arrange a loan on our terms before we continued shopping. The downside to this system is that the maximum price is less flexible and the bank does hold the mortgage. Perhaps the most unattractive feature of our 5 year plan was that the payments are much higher than if we were stretching out the financing over 12 or more years. This is just personal preference. We resumed shopping, and shopping. We attended an RV show. Finally we found one trailer with all our 'must haves' and a price within our limits. The 28 foot Jayco isn't the best built trailer in that class, but it also isn't the worst. In fact it comes with a better warranty than most which we opted to extend it for a reasonable extra cost. This is the final year of our 5 year plan. We have only actually taken the trailer vacation camping a couple of times. We have taken it into the forest for hunting 4 seasons now and can report that even when temperatures fell to -15 degrees with wind howling at 30 or 40 mph we stayed warm and the water tanks didn't freeze. Family that came to visit have used it as a spare suite several times and we keep the heat on throughout these Colorado winters just in case we get company. So far our only modifications have been the addition of 40lb propane tanks to give us more capacity than the original 20lb bottles and a combined system of solar panels and a wind generator for charging the batteries. For an extended trip with plans for side trips, we can tow the trailer while hauling the slide in. Our boat? Well these days we pack a nice inflatable with an electric motor. We might not be ready to sail the oceans but we can camp at the beach and enjoy the waves. Our lifetime of preparation seems to have begun to pay us dividends. About the author: Marcus Murray is a retired industrial engineer. In addition to having been a guest instructor at several universities he has been a ghost writer for multiple newspapers and books. Currently he is the editor and contributing author of conservative essays.
Inspiration for Murray family houseboat
Inspiration for Murray family houseboat
A tent will not stop this bear
Murray family truck and slide-in camper
RV Camping - HappyVagabonds.Com Copyright © 2020

Learn about being a work camper and work camping jobs on our Work Camper Jobs page.
RV Camping - Happyvagabonds.com