One of the things that some people with a fifth wheel struggle with is whether or not to have a second vehicle. As you are getting rid of your stuff and selling your house, you might start talking about whether or not to keep a car. It truly is a big decision because it will impact the day-to-day logistics of your life, and to some extent, your budget. In our case it was a no brainer because I had a company car and the small monthly fee I paid included insurance and gas, so financially it was a really good deal. Plus, I worked many years to get to the point in my company where I qualified for a company car and frankly was in no big rush to give it up. So for the last 8 months, Lee has driven the truck/fifth wheel on travel days and I drove behind him. Where the second car will be is always a big discussion point. Our friend Kelly drives in front of Bill in their second car, and others (myself included) prefer to follow. Early on I was in front of him and we got separated once and that stressed me out so much that from that point on I would only follow. (That was actually a pretty cool experience. We were driving to Cori and Greg in PA, and somewhere we got separated; totally different roads. Because I was dangerously low on fuel, I didn’t want to try to turn around to find her, and I couldn’t navigate her over the phone, so I just told her where we were going, and that we would meet up there. After an hour or so, our roads converged again, and we were within a mile or so of each other. – Lee) Unfortunately I never found following him to be relaxing either. Lee tries to use cruise control as much as possible to help with safety and fuel economy, but traffic, construction, and just general road speeds cause you to speed up and slow down more than you would think. (Not to mention the fact that even with more truck than we need, using cruise control I generally climb hills a little slower than a car, and coast down hills faster, so she’s constantly having to adjust to keep a reasonable distance behind. – Lee) So I am looking at the back of this big rig (I have it memorized) and would really need to watch his speed constantly. If I lagged more than 1-1/2 cars behind, other cars were always jumping the space between us as well. Plus it just wasn’t a great view. (That’s just rude. I have a nice butt. – Lee) Some of these drive days can be long (although we try as much as possible to keep them short hops) and I missed seeing the vistas. In a nutshell, we tried every combination and I never found one that I was totally comfortable with.
The larger problem though for me was how two vehicles limited my flexibility on when to drive. The best time to drive obviously is midweek after morning traffic and before rush hour, but those are prime work hours and I never felt right about driving too much during them. I am a salary employee and apart from scheduled conference calls I can work whatever hours I need to, but I didn’t like being away from email for so long. On the few days we traveled mid-week I would stop at every break and lunch and check emails, but it just added a lot of extra pressure for me to an already stressful travel day. As a side note, Lee and I still find travel days pretty stressful, but they have gotten much better as we have gotten a routine down and Lee has simplified the tasks I need to do on the inside to minimize the time. (Tweaking the pack/unpack process to simplify and speed it up has been one of my favorite things about moving around. I love process improvement. – Lee) Still, imagine you are driving to some place you have never been, on roads you are not familiar with. You need to make sure you map out places to stop for gas (not always easy in more rural areas) and rest stops (I have to stop every two hours or so for a bathroom break) and lunch (try to find a nice place you can eat inside the rig to keep costs down) and then add to that “Oh honey, I just got an important conference call thrown on my schedule and we need to stop at 2:30 for it!”, and it gets pretty complicated. (I highly recommend a few apps for this. Pilot/Flying J have a great trip planner app that shows you their locations on your route, and gives you detailed info on each location, including if they have RV lanes, propane refills, fresh water fill, dump station, etc. iExit is another great app that tracks your location and tells you where rest stops are, as well as what is at every exit. The best feature of that app is that it knows which direction you are travelling, so doesn’t tell you about rest stops that are on the opposite side that you can’t get to. – Lee) Lee was totally awesome about it though and incredibly sensitive to the fact that work always had to come first. I am sure there were times he got extremely frustrated with the restrictions but he truly never said a word about it, just taking the logistical challenges and making them work. But really the simplest and least stressful thing was to travel on days off or weekends which we tried to do as much as possible. The down side to that of course is that I was losing some of my precious off time.
As we explore this lifestyle we have adopted as a couple this idea that we are collecting data. We try things in different combinations and if it doesn’t work out, oh well, we got some good data. That attitude about things has helped us tremendously because rarely do we feel like we have failed when things don’t go well, instead we collect the data that a particular set of circumstances doesn’t work for us and really, how could we have known without doing it first? The full-time RV lifestyle is so subjective that you can only learn so much from others experiences. Often you have to try a thing to see if you like it or not and that’s totally fine, it’s all part of the “There is no one true way” mentality. So after we collected the data over eight months I decided to turn in the second vehicle. This was 100% my decision and although I was leaning in that direction already, the timing catalyst was my company completely refreshing our fleet, which meant I would be getting a new car in July. That sounds like a good thing, who doesn’t want a brand new car, especially one you get for free, right? Well not really, because I am now a “resident” of Florida and Florida requires onsite VIN verification for initial registration of a vehicle, so I would need to fly down to Florida, pick up the car and get it registered, then drive it back to Minnesota where I needed to be for the wedding. Basically I decided God/the universe was trying to tell me something and it seemed a perfect time to just turn the car in. Luckily, my company has offices in every major city across the country, so all I needed to do was drop the car, key, and fuel card off at the Minneapolis office. I have to mention here that my boss has been really great about all of this. He didn’t even blink when I told him I wanted to turn the car in and he seems to have a really good handle on the fact that I am moving every month or so. So Monday morning (after all the family left Sunday) I went back to work and Lee and I headed into Minneapolis very early to drop off the car. Dropping off the car itself was painless, the two hours worth of traffic each way not so much, but when it was done I did feel a bit “lighter” about the whole thing.
One thing I talked to Lee about in advance is how I would react to feeling like I didn’t have a vehicle. We haven’t shared a car for 23 years and our truck has been his vehicle since we bought it. I knew I might have an emotional reaction, especially since I was coming off the emotions of my daughter’s wedding, and gave him a heads up to please be sensitive about it. (This is new behavior btw, in the old days I would have just expected him to recognize all that and act accordingly and then get mad if he didn’t do it…frankly life is too short for that nonsense). Not only did he listen but he acted. When I stepped into the truck he had set aside one of the sunglasses holders for me. (MY truck has two sunglasses holders. One for my primary set, and one for my spare. Now she’s hogging one of them. I have no idea where to put my spare set. Might need to get a new truck. – Lee) He also set up a phone cradle on the window and a charger cable. Very cool. (Very difficult for me to see out of that lower right corner of the windshield now. I hope I don’t have an accident because of that, and dent my truck. And now I need to go buy a new power outlet. Her phone, iPad and iPod are going to be eating up a lot of power outlets. And power. I might have to get a bigger truck just to handle all the power drain. Also, while it’s fresh in my mind, I should mention that her iPod is packed with questionable music choices, about which there will be much discussion and debate before she accepts that it won’t be played in my truck. Also also, no romance audio books. I’m uncomfortable with that kind of dirty talk. Especially if it’s about Amish people. I’m sure it won’t take long before she’s storing shoes in there, too. – Lee) Plus he had done a considerable amount of research and bought a mobile laptop mount, the same kind that are used in police cars, and as soon as he could he installed it for me. (It’s really self-defense. Otherwise I would be balancing her laptop on the steering wheel while she played Candy Crush worked. – Lee) Now I have my own little office space in the truck with laptop, Wi-Fi, and phone and I can work while we are driving if we chose to. I am really excited about it because this completely opens up our flexibility when traveling. I will still want to be in one place if I have an important call that I am running, but 90% of my work can now be done from the vehicle. Will I miss having the second vehicle, I am sure I will and there will be a financial impact for sure, but we are going to try it this way, collect some data, and if we want we can always buy another car. It’s not like they quit making them.
(All kidding aside,the laptop mount is very, very cool. It’s made by RAM Mounts, which sounds very masculine and strong, and that’s important. They also have a ton of other things that travelers might find useful. Do not blame me if you spend your money on cool stuff, instead of squandering it on food and insurance. There is a “no drill” version for pretty much every vehicle in existence, and for the rest, you can either create holes and tap them or have that done to do the installation. They’re pricey, but I think they’re worth it, even for people who don’t work from their vehicle. You can use a computer to plan routes, look things up, watch a movie, play video games, whatever. The instructions recommend that the driver not do any of these things while driving, which I think is pretty bossy and fascist, but whatever. Installation took me less than half an hour once I had everything together that I needed. They are very solid and infinitely adjustable. I do NOT recommend going with a cheaper “consumer” product. They just won’t hold up. More info below on how it works. – Lee)
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