Wow, just wow, we have completed our eighth year of full-timing. It honestly does not feel that long, possibly because the lifestyle year to year has changed so much. This year we made the somewhat difficult decision to head back west (our family is all east of the Mississippi) because there were so many things we wanted to see. Lee’s heart attack, plus the last two years of COVID and family obligations has put us in a bit of a traveling loop, but we intentionally charted a path that would take us to places we haven’t seen before.
We started in Charleston (Christmas with our grandson) and then moved on to Geneva, AL and Biloxi, Mississippi to finally get those state stickers. We spent some time in Texas with our friends Cori, Greg, Bill, and Kelly and then moved on to Houston and Fort Worth, TX and Hot Springs Arkansas. Hot Springs was great because we got that state sticker as well and checked another National Park off our list. Lee also was able to get some information about his maternal great great grandfather’s life and death from the US Marshal’s museum. Then it was on to Yellowstone for a glorious summer and finally Salt Lake City and then down to Las Vegas. Along with getting three state stickers we checked several National Parks and Presidential Libraries off our list this year!
We ended up with 179,420 miles on the truck for a yearly total of 20,850 miles. Interestingly enough this was only 3,000 more miles than we traveled last year but we covered so much more territory. We are lucky that my job remained in place which gave us the funds to travel at this pace, because gas prices were at record highs (for our full timing years) and the costs would have forced us to travel less if we didn’t have the steady income.
Major Home and Truck Repairs, Modifications, Upgrades and Improvements
We also took advantage of that corporate money to complete some improvements and I have listed those below.
February – We finally broke down and bought a residential, or Electric Refrigerator which has changed our lives in a VERY positive way. All in it cost roughly $3K (and further expenses down the road for boondocking with it), but overall I am very happy we made the change. (And a massive shoutout to Greg and Bill and David for helping us get it into the rig!!!)
June – Lee and I bought new lenses for our cameras taking advantage of the discount he received from his summer job working at a camera store. These three lenses costs $2400, but if you have seen our Yellowstone pictures you probably agree with us they were worth it.
August – We bought Lectric bikes and tons of accessories. There are pros and cons to this purchase, but I will say they were cheaper than buying a second car, although the jury is out on if we will get enough use out of them to make the $3K purchase worth it.
October – We bought a Honda gas generator to help supplement our solar panels and support our new electric fridge for $1100. We have been talking about getting one of these for years, but the electric fridge really forced the issue and it was either the generator, more solar panels, or new batteries. Although the generator is loud and a little smelly it is relatively cost effective and enabled us to boondock while I was working.
November – Lee bought a $400 heavy duty bike rack for the back of the RV and paid $130 for a piece of steel to mount it to. That would have been fine but the welder we paid $350 to did a poor job and now we are paying a second welder to come out and fix his mistakes. This is all around having a safe place to put the ebikes so add that cost to the total.
Tire Replacement Analysis
Once again we bought truck tires for roughly $2K in November and since I brought it up I want to talk about tires a bit. One of the costs of this lifestyle that I didn’t really account for was how frequently we would have to replace tires. And we aren’t replacing them early either. We wait until the treads are very low and we even get a couple of cracks before replacing them and I am always surprised by how frequently that occurs. We never buy foreign tires either after having a couple of serious blowouts in the first year with the cheap imports version that came with the rig. Instead we buy Michelin brand and try to get them at Costco when we can, although that isn’t always possible.
I went back and looked at the blog to try and see how often we had gotten new tires and found the following. While I was in the middle of that Lee said he had a spreadsheet (Yay Lee!) so I am providing both the spreadsheet summary and the individual tire related posts.
June 17, 2015 – We got our first flat tire hitting a curb, and the experience of getting someone to come out and fix it was pretty unpleasant. It took a long time, and was very expensive. That’s when we realized that not just anyone could fix a flat on an RV or a dually…special equipment and expertise was required. We were so new and naive, lol. We bought a Rapid Jack (which later we learned didn’t work very well at all) and thought we were all set. We also purchased two front truck tires and got an alignment this month. All in spending over $900.
August 28, 2015 – Our second RV flat tire was in the middle of nowhere Montana. I am serious about that. A passing train actually stopped and asked us if we were OK. Yes, I did mean choo choo train; a freight train stopped, and the two engineers climbed down and walked across a field to us to check on us. Again, getting service was a painful experience and it was at this point we decided to replace our foreign E-rated RV tires with American G-Rated ones. That replacement cost an additional $1659, but we never went back to cheaper tires after those two experiences.
April 25, 2016 – When we were preparing to go to Alaska we checked our four rear truck tires and realized they would need replacement while we were in Alaska. Based on Bill’s recommendation we went ahead and got them changed before driving up at Costco and had a good experience there. The cost was $988.
January 7, 2017– We took the truck in for service and needed two front tires and an alignment. This was super frustrating because it was the third time in a few years, but as much as we were traveling we needed to have good tires and alignment. The cost this time in Texas was $492 so at least it was cheaper.
May 19, 2019 – We were at a truck stop with a tire place and Lee stepped in and got sold on replacing our tires as we waited. We chose convenience over quality and WOW did that not turn out well for us. We bought cheap imports tires for $1500 and what a huge mistake that was. First they installed our tire pressure sensors wrong and we ended up getting a flat tire 20 minutes down the road from where the tires were installed. It didn’t help that is was raining heavily when all this happened so we were on the side of a busy highway for a couple of hours waiting for them to come and fix their mistake. Then we got to the RV park we had another flat tire and we ended up going to Les Schwab who finally fixed the problem. (What really sucked was we had to replaced them a little over a year later. NEVER again with the cheap tires.)
September 14, 2020 – We had a blowout with one of the cheap tires from May 2019 on the RV and the TPMS didn’t even go off. It’s worth mentioning that we have NEVER had a blow out with American made tires, another reason to stick with them. Any time you are stuck on the side of the road waiting for a repair truck is not fun and we have almost always been in very inconvenient places when this sort of thing has happened.
September 23, 2020 – Lee made arrangements for us to upgrade to H rated tires on our way out of Columbus but when we arrived at the tire place they said we had the wrong lug nuts for the new tires and rims they ordered for us. It was going to cost an additional $500 for the new lug nuts alone so after some conversation we decided to walk away from the deal. At this point we were feeling VERY screwed by tire places and had had enough.
September 30, 2020 – We found a place to replace our G rated tires and it was $2200 but at least we finally were back on American tires. The entire experience was incredibly stressful and just goes to show that with a home on wheels tires are not something to take lightly.
November 2021 – Lee replaced all 6 truck tires in Las Vegas and although the $2K price tag was not great the service was excellent.
(Hey all, this is Lee. I’m going to add a thought here, because this topic comes up a lot in the full timing community. Tires are important and expensive, so people talk about them all the time. The phrase used more often than any other is “China Bombs” because ostensibly they are made in China and they explode all the time. It’s racist and flat out wrong. It’s not that they’re made in China, it’s that they’re junk. Doesn’t matter where they’re made, junk is junk. I’ve never heard anyone call an American tire that blows out an America Bomb. That’s what makes it racist. Another thing people need to remember is that this is their own fault. We all know that manufacturers make rigs as cheaply as they possibly can, and when people take delivery of these things, they know the tires are garbage, but don’t replace them. They wait until one blows, and then blame the tire. Even brand new American cars come with garbage tires on them. We just ordered a brand new 2023 F-350 and I know for a fact that when we pick it up I will need to replace the tires immediately, or TAKE THE RISK. So the next time you hear someone talk about their China Bombs, ask them why they kept them in the first place. – Lee)
Top 10 Things We Did (In no particular order)
I could fill up this list just with Yellowstone adventures, but I am going to try and spread it out a little bit. It’s nice to have a year where it is hard to make this list instead of a struggle to find ten things which the last couple of years have been more like. Don’t get me wrong we always have good years but this one was really amazing. Think about it this way: seeing Old Faithful and The Grand Prismatic didn’t even make my top 10!
Visiting three presidential libraries in succession was a real treat.
I often judge my life by the “highlight reel” at the end of the year and well, just wow. We are extremely grateful that we have been able to live this lifestyle for the last eight years. We will keep going until we find our place that we want to stop, or finances/health force us from the road. For right now we are still going strong and feel very blessed to be so!
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