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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Part II of The "Perfect Rig—Perfect Life" Paradox

Grateful... a good way to begin a blog post, not to mention each and every day. I am grateful to readers for sharing their RV insights, philosophies and personal stories; they add perspective and color to my near and far-sighted dreams. I'll wager that if your comments soothe my outlook, they also help a few others who bide treadmill time... contemplating the pros and cons of becoming road vagabonds, particularly those with diminutive budgets who will  be boondocking out of force of circumstance as much as for the natural ambiance. 

I would like to add that I am inspired by all the single RV'ers, especially women, those who chose to adventure on... who did not let "loss" nor fear nor finances snuff out their travel dreams. You are modern day RV "Amelia Earharts," and my hat is off.

I considered cutting and pasting fragments of reader's thoughtful comments from the last post into the body of this one. The diversity of circumstance added wide ranging perspective and was valuable food for thought. You are RV "field mice," reality "lab rats" for those of modest means. They wait and watch from the wings to see if, and how you pull it off. They are reading your blogs and comments, gleaning bits and pieces of information and thinking, "If she/he/they can do it, maybe so can I/we. 

There is a need for honest RV information so that decisions can be made based on truth. It is part and parcel to why I wanted to do this post, to help me and others like me who are not, nor never will be, corporately or governmentally pensioned. I would venture to say that most RV wannabes fall into this category... they are not wealthy nor are they "funded" beyond Social Security (at some point) and the "nest egg" left from selling their sticks and bricks. That money must last a "lifetime." Hummm, anyone have a crystal ball I can borrow? 

It's much easier, as in "cakewalk," to motor into the sunset when one is "funded." The rest of us juggle risks, rewards and budgets while cavorting on unicycles. We've got one foot in the now and one eye on the future... wondering if there will be enough money after 5, 10... 20 years on the road. I don't know about you, but I would like to have a few options, choices... some "control," should I live to be 80... 90... or, God forbid, 100 years. The good news is, it can be done. The bad new's is, it takes a really well thought out plan. 

I wanted "up side" stories from commenters and got them. But I also wanted "down side" stories... the ones glossy RV magazines "gloss" over... to add some balance. I didn't get much in the way of downsides, perhaps because as we get older we choose to take a "no regrets" attitude; I noted that in some comments. After a lifetime of treadmills the last thing we want to be saying from our nursing home wheelchair is, "I wish I'd traveled more... not played it so safe." 

The "Glossies," as well as a few bloggers, paint a rose colored life out on the road. Sometimes they make you feel like a coward if you don't join up... that your life is not "free" if you live in sticks and bricks and continue to work for the man. Well, I'm here to cheer wannabes on as much as anyone, but arm yourself with "information" and a plan first... look at both sides of the RV story before pulling a lemming swan dive into what might be a river of no return. There are roses, lots of them, but it's not all roses... especially if money runs short. Things get old and break down, and I'm not just talking about RV's here.

Bobbie and I sort of leaped before we looked (financially). "Secure," whatever that means, is different for all of us, as evidenced by commenters. I hoped my resignation at 49 years old signaled the last treadmill. Well guess what? Fulltime RVing is expensive... even if you boondock... and especially if you spend too much up front on a rig. 

After a year and a half on the road it was amazing how fast we blew through a good portion of the proceeds from our house sale. But hey, we were seeing the USA... coast to coast, border to border. It soon became clear that we were not going to make it to Social Security years, not even close. Bobbie wondered if we would have enough to get back into a house again (that was back when houses were "appreciating" at 10 to 15 percent per year in Colorado). I saw a "look" in her eyes while we camped near Quartzsite. There were magnificent quad slide motorhomes parked next to dilapidated old RV wrecks with blue tarp roofs... propped up with plywood and cardboard. That "look" gave me pause. I put away my pom poms and had a heart to heart with reality. Could we find above minimum wage jobs again if we needed to? And where in the hell was that little town full of rainbows and butterflies that I was searching for... what's it called, Nirvana? 

I watched the value of my 50 K Excel Fiver depreciate at a Blue Book rate of over 10 % per year. I felt stupid for not settling for a used unit... for not keeping the old Arctic Fox. I saw the Excel's fiberglass fade from glossy to dull in the Arizona sun... the pretty little decals cracking and peeling away in a desert storm sandblast. To be honest, I felt a little ripped off by the "dream," but it was more my mistakes than anything else. I bought into the "Glossy Magazines" pitch... a Fiver, parked all alone by a lake... a roaring campfire reflecting a serene glow off lovey-dovey thirty something couples. 

We came off the road spent... literally and figuratively. We managed to get back into real estate, thinking it would be a springboard for our next "retirement" (it always worked before). We found a couple of treadmills to climb on and settled in. Not even a year had passed and I was planning the next jailbreak... secretly monitoring the blogs of Wandrin Lloyd, Cowboy Brian and Tioga George. I even dug out my old pom poms.

We've sold out and hit the road so many times; the ups and downs run together like a long play "soap." The adrenalized joy of selling and leaving; the reoccurring bother of finding another treadmill. If only I would have stayed in the military... I'd have it licked. But wishing does not pound a single "nail," let alone move "mountains." I learned to live a "compromised" RV life and tried to be thankful for what I had. I even grew up a little bit... realized I was treating full-time RVing like an extended vacation. You can't sustain it; you'll burn out and die, just like Marylyn Monroe and Superman. 

I've learned how to blend "bricks" and "wheels." It's not so bad... one gets used to straddling fences after developing callouses where it counts. I'm also learning to appreciate smaller things I once took for granted... like drawing a deep breath of clean pine scented air and gazing out Imax windows at purple mountain majesty. I try not to look at my situation as one of being trapped in a bogged down real estate market. Someday a house will sell, but until it does I'm trying not to make plans on how to spend the money. I'm not holding my pine scented breath. Nope, I just go off to my Pool Boy job and try to appreciate the good fortune of being "trapped" in a place as Lovely as Ouray. Glass, I officially pronounce you half-full.

That's my take on the "Perfect Life;" It's an oxymoron. The best we can do is make a good plan then let life's chips fall where they fall. As for the "Perfect Rig," no such thing... at least for me. There are times when a motorhome would be nice (a used one... "fool me once..."). I like the idea of a passenger being able to get up and walk around... maybe ride an exercise bike or stretch out for a nap while going to the next destination. I'd pull a little four wheel drive toad of some sort, one that gets 30 miles to the gallon. There are definite times when we would like the additional room a motorhome offers, not to mention all the storage underneath for art stuff and gear. But what about the times I want to "go farther," deep into mountains, woods, or canyon lands? That requires a lightweight... like our Chalet or a slide in pop up camper. Even a Sportsmobile Van, like the one pictured above. It pops up, BTW. Alas, I need three RV's... or...

There are times, though, when a little winter house in Arizona sounds right... like the Bayfield Bunch bought in Congress. A "project," of sorts, because one shouldn't hike and bike and explore every damn day. We're not on "vacation," we're "living," and you don't want to end up like Marylyn and Superman. A little house in warm winter sun... and a Chalet. "That's all I need, and a chair... I need a chair... but that's all!"

Love to all dreamers. I hope all commenters added some "perspective" and this post shed some light on your RV Evolution and The "Perfect Rig—Perfect Life" Paradox. 

Compact RVing... needs four wheel drive tho

The depreciation alone would kill me... but I like it

Alternative RV's... remember, you can anything if you are willing to make necessary sacrifices and adjustments

Well... there goes a few hundred G's

A Danish interior... spartan, but elegant, if that's your thing :)

Now this is more my style... fully depreciated and a dent won't upset me. No gaudy decals to peel away either.

My mom and dad and I lived in a 16 foot travel trailer just like this for a year.

You can live in this... park anywhere you want for free

Boonie and me and Bobbie...

Just add custom skirting and you have permanent housing


Remember The Wise One's? They full timed for a year, then went back to work to put some money away for the future. Rumor has it they are heading back out on the road soon

Mike and Louise lived in this rig for a couple of years traveling the width and breath of the good old USA. It can be done on a "dime." 

Fritz and Deb's Tiger Van has served them well for over a decade. That's our rig behind them... camped at Madera Canyon, Arizona

My wanderlusted dad

A couple of Artful Adventurers in Organ Pipe National Park

Valley of Fire, Nevada.


  1. Mark- I am not one to tell a person what they should do---------------BUT- I really think you should be joining the cowboy and get into getting some books out there-- Just think what a great service you could provide on Rving and travel- to say nothing about the complete western hiking book! OR complete volume of Mark Rants!Great supplement to retirement nest egg- just saying-

  2. The perfect RV is different for everyone.

  3. I agree with the Walden Creek RV comment. You could write a book or two, I like your style of writing. I read many books from RV'ers while I was planning my getaway. I also did a lot of research on RV's. I knew what I did and did not want and have the perfect vehicle for me in the price range I wanted to spend. If I had an extra $150k, I would have bought a 4x4 off road class C. But, the fancy rig is really not necessary - how often would I need those 4x4 features for the way I travel? I hope you find a rig you are happy with or become happy with the rig you have. And remember the saying "I am right where I need to be". Everything happens for a reason.

  4. wan der lust (a stong desire to travel).dictionary does not tell you that it is a disease!.that make you do things, well you wish you hadnt.i feel your pain,i got it at ten watching a movie.endless summer by bruce brown.been black top camping in the city, to desert beachs in mexico for the last fifty years.i guess wants you got it you got it for life.thank for the post big guy.i know for one. you save me a lot of money with it. keep up the good work!!.travel in happness an go in peace my fellow traveler.gary green

  5. Having the attention span of an gnat, it's not very often that I'll read a long post to the very end. Just sayin'.
    You had me the whole time, but don't let it go to your head.

  6. I have a 1985 Toyota Dolphin. The previous owner had the inside redone and it's comfortable. It's paid for, the engine was rebuilt a couple of years ago, and since it's a Toyota truck it's not hard to find someone to work on any problems.

    I have my kayak on top and my bicycle on the rear. My average gas mileage at 55 m.p.h. is 15 m.p.g.

    Sometimes I want "more," but I question how much more do I need? Am I RV-ing for the homey experience of a huge class A, or do I want to have adventures, meet people, and connect with nature?

    Since I have a townhome in Southern New Mexico, it seems logical for me not to invest in a higher end motorhome. My last day of school (teaching) was May 23rd, and I "officially" retire July 1st. Sometimes I "lust" over larger/nicer motorhomes, but for the time being mine is just fine.

  7. Walden Steve,
    "Mark's Rants;" I like it! I could go off on everything... sweet Jesus, the oral stress relief of unleashing pent up aggression.... so medicinal I'd surely outlive my money, and govie's too. :)) Thanks my good man!

    If "Brevity is the soul of wit," as Shakespeare said, you are without peer.

    It occurs to me that you pretty much summed my feelings in one simple sentence. You, my friend, would make a great editor :)) Thank you!

    You are most kind. It took for me a melange of words and a very long time to evolve a "Style." When someone notices I take it as compliment. Thanks, you made my day.

    I've seen (and coveted) those 4x4 Class C's, for sure. And you are right to question the justification of spending all the extra money for something that would only be needed less than five percent of the time. But oh that five percent...

    The difference between "Want" and "Need?".... I'd say about 50 years... I'm just now getting there. :) Muchos Grachos!

    G. Green,
    "Endless Summer," another oxymoron... but soooo intriguing! I should get a Vanity Plate for the Chalet... "ENDLESUMR" I envy your adventures, and your Mexico beach locale. It takes courage to travel Mexico nowadays. Back at you with the "go in peace." thanks.

    I thought you were going to say "You had me at hello." (grin) Wait, I guess you kinda did say that :))
    Read Gaelyn's "Cliff's Notes" version next time and spare yourself the Novel. :) Seriously tho, thanks for taking the time to read a Too Long post, and for showering a few kind words my way; I go through these "droughts," so it's nice.

    Desert Diva,
    First, I love the moniker... Second, Congratulations on retirement! It must feel sooo good to have stuck out your "treadmill." And now, I assume, you will be "funded" for the rest of your life. You earned it; well deserved! I need to find a "sponsor" because I didn't stick with my profession long enough to be funded. So good for you.

    One doesn't need a big ass motorhome to connect with people and nature as you say... in fact, a class A would probably get in the way of that. You should consider joining Boonie's Boondocking group... he's in New Mexico now and looking for a few "outdoorsy" RVers to meet up with from time to time. Eventually, I hope to be one of them.
    Thanks for commenting :)

  8. The perfect rig? It keeps you dry when it's raining... warm when it's cold... and in one place when the wind is blowing.

    Searching for The perfect rig? I've said that myself... too much. My problem with it has become; It sounds too much like the rig is the goal to me... LIFE should be the goal right? The rig is only the transportation to it and the shelter when you get there.

    So... the perfect rig would be the one that creates the greatest opportunities to LIVE.

    and maybe... for some... I guess... The perfect "rig" is a little cottage that never leaves its plot. Impossible for me to digest any more ;) but then... I don't wear jeans with a 54" waist either... A fella/fellerette needs to "Wear" what fits.

    The hardest part for all of us just might could be tuning out the "glossies" and all the helpful advisers, for just a bit, and being honest with ourselves... inside our own heads... Choosing what it is that makes us smile... that makes it a day to be remembered... no matter what ANYONE else thinks.

  9. CowBoy Brian,
    And bottom line, for those of us with "modest" means," I will give you that... that the "perfect rig" just needs to, " keep you dry when it's raining... warm when it's cold... and in one place when the wind is blowing."

    But I know you think about reinventing the "wheels" once in a while... and you did mentioned a "teaser" in your blog recently about changing rigs ( I can't wait to hear more about that ). I think it is a "male" thang... you don't see women "upgrading" much... they make do and live with their choices much better than we do... or, at least me, since I shouldn't speak for you :).

    And you are so right... "Life (living) should be the goal." We didn't buy an RV to sit in it... we bought an RV to leave sitting all day, empty, while we go off and "live." An RV for us is just a cheap motel without the neon lights... a place to crash and cook, and as you said, a place to get out of the weather. That said, I do like to stay at a "Hilton" once in a while... just to see how the other half lives :))

    In the end, you are right, "the perfect rig would be the one that creates the greatest opportunities to LIVE," be it a big ass quad slide class A... so you can sit under it's automatic awning in wide body chairs and grill salmon on the slide out BBQ while watching the flat panel big screen... or, sit on a ring of stumps around a campfire massaging the days natural highlights. I certainly don't want the Class A lifestyle, as I know you don't... but pretties can turn a guys head. Look, but don't "leap." Eh?
    Thanks pal, you make sense.

  10. Post Script:

    “Security depends not so much upon how much you have, as upon how much you can do without.”


  11. Interesting topic and am enjoying it a lot. Right now, I'm focusing on getting my health back (messed up back). For me, the perfect rig would be about anything that would get me out there. It's funny, when you don't have your health, everything else kind of seems like easy stuff and isn't really all that important. I'd actually about give my right arm to be able to just go sleep in a tent. :)

  12. Found you from Al's blog, I think I will follow along with you for a while!

    We worked our way up through rigs, over the years, until we found the one we wanted for full-timing. We have done a lot of modifications to make the rig the way we want it, including enough solar and batteries to be comfortable boondocking. we love that the best! Our is sold and ready to close soon, so our adventure begins!

    (p.s. we are banking the house proceeds to purchase another house down the road, and don't expect to dip into it) we can work-camp and I sell handwoven and knitted items and instructional DVDs on Etsy to supplement our meager pension we will be living on)

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  13. It's all a matter of reality. The perfect rig for me might be a joke to someone else. I recently took a NFS camp host position (to help with the expenses) and see people that come into this campground with everything from a pup tent to a four-slide class A. Some people don't even drive in but pedal to get here.

    The one thing they all have in common is that they are glad to be here. They all have a friendly greeting and a smile on their face. I am sure many of them are still working for the man. But if you asked them, I am sure they would all come up with different answers as to what was the perfect rig.

    There is no perfect rig except to each person. As for the perfect life, I don't think it exists. We all have are ups and downs, good and bad times. But I have yet been able to find any life style that my meager Social Security check can afford that is any better then what I am doing right now.

    The hardest part is adapting to living on practically nothing compared to what you earned while working for the man. But it can be done with a good budget and adhering to it. There will be ups and downs, as previously mentioned, but the ups make the downs almost insignificant. The most important thing is fulfilling that dream that is burning in your heart.

  14. Spotted Dog...
    Ah, I've been there with the messed up back... I hope you have a better outcome than I did... so I understand your frustration. When it became apparent that the old me was not coming back I had a decision to make, whether to let, on not let, my new circumstance keep me on the bench. No, I can't "run" anymore, but with time I have been able to get to the mountains and summit on foot. The secret was walk, walk, walk, and then walk some more.

    So keep your right arm... bad backs get better, just not as fast as we'd like. Oh, and stretch every day, too, now go take a walk :))
    Hang in, and thanks, Mark

    Karen and Steveio,
    Welcome and thanks for reading.
    I see you have a Class A and that you boondock... good to know... and that you have on the road income from selling your knittings... every little bit helps... and, that you are banking the proceeds from your house sale... very smart... because most RV'ers get their fill of full timing after a few years and get back into a sticks and bricks/part timer lifestyle. That is one of the main points I wanted newbies to take from my post. Thanks for reinforcing my premise.

    Thanks for adding your real-life perspective. Being a camp host like you do has always appealed to me. For one, you are not burning up the highway, burning gas and rubber and adding miles to your rig. Secondly, as you suggested, people who camp are generally on vacation and have smiles and moods to match. I wonder if I would get antsy, tho, when they pulled out to go to their next destination and I had to go clean out fire rings :))
    We are all different, like you say, and seeing how everybody else RVs is cheap entertainment. That you can make it on Social Security is a testament to your budgeting prowess and will power. Congrats! I will join the ranks of Social Security in 6 months... a whopping 479 dollars a month I know, a long sad story... it's not much so I can't live on it, at least not very well. See you down the road, But never in Oregon until August/Sept... I saw your Snow post!
    thanks, mark

  15. I am a retired (for one year) Texas high school principal--also a foster parent to many precious babies over the years. I have a 2005 Leisure Travel Van that will be paid for with a year!!!!!!! I have tent camped the lower 48 travelling in the summers with my children when they were younger. Thanks to all the years in edcation, very frugal living and the duplex I own, I am "funded" and will hit the road when the LTV is paid for and this last baby's placement is ended. I will keep the duplex and my stuff in one side, but will be a "most of the time" RVer.
    I am a Silverton/Ouray junkie--boondock tenting, hiking, and jeeping many summers. LOVE BEAR PASS!!! I can just imagine your view out the IMAX window.
    I love your blog and particularly this one. I have learned a lot and you have given me a lot to think about. Keep writing!!!

  16. Great post, have to read & reread this and last one plus all the comments.

  17. I seem to notice a upbeat in BCB blog- then 46 flags is impressive- I really think it is great that people are finding enjoyment in BCB- keep it up Mark! I know at times it can be a nag but- but you need the rants for your own mental health! take care!

  18. Understanding yourself is just as important as understanding your finances when leaving the rat race. One thing that has helped me so far is having the mindset that my home is not my rig. My home is where my rig is parked . . .the "great outdoors." When you think like that, a huge home-on-wheels is not necessary.

    Of course, to each his own.

    Excellent post and photos . . . Thanks.

  19. Really enjoyed this post. We have been on the road going on 4 years and don't see an end to it. In fact, I seem to just be getting broken in to the experience and enjoying it all the more. That isn't to say that life in general won't always have its ups and downs.

    Not sure what the perfect RV would be. As you indicated it is different depending on terrain and circumstances. So far the one we have is working well for us. Some days I would really love an armored Unimog.

    We tried volunteering twice, so far. Once for three months with the COE at the Bonneville Lock and Dam. Not a campground and we worked outdoors. We enjoyed that but after two months I was ready to move on.

    Last year we camp hosted at a Missouri state park for two months and I would never camp host again. Our experience was that the idiots outweighed the positive side of the equation.

    Like the 11pm knock on the door asking where he could put his boat in. The endless attempts at burning plastic and cans in the fire rings despite garbage cans being within 30 feet. The attempts to pack more cars and tents than were permitted in a site. Hooking up rigs to the common water faucet.


  20. I want to thank all the wonderful people who write blogs. I read so many that I don't want to read those dull books now. You all write so wonderfully and it is so alive and in the now. I laugh with you. I cry with you. I am there with you visiting all those wonderful places where you post all those beautiful pictures. I had dreams once of going out there and I did travel some in my small (used)class A motorhome. But my health went "south". So I live now through you. Keep up the good works. Love you all.

  21. Beth,
    thank you, I shall keep writing. Your story rings with patience, prudence, and delayed gratifications. Wow, you all all grown up... and I mean that as a compliment. Drop a line if you ever get back to Ouray, we'll meet up.

    ReReads are free... to be honest, I've reread this post several times myself :))

    Walden Steve,
    Rants are good for you... so is climbing a mountain. they both get rid of pent up emotions. I couldn't transfer my Flag counter... It's amazing how people stumble across my little blog.

    RV Sue,
    First, congrats on your success as a blogger! You zoomed right up there. And you are so right (I'm detecting a trend of rightness among women). Sounds like you are loving your ever-changing front yard. Thanks for stopping by.

    Jim and Gayle,
    So for you it just keeps getting better. I think it can take some people time to adjust to the full time lifestyle... then they can't imagine going back to sticks and bricks. I sympathize with you on your camp host experience... some campers are idiots.
    thanks for adding your voice to the BCB.

    My heart goes out to you. At least you did get out for a while before health problems forced you "home." This is where CowBoy says, "See, I told you so." and who knows, maybe he's right... seize the day, go while you can. I wouldn't stop nor blame anyone for that.
    Just know that I appreciate your readership and it is because of people like you... in your situation... that keep picking up my camera and pen. It really is nice to hear that you care, thank you so much.

  22. Thanks,Mark. I will get back to Ouray (many times) and would love to meet you and Bobbie.

    Yes, I am finally grown up and I do take that as a compliment!!

    I am headed to Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico next week for a week of R and R. It is not Silverton/Ouray ,but it is the nearest cool mountains.

  23. Beth,
    I've been to the Cloudcroft area a few times and camped. It's a beautiful area... for New Mexico :))
    And we look forward to meeting you!!!
    Happy Retirement.


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