Preaching the virtues of the RV lifestyle and constantly dreaming about what it would be like to live full time in a fifth wheel put our thought processes into overdrive. I retired last December after 45 years as an RV journalist, guiding Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines for many of those years. So after a shorter deliberation than expected, we made the decision to sell the house in Ventura, CA, and enter a new chapter in our lives as full timers.
The process to become full timers was due, in big part, to the encouragement we got from the late Phil Brokenicky, who piloted New Horizons to its present status as America’s premier fifth wheel. Our plan was to spend our winters in Palm Springs to visit with my brother, who was struggling with medical issues. Phil asked us to visit him and Nancy at the Outdoor Resort Palm Springs facility and gave us the “tour.” The next day we were owners and our lives changed forever.
To be fair, I have to credit my wife, Lynne, for pushing our decision. After spending our first winter in the Outdoor Resort Palm Springs, we returned home to cooler weather. Within a week, we were feeling bored and anxious to get back into our fifth wheel. Living in our latest stationary home, one we occupied for almost 20 years, no longer meet our needs; the itch to get back on the road was just too intense. We listed the house and six weeks later all our stuff was gifted or stored, and we moved in to the fifth wheel full time.
Flashback a couple years and you would find my buddy Bill Gehr and me customizing our fifth wheel just about every week for months on end. After testing hundreds of RVs throughout my career and building relationships with industry players in both the rolling stock and supplier segments, I had a very focused view on what Lynne and I would need to be happy on the road—beyond jokingly commiserating about wrecking a 47-year marriage living within the confines of 400 square feet or less. Living in an RV for recreation (think vacations and weekends) is quite different from the demands of full time habitation. It’s no secret that many RVs are not designed for full time living, and minimally, daily use can be rather demanding on any RV. So I formulated a “to due” list, which was rather long and, at times, complicated—although admittedly more fun than work.
Obviously, space is paramount, but that’s where a mindset change makes all the difference in the world. We spent enough days in RVs to know that we really could live harmoniously in more restricted space, and for that matter, both of us spend a great amount of time outdoors, so finding our own space is not difficult. To be successful on the road, we needed to mitigate potential problems with system function—and make sure we weren’t beating our fifth wheel to death over America’s less-than-steller highway system. Bill, who retired from operating a very successful RV repair shop, and I have been working magazine, TV and video projects for more than 20 years, and he graciously offered to help me with the long list of projects; we were off and running.
We started with a complete suspension transformation and worked our way up. Smoothing out the bumps is critical to structure longevity, and we opted for a slipper spring suspension with gas shocks—after replacing the axles with those that are rated higher and disc brakes.
Our preference for slipper springs was a good choice, and ultimately made a big difference in ride quality, and how well stuff in cabinets and compartments stayed put. There are other choices on the market, and New Horizons knows that drill, offering MORryde’s independent suspension as another option.
From here we installed an elaborate solar system to provide travel flexibility during the half of the year away from our winter oasis, and upgraded to a number of appliances to de-complicate our lives.
My entire career was around RVs, so maybe we were a little jaded about how we wanted to enhance creature comforts. Our mantra was simply to get the highest quality appliances and features (some from across the pond) on the market, which will withstand the rigors of full time living. Since we also love to visit more natural settings like state and national parks and many off-the-beaten-road destinations, a typical full timer abode was off the table. We settled on around 34 feet, sacrificing additional storage and elbowroom for maneuverability.
While we like to move around when not in Palm Springs, we learned a valuable lesson last summer. We logged more than 7,000 in two months. This type of travel itinerary surely placed a lot of we’ve-been-there pins on our RVillage map of the Unites States and Canada, but, frankly, the trip was just too exhausting.
Our rule is to be off the road by 2 pm and not travel more than 250 miles in any one day. This may sound harmless, but in reality, traveling almost every day forced us to pass on many sights on our bucket list. Believe me, next year will be different, and we’ve already started making plans for a number of fly fishing adventures in Idaho, Utah and Colorado.
So for now, we look forward to our new friends returning to the resort in Palm Springs. Pretty soon it will be “party-on” or “recess for adults” as many people call the non-stop physical activities, socializing and entertainment.
The full-time RV lifestyle is all it’s cracked up to be.