Recap our first year’s costs & equipment

Today is Super Bowl #43, a gorgeous day in Okeechobee, Florida, and the one year anniversary of our start on full-time RVing. We had dreamed more than two years about living full-time in our Airstream trailer. Crunch time was upon us and we felt like we were in an almost impossible task. January 2008 was incredibly hectic for us as we arranged disposition for all the house furnishings, some as late as the morning of the closing.

We closed the deal on our house, packed the aisle of our camper with boxes of things we hadn’t yet placed. We drove one half-hour to stay a couple nights with Debbie’s parents before leaving for south Florida. We did it! We sold the house, escaped with our sanity, and we started on our dream, living full-time on the road.

Our first year included a fly-drive caravan to Alaska in which we flew into Anchorage and rented a small class-C motorhome to travel with fifteen other couples throughout a section of Alaska for sixteen days. We caravanned with another Charlotte, NC, couple to Bozeman, Montana. We attended the large International rally in Bozeman, MT, of WBCCI, the Airstream Owners Association. We caravanned for 53 days throughout the Pacific Northwest. We traveled extensively between Vancouver, Canada, and Bakersfield, California. And we brought not one, but two, Airstream trailers back from Bakersfield, California, to North Carolina. 2008 was a pretty exciting first year for Jim and Debbie.

This seems the perfect opportunity to recap 2008, our first full-year of full-timing. The recap will require more than one article to write. I’ll start by addressing budget, pace, and equipment reliability. Another time I may discuss our 2008 experiences in health care, clothing, food and beverage, utilities, entertainment, exercise, sightseeing and livability of our twenty-five foot Airstream. If you have other questions for us let me know and I might address your questions first or, at least, be sure to try and include responses in future articles.

Let’s review our 2008 expenses first.

Who knew the economy would free-fall, gas prices would soar, and we would be completely wrong about our first year travel goals? We planned, and budgeted $4,800 for 12,000 miles at $4.00/gallon. We drove over 18,000 miles and spent almost $8,000 on fuel. We missed our budget primarily due to extra miles but also because of higher-than-budgeted gas prices. We budgeted $1,145 for dining, but spent $3,550. Mostly we ate out when people invited us to join them, even if we wouldn’t have otherwise gone out. It’s not about the food sometimes. We saved money in several categories but not a lot in any one of them.

Overall we finished the year $1,000 under budget for our eleven month budget. More burdensome than our financials is the emotional cost we expended traveling so often and so far. Everything we read warned us, new full-timers always drive too much the first year. First-year full-timers, the experienced ones say, cannot help but live a year-long vacation hurrying from one destination to another all year.

We thought we were too smart and strong to fall for this weakness. We knew, we read all about it, and we had a plan. How did that work out? We hurried and moved too frequently all year, driving from one destination to another and not staying anywhere more than two or three weeks at a time. No downtime at any time, other than a day here or there, left us feeling like we had just towed our Airstream back and forth across the continent four times back-to-back.

We had no equipment breakdowns for the Airstream in over 18,000 miles and eleven months of travel. A screw near the sidewall of one of the trailer tires caused us to replace the tire. The interior lights in one section of our Airstream stopped working and I easily found and corrected the loose connector. The overhead storage bin over our bed unattached itself from the wall but the ceiling attachments prevented the bin from falling onto our bed.

Our kitchen undersink storage was wetted by a loose p-trap connection we’ll start checking monthly. And, I broke a trailer window with my forehead. Sounds like a lot? It isn’t a lot of trouble for living all year in the trailer and towing it all around the country. We spent just over $500 all year on repairs and maintenance for the trailer and, best of all, had no bad surprises.

The truck suffered one malfunction but we stumbled upon it serendipitously. We were using more oil than I thought reasonable for a relatively new and broken-in engine. Sure, it’s a huge engine at 8.1 liters, but I was adding oil at intervals less than 1,000 miles. And Mobil 1 is darned expensive! A little research turned up a web article on big Vortec engines history of internal oil leaks.

We too our 2006 Silverado to the Chevy dealer, Ressler Motors in Bozeman, MT to ask their help in determining the problem. The service manager responded the internal leak issues were for earlier versions but would I mind if they looked more carefully at my truck’s engine and checked it out for me? They found broken connections on the factory-installed oil cooler and replaced the cooler under warranty. No more oil leaks and we’re using a quart every two to three thousand miles.

Tires on the truck? No problems so far and we hope they’ll go another 20K or 30K miles. Only one othe problem related to the truck, the truck’s hitch receiver pin hole was beaten out of round and created excessive drawbar play in the receiver. A North Carolina Chevrolet dealer replaced the receiver under warranty with another of the same really crummy oem receivers. Nine months later the receiver is holding up very well.

A great first year for us, eh? We goofed a little on some of our budgeting. We goofed big time on our scheduling. I goofed a little breaking one of the Airstream’s windows with my head. And we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Nothing really surprised us, everything fell into place nicely, we just tried too hard. We think we know a little better how to do this. Let’s start another year!


One response to “Recap our first year’s costs & equipment

  1. Great first year assessment! Your honesty about your successes and mistakes is probably going to be helpful to a lot of people who are considering the lifestyle. I suspect Year Two will be even more satisfying as you find what works for you.

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