Monthly Archives: June 2013

Do Full-Timers Spend More Than Home Owners?

home sweet home

they cut the grass and trim trees

Is life on the road more expensive than “staying put?” Our lives changed dramatically when we sold the house, quit the jobs, and moved into full-timing.  We did these all in pretty short order six years ago confident we could live within our means, far more inexpensively than in our big house.

We don’t know what our expenses not working full-time would have been had we not started traveling. Actually, had we not sold the house and moved into the trailer we would still need our incomes — we couldn’t have afforded our house, cars, clothes, the life we had when working.

no utilities, no rent, no cost

no utilities, no rent, no cost

We know we are spending less than when we maintained our 3,000 sf house in an historic neighborhood of Charlotte NC. We didn’t spend carelessly but housing and clothing were then far higher expenses for us than now. Food was less, medical care was less, and we otherwise were frugal.  Still we spent far more than now. Not having space inhibits us from adding stuff into our house. Something we can’t eat or put into a laptop, we can’t much afford to buy it anymore.

also known as THRIFT

also known as THE THRIFT

Our current budget for daily site rental ($20/night) includes electric, water, and sewer. Extra are telephone, XM radio, and heating gas (propane). We couldn’t match this low price for any decent apt or condo — but many could argue our present housing is below their definition of decent space, at least in quantity (188 SF gross interior).  We’re comfortable and our budget provides what we need.

Formerly we maintained a pickup truck and RV trailer, plus two or three cars. We didn’t drive so many miles, even between all three cars and the truck, but the taxes, tags, and insurance for the vehicles were fixed costs. Now we’re down to one truck and trailer, and no cars.

pay now or pay later

pay now or pay later

Debbie does our accounting and together we discuss and agree on budget and adjustments to spending. Debbie keeps a pretty good rein on our finances. We don’t want to go to jail, so let’s not spend what we don’t have.

Our clothing was much more expensive than now. We both worked corporate jobs, had nice collections of wool suits and work shoes. As well, we had clothing for bicycling, backpacking, visiting the beach and hanging out in cold weather too. Now? We have much simpler wardrobes designed around layers. A whole lot less clothing than when in a big house and working.

We wear clothes until they wear out, which likely happens more quickly than “stationary” folks who have larger collections. We are working from a smaller set of choices so we probably wear any given item more frequently in a given span of time. A lot less clothing, and less cost.

A surprising change from a large home to our rolling home is laundry. Have you thought about how convenient it is to wash three loads at once, then move them to two or three large dryers? We’ve been in and out of laundromats in as little as 90 minutes including all sorting, washing, drying, and folding.  We’re not paying capital, repair, or utility costs for washing or drying our clothes. Sometimes we pay as little as $1.25 to wash and $0.50 to dry, or $1.75 a load.  Works well, easily, and quickly too. Cheaper? If you figure it out, tell us.

Our primary health care costs are health care insurance, funding an HSA (which is more like a savings account than an expense), and medical evacuation/relocation insurance (SkyMed). We see our dentist 2X per year and we have annual or bi-annual medical physicals. We pay for most of the visits out-of-pocket (with pre-tax dollars from the HSA), except where health care insurance now picks up costs for preventive care.

We wasted little and thoughtfully considered purchases for goods and food. Our full-size kitchen with large pantry and fridge, six years ago, allowed us to buy wisely. Food costs could be lower for an organized homeowner who effectively economizes through bulk-buying and coupon discounts. Our current meager storage area and axle weight limits restrain us from enjoying much “buying ahead”. We pay more for the foods we buy than we would have when we had more kitchen.

Jim formerly bought tools, hardware, materials, coatings for projects definite and potential. When we sold the house he gave away tools and materials. We no longer have the space or need for so much stuff. His small current stock of project materials includes mostly smaller things like wire terminations, grounding strap, nuts and bolts, solder, shrink tubing, and micro switches. Neat and small, and he’s very likely to use these things on a regular basis.

and they accept cash

and they accept cash

Life in a stationary home need not cost more than our rolling style. And we’ve met full-timers who say they spend as little as half what we do. You choose how you want to live, where you want to be, what you want to do. You might have an inexpensive lifestyle with a low maintenance house and low taxes. We didn’t, so we considered our house too expensive to maintain and moved into this exciting lifestyle.

We’ve not provided a numbered and methodical accounting of costs, but we tried to answer some of the questions raised recently. Your comments are most welcome.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

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visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Serendipitous Stop at Kewanee’s Woodland Palace

City parks can be novel camping experiences and have never been a problem for us. Finding fun and interesting stopping places is one of the joys of full-timing and a good reason to keep our itinerary a little slack.

Driving along the state route through Kewanee Illinois a few days ago, we came upon a sign for a city camping park. We took the turn to find out about Francis Park in Kewanee. It was a neat surprise.

petite palace built exceedingly well

petite palace built exceedingly well

As we drove up to the city camping park we caught sight of a petite brick and stone house with a metal dome over the entrance porch. We were struck by the beautiful grounds and the house seems placed just right on them.

Fred Francis was a very talented and ingenious man who built Woodland Palace on 60 acres of timbered land northeast of Kewanee. He had lots of time to build the house. Elgin Watch Co. paid him a fortune in royalties for his watch spring engineering designs, and Frances retired at age 33 to build his home.

Fred Francis was a pragmatic engineer and inventor. His house design was driven by function, filled with fun innovations, and still pleasantly decorated with beautiful woodwork and some artwork. We enjoyed a tour directed by Sara, a summer intern. She described and showed us a lot about the house. Our favorite features in the house include:

  • hinged storm window panels operable from inside,
  • copper screen attached to the bottom of the lower sash,
  • fireplace flue heat recovery directed to either living room or bedroom,
  • sand- and charcoal-filtered cistern water
  • forced air ventilation powered by windmill hundreds of yards away
  • stunningly gorgeous woodwork in flooring, trim, and furniture

Francis had time on his hands, having retired at 33 years, and was tremendously talented both as designer and craftsman. He used his time, a huge lot of it, on his home projects. Francis seems to have enjoyed the process every bit as well as the completion. He started building the house in 1890 and worked on it for 36 years. Everything is done so beautifully, he seems not to have rushed any aspect of the work. He ran all the wood moulding by hand with wood cut, dried, and milled from his 60 acre property.

Cistern in foreground of north side of house

Cistern in foreground of north side of house

Woodland Palace’s water source is a 2,000 gallon cistern Francis dug and filled with yards of charcoal and sand to naturally filter rainwater. Several pipes in the cistern connected to a hand-driven demand pump in the house. Francis installed a pressure tank and heated water with a heating coil around the stove pipe. He implemented indoor hot and cold running water long before many Americans even thought about having an indoor toilet.

Francis installed air conditioning for his house. He is said to have been the first in Illinois to mechanically air condition a house. He did this without electricity, too. He piped fresh cool air 350 feet through underground clay tile from the woods into his house, and used a windmill-powered fan to drive the air throughout the house. He also circulated warm air through the walls to increase comfort in the house.

Copper soles kept poisons of city out of his feet

Copper soles kept poisons of city out of his feet

snowshoes for bare feet

snowshoes for bare feet

Other little details include his shoes — copper-soled boots and wood snow shoes. Francis was a physical culturist. His practices included walking up to 20 miles a day, staying very physically active, nudism, and walking barefoot to absorb important minerals through his feet. When he would travel to Chicago or walk on snow, he would protect his feet.

Great joinery between rafter and joist

Great joinery between rafter and joist

Francis Park and the sixty acres of land provide a wonderful resource for camping and hiking. Sixty RV and tent sites include electricity and water and a dump station are available on the campus. A nice playground and very nice lawn area provide good play space for children. Plenty of firewood and available shade provide great relaxing space for everyone. This is nice place to visit and stay, we’ll gladly return. Woodland Palace is detailed, functional, pleasing to look at, and his work has held up many years.

Camping cost us $16 a night with electricity. The Woodland Palace Tour is $2/person. A busy train track passes within a mile of the campground — don’t say we didn’t mention it — but we didn’t hear train horns once we shut our eyes.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Alumapalooza, to Make & Renew Friendships

We are tickled we could attend Alumapalooza 2013 at Airstream’s trailer factory campus. Last year we missed by a few days attending and immediately marked our calendar for this year’s festivities. Lucky for Jim, the world’s largest ham radio convention occurred a couple of weeks before so he didn’t miss it, either. And we had time in between to visit with good friends in Dayton OH.

Our first Airstream trailer, in 2004, led us to many enjoyable weekends RVing throughout VA, NC, SC, and GA. We didn’t go much further afield in our first two years because we were working very full-time. Membership in the airstream owners club introduced us to our favorite thing in RVing, making friends and spending time with great people. Our number one priority for nearly every rally we attend is PEOPLE! We enjoy renewing friendships and making new friends.

Our home awaits her adjustments

Our home awaits her adjustments

We arrived at the Airstream Factory campus a few days before the Alumapalooza event. Our almost nine-year old trailer receives a lot of loving maintenance from Jim but there are a few jobs he doesn’t mind passing on. These we save for our occasional visits to Airstream Factory service in Jackson Center. As good as the service is, the visit to the factory is great icing on the cake for us.

Jim and Nick check out Mike's chairs

Jim and Nick check out Mike’s chairs

Every time we visit the factory campus we meet and spend time with fun and very interesting people. This year, because of the impending Alumapalooza rally, the camping area was chockablock full of fun folks. We enjoyed talking in the customer service waiting and camping areas, meeting people from NY City, San Diego, and many places in between.

Big Shaggy Buffalo Ranch sells wonderful bison steaks

Big Shaggy Buffalo Ranch sells wonderful bison steaks

A favorite Airstream rallies meet-up for us is with friends Matt and Beth. We enjoy their company and have had great expeditions with them. This time we rode down to Big Shaggy Buffalo Ranch somewhere near Sidney OH and then to The Spot in Sidney.

THE place to eat in Sidney

THE place to eat in Sidney


If we didn’t want the best pie or bison burger in all of Ohio, Sidney would still be a neat visit. It still boasts a downtown square, solidly anchored by the Shelby County Courthouse, surrounded by neat old buildings. One of many is the very notable Peoples Savings and Loan designed by Louis Sullivan in 1917. Click on that link to see Mary Ann Sullivan’s great photo work of this important example of early modern American architecture. We did eat in The Spot. The food is tasty and we’ll go back.

Our real reason for this visit, though, was to attend Alumapalooza 4. Are we ever glad we did! Great seminars, fun chidren’s programs, no flag ceremony (gasp!), inventive approach to arranging afternoon socials locations, and the best run rally announcements and door prize sessions we’ve seen in almost nine years.

R&B Events (Rich and Brett and many good-hearted crew) planned and orchestrated a week filled with fun events for attendees of all ages. Our airstream owners club could take a few lessons from this great rally. It seemed the assigned representatives of the international airstream club might have remained rooted in the vendor tent instead of attending the great seminars. Fortunately Joe and Sandy Perryman (WBCCI officers) were browsing the activities and seminars and taking notes — good for you two!

Jim joked with the current president of the international airstream owners club recently about R&B Events success in operating rallies. Jim asked John Boutwell if perhaps R&B Events should take over the annual airstream club rally, an event which is shrinking rapidly and appears nearly ready for withdrawal of life support. If the choice becomes shutting down the annual international rally or giving it away then MAYBE our airstream club’s leaders might condescend to allow professional management.

Some of you know R&B Events recently took over the former Florida State Rally — the airstream club gave it up for dead and R&B said, “May we?” Jim postulated that R&B Events could operate in the black, unlike the airstream owners club international rally. Too, the rally would be a real kick. R&B Events know how to excite things, and aren’t bound so tightly to toilsome traditions.

We’ve followed Airstream Life magazine and Man in the Maze blog for years. We met Rich (the R of R&B) in Perry GA in 2007, when we were embarking on our full-timing and he was full-timing in his Airstream bunkhouse trailer. We enjoyed swapping tales then and occasionally since. Brett usually was moving too fast for us to catch up with him at airstream club events, but we had admired his charm as an emcee and from watching him work with people. They’re great people we enjoy seeing and talking with.

Would we recommend an R&B Events rally? Absolutely, before we had ever attended one. Their track record is fantastic. We already committed for next year’s Florida rally named Alumaflamingo, the replacement for Florida State Rally. We’re sure it will beat the pants off any Florida State Rally we’ve attended, and we have attended several over the past six years. Why would we have more faith in R&B Events than in the prior organization?

Rich & Brett keep it short and to the point -- FUN

Rich & Brett keep it short and to the point — FUN

Simply stated, these guys are fresh, dynamic, insightful, energized, and keen to try interesting and different concepts to attract appreciative attendees. Oh, and they know how to run introductions, announcements, and door prizes meetings – crisply and without demonstrating too much attention to themselves or to their admittedly recent traditions. We look forward to our next R&B event. Thanks Rich and Brett, for showing how much fun a large rally can be!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Fiat 500 Fit For Full-Timers?

Our new Fiat 500

Our new Fiat 500

We drove a new 2013 Fiat 500 over 1,000 miles this past week.  Some of you might wonder if it has the required towing capacity for our 6,500 pound trailer.  No.  I’ll get back to that later.  The Fiat 500 is a more economical means for travel between a couple of points than driving our big red truck.

picture of driver side of our red truck

Our big red truck

We usually drive the big red truck.  It’s a fully capable trailer towing machine and equipped with more amenities and electronics than any vehicle either of us ever owned.  Comfortable?  You bet.  Big?  A bit. Expensive to drive?  Definitely!  Last week we needed to make a road trip between Dayton OH and Charlotte NC. Luckily, Jim’s brother suggested we consider renting a car — both fun and economical, he said.

The quick rundown showed we would save over $50 on gas costs alone after paying the rental fees.  Little did we know we would be driving this cute little looker AND getting great economy. Including all costs we might have saved hundreds of dollars using this little gas sipper instead of taking our truck the 1,000 miles round trip.

Here’s a quick look at some statistics between this Fiat 500 and our 2006 Chevy 2500HD truck:

1,400 cc engine instead of 8,100 cc engine.
2,800 pounds loaded vs 8,000 pounds loaded.
Total interior volume 85 cf vs 140 cf+.
40 liters gas tank instead of 45 gallons.
41 mpg highway vs 15 mpg highway.
Horsepower and Torque ratings of 100/98 vs 330/455
Towing capacity of ZERO vs 16,000 pounds
$17,500 instead of $43,000.

Why are the dreamstreamrs road testing the Fiat 500? We needed to drive from Dayton OH to Charlotte NC and back for a weekend. This 1,000 mile round trip is almost all highway but still could cost a lot in our big red truck. The 4X4 truck’s 496 ci (8.1 liter) engine and 8,000 pound weight are all about capability, not economy. Jim’s brother suggested we consider renting a car — it’s fun to drive something different plus we could probably do it cheaper than in our truck.

The Enterprise rental agency in Centerville OH pulled our rental car to the front while we were inside doing rental paperwork Thursday morning. Their sample sub-compact is a Chevy Aveo. We were delighted to walk out and find a little white Fiat 500 smugly awaiting our approval.

Fiat Co brought this model to the states in 2012. We had read the early reviews with interest, hoping to find they had brought a true economy car. Too often, it has seemed to us, car manufacturers have withheld from the American market small gas misers because Americans “would not purchase under-powered cars”.

True to form, the reviews often cite the Fiat 500’s low power (98 hp) as the car’s major short-coming. Two interstate days of 500+ miles each and two days of urban driving proved the car has enough power to maintain highway speed despite our loading the boot fully with our gear for this trek.

This car is seriously cute inside and out. We didn’t measure but the Fiat 500 looks as though it would fit into the bed of our truck, maybe an Eddie Bauer extended Airstream, or surely into a Pan American Airstream.

controls nicely arranged

controls nicely arranged


The interior is fun and nicely arranged. Fiat’s designers cleverly decluttered the controls. Some of the functions were intuitive, where you might expect to find them and operating similarly to what we are accustomed to. The a/c compressor is switched on or off by pressing in on the fan control’s rotary switch. Smart, simple, and clean. Neat design.

A few controls were a little more interesting to fathom. Last night Jim accidentally stumbled on the headlight delay switch (on the hi-beam/turn signal stalk). The door locks by pressing the door latch into the bodywork. The seats recline and release for folding with a handle at the top corner of each seat.

Speaking of seats, we found the seats very comfortable for driving, but think these are small person seats. Tremendous leg room suggests tall sizes are welcome, but the seats are the narrowest we’ve seen in a car. The driver’s seat cushion easily adjusts up and down, nice for varying leg position.

Seating position is good. The driver’s arms are extended to reach the steering wheel, and all controls visible and easy to reach. Good visibility overall, particularly side and forward. The radio requires a little practice but worked well and sounded good through the six speakers.

The Fiat 500 is surprisingly quiet, smooth, and comfortable on the long stretches of interstate driving. We expected a rougher ride from a very short car. Handling doesn’t seem great, the car doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in turns. Maybe a different tires setup or (I hate to suggest) more power would improve cornering?

One of the greatest joys was hitting parking spaces with this little car. The mirrors are good and visibility at the front is great, so pulling in, backing, and parallel parking are all a breeze. It seems you could parallel into a space no longer than a living room sofa.

an hour of I-77 in NC

an hour of I-77 in NC


How did we do on economy? The rental cost was $25/day with unlimited mileage. We rented the car five days, or $125. We saved enough on gas costs to pay the entire rental fee. Our gas mileage was 25 mpg BETTER than our truck, so we saved over forty gallons of gas by not driving our truck for this 1,000 mile trip.

Assuming AAA’s April 2013’s $0.773/ mile total vehicle cost, we might have saved over $650 net by leaving our truck parked for this quick trip. AND we had a lot of fun driving this cute and comfortable little car. Thanks brother Chuck for the great cost-saving idea.

Sad Fiat

Sad Fiat

How about safety on the Fiat 500 — how is it in crashes? We had the misfortune to find out when a fellow started to turn left smack in front of us, failed to yield to oncoming traffic. There was nowhere for us to go, and despite how slow we were going, he pulled across too late for us to avoid his car. The Fiat is pretty much a mess.

Airbags deployed everywhere

Airbags deployed everywhere


The Fiat 500 deployed all its air bags, destroying both front seats and the windshield. The impact damaged the bumper, both fenders, both doors. The noise of the airbags was deafening, the smell slightly like burnt wiring, the car was instantly very hot inside, and some sort of cornstarch powder filled the air.

P1160920
The passenger side dash airbag broke the windshield. The wrecker guys said this is common, for the airbag to “use” the windshield as a backstop.

P1160923
The car’s body panels don’t fit too well anymore. Sort of a surprise to us, considering how slow we were going just before impact.

Jim checks with other driver

Jim checks with other driver


The other guy seemed to have no injury at all. We think we have only a couple of bruises and a bunch of burns between us. The bags seemed to have protected us pretty completely except for cuts on our legs from under the dash.

and then the wrecker truck tire blows

and then the wrecker truck tire blows

The wrecker truck picked up our rental car and us two hours after the incident to take all to Cincinnati where we could pick up another car and continue to Dayton. But the wrecker suffered a blown tire and stopped us AGAIN. Thankfully our good Dayton friends were already on their way toward Cincinnati and detoured to our road stop. They carried us home with them.

Our trip westward will wait another day while we try to sort out the impacts from this incident. The Fiat? Maybe a one hit wonder, but a great little car still.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Forbes Magazine Covers Airstream Trivia

Want to read a cool little article about Airstream trailers’ trivia?  ImageThe author may have missed on a few points but it is nice to see national media coverage for the brand.  See Seth Porges’ article in Forbes.com here, 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Airstream Trailers.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Aside

The dreamstreamrs aren’t big coffee drinkers, but enjoy a cup now and then. Our favorite place to stop for coffee? MacDonalds, because we can get a cup for $0.45 (senior coffee). Would a k-cup coffee maker be a good choice for these discriminating coffee drinkers? Continue reading