RV Living – A year in review 2019

Read what broke in 2019, how we fixed it, remote work and personal struggles. By sharing our raw RV Living adventures we hope will help you.

A new year brings upon reflection of our prior year, 2019 and our RV Living full-time choice. This second-year into Adventures In RV Life was filled with more change and learning. There were a lot of decisions to make for our future and a few unexpected economical changes as well. 

It seemed as if we were repeating our 2018 year, minus the moving out of our house. You can find our backstory HERE. In a nutshell, it was filled with career and lifestyle changes. We always felt as if we were taking 1-step forward and going 2-steps back.

I’m sure you know the feeling of ‘spinning your wheels’. That is exactly how I felt for the majority of 2019. Never reaching the cookie dangling in front of me on the treadmill, set at an incline. With our new 5-year plan (outlined at the bottom of this blog), we hope 2020 will allow us to start nibbling bites off that hanging cookie.

Stuff Breaks

If you know nothing about RVs, let me tell you, the majority are simply not designed to live in full time. The quality of the items used to build them as well as the appliances are of the cheapest quality.  Manufacturers probably do this because most of their buyers are what we call a weekend-warriors. They go out a few times during the summer to have some fun. We knew that our full-time RV Living lifestyle would cause items to break sooner, under the stress of heavy usage. And probably at the most inopportune times.

2019 started off with the breaking of the valve closure on the blue ‘pooper tote.’ Then a couple of months later, the actual pull handle to dump the galley tank, broke partway open on the RV. 

Both were at different times and needed to be fixed as quickly as possible. Having a valve break is like not being able to use your toilet, take a shower or do dishes, depending on what tank valve breaks. And in what position it breaks in. If it is open and you are directly connected to sewer (which we are not), then you have a little more time to get it fixed.

The solution was simple for the blue tote, we replaced the broken gate valve. The part is common in many stores that have an RV/Camping section. Replacing the gate is quick and simple too, we will post a video on it soon. 

Dump Valve Stuck

However, the broken dump valve can be fixed in a couple of ways. One, we could replace the valve with the same manual pull handle. Keeping in mind that one of the other two holding tanks may be breaking in the near future. Or two, we could upgrade to an electronic valve system for all of the tanks. 

Either fix would require us to pull everything apart. But, the electronic system would require us to run wires from each tank into the wet-bay and installing a control panel. Spoiler Alert: This was going to be the first of many projects in 2019 that require running electrical wiring.  Which is the second RV Living nightmare, after water issues.

I already have a hard time pulling the sticky manual rod to open the valve. This was the final justification to spend a few hundred dollars on upgrading the system. We are now six months into the electronic tank gates and have not regretted that expense. (future install and review coming soon)

The Small Things

While under the 5th wheel we noticed a couple of bolts laying on the ground. This always prompts a closer inspection of the RV. Where we found empty bolt wholes missing from the underside rail of the slide out. In hindsight, this happened one day when we were extending the slide out and heard a ‘pop’ noise. At that time we did not figure out what happened. Even after we tested the slide, it did not make the sound again.

A quick trip to a local hardware store to procure better bolts, and a fast install soon after, the underside is fully secure. This is a relief, as I rather not fall through the slid out one day when I attempt to sit on the couch. Okay, really, the rail would stop me. But still, we do not want another project.

Front Door

After six months of the front door handle becoming loose and wobbly, we needed a more permanent solution. The pin hinge on the handle would wiggle loose, falling down slightly. This caused the top of the handle to become unfastened. 

I could only take so many months of tapping the pin back into place before I knew the metal would weaken. It would be my luck that one day it would break with me standing outside, unable to get in.

Again, we were faced with a choice. Do we replace it for the same handle that would over time do the same thing? Or upgrade to a keyless entry system?  After much thought, we gave in to spend the extra money to upgrade. The idea of a key code as well as a fob was a nice feature for us. However, close to a year later, I am not too fond of the unit for several reasons that I cover HERE.

Fire Hazard Found

Our 5th wheel came with a King bed and one night-stand. However, we use a Queen size mattress and have had a gap on the side with no night-stand for awhile. Over the summer we decided to build a matching nightstand and run power to it for an outlet. Building a stronger bed foundation was also part of the plan to support our heavy memory foam mattress.

We are sure glad we tore apart the bed since we found bare wires that run the slide out. From what little the slide out has been pulled in and out, has been enough to cut through the wires’ protective case. Had we been on the road full-time, the exposed wires could have been cut given the excessive use of the slide out. This could cause the slide out to be inoperable or worse, started a fire under the bed. We were very lucky to catch it early and the fix was simple with replacing the existing wire.

Tank Monitoring System

We were so very tired of the generic tank monitoring system that comes in most RVs. It has a button to push for the indicator light to come on for Empty, ⅓, ⅔, and Full. Yet it would never read empty. The faulting reading is often the cause of debris in the tank causing the sensor to malfunction. Despite months of cleaning, with multiple methods, the sensors never worked properly for us. And as you could guess, having this work is ideal in full-time RV Living.

We found a digital monitoring system that reads from the outside of the tank. This would eliminate faulty readings. The only time-consuming part would be to run new wiring for each tank under the RV to a new control panel inside. 

Due to the large project ahead, we decided to install tank heating pads at the same time. Each tank pad would have a wire ran to a dedicated switch inside the RV.  Mounting the 4 switches to a cabinet, gave us easy access to turn them on and off. Now, we will be ready for single-digit temperatures.

5th Wheel Skirt

Building a skirt around Bailey (the 5th wheel) was among the last steps to be ready for our first winter in the north. Read more about our first winter HERE. We did not want the fabric type that you snapped to your RV. Having 20 or 30 silver snaps permanently mounted to the 5th wheel was not eye appealing, to us. So, we opted to build our own skirt out of foam board. 

The foam board can easily be stored, is effective and does not weigh much. It worked out great in 2018 and we have again used the same boards for our 2019 winter. The only change to our 2019 winter prep is how we decided to cover the inside of our windows to help minimize the cold draft. Read more HERE.

MaxFan Install

There was one other small wiring job to do in 2019. We wanted to upgrade the small computer size fan in our bathroom, with its measly 3” blades. The MaxFan has 10” blades to move a lot of air throughout the 5th wheel, quickly. We opted to upgrade to this brand, not only for the remote control but how it is designed to open. 

With this design, there is no need for the extra bulky fan/vent plastic cover. That is a good thing when you need to go under a low bridge and the vent cover is the tallest piece of your RV.  The MaxFan has a cover that retracts down to the top of the RV when it is in the closed position.

It was also a good thing we were upgrading since we found a problem. We replaced the current cover less than a year ago and it was already cracking. Pieces came off in our hands when removing it from the roof. I rather not see the cover fly off the RV when driving down the road or highway. And now with the MaxFan we will not have this issue. 

Family Projects

With all of the maintenance, upgrades, and items to fix, we did have time to spend with family and friends. Even if we aided in helping with a few of their projects. Such as modifying a cabinet to install a new refrigerator for my parents. Replaced an old washer and dryer set with a new one. Then building a cement tree ring to replace some upheaved red bricks.  If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram you may have seen some of the fun. 

Then just before winter holiday baking time with my mother, her oven decided to no longer hold temperature. So a flip a coin diagnoses, on a late Sunday night, we suggested they send in their control panel to be fixed. Luckily, that was what was wrong and the oven was in working order two weeks before Christmas. Holiday cookie baking resume on its schedule dates and not in our small RV oven. I know it could be done. But with a max 9*11” pan, it would take twice as long to bake up the 28 dozen cookies we did over 2 days.

Out and About

Not all of 2019 was work-related, we did get some downtime. We went to a few local baseball games with friends. In the spring we were able to catch some flowers in bloom on a beautiful sunny day in the park. 

There were a few local hikes we did while the weather was cool. But no spectacular sights at the top, like we were accustomed to around Glacier National Park.

Yet, it is still fun to get out and explore what the local town has to offer. Even if the outing is to watch fireworks over a river, or cheer during a pig race while eating funnel cakes at the county fair.

I believe the RV Living lifestyle can spoil us by enabling us to see so many wonderful landmarks. However, we can easily overlook what is right in front of us.

Job Trouble

Like 2018, 2019 was filled with job changes for both of us. I had landed a work-at-home job in 2018 that I loved. Sadly, the start-up business was sold. Leaving me in the Summer of 2019 to look for another legitimate work-from-home opportunity. In a future blog I will address this topic more in-depth, in the event you want to work out of your RV (or house). 

This was during the time that Don was not happy at his work after a year. He began not wanting to go in, he was super grumpy when he got home and lacked any desire to work on our blog or go hiking. I knew it was time for him to change jobs, and the sooner the better (haha). 

Our plan was for him to find a store manager job or territory position. This would enable us to quickly build up our savings to get on the road sooner. Don had ended his career as a store manager after many years, when we decided to go full-time in the RV lifestyle. So we knew he could find work quickly. But after several interviews, he did not feel the companies were a good fit and kept looking. 

Two New Jobs

One month without a job for me, I found another position I could work from home with. This is another customer service role where I am working with Veterans rather than only senior citizens, like my former job. I have been with them for 3-months on a set schedule.

My future preference will be to not have a set schedule and no phone requirements. My desire stems from the vision of full-time RV living while traveling. There may be days where we are not parked at a certain time or we may be without good internet. Having a flexible job and employer is ideal for this type of lifestyle.

Setting up for the future is what Don was able to accomplish with his new career. In November he started training for a city transportation service. The training is a rigorous 10-weeks long and requires a CDL. At the end of the training, he is on probation for 6-months and is not guaranteed hours. They bid on the work quarterly, so our future income is always an unknown. The possibilities are great, so we will take each month as it comes and make our financial decisions from there.

Rethinking Our Truck

The red Chevy that we fought so hard to buy (read HERE for more) was able to get us to where we are now. But with our 5th wheel now loaded, the truck’s future was bleak. The young transmission would burn out too early given the steep hill grades in the NorthWest. I wanted to have more of a towing cushion for our new RV Living lifestyle.

Knowing that we would not be taking the 5th wheel out too often, we had plenty of time to look around. This gave us time to research the exact truck options we have available for our current budget.

Black Diesel Dually

One day a 2013 black 3500 Chevy dually showed up in our town with very low miles at a really good price. This was a flashback to our learning experience of ‘too good to be true’ when buying our 2005 red Chevy. Of course, the problem was not found until we started towing the 5th wheel. Read more HERE about that adventure! The problem we have is common among the 2005 generation Chevys. However, we overlooked that when doing our research or thought it was too minor to be a concern. At that time we were not looking to tow. 

To avoid another bad buying decision, we contacted a friend that works in the auto industry. He dug into common issues, repairs and looked up the VIN history. The 2013 Chevy 3500 was clean. No foreseen towing issues and checked off almost every box on our wishlist. The choice was to continue to look for the perfect truck or take this one. The price was right for this hard to find gem, so it came home with us. Later we could do some minor upgrades to check off a few more of our wants.

Because the truck is newer than our trade-in, we were faced with a higher loan payment and insurance. We knew the amounts before we bought it. But also realize that it is going to take us longer to get the debt paid down before we can hit the road full-time.

RV Living - New Adventures

The dually has been a blast to drive!  I am loving every minute of it and even trying to park it at Costco and other tight locations. The power it has is fun too, until I have to fill up the tank.

The new truck had its first long outing with us over Labor Day Weekend, on the Cascade Highway in Washington. Buying an in-bed tent and supplies, we got ourselves all set up for camping. Our goal was to hit the back-roads looking for boondocking sites that could accommodate our 5th wheel in the future. 

Sadly, we did not find much in the way of boondocking to accommodate a large 35’ 5th wheel. That was expected given the heavily tree-lined mountain terrain. But we did find at least one campground, while tight, it could be an option.

Happy Anniversary

2019 also marks 20-years of Don and me being together. It has been quite the adventure, even before Adventures In RV Life. I am so lucky and grateful to have met him so many years ago and that we are still together despite the ups and downs. 

We have created a new 5-year plan for our RV Living vision. The recent job changes in 2019 and the new truck, prompted the revision. Our our desire to travel remains embedded in us, gnawing at me everyday.

Our Future Plan

It is our HOPE that 5-years from now we will be able to set out full-time in the RV. Come the Spring of 2025 we are looking forward to making a loop of: Crater Lake, Yosemite, Zion, Arches, Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, then back into Glacier National Park. Taking as much time as we want in each area to explore, before moving onto the next destination. There are so many more locations on our buck lists.

Even though we anticipate being in the same area over the next five years, we will have plenty of adventures to share with you. There will always be projects, monthly recipe posts, local events we attend, and hiking. We expect to take the 5th wheel out, which will be a great adventure. Since it will be it’s second outing ever. The new truck may have a few long weekends events exploring using the in-bed tent. 

We hope you stick around for what is coming for 2020.

Thanks for reading our blog and we will see you on our next Adventure!

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Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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We are sharing our adventures to not only document our full-time living in a 5th wheel but to provide others with information.  

Our extensive research involved searching for answers to these questions: how to begin this lifestyle, what RV is best to live in full-time and what jobs could we do to support our dream.  

However, we did not find a lot of answers out there that pertained to our quest.  

Quickly we realized people choose this lifestyle and their RV for many different reasons.  There is no right or wrong answer.  

We are here to provide you with another perspective.

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