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Living in a Motorhome

We bought our repo-auction 1995 Fleetwood Bounder Motorhome end of January and we’re really enjoying the experience.

Despite it’s rather recent turbulent pedigree as a repo, it has some nice features which make it very livable for a family of four. At 34 feet, it’s about as long as the Suburban and trailer combined. But it drives like it’s on rails and can fit nicely in two adjoining parking spaces in most parking lots. We went through the major systems and we only found one problem in the main heating system and replaced the ignition board. Otherwise it produces great heat controlled by new thermostats, bone chilling cold in the master bedroom and more than adequate cold air in the living area. The Dometic propane/110v fridge is a miracle of engineering sipping propane and yet providing a luxurious fridge and freezer. The hot water heater is a little tempermental to start but easy enough to manually light that it’s not a burden.

We’ve had to do minor work on and around the motorhome but nothing serious. It’s has such great ground clearance, it’s a breeze to change the oil.

We did upgrade the house battery system and changed out the two 6v house batteries for the two 12v deep cycle marine batteries we had in the sailboat for a new total of 230 amp hours of battery storage. I also bought a new starting battery, which turned out to be the same deep cycle 115 amp hour batteries we bought for the house. The new and bigger battery bank has made it a lot easier to spend a week or more without having to worry about draining the batteries out in the middle of nowhere.

We do use the 2kw honda generator 90% of the time to recharge the batteries and use 110v appliances instead of the gas guzzling 7kw Onan generator the motorhome came with. The BIG advantage in having the Onan generator is when it’s REAL HOT we can turn on the Onan and run BOTH AC units in the motorhome at the same time!
Ahhhh- blessed relief!
The cost for such luxurious abandonment runs about 1 gallon per hour or almost $3 per hour. Hence we use it infrequently.

Coming from the sailboat world (note the distinction- sailboat not motorboat), we are used to holding tanks, limited supplies of fresh water, and limited amounts of power. As a result, we don’t have a problem at all dry camping out in the middle of nowhere. We’ve found that there are tons of FREE camping locations all through this part of the country. All it takes is looking for Bureau of Land Management sites wherever you’re going. The Federal Government owns and manages a ton of land, one of the upsides is it is free to dry camp on many (most) locations.

We recently spent 9 days at a BLM site called Five Mile Pass in Utah near Fairfield. Very pleasant!

When we’re in town working, sometimes we can stay on the fair/festival site during the event. In most other occasions there is always the trusty WalMart parking lot. We have suprisingly spent a fair amount of time in WalMart parking lot’s with no problems thus far. Smart people though, if we couldn’t park there overnight for free we would never shop there. Now, we are sadly becoming WalMartians.

Even entertainment is not a problem. We don’t have any televisions in the motorhome so we read ALOT. The kids have ample toys to play with, we take walks, we have bikes (I’ve gone for a ride once so far- not a infant child friendly activity for everyone), and when that doesn’t suffice RED BOX has been a blessing at a $1 per night to watch a movie.

We did break down and obtain a USB internet card courtesy of my mother because WiFi access is just too unreliable when you need access for directions, finding parts or supplies, or contacting organizers, friends, or family. It doesn’t do us much good when we are in the middle of nowhere dry camping but it’s great when we’re working in town.

Our most obvious and unavoidable expense is fuel. Driving two vehicles gets expensive but right now I don’t see any other way around it. We use the Suburban to tow the trailer and to run errands while on the job. We really only drive the motorhome to the site and park it until we’re ready to leave. Propane has been an almost ridiculously low expense. We spend $60 refilling 20 gallons of propane but it’s been since we bought the vehicle that we filled it before. Admittedly, we are now using the hot water heater more often for dishes and bathing than we did in Tucson, but it is still an efficient and cost effective fuel for us compared to running a generator for electricity.

There are problems. Our 15 year old motorhome needs some TLC and lot’s of hard to find parts. The basement storage lockers are needing bits and pieces to keep them locked, the screens are in need of repair, various and assundry interior trim parts are missing, and we still haven’t replaced the car stereo or the FIVE speakers that left gouged out holes in the motorhome walls and cabinets.

But hey! It’s like everything else, it’s needs maintenance and care.

The most striking advantage to living in the motorhome and not owning a home (with a mortgage) is the freedom. Depending on how much we travel, total expenses are still pretty cheap. We have ample storage in the ‘basement’ for canned foods, provisions, parts, toys, tools, and outdoor gear that we’re really not missing too much by not having the storage of a home.
With some saavy, we can live high on the hog in Mexico on the boat for $1,000 a month. Cold cervesas on the beach, fish tacos once in awhile, and good healthy fresh food. We can skip the booze and outings and probably skinny down to $600 a month, but so far we haven’t had to go that extreme. I think we can compete with that budget here in the motorhome. Mainly because I’m working so much and our most significant expense is fuel. When working shows, we can trade food between vendors and rarely have to buy food the whole show. We try to park as close to the show as we can and not move the motorhome the entire time.
We’ll see, we have nine more shows ahead of us for the next three months. Time will tell.

You know an ICE COLD draft beer in Mexico is a very affordable price of approximately $1.25! Click Here to Buy Us a Beer.

6 comments to Living in a Motorhome

  • Its amazing that as a family of four you can live for less than $1000/month. Thats great. Glad that you are sharing this adventure with us!

    We have been looking at boats, but our house is taking forever to sell, we really want to break away and experience the freedom you have by this fall!

  • big cheese

    Well, consider on the boat we have no payment, no insurance, no utilities. With the dollar hovering around 12 pesos you can usually get a cold beer for 10-15 pesos and fresh fish tacos for 15 pesos. The market in Guaymas has great fresh fruits, vegetables, and a wonderful bakery. You can get muffins, rolls, donuts, for about 3-4 pesos a piece. Our main expense is fuel, diapers, and food.

    In the motorhome, we either can dump and refill the water tank for free or pay $5 at RV parks (which we don’t stay at). We have yet to actually pay to park the motorhome. We have no payment and the insurance is surprisingly cheap (cheaper than the Suburban). Propane is our major utility running fridge, cooking, heat, and hot water. So far we’ve only refilled the tank once in 4 months at $60. Fuel is costly but we get where we’re going and park it until we leave again. Again our major expenses are fuel, diapers, and food.

    Keep trucking and good luck,

    JC

  • Matt and davina

    Finally slowed down long enough to find your blog. We are still in Key West and on a mission to find work:) JOY!?!? Glad to know your family is well. Are you guys on Facebook too? Just curious as I finally caved! We are fighting some nice wind today to make it back to the dock so we can make an interview tomorrow. Would like to know your thoughts on refrigeration… I can’t remember if your Gemini runs on an outboard or diesel. Our outboard requires we use gas to run our little fridge but we have no ice box. Anyway, just trying to iron out the best situation. The travels in the motorhome sound cool, there is so much cool stuff to see inland!

  • big cheese

    Thanks. For Cats- a Dometic propane/110v fridge is the only way to go. Ice Cubes and cold beers for two months on a 20lb tank of propane.

  • Are you enjoying this experience as much as I am enjoying reading about it..? or is the $400.00 a month booze tab covering all the low -times…??

  • big cheese

    Hi Gilbert-

    I am enjoying the experience. There’s too much driving and the kids are too small for much drinking besides an occasional glass of the finest wine in a box we can afford. I did enjoy the birthday present of two bottles of Irish Whisk(e)y for my birthday but sadly they diminished way too quickly.

    All fun aside, the concession business is work- and hard work by most standards. I consider myself lucky, coming from the construction industry, working 5 days 12-15 hours per day sounds daunting but compared to carpentry or roofing it’s a cake walk. After all, I read two books working the Casper Rodeo and I’ve just finished another two books (and two magazines) here at the Park County Fair in Powell, Wy.

    War has been described as;

    Long periods of boredom punctuated by brief moments of fear…

    In our case, it’s “long periods of boredom punctuated by brief moments of donut frenzy.” Believe me, it can get ugly:)

    As in all things you don’t know- you don’t know what you don’t know. Which means this is all a learning experience (life generalized to a specific moment). I’m open too it and enjoy the process of evaluation and evolution.

    Besides, what’s the worse thing that could happen? I’d have to go get a job.