A Railroad Tycoon’s RV

February 21st, 2009

Jay Gould's Exquisite Railway Car

What do you get when you combine one of Jenn’s favorite games (Railroad Tycoon) and the RV lifestyle? You get a railroad car fitted out for fulltiming! That’s just what we found as we were passing through Jefferson, Texas a couple of weeks ago. The Garden Club has acquired the personal car of Jay Gould, a railroad tycoon, and restored it to something close to it’s original splendor.

The car had four staterooms for passengers, two of which were adjoining with a bathroom, including tub and shower between them. The others all had their own plumbing, even if a bit primitive by modern standards. There was a couch as well as a pullman bed in each of the staterooms. The car would be able to take on water at the same water depots that the train used. We didn’t ask, but I assume the black and gray water would have been simply dumped along the tracks as soon as it was generated.

There were two rooms devoted to cooking with a pass through between them. Based on the layout, I would assume that the car originally had bunks for two servants, but only one of the kitchen cars still had a pullman berth at the ceiling. The icebox had something I think we could all use today, a glass door. How often have you opened the fridge and stared at what was there while deciding what you wanted?

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Life in the back of a truck (part 2)

January 25th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

Why a truck camper when you could have something much larger?

True, a bus conversion or a 5th wheel would give quite a bit more space than a truck camper, but if you can deal with the smaller size, a truck camper has a lot going for it. For starters, you can take it places that just aren’t practical in most rigs that are suitable for fulltiming. Sure, a popup trailer or an especially small travel trailer might make it down a particular nasty stretch of dirt road, but even those are going to have issues if it turns out backing out is required. A smallish Class C is as manueverable as a truck camper, but they’re awfully hard to find in 4 wheel drive models with the kind of clearance you get from a full size truck.

Another bonus to truck campers is that you don’t really need to tow along a second vehicle for running around. Many Class A owners tow a dinghy vehicle for sightseeing in order to avoid moving their RV once its parked. While, we also haul around a scooter for short trips, we often just move the entire truck and camper if the trip requires it. Better yet, if we’re going to be somewhere more than a few days and know we’ll need to run around in the truck a lot, we can just drop the camper and have a separate vehicle to drive. It takes a bit more effort than dropping or loading a trailer, but the truck can easily be loaded or unloaded in around 30 minutes.

A final reason we really like the truck camper option is that the camper and drivetrain are not married as they are in Class A’s or C’s. If you decide you’d prefer a different floorplan or the truck experiences catastrophic failure, you can always change truck or camper with a minimum of hassle and keep the one you’re still happy with. For that matter, you can dump the camping lifestyle altogether and keep the truck. Not having the RV and truck married is what allows you to have a 4wd, diesel RV with good clearance at a reasonable price. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone that would like to pull a boat. Many states prohibit double towing, and I can’t imagine it being particularly fun even in those that allow it.

But, isn’t a truck camper way too small to live in fulltime?

I guess that depends on your lifestyle and what you want and need out of life. There are probably more people living in vans than truck campers by an order of magnitude. I can stand up fully, stretch out fully and have considerably more room to move around than any van I’ve ever seen except perhaps the shuttle buses, which I imagine would make a nice little rolling house with some work.

Personally, I find there is plenty of living space, but I’ve always liked living in smaller spaces. They prevent me from accumulating too much junk and I can usually find things I’ve mislaid without much trouble. Jenn and I as well as two cats have been living in the camper for 12 of the last 14 months and I feel much more comfortable to be back in our camper than I felt while we had the run of her parent’s place the past couple of months.

The one real constriction I feel about living in something the size of a truck camper is making a concious effort not to accumulate too much junk and finding a place to store the things we need. Anytime you consider picking up a new item, you have to think about just how often you’re going to use it, whether or not you can get along without it and where you’re going to store it. On top of that, you should consider whether it will be able to replace something you already have or if you already have something that can do the same thing. This problem actually helps me to save money by not buying things just because they’re shiny!

The best laid plans…

July 30th, 2007

Well, another weekend pretty well shot. People just don’t understand how to take care of RV’s. Everything we’ve looked at has had water damage due to not being regularly resealed. I’d like to believe that people tell us there is no water damage out of ignorance rather than actually lying, but it’s getting hard to believe in a lot of cases.

We’ve pretty well decided to consider anything we come across at this point. We’ve looked at class a’s, class c’s and 5th wheels. We’re pretty open to the 5th wheel idea as it will let us get a 4×4 diesel truck for gas mileage and accessibility. The hard part is finding one that isn’t ginormous! We’re having a hard time finding anything nearby that’s 26 feet or less.

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July 20th, 2007

We’re working up another list of motor homes to checkout this weekend. Meanwhile, let’s talk about poop.

Along with lots of solar panels, I’ve been thinking about what can be done to extend the boondocking time we can get in a small motor home. One of the things it’s hard to get around is the size of your holding tanks. In a class C, we’re going to have fairly small tanks. While we could tear down camp and go find a spot to dump as soon as the black water tank fills up, it could get darned inconvenient if we’re 20-30 miles down a dirt road and enjoying ourselves.

One thing I stumbled across is the rather bizarre sounding composting toilet. That’s right. You let your poop sit around until it turns into fertilizer and then toss it outside with a handful of flower seeds.

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Too Many Choices!

July 16th, 2007

There is quite the variety of RV’s to choose from. Growing up around RV folks my entire life, I just took this for granted. But when it was actually time to figure out which kind to LIVE in… wow.

We literally spent days sitting around the table weighing the pros and cons of each kind of RV. We both love the idea of a truck camper for getting to the middle of nowhere. That being said, we’ll have a couple of cats underfoot all the time and sooner or later the weather is going to keep us indoors.

Gas mileage is important with prices the way they are and neither of us is really crazy about the idea of a trailer even though they have a lot going for them in terms of space and fuel efficiency. It’s a hassle to have to purchase two used vehicles and match them. Mostly though, I don’t think either of us like the trailer ‘style’. I have no idea why not.

At this point, we’ve pretty well settled on a Class C motor home. If we get lucky watching the ads, we can hopefully combine gas mileage with plenty of living space and a reasonable price. Anybody in central Florida considering trading in their old Class C that would like to see it go to a good home? Cheap?