Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why We Went Fifth-Wheel


When Kath started looking at trailers a few years ago, she was looking at small, '60s era vintage Canned Hams with going full-time in mind. They were cute romantic getaways with enough mid-century style to set themselves apart from the bigger, newer rigs.
From HD Image Gallery
I was skeptical, but we kept thinking about retiring away from our suburban high-maintenance money pit and to the road where we could write, make pictures and see the country we were born in.

We soon started looking at more contemporary trailers - the RV show took us into new, ultralight bumper-pull trailers, V-Noses and medium-size trailers with maybe a slide or two.

The romanticized idea of living off-grid, staked out in the vast Monument Valley with nothing more than a mesquite campfire and the stars above, chairs next to the trailer lit up with party lights. Wait a minute. We're going to do all that in an eighteen foot trailer?

Probably not. Kath and I have been together for more than thirty years, and while we'll happily share another thirty together, we occasionally do need our space. I need vertical space, as well. I am nearly six and a half feet tall, and most tow-behinds can't pass the headroom test.

We started looking at larger and larger trailers and when we hit the thirty foot mark, the practical realities started to kick in. Sway bars, load-distributing hitches and the like started to give me the yips, and when I talked with veteran RVers, the idea of a fifth-wheel came up over and over.

"It'll put you in the ditch!" The old-timers said, referring to big bumper-pulls. The guy up the street told me his horror stories about trailers swaying and bucking and then he talked about his fifth-wheel in such glowing terms regarding stability, towability and general ease of use that I went back and talked to Kath about it.

When we first looked at fifth-wheel trailers at the local RV show, it felt like walking into cathedrals. The ceilings were much higher, the extra space providing for better kitchens and living area and the bedroom ,"upstairs" over the hitch pinbox, was in some cases, tall enough for me to stand up in.

Now I get it. We regrouped and Kath started keeping files of floorplans, decor options and specifications. This is what kath does. Notebooks upon notebooks. She was able to quote chapter and verse about the various manufacturers, their strengths and weaknesses and which trailers were likely to leave us wanting over the log haul.

Over time, we weeded out the floorplans that didn't suit us - Kath didn't want a dinette set, but rather table and chairs. I had to have ample outlets for computers and other accessories, and we needed storage - lots of storage. Two guitars and an amp are serious considerations if you're going small. My amp is now, small, can be battery powered and sounds great. These choices are made over and over for everything from cookware to mattresses. Imagine going from 1400 square feet of living space to about 425. Subtract the furniture, and you're in tiny house territory. Tiny house with two TVs, AC, and running water.

We kept coming coming back to the Oakmont by Heartland. Not the smallest around, but certainly not the biggest, the Oakmont was, we thought, the perfect set of compromises for size, weight and livability.

Here's the basic layout:

The Oakmont

It's big, kids. Thirty-seven and a half feet stem to stern, but the plusses outweigh the minuses. King-size bed, residential refrigerator, full-size microwave, seven-foot sofa across the beam, power-reclining heat and massage chairs, good storage, winterized construction, plentiful fresh water and waste tanks - basically all we could want in a 15,000 pound home on wheels. Tug is perfect for pulling this, and has capacity to spare. It's dashing black exterior looks like it was made to pull the Oakmont. After seeing the Oakmont at several dealerships, we found the combination of features, options, and price at Bielstein, near Hannibal.



Our first trips have been extremely encouraging and we are getting our mindsets adjusted for what lies ahead. If anyone tells you that getting rid of thirty-plus years of your, mine and ours is easy, mock them for the fools they are. Shaking loose of things you always thought you would someday find a use for can be debilitating, and the things that have emotional attachments are a whole story unto themselves. Photographs, letters, cards, mementos all can be digitized, but what then? Cloud storage? Hard drive? DVDs? Look around you right now and imagine shedding most of what you see. Daunting, believe me, but liberating and worth it.

Now our main function is to get out from under the house and hit the road.  We'll let you know when that happens. (Hint: It's coming up in a hurry!) Hey, you want to buy a house in Kansas City? Stay tuned.