Deciding what to buy – Part 3: Add-ons

It the first two installments of this series, we have made decisions about what type of RV to buy and how it should be equipped, what we need in a floor plan and amenities. In this installment, I’ll discuss what add-ons we will need. These add-ons may be manufacturer options or after-purchase items.

Water Softener

This is NOT an option. We have lived with a whole-house water softener in each of our homes, over about 15 years and to say that we have become spoiled would be a great understatement. Once you’ve lived with soft water, the thought of taking a shower in hard water leave you with a feeling of dread. It takes a lot of fun out of travel, when you know that when you get back to the hotel, you’ll have to take a shower in hard water. That’s why we will have a water softener.

After seeing some of the videos about single tank water softeners and how much trouble they are, we’ve decided to go with a water softener that has a separate brine tank and is plumbed into the motorhome fresh water and gray water tanks. That way, the regeneration process that has to be done every so many gallons (about three or four fresh water fills) will be simply a matter of pushing a button or turning a switch and filling the brine tank with salt pellets after every four or five regeneration cycles.

A plumbed water softener, with a brine tank, is installed between the whole-house filter and the fresh water tank. It also has the ability to take water from the fresh water tank, for back-flushing, during the regeneration process. With a two-tank system, the brine water is drained into the gray water tank and emptied the next time you empty that tank. Regeneration can be fully automatic or semi-automatic.

By contrast, single tank systems have to be manually regenerated, requiring the driver to get out of the coach, hook up hoses to reverse the flow for a while (I think 15 minutes) and then reverse the hoses again, and flush the system for a while, before you can hook it up to your coach. All of this takes quite a bit of time. It’s certainly not something that you want to do in the cold. Also, you have to find a way to drain the brine water, when flushing a single tank system.

In either case, during regeneration, you will still be using soft water from your fresh water tank.

A Dometic® Freezer

We have recently learned that there are certain uncivilized parts of the United States, where Blue Bell® Ice Cream is not available. This, of course, cannot be tolerated by people of even moderate civility and refinement. This is not to say that we are either civil or refined. OK. Becky is. But even an insane person, like me, has to have standards. Actually, we need a freezer for more than just Blue Bell Ice Cream. I just use that example, so anyone from Texas, who reads this, will understand the importance of an extra freezer. It’s an easy add-on and not expensive. This one is a no-brainer.


We have no idea where we might find ourselves. We just know that we will be full timing, with no fixed plan, more than a couple of weeks out. We don’t plan to live off-grid for great lengths of time. But we will be doing some dry camping and who knows? We may decide that we like it. On the other hand, we would rather be safe than sorry. Also, the way things are going on the solar technology front, solar may marginally increase the re-sale value. But more importantly, in the future, a used motorhome that doesn’t have solar will likely take longer to sell, regardless of whether it increases the re-sale value. So, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’re likely to add between 400 watts and 1,200 watts of solar.

Cell Booster/Repeater and External Antenna

Since we’ll continue to manage some of our business affairs, while on the road, we will need to have the most reliable communications. A good cell booster will turn our whole motorhome into a cell tower. That means that we will be able to make phone calls and access the internet in areas, where cell signals are weak. It may not be a cure-all for bad cell signals, but it goes a long way in that direction.

In-Motion Satellite Dish

Most satellite dishes work only while the motorhome is stationary. There are, however, some dishes that will stay focused on the satellite, even when you are traveling down the freeway. We figure that the cost to upgrade to a full in-motion satellite system will be nominal, after spending well over a quarter million dollars on a motorhome. With an in-motion system, Becky will be able to go back and watch TV, when she gets tired of watching the road go by.

Dashcam and Cyclic DVR for Rear Camera

Unobtrusive Dashcam
 Unobtrusive Dashcam

Because expensive motorhomes are often targets for insurance accident scams, we will have a forward facing WiFi dashcam on the windshield. That’s easy. I already have a GolukT3 Car Dash cam with SD Card (pictured) that works just fine. However, as we make our purchase decision on a motorhome, we will be looking for one that will give us the easiest way to insert a cyclic DVR into the line between the rear camera and the dashboard screen. A cyclic DVR is a small box that works the same way as a dashcam, in that it runs continuously and overwrites the oldest files, when memory fills up. The camera plugs into the DVR and the DVR feeds the same signal on to the monitor. So what this means is that anything that the rear camera sees, is saved in the memory of the DVR. That way, in case of an accident, you have it recorded. Note that the DVR pictured below may not be the best product for this purpose. It is only shown as an example of the class of device.

In-Line DVR
In-Line DVR to connect up to 4 existing cameras

If someone claims that you changed lanes and side swiped them, you have evidence, for the police and your insurance company, that you were in your own lane. If someone pulls in front of you and brake-checks you, to cause an accident, you have that, as well.

Many dashcams and cyclic DVRs have a parking mode that records, only when it senses motion, so they will work to provide security around your motorhome, when you are asleep or away in your toad (tow vehicle). This means that we will also be considering a DVR for the side cameras, as well. It’s a small cost, for the extra security that they provide. Dashcams also give you a way to capture those “Did you see that?” moments, for later playback, to show friends.

Your Ideas

Please share your ideas. We are newbies and welcome all types of input. We are soaking up all kinds of information about motorhomes. Give us your input. Do you have a favorite solar setup? What is your favorite cell repeater? Is Comfort Steer® worth the money? We aren’t stuck on but a few things. We will have IFS. We will have no less than 450 horsepower. We will have a dual tank water softener. We will have a dashcam and DVRs. Those things are carved in stone. Everything else, including those things we are leaning toward, are still subject to change.

As Number 5 said, in the movie Short Circuit, “Need input.” We hope we have given you some valuable input. Pleas give us some of your input.

Deciding what to buy – Part 2: Amenities

In part two of our search for the perfect motorhome for full-timing, I would like to address our decision process on floor plan and amenities.

Floor Plan

We are a couple, who is retiring to a life of full-timing in a motorhome. We may occasionally take a friend or two with us for a few days. But by and large, it will be just us. Therefore, we will have no need for extra beds, other than the typical sleeper sofa that virtually all motorhomes include.

Neither of us want a pass-through bath, so that means a rear master bath. Since we’ve already decided that we want a 42 to 45 footer, this pretty much means a bath and a half plan. Also, I’m a tall guy, with long arms, so I need a large shower. Of course, to maintain peace, we would really like to have hers and hers vanities. (Sure, I know they’re called his and hers vanities, but I’m just being realistic.😃)

We’ve seen motorhomes that have TVs at the front of the coach or on a wall at the back of the living area. But something about sitting on a couch or sofa and having to turn my head almost 90 degrees, to watch television, just doesn’t make sense. Becky agrees, since if I’m closest to the TV, my big head will get in the way. 😃 So this means that we want a plan where the living area TV is more or less directly across from the sofa or recliners.

Since we will both still be involved in some of our business interests, including my writing economic policy books, we will require at least a small amount of full-length closet space for our professional clothes. After all, I don’t want to go to a book-signing, wearing shorts and an island print shirt.

Finally, we are both coffee connoisseurs and we have some sizable equipment. Our coffee roaster is 20″(w) x 10″(d) x 14″(h) and our automatic espresso/cappuccino machine is 11″(w) x 18″(d) x 14″(h). Both machines also require space above them, to add coffee. Of course, we also have a smaller drip coffee-maker and grinder. So what all this means is that we’ll need kitchen counter space for all that coffee equipment, without it filling up the counter. (We also need space to store all that equipment, when on the road.)

Those are our requirements that directly affect floor plans.


At the top of my list is what affects my driving, since we’ll be spending a lot of time on the road and I’ll be driving most of that time. At the top of my driving list is a clear and unobstructed view. This eliminates anything built on a Prevost chassis, since it has that not-to-be-sufficiently-damned bar down the middle of the windshield (It’s the 21st Century, Prevost!). It also gives a significant advantage to Entegra.

Also, related to driving, is steering. I covered independent front suspension in part one of this series. But I must mention that Newmar offers a decided advantage, with its Comfort Steer system. This isn’t a requirement. But it’s certainly something that has to be considered.

Moving back to the kitchen, we definitely want a dishwasher. We prefer a stainless steel sink, but a purpose-built Corian® sink is acceptable. We definitely do NOT want one of those glued-together box sinks, like you see in the high end Tiffins. Since we already determined that we want an all electric motorhome, it will have an induction stove top. We like the Newmar stove top that will lift out, to allow for use outside. But that’s a convenience that we don’t rate as a major. It’s just a nice feature.

We would prefer that the washer and dryer be in or near the master bath, for convenience. But if it’s in the kitchen area, we could live with it.

We like the idea of a reclining bed that leaves space to walk around it, when the slides are closed. However, we know that’s something that can be added later, in most of the motorhomes we are looking at. We’re willing to lose the storage space under the bed, in order to have the reclining bed and are willing to have such a system installed after purchase, if needs be. It would just be nice if it were included as either a standard feature or manufacturer option.

Heated floors throughout and an electric fireplace are also amenities that we really want. Since we have decided on an all-electric motorhome, we’ll have an AquaHot® or similar system for both heating the coach and heating the water.

Finally, we hope that we can find all of these things in a coach that has an over-sized generator and is pre-wired for solar installation.

Will we find everything we want? Almost certainly not. It’s likely that the only way we could get everything we want, would be if we ordered a custom build. But when buying a first motorhome, it’s probably not a good idea to go over-board on the coach, so we’ll stick with a production build and choose the one that requires the least compromise.

In part three of this series, I’ll discuss the accessories that we will probably add to whatever motorhome we purchase.

Deciding what to buy – Part 1: The Basics

Today, I would like to discuss our thinking, regarding what kind of RV to buy for our full-timing adventure and how it should be equipped.

Motorhome or Fifth-Wheel

Once we had made the decision to go on the road, full time, the first thing we needed to decide was whether to buy a big truck and fifth-wheel or a motorhome. That was a pretty easy question to answer. Having spent time working as pipeline landmen, we knew many landmen and other pipeliners, who had fifth-wheels. In fact, Becky lived in a fifth-wheel, for a short time, in West Texas. So we knew the general rule of thumb was that, if you are going to spend most of your time parked, you probably want a fifth-wheel and if you plan to spend most of your time on the road, you will probably be better off with a motorhome.

The idea is that, if you are going to be parked most of the time, you don’t want to waste money on all the mechanical things that go with a motorhome, such as engine and drive train, just to let it set for most of the time. By contrast, if you’re going to be full-timing and plan to spend a lot of time on the road, then you can benefit from the extra storage, higher traffic sight-lines, and on-the-road conveniences of a motorhome. We soon verified the logic behind what we had heard, in this regard, and narrowed our search down to a motorhome.

Class “A” or Class “C”

The next decision was whether to go with a Class “A” or Class “C”. Engine and generator location, livable interior space, and sight lines made that decision for us.

A Class “C” has a problem in common with gasoline Class “A” motorhomes. The engine is in the front, so when you are in the driving, the engine noise is closest to you. The generator is in the back, so when you are sleeping, the generator noise is closest to you. That’s just the opposite, in a Class “A”.

Also, a Class “C” loses more than 10 feet of interior living space to the engine compartment and driver’s compartment (that is typically not designed to be a functional part of the living space), for a motorhome of the same length. This means that to get the same amount of livable interior space loss in a Class “C”, as in a Class “A”, you need to look at a motorhome that is 10 feet longer. So, if available interior living space is important and you’re looking at a 45 foot Class “A”, then Class “C” is not an option.

But far and away, the most important reason why I cannot go with a Class “C” is based on personal experience. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to drive a big rig (before the advent of Class “A” vehicles) to make some extra money during the summer. One thing that I learned from that experience was that you can’t see anything small, directly in front of the nose of the truck or off the right front bumper. Back then, most cars were long behemoths. But even something as small as a Ford Falcon or Chevrolet Chevelle (both larger than most cars on the road today) could be hidden in the space between the front bumper and my sight line to the road. Since most cars are even smaller today, accident scammers are epidemic. Many use the limited sight lines of a Class “C”, to perpetrate their scams. The following video was taken in a big rig truck, but the same could happen in a Class “C” motorhome. Keep in mind that in this video, the camera is mounted high on the windshield, above the sight line of the driver. It was impossible for the driver to see the small offending vehicle.

Insurance scam attempt shows sight line issue with Class “C”

Note that this particular variation on the common insurance scam called “swoop and squat”, tends to focus mostly on vehicles that have a forward blind spot, such as a Class “C”.

So due to the engine and generator locations of a Class “C”, the poor sight lines, and the loss of more than 10 feet of interior living space, we decided on a Class “A” motorhome.


Then we had to decide on the length of vehicle we wanted. We learned that the largest legally allowed coach on U.S. roads is 45 feet. But we also learned that many national and state parks don’t allow coaches longer than 40 feet. Part of our decision on length is based on the fact that we’re coming from living in 4,000 square feet. Also, we lived in less than a thousand square feet a few years ago, in London, and that felt cramped. So, since the motorhome will be our full time home, we believe that, at least to begin with, the larger the motorhome, the better. Since there are RV parks within a reasonable distance from almost all state and national parks and we’ll have a 4-wheel drive dinghy to get around in, we decided to opt for the higher end of the length spectrum and forego the national park length limitation.

Towing Requirements

Along the same line, we knew that we wanted to tow a dinghy, so our motorhome would need to be capable of towing, with ease. This meant, first and foremost, that the absolute minimum size of engine should be 450 horsepower and the larger, the better. After lurking on the forums and speaking with some people who owned motorhomes, we also learned of the value of a tag axle, if you plan to tow anything. This further cemented our decision to go with a longer motorhome, since tag axles are not available on shorter coaches.


Our bricks and sticks home is all electric, except for the central heat, so to us, it makes sense to go all-electric. With heat pumps on the roof an AquaHot system down below and an electric fireplace, we could see no reason to have LPG on the motorhome. It would be just another thing to maintain and compressed gas can cause safety issues, if not properly maintained. So why have it, if we don’t need it?

In the end, we’re looking for a Class “A” motorhome, in the 42 foot to 45 foot (44′ 10″) range, with at least 450 horsepower, a tag axle, and independent front suspension. We would prefer a steerable (passive or active) tag, over one with only a dump. But either will be acceptable. We want all-electric. We are also looking for fuel and DEF fills on both sides of the coach. Of course, this doesn’t include any of the amenities or our floor-plan requirements. I’ll talk about that in a later post.

Another day at the Katy dealerships

With memories of the Entegra fresh in our minds, from the Lake Charles RV Show, we headed out to Katy, Texas yesterday, to see the Newmars and American Coaches, at Holiday World and the Tuscanys, at Camping World.

Once again, I have to say that I think American Coach has, by far, the best interior designers in the business – at least for non-custom motorhomes. I just wish they had a model that suited our needs.

That said, Newmar offers an interior that is quite acceptable and they have a couple of models that would fit our needs. But thinking back to the Entegra, I have to say that their interior feels just a little more accommodating and comfortable than the Newmar. I also like the Newmar Comfort Steer technology. But I have to give the nod to Entegra, for their wide windshield field of view.

At Camping World, we looked at the Tuscany 45AT, again and something caught my attention, that I had missed in previous inspection. The driver sits quite a distance further back in the Tuscany, than in either the Newmar or the wide field-of-view Entegra. The Tuscany only has a TAG axle dump, instead of a passive-steering TAG. But it more than makes up for the difference, with a 60 degree wheel-cut. Not only does that extra five degrees decrease your turn radius, but passive steering TAG axle doesn’t help you when you’re backing up – that is, unless you’re driving a fully custom motorhome, with an active-steering TAG axle. The Tuscany definitely wins on TV size, offering a full 60 inch TV. We spent a lot of time sitting on the furniture in the various motorhomes this weekend and we both agreed that the couches in the Tuscany were not as comfortable as in the other brands of motorhomes.

There’s just so much to consider. We knew, going into this decision, that we would have to make compromises. Unless you are willing to pay the price to get a custom motorhome, there is no such thing as the perfect motorhome. We’re getting closer to making a decision. We just have to prioritize things and decide which features are most valuable to us and which ones we are willing to do without.

It’s certainly not a decision that we are taking lightly. If we were buying a motorhome for use only a few weeks out of the year, then it would be different. But we’re buying a “home” in which we will live for the next two years or more. Also, since we will be on the road 365 days a year, we need to consider maintenance and repairs, away from the dealer where we purchase the coach. A picture is beginning to form and it looks like the motorhome that is coming into focus may be either an Entegra or a Newmar. But it’s still quite a blur and it could be a Tiffin or Tuscany. The Houston RV Show, in February, should help.

The 2017 Central Gulf Coast Boat, Sport and RV Show in Lake Charles

Yesterday (Friday the 13th of January) we drove over to Lake Charles, for the Central Gulf Coast Boat, Sport and RV Show. I think this was primarily a Dixie RV Show, with other dealers bringing what Dixie wasn’t showing.

There was one Super C motorhome, but we didn’t spend any time on it. There were a lot of class A gasoline motorhomes there by Thor, Winnebago, Jayco, and others. But besides taking a quick look at a Thor gasoline toy-hauler, we didn’t bother with them.  That was because we still had a long drive back to Houston facing us and we just didn’t want to waste driving time on coaches of no importance to us. The big class A diesels were Tiffin and Entegra. They pretty much had one of everything, in those lines. They also had an American Coach there – the Revolution – that was quite impressive.

Entegra was represented from Insignia to Cornerstone

As Becky and I have seen before, both Tiffin and American make very fine motorhomes. But we were more impressed with the Entegra. American Coach doesn’t have a floor plan that meets our needs and the Entegra just seemed to be a percent or two better on several counts that we consider important, than the Tiffin. In fact, it’s so close between those two, that we could easily change our minds, before we buy. We really like the American Coach, but as I said, we just can’t find one that fits our requirements. We both think that American has, by far, the best interior designers of all production motorhomes (period). They just don’t have a floor plan that suits us. If they did, I think our decision would be made. Bummer…

Tiffin was well represented at the show, too.

We did do one thing that we really wanted to do at the show and that was talk to an Entegra rep. Todd Hahn, who is the Regional Sales Manager for Entegra, was at the show and he was very helpful and informative. He answered all of our technical and design questions, regarding the various Entegra models.

Speaking with someone from Entegra was important for us since, to our knowledge, Entegra will be the only major brand of production motorhome that is NOT represented at the Houston RV Show, next month. We can speak with representatives from all of the other manufacturers at that time. But the Lake Charles show would be the last chance we would have, to talk to an Entegra representative, till we make our road trip to Indiana, in a few months.

The Lake Charles show was certainly not the biggest show in the world. But we found it to be well worth the drive. Now we can hardly wait for the 53rd Annual Houston RV Show, in February. I’m told that it is the largest all-indoor RV show in the world. But then, that’s to be expected, isn’t it? After all, everything is bigger and better in Texas.

The decision to pull up roots

Becky and I have always loved traveling. We have been on numerous cruises both in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. In fact, we have been on so many cruises that we even wrote a book about cruising (under the pen names of Reginald and Lillian Carpenter). We lived in London for a time and, as a part of an import-export business that we ran, we traveled to various places in the Far East.

So, as Becky is preparing to retire (I’m already retired), we began to think about what we want to do and it dawned upon us that we’ve seen more of other countries than we’ve seen of the United States. That started us thinking about morotcoaches. Though we have never owned an RV of any kind, we knew a lot about them. We have both done a fair amount of title abstracting and many people in that business own fifth-wheels, for when the job requires travel, which it often does. In fact, we were seriously looking at fifth-wheels, before Obama blocked the Keystone XL Pipeline and the price of oil dropped. Between those two events, it effectively put us and thousands of pipeline workers out of work. Although we didn’t need the work, this did mean that there was no longer any reason to look at fifth-wheels.

But to get back to the subject of our recent decision, what this all boils down to is that we already knew quite a bit about RVs, going into this decision and a lot about fifth-wheels. One of the things we had learned, is that if you are going to park your RV for long periods of time, as you do if you’re working pipelines, you probably want go with a fifth-wheel and if you’re going to be on the road a lot, you’re probably better off with a motorhome of some sort. So while we knew something about RVs, we knew little, at all, about motorhomes. Over the last several months, we have learned a lot.

We’ve been to every motorhome dealer in Houston – some multiple times. We spent a whole day in Alvaredo, at Motor Home Specialists. We went to the 2016 Dallas RV Show and just returned from the Lake Charles Show (I’ll tell you about that show in another post). As I write this, we just returned from yet another afternoon at Holiday World and Camping world, in Katy, Texas. We expect to pull the trigger some time this fall and hit the road, full time. But before we do that, we expect to take a road trip to Indiana, to visit the various manufacturers and see how these things are built.

We’re looking for a big diesel pusher (42-45 feet, with a TAG), all-electric, with nothing less than 450 horsepower. Yes. We realize that you can’t park a 45 footer in most national and state parks. But we’re prepared deal with that. We’ll be towing a Jeep Cherokee, so if we have to, we’ll park elsewhere and drive the Jeep to park. The leading motorhome candidates, at this point, are Newmar and Entegra. Although we can’t rule out Tiffin and Tuscany. We have not yet set a solid price point.

Follow along, as we learn more and post our findings, especially if you too, are looking for a first motorhome. We’re both detail oriented – just in different ways. I’m an engineer, so if you’re into build quality, construction, performance, or specifications, you’ll probably find my posts to be of most interest. On the other hand, Becky is a CPA, so if you’re into the economics of the situation or the aesthetics and amenities of the coach, then you’ll probably find her posts of most interest.

By the way, we’ll probably make more than our share of mistakes and we’ll share those with you, too, so perhaps, you won’t make the same mistakes. Then you can make your own and share those with us.

Remember that when you’re full timing, “Home is where you park it.”

Welcome to Full-timing the USA

Full-Timing the USA is about traveling the USA and Canada, full-time, in a Class A (diesel pusher) motorhome, with a dinghy. But more than that, it’s a log of our adventures, starting from our decision to sell our bricks and sticks home, in favor of life on the road, in a motorhome, through our purchase considerations, and ultimately our travels, our learning experiences (gotchas), and the rewards of living in an ever-changing environment.

We’ll share what we learn and what we’ve seen. As we get out on the road, we’ll share stories from other motorhome adventurers. But to start, we’ll be sharing our search for the perfect motorhome.

We’ve already been to every motorhome dealer in the Greater Houston Area. We’ve also traveled up to the Dallas RV and motorhome show and to Alvarado, to visit Motorhome Specialists. We expect to visit the huge Houston RV and motorhome show, in February and to eventually travel up to Indiana and elsewhere, to see how the motorhomes are made.

We invite you to share our experiences, as we set out on this new adventure and hope to meet you on the road some day.

We’ll be full-timing, so, “Home is where we park it.”