RV Options

While writing “A Few Thoughts on (RV) Size” I briefly touched on different RV options and mentioned how we are curious about the different rigs that people are using. Of course, we don’t know who is full-timing, on a 6-month walk-about, using a week’s vacation to travel or just out for a relaxing weekend. And to some extent, it all depends on the person. Some people would be happy in a teardrop for a year while others need a fully decked-out Class A to be comfortable for a weekend.

Here are a few of my thoughts about the different options – how and what I would use them for, personally.

Class-A Motorhome
These buses are just bigger than I have a desire for. The space would certainly be convenient (especially moving up from something smaller) as I could throw everything that I own in one an still have room left over. They seem like they’re ideal for families who use their RV as long-term home-base for adventures, driving to a new destination and staying there for at least a few weeks. Plenty of room to spread out.

Conversion Buses
While these can be the same size as a Class-A, I am a lot more intrigued by them. It’s the DIY nature that appeals to me. I like the idea of buying a bus, ripping out the interior, and getting to build up from a blank slate to match my desires. However, I know that this can be a challenging and expensive process (though it doesn’t have to be).

If I were to do this, I think it would work best as a quick way to build a permanent structure on a plot of land. Install wood floors, some hammocks across the back, cabinets and counters down one wall and a window seat on the other for easy furnishings. A black-hose solar water heater on the roof with a water cistern underneath hooked into the sinks, combined with a composting toilet and a wood stove would be fairly easy to put together for basic utilities. A solar panel kit on the roof with batteries stored underneath for lights and some power. It would be a metallic rustic cabin, with lots of natural light from all of the windows.

Class-C Motorhome
Obviously, I’m happy with one of these. It’s a great mix of a self-contained vehicle and living space. The Ford chassis that ours is built on provides plenty of pulling power and we have ample space inside. We really like the ability to move directly from our living quarters into our vehicle without having to go outside – not only convenient but very handy when it’s cold, raining, or we otherwise don’t want to go outside but are ready to start moving. Plus, it can’t be overstated how much we like being able to see what is happening inside our home while we are on the road. If we forget to take something off the counter and it slides onto the floor we can quickly stash it away, though on a trailer we wouldn’t know until we arrived and went back to find it.

Class-B Motorhome
The RoadTreks keep drawing my attention. Though I’ve seen video and photo walk-throughs online I have not yet been inside of one and am curious. They seem large enough to make a dandy full-time space for two while traveling but I’m not sure that they would feel large enough to live in while stationary for any period of time. If anyone happens to have one that I could test out, however, I’m certainly happy to experiment!

Though these seem to be popular and provide plenty of space along with, I assume, quite a good turning ability, they don’t appeal to us. Of course, we haven’t spent any time in one so we can’t give an informed decision. I know that they can be the largest of trailers, as the tongue doubles as an additional room without adding additional length out the back and they are popular choices because of that. For aesthetic and storage reasons we are more interested in a traditional trailer than a fifth-wheel.

Trailers provide the convenience of separating your house and your vehicle, something our motorhome cannot do. We are towing along a secondary vehicle (commonly called a “toad”, in our case the motorcycle on our trailer) to make up for that fact. With a trailer we could park, unhook, and drive our towing vehicle as a daily driver. That vehicle would also provide additional storage – perhaps tools, grill, and bicycles could live in a truck bed, replacing a trailer of some sort.

We are drawn to the Airstream trailers, though I expect it would have to be either a new one or remodeled to look how we would like inside – and the price of a new one rather dampens our interest. Our vision includes wood floors, a tiled shower in the bathroom, sleek modern lines on furniture, and brightly colored blinds to liven up a space.

Conversion Van
The project nature of a van appeals to me – the fun of planning it out is probably greater than actually building it. There are three things that really intrigue me about these: the satisfaction of living in something you made, the portable nature allowing one to get far back into nature, and the stealthy ability to overnight parked along the street in towns.

I think that one of these would be a fabulously affordable way to venture out on an extended road trip or to save money while traveling along with a mobile job of some sort. The building process would just start the adventure early, before the travel is actually undertaken.

Tear-drop Trailer
Again, the DIY nature of these appeals to me. There are abundant plans available online. Small and streamlined, they can be pulled by efficient vehicles, not requiring a large truck. Providing basically a comfortable bed and efficient kitchen, they look like highly-upgraded camping kits to me. I expect to build and utilize one of these once we decide to settle down somewhere. It will help push us to go and spend time in nature or travel, camping in luxury in a mobile vacation home of our own.

So many options…

I know that I’ve left a lot of other options out (like a converted box truck) and that many of the DIY projects overlap (wooden floors and solar) but I just wanted to share some of the different methods of travel that I’ve seen and thought about while on the road.

There’s something for everyone out there, customizable to your specific desires and circumstances. It just takes a bit of time and effort to seek it out and then make it your own.

The Beauty of Two Wheels

While planning for our adventure we debated what vehicle to bring with us. The motorcycle gets better gas mileage and is easier to tow. The car is better for long trips and we could carry more groceries but it gets worse gas mileage and will take expensive accessories to bring with us.

Ultimately, after lots of research and many changed minds, we decided to bring the motorcycle. And we couldn’t be happier with our decision.

A Money Saver

The trailer that hauls it, complete with home-made bicycle rack also carries a propane bottle and extra water jug while costing about half of what a car dolly would have. We can resell it for the same price that we bought it for if we ever decide to. While the RV gets a whopping 8.3 mpg on average, the motorcycle helps to even that out at about 48 mpg – much better than our car’s 23 mpg. A tank of gas doesn’t go very far in the motorcycle but, at a 2-gallon fill-up, stops are quick and affordable.

Though we knew it, we have still been surprised to realize how much the motorcycle saves us when shopping. On the one hand, you can fit a surprising amount into our tiny saddle bags and laps on the ride home. On the other hand, we are severely limited in what we can buy due to space constraints. This not only saves us money and forces us to be intentional in our shopping, but it also works well with the small space of the RV. No value packages of paper towels for us – not only can we not easily get them home but we couldn’t store them even if we did!

Just park wherever

While riding a motorcycle in a city can be a bit of an adrenaline rush, there are certain perks that come with driving something smaller than a Smart Car. Quick responses and small size make it easy to maneuver in traffic (leading me to actually feel safer than in a car, generally). Parking is normally easier to find on a motorcycle – tucking two wheels into a sliver of a parking space is a simple matter, making parallel parking jobs a delight.

See what you can see

We love the motorcycle for its expansive views. With no roof, dashbord, or door-frames to block our view the world is wide-open to us as we ride through it. Which is more than perfect as we are touring about locations filled with natural beauty. Our rides through the Badlands were some of the most beautiful rides we’ve been on since we’ve been riding.

Experience the weather

Unfortunately, without those doors, windows, or roof we ride out in the open, experiencing the weather up close and personal. On the chilly mornings we have to bundle up to make it into town. Hot days out in the sun have us rueing our safety gear (who wears black leather jackets in the middle of summer!) Climbing mountains involves a stop half-way to add or remove layers – on the way up you freeze and coming back down you melt.

This is actually one of the perks, though. If we had gone with the car, there would have been numerous days when we would have just “gone for a drive” as a way to pass time – wasting fuel and causing us to miss the area immediately around us.

A good decision

Yes, there have been times that our car would have made for a more comfortable day. Or when we would have been able to combine multiple errands into a single trip. And Ashley would run errands on her own from time to time.

Ultimately, though, we are happy with our decision and the results it has had on our adventure. We love motorcycling and this gives us a chance to ride, to experience the world around us more fully, wherever we may be.

It might not be the most convenient option for living a traditional life and just running to the store. But we aren’t aiming for a traditional life, are we? 🙂

Proper Equipment Is Important

This is the third in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

Without equipment (like, say, a bicycle) you won’t get very far. Without proper equipment, you will get there but you might not enjoy the ride.

Road bikes are made for the road. Their skinny tires and longer wheelbases provide less rolling resistance and more stability. With no suspension they’re not designed to be cushy rides, but since they live on (theoretically) smooth blacktop they don’t need a lot of springs to take up huge bumps and holes.

Mountain bikes are made for off-road. Their wide, knobby tires are made to provide grip. Lower gears mean they won’t win any speed trials but they will allow you to get up those hills and over any obstacle you encounter. Modern suspension systems help smooth out the rocks, roots, logs and holes you’ll inevitably encounter.

They Make A Bike Just For You

No matter what type of riding, in what type of setting, you want to do, there is probably a bicycle made for it. Road touring, mountain, BMX tricks, sprint racing, recumbent, and even one-wheeled unicycles! Don’t sell yourself short by just buying the cheapest set of wheels you can find. Research, talk to knowledgeable people at local bicycle shops, try out a variety of bike styles and sizes, and learn what will best fit you and do what you want to do. Then get the best bike.

Yes, this might mean that you need more than one bicycle. Personally, I have two – a mountain bike for off-road and a touring bike for on-road. Both have their places and are appreciated when I use them. They are not interchangeable – I have ridden the mountain bike long distances and was exhausted the next day. Likewise I have tried to ride the road bike through sand trails, without any luck.

It’s Not All About The Bike

There are hundreds of bicycle accessories. And all of them have thousands of varieties. Once you start riding, if you’re anything like me, you will feel downright out-of-place when you don’t have all of the gear. So many other riders look like professionals in their clothes and with their accessories – you’ll feel like you stick out like a sore thumb.

After 1,170+ miles, I still don’t have a jersey, spandex shorts, or bicycle gloves. While I can’t tell you what you do and don’t need, I can share what I find invaluable from the gear that I have.

If you saw me ride past, you might notice that I’m wearing a wicking short-sleeved sport shirt from WalMart. Or spot the running shorts that I’ve had for years. Maybe you’d notice that I have on ye-olde running shoes sitting flat on my stock pedals – no fancy clipless pedals for this guy.

Some Things You Just Have to Have

You would see that I have on a helmet, at all times. Likewise, I hate riding without my clip-on rear-view mirror (due to my handlebar configuration the only place for me to put a mirror is on either my helmet or glasses.) Unseen would be the padded bicycle shorts that are underneath my shorts – these things make world of difference and were less than $20 on Amazon.

The water bottles in my two bottle holders are the same 23.7 oz SmartWaters that I picked up on a road trip months ago. They fit well in the holder and have an easily accessible flip-top lid that I can use while riding. Refill after each ride and I’m ready to go.

Maybe They Make A Difference

I hear good things about riding gloves. And everyone seems to be wearing a jersey. What kind of a cave-man doesn’t use clipless pedals?

Maybe there are benefits to all of the other accessories that I am simply unaware of. One day, I’m sure that I will test them out. Until that time, I am a biker because I pedal.

Start with the bicycle and helmet, have fun, and build from there!

Free Inspiration

My friend Tom, from The Practical Nerd, recently created an amazing resource. He emailed a number of extraordinary achievers and asked them what some of their ordinary achievements are. This insightful question allows us to see behind-the-scenes into their lives to teach us how much like us they are.

Not only does Tom provide a great list of inspiring individuals whose accomplishments and goals include visiting every country in the world, pursuing 10,000 Random Acts of Greatness, and letting readers choose where they live for the next 4 months. He also helps us get a glimpse of just how ordinary these individuals are; some of their goals include graduating high school, eat breakfast on a daily basis, and the author who writes every day.

This is the kind of post that you should bookmark and return to frequently. Look at the accomplishments by those mentioned for inspiration. See how they are ordinary people and know that you can do the same. Use it as a “to contact” list and meet new people. Check out the resources provided by those mentioned.

Thanks, Tom!
Go, check out Average goals from extraordinary achievers.


Make Some Money

I’ve been reading Christian Personal Finance for some time now. They have lots of great information on a variety of personal finance topics.

Want to make more money? Sure, we all do. They have some wonderful advice:

I’m sure that you can find a suggestion in these links that will help you. While you’re there, be sure to look around and see what all they have to offer!

Vagabonding – Book Review


The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
~ St Augustine

The first book I read in 2010 was Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. Not only did I find it to be a delightful read, but also to be full of useful information. No matter if you want to travel or simply find more adventure in your daily life, Vagabonding has advice for you.

Here are some snippets for you:

  • The hardest thing about travel is deciding to go. Once you’ve made that commitment, the rest is easy.
  • Live richly instead of getting rich from life. Live well instead of “do well”.
  • Money is needed to survive, of course, but time is what you need to live. So use money to meet basic survival requirements but spend time lavishly to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle.
  • Monasticism on the move – on the road we often live more simply, with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance.
  • One the road, you should never forget that you are uniquely in control of your own agenda.
  • If you view the world as a predominately hostile place, it will be. ~Ed Buryn (Likewise, a positive worldview can lead to inspiring, human-centric road experiences.)

Every chapter is full of useful information. Vagabonding is not so much a checklist of actions to take as it is a guidebook for how to look at the world. Who knows what you might learn!

Don’t ever live vicariously. This is your life. Live.

Get your copy and see how much better your life could be.

Sometimes Simple is Better

My wife and I currently live in a 2-bedroom apartment. That second bedroom? Designated as an office/art studio.

The office part is true. It houses our school books, a massive desk that is used on a daily basis, and other sundry items.

It also works wonderfully as an art-supply storage room. Most of my materials are carefully tucked away in corners and the closet. Unfortunately, storage was not at all the goal; action was.

The Problem

I came to realize that even though I never worked on any of my projects, I had a lot of great ideas. I even had the energy and a few minutes to spare to work on them. Unfortunately, the prospect of having to clear a workspace, drag everything out of storage, and then set it all up. After working, it’d be time to clean back up again.

Out of those twenty minutes I had to work on a project, about 5 of them would be spent painting. The rest would be set up and clean up.

And so, my projects never moved past the idea stage.

The Solution

As with so many problems, the answer to mine was quite simple. I needed to greatly reduce or completely remove the amount of prep and clean-up time required for each session.

I needed a dedicated art-space. Fortunately for artist me, painting and drawing don’t require a lot of horizontal space. Vertical is the way to go. This means that I didn’t need another desk, but a place to put my canvas or paper. An easel!

Egads! Easels are expensive. They range from $40 for a weak, wobbly thing to tens of thousands for easels that move on their own. I didn’t want anything fancy. Functional, sturdy, and easy on the wallet. While I’m at it, I also want it to be small and light-weight as well.

Fortunately, such a contraption is surprisingly easy to make. An easel is nothing more than a capital “A” that is leaned up against a surface. Two pieces of $1.45 lumber, one piece of scrap wood, 6 screws, a 3 cuts… and I’m done. Total cost was about $3, and it took less than an hour. If I had power tools, it could be done again in about 10 minutes.

Einstein said it best:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

My easel is a simple affair, but it fulfills my requirements, and means that I’m ready to pick up work on my current project with only a minute or two of preparation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go get some painting done! (You should check out some of my portraiture over at www.French-HoltCreations.com.)

How to Get 4 Free Plane Tickets Every Year

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel
Want to travel more? Don’t want to pay high prices to do so? Fortunately for all of us who do, Chris Guillebeau just launched the Travel Hacking Cartel.

What is it?

The goal of the Travel Hacking Cartel is to democratize free travel. Chris and his team plan to demystify the process of travel hacking. Our members can “go anywhere, anytime.”

What you get

  1. Regular “Deal Alerts” sent via email and SMS/text message (when a big opportunity comes up, our members will be the first to know)
  2. Tutorials and an extensive Knowledge Base to get people started (our research showed that most people have no idea what to do with miles and points… we’ll tell them)
  3. The Refer-a-Hacker Program that pays members 500 Frequent Flyer Miles for each referral (we’ve tried to make this process extremely easy – everyone has their own referral link directly in their account settings)
  4. The “World’s Greatest Guarantee” – if members follow our directions and spend at least 30 minutes a month travel hacking, they’ll earn enough miles for at least 1 plane ticket every quarter, or 4 plane tickets a year (we also provide info on how to redeem miles for great awards)

Maybe Monday’s post about Becoming a Frequent Flier Master piqued your interest. Here’s the chance to get more serious about it, to really earn those points and actually use them to go places!

Let’s Travel!

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of getting to travel for free. My wife and I have a lot of places that we want to visit, and being able to get 4 free tickets a year, guaranteed! is definitely something we’ll be doing.

I’m already a member of the Travel Hacking Cartel. Won’t you join me? Let’s go traveling!

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

How to Travel More

Do you wish that you traveled more often? Wish it didn’t cost so much? I’m right there with you. My to-visit list can be summed up into “everywhere”. However, I can’t afford to buy a plane ticket across the country, much less across the ocean.

Fortunately for both of us, Chris over at the Art of NonConformity has written a fabulous guide to help us out. Chris knows a few things about traveling, and making it affordable, since he’s given himself 5 years to visit every country in the world (and has visited more than 125 of them thus far). In this guide he has condensed the knowledge he has gained during more than 8 years of travels.


Frequent Flier Master

Become a Frequent Flier Master
No, you don’t have to actually frequently fly to make use of this guide, but it will help you be able to fly more often. There are numerous ways to earn frequent flier miles (almost half of which don’t involve having a credit card), and this guide comes with a fabulous “earn enough miles for a free ticket or your money back” guarantee.

What more could you ask for? A risk-free chance to earn enough frequent flier miles to fly for free. I’m going to be putting the information in that guide to use, because I want to start actually visiting those places on my list. Dreaming about them just isn’t enough.

What about you? Go check out the guide.

No Soap or Poo Update

Even though I haven’t mentioned it for a few months, I’m still not using soap or shampoo in my daily shower. I haven’t received any complaints about smell, or made any about feeling dirty. However, I have received some feedback because of my earlier post about the no soap or poo experiment and wanted to share.

(Note: Names have been omitted for privacy reasons.)

Gave it a try

One of my loyal readers decided to try a no ‘poo experiment for herself. After about a week, though, she decided to return to her beloved shampoo. There seem to have been two reasons for this return:

  • She didn’t try long enough to get past the normalization period. The more chemicals you use in your hair, the longer it will take for it to return to feeling normal without them.
  • She likes how the shampoo smells and wanted that back. I can certainly appreciate this, and see no other way to achieve the same results.

Hair stylist gives compliments

Another friend decided to test the no ‘poo experiment as well. After about a month, she thought that her hair still hadn’t normalized but was willing to continue on. A month later, she was still going. When she went to her stylist for a trim she received compliments on her hair. After explaining the experiment, the stylist remarked that the reader had exactly the results that so many people pay a lot of money to achieve.

Loves the results!

After reading about my experiment, a friend of mine decided to give it a try. I didn’t hear about it until after a few weeks of no soap. Like me, he hadn’t received any complaints and decided that he liked it just as well, if not better, than having to use soap. Since no soap seemed to be working for him, he decided to try no ‘poo as well.

He waited until after he got his hair trimmed (which is still about twice as long as mine) and gave it a go. A week later he told me that he loved the results! He didn’t need to use any gel in his hair any longer, which he had been doing for years.

Deodorant makes you stink?

A couple of friends read about the experiment and both decided to test it out. He had never given such an experiment any consideration and was quite pleased with the results. She has always had sensitive skin and struggled to find soap and shampoo that wouldn’t irritate her. No soap has proven to work out wonderfully for her! She isn’t quite comfortable testing out no ‘poo, though, and was still looking for a shampoo that works for her the last I heard.

The most interesting thing that I learned from their experiences came from testing out no deodorant as well. He hasn’t ever been a huge user and skipping that daily step didn’t bother him in the least. She was a heavy user, however, and was amazed to find that she smelled better when she quit using it. Needless to say, she was quite annoyed to find out that Dove had been making her stink!

What about you?

Have you tested out either no soap or no ‘poo? I’d love to hear how it went, either in the comments or via email.