We’re coming up to the time of year when people begin to unload motorhomes – cheap.  Fair-weather RV’ers look at depreciation and the cost of insurance and maintenance in winter.  Best deals?  Likely after deer season.  First week of January, or shortly after in many states.

I have been watching the prices of them closely for about three-years now, and it has turned into one of my favorite time-wasters.  Both minute’s worth, lol.

Let’s drop back to the high-level view of bugging-out first:

If you’re going to have a “bug-out” vehicle of any kind, you need to think through a ton of variables:

  • What will it cost?  Capital up front, payments, insurance, and maintenance.
  • Where will you go?  Do you have a piece of recreational property in the woods somewhere that allows you to park something on it?
  • Trailer or Motorhome?  There are pluses and minuses to each.
  • What’s your endurance?  No, not as in testosterone…we’re talking days, weeks, months, or years?
  • If TEOTWAWKI doesn’t happen, would you buy it anyway?

Let me give you several “use cases.”

Cases #1 and Case #2:  A Home or Two – But Still Flexible

We have some friends who live out west.  They have two marvelous homes, no debt, and they love to camp.  So, for them, their “winter home” is where it’s very, very, hot and tons of golf.  But the “summer home” is in the mountains.  But, here’s the thing:  They both like camping.  So, they have a brand new 19-foot teardrop shape pop-up.  the kind where the (aerodynamic back) pops up so they can  cook.  Toss in their Seniors National Parks Pass and they’re good to go.

Couple #2:  He’s retired military and she’s a senior healthcare practitioner (PhD) type.  They have a 19-foot (older) fiberglass bumper-pull of the more “traditional – boxy” type.  Again, they love it.  Ham radio aboard, plenty of room for another couple of bunk as when the kids come home to visit.  Plus, being retired .mil, there are some neat campgrounds for retired veterans.

Toss in some of the most beautiful scenery up in the high mountains along the Oregon Cascade’s eastern slopes, but not too far from a Native American casino/resort, and it has total practicality for them.

Notice that in both these cases, the people involved like camping and they get out and do it as often as it practical.  What, given fires, storms, weather, seasons, and so on.

For these people, a simple bumper-pull is a nice combination:  It will give them the room they need, a place to have a bug-out kick tossed if need be, while at the same time remaining “inside the lines” in terms of vehicles and other costs.

Case #3:  Retired but Mobile

Before he passed away, Elaine’s late father was super-pleased with his fifth-wheel set-up.  He and his wife spent winters in the Phoenix area and then moved back to their truck-farm in the Sammamish Valley between Kirkland and Redmond.

The good news was the fifth-wheel was much larger (complete with stuffed recliner) and a very serviceable kitchen.  The fifth wheels tend to be more suitable for “plug and play” camping but the line begins to blur.  You plug in a septic line, a drinking water-safe hose for a water supply and plug in a 20 or 30-amp power cord.  Now, you’re in something much more akin to a portable hotel room.

The ability to disconnect the trailer is a real plus:  The fifth-wheel give much heavier towing capacity.  And the truck can be disconnected without too much trouble for local tourism, shopping, and whatnot. Downside: Budget $70K for a new diesel pickup with dualies plus the cost of the fifth-wheel.

In their case, they were able to find a nice “camping” spot in Phoenix’s environments and they were never without a social life since “snowbirds” tend to flock together.  Caravanning up to Washington in the spring (March’ish) and then back south again in late September.

But the main feature of their plan was it was resilient for them.  As Elaine’s dad aged, the truck was easy enough to get to medical appointments.  Since they didn’t have a lot of “stuff” in their lives, it was pretty much self-contained.  And in terms of long-term sufficiency, the “truck farm” out in the Sammamish Valley with its greenhouses and so on, was a treasure trove of eats about four months out of the year.

Motorhomes:  The Alternative to Trailers

All of the trailer options appeal because they allow for a non-trailer vehicle when traveling.  But, there’s a lot more “monkey motion” associated with that; especially hooking up the trailer and lights, brakes and so forth.

A Motorhome gets around those problems being an all-in-one unit.  They come in several types, mainly the “Class B” units which are basically the front portion of a commercial van, on the back of which a large camper/housing unit has been bolted on.  Class C motorhomes usually have a bed over the cab and are often built on light truck frames and are usually more pricey but roomier than Class B rigs.

The higher-priced rides are called  “Class A” coaches and these have everything on a single level. 

YMMV:  A 40 foot heavy Class A diesel pusher may get 6 MPH, while a light Class B might get 15 MPG (with rosary beads and a tailwind) on a good downhill run.

Engines in the back are usually diesels (“pushers”) while the front-engine models tend toward big truck V-10 power.

While the coach is moving (though not recommended) you can walk from the passenger seat back to the bedroom, stop at the bathroom along the way, wash-up, make sandwiches and change position with the driver at the next traffic light if desired.

Rinse and repeat for 50,000 miles.

When you show up in a “camp ground” it’s little different than a fifth wheel.  Make sure to get a back-up camera.  Automatic “levelers” are nice additions, not to mention a 5 kilowatt generator is you tend to go “roughing it” and want to be part of the “scene” at Quartzite, for example.  Quartzite, Arizona, we’re told is to RV’ers what Burning Man is to others.

The Strategic Discussion

Right up front, Elaine and I don’t have a motorhome or trailer because of personal histories.  Remember, I lived for a whole damn decade on a 40-foot sailboat.  Living “small” has somewhat lost its appeal to me.

Elaine’s history has included a lot of real, hard-life adventures.  Being out on the rodeo circuit for a couple of years and then being up in the Cedar Mountain Utah area punching in water wells.  There, she became a very good gas welder, but she hated raising infants in the woods and doing diapers in a cold-running river in off seasons.

Still, there are a few circumstances where some kind of mobile “home” might be of interest.  We tried to come up with use cases, but there aren’t that many (for us):

  • Maybe when  someone comes to visit we could offer them a trailer, fifth-wheel, or motorhome to stay in rather than the current gym/guestroom.  Still, been 9-months since the last house guest.  People are all young and busy and we’re old folks.
  • In terms of bugging out?  We would be hard-pressed to find a better survival platform than what we have here.  Any trailer of motorhome would need a large solar panel/power plan, carry around scratch-gardening equipment, have stored protein and carbs in abundance, not to mention plentiful wildlife and a way to (politely put) “harvest it.”  Out “harvesting equipment” in a motorhome might put us under suspicion of being “t”-word type, even though we’re not.  We think in terms of “profile.”
  • In order for us to get to the “do” side of this project, we would need a place to go…and that means shopping for a hunk of land with resources and little in the way of other people – or government – to interfere.
  • We’d also need a good source of water, trees for ham radio antennas, decent soil…you know the shopping list if you’ve thought through was a societal breakdown could encompass.

Then there are the “mechanical” gotchas.  How much gasoline or diesel can you haul?  Do you have a safe way to get 1,000 miles without stopping for food, water, or fuel?

There’s an old boating world saying:  “All boats are a compromise.”  Well, the same thing is true with motorhomes and trailers.  So, before we could go out and actually put this on our “do” list, we’d need to come up with the basics:

  1. A place to go.  We could probably write a check for 20-acres on some kind of river or year-round stream.  I assume you have looked at www.unitedcountry.com and been land shopping?
  2. Prices are coming up for land nationally, but again, when you are looking at land remember when high season is.  We have been following upland Arizona land and home prices in Payson, Prescott, and Sedona, not to mention Slow Low.
  3. Ask on any recreational land:  “Can I get my trailer/RV/fifth-wheel on it and leveled?  When I do, is there a septic dump, fresh water, and a pole to pull power from?”
  4. How about the longer-term?  Can you build a small patio (keeps the dirt down inside!), put up a cooking shelter?  Screen that in so it’s bug-proof?  Build a fireplace/cooking pit or (yum!) a pizza oven?
  5. Food is  the second problem (after drinking water):  Is there protein around?  In cattle country, can you buy a head for from a neighbor?  (Will that be gold or silver, sir?)  Wild turkeys exist in much of the south, but takes time and ammo…will you have either?  Think your family could live off your fishing skills for a few years?  Hunting skills?  And how much ammo did you have stored at this place?  Cached to as to be undetectable and weatherproofed?
  6. Do you have the gear to live there – year-round?
  7. And does your bug-out plan have the range to get there non-stop?

All of these are pretty damn hard questions.  The first step if to have relatives in a city less than 300 miles away and always have a car that has 3/4th’s of a tank of gas aboard.  Less than that, and you’re exposed enroute.  Bank card machines may not always be functioning.

Then there’s communications, routing, back-up maps because if social order breakdown ever comes, once commercial planes are grounded, GPS may scale-back to extreme excursions of Selective Availability.

As should be coming into focus, there is a hell of a lot more to “preparing a bug-out plan” than simply throwing a few clothes, random food and a bottle of water in the car and heading out.

It’s more like the detailed – down to day-by-day planning – that goes into making a ocean-going sailboat ready to take off on a ’round the world trip.

I haven’t done the “RV thing.”  But, I have done the prepping the offshore boat…and the thought processes are nearly identical.

I’ve also done the serious camping thing.  Speaking of which…The “nut doesn’t fall far from the tree,” they say about children.

Next weekend, my son George II is doing a solo 75-mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Snoqualmie Pass up to Stevens Pass in Washington State.  As I’ve counseled him:  Take your time on the prepping side…do it right because there’s no 7-11’s up there on the trail.

It gets a laugh.  He regularly goes out “snow camping” in the mountains in winter, snowshoeing in 10-15 miles to abandoned townsites in the mountains.  He knows the prepping drill well.

Again, and above all, whether you’re bugging out or just planning for the remote possibility of a triggering-event, there’s nothing like communications.  G 2 studies terrain maps, knows where water and people are and can find them using a handheld sighting compass.  He carrier carries two cell phones, a SatPhone, and a separate GPS from what’s in the phones.  Plus  waterproofed map pages, and yeah, some bear-spray and other more…er….efficacious gear.

This is how the real, no-bullshit, mindset runs.  It’s why some people can do extraordinary things.  G2 has 500 plus skydive jumps and is one more night jump from his class D ticket.  That takes focus and prepping, too.  While others die along the path in life, sometimes almost within earshot of help, G2 will prevail.

Prepping is a Mindset

Prepping is not (pardon this) dick measuring.  it’s knowledge, practice, and more knowledge and practice…

If you want to read the single best book on the prepping mindset ever,  I promised to throw in some books from my reading list so you could have some solid material besides my lifetime of experience to draw on.

Louis L’ Amour’s book –  the tale of an American airman walking all the way across Soviet Russia during the Cold War is about as real as it gets. Last of the Breed: A Novel.  May sound outlandish, but L’ Amour captures the mindset and the steely grit it takes to prevail. You’re too busy?  Try  Last of the Breed as an Unabridged audio book.  More money, but time is what, pahdnah?

Whether it’s prepping, or trading, prevailing in Life comes down to fitness of mind, an unbending attitude, and complete and utter faith in yourself  to survive and thrive.

SEALs aren’t dangerous for raw physical power.  It’s how they think and how they punch through the mental barriers…that’s what you need.

For a lighter-weight read, get-started with The Simple Secrets of Mental Training: How to Build Mental Toughness and Train Your Brain for Success for $3-bucks on Kindle.  If $3-bucks for a quick read is too much, go back to the “average” class where you belong.

Real DOERS don’t have time for distractions like hours on social.  There’s a whole real world to conquer.  And so we do that instead.

You will get a taste for mental toughness (taken a cold shower latterly…or ever?), but the nitty-gritty of frostbite and trapping to eat?   Not so much if you don’t real L Amour.

Part 2 of this next Sunday!

Write when you’re serious,