Category Archives: Traveling

Traveling

8 Reasons Not to Live in a RV

gas prices in SF are nuts

November 2012 Addendum: I was having a particularly harsh week in SF with the RV with some huge unexpected surprises. Out of the eight issues I posted below, I would still say that the challenge of taking a shower and dealing with hot/freezing temperatures is still an issue. Freezing cold can be dealt with a propane heater, but the only solution for hot temperatures is not being in the RV or outfitting with one of those truck A/Cs. And all the issues become mute if you have good friends willing to let you use their place regularly. Parking can also be an issue if you live in a very dense city but otherwise fine. And no matter what city, you CAN find parking.
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This week in San Francisco has been the true test of living in a RV. I never felt right trying to sell the Rialta before truly living in the RV in a foreign city where I don’t really know anyone nor have I ever been in the city before. San Francisco has been that test.
Boy, there are so many things I would change about the RV now. but I don’t have the tools, time, or shipping address to do so.

If you asked me today should you buy a RV to plan on living in it full time? My short answer would be absolutely not.
Actually, a lot of people live in vans and RVs in California. However, most of them adopted this life because they have fallen on hard times and don’t have any other choice. The local residents hate them and are trying to push them out. There are also a few hippies with old school buses or vans. None of these people are likely your target ideal to emulate after though.
In this short post, I want to go through the difficulties of living in a RV motorhome in the city.
1) City Street Parking
Most cities have laws making it illegal to sleep in a vehicle. SF recently passed a law making it illegal to even park large vehicles on the street (it hasn’t gone into effect yet). Then you have to handle the hassle of street cleaning and parking permits. All of which is to say, it’s a pain in the ass.
Fortunately, every city has streets that don’t have parking permit requirements. However, cities like San Francisco and Berkeley still have street cleaning and 72 hour abandoned car limitation where you basically can’t park for more than 72 hours in a spot.
Often times, there’s only a few prime locations with unrestricted parking allowed, and there are likely either far from downtown, in a residential neighborhood, or have high competition with local residents.
On the other hand, if you plan on living in a smaller city then this might not be a problem at all. I found easy parking in Seattle and Portland. I knew spots in downtown Orlando that I could have parked indefinitely. The same applies to Philadelphia and Boulder. However, if you want to try living in a large, dense city like San Francisco, Boston, or Chicago, you will face a lot of challenges.
2) Showering
Taking a shower in a Rialta has two problems. First, you will quickly fill up your waste tanks and have to dump them. Second, you don’t get any hot water without running the generator or being plugged in. Running the generator is an obvious sign that you’re living in a motorhome and should be avoided. My solution was to sign up for a cheap gym membership at Planet Fitness as well as have a good reason to workout. But it’s a pretty big hassle taking a half hour bus ride to just take a shower.
3) Poor/No Internet
I’m still working full time and require a solid internet connection. Often times, I have to work as early as 6am. But Sprint’s 4G coverage is fickle and I’ve only been able to get a poor connection in SF.
Another option would be going to cafes or coffee shops. Only problem is their store hours, possible lack of seating, and loud customers/babies.
Another option would be hijacking a local router’s internet. It’s pretty simple to crack a WEP secured router and somewhat possible for the more common WPA routers. In a big city though, you’re bound to find at least one WEP router.
A final option would be to signup for a co-working spot however these usually run several hundred a month and kind of defeat the cost savings reason for getting a RV.
Another side solution would be getting a Wifi or Cellphone antenna.
Or if you have a friend or parked near a cafe then you could leech their internet. Or maybe your phone carrier has good 4G coverage that you can tether to.
 4) Having to Eat Out
I’ve been eating out this entire past week, and I’m already sick of it. Of course, I could cook food inside the RV, but I didn’t bring any cooking utensils with me, and the default RV refrigerator operates with propane gas on only completely level ground. Not to mention I don’t want to alert others of my presence.
This could be easily fixed though with a efficient DC refrigerator ($600) and a few cooking pans.
5) Being paranoid
Someone robbed my RV in Portland. And since it’s technically illegal to live inside of a RV, I’m very mindful about making any noise or turning on lights. A solution would be putting up blackout curtains but again I don’t have the tools or shipping address to do that now.
My first night in San Francisco, I laughed at the absurdity of trying to sleep and being highly alert at every sound and light that came up. Just the act of trying to sleep was suddenly such an exciting experience.
6) The Expenses and Repairs
Getting a RV to full time boondocking state costs a lot of money. First, there’s the solar panels. The DC refrigerator. And just the general upkeep costs of a motorhome. Every single person I know who has gotten a RV ended up having to pay at least a thousand dollars in repairs within their first year. Broken transmission, axle, engine, or whatever. Motorhomes cost more than a house to fix in some regards because things are just more likely to break faster and sooner.
Of course, if you don’t move your RV very often then you may not end up with any problems.
One solution would be doing a very close inspection of the motorhome before purchasing. Is there rust? Has the transmission been rebuilt? If you can take it to a good mechanic (I only found one in California) then all the better. But realize, unless you plan on living in the RV for a very long time (1 year+), it would probably be cheaper to just rent a place.
7) The Absurd Upgrading Depreciation
The target audience of RV buyers are retired couples or camping people. They want the A/C, the generator, the old school refrigerator. They dislike any upgrades you do for full time living like solar panels. Although you may spend thousands in upgrading your home, all the potential buyers will only see it as less valuable.
8) High and Low Temperatures
Below freezing, and your water pipes will be frozen. Above 75 degrees in the sun, especially in high humidity), is unbearable. A furnace could make winters possible, but there’s no solution for high summers except moving to a cold place.
Now, there are some easy ways to get around these challenges though. These are the ideal conditions:
1) You should already be self-employed or just plain wealthy. My original plan was always to go freelance first and then buy the RV, but somehow, I ended up doing the opposite. Now, I often think, I would rather be working for my future right now rather than sightseeing or trying to handle these random living problems. Things are a lot easier when you don’t have to adhere to anyone else’s schedule.
2) Live in a nearby city where you have family and friends. Ideally I should have first experimented by living in the RV back home on the North East coast so I could make modifications as they became necessary. Now, I’m stranded hundreds of miles from anyone I know and feel comfortable staying at for extended amount of time.
3) Rent a parking/living spot. If you can rent a spot somewhere then most of these problems go away instantly.  Maybe someone will let you park in their driveway, be plugged in, and use their bathroom. Then you could run the coach A/C in the summer just fine and never have to worry about parking. There’s no reason to be paranoid, and you got just about everywhere you need including internet and a shipping address. Good luck convincing a stranger to let you do that though.
4) Live in a small town or camping in the woods. You won’t have most of these issues.
Having said all this, I know I would have been miserable if I had never done this trip. It’s been on my mind for over a year now so I’m happy I did it. In some weird ways, I feel like I’ve changed, and I’m free to move on with my life. In a future post maybe I’ll cover the pro side of living in a RV.
Traveling

Two Days in San Francisco – RV Living

I’ve been in San Francisco for two days. I’ve been doing a lot of walking. Like miles and miles and hours and hours of walking to the point of exhaustion. Yet, I’ve only explored a fraction of the city covering the top left quarter including Golden Gate Park, The Presidio, the Castro neighborhood, and areas in between. Oddly, I’ve avoided the waterfront areas having not seen the Western beaches, the Golden Gate bridge (though I was only a mile away), and downtown (really anything east of Van Ness Ave).

The Avenues is where I’m parked, mostly residential area. There’s a bustling Asian neighborhood on Irving Street running parallel to Golden Gate Park. I’ve heard there’s a Chinatown and Japantown also. Man, there’s a lot of Asians here. More Asians than I ever imagined any US city having. It’s jarring to be in a train car and notice there’s always more Asians than anyone else. But I should have known considering how close we are to Asia.

Some stray observations:

– There are indeed a lot of gay folks in SF especially in the Castro. A lot of hand holding between men that I haven’t seen anywhere else. I lived in Orlando for several months, supposedly the second most gay city in the US, but it’s not even close.
– SF is all about money. I’ve seen more Porsche cars here than anywhere else
– Parking is horrendous. I’ve spent the majority of my time just spying out the possible parking places.
– 24 Hour Fitness sucks. They refused to give me a guest pass because I’m not “local”. I guess this prevents free loading parasites who use the gym and pay nothing. Then again, the vast majority of gym members don’t actually go to the gym, and there’s a higher likelihood I would join if I had the guest pass rather than being rejected. I mean really, what the hell.
– RV Living in SF is really nice. The weather is absolutely perfect. I actually went to sleep and woke up feeling cold. And it’s like this year round.
– RV Living in SF is really bad. Parking is scarce. There’s a good number of hills. Sprint 4G is surprisingly really poor. Dump sites and good mechanics are far away.
– I meet Tynan over tea, his blog originally planted the seed of buying my Rialta motorhome as well as a dozen others. Having looked at his mug for years on his website, I didn’t originally recognize him with his overgrown beard and hair. After meeting both Tynan and Tom, I feel motivated to really kick some butt and wonder why aren’t I doing just as well as them. But I know why, and I know I can and will.
– Portland and SF both have this “honor” system of public transit. In Portland, you’re suppose to buy a transit card yet there’s no scanners on their metro trains. Likewise, there’s a scanner on the SF trains, but you could just board without scanning.  For example, I purchased the SF “City Pass” which gives me free use of the public transit, but I don’t have anything to swipe or scan. Compare this honor system to Boston’s Greenline streetcars where they only opened the front door by the conductor for entry/exit to make sure everyone paid (and caused considerable delay).
– SF Citypass costs $70 for 7 days allowing entry to top attractions. I’ll probably spend my weekdays doing these tourist traps.
– After being robbed, I’m free of a lot of junk. I still wish I had my dress shoes, my student id cards, and my external hard drive. But I don’t really “need” them right now. I can carry (and have been) almost everything in my Aeronaut backpack:

  • – Clothing (including super light weight winter coat and rain/wind shell)
  • – Laptop
  • – Kindle
  • – Digital Camera
  • – Flipflops
  • – Barefeet shoes / regular shoes
  • – Chargers
  • – VOIP Phone for Work

I don’t take all my clothes around with me, but if anyone dares rob me again, they won’t find much. If I do keep this RV, I’ve been thinking about adding metal pieces to my cabinets so I can put a padlock on them. Short of picking the lock or hammering the compartment in, that should keep everything safe and a lot cheaper than buying and welding a safe.

– The biggest inconvenience is lack of shower and using the bathroom. I haven’t showered since I left Oregon on Friday. I wanted my gym pass so I could shower but I might just stay at a hostel instead and also make friends along the way. I don’t mind pissing in the RV, but I’ve yet to shit in it and would prefer to keep it that way. So far so good. Unfortunately, I’m parked in a pretty isolated area. I’ll probably be moving soon.

– I got a wheel alignment on the way to SF since the RV was dragging to the right and was causing uneven wear on the tires. I might be getting new tires this week too though.

– I’ve been getting better gas mileage in the 16-18 range. Perhaps because I’m driving slower, new transmission, wheel alignment, and/or going up and down mountains.

– SF is huge. After Chicago, I was just used to smaller metro areas. Denver, Portland, and Seattle. They’re large but nowhere in comparison to SF metro area. I thought Berkeley was initially SF. It’s also quite beautiful here from the homes to the hills and the fog.

– I sense a partial change in identity and also how others are reacting to me. Which is strange considering I haven’t really done anything beyond drive a RV around. In a sense, I guess I completed a vision I had for several years now. I lived up to my word. Now, I can conquer other goals.

Traveling

Go to Seattle, Dance with Europeans

I’m on the road again, sort of.

I’m writing from Green Tortoise Hostel in Seattle. I’ve been here two nights and couchsurfing this weekend.

Meanwhile, the RV transmission is getting rebuilt and should have the RV back in working order next week. Also, I filed an insurance personal lost claim so hopefully I’ll get some cash for my stolen items from two weeks ago.

The past few weeks, I’ve been staying with some good friends in Corvallis and exploring the beautiful Oregon country side. But, I’m getting antsy to leave the North West especially before the bad weather kicks in.

Last weekend, I was in Portland via Greyhound. The Farmer’s Market there is incredible as well as the Powell Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in the world.


I also meet up with Tom from Tom’s Adventure, a former Rialta RV traveler, globe trekker, and successful internet entrepreneur. It felt really good to be able to talk to someone else about RVing and business. Funny enough, I felt like selling the RV afterwards though because of how nice it is to be in a house.

So, I’m in Seattle. My primary reason for going here was to buy a new backpack or luggage bag at the Tom Bihn store/factory. The only brick and mortar place possible to buy these amazing bags which are handmade in the US. The place is rather small and located in an industrial block penned in with machine shops and warehouses. In the background, I could see rows of sewing machines with old Asian ladies working away. I think I saw Tom Bihn himself possibly moving into an office or maybe just the manager.


I ended up buying the Aeronaut, their largest luggage bag that also works as a shoulder duffle bag and backpack. I also really liked the Synapse which is the only bag Tynan uses. It’s probably the lightest and most versatile daypack, but I still have a messenger bag and need something with more volume and flat space for dress clothing. The aeronaut is incredibly light and doesn’t look all that special. But it has backpack straps that can be zipped away. Almost all the bags they have can be enlarged or compacted in size which was pretty cool. My goal is to be able to live with just the Aeronaut and a daypack.

I’ve never stayed in a hostel before, but this Green Tortoise I’m pretty sure is the nicest hostel in the US. There are individual bathrooms, free breakfast, and a really great location. All of it is incredibly clean, safe, and nice. There’s a lounge area with computers and a television where people can eat and hang out although most people are just glued to their laptops. There’s mostly a mix of Europeans, Koreans, and a few Americans here. My only complaint is probably the beds are rather small.

Last night, I went out with a group of Europeans, an Australian, and a few Americans to standup comedy and a few local bars. It was a fun, drunken night. Someone kept the wheels greased with shots and drinks so I was pretty happy and got to dance with an Aussie. Hostels are a great way to meet some Europeans in the US.

I’ll be couchsurfing the rest of the weekend and then going back to my friend’s on Sunday. My host is busy both Fri and Sat nights though so I’ll be left to my own devices again.

With the RV fixed next week, I’ll have to decide whether I’m selling the RV or keep traveling. Based on the poll votes so far, the majority want me to stay in the RV forever. If so, I would need a number of upgrades. First, a swamp cooler could make summers in the RV livable in a low humility environment. A swamp cooler pulls in the dry, hot air outside and pushes it through a water sponge. The water evaporation cools the interior. I still need to figure out if winter living is feasible though. In that case, I could also get a high efficiency propane heater, but money money money. Not to mention the frozen water tanks. Swamp cooler, propane heater, and a high efficiency DC refrigerator. Each of them costs around $600, and I have no idea how to install any of them.

I’ll likely keep the RV for now though. I want to drive down through California and back to Colorado via Nevada or New Mexico. Not sure yet. I’ve never seen the SW before though.

Primarily, I want to see San Francisco, the startup capital of the world and probably one of the few US cities that full time RV living makes sense. Then I might make some trips to LA and San Diego where I know a handful of people, but I’ve also visited both cities before. I am interested in seeing Claremont University which has the only Ph D Program in Positive Psychology.

Chances are high I’ll be back on the East Coast for the holidays either early November or early December with or without the RV to be seen.

Traveling

To RV or Not? You Vote

Last weekend, my RV was robbed in Portland.

The next morning, the transmission died.

I’ll be spending several thousand to get the RV fixed and replace my lost items.

I’m not sure what to do with the RV once it’s fixed though.

The transmission is the most likely and most expensive piece of the RV. After this, there “shouldn’t” be any expensive repairs.

But how far do I want to go?

Realistically, living in the RV is only possible in the Fall and Spring and part of summer/winter. Unless I’m living in the West Coast like San Diego or San Fran where the weather’s always perfect.

If I stay in one place for a year, that’s likely saving $7k-$12k in rent and could justify the money I’ve put into the RV.

No matter what, I plan on staying out west until at least the holidays in late nov/december. The question is whether I sell the RV now, in December, or years from now?

Based on the results of this poll, I’ll decide.

[poll id="2"]