We’re For Sale….Kind of…

Don’t fret, we’re not going anywhere (well, except a little bit of everywhere) and we definitely don’t want to give up this lifestyle just yet. But any of you who knew us before we started traveling in the big rig know that we had pretty much the best dog ever. Katie Lou died of a stroke the year before we started full-timing it. It’s taken us a few years to recover from the void, but we’d like our next build to be able to comfortably accommodate our next four-legged travel companion when he or she finds us. That means a lower-entry and a dedicated interior space for pup + accouterments.

Us & Katie Lou on one of our first trips to Colorado in the sprinter van.

In addition, we’re big believers in planning ahead. We know that, like any shiny object, traveling full-time will eventually lose its luster, and we’re already planning the next phase of that evolution. We wouldn’t be authentic to ourselves if we didn’t reinvent every once in a while, and while the freedom of life on the road is a real luxury (one we can never see ourselves giving up entirely), we also feel more and more called to laying roots, cultivating community, and having a deeper sense of contribution.

Snuggling new baby calves while they get their veterinary check-up on MT Pockets Ranch in Bozeman, Montana.

It will probably involve a truck a little smaller than the one we’re currently in, and would be able to serve for both long-term and short-term trips once we find a home base. Eventually, we’d like something designed to accommodate 3-5 month-long trips instead of deliberately designed for two people to use full-time. Plus, now that Martin’s new woodcrafting hobby has turned our gear garage into a wood shop, the pull of land is really starting to beckon…

Martin starts another wood-carved spoon on Bishop Beach in Homer, Alaska.

For this reason, we’ve “loosely” put the truck up for sale. We don’t have a set plan for the next phase, but we do have a history of leaping first and letting the details fall where they may. It is with that intention that we let its sale guide our trajectory toward the next adventure.

Our truck has served us even better than we could have imagined over the last nearly two years. And one of the exciting perks of doing this and sharing our tales is that it has managed to inspire a number of new builds like our’s! We’re humbled and honored that so many of you reached out to let us know that the information we provided here gave you the spark you needed to get on the road, whether for retirement, vacation or full-time touring.

Many of you have chimed in with questions for us about what we’d do differently and how our experience has been. We get the same questions so consistently, we figure we’re way past due to provide some of those answers here on the blog. So….Here are some of the questions we’ve gotten most frequently over the last few months from those of you considering your own overland adventure RV:

If we were going to go through the whole process again, what would we have done differently? 

Very little. Thorough research pays dividends and we were quite content with most of our decisions. The only things we’d change are quite minor, actually. The biggest one, of course, is the edit to make a dedicated dog space. As we’ve probably discussed at length in other articles, the build process made us think about the trade-offs we were willing to make. Once we hit the road, every time we were inconvenienced by something, we reminded ourselves that our choice to sacrifice one thing over another was a deliberate one. Take the bathroom, for instance. Everyone asks us if we’re happy to have a small wet shower instead of a separate shower and toilet.

A simple wet bath was worth getting space for a huge pantry.

Sure, it’d be nice to have the convenience of not having to wipe the entire place down after every shower, but doing so would mean getting rid of our entire pantry — cubic feet that are absolutely indispensable to our ability to live like real people with real pantry staples, real towels, real health supplement storage and toiletry extras, etc. Another one is the high entry door. We have to climb in every time because we decided to forego mechanized steps. It’s exercise, and while at times inconvenient, we love it! (We do have a stairway we pull out, but only when we’re going to be somewhere for a while).

Stairs deployed for a lengthy stay in the Flathead National Forest

This entire lifestyle is about compromises and deciding what you want — Always choosing convenience can be a trap. (Not convinced? See this recent NYT article about the tyranny of convenience. It should get you thinking).

“With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, {convenience} threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us. It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much.” 

In other areas, we can confirm we stayed on course with our choice of builder and the components/window upgrades we chose. Worth EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY. Sure, many other builders have come online since we started this project in 2016, but we were happy with GXV’s quality and commitment. Any time there was a warranty issue on a component, they stopped at nothing to make it right for us. Their longevity and efficiency in the business cannot be overstated. Are they perfect? No, but their value once you factor in the thousands of hours that go into building one of these things is rather unbeatable. GXV budgets 3200 man hours to build a truck like ours. Building a tiny-house-on-wheels sounds simple, but there’s a whole lot of man-power that goes into one. You may find a cheaper price tag elsewhere, but GXV has a strong history of paying attention to the details that count — and that has served true for us over thousands of miles, both on and off-road.

There are just a few other small things we’d change; none are deal-breakers, but worth mentioning:

  • We’d never put a window in an exterior door. It compromises the interior temperature, creates condensation, and is a pain in the ass to clean.
  • We’d also probably rethink the design of the drop-down garage door in the back to avoid reliance on electrical winches.
  • Now that we’re moving toward inflatable stand-up paddleboards (that fit in the black storage area above the cab), we would opt for more solar panels. We’re currently at 300 watts, but the more the merrier. In the winter months, we do need to run our generator every morning for about a half hour to keep up with demand.

Lets say budget is not an issue: What options or items would we definitely have on our truck based on our experience thus far?

We couldn’t live without the gear garage and the upgraded windows. I’m sure we’ve talked about them ad nauseam here on the blog, but it’s worth repeating. Those were two areas that changed the quality of our existence during our travels. If budget wasn’t an issue, we’re not sure we’d change too many other things. We could have gotten fancier finishes, but that would have defeated the purpose of getting out there, dirt be damned. 😉 Where we opted for simpler things (such as AGM batteries as opposed to lithium), it’s because the truck doesn’t care about the weight, so the expense was unnecessary. Though, yes, if cost was no object, we’d probably go lithium.

How have we liked the M1083 as an off-road RV platform?

We’ve been quite happy with the 6×6 M1083 and have never felt like we’d be better off with only 4 wheels. Is it excessive? Sure. But it was cheaper to keep it 6×6 and came with a host of benefits (and very little downside). Because of its naturally tight turning radius, we’ve had no problems handling it even on narrow or windy roads. We can work our way around just about any parking lot and even did Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway between Telluride and Durango. In a blizzard. Because of its cab-over design, it turns on a dime just like its 4×4 cousin. The gas mileage difference is negligible. Yes, we probably lose 1-2 mpg but we also don’t have to worry about getting stuck or getting a flat. (Some of you may recall we got a flat on our way to Alaska and didn’t even know until we took a potty break… It was also a lot easier to field service than it looks ;).

Tire changes on the M1083 were easier than we thought.

One of the nicest things about the M1083 is that they’re quite manageable if you can turn a wrench, and there’s no shortage of places to get repairs or regular maintenance done. If you’re near a highway, you’re near a CAT or Allison shop who will love to get their hands dirty on one of these. The lack of emissions testing and the fact that they can chug along on nearly any fuel source still make them quite valuable for an overland application. Height has been the only limiting factor, but fortunately we’ve not run into too many circumstances where we’ve been deterred. All that being said, it’s certainly not for everyone. You do have to budget: New tires, oil changes, and regular maintenance are real considerations with one of these. But if you know your way around a truck and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, it’s a nearly perfect platform for RV’ing where others cannot.

Loading a new spare tire into the back gear garage in Wasilla, Alaska.

What has been our favorite destination?

This is an easy one. Alaska, hands-down, is truly the last frontier. It’s got beauty in spades, and its people are filled with a sincere warmth and kindness that’s unmatched anywhere else we’ve traveled. A loop throughout south-central Alaska including Denali, Talkeetna, Hatcher Pass, the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez and back around via the Denali Highway should be on any traveler’s bucket list (with plenty of welcoming spots for the off-road RV to stay and play). Stay tuned for some posts on those areas….we’re sorrowfully behind on our blog writing…

Sunset over Homer, Alaska. Summer, 2017.

How is the cabin holding up? Have we had any issues with separation, stress fractures, etc? 

Our cabin is holding up beautifully with no separation or stress fractures. A few chips on the exterior paint, but considering all the trees we’ve brushed by, she looks remarkably good. The interior is pretty impeccable too, in part because we are anal about managing the little bit of condensation we get in extreme temps. Running the fan and wiping out the cabinets daily helps us stay on top of all that.

In what state is our truck registered? Did we need an air brake cert on our license? Did we have to do any exhaust modifications to meet air standards? 

 We registered in Montana. There are entire law offices dedicated to the business of vehicle ownership in this tax-free state for business purposes. We just had to set up an LLC. No air brake cert was needed. Exhaust modifications were made to accommodate the pass-through but not for air standards. In our state, we were exempt for that as an RV, but each state is different. Bad karma? Perhaps, but we’re particular about our energy consumption in many other ways. The little bit that we drive this compared to the amount of fuel and waste the average home uses is still, in our humble opinion, a drop in the bucket. We just try to be conscious of all the other details — such as riding our bikes or walking wherever we possibly can all four seasons.

Did we have any difficulty getting RV insurance for the rig?

There’s very few who will, but Progressive still does. If you get to that point and need a contact for insurance let us know and we can dig that up for you.

Does the Thetford cassette toilet do the job or do we ever wish we had a black tank? Have we considered a composting toilet?

The Thetford cassette is the only way to go. There’s no way we’d ever buy something with a nasty black tank. Emptying this in any toilet is no big deal — you just have to find the right enzyme. (Some are better than others and we’ve certainly kissed some poo-deoderizer toads). We like Campa-Chem Natural by Thetford. Smells pleasant and takes the “stink” away. We wouldn’t want to do composting because it requires too much energy. We’re really stingy on what we choose to use electricity for, and that’s just not worth it for us. Plus the venting for a composting toilet breaches the thermal envelope in the ceiling ~ if you’ve ever spent time in a camper in negative temperatures, you know those kinds of things really matter.

One of many waterfalls near Valdez, Alaska.

What do you do with your grey water? 

We have a grey water tank, but usually dump it wherever we are (with a certain level of consciousness of course). We use Dr. Bronners soaps and nothing but biodegradable stuff goes down the hatch, so we’re comfortable letting her loose when/where appropriate. The only caveat to that is California where they seem to think that even in a drought, water touching things is a crime.

Do you miss using propane for cooking? Do you have an electric oven for when you’re on the grid? I’ve read many negative reviews of diesel cooktops. Have you had any problems?

Not at all; the Webasto stove has saved us a couple of times when our main heater shit the bed. It makes a perfect back-up heat source and cooks surprisingly well. The luxury of having a single inexpensive fuel source to us far outweighs the luxury of being to cook on a gas stove. Plus, propane is expensive and in our climate ranges, we can’t begin to think of how much more condensation we’d have inside. Worth it. We do have an induction cook top we pull out when the sun is out more regularly or when it’s warm and we don’t want the diesel stove to heat the cabin. Webastos, as I’m sure you’ve heard, can be fussy, but use them regularly and they’re just fine. It’s only those who take the stray trip here or there who have problems with gas lines, etc.

Not my best picture of lasagna, but dang it was yummy! And the Omnia stovetop oven let us get gooey comfort food, even without an oven :).

I’ll also mention here one of my favorite little kitchen investments for the truck: The Omnia Oven. It’s the perfect RV/Camping/Boating stove top oven (this one includes a little baking rack, too, though you can also buy this silicone insert to make clean-up even easier). Because, sometimes, you just just need a little lasagna in your life. 🙂 And this helps us feel like we’re not missing out on anything by not having a “real” oven. Check it out on Amazon (full disclosure: buy it here from us and we get a little kickback from Amazon to support the blog).

That about sums up many of the questions we’ve been seeing lately. Let us know if we missed anything or if you would like to talk about making our truck your new home on wheels. Keep in mind that while we’re happy to help answer questions and offer guidance, we do also offer consulting and project management for campervans and trucks. Drop us a line if you’d like to learn more.

17 comments

  1. Hi guys! I’m trying to find where you’ve listed your vehicle but can’t seem to find it on your website. Care to send me a quick email with the ad if you’re officially for sale now?

  2. We went to the most experienced builder of expedition vehicles in the country for that very reason. We have sound and vibration dampening as well as heat insulation and our truck really is no louder than a pickup truck running oversized mud tires. Is it a little loud? Yes. We can speak to one another fine but we do like to have headsets in if we’re listening to audio books. Hope that helps! 🙂

  3. Quick question we met and talked with the owner of another converted LMTV

    http://Www.blissordie.com

    Although he did “heat he could” to dampen the interior noise that one hears in the cab of his truck. He decried the noise level (even after the things he did) to be loud at best. I watched your cab video , but I am wondering how you find the cab when you all are on the road?

  4. Ha! Well said. Yeah, the ER is certainly an expensive driveway ornament, that’s for sure. ;). So much depends on where you want to go and what you want to bring along. We’d love that next time we’re through Bend. Cheers!

  5. Hey you two! We’ve been following your adventure for a while now and appreciate that you’re working hard to share it with others.

    We are considering a larger vehicle but “one of us” has their eyes set on an Earth Roamer. If you pass through Bend again we’d love to buy you some coffee or lunch and maybe talk about life on the road… and how we might be better off in something that doesn’t cost half a million dollars, plus.

    Take care!

  6. I like the fact that you are very genuine and open about your journey. It is a refreshing!

    In life, everything has a season. Having a place to connect with the community is a great idea.

  7. All the best to you both! I’m reading this blog and some magazines up Flagstaff Rd in Boulder CO in our Westy…I can attest that a home base here is ideal (at least for our family) Climbing, biking, hiking, Red Rocks, the list goes on and on…Anyway best of luck in whatever path you decide to choose…Here’s a thought , get a job at an airline (I’m a pilot at Southwest) great travel benefits and the ability to live anywhere you want depending on the job you choose…

  8. Makes sense, and glad to hear it, Ben & Rebecca! We might not get to Seward before June, but hope to start working our way back to Alaska in the next few weeks :). Hope to see you!

  9. Come back east and see us sometime! I still have not seen the “big rig” yet! I miss you folks!

  10. Thank you once again for your thoughts and insight! It was a great read, and very helpful for our journey on working toward overland-ism.

  11. Hey guys, great update post. Hope you’re doing well and wish you the best on the next chapter of your life.

    After meeting you guys we had to check out GXV in person. Last month we drove out from California and we’re not let down. Although we’re not prepared to make the monetary commitment of a GXV just yet we learned a lot.

    We’re getting our ducks in a row for full time international travel and hopefully by the summer we’ll either be Airbnb hoping around Europe or driving an overland vehicle somewhere (with our little dog Shelby in tow). Truthfully I’m leaning towards a vehicle. Rebecca just signed us up for global health insurance! It’s time to return home to Alaska to get our house and affairs in order (aka be grown ups) for extended travel.

    If you get to Alaska before June, look us up.

  12. Hi both. Fully accepting your decision. But selling the vehicle already after 2 years and without using the options this vehicle gives you when discovering South America for example or other nice places in this world is a pity. Wouldn’t it be possible to use some room from the garage for a dog? And wouldn’t it be possible to use an entrance ladder with a wider angle, so that a dog can jump in? Anyway, your decision. Excited to see what your future vehicle will be. We are in the middle of the building process for our expedition vehicle (benny-goes-overland.ch). Its in the middle between the Sprinter and a huge truck like yours (European 7,5 ton class). All the best to you for combining travelling and placing roots. Cheers from Switzerland, Christian

  13. Thank you! I read your post this morning and thought the same thing. 🙂 Quite a coincidence! Hope to see you when we swing through Bend en route to Alaska soon :).

  14. We on the same wavelength! Funny that we posted on the same day even.

    Shorter trips from a home base where you feel rooted is the BOMB. They can still be months-long, as you said, but there’s something about having friends you see all the time, community and a feeling like you’re contributing that is resonating for us. Time and place for everything, and one makes you appreciate the other.

    Good luck finding your landing pad! Sounds like you need a giant barn to house a woodshop for Martin. 🙂

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