Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck!

He what??!!

Alice Cooper VIP Benefit Concert for Solid Rock Foundation

Would you buy a truck from this man?

December 2015 – When we bought our Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck brand new in 2007, we purchased it to tow our lightweight full-time home, a 7,000 lb. 2007 27′ Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer. For such a big, monster truck, that little trailer was a featherweight. But within a year, we had upgraded our year-round living quarters to a 36′ 2007 Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel trailer, a beast that weighs in at 14,000 lbs. fully loaded.

Dodge Ram 3500 truck with 36' Hitchhiker FIfth wheel trailer RV

Our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 truck and 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer — at home on the road!

This trailer was the absolute maximum size our truck could tow safely.

Over the years, our truck has valiantly lugged our home up and over 10,000′ mountain passes in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and other mountainous states and endured many a 7% or steeper grade in the process.

The truck’s GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) is 21,000 lbs., but our truck and trailer weigh 22,150 lbs. when hitched up and fully loaded. The truck’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is 10,100 lbs., but the truck weighs 10,850 lbs. when the trailer is sitting on its back.

When it comes to safety on the road, we’ve been pushing it!

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck

Our big beautiful trailer maxed out our big beautiful one ton truck!

We gave our truck bigger lungs and stronger muscles by installing a K&N Cold Air Intake Filter and an Edge Evolution Engine Tuner (installation and review HERE). We also gave it broader shoulders to carry heavy loads by installing a Timbren Suspension Enhancement System.

These upgrades helped, but even though the truck was very happy towing our trailer on flat roads, it worked awfully hard when it was put to the test on mountain grades. Frankly, the transmission and modest rear end were not really 100% up to the task in the Rockies.

Edge Diesel Evolution Tuner

We gave the truck’s engine more horsepower and torque by installing an Edge Evolution Tuner

Back in 2013 when we moved off of our sailboat and said goodbye to the cruising lifestyle, and recommitted ourselves to living the RV lifestyle full-time, we began tossing around the idea of upgrading our rig.

The beauty of having a towable RV is that we could replace the RV’s engine and drivetrain independently without affecting our living quarters (and vice versa). A new truck would revolutionize our driving experience on the road but not cost nearly as much nor be nearly as chaotic as replacing our home at the same time.

We were also toying with the idea of getting a truck camper someday so we could travel to more remote places. The weight of many truck campers requires a dually truck (four rear wheels instead of two to support the weight), so we began flirting with the idea of buying a dually.

We had a lot to learn about the latest trucks, and we studied everything we could about the myriad of improvements that diesel trucks have undergone since we last paid attention in 2007.

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 with 2007 36' Hitchhiker Fifth wheel Trailer

Our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck was great, but a stronger truck would be better.

We began test driving new trucks right away when we arrived back in San Diego after our Mexico sailing travels. 2013 models were on dealer lots at the time, and in the ensuing months, the 2014 models began to arrive at the dealerships.

Since then, we have taken Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks on over 200 miles of test drives, and visited at least 25 dealerships across the country. Mark subscribes to Diesel Power Magazine, and he has studied the subject of diesel trucks endlessly.

After much deliberation, we finally decided that a Ram 3500 dually was our truck of choice.

When we saw that the centerfold for the 2016 Ram Trucks brochure mentioned Roads Less Traveled, we had to have a 2016!

Dodge RAM Brochure Cover

2016 Ram Trucks Brochure centerfold — It was meant to be!!

Diesel trucks improve every year, and this new one has a whopping best-in-class GCWR of 39,000 lbs as compared to the 21,000 lbs of our old truck. And that was just the first item on a long list of eye-popping stats.

Our only question was where it would be best to buy it. Because of our mobile lifestyle, we could buy it in any state at any dealership.

By the summer of 2015, Mark had come to know more about each option on the new Ram trucks than most of the salesmen we talked to. He also knew exactly which options he wanted and which ones he didn’t want. Unfortunately, this made it nearly impossible to find “the ideal truck” just sitting around somewhere on some random Dodge dealership lot.

Throughout our 2015 travels across 24 states, we checked in at almost every Dodge dealership in almost every town we visited to see if they had “our truck.” None did. We repeatedly searched online to see if a detour of 100 miles in this direction or that would bring us to our dream truck. No dice.

2014 Dodge Ram 5500 truck

We test drove Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks all over the country for two years.
In Wyoming, we even test drove a custom 2014 Dodge Ram 5500. Very cool, but very stiff!

We soon realized that we would have to place an order for our truck in order to get the combination of options we wanted, and we would have to wait 8 weeks for it to be built and shipped to a dealership.

We were in perpetual motion driving from Arizona to Nova Scotia and back in 2015. Our favorite dealership was Marshall Motors in Salina, Kansas, where diesel truck salesman Alex Thatcher was the most knowledgeable of any we’d met. But we wanted to keep moving to get back to Arizona for the winter.

Logistically, ordering a truck in Arizona made the most sense for us because we were going to be there for a few months. But which dealership would be best?

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 truck with 2007 36' Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel Trailer RV

Mark LOVED our ’07 truck and worried he might not love a new one as much…

We got a tip that Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale, Arizona has an annual Christmas holiday “Buy a Car Get a Guitar” promotion where anyone that buys a new car also gets a glistening new electric guitar signed by rock star Alice Cooper as part of the deal.

When Mark heard that, he was sold — We were THERE!

Mark has been a huge Alice Cooper fan since the day the rock star exploded on the scene in 1971, and we listen to his music all the time. Mark turned 18 shortly after Alice Cooper’s clever and poignant song “I’m Eighteen” came out, and he graduated from high school the year Alice’s hit “School’s Out” soared to the top of the charts.

Alice Cooper and Mark were both born in Detroit, and both spent their adult lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Mark didn’t move across country just to be like the rock star, but he went to a ton of Alice Cooper concerts in both cities over the past four decades, and he dressed up as his idol on many a Halloween night!

Alice Cooper Wannabe Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

Wild eyed fans love to dress up as Alice Cooper, even to this day.
Mark morphed into Alice Cooper for Halloween many times!

As a kid, Mark used to have a t-shirt decorated with Alice Cooper’s early trademark mascara eyelashes, and he wore it so much he wore it right through to rags. On the occasional day he didn’t wear it, a friend would ask him, “Where’s your Cooper shirt?”

Before we started traveling full-time, back when Mark and I were avid cyclists, we rode our bikes past Alice Cooper’s house all the time. Mark would always point it out, and we would wonder what life was like behind the huge front doors that had handles shaped like snakes.

There was no doubt that now, if Mark could lay his hands on a guitar that Alice Cooper had actually touched and signed, he would be totally beside himself. We knew exactly where we would be ordering our new truck!

Here’s the TV ad for the Airpark Dodge promo — check it out:

Buy a Car, Get a Guitar starts Dec. 10th.

Buy a Car, Get a Guitar starts Dec. 10th.

Posted by Airpark Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

 

At the end of the ad, after passing out a slew of free guitars for car buyers, Alice asks: “I wonder what you get if you buy a truck?”

OMG — We sure found out!!

To begin with, when we got to Airpark Dodge to pick up our new baby, Mark was given his signed Alice Cooper electric guitar. He was in seventh heaven!

New Alice Cooper Guitar Giveaway for Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck

A new electric guitar signed by Alice Cooper – Wow!!
Oh…. and a new truck too.

As we admired the Alice Cooper memorabilia on the walls of the dealership, we discovered that the GM of Airpark Dodge is golf buddies with Alice Cooper. To our amazement — and dismay — we found out that the week before we got there, Alice had been hanging out at the dealership kick-starting the promotion.

Oh, man. How did we miss seeing him in person at the dealership?! We were so bummed!!

Alice Cooper's Office at Airpark Dodge Scottsdale Arizona

Alice Cooper hangs out at Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale Arizona so much he has his own office
(well, ummm… it’s a broom closet!!)

But then we found out that “Coop,” as his friends know him, was going to be performing at Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix two nights later. Concert tickets were sold out, but afterwards he was going to host a special party at his bar/restaurant across the street (called Cooperstown) to benefit his teen rock center and rock music school in Phoenix called Solid Rock.

With that tid-bit of inside scoop, we dashed downtown on the appointed night, and before we knew it, we were mingling with a crowd of other fans at Cooperstown, waiting for the official concert across the street to end and for Coop to come on over and play at his bar.

Suddenly, a crazy Alice Cooper lookalike in a straight jacket and tall leopard boots grabbed Mark by the neck. Yikes!

Alice Cooper impersonator

Ya gotta watch out for those rabid fans!

He let Mark go, and we wandered around admiring the posters and wacky stage props and guitars and other memorabilia that cover the walls of Cooperstown.

Cooperstown Alice Cooper Restaurant Phoenix Arizona

There’s all kinds of cool stuff on the walls at Cooperstown in Phoenix

Suddenly, Alice Cooper appeared. He’d removed his stage makeup from the big concert across the street at the arena and was mingling with his fans around the restaurant. He knew some of them and recognized others from previous encounters.

Alice Cooper with a fan in Phoenix Arizona

Alice Cooper chats with a fan who’d brought him a special gift she’d made.

His son Dash got up on stage and performed with his band Co-op (“Coop” with a Dash !!). I had to smile as he leaned over the rail to watch his son in action.

Alice Cooper watches his son perform at Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

Alice Cooper watches his son perform at Cooperstown

Moments later, he turned around, and we caught him just long enough to get some photos with him. He was very obliging, and oh lordy me, we were both totally star struck!

Alice Cooper up close and personal

From Mark’s lifetime bucket list of dreams – Meet Alice Cooper…
Check!

Moments after Dash’s band finished, Alice was up on stage with his own band, rocking out just steps from where we stood. Holy Smokes!

Alice Cooper band in concert Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

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Alice Cooper Solid Rock benefit concert Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

.

We laughed and sang along and clapped and cheered with everyone else. This was AWESOME!!

Alice Cooper band at Cooperstown Phoenix AZ

.

Alice Cooper in concert benefit Solid Rock_

Hot hot hot!

Between singing along, we both managed to snap some fun pics.

Alice Cooper in concert Solid Rock Foundation Benefit

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Alice Cooper VIP Benefit Concert for Solid Rock Teen Center

.

Not only was Alice Cooper phenomenal, but his band was incredible too. His guitarist, Nita Strauss, is stunning in every way!

Alice Cooper bandmate Nita Strauss

Nita Strauss is a mind blowing guitarist in Alice Cooper’s band

All of a sudden, Alice Cooper’s son jumped back on stage and began singing with his dad. How cool is that?!

Alice Cooper and son Dash sing together

Alice Cooper sings with his son Dash

What a fantastic night this was. What fabulous memories!!

Alice Cooper sings at Cooperstown Phoenix

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Alice Cooper in Concert Phoenix Arizona

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Needless to say, we were gushingly excited. And we listened to Alice Cooper songs for the next week, nonstop.

Alice Cooper Solid Rock Benefit Concert Arizona

Looking down at the stage and crowd of fans in Cooperstown

Oh… and our new truck?

WE LOVE IT!!!

Here are the details explaining exactly what we ordered on our new truck and why:

2016 Ram 3500 Dually Diesel – Best RV Fifth Wheel Towing

Buying a new truck meant buying a new fifth wheel hitch. We got a B&W hitch that we installed ourselves in one hour!! Here’s more info…

B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch – Step-by-step Installation Guide

Also, our new diesel truck requires the use of DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), and we learned a bunch about where to get it cheaply and how to get it in the truck without spilling…

How to Put DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in a Truck and Which Brand is Cheapest?

2016 Ram 3500 dually pickup truck

What a ride!!

If you are in the market for a truck, swing by Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale and see if the Coop is in! If he isn’t, talk to our salesman, Ed Kulas.

More Alice Cooper links below…

The hit song “I’m Eighteen” that has captured the hearts of 18 year olds for over 40 years:

“School’s Out” – This song, along with the drinking age dropping from 21 to 18 in most states and the draft ending nationwide — made 1972 a very special year for an entire graduating class of high school seniors:

“Elected” — Very appropriate for the 2016 election year, or for any election year for that matter. Alice Cooper wants to be elected, and he promises the formation of a New Party, a Wild Party… a Beer Party!!

Nowadays, Alice cooper is a pitchman for lots of companies. Here’s a super cute TV ad he did for Staples during the Back to School sales season:

Here’s a fun ad he did for Residence Inn:

And here’s a cute one for Service Arizona, the online vehicle registration service from Arizona’s Department of Transportation:

Wonder where this wacky rock star came from? Here’s a bio of how Vincent Furnier evolved into and then away from his alter ego Alice Cooper:

Here’s Alice Cooper talking a bit about his stage persona, his thoughts on Lady Gaga and music today. Skip 2:17 into the interview and you’ll hear him tell the TRUE story behind the urban myth that he killed a chicken on stage (I sure remember hearing THAT rumor circulating among my teeny-bop friends…yikes!):

Here’s a wonderful interview that gives insights into the now “lovable” and truly beloved Shock Rock star:

An interesting morsel we discovered in all of this was that Alice Cooper was approached and offered tons of money to do a reality TV show about his life today. But when the producers found out he’s a sober, drug-free family man who plays golf six days a week and goes to church every Sunday, they went with Ozzie Osbourne instead.

Here’s Alice Cooper, son of a pastor/evangelist, grandson of a pastor/evangelist and son-in-law of a Baptist minister…on Christianity:

Alice Cooper talks to golfers about how an addiction to golf saved him from an addiction to alcohol:

Here’s a little more from Alice Cooper about his faith and Christianity. Skip 6:05 minutes into it to hear about his foundation for at-risk teens, Solid Rock (the website given in the video has been replaced with www.alicecoopersolidrock.com):

Here’s a 2013 Arizona Republic newspaper article on Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation

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2008 Hunter 44DS Sailboat

Hunter sailboats are the best kept secret in the boating industry.  Here's a review of our 2008 Hunter 44DS

Groovy - '08 Hunter 44DS

sv Groovy layout

Hunter 44DS Floor Plan

s/v Groovy main salon

Main salon.

SV Groovy nav station

Navigation station.

s/v Groovy galley

Galley.

sv Groovy Master stateroom.

Master stateroom.

This page describes our Hunter 44DS sailboat, including all the equipment we have added for full-time liveaboard cruising in Mexico.

Long settee for napping.

We have a large cockpit, a nice feature on a liveaboard sailbot, and great for sailing too.  SV Groovy cockpit

Spacious cockpit.  We can sit face-to-face with our legs

stretched out, and our feet don't touch.

On a cruising sailboat it is essential to have large uncluttered decks.  s/v Groovy deck.

On deck.

When we sail on overnight passages while cruising Mexico we appreciate our forward looking windows.  sv Groovy forward looking windows.

Sitting inside on the companionway stairs, you can see where you're going, a wonderful feature on a

cold overnight passage.

s/v Groovy - it's just a groovy boat.

It's just a groovy boat.

The twizzle rig is a twin headsail rig that we have flown on our boat during our cruise to Mexico.  SV Groovy - twizzle rig

Twizzle Rig - twin headsails flown on

matching whisker poles.

Sailing down the Pacific Baja coast on our cruise to Mexico we anchored s/v Groovy in Bahía Sant Maria, Mexico

At anchor in Bahía Santa Maria, Mexico.

Hunter Marine sailboats are the best kept secret in the boating industry.

Under sail.

One of the finest anchorages in Pacific Mexico isin Zihuatanejo, Mexico -  s/v Groovy.

At anchor in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Three 185 watt solar panels provide

awesome shade over the jump seats

Hunter 44DS Sailboat: s/v Groovy

Groovy has been sold. Pics, listing and Sales Spec Sheet here!!

Groovy (named for Simon & Garfunkel's song Feelin' Groovy)** is a

Glenn Henderson designed 2008 Hunter 44DS (Deck Salon).  A

fractional sloop, it is 44 feet long and 14' 6" feet wide with two

staterooms and two heads.

Hunter 44DS Model History

First introduced by Hunter Marine in 2002 as the Hunter 426, the aft

cabin was changed a little and the model name changed to "44DS" in

2003.  Production ran from 2003 to 2008.  In 2008 the the deck and

cabin were modified to accommodate twin helms instead of a single

helm, the forward berth was changed from a v-berth to a pullman style,

and the window pattern was changed to a wraparound band to match

the popular Hunter 45CC.  These changes saw the model name change

to "45DS," and as of 2012 it is still in production.

Along with the Hunter 426 and 45DS, the 44DS shares its hull with the

Hunter 44AC (Aft Cockpit) and Hunter 45CC (Center Cockpit).  Each of

those boats has the same hull but a different deck and cabin layout.

Groovy is hull #252 for the 44DS model line, where the numbering

started at #101.  Built in May, 2007, it was the last Hunter 44DS ever

built.  Click here for more information on the Hunter 44DS.

Groovy is a stock boat with Hunter's "Mariner Package," a collection of upgrades sold as a unit.  Because the boat was built after

the replacement model (45DS) was in production, it features a few of the components that are standard on that model, including

a laminate cherry interior, which we love, and a larger fuel tank, which has come in very handy.

Specifications

Length Overall (LOA)

43' 4"

Waterline Length (LWL)

39' 2"

Beam

14' 6"

Draft

6' 6"

Displacement

22,936 lbs

Ballast

7,237 lbs

Mast Height

60' 8"

Sail Area

975 sq. ft.

Fuel Capacity

66 gallons

Water Capacity

140 gallons

Holding Tank Capacity

45 gallons

Water Heater Capacity

11 gallons

Yanmar Diesel Engine

54 hp

CE Classification

A/10

We installed many upgrades to enable comfortable cruising where we can stay at anchor for months at a time without having to

rely on marinas for water or electrical connections.

House Batteries

640 Amp Hours (Four AGM 4D 12 volt) - plus one 70 Amp Hour AGM start battery

Charging

555 Watts Solar / 100 Amp Alternator on engine / 130 Amp 110v Charger (via shore power)

Inverters

600 Watts Pure Sine Wave / 2500 Watts Modified Sine Wave / 2 portable Modified Sine Wave

Watermaker

60 Gallon per hour engine-driven Echotech watermaker*

Downwind Sailing

Twin jib "Twizzle Rig" set on two fixed length whisker poles.

Anchors

60 lb Ultra primary with 300' 5/16" G4 chain

32 lb Fortress FX-55 secondary with 20' 5/16" BBB chain and 300' 7/8" Nylon Rode

15 lb Manson Supreme stern anchor w/ 5' 3/8" G4 chain and 230' 1" Nylon Rode

Dinghies

10' Porta-bote with a Suzuki 6 hp outboard

Hobie i14t tandem inflatable kayak

A GAZILLION BOATS FOR SALE... WHICH ONE

WOULD MAKE US HAPPIEST?

When we set about buying a boat, the major trade-offs we found

were age, size, price and manufacturer's prestige.  In an earlier life I

owned two boats back to back that were the exact same model, the

Nonsuch 36.  This is a wonderful boat for cruising and living aboard,

and I lived aboard for four years in Boston, Massachusetts in the

early 1990's (brrrr...those winters were cold).  The first year I was on

a 1984 model that had been ridden hard and put away wet.  After

watching in great distress as my then-husband repeatedly chased

down a spider web of unmarked cables and miles of smelly plumbing

hoses in a putrid bilge, we upgraded to a 1991 model of the same

boat that had been lavishly commissioned and meticulously

maintained.

What a world of difference.  You would never know they were the same

model boat.  Instead of him spending hours kinked up in impossible

positions in noxious nooks and crannies fixing problems and spending

boatloads of money on spare parts at West Marine, we enjoyed three

terrific summers of boating together.  We watched sunsets and sunrises

in pretty anchorages and experienced countless utterly brilliant days of

sailing.  There is nothing like an almost-new boat made up of sparkling

clean parts that work.  Therefore, when Mark and I started thinking about

buying a boat, our first two criteria were that it be in superior condition

and as new as possible.

After living in trailers full-time for so long, we also knew that size

mattered to us.  For full-time liveability, we found bigger is better.

With age and size the top priorities, and a maximum budgeted

price, there were only three manufacturers whose boats we could

afford: Hunter, Beneteau and Catalina.  These are the Ford-Chevy-

Dodge of the sailboat industry (not in any particular order).  All

three are American made.  Beneteaus are French designed but

built in South Carolina.  Hunters and Catalinas are designed and

built in Florida.

Our top priorities for livability included a huge cockpit where we could

stretch out to sleep, a long settee in the main salon where we could

nap, and two good sized staterooms (rather than three as in many

models).  Brokers thought we were crazy when the first thing we did

as we stepped aboard a prospective boat was to lie down in the

cockpit to see if the benches were long and wide enough to sleep on.

But hey, this boat would become our home, and we like to be

comfortable and relax!

Next in importance was a large swim platform and cockpit shower, as

we envisioned frequent swims off the back of the boat and we knew

we would need easy access to the dinghy when we lived at anchor,

especially hauling groceries, daypacks, trash and laundry bags in and

out.  Lastly, we wanted an airy, spacious interior.  Other than that, we

weren't fussy, but after attending dozens of boat shows, visiting fifty

or more boats with brokers, and many Caribbean charters, we found

that the Hunter models spoke to us more than the others, and of

those only the Hunter 41DS and 44DS made the cut.  The faltering

economy worked in our favor, suddenly making the larger of the two

boats a viable option.

A visit to the Hunter factory assured us that not only are their boats

cleverly designed and chock full of innovative features, but they are well

built to boot.  We came away from every contact we had with Hunter

impressed that it is a quality company that employs a loyal group of

happy employees.  Their phenomenal customer service since we

purchased Groovy (15 minute turnaround time on almost every emailed

question we've ever sent) has driven that point home to us time and

again.  Hunter sailboats are the boating industry's best kept secret.

Best of all, Groovy is a dream to sail.  With an easily driven hull,

the boat is light on its feet, easy to reef, responsive and

forgiving.  A delight to live in and fun to sail, it is an excellent

platform for extended cruising.

** When we named our boat, it was the only boat with the name Groovy in the US Coast Guard Documentation database.  So we

were quite surprised when we discovered over a year later that she has a sistership of the same name bearing a non-US flag:

Jimmy Buffet of Margaritaville fame races his Groovy in the Caribbean.  Far out!!

*Echotec's official "rating" is 40 gph, but since we installed high capacity membranes, our timing measurements have never

been less than 58 seconds to fill a one-gallon jug in the tropics (the speed is 44 gph in San Diego's cooler water).

More info in the links below...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following clip is a VIDEO WALKTHROUGH of our boat which we did before it was sold:

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Our 555 watt solar power system is described in detail here: Sailboat Solar Power System. There is lots more info about solar power solutions for boats and RVs here: Solar Power Articles for Sailboats and RVs.

Our 60 gallon per hour engine driven watermaker was featured in an article we wrote for Cruising World Magazine. The article can be read at this link: Water, Water Everywhere – Installation of a 60 gph engine driven watermaker.

Our cruising itinerary and all of our blog posts from our cruise can be found at this link: A Groovy Cruise of Mexico.

There is a ton of info on this website about planning a Mexico cruise and anticipating what to expect. To get oriented and find out where we keep all the good stuff, visit this link: Cruisers Start Here

.

To help you plan your cruise and get you inspired, we created the video series, "Cruising Mexico Off the Beaten Path - Volumes 1-3," shown below. This is a fun-to-watch and easy-to-digest introduction to Mexico from a cruiser's perspective, giving you lots of valuable information that isn't covered by the cruising guides. Each video is available individually at Amazon, either as a DVD or as a download. For discount package pricing on the whole series, visit our page Cruising Mexico Video Series.

Volume 1 (left) reviews the geography, weather and seasons in Mexico and shows you what the best anchorages between Ensenada and Manzanillo are like.

Volume 2 (middle) gives detailed info that can't be found in any of the guidebooks about the glorious cruising ground between Manzanillo and the Guatemala border.

Volume 3 (right) provides all the info you need to get off the boat for an adventure-filled trip to Oaxaca.

Our Gear Store also has a boatload of ideas for your cruise!

 

2007 36′ Hitchhiker 5th Wheel Trailer for Full-Time RV Living

In May, 2008 we went to Chanute, Kansas, to do a factory tour of the NuWa Hitchhiker 5th wheel manufacturing plant. We were so impressed that we bought a new fifth wheel trailer right then and there. This 2007 NuWa Hitchhiker II LS 34.5 RLTG fifth wheel trailer was the third RV we had owned and was our second full-time RV home.

Ever since that time, other than a nearly four year cruise of Mexico on our sailboat from 2010-2013, during which time we alternated between cruising and RVing, this fifth wheel trailer has been our only home.

Fifth wheel RV at sunset with full moon

It is a 36′ long fifth wheel with an open floorplan that includes three slides and offers 360 square feet of living space. It was designed and built with full-timing in mind, so it is more rugged and better insulated than almost any other brand on the market.

RV Flooplan for NuWa Hitchhiker LS II 34.5 RLTG Fifth wheel (5th wheel)

The floorplan is open and spacious.

For us, the two recliners and the desk were the major reasons for our move from our smaller travel trailer into this bigger fifth wheel, as those features make life infinitely more comfortable. We swapped the position of the sofa and recliners, and put one of the four chairs at the desk and the other in storage so there are just two chairs at the dinette table.

The specs for our 5th wheel are:

  • 70 gallons of fresh water
  • 78 gallons of grey water
  • 50 gallons of black water
  • Dry weight 10,556 lbs
  • GVWR 13,995 lbs (which we reached with the cabinets only 1/3 full)
  • 15,000 BTU air conditioner
  • 40,000 BTU furnace
  • 8′ Dometic fridge

The upgrades we did on it are:

Before we bought this 5th wheel trailer in 2008, we already owned a 2007 Dodge RAM 3500 long bed single rear wheel truck which we had purchased brand new the summer before. It works a lot harder pulling this trailer than it did the Lynx travel trailer, which was our previous full-time RV, however we could still get up and down the big mountains out pretty well..

We used to get 8.5-10.5 mpg while towing, but since we installed an Edge Tuner on our diesel engine in October 2014, we now get 10.5 to 13 mph while towing.

To learn more about the upgrades we have done on our truck and trailer, visit these pages:

2007 NuWa Hitchhiker 34.5 RLT 5th wheel RV trailer

The dining room table and chairs and the sofa are in the big slide-out on the curb side.

RV - 2007 NuWa Hitchhiker II 34.5 RLTG fifth wheel (5th wheel)

We love the big picture windows along the side and back of the trailer – they let in light and give us views!

RV living room in 36' Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer

Most modern trailers have short (60″ or 66″) sofas. This one has a 74″ sofa, long enough for Mark to stretch out on.

RV Living room area of 2007 NuWa Hitchhiker 34.5 RLT fifth wheel

The recliners are very relaxing. We found we weren’t as comfy without them in our old trailer.

RV Kitchen 36' 5th wheel trailer by NuWa Hitchhiker

The kitchen is open and easy to work in.

5th wheel RV Kitchen NuWa Hitchhiker 36' fifth wheel

A big window and expansive counter tops.

RV Desk slide-out in 36' 5th wheel trailer by NuWa Hitchhiker

The desk was a nice addition and gets the mess off the kitchen table!

RV bedroom slidout fifth wheel trailer

The queen bed has a window for each occupant — a nice feature if you want a light breeze on you at night.

Fifth wheel bedroom slideout NuWa Hitchhiker 5th wheel RV

The dresser and wide closet allow enough space for all our clothes for all seasons.

Unfortunately, the economic downturn in 2008 shook up the RV industry right to its core, and many excellent manufacturers of full-time quality RVs went out of business. NuWa ceased building fifth wheel trailers in 2014. Their outstanding RV service center in Chanute, Kansas, is still in operation, however. Their manufacturing plant has been replaced with an RV dealership called Kansas RV Center.

Ram 3500 dually diesel truck and 14,100 lb. fifth wheel trailer

Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Long Bed Truck to tow our 36′ NuWa Hitchhiker 34.5 RLTG Fifth Wheel Trailer

As for towing this trailer, after towing it over 50,000 miles with our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Single Rear Wheel Long Bed truck, in December, 2015, we replaced that truck with a much more powerful 2016 Ram 3500 Dually Long Bed. The difference in power is staggering. We have a very detail post explaining the differences between these two trucks and why our new truck is so superior here:

Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Truck – Best Truck for RV Fifth Wheel Trailer Towing

We had a blast buying this truck when we found out that our dealership had a marketing relationship with Alice Cooper, one of Mark’s rock star idols since his teenage days:

Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck

We decided to add some really awesome bling to this truck by outfitting it with a new B&W Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch. This hitch is unique because it takes advantage of the Dodge Ram fifth wheel hitch in-bed puck system. It took just one hour to install this hitch, and we have a step-by-step pictorial installation guide with instructions for how to install it:

B&W Companion OEM Fifth Wheel Hitch – Installation Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions

Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Truck towing a 36' NuWa Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel Trailer RV

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2005 Fleetwood Colonial Popup Camper

Our first trailer: a Fleetwood Colonial Popup tent trailer with our Toyota Tundra pickup We loved our first RV - a Fleetwood Colonial popup tent trailer (folding tent trailer)

Closer view of the buggy itself.

Our little popup trailer was the ideal starter RV. We put our buggy's name on the license plate of our popup tent trailer.

We got a license plate with the buggy's name on it.

Here's a photo of the Floorplan of the Fleetwood Colonial popup tent trailer (folding tent trailer)

Luvnest Floorplan

2005 Fleetwood Colonial Popup

We used our popup for three years of vacation travel from 2004-2007, and we named it the Luvnest because it was so darned

cute and so much fun.  Whenever we spent time in it, even just a weekend in a local campground, we fell in love all over again.

We took it out whenever possible.  In the first two years we spent 157 nights in it.

We bought it after a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah) in a tent.  The rain was relentless.  While we drove around looking

for warm coffee shops and cozy places for lunch and dinner we noticed that all the people in RVs at the campground were

happily playing board games and reading, snug inside their trailers.  All the tenters packed up and left.  When we got home we

went shopping for a popup.

The 2005 Fleetwood Colonial Folding Tent Trailer is 12' long

end-to-end, including the hitch.  It has a 10' x 8' box containing

the dinette, sink, cupboards and some nice shelving and gives

150 square feet of living space.  There is a King bed at the

hitch end and a Double bed at the other end, We had a

furnace and outside shower which both came in very handy.

We never camped anywhere that required air conditioning, but

we often had chilly nights and ran the furnace.  When we got

hookups we would use a Holmes ceramic space heater

instead, as heating the trailer with the furnace used a lot of

battery power.

It had 26 gallons of fresh water (including the 6 gallon hot

water tank).  There was no holding tank and no toilet.  We

kept two small sets of Rubbermaid drawers in the trailer.

One set contained our toiletries and the other had all those

miscellaneous things you need like scissors, string, tape,

stapler, pens and pencils, pads, sewing kit, etc.

We pulled the popup with a 2004 Toyota Tundra pickup truck

(4.7 liter engine).  It was a perfect combination for towing.  The

trailer was easily within the truck's capabilities and there was

plenty of storage under the cap of the pickup for all the things

that wouldn't fit in the trailer.

We purchased a bike rack for the roof, as this particular

model did not include a roof rack.  It was a little awkward to

get the bikes on the roof, because the rack system required

strapping the bikes down in addition to using Bike Tites to

clamp the fork to the roof, but it gave us more room in the

truck.

The beauty of a popup is that it is light and easy to tow, can fit

in almost any campsite at any campground and can be

parked in the garage.  Most have a king bed.  The

disadvantage is that the canvas sides don't provide any

insulation and you can't easily overnight in a Walmart or eat

lunch at the dinette while stopped at a rest area.

A popup offers a fantastic introduction to RVing.  We learned all about the basic RV systems: batteries, gas fridge, gas hot water

heater, furnace, etc., with the popup.  We also learned how to conserve water with our showers and how to conserve battery

use.  We did not have solar, but we could spend about a week in this rig without charging the batteries.  We often used candles

at night to extend our stay.  The furnace was very effective but used a lot of battery power.  I nicknamed it the Fire Breathing

Dragon, because it was quite loud and would make the buggy so hot I'd have to unzip the canvas near my nose to get some

fresh air!  We found that if we were staying several days in a place where temperatures got into the 30's at night we were

happier with hookups so we could run our electric heater all night long.  The lowest temperature we ever camped in was 28

degrees in Moab, Utah, in March.  We like to be warm and we don't camp in humid areas, so we have never had a need for air

conditioning in any of our rigs -- except when we were east of central Texas.

Long-term travel in a popup can be done, but it is the exception.  We met a couple in their mid-sixties that has full-timed in a

Fleetwood Niagra popup for four years.  They had a bumper sticker, "Life is better outdoors," and they were grinning ear to ear.

We also met a couple in their twenties that was spending six months in their Fleetwood Santa Fe touring the country and

peforming music in local bars as they searched for a community they liked enough to settle in.

It was hard to give up our first Luvnest when we purchased our Lynx travel trailer.  However, our good friends Rich and Mary are

now the proud owners of this rig, and we have had a ball camping with them, seeing our old Luvnest in a nearby campsite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 27′ Travel Trailer

We lived fulltime in our Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270 FQS travel trailer, a good RV for fulltiming! The 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS is a great RV for the fulltime RV lifestyle, even though it's a travel trailer A 27' travel trailer, the Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270 FQS, has enough space for a part-time RV lifestyle but not enough for fulltiming

This layout is great for two people but is limited for

entertaining.

The Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS has an open floorplan that we liked for our fulltime RV lifestyle The 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS travel trailer RV has an open floorplan -- good for fulltime RVers like us

The sofa and dinette are in a big slide

We opened the jackknife sofa all the time in our 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS when we were living in that RV fulltime

The "jackknife" sofa easily folds out into a double bed. 

The dinette also folds down into a child-size bed.

We used the TV a lot in our Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270 FQS travel trailer when we lived in that RV fulltime

The TV can be turned to face the bed or the sofa.  There

is a cigarette lighter on the wall that we used for our

inverter so we could watch TV and DVDs while

drycamping.

The kitchen in our 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS travel trailer was a little small for our fulltime RV lifestyle

This little kitchen produced many great meals.

The 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS is a smart floorplan that worked well for our fulltime RV lifestyle

Lynx Floorplan

solar panel installation (Kyocera 130 watt) on our 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS travel trailer, our fulltime RV

Mark installs the solar panel on the roof of the trailer.

This gives us all the electricity we need without having

to hook up.

Solar panel installation (130 watt Kyocera) on our 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS travel trailer, the RV we lived in fulltime

Getting psyched to start drilling holes in the roof.  Mark

was naturally quite worried about this part of the

installation.

solar panel installation (Kyocera 130 watt) on our 27' travel trailer, a Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS, our fulltime RV

Westport-Union State Park Campground in California

about 150 miles north of San Francisco was a nice

place to do this installation.

Kyocera 130 watt solar panel on the roof of our RV, a 27' Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS travel trailer, our fulltime RV home

Finished product, situated between a roof hatch and the

folded down TV antenna.

2007 Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS

We purchased our Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer as a fulltime RV,

and we lived in it from May, 2007 to May, 2008.  We bought it with

the idea of "Go cheap, go small, go now."  We wanted to use our

existing truck ('04 Toyota Tundra), and this trailer was the largest

size that our truck could handle (theoretically).  We wanted a travel

trailer so we could have a cap on the truck and keep our bikes out

of the elements.  What appealed to us about the Lynx was its very

spacious interior for its length.  It had an open and airy feeling

inside, and had a lot of storage space.  It was the ideal introduction

to larger sized RVs.

The 2007 Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 270FQS is a 29'

travel trailer from end to end, including the hitch, and

is 27' x 8' inside with a 3' x 14' slideout, providing 240

square feet of living space.  It weighs 5,500 lbs dry

and has a GVWR of 7,300 lbs.  It was billed as "half-

ton towable" but we had trouble towing it through the

mountains with our 2004 4.7 liter Toyota Tundra.  We

towed it for about 4,000 miles with that truck and

then replaced the truck with a Dodge Ram 3500

diesel.  The trailer holds 40 gallons of fresh water, 40

gallons of grey and 40 gallons of black.  It has a

15,000 BTU air conditioner and 35,000 BTU furnace.

There is a single slide that is 3' x 14' which contains the dinette and

sofa.  The queen bed on this model was a short queen (74.5" x 60"),

but Mark modified it to be a full quuen (80"x60").  The bed lifts up to

a huge storage area underneath that can be accessed by hatch

doors on both sides of the trailer.  It has a 6 cubic foot refrigerator,

kitchen sink, range, microwave and pantry.  The bathroom has a

shower, toilet and sink.

We used an Equalizer hitch with a 12,000 lb rating.  The hitch broke

twice.  Fortunately we were not hurt either time.  The first time the

welds cracked all around the hitch head.  The second time one of the

two bolts holding the hitch together sheered off when we came down

a driveway leaving a bank parking lot.  Equalizer was very good and

replaced the hitch head when the welds broke.  We replaced the hitch

bolts with #8 rather than #5 bolts (only a few bucks) just a few miles

from where we noticed the one had sheered off.  We got 9-10 mpg

while towing with the Tundra and 11-12 mpg while towing with the Dodge.

This trailer was an ideal starter for fulltime RVing.  In it we learned about

solar power, inverters and boondocking, and it taught us about the things

that were vital and the things that were unimportant in a fulltime rig.  In the

end we realized the Tundra was not strong enough to tow the Lynx and we

upgraded to a long bed, single rear wheel Dodge Ram 3500 one ton.  It was

more truck than the Lynx needed, but we purchased it knowing that one day

we might get a fifth wheel.

By starting with the little Lynx we got on the road sooner rather than later,

and we had time to research alternative big rigs at leisure.  As we traveled

we quizzed everyone we met in a larger trailer to find out what they liked

and didn't like about it.

We visited dealerships in towns from Oregon to Florida and slowly educated

ourselves about the brands, makes and models of the larger rigs.

There is no way that we could have done that kind of research when

we were working.  We finally  decided the Lynx was too small during

the long cold winter nights, and being a lightly built "half-ton towable"

trailer, it was a little fragile for the long term.  We also discovered that

it was very awkward to get into the storage space in the back of the

truck and we decided the bikes didn't really have to be stored out of

the elements.

Our solar setup on this rig was one Kyocera 130 watt solar panel

mounted permanently to the roof (not able to be tilted towards the

sun), and a Morningstar Sunsaver charge controller connected initially

to two 12 volt Nautilus Group 24 batteries.  We upgraded the batteries

to two 6 volt Energizer batteries from Sam's Club after six months.

The first pair of batteries had 140 amp-hours of capacity and the

second pair had 220 amp-hours of capacity.  The solar charging

setup provided about 25-50 amp-hours of battery charging capacity

per day, which meant that we could use about that much battery

power in the trailer each day without running the batteries down.

We had an 800 watt inverter connected directly to the batteries and we

ran a power strip style extension cord from its AC receptacle through

the storage area under the bed and into the trailer.  We had to go

outside to open the storage hatch to turn on this inverter, so we used it

only when we wanted to run the vacuum cleaner (which draws 300-400

watts).

Inside the trailer there was a cigarette-lighter style DC connector for

the antenna boost system on the wall next to the TV shelf.  We kept a

tiny Radio Shack 150 watt inverter on the shelf and turned it on

whenever we wanted to charge the computer, the razor, the camera

batteries or the toothbrush, or whenever we wanted to watch TV or

DVDs.  This little inverter's fan quit once, but Mark lubed it up with

WD-40 and it ran daily for 3-6 hours each day for the year that we

lived in this trailer.  It is amazing that a tiny $60 gadget could give us the ability to run all the AC appliances that we wanted to run

(except the vacuum).  We had never used a microwave much in our house, so we didn't bother getting an inverter large enough

to support the microwave (950 watts).  So we used the microwave as a breadbox.

We drycamped 83% of the time that first year -- 305 nights.  The solar

setup was more than adequate for the entire year except for the cold

winter months, December - February.  Until that time we never paid

much attention to our electrical use.  The four LEDs that showed the

status of the batteries generally had all four LEDs lit whenever we

checket it.  During the winter months the days were short, so the

panel did not have much time to get its charging done; the sun rode

low in the sky, so the panel did not sit at a great angle to the sun; and

the nights were long, so we sat around for hours while it was dark

outside, running the lights and the battery-draining furnace.  To

compensate, we used oil lamps for light at night and we wore a lot of

layers.  This is okay for a "roughing it" vacation, but it wore on our

spirits after a while.  It was clear by the end of the winter that we

needed more solar and battery capacity, a non-battery-draining

heating system, and more seating options in the trailer!

In the end it was hard to let the little Lynx go.  John and Carl at the dealership where we traded it in were very patient as we

continually sang its praises and wondered aloud whether the new huge fifth wheel would measure up.  The Lynx had everything

we needed, and if we had been traveling just 6-9 months a year we never would have given it up.  However, when your only

home is your trailer, little things like comfortable furniture, space to lie down on the floor and stretch, and general ruggedness

become important.  I'm not 100% sure, but I think the fellow that bought the Lynx from the dealership was a man who had just lost

his home -- a 1980's vintage Holiday Rambler travel trailer -- to a tornado that had flattened his town of Pricher Oklahoma.  If that

is the case, then I know the Lynx is very much appreciated by its new owner.