Domicile Decision

I’m not retiring for 8.5 years.  We can’t travel full time at least until then so why am I deciding on our domicile so far in advance?  Because I can’t help it, I’m a planner.  We’ve had three states in the running; Florida, Texas, and South Dakota.  I had always thought we would move our domicile to Texas but recently I’ve been waffling.  South Dakota was starting to look very attractive which made me rethink my decision.  After crunching the numbers and reviewing health care options I have decided to stay with Texas.

So why even blog about this.  Mainly it just helps to write out my thought processes.   Also, I’ve done a lot more research on what we need to do to emigrate to Texas.  I’ve got a timeline now with what tasks we need to accomplish step by step as we moved to Texas.

The rough outline of the plan is this:

  • Purchase the RV prior to retirement
    • We’ll buy the RV a few years before we retire so we can get the RV outfitted and get some practice before we retire.
  • Sell the house
    • Once we are comfortable towing and living in the RV, we’ll select an RV park near my work to finish out the last few years of work.  Then we’ll clean out the house, do some minor remodeling, and then sell it.  We’ll pay off the RV and then invest the rest.
  • Full-Timing
    • At this point we will not have a house but I won’t be retired yet.  We’ll use this time to get used to full-timing and prepping for retirement.
  • Retirement
    • First we’ll set up a mail service in Texas.  More than likely this will be with Escapees.  They have tons of resources for full-time RV’ers.  This will give us our street address.  We’ll change our bank, insurance, etc to use this new address.
    • Next we’ll have to find an insurance agent in Texas to insure our vehicles just prior to the trip.
    • After retirement we’ll pull up stakes and head to Texas.  We have a 40 day trip planned to get to Texas.  Once we’re there we’ll set up shop and begin the process of registering vehicles and getting Texas driver’s licenses.

The domicile process:

  • Once we arrive in Texas we’ll head over to Escapees’ RV park, Rainbow’s End, to set up as a home base to begin all the tasks involved in becoming Texans.
  • Register our vehicles
    • We may be able to register our truck and trailer before we even leave for Texas.  However, it may be cleaner and easier to register once we get there.
  • Apply for Texas drivers’ license
    • Once we’ve insured and registered our vehicles we can apply for a driver’s license.  Once we have our TDL we are for all practical purposes, residents of the State of Texas.
  • Begin professional relationships
    • After we complete the domiciling process we need to talk to an attorney because California is notorious for going after people that it THINKS are California residents.  We want to talk to a lawyer to make sure we’ve got all our i’s dotted.

After we’ve got this process complete our next stop will be to near by Lake Livingston where we’ll stay for a month or so to just decompress and decide what to do next.  Again, we have 8.5 years before any of this happens but in that 8.5 years we need to buy a bigger truck, buy our 5th wheel trailer, get rid of our possessions, and sell our home all while holding down a full time job.  And we need to help our daughter move out and get established.  That’s probably JUST enough time to do all this.  It will be here before we know it.


The Dream Is Still Alive

I haven’t written much about retirement plans lately because there isn’t much progress on that front except for the slow crawl of getting through the years to get there.  After starting with my present employer I found out that to receive the pension I must put in 10 years of full-time non-probationary employment with them.  As our probationary period is 1 year I have to work 11 years total before I can retire and get my pension.  At this point I am at the 8 and 1/2 year mark.

The dream is to be able to get out from under the crush of “stuff” we have and travel.  Since full-time travel won’t be a viable option for at least 9 more years we can still travel part time.  And we can still get out from under our home and the crush of “stuff.”

My brother is doing just this.  In fact he blantantly STOLE my idea of living in an RV full time and travelling.  (That’s humor folks, don’t get upset.)  But you did read it here first!  It was MY idea.  NO one EVER thought of this before me! 🙂  He and his wife are selling their home and embarking on a journey to Texas this week in his Airstream travel trailer.  Good for them.  I hope they enjoy this new chapter of their lives.

The Trailer

But as this post is titled, we haven’t given up the dream yet.  This past year we have struggled over whether to get a smaller trailer and take shorter trips while having a small “home base” to return to.  My wife has been looking at homes both near and far for several months now.  This past two weeks have been a game changer for her.  We went to look at the smaller trailer we were considering.  I asked her to just spend some time in it with me.  After 30 minutes or so she needed to get out.  I then asked her to imagine spending a rainy weekend in that small trailer.  Not a pleasant thought but the weather isn’t always sunny when you’re camping.


When we got home I showed her a slightly larger (yet oddly, less expensive) travel trailer.  The Grand Design Iagine 2670MK Travel Trailer.  It has a much more spacious floorplan and a desk which was a feature we loved!  It was easy to just sit in the recliners and either nap or read.  It alsoWe could see ourselves spending time in this trailer.  The only thing we really didn’t like about it was how cramped the bedroom was.


The salesman that was showing us the unit told us that they had a 5th wheel with a similar floor plan but had a bigger bedroom.  Now, we really didn’t want a 5th wheel but it wouldn’t hurt to take a look.  We walked across the lot and he showed us the Grand Design Reflection 320MKS 5th wheel.

Now… this was more like it!  It had all the same features; desk, outdoor kitchen, but it had a bigger bedroom WITH a closet!  The kitchen had a larger refrigerator and a large pantry.  Cristy was sold.  We spent quite a bit of time in this trailer.  There were some things we liked about the Imagine travel trailer better but the Reflection just seemed more rugged and spacious.  Cristy almost fell asleep in the recliner.

If you’ve followed my blog you know that we’ve changed our minds several times.  That’s the beauty of dreams!   But this is the dream at the moment.

The Truck

Trailers don’t pull themselves, you need a tow vehicle.  When we were going with the Lance my RAM 1500 was enough to pull it.  The moment we decided to go with a larger trailer the decision was made for us that we had to scale up the truck.  I want to stick with RAM trucks so that part of the decision was made.   The only thing we needed to decide was to go with a RAM 2500 or 3500.   While the RAM 2500 is enough to pull the Reflection 5th wheel, that’s really all it could do.  There would be very little load carrying capacity in the truck beyond the hitch weight of the trailer.  Therefore it had to be the 3500.  It would EASILY tow the trailer and anything we could cram into it.  Decision made.

So… when can all this happen?  We think it’s best to make this all happen while I’m still earning money.  After retirement we’ll be on a fixed income.  So step one is to finish paying off my current truck.  Then we’ll trade it in and buy the new truck.  A few years after that we’ll buy the trailer and hopefully get it paid off before retirement.  We are also talking about selling our house prior to retirement and just living in the trailer in the final few years before retirement.  But dreams are cheap and easily changed.

We’ll see.

2014 Ram 1500 ST Integrated Brake Controller Installation

I didn’t specifically buy this truck to do any towing.  It was literally going to be just a replacement vehicle for the minivan, which, was falling apart.  Especially after seeing the abysmally low tow ratings for the RAM 1500 ST.  Then I started researching light weight travel trailers and starting thinking “what if”?  Then I found the Lance model 1985 travel trailer.  It has a gross weight well under my truck’s max tow rating.  However, I would need to add a brake controller.

I actually already had a brake controller I could have used but it’s the type that hangs down below the dash and you end up knocking your knees on it getting in and out of the truck.  After doing some research I found it was possible to add the factory supplied brake controller.  I used THIS DOCUMENT as my guide to installing the Ram Integrated Brake Module (RIBM) and everything went (almost) well.

When you order the RIBM, it comes with two bezels, one charcoal grey and the other tan.  I used the grey bezel to match my panel obviously.  It installs into the below space in your panel.  Originally there was a small change holder here.  It removes easily with two screws and the RIBM slides right into place.  Ram supplies an extra screw to hold the RIBM in place.  These are Torx 20 screws.


To get at the wiring you have to remove the kneeguard panel just below the steering wheel.  This is super easy as well.  You remove two screws at the bottom of the panel and it snaps out.  Then just let it hang by it’s wiring.


Here is unfortunately where I stopped taking pictures.  To complete the installation I had to tap into the pink wire in the upper right corner of the above photo.  I then had to run this wire over to the brake controller.  The reason I had to do this is because the RIBM comes with two connection ports.  I had the first connector in my truck.  This is the one that goes to the 7 way plug back at my tow hitch.  The second connector supplies power and connects back to the truck’s EVIC or Electronic Vehicle Information Center.  My truck didn’t come with an EVIC so they didn’t bother to put this second plug in.  So at the other end of the wire I ran I installed a small female pin that fit the male pins on the second RIBM connector. (These connectors are available on Amazon.)

I crimped the pin onto the wire (make sure you use the proper crimpers for this or else use pliers and some solder.) I put some heat shrink over the end so the bare metal connector wouldn’t short against any of the other pins.  To make sure the cable stayed on I used some super strong duct tape to tape the wire to the bottom of the RIBM.

I plugged the red wire into the smaller connector and then installed the RIBM into the panel.  After it was secured I plugged the connector I found under my panel into the second larger connector on the RIBM.  When I turned the key and saw that it powered on I put all the dashboard panels back into place.

I know that CF means controller fault and that’s because there is no trailer connected.  What I don’t know yet is how long it flashes this message.  I didn’t leave it powered on that long because it was starting to rain.  I’ll do some more research today and see if I installed it correctly.


The CF (Controller Fault) problem has been solved!  When I first read about this installation many of the people who did this before me said that I only needed to hook up the +12V line on the second jack in the controller.  This the the single wire I connected as discussed above.  This was simply not true.  I had to connect the CANBUS + and – lines as well.  Even though I don’t have an EVIC, these lines are needed by the controller.  Otherwise it thinks there is a problem.  After I connected these pins per the document I referred to above, the controller functioned correctly!  I have not connected a trailer to it yet so I don’t yet know completely if the RIBC is fully functional.

Interim Dreaming

Since I bought an interim truck to hold me over until I can buy the big truck, Cristy and I started thinking about buying an interim trailer to hold us over until we can buy the big trailer.  My Ram 1500 has a max trailer weight of 6050 lbs so I began looking for a lightweight travel trailer I could safely tow with my Ram.  After doing some research I came across Lance Travel Trailers.  Lance is well known for their truck campers but they also make some really nice, light travel trailers.

The largest model my truck can safely tow is the 1985.  It has a maximum weight of 5700 lbs.

The 1985 is small enough to fit into most state and national park campgrounds, easily towed, yet JUST big enough to be livable for more than overnight trips.  It’s literally the biggest little trailer I could find.

Fully loaded the trailer will be over 5000 lbs.  The Ram 1500 owner’s manual strongly recommends using a weight distribution hitch for trailers over 5000 lbs.  For that I’ll go with the Andersen 3344 no-sway hitch.  This type of hitch transfers some of the trailer’s weight to the front wheels of your towing vehicle.  What’s really nice is that no modifications need to be made to your vehicle, the weight distribution hitch clamps to the frame of the trailer’s hitch.

We’re not quite ready to buy the trailer but this is the new plan.  We will still move toward the bigger truck and trailer but for now this is what we will learn the ropes on.


Goodbye Sienna, Hello Ram

img_20161119_143059After 18 years of reliable service we decided it was time to put our 1998 Toyota Sienna out to pasture.  I knew that I wanted a Ram 3500 to be our tow vehicle when we eventually start travelling full time.  I also knew that we won’t be able to live that lifestyle for another 7 to 10 years.  There would be no point in having a Ram 3500 as my daily driver for the next 7 years.  But I also knew the Sienna wasn’t going to last another 7 years.  After discussing it with my wife she suggested I get an interim truck.  After searching around a little I finally settled on a bare bones Ram 1500.  This particular truck has storage compartments on either side of the bed, and basic instrumentation.  I went basic so the truck wouldn’t be an attractive target for thieves.


It’s good to finally have a vehicle that doesn’t sound like it’s about to fall apart, will pass smog, and can tow heavier loads than the minivan could.  I’m even starting to think about a small travel trailer so my wife and I can do some camping.

Anderson Ultimate Hitch 2

I just received comment in my blog from Andersen Hitches.  It seems they have improved the coupling device on their hitch by adding a funnel which guides the ball hitch into the coupler.  This makes hitching up far more easy and gives a little room for “slop” when hitching up.  I know that this feature will definitely be a benefit to me personally. 🙂

Here’s what the hitch comes with…


You can see the new addition of the funnel and how cleverly designed it is.  It just bolts on the receiver assembly which bolts to the kingpin of your coach.


Not sure if owners of existing hitches can fit these to their units but it would appear you could add it easily.  If the size of the aluminum billet hasn’t changed then this would be a no-brainer addition.


You can see that once fitted on the kingpin of your coach, it will be much easier to hitch to your tow vehicle.  You can be 3 inches off-center in any direction and still hitch up easily.


Andersen seems to be an innovative company that keeps refining and enhancing their products.  I think my mind is made up.  I’m going Andersen Ultimate 2… too!


NOTE:  I’ve received no promotion or incentive from anyone to write this article.


Project 2023

So after looking at finances and life situations we have to change our timeline for retirement somewhat.  There will be some financial penalties if I retire before the age of 59.5 so we have to push Project 2020 off until 2023.  So the full-time RV life will have to wait just a bit longer.  If you’ve noticed the countdown timer on the side of my webpage you’ll further notice that it has changed to reflect our change in timeline.