Fulltime RVing in a Class B motorhome: Campskunk’s story

Written by on January 30, 2013 in People & Places, Videos

campskunkendThere are fulltime RVers and then there is Campskunk.

Most fulltimers travel in Type A motorhomes or Fifth Wheels. They also tow a car. And though their RVs are as long as many a subdivision house, they are still a rare breed, disposing of only what they can put in storage or pack in their 36, 40 or 43 foot long RV. They’re generally celebrated by the RV community, looked up to and envied for their independence and vagabond freedom.

But imagine doing it in a 22-foot long Class B campervan. That’s what Campskunk has been doing for the past three years. With wife, Sharon and their Ragdoll cat, “Fiona the Fearless,” they live 24-x-7, 365 days a year in their 2003 Roadtrek Type B motorhome.

Campskunk, of course, is not his real name. But he’s known to thousands in the RV community by that moniker, which comes from part of  the couple’s joint email address that blends the first part of Sharon’s maiden name with his old nickname from the days he held a high profile state government job that had him doing a lot of quality control work that made him more than his share of enemies.

That was before he retired in 2010, let his hair grow down to his waist, mothballed his sportcoats and literally burned his ties to set off on the road, living life a day at a time in the most beautiful places he could find.

“I wore a coat and tie everyday,” he says of his former working life. “I was burning yard trash getting ready to leave the house and begin fulltiming in late July 2010, so I just took my ties and draped them over the burning pile, one by one. It was intensely satisfying to leave that part of my life behind.”

He does keep one tie, one sportcoat and one pair of dress slacks in his RV for funerals, weddings and special occasions. But his typical wear is a T-shirt, jeans or shorts. That’s because he is always somewhere warm. Always. It’s his hard and fast traveling rule.”I consider it operator error if we end up in a place colder than 70 degrees,” he says.

campskunksetupFull time living in such a small motorhome is not nearly as difficult as it sounds, he says. “It a matter of priorities and planning, Most of us just don’t need all the stuff we have. The more stuff, the less free we are to live the way we want to.”

Campskunk is a regular on RV forums on Facebook and Yahoo!. He’s well respected as an expert tinkerer, someone who can fix anything, build anything and modify an RV for years of use. His Chevy-based Roadtrek has 120,000 miles. He thinks he can get another ten years of use out of it and hopes to take it to Europe after several more years of traveling across the U.S.

Money is admittedly tight. He and Sharon meticulously budget.

“Leaving aside all the regular non-fulltiming-related expenditures like car insurance and health insurance, etc, we originally budgeted $50 a day, or $1500 a month: $500 for fuel, $500 for groceries and spending money, and $500 for lodging/campground fees,” he says.  “Since we started fulltiming, fuel costs have averaged $346 per month and our campground costs have gone down to $1,776 for the last year, or $148 a month.”

That’s because whenever possible, he chooses to boondock, staying in free or reduced rate non-commercial campgrounds, typically in state and national forests, coastal areas or pubic land.

“In one memorable month the summer before last, we only spent $600 – camping was free and town was only 5 miles away, so no fuel costs.  And there was nothing else to spend money on. We were up at 9,800 feet near Silverton, CO,” he says.
Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 7.22.04 PMCampskunk has become amazingly adept at finding spectacular boondocking spots.

“I Google around,” he says, “The national forest service’s website is very hard to find stuff on, But there’s a book of all the national forest campsites in a book put out by Coleman.  Find the ranger station, stop in and talk to them about dispersed camping – that’s the best.  I also keep my eyes open when driving, and have literally stumbled into many great places. Know the state laws where you travel – you can park along the pacific coastal highway anywhere  There are no local ordinances or signs prohibiting it for 8 hours in California and 12 hours in Oregon. I think you can stay for longer in Washington state – nobody’s ever up there.   The best way to find overnight spots when you’re just traveling through and want to overnight near the highway is http://www.overnightrvparking.com/  It costs $25  a year for a subscription but you make your money back the first campground you avoid. It has up-to-date information on 10,000 free or very cheap overnight parking spots nationwide.”

He’s totally wired with satellite Internet and commercial TV. “Sharon insisted that if we were going to really do this, she’d have her TV,” he says. “I needed the Internet. So we have two dishes.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 7.27.00 PMHe is solar powered and has a wind turbine that also helped top off the coach batteries in his RV. He did it all himself thanks to skills he honed in the 70′s when he worked as an automotive mechanic befofe heading back to school for the specialized education that got him his government job.

There are unique challenges to fulltime RV living, he admits.

“Challenges are anything that you can’t do electronically – get a prescription filled, get your new credit cards when the old ones expire, getting your new insurance cards, etc. We now have east and west coast dentists. The other doctor stuff is harder- we had to go to Mexico once to get one prescription filled when the logistics of getting it filled by regular means failed. There’s no ‘see you in three months’ when you’re a fulltimer.  One really annoying thing is going into a different grocery store every week – you never learn where they put things, and the next place is always different.”

Campskunk turned 60 last fall. He travels about 15,000 miles each year, making non-rushed loops around the country.

Fulltime RVing is not for everyone, he is quick to point out. But it is doable. His best advice?

“Just get out there and do it. You’ll get better at it after a year or two. We are still learning as we go. We’re poor but happy.”

 


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About the Author

About the Author: Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, and Norweigian Elkhound, Tai, travels North America in a Type B motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and frustrations of RV life on the road. He is the official on-the-road reporter for the Family Motor Coach Association. a columnist with Family Motor Coaching Magazine and his Roadtreking reports appear in numerous newspapers and publications. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, video editing and all things dealing with technology. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations. .

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42 Reader Comments

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  1. Jim Hampton says:

    What a great story and video, Mike. You did an excellent job. I’ve read Campskunk’s posts on the various class b forums and now have a whole new appreciation of him. I appreciate you taking the time to hunt out these interesting people and telling their stories. Your blog is a delight!

  2. Ronda says:

    What a nice story. I don’t know how he and his wife do it, living in that little van. But he sure looks happy. I don’t think we could fulltime in our Class A!

  3. Lawrence and Sally says:

    How much does it cost him for his satellite TV and Internet each month? What are the download/upload speeds. We are thinking of adding both this season as we hope to spend a lot of time out west in the national parks where there is very limited cell coverage, let alone Internet access.

  4. Alice Stern says:

    Thanks for this piece Mike and my question for Campskunk is what do you use for your home address?
    In which state do you pay taxes? Do you have a postal service to forward you mail?
    I’m seriously thinking about this lifestyle and just trying to imagine how to make it all work>
    Thanks to both of you!

  5. campskunk says:

    satellite internet is $60 a month, and i chiseled DirecTV down to $67 a month. we also have a datacard (another $50 a month) for internet while en route or just overnighting. the internet dish goes up when we settle in for a few days, or go out of cellphone range. it works everywhere – the park ranger at Chaco Canyon got on my internet because i was the only one with a connection out there. back east you’re never out of datacard range, but out west it’s a different story. speeds are about the same on the dish as the datacard – 1 meg per second and maybe half that during peak hours. upload is 150kish. it’s a pain to aim and carry, but it sure fits my lifestyle and preferred camping locations. i figure if i’m still in cellphone range i’m too close to town ;-)

    my nominal mailing address is my parents’/sister’s house back in FL – we get a care package every month or two by having them pack up the stuff that comes and sending it to a UPS or Fedex location near where we are. my driver’s license and registration is still FL, which has no income tax.

  6. Susan Adame says:

    Thanks, Mike and Campskunk, for the great information. Campskunk is an inspiration for so many of us. I didn’t know that he also had a wind turbine!? I am impressed by the set up.

  7. diana says:

    Rats! Now I’m really sorry that, instead of just leaving my card under Campskunks’s windshield wiper, I didn’t pound on his door until he answered when I parked in a Fred Meyers lot in OR near him last summer! Seriously, very excellent story and I hope you do more RT owner profiles in the future!

  8. Stu Kratz says:

    What a lot of people may not know about Campskunk if your not on FB or on the yahoo group is that he is always helping people out with his knowledge of his Roadtrek and full timing lifestyle. He has such a fun way of describing things that it’s a joy to read his post and that makes everyone want to be his friend, he’s just a great all around person. I’m sure that is why Mike did a great interview of him, thanks Mike and thanks again Campskunk for putting yourself out there for all to see, I know that wasn’t easy for you.

  9. Rod says:

    Campskunk is a really good, decent person with whom I became acquainted many years ago when we both worked in state government. Over the years we have become good friends who stay in touch via email and his many postings of the wonderful places he and Sharon visit throughout the year. Looking forward to retiring soon to enjoy some of the freedom and peace they have…..but maybe part-time in a small RV on a secluded lake or river in a warm climate.

  10. Caroline says:

    I met Campskunk and Sharon at Assateague National Seashore and then again at Elephant Butte State park in NM. Can’t miss that van! I travel in a 19′Roadtrek full-time and just aquired a mini-daschund to travel with. I’ve been traveling for 3yrs. also. I’m in Florida now too. They are really good people! Great interview! I will definitely be looking forward to more of your articles. Thanks. I also benefit from all their travels as well. Thanks guys! See ya on the road!

  11. Caroline says:

    I do have a question about fishing liscenses. Why can’t there be a national liscense? It gets expensive buying a liscense everywhere I go. And it’s always cheaper to buy an annual one. Does FMCA have any pull with this problem?

    • campskunk says:

      hi caroline! can’t wait to meet your new dachshund when we bump into each other again! on the fishing licenses, they’re like marriage licenses, driver’s licenses, occupational licenses, etc. – each state has their own. consequently, they favor the locals. us out-of-state fisherpeople weren’t at the table when they divided up the pie, so we get exorbitant fees. not much we can do about it.

      • Caroline says:

        has anyone even tried to get something like a senior national license? I think it should be brought to a vote. Maybe aarp can help.
        there’s a senior national park card at 62.

    • Dave Hardy says:

      I agree about the need for a national fishing license but understand that game and fish belong to the state. Now a reciprocal agreement fishing license between states could be a goal to look for.

      It would be nice to fish in FL and the Gulf states in the winter and New England in the summer.

  12. Jean Tripp says:

    Loved the interview, wondered about you lately as we freeze up here in Canada! Keep on Trekking!

  13. Sal says:

    I have a Class C from LTV and we are planning to go fulltime. If this guy can do it in a Class B, I’m feeling better about us in our Class C. thanks for the inspiration!

    • campskunk says:

      sal, you can do it. having nice weather 12 months out of the year means being outside is always an option, so it’s not as cramped as you would imagine. sometimes the mrs prefers that i be outside – i think she wants to be sure i get enough fresh air ;-)

  14. David W. Micklo says:

    Mike,

    I’m so glad you did this interview. Just look at the posts! This, in my humble opinion, is what we all love to read about, and watch about too!

    You wrapped up so many great things in one; An interview about Campskunk (a person a lot of us know and truly want to know more about), information and video/pictures of his gear/setup, some great camping pictures, how to do it, what it costs… What didn’t you cover? Absolutely excellent. I think we discussed awhile back about doing profile articles. I’m so glad yo went with it! Can’t wait to meet more people!

    But don’t limit it with just full-timing Roadtrekers. There are some amazing people out there and their stories are inspirational. From my journeys in life I have had the great pleasure of knowing Cavers, Whitewater Kayakers, Rock Climbers, Mountaineers, Military men and woman, etc… each one’s subculture is wonderfully different and yet so similar.

    Thanks, again Mike

    and very nice to meet you finally Campskunk!

  15. Mike Wendland says:

    David… thanks for the kind words. As an old editor once told me, everyone and every place has a story. It’s such a delight to be able to be out there finding them. Next week, we’re off to the frigid wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the UP200 dog sled race, which gathers over 100 teams of mushers for a grueling run through the wilderness. It’s a qualifier for the Iditarod. Should be some stories there!

  16. Don Peters says:

    Nice job, Mike. Got to spend the night in a campground overlooking the Pacific near Big Sur and visit with Campskunk early November. Very pleasant visit. Just wanted to say hi.

  17. Kim says:

    Way to go, campskunk! You give me great hope when you talk about the robust chassis. I want my RT to grow up to be just like yours!

  18. Monique says:

    Great Interview Mike. Thanks for showing us your livelihood Campskunk! Great modifications on your RT! I need to start looking more seriously at that. Happy Travels!
    Monique

  19. This is exactly what I want to do…..

  20. Bryant Haines says:

    Can’t wait to undock this summer for our family road trek. Planning two months of sea to shining sea (and back).

  21. I see water ! Where’s the fishing poles ? Where’s the dinner?

  22. Mary Reilly Callahan says:

    Is that cigarettes on that table???????….quit you’ll enjoy that motor home longer!!!..:)

  23. Vyktor Menendez says:

    Oh, what a life…

  24. Bonita Prince says:

    I love this lifestyle. Want to get back to it

  25. c’est la vie que je rêve de faire avec mon vr!!!!

  26. great no stress here

  27. now ,this is living..

  28. Looks a lot like a spot I have enjoyed at Grayton Beach State Park in FL. I am so ready to go back!

  29. I’m wondering where this might be. Looks a lot like Snead Island.

  30. Looks like along the Banana River in Brevard County, FL.

  31. Donna Roller Donna Roller says:

    i need a man to travel with

  32. Reading this article….sounds like fun to me….

  33. George Oakes says:

    my kind of life

  34. Bill McLaughlin says:

    My cat loves the Whiskers Lickins’ I see on the table. Fiona has good taste.

  35. Robert Brandt says:

    dinner is still in the water.

  36. Fred Showker Fred Showker says:

    Wow … this looks sooooo familiar … like I’ve been in that exact spot ????

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