© 2002-2015 John Mayer. All rights
reserved. For reuse policy see About
on the website.
Where Are We, and our
It was always our dream to live and travel fulltime in our RV.
Beginning in August of 2000 we started living that dream as fulltime RVers. It is a lifestyle that we enjoy and we do not see ourselves
"coming off the road" unless medical conditions force us to.
This website is oriented towards "technical" issues related to the
fulltime RV lifestyle - everything from selecting your tow vehicle,
information on Heavy Duty Trucks (HDT's), electrical modifications to
your RV, installation and use of solar, items to make boondocking more
pleasant, communications on the road, Internet access, etc.
While we do discuss in some detail selection of tow vehicles, the other
sections of this web site contain information relevant to motor home or
This site does not provide general "lifestyle" information on
fulltime RVing or determining if our lifestyle would suit you. For
information on lifestyle aspects of fulltime RVing we recommend our
friends Howard and Linda Payne's website,
RV-Dreams and their daily blog,
RV Dreams Blog. Also look at Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak's
excellent website at
RVlifestyleexperts.com. In the Links and Files
section on this site you will find references to other lifestyle-oriented RV
The information in this
website consists of a mixture of our opinions, and facts.
Where information is opinion, it is either apparent, or I try to specify
that it is opinion. Factual information on electrical implementations,
etc., follows best practices and code, where applicable. If you are not
sure, do your own research.
Our 2003 Royals International with our 1999 Volvo 610, boondocking in Moab, UT
When planning for the fulltime lifestyle we had to consider what type
of RV to use. For us, a fifth wheel trailer pulled by a truck was the
best choice. If you want to read more about what we feel are one of the finest
available 5th wheels check out the New
Horizons portion of this website.
We started out with a 16,500 lb Newmar 5th wheel,
pulled with an F550. We thought we chose the ultimate tow vehicle when we
purchased our Ford F550. We were wrong!
After several years on the road (towing with our F550) we realized
that if we ever wanted a heavier 5'th wheel, we were going to have to
upgrade the truck first. So we started researching Medium Duty Trucks
(MDT's). The typical MDT you see is a small Freightliner or
International converted for RV use. These are capable trucks, with many
of the features of pickups that most people are familiar with. You
should carefully consider their advantages when looking for a more
capable tow vehicle. In the process of searching for our "ultimate" RV Hauler, we realized
that for us a class 8 tractor would make a better hauler
than an MDT. What you see here is a result of our search - what we
consider the Ultimate RV Hauler. An MDT can be a better choice for some
people - take a look in the
MDT or HDT? section for our view on the tradeoffs between them.
In more recent years the pickup class has greatly
expanded their towing capacities. With the advent of what I call the
"super pickups" - like the Ford F450/F550, and the newer Dodge 3500/5500
- you can pull most of the larger 5th wheels. These are worth
considering if you are pulling a 5er in the sub-23,000 lb range. Over
that and you will be far better served with an MDT or an HDT.
Above, Our 2009 Volvo 780 with our smart
car loaded for travel.
Click on the pictures for larger size
June, 2003 we have been towing with a Heavy Duty Truck (HDT), otherwise known as a
semi-truck or a class 7/8 tractor. Yes, these are the trucks you see
towing freight all over the country. An HDT is truly the ultimate tow
vehicle. It can tow any RV trailer on the market, stops easily with
weight behind it, and is more capable in every regard than the typical
RV tow vehicle. In addition, it is easier to drive than a crew cab
dually pickup, is far more comfortable, and you never need be concerned
with overloading it.
However, an HDT
is not for everyone!
almost three years our Volvo 610
tractor (shown above, boondocking at Moab) was our only vehicle. We are often asked how we managed daily
driving in such a large vehicle. The reality is that our original Volvo tractor
was not much bigger than a crew cab dually pickup (it was slightly longer,
and the same width). For many years we had a Jeep for off-road use, which we towed
behind our 5th wheel. You can read about towing doubles (also called triple
towing) in the Legal Issues
section. In 2012 we purchased a
smart car in addition to the Jeep - the smart rides piggyback on our
second HDT - a Volvo 780 which we built in 2013. We sold our Jeep in the
winter of 2013, which solved the double towing "issue" for us.
Our 2010 New Horizons and Volvo 610, with the Jeep
Volvo tractor is titled as a motorhome in Texas. Our original truck,
shown above, was a 1999 Volvo 610
with a 182" wheelbase. It is pushed by a Cummins ISM with 400 hp./1450
lb/ft of torque. This is the smallest engine commonly found in an
HDT! This tractor is considered a "mid-height" sleeper - it has 6' 7" of
interior headroom, and is 10' 10" on the exterior. The exterior height
is slightly below the trailer height, is more practical for bob-tailing
around town than a full-height tractor (which is 13'+), and has the
added advantage of keeping the nose of the trailer bug-free! To see more
about our truck look at Selecting Your HDT and
Our Truck Body.
In 2012 we purchased our second HDT RV Hauler - a
2009 Volvo 780 tractor with an I-Shift transmission, Volvo D-16
engine with 515hp and 1850 lb/ft of torque. We upgraded to this truck
for the additional sleeper space, the advanced transmission, additional power,
and the ability to piggyback a smartcar on the bed. While we could have
rebuilt the 610 to piggyback a smart car, we made the judgment that it
was not worth the investment in the 610 and we would be better served
starting with a "fresh" build.
Some portions of this web site document the conversion process of taking an
over-the-road tractor and turning it into a dedicated RV hauler. We
added a number of items to make our trucks more comfortable, allow us to
take overnight trips with just the truck, and to title the trucks as an
RV (instead of as a truck). Specific projects we did on our Volvo's are
shown in some detail. We hope this helps you with your conversion
While the truck conversion sections may not interest those
choosing to RV with a motor home, the rest of the website contains
information relevant to all RVs.
Information on selecting an HDT and converting
it yourself is in the Selecting Your HDT section.
of Heavy Duty Trucks for hauling RVs has increased quite a bit in recent
years. There is a National Rally for heavy duty haulers held in
Hutchinson, KS in early October every year (click the graphic for info). If you are thinking of using
an HDT for hauling an RV, you should seriously consider attending this
rally. It will provide a wealth of knowledge, the ability to see many
trucks in one location, talk to the owners, and drive some of the rigs.
There is no better way to understand the value of the HDT for RV
hauling, or to learn as much in such a concentrated timeframe. All are
welcome, and prospective owners are especially encouraged to attend.
There are nearby hotels if you do not have an RV. Check out the
HDT Rally for current information.
A time lapse video of the 2013 HDT Rally truck
"lineup" is available
Probably the best resource on the web for info on HDT's is the HDT
section of the Escapees RV Club forum:
Escapees Forum. In addition to
that, there is a great deal of information in the
Heavy Hauler RV
Resource Guide, which is a collection of information related to
using HDTs for pulling recreational vehicles.
If you are looking for
a "turnkey" conversion of an HDT, the very best source for these trucks
- already converted for RV use - is Gregg Shields. His company -
- finds clean trucks and converts them to single axle RV haulers. He
details them, ensures they are mechanically sound, performs
modifications to your specifications, and in general builds up the truck
like YOU want it. I can not recommend him highly enough. He is very
particular both in the truck selection process and in the mechanical
modifications and detailing of the truck.
In my opinion, what distinguishes Gregg from the
few other people in the conversion business is the amount of attention
paid to the mechanical aspects of the conversion, and the fact that he
communicates so well with his customers. If you have questions about
using Gregg for your truck build please feel free to contact me for an
independent opinion. We bought our Volvo 780 from him,
and the process was easy, the communication was excellent, and the final
product was more than we had hoped for. For additional information on
the conversion process and finding your HDT see the
Selecting Your HDT
section of this website.