The photos below show our fifth wheel and truck set-up which served as our home for the first 13 years of our life on the road (2005 - 2018) as full-time RVers.
However, in April 2008, we made the decision to do something different. So, we sold the truck and fifth wheel and bought a 29-foot Class C motorhome - a Winnebago Aspect 27K. For more information on the change, click here: Our Home On Wheels - Chapter 2.
But to see what we full-timed in for all those years and to see what modifications we made to our truck and fifth wheel over that time, keep reading.
We ordered our 2006 Keystone Cambridge fifth wheel when we attended the Cleveland RV Show in January 2005. It was a prototype at that time and there were only a few on the road. We picked it up in April of that year. Click on the link below to read the whole story.
We have four slideouts, three on the driver's side and one large one on the passenger side. From front tip (the front "cap") to the ladder on the back, our Cambridge measures 39'3". From the ground to the highest point on the roof (vent covers), it measures 13'.
Initial Weight Information
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) on the federal compliance label is 16,980. The Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) is 7,000 per axle (two axles). We weighed the RV and the truck in 2005 and they came in at 26,660 pounds. That means the RV total weight was 18,200 pounds (26,660 less 8,460 for the truck by itself from a previous weigh-in). So we were 1,220 pounds over our total GVWR for the RV by itself, just by loading it for full-timing.
At the time we didn't know much about weights other than it was important to have the RV weighed, and we needed to keep the weight down. But, we completely forgot that the addition of a built-in propane generator and slideout toppers would reduce our Cargo Carrying Capacity, which wasn't great to start with.
However, the good news was that the weight on the rear truck axle was 8,340, so we were well under the 12,000 pound rating for the dual wheel axle on the truck.
Still, although we were very careful about our speed and how we handled grades, by our third year, we started having tire and brake issues. So, in 2008, we began a plan to completely upgrade our "running gear" - tires, wheels, brakes, and suspension.
Running Gear Upgrades
In November 2008, we made the decision to upgrade our tires and wheels. At the time, we couldn't afford to change our axles, suspension or brakes, but we knew our Goodyear G614 tires (LT 235/85R16 - Load Range G) were pushing the limits of their weight capacities.
Our research showed that we could upgrade to 17.5-inch commercial grade tires to gain more capacity and safety. However, we had to also change the wheels as well. So, we went with the Goodyear G114 tires (215/75/R17.5) and aluminum wheels from TrailerTiresAndWheels.com.
The total cost of the tires, wheels, balancing, and shipping was $2,230.
About a year later, in September 2009, we had our trailer brakes lock up - twice. That may or may not have been the result of being slightly overloaded. Anyway, it confirmed our decision to upgrade our brakes and suspension. So, we saved up, and in May 2010 we went to MOR/ryde in Elkhart, Indiana.
Our original plan was to upgrade our 7,000 lb. axles to 8,000 lb. axles, but for not much additional cash, we were able to get the MOR/ryde IS (Independent Suspension). The MOR/ryde IS is (in our opinion) the best trailer suspension available, so we had the axles removed and had independent suspension installed along with 8,000 lb. Dexter disc brakes.
That was the best upgrade we've made for safety, capacity, and reduction of stress on the frame. It has been a wonderful long-term investment toward making our fifth wheel last for many years to come.
In addition to our Running Gear upgrades described above, we also made modifications to our electrical system so that we could more easily park without hook-ups.
So, in 2007, we removed our single 12-volt house battery, and installed four 6-volt AGM batteries (300 amp hours capacity) and a 3,000-watt inverter/charger. We used that set-up with our generator while we were out west to do some boondocking.
Then, in 2008, we installed four 100-watt solar panels and a solar controller to further enhance our boondocking ability.
Details of our electrical/solar upgrade and why we did it can be found on our page Our Electrical/Solar System - A Phased-In Approach
In late 2013, we went to Green Cove Springs, Florida to have a seamless, spray-on FlexArmor roof put on at RVRoof.com.
We didn't have any roof leaks, but we were concerned about long-term deterioration of our rubber roof, and we wanted to try the FlexArmor Roof to see if it was something that could extend the life of our RV. Also, we put the roof on earlier than necessary to see if it was something we could recommend to our readers. So far, so good, and RVRoof.com has supplied us with a coupon for our readers. Click on the coupon below for a printable version.
The decals on our 2006 Keystone Cambridge were peeling and cracking, and we were starting to see some oxidation in the gel coat exterior. Again, like the roof, it wasn't a necessary thing to do, but the timing and the deal were right, so we scheduled the painting with Mike's Custom Painting in Bremen, Indiana for July 2014.
In the months before, we selected colors and they emailed us mock-ups of the design and how it would look.
We kept the basic design pattern and just changed colors, but we could have done any design we wanted.
The project including stripping and sanding the coach and re-caulking everything. It took four weeks.
But we were thrilled with the results.
Carefree Of Colorado Awnings
Before we got the rig painted in the late summer of 2014, we got the opportunity to have Carefree patio and slideout awnings installed. We jumped on the offer and wanted to get them installed before we got the rig painted.
We went with beige acrylic fabric and black hardware guessing about what would look best with the new paint job. We also went with the Alumaguard protective covers.
So, we replaced our A & E automatic patio awning with a Carefree of Colorado Travl'r automatic patio awning. And we added a second automatic awning on our large slideout. Both have built in LED lights.
We also replaced our slideout toppers. Our slideout awnings were Carefree of Colorado awnings that we added when we picked up our rig from our dealer back in 2005. But the fabric had already been replaced once and the new fabric wasn't as good as the original. Also, we wanted to change to the black hardware. So, we had the newer Sideout Kover II slideout awnings with aluminum covers installed.
It turned out the fabric color was more tan than beige, so it doesn't match as nicely as we would have liked, but it's not so much of a contrast that we need to change. Other than that, the black hardware looks great, and we're very happy with the new awnings.
Initial Interior Modifications - 2005
The following interior modifications were made while we were still working and living in our RV on my parents' farm. We had hired a space planner to help us get organized, and she brought in a cabinet maker to help us make better use of our space.
Bedroom - The main bedroom closet contained a very flimsy plastic bar to hang clothes on. Also, though it has nice shoe slots for shoe storage, the slots are all in the back of the closet behind all the hanging clothes. Keeping the closet floor free of shoe clutter meant getting down very low and fighting through the clothes. So we replaced the clothes bar with a sturdy metal rod, and we placed it higher in the closet.
This created more room below the clothes, so we added a handmade shoe rack under the clothes to organize the shoes that we wear most often. They are now organized and easily accessible and we have more room in the back of the closet to store our "situational shoes."
The only issue with this reorganization is that the closet gets smaller at the top where the new bar is, so we have to make sure we use our smallest hangers so they don't interfere with the sliding doors.
The only other thing we did in the bedroom was modify the lower cabinet on the right under the TV closet. In that cabinet we had our satellite controller and Hughes.net internet equipment. We created a shelf to get the equipment up off the floor giving us more storage space underneath. The other modification was to the door on that same cabinet. If the satellite equipment does not get air flow and gets too hot, it has a safety feature that shuts it down. So we had to keep the door open most of the time (which Linda hated because it did not look good). So we took the door and replaced the wood center panel with a black mesh. Now air can get through with the door closed and it still looks good.
Note: In early 2014, we did away with our satellite internet dish and equipment, so the above modification is now moot.
Kitchen Area - In the kitchen, we have a very large floor to ceiling pantry. The shelves could be adjusted to any spacing. However, the shelves were cheap and were bowing shortly after we filled up the pantry. So we added more solid shelves with lips to keep everything from shifting to the front (and thus fall out when the doors were opened). We also added more shelves to make more efficient use of the space.
Another kitchen modification was the installation of risers and a plate rack to make better use of the space in the very tall overhead cabinets over the counter separating the kitchen from the living area. Storing the plates vertically makes then much easier to access, in addition to creating a better use of space.
In addition to the above modifications, we added shelving in the entry area closet (where the washer/dryer hook-ups are). Also, a friend of ours (who also owns a Cambridge) changed the closet door for us. It was an annoying bi-fold door, and he took it off, put a brace on it and turned it into a regular door that provided more space inside and a place to hang some items.
Finally, we added a wine rack to the vacant space between the microwave and refrigerator wall.
Living Area - We made a few changes in the living area around the "desk" area.
The large desk drawer that runs the width of the desk nook had a cover over it that was used to place a keyboard on when pulled out. The problem was the keyboard was too high and uncomfortable to use, and the desk drawer was almost useless because of the heavy cover.
We removed the large full width drawer and used the space to create a smaller, usable drawer at the top and a sliding keyboard tray below that at proper height. The keyboard tray has a facade that looks like another drawer when closed and folds down out of the way when in use.
Under the full width desk drawer are two file drawers on the right (they were fine) and a very deep cabinet storage space on the left. The cabinet storage space had two doors and a plank divider between them that made storing anything large difficult and getting anything out of the back of the cabinet even more difficult.
So how did we attack that cabinet? Well, we inserted two sliding shelves to create more efficient space and to allow us to pull the shelves all the way out for easy access. In order to do that, we removed the center plank between the doors and attached it to one of them, so when closed it all still looks as it did before.
Over the TV in the entertainment center is another very deep cabinet that we use to store office supplies. Again it was difficult to get to anything in the back. So we created two more slide out shelves (boxes). We made two because the cabinet is so large the weight across a full shelf would have created too much stress when it is pulled out all the way.
Also, we installed an extra shelf to help organize the small storage cabinets over the desk area.
And, finally, we added risers to the cabinets at the rear of the RV over the recliners.
We bought the F-450 based on the following: 1) Linda's father was a foreman at the Ford Truck Plant in Louisville where our truck would be built, 2) We wanted to support the Louisville economy since it was our home town, 3) We got a family discount, and 4) Our close inspections of Ford's tow rating charts as compared to the anticipated weight of our loaded Cambridge indicated it was our best option for a pick-up at that time.
We expected the Cambridge weight fully loaded to be somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 pounds. It was actually 18,200 before we added our MOR/ryde suspension and Dexter disc brakes, and 19,000 lbs afterward.
According to Ford's 2005 charts, the F-350's maximum tow capacity (for the most optimum towing equipment) for a fifth wheel was only 16,200 pounds with a 23,500 Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR - is the total weight of both the trailer and the truck)). The F-450 Super Cab (the Super Cab has the folding back seat and half door, while the Crew Cab has the full back seat and full second door) capacity for a fifth wheel was 17,500 (26,000 GCWR) and up to 21,500 (and 30,000 GCWR) with the optional High Capacity Trailer Tow Package. So we opted for the F-450 with the High Capacity Trailer Tow Package for the best possible safety and towing combination. And since we weighed in at a combined weight of 26,660 pounds at our first combined weigh-in, the F350 would not have been enough and the F450 without the High Capacity Trailer Tow Package would have barely gotten by. So we feel like we made the right decision.
So our F-450 is a 6.0 Liter V8 Turbo Diesel Power Stroke with the High Capacity Trailer Tow Package and the TowCommand Integrated Trailer Brake Controller. It has dual rear wheels for maximum stability and tow capacity (12,000 GAWR for the rear axle). Since the 2005 F-450 was a commercial truck that came off the line without a truck bed, we had to have that fitted after delivery to the dealer from the factory. We added a second fuel tank for total diesel fuel capacity of 64 gallons which should take us 640 miles at our 10 mph fuel efficiency with the fifth wheel in tow. That should mean that we will rarely have to maneuver the RV into a gas station as we never plan to drive over 500 miles between campsites.
Update: In 2014, we removed the regular pick-up bed from our truck and had a Utility Bodywerks custom hauler bed installed.
That's something we should have done years ago - we love it. To learn more, go to our dedicated page for the hauler bed which includes a video on the benefits and storage space.
Our hitch is a Husky 24,000 pound hitch that our dealer had installed. That was before we knew anything about anything. Now I am wishing that we had checked into a couple of the air ride hitches I have heard so much about. Oh well, maybe later.
Update: In 2016, we replaced that original hitch with a Husky 26,000 pound hitch. And we added a welded-on lube plate that many of the RV transporters use. This hitch is so easy to use, it takes us about 30 seconds to hitch and unhitch.
Our kingpin that came with the Cambridge is a Mor/Ryde with a 19,000 pound GVWR.
We have also added a spray-in bed liner to the pick-up. And we had a bed cover custom made to go around the hitch while hooked up so that it will keep anything stored in the bed dry and hidden from view at all times, whether hitched to the fifth wheel or not.
Update: Of course, the bed liner and custom bed cover are moot, with the replacement of the pick-up bed with the hauler bed as noted above.