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Full Timing Thru Alberta Winter #207 07/29/13 09:16 PM
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Am I crazy? Maybe. But that's ok. I've always been a non-conformist and consider it kind of a badge of honor. I try to think and live my life "out-of-the-box" so to speak. My name is Ken. This is the first post of many regarding my intention to live in a diesel-pusher motorcoach through an Alberta winter. Yes, it can get very cold here in the winter but it can also be fairly mild and everything in between. How cold? At least once or twice through every winter here it will drop to -30C or -35C. As a yardstick for you -40 is the same temperature in either the Fahrenheit or Celsius scale. VERY cold. Luckily it only usually lasts for a few days or a week at those very cold temps and usually will average around -15C (5 F) Here is a temp converter for my American friends. http://www.metric-conversions.org/temperature/celsius-to-fahrenheit.htm The location I will be doing this gets quite a bit of snow. Once winter sets in that coach ain't coming out until spring. I'm looking forward to this. I think it's going to be fun. I hope you will find it entertaining and I'm sure we'll all garner some useful knowledge.

Last edited by OldRebel; 07/30/13 11:23 AM.
Re: Am I nuts? [Re: OldRebel] #208 07/29/13 09:48 PM
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Ok. Second post. Now I'm rolling. Let's do some who,what,where posts. And hey, there'll be some pics coming up!
Who am I?
First of all I'm not rich by any means. My budget is very slim as a matter of fact. I am a single divorced 55 year old guy paying alimony so I am trying to get through it by living as cheap as possible. Don't get me wrong--I love to live basic and rustic whether I have money or not. I realize a diesel-pusher isn't basic or rustic but they dropped so much in value the last few years an average guy like me was able to actually buy one. I now have a mortgage-free home on wheels. No property taxes either.
Although between jobs at the moment I work full-time as a car dealership service advisor in the city of Calgary. I am not a handyman type of guy but I can get by. I am lucky to have a brother who is a natural at all things mechanical and electrical and he lives about 30 miles away.He is definately involved in helping me get set up for this adventure. That's enough about me for now. Next---The Coach.

Re: Am I nuts? [Re: OldRebel] #209 07/29/13 10:27 PM
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The Coach

The coach I own and live in is a 40 foot 1997 Monaco Signature Series. It is a non-slide wide-body coach. It has an Aqua-Hot diesel boiler furnace and hot water system that also has an electrical heating side. It has dual-pane windows and enclosed, heated and insulated tank bays. It has a 10KW Onan generator on a Kubota diesel engine. The main coach engine is a Cummins M11 Red-top. 450HP and about 1400 ft lbs of torque (I think). This coach is actually way too fancy for my normal life-style but all Signature Series Monacos come standard with dual-pane windows and enclosed/heated tanks so it was a no-brainer to look for these. I'll just have to put up with the fancy stuff,lol.
I did about four years of research on coaches in general before purchasing this unit. The other main contender was the Bluebird Wanderlodge but it is very hard to find a Wanderlodge with dual-pane windows and enclosed heated tanks before the 1997/98 model years. Those newer ones were still too much for my wallet.
I actually bought this coach through Ebay on a "buy-it-now" price believe it or not. Although it was a repo it is actually in very nice condition and runs and drives like new. The interior is near mint and the outside just has some clearcoat peel which is common on that vintage of Monaco. This unit came with no manuals at all so that has been a challenge figuring out this very complicated piece of equipment. Time for some pics.
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Re: Am I nuts? [Re: OldRebel] #210 07/29/13 11:18 PM
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Where?
I have rented a property in the Bragg Creek area which is a gorgeous semi-wilderness community in the Rocky Mountain foothills about 20 miles west of Calgary, Alberta. It is a 112 acre property which is waaay too big for my needs but it is mostly a quite beautiful, mainly forested, very secluded property. I say mostly because the part of it I will be parking on has a very hillbilly look to it because of a few dilapidated buildings and an ancient mobile home. The Bragg Creek area is a very wealthy area in general. There are very large estates all around with some very large mansions buried in the trees. There are definately building bylaws around there but I'm skirting those by living in a motorcoach. This area gets quite a bit of snow in the winter and it comes early. September snowfalls are common. I move there September 1st.
Nobody has lived on this property since 2003. There is power to the property but I need to get a 50 amp outlet installed and connected. There is a well on the property although my brother and I haven't tested it yet. There also must be a septic field there although it cannot be identified from the surface. The only thing I really MUST have is power. Even if the well and/or septic field are unuseable for some reason I can deal with those issues in different ways I'll get to later if needed.
The following pics were taken early this spring (late March) on my first visit to the property with the owner. I've cleaned it up some since then and cleared the fairly long entry road of fallen trees,etc. I'll post some updated pics soon but you get the idea. It is definately a Jed Clampett type homestead. This area in the pictures is at the southern edge of the property. The rest of the property is all wooded with both deciduous and coniferous trees. I haven't had time to explore it much at all yet but I intend to soon. I should also note that the fairly long (300 yards?) driveway in is pretty solid and has no clearance issues for my coach. The ground on the main entrance side of the mobile home is very solid and quite flat. Since these pics were taken I have mowed the overgrown grass down very short. I plan to lay some gravel down where I'll actually be parking.




Last edited by OldRebel; 07/29/13 11:29 PM.
Re: Am I nuts? [Re: OldRebel] #211 07/30/13 07:47 AM
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Well, it's the morning after my first few posts on this forum last night. I want to clarify a few things about myself and why I'm doing this. First of all, although I perform an extremely social type job at a car dealership during the day, I am actually quite a loner, almost hermit-type person away from work. While I suspect most people in this position would expect loneliness to be a problem I really don't expect it to be much of an issue. After dealing with customers all day I just want some peace and quiet.
I've been a camper all my life and really like the challenge of getting by in harsh environments. For example my favorite day of any year would be the one with the coldest, nastiest blizzard and be outside splitting wood for the fireplace. I love every second of that. There are things I will do or think of here that most people would want no part of. That's ok. We're all different. Basically I want to live my life the way I want to---not by what other people expect.
You'll find I am a very open and honest person. I call things the way I see them and let the cards fall where they may. After dealing with customers in a retail car repair environment for 37 years I have developed a pretty thick skin so if you want to criticize fire away. I'll live. I appreciate brute honesty as much as I deal it out.
There is no woman in my life at the present and if there never is again I'm ok with that. Having said that if I happen find a woman who thinks living in a bus in these circumstances is a pretty cool thing to do and thinks she can put up with me I "might" be interested, lol. After a failed marriage that I should never have entered into in the first place I am very gun-shy. Divorce has cost me a huge amount of money and the alimony runs until May, 2016. No woman also means esthetics don't matter. What works is what matters--especially on this secluded property. For example I am seriously considering winterizing the whole water system in the coach and just toting in jugs of water and using a porta-potty and a 12 volt camping type shower set-up I am familiar with. I worry about a power failure or some other failure that would freeze this coach. I can't afford for that to happen. I haven't decided yet and probably won't until the weather gets colder and I see how efficient this coach is at staying warm. I intend to make use of Scott's tips on sealing drafts and stuffing insulation where needed, etc. I will also skirt the unit of course and no, it might not be pretty but it will be effective.
The future. I intend to continue living in this coach for the forseeable future. It suits me. I like it. After the **$@# alimony is over I intend to keep working full-time until my mid-sixties. Then I only want to work six months of the year, park the coach with all my stuff in it in one of those RV storage yards and then spend the winters in SE Asia. Thailand probably. I like the people there and it is dirt cheap to live comfortably.
I hope you'll find my posts interesting and perhaps even humorous sometimes. If you don't then I guess you'll move on. Whatever.

Re: Am I nuts? [Re: OldRebel] #212 07/30/13 08:18 AM
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There are people who question the fact that I bought a coach instead of large 5th wheel. It's a valid question and I researched and shopped both. They both have their pluses and minuses. Coaches generally have more storage and weight carrying capacity. They also have larger tank capacities. I like how everything is integrated together in a coach. I like having the huge built-in generator that runs off the diesel tank. Of course the downside to coach ownership is maintenance on that expensive powertrain. Coaches are meant to be driven. Although mine will sit for long periods I will also get her out on the road to stretch her legs whenever possible. Both my brothers own properties in northwestern Montana and I have had this unit down there once already. I also like to travel into the mountains of British Columbia so that big Cummins will get some good work-outs there. Of course a heavy duty truck is required to tow a decent sized 5th wheel anyway and it would be sitting just like the coach will be.
I also own a 2007 Ranger Level II 4X4. It has a standard transmission and I bought it specifically to tow behind a coach. Although I bought the truck about four years ago I just bought the coach this past February. I've been planning this for a long time. I also own a 1985 Dodge van that runs on propane. When weather and road conditions permit I will be using the Dodge as my daily driver to work and back as it is cheaper to run than the Ranger and it keeps the wear and tear on the Ranger to a minimum. When you live out in the foothills/wilderness areas sooner or later you will hit a deer. It is almost a given. I'd rather whack one with the Dodge. My trip into work will be 50 kms (30 miles) each direction. I plan to incorporate a weather station setup into my coach so that I can monitor coach temperatures by computer or smart-phone while at work. I'm currently interested in the Aculink system http://www.acurite.com/aculink

Re: Am I nuts? [Re: OldRebel] #213 07/30/13 08:51 AM
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Safety and other concerns.
I remember from reading Scott's blog on the front pages of this site about the importance of being safe. How could anybody not agree with this? Having said that an adventure like this will involve some unique innovations that will need to be analyzed and monitored closely. For example I have an idea on how to lower my heating costs that is kind of "out there". That old mobile home has a fireplace in the front living room area. I realized one day that the height of the mobile home side windows are approximately the same height as my coach side windows. If the coach is parked parallel to the mobile home I could make a rectangular tunnel between the windows from that thick styrofoam board you can buy. I would then somehow seal the ends to both the coach and mobile home window areas. The windows in both will still be able to be open and closed. When I am home I could get a fire going in the fireplace in the trailer, open another window in the trailer for ventilation of course, and then blow the heat through the tunnel into the coach with an electric pole fan. There's lots of free firewood around there. I will have air quality monitors with respect to CO. I really don't see why this idea wont work quite well actually. I am getting a hard time from my family about this idea but I think it's mainly about esthetics and you know I don't care about that. It's a nice looking coach and that is a real ugly trailer to park beside but whatever. It is what it is. They're also concerned about mice and a fire hazard. It certainly does look like mouse heaven around there but mice are everywhere. There are multiple ways to deal with mice. I've already talked about my concerns about fire safety. It would be closely monitored and I would only heat that way while at home. If I do keep the water system active in the coach I will have a small electric heater in the water bay area plugged in through a thermocube in order to keep the bays above freezing while heating upstairs by heat transfer from the mobile home. I currently own a pretty new air-tight type fireplace that I plan to swap into the trailer to replace the old one that's in there now. My brother and I will also beef up the heat insulation material around the fireplace and check the integrity of the chimney, etc. Diesel and electric costs in Alberta are high so I need to do something to offset the heating costs. Natural gas is also available on the property so heating with that somehow has been tossed about also. Natural gas and propane are cheap in Alberta but I don't like the humidity that is created. Besides, firewood will be free. We'll see. I'll take some current pics and post them here soon.

Last edited by OldRebel; 07/30/13 10:25 AM.
Re: Full Timing Thru Alberta Winter [Re: OldRebel] #214 08/01/13 07:32 PM
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I have some current (taken today) pics of the property. I got my dumptruck load of gravel delivered late yesterday. Threw a few shovelfuls around after but not much. Today though was a real workout. Just me and a couple of shovels got a lot done. Take note of that large plastic snow shovel. That thing worked terrific for moving the gravel around. I just dragged it to where I wanted to lay the gravel and then could spread it out in a line like a dumptruck. Also with the weight in that big wide shovel it acted like a grader. I was putting 7 regular round nosed shovelfuls into it. That seemed to work the best. Any more and it was too heavy to drag. If I ever have to do this again and didn't have one of those I would go buy one. It worked that well. I actually worked another 1 1/2 hours after the last pic. I'm feeling my age tonight.



The next couple of shots are looking north.


I met another neighbor last night while waiting for the dumptruck. He lives about a 1/4 mile back up the main access road. I told him what I was going to do and he was surprised of course. He questioned if it was ok to do that--referring to bylaws. I told him I had read the bylaws and didn't see anything that said I couldn't. I good naturedly also said to him "If you don't tell them I won't". He seemed like an alright guy--about my age. He asked if I had any dogs or cats. I said no but I was contemplating an outdoor only cat to help with mice control. He said they don't last too long. I asked if that was because of cougars and he said yes. Lots of cougars, bear, and deer. Cool. He ended up saying he was ok with me doing this but questioned if my immediate neighbor to the south would mind. I saw that neighbor's wife today as she drove past me on the access road. She gave me a big smile and vigorous waving. I think I'm ok.

Last edited by OldRebel; 08/02/13 12:23 AM.
Re: Full Timing Thru Alberta Winter [Re: OldRebel] #215 08/02/13 11:53 PM
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I was out at the property again today finishing off the gravel pad. A rain storm had gone through so the gravel was heavier but was still manageable. I suddenly realized that I didn't have the pad lined up properly to where exactly I wanted the coach parked to try my free heating idea. Therefore I had to make it even wider as the coach will be parked slightly diagonally on the pad. The sharp-eyed people will have noticed I took away part of the ragged old deck at the mobile home front door area. The coach will nose in slightly there with the entry step right about where the bottom step of the deck is. The extra space allowed in front of the coach is to allow for the generator to be powered out the front of the coach for access. Here are some pics taken today.




Is it perfectly flat? Hell no. But it seems pretty solid. The coach has a good auto-levelling jack system so being level is not really an issue. I calculated where all the wheels would be and paid extra attention to the gravel at those points. No, I didn't put a liner down before laying the gravel but the surface was very hard and showed signs of previously being gravelled. Sure, some weeds will poke through eventually but that's what weed killer is for.
This next picture is of the old style satellite dish on the north side of the mobile home. I posted it here to mention what my whiz brother had to say about it. He was intrigued with it because he told me people have converted these to hold solar panels and since the stand that holds the dish has electric motors built in to it they can be modified to track the sun for solar power use. Cool,eh? Oops, My Canadian is showing.

I was pretty happy with myself today having spread that dumptruck load of gravel into a pad with hand tools in less than 48 hours. Not bad for 55 I must say.

Last edited by OldRebel; 08/03/13 06:54 AM.
Re: Full Timing Thru Alberta Winter [Re: OldRebel] #218 08/14/13 09:37 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to chronicle your adventure. I'm looking forward to your updates as the winter season unfolds. Good luck.


Evolve and simplify!
Scott Bridgman, Why not join and post your own comments??
scott@muniac.com (email me)
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