Health Insurance for Nomads

Living the nomadic life in an RV can be exciting. There’s always something new to see and do. But what if, while your trying some daring, new adventure, you’re injured? What do you do? Visit the doctor, of course. But, when it comes time to pay the bill? Then what?

The Ugly Realities

Nomadic life can still have downfalls. And when those downfalls are literal and you get hurt, it’s nice to know that you can see a doctor and get fixed up without breaking the bank.

Phil and I are in the unique position of his being a member of IBEWIBEW. We can travel the country in relative surety of medical treatment whenever we need it. Even though his plan while we’re at home is an HMO, the insurer, Kaiser, has offices in 8 states on both coasts. And, when we find ourselves out of reach of a Kaiser, they allow for urgent and emergency visits to be covered wherever we are.

This is great for us, but what about anyone else wanting to live this lifestyle, but not having a national healthcare plan through their employer? What if you’re self-employed? Here are a few of the different options available.

Alternative Insurance for an Alternative Lifestyle

A great resource is the RVer Insurance Exchange. They have several options on their site for all age ranges. They can help with regular medical insurance, Medicare supplements, and short-term solutions for those in between insurances. As of this posting, the only “regular” health insurance option they have is Altrua Healthcare.

Altrua is a health care sharing ministry plan (HCSM). It is religiously based, but not restrictive to those who are religious.  The HCSM model has grown in popularity since the advent of the Affordable Care Act as a cheaper alternative to traditional health plans.  They offer discounted coverage for a monthly “contribution” amount and ask that their members adhere to a Statement of Standards. These standards include things like non-smoking, no extramarital sex or drug use. The member can then visit any provider in their extensive national network and receive care. The “contributions”  go into an escrow account from which members’ medical costs are paid. This monthly cost is dependent on one’s age, plan type (there are 3) and the number of persons to be covered. Price ranges from 120-780/mo. Not an ideal situation, but for the generally healthy that just want catastrophic insurance, a viable option.

Another option offered on the RVer Insurance Exchange is telemedicine. This is an intriguing idea that Phil and I may avail ourselves of regardless of our current coverage.  The Teledoc plan offered on this site from Careington would only cost Phil and I $14.95/mo, or $149/yr. This would give us 24/7 access to a physician via phone, app, or computer. So for those little thinTelemedicinegs we don’t actually need to be in the physical presence of a doctor for – colds, allergies, sinus infections – we could just consult via the internet, get a scrip called in to a local pharmacy for what ails us, and get on with our day. No need to find a local provider’s office or sit in a waiting room full of sick people. I’d pay $15 a month for that. The plan also includes discounts on vision, dental and prescriptions.  Great for the routine  sniffly-type stuff.

More traditional options

For those looking for a more traditional plan, or those with pre-existing conditions, I’d recommend checking out ehealthinsurance.com. It will show options for plans like Blue Cross, Blue Shield, and Assurant. Keep in mind that not all options are available for every state. You have to input the zip code on your driver’s license to see what you qualify for and at what rate.

I put in our info for our home state and got back several plans. The premiums for us were about the same for PPOs as for HMOs and the prices ranged from around $400 to $900 per month. PPOs would be the easiest choice while traveling because it opens the provider pool and keeps the out-of-pocket costs down.  But, that’s for you to decide. But don’t forget to factor in out-of-network costs even in a PPO, as they can sneak up on you.

Travel Healthier

The main point is that regardless of your individual situation, there are several options open for health insurance.   The trick is finding the one that fits your needs, and budget, best. We have coverage already that should be more than sufficient for us, but it’s nice to see the options in case we want, or need, to make a change.  And, I think we may opt for the Teledoc plan anyway if only for those times when the closest doctor is an hour away and we just have a cold.

Which option do you think is best?

Update
While perusing some Facebook groups today, I saw an idea I had not thought of in relation to potential health issues. I plan on learning how to drive the rig in case I need to, but, in case of catastrophic events, I think it may be a good idea to get some sort of travel assist insurance. This would be for those times when one, or both of us, are seriously injured and we need help getting to a hospital, getting our rig to whatever medical facility we find ourselves transported to, and finding temporary boarding for the kids.

I looked at SkyMed and Good Sam’s since those were the two I saw mentioned in the full-time RV Facebook page and I couldn’t really find anyone else that offered anything close to this kind of coverge. They both seem to be pretty comprehensive. I like the Good Sam TravelAssist Premier plan. It runs about $140/year and includes emergency pet housing. The $80 plan does not so that would not work.  And the SkyMed plan seems more tailored to conventional travel as opposed to full-time Rving.  I think we’ll be adding this to our yearly costs just to be on the safe side.

What coverage, if any, do you have/suggest? Did I miss anything else for health coverage?

 

Which Hitch?

We’ve gone through what trailer we are looking to buy. But, we need a hitch to tow it. Our truck didn’t come with one installed so the question is which hitch is the best fit for us?

Deciding factors

There are all sorts of factors that come into play in this decision. The first being towing capacity. We’ve already narrowed down how much weight our truck can handle so we need to make sure that our hitch can handle the same. But we may upgrade our truck in the future and be able to tow more weight. Do we want to be able to take our hitch with us? How much more should we buy for? We can’t predict how big we may eventually want to go, so why not shoot for as big as we can get? So that put the search in the range of 21-24,000 pounds.

Next, the length of our truck bed needs to be taken into account. We have a short bed so we need a sliding hitch. If we don’t have one, the nose of the trailer could hit the back of our cab in a tight turn. That would limit our maneuverability and we can’t have that.  Who knows where our travels will lead us. I, for one, don’t want to have to turn back from a great place just because our hitch won’t let us get in there.

We also want to make sure that the connection is as secure as we can get it, preferably with vibration control for ride smoothness.  If we go somewhere and need the truck bed, it needs to be light enough to be removed without a cherry picker too.  Add all these factors together and one can narrow the playing field.

Where to shop

After trolling around on manufacturer’s websites, I found a nice website that will narrow the field for you based on your tow vehicle and other search parameters: http://www.etrailer.com

When I searched it, it gave me about 9 results int he 21-24K weight range. From there, I narrowed it down further to the Curt Q24 5th Wheel Trailer Hitch w/ R24 Slider. With the install kit, it’s pretty reasonably priced. It will tow up to 24,000 pounds with 10 inches of slider travel and has a 10 year warranty.  You don’t have to drill into the truck frame to install it, and it’ll fit a 6′ bed.  It is a bit heavy, but at that towing capacity, you can’t find anything under 200 pounds. It shouldn’t be too difficult for Phil and I together to remove it if need be though.

The reviews on this product are very favorable and looks like a very reputable company.  I’ll have Phil look at it and see what he thinks, but I think we may have found our hitch.  Fingers crossed.

Curt Q24 5th Wheel Trailer Hitch w/ R24 Slider

Which RV Is Right for Us?

This is the hardest part,I think. Figuring out which RV will be our new home. We have to consider size (will be be too small?), weight (how much can we tow with our truck?), features (bed size? seating? storage space?), and the kids (will they have enough room so the house doesn’t feel like a kennel?).

We decided a few of the must-haves. We need to have something that will accommodate a king size bed. Phil is a tall guy and anything smaller than a king has his feet hanging off the end of the bed. And the interior height must be tall enough that Phil doesn’t have to duck all the time. We don’t want him becoming a hunchback just because he can’t stand upright in his own home.

We want it to be washer/dryer ready. We may not have a washer/dryer, but we’d like to have the option. And there must be enough storage room underneath the RV for our windsurfing equipment, a generator, and tools with some room leftover for other miscellaneous things.

The truck and it’s towing capacity are non-negotiable. At least until we upgrade the truck. But, we’ve had it less than a year so it’s not going anywhere soon. Besides, it may be a good thing that it limits us to 13K in weight. We don’t want to go overboard while we’re working the bugs out of this lifestyle.  It’s a new adventure for us. We shouldn’t bite off too much to start and a 40+ foot fifth wheel might be a little much.

We’ve narrowed a list down to a few manufacturers and models. Now we just need to compare availability, price and warranties. Apparently, some companies are better than others when it comes to warranty claims and duration. That is one of those nasty realisms that we have to keep in mind while chasing this dream of ours.

We’ve been to our local RV dealers and checked out a few models. Now, we’ll look for the best deal within a radius we’re comfortable traveling for the perfect one(or as close to perfect as we can get). Phil seems to like the Montana High Country. It’s built nicely, has great basement storage, and Keystone has a good reputation. But we’ll see what we can find and get.

Montana HC 305RL Montana HC 305RL weights Montana HC 305RL living room Montana 3440RL Montana 3440RL weights Montana 3440RL living room Montana 3611RL Montana 3611RL weights Montana 3611RL living room Montana 3660RL Montana 3660RL weights Montana 3660RL living room Montana 3660RL entertainment center Montana 3660RL dinette Montana 3660RL kitchen Montana 3660RL bedroom Montanan 3660RL closet Montana 3660RL washer-dryer

How to Install a Wood V-Groove Ceiling

Hello all. If any of you out there, like me, have wanted to do something a little less conventional with your ceilings, have I got a project for you.  Go down to your local hardware store and get some 3.5″ tongue and groove planks, the stain color of   your choice, and have at it.

How we got our beautiful ceiling

We used Ever True Edge V Groove panels from our local Lowe’s. They were relatively cheap. Then we got some stain. I used Minwax PolyShade in Antique Walnut.

I stained all the wood with a staining rag. The reason I liked the PolyShade was because it was a stain and polyurethane mixture. All I had to do was slop it on, then wipe off any excess.  Let it dry and Viola!

Ever True Edge V Groove Minwax PloyShades Antique Walnut

My husband put the boards up. He’s taller than I am so he could reach better. At least, that’s what I told him. He knew I was full of it, but he was a good sport and put them up anyway. I helped, of course.  I just let him wield the brad gun.

The boards went up faster that I could stain them. It was pretty simple. The length of the room lined up so that  we didn’t have to pre-cut anything.  We let the runs dictate what the length of each board was going to be. And it worked out that we didn’t have any seams lining up and the pattern of edges came out pretty nice. Not too uniform, not too random. And this cut done on any leftover scrap: we had a couple of one inch pieces left at the end. For a 300 sq ft ceiling, that’s awesome.

One trick we found that was very useful was how we nailed them up. With the v-groove configuration, it is easier to keep the runs flowing if you only half nail them in place.  When your running a row, only nail the edge that’s meeting the last row. Do not nail the outside edge.  This will make your life so much easier. It leaves that edge loose so that the next row will slide right in. No wrestling with an edge that’s already nailed tight to the ceiling. You get some wiggle room.

For the edges, we got some quarter round moulding in pine and stained it to match.  This was pretty straight forward, until we got to the fireplace.  That was a pain. We had to cut several 45 degree cuts to get into the edges. And the brick only came out from the wall about 3.5″ so those angled pieces were fun on a chop saw.

But we got it done. And it looks awesome. I love my wood ceiling. It’s different and complements the brick fireplace and tan wall paint very nicely. It was work, but nothing of value is going to be easy.  And it was worth every minute.

Let me know if you’ve done a similar project and how yours turned out. Or what you did differently.

Working the wood across the ceiling Sliding the boards in on at a time Brad gun Quarter round moulding Finishing Work The corners around the chimney were challenging The color came out great

 

How to Turn a Brick Planter into A Brick Patio Extension

untitledMy husband and I bought our house as a foreclosure .  In doing so, we knew we were going to have some issues to sort out after we moved in.  Actually, there were several issues we had to resolve before we moved in as well.  But the item under discussion right now is the brick planter that was located on our back patio.  It was flush against the house and looked like it hadn’t had a plant in it for decades.  Also, it smelled as if its main function had been as a litter box.

We wanted it gone.  First of all, it was set against the house and we didn’t want that much dirt against our wood siding.  The area we live in is notorious for subterranean termites and we felt we shouldn’t give them easy access to the house we had just bought.  So, we began by getting rid of the dirt in the planter.  This process reinforced the idea that the dirt had been used a s a litter box.  The smell was horrendous and fungus, mold and bacteria were growing in the dirt.  We found more of this the lower we went like someone had tilled the nasty dirt under when it got too bad.  This dirt was hauled off as soon as humanly possible.

Th next step was to remove the brick surround.  This was fun.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a sledge hammer to a brick wall, I highly recommend it.  It’s therapeutic.  We took turns swinging away at the brick wall to remove all the material; and then we chipped away at the mortar at the base of the wall to even things out.  Once we had the bulk of the brick and dirt removed from the area, it was time for final prep work.

We removed the metal flashing from the side of the house and assessed the wood siding underneath.  It looked pretty well intact so we cleaned it with the pressure washer in preparation for painting the house.  Then came the tedious part: leveling the ground.  I enlisted my nephew for part of this.  He had broken out the last of the bricks, and he wanted to continue helping so why not? I never turn down free labor.

After leveling the ground for a bit, we started thinking about how we wanted to arrange the new bricks.  We had salvaged quite a few pieces from the planter that were still mostly intact and not moldy.  For these, we had to chip off any remaining mortar.  This job went to my husband – he didn’t trust me with a hammer and chisel, though I’d hurt myself.  I probably would have, but that’s not the point.  We had found a stack of brick on the front porch when we moved in.  Undoubtedly, this was from another brick fixture that had been removed, but the brick had never been dealt with.  Not ones to waste material, we decided this was perfect for the back patio as it matched what we had taken out.  The rest was supplemented from our friends who   were remodeling their own foreclosure.untitled2untitleduntitled1We didn’t have a cutter for the brick so we needed to arrange the new pattern so as to be able to lay the bricks in whole while still covering the entire area. After several tries, we found a pattern that worked and set about laying it down.  The ground had mostly been leveled, but fine tuning was needed.  This was where my husband, the engineer, let his OCD fly.  The bricks were uneven, some had chips taken out from when we took apart the wall, and the ground was still lumpy.  He sat in the dirt for hours while I handed him bricks to place.  He leveled each brick to the surrounding ones individually.  He had to make sure they were level to each other while still giving them a very slight slope away from the wall of the house.  Very finicky work and his legs were numb by the end of it.  But it came out beautiful.

The only tricky part was at the end when we had uneven pieces to fit.  The area contained one of the posts holding up the patio roof and we had to work around that.  Also, the length did not evenly match up to the brick measurements.  As I mentioned before, we didn’t have a brick cutter, so we had to try to chip off the excess length with a hammer and chisel.  This took several tries sometimes, but we got lucky and they broke roughly where we needed them to and the patio was finished.  We filled in the spaces between the bricks with dirt.  Obviously, we did not use what we had taken out, but we had some fresh, fine grain dirt to use.  We packed the bricks in, double checked the level, and Voila!  We had a new extension to our back patio.  It made a nice contrast to the concrete of the patio and then we painted the house an olive green that complimented the red of the brick.

untitled5

Duke

One year ago today, we welcomed our precious baby boy to the family.  We had been discussing getting Katya a playmate for a while. We wanted to make sure she was good and comfortable before we got another dog.  We had had her for about 6 months when we started looking for another husky to rescue.

Our boy, Duke
Our boy, Duke

We looked at the local shelters like we had done for Katya. But we didn’t find anything. We wanted a dog at least a year old and male. We work too much to have thought about a puppy and we thought male would balance Katya out better.

We found Husky Haven of LA. It was great. We saw several males that we liked.  So we contacted Husky Haven to see when we could go meet their dogs.  We went down there with Katya on the first day of summer.  We wanted her to meet any potential new dog. We had to make sure they got along before we brought a new dog home.

The first meeting2
First sniff

We meet a few males there. They were all very sweet, but we had seen Duke on the website and wanted to meet him as well. We were told he could be a handful because he liked to jump.  That didn’t bother us. It took us at least 2 weeks before we could sit on our couch at home without Katya jumping on our heads.  So, she brought Duke out.

Normally, she said he would shoot out the gate into the open field and run around like a mad man.  But when she opened the gate to let him out, he stopped and sniffed at the gate we were behind curious about us.

This was promising.  We brought Katya over so they could smell each other and they were both immediately fascinated by each other.  Phil and I each went into the exercise yard to meet Duke separately, and without Katya, first.  He seemed to like us. He did jump up, but it wasn’t too bad – definitely not as crazy as Katya had been.

Next, we introduced the two dogs without a fence between them – it was great.  They sniffed and then played together.  It seemed a perfect match.  So we took Duke home with us.  As soon as he walked in the door, he found a rawhide bone, settled down in the middle of the living room rug, and got comfy gnawing on it.  He was home.

First outing together
Resting at the park with his new family

The next day, he got to explore his new home and surrounding area. We took him to the park to meet the rest of his extended family and he got to cool off in the river.

He had some nervousness about certain things at first.  He didn’t like water, especially moving water.  He was petrified of the bath.  That was easily fixed.  A couple pounds of boiled chicken as a treat all through that first bath and he loves it now.

We’re all water lovers so we had to do something about his aversion to water outside the house too.  We took the kids to the lake one summer day.  It was very hot. We took both dogs running along the shore; and once Duke was really into running and playing, we ran him into the lake before he could realize what we were doing. He stopped once it got to where he wasn’t running anymore, he was swimming.  The look on his face was priceless once he realized what he was doing and then realized that he liked it.  Now he runs straight for the lake and/or river whenever we’re near either.

We found out he’s the better puller of the two as well.  Katya likes to run, but she’s very easily distracted so she never runs a straight line.  Duke, on the other hand, gets in his harness, puts his head down, and he’s on a mission – pull, stay straight, and go! That’s not to say that he’s serious all the time.  When he decides it’s time to play, he is the goofiest dog I’ve ever seen. It hilarious to watch a 95 pound behemoth like Duke prance about with a goofy smile on his face chasing a tennis ball.

Duke has completed our family unit perfectly.  We have a beautiful, crazy girl and our adorable, goofball boy20141002_123926

Katya

When we were first discussing getting a dog. We didn’t think about huskies. Phil wanted a German Shepherd. I had never had a dog before so I just wanted something fluffy to cuddle with:)

We looked at all the shelters within a 100 mile radius for a German Shepherd.  We found a puppy at a Bakersfield shelter. We went down to look at him and see if he wanted to come home with us. But when we got there and took him out to the “meet and greet” yard we noticed something wrong.  He had a lop-sided run;  his right back leg kicked out when he walked or ran.  So, we investigated and asked the people that worked there. They had no idea what we were talking about, but when they felt his leg they said, “huh, that’s weird.”

We thought so as well, especially that they hadn’t noticed – it was very pronounced that the hip joint was not where it was supposed to be, So they had their vet check him out and it seems that he must have had some sort of injury and his hip never healed right.  Now, we’re both very active people so we knew we were going to be taking our dog hiking, swimming, running and such.  This puppy would be uncomfortable with that much activity so we, sadly, said goodbye.

We continued our journey at the Bakersfield SPCA.  Here we found our girl, Katya.  Of course, the shelter volunteers had named her “Snow”. I wanted to call her Katya, and she answered to it immediately:) Phil liked her shepherd ears:) The ears!

When we first saw her, she was literally bouncing off the walls of her 6×8 cell.  It really is sad to see all those sweet animals at the shelters.  When we told the people there that we wanted to meet her, they grinned.  The volunteer assigned to get her out for us actually complained.  He said “I hate that dog”.

1. He should not be there

2. Now I really wanted her.

Anyways, they led her to an exercise yard where she proceeded to head butt the snotty volunteer and split his lip! It was awesome and I started falling in love with her right then.

We decided she liked us, and we liked her energy – and man was there energy! As soon as we had signed all the papers and I took her leash – she immediately calmed down. It was fate.

We packed her up in the back  of the Jeep. We then did something that is probably not advisable for just getting her out of the shelter – we took her in PetSmart:)Where are you taking me

But she was SO good. We were already getting compliments.  Once we got her home and she checked out her new digs – it was nap time.  Getting adopted really takes it out of a girl.

Laying in her bed her first night home.
Laying in her bed her first night home.

 

She’s a character. It took us a couple of weeks to train her not to jump on our heads while we were eating – not exaggerating. And her antics will make anyone smile.  One of my proudest moments with my Krazy Katya is when our niece, Maylee – she’s four – hugged her.

Maylee was always scared to death of dogs.  If we were at a park and a dog came within 20 feet of her, she began screaming in terror.  She was scared of Katya at first.  I was a little worried myself. Katya is not the calmest dog, or the quietest. Oh, She of the Donkey Howl.

But once she saw how scared Maylee was, she immediately took a very non-threatening pose.  Maylee didn’t care, she was still terrified. Katya seemed to understand and left her alone.  Now, we take our dogs everywhere we can with us, so Maylee saw a lot of her. After a couple more meetings, Maylee stopped hiding from her. Katya still left her alone.  After a couple more meetings, Maylee tried petting her and then ran away. It progressed like this for about a month until…tWP_20131228_004hat’s Maylee playing Doc McStuffins, and her brother, with Katya in the corner being “operated”on.  (Can you see her little white paws on the floor by the chair?)  My Krazy Katya calmed the nerves of a scared toddler and now Maylee falls asleep at our house with a doggie’s head in her lap.

Maylee being guarded by her boy, Duke, while she naps
Maylee being guarded by her boy, Duke, while she naps

Unal Trail and Geocaching

As it is now getting extremely hot down here in our Valley, we like to take time to get the fuzzy butts up to cooler ground. Recently, we decided to take a geocaching hike up Greenhorn Mountain on the Unal Trail.  This hike is a winding 3-mile loop with 700 feet of elevation change – perfect for active people and their dogs.

Best part about it was that while it was 85 degrees down at the house, it was cool enough up on the mountain that there were still snow pockets in the shadows.

We took our nephew with us – our entire extended family loves the outdoors. He, along with our two, thought the snow was great – Austen kept throwing snow balls at us while the dogs just wanted to eat it.20150412_141610

This trail is not for the faint of heart. Some parts of the trail hug the slope pretty tightly and stepping off the trail in the wrong place could have you sliding down the mountain.  But the summit is worth every step of the hike up.  The sweeping  panoramas are the type that can only be seen above 6800 feet.  Also, there are some beautiful open areas, such as one with a grinding stone in the middle that was used by the original20150412_141201 inhabitants of our Valley, the Tubatulabal.  And some meadows that we thought looked perfect for a picnic (we’ll take one next time we go up)

All in all,a great day. And we found 2 of the five geocaches hidden along the trail – although I think the one at the summit bench wasn’t official:)  We’ll find the other 3 next time.

So, until our next adventure…nothing is worth it if you aren’t happy, so don’t  let life pass you by.

Husky on the Trail of a Hundred Giants