Will I Buy an RV? Vegas Trip Report (and Other Not-a-blog Thoughts)

There are many stories of indigenous people who refuse to allow their picture to be taken, believing the camera can steal their soul. In a way, that is what I do today. I am stealing the soul of my dream, that ethereal essence of a possible tomorrow. In framing that future with practicalities, I transmogrify it from a dream into a plan.

I’ve been resisting this step for so long. I’ve debated starting this thread for a couple of months now. I think I have hit upon the limits of what I can research on my own and I need to talk to people outside of the bubble of my own head. (I also think it might be good for my mental health to create this thread and use it as an outlet for expressing some thoughts.)

I play poker. More than that, I play live poker and I’ve never been enthusiastic about online. I’ve been concerned about my local player pool. At the higher stakes where you can win enough to earn a living, there aren’t that many players. If a couple of key donators die, my game could evaporate overnight.

I’ve been mixing in occasional poker trips for the past few years and I’ve run good because the games are significantly better than my local games. But I’m not a crusher. I can’t really afford to stay many nights in places more expensive than a Red Roof Inn and a lot of casino and casino-adjacent hotels get hella-expensive on weekends.

Initially, I thought I was scouting out places where I might want to live, but then I came up with a different idea. What if I lived out of RV and traveled around playing poker? The RV Industry Association estimates that one million people live full-time in a motorhome. Could I live that lifestyle?

While I am skeptical of the #vanlife social media influencers who make life on the road seem like a dream life of permanent vacation, there are people who make this work, from traveling nurses to work-from-home digital nomads.

At this point, my main idea is to get an RV for traveling to play poker most of the year, with a cheap, permanent homebase somewhere near some decent live poker rooms. Of course, COVID-19 changed all that, delaying my ability to make money to fund this lifestyle while throwing the viability of the long-term plan into doubt.

For now, I am going to start this thread. My plan is to walk through some of the avenues I have explored, get some feedback from the community, and decide whether this is a direction I truly want to go in.

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I don’t have much to contribute, but as somebody that just put a deposit down on trailer I can at least speak to that.

Not sure if you’re thinking class A, B, or C, or a trailer. A small trailer allows you to set up shop at a cheap campground and drive your tow vehicle to the casino. More convenient than having to pull up stakes every time you want to drive to the casino in a class ABC.

If you go the trailer route, I’ve done a ton of research in the last few months. Look at a Rockwood or the Flagstaff mini lite or micro lite lines. They’re the same, come out of the same factories, just have different colors. Also make sure you get a tow vehicle that can easily handle it. Recommend an F150 with a max tow package that allows you to tow pretty easily but also travel around downtown streets okay when not pulling the trailer.

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I highly value the opinion of anyone with experience RVing, since I have none. Even feedback from people who have no experience can be useful if they have common sense or a perspective I had not considered.

I’m going to write a basic primer on types of RVs because I think this topic may be of interest to people with a similar level of inexperience and because it will give readers a sense of what I am looking for in an RV.

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Here is a primer for people who don’t know much about RVs. For those who already know this stuff, the tl;dr is that I am currently interested in a class B motorhome.

For the people who are curious about RVs, there are two basic classes of recreational vehicles: those you can drive and those you can’t.

Drivable RVs come in three basic classes: A, B, and C.

  • Class A motorhomes are those big, boxy vehicles built on a bus or truck chassis.

  • Class C motorhomes are built on what is known as a cutaway chassis. Auto manufacturers sell a van (or truck) chassis with just the front cab. There is nothing behind the driver’s seat. Other manufacturers build out the rear of these, creating vehicles such as minibuses, ambulances, and class C motorhomes.

  • Class B motorhomes are built from the existing shell of a van. Yes, a class B is smaller than the other two classes.

  • There is a fourth pseudo-class of motorhomes, the B+. This is basically a small class C, built without that cab overhang we usually see in a class C. It’s a marketing term meant to make these RVs feel less daunting for people who want the amenities of a class C (only a couple of class Bs have a full bath) combined with the perceived driveability of a class B.

There are also non-drivable RVs. I’ll list them for completeness, although I am currently not interested in them.

  • The very basic one is a travel trailer, which is simply an RV that gets towed behind a normal vehicle.

  • Pop-up and folding trailers are basically tents on wheels.

  • Teardrop tailers have a teardrop shape. Some places give them their own category, but I’m not sure why we shouldn’t just view them as differently-shaped travel trailers.

  • Fifth wheels (or 5ers) is a trailer that is attached to special hitch that sits in the bed of a truck.

  • Truck bed campers actually sit in the bed of the truck.

  • Toy haulers have a separate garage for people who want to carry motorcycles, four-wheelers, or other fun stuff. They can be either travel trailers or fifth wheels.

I’m really not much into camping. I’m nervous about having a trailer and uncomfortable with a big rig. I envision using an RV mainly to stay in casino parking lots while playing poker. I can see getting a room in the middle of the week when it is cheap, but staying outside during the weekend, when I will probably just play marathon sessions punctuated by naps.

I have gravitated towards the idea of getting a class B campervan, which I can comfortably park in a parking lot and treat as a tiny hotel room on wheels. But they are small, so rather than living out of one full-time (which some people do), I am looking into the idea of getting a cheap homebase to come back to while spending more than half the year on the road. And the complications of doing so touch upon some of the political issues that have been discussed in other threads on this forum.

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I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the 5 to 10 year outlook in live poker and I’m currently a crusher over a big sample, fwiw.

Also, this is a risky time to invest heavily in anything US-centric as a freedom loving liberal/progressive imo.

Last but not least, are you sure you can park any type of RV at a casino for free?

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Will you be keeping tens of thousands of dollars in this RV?

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Not any type of RV. That’s one reason I settled on a class B van. Many of them fit into a standard parking spot. You might just see one as a high-top conversion van if you don’t look too closely. Some are more obviously an RV than others. Some DIYers make stealth conversions which aren’t obviously being used as a house on wheels.

Would something like this stick out in a casino parking lot? (I can’t afford this one.)

RVers sometimes refer to saying in a casino parking lot as “casino camping”. Casinos generally tolerate it, at least overnight. It might be wise to ask security if you plan on staying longer. Because many of the ones I am looking at are over 9’ tall, I will be looking at over-sized parking or surface lots.

The main concern with staying in a parking lot for several days is whether you need to run a generator. This gets into things like solar and batteries, which I plan to explore at some point in this thread. I’m not entirely sure I could figure out a way to stay in the Rio parking lot for a few days in the middle of June without doing something to recharge the batteries because you need to run the AC to be comfortable sleeping.

My plan involves buying a very used RV in the $10k-15k range and testing out the lifestyle for a year or two. If I like it and I’ve made enough money, then I can consider upgrading to a newer rig. (But still used. The new class B RVs that I like are going to be over $100K, .) RVs are currently a hot commodity due to COVID. I think there is going to be a glut of used RVs in a year or two. There are people who are going even cheaper by building their own vans, but I don’t think I am ready to do that.

One idea is that living in an RV, at least part time, could train me to be better able to live at least partially off the grid, just in case things get much worse in this country. There are some vanlifers who seem to be using these times to transition into homesteading somewhere far removed from civilization.

Depending on the size of the a/c, it may not run off of batteries. I know in the trailer arena they’re either 13,500 or 15,000 BTU and need power to work.

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Depends on how much I win. I know I can make a joke about you wanting to steal my money, but this is a topic I have thought about.

Obviously, security is an issue. I know the story of Joe Salvaggi, a pro who was robbed at gunpoint in the Rio parking lot last summer. I’m aware that some people install safes in an RV, but I really won’t know what my options are and what spaces I can use within the motorhome until I have one.

I can try to keep as much of my money on my person and not leave any behind when I go to play. I can try to keep as much of my cash in chip form to make it easier to conceal or carry around.

I’ve thought about the need for a fireproof safe in case of a vehicle fire.

I believe there are RVers who are completely off grid and run AC off of batteries without having to hook into shore power, but I don’t think a campervan has enough roof space for the number of solar panels needed to do that. Will the technology improve?

The newer RVs have lithium batteries and a second alternator which allows them to recharge the batteries while driving around. Some have an autostart feature that will kick in when your batteries run low. Not that idling for long periods is good for your engine. Right now, I can’t afford those, but maybe a used one will drop into my price range in a few years (or my price range will rise to meet them).

I can run the numbers, but I don’t think I can really get a feel for power consumption in an RV until I spend time in one, which is why my plan is to get a cheap, used RV so I can experiment.

I’ve though more about the power requirements for running a refrigerator 24/7 and doing some light cooking than I have about AC. I’ve been training myself to not need AC. I haven’t turned mine on this summer at all, despite temperatures that have gone above 90.

We have a 2003 28’ Class C (there’s a photo of it in the camping thread) that we bought used from CruiseAmerica. We’ve put quite a bit of work into weatherproofing it, but that’s because we use it for ski trips as well as camping in the summer. We will probably look at getting something newer in the next few years, but it’s holding out for now.

I’ll admit we haven’t really looked at class Bs because they are a bit small for our needs, so I’m not sure what options are the same. For example, does a class B have a propane tank? You might consider it, because it is a much more efficient way to run things like the fridge, hot water heater, and stove. RV fridges are incredibly efficient, so while you should factor it in to power/gas consumption, it will be very far down the list.

Honestly, unless you’re in a place that is super humid and/or doesn’t cool off at night, you might only need the AC for an hour or so. The trouble with RVs is the same as any vehicle, the interior heats up in the sun and stays hot until you forcibly cool it down. Kick on the AC to cool down the interior, then you can turn it off at night, if you’re ok sleeping in the heat.

As for a generator…sometimes you’re just going to need to run it. If you’re parked too long without plugging in, for example, your back batteries will get low and need recharging, and the only way to do that is to run the generator or the engine. Also, if you want to run a microwave, TV, etc, you’re either going to need a large inverter (3000W or more), which will then drain batteries that much faster, or to run the generator. The good news is, newer generators are much quieter than they used to be.

One thing that you might not think about when looking but would be good to consider is if your RV has leveling jacks or lifts. Ours does not, so we had to build ramps and wood blocks to put under the wheels in various configurations in order to level it out when parked. You might not think that’s a big deal, but it will make a big difference in your comfort, because sometimes places you park just aren’t gonna be level and it gets annoying. Probably not as big a concern in a smaller RV, but it’s something to think about.

I’m sure I’ll think of more stuff, but the bottom line is, go for it. I even used ours at the WSOP one year, though it was definitely too hot to not have AC.

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Where were you parking your RV at the WSOP? Were you keep a schedule where you only used it for sleeping while doing long hours?

A class B tends to be more waterproof than other RVs because it has the original van roof mostly intact. There’s a bigger trend towards making them four-seasons by putting water lines and water tanks inside the cab where they can be heated, so that they don’t have to be winterized and the plumbing can still be used during the winter.

In terms of appliances, a class B can have most of what a class C can have. The main difference is that almost every class B will have a wet bath instead of a full three-piece bathroom. They won’t have space for as much storage or for features such as a dinette and there will be compromises on kitchen counter space. (This is one reason why I want to explore the idea of a folding bicycle, for those who read the product recommendations thread.)

Most class B’s have propane. There are some that don’t use propane. The idea of going all-electric, with an induction cooktop that produces less ambient energy to heat up the small space needs makes some sense, but those are going to be newer RVs. Also, the trend is towards compressor rather than three-way absorption fridges in newer RVs. Compressor fridges can operate on less level ground, can reach colder temperatures, and operate better in extremely hot weather. I expect my first RV, if I buy one, to have a three-way refrigerator and the next one to have a compressor-drive fridge.

Leveling jacks aren’t a big concern for me because I expect to be mostly boondocking in casino parking lots. I’m not expecting to go camping much, if at all. If I did, I would consider investing in a tent like this (it’s on the “wrong” side because it is British):

My stress test scenario for an RV is how it would run if I spent three weeks in Vegas for the WSOP. It sounds like an older absorption fridge won’t work very well in that heat and that the AC usage is going to be problematic. While it would be cheaper to cook as much of my own food as possible, I might settle for reducing most of my kitchen needs to storing leftovers and reheating them. I’ve considered the possibility of playing 3-4 days, then taking a day to stay at an RV park with hookups.

I often romanticize about buying an RV and traveling the country. Though, I can’t see how I could avoid towing along a small car, since I know I wouldn’t relish driving that beast of an RV. I watch youtube videos that give tours of various new RVs. I always think, “Wow, that’s pretty neat”. Until I get to the bathroom tour. Then its like “I’m gonna take a dump in that teeny toilet?” “I’m gonna shower in that?” “Where do I even hang my towel?” Then I start thinking about propane tanks, and batteries and water connections and condensation and how difficult it is to find repair. And how clumsy I am when it comes to do-it-yourselfing. Even though I love the videos, I always reach the same conclusion. I would hate this lifestyle.

Maybe rent a cheap class B for a weekend and go to a rest area or a parking lot somewhere and see how you like it.

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I definitely have plans to test out a class B with a rental. Of course, they tend to be $200+/night.

One of the main attractions of a class B is that it is essentially a conversion van, so you can take it to be serviced at an auto dealer or regular mechanic if you have engine troubles.

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Even parking lots might not be level, but you can do a pretty rough leveling job with a set of these

While I do camp a lot with a travel trailer, off the grid isn’t really my style. You’d be surprised how many RV parks there are around with water/electric/sewer hookups. Many casinos have nearby RV parks that have all the hookups you’d need for an extended stay. I guess if you’re normally not in driving shape after a poker session that could be a problem, but the option is at least there.

I’ve got to imagine there’s some good resources for off the grid living. While I enjoy the discussion here, there are definitely some RV specific forums that will likely have people who live lifestyles similar to what you are considering and can probably help.

Side story about class A’s. I used to work for a company called Spartan Chassis that made the chassis for a lot of them. The market for these things is insane. RV’s built on our chassis’ usually started at 150K and got up to 1.2ish million. The wildest thing that happened while I was there is we had to design a new chassis because we were “missing” the $800-$900K market. We were covered up to $700K, and at $1.2M, but apparently the market for something in the middle justified the engineering cost. I can’t fathom being in a spot where $700K isn’t nice enough, but $1.1M is too expensive. Wow.

Another weird statistic I heard (could be false, don’t @ me, but was echoed by our management), was that half the people who buy $500K+ class A’s trade them in for a new model on a YEARLY basis. I guess it sort of makes sense. The cheaper class A’s tend to be within reach of the upper-middle class who would likely see it as a significant multi-year investment. To get into the more expensive ones you either need to really extend yourself or just have that obscene fuck you money where you can afford to piss away the depreciation every year.

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There are definitely RV forums that I hit up. The two I read the most are:

https://www.irv2.com/forums/
https://www.classbforum.com/forums/

There are also some subreddits I peruse on a regular basis:

https://www.reddit.com/r/GoRVing/
https://www.reddit.com/r/VanLife/
https://www.reddit.com/r/RVLiving/
https://www.reddit.com/r/FullTiming/

At some point, I’ll get into the Youtube channels I watch.

This thread exists partly to force me to write stuff, but also because my explorations of RVing have branched off into other areas. Eventually, I will get into political and sociological observations about RVing and touch on topics such as the tiny home movement.

Lots of casinos let RVs park for free. The vehicle you posted up there is hella expensive, but I think there are going to be a ton of used unoutfitted vehicles like that (mostly Ford Transits) coming on the market in the very near future as Amazon has an absolute ton of them and they will retire them at some still usable age/mileage.

I know the $120k Sprinter is a lot nicer and cooler, but you could get something like this:

image

skydiver is in her rig with her husband and a couple big dogs. What’s doable for you wouldn’t necessarily be doable for them.

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re the WSOP: If you stay in LV during the summer I think you’d need so much AC that it’d be hard to do anything other than stay at a campground/park that you can plug into and run a little RV/window AC unit.

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Lived in a converted ambulance for 3 months when touring New Zealand. Loved nearly every minute of it (no bathroom, had a couple of near misses with the pooping situation).

If I was doing it now (and I will fo’ sure in the future) I’d be looking at something that doesn’t look like an RV from the outside (for city dwelling), but that’s just me.

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