I’ve been thinking about tow vehicles

Wednesday, October 17, at our house in Arizona

In keeping with the topic of today, this post’s photographs feature the Perfect Tow Vehicle, a 2005 Chevy Express 1500 van with a 5.3 liter engine and eight cylinders.

Vortec, baby!

 I bought the PTV for $8,500 when she was six years old with almost 100,000 miles (IIRC) on her odometer. Today she boasts mileage of 181,115.  

She hauled me, my crew, and the BLT further than I ever imagined, up and down mountains and across wide deserts.   Not only did she tote us, but also most of our belongings, including the essential 200-watt solar panel and two AGM batteries.  

She always carried us safely and never put us in a situation that wasn’t surmountable.  

Although some may say the time to retire the PTV is drawing near, I don’t want to let her go.  She’s our ever-present guide, our dream-catcher, our magic carpet.  It’s hard to consider any other.  

The photos jump around in time and a few are old, taken with a cheapo camera. — Sue

~ ~ ~

Okay, I’ve been thinking about tow vehicles.

This past year the Perfect Tow Vehicle has begun to show her age.   I’ll do the math for you. She’s thirteen-going-on-fourteen years old.

You may remember that earlier this year she had shifting problems which led to a transmission rebuild.  Much to the puzzlement of the transmission shop, after the work was done, the PTV’s shifting did improve, except she had trouble shifting out of “park” first thing in the morning.

Another problem arose a short while ago.

I told you about the rough idle.  I thought, “Okay.  I’ll take her to a repair shop and have a tune-up done.”  However, when I heard the tune-up would cost over $400, I balked.

Instead I started feeding the PTV right.

With her tank nearly empty, I took her to a gas station and let her have her fill of premium gas.  Immediately I noticed a spring in her step as she took off from the pumps.  By the time the tank was half-empty, the idling had smoothed out considerably.  I think another full tank of premium will get her completely back in shape.

She could use a tune-up but that will have to wait.  I have too many expenses right now to drop that kind of money.

Here’s my theory.

I think letting the PTV’s tank go nearly empty during the rainy season allows moisture to collect.  Or I may have given her some bad gas.

As for the shifting problem . . .

Since it only happened first thing in the morning, I thought maybe the problem had something to do with the viscosity of the fluid due to lower temperature.  Going into the heat of Arizona summer lessened the problem considerably as the overnight lows were not as low.

Oh, Spikey. You are in control.

Sticking with this theory, I feared the problem would come back in full with the return of colder mornings.  Well, we’ve had a week of chilly mornings now and I’m happy to report that the PTV has shifted out of “park” with no difficulty or hesitation.

I’m no auto repair specialist.  

What a surprise, huh.

With my limited knowledge and experience (okay, NO knowledge and experience), I’m guessing that somehow the transmission rebuild needed time to get its act together in order to shift well.

Time to practice the steps before it could go to the dance, so to speak.

Time to learn how to be a team player!  (Channeling Tioga George here.)


Be a perfect part of the most perfect tow vehicle the RV world has ever known!

Hmm . . . I’m wondering . . .

Writing this post has me wondering how many of my readers (who tow their home-on-wheels) have a van for their tow vehicle.  I know some of you do.

Would you take the time to tell us about your tow vehicle?

I’m curious to know why you chose a van for a tow vehicle and what your experience has been.

What kind of van do you have and what size engine?

Putting the 4-wheel drive feature aside (The PTV doesn’t have it which is fine with me), would you choose a van again or would you rather have a truck?

If you tow with a truck, I hope you will tell us about it and give us your opinion on its use as a tow vehicle.  Do you full-time with it or use it for camping trips?

Oh, buying the PTV home was quite a thrill!

“Powerful, Practical, and Pretty” — April 24, 2011

~ ~ ~

Seven rosebuds for seven decades!

Is that some luscious-looking, decadent cake or what?

Thank you for the happy birthday wishes.

The seventh decade of my life was the best one so far and I enjoyed celebrating it.  I’m looking forward to experiencing the eighth “rose” as it opens into full bloom!


NOTE:  The comments section isn’t restricted to tow vehicle talk.  Feel free to carry on as usual, blogorinos.  If you aren’t a blogorino, well, become one.  Jump through captcha and join us. We’d love to hear from you!– Sue


These links will take you to products that readers recently ordered from Amazon.

Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil
Womens Faux Fur Earwarmer Hat
The 1 for U 100% Cotton Nightgown
Mystic Forest Shower Curtain Fabric
Acoustic-Electric Travel Guitar w/Gig Bag
HP Laserjet Pro Printer, Amazon Dash Ready

Roger’s first ride in the PTV is about to begin.

RVSue and her canine crew is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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99 Responses to I’ve been thinking about tow vehicles

  1. Dawn in NC says:


    • rvsueandcrew says:


      • rvsueandcrew says:


        This post took a long time, mostly hunting for photos of the PTV. The morning is gone and I have some things I need to get done today.

        I look forward to reading your comments later. Be good blogos while I’m gone and enjoy each other. 🙂


  2. I wouldn’t want to let her go either. I think a van is perfect because it provides all sorts of ancillary storage. And happy birthday!!

  3. Mary in Co says:

    Love the dogs’ photos! They will ride in any van, truck, or buggy as long as they get to go!

  4. Dawn in NC says:

    Hi Sue. I have no experience in the realm of tow vehicles. However, after hearing all your reasoning and the way the van was great storage for your BLT, it convinced me that a van would be a better tow vehicle if you didn’t want to go off roading too much. I dream of someday having a BLT and PTV! Right now, I have to be content with just affording to pay the mortgage. One day!

  5. Renee from Idaho says:

    Hi Sue. TOP TEN again. Be back soon.

    • ReneeG from Idaho says:

      Well, ok then, I read it and really enjoyed all your conversation of your TV, but loved that last picture of the boy winking, or appearing to wink like they’ve got some sort of secret they are keeping from you or a little too nippy over their treats! I remember when you posted it, but not specifics.

      We tow with a pickup, but never have with a van. We’ve towed travel trailers and now a fifth wheel. When we had travel trailers, we had more cargo space in the bed of the pickup. We knew when we got a fifth wheel that we would lose that space and it would seem the same with a van versus a pickup. We had to make the commitment for our dogs to ride in the back seat with the fifth wheel in tow. Of course with a fifth wheel you have no choice but to use a pickup even though there are addon trailers out there to allow you to tow a fifth wheel with a van, but it would not have the power needed, unless it’s a small, very small fifth wheel. This conversation starter is almost like asking why you tow versus drive an RV like a Class B, C, or A.

  6. Ken Canada says:

    Hi Sue
    hi Pauline
    Hi Nancy
    Have a great day

  7. eliza says:

    A happy belated birthday! And many happy more to come. I want a van as a tow vehicle so I can keep my bike and maybe a kayak inside. I love the idea of having the tow vehicle house the battery and solar panels.

  8. Glenda Prince from East Texas says:

    Hi Sue! I’ve been following you since you decided to retire, sell your house, buy your PTV and drive all the way to Texas to pick up your BLT, the Casita! Yes ma’am, I’ve cried when your pups crossed over the Rainbow Bridge…and that time you were overlooking a river, and you started crying about your new wonderful life and how this came to be. I’m in awe, Sue. Your story telling draws pictures of purple mountains and burnt orange sunsets. All your ups and downs on the inclines and declines were pretty scary, but the scariest night of all was the “night of black bear” shadow out your window!! You’re a very brave person, and I will admit you are living the life I’ve always wanted, but for some reason I never got there. Your adventures provide an insight to my dreams. Thank you for sharing!
    Happy Birthday, Sue!

  9. JoanneG from San Rafael says:

    Belated Happy Birthday Wishes, Sue!

    Our 2007 Chevy Express Van is also our camper (Roadtrek). It is a great, reliable van. Even with the added weight of the RV built-ins, it has plenty of power and drives very nicely.

  10. Bruec says:


    Something else that will fix noises besides good gas, is “Sea Form”. It really does work. Engine may sound rough until you run it a little after putting in but suddenly, it starts to purr. Make sure you get it on sale at any auto parts store.

  11. Charles Mathers says:

    We towed a 28 ft travel trailer for a 10 week trip out west to w. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and back to Georgia. Our tow vehicle was a 10 year old Toyota Sequoia with V8 4WD and 330,000 miles . It performed flawlessly! We were very satisfied with its performance. We chose that vehicle because of the list of the top 10 least repaired older vehicles, the Sequoia and its cousin the Lexus version were at the top of the list. The Ford E-350 van and the GM 2500 van were the only US vehicles on the list. That Sequoia drove great as a car and towed great too!

  12. A truck as tow vehicle to go camping & to haul stuff at home. I love my 2002 dodge Dakota sport with 168,000 miles. It has a clutch, no power windows but has a/c, radio& dc player. It too has gone everywhere & even lend it out to sisters to haul stuff. Once in while I let gas to empty, add engine treatment & fill up with unleaded gas to clean the engine. I only had tune up once in all the years I owned it. I’ve replaced clutch, radiator, breaks, fuel tank pump, a couple of water pumps, & some work on front end. She still runs good. So far so good knock on wood

  13. Ken Cansda says:

    I would change the modulator valve on the transmission ….it is cheap and screws into the transmission.
    It tells the transmission when to shift……use GM part….made n USA.
    Change your spark plugs and replace with platinum plugs….good for hundred thousand miles.
    Change your spark plug wires.
    Change your fuel filter on the carb.
    The spark plugs are expensive but worth it…last a long time…..use GM spark plugs….made in USA
    Use spark plug wires…GM wires….made in USA
    GM fuel filter….made in USA
    Use premium gas…..it should have NO ethanol…..the engine will run better.
    Keep the gas tank full….no water condensation in the gas tank
    Just a thought to help you

  14. dave in missouri, also known as AlumaTurtle says:

    You have asked a question that i Have pondered and have solidified, in my mind, at least.
    Don’t know if i have mentioned before but i have a 73 model 27 foot Airstream, that i bought back 1981. it was lightly used when i bought it. My wife and i used it from time to time over the years. I have just about finished the restoration. and had planned to go full time as soon as it is finished. (still do)!

    Along the way lost my wife to Brain cancer abt 3 years ago after 49 years and 4 months with the wind knocked out of my sails, i slowed down and started folowing you about 3 years ago. since following you, instead of a truck i started looking at the idea of a modified van build. requirements would be a vehicle to tow my Airstream that i could also use for 1 or two or more nights to sleep in and enjoy my hobby and interest in, since the age of 12 years old, Ham radio. therefor i have decided in a 250 or 2500 series van that will tow the airstream, but also be able to cook, and sleep in, and radio in. have been aquireing the necessary items for my vehicle 8 100amp batteries and 1000w solar and more. inspired by your blog.

    • Dawn in NC says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your wife Dave. It sounds like you plan to use your van, as well as your Airstream as a camper. I would love to hear more about your plans for this. I have been interested in van camping, but am a little worried by the lack of storage.

  15. Reine in Princeton, TX (when not camping) says:

    Hey Sue, sorry I forgot your birthday. When you mentioned 7 decades I thought Sue’s not that old, then I remembered you’re only a few months younger than I am. I’m sure you look at your age and are a bit surprised at the number cause we don’t feel that old.

    I’ve followed you from the beginning and continue to enjoy your posts. As Glenda said, we’ve all worried, cried and laughed with you. May the next year bring you joy.

  16. Flyingslanted says:

    Regarding keeping the gas tank topped off, you are correct — moisture between the fuel level and top of tank can create issues. I know this from flying. I leave my airplane tanks always full because there is no luxury of pulling on the curb of a road when the engine coughs.

    Happy safe travels and thanks for still allowing us a peek into your life.

  17. Pat in Rochester says:

    I too have trouble shifting out of park in the morning.

    Happy birthday Sue.

  18. Paula says:

    Rvsue, I’m wishing you a wonderful happy birthday. I am glad you are having a wonderful life. Currently, I have a Ford Transit XLT Connect which is a perfect tow vehicle for my Teardrop trailer. When I get a bigger trailer, I will need a larger van. I carry my belongings and merchandise I sell in my van. I will also need a bigger tow capacity. Ford makes a bigger Transit which is very nice. Dodge also has a nice mid-size van too. I will be sad to give up the two doors that open in the back and also the sliding panels on BOTH sides. I am short and it is nice to be able to have openings from both sides to reach what is in the middle. Apparently I can order the second door feature but at a huge price. Not ready yet to give up my smaller Transit but it is definitely in the poor most of my thoughts as I travel full time now. Good luck on your next endeavor I have been traveling all through Arizona but now I made it down to Texas with hopes of going back to Arizona soon. Take care and give the pups a kiss, sincerely, Paula

  19. Airstreaming Pagey says:

    Our tow vehicle is a custom 2015 Freightliner M2/106 with a Reading service body. We chose this because my husband is a 35+ Master ASE Mechanic as well as a Certified RV technician. His toolbox weighs as much as a Smart car.
    Our truck has served us well. We were able to go up the mountains out west with no problems, as well as go back down. She can haul 40,000 pounds. Our Airstream home weighs just over 10,000 and our AirHitch can handle up to 20,000.
    When we worked in Yellowstone National Park and the nearest grocery was 85 miles away, we used her shelves as a pantry. We still do, but don’t stock as much now. We also have an ARB fridge/freezer inside. And when we are in travel mode, our bicycles ride in the back.
    Her outside boxes hold my 3 qt and 6 qt InstaPots, as well as our Excalibur dehydrator, various tools, and other assorted items.
    We still had our sticks and bricks when we bought her, so originally we had a queen-sized platform bed in the back and we used her for camping. We will convert her back to a camper when we get off the road.
    Glad you had a good birthday and I hope you have many, many more.

  20. Joe in TN says:

    Hi, Sue,

    We’re not full-time, but we tow a 26 foot trailer about 8 – 10,000 miles a year with a 2014 Dodge Ram 1500. The truck has an extended cab and the bed is covered. That allows us to take a lot of “stuff”. I’m afraid that if I owned a van, I would pack it so tight that I couldn’t find anything. I love my truck (nickname Bert) but I’m thinking about buying a Ram 2500 for more power.
    I think your PTV is an excellent choice for a Casita owner needing full-time storage.

  21. Elaine and Miss Lovey in Florida says:

    Hi Sue! I tow with a 2007 Dodge RAM 1500 4×4 with the 5.7 hemi engine. My travel trailer is a 2012 heartland north trail 29 rlss with overall length of 34 feet 4 inches. The truck drives like a champ even when towing. Most of my traveling was from Colorado to Florida where I have been stationery since May 2017. Yes, I have gone on camping trips once to evacuate from hurricane Irma and other times for fun. I live in my travel trailer full time. The down side to my truck when towing is the gas mileage at around 8.9 mpg. I’ve learned that I didn’t need a 4×4 and should have gone for the Dodge RAM 2500 5,7 hemi. If I knew then when I purchased my truck and trailer what I know now I would have purchased the 2500 and a bit larger trailer with 3 slides opposed to only one.

  22. Columbus Calvin says:

    Hi, Sue! I hope your 8th decade is as great as your 7th, or even better.

    What I can really tell you about the PTV is that you and your crews have really enjoyed using it. (See all the pictures!) Most vehicles can get 200,000 miles nowadays with good maintenance, but you might see this as a good moment for a change while you’re not on the road. You made a very good decision when you bought the PTV, and I’m sure you’ll make a good one this time.

    The mechanics in my family tell me the best thing I can do for my vehicles is routine maintenance. Not options or accessories, not aftermarket equipment, just routine maintenance of fluids and tune-ups. I’ll encourage you to do the tune-up as soon as you can whether or not you change vehicles.

    I don’t tow, but I like vans. You get more cargo space per foot of length, which makes for easier maneuvering at a given cargo capacity. It’s already enclosed, and you have immediate access between the driver’s area and the cargo space. There’s more interior height. Also, my last vehicle was a pickup, and the cab felt small/crowded compared to other vehicles.

  23. Linda in NE says:

    I myself have trouble shifting out of “park” in the morning. Especially on cold mornings. LOL I can see where a big van would be a good tow vehicle with all the storage space and those nice big doors on the back to access it all.

  24. Alice says:

    Happy Birthday, glad your well.

  25. Don in Alaska says:

    I used a Ford, F-350 Extra-Heavy Duty 3/4 ton, which was a 1 ton truck set up as a pickup. The rear axle was setup for dual rims, If I had wanted them. Powered via a Cleveland 351 CU V-8 – noted for being a bullet proof engine. Add a 5 speed stick and we were ready to go. This was a 6 pax (crew cab)

    Started with a small (17 ft) tow behind, then ‘upgraded’ to a 5th wheel – a very small 5th wheel….

    Sold it after 5 years for more than I paid for it. Other than oil changes, undercoating and a spray-in bed liner, I did nothing to the rig. We sold it after I got tired of driving a land-based version of the Titanic.

    Now have a VW Eurovan camper (Winnie-beg-go)

    Oddly, the van gets about the same gas mileage as the monster truck!

    I got the truck from an Airman out at the local base – it had come from SoAz – zero rust! Even tho it had 93K miles, the pressure in all cly were well over 100 psi. Clutch was good. I won’t say what I paid, but it was a pittance. The thought even IF I put in a new crate engine – would have the essence of a $60K+ rig at a fraction of the cost. This came from a ranch, so was a Fleet vehicle – no frills.

    The engine installed was a long history of being bombproof. Mine certainly was.
    The second, full sized bench seat was great for carrying the grand-kiddos and short of a driving a Flakpanzer, I cannot image anything safer for the kids in the back.

    Now, the kiddos have their own rig (an Apache hard-sided pop-up) so we moved to downsize to save on storage fees.

    The truck was wonderful, but I doubt I would even have one that large again….

  26. Diann in MT says:

    Thanks for the memories, Sue, and Happy Birthday. I love your plan to get another rosebud on that decade cake!

  27. Harrison Phillips says:

    We bought our 2004 gmc van new in October 2003 and traveled extensively exhibiting at art shows until dec 2010 when we became fulltime rvers. The milage at that point was about 165000 and is now about 256000. We’ve had no major problems yet – thank goodness and are still happily rving along.

    When we started out there were few vans seen as tow vehicles but they seem to be more popular now. We could not survive without the storage in our van – our home is a 17 foot casita. We’ll probably just fix any problems that arise with this van as long as we can because it is still comfortable for us and doesn’t look that bad.

    Harrison Phillips

  28. Donna N Girls in Chandler says:

    Hi Sue,

    I don’t have a tow vehicle, since I camp in a class c, but I do have a toad. 2003 rav4. I bought it new and just love it. I can pack a lot of camping necessities in the back, the seats fold up or can be removed. Water, chairs, dog food and lounger. Plus it’s a great vehicle to sightseeing. You would need a larger SUV to tow, I think they’re a good choice.

  29. Jolene/Iowa says:

    Hi Sue and happy late birthday! We have been buried in work and I just didn’t get on the day of your birthday.

    We are just a weekend camper. We pull my trailer with a 2001 Ford F250 7.3 L diesel. I have that truck because I got it in my divorce in 2006. It now has 330,000 miles on it and the 2nd transmission is going out of it. With all that happened last year we simply couldn’t afford to put a transmission in it now. Just when we were getting a little money coming in that we might be able to go to a local park for a week or so, this started going on so we didn’t even get out this year. We bought a used mini van to use for work now and hope to get the truck fixed and just keep it for towing the campers. It is a towing beast and we just had a 27′ travel trailer.

    • Jolene/Iowa says:

      I want to add for those who may read this. You may wonder why at 330K miles I would want to keep it yet. That power stroke diesel engine is still strong. All of the parks we would be going to are pretty close to home. So it is still cheaper to put another rebuilt transmission in it. I had to replace the first one at 100K miles and we got 200K out of the second one. This truck was used hard with the work I do. So I still feel for a couple thousand it will be cheaper to go this route yet.

      • Denise - Richmond VA says:

        Hi, Jolene,

        While investing in a new transmission is nothing to take lightly, your “beast” has given you excellent service. I am not familiar with how much a rebuilt transmission would cost, but I am sure that it will be a lot less than a new truck. The price of new trucks has really climbed the past few years. Not many can afford or justify spending $50K or more on a vehicle! 🙂

  30. Denise - Richmond VA says:

    Hi, Sue,

    Oh, so nice to see pictures of Spike and Bridget! I love the one of her scurrying under the PTV to avoid that pesky camera lens! The last photo where Reggie and Roger are delirious with happy mischief is priceless! They were playing so hard that Roger managed to squirm out of his harness. Silly boys! 💕 🙂

    The PTV has given you many years of good service and good times. The extra love that you are showing her with premium gas fill ups and keeping a full tank may be all that is needed to smooth out the rough idle. The shifting out of Park still remains a mystery.

    Sending you, Reggie, and Roger lots of love and hugs from me and Gracie pup! Have a good evening, Sue! 🙂

  31. Jane Flory says:

    Hi, Sue! You totally inspired me. I retired last year and bought a 2005 Chevy Express 3500 van. I also bought a 1992 24 foot trailer. I’ve spent the last 10 months fixing up the insides of both of them. I built a lot of storage into both, and a twin bed in each. I plan to use the van for exploring or a quick trip to see family, and the trailer as my home. I’m currently on my way to South Dakota to get my drivers license and register the trailer, I did the van remotely already. Then I’ll be heading south to find comfortable weather. I’ll be checking out many of the camps you mentioned in your blog! Thanks for sharing and providing the inspiration for my new life.

  32. vernon says:

    Sue try a can of Sea Foam it is a tune up in a can . Great stuff , I have used it in cars , jeeps and tractors that was running ruff . You can find it at Wal Mart in the auto section or any auto store . When I was told about it I had my concerns but its works .

  33. Lynn in Oregon says:

    I’m one of those frugal folks who like to take care of my things and keep them going a long long time. Sometimes, longer than makes sense…. as I found out.
    Tow vehicle #1 for our trailer was a Ford truck, 20 years old, with over 200,000 miles. My husband started making noises about buying a newer truck. “Hey! That truck is a BEAST!” I would say. “It’s got miles and miles to go yet!” Husband (former diesel mechanic) would then begin to talk about O-rings and seals and such, and I would mostly tune out.
    Until the day we had to attend a funeral, my husband’s brother’s funeral in fact, where I decided to wear my 20-year old fancy black dress boots, boots with rubber soles and heels. Which, once at the funeral, began to crumble into chunks, so that everywhere I walked I left black crumbly rubber in a trail behind me. By the time we got home, my feet were walking barefoot on the floor, with the still nicely-polished upper leather, but with no soles at all.
    I’m not sure the universe could have taught me about the life span of rubber in a more humbling way.
    We went out the next day and bought a newer truck.

    • I would have resoled my boots. I drive my vehicles until they crumble. After 100,000 I expect repair expenses to rise so I prepare to deal with it on my truck. Probably keep another 100,000 miles before buy a new used one. By then, I’ll be too old to be thinking new truck.

  34. Happy Birthday to you Sue! And sending wishes for many more successful years with the (almost) invincible PTV!
    I pull my 21-foot Escape fiberglass trailer with a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 5.7L gasoline 4X4 pickup. It has a full crew cab and a canopy over the back bed, oversize tires and brakes, etc, but I envy you the storage space in your van.
    In the end … let’s just get on the road and go! 🙂

  35. Ken Canada says:

    Keep your engine compartment nice and clean…….do not use a pressure washer
    to clean your engine compartment.
    Change your air cleaner on a regular basis…….if it gets plugged you will use more gas..
    Best regards

  36. DeGin says:

    I didn’t know they sold Bulletproof products at Amazon! I love brain octane oil (it’s really MCT oil).

    I don’t have a van or a trailer but I do want to say car camping with my Prius is great! I bring along a dog pen, a lounge chair, a small folding table, my camp stove and butane. I have a car fridge that plugs in to my car. So I just pull into my spot and put out my dog pen and my chair for me and Chloe to hang out. I make a little kitchen with my table, my stove and a cutting board. We of course look for shady spots in summer. So we hang out and I fry up a steak or burger, then when night falls I bed down in the car. I can plug in my crap and have heat or air conditioning, as you can leave the Prius running all night because it’s electric. I sleep great in there. If you fold the back seat down you have about 10 feet of space in the back. I haven’t gone anywhere this year but I’m still considering Texas. I have been having a lot of back trouble which has kept me home. But who knows? Maybe next week.

  37. MB Dillard says:

    Good morning Sue,

    It’s funny how we can get attached to vehicles, huh? I too am contemplating getting something newer. But feel guilty when I see something I like while driving my sweet truck (a 2004 F150). It has taken me across country once and helped me with the “heavy lifting” when I had my farm job. And it still takes me where I need to go with no complaints at almost 190,000 miles. My first “cross country” vehicle was a 89 Bronco II that took my mom and me on a trip from VA to CA…up the coast and back across the top states and home. And then me across country to AZ…..north to WY to see some friends and home twice more. So many memories………(Has anyone here even traveled 89 from border to border? That’s on my bucket list.)

    Anyway, I am thinking about what I want my next vehicle to be. Truck or van? I have had a 4×4 since 1989. I haven’t needed it all that much….but when I did…..I DID! LOL! It is the only reason I would choose the truck over a van. But I love the idea of my dogs being able to go lay on their beds or me being able to make lunch in the pouring rain at a rest area without going outside. And I always remind myself….RVSue hasn’t needed 4×4……. 🙂

    Soooo….I’m leaning toward a 250 cargo van that I can make into a camper and just use it for awhile. Just travel around. Then get a trailer later. It could go with me all the time or stay in seasonal parks and the van would be my home away from home while I explore the area. One day…..

    Have a great day out there….and Happy Birthday!
    MB, Wyn and Bella

  38. Eileen says:

    WELCOME TO THE “70’s CLUB!!!

  39. Cathy says:

    Hello everyone,
    We have a 2008 Nissan Pathfinder. We’ve been full time two times with him pulling our 2012 Casita Freedom deluxe. We call him Willy Nelson (our Casita is MiniPearl).. Willy has 225,000 miles on him! I think using premium gas is a very good idea for our “senior” vehicles. We’re planning on getting a truck in the future with a topper so it will be a bit more storage. BUT Willy Nelson is perfect for us now! Never given us a problem!

  40. weather says:

    Just for the sake of comparison, my 2010 Jeep Liberty has 4 wheel drive, slightly higher towing capacity,15% fewer cubic’ of interior space than the PTV.So if I ever decide I want a bigger travel trailer than
    my T@B, the jeep could tow one even a tad bigger than the BLT. However, while I love that it’s windows allow full visibility in every direction,they allow so much sunlight in that one would need to grocery shop at night in order to safely leave animals in it during summertime.
    There are logical and sentimental reasons for investing in whatever repairs the PTV needs instead of buying a replacement. There’s a tipping point where at you’d be better off dollar wise to get another tow vehicle. I just know when you’re out vagabonding you’ll no longer be able to leave the crew at home when you run errands, and insulated vehicles that stay as cool inside as the PTV are neither easy to find
    nor inexpensive. I’m looking forward to seeing what you decide to do,Sue, and grateful that you have options and more traveling to look forward to.

  41. Geri in the FL panhandle says:

    I loved towing my Casita with my 2004 Chevy Trailblazer 4wd vehicle. It has never given me any problems since I have had her. Until a tree fell on her thanks to Hurricane Michael! She still runs great, just needs a new windshield and some body work!

    • Dawn in NC says:

      Glad to see you back here Geri! I’m sorry about your car, but relieved the Mothership made it unscathed.

      • Geri in the FL panhandle says:

        Honestly, our little RV park came thru like nothing happeded. We had 2 trees down but no homes or vehicles were damaged! We snuck between the bands of wind and rain apparently! Prayers helped too!

        • Denise - Richmond VA says:

          Hi, Geri,

          We are so grateful that your home and the RV Park is unscathed. You all were in our thoughts and prayers non-stop! 🙂

          • Barbara (Nashville) says:

            Glad all came out well Geri. We were all concerned for your welfare. How are you feeling since the heart scare?

  42. Barb in Hoquiam says:

    Hey Sue! Running out the door but wanted to ask your blogerinos and you too! Our pickup does fine (big engine but small pickup) in hauling our Moosee… I want to say it is a ford but um… it is outside and I forget this stuff! LOL The issue is the MIRRORS. We need BIGGER ones to really see the back half of Moosee (24 ft Silver Streak) and do the parking dance. Can those bigger mirrors be put on to an older truck (2000)? We have the ‘add on’ ones but they are not doing what we need… Jim has always had a really hard time parking the old girl… and well. We were told that better mirrors would be a big help (and of course they say we need a big pickup but then they find out we pull fine-no overheated stuff or anything and the engine is good sized.

    Ideas? Thoughts?

    Thanks and hugs from Hoquiam! Gotta fly.

    • Dawn in NC says:

      Hi Barb, sorry, but I have no experience with these matters only ever driving compact cars. I hope some other Blogorinos will see this and help you out!

      • Barb George says:

        Me too! If it helps at all, it is a Ford Ranger. 200 extra cab. I know the mirrors MUST come off…. Blah!

  43. Hoot says:

    You are a smart woman so I wonder why you hesitate to get a tune up? 400.00 is not a lot to spend to keep your PTV running as compared to buying a new one, right?

    Just curious? I know you said you had more important expenses. But, …

  44. Cynthia in San Clemente says:

    Oh how I loved the throw-back photos of Spike and Bridget, and especially that one of Bridge with Reggie 🙂 I don’t have an opinion about tow van or a tow truck (lol – one of the few things in life I don’t have an opinion on!!) because I know nothing about either choice. We haven’t towed any vehicle behind either of our motorhomes, mostly because we don’t want to add another 10 to 12 feet behind 40 feet! We have two electronic bikes which have been very useful – if we minimize the amount of pedal assist we use, the range is really quite good. And when we have wanted to do more extensive sightseeing, we just have Enterprise pick us up at our campsite and we rent one of their vehicles.

  45. Larry in Milton FL says:

    Hi Sue. Lois and I bought our Casita new 8 years ago and you’ve provided so much great advice and experience to us over the years since. We don’t full-time, but do annual 2-3 month trips to the western mountain states each year, often to places we discovered from you. We boondock 99 percent of the time. Last year our “trusty” 2010 Jeep Liberty died in eastern Nevada from sudden transmission failure, stranding us on a road in GreatBasin Nat Park. We had to hike 3 mi to get a cell phone signal to call for a tow, but GoodSam towed both Casita and Jeep to Ely, NV for free! Be advised advised that Ely is a very bad town to be broken down in, since it’s very easy to enter but almost impossible to leave (within 100 mi there are no rental cars, no U-hauls, no air or bus service, just your thumb to stick out if you want to hitch a ride away to freedom). Ely has only one car dealer/repair facility and that’s where we were towed. No names, but although they are the best in town, we were not impressed at all. After 3 weeks waiting, they finally installed a used transmission but did a very poor installation. We’d have escaped town after 2 weeks, but they first ordered the wrong one. When we left town the repaired Jeep drove well but made occasional loud metalic clunking sounds from below as we drove home back to FL. No way I was turning back since if we got 100 mi from Ely, GoodSam would tow us to a dealer in Las Vegas. I kept announcing the mileage to Lois as they slowly approached 100, and felt a lot better when Ely was too far to be returned to. It’s up a miracle we got back alive. When we got home I took the Jeep to our local dealer and they were amazed. They foud numerous missing bolts that secured the drive shaft, said all the other transmission bolts were loose, we had mangled transmission cooling lines, broken brackets, and numerous other horrendous discrepancies caused by the previous repair techniques. Needless to say, we won’t ever return witin 100 of to Ely without bringing a spare vehicle with us!
    No longer trusting the Jeepbto tow, and thanks tobRvSue, within 4 days of returning home we bought our own “PTV”, a new 2017 Chevy Express Cargo van. We’re driving home now on our first long trip in our PTV, a 2 month trip in New Mexico. The van has been absolutely wonderful. Ours only has two seats of course, but that means more free space inside. Before starting this trip I installed van shelving, anchors to secure several 7-gal water jugs to the floor, a long ladders to the ceiling, and a smaller ladder to the wall. Everything inside is so easy to accessf and it all stayed in place on this trip over many miles of rough NM forest, desert, and mountain roads. Lois calls the van her garage, because it holds endless amounts of stuff and keeps it secure . We love sitting up high in our van seats with a great of the road and it tows and handles much better than the Jeep did.

    Sue, you should look for a used Chevy cargo van, perhaps 5 years old. The 2018 models have much-shrunken V-6 engines in them now with 9-speed transmissions to somehow compensate. . We were lucky to get a new 2017 so late in the year (late Oct last year) which still had a V-8 engine. The newer ones have a V-6, like our Jeep did. I can’t imagine a heavy Express Van climbing steep grades while towing a trailer. Ours did the job effortlessly on this trip and we’ve averaged 15.9 mpg, which is better than the Jeep did towing our Casita. You own the perfect tow vehicle now, but it’s just getting old and a bit tired (just like me). Stick with a Chevy van for you new one, and consider getting a cargo version. It will hold a lot more items and more securely than the passenger version and you won’t miss having all those full length glass windows at all. I hope our van lasts forever since Detroit keeps shrinking the engines in spite of the task. Thanks for sharing your Casita boondocking experiences over the years with us over the years. I wish our first tow vehicle had been an express van too, instead of the Jeep we chose, but we didn’t know better at the time. You figured it out on you own! Hope you find your next ideal “PTV” soon, so you can experience more great times and keep educating us in the future. -Larry in Milton

  46. Susan in the Pacific NW says:

    I have owned both trucks and vans and I have a travel trailer so I am very familiar with what works best. You too obviously know that as you made the choice to get a van. The only practical choice for you is a van, you need the function it offers, but you do not need the function a truck offers. Trucks are needed for hauling materials such as landscaping materials, dirt, mulch, trees and shrubs, windows, doors, sheets of plywood, long boards, farm supplies such as animal feed, etc. Vans are more about keeping materials protected from the elements. You have solar panels that need a big roof top area which a truck can’t provide. Then there is your battery bank which is large and also needs protection. A van is the right choice for you, a truck will not fulfill your real needs. Even if you put a canopy on a truck it won’t work as well as a van. Canopies are not very secure for storage and they do end up because of the long joint where the canopy sits on top of the truck. It is also more difficult to get to the contents you store in a canopy.

  47. Fortuna Robert says:

    Happy Birthday Sue.
    I was camped somewhere near your new “camp” last night.
    Have a great birthday and good luck on the hunt for PTV2.

  48. Becky in NJ says:

    Hi Sue –
    Happy (belated) Birthday! 🎂
    That was a lovely cake.
    I can tell you about our truck, but it is a bit unique. It is set up for towing, but mostly we use it for hauling feed and hay in the 8 foot bed, for the farm. It is a classic- 1992 Dodge Ram 1500 with a tow package. Before we got it, It used to pull a horse trailer. It is old yes, but still runs like a champ, and is a strong hauler. We regularly drive it 50 miles with 40 bales of hay loaded on it, with no problem at all. A good old Dodge 318 V8 motor. My husband had a car with the same kind of motor that he put over 300,000 miles on. The truck mileage is a mystery because the odometer stopped working a long time ago, but probably about the same as your PTV. The main thing the truck needs is a new paint job. Even the A/C still works great, and has never had a recharge! So you see, your van should have plenty of life left in it!

  49. Gloria in Prescott, Az. says:

    We pull our Casita with a Double Cab Toyota Tacoma. We considered a 4 Runner for more inside storage but I still need to haul stuff for the garden. We get about 15 mpg when we are towing. We got a Toyota because of their longevity and low maintenance reputation. We have about 200,000 miles on it and expect to get another 100,000.

    I think you need to consider how long you will be away from your home at one time. You may not need to haul as much in the future. We have a 100 watt solar panel that we plug in by the Casita battery and it has always given us plenty of power for several days in one spot. We store the panel under some plastic bins holding Casita set up equipment on the back seat of the Tacoma. Works great for us.

    Nice to see some men contributing on this subject. Hope it helps.

  50. LeeJ in Northern California says:

    Interesting post! I also am in my seventh decade…but a couple of years ahead of you…how exactly did that happen? I wonder how many October babies are out there beside you and me?
    I pull my Casita with a 2009 F150 extra cab, 8 foot bed. I keep my last truck, a F250 diesel for hauling feed for my horse and dump runs…1986 oldie but goodie.
    I really love the F150, it has a carlike ride, has a beautiful interior that feels luxurious after the old diesel…a good thing! When I have the Casita in tow I never feel it back there, and I have pulled in the sierras where it was steep and winding. The truck has a pull/tow mode that really keeps the speed even, up and down hills so is much less work than the old truck.
    We had an ARE cap put on a couple of years ago that has a nice carpeted interior with lights and sliding windows that are screened. We had a bedliner sprayed on then got a big mat for the floor that makes sliding cargo in very convenient. If I go just as a tag along with friends for a night or two, I often just use my cot in the back of the truck.. I can haul my outdoor table, rug, chairs, life vests, tools, my kayak on the roof. Plus whatever I think I will need…
    I have used this truck for dump runs if I don’t have a huge amount, it is very utilitarian
    I camp alone, husband isn’t into camping anymore, and this truck has proved to be a reliable ride.
    One thing to add, when you start looking, consider a former rental. My truck was a Hertz, and they really maintain their vehicles. Plus when we bought it, the cost from hertz was several thousand less than similar vehicles plus it only had 38000 miles on it. It gets normal fuel economy, good sound system, has a built in brake controller, syncs to my phone…cruise control….can you tell I love this truck?
    All we had to do to it as a used truck was the bedliner, hertz had it totally detailed.
    I used to pull a big four horse trailer with the diesel, can’t beat a diesel for pulling but I don’t need that anymore.

    • suzi says:

      October baby here, and my Larry too. My dad too… although he is no longer with us, we still celebrate Dad’s birthday as it’s on the same day as Larry’s.

      Happy birth month! xo

  51. Rhodium in SWVA says:

    We decided to sell our travel trailer but we still have our Ram 2500 turbo diesel, 2WD. The trailer was heavy (total allowable weight 10000 pounds) but the truck could accelerate uphill at altitude. Just keep it out of any mud since it can get stuck. We have a cap since we carried a lot of gluten free food with us. I would recommend it to anyone. It’s big back seat still comes in handy when I am transporting rescue dogs. We can put four big crates in the bed, two on the back seat and one crate can ride shotgun. Since we are about the same age, I am planning on waiting to buy any new vehicle so it will be as self driving as possible.

  52. Eventually even the best vehicles become unsafe to drive, but I know several people with older vehicles with double your mileage so it doesn’t have to be soon! How exciting to be jumping into the eights, I know you’ll do them proud 🙂 Hope you’re all staying warm in your sweet little desert bungalow.

  53. suzi says:

    We tow with a 5 year old E-250 cargo van, that was used by the OR lotto to service machines. It’s a V-8, and just enough power to tow our Casita and all our household possessions; both in the Van, and in the Casita. Not much power to spare going over passes, but we aren’t “grunting” either. The price was right, it was very, very clean and well maintained, and roomy! Like Sue, we have solar on the roof, and storage batteries in the back. During our 8K mile trip down to TX and back around, and then some, it didn’t burn a drop of oil. I think the van works out well for us being full-timers, as we have a few more things with us than most probably.

  54. Pauline Nash says:

    I don’t know a thing about tow vehicles but I do know I love all these pictures!!!!
    Love you!!

  55. Marilu in Northern California says:

    Hi Sue,
    I hope you’re having a wonderful birthday week. I loved seeing the picture of Spike. There is a dog who looked so much like him at our Humane Society. I wish I could bring him home.

  56. Barbara (Nashville) says:

    Have no experience with tow vehicles, but always thought you had a great set up. I know the PTV is getting old, but think I would just find a good mechanic, get a good tune-up, and a good going over and keep her. A van like that should last a good 300,000 miles. Even an overhaul wold be a lot cheaper than a new one.
    I hate the idea of buying new vehicles these days. It is such a pain in the neck and wallet, plus the oldies are better built.
    Since you have a home base, you probably won’t need as much stuff with you, you could consider a small pickup like the Toyota Tacoma of GMC Canyon with a cap on the back. believe they both come with 6 cylinders, not sure about a V-8.

  57. Barbara (Nashville) says:

    Love the pic of Spike sitting in the PTV window with his leg resting on the window. Reminds me of DH waiting on me to do some errand. Too cute.

  58. ApplegirlNY says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Sue. I’m sure it was wonderful.
    Thank you so much for the “look-back” pictures. Seeing Bridget, Spike, and then Reggie and Roger sure makes me smile. What a wonderful life you have, and how lucky your critters have been to be there along the way.

    We tow our 17′ Casita with a Dodge Ram 1500. Extended cab, and we have a tonneau (sp?) cover for the bed. It works great, – to and from Florida and up and around the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Adirondacks, but probably wouldn’t be my first choice. However, it is my husband’s work truck, so we use what we have, and are grateful for it.

    What would I prefer? Something a little more comfy in the cab. Our last trip to Florida from Upstate NY had us discovering that as we age, we get stiff much sooner than we used to. Having said that, we really have no real reason not to keep running the 1500. It has served us well.

    I’ll be on Amazon looking for something to put on the seats for a bit more cushioning. Anyone have any ideas or experience with what worked for them?

    • Dawn in NC says:

      Surprisingly those wooden bead seats are pretty comfy.

      • ApplegirlNY says:

        Yes, those were the first thing that came to mind, of course, once you start looking at other options, it gets confusing. Thanks for sharing.

  59. Shelley in CA says:

    Looking for the person who sells the CBD oil? I have a dog with oral cancer and I have read that this can possibly make his end of life more comfortable.

    I have also been wanting to try this for my husband who has really bad neuropathy in his feet and psoriasis.

    If anyone remembers the person or the number or even better if that person sees this please pass on the information to me. Thanks!

  60. Ruthie in Fontana says:


    • Shelley in CA says:

      Thank you I didn’t see that.

      • MB Dillard says:

        I am sorry to read about your dog’s illness. He/she is fortunate to have a person who will seek out ways in which to make the journey more comfortable. My old girl and I are in a similar situation. She just started meds yesterday for Cushings. Not as life threatening as what you are going through but very uncomfortable for her. As with you…..I just want to make this time in her life as comfortable as possible. I hope the CBD oil works well for both your needs.

        Love from VA,
        MB, Wyndy and Bella

        • shelley in CA says:

          Thank you, I haven’t been a great pet mom, I have been sticking my head in the sand because I am afraid of what the vet will say. So far he doesn’t seem to be in pain but he has a growth that looks omnious and he is 15.

          • MB Dillard says:

            I know what you mean. I’ve had many animals from hamsters to horses….and have thought the same thing at times. But many times…especially at his age…..the old saying that “less is more” really is true. I think that having a safe place with a loving person to watch over and care for them is the best thing we can do for them. You are in my thoughts.

  61. Kary E says:

    We have a Ford E-350, and I love it. The 5.4 V8 gasoline engine is plenty strong for our needs. The interior is minimally converted. We have the two front seats, one rear bench, a rear platform bed with lots of storage underneath, and a pop-top with an upstairs bed. No onboard kitchen / bathroom or shower facilities.

    If the right Chevy or GMC had shown up, we’d have bought one of those, but after doing my research, I knew I wanted a Ford gasser if I could find one in my price range. A key part of that research was talking to someone who managed hundreds of fleet vans, and he said they were both good, but the Ford was more reliable over the long haul. He showed me statistics from their fleet, but I don’t have the info anymore.

    • MB Dillard says:

      So, your E350 has a gas engine? Do you know what the mpg is? I was thinking of a 250 and I like the idea of gas for several reasons.

      Also, did you do the pop-up build yourself or have it done? Would you be willing to share how much this cost? That would be really good for me because I need space “downstairs” for my office. I am not retired but have a job I can do anywhere I can get a signal. I could work with the bed being downstairs but I like the idea of a pop up for the head room. I’m 5’7″. And I like having my bedroom separate.

      Have fun in yours!!!!
      MB from VA

      • Kary E says:

        Hi, MB from VA!

        We get 15 to 17 mpg depending on the terrain, but we don’t tow. The van is our camper.

        The poptop is a Sportsmobile add on, and they cost $8,000 to $10,000 to install. An outfit called Colorado Camper Vans does something similar that a lot of people like. Google will find both websites for you.

        We spent two years looking for our ideal van, and our patience paid off when we found Lola (that’s her name) at a Toyota dealer in Texas for $14,500. She’s a 2011 E-350 5.4L V8 with 55,000 miles a clean Carfax, and she had the poptop already installed.

        For that price, she was such a steal that I flew out, grabbed her, and didn’t even haggle. Drove her straight home before they could change their minds. 😀

        Check out the differences between the 250 and the 350. Many of the components are beefier in the 350, e.g. suspension, alternator, etc.

        • MB Dillard says:

          WOW! You did get a great deal! I have done lots of research too…..and I would have snatched that van up in a heartbeat too!!!!! 🙂

          The mileage surprises me….in a good way. That’s about what my 2004 F150 gets.

          I’ve been on the Sportsmobile & Roadtrek sites many times. They are really nice but I think with a little help, I could build out a cargo van that better suits my needs. I do like the swivel seats and the penthouse though.

          Thank you for the information!

          • Barbara (Nashville) says:

            Chck out Ross Lukeman’s site for some van conversion informatin and videos. He also has classed you can attend. He just did a workshop in Austin

  62. Kary E says:

    Ops, almost forgot. I’m also 5’7″, and I sleep just fine in both the downstairs and upstairs beds. The hubs and the kid are 6-footers, and they have to sleep diagonally or curl up on the downstairs bed. The upstairs bed sleep two adults no problem. The downstairs bed sleeps one shorter adult or two kids.

    My passenger seat rotates 180 degrees to face the interior (while parked), and there’s a modification that allows the driver seat to do the same. The swivel bases run a few hundred plus installation.

  63. susie says:

    A Belated Happy Birthday to you Sue! I wish you good health and many more years of adventures and good times with your sister and your pups.
    I enjoy your blog so much,
    Take care.

  64. Maria S. says:

    Hi Sue,

    Although I have followed your blog on and off for a number of years, this is my first time posting. I am a bit shy I guess. However, the van question just forced me to finally comment. Brief history- I too am a RVer, single woman in her 60’s who started RVing full time in 2004, had to stop to take care of an elderly parent but came back on the road full time the first of 2017. I started with a motorhome in 2004 but moved to a 27ft TT in 2017. Initially I wanted a van to tow with but was talked out of it by friends. So I towed with a Chevy Tahoe and I could never find anything in it!!! It just did not have enough cargo space for a full timer. From day 1 on the road I regretted my tow vehicle choice and began searching for a van. However, I was somewhat limited in choices since my TT has a heavy tongue weight. My choices were the 6.2L Chevy Express, a V8 3500 Nissan NV or a 3500 Sprinter. The Sprinter was too high maintenance for me so it was down to a Chevy Express or Nissan NV and I finally stumbled across a great deal on the NV that had 24,000 miles used for a steal. I think both of these two vans are well made and dependable. Anyway I went with the Nissan NV due to the price and love, love, love having a van for all my stuff. It tows well, has plenty of power and is fun to drive. You did it right by getting a van when you started out and wish I had done the same. Again, I can’t say enough about the joys of towing with a van as a full timer. As you say, it really is the perfect tow vehicle.

  65. Lisa, Dad, Tommie and Buddy in FL says:

    I had a friend whose dog had Cushings and her dog benefited from non skid pads on the floor, the kind you put on shelves, they are rubber, washable and made it easier for her dog to walk. I hope it helps yours.

  66. John Spoden says:

    One has to live with another for 6 months, to know if cohabitation is equitable for each of the involved. A blessing always proceeds an honest error.

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