On The Lot: Our First Look Inside the RVs

It was time to get Up Close and Personal with a few RVs because we’d never even set foot inside one before, not unless you counted ratty old campers a gazillion years old, permanently parked with weeds anchoring down the underbellies.

We’d stayed in one of those while visiting some folks and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. No water at all in the camper, hadn’t been cleaned (even the bed), and mouse droppings everywhere — little factoids we didn’t know about until it was too late to back out politely. The hot water at the campground showers was busted as well. The experience did NOT leave us hankering to travel in an RV, and the next time someone offered up their “camper” for us to stay in, we ran for the hills, no No NO!

Other people’s campers were a huge turn off, often having sat empty for months on end with moldy refrigerators and spoiled food left behind. But we weren’t looking to buy Other People’s Campers — we were looking for a brand new home, a high-end recreational vehicle for full-time RV living.

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  • We set out to visit an RV dealership in person to answer the question: Could we actually live in one? Did they make RVs that were roomy enough and homey enough to satisfy two people giving up a three-storey house counting the finished basement?

    As we drove to the RV sales lot, it seemed as if Bear had changed his mind prior to our even setting out, because he was Donnie Downer all the way there as if we were wasting our time.

    Bear had been the one to suggest an RV in the first place as a way to downsize, live cheaper, and travel, but he’d done some research online and the costs of RV living seemed prohibitive. We’d embraced the idea on those three assumptions, but according to our research it would be MORE expensive than living in a great big house.

    The RV lot was an hour away, and Mr. Doom and Gloom spent that hour regaling me with how hard he’d worked to create the perfect retirement home where he could retire tinkering with all of his favorite hobbies, and how much it would actually cost us to do this, which appeared to be more than we were spending for a three-storey home on a subdivision lake.

    Most people don’t take into account ALL of the expenses that go into it. Payments on a new and bigger truck, the RV payment, higher insurance, higher tag fees, gas for all that travel even if we lingered at each location, storage for the stuff that we just weren’t ready to part with permanently, mail forwarding, dump fees, campsite fees — and that’s where it got really high end, you could rent a whole house for what most of the nicer RV parks were charging. According to my calculations, it would cost us $700 a month MORE to live in an RV.

    The first row of RVs were a brand that hadn’t been recommended in the Top Four by Friends in the Know (hello Nick Russell!) They were Jaycos. One after another we walked through them, growing gloomier with each RV that we saw. The quality didn’t meet our standards. Bathrooms were cramped, kitchen counter space was non-existent, and the TV was never across from the comfy chairs or couch.

    Then we looked at motorhomes, and we were not impressed with those either. Neither of us saw a potential new home in the buses, or in the pull-behind travel trailers that were not fifth wheel RVs.

    Finally, rows of gleaming 5th wheels came into view, but we’d already written off the entire idea as being just too hair-brained to work for us. It might work for somebody, but not for us. We’d nitpicked every RV that we walked through:

    • Kitchen lacks counter space to actually prepare a meal
    • Kitchen sink at an angle rendering counter space useless
    • Refrigerator too small
    • Oven too small
    • Microwave too small
    • Bathroom cramped (as in forced to walk sideways)
    • TV at an angle where you had to crane your head to watch TV
    • No space for a small office

    And the list went on. We had no idea that the RVs we saw didn’t include every possible floorplan. The best floorplans were few and far between, and often seen only online.

    Then we walked into a 5th wheel and said, “Wow!” It was one of the Four Recommended Brands: Heartland. This RV was comfortable, roomy, with a perfect TV layout, a workable kitchen, and the biggest bathroom we’d seen in dozens of layouts.

    The fridge was almost as big as ours at home, as was the microwave. The oven was smaller, but usable. We’d hoped for a half bath in addition to the full bath, and a bonus room to use as an office, and this one lacked both, but everything spoke of quality and it was just plain NICE.

    A second Heartland was equally impressive, and a third RV whose name I didn’t write down wasn’t as impressive with the kitchen and living space, but the bonus room and half bath were absolutely perfect for our needs. With both of us working from home on our computers, this layout was ideal.

    Even our concern about leveling seemed to be taken care of with automatic levelers. In other words, it did not require a man to kneel in the mud on a rainy day with hand jacks to level it. You might be laughing that we’d worry about such a thing, but hey, when you are as green as we were, every detail matters. The goal was to simplify our lifestyle, not complicate it.

    After seeing three RVs that said — Welcome Home — Donnie Downer perked up. We left the lot discussing the next obstacle: a vehicle powerful enough to tow a fifth wheel.

    That was a biggie because we absolutely and utterly LOVED our 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac truck. We’d gotten the last model they ever made with the intention of keeping it for a long time. No other truck even came close in comfort and ordinary usability, and we’d not only preserved our favorite truck, but we’d invested in the Adrenalin upgrade package.

    The trouble was, our Sport Trac wouldn’t pull any of the RVs that we considered, and that meant giving up a vehicle more beloved than most items in our home.

    Just to get an idea of the trucks that would pull a luxury fifth wheel, we pulled into a Ford truck lot and all the salesmen drooled to get their hands on our bright red, spiffy shiny, Adrenalin Sport Trac. Every eye followed our slow roll through the lot, and the lust couldn’t have been plainer if we’d been naked women frolicking on a summer day.

    They “just happened to have” a customer that would love to have our truck, and would we mind letting their mechanics have a look? We politely declined and left the lot laughing — we already knew how sought after this truck would be. Everywhere we went, men ogled the truck with wistful longing. Our bright red beloved was a head turner from the front end to the gleaming tailgate.

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  • Bear’s willingness to even utter the blasphemous words “sell the truck” bespoke of his thoughtfulness after seeing the inside of several 5th wheel RVs. Still, we were not sold overall and decided on a simple but safe plan: Go ahead and take on the preparations that we should be doing anyways, such as clearing out house clutter, and selling off larger items that we didn’t use.

    We didn’t have to make a big decision, we just needed to take care of a few preliminary steps — safe steps that wouldn’t lock us in. After all, the RV wasn’t our only course, there was still the possibility of simply downsizing to a smaller home.

    * * * * *

    Enter into the journey with us as we share the full lead-in for the Big Change to living in an RV full-time, and to what lies beyond…

    In the meantime, follow me on a very different journey of high strangeness. Alien Nightmares: Screen Memories of UFO Alien Abductions shares memories and dreams relating to my personal experiences with extraterrestrials, along with the little-known UFO flaps from the time periods which swept me up into an extraterrestrial neverland of high strangeness.

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