Looking Back…Why We Traded for a Different RV

Referring to our most recent blog post before this one brings up the question of how we came to deciding what to buy for our our “home on wheels”.

Once upon a time, (three years ago) when we originally set out on our quest for the perfect RV, we were looking to buy an affordable pre-owned Motorhome and a small trailer for our two Harley’s in tow. We chose that because that’s what we thought ‘RVing was’; looking like famous people in fancy graphic bus-type campers.  

Now, for a moment, close your eyes and picture this….

Wait…no…don’t do that because you’ll need your eyes to read.  so, let’s start over…

Our dream was visions of us trekking across our beautiful country in comfortable seats barefoot, in our pajama pants and tees, with the Captain driving while I (sipping my coffee of course) and our two fuzzy-headed resident mousers lounging on the big padded dash looking through the big windshield at mountains ahead of us.  we are lip singing to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” while I am taking photo after photo of what’s before us.  Sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?  I mean, THIS is what RVing ‘looked like’ to us.

But hold on, not so fast!  Lets go back to the beginning…’our’ beginning.

A few weeks after deciding we wanted to become ‘full-time RVers’, I was on ‘girlfriend vacation’ to see my BFF in St. Pete’s area of Florida that January which just so happened to be the same time as the RV Super Show in Tampa. HA!  Mere coincidence? *giggle snort*  Shhh, don’t tell the Captain that was purely by design according to my travel plans.

Before escaping the cold Kentucky winter, Captain Dan and I sat down to figure out how much we wanted to spend.  Seriously, we had no idea what we were doing or how/where to start and how much one of those things cost but we knew we wanted one of those fancy dancy motorhomes.   *cynical laugh*  We collectively agreed on the $35-40K range; thinking that was at least a good starting point and while it was a considerable chunk of change, if we found out weeks or months later that this wasn’t for us, we only stood to loose a portion. 

Once I got down to the Sunshine state, I started our search a couple days before the RV show with that price range in mind.  I went to the big dog RV stores; the ones that sell both, new and pre-owned.  Boy, if I wasn’t flustered before I got there, I certainly was after I left. No…it was more like a reality slap-in-the-face wake up call!  Now, I’m not saying they aren’t out there but certainly, not where I was looking!  $35-40 for a pre-owned motorhome was completely unrealistic for our standards.  After viewing approximately twenty-five coaches, I sadly called the Captain telling him of my disappointments…”smelled like dog piss, very worn and dated cabinetry and furniture, weather etched headlights, oxydized chrome, broken this, smelly that”…you get the picture.  We agreed to sit on this a few days and to just go enjoy my vacation until the RV show in Tampa.

Well, here’s the skinny. If you have a budget of what I pronounced in our former paragraph, not only will you be as flustered and disappointed as us, you’ll be to the point of wanting to go in an alligator infested pond and be eaten alive.  Its like going into a Harley Davidson dealership and seeing all the ‘ooooooh shiny things’ and then seeing what you can afford waaaay in the back corner; the rat rod bike dripping oil, duct tape holding the seat together and paint scrapes as if it were in a NASCAR race hitting the wall multiple times.  

Let that sink in a moment…

Mothership of RV’s Motorhome

A couple days later, our friends Al and Kat accompanied me to the RV show.  The first mistake I made was upon arrival was, which is I guess, by strategic marketing design, going inside the big MOTHERSHIPS of RV’s in the main entrance hangar.  You know, the ones with perfectly laid red carpets leading to their doors, live mini palm trees with VIP bar height tables and signs at the doors ‘please remove your shoes before entering’.  They’re the ones with the flashy million or more dollar price tags!  Anyway, I went in only one; it was all I could take…marble tile floors, granite countertops, high end this and that with more lights than the Las Vegas strip.  Our laughingly skinny budget just wasn’t going to do here; time to move on.  All I kept thinking is ‘this is how the beautiful people play’.   Al and Kat decided to split off to go on their own shopping venture; looking at 5th wheels (they were same age as us looking for weekend or week vacation RV’s with the grandkids) as I was more interested in looking  at affordable Motorhomes.


A couple hours later and a couple twenty motorhome viewings, I came upon one with a floor plan I just absolutely fallen head over heals over.  I instantly daydreamed as I sat in the driver’s seat behind that big windshield.  Within a few minutes, the no-pressure salesman wrote up a quote that I thought was a heck of a deal; what you call an out-the-door ‘show price’ of $105,000.  Let that sink in a minute.  One hundred and five thousand dollars for a ‘camper’…er…RV. I mean, it was only sixty thousand more than our agreed budget.  I was hoping he wouldn’t notice.  So I texted Captain Dan a photo of it, inside and out with the out-the-door price.  This Motorhome had a fireplace, luxurious leather furniture, stainless appliances, beautiful graphics, etc. Quickly though, he squashed my daydream like an unwanted spider.  Here, I searched until I found what I thought could be doable (I did the math in my head); remembering that were were selling it all to trade for this lifestyle of full-time RV’ing.  His text burned my eyes to tears, ‘We agreed on $35-40k’, remember?  So, I sarcastically recanted back, ‘so, let me get this straight…we are selling our almost $300k home and all its contents to go live in $35-40K RV that was going to be our HOME.  Immediately, that hit a marital hot spot, then….silence. We both were…angry and upset. *heavy sigh*  So, I went on with my day, shoulders slumped in disappointment and just meandered about the outdoor expo area waiting to meet up with our friends to head back to their hotel room and I back to my best friend’s home.

Meanwhile, no text exchanges after that….for two whole days. (in our 30 year marriage, we’ve never done that!)

Because we weren’t able to stay angry at each other for any longer, we each finally swallowed our humble pie and chatted on the phone for nearly an hour.  He then, completely turned the tables with another idea.  All the while I was stewing those two days of marital silence (and still dreaming of that big windshield), he was busy researching the RV Trader for some other options.  He was now looking at Toyhauler 5th wheels.  I was like, “what the heck is a ‘toyhauler’ and 5th wheel and dude, now we need a truck!”  So, the Captain suggested that I visit a dealer to go look at a few.  After visiting a big RV dealership in Tampa with my best friend in tow, I was starting to come around even though I still wanted the big windshield…and to sip my coffee in my pajama pants while going down the road.

In every marriage, each must meet in the middle to compromise.  He raised the bar on understanding I wasn’t going to live in a yard-sale rig of unknowns (happy wife, happy life), so I guess I needed to knock myself down a notch or two.  So, we collectively again, agreed a Toyhauler 5th wheel was the end-all answer.  I get the ‘new RV smell’ and he gets the mechanics part that he was comfortable dealing with.  Oh, and that he gets a big big truck to pull it with.  Win win?  I still didn’t get my big windshield but oh well. *shrugs shoulders*


Class A Motorhome Toyhauler
Now, I guess to patronize me, we did look inside a couple toyhauler motorhomes.  While they were beautiful,dollar signs kept us away.  That and after touring several models, they just didn’t do it for our needs and wants.  They all had some things in common with the 5th wheel toyhaulers; garage with ramp door, ramp door becomes party patio deck with railing, etc.  


Not quite our idea of our stateroom aka master bedroom.
Notice the floor to ceiling height
But, the galley kitchen was tiny with very limited seating and I wasn’t in favor of booth-type dining. The living room would have a steering wheel in it, and the bed was up in a loft over the garage where we couldn’t stand up in which, in itself, was a major drawback for us.  We didn’t like the idea of having to crawl into or out of bed; not with our aging backs and knees and certainly going down a ladder or tiny stairs in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom would only spell out disaster for one or both of us.  We had to remember that this wasn’t going to be a weekend or vacation RV, this was going to be our HOME that we would be living in everyday for however long our journey took us. 

Aside from those, other issues were price tag, gas engine instead of diesel (which Captain Dan is quite adamant about), and seriously, now towing a toad (extra vehicle) from a big rig like that scared the bejeevers out of me.  There were just too many issues for the both of us that had me changing my mind about the windshield size. 

So, our new plan was to trade our car in for a new big truck to pull a 5th wheel toyhauler removed all of those issues and made more sense to us.  Our decision was made.  We ordered a 2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100, and weeks later, purchased our truck.  NOTE: Taking advise from several BTDT’s on those Facebook groups, it’s important to buy your towable RV BEFORE your truck/pull vehicle.  Your pull vehicle must be fully capable to do the job; weight, engine size, and pulling and stopping what it tows sufficiently.  Our truck would double as the work horse as well as be our transportation after disconnecting (we call it ‘mooring’) so, we opted for a 2014 Ram 3500 Cummins Diesel DRW (dual rear wheel) aka a ‘Dually’.  Upon selling our everything by Thanksgiving (11 months, from the first day of shopping for our RV until the day we rolled out of Kentucky), we finally hit the road looking like this: 

Captain America pulling our 2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100
Now, if you’ve started reading our blog as of late, you’ll notice our current RV is not a Toyhauler any longer.  That’s due to us having a long hard discussion at the logistics of hauling, storing, and maintaining our shiny chrome Harley Davidson motorcycles and trying to full-time in a Toyhauler 5th wheel that was meant for weekenders or weekly here-and-theres.  Though we loved riding our Harleys, the whole logistics thing wasn’t working for us.  Long story short, we sold our Harleys.  This past December, we traded our 2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100 Toyhauler for a new 2016 Heartland Landmark 365 luxury model 5th wheel which appropriated much better living space as well as the ‘full-timer package’ for all weather; hence the labeling ‘365’.  


Captain America pulling our 2016 Heartland Landmark 365 “Liberty”
We, in the meantime through private sale, purchased a pre-owned Idaho Tote to connect to the rear of our 5th wheel.  That took a bit of work as we had to hire a professional welder to fabricate the connection points to the frame.  We kept our riding vices so we bought two pre-owned dual sport motorcycles that we just ‘ride and rinse’.



So, there’s our short and skinny.  Decisions like this are not to be made in haste.  There’s a moral to our story.  Be patient, research ’til the cows come home and believe me when I say this, ‘be SEMPER GUMBY’ (always flexible).  Oh, and before it all ends, you’ll change your mind a few times until getting it right or what you truly want.

Don’t Give Up in Your First Year!

Yeah, we still get those nights where we stare at the ceiling with a zillion things going on in our head to wee hours of the morning…or is it the MSG in the Chinese food we had last night?  But here I (Lisa) am thinking, ‘what’s a girl ta do’?  Well, as LT John Dunbar in the movie ‘Dances with Wolves’ said in one of his lines, ‘I think I’ll write’.  If you remember, he was a ‘paper blogger’ in the movie; although his was not read by hundreds or thousands, his blog was in a small handmade leather-hide book with irregular pressed paper pages.  Nonetheless, he blogged to pass time and to record his thoughts for reference just like we do here.

Sooooooooo…I’m just going to write some random thoughts, just as LT Dunbar did, putting them down in our internet diary in hopes that perhaps I can maybe get some droopy eyelids at the same time, offer a bit of insight or advice to others who may seeking this wild adventure.



We’ve been doing this ‘RV thing’ for almost a year now and looking back, all we can say is ‘we’ve come a long way, baby!’  Several months prior to us actually throwing off the bow lines and putting our wheels on the highway to destinations unknown, our 30 year old son ran into another RV couple while on one of his ‘hard core’ camping trips in Colorado (he ‘camps’, not ‘glamps’ like us!).  Quite interested in what we were about to embark on, our son boldly went up to the couple ooooo-ing and awwww-ing their rig (they had one of those big. fancy, drive-able, movie star, bus-like RV’s…his words) and asked, “if there’s one thing or word of advice you could give to my parents who are about to be doing the same thing, what would it be?”  The man a little older than our age pondered that question for a short moment and came back with a Captain Obvious…“don’t give up in your first year”, he said, “that’s all…don’t give up because your first year is a learning process in EVERYTHING; marriage, smaller living conditions, new type of home engineering, diesel instead of gas powered tow vehicle, medical issues, finances, OH, the list goes on.”  


So, as our year since has passed, we can honestly say, that was the BEST advice he or anyone could have given us and its advice we pass onto others who are following suit like us.  It wasn’t advice of ‘which RV we should get’?.  It wasn’t advice of ‘what truck has the best towing capacity’?  It wasn’t advice on ‘oh, you should go here or go there’.  The man’s advice was poignant and true; straight to the heart.  

Captain Dan
Approximately three months after taking delivery of “Liberty”, Captain Dan was out doing his weekly maintenance and canvassing the engineering processes and came inside looking quite perplexed.  Now, if you know Dan, he’s always one who contemplates and carefully calculates E V E R Y T H I N G.  I say that with endearment.  He’s a ‘list guy’.  He’s a ‘planner’.  He’s meticulous.  They are traits he acquired during his tenure in his 30 year Coast Guard career.  And its certainly enviable personal characteristics to have when embarking on this type of action. 

I asked him what ailed him and he looked at me and said, ‘I wonder if we made a $$$ mistake.’  Now, he’s rarely been a man of doubt so this kind of threw me for a loop for a moment.  Sad, actually to see him like this.  He said, ‘this is all so new and SO MUCH to learn’.  I mean, this guy has been on every RV Tips, RV Tricks of the Trade online forums, bought RV maintenance books on Amazon, mastered YouTube videos (LOL for not being an ‘internet guy’!) that I swear I’ve never seen him seem so serious…or delirious?  I just looked at him with my reassuring smile, ‘Boo, remember what the RVer man told our son, “don’t give up in our first year”.  Okay then. Agreed!  Never spoke of that moment again.  Well, until now.  The reason I’m blogging about this particular moment is it was an integral part of our growing.  This was one of those ‘Come to Jesus moments’, it was either sink or swim. “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP!”

So, days went by, months skated past and now, here we are, almost to our 1 year “nomadiversary” and what a difference a year makes!  BOTH of our confidence in this way of life not only boosted but surprised us.  Yes, you CAN teach a dog new tricks.  We’ve had early on, this agreement that he would take care of everything engineering and outside the coach and my job is trip planning, reservations, cooking, interior decorating, minding the finances, keeping the inside of Liberty clean and of course presenting him with new ideas someone else has shown on a forum or video (Oh boy!!). 

I’m going to go on a bragging binge now.  (Shhhhh, maybe Dan won’t read this!)  To say the least, I’m every bit of proud of him because he didn’t give up the ship…maybe that’s why HE’s the CAPTAIN!  His gears are always turning. 

Remember I mentioned Dan’s watched YouTube videos, read forum after forum, etc.?  Well, who better to get good ideas, advice and improvements than from others who have paved the way for us.  Here’s a list of improvements that Dan has put his hard-working hands and engineering know-how into.  Some may be or look simple but, again, RV engineering is quite different than an S&B (‘sticks and bricks’ house).
  • Changed the globes on the pendant lights. (took a little bit of alteration)
  • Installed stemware holders (a girl needs her wine glasses; even if they’re plastic)
  • Ordered, modified and installed a pullout pantry in the galley
  • Built and installed sewer hose housing underneath the steel frame
  • Installed JT StrongArms on leveling jacks (for added stability)
  • Individually replaced and changed out all 6 tires
  • Installed television in berthing (bedroom)
  • Installed rods inside laundry closet to keep my scarves, belts, small purses, etc.
  • Installed his Flag Pole Buddy
  • Hand-made a yard flag holder 
  • Built wood leveling blocks 
  • Researched and installed plugs to cover rivets on our deck patio railing
  • Built and installed sewer hose housing underneath the steel frame



Pantry Pullout

Updated Light Globes and Installed Stemware Holders
Sewer Hose Storage

Installed JT StrongArms
&
Made Leveling Blocks
These are just a fraction of updates and improvements he’s made.  In this RV living, its about improvising and in small scale.  We are always mindful of our weight and keeping within warranty guidelines. We are a good team. We do well with what we are blessed with.  We take extreme care of our ‘home on wheels’.  It may take a couple times to get it right; a stern look or pat on the back.  

So here we are, almost a year later.  Other’s who park or camp next to or near us will spot something on our coach/camper/rig/landyacht and say ‘hey, that’s cool!’ and of course it always sparks up conversation and handshakes…and then to a campfire and cocktails…and friendship…and most important, we become a part of RV FAMILY.  

So, last words of advice for this blog entry…….

DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP!

Dan’s reward after his outside RV chores