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.

Blast From Our Icy Past – Our Story of Becoming RVers

We’ve been asked numerous times to share our story of how our dream began over lunches, dinners, campfires, happy hours and small talk.  It seems to be a very interesting subject to most…well…because we’ve chosen a different lifestyle…a different path.  Though we’ve been doing this for over a year now, we thought a thorough explanation might help some appreciate the process we went through to get to where we are now.

Looking back…2014

We’ve always been inclined to travel.  Its in our blood.  We’re nomads and always have been.  We also love road trips!  Being a long-time military family, we always were looking for somewhere to go, however, the majority of Captain Dan’s tours in the Coast Guard kept him up in New England.  We still PCS’d (Permanent Change of Station) but only enough for me to quit my job, change schools for our son, etc.  We uprooted our lives and home every 3-4 years.  

Fast forward…

Dan retired with 30 years in 2010 which kept us in our beautiful Kentucky home for seven years; the most we’ve ever been in one place.  By our fourth year in Kentucky, we were itching to go ‘somewhere’ but to be honest, we hadn’t a clue where we would’ve gone.  It was after Dan took a couple jobs to sort of ‘settle down’, we still felt restless.  It was ingrained in our minds ‘we had to move…we had to go somewhere’.

In the past many years, we’ve always dreamed about getting a camper to tour the country but it was more like small talk; something to just pass the time.  It was merely a DREAM. 

Who would have thought, several years later, that we’d be sitting in our beautiful ‘home on wheels’ talking about it on our blog?

In January 2014, I drove down to St. Petersburg, Florida to visit two of my best friends. While planning the trip, I had learned that the Tampa RV Super Show was precisely the same time as my visit.  

Before leaving, we had briefly entertained the idea of hitting the road in an RV. After perusing the Tampa RV Super Show like a little girl in a candy store, I quickly learned the difference between Class A’s, Class B’s, Class C’s, 5th Wheels, Toyhaulers, Pop-Ups, etc. It was quite overwhelming with so many choices!  Being that we wanted to include our two Harley Davidson motorcycles, we honed our interest into the toyhauler market.  

Then, the RV Show was over…

We had negotiated and came close to finalizing a purchase from a large RV store in the Tampa area, however the sale fell through no fault of our own.  The dealer couldn’t deliver as promised. (Shall we say, ‘they lost our $70,000 check?‘)

Going home empty handed broke my spirit however, unbeknownst to me, Dan, was home in Kentucky pounding keys looking online for Toyhaulers that were closer to home. 

While enroute back home, Dan scheduled me to stop at Big Daddy RV in London, Kentucky on my way home to look at a Heartland Cyclone 4100. I did a quick walk through to look at the floor plan and instantly fell in love. It was actually better than the deal that fell through in Florida.

Three hours later, I arrived home and told him how pleased I was with the construction, floor plan, and other specifications that was suited for us.  A week later, we drove back to Big Daddy RV to order our Toyhauler.  We were slated for delivery toward late March to early April of 2014.  

Our walk-through was March 30th and by dinner time, we were gripping the steering wheel tight pulling our new coach home; wondering in the back of our minds, ‘are we nuts?’   We had previously made reservations at Taylorsville Lake State Park Campground to park our new rig.  

Immediately after, we put our home on the market and started the master plan of getting rid of everything.  Reality just slapped both of us in our faces!  Lots of stuff to do!

Once our home was listed, we started the daunting, VERY EMOTIONAL ‘process of elimination’; downsizing from our newly renovated 3800 square foot, five bedroom, three bath home to roughly 350 square foot RV 5th wheel. ‘Emotional’ doesn’t even come close to best fit our feelings.  I guess one could equate this to losing everything in a house fire. 

We had closets full of clothes, parkas and skis from Maine, boots from Massachusetts, fishing and hunting gear from Pennsylvania…oh, you get the idea.  

Its been seven years from our last military PCS’ but this purge was about to get real.  Most of the purging was done by me, as Dan was still employed full-time by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Louisville. 

Painstakingly, I started selling small home decor items; knick-knacks, canisters, bedding ensembles, bathroom decor items, small furniture and chests, etc. on local Facebook ‘for sale’ groups; meeting buyers at public places to exchange our gently used wares for cash.  

I had to do this slowly as we had to keep our home staged until we went under contract.  It didn’t take long though that most of our closets were empty, rooms were looking larger and our piggy bank was filling up.  We organized a few yard sales to get rid of little stuff and my craft supplies.  Almost embarrassed to admit, I had enough to open my own Michael’s store.

Begrudgingly, I let pricey scrapbooking, rubber stamps, paper crafting, etc. supplies go for rock-bottom prices. However, it all had to go. The more I sold, the less we had to deal with for an estate sale.  This money was projected to buy things needed for our RV (ie. new tires, new wares, motorcycle tire chocks, new grill, portable fire pit, etc.)

Two seasons later…

Spring soon turned to summer and summer turned to fall.  Our first realtor only had six showings on our home from April 1st to October 1st; leaving us wondering ‘why’? Other homes were selling in less than 30 days.  Our home was no different than others; it was a beautiful family home. We painstakingly updated and renovated the kitchen, repainted, kept the manicured landscaping, etc.  Hindsight being what it was, we hired the wrong realtor. She simply was not ‘working for US’; she was more interested in real estate ventures with her son who was flipping houses (gee, the things you find out in a small town!).  

So, through guidance and advice from a dear friend who is a realtor in California (thank you Gwen!!), we terminated our contract with her (she surprisingly didn’t fight us) and took the house off the market for three weeks.  After which, we hired a new realtor, Eric Johnson of Keller Williams, notorious for relocation services for big companies in the Louisville area (UPS, Ford, University of Louisville, hospitals, etc.). Less than two weeks after listing with him (Mid October), we were under contract to close in approximately 30 days! (Hmmm, see how that works?) By this time, Dan had given his termination notice of employment.

Its about to get real…

Now, we were at flank speed.  We had thirty days to empty our house and get the rest of our affairs in order.  We rented a 10×10 storage area for things and small furniture items we just couldn’t let go of. We sent our most treasured heirlooms and momentos to Dan’s parents in Pennsylvania.

We had two more yard sales, sold bigger possessions on Facebook pages all while we were also trying to learn every facet of RV maintenance, upkeep, trip planning, etc.

We interviewed an Estate Sale Company for possible hire to do our Estate Sale. BUT, a day before making the call telling them we’d hire them, a miracle happened! 

The family whom was buying our home asked if we would consider selling everything (furniture, brand new beds, home decor, wall art, dishes, bedding, etc.) in our home. Well, didn’t this make this a whole heck of a lot easier?!  We agreed on a price to be paid separately at the closing.  

We packed up only a few more boxes of my favorite things and left everything else; the Christmas tree, holiday decorations, leftover craft supplies, pillows, blankets, bedding, towels, shower curtains, dishes…everything but our suitcases and toothbrushes!  We even left stuff up in the attic!  They wanted it all!  It was such a blessing to have this fall into our laps (and theirs!).  To this day, I still give a ‘nod to God’ for this.

Now, its November and were eagerly waiting for our realtor to call us with the closing date.  Its frigid cold and snowy.  Kentucky winter has pathed its way to us which we were totally not prepared for this kind of RV’ing.  Coincidentally, chose not to get the Yeti cold weather package for our RV because we never envisioned us being where we would have  to worry about freezing hoses, plumbing, etc. 

Needless to say, it happened.  Our coach froze. Dan worked through all hours of the day and night keeping our pipes from freezing. We were frustrated and growing depressed.

It was then we learned how much propane we needed to heat Liberty. Dan lost much sleep babysitting small heaters in the basement of the RV. We learned patience and about the things happy RVers don’t talk about.  

We were itching to leave Kentucky.  We had even contemplated hiring an attorney to attend the closing to sign papers in our absence. However, we got the much awaited phone call; our closing was scheduled for 5:00 pm on the eve before Thanksgiving.  

That night, we signed, shook hands, congratulated the new family and went on our way. We went out for a nice dinner and just sat there staring at each other. We were now ‘houseless’. 

Our RV Journey began…

Thanksgiving Day, we spent quietly in our RV tying up loose ends. The temperatures rose a few degrees and we were finally thawing.  We were utterly exhausted.  We were set to leave the following morning to head south…anywhere south…where it was warmer.

Today, we are enjoying our new life on the road.  No regrets!  Absolutely none!  We waited to do this all of our lives! We are now ‘living the dream’.

We’re now Bloggers!

Welcome to our blog!  I guess this means we’re ‘big time’ now.  We ask that you all be patient with us as we try out this blogging thing. Unless you’re a internet wizard (which we are not), this doesn’t come easy for us but we’re willing to give it a go.

We’ve read several other RVers blogs and figured we want to do the same.

As  I write this entry, we are pleasantly parked at Cheatham Annex Naval Station “Kings Park” near Williamsburg, Virginia.  Its a beautiful sunny day outside while I try my hand at blogging ‘inside’ while the Captain is doing outside chores.

So, please be patient as I chance this thing called ‘blogging’.