RV Shopping 1/16/2016

RV shopping pays off

It wasn’t our intention. We weren’t actually going RV shopping. We were only going to check out the RV show put on by La Mesa RV to see what new trends are happening in the RV world.  It was the first warm and sunny day in many weeks so why not?  We have been making a list of “must-haves” if we were ever to find the perfect next RV.  Dang it!  We found exactly what we were looking for and only one year old, making it more reasonable than a new one.

We have owned our 31 foot travel trailer since 2002.  It has seen us through 13 years of travel, including three summers of camp hosting at The Meadows campground on Rabbit Ears Pass, multiple long range trips, housing our house guests when parking in our Steamboat driveway, and served us very well through all of it.  But she is an old girl, not unlike me. Some things don’t work as well as they could and others are going to give out eventually.

A 13-year old travel trailer is three years beyond the recommended life of an RV, with 10 years being the cut off to be allowed in some parks (to keep the “riff-raff” out and degrade the park – yes, really.).  It is the age where things start breaking or outliving their useful lives.  We have recently found that our trailer does not have the correct wiring installed in the walls to hook up to our new Dish satellite.  Currently we are running co-ax cable through a side window, to the TV, and covering the cable with a throw rug.  With the cable through the window, we are unable to totally close it and it gets a bit nippy when the temps fall.

A couple of months ago, when we first hit the road, one of the foot pedals on the RV toilet snapped off.  It was the one that lets you add water to the bowl but doesn’t actually do the flushing.  It’s been working just fine… until last Saturday.  In the early morning hours, after using the facility, the other pedal snapped off.  Not having had my coffee yet, I figured this wasn’t a good thing, and found a way to depress the pedal lever without having a pedal – a trusty dinner knife, wedged in the resulting hole (a Girl Scout is always prepared). Once Cooper got up, he determined that the knife might also snap off the way I was using it, and proceeded to bring out one of his screwdrivers to use to push the pedal  straight down. (That was harder than the knife to execute, but a broken knife would have created its own problems under the toilet.)  Knowing that this would not be a good solution for very long, we decided to go straight to Camping World and buy a new, improved, ADA compliant, and 2.5 inches taller, unit.  And as long as we were out, and on that side of town, why wouldn’t we swing by the RV show that was at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

Sure, why not?  It’s always good to see what is new in the world of RVing.

I digress. Skip the next few paragraphs if you are familiar with different types of RVs.

Over the years we have had the debate, the same just about every other RVer we know, on which kind of unit is the best for us.  Top of the ladder is the Class A or motorhome.  Very livable, just like a home. You probably need a separate vehicle (called a “Toad” -yes toad, not towed), however, if you don’t want to unhook from your campsite to drive to the store.  Next is Class C, which is a motorhome with a cab-over portion over the front end of a truck.  Usually smaller than a big Class A, but not always. Class B is like a van-conversion.  These all have engines that you have to buy and maintain – which makes it the same as buying a camper AND a truck.  And, if something goes wrong and your rig has to be in the shop for a couple of days waiting for parts, you have the expense of a motel and meals out.  That option is not for us.

Class A Motorhome

Class A Motorhome

Class B Motorhome

Class B Motorhome

Class C Motorhome

Class C Motorhome

So that leaves the towables – a 5th Wheel or a travel trailer (and there are several different kinds of these classifications, too).   5th Wheels have interior plans much like a motorhome, and have what is called “basement storage”, extra storage for those things you don’t use all the time, or room for a freezer or outdoor TV or kitchen.  Travel trailers don’t have the basement and are a little harder to maneuver.  5th Wheels are usually heavier and more expensive, meant more for longer term living, and travel trailers are more for weekends or shorter term living.

5th wheel campers

5th Wheel Trailer

Since we have been on the road, we have spoken with owners of each of these kinds of vehicles.  We have toured many models and over the years I have compiled a list of must-haves in our next vehicle.  A 5th Wheel seemed to be the logical choice since we already have a super-duty truck to haul it and since we plan to live in it full-time for the time being.  The basement space would be greatly appreciated.

So, back to last Saturday.

We have been keeping a wish list of those things we want in our next RV.  There are two 5th Wheels here in Desert Trails RV Park where we are spending the winter, that have exactly the floor plan and options that would fit the bill. We have been looking for used 5th wheels or trailers online to see what they might be worth, to see what we could afford.

Here is our wish list:

  1. A closet big enough to hang our clothes, coats, etc.
  2. A dresser or drawers for the rest of our foldable clothes, belts, socks, etc.
  3. A bathroom big enough to have a linen closet and sky lights for lots of light, along with shelves for misc bathroom stuff, like hairdryers, combs, brushes, etc
  4. Lots of drawers and cupboards in the kitchen and a place to put spices
  5. Counter space in the kitchen
  6. Motorized self-leveling jacks
  7. Automatic motorized awnings
  8. A black tank flush system
  9. Additional storage accessible from outside and maybe inside.
  10. And 2 recliners (but might have to be added by us)

Armed with our checklist, we went out to the RV show.  After a very short time, we happened upon a travel trailer that looked huge, too huge for us.  If anything, we want to downsize a little bit. BUT, why not look inside anyway?  OMG!  This travel trailer was the exact same floor plan as the ones we have been looking for.  It had everything I had on my wish list.  It was a 2015, only one year old!!  OMG (again).  Then the sales man, Neil, shows up.  Oh, oh. Memories of a horrible RV shopping experience came back in a flash.

Last January we had traveled to Scottsdale and Tucson, in just our truck, to take a look around and get out of the Steamboat winter for a break.  Just before heading back, we stopped at a dealership in Tucson to look around.  It was a rainy day, not much happening, and the sales crew must have been hungry for a deal.  They imprisoned us for 5 hours, using every trick in the book. The story of that experience is too long to recite here. We were finally able to escape, literally, swearing we would NEVER darken the doors of this dealership again (even though they are the biggest RV dealer in AZ).

Back to the salesman.  He was a young guy who was extremely helpful and forthright, not the dodgey team that had been sikked on us last year. Turns out he was with that same (un-named) dealership, but couldn’t have been nicer.  To make a long story short, we were able to buy this new (to us) trailer  for a very reasonable price (because it is used – but barely.  The previous owners upgraded to a motorhome), not have to buy the 5th wheel hitch we would have needed for a 5th wheel towable, and we could move in the next week.  It all went so smoothly, it follows our motto – If it doesn’t go smoothly, its not meant to be.  

We are thrilled.  That broken toilet pedal turned out to be a God-send.  The writing was on the wall.  What would be next to go wrong?  Now we don’t have to worry about it – so much.  After all, it is a travel trailer and things will go wrong, but hopefully not the big things, and not for a long time.

The outside of our new RV home

The outside of our new home

Sold to the Barnetts. Happy Trails.

Sold to the Barnetts. Happy Trails.

It even had the two recliners

It even had the two recliners

Dining area and TV

Dining area and TV

Kitchen area

Kitchen area

We took possession of our new RV on Friday. We are the proud owners of a 2015 29-ft Rockwood travel trailer with three slides, two opposing slides in the living room and one in the bedroom. It took us about five hours to go through new rig orientation, park the old trailer next to the new one and swap everything out, deliver the old trailer to the new owner (who gave us twice as much as the dealership offered us – woohoo!), and re-insert the new trailer (with much difficulty this time – I swear the old trailer wasn’t 31 feet, but shorter) in the very tight space we were in before.  When we pulled in to the park, Dave and Gail Hanley, our park neighbors here who also live in Steamboat, were hosting happy hour, so there were lots of RV experts to watch Cooper try to maneuver into our space.  Thanks to Karl, and his suggestion to unhook the truck and reposition it (twice) to wiggle the back end to where it needed to be, or we would still be trying to get it in the space.

We are in and settled.  Everything has been put away, hung up, or disposed of. Art is on the walls. It’s only been two days and it looks like we have been in this RV forever.  It is truly a home instead of a camper.  We are HOME.

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