Growing up in a small town in the Midwest during mid 20th century. Various philosophies and impressions formed and insights revealed resulting in attitudes and actions for the 21st Century.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To RV or Not RV, that was the question

(The picture to the right was taken in a MacDonalds parking lot as the sun was coming up in New Mexico.)

In August we sold our fourteen year old gas motor home. We had driven it thousands of miles for eight years and enjoyed it very, very much. To friends and family, we had gained the reputation as the 'motor home grandma and papa'. When we arrived, our house came with us. What fun for the grandkids to visit our motor home. The most interesting part?? You guessed it, the marine potty that flushed by stepping on a pedal and later, after installing a new toilet, you had to bend over and pull a lever to flush it.

When we would bring it to the house to be loaded, it would sit in the driveway a day or maybe two. Our mailman often saw it there and began to ask about it. Joe showed him the inside one time and a few days later, he told us if we ever wanted to sell it, he would like to buy it. A few weeks later, he and Joe struck a deal. He would buy it. However we had one last trip scheduled by then, so the date for delivery was set right after we returned from the trip.

We went to Red River NM and upon returning, fixed the step that broke during the trip and the mailman drove away in his motor home.
For the next few months we debated pros and cons of ownership of such a large, costly vehicle. Eventually, the pros won and we started looking for a decent used motorhome to buy.

In December we wanted to go visit Ron and Kim in Phoenix so we got serious in our hunt. As we surfed the web looking for homes, we kept seeing PPL in Houston. It is a large lot with used consignment rigs as well as new rigs that are all open so that potential buyers can wander around, taking time to look them over with no sales person pushing for a sale.

We had looked at a diesel pusher in Norman, the price was right, but it would need to be painted. More looking, but nothing appealed to us like the National Tradewinds did. There was one at PPL in Houston, so Sunday morning Dec. 9th, early in the morning we headed south, trying to get out of town before the big ice storm that was headed our way could prevent our leaving. The roads were already slick and icy and trees were covered with ice as we carefully headed south on I-35. Missy would stay in town with Joe Paul and Nancy as motels do not welcome doggies very often. We would miss her, but a new rig would keep our little family together in future travel.

By the time we got to Purcell, the ice had turned to rain and a few more miles south brought us to dry highways. Optomistically, we were driving the Saturn, our ten year old tow vehicle, with the tow bar and other needed hardware in the trunk. If we found a rig we liked, we could drive it home and tow the car.

The rest of the way to Houston was smooth and uneventful except when we stopped to change out of our winter wear and put on some short sleeved shirts. We were sweating from the heat!!! Soft, warm, balmy breezes were blowing in from the coast. To heck with the air conditioner, we opened the sun roof and enjoyed the warm air. Well, not really, the compressor that makes the car cool went on the fritz right about then. Oh well, the weather was beautiful, if a bit warm and we enjoyed it to the fullest.

It took a bit of doing to find the hotel. It was in downtown Houston, near the Galleria, a small Day's Inn with free wi-fi. After unpacking, we decided to try to find PPL before making the trip the next morning. What a nightmare!! We were under and over highway 59 freeway, first trying to find our way there and then back. We never found it and since it was already dark we did the same routine again, wandering back and forth until we found the street that went to our hotel.

Refreshed a bit, the next morning, we drove to PPL and began the hunt for the right motorhome. In and out of every motor home that was in our budgeted price range, and length, not over 36 or under 34 feet. Believe it or not, we picked up five pages from five motorhomes that were in the running. The front runner was the Tradewinds. It had been owned by two different people and was for sale again. Mileage was about 60,000 miles but for a diesel, that's not bad at all. The number two runner up was an Allegro with three slides. Pretty, but just not as nice as the Tradewinds.

Tired and worn out, we took all the papers we picked up in the rigs and headed over to Walmart. In our rush to get out of town, I had forgotten both my socks and one of my medicines. I could get both at Walmart.

Heading back to the highway, there was an old bus on the side of the road that had been painted white and converted to a kitchen cooking tacos. You stepped up on the wooden platform, ordered your tacos and either took them home or ate in your car. I tried my best to order two tacos and one quesadilla, but was woefully unable to communicate with the ladies who spoke mostly Spanish. I only got two tacos so I took them to the car, where we happily consumed them. They were delicious and we needed two more. So back to the wood platform to order more. By then a bi-lingual young man had arrived and helped with the order. We had a wonderful Mex-Mex food feast. What a treat.

At the hotel that afternoon, Joe got back online, looking for other Tradewinds for sale and by golly, he found one in San Antonio! Only 200 miles away! It was a one owner with 32,000 miles on it. After much discussion, we decided to call him and make an offer. Joe called and talked to the man about it, asked some questions and then told the man we would like to look and it and told him what we were willing to pay for it. The man said he had to talk with his wife and would call us back. He called late in the day to tell us that he would take our offer. Joe said we would come the next day.
We hit the road again, headed to San Antonio. The weather was absolutely fabulous, soft, warm breezes, what a delight for folks that scooted out of town running from an ice storm. Sadly the ice storm was much worse than expected and left one out of three Oklahomans without power for days. Our house continued to have power during this time and three of our four children that live in Oklahoma were there for varying lengths of time. One needed to use our phone, theirs was out, another needed a short stay until the electricity came back on in their neighborhood and Jim's house was damaged when a tree fell on it, knocking the power box from the house.

[[At this writing, Saturday following the storm, Jim is still with us. The power box had to be put back on the house, rewired and then OG&E would bring the power to the box. That finally happened Saturday evening.]]

We rolled into San Antonio around rush hour and found the house where the rig was parked without much difficulty. The house sat on a five acre plot and had been converted to offices. The land was flat and the rig was sitting on the driveway, hooked up to power, cool and comfortable.

When we walked in we both were in shock. It was not like any of the other Tradewinds rigs that we had seen! The door was not up front, but in the side, like a gas rig. Instead of the dark cherry wood with white and navy trim, it was completely neutral; soft tans, greys and taupes. Hardly any color at all.

And the BATHROOM!! It was all wrong. The potty was not in a little private room, but sitting right out next to the sink and shower. Of all the floor plans I had seen in drawings on the web, I told Joe I would not tolerate an exposed potty. We looked at each other with open mouths. Joe excused us from the owner. We went into the bathroom to talk about how we would tell him that we would not buy it, that it was all wrong! However, the longer I was in the bathroom, the more I began to see why someone would lay it out like that. With the doors to the kitchen and the bedroom closed, it was huge! A large single room with a toilet, sink, shower, three closet doors, and eight drawers. We would be able to shower and dress without ever leaving the room. What convenience!! Everything in one place. It was just right.

The slide was out and the living room/kitchen area was very big. It was tasteful and beautifully finished with lots of little extras; leather sofa with suede throw pillows, leather rocker recliner, leather captains chairs, solid oak drawers and door fronts, tile kitchen floor, fine fabrics throughout, Moen faucets, etc.

And the door placement? The one thing I did not like about the diesels we had seen was that the door opened right in front of the passenger seat. With that being the exit, I could not have my computer or art table in front of me while riding. But with this layout, my entire art table with desktop fit in front of the passenger seat with room to spare. It was not what we expected but it was exactly what we wanted!!

We took it out for a test drive. I rode on the sofa, amazed at the power, turning radius and ease of handling. After talking it over, we decided we wanted this rig. Like a couple of kids in a candy store we said "We'll take it!!" Later we realized that we had not asked nearly enough questions, we didn't even roll out the awnings to see if they were undamaged.

Since we were buying it, the owners told us to make ourselves at home as it was too late in the evening by then to make the wire transfers at the bank. We drove to a nearby Walmart where I bought a set of sheets for our first night in out 'new' rig. It took over a day to get our credit union and their bank together for the wire transfer so we spent a second night in the driveway.

We headed back to Oklahoma on new tires, pulling the car. It was a great trip. By the time we got home, the worst of the ice storms had passed and the area was beginning to thaw. Son Jim was with us another night or two and we really enjoyed his company. He's a great cook.

Since then we have discovered all the things wrong with it and have started the work of fixing it up. We have replaced all of the tires, it still had the original tires; worked on the signal lights; repaired the back up camera, no picture; replaced the speakers on the front television, no sound; replaced all of the coach batteries, all were completely dead and gone; paid the tax on it and licensed it in the state of Oklahoma. Whew. We are still working on it. The ice maker is totally broken. We have removed it and will add an oak door, making a new cabinet.

But nothing seems to dim the delight of driving it over a mountain, while pulling the car and the engine doesn't even shift down. With all of the storage area in the basements, we can carry inventory to arts and crafts shows, enabling us to subsidize our travels. It is 36.5 feet long and gets 10 miles to the gallon even in mountainous regions.

This picture was taken in January in Phoenix where we were parked next to a fruiting orange tree. It was a wonderful park, beautiful surroundings and warm, 75 degree weather. But that's another story.