It was like a bolt of lightning. One day we were living our routine life, commuting to work, maintaining our suburban home, looking forward to weekend tent-camping trips, getting together with family and friends. The next day, we were planning our getaway in an RV.
With no constraints to hold us back, Monique realized we could drastically change the course of our lives by selling or giving away just about everything we owned and trying out full-time RVing for a year or two. We could decide later if it was a good choice or not. Thankfully, everything fell into place.
We quickly realized that one of the first big decisions was to select the type of RV that would best suit our planned lifestyle. Luckily, just around the corner time-wise and map- wise was an annual RV exposition. That was the place to start.
We interrupted our ambling around the show grounds for a few minutes to hear what RV experts Joe and Vicki Kieva could tell us about our future on the road. Lesson One: “There is no perfect RV.” How could that be, we wondered. Why wouldn’t one company build the perfect rig?
Size is a primary concern. A rig large enough to have all the amenities is often too big to get into many national and state parks. And a large luxury rig isn’t the one you would want to take onto narrow, windy roads — especially if they are unpaved. And although smaller rigs can get you to and put you in the campgrounds, you have to get used to lacking many conveniences and stepping on each other’s toes.
We strolled around the grounds of the RV expo for hours after that presentation. We toured fifth-wheels that seemed to touch the top of the show hall and visited motorhomes with washers and dryers, dishwashers and practically as much closet space as our three-bedroom house. We listened to sales pitches by dozens of barkers, who assured us they had the perfect RV for us, and, of course, they could make it affordable if we reached an agreement while at the show.
Our preconceived notion was that we could buy the smallest RV at the show and live blissfully in the wilds anywhere across North America — always able to make do as minimalists. So we tended toward looking at only high-quality pop-up campers … until we happened upon Clyde, a laid-back salesman from a dealership not far from our home. When we told him our plan, he got serious. “You won’t be happy in a pop-up full-timing,” he advised. “You’ll be in rain, high winds, freezing cold, intense heat and more. You’ll need a hard-side RV.” It made sense, so we opened our minds to other types of rigs.
At home that evening, we sat in our cherished backyard wooden swing and talked about which direction to go with our purchase. We had narrowed it down to three options. There was an ultra-fancy Class B conversion van that the owner of the company was willing to let us have for $40,000 under list price. There was a roomy pop-up that combined “roughin’ it” with comfort. And there was the travel trailer; specifically one offered by the same salesman who had advised us against the pop-ups he sells.
The next weekend we went into his dealership and asked for Clyde. Turns out, he only works shows, so we ended up talking with the dealership’s wry manager. He showed us lightweight trailers that our SUV could pull. After what seemed like hours of comparing and eliminating, we walked into a cute little 22-foot travel trailer, greatly reduced in price because it was the previous year’s model. Monique fell in love with it immediately, so we bought it, even without having put our home on the market.
Eight months later we embarked on our new life. We didn’t even remember from the walk-through how to put freshwater in the holding tank. And when we went to our first full-hookup park about a month later, I was scared to death to plug in the power cord (as it turned out, the park’s electrical box didn’t work anyway).
For one year we loved our little inexpensive travel trailer. The fact that it wasn’t designed for our full-time lifestyle didn’t make us any less satisfied. I did have to repair drawers or tighten screws at every stop, but that gave me some handyman work that I enjoyed in my old life.
At the end of a year, we realized that we weren’t even close to being ready to stop our traveling, so we began intensive research into which RV would work best for us. No question: only a travel trailer would meet our needs.
We moved up to a 28-footer with a slideout. It’s built for full-time living, whether we roam to Arizona or Canada. More important for us, we can still stay in rustic campgrounds designed for rigs 28 feet or smaller with a clearance low enough to get under ancient oaks, or we can choose to boondock with a mile of open lands on every side.
Back to Joe and Vicki’s statement. They left out another truism about the lifestyle: “There is no perfect campground.” I’ll save that for another time, but we know, no matter what we travel in, there will always be challenges. It’s part of the life we accept.
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