Part 1- Buying our first RV
It’s a done deal!
Cheering and high fives go back and forth between us as we celebrate our achievement. We finally pulled the trigger on our new RV, a thirty-eight-foot fifth wheel toy hauler, subsequent to spending over a year agonizing over makes, models, lengths and styles, with so many choices and decisions to make, now it’s just down to enduring the long ten weeks for the build, with far too much time to second guess our selection.
Our odyssey began in late 2015 when I, at my partner’s insistence, filled out an application for summer employment in Yellowstone Park. She had worked there herself for several summers and aspired for both of us to spend a season together working for less than minimum wage in the National Park. In choosing from what amounted to be hundreds of positions that I was qualified for I inadvertently checked the box for camp host in one of the RV parks, and wouldn’t you know that instead of being selected as a horse wrangler which I’m more than qualified for having grown up and lived on working ranches for most of my life, we got tabbed to check-in, and help settle campers as Guest Service Agents in Madison Campground. But the criteria, was of course, that we must have an RV.
….and they wanted us on site in three months!
Well, that wasn’t going to happen, so we blew off the opportunity, and settled back into our normal active lifestyle.
We are both avid primitive campers, having in just the last couple of years, for example, tent camped from Texas out through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, then north to Canada, across B.C. and down through Alberta, returning home through Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, followed by quickly repacking for a trip to her native New Zealand and a five-week blitz, up, down and across both the North and South Islands, tent camping most of the way. Those forays and others to Arkansas, West Texas, New Mexico and fishing trips to Colorado have kept us continually planning our next sojourn.
I’ve rough camped most of my life, traveling across the U.S. and Canada and through much of Mexico, Central and South America, spent weeks at a time backpacking into the mountains of Montana and Wyoming bow hunting elk, mule deer, and whitetail, but at sixty-two years young, although I enjoy it immensely, my body is beginning to rebel a little, especially on those damp cool mornings that any intrepid tent dweller will experience on occasion.
How many countless mornings I’ve crawled stiff and chilled out of our tent to fix coffee on the camp stove and witnessed someone stepping nimbly out of their elegant Class A motorhome or Class B trailer with a steaming coffee cup already in hand, greeting the new day after a cozy night spent inside walls, has made both of us rethink this experience just a little.
So with some trepidation, we decided to dip our toes, to test the water so to speak and look at upgrading to a cushier caravan, and started spending copious hours researching types and styles of RV’s, and unequivocally decided that Class A’s, though extremally posh, had some drawbacks for us. We wanted to be able to explore the areas we parked up in, possibly even grabbing our tent for a day or two, to spend in a remote area inaccessible to the RV, and though we could, and many do, tow a vehicle behind the motorhome, we kept coming back to a Class B, and from there on pursued that style, in its many forms….and so many choices there are.
Because I’ve had an abundance of experience towing long gooseneck trailers, having been in the ranching business for more years than I cared to admit, I was drawn to fifth-wheel units, more for their maneuverability at first, than for any other reason. Initially, we didn’t even consider toy haulers, in fact, I’m not afraid to say, though we both chuckle about it now, neither of us RV greenhorns even knew what a toy hauler was, and when we found out, since we don’t own four-wheelers or motorbikes figured they weren’t for us. We spent months looking at every fifth-wheel we could find, new, used, at shows and private sellers, until one day a lightbulb flashed in my head, and I opened my mind to the possibility of using a toy hauler for something other than the toys it was intended.
The longer we looked at RV’s the more we considered doing more than just the occasional camping trip, and we started to contemplate the possibility of living full time for at least a few years in our wheeled abode, and the idea that I could use the garage section of a toy hauler as my office began to make good sense, plus it offered us additional storage space that in any recreational vehicle is a boon.
At this time, I have to concede that my cohort had also discovered YouTube, and the multitude of videos offering both great, and sometimes questionable advice to anyone with the time on their hands to keep flipping from one chronicle to the next.
Now while she is retired from a regulated daily grind, I spend my days and many nights crafting dialog for my novels and the occasional magazine article in relative quietude across the casa from her, leaving me to formulate and elucidate my thoughts into something cohesive enough that a publisher or editor will consider worthy of promulgating. For me, that means reclusion, from noise, neighbors and electronic devices, and up until she ascertained these, how-to, let us show you, see how much fun we’re having videos, I reveled in that seclusion.
After that, or in the time period I now designate as a.y. (after youtube) I nearly lost my reclusive writing, as I was continually called upon to join her at the big flat screen to watch a comparison of the latest model diesel dually haul truck, or the how-to-fix a flat while dodging traffic on the interstate, or horrors of trailers burned, or blown over, and God help us dragged under the low hanging overpass, thus trimming two feet off the height of the rig, but providing it with a permanent skylight and an insurance adjusters nightmare.
“We’re not going to do that, are we?” she’d frightfully ask!
“I’m not planning on it,” I’d respond, “as long as you don’t navigate me down a road with low-hanging abutments,” which with grimaces and furrowed brow, she would take that into consideration, though I knew that even if she did lay the course in that direction, it would inevitably be my fault in the end for shearing off the crown of our mobile lodging.
At one point I told her, “Maybe you should not watch the RV accident videos, and stick more to tips on how to stow all your belongings from a large four-bedroom house into a thirty-two-foot bumper pull. But she insisted that being forewarned not to pull down the highway in a ninety mile an hour crosswind was valuable information, not to be discounted in our preparation for a life on the beltway.
Weeks turned into months of reading and watching reviews of experts in everything RV, and discourses from some whom might be better served staying in a five-star caravansary than maneuvering a forty-foot wheeled cottage down a one-lane country road, we imperceptibly narrowed the search through a cluttered field of manufacturers and floor plans until, with sanguine expectations, we chose what will be our home-on-the-road for the next few years…..or at least till I pull the thirteen-foot tall rig, under a nine-foot six-inch overpass on a backroad in Kansas.
Which I can tell you right up front, will be all my fault.
RV Greenhorns – Part 2
Accessorizing the RV, we don’t have yet.
Now that we’ve placed the order for our new fifth wheel RV, we’re going to have ten excruciatingly long weeks before we can take delivery of it and start playing an adult game of outfitting it with every conceivable gadget that may come in handy in an apocalypse, or zombie attack.
But we would be remiss if we wasted all these countless anxious days and weeks just daydreaming or thumbing through the eighteen RV magazines we now subscribe to, or re-watching all the how-much-fun-we’re-having-in-our-rv YouTube videos in our saved file, by not getting started stockpiling every last necessity we will assuredly require, or in any case maybe not really need, but desire, because it looks so cool.
Besides, we are now being bombarded by internet ads that are either reading our minds, or possibly have powers equal to a fortune-teller’s crystal ball, helping to point our way, and the credit card towards the essential gadgets of surviving the long journeys between Wal-Mart parking lots across this great nation.
First of all, my companion of countless nights rough tent camping across North America and New Zealand, announces she has deduced that storage for all our new, but yet to be acquired gadgets is sadly lacking in our yet to be delivered domicile, and the clear-cut answer to that predicament is to visit the Scandinavian Superstore, of storage appurtenances (IKEA), to measure and acquire photos of said items to determine the feasibility of incorporating them into our new rig.
After agreeing to the planned trip, I endeavored to navigate us there by way of my favorite outdoor superstore, with the justification that I needed a new fly rod that could be stored easier than my current rods, but she saw through that line quickly and ordered me to take the straightest route possible which unfortunately bypassed my chance to peruse #4 ultra-light-seventeen-piece-easy-storage fly rods by a mere sixty miles.
I, of course, exhibited my displeasure with the typical male response of pouting and dragging my heels as we crossed twenty-seven acres of a packed parking lot to get into the crammed edifice. But she was not deterred as she read from her list the items she wanted to view and handle, each one available in every color of the rainbow, which of course means making a selection that much more of a herculean task. Somewhere between pillowcases and plastic containers I begged off in search of a hot coffee, which I found in the mini food court, and while sipping a scalding brew I wrote out and submitted nineteen customer suggestion requests for a sports bar and grill to be added to the emporium, to make the arduous job of shopping easier for at least half the clientele. I’ll be looking for that next time I’m dragged kicking and screaming like a spoiled adolescent into the marketplace.
Four hours later, I found my mate comparing toilet bowl brush holders and matching mini garbage cans and convinced her that the seven-hundred and sixty-eight photos she’d taken with her smartphone could be better viewed by uploading them on her laptop at home, so we fought our way out through the throngs of consumers and headed home, where she spent the next six hours querying my viewpoint, as if it really mattered, on what would fit where, and does this color go with that texture, until I feigned a headache and skulked off to my writing room to rest up from the frightful day.
The next morning it was decreed by the higher power that I contact our friendly, helpful salesperson to get a list of items we will absolutely require, that are not included in our new rig, which is the basic package plus every option available, plus a couple add-ons including the state-of-the-art pin box that should help soften the ride on the nineteen-thousand-pound load, or what I assume it will be when we get the fifth-wheel suitably outfitted.
So I hit speed dial and called him. “Hey Bill, thinking ahead just a bit, and wondering what we will need to set up in a campground that doesn’t come with the rig?”
“Well for sure you picked almost everything in the catalog, but you will need a water hose and sewer line. Those items you can wait and purchase from our store when you pick up the unit if you want?”
“Okay, thanks, Bill. I’ll pass this info along, and don’t be surprised if I call with more questions. We sure are excited; I guess you know?”
“Yes, I can tell you are. Don’t worry, call anytime.”
After informing my comate of our needs, a huge smile crested her countenance and she dove for her laptop, on a quest for the best reviews on RV sewer lines and fittings, which although we wouldn’t require it for many weeks, she insisted it was important to amass all the parts, just in case they were completely out of stock when we collected our asylum.
While she did that, I was sent to the lumber store to purchase a twelve-foot log with which to cut all the blocks and chocks we would need to hold the RV tires in place and place under our “self-leveling thingy’s so they didn’t press into the mud and get nasty” or something to that effect. Glad to have an important chore to get me away from the house, I spent two hours doing my own research on the de facto things we’d really need. I was hoping to find a Star Wars-type ‘tractor beam’ that I could use to pull the big rig into a tight parking pad, but failed to obtain one, though it’s still posted to my wishlist.
Back on the road, I headed home with the dead tree in the back of the one-ton, the biggest load it’s yet to carry since we bought it four months ago, in anticipation of needing a big haul truck, and in addition I’d loaded up a case of bright fluorescent orange spray paint cans she’d texted me to acquire so she could coat the blocks and chocks in ‘hi-vis’ color. Without that she said, it would be too easy to leave some behind when we hurriedly packed up to head for our next campground. Not sure how they’ll be missed, as she’s already added them to the printed and plastic laminated “pre-flight checklist” she’ll be going over each time we hook up and retract the slide-outs in preparation for the next jaunt. But it does no good to question her reasoning, so I just keep quiet, and by doing so live another day.
While I’d been away, she’d read up, and was now fully informed on every type of sewer hose and might-be-required fittings, and had made the command decision without me and ordered the necessary lengths and associated fittings to be delivered posthaste two-day freight, even though we still wouldn’t have a recreational vehicle to hook it up to for nine weeks and six days, or so. Knowing it was safer not to mention the fact that we might be getting the cart before the horse, so to speak, I elected to say nothing and just nodded my head, signaling full agreement and went out into the shop to chop up the tree into usable lengths and shapes for the quintessential blocks and chocks to stabilize our wheeled castle securely.
While I was thus entertained, she pursued special water hoses that would only be used for filling our drinking water reservoir, never, upon penalty of dismemberment to be used to wash down the vehicles or clean fish, and several, not sure yet how many, valves and inline pressure reducers in case I guess, we have to hook to a fire hydrant with colossal pressures or something.
Two days later, true to form, the man in brown, driving the brown truck unloaded, thankfully without the use of a forklift, the order containing sewer and water accouterment, and we gleefully set about hooking and unhooking the lines, fittings, and valves, while she gave discourse on the benefits of the half dozen clear windows in the sewer line, so we could actually watch the offscouring of our bowels make the uninterrupted journey from waste tank to cesspool.
To my utter surprise…… not… she had a bonus add-on to the order of a sewer line leveling kit, which we have practiced with repeatedly in a particularly rough section of the back yard, working against a timer to see how quickly we can set up and level our poop line, so we don’t appear like the RV greenhorns we are. She’s out there now setting up the newly acquired engineers laser level so she can tell within a thousand of an inch if there is the required drop in the line to keep it all flowing.
I’m going to start researching the possibility of towing a storage trailer behind the toy hauler, just to carry all the hoses and fittings and other yet to be acquired gear that we’ll find paramount to an orderly lifestyle in our yet-to-be-delivered RV. But first, I think I’m going to make a dash over to the Scandinavian Superstore and see if they took my advice and set up a sports bar. I was never much of a drinker before we started planning our new mobile lifestyle, but I’m beginning to believe it may become part and partial to the way of life.
Bio of Marcus Miller
Yearning for adventure Marcus ran away from home at an early age, and his travels took him across the U.S. and through Central and South America and the Caribbean. He has worn many hats in his life, working as a private military contractor, kidnap resolution specialist, firearms instructor, self-defense and edged weapons instructor, cowboy, sailor, scuba diving instructor, hunting guide, horse trainer, and adventurer. He spent twenty-two years rescuing kidnap victims from Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. His education was acquired from working and living on the streets, back alleys, fetid jungles and dank ports in third world countries, and he now travels the U.S. in an RV and writes action/adventure novels. He has six novels published and available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback and has written articles published in the July and November 2017 issues of Rock and Gem magazine. He is currently working on book #7. He is 63 years old, single, and enjoys fishing, hiking, camping, cooking, and researching his novels.
Quick link to all my books…. Here