Monday, April 23, 2012

New Dawg House with Wheels

After much researching, looking, hoping, and agonizing, I purchased a recreational vehicle (RV).  It was a big decision given the costs involved, but I now have something that will help me to continue living my dream.   It’s my new dawg house on wheels - a 2012 Roadtrek 190 Simplicity model that I got while in Florida.  I am thrilled with it and can’t wait to start traveling.

Camping is not a new endeavor.  I’ve been camping since the early 1980’s, usually in tents or a pop-up trailer, and usually at a stay put destination like a music festival or state park.  I’ve gotten pretty seasoned at it and have assembled a good collection of gear to make a comfortable stay.

But I wanted to do more.  More traveling to points further away, more extended stays, more time on the road.  More spur of the moment travel without having to do a lot of packing and planning.  I’ve been to a lot of places in this country; road the cable cars in San Francisco, seen the sunset in Key West, danced to Cajun music in the small dance halls of Louisiana, been down into the Hoover Dam, saw the Cubs play at Wrigley Field, driven the Skyline Drive, visited most of the big Civil War battlefields, biked across Iowa and the Rocky Mountains, hiked the Grand Canyon, ate chilies in Santa Fe, rode the white rim in Canyon lands, swam in the surf in Hawaii, and been a snowbird in Florida.  But there’s still a lot more I want to see and experience.  

I want to see the mesa towns in northern Arizona, see the Navajo land in Canyon de Chelly, gaze over Monument Valley, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace, see the Outer Banks, ride the Slickrock trail in Moab, go to Merlefest and see the bluegrass festival in Telluride, see Old Faithful and the Tetons, go to Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry, see El Capitan in Yosemite, and drive the Gaspe in Canada.  And that’s just the start.  

Being retired, I don’t need to worry about fitting this all in to vacations.  I can go anytime and stay as long as I want.  After reading “Governor’s Travels” by Angus King (former governor of Maine), who took his family on a 5 ½ month cross country RV trip, I realized I had to get out there and start traveling.  The key was getting a vehicle that would take me comfortably to the places I wanted to go, sustain me while on the road, and provide comfortable living quarters when needed.

The key factors for me in selecting a vehicle were the following;
  •  It had to have a bathroom – having colitis, when I have to go, I have to go and a bathroom needs to be nearby.
  • It had to be comfortable and safe to drive.  I didn’t want to drive a bus or something that was big and boxy, have to  worry about clearances and bridge heights, or have it cause white knuckles while driving .  I also wanted to be able to park it anywhere.
  • It was going to be more of a traveling vehicle versus a park and stay vehicle.  I was probably going spend more time behind the wheel than sleeping it
  • It had to be fuel efficient as possible – I wanted something that would get close to 20 mpg.
  • It had to be well made and have  a good track record for reliability.
  • It had to fit my budget – I was willing to spend $50-$70K for a vehicle, but no more
After a lot of internet research and going to RV shows.  I settled on a Class B motorhome.  A Class B is basically a van that’s been converted to an RV.  They’re a lot smaller than Class A’s (buses converter to RV) or Class C’s (truck’s converted to RV’s).  I also didn’t want to have to tow something that required set-up and take down time and a special tow vehicle.

Living in New England, I didn’t see a lot of used Class B listed anywhere and only a few dealers who carried them.  I had also decided I wanted one of the popular Class B brands – either a Pleasure Way or Roadtrek.  Both are made in Canada and each has very positive customer feedback.  I noticed that of all the used Pleasure Way’s or Roadtrek advertised on-line, most (about 60%) where in Florida. I was heading to Florida for part of the winter and decided that I would checkout some units while down there and potentially buy one if I found the right unit and the right price.

While in Florida two things happened that steered me towards getting a Roadtrek.  First, while staying in St Augustine, I happened to meet a Roadtrek owner and got to spend about an hour taking with him about his experience with his Roadtrek.   Ron, the owner, was very forthcoming about his experiences.   He was on his second Roadtrek (a 2010 190 Popular model).  We talked about road handling, tire pressure, macerator pumps, gas mileage, reliability, Roadtrek service, and modifications.  After my talk with Ron, I was very positive and comfortable with Roadtrek.  Second,  I went to look at a used 2008 Roadtrek at a dealer near Orlando.  Turned out this dealer was the largest dealer of Roadtrek’s in the US, selling units to customers all over the country.  They had a large inventory of all the various Roadtrek models, so I was able to look at all of the new models, in addition to the used one. 

The used one was ok (it was a 2008 Model 210 with 35K miles), but while waiting to take a test drive, I happened to look at a new 2012 Roadtrek 190 Simplicity, which is a less fancy, striped own version of their flagship Popular model.  It had everything I wanted, but was listed at $85K.  While test driving the 2008, I asked the salesman about any incentives they had going on for units.  Turned out Roadtrek was offering up to $10K in rebates but I needed to purchase by the end of the month, which was the current day.  When talking price on the used unit, I asked about what they could do on the new Simplicity model.   When they said they could possible do something close to low $70K that got my interest, because they were asking $65K for a 5 year old model.  I made them an offer - $70K with an awning added and I’d buy it that day.  After a couple back and forths with the sales manager and a call to Roadtrek  headquarters, they accepted my offer.

I was thrilled.  I got a new unit with everything I wanted.  Its got a bathroom, refrigerator, microwave, A/C, extra battery for DC electricity, water heater, furnace, cherry cabinets, outside and inside showers, closets, digital TV, DVD player, sink, generator, and a sofa that turns into a king size bed.  It all came with a 5 year warranty on everything, and at the price I wanted.

 I picked it a couple days later and spent about 2 hours with a technician going over how to operate everything before we drove off.  We drove it back to New England a few days later, smiling most of the way.

Now I’m getting it outfitted and planning trips. Can’t wait hit the road this summer and keep living my dream. 

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