Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting Our First RV - Decisions, Decisions


Every year, there is a big RV show in North Fort Myers, Florida, a short ride from our home in Cape Coral.  At the show, one can ogle, drool, and check out many different types and makes of recreational vehicles, covering a wide range of price points.  Janet an I have gone to the RV show many times.  We did a lot of tire kicking, and tried to get an idea of what we'd like and what we could afford.  (We found many RVs we really loved, but the prices were astronomical, making a large, private home on a big lot look like a bargain!)

The first challenge was to determine the type of RV we want.  The two contenders were a "Class A Motorhome", and a "Fifth Wheel".  By way of introduction, a Class A motor home is a recreational vehicle built on a stripped truck chassis where the driving compartment is an integral part of the RV interior. A class A motor home looks like this:
Class A Motor Home
A fifth wheel is a towable trailer that connects to a tow truck directly above its rear axle by way of a special fifth wheel hitch.  A fifth wheel looks like this:
Fifth Wheel
There are advantages and disadvantages for each one.

Class A Motorhome advantages:
  • Driving and living compartments are connected. No need to get out of the RV during stops. Living area accessible even while moving.
  • Usually has more storage space than a fifth wheel of equivalent size.
  • Can tow a vehicle behind it.
Class A Motorhome disadvantages:
  • More expensive than a fifth wheel of equivalent size and quality.
  • The driving compartment and engine take up part of the living space, resulting in less living area than a fifth wheel of the same length.
  • If there is a mechanical breakdown of the engine or drivetrain, we'd need to find another place to live while repairs are being made.
  • Most are too large to drive around town; alternate local transportation required (such as a towed vehicle).
Fifth Wheel advantages:
  • Spacious, open floor plans suitable for full-timers.
  • Provides more interior living space than a motor home of the same length because it does not contain driving and engine compartments.
  • Tow vehicle doubles as local transportation.
Fifth Wheel disadvantages:
  • Must be towed by a large, powerful, (expensive) heavy duty truck with a fifth wheel hitch in its bed.
  • Driving and living compartments are separate. Living area inaccessible while moving.
  • Cannot tow a vehicle behind it.
Which type to get?  We vacillate.  One thing is for sure: To stay within our budget, we're going to have to buy something used.  We figure whatever comes along that we like, in good condition, at the right price will determine which way we go.

In early July, 2012, Janet starts our used RV search by pointing her iPad to rvtrader.com.  Lo and behold, she finds a fifth wheel and a truck being sold by the same person.  They are the type and size we are looking for, in our price range, not too old, and right near us in North Fort Myers.  Nearby is good: No long trips to check out the rig, and no transportation charges should we decide to buy.  We call and make an appointment to have a look.

Coming up next: Getting Our First RV - The Purchase

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Introduction - How it all began


It's 2004.  Janet and I notice that we're not getting any younger, and our friends seem to be aging at the same ever-accelerating pace as we are.  Some have acquired nasty habits, such as getting very ill, and even dying!  With mortality becoming something to consider (I mean, really, we're grandparents, and aren't grandparents old?), we decide to do some long-range planning for the next phase of our future.  We are very fortunate to be in good health.  We want to have fun and adventures together before we're too old.  (Too old being defined as one or both of us having poor health, highly diminished mental, visual or aural acuity, ambulatory limitations, and the ultimate show-stopper: being dead!  The latter can really put a damper on spousal plans.  My step-father died when he was only 54.  So much for him and my mom enjoying happily-ever-after!)

We decide to do what we dub the "Eat Dessert First Retirement Plan": At the end of 2012, we'll retire and hit the road.  Lots of travel, lots of adventure.  We won't be really old at that time (I'll be 58, and Janet will be 62), so if all goes well, we'll still be healthy and we'll be agile enough to get around nicely.  Will our finances allow us to do this, without our becoming totally broke in our dotage?  Probably... maybe... or maybe not!  Who knows?  2012 is still eight years away.  But 'ya gotta have a plan.  So we decide that we'll eat dessert first.  If and when we get to the rest of the retirement meal after some number of years, and there's a financial problem, we'll deal with it then!  After all, we can save money, but we can't save time!  Time is a precious, non-renewable resource, and when it's gone, there's no getting it back.  Do we want to wind up having sat through the meal of life and for some reason not make it to the dessert course?  Heck no!  Come the end of 2012, we're going to get a recreational vehicle (RV).  It will become our home and our springboard to travel adventures.  We'll be all-in, full-timers.  We'll be Going Mobile.

Then came the "great recession".  We watched, with dismay, many of the assets we were relying on to fund our future vanish into the ether, never to return.  We could certainly use this reality to justify putting off our great plan, but we still have the most important thing going well for the both of us: good health.  Perhaps we can get back some money, but there is still one thing we can't get back: time.  By gum, we're going ahead as planned.  Come the end of 2012, we're Going Mobile.

Welcome to Going Mobile, a tale of how our plan actually turns out (including the good, the bad, the surprises, the adventures).


Disclaimer.  I've never written a blog before.  It's something I never considered doing, probably for two main reasons:

1. Would anyone really care about what I'd write?
2. Might my blog become a self-indulgent exercise?

I decided to write this blog for three reasons:

1. Several friends and relatives suggested that I do it.
2. My friend Pallas HupĂ©, who moved from California to New Zealand when her husband got a great job opportunity, started a blog about her experiences.  She, her two boys, and her husband, made a major life change, and I find her accounting of those changes, and how she deals with them, to be fascinating.  Perhaps someone will be interested in reading about Janet's and my major life change.  (Pallas is a great writer.  I can only hope that my writing skills are half as good as hers.)
3. I think it will be fun to look back on my ramblings years from now.

As a newbie blogger, I ask for your assistance.  If this blog is a waste of time, please be blunt and let me know.  If it can be improved, please tell me how I can make it better.  If there are things you want to know more (or less) about, please say so.

Coming up next: Getting Our First RV