Thursday, June 29, 2006
Adventures in Camping--A Cautionary Tale
We've been camping all our lives. Sleeping on the ground, on picnic tables, in the car, in the bed of a pickup. In a home made camper. In a tent. Then we graduated to a pop-up tent trailer. Wow. Semi-real beds. A three burner stove. A Porta-potty, instead of hiking into the woods, or up to the shower house. And because my darling hates being hot, especially when he is trying to sleep, he installed a little air conditioner. We thought we were up town.
Then we got a little more ambitious, and bought an Airstream.
32 feet long, great condition for a 30 year old trailer, and we loved it. Well, that is, until our house burned and we spent 6 months living in it. Then, not so much.
But we kept it, and eventually lived in it again for about 3 months, when we moved and hadn't found a house yet.
Then we sold it.
Later on, we wished we hadn't, despite the fact that we had no place to park it, and would have paid its purchase price many times over, if we had paid to rent storage space for it.
Then we discovered full-timing.
In case you haven't heard, there are people who live in their RVs. Full time.
My sweetheart decided that would be very cool. So we gave our most treasured heirlooms (the stuff I couldn't bear to actually give to Goodwill, and probably no one else would want it except our kids, who grew up with these things, and so have a sentimental attachment) to our children, kept the things we thought we might need again someday if we ever decided to have a house again, and bought a fifth-wheel.
The first one was an Alfa Gold, which had been top of the line some twenty years before we acquired it. We loved it. It had lots of storage space, we could manage to make beds for the kids and grandbabies, and we could go anywhere we wanted to during our holidays and summers.
Then one weekend we were staying at a KOA which just happened to be right next to an RV dealer. We had nothing better to do one afternoon, so we walked over and looked at some of the new trailers.
Oh. My. Word.
Then we talked to a salesman, just to be polite, and went back to our (now) shabby Alfa (by comparison to the new ones). Later that day, the salesman came to tell us that he had a great deal, an unbelieveable deal, a deal we just couldn't turn down, on a brand-new Big Sky Montana. One something like this.
It was a great deal.
We didn't turn it down.
We lived in the Montana for about a year and a half, and it was great.
Then we started talking to people with motor homes. Those are the great huge bus-like vehicles you see going down the highway pulling a little car behind.
They have automatic steps that go out when you open the door, and retract when you close the door.
They have a sensor that knows when you have too many appliances plugged in and going at once, and it takes things off-line until the load is reduced, instead of blowing fuses.
They have humongous, ginormous (relatively speaking) refrigerators.
They have leather covered couches that electronically make into beds.
They have convection ovens.
Real showers, that my beloved can stand up straight in (saying that I can stand up straight in one is a given, since I am 5'2 1/2 " tall). (If I stand up really straight).
Leather seats that recline, swivel, and tilt.
Black-out shades in the bedroom.
A washer and dryer, all in one, about the size of a dishwasher.
So we went to an RV show.
We talked some more.
We decided that we wanted a motor home. And since we were planning to retire in a few years, let's go on and get it, and pay it off before we retire. After all, this is our home. We will be able to live in it, travel in it, take it when we go to see the kids, and still sleep in our own bed.
Since this was going to be our home, we wanted good quality.
The best service record.
The industry standard. One like this.
So we bought it. Brand new. Straight from the factory, to our specifications.
In 17 months, and less than 14,000 miles, our dream machine was in the shop 38 days. What kinds of problems, you ask?
The air conditioner. More than once.
The water heater. More than once.
The engine. More than once.
The dash lights--you know, the little gadgets that tell you how fast you are going, downhill, on a mountain road in Yellowstone.
Those black-out shades I mentioned? It turns out that they had something like cotton thread holding them together, and it frays. Quickly. On every shade that you actually put up and down more than a couple of times.
Last summer, we were on our way to Oklahoma City. We almost made it to Ardmore. The engine overheated, and a number of other things that I didn't understand at the time, and can't explain to you now. This jewel is so enormous that it takes a special kind of tow truck to haul it, and they had to bring one from Ok. City to rescue us.
Oh and the "toad"--the jeep we were pulling--earped its guts about half an hour later, as we were following the tow truck to OK. City.
Instead of a fun camping trip with my dearest's brother and family, we spent 13 days hanging out at their house, and they were gracious enough to invite us back again this year. Now that is family.
Then when Freightliner finally told us it was ready, and we picked it up, we discovered that the refrigerator was out, so we went from that service center to one in Tyler, just a few miles from our lake lot where we live. There went another three days.
This year, we decided to take a shorter trip, just to Lake Texoma, only about 100 miles away. Yep, you guessed it. Three trips to the RV service center, about 20 miles from where we were camped, to try to get the refrigerator fixed. Again.
Then another three days this week. To get the refrigerator fixed. Again.
At the moment, it is working, knock on wood. But when it went bonkers, somehow the electrical system, or the inverter, or some kind of doodad, also went nuts, and smoked the brand new Dish tv box, and the Sony tv.
As in where there is smoke, there is fire.
So now we have another appointment with the Tyler RV service people for the week after July 4th.
We also have a lawsuit pending against the dealer who sold us the RV, the manufacturer of the RV, and the company who built the chassis.
The moral of my story?
Camping is fun.
Having a nice camper/trailer/fifth wheel is great.
Just don't let your reach exeed your grasp.
We plan to go back to a fifth wheel as soon as possible.
And I promise not to look at any more RVs.
Cross my heart.