Stops Along the Way: Part 1

Forgive me all, it has been two months since my last confession!  Much has transpired which is the reason of my hiatus.  Time goes by fast and even faster when you have much to do by a deadline.   My energies have been scattered between organizing my belongings, moving into my home on wheels, and being hit with the first Nor’easter of the season!

I’m happy to announce that I am now a full time RVer!  I intended to write a climactic entry the night before my big move (the last day of October), but a hurricane Sandy came along and knocked out my Internet connection.  I will not complain too harshly since compared to many others in my region, I got off easy.  It’s somewhat strange for me to think about how I had an idea to change my life only a few months ago and now I’m writing this entry from the inside of my new home.  I guess life really is that simple.  It’s only the stops we take along the way in our journey that makes change seem so complicated.

The morning after I gave my landlord notice, I woke up in sheer panic.  I originally planned to move out in the spring when the weather was warm.  That way, I would only have to focus on learning the basics of RV living.  However, I quickly grew impatient.  I didn’t want to put off tomorrow what could be done by the end of the rent month!  This would entail diving head-first into the world of RVing in the harsh New England winter… a winter that is forecasted to be one of the nastiest!

“What was I thinking?”, “I’m in over my head”, “Oh, My God. I’m going to DIE!” were just a few of the loops on repeat rattling about in my mind.   I was ready to tell my landlord that I had changed my mind, but a friend, thankfully, deterred me.  He said, “Second thoughts seed regret.  Roughing the winter will only make you enjoy the warm seasons that much more.”  Deep down, I knew he was right.  If I backed down from this, I wouldn’t have the same amount of respect for myself.  I decided to accept this challenge and moved forward with my plans.

I sorted through my belongings.  I used the time-tested method of dividing my things in three piles: stuff to keep, stuff to sell or give away, and stuff to trash.  And boy, was I ruthless! I even gave away my beautiful crimson prom dress from Lord and Taylors that I held on to for so many years.  Goodwill was my place of choice because they employ the disabled.  I managed to whittle down my possessions to only what I needed and used.  I’m still not done.  As time goes on, I’m sure I’ll shed a couple more items out of my camper van.  Mind you, I still have a small storage unit with some stuff from my previous apartment that has to be out in two weeks.  That’s right, I gave the storage people notice, too!

A few weeks before I moved, I researched winter RVing on the Internet and scanned message boards.  The most important thing I gathered was that winter RVing was possible.  I picked up some very useful information, such as getting a propane efficient catalytic heater instead of relying on my RV’s furnace and the joys of windows insulation.  I still felt a little shaky and I decided to get up from behind my laptop to find a real person to speak to about this matter.  I did a Google search for RV places in my area and I found Long View RV in Windsor Locks and decided to pay them a visit.  I’m glad I did!

When I walked in, I felt a good vibe about the place.  If I didn’t, I would’ve walked right out.  The shop was clean and inviting with rows of RVing equipment and bottles and bottles of different RV stuff displayed on the selves.  I was greeted by Marie who was sitting behind the check out counter.  She was warm, friendly and easy to talk to.  Marie enthusiastically showed me around the store even though she was new and wasn’t able to answer any of my weird winter camping questions.

She noticed that I pulled up in a Coachmen and told me of a salesman with the company by the name of Jake who has sold Coachmens throughout his career since the 1960’s.  She sent for him and he came from his office to meet me.  Jake is an overall attractive gentleman, charming, and with a glint in his eye.  Call it a Cloud Atlas moment, but I immediately sensed something special about this man.  Marie told Jake of my intention of becoming a full time RVer this winter… in Connecticut.  “No, you’re not!” he said in a dry, humorous fashion.  I couldn’t help but laugh because we both knew that what I’m trying to do is a little bit crazy.  He saw that I was all in, and proceeded to coach me.  I was advised on the harshness of our weather and the challenges it would pose to comfortable mobile living.

tn-1

 J.C. and Jake

There were a few options I could take, but Jake’s top recommendation was winterizing and dry camping (living in your rig without using running water or plumbing). I first recoiled at the idea, but it seem much more favorable than insulating and constantly monitoring my tanks and pipes to make sure they don’t burst on me.  I felt relieved that I finally had a course of action to follow.  On my way out, Marie handed me an accessory catalog and recommend I attend their upcoming  free RV winterizing class.  Jake followed me out to the parking lot to tell me something. He smiled and said that I had more “cojones” than he did.  I was charmed, but since he knows his stuff and I don’t, I didn’t know weather to be flattered or a be little scared for myself!

I attended Longview’s winterizing class that was held in a large room above the store.  Free donuts were provided, so already, I was excited to be there!   Not surprisingly, most of the attendees were in their 50’s and up.  Joe, the shop’s Service Manager led the class.  He started off by emphasizing that there is more to winterizing an RV than just loading up your tanks and pipes full of antifreeze.  He then proceeded to cover how to use all the cogs and sprockets needed to get the job done right.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was waaay over my head.  I decided to cut out of class early and headed down stairs to schedule an appointment with JC, the service adviser.

The night before my big move,  I organized my belongings (more or less), and moved them in the RV under the cloak of night.   Change was in the air.  I was nearly overcome by a strange combination of stress and excitement… sort of the same feeling I got when I was about to get married, but unlike then, I knew that I was making the right decision.

In the morning, I took pictures of my empty place (a habit before leaving any rental to protect myself), dropped off my keys and headed off to work.  My day was like any other before then, but somewhat surreal.  I felt lighter but with a feeling of uncertainty since I wasn’t sure where I would sleep for the night.  I have options and since my camper van could fit into regular parking spaces that bigger RVs can’t, I could easily boondock.  However, I didn’t want to deal with the nuances of stealth parking right out the gate.

During my lunch break, I did some research and it turns out there are other retailers besides Walmart that allows RV parking overnight.  I found a store that is very RV friendly, safe (well lit with cameras everywhere) and super convenient in location.  I called up the store’s manager and asked if campers could stay for a few days.  “Stay as long as you need!” he said.  I was happy and relieved; it was one less thing to worry about.  For the winter, I was planning on renting a space in the parking lot of a multifamily house converted into an office building, but why spend the money?  I decided no more rent… period.

The work day came to a close and my first night was coming upon me.

To be continued…

Onwards and Onwards!

As you know, I sold my car over the weekend.  Two months ago, I started shopping for a RV.   It was just window shopping online, actually.  I knew I wanted to get one, but for some reason, I had it in my mind that it would be something only possible “In the future”.  Yes, having a dream and vision is all good, but I was paying attention to concrete reality.  Even used, these beauties can be expensive!

Despite my perceived financial obstacle, RV living was stuck in my head and I couldn’t help but indulge myself anyway.  I subscribed to full-time RVers’ blogs, (especially female ones) and joined several Facebook pages dedicated to the lifestyle.  I stalked RV Trader and Craig’s List like a leopard.  The more I researched, the more excited I became.  The more excited I became, the more I was compelled to act.  I committed myself to the decision to get my RV now.  Given my newly adopted No Waiting Credo, I had to make this happen.

I examined all my options.  I chose the quickest and most straight forward approach;  simply sell my car and “adjust” my sights to something older and affordable, yet good.  I could’ve looked into financing something newer, but that would defeat my purpose of being financially free.  I could’ve waited and give myself a year or two to hustle and save, but that would go against my newly held beliefs.  A lot can happen in a year and I’m not giving anything room to wiggle itself in my way.  Selling my car as soon as possible was the best way to go.  Thankfully, Rugby had retained much of his resale value… it was his final gift to me.

It’s a good thing that I didn’t postpone shopping around.  There are a lot more affordable options out there than I thought.  There’s a RV for every budget… So, I got to work…

I found this beautiful Falcon (above) on Craig’s List, listed in Upstate NY for $11,500.  It had everything that I wanted already installed: hardwood flooring, solar panels, and a generator. The owner even replaced the standard sofa with a futon with custom made organic cotton covering!  Another plus was that it was the same model that Glenn Morrissette had when he first started his journey.  I wanted it so badly and almost bought it immediately, but a good friend of mine (who knows all about mechanics and car stuff),  pointed out that it was way overpriced for a 1996 model… especially with 120k miles.

After looking up its value on the N.A.D.A. website, I saw that he was indeed correct.  It’s actually worth around $6,500 and that’s with it being on the high end of the spectrum.  The owner wasn’t willing to go down anywhere near that price.  She had put a lot into her Falcon, but failed to see that those extras also had depreciated over time along with her vehicle.  She was too emotionally invested in her RV and wasn’t going to let it go for what it was actually worth.  She was a pleasant lady to speak to and I really liked what she did with the RV.  I would’ve paid around $1,000 above its valued price, but we couldn’t come to an agreement.  Though disappointing, I looked at it as an exercise in the RV buying process.

Note that I never drove upstate to see the RV in person.  After viewing detailed pictures and asking the seller a lot of questions, I found a mechanic in the owner’s area (with a good online reputation) who would do a pre-sale inspection for $100 when I come up to see it.  Then I would negotiate a deal with the seller at that point based on what the mechanic found.  Since the owner let me know over the phone that she was more or less firm on her price, I cancelled my two hour trip.  Moving on.

With this RV, I wish I had exercised the same common sense that I had with the Falcon… but I didn’t.  I found this 1994 Chinook for only $7,500 and 50K miles on Craig’s List and got carried away!  To give you a little background, Chinooks are the Cadillac of RV’s and they’re built solid like tanks. I also liked that it had a completely enclosed bathroom and a great layout.   Also, they stopped making Chinooks years ago, so they are very much in demand and usually don’t stay on the market for long.

I was so sure that I was going to make a purchase, that I drove five hours to the southern most part of  New Jersey to see it… and it was a BIG disappointment!  What the pictures didn’t show was the faint black and grey splotches of mold all over the outside of the RV.  What the pictures didn’t show was the overwhelming smell of dampness on the inside of the cabin that made it smell like an old boat.  I’m no expert, but any type of water damage can’t be a good thing.  Moving on… to FIVE MORE  hours back on the highway!

They say the third time’s a charm.  In my case, it may be true!  The moment I returned from my exhausting New Jersey excursion, I searched for a cute RV that stayed in the back of my mind since my online window shopping phase.  I called the owner, found that it was still available and made an appointment with my mechanic to see it the very next day.  And yada, yada, yada… I put down a deposit on my new home that I’ll be picking up first thing tomorrow morning… BREATHE DEEP!