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About this blog

A chronicle of our adventure into the realm of RV ownership and traveling in retirement....

An introduction.

Having spent the majority of our (my) 37 year career overseas, ownership of a recreational vehicle was not feasible during that period of time given the distance between our somewhat in-frequent and short term returns home for visits with both family and friends. Yet, having always dreamed of doing so "one day", we penny pinched and saved putting away monies that would enable us do so one day.

That day came forward in the Spring of 2016 when we retired and moved back home to the USA and shortly thereinafter commenced our pursuit to  purchase of our first ever motorized recreational vehicle in the form of a Class A motorhome. This Blog is about our experience of becoming RV enthusiast and all that which comes with it.

So Now what?

That didn't happen overnight. In fact, ahead our our purchase we spent months educating ourselves through various forms of research and learning as potential buyers about motorhomes that included both print and web based reading. We also spoke with other RV owners & enthusiasts, visited numerous dealerships and pre-owned lots, as well as looking at many one off private sales to gain an appreciation for the various makes, models, floor plans, and options available or at best, to be considered when making such a decision. Which by any means we learned, can be a large expenditure that comes (like it or not) with additional expense along the way in the form of ongoing maintenance and upkeep. Something that needs equal and due consideration.

Having determined a Class A motorhome was within our financial reach and would suite our desire to become our own form of nomads, Our "studies" led us down the roads of purchasing a pre-owned coach as being an opportunity to achieve the "best bang for the buck". To that extent, we even engaged a private "Buyer's Advocate" whom himself stated he could help us find the "right" coach at the price point for a small commission fee. Having previously determined the form (type) of RV we wanted together with amount we wanted to spend, we felt engaging such a resource could would aid us in finding the perfect deal. His view being that as first timers, we should buy an older, large Class A something along the lines of a 2003-2008 model Country Coach or similar quality built brand of that era which could be found at very reasonable pricing and further, that could be remodeled to our liking including both interior upgrades or even repainting it if desired. He further went as far to suggest that we should by an older used coach as our first and then use it to learn more about the features we really liked (or didn't want) whereby we would be better educated to use such information in the future when purchasing a newer coach in the years to come.

At that time, We thought that his advice was a resonably good approach and commenced working with him only to become disappointed later in the the process as our "Advocate" began to show evidence of being affiliated with the sellers of the used coach deals he was steering us toward, (i.e. brokers, wholesalers and some certain dealers in the region of S. Florida) as his words implied he was more generously familiar with. Our "Advocate" was from S. Florida and had admitted he had prior experience both as a coach owner as well as having sold them for some of the "major" dealers in his area. Something just didn't "feel right" about his "network" and  besides, we were still not convinced that buying such an older model coach would suite our desire.

Ok, so what next?

We then "walked away" from our Advocate by discharging our agreement with him and stepped out into the pre-owned marketplace on our own.

From there. We began our own search using both print and web-based advertising such as RV Trader, RVT. com, and countless other market avenues including private ads, craigslist, on and on all the while becoming some what overwhelmed in the form of information overload. Too many to choose from, while feeling we were still in absence of enough information to make an informed purchase. Still yet "in the game", we found ourselves reaching out to the "RV Buyer's Guide" to include subscribing to their database which provides un-biased metrics in the form of ratings, performance history, pricing, market depreciation, and overall ranking of motorhomes by manufacturer, make, model, floor plan and year. We found the RV Buyer Guide and tools published by JD Gallant to be very informative and non-biased.

Now we have it! 

This additional information and learning helped us narrow down our selections to 3-particular manufacturers of which included American Coach, Newmar and Tiffin.

Ok, we got this, we wanted a 45' DP with all the "bells and whistles". Why not. We worked hard for many years, raised and educated our child whom is now an adult and successfully on his own. So off we set again, just the two of us still striking the keyboards and hitting the road in search of once again "the perfect coach for us at the perfect price point". This became a new venture in the form of our making the rounds looking, touching and feeling numerous pre-owned coaches which we now thought had us close to finding the "right one". We figured, we're retired so why not hit the roads and go find our deal.

3-4 months later and we're still on the hunt!

As this progressed, now 3-4 months later into our purchase endeavor, we found two pre-owned coaches that we felt were great bargains. They were both late models from one of the  manufacturers on our short list (Newmar). Both had all the features we wanted (and then some, owing to optional equipment we had not targeted as a "must have" but certainly agreed would be "nice to haves") and from our previous learnings. And, thus while being still naive about the process, we hired the RV Inspection Connection to conduct two separate per-purchase inspections on those coaches we were interested in at that time. Disappointingly (but more good learning for us in the end) both inspections revealed that those particular coaches were not in as good of shape as their advertisements lended them to be. Both were late model i.e. 2014 Class a diesel pushers at relatively acceptable "asking prices" but had certain issues we did not want to have to deal with. So again, we walked away even after spending upwards of to $1,600 on each inspection which we considered at the time was an acceptable investment when contemplating what was now appearing to be a potential spend of $300-400k and upward.

One thing for certain is that pre-purchase inspections (PPIs) are value adding and can reveal many issue that "newcomers" like us may not recognize going into such deals. Lots of moving parts, components and parameters to be considered together with knowing that most pre-owned coaches were were looking at including those were well beyond their OEM warranty periods albeit some were found to have transferrable aftermarket extended service plan (ESP) coverage (but that's another topic all together).

Now we get it!

So now its late 2016 approaching 4-5 months into our endeavor to find a coach, and the new 2017 models are rolling out of Indiana or elsewhere which led us to thinking there had to be some remaining new inventory on the lots right? There were, and once again using our information at hand we were off again but this time, it was to search for a new 2016 coach albeit a last year's model.  Why?, we moved away from the pre-owned market likely due to the uncertainties we came to experience. If we were going to do this, we wanted it to be a "no regrets" purchase and something we'd feel good about, the right decision (but now beyond the earlier learnings and advice we'd taken in the form of buying a pre-owned). Now, with that  even though we had generally moved onward toward the purchase of a new coach, we agreed we were still acceptable to buy a pre-owned should we come across one to our liking but at that point we were really more interested in trying to buy a new existing unit in the form of a prior year model. We came to a conclusion, right or wrong, that a new vehicle warranty was important to us. Remember, we were by all classifications at that time still very much "pre-newbies" having never owned a Class A motorhome before and still not owning one. With regard to purchasing a new motorhome,  others' may argue that there is depreciation to be considered. True, but in the same discussion, depreciation can be realized up front or at the end of ownership irrespective of the purchase prices paid be it for a new or used motorhome, again another separate topic. 

But where to find it?

Being from the South, (State of Louisiana), and as already exampled by our previous attempts, we had firmly decided that our search would span the entire US, not limiting ourselves to only buying locally or within a designated regional market area like most of us do when it comes to automobiles, homes, etc. after all, an RV is an RV and where it is purchased from does not imply that that is where its going to stay (locally). So we soon found ourselves once again "out there" and this time we're running the roads from as far West as Littleton CO to the East coast of North Carolina as well as down South into lower FL looking at existing 2016 inventory as well as all parts in between.  Then we found our coach or at least we thought we did. Yes, A brand new 2016 Newmar Essex that as we later learned had been on the dealers lot for 298 days at the time (and it's now Sept. 2016, 5 months into our search for the right coach and the right deal). We looked it over, test drove it and decided that's the one. Next was the "deal" so we set down with our salesman and began negotiating. Having looked at so many coaches together with the information we'd gathered through the entire process, we felt we knew what we'd should be looking for in terms of final pricing including discounts and margins on that new coach. 

But what about the new 2016's, It's late and the '17s are already coming out?

Before going forward with this story, let me add that during this phase of doing our latest "sweep" across the US for the right coach at the right deal, we had come across a brand spanking new 2017 Newmar Essex which, "oh my" was the perfect coach in the form of standard and optional equipment, floor plan, color schemes, etc, etc, etc. Yes, it was perfect for us and so we elected to tendered an offer on it right then and there which of course was  "reasonably" countered by the Dealer before we left. Yes, we left. we'd offered, they'd countered but we were still not convinced that was the best deal for us. More to come on that.

Again, We'd (my wife and I) agreed, we did not want to have buyer's remorse and realized we were steering ourselves away from our target of buying an existing 2016 model which was already "a move upward" in terms of cost. This whole process of buying a new motorhome, and particularly one's first can be overwhelming and I suspect can lead to regrets when allowing "buyer's fever" to strike simply due to growing tired of looking at so many. After all, they do tend to look the same after you look at so many. The ordeal can become frustrating so keeping one' self "on target" is important. Some might see that as our having already given up our target having moved away from buying pre-owned vs. new but we knew and accepted that.

We left that dealer armed with the information of what we could by the new 2017 unit for while knowingly still pursuing a lower price point when considering new 2016's would be a better bargain for what we felt would be the impact of year one depreciation and new 2017's rolling out of the factories. At that time, the new 2017 deal we were walking away from was 30% off the MSRP and seemed to be a good one if nothing more than an additional data point.

Onward we go, still searching, still looking.

Shortly thereafter,  we find ourselves at the table of negotiations with a dealer in North Carolina on a new 2016 Essex. This is it. Its a new '16 Essex and they have got to want to sell it at a good price owing to the new ''17's already being out right? Yes, This was going to be the one for us and quite frankly we had become tired of the entire process having put ourselves through the previous 5-months of searches. In fact, my wife had somewhat  "given up", saying lets just do this and get it over with, i.e. this one will be fine, while I was still not convinced we couldn't find a better deal. Anyway, we're there, the coach was there, we liked it, we were ready and it should be a good deal so we'll soon be new Coach owners. Not quite. We were wrong!.

As our negation with the Dealer commenced, we were soon flipped to the "GM, i.e. general manager" of the dealership who warmly expressed that "this is the best we can do"....ah, how quickly both confusion and uncertainty set in once again. Yes, its true he said, we're owned by a conglomerate who's corporate purchasing department is responsible for all our inventory and final sales pricing and although we can agree the new '17's are out, I'm afraid this is the best we can offer. Those were some of the words I recall him having told me. Their  their best deal,  was still close to $50k above what we felt was our reasonable offer on the particular coach while they actually had 3 other new 2016 Essex's on their lot. They have to be motivated right? As well, through the process of purchasing that coach, we'd learned that it had been on their lot for 298 days. We felt certain, they would be prepared to discount it and in fact, might even have Manufacturer's money behind the deal to help them move out some of their '16 inventory but sorry, that apparently was not the case..

So We ran!, actually we politely left telling them there was no way we'd pay what they were asking. I'm now figuring at this point he or someone else from their Dealership or Corporate offices will shortly be calling us very soon to make a new final offer. 

Let's have a Pizza.

So, we decide it's time to leave again, This deal is not going to work but yet again, we've become armed with even more info (i.e. what they are willing to sell a new 2016 when the '17's are available). Whereby shortly afterwards while having a late lunch at a pizza restaurant nearby in Asheville, NC,  I decide to call the dealer in Texas with the new 2017 Essex back.

Remember, we'd made an offer which was countered by them but we never called back afterwards. I called and spoke with the sales representative we'd worked with previously on the new 2017. I told him where we were and what we were preparing to do (purchase the 2016) to include disclosing what we had tendered as our final purchase price offering. He confirmed they still had the new 2017 Essex and asked if he could call me back. He did so 20 minutes later with and a revised counter offer to us on the same 2017 Newmar Essex which was a better offer and to our surprise  actually only $3,000 more than we had been willing to pay for the 2016 in NC. 

A Brand New Coach.

Done! We agree on the new price, gave a $2,000 hold deposit via CC, returned to our local hotel, spent the night and pulled out of N. Carolina the next morning...we're now heading back to Texas (which by the way, was the second dealer we visited and the location of the first pre-owned coach we'd had inspected back 3-months prior). National Indoor RV Center, Lewisville, TX. What we've become to know as a superior Dealership both before and after the sale.

Two days later, were there and the coach is there. My wife then asks me why did we put ourselves through all this when we both agreed a week or so ago the new 2017 was the perfect coach to our liking. I didn't have an answer but she knew as I, we'd given it all a good "go". So, we walk it down once again and shortly thereafter sit down with our sales associate to hopefully finalize the deal based upon the price we'd agree to over the phone. All smiles now.

The following morning, we became the proud new owners of a brand new  2017 Newmar Essex. 

It sure is pretty and it's our's!

As stated at the beginning of this blog, We'd been dreaming (and saving) for many years to do this and the day had finally come. We were no longer going to be pre-newbies, just newbies. We were excited and scared at the same time.

Having planned to pay cash for a pre-owned coach, we'd chosen to up our game by spending more that we'd planned to but we were both ok with that. But having earlier reached that decision when we moved away from purchasing a pre-owned unit toward the possible purchase of a new existing 2016 model,  we had further consulted with our personal Financial Advisor (FA) who advised us to finance our purchase and allow our savings investments to remain earning interest to which we mutually agreed (owing to the principles that we could borrow at a cheaper rate than we were realizing in the form of investment performance gains).

With that, we had also obtained prior loan approval from our lender so the process of making our final purchase went seamlessly well. Still not comfortable borrowing the entire amount we opted to make a cash downpayment of 40% of our purchase price and finance the remainder. This also made the financing much easier in the eyes of our lender and while not exactly what our FA recommended, she agree it was a good compromise that would afford us some equity up front and lessen the loan amount. Everyone's was happy now.

What do we do now?

So, day 2, maybe day 3, we're doing our Pre-delivery Inspection with our dealer and at the same time shopping for bright orange vest to announce to the world we're RV newbies (not really) asking ourselves what do we do now? We started by hiring the RV Driving School to send us an instructor who will teach us the in's and out's of safe driving what was clearly the largest vehicle we had (or will ever) own. Let me mention here, at the time, I'm 62 and my wife is 66 so while we were both experienced "drivers", operating a Class A 45' diesel pusher was a "whole new ball game". This all being part of the being "scared" I mentioned earlier, our apprehension or better the alarm toward owning and operating our new coach quickly set in but quickly subsided within a 2-day period of personal driving instruction and practice we obtained. In fact, if I were to jump ahead here, say 12 months later (now) I can tell you my wife started out during the first year of our RV'ing adventure by saying "do you need me to drive" to what has become her more common language of saying "I want to drive" and she does so very well. In fact, I'm no longer considered a back seat (or copilot) driver as "she has this" including her recent driving us all the way back from New Mexico to Louisiana.

You go Girl!

Now we're drinking from a Fire Hose.

The learning process involved with the first time purchase of Class A motorhome is like drinking from a "firehose" each and every day at the beginning. So much to learn, so many moving parts, the much needed preparation and attendance needed both when rolling down the roads or even when docked at a camping site but oh my, what a joy.

This endeavor of  being new RV enthusiasts, and having the freedom to roam in the conveniences of our own home on wheels has become an whole new chapter in life. We both look forward to each and every trip and everyday meet others who have already experienced both the same anxieties and joy.

Not being full-timers and  with no outlook for becoming such, we did manage to cover 7-1/2 months and 13,000 miles on the "Roads That Await Us"  last year and have another 7-8 months planned beginning on April of this year. It's been great and there is so much more to come we know. Wow, what fun it is as we now have 450 square feet of living area that came with 3 million square miles of backyard!

So many places to go, so many things to see and do which leads us to....

Finding the Roads That Await Us!

Our motto, We'll be back here soon to populate some more information on our newest venture in life, including our travels and experiences. 

In the meanwhile if you're already an enthusiast remember to "keep the wheels turning" and enjoy it all. If not, and your reading this blog don't let the thoughts and process of becoming one overwhelm you. Take your time, find what's right for you and go for it. To Us, each and every form of the Recreational Vehicle lifestyle is a great one and the adventures we can all share are the same be that in whatever form of RV one chooses. 

We are Lydia and Rick Williams, and we look forward to meeting all our fellow RV'ers on the roads that await us all.

Our new 2017 Newmar Essex 4519 Motorcoach. We bought our last one first!

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Entries in this blog

 

And Off We Go...

So now it's spring 2017 and we're set to go on our 1st real trip in our new coach.  Our first tour, we set sights on heading north from our domicile in Southwest Louisiana, beginning in May 2017 to some key waypoints we've always wanted to see & visit. These include travels northward up through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts before turning back southward through Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, the Virginias and Carolinas, through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi before returning home to Louisiana. What starts out as a 4-month trip spanning close to 8,000 miles. And we're off. Fully loaded and stocked up for our trip with both the Garia and our Jeep Grand Cherokee in tow we head out by traveling slightly west to Houston, TX where we overnight for a couple of days (May 27-28) to visit and dine out with some family members and friends who live there, then we're off to Lewisville, TX, (on May 29th, and home of our Newmar Dealer, NIRVC to get a few minor warranty items done for 2 days) before setting our sights (Nav System) through Arkansas onward to Tennessee. Shortly thereafter we arrive on June 4th in Nashville where via the KOA we've docked at, we get out about visiting various Music City venues, take in the Grand Ole Opry (which for us was somewhat a disappointment) and of course, try some of Nashville's fine dining establishments. Departing on the 9th, we then moved onto Anchor Down, a beautiful terraced RV resort located on Douglas Lake not far from the local attractions of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg as well as the Smokie Moutain National Park where we spent the next 7-nights taking in the sights, exploring the Park and simply relaxing. We also met some new neighboring RV friends from N. Carolina and spent a day out on the Lake with them in a rented pontoon boat (there are marinas close by Anchor Down that rent boats, jet skis, and the likes for enjoying beautiful Douglas Lake and its Dam). The Kentucky Horse Farms It's now day 20 of our tour and we're off from Dandridge to Lexington, KY and we arrive at the Kentucky Horse Park (RV park). A somewhat "simple" RV park which principally serves to cater to the needs of folks participating in events there, we found it to be mostly grassy sites and a bit challenging to back our big rig into but we made it successfully and spent the next 2 days visiting both the Horse Park itself as well as many of the surrounding farms. A nice and simple stop for us. The Indy 500 Next up on our schedule of stops was Indianapolis where we had set plans to visit the Indy 500 Race Park but due to what had become inclement weather conditions, we aborted (as we experienced severe heavy rain storms and high winds while traversing the roads to Indy and during the 2 days our our travel through Kentucky. We both agreeing that "getting out" in the weather that was forecasted for the present and oncoming days would not be the experience we wanted - agreeing the we'll be back in that part of the Country another day, another time and can return to Indy to see the park and possibly even take in a race or at least, some trials. Nappanee IN - Home of Newmar Corp. Having taken dealer delivery of our new Coach, we added Nappanee into our tour schedule in order to participate in their "factory tour" and arrived there on June 19th, now Day 24. We docked at Newmar's factory overfill lot as Camp Newmar was packed. The next day we signed up and took the tour which was interesting to say the least and somewhat amazing at how their production line works. As well, it might not have been foresight but we had developed a few issues that manifested themselves during the early phase of our trip and took being in Nappanee as an opportunity to have them addressed. (we actually had made a service appointment earlier on ahead of the start of our trip to include having our 1st house and chassis service performed). We ended up being in Nappanee for close to 3-days longer than we had planned but used the time (while Newmar was servicing our coach) to drive about and sight see the area known as the "Heritage Trail" which included visits to Elkhart, and the surrounding towns of Goshen, Shipshewana, Middlebury, Wakarusa and Bristol all the while driving through the Amish farming communities. This included a Jazz Concert event we attended on the streets of Elkhart which made for a wonderful Saturday afternoon outing. Rock & Roll Next up on our travel plans was a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Having previously made site reservations at a KOA nearby, our delay in Nappanee once again brought cause to abort the visit owning to other locations ahead where we could not alter other pre-existing reservations (no space available). This, Cleveland, became another one to be visited at a later date. Why Jackson, Ohio of all places? During the early onset of our tour we had (by chance, i.e. Facebook) learned that a dear old friend of both Lydia whom we'd not seen in close to 25 years had recently relocated to Jackson (for a new job) and so having our schedule kind of messed up at those moments, altered our trip by turning SE through Columbus to Jackson where we ended up spending 4 enjoyable days visiting with him and docked in a very small yet cozy state park. The visit was worth it as we had a great time just sitting outside the coach entertaining ourselves and our friend. Its' now day 37, July 1 and our plans have changed considerably. Niagara Falls has too fallen from our list and become another "future" venue for a later date but we're back on track with our earlier plans/reservations and heading to DC for the 4th of July. Cherry Hill Park  July 2nd, after "boon-docking overnight in a WalMart in Morgantown WV on the way, we arrive in College Park MD (close to DC) at Cherry Hill Park RV Resort. From here, we can easily get into DC to visit. We also get online and manage to scorer up some front row concert tickets for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Canned Tuna and the Wood Brother at Wolf Park and outdoor amphitheater in Vienna VA which turned out to be a great show. The next few days we primarily spent visiting DC and included being on the National Mall during the 4th of July fireworks event as well as taking in the monuments by means of a pedicab night tour which was very memorable. We highly recommend the night tours as seeing them under their special lighting is quite amazing in comparison to daytime visits. Lydia has to Go! After spending 10 nights at Cherry Hill and having already had a previously scheduled Dr.'s appointment in Houston to which she had to maintain, Lydia boarded a flight to Houston from Baltimore and left us (me and our miniature Schnauzer "Nike") to our own devices for a few days.  Next Stop; Williamsburg VA. With Lydia gone, Nike and I load up and drive out, onward to Williamsburg VA. Plans being to visit the Colonial Villages (towns) of Williamsburg and Jamestown. Arriving, Nike and I find ourselves destined to fit into a very small, simple RV part that we were likely too large to fit into but managed after the staff moved a few vehicles to assist with my backing into the spot they had for us. The next two days I spent time exploring the area (some places with Nike and others while leaving him in the coach) and found it to be a charming place but somewhat less than expected likely due to the absence of Lydia. She would have drug me through countless small shops and likely the huge outlet malls they have there. Overall, it was fun but not what i personally had expected. In any case, Nike and I made the best of it without here for a few days, then once again, pulled up 'stakes" and headed southward. Hilton Head Island  Next up on our tour list was HHI where Nike I and I arrived on July 15th we were reunited with Lydia who flew into nearby Savannah, GA. Docked at the Hilton Head Harbor Marina and RV report (vs. the HHI Motor-Coach Resort further into town), we used it as a platform for visiting both HH and Savannah over the course of the next 12 days. I will state here though beautiful, the daily traffic into and off the Island was horrendous and we spent a lot of time just sitting on the roads, waiting for traffic to move on way or the other. We're about to start heading home. Day 61, we depart HHI for Lawrenceville, GA which was just a stopover on our way to Foley, AL at NIRVC's newest location north of Atlanta to get the coach washed & detailed. We spent 2 nights there and departed on July 28th to Foley. Bella Terra RV Resort Foley, Al is approx. 6 miles north of Orange Beach, Al and the beachfront of the Gulf of Mexico. Pulling into Bella Terra, we quickly knew it was going to be a relaxing stay and once checked in and dock at our site, we were met with a spacious lot facing it's man made lake and fountain. Here we stayed for another 12 nights to include enjoying the company of another pair of great friends (one of which being my former work colleague) who reside in Mobile.  Too much food and fun, the margaritas were great as too the omelets at brunch.  The Big Easy Next up and the final stop ahead of our return home was to be the New Orleans French Quarter and Warehouse district but once again, leave it to "mother nature" to forego such plans. As it so happened, we soon learned (while still in Foley) that NOLA was once again experiencing flooding due to some dense and heavy rains that had been ongoing for a few days. So, needless to say, we cancelled our planned stay there and returned home, 8,400 miles later on day 76 of our first tour. All In. We had a meaningful and memorable experience on our first tour in our new motor coach and such that we were convinced of "finding the roads that await us" will continue to bring forth new adventures, fun and excitement. Next Up. Newmar's International Rally - Sedalia MO to be followed by the Albuquerque Intl. Balloon Fiesta.   Nashville KOA During a stopover in Mocksville, NC for factory installation of Magne Shades The Kentucky Horse Park - RV Park, Lexington. Local Art in Elkhart as well as the surrounding towns on the Heritage Trail Elkhart A fine little boutique style diner. Cherry Hill Park - College Park, Maryland On the National Mall, Washington, DC July 4th 2017 Hot Tuna, belting it out at Wolf Park in Vienna, VA Night Touring the Monuments via Non-Partisan Pedicab. Gettysburg Hilton Head Marina and RV Resort. Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, AL

Rewillia

Rewillia

 

The Garia 2+2

So in continuation,  here we are back again....1 month into new ownership of our 2017 Newmar Essex and we've yet to make a "real" trip yet. We've spent 2-weeks in our Dealer's on site camp ground going through the PDI and day to day orientation on using all the systems installed in our new home on wheels. ( that period included our having taken the RV Driving School's training mentioned previously as well as our shopping for a new vehicle we can tow behind the coach). Our existing two cars were not flat tow capable and we had no desire to use a dolly or trailer). Oh yeah, now we need a Tow Vehicle. So we began looking at popular flat-towable vehicles using various forms of information such as FMCA's towables guide and determined the Jeep was clearly most popular and one of the easiest to pull.  We'd also noted that many others pulling in and out of NIRVC during the course of our stay were equally pulling Jeeps so it became clear they are popular with motor home owners. So off to the dealers we went soon to find out that were by far "to proud" of their new inventories and not so willing to deal on pricing (Basically, we must have visited 5-6 separate Jeep dealers in the DFW metro area and all were asking full MSRP for their Jeeps so off to the pre-owned lots we went). At this point we're still flexible and open to consider both the Wrangler Jeep or the Cherokee (SUV). So we pull in a pre-owned dealer's lot and as Lydia sights, there sits a pretty, sharp looking Wrangler Rubicon that is all white sitting on oversized wheels and tires with a slight upward lift kit. Lydia likes it and is drawn to immediately upon stepping out of our car.  Of course, within seconds a salesman pulls up in his golf cart and is already engaging her even before I've been able to shut off our car and get out of it. I already know it's not the vehicle for us but I need to let Lydia make her own decisions, Anyway, 5-10 mins. later we're off on a test drive only to make it about a 1/2-block down the street where we quickly realize that it's not the vehicle for us. (she's driving). Heck, I couldn't even find the door window button while the jeep is beating the  smile out of both of us on what was a reasonably flat and good hard paved surface. She's looking at me and I'm looking at her, both of use laughing and saying NOT!. Just too hard a ride for us. We wanted something with more comfort and besides, we agreed at 62/66 we'd already passed our use by date to be driving something like that. We returned, got out of it and walked the pre-owned lot some more looking a few other vehicles we might want to consider but then left to head to the next lot. We couldn't stand the salesman tagging along with us trying to convince us we need to buy something from him right then and there. As I said we left and visited a number of other pre-owned dealers in the DFA area throughout the next few days which had turned to looking at brand new Grand Cherokees by that time. Wow, talk about sticker shock...In short, I'd told Lydia "I've never paid MSRP (full price) for a new vehicle in my life and I'm not going to start now". We can find a better deal in Houston than from these "stealers" in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was wrong, the new car pricing in Houston was the same, i.e. full sticker price, so soon afterwards we suspended our search telling ourselves there was no rush to get a new tow vehicle and that we'd eventually find something to our liking at an acceptable price. It came to be in the form of Autotrader.com. and 4 weeks later when we ended up once again back in Houston (actually Katy, TX) where we'd found a pre-owned 2016 Black Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 SUV with the prerequisite Quadra Trac/Quadra Steer II option (required to flat tow the SUV model Jeeps). It was a one owner with 4,300 miles on it that had been traded at a BMW dealer and we bought it for $44k which was then, approx. $16k less than a new '17 with the close to the same features. A Black car, We did not intend to buy a Black car but the price was worth sacrificing the color. It also has the Hemi while we'd wanted the V6 Diesel but again, it became a matter of value for money spent. We've since come to widely appreciate the JGC. This RV stuff. Wow, one can spend a helluva lotta money in a short period of time. The purchase of coach, or better our 40% cash downpayment by itself was by far the largest check we've ever written (it was actually a cashier's check but you get the picture). Since then, we've bought a car to tow behind it and as well need to get that sorted out in the form of towing gear. Now armed with a new Tow Vehicle we soon returned to NIRVC (our Coach dealer) in Lewisville, TX (as we had some, a few small warranty repair items already to be addressed) and had them install the towing gear. At their recommendation, We agreed and opted for the Roadmaster set-up (base plate/tow bar) including the Blackhawk II 10,000 tow bar, together with the SMI Air Force One braking system. All systems a go, we latched onto it and headed back home to SW Louisiana.  Enough? Well not quite (for me). Leave it to me to want something out of the ordinary and shame on both of us for dropping into a Golf Cart shop in Houston, TX (I'm thinking street legal golf cart at this point). I had been wanting one for use in our small neighborhood even before we purchased the motor coach but now..its something even more to consider. I may not have mentioned earlier, when returning to the US, we'd decided to downsize, get out of the big S&B houses in the form of a smaller 2-hr townhome which within it's Home Owners' Association (and the fee we pay) takes care of all the exterior including lawn care & maintenance - making it easy for us to come and go (in our new motor home) at our leisure without having to worry about the home. This was a good choice for us given that its just the three of us now (Us + our pet Miniature Schnauzer) Back to the cart, Oh I tell her (Lydia), having something like this to use at home as well as carry along with us when traveling in the coach would be so much fun. What is it we ask the sales persona, whereby he informs us It's a Garia 2+2  and it looks and smells just like a golf cart but isn't. Its a fully street legal US DOT compliant 4-passenger low speed vehicle (LSV) manufactured and imported from Denmark. We're sold, got to have it and it just so happens we learn that Garia's Americas & Mexico distribution center is also located in Houston, whereby a few days later we're back, visiting the distribution center with our sales person from the Golf Cart shop and choosing the color combinations (for both the LSVs exterior and interior) of our liking which of course were those which would match up as closely possible with the paint scheme of our new coach. Done. 4-weeks later the Garia is delivered to us at our home in SW Louisiana and a week later it's been legally titled, state inspected and registered (as a legal motor vehicle) in the State of LA to include being issued it's own license plates. We're legal! albeit per US DOT laws (and all states as well), our use of the Garia on public roads is restricted to roads where the published speed limits are 35-mph or less unless we're crossing an adjoining roadway to connect to another 35-mph road whereby we can traverse such roads with speed limits up to 50-mph including driving down them up to 1/2 mile if similarly connecting to another 35-mph road/street. All that's ok with us as our intention to use it will be when we're camping ("glamping" might be a better term here) at RV parks or resorts in populated areas where we can use it to drive around locally. This I can mention now has worked out very well and it's truly a lot of fun not to mention quite a conversation piece as well given its somewhat uncommon appearance. We have learned that some Valet's don't take to parking it for us but it's always fun to ask them to. Also (and as of the writing of this blog,) in 12-months of use we've yet to be stopped by a single police officer anywhere we've used it (likely owing to the fact it's clearly displays a state issued license plate on the rear).  I might add here, We also opted for the single high capacity SMI Samsung Lithium battery in the Garia (which replaces the 6 6-vlt conventional golf cart batteries). The Lithium battery gives the Garia something in the range of a 40-mile distance charge, is totally maintenance free, will hold a full charge for up to 6-months while being guaranteed for 10-years for the date of purchase.  I have to say, while the idea of it may not be to the liking of many, the Garia is a "load of fun" and actually has both "eco" and "sport" modes whereby the maximum speed obtainable (as built) is 25 MPH (but a slight re-programming of the onboard CPS enables it to achieve 40-mph, but please don't tell anyone). Oh and yes, Garia does make a "golf cart" version but those are not street legal. Pricey, yes. The Garia 2+2 is not a golf cart and is quite more expensive but to each his own as they say. We liked it, wanted it and now own one. How do we add this up - a Jeep SUV and the Garia + the Motor-Coach? Next up was to determine how best to transport the Garia on/with our coach. We looked at number of options including trailers, but finally made our decision of go with a special built Hydralift mounted on the rear of our coach (also available for ATVs, Trikes, and golf carts). NIRVC, again our Coach dealer helped us work with Hydralift and special order the lift which was specifically designed to handle transporting the Garia by means of its 50" x 96" platform which we purchased and had installed by their expert technicians. The lift is quite impressive, built using strengthen alloy steel components and nicely powder coated. Installation took the better part of 1-week and included special welding of its substructure to the tow/hitch receiver of our Spartan K3 chassis rated for 20,000 lbs towing capacity put us well within our capacity being only ~ 6,700 lbs. (Lift @ 650 lbs + Garia@946 lbs + Jeep SUV@ 4,933 lbs + Tow Gear @200). Prior to the installation (as well as before purchasing it), we checked with both Newmar Corporation and Spartan Chassis to reconfirm our coach's capacity to handle both the Lift and its cargo (being the LSV) to which both agreed would easily be accommodated (and not influence our OEM warranties on either the coach or the chassis). What else? While having the Hydralift installed by NIRVC, I also opted to use the opportunity to to have an engine compartment fire suppression system installed. Purchased online from Fire Fighting Products Inc., it is a 40-lbs nitrogen and chemical fire suppression filled bottle with 2 separate nozzles which were mounted above and on both sides of our ISX15 Cummins power plant. Fully automated, the system will deploy in the event temps inside the compartment reach a pre-determined level (i.e. fire).  The system was relatively cheap, approx. $400.00. and can be seen in the photo of the rear engine compartment below (red bottle). Next Up - our inaugural 1st trip/tour. With plates on the shelves, and the pantry and fridge and freezer loaded up, the Garia on the lift and the Jeep latched to the rear, we're soon off on our first real RV adventure. It's going to a 5-month trip that will take us over 10,000 miles from SW Louisiana up to Niagara Falls, NY/Ontario then back down along the East coast to Florida before returning to our home base in LA. The subject of our next blog entry. Our Grand Cherokee with Roadmaster set-up. The Garia 2+2 visiting neighbors a few streets over. NIRVC Hydralift Installation along with the Fire Fighting Products Inc, Fire Suppression System. Set-up to Go. Garia's colors worked well and match up to the coach. Note; The rear passenger hand rail which host the State License plate is removable and stored in a basement compartment when loaded and being transported behind the coach (due to DOT width restrictions). On our way back home with the Hydralift installed. All in, 70' 3" OAL. Just another view of the Hydralift & Garia for those whom may be interested. The photo makes it appear that the Garia/Platform are wider than the coach but they are not. is the DOT maximum limit

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