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Climbing Aboard, In Praise of the FMCA Forums

Two years ago, I responded to my wife's comments that having an RV might be a nice alternative to searching for pet-friendly hotels as we attended dog obedience rallies.

I mean, nothing against La Quinta -- they have a universal pet-friendly stance -- but hotels located in the vicinity of such events are afflicted with noise, puddles, and lawns strewn with doggie bombs.

To make a long story mercifully short, our initial rig candidates fell short of her requirements: the shower was too small, the decor too ancient, the smell too musky. Eventually, we'd tripled our initial budget of $20,000; when friends were panicked because a second buyer for their bus failed to qualify for a loan after our friends' purchase of a Newell, we wrote them a check and became the proud owners of a 2005 Fleetwood Excursion.

My wife was largely indifferent, convinced initially that we'd overspent and could never extract even a fraction of the rig's value, in terms of convenience and usage.

Then, something curious happened: she fell in love with RVing.

Suddenly, the RV wasn't just a tool for attending shows. She planned camping trips, visits to family and friends. Along with fellow dog show aficionados, we started doing weekend escapes to local parks and attractions. Together, we discovered the art of outdoor cooking, thanks to a well-timed state park seminar on the subject and became involved in that.

As the wife learned more about RVs, she also learned ours didn't have everything she wanted. Eventually, she formed a list of requirements, like basement trays with attendant pass-through storage, an enclosed bath, electric basement door locks, quieter air conditioning. Oh. AquaHot came onto her radar, and she added it to the list.

Well, readers, we all know the league into which she was migrating and its cost, eh? I'd created a monster, and it... er, she was combing dealership and sites for candidates. We did afternoon field trips to dealers, test-drove rigs, pored over NADA values, built spreadsheets. Attending the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, we made a rainy afternoon trip to the local dealer and almost put money down on a showroom stalwart, an unsold two-year-old Winnebago Tour. Then came the rumors of my airline employer filing for bankruptcy, and the whole upgrade notion was put on Hold.

Fast forward to Autumn, 2012 and the bankrupt airline was coming back to life, having "renegotiated" its vendor and employee contracts. The wife's research swung back into motion, culminating in a call to me after I emerged from a training simulator period and drove back to the tidy RV park where my alternative to flight academy lodging was parked. "I put money down on a new bus," she ominously announced.

Two days later, we were hitching a ride to Tucson, crammed into a row in the back of Coach. I was doubtful: after all, she'd gotten a trade-in credit for our pristine but high mileage Fleetwood equal to NADA Retail, and the new Beaver Patriot Thunder was less than wholesale. A host of scenarios bounced around in my head.

To my surprise, the Beaver was a good candidate. Most of its flaws were cosmetic, and I happily declared it suitable to buy, after careful inspectiion and a brief test drive. Two days later, we were driving our Fleetwood across the American Southwest, to make the exchange.

Like any new purchase, there have been bumps in the road; but, for the most part, I'm happy with the outcome now that the new bus is wedged inside our hangar (we live in an air park community, have small planes). In two weeks, I've adjusted the full-length slideout, soundproofed the cockpit, repaired the exhaust pipe that was damaged by the previous owner and somehow escaped notice when the dealer's mechanics inspected the underside.


So, what does all of this have to do with praising the FMCA?

Well, during the course of learning about RVing during our Fleetwood days, I spent a lot of time on a larger forum similar to that of FMCA. So much time, in fact, that by March of last year, I was designated as a Senior Member, and I'd amassed 647 posts to my credit. Sadly, as the 2012 campaign season swung into gear, so did the occurence of political rhetoric on what, like our own forum here at the FMCA, was by design a politics-free zone. Both forums, this one and the FMCA, are deemed politics-free zones.

At that forum, however, a secondary problem became evident: moderators seemed to be enforcing community rules according to political leaning. Specifically, gripes against one party were ignored; but, members who responded in protest were held in violation of the rules. When I pointed this out, I was deemed in violation for "questioning moderators' decisions," itself a violation. I terminated my membership, erased the forum from my Bookmarks.

Not wishing to function as an owner without the expertise of fellow RV'ers, I came to the FMCA.

Cautiously, I might add: I put every controversial term I could think of into our Search window, scoured the site for signs that similar activity was taking place, here. Nothing. FMCA simply didn't suffer from the same problem. Or, if it did, the staff had erased it seamlessly and invisibly, out of sight. Either was good enough for me.

Two weeks ago, I received an unsolicited email from the staff at the other site, inviting me to renew my account.

My response to them was nothing less than scathing.

There was silence, but a week later, I received a sticker and renewal card in the mail. Someone had, without saying a word, given me a complimentary year of membership and re-opened my account.

Rather than criticize, I accepted the gesture and resumed my blog there, assuring readers that each would receive my utmost respect; in short, that the bullying of the past would not be tolerated so long as I was there.

After all, it is incumbent upon each person of any forum to uphold the rules, treat all members with civility, right?

Let me just block-copy and paste what happened next. For privacy, I've obscured the administrator's indentifying data.

Back in the Saddle, but Cautiously

Posted 02-06-2013 at 08:54 PM by XXXXX(me)

Updated Yesterday at 06:12 PM by
(overstepping boundaries)

A few of you might've noticed that I suddenly left XXXX a year ago, and have become active in the FMCA.

After kindly receiving a sticker unsolicited in the mail, I've discovered that my old account has been reactivated.

I've devoted 15 minutes to scouring the forums for the problems that prompted me to leave in the first place, and have found all to be in order.

In fact, new features at the site will probably keep Community Rules violations to a minimum; if nothing else, members are now free to block offending forums and users.

Warmest thanks to all the members who found me at FMCA and online, I appreciate your friendship and encouragement.

Don't ask me how, but we manage at FMCA to have a nearly zero rate of visible violations of forum community standards. Possibly, the smaller size makes effective moderation easier; too, there seems to be perfect standardization, eg equal application of guidelines across the membership spectrum.

There, like here, we have a handful of experts who could probably build a motorhome by hand. I'm truly humbled by the level of knowledge, talent, out there.

That said, I'll ease back in the XXXX pool one toe at a time.
[moderator edit]

That said, let me tell you about our latest adventure: I was just finishing a routine airline school -- the first year I've actually
, near the flight academy -- and the wife called to say she'd traded our RV for another!

Considering the fact that the dealer, whose facility is 1,000 miles away, offered us Retail and accepted Wholesale for theirs made me suspicious. One of you had mentioned such a scenario; the wife was transferring basement items into the new bus when hubby came storming out of the sales office, having been told the dealership needed to "reconsider" their trade-in value.

My lawyer wife was on top of it: she drafted a contract for the dealer to sign, saying that if they found our rig to be unsatisfactory, they would pay for our diesel both ways. Then, we jumped on a flight, inspected the rig. It turned out to be in good condition, mostly minor complaints. She'd found a 2007 Patriot Thunder, and I saw much potential in the coach.

The next day, we packed up and drove our Fleetwood to the dealer.

I was thrilled that they loved our coach. With 100,000 miles on it, many dealers were reluctant to give even close to Wholesale for it, sight unseen. The high point of the experience was when the salesman called three days later, having driven the Fleetwood. "I've sold these all my life," he said. "And, I have never seen anything like this! It is like a new bus." He then asked if I'd be the maintenance manager for the entire dealership. That was nice.

So, I'm wrapping up thirty or so hours of working on our new bus: the exhaust system got overhauled, I soundproofed the cockpit. The kitchen slideout drain hose had a drip, so that pipe got replaced and is ready to rebundle. I'd noticed that the full-length slide is slightly unsychronized, so with the help of the manufacturer, I've got it humming like a Swiss watch. The whole engine bay is open -- to do that the bedroom closet frame must be disassembled -- and I'll overhaul the insulation back there and apply undercoating.

Funny, but the tag axle doesn't seem to make much difference. The Fleetwood ran so smoothly, quietly, and was immune to winds. Of course, the Patriot Thunder is bigger, and she weighs almost twice as much. But, at first blush the two buses cruise about the same. Backing into the garage is a whole different experience in the Beaver, whose awning casings on both sides broaden the rig nearly a foot.

KayCee says the Beaver sways less, I contend that it "bobs" more.

Noise is a big difference. Both have the same cockpit noise level; but, moving aft in the Beaver results in a swift reduction in noise. The bedrooms are dramatically quieter: the Beaver's lack of big windows and integral steel roll cage tempts me to nap back there, en route.

I'm sure we'll enjoy many great adventures in this big coach: it is certainly a step up.

Like the Beaver, XXXX has tremendous potential but is a little harder to keep on track. I hope both remain part of my RV'ing future.


Andy, aka XXXXXX

Now, here is the email I received revealing the "banned" content and explaining why it was deemed inappropriate.


Community Administrator

The following section has been removed from your blog:


All the while, making sure that everyone here is treated politely and with respect; as long as I'm here, no one will have community standards enforced differently than anyone else, from the newest member to the most senior moderator.

We welcome you back; however, you are not in a position nor have the authority to be making such a statement.

It is the responsibility of our Moderators & Administrators to interpret & enforce our Community Rules, not yours. If you have an issue with a member's post or suspect violation of our Community Rules, please use the report post button.

Thank you,


I'll let you derive your own lessons from this. Except for one: no matter your position in
online community,
each participant shoulders the burden for upholding community standards and for extending kindness and respect to every other member of that community.
I am guessing that one thing instrumental to the success of the FMCA forums is that we
make the commitment I stated.


Recommended Comments

What coach is your wife going to "bring home" next? I look forward to your further adventures.

We do strive to maintain the FMCA Motorhome Forums as an informative and friendly place, and we have great members who make it so.

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Great question. Who knows? She actually is planning to sell this one, get another.

After driving 2,000 miles to take delivery and spending 50+ manhours working on the RV, I'm sure having trouble wrapping my head around the idea.

But, I'll keep heaping on TLC, whether it's for the two of us, or for a stranger.

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Good post.

I hope more people post.

We joined a local chapter and I recommend everyone tries a local chapter. The Arizona chapter has great people we have had a wonderful time at the last two rallies.

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