T-18 months

In our lives before each other, Tom and I both had travel trailers. Pull behind, nothing fancy. Used mainly for occasional weekends at the coast. After loosing both of them in the divorces, Tom went shopping for another one and decided on a toy-hauler. That means the back lets down into a ramp that you can drive motorcycles or quads or a dune buggy into. He already had the pickup truck. So he decided on a short – 24 foot- toy hauler. When the toys were out the back let down into two beds and while there wasn’t much room, we could actually sleep eight.

new years at wagon wheel

We didn’t have quads at that time, but he bought it so we could stay in the trailer on trips to the coast, or use it to haul Tom’s Harley. Our first trip with it was a family vacation to the Grand Canyon, and shortly after that, we trailered the motorcycle to Sturgis. Both wonderful, wonderful trips.

Then we hooked up with friends from my past and started going to the desert. That got Tom hooked and we purchased quads. As those trips progressed we sold the quads and got a razor. The toy hauler was working great for our weekend getaways. We could haul it anywhere and it had great water storage and a gas tank, so we were quite sufficient, and used it mostly without hookups in the California City desert.

However, Joy was getting tired of climbing up the ladder to get in and out of bed. And we only slept in sleeping bags because making up the bed was a pain. And there was ZERO counter space in the kitchen area. So we were thinking that “down the road” we’d get something larger. When we went to Quartzsite for a rock-buying trip for the store, we had fun checking out all the RV’s at the big RV show there. We were thinking we’d go to a 5th wheel toy hauler, but it wasn’t something we were going to invest in while we were still working 6 days a week at the store.

THEN our plans evolved into full-time RVing and the discussions about what type of rig (house on whees) would fit us the best. After we started our timeline countdown, the search became serious and we were shopping online at RVTrader.com and going to RV shows or dealerships whenever we could.

We discussed all options. Each setup offered it’s own advantages and disadvantages. The class B’s would have been great if we were going out for months at a time but then returning to a home base. But to have it contain us and all our worldly possessions – including a rolling office – seemed much too cramped. We were warming up to the super C’s because of their size, maneuverability and their towing capacity – giving us other options for what we decided to tow. But after shopping for them, we couldn’t find a floor plan that worked for us. I didn’t like the idea of climbing up into a bed (on the cabovers) and those with beds in the back made me think we’d stay sleeping in sleeping bags. When we checked out the class A’s I figured they were out of our price range, but the floor plans seemed so much more open after looking at class C’s. All that glass windshield area was very visually appealing. I had taken long road trips in a class A as a teen and knew how convenient going down the road in a self contained rig could be (no need to get out in the weather when taking bathroom breaks).

So long story short, we settled on a class A.

Day we bought motorhome

How we chose our coach:

It’s important for Tom and I to be debt-free and to live within our means. So we had a definite budget in mind when we started shopping.

So new and nice were not an option – at least not together. But because we know the value  and lasting power of quality, we chose to place our emphasis on nice vs. new.  It’s kind of like buying the smallest house in the nicest neighborhood – except  rolling houses don’t go up in value like regular real estate. They depreciate like very large and expensive cars.  But still, not knowing how long this adventure will last, we had to think about resale value. So we knew we had to find a good deal no matter what the make or model.

We went with a 2004 Newmar Kountry Star for the following reasons:

  • The reputation of the Newmar company producing a quality product
  • The floor plan – including a regular size queen bed that goes the same direction as the coach (feet facing the dash – not the side). I’m not sure why that one is so important to us – maybe a Feng Shui thing – but we’ve very happy with our bedroom having a wardrobe slide and no windows next to the mattress. We’re also very happy with our ‘corner’ sink and large Corian countertops in both the kitchen and bath.
  • While we had considered gas models or front engine diesels, we decided we wanted a diesel pusher.
  • Since we plan on doing a lot of dry camping, fresh water capacity was very important. Our model has 100 gallons.
  • Because (after going full time) we plan on spending our first 6 months to a year in vacation mode and spending time in national parks, we didn’t want to go over the limit of 30 feet (at least not by much)

Putting those last three requirements together into the equation (shorter diesel pusher with large storage tanks),  knocked out about 90 percent of our choices – whether we could afford them or not.

Since 2013 it seems the manufactures have considered needs like ours, and it seems there are more options in the newer years – but remember  – we couldn’t pick new AND nice!

In our search, we discovered what many buyers have found: you can’t get everything on your list (unless you have it custom built of course!) So we had to pare down our list of perfect features.

  • We did get a full queen walk-around bed. We did not get as much walk around room as I’d like.
  • We did get a ceiling fan in the bedroom. We did not get a gas fireplace.
  • We did get good basement storage – we did not get side opening doors.
  • We did get nice countertops. We did not get as much storage as I think other manufacturers might offer.
  • We did get a class A with a large windshield view. We did not get a one piece windshield.
  • We did get a coach with full body paint. We did not get good fiberglass that will hold the beautiful paint job.
  • We did get the cockpit console that Tom likes, but the equipment – like the backup camera screen and stereo are not state of the art to say the least.
  • We did get the dark cabinets we prefer. We did not get full drawer extensions.

So you can see it’s all give and take. There are some features that aren’t as bad as I thought – like the TV above the dash, and some that I’ve grown to prefer:

I didn’t like the idea of the entry door being in front of the passenger seat, and there are still some aspects of that arrangement that I don’t like – like the lack of visibility to my right hand side. But I’m loving the tradeoff – which is that I’m far enough from the dash to use the built in leg rest  making it very comfortable for me to put my feet up and use my laptop on my lap – rather than on the fold out desks that I thought I wanted.

So I think it’s important to find out what you HAVE to have (for me, slide-outs) and then make another list of things you’d LIKE to have – knowing that you’ll have to make some compromises. And when looking keep an open mind. There may something you think you can’t live without that ends up not being necessary, or there may be a feature you didn’t think you wanted that’s become your favorite thing!

It’s a process, and we were searching nationwide. Fortunately, we found our rig just 30 minutes away and only got it when another couple interested in it couldn’t qualify for funding. Fate at work again!

Happy Travels!

Peace & Love, Joy