This year, Dianne and I decided that we could improve our camping and kayaking trips by purchasing an RV. We spent the last several months researching different types of RV's and asking questions. I asked all of the RVers I knew and Dianne did the same. We hoped to pick the right type of recreational vehicle for our family. As our adventures, mishaps and road education continue watch this blog for updates.
What We Were Looking For
We both agreed that we wanted a vehicle that was separate from the living quarters. Trucks come and go, but a trailer seemed likely to last much longer than the couple of years we usually keep an automobile. I wanted to aquire less than $30,000 in new debt. We each also had some key features we valued in recreational vehicles. For me it was Air Conditioning and for Dianne it was a bathroom.
Best RV Choices for Our Needs
1. Pop Up Travel Trailer - This was my first instinct as they are cheap and very easy to tow. Jayco is a market leader in pop-up travel trailers or tent trailers as they are sometimes called. I've seen used ones in good condition sell for just a few thousand dollars. Sadly, finding one with a decent bathroom requires moving to the top-of-the-line models in the $15,000 range. Costly, but just barely affordable if I could get a tow vehicle for around the same price.
2. Van - Dianne's Mom had bad experiences driving a van 'back in the day', so vans were ruled out pretty early on.
3. Truckbed Camper - We looked at one of these about a week before buying our travel trailer. The pop-up hybrid camper models are impressive, but we really wanted to save the back of the truck for our kayaks.
4. Bumper-Pull Travel Trailer - Most travel trailer these days are of the Fifth Wheel variety pulled by a gooseneck fitted truck. However, there are still many travel trailers you can pull with a trucks trailer hitch. This leaves the bed open for carrying other cargo.
5. Toy Hauler A.K.A. Sport Utility Trailer - This is what we finally decided to buy, a new type of bumper pulled travel trailer. Toy Haulers are like other travel trailers but they are made to haul motorcycles or other toys in a sort of attached garage. The entire back of the RV is a giant door that lowers to become a ramp. This allows you to keep your toys both locked up and dry.
The one we took home is a 24-foot long Winner's Circle SRV made in 2005. For the same price as a pop-up we had been looking at, we picked up a used toy hauler. It has a full bathroom, central heat & air, 3 beds, oven, stove, microwave and stereo...basically all of the comforts of home. The tax folks even say that I can deduct the loan interest from my annual taxes...sweet!
Once we picked it out, we had to get a suitable tow vehicle to pull it. We traded in Dianne's Mitsubishi Eclipse and got ourselves a 2002 Silverado 4x4 truck.
Our Trip Home Towing Massive Tonnage
Of course, neither my wife nor I have ever driven anything as large the Silverado pickup, much less the truck pulling a 24' travel trailer. We read several articles on trailering and worried for about a week. On the day we went to pick it up, I brought my camera in case we have crashed into anything on the way home. We figured that, as long as we took it slow, our only risk was scraping up against stuff...nothing life threatening.
In fact, we made the trip from Tulsa to Okmulgee without incident. The good folks at Dean's RV in Tulsa had fitted our new Chevy Truck with lots of new load distributing and braking control gizmos that made the drive much safer. Since it was Thursday when we brought it home, we planned a 'dry run' to nearby Dripping Springs Lake to test out the RV and show it to our parents.
Our First 'Dry Run' in the RV
Before the sun even set on Thursday, our son Dylan let it be known that an RV with no TV was a travesty in his not-so-humble opinion. Our first upgrade to the toy hauler was adding an $85 TV/DVD combo from Wal-Mart. Since it was too short notice to arrange a dog sitter, we brought Shally, our Black Russian Terrier, with us. The extra cargo area in a toy hauler leaves plenty of room for the dog to stretch out inside.
We had hoped that having an RV would make setting out for a weekend outing go much quicker. However, perhaps because it was our first trip, we were lately leaving the house as usual. Once we arrived, just about at dusk, we were able to get the RV backed into an excellent space and setup pretty quicky. Dripping Springs Lake has excellent new RV sites with electric and water hookups. Our site was easy to back into, wide, level and clean plus it was right by the water.
A Lovely Evening at the Lake
That evening we walked the dog under brilliantly clear and starry skies with lightening flashing on the distant horizon. It was breathtakingly beautiful and made me wish I had not forgotten and left my camera at home. That evening I slept like a baby in our cool and comfy travel trailer.
Sweet Morning Paddling Near Okmulgee
Saturday, I woke up early and had a great paddle on the lake. The beaver and cranes were out in abundance. A light breeze blew across the lake and the morning sun came up all golden and sparkling on the water. As the warm sun chased the morning mist off the water I paddled to a secluded cove and watched the birds fishing in the shallows. I enjoyed the privacy immensely...and not just because I had accidentally set off truck's security alarm shortly before paddling out. Oh well...everyone likes to get up early when camping anyways, right?
Hunger for food and home roasted coffee drove me back to camp after few hours. We love our Cafe' Driveway Blend Coffee and apparently it is good for us.
Also, I wanted to tidy up a bit before our parents started arriving for tours of the new camping accommodations. Cleaning up the RV was pretty fast and easy since we had been doing most of the cooking in the microwave.
The coffee was excellent, but not excellent enough to keep Dianne and me both from falling asleep until my Mom knocked on the door.
Open House Saturday Ends with a Crash!
Mom and Dad sat came in and sat down at the dinette that converts into a bed and I grabbed a seat on the couch that converts into a bed. We had just started talking about what a great RV it was when the couch collapsed on the side I was sitting on. I landed in a heap on the floor as two aluminum pop-rivets 'popped' right out onto the floor.
I looked all through the trailer and I could not find another part that was pop riveted in place. It would appear that someone had done a hasty repair job on the bunk before I purchased it. I'm hoping I can repair it myself.
Dianne's Mom also came to see the new trailer, but the crash and burn of the couch had taken much of the impressiveness out of our Grand Tour.
We decided that after an embarrassing mishap like that, we probably had the worst of the trip behind us. Then, the thunder started.
Our Dry Run turned out to be a bit wet a real windy. A few folks had tornados in their yards, so we couldn't complain about a shaky night in the RV... but our dog was less forgiving. She hasn't been in the RV since!