This is our Recreational Vehicle
How does one go about buying a recreational vehicle?
One simple word, research, research, research!
You will hear from Bill and Nancy as they explain the in's and out's of this major purchase, so read below, and we hope that we have given you helpful information.
We began camping with our station wagon over 35 years ago. Bill took out the rear seat and made a wooden platform that went in it's place. This gave good storage under the platform for camping gear. We had a mattress made to fit behind the front seat, going the length of the station wagon's bed area, and Nancy made curtains to go on all the windows. Bill then made a large plywood box that fastened on the station wagon's roof rack and away we went.
We camped this way for many years either towing our ski boat behind or going solo with just the wagon. We even used the wagon to go snow skiing at Mammoth Mountain in California and of coarse adding a lot of blankets to keep warm. We saved money this way which went to buy better ski equipment. We traveled this way for several years and then decided to buy a small mini motor home.
Bill had talked to a person in our neighborhood who had just bought a Lazy Daze, he said, "that it was the easiest to drive and it rode like a passenger car." Bill found out that it was built in Pomona, California and that they build to order. They do not sell to dealers, you have to go to the factory and put down a deposit and then your RV is built for you.
We went to several RV shows and looked at various models of motor homes, some in the Class A and others much smaller, but the one that kept coming back in our minds was the 16 foot mini.
We went to Pomona and test drove the 16 foot mini and that was all we needed to do; the unit was perfect for us. We put in our order and in two months we were proud owners of a new mini motor home.
One thing that we found upon observing the construction of the mini was that the water pipes to the shower went under the outside of the floor next to the frame. We knew that in the cold of winter these would freeze and that the shower would be useless to us. You have to remember that this was back in the late 60's and not a lot of RV's were out on the market yet. We suggested to the company that they route the water pipes inside above the floor and build a raised floor under the dinette area for the pipes to go across to the other side where the shower was located. The company said that they could do this, and it turned out to be the best solution, and we never had a pipe freeze on all our ski trips. The company took our suggestion and on all new models that we saw, they did route the water pipes under a raised floor!
There were many things that we needed to do to our 16 foot mini to get it ready for snow skiing. You must remember that very few RV's could handle the cold of winter and very few company's gave you options for more insulation or storm windows.
We first measured up all the windows and had made out of Plexiglas storm windows to fit. On the large cab over window and the small side windows on the cab over bed we used 1" thick Styrofoam panels cut to fit the window's size, as well as making out of Styrofoam a panel to fit in the roof vents. When we got to a ski area, we then had Styrofoam panels to close off the front cab area of the truck, who wants to waste propane to heat up this area! If we needed to get to the front to start up the motor, we took out just the center panel and climbed in the front seat. This worked out great and we were warm and comfortable. We also wrapped every water pipe with fiberglass and even put foam strips under the water pipes where they touch the floor to raise them up to get warm air under them to protect them from freezing.
We put more fiberglass insulation around the refrigerator compartment, and the hot water tank area and any other spot that we thought could have an air leak. We added a TV antenna and other goodies to make our RV just right for the things that we liked to do.
We traveled, and snow skied the western states and on one trip to Aspen, Colorado we had temperatures go down to a minus 15 degrees below zero and never had a pipe freeze! We said, "All of our hard work paid off!"
We were having fun traveling the western states and a month in Mexico traveling from Nogales, Mexico to south of Puerto Vallarta to Zihuatanejo (when it was not even a town) to a small village called San Blas and back. We will tell you more about this trip later along with many pictures!
We both said that after 3 years of traveling in our small mini that it was a good decision, and that we were happy with our unit. We added more and more items to make our travels better, but things changed drastically!
As we were driving back from a Labor Day trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains, where we hunted for sage grouse and fished for rainbow trout, we were driving down a four lane road; the rain was coming down heavy and we heard a snap in the front end of the steering column. Bill saw that the mini was starting to glide to the left, he tried to correct the steering but could not get control of the unit, as we glided into the median and then into on coming traffic we thought the worst. As this was happening, he was still trying to get control and somehow managed to get the unit back into the median where it rolled over on its side and slid to a stop. As it was sliding on the driver's side, I was hanging by my seat belt holding onto Lady Paws I in my arms, and our son Billy was sleeping in the cab over bed probably wondering what's going on!
Our first thought was to yell out to Billy to see whether he was all right, he was, and the next thing was to try to get out of the mini and shut off the propane tank. Most recreational vehicle manufactures recommends that you do not travel with the propane on for the refrigerator and switch to 12 volts but with only one battery the 12 volt option would draw too much out of the battery so we never have had an RV with this 12 volt option. We have always kept our refrigerator on, and we only turn it off when we fill up with gasoline and then re-light it after we are out of the gas station.
Bill got out of the mini by lifting the heavy door on the passenger's side and opening it up and crawling out, and onto the side of the mini, he got to the propane tank and shut off the fuel. I then climbed out and lifted Lady to Bill, and then Billy got out and we all stood there, in the rain looking at our precious mini! There was nothing that we could do, except to wait for help and assistance. The highway patrol arrived shortly and took Nancy, and Billy to a small clinic where Billy could have his ankle checked. Bill stayed with the mini until a tow truck arrived and made arrangements to have it towed to a near by motel so that we could unload the things that we needed for the night.
Billy's ankle was sprained and taped up, and we spend the night at the local motel. None of us could sleep because of the trauma of the event and the next day we rented a car and loaded in as much as we could from our mini and then drove back home. A few weeks passed and our mini was delivered to the Lazy Daze factory, where they would determine if it could be repaired.
One thing that is funny now looking back on all this is that a month earlier we had ordered a new station wagon. A 1972 Ford Torino that we were going to pick up the week after Labor Day. We went to the ford agency and told them about our accident and ask whether we could have our deposit back and not take delivery of the new wagon. The ford agency understood our problem and said that they would do this for us, if we would give them a chance when it came time for us to buy another vehicle. We said, "yes, that we will be back to see them when we can get all this straighten out."
We had Automobile Club Insurance at the time and when they heard from Lazy Daze that the unit could not be repaired to Lazy Daze standards they totaled out the mini. One thing to point out is to save all receipts for all items that you add to your RV. The Automobile Club took the blue book value and then added per our receipts all the extra items that we added to our mini and came up with a fair price for payment to us.
Lazy Daze kept our 16 foot mini on display to show their customers how well the unit survived in such an accident and that it spoke well of the construction of the unit. Even the highway patrol said that most units would have been kindling all over the highway; he was very impressed with our 16 foot mini.
A few weeks later we were researching motor homes again, going to RV shows and comparing other units. We saw the new 19 foot Lazy Daze, and our decision was made, we ordered a new 19 foot Lazy Daze and in two months we were to have our second RV.
We decided to put our new station wagon on hold for another year because we wanted to get another motor home, and with our 1963 ford wagon still going strong we knew that it should last us for at least another year.
Two months went by very slowly, but soon we picked up our new 19 foot motor home. We again added to our new unit, storm windows for the winter ski trips, TV antenna, burglar alarm system, outside stereo speakers and more. Again, we added more fiberglass and wrapped pipes that we thought might freeze during our winter trips. After having done this to one unit we were getting to be experts in this field!
Several items that we had in our 16 foot mini, we transferred over to our new 19 footer. The motorbike rack fitted in the front, with only the need to weld two supports on the frame for the rack and the two wooden boxes that we built to store level blocks and other gear mounted on the rear bumper. Our ski rack mounted on the rear bumper, and everything was getting back to normal.
We made several trips to the desert and at over a 100 degrees; we did see the need to add an air conditioner on the roof. We traveled again to Mexico (the mainland side) as well as down to Baja, to Cabo San Lucas. We drove the Alcan highway when it was 1000 miles of dirt and gravel roads, and our 19 foot unit performed well. We always knew that this was the perfect unit for us, because so many of our trips were short weekend trips with the few occasional month long trips to the above mentioned places. For us, any larger unit would not let us get into the back roads to explore and see new country.
One funny story, that I have to tell is that when we were driving back from a visit with our relatives in Long Beach, California, it was 10:00 p.m. at night, we saw a small 16 foot Lazy Daze driving down on the freeway. Bill and I said to each other, "doesn't that remind you of our 16 foot mini," we both said, "yes!" As we approached the unit to pass it and wave at the owners, Nancy said to Bill, "gee, I think that is our old mini!" As we got closer, Nancy remembered the old license plate number (she is good at remembering numbers) and sure enough it was our old unit. Driving by it gave us chills as we thought of the rollover accident, and we could see that it indeed was repaired. You see once Automobile Club settled with us they became the owners of the unit and then to the best of our knowledge, they sold it to a wrecking yard where someone could buy it and fix it up, and that's what happened to our 16 foot mini. I told you that this was an odd story!
Over the 10 years of traveling with our Lazy Daze, we got to be good at fixing or adding things to our RV. If we saw something that we thought that we needed, we researched the item, called around to get the best price and then bought it with confidence that we had made the right purchase. This is one piece of information that we feel is very important, research the product, talk to other RV owners, get opinions and then make the purchase. So often we see that people get pressured into buy something that they don't need, or the wrong item, just so that the salesperson can make the sale!
If you plan to use you RV only on short trips, weekends, holidays and for the once a year longer vacations, then that can decide, what size and type of RV that you will need. Also, how many in your family and how many friends will be traveling with you.
We found that for the two of us and our small dog that the mini motor home was our choice, but if you travel with a large family and friends then you can go with a trailer and truck or a motor home towing a small car to get around. If you use your truck at work then a slide in camper would be a good choice. The main thing to do is go to a lot of RV shows, and talk to other RV owners, they are usually very helpful.
When it came time for us to make the decision to buy a larger Class A motor home or a travel trailer we knew what we wanted to do. If you are planning to sell your home to go full timing in your RV then you have the two choices above. One thing that we felt made our decision to go with the truck and trailer is that if you ever needed major work on the motor, then there goes your house to the shop! Your home on wheels, with everything you own is now in the shop for repairs and you have to trust the people that are doing the work, that all of your possessions are left untouched, if you know what we mean!
We also would recommend that if you go with a motor home then a tow car is a must, who wants to unhook your RV from the trailer park connections (electric, water and sewer) just to go sightseeing or to the market. We are talking more for full time living, not the weekend trip where you go to only one place and don't need that extra vehicle.
After spending many hours at the RV shows and going to the various dealers looking at RV's, we decided that we would buy the largest trailer that we could afford. When we talked to other full-timers, so many of them said that they wished that they went bigger, but as we have also seen over the years of traveling that when people reach a certain age, they feel that the big RV is too much for them to handle and that they will trade it in for something smaller. We first thought that a 28 foot trailer would be adequate, but then again research and talking to people, confirmed that the 34 foot would be a better choice for us.
We saw many trailers at the RV shows, and the dealers make them look so livable with all the frills, but when you get down to it especially for full time living, storage is what you want. We see so many trailer manufactures with floor plans to accommodate 6 to 8 people and that's all right for the large family but when your full timing it is usually just the two of you. Your choice of your RV depends on your lifestyle and your needs and remember to keep that in mind and not let the dealer sell you something that you will not be pleased with.
At the time we were looking for our 34 foot trailer, we had 5 companies in mind, because of their quality and construction. They were Silver Streak, Avion, Boles Aero, Alfa Gold and Holiday Rambler. We were leaning towards the Alfa Gold because it was built with the full timer in mind, with large kitchen sinks, a large bathroom sink and space in the bathroom to move around and use as a dressing room. It had many features and a lot of storage, but at the time the one thing that they did not do was have an enclosed under belly. Since we were going to use the trailer as our home on wheels, we knew that we would probably take it snow skiing and therefore needed the insulation of the enclosed underbelly to protect the pipes. Some of the others mentioned above were made back east and would not give us the options that we wanted. Silver Streak was made in El Monte, California and was very helpful with all the options that we wanted. As we recall the Boles Aero was made on the west coast but we had heard rumors that the company was going out of business so that would not be a good choice.
We settled on a 34 foot Silver Streak, with a side double bed and a large rear bathroom. We had a front sofa that could be made into a bed with end tables on each side. We had them build a large TV cabinet with a sliding accordion door, so that we could have a large TV along with a place to put our CB, VCR and Satellite receiver. This cabinet worked out great and when we traveled, I would put two pieces of foam on each side of the TV and a soft cloth over the screen with another piece of foam and then slide the door shut and it stayed in place and never moved.
As you may have remembered in reading (Click here "About our RV"), we added a burglar alarm, outside stereo speakers, a CB speaker, and outside RCA jacks for a short-wave antenna. We had also installed a 3500 watt propane generator, window awnings on all windows as well as a 20 foot main awning. Since this was to be our home on wheels, we decided to add various options to make our trailer comfortable for us.
As you go RVing, you will see many different rigs. We knew that we wanted a full cab over camper on our truck with all facilities, this way we could park our trailer, load up the camper for several weeks and off we go to explore the back roads. Our dog always went with us, and she was always comfortable in the camper from the extreme cold to the heat of the desert.
For our lifestyle, we have the perfect rig for us, and we would not change a thing. For others, they may want something different and that's all right. The main thing is to research, don't rush into making a decision right away, because we found that by going back and looking at the trailers time and time again, we then were sure of the options that we wanted and the layout of the floor plan.
We hope that this has given you some ideas to have that perfect rig!