We started this adventure just a little over a year ago this month. Sadly, we didn't do a website cataloging our adventure until now. So lets get right into how this all started.
Picture this if you will. You're sitting in your comfy chair after an interesting week of traveling and working only to realize that your job is about to come to an end. Normally, this would induce a little panic right? Now, add in a sprinkle of trying to plan the future of your mortgage, bills, school events for your kid, groceries, fuel, and just living in California with that event looming on the horizon. What do you get? Nothing good is the simplest answer I really have in my mind.
I had retired from the Marine Corps about two years prior to this event that we are speaking about. I was working in the cell phone industry installing microcell/small cell sites around the country when my contract was coming to an end. It was pretty interesting work and extremely eye opening to learn just how much goes into making one cell phone tower or system come to life. I started to get my resume updated and started hitting up all of the normal sites, recruiters, and social media reach outs when my wife (Jennie) asked me the ultimate question. "Why don't we just sell everything, buy an RV, and just travel for a while?"
"Ok" was my response. Not really sure as to what to actually say because I thought she was kidding but no, she was serious. So we started the planning of taking on this new idea. We would have to start by selling our "dream home" in California after buying it only a year prior. This shockingly wasn't the hard part of the whole thing as we had some of the best realtor's we could ever know getting us down to that goal (https://www.cochrenrealty.com). Still owe them a huge debt of gratitude for that! Next, we would have to find the RV that was going to take us on the adventure. This is where the complications came in.
Have you ever searched for an RV online? I dare say it is worse than looking for a car to buy with even less information available. We started as best we could by asking around to friends about things they liked, didn't like, or wish they had in their rig. We went to a couple RV dealerships seeing what was the differences and picking at the things that we liked or wanted. (*SIDE NOTE* if you're going to do this, please remember NOT to fall in love with one rig. You have to be willing to walk away from the dealers and "miss out" on that one rig. That's my opinion and two cents on dealership searching.) Finally we reached out to the Facebook world to all of the friends of friends of friends list we had saying that we were looking for an RV and if anyone had a lead, please let us know.
What we were looking for in our RV:
1) Class A or Class C Motorhome (we knew we wanted to tow a small car for exploring)
2) No bigger than 30' (https://camperreport.com/best-rv-length-for-national-parks/ put out an excellent article on why we chose our size)
3) Plenty of storage
4) Our daughter to have her own space
5) Cost either under $85,000 for a newer ready to go RV, or $20,000 all in on a remodel project. This came down to us wanting to keep our payments low so that we had more money to play.
So you'd think that this would be an easy undertaking right? I truly wish that it was. We found in almost every single rig one of this list was no on there. We even fell in love (mistake here that thankfully we didn't make) with the Jayco Precept model at our local dealership but it was 34' long and just a bit above our price range. We actually agonized of this rig for quite a few days surprisingly as it was everything we could possibly want and then some. In hindsight, I'm really glad we didn't get that rig.
Then we went to an RV show. Um.....I want to emphasize here that the following things did happen, I wish that they hadn't, and that this is my personal opinion of the companies of the RV's we saw. This was an absolute train wreck of an event. Several umbrella dealerships got together to put this show on. It was primarily Winnebagos, some Thor's and a few other bigger name rigs that I couldn't even try to afford. We found a few models that caught our eye in the beginning so we started honing in on those through the lot. Each one we went into, we found an issue with the RV itself, not our list of needs. Floors peeling up, rails for beds and pop-outs not seating correctly, blinds falling off the rails, and many more things that I could list. My favorite part was a dealer showing me that a bed was misaligned with the rails as he raised it and lowered it. When it got to the top, he said that it'll fix itself. I watched him for 5 minutes try to make it "fix itself". Oh yes, I stood there with him and watched as he proceeded to make himself look like an idiot proving he had no idea what he was talking about (yes, I asked a mechanic shortly after about this and he told me that it doesn't fix itself and it would need to be manually adjusted). This is also where we learned that several of the companies that make RV's are all under one umbrella company in Indiana. My confidence in the RV industry plummeted that day.
Finally, a friend of Jennie's messaged us that her Grandparents were retiring and selling their RV. It was a 1999 Rexhall Aerbus that they owned all these years and taken on several trips. I wasn't sure about this because Rexhall was no longer in business and I had never heard of them for a start (also secretly I was still in love with Jayco's rigs). I wasn't sure this rig was the right fit for us. It was really designed for two people, Abby didn't have a sleeping area or a place to put her stuff, and they wanted to sell the car along with the RV. Jennie and I talked about it and she was the guiding light in the decision. We would just renovate the rig to our needs and all would be fine. Yes, I'll admit it here on the internet, she was right.
No sooner had we said yes to the RV, our house got a hit for a potential buyer, our things we needed to sell magically started moving and selling off, our local Ford Dealership bought my F-150 and our Edge back from us (we even made a couple dollars surprisingly), and our plans all started to fit together. It was like it was all meant to be. Departure day came faster than we had anticipated. We loaded all of the things we had remaining in the storage compartments of Rex (Yes, we are an imaginative lot when it comes to names, don't judge), said goodbye to the most amazing neighbors we could have ever had, said goodbye to the friends we had made while living in California over the past 17+ years, and headed east to Tennessee (our future home base).
This was the most exciting and terrifying event we had done as a family. The question was, did we just make the best or worst decision of our lives?