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"Bigitis" - a common RV ailment



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 "It seems there is always something bigger or better just around the corner!"


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          Buying your first RV is always a difficult decision - How long should it be? - How ‘posh’ should it be?---Do I need 1, 2, or 3 slides? - Should it be new or pre-loved?  Oh the questions go on and on.  One thing for certain even when you find your perfect dream machine it seems another that is just a little ‘nicer’ or ‘bigger’ or ‘fancier’  ‘or’, ‘or’, ‘or’ has just surfaced on your dealers lot or during your visit to the last RV show. Don’t despair; this feeling is normal, as a result the average trade-up time is 4-6 years. Although we are finally driving what we feel is our dream home---a diesel pusher that we emphatically say will be our last purchase, it is not always easy to stay with those convictions.  Most RVers suffer from a constant ailment referred to as ‘Big-itis’

I have been sharing our experiences in print and in seminars with RVers for years but many new to this lifestyle seem to feel John and I have more material things than they may have access too.  Not true, we were in our 40’s when we hit the road and although our pensions were adequate we were not ‘rollin’ in excess cash.  Budgeting and learning to live within our sometimes-meager means was and still is always a challenge.  The following info applies to those just starting out as well as to the numerous seasoned RVers.  It’s not necessary to ‘have-it-all’ on your first RV, or on each follow-up unit either.  

Recently while reminiscing about the fun and experiences of our early travels we discovered some of our most enjoyable times were during our early days with our older smaller unit.  We went to almost anyplace we wanted to.

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 In 1985 we bought our first motorhome (a 1983 class A) one year before our retirement.  After a three-year search we finally found our dream machine ‘Kastle #1’. She was a so beautiful in our eyes but looking back she was really extremely well ‘used’ and not very ‘pre-loved’ as we first thought.  Her 1983, 454 engine was OK, not bad for power since this unit was only 31’8 “ long. We had NO basement storage to speak of, NO dinette area, NO extra toys and of course, NO slide.  By the way slides didn’t appear on motorhomes until the early 90’s.  Yes space was sometimes restricting but we didn’t care, the world was our oyster and we had such fun finding pleasure from this great adventurous way of life.

That Pace Arrow class A motorhome was our only home for eight years.  We had both retired from the Canadian military with good (not great) pensions but we learned to live on a budget because NO extra funds would surface until John’s pension increased in 1992, four years later he would receive a little bit more; although I had to wait (16.5 years) until this past December for mine to kick in.  So yes we were enjoying our on the road experiences at a very young age but we definitely looked for less expensive things to keep us busy.

When John’s first increase cut in we upgraded to a new motorhome. We had paid cash for our 'Kruisin’ Kastle #1' when we sold the house. That seemed like a good idea at the time but now we had no house to sell.  In 1985 we began RVing by the seat of our pants with little knowledge and few expectations, as a result we made numerous mistakes.  Paying cash for our motorhome was one of our biggest errors.  If we had been wise we would have kept our money from the sale of our house invested and financed that first unit.  This way refinancing the second one would have been an easier transition and our investments would have continued to increase.  Plus at trade-up time in ‘93 we had to find motorhome payment money from our living cash (yes John’s pension increased slightly but our new mortgage payment was double what he received.).

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The good part was our compact 10 year old Pace Arrow was mechanically sound and she sported an awesome new interior facelift, plus by now she was a definitely a ‘pre-loved’ unit.  The dealer took this fact into consideration resulting in a generous trade-in value.  The good news was that dealer also helped us cement a 10 year mortgage on our new dream machine. When we drove that brand new 37’ 6” Citation class A with the futuristic paint job off the lot we were bursting with pride. Paying a mortgage (we considered it a large loan) was foreign to us but the thrill of living and driving our brand new larger gas powered, tag axle ‘Kastle #2’ soon made it easy for us to accept life as it was. Just as in a house or a cottage, the mortgage payment simply became part of our monthly living costs.

In March 1999 we finally moved into a diesel pusher when another small monthly pension increase surfaced. What started as a joke while working at the Hamilton RV show (Canada) culminated with us driving 'Kastle #3', a 1995 Luxor by Winnebago, into the sunset. It took us 14 years to reach this pinnacle but finally we were driving a diesel unit of our dreams.  Payments remained almost the same but this time our four-year-old unit was now mortgaged for 20 years. Our investments continue to grow while the bank allows us the privilege to drive our high-end machine of choice.  No our Luxor still has no slide but we really can’t miss what we never had.  Even though we satisfied our yearning for a bigger heavier diesel unit we still had to move into an RV that fit the budget.   One other plus, our new to us ‘toed’ served as a rental automobile for a year before we bought it. We saved about $5000.00 buying an ‘almost new’ vehicle rather than a ‘new’ car from the factory.

 The following year a small windfall enabled us to add appreciated toys such as a washer/dryer, a roof mounted dish (trees only have hindered us twice but we no longer go to state or provincial parks either), and our mural. Although the vented washer/dryer was an expensive after market extra, this is our home. After endless treks to the laundry during the previous 14 years we consider our washer/dryer combo a most valued on-board necessity instead of a luxury. The satellite allows John to stay on top of how his favourite sports teams are performing and our mural added a pleasant touch of class.

While reflecting on our early travels, we decided no matter what Kastle we drove, the joys of this fantastic lifestyle helps to create unparallel memories. Although out of necessity we learned to budget and find ways to stretch each dollar, the pleasures of RV Life definitely compensate for the occasional times of limited cash flow.

We routinely set aside available funds for annual improvements and sometimes expensive routine or periodic maintenance, For instance 2001/02 we had a maintenance free winter, so that summer our tired carpeted floor was transformed into an easy to clean vinyl planking floor that resembles a hardwood front to back.  It was necessary to add a sub-floor to provide a hard surface to build on. The couch and large barrel chair was scraped and replaced with two new style  recliners with the circular base. These modifications provided a fold down working table/desk for John.   Right from the beginning I laid claim to the dinette area as my workspace.  No, our Luxor still does not have a slide but with careful planning the changes did free up considerable more living space inside our already roomy home on wheels.  We will satisfied our need for ‘Big-itis’ without liquidating valuable investments to purchase a new unit. For more details see the story about Our Space Of A Slide From The Inside.

What makes RVing so great is everyone can enjoy this lifestyle in a unit that suits their current budget and travel desires. If your RV usage will be similar to a cottage you may not be able to justify all the extra amenities we feel are important. On the other hand since our motorhome is our fulltime home many of our ‘luxuries’ we feel are actually necessities. This lifestyle is contagious, originally we planned to travel for two years and now almost 18 years later we don’t expect to set down roots in the near future. Enjoy your journey.

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