Monday, June 24, 2019

Our RV Adventure: Introduction

On March 23, Cathleen tells me she has had a waking dream that we should rent an RV and see our far-away family members. We should drive it to Philadelphia to see our younger son Liam; to DC to see my mother, brother, and sister and their families; to Tennessee to see my uncle, aunt and cousins; and to see her sister and brother-in-law, also in Tennessee.

Cathleen’s brother had owned an RV and sold it through Hometown RV in Carol Stream, Illinois, about 9 miles or 25 minutes from us. She sends me a link to a rental RV that she has found on their website.

About 15 years ago, we went to an RV rental place with the kids. I remember the RV we looked at being dingy. We ended up doing something completely different: flying to Seattle and driving a rental SUV to Glacier National Park. Which was awesome.

In the summer of 2016, we had considered an RV rental trip, but I researched it, reading such articles as “The True Cost of Renting an RV” which had put me off the idea.

Cathleen is persuasive. I haven’t seen my aunt and uncle for 10 years; she hasn’t for 15 years. She didn’t visit DC with me over Christmas. We haven’t seen where Liam lives. She hasn’t been to her sister’s in five years, even longer for me. 

We plan the route. I see that we can’t do it in a week. We’ll need at least eight days. We estimate the cost. Including rent, gas, campgrounds, and everything, it would approach $3,000, which seems crazy. Cathleen argues that my employer has changed from twice-monthly to biweekly pay periods, so we’ll have a so-called “extra check” that very week. She handles the budget and is usually more fiscally conservative than me, so I relent. We get reactions from our family members. They’re excited. I’m sold on it now. 

I ask for the first eight days of May off work. We watch YouTube videos about RV experiences, and fictional movies like RV and Albert Brooks’ 1980s yuppie mid-life crisis movie, Lost in America. Surf the internet, learning about types of RVs, pros and cons. Before we put a deposit down, we want to see the RV in person.
Sunseeker 2300 floorplan
Sunseeker 2300 floorplan
At Hometown RV, we get a tour of the Forest River Sunseeker 2300. It’s in pretty good shape for being six years old with 72,000 miles on it. It seems big to us, but it’s one of the smaller RVs on the lot. We put a $500 deposit on it.

Here’s a link to a video tour of the same model elsewhere. 

We come back a week or so later to check the VIN, license plate, and some things we now had questions about that we didn’t know to ask before.

We take some books out of the library. I think one is worth owning, so I buy a copy of it (RVing). One of the authors’ names seems familiar. On the author blurbs, it says she worked at Rand McNally, so that was where I knew the name from. I had done much typesetting for Rand McNally in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg’s blog dispatches from South America, and I’m inspired to do something similar about our RV trip.

Two days before leaving, we buy some stuff at Walmart: two 25-foot drinking water hoses, a water filter, two packages of four rolls of “nautical” toilet paper, chemical for cleaning the holding tank, and a pair of rubber gloves. They do not carry the Rand McNally Motor Carriers Road Atlas (MCRA), which includes trucker-specific information such as weight limits, low clearances, and hazardous material restrictions.

I would order the MCRA from Amazon, but we stopped mail so that tomorrow is our last mail delivery. I find a mobile app called CoPilot GPS. I use it on a free trial, and it’s OK, but I have trouble figuring out why it uses a specific route. Is it to avoid tunnels, or low clearances, or something else? I don’t think we’ll use it.

Normally, Hometown RV does a video walk-through inspection of the RV and gives you an orientation to the RV systems when you pick it up. Because we are trying to leave Wednesday morning, they offer to get that out of the way the evening before. Which brings us to…

Day 0

Tuesday, April 30, Naperville, Illinois  

I leave work at 4:30 for the first time in ages. Cathleen is picking me up to go to the RV rental place for orientation.

The RV we are renting for 8 days is a Class C, smaller than the Class A tour-bus-looking RV that Robin Williams drove in the concisely and aptly named movie, RV. It is basically a Ford E-350 van chassis with a house built onto it.

Our orientation is very informative. I had already consumed much of the information from YouTube videos and library books, but it helps to have the systems in front of you. Propane for refrigerator and heat. Generator which takes gasoline from the gas tank to provide electricity to the “house” or “coach” when you are not plugged in to “shore” power. There is a battery specifically for the coach. A freshwater tank which needs a pump. City water hookup which does not. Grey water and black water holding tanks. Grey water is from the sinks and shower, while black water is from the toilet. The large sewer hose and valves for emptying these. I assume I will have to do this. Electric hookup (30-amp shore power has a larger plug). Cable hookup (for the RV TV).
Sewer dump hoses in an exterior storage compartment.
Sewer dump hoses in an exterior storage compartment.
We don’t get to take the RV until tomorrow after 10:30 am, when they open.

We stop by a grocery store on the way home and eat at 7:30.

Cathleen bakes gluten-free bread and makes chicken and avocado arepas for tomorrow’s dinner. While doing laundry. I am tasked with gathering things from her supplies list to put in the living room for “staging.” The list is long. Even when we travel in a Honda Accord, we take everything but the kitchen sink. In this case, the kitchen sink is already in the vehicle.

We stay up way too late. The cats are by turns suspicious, excited, hiding, meowing.

To be continued... 

1 comment:

  1. Kier, I love it. We're both going through a similar adventure, but we purchased a class C. So far, I love it! We're now in Iowa and on our way to Utah for two weeks. It'll be two months that we're in the road. Have fun!