Let’s be practical here:  Coming up on age 69 is not the time to take on too many more big projects.  The big ones for the fall already include a rework of the kitchen with new counters and some new cabinets.  And on the Shop/Office we have plans to put on a small 20×12 outside area for metalwork.  I’ve  always worried about running anything that makes sparks inside the building, so a flame and spark-resistant semi-enclosed area outdoors out of the rain makes sense.

Still, the “build a Land Yacht” and take off for six-months sounds like a hell of a fun project onb the construction side and a grand adventure thereafter.  Not being “made of money” (or certainly not willing to spend wildly) I keep coming up with ideas and plans…the the Motor-home adventure of a lifetime around the US sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.  Just once…..you know the feeling, right?

Laying Out the Mission

Before we go to the drawing board and spec writing, let’s look at the mission and the snags.

This Motor-home dream will be a very tough sell to Elaine.  So we have to “build the picture” in order to “sell the dream” as the sales books I’ve written explain the process.  More to the point, the five steps in sales are?  Prospect, qualify, demonstration, overcome objections, and close.  The mandatory sixth step IRL is “get the money.”

The “prospect” part is easy:  Elaine and I have been married for coming up on 20-years.  Neither of us plans to go anywhere.  Check off item #1.

Qualify:  We know this will be tough. Elaine and I have both done the “outdoors thing” so finding a real use for a motor-home  is a matter of figuring the cost/benefit ratio.  If we expand our plans off the property here, to a lake cabin for example, then a motor-home might be useful.  We’re not big car race fans, but I went to some parties at racing events in my news-chasing days that were mainly held with binoculars and cold drinks on the roof of a motor-home… Good view of the western turns at Seattle International Raceway, back in the day.  Now? Put a question-mark by item #2.

Demonstrate:  This one is easy:  Rent a motor-home and take a week-long trip in one to see how we like it.    On websites like this one, you can rent a bumper-pull for under $100 per night.  Or, if you want to test-drive the truck and trailer, or you can find a fifth-wheel or Class C (*solid frame, bunk over) for around $200 per night.  Check item #3 since we have a plan.

Objections:  The main one for us is simple:  If we’re just going to use it once in a while, why tie up money in it.  If, on the other hand, we decide to actually do extended travel (and there are issues with house/ranch-sitting), then buying one makes sense.  The “demonstration trip” would answer a lot of these questions.

One of our biggest involves whether people actually stay overnight in Walmart parking lots – because I seem to remember they are open to that kind of thing.  Deli food at the ready, huh?

Closing:  From a sales standpoint, the “financial close” is the only one that works.  As a one-time  deal, $200 a night to “try-on a mobile hotel” seems like a fair deal. Do it when the kids are in school.  On the other hand, 6-weeks of travel turns into $9,000 by the time you toss-in sales tax and that’s before gasoline and oil…  Another ownership item would be the cost of insurance and how repairs are handled…

Funding is a non-issue…so now we move into the “If we like the demo, what then?

Pitfalls and Snags of RV’s

Gotta be a realist.  RV’s have all the same problems as any other vehicle, for starters.

You would need to look at the engine (compression check) and transmission, first and foremost.  Ideally, something with under 60,000 miles, but also something well-maintained.  At 10-years old, just about everything is suspect, so you’d need to do a complete service job on the rig.  This means all new belts, check of transmission by a good shop, brakes checks, tires, shocks…the list (and potential price) is expensive.  Alternator check?  Water pump replaced?

Also, if you do anything to the engine, add a gear-driven oil pump and an external oil cooler if it doesn’t have it.  Steer away from anything with a tow bar because that’s a sign there has been more wear and tear on the differential and transmission.

The problem is that this is only a start since we would be facing the same systems problems we found on the boat and corrected early-on.

  • The fresh water system needs to be totally gone through on a used RV if it hasn’t been already.  New hoses, clamps, fresh-water tank cleaning…what about the water pump?  One of those engine-heat exchanging water heaters can be adapted from marine use, or hit Camping World, wallet in hand.  Propane water heater work?  Does it run on the generator, too?
  • The gray water systems are also a joy:  Hoses, make sure the faucets all work, new gaskets, the drains seal and don’t leak – everything has a plug?  More hoses and clamps, and crawling around.  Does the shower look good as well as work correctly?  The showers run small in RV’s [ check to see if you fit comfortably!]
  • Black water (septic) starts with an inspection and repairs of the toilet.  Ever work on someone else’s poo-stall before?  A 10-year old one?  This is why plumbers make big bucks.  Again, hoses, gaskets, check and clean the holding tank, replacing valves if not serviced lately.
  • Power System:  People don’t realize that power system connectors work loose due to vibration over time.  On the boat when I bought it, I got a half-turn on every breaker connection because annealed copper is soft and continues to flow though in ultra low speed.  Especially when the boat is “working” or in an RV because everything moves.
  • Off Grid Power?  Your choices will be solar, a big house battery bank plus an inverter. And/ OR, you get to experience the joys of a slide-out generator.  With an inverter, maybe it’s time for cables, too.  I just bought two 24-volt banks for here at the (palatial UrbanSurvival) office last year and 16-good golf-cart batteries set me back a bit more than $2-thousand.  Battery banks in a motor-home should be smaller (4 to 8 six volter in 2 to 4-stacks of two each, fed on diagonal corners so lead resistance is the same across ’em all… Big bank especially if you plan power-intensive work like using ham radio or wanting to run power tools with the inverter….)  Got a cross-feed switch to the starting battery?  Just asking…
  • Body and Roof membrane:  Yet another part of scoping out an RV.  If you really think the coach is worth it, here’s a site that hints at $300 per lineal foot of roof to have it done.  Let’s see here, a 32-foot could would be how much?  $10,000 by the time you get taxes.  If the roof is leaking like a sieve (and has been which means rot is likely) might be a good idea to keep shopping.  On the other hand, there’s Dicor sealant, popular in the RV set and it runs $10-bucks a tube on the ‘Zon.
  • Then think about the air conditioning and heating.  Depending on where you want to go, an air conditioner or three is a must.  If you shop specials you might be able to find 15,000 BTU at CampingWorld for around $430 which works out to 2.9 cents a BTU by the time you toss in tax.  At RVShare.com (a great source, by the way) you can find discussions suggesting 32-feet and smaller might get by with one, but a lot depends on the roof, insulation and so forth.  Check that the furnace is working, thermostat….  Fire and CO detectors in place?  Extinguishers?  You want to be safe, right?
  • That leaves only appearance items, but these can be spending.  Price an RV Queen mattress  if you’re not wanting to sleep in someones old bed.  $200 budget for that.
  • How about upholstery and flooring?  It’s easy to spend $2.50 a square foot on the floor, so lemme see:  call it 32 by 7 for the budget…$560 before tax and labor in that, yet.  No replacing of the ratty captains chairs, stained by a million Subways on the road…
  • Kitchen stove?  How about the gas shut-off.  Have you checked the propane bottles for pressure check dates?  Are you keeping everything outside painted?
  • How about new graphics on the side and a compounding and wax job?
  • Not done yet?  New tires and batteries.  Say, got a spare?  Got some electric jack for this beast and an air compressor for the impact wrench on those wheels?
  • We haven’t event put a dish aboard, yet.  No ham gear, water filtration…OMG the list is tiring by itself.

At some point, you pusch-back, gnaw on all the negatives involved.  But then, you notice how much crap you have in the shop, see a sale at Lowe’s or Home Despots and talk yourself into thinking… “Well, hell.  This coach just need tires, brakes, new Formica and I have my trim router and all those damn tools…”

Next thing you know, you have a 120-day to 1-year project getting some over-the hill coach ready for the road.  Taking on such a task, with the idea of traveling around the country is the height of optimism, the more I think about it.

Still, there are times when we get “ranch fever” especially when it’s a while before the next big adventure (Johnny Rivers in concert in October with maybe a Grand Canyon trip cobbled on it) off the property.

So, I get to looking at Craigslist and then a spy a 10-year old RV that sports “New Tires and brakes and TLC” and I wonder…  “Could this be the one?

Damn-straight, it’s tempting to grab the checkbook and go.  But with what we have, do we need to buy more property or to go driving around the country?  UHD TV can quench a lot of wanderlust.

“Yeah…but Formica and  Wilsonart are cheap and we have the trim router and flush trim bits…”

Out come the ViseGrips as I pinch myself and look up RV Repair Nightmares on Google.

“Hand me the clicker, dear.  Wanna watch the Travel Channel or one of them documentaries on Chinese TV and pretend?”

Write when you come to your senses, and I’ll try to do the same.

George@ure.net