We Bought our RV!

It’s been a busy few weeks for us and we’ve been driving all over the state of Missouri! We have long been planning to make our RV purchase this March. We already knew we wanted the Highland Ridge 310 bunkhouse travel trailer. We wanted to find a nice used one and we checked RVTrader throughout the winter so we had a pretty good idea of what was out there- not much!! The few used 310s that came up were very far away and they also sold very quickly. Most newer used models were also priced nearly the same as the brand new models we were seeing. We saw several dealerships with new models but they all had an electric-only residential fridge. We wanted the traditional propane/electric RV fridge because we are planning to be spending most of our time camping without electric hookups, using our solar and lithium batteries. (Stay tuned for a future post about our solar and lithium plans!) The problem with a residential fridge is that it uses a lot of electricity and takes a lot of solar power and a big battery bank to run, whereas a propane fridge uses very little electricity and runs mostly on propane. We narrowed down our choices: continue searching for a used model or order a custom new built with our specified options.

In the middle of February we saw a 2018 Mesa Ridge 310 for sale in St. Louis that met our requirements, except it had the residential fridge. We were headed to Joplin that weekend to celebrate Katelyn’s 6thbirthday with our families so we couldn’t go look at it that weekend.

We all had the following Monday off for President’s Day so we headed to St. Louis that morning with a plan to look at the RV and then see what kind of deal we could get on ordering a custom one from the factory. Unfortunately it was pouring rain ALL day! We still looked at the RV and then we went in to talk to our salesman (Ray) about ordering one. We ended up being thrown for a loop- the production was already done on the 2018 models! The manufacturer wouldn’t be making any more until production started in the fall for the 2019 models. I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to us sooner, it is true the RV production season typically is the fall and winter months, then RV show season starts in the spring and runs through the fall. It hadn’t occurred to us that the window may have already closed for ordering a new one this spring. So we headed home and I got to work doing more research on the residential fridge. Armed with new information, the next day we decided to proceed with buying the RV we looked at! Then Ray called and told us his manager had talked with the factory rep and they were potentially going to do a short run of a few units for people who had put in late orders, if we wanted in on it we could order our custom RV and it would be delivered around the end of March. We thought about it for another day and decided to try to get a better price on the one on the lot, and then spend a little more on our solar and battery setup and in the end we’d have a more user-friendly fridge and we’d probably come out ahead on the money as well. So we made our offer and they accepted it! The crazy thing about that day- other than the knowledge we just made an offer and deposit on a brand new RV- was that it popped up in my newsfeed that 8 years ago was the day we bought our Excursion in Chicago! Quite a coincidence!

Saturday the 24th we all headed back to St. Louis (in the rain, AGAIN!) to sign tons of paperwork and take another look at our new home.

We were all very excited! Then Sunday we were on the road again, heading west this time to Kansas City for a combined birthday trip for Katelyn and me. We surprised her with a night at the Great Wolf Lodge and we all had a blast in the big indoor waterpark!

I made the reservations long before we realized we’d be buying an RV the same weekend! By the time we got home that afternoon we were all completely worn out from our fun 3-day weekend.

In true weekend warrior style we headed back to St. Louis the following Saturday for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, this time to do our lengthy inspection and walk-through (where a trained service person walks you through how every system in the RV works and teaches you every little thing about the inside and outside of your new RV!). This time we were lucky to have much nicer weather- sunny and in the 50s! Katelyn stayed with our friends for the day so we could focus on the walk-through without distractions. We had also arranged for the dealership to order and install a big weight distributing sway control hitch. We arrived at the dealership, found our walk-through guy (Tim) and handed over the Excursion keys so the shop could start our hitch installation. We spent the next 3 hours with Tim and ended up getting along really well and having a good time with him while he walked us through everything! I had planned to video the walk-through but in the end most things seemed pretty straight-forward and we didn’t feel we needed to video it. By the time we finished everything with Tim, the service technicians had finished the hitch installation and adjustment and we walked through the hitching and un-hitching procedure for our new hitch. Then it was time for pictures!

And then we were on our way! I joked that it didn’t feel quite as daunting as it felt the day we brought Katelyn home from the hospital, but maybe close! I drove the Jeep so I could follow Bryan and help navigate the St. Louis traffic and lane changes and watch how things looked from the back.

The trip home was pretty un-eventful and the sway control hitch did its job. Bryan said the trailer towed great. Backing it into our driveway was a bit of a challenge but I’m sure we’ll get better at it. We’re ahead of the game already using 2-way radios to communicate while I direct Bryan into place. I guess more accurately I should say I *try and fail miserably* to direct him into place without knowing what I’m doing or knowing what he needs to do- and when- in order to accomplish the task! We’ll get the hang of it eventually! That night we celebrated and spent some time in our new RV (and did a lot of “HOLY COW did we really do this??!!”).

We were all tired but excited and Katelyn was crazy from her fun day with friends. We were pretty happy when it was her bedtime so we could sit down and have some time to process everything!

They say “Go big or go home” and I guess we are REALLY serious about that because Sunday we decided to burn a small strip of grass near the railroad ties where we planned to park the RV. Bryan hosed down the perimeter but the fire was bigger than we expected (less kerosene next time?) and it got away and started burning the taller pasture grass. At that point we knew we were in trouble and Bryan kept trying to control things with our sad little garden hose while I went to call 911. Thankfully the fire was behind our house and heading away from it. Our rural fire district started showing up within about 10 minutes and they got the fire contained but not before it burned about half of our back pasture!

I guess now we don’t have to brush hog that part this spring! We’re looking ahead to some very busy months coming up as we work on transitioning out of our house into the RV and prepare to get our house on the market.

Launch 2018 is starting to take shape!

Finding new resources

Last week I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondering how we would be able to pull everything together. There are so many things to figure out and even more we need to do. It’s been just about 5 months since we started seriously discussing our “pipe dream”. Since then we’ve changed our core plan and moved up our launch date by a year!

Last Saturday we went to our first RV show in St. Louis! It was so hot out in the sun on the asphalt all afternoon, the RVs were parked close together so the shade I’d imagined having under the awnings wasn’t available-hardly any of the awnings were set up. The highlight of the trip was the first RV we toured, it was already our favorite after our online research. It was a Highland Ridge bunkhouse hopefully our soon-to- be next home! It has some very nice construction and design features including better insulation than most RVs. The floor plan is great for us! It also has lots of storage. It looked good online but seeing it in person was awesome! The quality of the construction was apparent, especially compared to some others we looked at. I walked inside and immediately loved it. We all loved it! I wish we could have bought it! But we are looking to buy a used one early next year so that’s where our focus is shifting now. This model hasn’t changed much over the last few years so we’re hopeful we can locate a nice used one even if it means a road trip.

I’ve been feeling anxious about Katelyn’s road schooling and I was really excited to find Timberdoodle. They have a lot of resources! I looked at the first grade curriculum package and I really liked all of the items. They will let you customize the kits too, so I can add or delete things or make substitutions, which is nice! I especially like the handbook and schedule planners that come with the curriculum kits. I’ll be researching more but so far I really like this and it’s a strong contender. I know lots of people are successful at creating their own curriculum but I’m new to this and I like the idea of having a complete kit to work with. There will be plenty of supplemental and real-world education and experiences we’ll provide on our own but I want to make sure we cover the basics too! There is so much to learn! I think a good foundation is really important for Katelyn’s education. The materials in the Timberdoodle pack are also widely available elsewhere and the majority of the reviews are good. I was feeling anxious but after looking at this, I’m feeling really excited about teaching Katelyn!

The last neat thing I have to share right now is Campendium! This is fairly new but in a nutshell it is a directory of camping spots nationwide, searchable with filters, that provides reviews, photos, directions, prices, and even cell phone connectivity strength (which is a huge priority for us because we will be living this lifestyle full-time and our livelihood depends on dependable internet access). It includes tons of options for free dry camping on public land (aka “Boondocking”) which is what we plan to do the majority of the time. Our goal is NOT to move out of our country house and into a life of perpetual RV parks! We want to spend most of our time in the great wide open out in nature! We’ll be posting more about how we’ll be doing that in upcoming blogs-in particular how we plan to use solar power to meet our RV energy needs!