Friday, December 26, 2014

Baby Steps

I somehow got this first post lost in the back pages of the blog. I dragged it up here so it would be easier to find. It's a little out of step with the timeline sorry.

We bought a used 1999 Rexhall motorhome 36.5ft long with a big slide. It was advertised on Craigslist in San Francisco, don't ask me how I stumbled on it when I was searching for one in San Diego! 

Somehow this one popped up and I really wasn't interested but the ad had no pictures and a poor description. It ticked me off that someone would expect to sell a rig with so little information in the add so I called the guy just to ding him up a little. It turned out it was his mother's rig and she asked him to post it but had no pictures etc. and she insisted he put it on Craigslist so he did. The rig was in Yuma and we were planning to start our RV search in Yuma because in March there are ton's of used rigs for sale by Snowbirder's who are leaving to go back home. We called the lady just for the heck of it and planned on a whole weekend of RV shopping for private deals and at dealers.

What can I say about shopping for a rig in Yuma? WOW!!! There was so much choice from, E-bay ads, craigslist, dealer lots both new, used and consignment, local newspaper ads and a concept I've never seen before "Park and Sell" lots where you pay the lot owner a weekly fee to park the rig with lots of others and you sell it yourself.

This was our first "shopping for real" trip for us. we live in San Diego so Yuma is less than 200 miles from home. We took a hotel room and started looking.  We'd made an appointment to see the rig the lady had for sale and went there first.

We'd spent a LONG time looking at rigs in RV shows and deciding what we liked and didn't like about the various floor plans. We both agreed that we didn't like the TV over the driver area, we didn't like the usual dinette/bench layout, we didn't want twin beds or bunks. We did like L shaped couches, slide outs, free standing dining table with real chairs and a TV where you could see it.
Amazingly the Rexhall had all the things we liked and none of the things we didn't!! The lady and her husband had owned it from new. He passed away a few years previously but she drove it from San Francisco and back each winter and she's 75! They had it custom built by Rexhall new in 1999 with a big rear window in the back and they had bought every conceivable add on and improvement over the years. All maintenance was done exactly on time and was detailed with receipts down to the last light bulb! The tires were 3 years old and she was about to get it smogged and renew the registration and that would be included in the asking price which was reasonable. 

We liked it and felt completely happy with the seller. But it was the first one we looked at and everyone tells you: "don't buy the first one you look at". We swapped contact information and said we'd get back to her and set up inspections and road testing if we wanted to go ahead.

Next we drove a 40' Diesel Pusher (DP) at a consignment lot but although it had low miles it needed new tires badly and the steering shook. Still it was the first time I ever DROVE a big RV so it was educating. 

We wandered around a few dealer lots but they were out of our price range. We discovered the Park and Sell scene and wandered around several of them. a couple of rigs looked good but didn't have the features we wanted. 

We left Yuma full of enthusiasm, we'd taken pictures of rigs we liked so we could remember them later, that was a habit we developed going to RV shows, We'd get home and couldn't remember what rig had what features and where it was we'd seen it. I made up a sheet with the basics of size, make, model, features, location and space for a picture. That was one of the best things we did. It made reviewing rigs we'd seen so much easier. We passed that idea on to our friends from RV Boot Camp for their shopping trips.

We began to haunt Craigslist for rigs in our price range and size requirements. We decided 35' was the smallest we'd go if we were serious about full timing. We looked at dozens of rigs in San Diego. Private sales and dealers. Some that looked great in a photograph were poor when seen up close. Some were overpriced, the owners naturally loved them and wanted top dollar. One couple got the blue book value and added on the price of all the repairs they'd done to the rig over the years and expected somebody would pay that! 

We must have looked at 40 of them. There was a 2000 40' DP on consignment at a local dealer, the owner had been living in it on a local military base campground for several years but he passed away. The family didn't want it and it sat unused for a couple of years until the family had it towed to the dealer for sale. We liked it because it had most of our wants. It did have the TV over the drivers seat. It didn't have a slide. They couldn't get it started for a while, dead batteries. When I lifted up the door to the generator/battery area the batteries were covered in green corrosion. Not just on the terminals but all over the compartment. Eventually they got it going and we drove it around. It ran pretty good, the tires were about 2 years old but there was a propane leak around the stove and we hadn't tried all the components as there was no shore power, the propane tank was empty and the batteries were dead. It was fully equipped just as the original owner left it. I felt confident that we could get it for a steal. I have enough mechanical skills that I was confident in my ability to get everything up to scratch if the dealer demonstrated the components operated. I was ready to make an offer. Plus we'd measured our driveway and it was 40' long, so was the rig!!

I was ready to make an offer. Barbara was a little wary of the thing having sat so long and not being able to see things work. We left without making an offer but with an agreement that if we were ready to do a deal the dealer would get all the systems running and ready for an independent inspection.

At home we thought about it some more and looked at the review sheets we'd made of the rigs we'd seen. I liked the big DP but we'd have to put a lot of time and money into it. We were stumped, we'd spent a couple of months shopping (which really isn't long and we weren't in a hurry) we were almost at the point of calling about the DP when Barbara said "You know we still haven't seen one we liked better that the first one we looked at!". And it struck me she was right, it was the best one. 

We dug out the owners phone number and gave her a call. She was delighted to hear from us, she'd had one other offer but she didn't like the guy and swore she wouldn't sell it to him even if he offered her a million dollars. We chatted for a while and we made her a tentative offer, with a little haggling we were in our price range and we agreed we'd drive to Yuma the next weekend, have lunch with her and test drive the rig and all it's systems.
The next Saturday morning we were playing with the systems which all worked perfectly, driving it around and reading all the documents that were with it. De the owner made lunch and Barbara asked what kind of crockery De found worked best for the RV.

De said we obviously didn't understand - the rig would be complete and ready to go with crockery, cutlery, accessories, outdoor mats, bedding even guide books and maps! That made our mind up and we agreed on the price. De said she had to get her personal stuff to San Francisco but a U-Haul would be too expensive and the smog and registration (CA tags so less cost to register for us) needed to be done before the sale so she would drive it to SF and meet us up somewhere between SF and SD. 

Well if a 75 year old lady had no problem driving that rig to SF and back then she was obviously sure of it's reliability. 

We all agreed to meet up in Indio CA in a couple of weeks. We'd rent a car and drop it at Palm Springs Airport, we'd provide her an airline ticket to SF and she'd stay in a hotel Saturday night while we boondocked at a casino for our first stay in the rig, then drive it home from there Sunday. 

And that's what we did. De didn't like the hotel she had booked so we treated her to a room at the Holiday Inn, she had dinner with some friends in Palm Springs and we ate in a truck stop. Next day we dropped her off at the airport and drove home. I'd planned driving down the east side of the Salton Sea to I8 then take I8 west to SD. That way there wouldn't be too many challenging roads to drive on for my "Maiden Voyage". 

Unfortunately we bought a new RV GPS a week before the trip and I blindly followed it thru a wild twisting turning mountain road that dropped us on I15 near Temecula CA. Talk about a "Baptism by Fire". However I was proud not to have clipped a curb, brushed a tree or got a tire off the pavement the whole way AND we didn't have a big tailback of traffic behind us.

So now we had a rig.

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