Wow! what a great life! I narrate this as I peer out the windshield of our 42 foot RV. Joan & I are traveling down the highway at approximately 65 miles per hour. The ride is like gliding on a cloud. Where are we? Well, we're somewhere in Montana. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous! We're heading to Red Lodge, MT just south of Billings. . and . . We are having a ball!
Took a lot of guts to sell the house, the furniture, our biggest car and rid ourselves of all the extra clothing, the snowblower (won't miss that) the lawn mower (won't miss that either) and all the STUFF that anchored us to our former working lives. It's really refreshing and liberating to be free! Free to explore the country . . God's Country! with no ties or obligations! The RV lifestyle is exactly what retirement should be.
Our RV was carefully selected to meet our every need. I spent a lot of time researching the to get exactly the right unit. The Pace Arrow! For those of you who are unfamiliar with RV's the Pace Arrow is the Cadillac of RV's. People stare at you as you cruise down the freeway - they wave at you in cities as you pass. You know they wish they were you! But there not! No Sir. YOU are you . . . and YOU own a Pace Arrow RV!!!
(Joan) "John, did you see that? It was a sign that said 15 mile to Helena!" (Me) "What? No that can't be correct honey, Helena is 250 miles northwest of Billings and even further from Red lodge. I believe if you take another look at your map you will see that we are "indeed" on the correct route. Now if you don't mind I'm narrating the report I plan to publish to all those folks who just can't wait to be in our shoes. You know, traveling around in an RV and all that!"
Ah . . . where was I . . . oh yah . . the Pace Arrow - best rated RV on the market. Retails for $262,000. A sampling of accessories include cruise, power steering, power brakes, backup camera, stereo system, dish TV, 21 inch flat screen, built in power vacuum system, microwave, dual convection oven, on board power generator, fireplace, electric heated (fold flat) side rearview mirrors, heated (and cooled) seats, trash compactor, dishwasher, Power awning (both sides), power side extenders (for both bedroom and living area) dual wheels, power assist V8 engine with fuel injection, "the ultimate power leveling system" and a complete up to date Navigation system. I'm probably forgetting something but let's just say it's "well equipped"
(Joan) "JOHN! I think we" . . . (Me) "Honey! Please don't interrupt! Can't you see I'm busy here?" (Joan) "Well I wanted to tell you that we just passed a sign that says Helena 8 miles!" (Me) "Can't be!!, we've been following the Nav system for the past 2 days. It was all checked before we left! I'm sure we are on the proper route. Please just relax and stop interrupting!"
Now where was I. Oh Ya . . . wouldn't want any of that equipment to malfunction so I'd neverthink of leaving without making sure everything was in order. I took it in to the dealer before we left and put it through a 136 point checkup to insure "Absolute total safety and confident drivability" This should be done once each year (according to the dealer) to insure "total trouble free operation". The checkup cost $1,800.00 (more if issues are found) but worth every penny. For sure!
(Joan) "JOHN! . . Did you see that sign???" (Me) "What sign?" (Joan) "The one that says "Welcome to Helena" population 29,134." (Me) "Shit!!! That's impossible!!! The navigation system says we're ahhhh . . . in Wyoming? What the??? Damm!!! This piece of crap must be out of order!!! We're 250 miles out of our way!" (Joan) "Remember just outside of Billings when I told you to turn left and you insisted that we turn right? . . . (Me) "Ok! Ok! it was a forgivable error since "I WAS following our "tuned up" Navigation system" which is taking us to who the hell knows where!!! Damm!!" (Joan) "We'll I told you" . . . (Me) "OK! OK! let's just get some gas and turn around. Look . . . there's a Shell station right over there! I'll just pull in and ". . . (Joan) "Look out!!! You're never going to get under that canopy!!!" . . . . . So now we hear a deafening scraping noise and the attendant is running toward the RV waving his hands saying "The RV fill up is over there!!!
Oh well, there wasn't enough damage to to their canopy to get the station folks excited. Maybe $500 to $1000 in damages to the RV. Mostly just visual stuff . . . you know . . . "nothing that would hurt the running of it". I won't claim anything from the Insurance company . . . mostly because I have $1,500 deductible. I chose that to save money.
So I'm standing there pumping gas in the RV for our recovery trip. We went a long way so it's taking some time to fill it up. (Me) "Hey Joan, how about taking over here while I do a quick pit stop and pick up a pop and a couple of candy bars?" (Joan) "OK, where are the gas gloves?" (Me) "Gas gloves! . . . What the heck are you talking about???" (Joan) "Well I just assumed you wouldn't want to get gas on your hands so I figured you'd have gloves for that!" (Me) "Sorry honey no "gas gloves" . . . here's some paper toweling . . . that should work! I'll be back in a little bit"
I pick up the pop and a couple of snickers and as I walk out the station's door the attendant approaches me and says "Ahhh . . . as I walked past your RV I think I saw a tiny gas leak . . . you might want to get that checked" (I say) "OK! and return to the RV - Joan is inside so we should be ready to go.
(I say to Joan) . . . "Well what are the damages?" (Joan says) - "$490.80! (Me)"WHAT????" (Joan says) "Well we have been going uphill all day against a pretty stiff headwind. We've been getting just slightly better than 3.5mpg. We travelled over 420 miles since leaving North Dakota this morning and gas is $4.09 per gallon. I asked another RV driver why gas is so expensive here?" (He said) "You're in Helena MT honey, most people ride horses around here so they jack the prices up to make up for the lack of volume! The people of Helena and the State of Montana thank you for your contribution" . . . . Then he drove off."
It was a "Very Long Day" but we've finally reached our original destination . . . the RV park in Red Lodge. We came in late so only the premium spots were left. Our slot cost $197.00. That's a lot but it comes with Cable, all the channels, high speed internet, LP gas hookup . . . the list goes on! Only problem is it's already 1:15AM and we're leaving early tomorrow.
As I lay there trying to go to sleep I'm pondering the wisdom of my decisions since I retired. Could it be that I made a slight miscalculation? Could it be that I should have kept the house and just settled for a little less RV? No! Definitely not! It's "all in" or "nothing"! That's the way I roll!!!
Well . . . time has passed. That trip was 15 years ago.
Can't say things have been a lot better. I remember the Nav system had to be replaced back then. Repairs cost me over $3,500. Of course I am getting better mileage now the gas tank has been replaced. Today, under similar circumstances, we get about 5mpg.
Let's face it!!! We've thought about selling the RV and buying a home. Problem is while houses have gone up in value our RV has gone down (about 50%) since we started our ADVENTURE. We're stuck!! Gas prices keep going up, RV Parks keep getting rattier! RV Park prices are going up too! Hooking up, Unhooking, flushing the septic system trying to maintain some privacy while everyone in the park is "just hankering to get to know you" Maintenance issues . . . (when your RV is in the shop . . . so are you!!!) Oh, and finding a parking place is a total "adventure" in itself. All our acquaintances ask us "where do you keep your gun"???
Frankly I yearn for our old home. IT never moved, rattled or required a tire change in the middle of the night. I don't remember ever having an empty beer can hit our house in the middle of the night or hearing some drunk yell out "I gotta pee!! I gotta pee right now!!!". . . has anybody seen my pants????
I guess the fun will continue until we run out of money. Here's a tip! If you have a hankering to get an RV when you retire. . . why don't you save yourself some money. "Just jump into a pit of quicksand . . and. . enjoy the ride!!!"
I kept a diary and have taken pictures along the way for the past 2 years. Here's equipment that others have chosen for their travel in retirement. Don't laugh . . . these guys are the smart ones!!!