Education, Education, Education… (2012 – 2015)

Fortunately, the Internet holds a tremendous amount of information that was helpful in charting our course to the RV lifestyle.  Most of this information was encouraging but there was also no shortage of stories concerning what could go wrong, sometimes disastrously so.  There are numerous free RV websites that include discussion forums on a wide array of subjects.  When we had a question, we’d post the question on one of these forums and we could count on getting multiple responses within a day or two.

Two of the organizations we found particularly helpful were Workamper News (www.workamper.com) and Escapees (www.escapees.com).  Workamper News focuses on ways to earn some income while living in an RV.  Workamper News provides a means to connect individuals seeking workamping employment with employers seeking workampers.  Since neither of us was close to 65 when we began our dream, we found this information very helpful in finding out about opportunities to make a little money while camping.  Although a small percentage of workampers pursue high paying jobs while on the road, most workamping jobs are simply ways to supplement income or, at a minimum, get our campsite paid for.   We began our membership in Workamper News as “dreamers” but found these resources so valuable that we enrolled as “lifetime Gold members” when the opportunity arose.  We continue to sign up for the monthly “Gold member roundtable” and “Ask the Expert” online webinars.  Although we haven’t been in a position to share our experience yet, we hope to be in a position to do so in the future.

Escapees is an organization dedicated to serving the needs of RVers. A large percentage of Escapees members are full-timers so we were able to learn from the Escapees resources about how we would deal with the various issues related to not having a “sticks and bricks” home.  In September 2012, we attended the Escapees RV Boot Camp in Sedalia, MO.  The 3-day Boot Camp touched on all aspects of RVing from hitch-up tips and techniques to RV systems, driving skills, weight and tire safety, fire and life safety, and more.  Escapees also holds annual Escapades which are rallies at which over 1,000 RVers and dreamers attend for five days of seminars, entertainment and fellowship.  We attended Escapades in July 2013 in Gillette, WY and in March 2015 in Tucson, AZ.

One of the first things we learned about RVing was the variety of types of RVs and the large number of manufacturers of each type.  We attended all the RV shows we could find close to home.  Each February, we attended the Chicago RV show and then attended the Milwaukee RV show the following week.  In January 2015, we attended the Tampa RV Supershow, one of the biggest collections of RVs at a single site.  We began with the idea that we would buy a motorhome (correctly referred to as a Class A) but ultimately decided on a fifth wheel.  There are pros and cons to each type of RV but, given that we plan to stay in a location for extended periods of time, we decided that the roominess of the fifth wheels was the most important to us.

Since we intend to full-time in our fifth wheel, it was important to get one that was built for full-time use.  We read all the RV reviews and owner feedback we could find and narrowed our search down to a few manufacturers.  As would be expected, the higher quality fifth wheels were also the most expensive.  New Horizons custom manufactures some amazing fifth wheels but they were well above our price range.  That left us with three manufacturers that we considered: DRV, Excel and NuWa.  We also considered Redwoods but, although they had beautiful interiors, they were not built as solidly as the others.  Excel and NuWa were both manufactured in Kansas so, in conjunction with our attendance at the RV Boot Camp in Sedalia, MO, we decided to tour the two Kansas factories.  Unfortunately, NuWa went out of business two weeks before we were planning to visit them.  We did tour the Excel facility in Smith Center, KS and, although we were impressed with the quality of their construction, we were concerned with the lack of Excel dealers outside of the Midwest.  That left us focused on DRV.  In hindsight that was a good decision since Excel went out of business in early 2015.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that most DRV’s are built to order, it was difficult to find a DRV dealer that had much of a variety in stock.  The Milwaukee RV show generally had one model on display and there were generally no DRV’s at the Chicago RV show.  We visited the Brown & Brown dealership in Bourbonnais, IL in 2012 but, although the salesman was very helpful, they only had one DRV Mobile Suites on the lot.  We toured the DRV factory in the fall of 2013 and were impressed with what we saw.  The Tampa Supershow was the first opportunity we had to view a large selection of DRV models at one place and to get a lot of questions answered.  We spent a large part of two days at the DRV exhibit and got a great deal of input on various options we ultimately included in our build sheet.

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