Connie and I thoroughly enjoyed our short stay at Pipestem State Park Resort in West Virginia. However, we were being pulled to Florida for some legal reasons as well as a bit of a yearning to see our friends in southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. Our original plan from Pittsburgh would have us wind our way from Pipestem to US 301 for the trip south jumping off in northern Florida at State Route A1A. We would have then had a straight shot to the east to get to a temporary address for resupply and to take care of business. However, we spent the second night out of Pipestem at a military campground on Fort Stewart in Georgia. As I studied the map that evening it occurred to me that we would have to back track several miles to get to US 301 for a relatively slow drive to Florida. Continuing east from our then current location would bring us to I-95 just south of Savannah and put us on a direct line to our destination. We would need to fuel along the way, and there is truck stop at Brunswick with a truck wash. The truck wash was of particular interest to me because we needed to start the process of readying the motorhome to sale so we could buy a newer, larger one. So, with that we changed the plan and took the more direct route.
The drive was about as easy a drive as we had encountered throughout our travels since leaving Kittery the first time back in May. The guys at the truck wash did a great job on cleaning the exterior of the motorhome. So, we were set.
We arrived at our friend Trish’s house in Fernandina Beach just after noon on a Sunday. I know, we are not supposed to be traveling on Sundays since we retired. We would have stayed at Fort Stewart another day to avoid the Sunday travel, but the campground was really a long way from anything and it was pretty darned hot. Anyway, we got to Trish’s house and began to off-load those items essential for house living to include all our food. Once the motorhome was lightened we took it to another friend’s house for temporary storage while we worked on it to improve the sale price. Jay has a huge yard protected from the sun by some impressive trees that only weep a little this time of year. It was the perfect place to park the motorhome, especially since Jay also gave me access to all his tools and stuff including electricity and a legal, albeit makeshift, method to dump our tanks at the end.
We spent the next several days doing all the legal stuff one has to do to establish residency. We got new driver’s licenses, transferred the title and registered the towed car in Florida, changed the insurance and registered to vote. In the mornings we worked on the motorhome. I waxed the entire thing which allowed me the opportunity to really do a detailed inspection of the exterior and find and repair the little imperfections. Since we had always taken very good care of the rig, there were no major fixes required, only cosmetic repairs and little things like the hatch lid holders to replace. We also worked on the inside to try to restore it to as close to new condition as possible. There had been a stain on the carpet in the bathroom that had been there for years. We had tried a couple of times to remove it without success. Trish had some magic carpet spot cleaner that really did the trick. With that annoying spot removed, about the only thing left was the single hole I had put in the wall to hang a clock from. We spent hours over several days looking for those little vinyl wood grain strips or dots to cover over the hole. We finally gave up. I am certain we will now find them when we are least expecting to.
Not wanting to work every day and with the temperatures in the low to mid 90’s we tried to keep the time working on the motorhome to just a few hours every other day or so. We also had other things to attend to such as receipt of the few household goods we had shipped to Fernandina. When we decided what was to be shipped down here we were pretty sure it was a small load. Well, it weighed in at something just over 5,000 pounds. Now, some of that weight was in furniture that we did not want to keep in long term storage. We brought it down here to get rid of. None the less, I was concerned that we were now going to try to put another couple of thousand pounds of stuff into a motorhome. That would be tough. As it turns out, we brought a whole bunch of stuff down here that we had no intentions of trying to squeeze into any motorhome. So, another of the ever-growing list of things we would be doing was trying to separate the stuff into essentially three categories. Those items destined for the motorhome, those destined to be given away to friends and those that would find their way into the land-fill or some charity depending on value and usability. I am not sure we will ever be finished with that project.
We also started practicing for what was planned to be a trip to north-central Florida to one of the largest RV dealers in the Southeast. By practice I mean that we visited the local Jacksonville dealers and made a strong effort to try to define exactly what we were looking for in a previously owned diesel coach. We found a few that we felt we could live in. The price of one in particular was very attractive. The original owner put relatively few miles on the unit and did a good job of maintaining the interior. The greatest drawback was the age. We would likely be back in the looking business within a year or so in order to realize any sort of trade-in value for that particular coach. We had decided we wanted to look at two more locations before we drove to the Tampa area. There is a reputable dealer in Lake City Florida just off I-75 and not too far from the Georgia border. Just north of the border is sister dealership of a place we had looked at in Jacksonville. We had searched the company web site and there appeared to be some interesting bargains in the Georgia location. So, we planned to make a long day of it on a Friday or Saturday and check out both locations. There was also a new dealership and a Camping World Store that had just opened a few weeks earlier in the St. Augustine area. It is right next to a huge factory outlet mall. Trish and Jay had talked about maybe going down there with us. So, we had decided to go to Lakeside on Friday and to St. Augustine on Saturday to accommodate those who still worked for a living. Jay decided that he really did not want to go causing Trish to back out as well. So, on Thursday night we changed our plan and decided to go see the new place on Friday. We needed to get a few things from Camping World for our motorhome anyway, so it seemed a good change.
Well, we got down there, made our purchases at Camping World and then asked to see a sales representative from Camping Time RV so we could look at their used diesel models. As I said, this is a brand new dealership. It is owned by a company who has some 49 dealerships, Camping World, the Good Sam Club and several RV related publications in the company. In order to populate their new dealership lot for the grand opening they had moved stock, new and used, in from several other locations in the company’s network. During the grand opening sale that had ended the week before we got down there they had moved a good bit of inventory. Anyway, Dan, our sales rep, took us on a motorized tour of the lot to show us the handful of used diesel rigs they had remaining. There were not many and they were all big and pretty expensive. The one we could have afforded had issues. But Dan had been paying very close attention to what we were looking for and he got a good sense for where were thinking price wise. After we had rejected all the used coaches he said we really wanted to show us a few new Damon Astorias. He was certain that the prices would be close to where we wanted to be. He was also pretty sure that if we leaned on the general manager we could probably get him to give us the same deal we could have gotten during the grand opening sale. He even said we would probably be surprised at the offer they would make us on our trade.
So, off we go to look at our first Damon Astoria. Connie and I were familiar with the Damon line. We had drooled in several of them at various RV shows around the country over the years. We never thought we could afford one. Well, I will skip through some of the details and get to the point. The general manager reduced the price of the Astoria to what was really a fair price and he essentially doubled what we had anticipated they would give us in trade for our old motorhome sight unseen. It turns out that the GM is very familiar with the Four Winds motorhomes and he wanted to get one on the lot because he knows he can make money on it. So, coupling the reduced price to the near unbelievable trade in value, now we are talking a mortgage payment that will not stress our quality of life. So, we gave them a deposit and Connie spent a few sleepless nights worrying about money, as usual. But, here it is:
This is a view of our new home showing the living/dining area slide deployed. The slide is 34” deep and just over 12 feet long.
This is the other side. The slide at the rear is the bedroom slide. It is 18” deep and 8 feet long.
This is the Kitchen area. Although more room than in the old motorhome, we will still be doing a dance to both work in the space at the same time.
The bed is a full size Queen. The bedroom is smallish with a lot of storage space as well as the big bed. Since we only sleep here, it is okay that the room is tight. We really wanted the living space that this floor plan afforded us.
As time goes on, I will publish more photos.
As the next few days came and went, we would get even more good news. We qualified us for a really low interest rate and we were able to pull together a down payment that put us right side up on the loan from the get-go. So, even though we have a very long contract with the bank, should be decide to get out of the full timing business, we will likely do so without having to pay out of pocket. For those who have followed our adventures thus far know, getting out of the business is not a very likely reality. There is great comfort in knowing we can though.
So, we took possession of our new home on Friday the 28th of July. We spent the first night in a little campground area at the dealership that serves a couple of purposes. First it gives you an area to transfer your possessions from one rig to another while enjoying having the AC running in both units. It also affords the new owner the opportunity to get accustomed to the new rig and all its systems before driving it off the dealership with several yet to be realized questions for the service manager. We had gotten a pretty good indoctrination from one of the service reps at delivery, but spending the night made us feel much more comfortable.
We have now been camped at the campground at Kings Bay Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia since Saturday July, 29. As well as spending hours a day stowing and re-stowing, as we find more stuff to bring up from Trish’s house, we have been trying to read all the owner’s manuals. Of course with each one I pick up, I find more questions to ask the service manager when we take it in for some needed warranty work in the next week or so. I am very much a mechanically and electrically inclined sort of person. The daily pre-underway checks required by the various manuals are almost overwhelming to me. As part of our preparations for the long haul I will develop a single document that incorporates all the daily checks in one place with references to the base manual. That will make it somewhat easier. It will also help keep us organized and allow us to split the work load easier. We had a simple, less than one page checklist we used to get ready to break camp in the old motorhome. We could have several pages just for the chassis on this coach.
This point is important to me because as we have lived in many a campground and watched a lot of folks prepare to get underway, I cannot say that I have often witnessed folks attending to many of the checks recommended to keep your warranty in effect over the life of the agreement. In the chassis, engine and transmission warranty documents for this coach all three manufacturers clearly state that failure to maintain and retain documentary evidence that their recommendations have been followed will result in rejected claims for warranty work. Those statements are pretty strong and make we wonder what we would have gotten by buying a not-so-used rig that may have still had some warranty left. For sure we will maintain the records required and perform all the maintenance and pre-underway checks. Now, if I can just get them all in one place for easy reference.
We have done a ton of other things since being back in the area. Dinner with great friends, resting, getting reacquainted with the area, suffering under the near 100 degree temperatures and working hard to get our TRICARE Prime account transferred from the North Region to the South Region. That was an evolution that should have been easy that took nearly two full weeks. Most of what we have done outside of the myriad of events surrounding the purchase and load out of the new home has been routine life events that are of interest to us and those whom we shared them with but not likely to anyone else.
That said I will end here for now. Things to look forward to in the not too distant future would be our planned trip to Silver River State Park near Ocala, Florida and what I promise to be a short discussion on how the development of the checklist comes out.
Until then, rest assured that Connie and I are truly Happy Campers and we are really enjoying our new home even with the extreme temperatures that this summer is offering regardless of location on the continent.