I have a three year-old granddaughter who is a walking circus. While all of my grandchildren are beautiful, brilliant, and darned near perfect, the Brookie Monster (as she’s lovingly known) is just crazy enough to stand out from the crowd. She lives her life in a state of fearless abandon—a state that never fails to entertain those who watch her, while terrifying her parents who are constantly wondering what she’ll get into next.
However brave she is, there are occasional situations that cause even the Brookie Monster to pause. One such occurrence was on Halloween when she saw an autumn tree I had decorated for my husband’s room in assisted care. There was a small skeleton on the tree, its bony arms reaching out as though to grab a passerby in a spooky embrace, and when her mother asked if she’d like to hug it, Brookie nodded enthusiastically and reached for the ghoul with her typical bravado. But after a very brief hug, she slowly shoved the skeleton back to her mother and said, “That was a widdle bit gary.” (Translation: “a little bit scary,” for those of you who don’t speak Brookease.)
That phrase has now become a standard for many in our family whenever we discuss anything that frightens us a tad and it describes the feelings I had when I decided to buy a camper.
In the two years my husband was in assisted care, I sat with him in his room for hours each day while he watched westerns and I entertained myself with my iPad. I’ve always been goal oriented. Without goals, I feel as though I’m lost at sea with no port in sight. In order to stay sane during the hours I sat, I made a punch list of sorts—a list of things I wanted to do if I survived my caregiving days. On the very top of that list was to travel again. Ever since I’d been a small child, my family had camped and traveled around the country, but when my husband became ill, travel was too difficult and I missed it a great deal. So, while daydreaming of new adventures, I used my iPad to search the internet for camping possibilities, and I started a Pinerest board of places I wanted to see and hikes I wanted to take.
It was a fantasy of sorts, kind of like all those recipes I’d pinned, and outfits I was never going to own. But when my husband succumbed to Lewy Body Dementia in November of 2016, I realized the future had arrived. As the old saying goes, I wasn’t getting any younger. If I was going to travel, hike, fish, and all the other stuff I’d dreamed about, I’d better get to it. Winter was coming and I wanted to have my RV before the snows hit and in time to start traveling in the spring. The best time to buy is during the winter months because most people wait until spring to purchase an RV and the prices are at their best during the off season.
So, how was I going to choose what to buy?
The first thing I needed to decide was if I wanted to buy a new RV or a used one. I decided to go with used because many people buy RVs, thinking they’re going to travel only to take them out once or twice a year before eventually deciding to sell. Consequently, there are quite a few in practically new condition for about half of their original price.
After deciding to go with a used camper, I needed to choose what type I wanted. There are many different kinds available. There are campers pulled by cars, those that can only be pulled by trucks (5th wheel campers), and those that are driven (class A and class C). Within those basic groups are a variety of options, sizes, and price ranges. Now what?
I already knew a great deal about campers since I’d been traveling in them for over 50 years, but this was the first time I’d ever planned to purchase and drive one by myself. I needed to consider my particular situation and needs as well as my abilities to maintain and drive whatever I chose. It would do me no good to buy something I would be afraid to use.
The following are some of the options I considered:
First option: buy a small bumper pull camper I could tow with my car. The advantages-I could keep my car. They are lightweight and fairly cheap (less than $20K), and once I would arrive at a campground, I could unhitch and use my car for running around. Disadvantages: Hard on a V6 (My car’s engine) and I didn’t want to tow something behind a car.
Second option: Sell my car and buy a truck. I could then use either a truck camper, which sits in the bed of the truck and is easy for travel, or I could buy a pull style camper or 5th wheel camper. Advantages: The truck camper is easy for travel and if I got a heavy duty truck, it wouldn’t be hard on the engine to either pull a camper or use a truck camper. Disadvantages: I’d need to sell my car. Truck campers are very small inside. Fifth wheel campers are large and towing would be more stressful.
Third option: buy a driving RV or motor home, as some people call them. Advantages: I could keep my car (which I love) and I wouldn’t have to tow anything. I could hop in and take off in a matter of minutes without needing to hook up a rig. There are also many used ones available on the market with low mileage and listed well below their original price. Disadvantage: once I arrived at my destination, I would have to drive the RV to the grocery, restaurants etc. unless I towed a small car behind, but I didn’t want to tow anything.
How would I narrow it down?
I prioritized my needs and used that list for my final choice.
- No towing! I hate to pull anything through traffic, whether it’s a boat or an RV. Towing is the pits.
- Size matters- At least when it comes to RVs. I needed something big enough for me and occasional guests, but small enough for me to drive and maneuver comfortably.
- Mileage- I wanted a vehicle with low mileage to decrease the chances of engine trouble while traveling. I’m talented in some areas, but being a mechanic isn’t one of them.
- Cost-I had some cash available, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money on an RV when I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to use it.
I decided to buy a used class C motor home. I found a 24 foot RV with a perfect floor plan and low mileage. My parents had a similar sized RV when I was in college and when we needed to go to the store, we simply drove the camper. It really wasn’t as difficult as it sounds. It requires a little bit of planning, such as stopping at the store before going to the campground, but it’s not difficult and the advantages outweighed the inconveniences for me.
How did I find it?
This part also wasn’t as difficult as it sounds. There are many ways to locate a used RV, including driving around your area and looking for “For Sale” signs on campers in people’s yards. Again, many people buy them and don’t use them. They’re also listed in the local papers etc. However, if you’re wanting something specific (like I was) it might be necessary to utilize internet sites. I found mine by using RVtrader, a site that allows you to narrow down your choices by type, size, age, price, location, and other options. These sites provide pictures and information about the camper’s specs that help when you’re comparing what’s available and making your decisions.
I found my camper two hundred miles away and talked my son into going with me in order to drive my car back if I decided to buy the RV. While it was comforting having him with me, the decision to buy was still firmly on my shoulders. For the first time in my life, I was making a major purchase without my parents or my husband to give me advice or stop me from doing something stupid.
I must confess, despite the research I’d done and the previous experience I’d had, when I signed that paper and handed the check to the former owners, there was a knot in the pit of my stomach. At that moment, I was totally alone. Even with my son sitting beside me, the final decision was wholly on my shoulders and I felt it.
It was the first major decision I’d made since my husband had passed away, but it won’t be the last. Like a baby bird that has been shoved out of the nest, it’s either fly or fall and I intend to fly. I am determined to grab new opportunities and adventures, to continue to explore and create, for as long as I’m capable. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes along the way, but I’ll be damned if I let them stop me.
This granny isn’t done yet even if occasionally it’s a widdle bit gary.
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