Lots of milestones happening in April and one of our biggest is that the camper turns two. This is a big date because it is when the original factory warranty expires and I thought I should take a moment to talk about that. We have been extremely lucky in the area of RV repairs. We certainly have had our share of things breaking, you are constantly shaking your home after all, but we have avoided some of the major issues that our friends have had. Still, I am extremely grateful that we purchased an extended 7 year warranty at the time of purchase because after hearing about the experiences of others, I can’t imagine traveling without the peace of mind of a warranty. We personally know three couples who have spent multiple months dealing with major coach repairs. These issues go beyond the cosmetic and are structural to the frame of the rig itself and can cause havoc with travel plans. One couple I know did the calculations and spent 25% of their time last year in or near repair shops, and they are not alone. In all of these cases the loss of time and frustration was bad enough, but I can’t even imagine what that would have looked like if you had to spend your own money on top of that. From what I have seen there are enough of these issues out there that it goes beyond special cause variation (a fancy statistical term for the weird and unexpected) and becomes the norm for a certain percentage of full timers. The scary thing is that there is no good way to predict these events in advance. The issues are spread between used and new rigs and between Class A’s and Fifth wheels. Also surprisingly the price point doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. It seems just as many folks have issues in the higher priced models as in the more moderately priced models.
We have been extremely happy with our rig over the last two years. Early on we had some slide out issues, but Lee was able to work with Open Range and get the parts and do the repairs himself. We also had some problems early on with our washer/dryer combo unit, but we finally got a good unit and have had no issues since. We replaced one Fantastic Fan (which supposedly never go bad) and had the cable to the black tank break, which we replaced with electric valves, and again, no issues since. There is lots of little stuff, of course. Screws come loose, we have a couple of bent window screens, and our step frame is bent as well because the pieces of a truck tire blowout hit it when I was driving one day. The rig has been all around the outer edge of the country at this point and has it’s fair share of dings and knocks. It’s not picture perfect anymore, but it is our home, and thankfully I was never a person who needed a perfect home to be happy. Lee tends to lean a little more in that direction, but he has made his peace with the home imperfections that seem to be inherent in the lifestyle. Still, I am really glad we have our warranty for the next 5 years, because who knows when a major problem could crop up. We think of it like living in a hurricane or tornado area. Sooner or later one is going to hit and you have to be prepared for the inevitable. You can’t let the fear of it take over your life, but it’s part of the cost of living in such a cool place and you need good insurance to prepare yourself financially for it.
All that being said, two years is a long time, and especially after the dust in Quartzsite (which is still lingering in corners) it was definitely time for a major deep clean. So we were incredibly grateful when our friends offered us their newly finished home base, to spend a few days . A few people we know have purchased or built RV spaces and use those as a home base. You can either buy a spot in an established RV resort that sells them, or purchase a piece of land and add water, sewer, electricity, and a level pad to park on. The advantage of a home base is a permanent storage area for tools or other items, and a place to stay with no campground fees. We have been extremely curious about the concept since we first heard about it and were very excited to try it out. Plus April has been a tough month on campground fees since we have been moving so much and 5 days with no cost was a wonderful gift. Plus, the site itself is absolutely great. Full hookups and ample water pressure are an absolute must for a deep clean and truly this was the perfect place.
The other reason Lee was excited about staying there was an opportunity to empty out and reorganize the storage compartments, and wash the exterior. Finding a way to wash the rig is not that easy. Many campgrounds do not allow it, and neither one of us was that comfortable with using one of the big Truck Wash facilities along the major highways. The other alternative of paying someone to do it was way out of our price range, so Lee really wanted to do it himself. Thankfully, our friends place had the perfect setup for us to do it and Lee spent a happy couple of days washing the rig and detailing the truck. He uses minimal water, using a bucket to hand wash and then a quick rinse. I decided to do something similar on the inside and cleaned the carpets, floors, woodwork, and refrigerator. While we were working, we really got a feel for the benefit of owning a little piece of land and were super content.
For one thing, it’s nice to be able to perform these chores in privacy without your neighbors coming over to chat or watching what you do. Plus, Lee was able to leave out his supplies at night without concern anything might go missing. We could spread out and really relax, which is not a feeling we have felt in a while. I don’t think I realized how omnipresent people have been in the last 1-1/2 years of our lives until we were completely without them. I’m not talking about people we know who we are visiting with, but other campers. Most folks we run across are very nice, but they are retired or on vacation and often bored. Since Lee works outside of the camper more, he gets a lot of walk up traffic. People are curious about the rig, about our Florida plates, whether we are full timers, how young we are in comparison and as pleasant as those conversations can be, sometimes it make it hard for him to get things done. And it’s so, so, so quiet. Even in Quartzsite and Standard Wash we had road noise, generator noise, people noise, but here, except for the occasional barking dog from far away, it is blissfully quiet. It also doesn’t hurt that the weather has been glorious, with sunny days in the mid 70’s, humidity on the lower side, and a slight non-stop breeze.
After this experience, we are definitely sold on the concept, and will definitely be on the lookout going forward for a home base location. They sell perfectly nice lots in RV resorts of course, but I don’t think that would be our preference unless the sites were very spread out. The services are tempting and the great locations, but I think we would want something a little more remote. Security, maintenance, taxes, utilities, proximity to family, and landscape all come into play, so for us it is not a decision to be made lightly. We also need to think about income generation and proximity to work of some kind, or we would be limited in the amount of time we could afford to stay there. All of that being said, we are in no hurry. There is still so much of this great country to see, but I definitely am sold of the benefits of having a place to come back to.
After 3 days of solid cleaning we were both ready to get out though and after looking at all that was available in the area decided on Amicalola Falls. This is the largest waterfall in Georgia and the largest “stair-step” waterfall east of the Mississippi so you know I was in. Plus it was the most affordable activity in the area, costing only $5 for a one day parking pass in the state park. We went to the visitor center upon arrival and were asked if we wanted a leisurely Sunday stroll or an extremely strenuous hike with 673 stairs….uh Lee said stroll and I have to say I agree. They have an ADA trail that is .3 miles to the prime viewing area of the falls and after seeing all those steps, I have to say I feel we made the best choice.
After seeing the falls we drove up to the top and ate a picnic lunch. There is also a really nice lodge with a restaurant, but our PB&J and Tuna Sandwiches were more budget friendly. From there we drove one a back country road to see the campground (I wouldn’t try to get our rig in there) and then on the way back stopped at Mercier Orchards. It was a beautiful day and I am so glad we got to explore the area a bit. before heading on to our next destination. And once again we really, really, really appreciate the very generous offer of allowing us to stay here.
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