Three Long Months

Not only do you have to figure out what motorhome to buy, but you need to decide where to buy it. This really isn’t a simple task. You need to be concerned with more than just price. The quality of the dealer prep, how well the dealership understands and can teach you to use the motorhome’s systems and the service after the sale are all important considerations.

When I purchased my last motorhome, a 2005 Winnebago Aspect class C, I went with a local dealer. I assumed that the close proximity would facilitate better service and I was busy with a full time job. As a result, I knowingly paid more than I could have bought a comparable rig elsewhere. It also turned out that the delivery was done by someone with less knowledge of the operations of the various systems than my experience and the after sale service while OK in quality, took forever to be completed.

This time around, I had more time, more buying experience and I wasn’t constrained by location in any way. Since I intended to travel full time, after sale service would be done wherever I wanted and needed it to be completed. The entire country was my shopping ground. The internet was my catalog, buyers guide and consumer reference source.

I needed to order my motorhome custom made to my specification. The Tiffin Motorhome company provides listings of all of the options for each model along with the Manufacturers Suggested Retail price (MSRP). All you have to do is ask. Using this list, I marked off each of the options I wanted, picked the colors and finishes and added up the costs. I now knew what I wouldn’t pay.   Anybody that buys without this knowledge is probably going to pay to much.   All RVs are marked up extensively.

I used the options listing in a request for quote from various dealers recommended by the consensus of internet users on various forums. Each of the dealers I sent a request was generally well thought of by other buyers. Only one dealer didn’t respond. The others were all within a thousand dollars.

I selected Sherman RV in Sherman Mississippi to buy my new home. They were the most responsive to my questions, they understood the peculiarities of internet buying and were very easy to deal with. I placed the order at the beginning of July and the long wait began. It would be 3 long months until I took delivery.

My motorhome arrived at the dealer in the 3rd week of September. They sent me pictures and we agreed on a delivery date of October 5th. It had been a long wait. I had hoped to be able to get down to the Tiffin factory in Alabama to see the actual construction of my motorhome, but I wasn’t able to get away. Finally, let the adventure begin.

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Motorhome in the prep service bay at Sherman RV

I left New England on Friday morning October 2nd heading south with a massive rain storm between me and my destination. My Honda CRV was packed with everything I’d need to test systems and live in the unit as I brought it back north. I got a late start at about 10am. So much for my desire of getting as far south as I could before the rain caught up with me. I ran into rain in Connecticut less than 200 miles into my journey. The first night was outside Harrisburg PA, about 150 miles short of my rough goal for the day.

Saturday started with fog and rain. It was difficult driving all the way down the Shenandoah valley of Virginia. Thankfully, the traffic was light. Once into Tennessee, the weather improved, but the traffic got horrible. I got off Interstate 40 in Knoxville to try and avoid an accident that had traffic completely stopped. Instead, I got stuck in University of Tennessee football game traffic. I’ve never seen so much orange in my life, cloths, cars, flags, you name it, it was in orange. Eventually, I stopped for the evening just west of Knoxville. It was difficult finding a room as University of Tennessee fans or their opponents had a lot of rooms booked.

The next morning I was traveling in all new territory, I’d never been south of Knoxville on I-75. Sunday was an easy travel day as I navigated around Chattanooga, into Alabama, through Huntsville and on to Red Bay Alabama. Red Bay is the home of the Tiffin Motorhome company. It’s a little town dominated by the motorhome manufacturer. While I couldn’t get down to see my motorhome built, I took the opportunity to understand the lay of the land so I’d know what to do and where to go should I come back for service on my motorhome.

My final destination for Sunday was Tupelo MS, about 60 miles from Red Bay. I got there in the middle of the afternoon and got set for the night. In the morning I’d complete my journey to Sherman, the next town to the west of Tupelo.

My Home on Wheels

A lot of thought and analysis went into the selection of my Motor Home. Over the last few years as I considered the change in lifestyle, I read blogs, reviewed RV manufactures Web sites and attended the bigger RV shows. All of these activities went into clarifying my desires and narrowing the selection process.

First, I knew I wanted a motorhome. To me, it came down to tow a big 5th wheel trailer then have to drive a big dually truck around town, or tow a little vehicle with a big motorhome then have a good around town vehicle. As a solo traveler, many of the advantages of a 5th wheel are negated.

The next question many people try to answer is diesel pusher or gas motorhome. I didn’t see that as the primary driver. My ordered primary criteria were:

  1. Enough carrying capacity for all my “stuff”.
  2. Small enough to get into more rustic state and federal parks.
  3. Quality construction that will support full timing.
  4. Floor plan that will support my lifestyle.

It turns out the diesel issue is influenced by the carrying capacity and length criteria. Most of the shorter diesels do not have the carrying capacity I need. This is because of the size of the engine and drive train. The distance behind the rear wheels can only be made so short. Therefore, it’s necessary to shrink the wheel base to get a short overall diesel pusher. This eliminates a lot of the storage space. While the quietness of a rear engine, the smoothness of air ride and the increased stopping power of air brakes would be nice, I’ll only be driving it 1 day out of 15 given my travel plans. So paying 30% to 50% more to improve the experience for 6.5% of the time it will be used doesn’t add up for me.

With my focus set on 32 to 35 foot gas motorhomes, I narrowed the brand selection down to Winnebago, Newmar or Tiffin. These manufacturers are very different in approach, but all produce a product in my quality vs. cost value point. The decision was down to floor plan.

In a floor plan, I wanted:

  • basement and indoor storage space
  • a desk/computer workstation area
  • good TV viewing
  • usable with the slides in
  • no full wall slides or an excessive number of slides
  • residential style refrigerator

After looking at many units over the course of 2 to 3 years, I selected the Tiffin Open Road Model 32SA which is actually about 35 feet long.

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Allegro 32SA – Mine was ordered with the Computer Desk, Fireplace and the Residential Refrigerator

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Exterior view with awning deployed

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View from the drivers area looking back.

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Couch and Dinette / Computer Workstation in the Driver side Slideout

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King Bed with lots of useless pillows

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The main TV and Fireplace

It has more basement storage than comparable sized diesel pushers and has everything I want and need plus a few things I don’t need.  For instance, it has 3 large pillows in the bedroom that have no purpose other than decoration.  When it comes time to use the bed, they end up on the floor.   I doubt they will last long.

Goals

I think most people are goal oriented. They may not think of them as goals, but each of us have plans, desires, reasons for doing things and just general ideas for the future.

My primary goal can best be stated as a negative, a fear. I don’t want to become a hermit, a recluse an isolated person withdrawn from society. Given my introverted personality characteristic, this would seem to be a valid concern. I want to continue to see and experience new things.

To combat this concern, my primary goal is to travel full time in a Motor home. Given that I’ll be traveling solo, initially I’ll restrict my travels to the US and Canada. I’m not opposed to travel in Mexico, Central America or Air travel elsewhere in the world, but I’d rather do that with companions or a group.

Specific ideas or sub goals are:

  • spending time visiting and learning about the sites and features of each state and province
  • being temperature comfortable by going south in the winter and north in the summer
  • visiting all of the national parks, many of the national monuments and historic sites
  • visiting civil war battle sites
  • visiting aerospace and military museums
  • visiting all of the retired warships now open as museums
  • following parts of old route 66
  • following parts of the historic Oregon trail
  • hike and bike scenic trails

As a general travel goal, I plan to follow a pattern of travel two or three hundred miles then stop for a couple of weeks.  During the winter I’ll probably stay in one place longer.   While parked, I’ll do day trips of up to a hundred miles from the RV.