Address: 23700 Termini-San Luis Pass Rd, Galveston, TX 77554
Online Reservations? Yes.
Rate Per Night: Winter: $43-54 — Summer: $54-74
Monthly Rate: $599 only available during Winter
Discount: 10% with the Good Sam, TACO, Trailer Life and Armed Forces
Nights Stayed: 62
Galveston Island RV Resort is across the road from Beach Entrance 34 at the western end of Galveston Island— about twenty miles from the sea wall and all the attractions of Galveston— making this a nice quiet location. It was probably even quieter because we were here during the winter, and while the city got busy during the Christmas holidays, it never seemed to affect our end of the island. We enjoyed the constant sound of the waves and the wind and only the occasional road noise.
Finding the office upon arrival at the resort is easy because, like all the beach houses around it, the office is on stilts in the middle of the resort. It’s a long straight drive from the entrance to the office, then a right turn to a large check-in lane. The roads in the resort are wide enough for even large fifth wheels to navigate and there are a number of pull through sites for larger rigs, but some of the back-in sites can be tricky to maneuver in to. The well spaced sites throughout the resort are nice and level with concrete pads, full hook-ups with 30/50 amp electrical pedestals, a picnic table, and a grill.
The office building includes four shower rooms, a laundry room with six washers and six dryers.— It costs $2 per load to wash and $1.75 to dry— a community room and a small store. However, the community room and store were closed to visitors due to Covid. But, even with the store closed you could buy ice and a number of drinks and frozen treats from the office that would be charged to your site. Our favorite treat, by far, was the big frozen margarita that we could buy at anytime while the office was open.
The staff was always friendly and helpful and not just because they could deliver a frozen margarita on request! They would bring packages to our site except for the holiday week when the park was packed, then they sent an e-mail asking us to come pick up our packages at the office. The property was always well maintained by a busy crew.
The resort offers a number of amenities. Propane is available onsite. They have a pool and a lazy river, though we didn’t get to experience either because it was always too chilly. They also have a pickle ball court, a basketball net and horseshoes. In warmer weather they also have a food truck that makes pizza. And, most importantly, the beach is a short walk or bike ride to the nearest access point across the road from the campground.
We loved our stay at Galveston Island RV Resort. It’s not in the middle of the action. Instead, it offers a quiet place to relax on an island where it’s easy to stay busy with all the fun things to see and do.
I had a vision in my head of how our first day as full-time RVers would go. We would walk out of our empty house, jump into the front seats of Belvedere (our RV) and we would drive away as the music swelled and the credits rolled; the end of one episode of our lives and the start of something new. But, life… isn’t a movie. Though, at times, it IS a comedy.
On June 1st, 2020 we moved out of the house so we could finish doing all the projects we needed to do to get the house on the market. The biggest one was replacing the carpet on the top two floors. We needed the cats to be out of the house so they wouldn’t have to chance to…ahem…make the new carpet theirs. If you know what I mean.
The drive away from the house was anything but triumphant. A pavement crew showed up that morning and began tarring the cracks in our parking lot. Suddenly, we were worried about Belvedere getting tarred in the process, but the crew had a huge truck that blocked the exit. When it finally drove off to get lunch we fled our parking lot to the nearby Blue Beacon truck wash with Carolyn driving Belvedere and me chasing in our Honda Element. Once washed, we checked in at the campground, parked, hooked up water and power then Carolyn set up her laptop and got back to work. That night, after work, we began the process of moving into the RV until we collapsed, exhausted.
After working from home together for months, we now found ourselves with a morning commute. Each morning we would get up, have coffee, then drive from the campground back to the house where Carolyn still had her office set up and, while she worked, I worked on the house; touching up paint, pressure washing and sealing the deck, cleaning the outside of the house and fixing up the flowerbeds. It was a busy month. Every day we arrived back at the RV late in the evening, ate dinner and went to bed. We only took two days off to enjoy our new home and our wonderful new neighbors. By the way, our neighbors are the folks we met last fall and wrote about here and I’ll have more to say about the campground in a future post.
At times it felt like we would never get to the finish line! The day before we got the real estate photos taken we had to replace the toilet in the main bathroom! But, we did make it! The house finally went on the market on July 2nd. We took the fourth of July weekend off to enjoy the lake.
However, the work isn’t over. We are still purging items as we discover we brought over too much stuff. The Honda has boxes of things we are working our way through. Some will be kept, some will get donated, some will get stored and some more will be trashed. Our storage unit was so carefully packed at first, but, the closer we got to our deadline the more we stashed stuff in it like a drug dealer with cops at the door! Now we have to get it organized. Yay!
All in all the first month felt like we dove in then spent the month holding on to the side of the pool. We got an offer on the house this week so, we’ll see how that plays out. We are here at this campground until the end of July then we off to a service appointment at the RV dealer in St. Louis. Until then, we still have a lot to do. But, at least now, we can also take some time to enjoy the experience of camping as well. Maybe a swim and s’mores tonight!
So, what lessons have we learned in our first month of RV life?
It’s definitely not a vacation. We still work, pay bills, buy groceries and do all the work to keep house. Heck, we haven’t even travelled, yet, so it’s like moving to a very small fixer-upper.
You really don’t need as much as you think you do. After 5 yard sales, selling countless things on E-Bay or Facebook Marketplace, endless trips Goodwill and the dump we find that we STILL HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF!
Patience is more than a virtue, it’s a necessity! So is a sense of humor! Living in a small space with another person is challenging. You WILL hear things and, worse, smell things and invariably you will get in each other’s way so tension mounts fast! Which leads me to…
Communication, Communication, Communication! We went from a 2100 square foot house to a twenty five foot RV. There is no place to go cool off if you’re angry. There isn’t even a door to slam! Like it or not, you have to work out issues when they happen. And they will, because; I may have mentioned this; it’s a TINY space!
Actively look for joy. We’ve been stationary so there aren’t any exciting new places to explore, yet. We’ve been eyeball deep in getting the house ready and all the things we used to do for fun; going to the movies, eating out and shopping; have been taken off the table by Covid 19 so it’s really easy to get in a funk about it all. To counter that we’ve had to really look for things that bring us joy. Our campground sits on the edge of a beautiful lake that we get to go play in. We have better neighbors than we ever had in our sticks and bricks house. We spend more time outdoors than we have in years and there really is something wonderful about sitting outside watching the lake as the sun goes down. All these wonderful little things that we could easily have taken for granted in our old life are now vital to keeping the funk at bay.
RVer’s, in general, are wonderful people and they are ready to lend a hand if needed. And, as a newbie believe me, it’s needed! All you have to do is ask and be ready to pitch in if you’re needed.
We glimpsed the Promised Land. To put that into perspective, it is important to understand that our journey towards full time RV life has been long and at times agonizingly slow as we have worked through the process of downsizing our belongings, getting our RV and getting the house ready to sell. It is taking longer than we planned and we are not done yet, which is frustrating, and occasionally demoralizing. We have maintained our enthusiasm mostly by gorging on YouTube videos and keeping the faith that this new lifestyle will be the right one for us, but since neither of us has RV’d before, it really is faith we are working with, not knowledge.
Recently we were given a bit of a view of one of the potential RV lifestyles out there and it has renewed our enthusiasm.
But, like most journeys it began with frustration.We took our new baby for its first emissions inspection, which is a requirement to get tags in Tennessee. Since we like breathing fresh air, we have no complaints. We pulled up to the station and the gentleman there asked for our mileage. In ANY other vehicle I have driven, the mileage is prominently displayed on the dashboard. Not so, our new 2019 Mercedes chassis. What commenced was about a 10 minute fire drill as we searched to find the mileage that involved the onboard computer, Google, and a couple of well deserved eye rolls from the gentleman assisting us and a minor amount of colorful language on my part. My apologies to the folks at the testing center and the very patient lady who had the misfortune to be behind us in line.
Mission finally accomplished, we headed back to the house to meet up with some friends, who we were hosting in the RV. Pizza, wine and RV conversation is starting to be a thing with us. This is the second time we had show and tell with pizza. Frankly, it works for us. The coach is so comfortable for 4 people having a meal. We didn’t use the dining table option, because pizza, but there was plenty of room.
In the evening, this is where the RV magic occurred. We have friends who just bought a new fifth wheel and they invited us to the RV park they were staying at for a game of you show us yours and we will show you ours. They are a different brand of RVer from us. Our plan is to travel a lot and stay 1-2 weeks at places we like. Theirs is to land in a place for the season and RV locally, with only a couple of trips away each year. The advantage of their lifestyle is that they build lots of friendships with others who stay for the season.
The Safe Harbour RV park team graciously allowed us to come inside and park in an empty slip while we were there to visit our friends. Our friends had brought other friends from the RV park, and they all had the pleasure of watching the newbies back into our first parking space (thankfully we did ok) and then we all piled into the FX to show her off. There were seven of us and plenty of room. The back seating area was perfect. Conversation flowed easily and no one was left feeling isolated.
After a bit, we went over to the fifth wheel, which was really nice, with a great layout. The kitchen was up and the living room down, and it really worked well. More of their friends showed up and that is when we then experienced the RV culture we have been hoping for all along. Loads of laughter, total strangers who treated us as family, everyone contributing to dinner (which was a taco buffet of epic proportions created in multiple kitchens) and common bonds created by a shared lifestyle. Everyone had a funny story or tip to share and a good time was had by all. Our friends said that every weekend was pretty much like this, where the community came out to be together, and the sense of comradery was addictive. We barely speak to our neighbors in our house that we have lived in for nearly twenty years. While we do not plan to stay in one place for a whole season like our friends, we know we will be back to Nashville quarterly for work and doctors and such, and we now have a crew and a plan for those times. We felt like we finally found our tribe.
We have been told over and over that RVers are a warm, generous group of people who are always willing to step up to help each other, and that is exactly what we experienced. It was wonderful and we will be buoyed by the experience for a long time to come as we close in on our goal to go full time. I want to give a shout out to Bill and Brandon and their marvelous group of RV friends. Thank you for the wonderful experience.
On Friday, November 1st the long wait came to an end when we signed the papers and took delivery of our new Leisure Travel Van Unity FX. Our first weekend was one of the greatest and most stressful adventures we’ve ever had! And, for those who might be thinking about buying an RV, I want to tell you what our first weekend was like and some lessons we learned along the way.
Packing – We flew to St. Louis to pick up our RV at Van City, so our challenge was packing all the items we thought we would need, including pillows and a comforter, into suitcases we could check on the plane. It was a challenge but we got it down to two rolling suitcases, two backpacks and a tote bag containing the comforter squashed into a vacuum bag that lost air and slowly expanded during the trip. Lesson learned – pack scissors.
The Big Day – We were so excited we didn’t get to bed until well after midnight and woke up at 5AM to get to the airport for our early morning flight. I’m glad we had time to enjoy a sit down breakfast at the airport after getting through security, because it would be a long time before we saw food or water again. I was also really glad the flight to St. Louis was a short one because I was too excited to concentrate on my ebook, so I spent to flight looking out the window at the landscape passing below us. Once we arrived, we grabbed our bags and headed outside where Dan, our salesman, picked us up and drove us to Van City. Lesson learned – bring snacks.
Taking delivery of an RV is somewhere between buying a house and buying a car. The amount of paperwork is about the same as buying a car. Which was great because I was not looking forward to signing my name as many times as I did when we closed on our mortgage. But, like buying a house, taking delivery of an RV includes a detailed walk-through, except, the buyer gets instructed in how to operate every system. I am so glad that I used my phone to video every stage of the walk-through. We began under the hood and over the next three plus hours went through every system and how it worked! There was no way either of us would have remembered everything even with Carolyn furiously taking notes. Sure, we got manuals, but they came in their own tote bag that weighs about 5 pounds. Digging through the manuals is not helpful for quick answers, but we can refer the videos. Lesson learned – Don’t watch – do. Make sure you are the one clicking the buttons, turning on the fan, and making things happen. The process is overwhelming and you will learn more by performing the task instead of watching it be performed. Especially if you are tired and hangry. Also, don’t be afraid to call a halt if you need a break or something to eat.
With our brains numb from lack of sleep and three hours of orientation, we were handed the keys and away we went to the first stop on our RVing adventure… Lunch. We were tired, hungry and thirsty and keep in mind, we’ve only ever test driven a vehicle this large and never actually had to park it. Now, we were driving on to the interstate for the first time. Carolyn was driving and, I’m sure, feeling a bit like Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed. We only had to go one exit down, but it was the most stressful mile we have ever driven. When we arrived at Panera we had to navigate our new house through the tiniest parking lot on Earth and park it for the first time. Fortunately, we were there after the lunch rush had ended so the parking lot was not as busy as it could have been. We parked near the back of the lot, turned off the engine, breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed inside for lunch. After lunch we stopped at Wal-Mart for groceries and a few things we weren’t able to bring on the plane with us. After a frantic shopping trip that included a Mini meltdown we loaded up our goodies in the RV and headed for campground. Lesson learned – build your shopping list in advance. Do not try to come up with it on the fly in a strange town and at a strange store, or you may forget important items like the ground turkey for the turkey burgers, or the coffee.
Our first camping experience was in a KOA near Six Flags which was paid for by Van City. It was a chance to use all the systems in the RV to make sure they work as expected while still fairly close to the dealer. Mercifully, all of the spaces were pull-throughs, so we didn’t have to entertain the neighbors by trying to back in our second hour of RV ownership. We pulled straight in, made sure the water and power would both reach, then engaged the automatic levelers for the first time. If you’ve ever ridden a camel or an elephant where you get on while the animal is sitting, then have them stand up with you on their back, you have some idea of what leveling the RV felt like when the vehicle lurched in each direction for a minute or so until it leveled itself and the process came to an end. After we were level we hooked up, put out the slide and made the RV our home for the weekend. We were utterly exhausted from lack of sleep, information overload and stress but we were also ecstatic to be in our new LTV. Lesson learned – go slow and do each set up step together. This will help prevent mistakes.
Since we forgot the main ingredient for dinner, and we had eaten such a late lunch, we cobbled together some fruit and protein bars and snacked our way though the evening as we dug into the bag o’ manuals to read about different components and, more importantly, to start registering warranty information with all the different manufacturers. The night was cold, but the furnace kept us toasty warm and the thermostat was as easy to operate as the one in our sticks and bricks house. It wasn’t long before we pulled down the murphy bed for the first time and went to sleep. Lesson learned – the mattress was super comfy. We were prepared to go right out and buy a pad, but it was not needed.
We got out of bed rested, relaxed and feeling a lot more confident than the previous day. We started the day with a brisk walk, which was less about healthy exercise and more about getting some free coffee from the camp store before evil Carolyn surfaced. I put on some gypsy jazz music, streaming it from my iPad through our speaker system and began cooking. But, I forgot one important step, the vent fan.
Moments later we confirmed beyond any doubt that our smoke alarm was working perfectly as it began beeping so loudly we just knew all of our neighbors were looking out their windows to watch the show. We learned a very important lesson, the smoke alarm is not conducive to remembering how to work the Fantastic Fan. In fact, it’s really only conducive to marital distress and random arm flailing. I finally managed, half by accident, to turn on the fan and clear the smoke. Silence returned and soothed our shattered nerves for a moment, but the omelette was now scrambled eggs. Then I had to make a second batch of scrambled eggs and, yes the smoke alarm still worked perfectly, but this time I figured out how to turn the fan on. Lesson learned – fan first, cooking second. Another lesson learned – the one unlabeled switch is the on-off switch. Also – the fantastic fan has a thermometer setting so that it will come on automatically when the temperature hits a certain point. If that is set (it was) and you turn on the fan while the coach is at a lower temperature, the fan will not turn on.
After breakfast, we took showers for the first time and laid to rest one of our worries about living in an RV. Would there really be enough room in the shower? Could Carolyn shave her legs in that amount of space? The answer was yes. Absolutely. Plus, having the Truma AquaGo Comfort Plus water heater and being hooked up to city water meant endless hot water, a luxury we don’t have in our sticks and bricks house.
We spent the rest of the day with friends who were kind enough to come visit us in the campground so we didn’t have to unhook. They took us to lunch, got us coffee and gave us wine. We love these people. We had awonderful lunch at Joe Boccardi’s in Eureka, Missouri then spent the rest ofthe afternoon hanging out in the FX. Saturday night we ate leftovers from lunch, watched some of our favorite YouTubers\ then pulled down the murphy bed and called it a night. Lesson learned – real friends bring wine. Oh, and the coach was very comfortable for four people hanging out.
Our first day to break down camp and get ready to drive the five hours or so back to Nashville. I built a checklist to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I started with a prepared checklist from the book Small RV Ninjaand modified it as we went to make it work better for our rig and our own internal logic. Such is the advantage of having it on the iPad. It took a while to break down, but we certainly weren’t rushing. Near the end of the checklist was dumping our tanks for the first time. Thanks to the macerator it was very easy though I learned the importance of adding a hose clamp to the connection between the hose and the head piece. Thank goodness for nitrile gloves!
We finished our checklist and were soon we were on our way to stop at Ikea and then the drive home with our new baby! The first hour was a bit stressful as we learned how it handled, but then it became much easier as we got to know each other. It was a fantastic first two days of camping and we definitely fell in love with our FX!
What a lovely weekend! We had a great road trip to St. Louis all things considered. The trip started off expeditiously, and we made good time with little traffic, which nowadays is an unexpected blessing on Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois roads.
Once we reached St. Louis, we headed straightaway to Van City and had a marvelous time crawling through the new Unity Rear Lounge (URL). It was everything we thought it would be and better. This is a unit without a slide, so our expectation was that it would feel very close, but that was not the case at all for us. For one, the rear lounge was very loungie (technical term), just the sort of place where you could get comfortable. The two back windows on the left (human and cat) made the smallish space feel very light and roomy. The 32 inch TV was lovely and felt plentiful for the space. The wine rack did nothing for me, as I suppose you must be a wine drinker to have a true appreciation. What was surprising was that the front area was roomier than expected, with the nice big kitchen area (yes, we recognize that big is relative when talking RV space) and with the front seats turned around, I could see being happy hanging out in the front as well as the back. The bathroom door could block off the back area of the RV, which was nice. The finish was better than either of us expected, it’s similar to the Wonder and we have not been a fan of the Wonder finishes overall, but this one looked really good. The new countertop surface worked for me.
It was all good until we took it out for a test drive. Then it became TOTALLY AWESOME!!! For starters, the driver’s space was roomy and well laid out, and I had a deep appreciation for the beefy cup holders, as that is a sore spot for me. The seats were comfortable, and the seat extender, which we both thought was a bit gimmicky, really did improve comfort. The best part was driving. It was almost too easy. Driving it was like driving an SUV. Anyone can do it. The steering wheel really could be turned with a pinky finger. I liked the paddle shifters more than I thought I would (being a stick shift purist, paddles are no substitute) giving me the extra measure of control that I would have with a stick shift. I really wish the Mercedes came with a stick shift, but I do not know of any American RVs that are manual, and the paddles are a compromise I can live with.
After spending several hours at Van City, chatting with Don Klassen, a group of other LTVers we headed out to our hotel in Edwardsville, with a stop at a place called “The Cup” which was recommended to us by a friend. Think glorious cupcake confections, folks, and many varieties. We picked up a dozen (plus 2 small ones for the road for quality control) to give to the friends we were visiting and headed to see them. We had a lovely time out with our friends and then went back to their place for desert….and what a glorious dessert it was. We opened the wonder that was the cupcake box and there, before our eyes were 12 distinctly different cupcakes. It was at this point that strategy came into play. We all wanted all of the cupcakes. No two were alike, so if we each picked one, the rest would be denied the lusciousness of the claimed cupcake, so out came the knife. Being that there were 5 of us, slicing up the cupcakes was not exactly scientific, but we made it work. We knocked off 5 cupcakes in the first sitting, with the obvious winners being the german chocolate cake and the Italian wedding cupcake. Woozy on sugar, we finally called it a night. On Saturday, we met up again, went out on the lake, enjoyed another fine meal and between lunch and dinner, managed to kill off the rest of the cupcakes. By unanimous vote the absolute winner of all was the banana cream pie cupcake. The birthday cake, red velvet and the chocolate chip cupcakes were also strong. There was really only 1 weak player in the entire dozen, which was the lemon blueberry which was neither lemony or blueberryie. In looking back over this paragraph, I wax rhapsodic about the sugar quite a bit, but the real joy of the weekend was seeing our friends, with whom we seem to do nothing but laugh. All the time. Until our sides hurt. Then some more. These friends are part of the not so secret mountain dulcimer underground, and all musicians know how to have a good time, this weekend being no exception. Finally, we said good bye and went back to our hotel, getting to bed around 11:15 pm-ish with the expectation of getting up and hitting the road around 10 am. Now why would anyone care what time we went to bed? Well, that is where it got interesting. At about 1:15ish AM, the hotel was struck by lightning, all of the fire alarms went off, and we were evacuated. Staggering out of our rooms, we smelled smoke, which put some spring in our steps as we made our way to the lobby, where we stayed while the fire department was brought in. Fortunately, the lightning did not cause a fire, it just burned out some electronics, but the hotel staff and fire department could not get the alarms to reset. Finally, they told us we could go back to our rooms, but, with the alarm going off at an earsplitting decibel level, there would be no sleep, so we grabbed our stuff and checked out at 3:45. After filling up on the complimentary coffee (Kudos to the smart front office clerk who refilled it during our wait), we hit the very, very empty road.
The ride home was rough, as we were both operating on fumes and staying awake was a two person job. Fortunately, no one can stay asleep when I am belting out Radar Love. We arrived home at about the time we had expected to leave Edwardsville and promptly went face down for a couple of hours.
We ordered our Leisure Travel Van Unity FX in September 2018 knowing we were looking at, approximately, an eight month wait. Last week we learned that, due to a production delay, the new expected date for our Unity is September 2019. The news was disappointing because it means we’ll be watching and reading about everyone’s summer adventures while we continue to downsize and prepare the house for sale. It feels a little like being the kid who is home sick on the day of the class field trip. But, once we learned that the delay means we will get a 2020 model with new and better features we started to feel differently, so, we spent a night listing the other ways this could be good news and that is what I want to share today.
First, and most obviously, it means we have more time to continue to downsize and prepare the house for sale. We’ve learned that downsizing needs to be done in stages. Once things start coming out of closets, drawers and cabinets one or more rooms end up looking like a hoarder’s nest until we can work our way through the piles of stuff and sort them to sell, donate or trash. To our dismay it sometimes feels like malicious elves come in at night and refill all the closets, drawers and cabinets, so, we end up clearing places multiple times. But, I am amazed that the longer stuff stays around the less I love it. Things that were once difficult to let go become easier once I see them as an obstacle to progress.
Donating items or taking them to the dump is easy. But, selling items has been harder than we first thought it would be. One reason is you have to let go of what you think something is worth because items never sell for as much as you think they should. Yard sales are humbling in that way, but they are also surprising because more than once items have sold that we thought no one would ever want. We also learned that selling items online has been more time consuming than it first appeared to be. Taking time to photograph and describe each thing, then answer questions from prospective buyers takes time, and if something doesn’t sell, we have to decide if we want to drop the price on it before it gets relisted. It sometimes takes three listing rounds before something sells.
We put higher value items on eBay because eBay’s fees wipe out a chunk of the money made from selling. I learned quickly to never put a reserve price on an auction item because they charge a huge fee to do that, and once it’s done you cannot take the reserve off when the item gets relisted. Facebook Marketplace has been a good place to sell a number of items, but you have to make sure to meet potential buyers in a busy or secure place to complete the sale. The same is true for Let Go which is the newest selling app we’ve tried. An additional frustration with Let Go, however, is that it’s designed to make selling a social experience allowing people to “Favorite” your listing – the equivalent of a Facebook Like. Favorites are filling my In Box but they aren’t clearing things out of our house!
The second positive thing is we have more time to get our cats ready. We have to make the RV a safe, comfortable home for our three furry, OCD homebodies and we will need to take things in stages for them as well. Once the RV arrives, we will scent it with our stuff and plug in a Feliway diffuser which releases a calming pheromone into the air before we bring them into the RV. Then we will let them stay in it while it’s sitting still to get used to the new surroundings before we start driving. In the meantime, knowing that we will need to restrain them on occasion and also let them go outside in a safe controlled way, we purchased a harness and tried it on our most patient cat. She handled it very well, though she did walk funny while she was wearing it. Now, we will introduce it to the other two along with lots of treats and affection, though, I also plan to have the video camera ready because it will make entertaining TV once the hurting stops. We also have to get them used to a different type of litter box with the entrance on top to keep down mess in the RV. They are all older cats who have not had a lot of changes in the lives. Hopefully all these steps will make the transition less stressful for them and for us. We’ll see.
Finally, we realized that it would suck to get our new RV literally weeks before the new model went into production with all of its upgrades. Like animals in an experiment we will get a better treat if we wait. So we are also channeling the frustrated energy into planning our new home. The RV we ordered doesn’t stay on dealer’s lots, so it’s hard to see one in person. We travelled to an RV show where we knew the type of unit we ordered would be so we could spend a long time sitting in it to see if it would be truly comfortable and I also took along a measuring tape to measure ALL of the storage areas, including the pull out pantry. Lord help me, I even built a spreadsheet of all those dimensions! That way we can begin planning how to organize our new space. I’m not planning to within a fraction of an inch – I’ve been through enough construction projects to know measurements can change – but, at least we can start looking at containers we may need and we can plan where to put specific items like clothing, kitchen items, bedding and cat items. (On a side note, while cleaning out some boxes of papers I came across a floorplan my mom drew of her last apartment. It included measurements for all the spaces and the dimensions of her furniture so she could arrange them before she moved in. This apple didn’t fall far from the tree!)
Even though we try to keep looking on the bright side, keeping ourselves motivated is hard. To help with that we read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of YouTube. There are a number of channels that we watch regularly to follow people’s adventures in their RV’s and we are always discovering new ones. On particularly hard days we will (re)watch the Leisure Travel Van video walk-through of our model. By now, we’ve practically memorized it, and, even though we’ve never met Dean from Leisure Travel Vans in person, he’s been invited into our home more than our friends or family have in the last few months. And speaking of our friends and family, I have to take a moment to apologize to all of you that we made sit through the video with us. I’m sure it was just as painful as an overly long vacation slideshow, so, thank you all for playing along and being good sports!
It’s not always easy to keep seeing the glass as half full but we keep trying to do exactly that. Once our unit goes into production we will anxiously wait for any update, but until then we have more than enough to keep us busy and before we know it we will be out on the road.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. Life has been having its way with us. But, we really wanted to share our BIG NEWS.
This week we held hands and jumped off the cliff. We travelled to Van City in St. Louis and ordered our new RV, a Leisure Travel Van Unity FX. The experience is so new that we can still hear the wind rushing past our ears. With luck we’ll land comfortably in our ultra-leather seats in about eight months. But, until we do we are well aware that the work has truly begun. So, why did we make this choice? Glad you asked.
We first became aware of Leisure Travel Vans in 2017. The pangs of dissatisfaction had become too much and we decided to start actively looking at RV’s. I had seen videos for Pleasureway on YouTube, a Canadian manufacturer of Class B and Class C RV’s, and we both liked the idea of a smaller vehicle. That led us to a dealer outside of Atlanta and a half day introductory education in RV’s. The first thing we learned is that a Class B is REALLY small. Neither of us liked the idea of a wet bath. Imagine hosing down your bathroom every time you shower. Yeah, it was a hard limit. If we were only using it to camp, then it might be fine, but as a way of life it wasn’t going to work for us.
The next step up is a small class C, or what they call a B+. Still built on a van chassis, it has more space, a dry bathroom and a bit more room. Definitely more liveable in the long term. It was quite an education but, what we came away with is that Canadians know how to build a high quality RV. We also spent time looking at the Class A RV’s…just in case. Class As are what most people think of when they think of an RV. They look like a bus from the outside and the interiors run the gamut from basic to over-the-top luxury. Some look like a house on the inside with residential refrigerators, dishwashers and washers and dryers. We were dazzled by the amount of wood molding and the size of the upholstered furniture and came close to giving up the idea of small and nimble in favor of a big rolling house.
Then Carolyn made an accidental discovery. One night on YouTube, she came across a video by a Canadian company neither of us knew anything about. Leisure Travel Van is located in Winkler, Manitoba and they build RV’s on a van chassis with interiors full of clean lines where everything is multifunctional. No over the top moulding, which was just off-putting. The style was an ocean away from everything else we had seen up to that point. Literally. They are much more akin to European motorhomes is their style and versatility and, being fans of clean lines, we fell in love. Hard. Our challenge, though, was to see one in person. We visited Van City in Saint Louis (the closest dealer) and came to learn that they’re sold as fast as they’re built. It is incredibly rare to see one on a dealer lot. They are also very hard to find used and their rarity means they hold their value incredibly well.
To see one in person we travelled to Tampa for the Florida RV Show. Over the course of two days we got to see every model of Leisure Travel Van in person and to make another round of the Class A’s we had looked at just to be sure about our choice. It was also our first time being immersed in the RV world, you can read about our experience here. We came home feeling a bit like Superman at that moment when he has to put his glasses back on and be Clark Kent, again. We were sure of our path forward but it was time to go back to our present reality.
We also came home from Tampa with a lot of questions that were difficult to get answered in the hustle and bustle of a giant RV show. We wrote them down as they occurred to us over the next five months, then made a second visit to Van City to get answers. What we didn’t expect was to meet temptation, but we arrived during Van City’s Anniversary celebration, part of which was having a brand new Leisure Travel Van Wonder rear twin bed prototype available to tour. We wrote about it here. It was REALLY tempting to change our minds about the RV we wanted but we managed to stay on track. Despite being busy that day, the sales rep and the factory rep took a lot of time to answer every one of our questions. I can’t thank them both enough for being so generous with their time.
This past Friday we visited again to place our order. There were spontaneous giggles and maybe some foot stomping and hand clapping during the five hour drive. We arrived at Van City just after lunch time and headed triumphantly to the door, feeling like Luke and Han Solo getting their medals at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. We reached for the door…and found out everyone was at an RV show about a half hour away! So, we got back into the car and drove a half hour to the show, parked and found ourselves wandering in a sea of travel trailers. It took some time to find the crew from Van City, but, once we did, we sat under a tent to fill out the papers and hand over a check. It was really anticlimactic. We wandered around and looking at trailers we were never going to buy.
So what did we order? The Unity is based on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. It’s twenty-five feet one inch long and it has two living areas inside. It features a larger-than-queen-size murphy bed, a full bath and a decent kitchen with a sink, two-burner stove and a convection/microwave oven. The interior woodwork is Chesnut Cherry, the kitchen and bathroom countertops are white corian and the upholstery is a light off-white called ‘Fog”. The interior manages to be both bright and warm and it feels far more spacious than its length suggests. Pictures and more details will be coming. Oh boy, will they be coming!
Later that night we celebrated with a visit to Insomnia Cookies on Washington Avenue, a hole-in-the-wall place that sells warm cookies, milk and ice cream. They also make ice cream sandwiches out of the cookies and ice cream and they deliver. Until 3AM! While I was inside ordering, Carolyn found herself parked behind the delivery driver. She has never been so tempted to mug someone in her life. We got a six pack of cookies and two pints of low-fat milk. Yes, low-fat because we know how to party!
We are back at home. We still have a lot of down-sizing to do, and a lot of work on the house. There are many, many decisions to be made, some of them incredibly difficult. We will still give ourselves time to dream about the future, but for now, we’ve put our Clark Kent glasses back on, hung up our capes and returned to our normal lives.
Let me tell you a story about our plan to buy an RV. We want to move into the RV, but we do not want a great big one. We want to be nimble, but not sacrifice comfort. Our bottom line is that we do not want to feel like we are homeless and living out ofoury car. The RV must feel like our home.
We have been looking at RVs for a while and one manufacturer has stood out above all of the others for quality, design and did I mention quality? So many RVs are poorly made that it is a truism in the RV world that it takes a full year to shake down all of the issues in a new RV. A year where you are back and forth with the dealer, working through punch lists of issues. Many folks say to buy used so that someone else can work the issues out for you. That seems wrong to us. We should not blindly accept that the best we can hope for is shoddy quality and paper thin walls. We want to buy once and we want our RV to hold its value well. Is that too much to ask? That our RV be like our 12 year old Honda, which at over 200k miles still gets strong dealer trade in offers? We do not think this is too much to ask for, so with that in mind, we have done a ton of research.
The more we looked the more Canada called. It seems that for high quality B+ vans, the Canadians are in it to win it. In our research, Pleasure Way and Leisure Travel Vans have consistently the highest ratings from customers for quality. So we concentrated our search on those two manufacturers. In the end, we are going to go with the Leisure Travel Van Unity FX (Flex), which is about 25 feet long, and has a slide out and a Murphy bed….In full disclosure, I have lusted after a Murphy bed for many years. Who knew I would get one in an RV?
This past weekend we went to Van City in St. Louis where they were having their 48th anniversary celebration. We wanted to measure all of the storage inside and outside of the FX to see if there would be enough storage for us, cats, instruments and paddleboards. And this is where the trip went sideways.
As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw something new. It was the prototype for the new LTV Wonder Rear Twin bed model, which LTV is going to announce tomorrow. It had monstrous storage with a sliding bike rack with room for two bikes, two chairs, two paddleboards a folding table (which they had attached to the exterior wall) and more, and let me just say it was AWESOME!!! Before we even said hello to anyone, we were crawling into the prototype and man is there a lot to love! The Wonder is slightly smaller than the Unity, and is built on a Ford Chassis. There is no slide out, and all of those items had completely knocked the other Wonders (Murphy and Front Twin Bed) out of contention. We really want the slide out and I have had a sordid experience with Ford in the past – think Taurus run amok -so we had counted them out. This Wonder could change our mind. The storage in it is epic. There is hanging storage below the twin beds (which can be turned into a king sized bed). There is a place for cat litter. The bathroom is lovely, the kitchen is well designed, and did I mention the storage?????
We were totally gob-smacked in the best of ways. We ended up measuring everything inside the Wonder as well as getting our measurements of the FX. We had a long conversation with Dan Dwyer from RV city and Don Klassen from LTV about both the FX and the Wonder RTB (rear twin bed). Both gentlemen took great pains to answer our many many questions. We are now in love with not one, but two LTV models. What to do, what to do????? Our goal is to order in September, which should ensure that ours arrives in the spring also known as camping fun season.
There is no moral to this dilemma, simply a case of something new disrupting the best laid plans and making us rethink our options and priorities. We are now building a list of pros and cons for each version and once we have a final decision, we will let you know.
On a related topic, part of our discussion was about financing. If we were to finance through Van City, how would that work? If we ordered the RV, would we be making payments while it was being built? How much did we need down, etc?
Here is the skinny. To order, you need to be able to put down $10,000. It then takes 6 – 8 months for your RV to be built with the options you select at the time you order. When the RV arrives, you must put an additional payment down to bring your down payment to at least 10%. So if your RV costs $130,000, you would need to bring an additional $3,000 to the table when you take delivery to bring your down payment to $13,000. Your interest rate is based on your credit rating and overall interest rates at the time of delivery, so there is no locking down the interest rate early. The price of the RV may also fluctuate. You will pay the price of the RV as it is at the time of delivery, not the time it is ordered. With the Tariffs recently announced on Canadian Steel, you can expect prices to rise. You could finance over time, with several options (that I do not remember, except that 10 years was one of the options).
I also checked with my credit union and they also would want 10% down and they would finance over up to 10 years. Every person’s situation is different, so do your research. Check multiple options before it is time to put down your money so that you can select the best deal.
Crawling through RVs was not all we did in St. Louis last weekend. Next week we will talk about the rest of the trip including one of the coolest museums we have ever been to and some fine food and craft cocktails. St. Louis is a town that we could see ourselves living in, if we had not already decided to run away in our LTV.
Through visiting at a number of RV dealers we’ve met a variety of characters in the form of RV salesmen (yes, men…so far we have not encountered a woman sales person) and we have started to develop a game where we identify the type of person we’re dealing with. It’s sort of like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” only not. In this installment, I want to share some of the types we’ve encountered and what we’ve learned about them. These are not confined to the RV industry, of course, I think anyone who has made a big ticket purchase has encountered these characters in one form or another.
Before I go further, I want to make a disclaimer as well. We know we are greener than grass. We have zero experience. We’ve done a lot of research online but we have no real world experience at all. What we have are lots of questions so our only guide is how our questions are received and how we are treated for asking them. Now, let the game begin!
Every sales pitch begins by asking what your needs are and this first type starts just like everyone else, but, as the conversation progresses they will subtly or not so subtly discount everything you’ve said and tell you what your needs are. They usually answer your questions with some version of the question, “why do you think you need that?” And, they usually pepper the conversation with their vast experience in a rig exactly like the one you happen to be standing in. Any item we asked about, if it wasn’t already installed on the coach on the dealer’s lot, we were told we didn’t need it including solar and, in one case, a convection microwave. One Expert looked positively stunned when I pointed to a recognizable lighting control and asked if the rig had multiplex wiring. Unless you actually buy something that day the visit usually ends with “Well, come back when you know what you’re talking about” though somewhat more gently worded, of course.
This second type is the one who starts his pitch with “Let me level with you…” or “let’s be honest” then he will go on to tell you everything wrong with buying an RV. He’ll point out that they are a depreciating asset and that they all arrive from the factory with problems that can take multiple visits to the service department while reminding you of the saying in the RV industry that the dealer is the last fifty feet of the assembly line. But, all of that will pale in comparison to the amazing adventures that await and he will tell you stories of his own adventures. Then, with no hint of irony he tells you that you should buy your last RV first which is, coincidentally, the one you’re sitting in where he just spent the last few minutes pointing out problems. If he is really good, you will walk away thinking it is not only okay to purchase a rolling house that will have to go back to the dealer for numerous fixes during the first year, but that it is a part of the grand adventure and charm of the process.
This type has been parodied in every sitcom. He calls everyone “friend” and works hard to ooze charm from every pore. Here in Tennessee, that means the southern accent gets dialed up to “Dukes of Hazzard”. He’ll tell you that you can have it any way you want. He’s glad to point out the special touches and should you find anything wrong, it can be fixed good-as-new in no time. Like the old Burger King jingle, you can “have it your way”. My experience, having worked in other industries with this type, is that “your way” ends once you’ve closed the deal.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to meet this last type twice. We left both experiences feeling like we could trust the information we’d been given. This type takes time to answer your newbie questions, show you different types of rigs and explain the plusses and minuses of each. He may even take time to explain the basics of financing and what kind of training they offer a buyer when they come to pick up their rig. He will leave you feeling that you are truly on the path to figuring out what is right for you.
Looking at rigs that are too long, too high, too overdone, or too dark inside can make you feel like Goldilocks trying to pick a bed. But, it’s all too easy to be treated like “The Princess and the Pea”. And since one of the issues that causes people to trade in their RVs after a purchase is an uncomfortable sleeping experience, stick to your guns. Keep in mind that you may be choosing your next home so it only makes sense to do all the research you can. Go online, talk to RV owners, read blogs, and join an RV Facebook group. There is a LOT of information available on almost any kind of rig and YouTube is full of people sharing their stories from the road.
Find opportunities to walk through as many different rigs as you can because nothing beats actually sitting in a rig, laying down on the bed, opening drawers, pushing on the walls and getting a feel for it. Then talk to the dealers. Listen for clues that will tell you the type you are dealing with and really listen to the information they are giving you but always trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right to you, leave. You may only learn that you would never want to do business with them, but that’s more than you knew before your visit. In fact, purchasing an RV is not a single visit experience. Buyers remorse is very real and in the case of an RV, very expensive. One salesman (Mr. Expert) mentioned that it was normal to trade in the first RV for the second within 2 years. Perhaps it is normal, but it is not for us. With a payment as large as a mortgage, doing the research before purchasing can save a lot of money. Money that we can better use running away.
If you’re out shopping for an RV or have made a purchase, let us know what you have learned in the comments below. We would love to learn from your experience.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!” —Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
In 1796 an elephant arrived in New York and was put on display near the Bull’s Head Tavern. People came from far and wide to “see the elephant” and the phrase came to mean adventure and worldly experience. Though the phrase usually has negative connotations it perfectly sums up our adventure at the 2018 Florida RV Super Show in January. It’s billed as the largest RV show in the country, but we were simply not prepared for how big that really was. We spent two full days exploring and only saw a small part of the RV’s and related products that were on display.
Our adventure began with a VERY early morning flight. We had been up late packing and having to be ready for our 5AM pickup was made worse by the fact that it was only 3 degrees and snow was still on the ground. A dose of perspective, however, came in the form of our Uber driver who was on his way home to bed after working all night when he decided to make one last pick up. Us.
Despite the icy streets we arrived at the airport quickly and safely. The early hour meant a quick trip through security and other than having to wait for our plane to be de-iced we had an uneventful flight that I spent listening to a podcast called “Keep Your Daydream”. It’s about people who have made their travel dreams happen and how they did it. It’s also a great big dose of inspiration and advice that we both really need now. Soon we were over the waters of the gulf and a short time later we flew over the barrier islands near Clearwater and landed in Tampa.
We could see the RV show before we actually arrived. As we drove along the road I began to see glimpses of a vast field of rv’s. When we arrived, I realized that what I had seen was not the show but was the attendees campground, a sea of every make and model of motor home and trailer that completely surrounded a sea of every brand new make and model of motor home and trailer that made up the rv show. We drove into the fairgrounds to a spot in one of several large fields of cars. A short walk later we were at a gate where we were convinced to board a shuttle to the closest entrance. Since they made it sound like the entrance was a long way away, we took our seats and waited while the shuttle finished loading passengers. It finally started to move and we got excited again until it came to a stop about 500 feet later and the driver announced, “Here we are!” Carolyn and I simply looked at each other feeling stupid. Mumbling darkly to ourselves we climbed down and made our way into the entrance past tables stacked high with show programs.
It turned out that we had entered through one of the side gates and found ourselves in an exhibition hall full of vendor booths selling products to rv owners. There were booths for RV resorts, cleaning products, foldable boats (I’m not kidding), tools, towing hardware, shoes, jeweled flip flops, sunglasses, and t-shirts with sparkly RV themed messages on them. The term ‘Happy Camper” started to become a bit oppressive after seeing it literally everywhere in tiny sequins on t-shirts, or on countless pieces of wall art. The array of items was absolutely stunning and finding our way out of the building was like trying to find a quick route through a Las Vegas casino. It took a while.
Once we emerged back in the sunlight we were on a street lined with trailers and motor homes. Our eyes had scarcely adapted to the brightness when we were nearly run over by a pipe and drum corps. We dove to the side of the street and I managed to grab a photo as the parade passed. Then we gathered ourselves and set off again. Nearby was a line of class B rv’s, the conversion vans. Most were built from Mercedes Sprinter vans and they are not what you would call roomy. They were definitely made to fit two people who really want to test the strength of their relationship. After climbing through a bunch of vans we made our way to see some class C’s which feature a box-like living area built on a van or truck chassis and usually have a sleeping area that hangs out over the cab in the the front. After climbing through them we moved on to travel trailers. We spent a lot of time touring everything in the Airstream display. Both of us have always loved the silver trailers and this was our chance to see all the different configurations from the sublime to the Tommy Bahama editions with palm leaves carved into the paneling and, in one case, a bar whose surface lights up from underneath. It brought to mind the question every rv salesman asks,”what will you use it for?” Seeing the bar I thought, “what, indeed”. Day one was overwhelming, loud and offered enough walking to keep any Fitbit happy. It was also a real learning experience and we headed back to the car to go find dinner and make a better plan for tackling day two.
When we arrived the next morning, we came into a different parking area that led us to enter through the main building. Our first stop was to gawk at the multimillion dollar coaches made by Prevost and Newell. They were like a second floor walk-up and they were HUGE! We had to climb six to eight stairs to reach the living area. They had two bathrooms, giant tv’s, king sized beds, stone floors and an interior aesthetic that was a disco ball shy of Studio 54 but we never did find the switch that would turn on the flashing lights and smoke machines. Of course, they wouldn’t have allowed us to touch it if we had. Everything delivered the message that we were not worthy. Every drawer had a “do not open” sign, there was a velvet rope to keep everyone out of the bedroom and the bedroom carpet was shrink wrapped. There was even a stage built outside the front window so people could look inside without entering. They were fun to see but we were soon off to see our real options.
As we started thinking about a vehicle we could live in with the cats we began to look more and more at a Class A in the 30 foot range. From our research we made the decision to look at two manufacturers, Tiffin and Newmar because they seem to consistently offer great quality. We found the Newmar display first and went from coach to coach making comparisons. Specifically, we were there to see the “BayStar” line, but, that didn’t stop us from going through some of the much more expensive models as well. With the slides out the interior of the BayStars are very roomy. There are lots of seating options, lots of storage space as well as lots of places for the cats to perch and look out a window. We were very impressed though we began to notice in all the Newmars that the depth of the kitchen cabinets made it hard to use the counter surface. I felt like I would hit my head while trying to cut up vegetables or use the sink. After a fast couple hours touring their motorhomes we made our way to Tiffin’s display at the very back of the show. We wanted to look at a model called the Allegro. Again, a very spacious interior with the slides out, more carved moldings, a much more useable kitchen counter and something different. Every Tiffin has a small window at floor level on the passenger side for a dog (or cat) to see out. After touring a few versions of the Allegro we made our way to the last manufacturer we came to see.
Leisure Travel Vans are built in Canada. They are 25 foot class C’s built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. Because they take so long to build dealerships rarely have them on their lot unless someone has not yet picked up the coach they ordered. This was our best chance to see all the models they make. We spent a long time going through each one, comparing floor plans and features. The interesting thing about them is how multifunctional the interior is. Two of the models feature a larger than queen size Murphy bed which folds down over a seating area that converts from a couch to a dinette when the bed is up. One model features a second couch in the rear with an ottoman that rolls out from underneath. No space is wasted and the quality of the fit and finish is outstanding.
By the end of day two we felt like we had seen everything we came to see and a lot we really didn’t expect. We learned a lot about the different manufacturers and the varying quality of the rv’s. We had also seen performing pirates, a cowboy in a wagon pulled by a mechanical armadillo, a pipe and drum marching band, a man on stilts and even more entertaining we had several experiences with rv salesmen. Dealing with them has been a learning experience and is worthy of its own future post.