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So I'm siting alone in a waiting room. Sheree is teaching a jewellery class and I've driven her here. Now I'm waiting for her class to be over and thinking...

I am remembering one of those Golden Moments. I'd saved and scrimped as a much younger man and purchased my first REAL car: a two tone blue Camaro. Not being a "car guy" I don't remember the year the car was made. But I DO remember the sensation of sitting in that cloth bucket seat, resting my hand on the gear shift. The key was in the ignition of MY new car.

I just sat there for a long moment because I KNEW it was "A" moment. After a moment I turned the key and the engine rumbled to life and a primal thrill tore through me.

I remember thinking very clearly: "This car could take me anywhere. I could go to the desert of New Mexico. I could go to the Grand Canyon or drive down Freemont Street in Vegas. I could drive all the way to Argentina if I wanted to. This is much more than a car. It's a passport with wheels."

I turned on the radio and David Bowie launched into Young Americans. I cranked it, rolled down the window and drove my new baby off of the lot with my arm hanging out of the window and a world that looked very much like an oyster before me.

It happened over 30 years ago -- and the memory is as sharp as if it was literally a few days ago.

Yup. That car COULD take me anywhere.

Now you know why we bought an RV.

 
 
David says:

In a mind-numbing break with tradition, there is no visual aid for this post. Is that shocking or what?

"Why no photo?" you ask with an understandable tremor in your voice.

Because there's no way I can think of a visual way to depict exactly how THIS feels. It's getting to be real, folks. In just a little over a month, we're going to be taking our first road trip in our new RV. (Well...new to us anyway.)

Sheree wants to take a bunch of stuff from our house to the RV. This means either a HBT ("Honking Big Truck) or an EMHSUV "("Even More Honking SUV,")

We'll be discussing the essentials of our new life. We'll agree that we need to keep the stuff we take into the RV to an absolute minimum. It's a simple rule of physics. The RV is MUCH smaller than our house. MUCH smaller. And our house is currently packed with...stuff.

Sheree really likes her stuff. So we'll agree that we'll have to trim what we take to a minimum. I'll deliberately be using terms like "we'll have to cut it to the bone, y'know."

Sheree will be nodding and apparently an active part of this discussion. Then she'll get a far off look in her eye and look at something like a massive picnic table and say "That's going with us in the RV."

Then she'll nod like that's the end of the discussion.

I guess it is.. and, to be fair, the picnic table example is a SMALL exaggeration. But we DO  have a whole room full of stuff that is "going with us." Between you and me? I'm thinking most of it isn't going to fit. But don't tell Sheree I said so.

Nah. What's getting to be real is the fact that we're actually doing it. We are ACTUALLY going to be driving down the highway in an RV that's going to be as tricked out as we can afford to get it. Each time the thought makes itself known to me (which is about five times a day) I get little fingers of joy tickling my insides.

We spent a lot of time trying to arrange for a one-way vehicle rental yesterday. The problem? Unless you're winding up in Vancouver, no one wants to do a one way. And if they do, then they want to charge a $700 "Drop Fee" -- which is more than the actual rental.

I confess, I don't fully understand the math.

"We can take our car down and drive two vehicles back," offered Sheree.

I just looked at her. "There's no way we are taking our first road trip in the RV and not being together," I sputtered. "That's...just not...the Gypsy Turtle way."

She nodded and reminded me that the only place we could get a vehicle was from Budget. And the smallest vehicle they offer for a one-way is a 16 foot truck. And the fees for this are just under $600.00.

"Hmmm," I say as my inner Scrooge squawks indignantly...and then moans softy.

"At least driving a 16 foot truck will help prepare us for a 25 foot RV," she says.

"Uh huh," I say.

"And we won't have to pack tightly," she says. "We'll just throw the stuff in the truck and be done with it."

"....yes," I say. "And we'll be together."

She just smiles and I have to smile back.

I have a show in Jasper on the weekend when we are planning to leave for Salmon Arm. So we're going to Jasper and then keep on going on to Salmon Arm.

Together.

And that's final.
 
 
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David says:

My first thought upon waking up this morning was (no kidding): "Crap. I'm going to be backing an RV up today."

I've been dreading this. In the first place RVs are really big. I don't even like backing my car up. Second? Well...RV's are...big.

We arrived at Carefree Coach and RV nearly half an hour early. Our plan was to get a good primer on RVs. We wanted to know the basics: How to take care of them and how to drive them.

Our instructor was Kent Watson -- a friendly guy who has been working on RVs for 20 years. He has a gift for simplifying stuff so that even your average mentalist can follow it.

We started with a tour of the outside. Kent showed us where the drainage systems would be, how to access extra storage, where the cord for plugging into external power would be.

We went inside the RV to complete the tour where we were shown where many of the operations originate...and how to monitor the status of everything from the battery to water levels. (I have summarized much of this in the post below.)

THEN we took this 27 footer for a spin.

The moment I'd been dreading had arrived.

"It's good to have a back-up camera," hinted Kent. Perhaps he noticed the sheen of sweat on my forehead and the tremor in my fingers.

"We don't have one," I said through gritted teeth.

"Then always make sure your partner is there to direct you. They should stand to the side of the RV so that you can see them."

This sounded very sensible to be, since I absolutely would not want to back over or into Sheree. Both would make her VERY testy.

So Sheree stepped out of the coach and, demonstrating an unexpected but oddly touching trust in yours truly, began directing me as I backed into a spot.

You know the signs: pointing right or left....gesturing straight back.

"There are other hand signs," Kent said. He put his hands far apart and slowly drew them together. "You can do this to show the driver how much space they have left."

He pointed to the left and with his right hand he touched his index finger to his thumb. "Do this when they just need to make a little adjustment."

Sure enough, within moments I was backed perfectly into a spot. Sheree wasn't bleeding. No trees had been taken down. The world was safe.

"Has to be a fluke," I thought.

So we did it again. I moved myself out of the slot and to a sharp angle that would make backing up a challenge.

It...was...no...problem.  Nada.

We did it again -- and again it was perfect and easy. No fluke. Something like a brick wall moved off of me.

It was Sheree's turn to back in and I had thoughts of myself standing there, giving flustered patently wrong signals.

Again -- no problem. It was flawless. It actually looked as though we had done this hundreds of times. Each time the RV was perfectly parked.

Sheree was keen to learn how much space is needed when cornering. Our RV is 25 feet long -- and it would be good to leave fire hydrants, dogs and parked cars intact when we turn a corner.

It's hard to explain the technique. "You really just have to do it," said Kent with a shrug. He was right. You go slowly when you have to (although revving the engine, honking the horn and screaming "AHHHHRRGG! NO BRAKES!!!" when a pedestrian is taking too long crossing the street would be entertaining) and start your turn after you've driven forward a little further than you'd have to with your car.

But we both negotiated some very tight turns. No problem.

 
 
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There are a LOT of buttons in our RV world. I'd say there are probably more BPSF ("Buttons Per Square Foot") in your average RV than anywhere else on the planet.
There are buttons that activate your inverter. Buttons that kill every battery draining thing in the RV. There are buttons to set what powers the fridge (propane, the coach battery or tiny fairies that live in the undercarriage on a tiny little treadmill), buttons that control the furnace, buttons that turn on the air conditioning.)

There are a LOT of buttons and I am going to have to learn what each one of them does.

The affable Kent was constantly saying things like "Well...this is really simple because the overhead combubliator is regulated by the camshaft zizzenflugel." He'd pause to look at me, waiting for me to nod. I always nodded since it made him so happy.

To be honest -- I am a little concerned about all the things that I need to remember in order to keep our little home on the road.

Here's a summary:

1) There are TWO kinds of batteries in our RV. The chassis  battery runs the engine and the coach battery (we will have two of them) runs everything inside the coach.

2) The coach batteries are charged by the solar panels, although this charge tends to be slow. It can also be charged by the "genny" (RV Guy Talk for 'generator') AND may be charged by the RV when it's in motion if there is a "charge" line.

3) Putting solar panels onto the roof can be a mess unless the holes are tightly sealed, since holes need to be drilled in the roof. "Water's your enemy," said Kent. "Any place water can get into your unit has to be fixed. You don't want rot."

4) When you stop for the day, you want to turn things on in a specific order: light the stove top first, fire the furnace second and start the fridge last. ( I wrote this down because it was, at the time VERY important...but I cannot for the life of me remember why.)

5) RV Refrigerators don't work well in colder weather because they sense the temperature in order to set the thermostat on the fridge. If it's cool outside, the fridge won't turn on because it thinks it's aready cold enough. The ever resourceful Kent suggested turning a light bulb on OUTSIDE the refrigerator area to make the fridge think it's warmer...which will allow the fridge to turn on.

6) In Hawaii, I am remembering a trip that took us deep into the island. In the bathroom there was a sign that said "If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow." Obviously the homeowner was protecting the septic tank.

It's going to be the same in the RV. We don't plan to use the toilet unless we have to -- which will mean some early morning trips to McDonald's to...unload...get tea...and troll for Splenda. (This is where your Gypsy Turtles turn into Gypsy Pooping Pirates.)

7) Don't start a road trip with a full water tank. The extra weight will be a terrible drag on your already crappy gas mileage. Have nearly empty water tanks before you leave.

8) There are two kinds of waste water: the grey waste water is left over from showers and dishes etc. Black waste water is from the toilet. They both get drained in specific waste areas.

9) There are two kinds of charges: AC refers to the charge you get when you plug into power. This can be erratic -- especially if there are a lot of people plugged into the same system. DC is "direct power" -- meaning the charge comes directly from your batteries in precise, measured amounts. And if you put them together? You get one of the greatest rock bands on the planet.

Ahem.

(Sheree differs with this opinion.)

 
 
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Many holes were opened...many secrets unlocked. Frankly there were a LOT of things I'd been wondering about that Kent explained.

Take this plug for example. There's a plug and there's an adapter that will allow us to plug our home on wheels into nearly any outlet. Yup. I'd wondered about that. (Does that plug on the bottom look depressed to you? I think it's dying for a sharpie to draw a nose in the middle.)

How much can we run off off the coach battery? How long can we run it for? What's that square thingie in the panel?

Yes. It cost us two hundred and fifty bucks to get these answers, but to be honest -- knowing what we know now...that we didn't know this morning was well worth the price.

I'm seriously looking forward to picking our unit up next month. Thanks Kent!

 
 
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David says:

We are confirmed, Sheree and I, for our first RV lesson this Saturday. The kind people doing this lesson are even letting us borrow a 25 foot RV to learn on. Total cost $250 -- which is not bad when you consider how much taking out a fire hydrant or a Mercedes Benz on a misjudged turn would cost.

We just called RV dealership after RV dealership asking the same question: "Who teaches one on one classes to newbies?" While most of the dealerships said they'd been asked before, no one seemed to know anyone who taught this. (There's a business model for...someone.)

There are weekend training camps that we've talked about...and we'll be rolling into one later this year. But one-on-one training? Very tough to find.

I am looking forward to the lesson...but I am dreading it too. I KNOW it will involve...backing up...and, as I may have mentioned two or three times, I hate backing up. I parallel parked once to pass my driving test -- but am always willing to walk an extra couple of blocks to avoid it now. (This, as I have also stated, delights Sheree to no end.)

I suggest anyone in the North end of Edmonton avoid ALL streets between the hours of 10 and noon on Saturday. Be on the alert for a twitchy terrified-looking guy behind the wheel of an RV backing into random objects.

Sheree is keen to learn how to judge the distance needed for a turn. I'm interested in this too. I do not want to hear a CRUNCHING sound as we leave the RV dealership for the first time next month.

...is it REALLY next month? Holy crap. I just got a wee shiver.

It promises to be an interesting journey.

 
 
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David says:

I'm starting to feel like Scrooge McDuck. Actually the fella on the left looks a lot like me. Same rakish tilt to the hat...same housecoat. No pants. And see the way his money is slipping away from him?

That's me too.

We've been into this RV adventure for just a little while. In that short time, we've purchased an RV, purchased insurance ($500), sprung for solar panels, an inverter and a new stereo ($4,000), a fan that cost $500 installed. We've also got a Good Sam membership ($109) in case the thing breaks down after all the loving care we've lavished upon it.

"Now we have to learn how to drive it," said Sheree one day about a month ago. "We don't want to be picking it up and having no idea how to drive it do we?"

I stand there pushing snow around with the toe of my shoe, trying to pretend I haven't heard her. I have two reasons for this. First, I am reasonably certain that driving lessons will involve (gulp) backing up and second -- I've shrewdly noted how everything that has RV in it is more expensive than you think it's going to be.

"Car driving lessons?" the little guy in my brain says with a dismissive wave. "Twenty bucks...and a pizza. Teach you everything you need to know."

In my mind, I explain that we are looking for RV driving lessons and suddenly the little guy's eyes get wide and I can hear the distant ring of "ka-CHING!" "Well...RV lessons are gonna run you about six million dollars...and a pizza."

"...have to learn how to drive it," Sheree is saying. "We need someone to teach us."

Eventually I agree and we set about finding someone to teach us the basics of RVing. And it turned out to be harder than we thought it would be. It seems that everyone knows someone who wanted lessons at one time or another...but no one knows who teaches them.

So we started calling RV dealerships...and the RVDA. Sheree got  a lead on someone who might know someone's second cousin who is the neighbor of someone who once gave an RV lesson.

I luck out. I wind up with an RV dealership that is willing to teach us AND let us use one of their 25 foot RVs to learn on. It's only going to cost us $250 -- which is a significant discount over the six million I had been anticipating.

We're firming up the details on Monday. I'll keep you posted.