Within two days after returning to the States, our final paperwork was signed and delivered to the insurance adjuster for payment of our claim, and now we had nothing to do but wait for the enormous machine in London (as in “Lloyd’s of…”) to pass the hat around and collect up funds for payment of our claim. “Up to 30 days” was the estimate we heard for time until payment, and it turned out to be much longer than that, but that’s another story.
We had started some research on Class A Motor homes while still in Panama, but now we scoured the Internet in earnest to see what was out there. One reason (one way down the list) that we picked Fort Myers to hold up in while we got settled was that this part of Florida is a center of the RV “Universe”. Lots of people come here to buy, trade, or sell their RV’s, and within a few miles of us were at least 6 major RV dealers to choose from.
So on the Monday after we arrived, after spending the weekend with family and watching hthem go back to work, we decided to step out and look around. We made an appointment with a salesperson at one of the larger dealerships, and headed off in a borrowed car to kick some tires and see what was available. Personally I can count the number of times I’ve been inside an RV on one hand (and have fingers left over), so it would be worthwhile, and hopefully fun, to get out and see if this is really something we’d like to do, because this would be our home. Would it be comfortable? Can we reasonably take care of it? Can we repair most of what’s gonna break? Off we went.
We sat down in the office with our salesperson and talked about our situation and what our goals were for the next few years. Then we made what could have been a major mistake. We gave up our price range. Oops. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it comes to buying things, but it appeared that our salesperson took pity on us. Maybe he was just up on his sales quota for the month. Whatever.
He said he had something for us to look at priced at the LOWER end of our range that he felt would meet our needs. That sounded suspicious, and when he said it was a 2002 model Carrie and I looked at each other skeptically, but he said he had other things for us to look at as well. He said it was made by Newmar Corporation, which we knew to be a well-known brand. When he described how, unlike many brands, Newmar actually frames in the interior of the coach much like a house. He also showed us the gears used by Newmar to move the slides back and forth as well as an example of the framing. He talked about the chassis they used. We consented to take a look.
When we approached the RV it looked clean but showed its age to some degree, but when we walked inside we were stunned. The carpet was new and the furnishings looked great. The insides certainly didn’t speak to the age of the unit, and the mileage didn’t either. The tires looked to be almost new. Everything was very impressive and I kept asking myself, “Where’s the catch?” and finally verbalized it to the salesman. He said many people want newer units, and this was a trade-in for a newer model two weeks back.
I kept looking around for something wrong, and when I climbed up on the top to look around, I found 3 solar panels that the salesman didn’t even know were there (at least that’s what he said). We had talked about wanting to “boondock” most of the time, living “off the grid” much like we did at anchor for the majority of our time cruising on our sailboats. These weren’t hooked up and when I eventually found the controller it was a brand that isn’t made anymore, but they work well.
We asked for a test drive and still didn’t find anything that sent up red flags. One thing I did find spoke to our experience on boats. The batteries didn’t hold their charge very well when unplugged from power, and we felt that buying a new and larger battery bank would be a wise move for us. When we had a minute to talk Carrie said “I love it, but Barbara (our daughter-in-law) will kill us if we buy the first thing we see!”
When we shared that thought with the salesman he laughed and said “I’ve taken away your ‘Buying Experience’, haven’t I?” Apologizing with a smile, he took us to see a 2005 Winnebago on the lot, and when we entered it didn’t take long to see what many older models probably look like. The carpets were worn; the furniture and appliances looked well-used and ready to be replaced, and the mileage and price were higher! Feeling fully vindicated that due diligence had been performed we said, “Well take the Newmar!”
We put a down payment on the coach and when we returned home that afternoon and told our story, Barbara was understandably concerned, but it was early enough in the afternoon that both of them could return and see the unit with us to check it out. The salesman was glad to show it to us again, and while Barbara walked around the inside with Carrie, Jason and I crawled around underneath, and everyone was impressed with what they found. That felt liberating!
Still feeling a little sheepish about our quick decision, Carrie announced our purchase on the new Facebook RV groups we’d joined and received nothing but positive feedback on Newmar coaches. We initially thought that our insurance payoff would be in-hand in a few days and we could pay off the RV in cash. NOT! After a day or two we realized payment would not be coming anytime soon and called the dealer to arrange financing so we could close the deal as soon as possible. Weeks later we would reflect on how wise that particular decision was.
One week later we signed the final papers, received our orientation, purchased a new and larger set of batteries along with a few other supplies, and drove our new (to us, anyway) RV off the lot.
When the RV (now christened “Sanctuary”) was set up in the yard next to Jason and Barbara’s house and Spike was delivered aboard to check it out, it felt like we had finally arrived Home. It occurred to me that Spike had been uprooted and moved many times over the last few weeks, and this might be his last move for some time. That felt good.