Questing for an RV

It was the weekend, but the mailbox place was open for limited hours. We drove to downtown Sioux Falls. The downtown area is clean, has some old and new architecture and wasn’t sprawling or filled with homeless. Take that Portland. lol We were in and out quickly and we got set up without too many issues. The name of the service we used was “Your Best Address” mail forwarders. Very nice people and easy to work with. We left with our packet of info and couldn’t wait for Monday and the DMV.

On Monday, we left the cats at the hotel room and drove to the DMV in Sioux Falls. A nice little jaunt up the freeway on a clear and pleasant morning. I was in the truck and Steph in the Mustang.

Now, I knew getting a new SD driver license that day was a long shot for me. I didn’t have a birth certificate, US Passport, or much else that would have worked in their place. However, I wanted to hear straight from a DMV employee what would and wouldn’t work because their was some confusion online to that point.

Steph was ahead of me in line and got called up. The DMV in Sioux Falls is very aware of what people are doing by changing their domicile to SD. The old guy she talked to was very quick an efficient, if a little snobby. Apparently, our WA DL’s didn’t comply with the Real ID Act and were next to useless for getting a new SD DL. He bragged about how SD had been doing Real ID compliant DL’s for the last eight years. Clearly a slam against WA state. What I wanted to say at the time was,”Yeah, tiny states like SD can move faster and adopt technology quicker than much larger states like WA.” After all, WA has nine times the population of SD.

In any case, her Passport and other supporting documents were sufficient, but they needed proof she was legal to work in the US. Without her Socialist Insecurity card in hand, she needed to download a W-2 from the previous year to show them. A bit of a hassle but at least she had a path forward.

When I talked to the asshole, I said up front,”Hey, I don’t have everything I need but wanted to know straight from you what missing docs were required.” He looked at my DL from WA, Socialist Insecurity card and said that I needed either a Passport or birth certificate. I thanked him and walked out with Steph. As we were leaving, the people in line behind us piped up,”Well! We’re ready with our documents!” Hahahahahahahahhaha…fuck heads. In my mind,”Look, babe! The easily amused are ready!” I really wish I had fuck-you money.

Steph took off to find a place to print out her W-2 and I cruised around looking for food. There was a Panda Express near by and that’s just what I wanted. Aside from a consistent experience, Panda Express is better than most Chinese restaurants in rural locations like Sioux Falls. I asked for chopsticks and the guy behind the counter took half a minute to find them. LOL, hicks.

I really hate the small minded mentality that some of these rural state people seem to have. They’re so self conscious about being from some back water state they have this chip on their shoulder at all times. Not necessary and annoying. I was glad we weren’t moving to SD. Even though almost everyone else we had interacted with was fantastic, I am allergic to assholes.

After eating, I met up with Steph at the hotel and she showed me her brand new SD DL. Fully good to go. Not a temp. I was ecstatic. Now, regardless of my status, we could go forward with an RV purchase in her name and reap the benefits of being domiciled in SD.

We spent one more night in Sioux Falls and headed out in the morning. We were looking furiously at RV’s that fit our needs and were within our price range. We settled on the Coachmen Apex Ultra-Lite 289TBSS. The closest dealer with a good price on it was in Indianola, IA, just about half an hour south of Des Moines. We left with purpose and desire.

Back on the road again, ah. So nice. Looking at the route, I realized that we would be very close to the Spirit Lake/Spencer area of IA. I lived there for a few months in the 80’s when I was 14. It wasn’t a pleasant or fond set of memories, but I wanted to see it again.

After driving through southern Minnesota, we headed south and into Dickinson County Iowa, passed Spirit Lake and then into Spencer, IA in the next county. Spirit Lake is a bit of ritzy area with large homes, golf courses and resort lake type of living. We started seeing Tesla’s again and shiny new pickups. We saw an A&W Root Beer, a real one and not part of a truck stop, in Spencer and stopped.

From the parking lot of the A&W Root Beer in Spencer, IA.

The sodas were served in glass mugs and the people behind the counter were mostly teenagers. Reminded me heavily of the “old days”. While we were sitting and waiting for food, a group of teenagers pulled up in an SUV. They stayed in the car while one jumped out and ran inside. A minute or two later, another teen rode up on a small scooter. The occupants of the SUV eyeballed him the whole time as he got off the scooter and strolled inside. The looks on their faces were very familiar to me. I felt bad for the scooter kid and knew he must have had to put up with the same crap I did when living there. Some things never change.

We ate our excellent food and left. The drive from Spencer to Des Moines was uneventful but picturesque. Miles and miles of farms, mostly in corn, and cattle everywhere. It was late at night and we stopped at a Menards in Des Moines, arranged for a hotel and took off again for another 20 minutes.

The hotel was under serious remodel and would be the third or fourth one that was ran by people originally from the Indian sub-continent. I’ve always found Indians to be a hard working and industrious people. Anything to get out of that country. While I’ve never been, many of my work colleagues had and their stories were eye opening. Don’t drink the water indeed.

The next morning we partook of the free breakfast, one that had the exact same ingredients and available options as all the others, and headed out for Indianola. After about half an hour of freeway driving we arrive at the dealer. We parked and were greeted by a large fellow who was the sales guy. Dressed like me in shorts, t-shirt and ball cap, we began telling him what we were looking for.

He showed us the model we had seen online, but the price was $500 more than on the website. He told us we must have been mistaken. We weren’t. He asked if we were going to fill out a credit application and I said we would pay cash. He stutter stepped as we were walking to another model he wanted us to see and noticed his demeanor quickly change from affable to quiet and measured. I don’t believe that’s what he wanted to hear.

We walked around another Apex Ultra-Lite model, the 300BHS. We ended up liking the bunkhouse configuration better on that one than the 289TBSS. After walking back to the sales office we were greeted by two women who worked there. I asked if we could buy it that day and leave with it. They laughed out loud. Like I had told the funniest joke of all time. Anyone who knows me, knows my demeanor will turn on a dime when laughed at. They said it would take two days.

“Oh, ok.”, I said and then turned to Steph immediately asking,”Minnesota? ” Seeing the look on my face, she replied with a sigh,”Sure.” We started walking out to the parking lot. The ladies turned to the sales guy and asked,”Hey, do you have their contact information.” He silenced them with a quick motion of his hand and we left.

Here’s the scam some dealers pull and it doesn’t matter if it’s a car, truck, RV, motorcycle or whatever. They WANT you to fill out a credit application. When he stutter stepped earlier, I knew we were in trouble there. The dealer submits your application to various lending institutions, who return with an approval (or not) and their rate. The dealer then ADDS points to the rate so that as you make payments, they get a cut of each one. It’s 100% legal and the majority of dealers do this. When the sales guy knew we were cash buyers and the dealership wouldn’t be making as much off us as they wanted, we were already dead to him.

I was pretty pissed and bummed. So much had gone on and the hotels were killing my bank balance. We stopped at the local Kum & Go, yes, really called that. Aside from the juvenile jokes of the name, what a great place to fill up. Take your average 7-11 or Circle K and make it three times bigger in every way, except price. We hung out in the outdoor eating area and planned our next move.

Turns out the RV in Minnesota sold that day. We did a nationwide search on RVT and RV Trader. There was a 300BHS in a town just outside Columbus, OH. Steph called and made all the arrangements. They knew our situation, Steph said they were very nice and that after a $5K deposit, credit card OK, they would prep it and we could drive away the day we arrived. Hot damn! Fuck off, Iowa scammers! We’re going to OHIO!

I can’t say enough about how well Ohio had treated us on this adventure. Clean rest stops, has everything you could want, nice people everywhere we went and their turnpike system was good. We drove all day and night, getting to our hotel at 3am and only a few minutes from the RV dealer. With luck, this would be our last hotel stay.

The next morning we arrived at Colerain RV at Alum Creek and went to go look at the unit. Everyone was super nice, the trailer was as expected and ready to go. We bought a hitch, they mounted it on the RV and truck, and I went around buying all the little do-dads and thingamajiggs one needs. The mechanic/setup guy gave us a tour of the unit and showed us all the things we needed. Very informative and his insights proved valuable from the get go. After spending $2K on hitch and misc equipment, they hooked us up, and we were ready to go.

Now again, to this point in my life, I had never towed an RV and only towed a trailer for the first time a couple of weeks before. But hey, nothing stops me from going at anything, let alone knowledge. I put the truck in Tow/Haul mode and left the driveway of the dealership.

Rest stop, minutes outside of Columbus, OH.

Ok, I could feel the changes in truck handling for sure, but Gandalf is a beast and muscled through with ease. Almost no drop in acceleration to 70mph. The trailer is mostly aluminum and light weight at around 6000 pounds with a GVWR of 7600. My truck weighs 8500 empty, so it’s always going to weigh more than the trailer itself.

We paused at a rest stop and got inside the trailer. I hadn’t felt this happy and giddy since maybe getting my FIRST car. It’s an excitement, a feeling that I almost never get at my age. Cynicism and lowered expectations runs deep in me, but in those first few minutes, we were in heaven. Bye bye hotels! Hello, rest stops, Walmart parking lots and Cabela’s? Oy vey….

Twenty-tree foot long truck with thirty-four foot long trailer. Jesus…
That’s a lot of hardware. Sure hope I can remember how it works.

The trailer is self-contained, but doesn’t come with a generator. So, if we stop anywhere without shore power then the slides, water pump, and USB ports inside will run off the large battery up front. This means that without being at an RV park, there is no AC, microwave, TV or even working outlets. For the next few nights I would go without my CPAP machine and risk dying in my sleep. Yay, more adventure!

Since we were firmly in “bumper pull” territory, the bed of the truck could benefit from a bed cap. We headed down the road to the factory store for Leer in Milton, PA. After lots of late night driving, we get to the Milton area and park in a local Walmart. Our first night in the RV and boondocking at Walmart to boot! What fun! Meh, not really.

I felt a lot of stress sleeping at the Walmart. Steph had gone inside to inquire if it was ok, even though there were already several RV’s in the lot and a few tractor trailers as well. They thought we were dumb for asking and said “Of course”. I know from youtube videos that it’s really hit or miss getting permission to stay at Walmarts nowadays. Apparently, most of the denials are on the West Coast.

Something that will keep one awake is the constant coming and going of people. Are they screwing around with the truck? The trailer? Are teenagers letting air out of our tires? Will the cops show up and scoot us down the road? The downside of not having a spot in an RV park. Couple all of this with not having power for my sleep machine and it was a somewhat miserable experience, except that it was mostly free! Yay!

We usually made it a point to patronize the business we had spent the night at. True to form, I went in the Walmart in the morning and bought some food. We got back on the road and visited the Leer factory outlet.

Morning at the LEER Factory Outlet, Milton, PA.

We got there early and talked to a sales guy when they opened at 9am. They could sell us a cap for my truck in two weeks (vs five weeks at a dealer) and quite a bit cheaper than the ones I had looked at in Portland, OR. The only problem was the timing. We were going back to Maine and staying only a week. We would then drive back across the country to WA so that Steph could attend her family reunion. So I left knowing it was a good deal and not about to happen. On to Maine, again!