In the photo above you see my beloved Katrina parked at the Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming. I have a lot of pictures of this tiny home parked against stunning backdrops but this is one of my favorites. Looking at this photo today makes me a little sad. Here’s why…
The van and I have been together for about a year and a half. We spent part of last summer touring Oregon, then settled near Yellowstone until early October. After my summer job was over, we returned to Colorado for a spell, then went to California for most of November and December and back to Colorado for the holidays. With after-Christmas snow chasing the tires, we headed south to see what the next chapter of nomad life had in store for us.
Early in January, I found myself in Sedona assisting my cousin as she recovered from an injury. As it turned out, I was lucky to be stationed in the comfort of this colorful town while repairs were being done on the van.
It was about this time that I started toying with the idea of getting a newer and bigger rig.
After spending several hours shopping on the internet, I found a used camper advertised at an RV place in Cottonwood. It was bigger than I wanted, and kind of old but the price seemed right, so I borrowed my cousin’s car and headed south to check it out.
When I arrived at the dealership, the unit I wanted to see was at their other store 50 miles away. (Note to self: Call before you go!) I wasn’t in the mood to drive to the other store, so after I told the young salesman what I was looking for he showed me the Coachman Freelander Micro (below).
This is one of the new, smaller RVs on a Ford Transit chassis with a V-6 engine. Touted as more fuel efficient and easy to drive this little RV started my wheels a-spinning.
By the end of January, the van was running like new and I was back on the road learning the
joys rigors of boondocking. You can go to my previous posts to see the details, but overall I found that I felt more comfortable and secure parked in a campground with other people and a bathroom nearby. Hopping from one camp to another I soon found myself at Organ Pipe National Monument and later heading to Mexico where I ran into the RV singles group the WINs .
Meeting these folks opened my eyes to new possibilities. I admired the women (some a little older than me) who wielded their bus-like Class A motorhomes with “toad” (car) trailing behind, with apparent ease and confidence. Others pulled cute trailers and made dumping their black tanks (sewer) look like a beautiful ritual! All told, the experiences with my newfound friends made the thought of getting a new or different set of wheels more feasible and attractive. This also afforded me an opportunity to check out the variety of rigs within the group. Some were new, some old, some modified and some HUGE – all were intriguing.
OK, so I didn’t really look at any of these units, but a lot of folks were gracious enough to show me their home even though the request goes against camping protocol (it’s like having someone barge in on your sticks and bricks house).
Fast forward through February into March when I started my return trip to Colorado. Before leaving Arizona, I met up with my Colorado camping friend Jeanne’ at Roosevelt Lake. I was grateful to have someone who knows me pretty well to bounce my scatter-brained ideas off of. She also has a lot of experience with RVs and assured me it would be the next logical step in my nomadic dream. The more we talked, the more convinced I was that the time was ripe to make a change.
Those in the know say that Albuquerque is a great place to find used RVs, so on my way back to Colorado, I seized the opportunity to visit a few dealers. With only seven weeks left before going to Yellowstone for the summer, I felt a sense of urgency and curiosity. Can I really pull this off?
Vantastic Vans was the first stop in Albuquerque. Here the salesman promoted this 2017 Forest River Sunseeker as the perfect-for-me vehicle.
True, this immaculate RV is a real gem! I loved the roominess created by the “super slide”, the fit and finish (code words for interior colors and materials), and sleek entertainment area over the cab (rather than a bed).
This dealership only sells vans and small RVs so they were interested in my van as a trade-in. (I would later find out that most RV dealers don’t want to take a van like Katrina in as a trade). They tried really hard to give me as much as I wanted (needed?) for it, but we couldn’t get close on price.
The next stop was La Mesa RV Sales on the west side of Albuquerque. Touted as the largest of their 11 stores, the sales guy told me he couldn’t keep the small used RVs on the lot because they are so popular. He assured me there would be more used RV’s coming in later, but the only thing on the lot was this gently-used Winnebago (aka Itasca) Navion. Lovely, yes, but still out of my price range.
I’m not an avid shopper, so looking at the scarce inventory and high prices wore me out. After a night’s rest at the Coronado Campground in Bernalillo, I gathered up my thoughts, courage, and sense of urgency and proceeded north to Denver.
Being on the road with distance from the internet and RV dealers gave me time to organize my thoughts and draw a few conclusions:
After a long wind-blown day, I landed at my friend’s house in Littleton. She was delighted to help me find the perfect new home (read: spend my money) and jumped at the chance to go shopping.
Windish RV was the first stop in big D. An eager salesman showed us a “special” 2016 Jayco Redhawk 26′ with two slides. Spacious yes, and the price was in the low $60’s. It was still more than I wanted to pay for a used coach, especially since it had slides, extra TVs, and was 4′ feet longer than I wanted.
Our next stop was Camping World in Golden. They were crazy-busy, but since all the RVs were unlocked, we were able to check out all kinds of coaches without a salesman hovering nearby.
Here is the fancy Jayco Melbourne 24L that caught my eye while at Camping World. This beautiful coach featured the style and power of a Mercedes chassis, and lovely interior touches – complete with a super slide ($$$$$). My friend was right when she said: “The longer you look, the more expensive it gets”. (On sale now for ONLY $89,999!)
Thanks to a Colorado law, the dealers were closed on Sunday which gave us an opportunity to take a break and have some fun watching a pair of Great Blue Herons building their nest.
My friend Susan caught this spectacular shot with her new telephoto lens.
We also had a chance to view this 27′ Class A motorhome which had been lovingly renovated by a young couple Susan knows. What a wonderful family coach! Unfortunately, it was more RV than I wanted or need.
On Monday morning we dropped the van off at my favorite Sprinter repair shop, LinDen Automotive, and Engineering. It was due for an oil change AND I wanted to make sure she was in tip-top shape in case I decided to put her on the market.
With renewed vigor and spare time on our hands, we trotted off to look at more RVs. At the Trailer Source in Wheat Ridge we looked briefly at a couple smaller RVs but didn’t have a chance to talk to a salesman, so we headed east to Lazy Days RV in Aurora. After going through a couple of out-of-my-price-range rigs, the sales guy showed us a 2016 Coachman Leprechaun.
“I could see you living here”, my friend declared as we stepped into the coach. It was big, clean, gently-used, and the best-priced vehicle we had seen yet (still in the $50K range!). At last, something to really think about.
Next stop: Greeley. Time to decide (a) if getting into a bigger vehicle is what I really want to do and (b) if I am ready to part with Katrina, the wonder van, to make it happen.
Category: Arizona, Buying an RV, Looking for the Right Vehicle, Musings, Travel, Van Dwelling, YellowstoneTags: camping, Colorado, friendship, new beginnings, projects, retirement, travelers, Van Dwelling