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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Our RV’s over the years….

I love reading about the transitions RVers go through to get to the RV they presently have.   Some folks work their way up, like we did, others jump in with both feet, never owning an RV before.

Between Steve and I,  we have had a lot of rv’s over the years.   I don’t have pics of his, but it included a few travel trailers and a popup when he was a kid.  To this day, his folks have both a motorhome and a fiver, and his brother has a large travel trailer too.  So he comes from an RV family for sure. camperbus

As for myself, when a kid, we had a converted school bus fondly called The Camper Bus.  My dad bought two old school buses and changed both of them into campers.   By selling one, he was able to cover the costs of both conversions.  I remember we had to change the appearance quickly of the bus, so we children got to dip sponges into black paint and dab them all over The Leopard Bus!  hahaha 

Later Dad painted it like a Winnebago paint job with a big W on the back… (actually a V, so he wouldn’t be infringing on copyright!) … the last paint job was like in this photo, as a log cabin, and he later added log stripes to the walls and a green roof.  How cute is that?

We chugged up and back from Cedarburg, Wi to the U.P. of Michigan and all points in between.  It made it up the Porcupine Mountains, and over to the Wildcat Mountains, with 6 kids and a dog.  What fun!  Wunderlust was born in my heart!












We also had a few travel trailers over the years when I was a child… the old Mayfair is being used by the grandchilold mayfairdren of the people we sold it to wayyy back in the 70’s.


** I snapped this pic 2 years ago when we ran across it parked at a local campground.  WE don't  camp that "messy" at our site**







Even then it was an old trailer when we had it.   We would camp in it during the summers at Pentoga park at Chicagon Lake all summer long, and then in the winter my folks would park it up in the woods on some leased land for the winters.It was used for deer hunting season, and then we would snowmobile into it during the winters for vacations!  LOL


Once I was grown up, when my own kids were small, we had tents… until 1987 we finally got this old Apache pop-up,  my my my were we ever *happening* now!  apache popup It had two big side beds, a large fold-down table that seated 6 so it made a big bed, and a couch that folded down into a twin bed.  The little heater in there would just about cook ya out of the place.  It only had a cooler/ice box so we had to haul blocks of ice for it.  There was a single sink with a pump for cold water from a 5 gallon jug stored under in the cabinet.  The four burner stove got a workout for both cooking and heating water for washing up dirty kids~!   apache popup (2) We  had a portapotty for late night emergencies for the kids, but they preferred the nighttime walk to the outhouse, using their own flashlights bobbing all over the place.  It was a sojourn to walk the kids there, singing songs in the dark to ward off the bears and beasts of the night.  LOL   That camper went on camping for many years after we sold it off … and finally the canvas gave out.


But the newest owners ripped off the canvas, removed the side beds and boxed it in with plywood. It lives on now as a hunting shack and it still used to this day!


In 1990 I bought my first motorhome, a 1972 Chieftain gasser,  27 ft.  Boy did we live it up in there! winnebago chieftain I drove it all over, many times just me and my girls and the dogs.  My soon-to-be ex husband hated camping, and he hated my motorhome, and would rather stay home alone than enjoy the woods with us.  (we got rid of the guy and kept the motorhome!)  At one point, the winter salt ate through the paint on the aluminum exterior.  It was looking kinda bedraggled.  So I brought it up to my brother’s rural yard, and taped it all off.  First I used etching compound and then sprayed on 2 coats of automotive paint, then 2 coats of clearcoat, all with a big old compressor.  What a job!   Then I added some marine striping decals in 3 tones of blue.  My goodness, this rig was looking mighty fine indeed!   Now for an awning.. hmmmm?  I bought a nice blue tarp, ran one end in the channel, attached the other end to a long large 4” PVC pipe with end caps.  No recoiling spring, so I had just a little crank on the end of the tube and I could stand on a stepladder and crank it up into place.  A few rubber snubbers locked it into place against the roof.   I made telescoping conduit side poles, with little hitchpins for locking into place at the desired height.  I needed a drill press to drill the holes, the only thing I didn’t do myself.  The brackets to bolt to the side of the rig weren’t quite what I envisioned, and could not find enough support in the wall to anchor them to.  So I went through the wall, with big bolts and used big fender washers from the inside to mount the awning arms to.  It worked out fine, one set was hidden under a couch.. the other set near the passenger seat.  It worked, and we were happy!


Gosh how I loved that motorhome!   But as it turns out, I loved Steveio more. I met him in 1995.  He convinced me (when we were dating yet) to sell the aging troublesome motorhome as he would buy me a brand new travel traileempty chairsr … and put it in my own name!  So in 1996, along came this lovely 33ft new 1997 Sierra travel trailer. 
Never had anything so nice in my life!  I married him a year later, but we laughed that it was so he could get back on the title to the camper!   We spent our honeymoon in our trailer, 2 weeks of all alone camping!  No kids, no dogs.  We looped around Lake Superior through the Soo and arohoneymoonersund into Thunder Bay and Minnesota to home.


Oh, on the way we had to pick up our kids, which we had farmed off on relatives in the U.P. of Michigan.

What a fine way to start a marriage, by camping!


I put the old Winnebago motorhome up for sale on a consignment lot.. where it got stolen by a customer on the last night of the consignment contract.  The dirtball kept the keys from a test drive and came back to steal it.  It took a lot of detective work to track it down months later.  The guy was living in it, avoiding his wife, his ex fatherinlaw, his old boss and many bill collectors!   His elderly mother finally came through, by turning him in, and we made agreement for him to pay me cash in front of a police officer and I would turn over title and he would not be charged with grand theft.  I was sooo happy to NOT get the motorhome back after months of abusive treatment.

We used the Sierra travel trailer for 6 years, hauling it all over the U.P. oour 97 sierraf Michigan, into Canada, and around Wisconsin for many, many weekends. 

Our blended family of four teens meant bringing along friends, food and fun for sometimes 6, 7, or 8 teens at a time!


Many of  those kids had never gone camping in their lives, so it was a real treat for them to come along with us on weekends.  We camp a lot with my now grown siblings and their campers and the folks and friends up in the U.P. of Michigan. our camping group It took a lot of organizing and planning and work to have such fun, but it was worth it in the long run.  Our kids appreciated it, and the visiting kids still talk about the times they came with us *Up North*.

That is what our camping experiences are made of.

Pudgy pies in the fire, Some-more’s for dessert, the kids catching fireflies and the grownups throwing another log on the fire.  It don’t get much better than that, I tell ya.


Ahhh then along comes 2002.. the kids all are graduated and gone almost, and I got very very ill after a work industrial accident.  Steveio got it in his head that we needed a motorhome to travel and be more comfortable for me, rather than towing a travel trailer.  We looked around and made a great deal on a trade-in at a dealership in Fond Du Lac, where they had a motorhome on the lot on consignment.  parked at paint river forks So they literally bought our trailer from us so we could buy the motorhome from the folks on consignment.  Neato! 

It was a 1994 Coachmen Santara.   It was in immaculate condition and had low miles.


We moved our gear right in and made ourselves at home!   Later we realized too late that the tires were original to the rig… though they lookpfundtners and the santaraed good with tread, they were really dated 1993 and we had two huge blowouts on our first big trip! We added 6 new tires, we headed out for Florida, more confidant in our tires and learned a good lesson about replacing RV tires every 6 years or so.

We drove that motorhome into the back woods and all around, and I was pleased as punch with it.  It fit us well for weekends and vacations, and doubled as a hugemotorhome prop truck, hauling our gear, costumes, stock, tables, and machines for doing fiber festivals.



I was totally happy with it and though it was suffering from some delamination, we kept it up nicely and used it most every weekend spring, summer and fall.  Toss in a few winter trips too, and I was happy.  We added a scooter rack to the back, and did a few renovations inside.  We spend four years enjoying that motorhome…..





Now it’s 2006…    In May, I was at a weaving seminar down near Beloit, WI and Steveio was zooming around on our Honda Helix just to explore the area while I was in classes.  We needed a new filter for the Onan generator, so he looked various places close by to get one.  Of course, he managed to drive to an RV dealership in Rockford, Ill just over the border.  There he saw *The Rig* !!!  He came back all bubbly and excited about this rig.  It made a big impression on him.  He kept asking me to look at it… NO NO NO I would say.. we owe more on our Coachmen than it’s worth and we are not going further in debt!  He kept looking at this rig on the website, and about every week he would mention how light, bright, well-laid out, well-made etc. this rig was.  And each week my reply was the same: NO NO NO!

In July of 2006 it was a life-changing time for us.. our younger son, Mike, died,  and we started to question our own mortality, our goals, our lives.  It felt like life was closing in on us, and we were choking.  We wanted to run away.  We were hurting.


Although we always planned to full-time in an RV when Steve can retire in 2013, we felt like it was a long time off and life doesn’t last forever.  So we called the bank, and took off to go look at this diesel motorhome.   The dealership was able to fanagle the figures to pay front driver sideoff our loan, and we got a bunch of stuff written into the deal like all new tires (we learned that lesson!) all new belts and hoses, all new fluid changes and filters, all new batteries – 2 chassis and 4 coach, and a full tank of propane and a full tank of diesel….. ready to roll.   So we went home, thought about it, faxed back our best offer and the deal was made! 
Three days later we picked up the rig and left behind the Coachmen.  The delamination was a bit worse than our photos could show, so we ponied up an extra $300 to help the deal go through.  All was done and we had the big rig… now time to ESCAPE! parked at show





My parents came along in their motorhome and our good friends in their fiver also accompanied us to make sure we didn’t go alone..

they knew we needed to get away.

So out we went to Custer, Mt. Rushmore, Black Hils etc.



We cried, we laughed, we celebrated our son’s life aKarenInTheBadlandsnd wished him well in the beyond.  It was a very tough time, but healing in it’s own way.



The solitude and peace sitting on a rock in the Badlands was very healing and soothing for us.



It was important for us to let go.  But we also had to come back to deal with job, family, and home and hearth.














Now its 2009, and we are getting closer and close to that 2013 retirement date!  Steveio can retire with a full pension from the State of Wisconsin, where he has worked since age 19 at the University of Green Bay.  He will be 55  and I will be 52.  My health is dragging on and we are able to go on most weekends and a few multi-week vacations each year.  The new rig has all we need, and room for the toys and the stuff we would want to take along full-timing.  We will sell our home, and nest-egg the profit for an *exit plan* in the future if need be. 
Niobrara 4 danged tourists






So that brings us up to today…..   wonder what tomorrow will bring?

4 comments:

  1. Wow, that's quite a story, Karen. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Totally enjoyed your post Karen & the pictures as well. It's so nice when things come to-gether well. Especially liked the part about getting rid of the husband & keeping the motorhome..... AL:))

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  3. Heh heh Al... it was good to get rid of that husband for a LOT of reasons. and to top it off-- he took all my TOOLS outta the motorhome! I made him bring them all back. I needed to wrench on it myself to keep it going.

    It sure was a good ole beast. My kids named it the "Ultimate Behemoth" after an episode of The Simpsons tv show, where they went motorhome shopping. We even got a bunch of Simpsons accessories for inside to decorate it.

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  4. We totally enjoyed read this blog and think it is one of the best heart felt blogs we read in a long time. So happy that life is giving you a new direction in some areas, and also for the guidance you got in the Badlands.

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