You know you're in trouble when you walk in the front door of the show, and the product being pitched from the first booth on the right is extended financing. Really extended. As in: Give us several...
You know you’re in trouble when you walk in the front door of the show, and the product being pitched from the first booth on the right is extended financing.
Really extended. As in: Give us several years’ salary for an average working grunt up front, and we’ll spread the rest out in 240 simple, painless, EZ-payments of only $1,300 a month.
“Look at that,” I told my short-suffering wife and broken-down-RV navigator (careful: one misplaced hyphen there leads to marriage counseling), Tara Firma, whose eyes already were saucer-shaped. “We could drive out of here today in a new 40-foot diesel pusher and have ‘er paid off by the time our fourth dog from now kicks the bucket.”
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She grimaced, which is not an unusual reaction for a first-timer. People on car lots get sticker shock. People at RV shows go into irreversible sticker comas.
We popped into the one in Seattle last weekend mostly out of curiosity.
Since joining RV Nation more than a year ago by adopting a family member’s ancient, 23-foot motor home a fascinating craft that doubles as a full-employment guarantee for the good folks at the WD-40 factory we’re constantly curious about how the upper-crust portion of RVdom lives.
Pretty darn well, as it turns out.
Standing with Tara in the shade of a Monarch motor coach awning, which cast a shadow approximately the size of Kittitas County, I thumbed through a stack of glossy brochures and clicked off my own “10 Essentials” list for modern RVing:
Corian counters. Stainless steel appliances. Full-size, side-by-side reefer/freezer. Foot massager. In-dash rear-view, side-view, top-view, bottom-view ICU2 TV sets. Washer/dryer. Dual satellite dishes (front and rear, to compensate for annoying earth curvature between bow and stern). Jetted tub. His-and-her power recliners. Lower storage space large enough to stow firewood, axe, blue tarp, barbecue, golf cart and the adult population of Libby, Mont.
Just by looking at price tags, we quickly eliminated most of the big diesel pushers from consideration.
The cheap, crummy ones, lacking outside dog-grooming stations, onboard crepe makers and other essentials, were going for around 200 grand.
The nicer ones those you wouldn’t have to be red-faced over if you drove them down to the unkempt side of the country club parking lot for that big jungle-adventure outing were upwards of 400,000 clams.
A stunning number of “SOLD” (to whom, you wonder) signs were pasted on these tax-exempt, gas-swilling road beasts. But given that most were costlier, not to mention physically longer, than our entire slice of heaven up in Escrow Heights, we moved to the next section.
Class-C motor homes, like our beloved/behated Lucille, are more affordable around $59,000 for one you would be proud to call home for a weekend.
The modern ones have all been decked out with the newest RV innovation: Portable “slide-out” rooms which, fully extended and “slid out,” make your rig look suspiciously like something a hyperactive child might assemble from Legos.
Many people look at RVs with slideouts and see extra space. We look at them and see astounding new leak potential. Been there, caulked that. No thanks.
Our eyes wandered to the next level down: small Class Cs and Class B van-conversion campers. These rigs are generally more nimble, easier to drive and park, lighter and, unlike their larger cousins, generally not underpowered.
Being a hulking galoot of a man, I’ve always steered away from them, assuming they would be akin to camping inside the Barbie Tent Trailer. Not necessarily true, as it turns out.
One particular model caught our eye: A 21-foot Chinook, a mini RV long manufactured in Yakima. We squeezed into her belly and took in her overall ingenuity and surprisingly comfortable interior. We rubbed her shiny, meticulously handcrafted hardwood cupboards and trim.
Granted, entering the airplane-sized commode might require some body greasing, and extrication very possibly could require a combination of can openers, cork screws and the Jaws of Life.
But we marveled at this sleek rig’s one-piece, seamless outside shell.
We closed our eyes and envisioned ourselves on the road all year-round, free of both of outdoor life’s most annoying features: leaks and small children.
Would we like to see some numbers? Sure!
Ten grand down and right around $900 a month for 15 years. Sigh. Clearly, your average new-RV skipper pays cash.
You can buy a lot of condo space for $900 a month and have enough left over to feed small portions of Africa.
Maybe our old RV isn’t so bad, after all.
Besides, the more it leaks, creaks and generally irritates, the more it does what we wanted it to do in the first place: push us outside.
Somebody, after all, has to stand around the fire and entertain all those people taking a gander at nature through a tinted bay window.
Ron C. Judd’s Trail Mix column appears here every Thursday. To contact him: 206-464-8280 or firstname.lastname@example.org