So as I write this, we are officially 10 months and 19 days away from retiring to full-time (or any time for that matter) RV living. And except for feverishly trying to sock away money for the down payment, there's pretty much nothing left we must do.
Don't get me wrong; there's plenty of things we CAN do, but there's not a lot left we HAVE to do to start this journey on the right foot. We can (and likely will) head on over to some local RV dealers to take a couple of final measurements on certain things, and to drool once more at the prospect of living in one of these Class A RVs. Frustrates the dealers, I know, because we tell them up front we're not there to buy that day, but I hate to lead these people on in thinking they're getting our business that day. I still owe a couple of vendors a call or two directly to finalize delivery or install dates for next fall, but those calls can come in about 6 months or so.
And, of course, there's the all important ordering date 7 months and 23 days away.
But now that virtually everything is answered and researched, I was reflecting on all the time, effort and travel Barbara and I have made since that day in April of 2016 when Barbara asked me if I wanted to go to an RV show that weekend. And it's been a LOT!
Major RV shows - 3
This is where the glamorous part of RV living comes from - the shiny, new RV's all lined up in neat and tidy rows, virtually calling to you to take them out on the road. Even the front ends of these behemoths are designed to look like a smiling faces with their headlights and grillwork, just looking at you and saying, "Buy me! Buy me!". It's the sizzle, but not the steak. Hershey 2017 and 2018 were both eyeopeners and better shows overall, but I'll always remember Tampa 2018 as the show that convinced me I could do this journey by allowing me to nail a test drive of a virtual twin in size and handling to our future 36LA.
Local RV shows - 6
From the first manufacturer show at the Georgia World Congress Center where we first learned the difference between Class A's, B's, C's, fifth wheels, travel trailers and pop-ups, to dealer shows pretty much twice a year, these were where we compared and contrasted styles and quality of the different RVs. Which ones deserved a second look, and which ones to stay away from; some because they were just poorly made, and others because they just didn't fit our requirements for size and amenities.
Visits to RV dealers - 9
Barbara and I have become RV voyeurs - we admit it. Multiple visits to Camping World (we'll never, ever buy anything from them), Campers Inn, NIRVC, RV World, Lazy Days and Marlin Ingram RV. And while we're likely to order our 36LA from Marlin Ingram RV in Montgomery, AL, we still drop into the others from time to time. The Ingram folks are known for doing business the old fashioned way, and everything we've seen from them in a couple of visits looks as if they've earned that reputation - and our business.
Trips to Red Bay, Alabama - 1
Once we were about 90% settled on Tiffin to be the manufacturer of our future RV, we took advantage of their open nature and took their factory tour. Talk about opening the kimono! They show you everything from the woodworking shop to the fiberglass cutting area to the assembly line where multiple coaches were being built - Tiffin shows you everything. Then they leave you alone to walk into any completed coaches waiting for final inspection.
Hours of internet research - countless
From iRV2, where you can learn about all things RV-ing, to TRVN where you have the expert advice from real and long-time Tiffin owners who have gone through it all, to each and every third-party provider site, to dozens of blogs written and videoed by fellow RV-ers like 'Less Junk, More Journey' and 'RV Love', the amount of information available to people like us who have never done this before is virtually limitless. In short, there's no excuse to not do the research needed to begin a life on the road.
So now we enter the lull before the storm that truly begins in June of 2019, when we establish residency in South Dakota and order our Tiffin Allegro Open Road 36LA on the way back to Georgia. Then the longest 14 weeks of our lives begins as we wait for our home on wheels to be built.
This is not to say that there won't be updates along the way. Let's face it; I have no trouble writing about the beginning of this journey. Stay tuned.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.