When veteran RVers were asked what advice they’d give newbies, their No. 1 tip was to avoid buying new, according to RVtravel.com. The reasons why included the need to experiment with RVing and to learn how RV systems work by repairing them.
Those are certainly good motivations, but they’re not the only ones, or even the most important. Let’s look at four benefits of buying a used RV.
1. Significant Cost Savings
Purchasing a gently used RV or an older one you want to refurbish can be much more affordable. We bought our used 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel for $55,000 in 2019, nearly half the $100,317 listing price when the RV came off the production line a year earlier. That’s a huge savings.
That left money in our budget to obtain items that would help make our new RV our home. Transitioning from a sticks-and-bricks house to a home on wheels requires a lot of changes, including acquiring supplies to set it up the way you want.
2. Warranties Can Still Apply
We bought our rig from a small dealer whose owner found RVs in decent shape, purchased them, and fixed them up for resale. Although small, the dealer offered us a few warranty options, despite the unit being used.
A warranty would have covered anything major, such as our Lippert leveling system, the water heater, air conditioning units, slideout mechanisms, wastewater tanks and valves, indoor appliances, etc.
Planning to travel and not stay local, we didn’t find the warranty practical for our needs. To address any issues covered by the warranty would have required us to return to the dealer we purchased from. That would have meant if we encountered an issue while in the East, we’d have to jury-rig a fix until we could get back to the dealer in Arizona to get warranty-covered repairs.
We’ve had to take care of a few issues on our own but thankfully haven’t experienced any major problems. That’s another benefit of buying used: Any serious concerns should have already been found and addressed.
3. Fun in Learning
We knew the microwave in our rig could be used as a convection oven, but we had no idea how a convection oven works. Once we learned that a convection oven is similar to an air fryer, we decided we needed to investigate further.
After three years on the road, we finally consulted the microwave owner’s manual and made our first recipe in the convection oven: nice crispy chicken wings. Where was this feature all our lives?
4. Hidden Treasures
Buying our rig from a nontraditional Jayco seller meant a condensed walkthrough before taking ownership. That may sound like a shortcoming, but you can’t really expect someone not specialized in a certain RV dealer to know the intricacies of each make and model. We continually learn new things about our coach.
For example, we discovered we have an automatic, toe-kick dust pan as part of the central vac system. We can sweep floor debris to the front of the auto dust pan, flip it open with our toes to activate it, and it sucks in the contents. We didn’t know how that worked until some fellow RVer friends showed us theirs in action.
We also found out we have two gray wastewater tanks. Before purchasing our fifth wheel, we had owned a travel trailer that had a single gray tank and a single black tank. Naturally, we assumed our fifth wheel had the same. After all, we only saw a release valve for one of each in our control compartment.
It turns out that’s because the release lever for the other gray tank is located elsewhere, under the kitchen slideout. Who knew? We didn’t realize that until we hired a mobile RV repair tech to assess a tank issue we were experiencing.
It takes a village to help us be successful full-time RVers. We’re thankful for all the useful tips we receive along the way and hope we can pay it forward and impart some wisdom to others. Meanwhile, the treasure hunt continues.
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The state of Vermont is known for the Green Mountains, beautiful scenery, plentiful hiking, snow skiing, maple syrup, and cheddar cheese.
When we lived in Massachusetts in our early years of marriage, we relished visiting Vermont in the fall to take in the beauty of the orange, red, and yellow leaves on the many maple trees. We also returned in the winter to ski the powdery mountains.
Touring the state in the summer offers a completely different experience, still with abundant opportunities. Here are five activities we enjoyed while visiting our friends Jim and Kelly near Burlington in August:
1. Explore Lake Champlain
A natural freshwater body of water, Lake Champlain spans the Vermont-New York state lines and even crosses into Quebec, covering 490 square miles. Named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who arrived in the region in 1609, the lake is rumored to be home to “Champ,” a monster similar to “Nessie” in Scotland.
Bob and his friends used to vacation on the lake in his teen years, with no sightings of the creature. Seeing the lake up close and personal in some fashion or another is a must if you visit the area. We appreciated driving along the water and taking in its expanse, as well as taking Tagalong on his first cruise.
2. See Dinosaurs and Birdhouse Forest
The earliest British Vermont settlement dates back to 1724, but the French actually settled in the area as early as 1666, according to educational website Ducksters. That may not be when the dinosaurs roamed, but that didn’t stop someone from erecting dinosaurs in South Hero, Vermont, right along Lake Champlain. The swampy area has a somewhat prehistoric feel, so why not?
Dinosaurs aren’t the only things you’ll find in this area. It’s also home to what’s become known as Birdhouse Forest. Hundreds of colorful bird boxes dot the trees in the area. Hank and Jay, neighbors in the vicinity, originally constructed 20 of these houses as a way to invite swallows to the area to help fight the mosquito population.
The swallows seem to like their digs, and the collection has expanded from 20 to 800, each painted a bright color and featuring a red roof.
3. Stroll Church Street Marketplace
Another unique thing to do in Vermont is to roam the Church Street Marketplace. Akin to the Branson Landing outdoor shopping area in Missouri, Church Street offers a wide, brick-covered, four-block walkway in downtown Burlington, featuring shops, restaurants, statues, and live music. Touring the marketplace gives a nice feel of the city life.
Although tempted to savor some ice cream or chocolates on the strip, we opted to forgo it in search of another Vermont specialty (see Number 4).
4. Taste a Maple Creemee
If you’ve never heard of a maple creemee, you don’t know what you’re missing. Although we’d visited Vermont before, we were unfamiliar with the treat. It takes two of the state’s specialties — dairy and maple — and blends them together into a soft-serve ice cream delight.
You can find various flavors at mom-and-pop ice cream stands around the state. Bob opted for a pure maple creemee. I had a twist of maple and black raspberry. Both were delicious.
5. Sample Some Cheese
We knew Wisconsin was known for cheese. We didn’t realize Vermont also produces a significant amount of the dairy staple. We should have. After all, we’ve been known to buy and eat Vermont Sharp Cheddar before.
My work schedule didn’t allow time for us to tour a cheese factory in the area. Wanting to ensure we had an authentic Vermont experience, Jim and Kelly took us to a store similar to Trader Joe’s that showcased a wide variety of cheeses.
Each of us selected a different flavor to sample as a group. We would have enjoyed a nice picnic outdoors, but the humidity prevented that. Instead, we partook in the comfort of Tagalong, tasting maple cheddar, English, herbed, and another variety we don’t remember. They were all good.
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You may think the RV life is the same from day to day: you drive somewhere, set up camp, explore the area, and move on to another location to do it again. In some ways, you’d be right. But in others, you’d be wrong. Quite often, things don’t go as planned. Or they do, but you encounter unusual experiences in the mix.
We’re not always on the lookout for those unique occurrences; they just happen. Here are our most unusual in our third year on the road.
1. Windmill Blades
You know those wind turbines that dot the landscape as you cross the country? They don’t look all that big or fast from a distance. Believe it or not, each blade actually spans more than 170 feet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And they can reach speeds of 100 mph or faster, Energy Follower reports.
We camped near windmills in Groom, Texas, which gave us a better feel for their size and power. But what really opened our eyes was seeing individual blades on semi-trucks while parked at a casino near Albuquerque.
Because the expansive Indian reservation included a truck stop with plenty of parking space for oversize trucks, it made for a common stop for drivers transporting these important parts. On three different occasions, we saw trios of extra-long trucks holding windmill blades maneuver their rigs for an overnight stop.
2. Long-Distance Water Fill
That same Albuquerque stop had campsites with electric but no freshwater — although it did have a dump station with potable water. When we arrived at the destination, we had only planned to stay about three nights and then move on to Arizona. After Tom and Molly met us there, we quickly changed our plans and extended our stay.
Using our water for cooking, dishes, and showers filled our gray wastewater tanks and emptied our freshwater tank. Rather than closing up the trailer, connecting it to Gulliver, and moving it to the dump station to empty the gray and black tanks, we opted to borrow Tom’s portable black tank and macerator to transport our wastewater. But we still needed to refill the fresh tank.
Tom offered to let us use his two hoses, which we connected to our 10-foot and two 25-foot hoses. It still wasn’t long enough to reach the water spigot. Another RVer offered to let us use his two hoses to complete the distance. We gladly accepted. A seven-hose connection got the job done, but it took a full two hours to fill the 75-gallon tank at that distance.
3. Regional Grocery Stores
One of our favorite things to do as we travel is to shop at local grocery stories to get a taste for the region’s cuisine. We find all kinds of unusual-to-us items this way. In Louisiana, for example, the stores sell a common Cajun staple called tasso. It’s a spicy smoked meat taken from a hog’s shoulder and used in gumbos and stews.
The most unique grocery items we encountered in our third year of RV travel were frog legs, rabbit, gator, and turtle, which we found in the refrigerated section of stores in Louisiana and Mississippi.
4. Bat Houses
When looking for unique things to do in the areas we visit, we never know what we’ll find. We may have some idea ahead of time, but not always. Nothing could have prepared us for the unusual experience we had visiting the bat houses at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Reading about the houses piqued our interest, and reviews assured us the drive to see this occurrence would be worth it. They were right. As dusk neared, we gathered in front of three houses on stilts, a smelly guano odor letting us know we were in the right place.
As the sun dipped beneath the horizon, hundreds to thousands of bats descended from the houses and flew in formation, coming toward us and then heading higher into the night sky to fetch their mosquito dinner — a truly unique experience indeed.
5. Balloon Fiesta
Our list of unusual experiences wouldn’t be complete without including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We’ve never been that close to so many hot air balloons that we could smell the propane used to fill them and hear the rush of the gas.
Nor have we ever experienced such a unique phenomenon as the Albuquerque Box. It refers to wind patterns that carry balloons one direction at a lower altitude and back in the opposite direction at a higher altitude.
We’re grateful we were able to participate in all of these unusual activities.
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As we reflect on the nearly 8,000 miles we traveled in our third year on the road, we’re reminded of the great memories we made, the adventures we had, and the friends and family we visited and caught up with. We had a great year.
Our ambitious itinerary took us through 27 states, with stays in 19 of them — adding 10 to our state map. We covered 596 miles in our longest drive, from the Melbourne, Florida, area to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit friends. In our shortest drive, 29 miles, we navigated from an overnight casino stop to visit a friend we hadn’t seen in 30 years.
We stayed in four state campgrounds, visited four Boondockers Welcome hosts, and overnighted in three Walmart parking lots, two Bass Pro/Cabela’s parking lots, two truck stops, and one rest area. We moochdocked at the homes of nine friends and family members. Moochdocking and Boondockers Welcome stops saved us a lot of money to offset high fuel costs.
Narrowing down our favorite stops wasn’t easy, as each offered different experiences, from an armadillo haven in Texas to lake living in Florida and the beauty of Acadia National Park in Maine. Although we enjoyed each stop, despite the challenges along the way, these are our favorites of our 2022 travels.
We visited state campgrounds in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia. Other campgrounds included a beach park near Corpus Christi, Texas; non-reservation, non-credit card Bar Harbor Campground in Maine; an RV resort in Vermont; a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground in Missouri; and an RV park in Oklahoma.
The Mississippi campground offered close proximity to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico, making for nice relaxing times in the sun at the end of my workday. But the tight turns in the campground loops and the cramped campsites kept that from being our favorite.
We found the beach park near Corpus Christi nice. But we visited at the wrong time of the year to really enjoy it. In early March, the temperatures can be cold, with wind and rain.
Our favorite would have to be what we dubbed “Armadillo Haven”: South Llano River State Campground in Junction, Texas. Although we didn’t see the river from the campground, we did see a lot of armadillos and had fun watching them. The park also offers bird blinds, where visitors can sit in shelters and watch a variety of birds in their natural habitat.
Favorite Boondocking Stay
All four of the Boondockers Welcome hosts we visited made us feel welcome and appreciated. One gave us two dozen fresh eggs from their chickens when we left. Another invited us inside their home when a tornado warning threatened the area and our safety. One gave us a tour of his workshop and shared with us about the projects he was working on.
Our favorite boondocking stay, though, was on a farm about 35 miles northwest of Gainesville, Florida. The expansive property featured a manmade pond, and the host allowed multiple guests to park around it. We met a couple of really nice Airstreamers there. The secluded property also included a walking trail. We found it to be a pleasant oasis, despite the creepy entrance through Spanish moss-draped cedar trees.
Favorite Overnight Stop
We discovered we prefer Cabela’s/Bass Pro over Walmart parking lots. We find shopping at Bass Pro more enjoyable, and the parking lots tend to be quieter at night. When we stay at a parking lot for either store, we try to find one with restaurants nearby to give us supper and breakfast options to avoid opening our slides.
Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, has nice RV spots set aside. That made for a convenient overnight, and I was able to work in the business center inside the casino during the day since it was too hot in the RV without hookups.
Our favorite overnight stop would have to be a Walmart parking lot in Gorham, New Hampshire. The spacious lot allowed us to park far from the store entrances. And, because of its location in New Hampshire, it offered beautiful views of the White Mountains.
With 19 states to choose from in our third year of RV travel, we had difficulty selecting a favorite. Virginia ranked high on the list as we had a wonderful time exploring that state with our host friends Jim and Jenny. We spent another wonderful five weeks in Michigan with family, which always brings us joy.
After much thought and reflection, we awarded Louisiana our favorite in 2022. We relished our time with cruise friends Dwaine and Belinda, who made sure we had an authentic experience, including Cajun delicacies of turtle, gumbo, red beans and rice, and a crawfish boil.
We also spent time in New Orleans, exploring the National WWII Museum, taking a Mississippi River cruise, and watching another armadillo.
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.