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Since we had never really RV’d before, except for a 3 week vacation some 10 years prior, we knew we would have to do a lot of research. Since my termination date was some time in the future, we had time do to a lot of research, especially on the web. Most manufacturers provide specifications online, that can be used to research and compare rigs. I spent most nights for 1 to 2 years surfing web sites and RV web blogs. Visiting a couple of RV shows also gave us a chance to see up close, some of the manufactures we had been investigating.

Lynn was (and to a certain extent still is) in favor of a Class A Motorhome. She liked the idea of:

  • having all amenities available (bathroom, kitchen) available while driving
  • the dogs could just lay down in their beds and would not need anything special for driving.

After a lot of reading, I was more inclined to a 5th wheel and a separate tow vehicle. Some of my most important thoughts:

  • If the ‘engine’ portion of the rig needs service/repair, with a Class A, your home is in the shop too, but with a 5th Wheel, you still have your home to live in at an RV park and if needed, rent a car to get around.
  • more living space in a 5th wheel
  • with a Class A, would still need to buy a toad (small car to travel in while parked) but then you get into issues with backing and braking
  • once you become experienced with it, a 5th wheel is more maneuverable in reverse than a Class A
  • when parked, the driving compartment of the Class A takes up a lot of space that cannot be used for anything else

When looking at a 5th Wheel vs. a Travel Trailer:

  • Compared to a Travel Trailer, a 5th wheel can be larger and heavier with more space.
  • A 5th wheel trailer handles much better than a Travel Trailer, both on the highway and in reverse.

As I researched all aspects of the lifestyle and making the jump, I ended up with a hundred pages of note on various topics, things that would never have occurred to me to be important or things that I did not consider to be difficult but turned out not to be straight forward at all:

  • trailer and towing weights
  • interior storage
  • trailer construction
  • refrigeration
  • cooking appliances
  • water filtration
  • kitchen counter space
  • trailer ventilation and insulation
  • electrical system design and solar systems
  • entertainment systems
  • internet systems
  • bathroom fixtures
  • truck/trailer suspensions and braking systems
  • trailer warranties
  • truck and RV insurance
  • truck towing capacities
  • Four Season and Full Timing issues (would you believe it, some manufacturers do not warranty their trailers if used for Full Timing)

then taking this list and start reviewing information from the multitude of RV manufacturers out there. That was another document entirely, researching floor plans and specifications and then categorizing the manufacturer as ‘not to be considered’ or ‘short list’. And the list was constantly changing, going back to the web site of further digging, only to find out that the company was out of business and having to move it from one list to the other. The down economy had a dramatic impact on the RV industry, with shut downs and consolidations. Also during our research phase, we also attended several RV shows, one in Boston MA and the other in Syracuse NY. This gave us a chance to see many rigs from a variety of manufacturers and stick our heads in the door. Lynn would peruse the inside while I spent my time in the storage/basement areas and looking under the rig.

I am a firm believer that you can tell much more about a rig’s construction looking at hidden places. This is where you are more likely to see exposed construction material, unfinished surfaces and shoddy workmanship. During factory visits, I get up close and pay attention to frame, flooring and wall construction and watching the people on the factory floor to observe their attention to detail and workmanship, especially in areas that they know will not be in public view.

Lynn would evaluate floor layouts, kitchen functionality and furniture. One piece of advice that we had encountered on the web, was to walk through the rig, pretending that you are doing various chores or other aspects of daily living, like meal preparation, eating, washing dishes, laundry, bathroom activities, sleeping (where will the dog beds be), internet browsing, watching TV, everything that you do on a daily basis.

From a more personal perspective, I tend to shy away from manufactures who are part of conglomerates. Maybe at the beginning when they were independent, the product and attention to detail was very good, which of course makes them attractive product lines for takeover, but at some point, the conglomerate becomes more attentive to bottom line, looking for a higher return on their investment, and the quality of raw material and workmanship starts to get paired down.

It is my beleif that most vacation rig manufacturers design and source their material to be used for a few weeks or months a year, so they don't need to be robust in their construction and material. A rig geared to full timing will be well made with quality material so that it can stand up to the rigors of years of travel and use.

In the end, I ended up with a short list of 4 manufactures that I felt met our needs and manufactured a product to the high standards that I felt were necessary to build our new home. I put together an 8 page list of common requirements with a separate list of questions/concerns for each manufacturer.

By this time, I was still in limbo at work, not knowing when I would be laid off. Dates kept on being moved back, but we decided to go ahead and continue down our path. I took a 2 week vacation from work and we planned a fly and drive trip from Boston to Indiana and Kansas, to visit the 4 manufacturers on my short list.

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  Introduction  
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  2011, The First Season  
  Winters  
  2012, The Second Season  
  Our Triple D Adventures  
  Natashas Excellent Adventure  
  2013, The Third Season  
  2014, The Fourth Season