Learning to drive our new motor home


The test drive!

Red Bay, Alabama is the home of Tiffin Motorhomes. Every owner seems to try to visit at least once in their RVs lifetime. It’s hard to believe we are here, now (May 19, 2015).

After years of dreaming of owning a Class A Motorhome, Bill finally talked Debbie into owning one.  Actually, it didn’t take much after living in our 30′ Xlite Cougar 5th wheel for nearly two years. It actually suited us and we hated to trade up as it was so easy to maneuver and we found out we could get into any Florida State Park we wanted.  That was a huge goal for us, to start staying in state and national parks.

For whatever reason, it took until this past March to finally try the state parks. And we were hooked. But then, we also realized we needed a little more comfort (king sized bed for his 6’2″ length – how did he sleep in a short queen bed for so long?); wanted a bigger refrigerator since we eat most meals at home; and finally, wanted a washer and dryer.  Having our own will help us manage our time better.  Generally we are on the go once we get settled in our site. Of an evening, is when laundry can easily be done.  It’s no fun being out in the dark with the bugs, or if there are only one or two washers/dryers, it can be very hard to do.  We love this lifestyle and have learned to go with the flow so I (Debbie) made the best of it!

Bill has driven about anything a non CDL driver can drive. He was a Snap-on Tool Dealer for a few years, so he regularly drove that big rig. He drove my step dad’s Class A once a short distance. He was not intimidated. But Debbie on the other hand, said if he wants her to help drive, her limit was an arbitrary 35′ model.

After looking at many motorhomes and more importantly, talking to owners, we settled on a few brands we would consider. We decided we had to buy used as we didn’t want to pay top dollar and see it loose $10,000s as you drove it off the lot. Since Bill is very handy, we felt we could handle a few issues. And then, even brand new ones come with issues.  In the running were the brands: Tiffin, Newmar, and Fleetwood. But the model we liked the most, the Tiffin Phaeton 40′ QTH seemed to have everything we really wanted at the price point we were willing to pay.  It recently has also been the most popular selling model for two years running. So long story short, the day after we sold our 5th wheel, we got busy searching for ours and found it the next day. Not that we hadn’t already been searching….for months actually. But until we sold ours, anything we found was simply enjoyed as “window shopping.”


Driving away from the owner’s home.

We detailed the drama up to the actual purchase here. And there was drama until we drove it away from the seller. That is a very sad story and one we will regret to our dying day, unless we can reconcile with the seller. Let us suffice it to say, buying and selling a home is very stressful on all accounts. And at our ages…we all have aging parents, new grand babies and our own health concerns thrown into the mix.

So finally on May 14, after a tense seven days of waiting for the financing to be finalized (we will never recommend Essex Credit, a division of Bank of the West as a place to go for full timers who do not own a home), also buying a new car, and visiting Debbie’s mom for a surprise Mother’s Day weekend (and her dear husband we both love as our “step-dad” – he’s in the battle for his life), we drove away in our new motor home.

Bill did test drive it for about 20 miles and they gave us a few briefings which were more than generous, but we didn’t have that final briefing like how do you turn on the navigation system, how do you work cruise control, and to check to make sure the washer/dryer worked. It was represented to us that everything worked. The only issue was the dreaded “diamond shield” that has made many an elegant coach look old and ready for the dump. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as we have seen and Bill feels confident he’ll get it off, buff it up and it will look as good as they day it went out in the world “for sale.”

We just drove a few miles to a campground near the seller’s home. Everything seemed to work ok on the way there, but there wasn’t any challenge, like rain. As we settled in, we began to discover a few things didn’t work, such as the washing machine. And our list began to grow and by the time we arrived here, we had 19 things on the list!

We had decided we were going to take it back to the factory for a good going over (to make sure any recall matters had been taken care of).  Our travel plans included going to see Bill’s mom, brother and family in Illinois by May 21, 2015 (so we felt the clock ticking daily). Red Bay is only a five & 1/2 hour drive from their home, so we planned to take it there, check in (there is a 4 to 6 week wait and it’s first come first serve), drop it off in a nearby campground while we wait our “turn.”


Storm near Birmingham, AL

As many other full – timers, we all seem to say we prefer only going about 200 to 250 miles for an ideal travel day. We plotted it out, first stop Suwannee River State Park, Live Oak, FL (243 miles) and then to Walnut Creek RV Park, Troy Alabama (223 miles) and then to Red Bay (261 miles) for a total of 721 miles. This seemed reasonable. What we hadn’t counted on was the heavy traffic, the GPS not working in the Rig (Bill was spoiled with the fabulous navigation system in our Ford Truck) and then rain….and the wipers not working properly!  Bill said this entire trip has been a “white knuckle” experience. So much for me (Debbie) ever wanting to drive it!

The next blog will tell about what to do once you arrive in Red Bay and how this experience is. We’ve heard great stories about it….but just from our initial arrival here, there is a lot you don’t know until you get here. And it seems like no one wants to tell you about it! Let’s just say, it’s been an adventure of it’s own!

Here are our reviews on the Campendium RV Park Reviews of the parks we stayed in as we learned to drive, with Debbie following in our new car, with a photo of each site:

Site 40

Sonrise Palms Christian Rally & RV Park – Had to back in. The owner helped and gave us some good tips

Sonrise Palms Christian Rally & RV Park


Suwannee River State Park – a bit of a challenge to back in but we did it!



Walnut Creek RV Park – third time is a charm. Easy pull through site!

Walnut Creek RV Park

So this scripture can illustrate how our trip went….There were moments of little faith, but in the end, it worked out!

 “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ “ 

Matthew 17:20

Up next, a series on what Red Bay is all about for Tiffin Owners!

The waiting game….settling insurance claim, buying and selling RVs

This blog is more for us (and a few close family members who live far away) to help us remember what we were doing and where we were going! As we age, we realize more and more how body parts, like the brain begin to deteriorate and not function as well as in our younger years.

Since “the” accident on May 2, 2015, the following has transpired, and all for the GOOD!!!! Wow, We’re exhausted, but who ever thought so much good would come out of what we thought was a disaster?

But first, a little build up to all the excitement BEFORE the accident….


For sale at R & D Family Campground


Our grandson approved of the buyer!

1) SOLD! SUNDAY APRIL 26, 2015. We have blogged several times about wanting to upgrade to a Class A motorhome. Actually, that was Bill’s dream for at least the past 5 years. While we resided in Florida (2004-2014), we were able to attend at least 10 RV shows, including the Florida Super RV Show held annually in Tampa every January. We attended it three times, twice to “learn” about RVs and this last January, to get serious about trading in and buying. Sadly, we learned our Keystone Xlite Cougar was worth much less than we hoped it should bring, and the motorhomes were worth WAY more than we thought we would pay.  We decided we had to sell ours on our own and buy from a private seller.

We slapped on a “for sale” sign while we staying in campgrounds until we finally sold it on April 26, 2015 (via Craigslist). Delivery was scheduled for May 4, 2015, as it was time to move on after being in the Fredericksburg area with our daughter and family. The buyers really didn’t want it until early July, but we made a great compromise. And not a matter to forget, we attended Spotwoood Baptist church that morning. As we worshipped and prayed, we also heard what we needed to hear to keep our faith alive!  Sermon titled, “The Race Set Before Us” from Hebrews 12:1-3.) It can be heard here.) Yes, we’ve been praying for the Lord to help us (not enrich us, but keep us patient through the process) and to guide us to the “right” buyers and seller. This buyer was heaven sent on this same day!

2) MONDAY, April 27: We found our dream Motorhome, located in Cocoa, Florida. We were willing to travel just about anywhere for it. So it was divine providence we found it back in Florida. How amazing, the day after we sold our 5th wheel, we were able to strike a deal to buy our next home! We now needed to put a push on finishing our projects for our daughter and son in law…and spend as much time as possible with our grandson! It was a very busy week. Our mutually agreed upon date of purchase was May 11, 2015. We had a week planned to visit friends in their new cabin in North Carolina. And then it happened…..

3) SATURDAY, May 2:  The accident! Soon after it happened, we calmed down and listened to our daughter. She is an insurance claims adjustor (and no brag, just fact, she is one of the best based upon her performance evals) and takes after her father (who was also a good one).  But Bill also was a former auto body man as well as Autobody shop manager, so he had more knowledge than is good for someone in such a stressful situation.

He saw a long hard and arduous battle to be made “whole” and we were more than ready to upgrade into a motor home. We were concerned this could delay our purchase….Right after we called our insurance company, we called State Farm, the person who rear-ended our truck (we had lent it out). We did go on scene as did a patrolman,


Our 5th wheel had to be towed to the new owner since our truck could no longer safely tow.

who declared it was the other person’s fault, not our driver (our son in law).  State Farm took all the info and then put me (Debbie – I do all the “office type) stuff) on hold. The agent came back and said their insured had already called in and State Farm will accept responsibility and they will process all of the claim. This was a small miracle as that rarely happens this fast – and it happened like this because we called so quickly and we had a police officer’s statement!

We had to cancel our trip to North Carolina while we settled our accident claim. The next morning, Sunday, we attended Bowling Green Baptist Church.  Again, we experienced the best worship experience and also heard the “perfect” sermon for our current situation, “Purposeful Prayer” which can be heard here.


We followed our 5th wheel to it’s new owner. We got caught in rush hour traffic.

4) MONDAY, May 4:  State Farm delivered our RV to it’s new owner in Maryland! That was also a small miracle. Since we are technically from Florida, the accident occurred in Virginia, and we needed it towed to Maryland, it was too many state lines for the regular claims adjuster to approve. We had to get nearly hysterical to get the approvals as we had to be out of the site by 11:00 am -and wanted to avoid rush hour. Thankfully the owner was more than gracious and let us extend until the tow company arrived-which was 12:45 pm. We knew traffic from Virginia to Maryland around the Washington DC beltway would be a nightmare in rush hour traffic (and it was). Because neither our daughter nor Bill were handling this claim, in their positions they could have authorized it, we had to get referred up the chain of authority three times, taking nearly six hours. Tick tock tick tock tick tock….we were counting the minutes.

Our truck was drivable (just couldn’t tow), so we followed the RV to deliver it to the new owner and that was fun!!! BUT since we got to the sellers home so late, 4:15, by the time we got to the bank at 4:35, it was closed! Now we couldn’t get our “cash” – the only way to do a large Craigslist sale. So we had to spend the night and wait for the bank to open. The new buyers were awesome and it all worked out. And BTW, we were supposed to spend this night at our daughters and thus one more night with her and our grandson. So sadly, we missed that opportuntiy.

5) TUESDAY, May 5: We then drove the truck to an auto body shop near our daughter’s home – and where we stored all of our belongings from the RV. One advantage to buying and selling your RV at a dealership was to be able to move the stuff from one RV to the other while side by side. But we saw two other young couples we follow (on their blogs) and they said it isn’t even that easy.

This Autobody shop was also wonderful, they did the full estimate early the next day. We were given a rental as we turned the truck in. We were given 7 days and unlimited miles since our next stop was Cocoa, Florida, where we were buying our new home! We anxiously waited to hear about the damage. Late that day, we were told our claim was being referred to another level (Total Loss unit) and to wait until the next day for further instructions.

5) WEDNESDAY, May 6: The clock is ticking. We have a family visit planned for May 21 in Illinois. We needed to get to Cocoa to inspect our new home and get all that paperwork processed. Waiting waiting waiting while driving south!

After about 5 hours on the road, we received the best possible news: Our truck was a total economic loss and they agreed to make us whole, beyond our wildest imagination! We contacted the loan company and asked to move the closing up to May 8.

6) THURSDAY, May 7: We arrived in Cocoa and inspected the motor home. It was THE one! It was everything represented to us (so we thought) and was exactly as we thought it would be. But the loan company had not communicated back and it looked like we could not close the deal the next day. We still hoped it would be on May 11. We began using http://www.CarGuru.com to look for a dinghy (car to be flat towed behind the motor home). It also began to look promising to slip over to Sebring to surprise my mom (Debbie’s) for Mother’s Day. We were headed to see Bill’s mom on May 21 in Illinois.

7) FRIDAY, May 8: We are frantically trying to find either a used jeep Cherokee or a Chevrolet Equinox that could be flat towed. We test drove an Equinox and ruled it out. Just not enough power. And then we learned how hard it is to find a used Jeep Cherokee that can be flat towed in Florida. Apparently, Florida is too flat to have a market for the type of Jeep we need. We knew two car salesmen in the Sebring area, so we reached out to them to see if they could help us.

8) SATURDAY, May 9: We stopped in Orlando on the way to Sebring to test drive a Cadillac SRX, the crossover SUV. We were really discouraged about the lack of Jeeps or the particular Equinox we had considered.

We couldn’t believe how perfect the SRX was for us. We really needed a luxury ride as we know there will be times we will need to take some long trips in it (without the motorhome) AND we needed to be able to fit two car seats and at least one adult in the back seat. We plan to be with our grandchildren at least four months a year. We then spent the rest of the day and Sunday with Debbie’s mom and step dad, Cliff, and other family members. It was a great time to be there to help support them as Cliff is battling cancer. Any and all family members are coming there to visit and offer support.

On the roof

Bill hates hights so I’m so proud of him climbing up there to inspect it and learn about the air conditioners.!

9) MONDAY, May 11:  What a shock, while we were further inspecting the Motorhome and starting to load our belongings in it, we got the phone call. Our check was in with the local State Farm office. Bill hopped off the roof of the motorhome, off we went to get it and deposit it in the bank. We had the title to the truck, so it was a fast exchange. Another miracle!

We now feel the push to get the car and get out of the rental vehicle. We went to a dealership on Merritt Island to see their inventory.  Sadly, we couldn’t strike a deal. Also, no word from the finance company, looks like the loan won’t be closed on this date as planned by us two weeks prior. Our seller, pictured on top of the motor home with Bill is also heaven sent we learned! She has been so patient and wants to make sure we know and understand everything about this motor home!

10) TUESDAY, May 12: It looks like Bill found the perfect car for us….but it’s in Del Ray, 120 miles south of us. Oh well, we have to go check it out! So off we go and are we ever glad. It was the best possible deal for us! Bill started his adult life as an auto body man. He worked on some Cadillacs back in the day and really liked the quality of the build of these vehicles. He tried to talk me, Debbie, into owning one. I was never interested. I’m not a car person and prefer much lower profile cars. But now, all I can think of is making our grand babies safe and comfortable…and our aging bodies as well.

We had a deal and off we went in our new car and turned in our rental. How wonderful, this particular one matches our new motor home…if we could just get the loan closed. Both us and the seller are doing all we can to get to the loan officer all we need to help expedite the process. We’ve now been in hotels a week and that means meals out. We hate eating out so much….that’s why we love our home on wheels. We bring our kitchen with us.

Everyday while in Cocoa, we had plans to go get the inside of the RV ready for us to move in. We hastily loaded up all our stuff before we headed to Sebring on Saturday. But the only decent hotel near it is actually in Palm Bay, 37 miles south and a 40 minute drive. We never made it back to do that or learn more as the seller had offered to teach us.

Oh what a week we’ve had. As much as we know we sold our 5th wheel at a better price on our own and we are buying our motorhome at the best possible price, this process has been so grueling. If there is a next time, we’ll go through a dealer!

11)  WEDNESDAY, May 13: Finally, we received the loan documents, had to go to the bank for our signatures to be witnessed by a Notary and to move some funds around. Looks like we may own our motorhome this week! Once it’s finalized, we will fully reveal it!


This scripture has become more and more real and important to us as we see the Lord’s hand and perfect timing in all these events:

“In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps!”

Proverbs 16:9