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!