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A couple drives a vintage RV from northeastern Washington State to the south of Texas. Although the husband had doubts about its mechanical soundness, they set out as snowbirds for the winter. It was not a smooth trip. Their mechanical problems, however, were outweighed by the freedom of being on the road, the chance to experience amazing places and the opportunity to meet interesting people.

Drama / Adventure
Jo Ann J. Bender
Age Rating:

Chapter 1: The Decision

Spend two months being snowbirds? In the beginning the idea of being gone so long from our home in Spokane, WA. seemed so impossible, I can’t believe we actually did it.

It all started simply enough in April. For several months I had been having strong, gut feelings which were flashing : Buy a motor home. Buy a motor home.

My husband and I already had a house in Spokane, a ranch near the Canadian border, and more big toys than any one couple needs: a high performance airplane, a Jeep, a forty-nine Ford vintage flatbed truck, and two autos. Was I crazy to think we also had time to use a motor home? `

All I knew was that every time I saw an RV the intense desire returned with such impact that I finally gave in. The vibrations had been so specific that RV’s were even showing up in my dreams.

My husband is a logical engineer and usually goes along with what he calls my “dumb” ideas, but will add suggestions and support because that’s the kind of team we are. When I told him we should buy a motor home, he looked like a cat staring at substandard food.

“We gave up airplane camping to buy a ranch, and now you want to replace the ranch with a motor home,” he said with more than a hint of exasperation. It doesn’t make any sense to own one.”

“But, your folks are coming from California for Beth’s college graduation,” I reasoned. “They could stay in it at the Lazy Bee.”

Skipper had been looking forward to welcoming his seven children, spouses, grandchildren, and their friends visiting the Lazy Bee Ranch as they do every year for fun and adventure. To have his parents with us at the Lazy Bee would make the family circle completed.

He weakened. “We could rent one,” he suggested.

I was happy to begin there, to let the idea grow on Skipper. and so we set out to see what was available in rentals. The only ones we came upon had dark, brown interiors, matted orange carpet, brown/orange patterned sofas, grimy windows, cigarette-darkened drapes, grungy appliances and carpet stains. They were not the RV’s of my dreams.

A few days later we passed an RV lot near our offices.

“Let’s stop,” I hinted. “There may be one that’s cute and inexpensive.”

I’d already visited several RV lots, discovering in the process that I liked the layout and color schemes of the Southwinds. “They have a Southwind,” I squealed, jumping out of the car and racing over to get a better look.

“Sold,” read the sign on the door.

“Oh, darn.” It had been priced at sixteen thousand, more than our beer budget would have allowed anyway. We found the dealer and he gave us a tour of the RVs on the lot, explaining that to get around the earth-toned interiors, his wife had wallpapered the paneling in all the ones they have owned. With that, we stepped into a twenty foot, ’73 Ford vintage RV.

It was love at first sight. For me, anyway. Yes, there was brown paneling but it was overshadowed by new rose carpeting and table top, gray counters, a new refrigerator, an air conditioner, and a quality mattress.

“We’d wallpaper, of course,” I chirped. I could see my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic.

“Too old,” Skipper replied. “Keep looking. There are better designs out there. Look for an Air Stream. They’re easier to maneuver.”

At the lot, the dealer had mentioned that the rig’s original owner was an RV dealer who had sold it to a couple only eight months ago. Now the new owners put it back for sale because the husband had taken ill.

The feeling that the turquoise vintage RV was “our girl” wouldn’t go away. A few hours I rushed back to the lot--without telling Skipper-- and put a down payment on her, subject to an independent inspection of motor and appliances.

A few days later, after many heated discussions, my sweetheart and I return to negotiate price a final price only to learn that the dealer had another offer on “our girl” for six thousand and seven hundred dollars, more than the seven thousand we had offered. Apologetically, the dealer explained that his partner had taken the offer while the rig was parked for its appliances to be checked.

“We never show units with offers, but I hadn’t had time to tell him,” the dealer said. The phone interrupted, and he picked it up as Skipper looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you get me into these situations. We’re got a mountain of work to do at the Lazy Bee before the reunion. Where will we have time to get a motor home upgraded?”

“Timing is terrible, isn’t it?” I admitted and sighed wistfully.

We took the rig out for another test drive while we had the chance. The first time the dealer had sent us out with an employee who drove us around, and as we started up one hill, the engine had lugged and groaned so badly the man had to turn off and take a side street.

The dealer said they would fix that carburetor problem. I couldn’t help wondering as we drove it off the lot, would she make it up a big hill this time? We live in the middle of mountains, so this was an important question. Would our girl’s motor have the stuff to climb highways and byways? Or, was she meant for only the Dakotas?

We could send her to our favorite mechanic, the one who finally got “Big Red,” the ’49 Ford truck, in condition. When we returned to the lot, the rig was available--the other offer had disappeared. We went round and round with the RV dealer about the “philosophical” motor issues. Was the engine problem glitch stemming from little recent use, or did it need a new motor?

We were pressed for time. The graduation, the Reunion, the RV questions, everything had something that need to be addressed right now and we didn’t have time for lengthy debates. We decide to buy the RV quickly at our original offer and regret in leisure.

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