Posts Tagged Carriage RV

Nearing the End…Only the Beginning

Carriage Domani

Dreams Do Come True!

For 21 years Jeff and I have been dreaming and planning on buying a 5th Wheel RV. Our thoughts of camping were seeds that were planted by our Grandparents. All those trips we took as kids made a major impression on our souls.

My family started camping when I was just a baby (so the story goes) after my Grandpa converted an old, very small, school bus to a camper. He worked as a mechanic at Ford for 40 years and had some serious skills! He built it with his grandkids in mind with bunk beds for my two brothers and a crib for me. The earliest memory I have in my life was in that old school bus!

Grandpa

Grandpa’s Converted School Bus (1965)

I’m not sure how long it was until my Grandpa got rid of the school bus and bought a Jayco popup camper with all the “modern” convenience. Mom and Dad slept on one end and my brothers were on the other end. Grandma and I slept on one of the tables that converted into a bed and my Grandpa slept on the other.

It was certainly cozy quarters, especially when my Grandpa’s snoring could scrape the bark off a tree. But I didn’t care. WE WERE CAMPIMG!

My Grandpa loved to fish, so most of our camping was done around lakes. One of the first things I would do when we got to a campground was to walk the shoreline looking for a straight stick and old fishing line that some poor fisherman had gotten tangled up in some brush. I would proudly run back to Grandpa who would tie on a brand new shiny hook.

I caught so many fish with that primitive setup. It didn’t matter how small the fish was, Grandpa would clean it and fry it up as if it were the catch of the day.

I could go on for days about camping stories like melting styrofoam cups in the campfire, skunks hanging out under our camp chairs…while we were sitting in them, tornados and grandpa stepping in the pee bucket (were we the only ones who had a bucket to pee in during the night?).

Grandpa

Moving on to the “modern” Jayco pop up

I saw my first mountain in that camper when we took an epic trip out west. We started in St. Louis and headed north to see Mount Rushmore. Then traveling west we stopped at Yellowstone and watched Old Faithful shoot her water high in the air.

Somewhere on that trip a ranger gave me a piece of petrified wood, we ran into a band of gypsies at a campground. Grandpa thought our tires would be stolen by morning so we quickly left. And, I saw Casper the Friendly Ghost.

After seeing the West, my wanderlust was born!

Though Jeff and I started out with tent camping after we were first married, we didn’t buy our first RV until 3 years ago. We bought a 2010 Heartland Edge 21’ travel trailer. It wasn’t the 5th wheel we had been dreaming of, but it was something to dip our toe into the lifestyle. In the last three years we have been all over the mid-west, New Orleans and on our own epic trip out west.

Truck Camping

Camping in the back of our truck…those were the days!

RV show

Hanging with Yogi the Bear at one of many RV shows

For us, the last three years has been about gaining confidence and affirming that we were committed to the RV lifestyle with plans to live full time on the road.

That brings us to our Carriage Domani 5th Wheel. Now that we have made it to the other side of some major heartburn of renovations, we are just so thrilled with our new-to-us Domani.

But what is even more exciting is that this 5th wheel is the fulfillment of a 21-year dream of ours. It has been our single vision all these years that we have based our major decisions on. With that single vision, we have asked ourselves through the years whether or not a major purchase, a job change, even a lifestyle would take us closer to our vision or take us away from it.

Pinch me…we are finally here!

Now that our RV renovations and upgrades are nearing the end, we are excited about our new beginning. The beginning of our life on the road in the “home” of our dreams.

We couldn’t be more thrilled!

Sam-A-Lama-Ding-Dong

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The View From our Window is Finally Changing

IMG_2475

The Domani’s view for 3 1/2 months. Nothing to see here folks!

I love watching HGTV. Having been a General Contractor and dabbling in interior decorating, I have to say that I’m addicted to real estate and rehab shows. House Hunters, Fixer Upper, Addicted To Rehab, Property Brothers are all of my favorites.

I guess that is why Jeff and I felt ok about purchasing an RV project. There is a certain thrill and satisfaction that comes from making something out of nothing. But I have to say, this project has been one of those labors of love that is often seen in rehabbing an old Victorian home along some of our countries most historical main streets.

The old dilapidated, leaning home that people thought was a total tare down is resurrected into a magnificent showpiece, lovingly restored back to its former glory. Usually at a cost that exceeds what new construction would have run all in the name of love.

I think that is where we are at with our Domani.

Carriage Domani

Damage only a mother could love!

We should have probably taken a bulldozer to her the day the roof was pulled off. But she had bones, class and character that couldn’t be overlooked nor found in new construction. And now that we are nearing the end and we have had a chance to spend some quality time with our girl, she has made an impression on our hearts. She has become our labor of love!

After 3 1/2  months of pulling our hair out restoration, it’s all finally coming together. And we couldn’t be more pleased with our home on wheels.

Things I love about the Domani:

Counter space: Every RV’er knows that countertops are a premium in campers. Though still small by housing standards, I have twice as much counter space than before. And, they are solid surface rather than plastic.

Lobster Pot Sink: These sinks are popular in Airstreams. Frankly, I have not heard of too many people liking them. But me? I’m a fan! It’s deep, it’s wide and there is plenty of room to wash a pan without mopping the floor at the same time.

Bedroom Door: It’s the simple things that contribute to happiness. Having a door that closes off the bedroom from your spouse watching howling piano playing puppies on facebook at 4:30AM is one of them.

Open shower & sink, enclosed toilet: We have an open shower/sink area to the bedroom with an enclosed toilet closet. Jeff and I are both vertically endowed, so having a sink area that allows brushing our teeth without hitting our elbows feels palatial.

Carriage Domani

Open bath, elbow room and a bedroom door. What more could a 6′ tall girl ask for!

Closet & Cabinet Space: The Domani is only 32’ long so there was some bedroom closet space sacrificed along the front of the coach that typical 5th wheels have. But I do have a tilt out laundry bin and 24 upper cabinets in the living room/kitchen that more than make up for it.

Full Length Mirror Closet Door: I didn’t know that I wanted a full-length mirror until I had one. It’s very helpful when you are putting on a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops to make sure that the fit is just right…. she says sarcastically!

Carriage Domani

Bedroom with Closets, Cabinets, tilt out laundry and full length mirror

Storage Bay: Holy mother of storage! Jeff and I both could fit in there with enough room to roll around in. I’m thinking of turning it into my office.

Larger Frig: Who doesn’t like more refrigerator space. Our frig now has an extra shelf over our previous frig, which is like going from an apartment sized refrigerator to a side-by-side.

Carriage Domani

Big Sofa. Big Windows!

Big Windows: In the Domani we have lots of big open windows and skylights that let the light flood in. We removed the old smelly accordion blinds and are replacing them with MCD roller shades (more on that in the next post). The views are going to be great once we get this baby out on the road!

Sofa and Two Chairs: Before, we had a jack-knife sofa which was adjacent to the kitchen. So when we wanted to put our feet up they ended up on the kitchen counters. (The multipurpose kitchen sink/ottoman). Now we actually have a sofa long enough to stretch out on and two very comfortable chairs. The space between the sofa and chairs is cavernous so no more footsies with Jeff while making dinner.

What now?

We are disappointed that we did not make it to Iowa for RAGBRAI this year. The repairs just kept us stationary a while longer.

We have now moved on to the MORryde parking lot for a new hitch, basement slide out tray and new axles and will hopefully finish up here end of next week.

Carriage Domani

MORryde’s cozy camping lot

We have our sites set on getting our girl back to Arkansas for a wedding in September before heading out west for the fall and winter.

It’s been a long time coming and we are itching to get on the road. I’ve booked our campsites for the Xscapers Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and the Grand Canyon, both in October, which gives us some sense of hope that we will be rolling out of Elkhart very soon. We’ve kissed the frog and she has turning into princess charming. Now lets ride this thing off into the sunset!

Can’t wait!

Carriage Domani

Finally out of that dang shop & riding off into the sunset MORryde’s parking lot.

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Major RV Repairs Commence

Sam

We’ve got a hot mess on our hands!

While in Elkhart last week we got our first look at the full spectrum of our repairs at MasterTech RV for our new-to-us RV.

MasterTech RV

MasterTech RV mega workshop

This will be a costly process, so I thought I would include costs on our project for those of you who may be considering an RV renovation yourself.

We purchased our 2009 Carriage Domani ($25,000 + $688 AR sales tax) from an individual in North Carolina and had an inspected by a local dealer. The inspection (shipping, inspection and some repairs $1,688) revealed a substantial roof leak and water damage to the interior. We were able to renegotiate the price on the Domani in order to help offset the cost of the repairs. Then we shipped the RV to MasterTech in Elkhart, IN ($1,220)

We were given the heads up that the full extent of the damage wouldn’t be known until they started to pull the roof off. That’s where we started last week and the news was not good.

The entire rear seam at the end cap had been leaking for quite a long time. The roof decking was rotted so badly that the wood was reduced to toothpicks. And because of deferred maintenance on the rest of the roof it was leaking along the sides as well.

Carriage Domani

End cap removed

Removing the roof was just the beginning that led to removing the end cap, which led to pulling out the interior cabinets, which led to the removal of insulation in the roof and rear wall, which led to removing the interior walls in the rear, which led to removal of furniture and carpet. Do you see where this is going?

Nothing like seeing the entire rear end of your coach exposed to send a wave of regret over your senses.

The walls and insulation were soaking wet, which also led to the spread of mold. Once the roof was opened up the smell was overwhelming. Jeff and I both woke at 3AM one morning thinking out loud, “Oh crap. What have we gotten ourselves into!”.

This led to a panicked conversation with MasterTech about whether or not we needed to stop the project, cap our losses and move on. But cooler heads prevailed and the guys assured us that we have a quality rig on our hands and that everything is fixable.

I have to say, that as most of the fabric, flooring and wallboards came out the smell started to improve rebuilding our confidence to keep moving forward despite some reservation.

So (deep breath) here is where we are going with this project.

Phase I: Remove roof, replace roof decking, insulation, replace the rear end cap. Run new pre-wire for solar & audio/video & technology. Cost: $10,000

Phase II: Replace all appliances, toilet, roof vents, AC’s, and awning with Dometic & Atwood products.

These are items that would not have necessarily needed to be changed as they were still in good condition. However, since we represent Dometic/Atwood and their aftermarket products we felt it was important for our rig to be a showpiece for their awesome line. I am not including cost here since this was purely optional.

Phase III: Replace halogen lights with LED’s, flooring, blinds, mattress and possibly furnishings.

There was carpeting in the living room and bedroom. We new that we would like to replace the flooring with linoleum throughout the coach, but thought we could wait for a little while. But with the smell, water and mold it was impossible to wait. Cost: TBD

Additionally, we were going to make-due with the lightly used furniture that came with the coach since it was high quality and super comfortable. But once again, the smell may be too much to overcome. MasterTech is planning on running an Ozone treatment on the entire coach, but since we are talking about fabric, the smell may not come out. Cost: TBD

We removed all the pleated shades and would like to get MCD shades. This is a pricy consideration, so I will be waiting for one of their big sales to order. And after seeing Wheeling It install some MCD shades themselves, and knowing that my husband has skills, we will install ourselves. Cost: TBD

Carriage Domani

Our girl with her rear exposed

Phase IV: Installing optional items…solar system & batteries, MorRyde stabilizer jacks, hitch, garage trey, outside & inside speakers and other misc items.

This will all depend on what transpires with Phases I-III, the costs involved and where we are on the budget.

Our goal is to have our projected completed by July 6 so that we can take it to RAGBAI (Bike ride across Iowa).

I have to say that it’s been a roller coaster of emotions so far with this project and I have not bonded yet with our Domani. When I can hug my RV (yes, actually hug it) I know I’ve fallen in love.

But since she is currently flashing us the moon with her exposed rear end I will wait until she pulls up her pants before going in for some love!

Till next time…

Inspiration

Loving “someday”!

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Big News And Buying Tips

Beaver Lake, AR. Not a bad spot to spend a few months.

Beaver Lake, AR. Not a bad spot to spend a few months.

Jeff and I have been home now for a few weeks and we have been busy with some pressing work stuff. But the really BIG NEWS (besides me turning 50-how did that happen?) is that…

 We sold our camper…the Ironman Can!

It was a hard decision especially since our 21’ Heartland Edge served us so well. Except for some insulation, we lacked for nothing on our epic trip out west. Yes, things were cozy at times especially when I wanted to stretch out my 6’ frame doing yoga on a cold morning inside the camper. But the time came for something a bit more…sturdy.

Our Edge was a “lightweight” not designed for heavy use or 4-season camping. And as we fell in love more and more with the RV lifestyle we new that our little camper would have to go. We couldn’t have had a better first camper and she served us well. Starting with a camper under $15k to test the waters was the right thing to do before investing in a more expenses “home” that we weren’t sure would just sit out in the back yard.

So what’s next? Well, we are the official new owners of a 2009 Carriage Domani 32’ Fifth Wheel. What is a Domani? It is a RV that we stumbled across on our search for a good quality, four seasons rig under 33 feet.

If you ever try to find a HIGH QUALITY RV ANYTHING under or around 30 feet, you will discover this is no easy task.

We seriously considered an Airstream after spending some time with the hip Airstreamer’s in the desert of Borrego Springs. We went so far as to use our RV business connections to try and get some vendor pricing for a 2015 Serenity. But with the hefty price tag, minuscule storage and low headroom shower compartment for our 6’ and over bodies, we just couldn’t pull the trigger.

Airstream

Tempting. Very, very tempting!

At the same time we had found a Carriage Domani that we were able to look at on our drive back to Arkansas. After seeing her sleek modern lines, 20” rims and accompanied clearance (can you say off grid goodness?), that glorious storage compartment and big holding tanks, the Airstream lost its sparkle in a hurry. Of course the $75,000 price difference helped with the decision, making the Domani the clear choice for us.

Carriage Domani

Rockin some 20’s!

We are still in the process of getting our new-to-us RV, as you will read in a coming post. But through this process of buying/selling /buying we have learned a few lessons about buying an RV.

Keys to buying an RV

After you decide on a budget and the RV you want, don’t be in a hurry. Do your homework and educate yourself on what a good deal looks like. NADA priced the Domani at around $65k. The Domani we looked at in Texas was originally $41k and they would have taken $38K. We didn’t pop because it was a consignment and the cheesy salesman really turned us off with his old school sale tactics. We kept looking and found another for $31K from a private seller on RVTrader.com and they accepted our offer of $30k.

Buy used…especially if it is your first RV. I’ve read to not spend more than $20k (I might even say $10k) on your first RV, because inevitably you will find what does and doesn’t work with the first RV…which then turns into a second, third and fourth one. We were so surprised by how many RV’ers trade up or down. Frequently. (Even Jeff and I are trading after 2 years) Let someone else take the hit on the depreciation, find out how much you will use it, and find out what you like before spending a lot of dinero.

Pay for an independent inspection. This will run you about $500. Since our Domani was in North Carolina and we were in Arizona at the time, we actually paid $150 to have the Domani hauled to a reputable dealer and have it inspected for $500. Even though the very nice sellers assured us that the RV had never been camped in and it was in impeccable shape our $650 discovered about $5,000-$7,500 worth of water damage and another $800 of non-working items. The inspection also confirmed that the RV was never used. Everything else was pristine…like a time capsule that had been shrink wrapped for 6 years.

Don’t shy away from a project. At first we were going to cut our losses and walk away. But after speaking with two different repair centers, we were reassured that the roof repair could all be fixed back to perfection for years of leak free use. Yes. It is an expensive process. So back to the sellers we went with a new offer of $25k, which they gladly accepted.

Use a negative to your benefit. Not only did we negotiate for a cheaper price, but we are also using the roof issue as an opportunity to run our upgraded wiring for technology and solar. This is a challenge to do when you are sealed on top and bottom of an RV. So this is a great time to run cables to make this a Smart RV for the future.

Are we happy with our purchase? That is a question for our next post….she says with a dramatic laugh! Wooohahahaha….

Happy Birthday to me! Not looking a day over 50

Happy Birthday to me! Sam has a bead on my cone

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