It took two and a half years of RV’ing to figure out enough about retirement to realize the miscalculations we made with Journey. Journey may be history, but her lessons go with us.
We had no complaints about the coach. It continued to be just what we expected, and she never let us down. We have changed and it’s a good time to make the switch. We expect to remain on the Forest in Oregon for some time — a little more space is a good thing when you’re sitting still. When we move on, we’ll be familiar with our new home and we we can then look forward to many more adventures along the way with a larger sized coach.
Oregon is a hotbed of RV activity. It advertises itself as the “RV Friendly State.” There are a larger number of dealers and coaches to be found here than was the case in WI/IL/IA, so selection is wider and pricing more competitive here than in Milwaukee. Shopping is easy in Oregon.
Because we have changed some of our expectations about what we needed were wrong when we settled on Journey. We have known RV’ers who have changed coaches in as little as 6 months. I doubt will do this again, but as expensive as this change might have been, it is less expensive to have done it this way than if we were going from larger to a smaller coach.
Many RV’ers spend a night or two in a place and then they move on — that is not who we are. When we were employed and living with limited vacation time we did that sort of trip too; now we just aren’t interested in rushing around the country. We we shopped for Journey we were hunting for a machine/home for which we could easily find a parking spot. We knowingly put more emphasis on flexibility than on living space. That may not have been a ‘mistake’ but we’d like retirement to be a little more comfortable and less rigorous.
Our idea of what it would be like to be volunteers was also different than what we have discovered. It’s not something we thought about in detail. We jabbered about it between ourselves as a vague idea but we never stopped to make a list of pros and cons, or needs and good-to-haves. We have no idea whether we’ll volunteer again after we finish here on the Forest. We know that we will intentionally take a break from volunteering for a while to simply ‘stretch our legs’ metaphorically speaking. But I don’t ever see us in a one night here, two night there lifestyle.
This change is not because Peg has been driving me crazy or vice versa. We have wanted to live and work together just as we are; that part of retirement is better than we could have imagined. Before going mobile I read numerous accounts of couples needing more space just because they found being in such close proximity to be stifling. Some of them even gave up RV’ing for the same reason. We don’t have that problem. Left to our own devices, when we have room to choose from we often tend to be in the same room. If I go to bed early, Peg comes in the bedroom with me. If she’s outside, I usually follow. We genuinely enjoy being together — so our new purchase is not a function of anyone getting on anyone else’s nerves. It’s all about finding something more suitable.
By making our first purchase SMALL we find it much easier to trade UP than if we had spent a lot of money buying BIG and then tried to trade DOWN. The choice to go larger is now a choice made with reason. We tried small. We want a little more room. We’re learning from our own experiences.
Journey was a compromise — in my mind every purchase is a compromise. It’s rare that I ever make a purchase that is exactly what I want. That’ just life. So, what are we changing, what are we giving up, what are we gaining.
What AREN’T we changing?
We are sticking with Cummins power. We get another 30 horses, but we’re adding 8 feet, our empty weight is going from 23,000 to 28,600 — we have a little more horsepower per pound, a little more horsepower per foot. Not much, but a little. New coaches in this length are being made with 450 horses. That’s way more power than is needed. Might be nice to have, but ‘might be nice to have’ is also expensive and HEAVY. We don’t need that.
Part of me wanted to try CAT power, but none of the coach designs we liked had CAT power. I’ve owned three of my own trucks with Cummins power and I liked them all. I’ve driven motor coaches with Detroit power and while they ran well, there were things about them I did not like — it might have been nice to try the third major alternative. But, when we found this floor plan in a clean chassis other considerations fell by the wayside.
Obviously that means we are sticking with a DIESEL pusher. The engine is in the rear, making for a quieter ride, longer life, harder pulling engine — it’s just preference. When we are stationary like we are here — no worries about gasoline gumming up the engine. Diesel doesn’t get old in that way.
And we still have our engine exhaust brake — an important safety feature to me.
Onan Generator — the best name in onboard generators for motor homes and also powered by the same fuel source — Diesel. And we pick up some extra wattage with a higher rated genset.
We still have cruise control — it really is more economical.
Curbside mounted kitchen — it fits the way I cook.
We stick with the standard Queen Size bed. All our linens still fit and so do WE!
Front lounge, center kitchen, middle bath, rear bedroom
Double pane tinted windows.
Rear view camera .
Rear dual tires — for me it’s not only a matter of enough tire to handle the load, it’s also a safety issue. I can limp to a safe stopping point with ONE blown drive tire on a Class A — you can’t do that with a blown tire on a 5th wheel. And the tires on a Class A are larger and able to sustain greater payloads. The rubber on the Ambassador is Michelin.
We still have a three burner propane stove that we probably won’t use very much. (Preferring our induction burner)
We still have a Norcold RV style refrigerator. Newer, posher coaches are now offering household style refrigerators which limit your options for where to park. I wanted to maintain dual fuel capability: electric and propane. We ARE ending up with a 4 door fridge — not exactly 2X the size of our two door fridge but larger by a fair degree.
Buying Winnebago 2 years ago meant to us:
A known quantity — well known company, good reputation. I can’t say much about the dealer network — we didn’t use many of them.
Freightliner Chassis — which is closer to a limo ride than a sports car — and more swishy in the wind and around corners. (Don’t get me wrong, all the commercial trucks I drove WERE Freightliners — they are a wonderful product. It’s just that motorhomes are not trucks. Over time I have come to question whether they are the best chassis for a motorhome. We’re going to test out that opinion. I am sure we will continue using Freightliner service — they are always good Cummins shops!
It seems funny now, looking back — that those are the only two criteria I feel as if I am losing.
One thing I am happy to be rid of is the way the bedroom closet slide operated. Winnebago puts a nightstand with drawer and door adjacent to the closet slide-out. It’s really easy for that slide catch on the door handle or drawer handle and get caught while retracting the slide. We’ve replaced a couple drawer pulls and drawer slides for that reason. That is one of my FEW critiques of the Winnebago design.
Buying a 3 year newer Holiday Rambler now means…
FIRST AND FOREMOST it is about the floor plan. This is a very unique coach. It’s probable that not more than a handful of these were ever built and its the only floor plan that we have really liked. Our Winne floor plan was the best available for the size, but it wasn’t our preferred. We liked and wanted the side aisle because we didn’t have sideways bed with a slide. We didn’t want a view right down the bed. There were better floor plans in chassis that we would not consider at that time. But even then we did not see one like this. It sounds odd, but that rear sitting room is just the Cat’s Pajamas. Once we saw the floor plan we were willing to discuss how many of our other criteria we were willing to compromise to get the floor plan. We didn’t have to make many compromises — the coach has most of our want list.
Holiday Rambler has had their problems. They have been bought and sold a couple times but are still being produced.
Their design concept is very different. Chassis are tighter. The coach doesn’t swish through corners, it feels more stable. There were a couple of lane changes I made in the Winnebago when she SEEMED really top heavy and tippy. I don’t feel that in the Ambassador. The suspension is 8 airbags and 8 shocks compared to a 4 larger airbag system. IT’s DIFFERENT.
Updated headlights — for that newer look.
Component choices are different — not necessarily better, just different. We’ll have some getting accustomed to do. It’s a different feel. For example — the simple addition of a multi-pane wall and door between bedroom and bathroom. It lets more light into the bathroom from the bedroom, but it also adds a sort of cottage-y feeling. There are no lights in the closet — not a horrible loss, but different. Light fixtures are different, bedding is different ( but still comfy ). We slept really well our first night!
You can see I’m not particularly brand loyal. I don’t see any value in one nameplate over another. The features are another story. I was looking for a new home, not a new brand.
We gain anti-lock braking — which I swear by. I was never happy with the braking on the Winnebago. She always stopped but I wasn’t always happy with the audibles during the process. I even had the brake system checked out a couple times (with no faults to be found) but braking was not my favorite part of Journey. I LIKE the Ambassador braking!
We gain full body paint — the decal-over-paint technique used by Winnebago and other manufacturers in the early 2000’s don’t hold their looks as long. I had been considering having Journey repainted for just to make her look more contemporary. We had been planning on keeping her a goodly long time, it was just a good investment to make. Now we needn’t do that.
Power heated remote mirrors — driving is much safer when you can see what’s behind you.
We gain the convenience of a cord reel for our electric line to shore power and our hose line to a water outlet. Not a HUGE thing, but convenient and neater.
We gain the right and left side rear vision cameras that we lacked on our REAR only Winnebago system. Safety first. I would not have ordered it as an option on an new coach but I’ll be happy to have it. I have a theory about not relying on those cameras too much. They are wonderful for checking your blind spots when changing lanes, but I’m not keen on them for use when backing. I’ll have a chance to experiment and report back.
Additional A/C power and heating power Our Journey did not handle hot weather well. The heat pump was our only a/c and in 90 degree weather it had it’s problems attempting to keep us cool. We now have 2 roof mounted A/C’s and a very differently designed heating system. We now have 2 furnaces as well. We hope to be cooler in summer and to sleep better during the winter because the furnace isn’t in the bedroom with us. We sleep well in Journey, but we often awaken when the furnace kicks in.
Buying smaller then meant giving up:
Extra Batteries — even though we are parked at a full hookup site, we do experience relatively frequent power outages. Having extra capacity is good, as is the fact that our short coach could only accommodate three house batteries instead of four. If we had an even number we could have switched over to 6 volt deep cycle batteries connected in parallel. With only three we had to stick with the 12 V batteries and shorter life combined with lesser capacity.
Space (duh!) — we knew we were limiting the kind of things we could do inside, what we could store and how. I seriously under estimated how much space computing would consume. We allowed adequately for my photo gear, but I missed by a mile on how much time I might spend at the keyboard. I have always written, I have always worked on images — I simply did not weight that heavily enough in our coach evaluation the first time around.
Relaxation options — 1 sofa, 2 dinette banquettes, a bed, and cockpit seating don’t give you many moving around options. Being “at home” is partly about being comfortable and sometimes you just want to sit more comfortably. Now I can sit opposite Peg on my own sofa while she’s reclined on hers and we can just be ‘at home’ instead of being in ‘the RV’.
Servicability — the smaller chassis meant that some components such as the generator which in a larger chassis can be put on a moveable slide for service access, in our short wheelbase unit had to be packed tightly between the frame rails resulting in expensive service access. You literally have to remove the entire genset to do anything.
Social options. The small lounge meant that it was pretty hard for more than two or at most three people to occupy that space. No couples dinners, it just wasn’t doable. Meals with our daughter and granddaughter were tight.
Buying larger now means gaining choices
Isolating coach functions:
Batteries can be separated from other electrical/electronic components, (It’s a maintenance thing)
Water systems can be handled differently (in the Winnebago the entire ‘winterizing’ function is stuck right in the middle of the primary basement storage bay. That means that not only do you lose storage that didn’t need to be intruded upon, but also, every time you are working in the basement you have to be careful not to nudge that 90º water valve.
In terms of living in the RV I don’t have to do most of my daytime activities within 6 feet of the entry way. This was kind of a surprise once we moved in full-time. In Journey we used the first 6’-8’ way more than the rest. At times it seemed that the RV was only 10’ long. That’s a little exaggeration because we obviously used the bathroom, and we obviously used the bedroom, but those weren’t spaces we ever really went during the daytime just for the purpose of BEING there. Now we can split our time and use more of the entire coach. I think it will be more like living in a house — there’s a greater sense of “room” as in bedroom, sitting room, lounge, kitchen, bathroom.
Wanting to be able to sleep two unrelated visitors in a longer coach means that we were able to consider a dining room table now, instead of having to limit ourselves to a convertible dinette. It’s nice to be able to sit on a chair, instead of sliding into a booth. Switching from dinette to table also meant design choices. Most of the built in tables also come with wall mounted storage — and storage in an RV can never be over-valued. It’s always at a premium.
Longer gives us more windows which equal more interior light. We both love light. There are times when Journey does seem a bit dark inside.
The rear bedroom not only provides a desk, and a comfortable chair and more storage space, it also offers more viewing choices. It’s not about just having more windows (which there are) With our new, extremely rare rear window we have a completely different view of the world. The window isn’t quite a “picture window” but I can easily see being able to park the RV in campsites where the rear view might be the BEST view (we have already been in a number of those! Simply being able to enjoy looking outside will be nice. RVing isn’t about constantly being outside — at least for us it isn’t — and being able to enjoy the view in the dry, calm air of indoors is sometimes highly to be preferred over the mosquitos and wind and glaring sun outside.
And of course the single thing I have whined about off and on — is the addition of desk space where I can set up my computer, my server, my digitizing tablet, and scanner without having to put every thing away every time I want to do something.
I will keep my remodeled computer table, and use it in the lounge for a variety of reasons. Even just writing letters. And Peg will probably use it now that I’m not hogging it all the time — for working her puzzles too. It folds nicely. It’s lightweight and compact.
The PURCHASE experience.
I have to say that Guaranty RV made the purchase easy. They are a larger dealership in a comparably sized community but I felt as if the purchase process moved along more smoothly. I would return some day to Lichtsinn — our first selling dealer — if they had the right unit. By comparison this was easier. Perhaps some of that impression is because we had a better idea what we were doing.
Guaranty has a larger coach inventory and their service staff seem more like a Big City shop in terms of efficiency. When we bought Journey we had a complete house battery failure while we were still parked on their lot and we ended up paying nearly $1000.00 for new house batteries. I would have felt much better if the price of the coach had been $1000.00 higher and the dealer had changed the batteries out before we took delivery.
As far as salespeople — both sale people were … sales people. Nicole did a good job for us with Lichtsinn. Dean did a good job for us with Guaranty. They were nice people to deal with. Was either one more informed about their product? I don’t think I’d say that. They were both good salespeople. We walk away from both dealerships feeling we made a happy transaction.
So there you have it…
Life will be different now.
How? I’m not sure. Yet.
I think our perspective on future plans will change dramatically. We’ll have to plan a little more carefully; there won’t be as many sites in our length. And that’s ok, I usually overplan but haven’t wanted to plan as much in retirement. This purchase was also about preserving some of our options. Some of retirement is about conserving resources. The day we retired we had no idea what being retired meant. We’re learning how to answer that question as we go. Ours continues to be a Life Unscripted.