Long before I joined the circus, I dreamed of the freedom of living in an RV. I’ve always liked seeing new places but felt apprehensive when away from home. I figured if I could take my home with me, I would be perfectly happy wherever I happened to be.
Upon leaving Japan, I decided now was as good a time as any to make my RV dream a reality. I had no idea how I would make money or where I would go, but I figured that since living in an RV was something I wanted to do, I should make it happen. Luckily, just before leaving, I got a job with The Flying Cortes, which meant I’d be traveling with circuses that require the performers to live in RVs, so now, not only did I have a job that was conducive to my dream home, but I had purpose and income (a little, at least).
I spent a month settling into my new job and life, soaking up as much advice as I could from my teammates, who have been living in RVs their entire lives (literally). Before leaving Colorado, I went shopping with my dad and my Susan, and we thought I would end up with a Nissan Xterra towing a small bumper-pull trailer, possibly an R-Pod. I thought I wanted the smallest rig I could find. However, upon further education about full-time RVing, I realized there were many reasons why this was a terrible idea:
- While no RV is truly “four seasons,” getting one with good insulation and a heated “basement” would minimize cold-weather-related problems
- One drawer for storage will get old very quickly
- Even a small size bumper pull is more difficult to drive than a larger fifth wheel
- A car that is rated to tow almost the exact weight of the trailer is going to struggle on hills and lose a lot of gas mileage with the trailer attached
Based on advice from others, I decided on a Ford F-250 diesel, so I would have the necessary power to haul whatever I bought, and by this time, I was really leaning toward a fifth wheel. I scoured the Internet for the right truck and trailer. Regarding trucks, I really just had to get over to a dealership and drive a few. It looked like I could get a seven- or eight-year-old F-250 diesel in my price range, but I did discover that there were a few years to avoid because the engines had problems. As far as trailers were concerned, several times I was convinced I had found “the one,” but then, finally, I really did! There was only one catch: it was located at the home of a private seller near Elmyra, NY, and I was in Jackson, MI. My next stop was Knoxville, TN and then Myakka City, FL, so it wasn’t exactly “on the way,” but it was the one: a K-Z Durango 275 RL.
The reason I loved it so much was because it had everything I could ever want:
- it was a fifth wheel: easy hauling
- it was made by one of the few manufacturers nobody seemed to be complaining about
- at 29′ 8″ it was under 30′, which is small by fifth wheel standards
It’s amenities were many:
- couch that turns into a queen bed
- four-person dinette with real chairs
- queen bed in the front separate bedroom
- glass-door corner shower
- real toilet
- relatively large fresh, gray, and black water tanks
- tons of storage
- reasonably modern interior
- 30″ LCD screen
- two opposing slideouts that make the living room HUGE
- outside shower (dog wash!)
Even though I had yet to buy a truck, I decided that after Knoxville, I’d go get the trailer because I had a little time before I’d have to be in Florida, and it didn’t seem like I would have any time after that. This was my only chance.
Girl Meets Truck
It was time to leave Jackson. I had found one 2007 Ford F-250 diesel in Georgia that I thought would fit the bill. It was white, which was what I thought I wanted, and it was loaded with everything, all the way down to heated seats. It was a risk, though, as I wasn’t exactly going to be in Georgia, and I would need to rent a car or something to get over to it. And I would most likely have to buy it if I went for it because by that time, I would be desperate for a truck.
Then, as I was walking to the public bathroom on our very last morning at the Mississippi State Fair, fortune smiled on me. A new Ford F-250 diesel was parked right outside the bathroom door. Of course, I struck up a conversation with its owner, who told me he had bought it from a local Ford dealership, and that he really liked his salesperson, Rick. He encouraged me to give Rick a call, and I thought, well, why not?
I called Rick, and he deflated as soon as I told him my price range (under $20K), but he said he’d check and get back to me. I figured it was a bust, but 10 minutes later, he called back and made my day. He didn’t have a used Ford F-250 for $20K; he had one for $11K! For that price, I figured that as long as it ran, I’d be driving away with it.
I asked a sleepy Alida if she could give me a ride to the dealership, which was about 10 minutes away, and she kindly obliged. The dealership had just gotten the truck in. I mean just. It still had a Subway cup of cola in the cup holder and a mountain of trash in the back. It was filthy, but I was too excited to care. The important thing was that the alignment seemed straight and the truck didn’t make any scary noises.
Canine Comedy at the Bank
While I went inside to finalize the deal, Alida headed back to the fairgrounds to finish packing up her trailer. She said she’d call before they left, just in case I needed a ride. The truck went in the shop for an oil change, final inspection, and cleaning while I borrowed a car and headed over to the nearest COOP credit union to get a cashier’s check. I brought Bill into the bank, and even though he just sat patiently by my feet while we waited on line, a woman two people ahead of me looked at him and said, “Keep him away from me!”
I said, “Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you.”
She replied, “I’m gonna hurt him! I don’t like dogs.”
Now, I don’t really like kids, but I don’t go around screaming at any parents in my vicinity to keep their children away from me for threat of bodily harm. I couldn’t help but laugh at how crazy this woman was acting, and the surrounding patrons seemed to feel the same way. My response seemed fitting: “But he loves you!”
Her eye roll told me that Bill’s feeling for her were meaningless to her cold heart. Just so she didn’t get us kicked out, I followed it up with, “Don’t worry, he’s not going to move off my foot.”
On the way out of the bank, when we were finished with our business, another patron marveled at how good a dog Bill was. Honestly, he’s a pain in my ass, but he sure plays off the angel well around strangers.
A Bump in the Road
I arrived back at the dealership feeling confident that I was going to be leaving in my new truck, but then I received the bad news: my new truck most likely wasn’t going to pass Colorado emissions. In fact, the shop guy who delivered the news felt that there was no way a 2007 diesel was going to get approved. This sucked for two reasons: 1) I’m a Colorado resident; and 2) Clearly my new truck was in no way environmentally friendly. Even so, I had already given Alida the go-ahead to hit the road, and I needed my own ride out of Jackson! Somehow…some way, I was going to drive off in this truck. I figured I’d deal with the implications later.
The man who delivered the bad news encouraged me by saying that he could help me come up with a Mississippi address, so I could register the car in-state. For a moment, this seemed like a good idea, but then I got to thinking that Mississippi wasn’t really a place to which I’d like to return, so we explored some other options. Registering it to my sister’s house in Jersey was out because that state also had emissions, so, in the end, we settled on registering it to my boss’ address in Florida. With that, once again, it appeared I’d be on my way.
While the shop was supposedly cleaning my vehicle, I again borrowed a car to run some truck-related errands. My first stop was at Best Buy to look into video screens with back-up displays and some way to sync my phone with the stereo (for some stupid reason, the truck had an AUX button but no hole to plug in the phone). I found an AM transmitter thing that I thought would work but decided to wait on a back-up camera because the truck was already fitted with back-up alert signals. I also went to Target to buy some basic truck stuff (new bed for Bill for the truck, emergency kit with jumper cables and whatnot, cleaning supplies, etc.).
Around five O’clock, I received the call that the truck was ready, so I returned to pick it up. Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe my sentiment. I had waited at least five hours for the Ford shop to service and clean up the truck, but the truck I received was most certainly not clean. Apparently, “clean” to Mississippi car salesmen means “free of trash.” The entire cab was still filthy. Regardless, I had a seven-hour drive ahead of me, and night was already falling, so I didn’t have time to lodge a complaint. I thanked them for the truck and left.