It has been quite a while since I have added to this section. I went back and reread where I left off last time, so I knew where to begin this “chapter”.
You will recall, when we returned from our out west trip, Bill was unemployed and I was expected back to work May 11. I had spent the last 2 weeks of my vacation with my sister in DE and returned home to PA May 10. Early in the morning, May 11, I received a phone call from my boss telling me he had restructured the office and was no longer in need of my services. Can you believe that? Talk about getting kicked when you’re down! He knew what was going on with my sister, that I had cut my vacation short to be with her. What a jerk! Can you tell I am still “sore” about it? I mean, I had worked for the man for 5 1/2 years! So now we were both out of work! Bill had received a nice severance package and also was collecting unemployment and I collected unemployment also.
After things settled down with my sister, we continued to take trips in our MH. We would go for weekends and also longer trips. We also tackled some house projects while we had the time.
Bill decided to try his hand at flipping a house as a way to earn some money outside of corporate America. Those HGTV shows were really popular at that time and he knows how to do most of the things they do, like electrical, plumbing, dry wall, etc. He did a great job, but the housing market had taken a down-ward turn, so he didn’t make as much as he had hoped. He sent resumes, did some interviews, but the right fit for him was very elusive.
Then one day, in Nov 2011, his phone rings and it is the leasing agent for the building that his former employer used to lease. Seems he had a new client looking to lease it and start a water bottling company. He had called to ask Bill a few questions about the permits required to bottle juice, but they ended up discussing the new company. The conversation ended with Bill sending his resume so it could be forwarded to the new company. Within 10 short days, he had flown to FL for interviews (all day long!) and come home, the owners flew to Reading to offer him the job and we were out to dinner celebrating! He was very excited to get started – this was a totally new company and there was lots to do! Infrastructure to get ready, equipment to order, people to hire, etc.
In January 2012, we took a trip in the MH to see my parents in FL. While on that trip, we discussed what became known as the “5 year plan”. We would continue to work for the next 5 years, pay off the last of the mortgage and save our butts off. Somewhere around the beginning of year 4 we would get the house ready for sale and upgrade our MH and get ready to go – travel around the country til we had seen all we wanted to see!
Right after returning from FL, I started a new job at a non-profit Medical/Dental office as their Receptionist/Asst. Office Manager. I loved this new job! It didn’t pay as well as other positions I had applied for, but the PTO and benefits were awesome!
That plan didn’t go exactly as planned. Not much does, does it? Bill’s job was very exciting and very challenging, and he was really enjoying it. Within the first year, the plant was up and running 3 lines, with the 4th following in year 2. They even made a profit the first year! He had hired a total of about 110 people, a lot of whom he had worked with at Power. Some were still unemployed, some were underemployed and some just jumped at the chance to come back and work for Bill (he is a very good boss!) Around the 18 month mark, Bill started to become a bit burned out. He knew going into it that initially it would require a lot of hours, more than he was used to working, but assumed at some point it would even out. The family who owns it works 70+ hours a week, and expected the same of Bill and everyone else. His phone would ring at all hours, the lines run 24/7, so there is no down time at all. Well, they did shut down for Christmas and some other holidays when the work load permitted.
Then, after only 2 years, myself and 9 others were downsized out of our new jobs, due to unforeseen budget cuts. They went strictly by seniority, and I was still one of the newest hires. Between that and Bill becoming increasingly unhappy in his position, I started researching more and more about living in an RV. I knew our current MH was too small. We started going to RV Shows, looking at Class A’s and 5th Wheels. So much info! Then I found RV-Dreams website. WOW! Reading it was amazing – this couple, Howard and Linda Payne, were doing exactly what we wanted to do! Exactly! And, they were young like us – not in their 60’s and on Social Security! And – get this – they published their budgets – down to the penny – how much they spent on living in their 5th Wheel! Now the idea was becoming getting REAL – we could actually do this! I read every word – Bill would get home from work – exhausted – and I would be going on and on about what I had read that day! I read their forum, the blog, the blogs they had links to! EVERYTHING! Couldn’t get enough. Some days, I wouldn’t get out of my PJ’s until I knew Bill was on his way home, which most days wasn’t until 7pm! How sad is that? I was glued to my computer! Then we went to the Hershey RV Show in September and met Cori and Greg. I had “met” Cori on the forum, and agreed to meet up in person. They were both very nice, put us at ease right away. Cori was also researching full-time RV living, looking to get out of the rat race and do something different, like us. RV-Dreams holds 2 rallies a year, mostly for people who are looking into this lifestyle. There was one in October, but it was already sold out, but there was another one in April. Cori and Greg had already signed up. While Bill and I were away for our anniversary, I showed him everything and got him to agree to sign up for the April rally. I was so excited!
While at the Hershey show, we had pretty much decided that we preferred a truck/5th Wheel combo over a Class A. There were a lot of reasons for that, the 5er’s were “homier” feeling and had more inside space. Another big reason was cost. Bill felt it was important, considering how many miles we would be going, that we had a diesel. The Class A diesels (with the better drivetrains) are VERY expensive, starting somewhere around $200,000 (maybe a little less). We could get a diesel truck/5th wheel combo for a lot less than that, and still get a 5er with decent quality. I actually had REALLY liked a Cedar Creek front living room model and that became the “one to beat” in my head. Bill wasn’t as convinced, but also liked the unit.
I started looking at trucks on CraigsList. Bill had decided a Ford F350 diesel dually would be the type of truck he would like. It would provide plenty of power to pull our current #1 5er pick. We were discussing getting a used one vs a new one, so I figured I would keep current on what was available in the used market.
We also talked about selling the house. Both our kids had been moved out for a while, and we felt fairly confident that they weren’t coming back home. That allowed us to feel comfortable about selling. We started doing some things that needed to be done in order to sell, touching up paint, etc. The house was in pretty good shape and didn’t need anything major, thankfully, just some de-cluttering and de-personalizing. We talked about listing in the early spring.
We also talked about what would we do as an “exit” plan. We are assuming that at some point, we might want to settle back down into a more traditional life. We at least wanted to leave that open as a possibility. We talked about a storage unit for our more expensive, favorite furniture and personal items that we wouldn’t have room for, such as my multitudes of photo albums and home movie videos. You can read about our storage solution here: Our Stuff’s New Home
The first real step we took toward our new “less than 5 year plan” was to buy our truck! I found it on CraigsList and just knew it was the right truck for us! It was being sold as a package with a toy-hauler 5th wheel, but I wrote to the seller and he was willing to separate them. It is a 2011 Ford F350 Diesel DRW 4X4 XLT extended cab and it only had 22,100 miles on it! Bill and I went to look at it – and I LOVED it right away! Bill liked it, but was still undecided as he really wanted some of the Lariat package bells and whistles. He also thought a crew cab might be better, as we had 3 pets and we initially thought we would be selling my CR-V. We talked about the pros and cons: the pros were that it was plenty of truck for us, power wise, exactly the engine, etc. we needed; also, it had a lot of the extras we would want/need already with the truck, such as the factory installed 5th wheel package, factory installed sprayed in liner, a roll-up tonneau cover. Another thing we learned while talking to the seller, he was very good at taking care of the truck – he actually built a garage in his back yard to house it while it wasn’t being used, he kept immaculate records of every oil change, etc. The only cons were it was an extended cab vs crew cab and it didn’t have a moon-roof that Bill would have preferred. Bill weighed all this and we decided to make an offer. Of course one of the biggest pros was it would save us a ton of $$$ vs buying a new truck! And – to top it off I LOVED the color, which is officially named “Golden Bronze”! After a bit of negotiating, we arrived at a mutually agreed upon price and the truck was about to become ours!
After we brought the truck home, we really ramped up our researching, or I should say I did, since Bill was still working so many crazy hours. We had already started keeping track of our spending, to get a better idea of what our budget on the road could/should look like. We knew we would have to cut back on certain things (eating out) to stay in a reasonable budget, but we both love to cook, so we just have to do more of it!
One day, soon after bringing the truck home, we decided to take a ride to NJ to a dealer I had found on-line. They had all 3 of the Cedar Creek floorplans we were interested in on their lot. We arrived early on a Saturday morning, the plan being to decide on which rig was THE ONE and possibly (if we could agree on a price) order it. On the drive there, I was so excited, I could barely contain myself. I knew in my heart this was going to be a good day for us!
Our salesman, Eddie, met us and opened the 3 Cedar Creek rigs we were there to see – the 38FL, the 36CKTS, and the 38CK. We spent a lot of time in each, sitting and thinking about how we might arrange things in what cabinets and closets, etc. I still love the front living room but it quickly became apparent that there was probably not enough space inside for all what we would want to bring, we then focused on the other two. I loved the kitchen in the 36CKTS but the “feel” of the 38CK was more homey. I loved the stairs to the bedroom being opposite the door, not right next to it. Eddie, our salesman, was great, he would spend some time with us, listen to our comments on each rig, answer any questions, make suggestions, etc. and then leave us alone for a bit to talk just the two of us. After a lot of back and forth, he says he wants to show us a different rig, one that he thinks will address all our concerns and answer all our issues with the ones we were currently focused on. So, we walk down the lot, and there in front of us is a Landmark. We had seen them at the Hershey show and knew they were out of our price range. He heard me comment to Bill and told us not to worry, it was specially priced and we really needed to just look at it before ruling it out. Of course, we LOVED it. it was a beautiful rig – similar floorplan to the Cedar Creek 38CK, which was the current front runner. It also had a sticker from a show they had taken it to, which said $82,800 – about $15,000 more than the Cedar Creek – way more than we wanted to spend! The MSRP sheet was also on the the counter and said $106,776 – but no one pays that much – or shouldn’t anyway.
We both loved the unit – I mean – what’s not to love? Except maybe the price? Eddie explains that this unit was taken to the most recent RV Show about a month ago and was actually purchased by someone. The guy signed the sales contract and agreed to come pick it up in a couple weeks with his truck. The guy showed up to pick it up and Eddie said he couldn’t let him leave with it. Seems the guys truck was not enough truck. Like, not even close to enough truck. That meant the guy either had to go get more truck, or buy a lighter 5th Wheel. Well, I guess after going to look at new trucks and discussing that with his wife, they decided to buy a lighter 5th Wheel. Good for us! Now the dealer needed to sell the 5th Wheel before they had to pay the factory, Heartland in this case, for the rig. The dealers get something like 90 days to sell without paying for it and that time was running out.
Bill and I needed a break, we had been at the dealer for hours already and we were getting hungry. Eddie told us about a diner up the road that served a great breakfast and lunch. He said he would talk to the owner and we could talk numbers when we got back. Bill and I tried to remain calm – ok – he was calm – I was all but jumping out of my skin with excitement! We decided that IF we could buy it for $74,000 AND they would put on slide toppers (included) we would buy it. That number was about $6,000 more than we wanted to spend on a Cedar Creek, but we figured we did save a ton by buying the used truck, we could put some of that into the rig. So, we drive back and Bill gets on his negotiators face and I promise to stay as quiet as possible.
We go in and sit in Eddies office behind the desk. I am so nervous and excited I can barely contain myself, but I don’t want to ruin this process by giving that away. I try to keep a poker face on, but I’m not very good at that. I am known among my friends as the one who wears my heart on my sleeve, as they say. Anyway, Eddie asks if we have any questions, which I don’t think we did. He says he spoke to the owner, Dena, and she is willing to make us a great deal. Now, keep in mind we saw the show sticker and we knew the chances of getting this rig at a price we could afford was pretty slim. We were prepared for some back and forth, which Bill is so good at. We once took 3 hours to buy a Toyota Corolla! Eddie writes a number on a paper and pushes it to us on the desk. $72,900! As we are looking at this number – and, again, I am trying not to jump out of my skin, he says “And, we know you guys really wanted slide-toppers, so we are going to install them for you, included in that price,” It was all I could do to not kick Bill under the table. He looks at Eddie and very calmly says, “Can we have a minute, please?” Eddie says, “of course” and excuses himself, adding as he shut the door, “Just open the door when you are ready.”
Well, no use in dragging out the rest – clearly we bought the rig! I KNEW on the way there that morning today would be our day, but I really didn’t know we would buy such an amazing new home on wheels! They agreed to store it until spring. We had no where to keep it for the winter, and we figured the safest place for it was right there! Also, our two year warranty would not start until we actually took delivery in the spring.
you can see the “after” back splash here: back splash upgrade
The closet on the left is what we use for a pantry – Bill added drawers for me – one of the best mod’s so far: closet drawers
We picked up our new home on wheels in mid-March, after a so-so PDI (pre-delivery inspection). The assigned us a guy to show us everything in the rig, how it worked, etc. but he was a Cedar Creek owner and didn’t know where a bunch of stuff was, such as the water shut-off for the ice-maker. I had a list so we wouldn’t forget anything. Thankfully, there was a tech working on the rig next to us and he showed us most everything. We left fairly confident we knew what we were doing. spending a night in a close by campground to see if we could work everything and if we could find anything that needed fixing before bringing it home. The bed was terribly uncomfortable, but other than that, it seemed all was good to go! We drove our new home to its temporary home, a storage facility near our house.
Bill did great driving it, I was so nervous. We just took our time and all was good. Bill was impressed with how easily the truck towed the rig.
The only thing left now was to sell the house. You can pick up on all those details by reading blog posts from the spring/summer of 2014! Briefly though, the house was on the market for 105 days before we got an offer, and we closed on August 29, 2014!