As we researched and discussed every aspect of what we were planning, I was the one that did the majority of the research on the forums, asking the questions that we wanted answered and trying to help others with what knowledge I possessed. While both of us did online research in areas that weren’t forums, I suppose that I still did most of that as well.
Since I was looking and reading a lot, I saw things of interest that I would try to keep Jo informed of, and some things just kind of “percolated” back in the recesses of my mind as “possibles” for our new lifestyle. It might be the way someone configured their fifth wheel, or perhaps a method used to accomplish some task, or perhaps it was just a picture.
The research led us to a lot of manufacturer’s websites to check out floor plans and amenities for every one that tickled our interest. An area created on our hard drive contained numerous pictures, floor plans, modifications done to RV’s, and even whole threads of forums were “copied and pasted” into Microsoft Word and saved.
What kind of got me in trouble one time was seeing a picture by a Mobile Suites owner who had posted a picture of his “rig” as part of his signature. One thing it had was a car hooked on behind the fifth wheel as a “toad”. I had also read of those who had both a truck for pulling their coach and a second vehicle, not always towed, for use for errands and sightseeing.
So, one day I mentioned to Jo that perhaps we ought to plan our RV to be able to tow a relatively small vehicle when we got on the road. That led immediately to her comment that if she was going to have a “toad” then she was going to look at the option of a motorhome instead of a fifth wheel. Yep, I had done STEPPED in it. That began the process of looking at motorhomes that would be big enough to full time in, especially since we would be living as “static” RV’ers until we retired.
While we looked at different dealerships, we were drawn eventually to McCleans RV in Oklahoma City because they seemed to have the widest selection. It didn’t take long to discover that for us to live in it, it would have to be at least a 40’ motorhome. That led us to the Tiffin Phaetons that were on McClean’s lot.
We had spent some time looking one day and the salesman informed us that should we need to, we could test drive the motorhomes in which we might be interested. I told him that if we did, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a short trip for a few miles. Plus, it was extremely important that Jo drive it as well so that we could determine whether she would be comfortable driving such a large vehicle.
Since Jo was a farm girl, and had driven the farm trucks, I didn’t have any doubt that she would be capable. But, it was “being comfortable” that was most important. The largest vehicle she had ever driven was a short little stretch with the 18-wheeler that I was driving way back in the 70’s.
I also wanted to make sure that the engine in the motorhome would be capable for mountains and not have any problems with handling fairly steep inclines. Our salesman mentioned that we could drive out towards Geary, Oklahoma where there was a fairly long hill and try it there. I considered that to be alright since I knew the hill of which he spoke. In my own mind, I was already formulating that I wanted to stop the motorhome at the very bottom of the hill and start back up from a dead stop to see how well it accelerated.
An appointment was made to drive a 40’ Phaeton model QTH after work some evening, and on the appointed time, we drove out to the dealership and hooked up with the salesman. He drove it out of town and a bit West of Yukon to a spot where they weighed trucks on the interstate. That gave us plenty of room to park and change drivers. Since it was kind of rush hour traffic, Jo and I both appreciated NOT having to drive in that traffic.
So, I asked Jo if she wanted to start first or whether she wanted me to. She decided that she was going to have to sooner or later, so it just as well be sooner. She got behind the wheel and I sat back in one of the couches and let the salesman help her with what the various controls were and how to set things for her to be comfortable. And, away we went. She ended up driving it roughly 25 to 30 miles and we then stopped at a truck stop at the turnoff to Geary, Oklahoma for me to take over.
I drove out to the valley we had decided was a good test and stopped at the bottom. After traffic cleared, I started up the hill which was a distance of roughly ¾ of a mile to a mile. The engine in the Phaeton never even hiccupped and gained speed all the way up the hill. As I prepared to turn, the salesman told me to NOT swing wide when I made a U-turn at a crossover in the 4-lane highway.
I made the turn with no wide swing and was absolutely amazed at the turning radius of the motorhome, and then we started back towards Oklahoma City. After a few miles, the salesman was comfortable that I knew how to handle the motorhome, so he turned to Jo sitting on the couch and asked her, “So what do you think?”
Jo’s answer was, “I’m not sure that he wants to know what I think.” I knew from that comment that she had been comfortable with driving the 40’ long behemoth. We drove back to the dealership where I turned it back to the salesman so he could take it back into the lot. I was again amazed at the turning radius as he navigated in through a very narrow gate without having a lot of room for turning.
With that little excursion, we were comfortable that Jo could handle that size of vehicle and that a motorhome was a definite option for our plans. That, of course, then began the research into the motorhomes for us. But, this was to just be the first of our test drives. It was roughly 100 to 125 miles round trip on the test drive of the 40’ Phaeton.
Our third camper, a 26’ Sierra travel trailer.