Our First Motorhome

Class A owners often tell stories about beginning their RV life with a modest trailer or camper, and gradually moving through a succession of larger and fancier rigs until they are confident in both their mastery of the multitude of equipment and systems in the average coach, and the art of camping itself. At a minimum, most folks plunking down the serious money required to drive off the lot in a diesel pusher have at least driven a motorhome before. Perhaps they rented?

Oh no; not us. That cautious and intelligent approach wouldn't have been challenging enough for Margaret and me. Other than a less than entirely successful weekend in tents with the children twenty years earlier, our personal camping experience was limited to an occasional night or two in a Holiday Inn Express. We really only “knew” a few things about the RV lifestyle. 

First, Margaret’s sister and brother-in-law had sold their home and were happily living full-time in a beautiful Winnebago. Following their escapades had provided at least a second-hand introduction to the good, the bad, and the ugly of RV life. Second, twenty years of heavy business travel had made it clear that airline travel and hotel stays would not be an enjoyable way to see the country. Tooling down the highway in what amounts to a home on wheels would have to be an improvement, particularly since our furry daughter (Lucy, our Maltipoo, for those of you who might have missed her bio…shame on you!) could be with us. Finally, extended visits with our growing cadre of grandchildren rather inconveniently spread over three states at opposite corners of the country, would require us to spend at least a third of every year away from our home here in Tennessee. No question we would enjoy this time far more if we could occasionally sleep in our own bed and wake to our own coffee maker.

We knew nothing about black and grey water systems, generators and inverters, or leveling jacks and slide motors, much less pulling a toad or navigating 35 feet of abode through traffic. We knew nothing about RV values, markups or depreciation. We knew even less about repairs or maintenance. So let’s just pull out the checkbook and hand over a big downpayment on a diesel pusher, right? What could go wrong?

In retrospect, we were lucky. While we enjoyed our early forays into this world in the form of RV shows and dealer visits, we eventually decided we would buy something slightly used, since that is pretty much how we buy all of our vehicles. That decision meant that we didn’t unwittingly pay anything close to the MSRV on a new unit and lose 30-40 percent the moment it was driven off the lot. We also decided that we absolutely had to have a washer and dryer. More on why that is particularly important to us will come in future blog posts, but the bottom line is we don’t own a lot of clothing so we need to run laundry loads pretty regularly. That need effectively drove the decision to buy a diesel, since far fewer gas floorpans include them. Lastly, our states’ rules (both Illinois and Tennessee) allow a coach less than 26,000 pounds to be legally driven with no additional endorsement or license requirements. That limited the size and cost of the coaches we could consider.

Ultimately, we narrowed our search down to 2014 or newer Class A diesel pusher motorhomes under 35 feet and 26,000 lbs. on the Freightliner chassis with a stacked washer and dryer, and found a Thor Palazzo 33.2 matching that description on the internet. (We had done enough research to learn that earlier versions of this particular motorhome were plagued with serious slide issues.) Our particular coach had been driven only 4,500 miles, and was being sold on consignment by TotalValue RV of Elkhart, IN, on behalf of the original owner of only eight months who was stepping up to the largest and fanciest model Thor sold at the time. The owner had maintained the coach in like new condition, and the folks at TotalValue were a joy to work with. 

Before we even made our first trip, we made a few decorating changes. We removed the original red, jacquard fabric window treatments and replaced it with a fresh, blue print, we added a matching ottoman and we replaced all of the pillows and bedding to complement the new color scheme. That helped lighten things up and make the coach feel like it was ours. If money were no object, we’d love to replace the beige vinyl flooring and paint or replace some of the other surfaces, but money is an object, so we’re loving it just as it is for now. While we’ve had a few minor mechanical issues with the coach in the first year-and-a-half we’ve owned it, user error frankly contributed to some of them. We could not be happier with our purchase. The Palazzo has turned out to be quiet, smooth, maneuverable, comfortable, economical, and dependable. Descriptors not everyone can apply to a first-time RV purchase.  

Bottom line is: while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend someone new to the RV world go from no RV at all to a Class A in one impetuous action, it worked for us. Though we’ve only completed two significant trips at this point, we have covered about 12,000 miles, and spent over three total months living in it…enough for it to feel like a significant part of our life. 

We look forward to many more miles and many more experiences in the future.  —Alan

Extract Junk, Inject Living