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RVing with Alice and Jaimie

RVing: The Long and Short of It, by Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
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New Horizon Fifth Wheel
George Bruzenak
Jaimie & George's 33' New Horizon fifth wheel

Lance Camper
George Bruzenak
Lance Camper that Jaimie & George traveled in last summer

41' Fifth wheel
Padraic Ley
Padraic & Willie Ley's 41' fifth wheel (65' overall) plus minivan

Traveling in our 33-foot New Horizon 5th wheel this summer is much more comfortable than last, but sometimes I long for the small size of the Lance camper we used last summer. What is the perfect size? How do you decide what length RV to purchase? I posed these questions at a YahooGroup bulletin board. The answers ranged from an 11-foot T@B trailer to a 41-foot 5th wheel with an overall rig length of 65 feet!

COMFORT

Roy and Kathy went straight from a "stick house" to full-time RVing, so comfortable space was important. "We chose a 35-foot fifth wheel with three slides. A sliding door between the bedroom and the rest of RV helps divide the space so that two TVs can accommodate different shows and/or reading/TV for two people."

Bill and Barb Fageol wanted a washer/dryer, so they bought a 36-footer. "We would prefer a shorter RV and, if we had it to do over, we now know we could put the washer/drier in the kitchen in place of the gas oven we don't use. But in actuality we also want two computer work stations, so maybe we really aren't interested in downsizing!"

Padraic and Willie Ley are not typical full-timers. Their rig is 65 feet in overall length, plus they have a minivan. They like the outskirts of big cities. They are too young to retire so work on the Internet during the week and play on the weekends. Says Padraic, "We drove only 15,000 miles with the truck and trailer the last three years."

BUT CAN IT FIT?

RVers recognize that size can be limiting. Says Laura Bornkamp, "Twelve years ago we bought a 38-foot motorhome (no slide). Then we bought a 35-foot motorhome with two slides, then a 40-foot pusher. We love our motorhome now, but the 35-foot one was the best, because it was smaller, easier to maneuver, and you can get into older parks and campgrounds."

Joe & Margie Heugly spent three years making decisions leading up to their RV purchase. Length was carefully considered and researched. They are very happy with their Cameo fifth wheel. However, in posting feedback about a campground, they stated, "We had to pass by many sites when selecting our spot, as they were too small or too narrow for our 36-foot fifth wheel with slides on both sides. If we had wanted to park further from the lake we would have had more sites that fit our trailer."

Glenda and Gerald Farris went from a 36-foot motorhome to a 40-foot one to get more basement room and a larger kitchen. Says Glenda, "I usually call ahead instead of just showing up to make sure they have a space that can accommodate us. Since we have a wide-body, we use the Motor Carrier's Road Atlas to double-check that our route is a designated 18-wheeler route when traveling rural roads."

T@B Trailer
Chuck Wright
Chuck & Nan Wright with their T@B trailer

Minivan towing T@B Trailer
Chuck Wright
Chuck & Nan Wright's minivan towing their T@B trailer

18' RV
Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Adrienne Kristine with her 18' motorhome

18' RV
Adrienne Kristine
Adrienne Kristine's recently purchased 28' Southwind motorhome

Lazy Daze Class C
Andy Baird
Andy Baird's 25.5' Lazy Daze Class C

If you don't do outdoorsy things and nearly always stay in RV parks, large can work. Margaret Serafin and her husband chose a 40-foot, triple-slide fifth wheel as their full-time rig, towing it with a medium duty truck (MDT). "Our size does limit the roads we take and the places we stay, but the truck can go most anywhere but four-wheeling." Note: International has created a new line of "sports trucks" that mimics the appeal of a Hummer H-2, combining a rugged "manly look" with the capability of a four-wheel drive. This new truck, called a MXT, is a little silly, but it would certainly pull the Serafin 5th wheel and also allow them to go 4-wheelin' (as long as the roads weren't too rough). More information here.

EASE OF DRIVING AND PARKING

Some RVers choose their length strictly for ease of driving and parking. Chuck Wright and Nan Aman no longer RV fulltime but wanted a smaller rig for their summer travels. Explains Chuck, "I considered a number of conventional trailers around 18 feet, but they were heavier than I wanted to pull with the van. The T@B travel trailer, reminiscent of the older "teardrop" trailers, includes only what is important: an ample bed/sitting area and adequate though minimal kitchen in a well-built package. The trailer is 15 feet long, including the tongue, so the living space is about 6 feet by 11 feet. What makes it work is having the van for storage and extra space." For most of us, that is way too small, especially when you consider there are no bathroom facilities inside the T@B.

Adrienne Kristine, solo RVer and author, has lived fulltime in two shorter rigs: one 22 feet long and her current 18 footer. According to Adrienne, the advantage of the 18-foot RV is," She fits in an average parking space and is easy to drive and handle." However, it lacks convenience. The dinette is also the bed; the shower is the whole bathroom and needs to be wiped down after each use. Adrienne rents storage space for things that don't fit.

COMPROMISE?

Very recently, Adrienne purchased a medium-length rig. Her new (to her) RV is a 27-foot Southwind. "There is plenty of storage (including basement storage) so I can empty my storage room. The motorhome is larger than an average parking space but I don't think I'll have much trouble parking her in a lot or on the street. She's large enough to hold everything, and small enough (and safe enough) for me to drive comfortably."

Stephanie and Paul Bernhagen explain their purchase: "We went short when we started RVing so that we could get into national parks and other places that had limited space for RVs. Our first fifth wheel was 28 feet and the last 29 feet."

Marilyn Bintz and her husband originally had a large fifth wheel. They loved the roominess but found they were not traveling much. Says Marilyn, "When we decided to just travel my husband wanted a motorhome. We enjoyed dry camping, national parks, and forest service campgrounds. Our absolutes were: under 30 feet, a walk-around bed, a fully useable bathroom, a comfortable place for both of us to sit, and tinted windows. We purchased a 27-foot Class C with two slides and are now on our sixth year of traveling in it with no regrets."

Betsy Crawford and her husband had a wide-body, 35-foot fifth wheel with two slideouts that was actually 36 feet, 10 inches. They wished it was shorter, so they found a 34-foot New Horizon fifth wheel with three slideouts. Says Betsy, "This makes it just as roomy as our 36 footer."

Andy Baird, writer, went from a 22-foot to a 25.5-foot Class C for more room and comfort. He remodeled it to include an office with a comfortable chair. Notes Andy, "I take it everywhere from big cities to small towns to wilderness areas-I'm quite comfortable traveling without a towed car. Anything smaller and I'd feel cramped; anything bigger and I'd need a 'toad.'"

Next> One Rig or Two, and Making a Choice

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
6/3/07

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