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Chapter 1: An End That Became A Beginning and Leaving Alaska

Posted 06-26-2010 at 01:31 AM by WYfulltimers

And so the beginning grew out of an ending. A very painful ending at that.

The ending of three, long, painful years of waiting and believing. We believed justice would come, but I know now that justice is an elusive and fluid thing. It is too full of human elements to really spring from the full truth or total honesty.

We had spent a long, painful year after we bought what I began calling, “The Hog.” We had previously owned a Class C motorhome, a Leprechaun, that we really loved. We liked to camp in remote and very cold places in Alaska, so the Leprechaun was not quite what we had hoped in some ways. We kept running out of fresh water, filling up our black and gray waters, and we often drained our fuel tank running our generator for a weekend. We often got very cold because the Leprechaun just wasn’t equipped for cold, late fall nights or early spring nights.

The Leprechaun we really loved at first…

The “Hog” was a this huge, towering beast of a thing. Both beautiful and frightening to me at the same time. And she came with hundreds of broken items. A broken windshield, a strong septic smell everytime we camped, a leaky shower, cranky automatic jacks, and the list continued. She was frightening to me because she was so complex. We had thought the Leprechaun complex when we first purchased it. We had read the manuals for about a month before we started camping in it. So many things to know!

And the “Hog” was a hundred times more complex. She sat on a Freightliner chassis, which made half of her systems the responsibility of a local Freightliner repair facility and the other half a dealer that had a bunch of technicians that kept lying to us about fixing things. Everytime we brought her in with more writeups, they would work on some things but never the really hard things. Until we finally sued them. This forced the manufacturer to force them to fix the septic and leaks. The dealership kept fixing her over and over again. Mostly ignoring us but still pretending to try. They had been so good with our Leprechaun. We were completely baffled and constantly angry about it.

The first year’s warranty was getting ready to be over, and we still hadn’t gotten her completely fixed. So we sued them. The Hog cost a hell of a lot of money, and she was supposed to be our permanent home for several years after Dan retired. But his retirement was put on hold while we went through the 3 year agony.

Dan is my husband. He had suffered over 25 years of post-traumatic stress, brought on by witnessing the death of a friend in the military. In camping with our Leprechaun, for the first time in his life he had found what made him smile and forget his pain. Camping was a complete release of the stress he felt.

We spent our first summer in 2006, camping every chance we got. Alaska had become our home, after running away from a city full of layoffs and a house that we could not sell in Tulsa.

Alaska summers are horribly short, so we camped even when it was pretty cold out (in the 20′s). Dan was talking about retirement, so we started looking at large Class A motorhomes. None of them looked good to us. (except the ones we kept seeing on HGTV’s RV shows that cost $300,000.00 and up. We weren’t going to spend anywhere near that. The dealer where we had bought the Leprechaun had 2 Class A motorhomes that looked really great. We chose one of them.
From the day we did the walkaround in June of 2007, that dealership made our lives a living hell. They are now out of business (no surprise there), but they had just hired a new service manager around the same time that we bought the big rig. And he was not only a liar through the whole court case, but he was a moron during the time we tried to get our RV fixed. The service manager before him was an amazing guy who never let anything slip through the cracks. This new service manager let everything slip. If it weren’t for just a few good people he had, they probably would’ve blown up our motorhome.

Alaska was fast becoming a place where crooked salesmen sold autos and RVs for way more than they were worth, especially to military people and retired military (like myself). And then they failed to support them properly. And the two that went out of business in 2007 and 2008 blamed it on the economy. Yeah, right. That’s why there are some that are still doing well there?

It is a good thing that two of those crooked RV businesses are now out of business. If you’re ever in the market for renting an RV from a dealership here, the best one is Alaskan Travel Holidays, by the way. I would never go anywhere else to buy an RV or rent one.

So, after we filed a lemon law lawsuit, we found out someone in the dealership had taken our RV out joyriding when they were supposed to be fixing it and put an extra 1,000 miles on it and an extra 100 hours on the generator. We were livid. And none of them would fess up.

They tried to say we abandoned it because after we sent a letter to the manufacturer for our money back, we went and took our personal items out of the RV. The only reason we did it was to make sure we didn’t lose any of our things if the dealer decided to be jerk offs and have it impounded. They didn’t, but when we got it back the following spring it was a total wreck. Though I filmed it all and talked about it in court, their witnesses lied and their lawyer lied about us and won.

It was a blow on that first day, but I started to realize that at least now because of testimony, documentation, and video-taped depositions, we actually knew what was fixed and what wasn’t. Before this, we often would be told that things were fixed. And then they wouldn’t be when we took our next trip in it. In 2 summers, we only got to use it 6 times. The previous summer in our Leprechaun, we went on more than 20 trips and made over 150 short documentary films. We made about 3 films after we bought the Hog.

So, after the sting of losing, I realized that at least now I knew where we stood. Yes, we had purchased an extended warranty from Coachmen for $2,700 and gotten nothing in return. So had a lot of other people who had bought extended warranties just before Coachmen sold their RV division to Forest River. So many companies do crap like that.

So, after we heard we lost, we were a little bit stranded when it came to fixing the major things. But, we did some research, found a better mechanic and signed up for the Good Sam extended RV warranty. One of the best in the business. It’s great because you can choose from several deductible amounts. The higher the deductible, the less you pay each month.
Though we had loved the few times we had camped in it, we were always afraid of what would break next. Now, at least we’re not afraid anymore. It also encouraged me to start really investigating what it was we really had here. It was just about that time we got some very devastating health news about my husband Dan. He already had diabetes, but now we were told he had cirrhosis of the liver (we don’t drink at all) and an enlarged heart.

We were planning on selling our home and moving to the Lower 48 anyway, but now we started talking a lot about fulltiming. We read a book from Good Sam about it, and we started reading all the discussion boards at Good Sam’s website about fulltiming. So fascinating!

Dan and I are both travelers. In the time we have been together for 13 years, we have moved about 8 times. (or more!) We just get the itch and cannot stay in one place.

That was the thing about that lawsuit. We must have been preparing, in the back of our minds, to lose just in case. And like most human beings who have been through tough times before, we decided to take what I call “The High Road.” Instead of sitting around and whining about how they lied on the stand and we told the truth blah blah blah…Dan and I began to put our lives back together and fast!

The court case and its preparation had literally nearly drove us both insane. So the feeling of relief was a bit strange right after it was over. But we also felt like:

“You know what? We’re not going to let anyone beat us down. “

Though I knew that what the other side’s attorney said about me during his closing arguments just wasn’t true, it didn’t matter because I knew – deep down – I had told the truth to the best of my ability and was just trying to protect an investment my family had made. Dan had to put off his retirement for 2 years because of their inability to find their butts with both hands (in my humble opinion..LOL) I had fixed electronic systems on several types of aircraft during my military career, and here was a ragtag lawyer with scuffed shoes and an angry demeanor trying to make me look dumb. Not gonna happen.

After it was over, quite a bit of strange relief feelings showed up. And we found out our RV was actually worth more than we thought it was. And that was a pretty good thing.

So, I began looking at it with a microscope. Every system. Every component. Learning everything about it. I fixed up several houses we have owned, so why not learn as much as I could about our next home?

Dan’s illness and my desire to help him see every state in the U.S. during his lifetime made our decision about fulltiming for us. It was exciting to think about!

In the next chapter, I will go through the systems that I investigated as I went through every inch of the Hog. Maybe it will help you in some way with your own RV. Or maybe you have never had an RV and are thinking about buying one. Perhaps it could help you in that way.

See you next time!


So, we stepped over him (the defense’s lawyer) and moved on.
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