The Story of Sally - Our New Class B Camper Van

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After a coast to coast search for a used Class B / Camper Van we succeeded! Meet Sally - our 1995 Pleasure Way SRL.

Fifth Wheel to Class B

For those of you who haven’t been following along with our story, we recently decided to change up our travel mode and downsize from our 34’ Fifth Wheel to a Class B motorhome (aka “camper van”).

We went to California hoping to buy one, but came back without it.

We had people telling us to give up because you know, Class Bs aren’t big enough to live in. Or they told us we should hunker down in Texas for a while to work and increase our budget.

Pig Headed?

In the 4th grade I had a teacher tell me I was “pig-headed.”

He was right.

Once I get the idea to do something there’s no talking me out of it. The more you try, the harder I’ll work to prove you wrong.

I saw Class Bs selling in our price range. I could find people who full-time in them.

MsBoyink and I want to try it. Better to have tried and fail than letting naysayers talk you out of ever trying.

So I kept searching. I’ll admit - it became an obsession. I’ll have a blog post later on how to shop for a used Class B for under $10K.

Florida Bound

We got a line on one for sale through a reader of our newsletter. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for - lacking a 2nd bed for Miranda and not tall enough for me to stand up straight in.

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But the price was right. And the story was right.

The rig was in Florida. I found 3-4 more Class Bs for sale in Florida that were in our budget. MsBoyink found $45 one-way flights from Austin to St. Petersburg. We booked them, assuming we’d buy something and drive it home.

Rig 1

We landed, rented a car, and found a hotel. The next day we looked at the Pleasure-Way. Going in our assumption was that it wouldn’t be “the one”.

We ended up spending a couple hours there, looking at the RV and connecting with Linda (the seller). I wasn’t immediately put off by the height issue. There was a lot of storage. The cabinetry work felt really nice. We could see this working well for the 2 of us.

We realized Miranda was only with us for a few weeks. We could stay in AirBnBs - the van would be small enough to park in a driveway.

Rig 2

From there we went to rig #2 - a Coachmen with 2 beds and tall enough for me to stand up in.

I really thought this would be the one. It wasn’t.

The floorplan looked great in photos, but in reality the upper bunk would be a pain to sleep in fulltime. It’s tight, and too much hassle for those of us who don’t stay in bed all night.

We got back in the rental car and looked at our list of other rigs to look at. One had sold. The others were both Coachmen units with the had the same floorplan as the one we just looked at.

Back to Rig 1

We called Linda back and committed to the Pleasure-Way. She was happy - but surprised we’d buy something not tall enough.

At this point it was Saturday night, and she had family plans. We scheduled a time for Monday to complete the deal and pick up the rig.

Down Day

After all the train riding, air travel, and driving we’d been doing we wanted some outdoor time. Sunday morning we booked out to a local park for a couple hours of hiking.

The rest of the day was showers and naps back at a hotel.

Suspicious Activity?

Monday morning we set out to go pick up the new RV. We had traveled to Florida assuming we’d have to pay cash. Trying to get several thousand dollars cash from a bank when you are out of town is a laughable exercise. We were hitting up ATMs like Bonnie and Clyde in a Toyota.

We spent a few hours again at Linda’s lingering over the transaction. We got the story of how she met her husband John, and the trips they took with the RV. Her son was there helping and it was fun watching them interact as she told the old stories.

On the Road

Eventually it was time to go, though, so we hugged and drove off. I wanted to toot the horn…but missed where the horn button was.

We first went to an auto service facility where I had the coolant, oil, transmission fluid, and rear differential oil all flushed and changed. I wanted a baseline for future maintenance.

Some Beach, Somewhere

We had the rental car to return. We started heading back that way.

A sign for a beach came up. I wanted to try out our new-found nimbleness. I just drove in and parked. No worries about overhead clearance. No worries about backing up. No taking up 6 spaces.

We talked with a man watching the water. We took a short walk. We started to imagine what our travels could be like in this mode.

Car Wash

Back on the road again I started looking for a car wash. The rig was dirty from sitting outside in Florida. I finally found one and power-washed what I could reach. 30 minutes and $10 and the van was looking 100% better already.

We bought supper at a local grocery store and had our first meal in the back of the van.

From there it was back to the rental car drop off. Again I just drove into the rental lot, with no worries about tight corners.

Love it.

Boondocking

Walmart for the first night in the new rig?

Why not?

We intend to do more moochdocking, blacktop boondocking, and legit boondocking. Might as well get started.

We went in to buy a basic sheet set, cheap pillows and some instant coffee for the morning.

Sleeping is still a puzzle. It’s a double bed for the two of us. We’re making it work but have some ideas for how to eke out a bit more sleeping space.

Tires

The rig needed tires. We’ve always used Discount Tire in our travels. They are in the most states, and offer free rotation and balancing.

The nearest Discount Tire was an hour away, and somehow Google found us the 2 hour route. It wasn’t a comfortable drive knowing how weather-checked the existing tires were.

I had BFGoodrich All Terrains put on. The price was about the same as street tires. I liked the idea of having a bit more tire for gravel and dirt roads.

New fluids and new rubber? Let’s go. We headed north.

Battery

We bought the rig knowing the fridge wasn’t working. Turned out nothing was working on 12V. The engine battery was fresh, but the house battery wasn’t. A dead battery was the simplest answer, so we stopped at a Sam’s Club to buy a fresh house battery.

Sams offers battery installation service. I had no tools, so great.

Now - try to describe a Class B RV to someone who doesn’t know RVs. You can’t say the word “motorhome”. I did, and they were sure I wouldn’t fit in the bay. They won’t work on anything they can’t fit in their bay.

After I convinced the manager it was more of a “conversion van” he agreed they would do the battery installation. I pulled the van over and backed it in.

Consider Another Career?

I could tell the mechanic wasn’t happy with the manager right then. You know. Something new. Something different.

I pulled the cover off the battery tray and he looked in. He motioned the manager over…“take a look at this”. Yes, there are more than 2 wires.

He huffed.

I just wanted to get back on the road…“Lend me a wrench and I’ll do it.”

He was suddenly motivated.

Then it was “that battery won’t fit.” Yes, I had purchased a larger battery than what was in the van. The existing battery had a bunch of wood spacers around it so I measured and confirmed that the larger battery would work. I showed him the tape measure.

He huffed.

We got to work.

I held wires out of the way while he exchanged batteries. He reattached the wires and asked if things were working ok. The 12V lights still didn’t work. Bummer.

The generator wouldn’t start. It had before. I peeked over the couch and saw a loose red wire.

With a big white label reading “Generator”.

“I think this may be why.”

“Oh, I thought I had them all.”

With that wire re-attached we hit the road again. Still no 12V or fridge but at least we knew it wasn’t the battery.

Flying over to FL from TX.

Flying over to FL from TX.

Crissa test driving a van

Crissa test driving a van

Talking with Linda insde the van.

Talking with Linda insde the van.

Celebrating our purchase with a steak and beer.

Celebrating our purchase with a steak and beer.

Outdoors and hiking already - and we hadn't even got the van yet.

Outdoors and hiking already - and we hadn't even got the van yet.

Posing with Linda - who sold us the RV.

Posing with Linda - who sold us the RV.

Getting the fluids changed and having a look underneath.

Getting the fluids changed and having a look underneath.

First beach stop.

First beach stop.

Washing the FL grime off.

Washing the FL grime off.

First meal inside the rig.

First meal inside the rig.

Getting a fresh set of tires installed.

Getting a fresh set of tires installed.

Grrrrrrrr!

Grrrrrrrr!

Exacting our revenge at Cracker Barrel by parking our RV in a car spot.

Exacting our revenge at Cracker Barrel by parking our RV in a car spot.

First night at a state park.

First night at a state park.

7AM in an almost empty Walmart parking lot and I still get hit up by Jehovahs Witnesses.

7AM in an almost empty Walmart parking lot and I still get hit up by Jehovahs Witnesses.

Miranda getting her first look.

Miranda getting her first look.

No, that's our bed. Your bed is HEY LOOK A SQUIRREL!

No, that's our bed. Your bed is HEY LOOK A SQUIRREL!

State Park

We wanted showers. And a quiet, dark place to sleep.

We found a state park close to I-10. We called and asked if they had space. They did, but we needed to be there by 7PM to check in. MsBoyink didn’t think we’d make it but you know..that pigheaded thing.

We arrived at 6:52.

We just backed into the site. MsBoyink didn’t even get out of her seat to spot. This being small thing rocks.

So. Long.

We changed spots on the bed but didn’t sleep much better.

In the morning we rolled out and hit I-10 with a goal of getting out of Florida. The drive from Tampa up and through the panhandle heading west takes. so. long.

We made it to Mobile, Alabama and found a Cracker Barrel to overnight in.

12V Solved

All during the drive I kept puzzling the 12V/fridge issue. Nothing 12V worked so it should be something simple. Once the 12V was working I bet the fridge would as well.

In the lights of the Cracker Barrel parking lot I pulled the covers off the electrical areas in the back of the rig.

I saw a loose wire.

It looked like it wanted to be attached to a nearby relay.

I touched the wire to the relay post and 12V lights came on. The fridge lights came on.

Success.

Westward Bound

We had breakfast with a local friend the next morning then started driving again. We just wanted to be home. But I’m glad for the long drive. We needed the time to figure out how we were going to fit in this thing.

At one point I had a 5x6 cargo trailer on reserve. We could store the bikes, kayak, and various other things in it.

But the more we drove the van by itself the less fun towing a trailer sounded. We couldn’t just roll into a beachfront parking spot. A trailer defeated the purpose of the Class B.

A hitch-mounted cargo carrier with a truck toolbox? A more expensive swing-away storage pod?

Not sure yet.

Keep the Main Thing

We decided that our phase in this Class B should be focused on just one outdoor activity. By choosing to focus on that one thing we could get rid of everything not related to it. We could gear our route-planning around the best places to do that one thing.

We chose hiking. The equipment needs are small - shoes, camel-back and poles. We’ve always wanted to hike more but had dissension in the ranks that sucked the fun out of it. Those voices will now be elsewhere, so hiking sounds enjoyable again.

We’ll sell the bikes. We’ll sell the kayak. We’ll sell the keyboard. We’ll ditch my sculpture supplies.

We can get all of that stuff again if we want to change our one thing to some other thing.

Name

We also needed the drive time to decide on a name. In the end a suggestion from one of our Instagram followers won out.

We named the van Sally.

It’s both a female name and a word with some meanings that reasonate with us:

Sally:
- An action of rushing or bursting forth; especially :  a sortie of troops from a defensive position to attack the enemy
- A brief outbreak
- A witty or imaginative saying
- A venture or excursion usually off the beaten track

Our enemy is comfort. Complacency. Convenience.

We’re going to make some jokes about it and then take an excursion off the beaten track to find some great hiking.

Sally.

Long Day

I didn’t keep track. I think we drove 12 or 13 hours on Thursday. Between the bigger fuel tank and almost doubled fuel mileage we can easily drive all day and never stop for fuel.

We got into Texas and within 3 hours of home. We spent another night at a Walmart. It was nice and quiet - once the local high schooler with a Dodge Cummins decided we all knew he had straight pipes on his truck and went home.

Jiggety Jig

We started from Florida late Tuesday. And rolled back into Castroville, TX before noon on Friday. All of that without a license plate.

Until we parked in front of our fifth wheel. A Police car rolled up behind us.

“You are driving a vehicle showing no license plates or registration.”

We supplied our bill of sale, signed over title, and proof of insurance and all was well. The officer was actually interested in the van until an emergency in the park called him away.

Now?

There’s so much to do. We’ve got some things to do on the van. And downsize our stuff. And sell our fifth wheel and truck. And get Miranda off to her next WWOOFing gig.

We have the two rigs parked by each other. We can get through this. We have a couple of weeks to work with.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can take a photo tour of Sally, our 1995 Pleasure Way SRL Class B Camper Van.

 

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16 Comments The Story of Sally - Our New Class B Camper Van

  1. Picture of LouLouApril 16, 2017

    We’re so glad for you guys! It has been such a motivation for us to watch this new adventure unfold in your lives. 

    We are in the thick of things as well. Probably within 45 days or so we’ll be RV owners, and full-timers within another 30. It’s a dream we’ve had for ages, and you guys have been a huge factor in keeping us focused.

    Love the idea of the “Main Thing”, so much wisdom there. Can’t wait to see some of your more nimble escapades.

  2. Picture of David LatilDavid LatilApril 16, 2017

    Good writeup.  Looking forward to seeing how things shake out.

  3. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkApril 16, 2017

    Thanks David. Lots to do on it over the next couple of weeks!

  4. Picture of MarieMarieApril 19, 2017

    Would love to know about the full all-in cost of the new van. Buying used is very smart; so is doing all the maintenance, replacing batteries and tires etc. Would be great to have a checklist and budget.

  5. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkApril 19, 2017

    Thanks for the comment Marie.

    That might be nice someday - at the moment we’re swamped trying to get it prepped, make the move into it, and sell our fifth wheel.

    You can easily enough research Class B selling prices on Craigslist & eBay and check other retailers for costs of tires, batteries, etc.

    There’s so much variation depending on brands, models, & capabilities that even if we did publish a budget you could end up spending far more or less anyway.

  6. Picture of DonDonApril 20, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your adventures. Your writing style is great… you had me laughing out loud several times.

    And yet there was a very serious takeaway here. Something you said towards the beginning… THIS:

    “Better to have tried and fail than letting naysayers talk you out of ever trying.”

    Amen!

    So glad you tried. And succeeded. And shared. Looking forward to following your future adventures!

  7. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkApril 20, 2017

    Thanks for encouraging my behaviour. ;)

  8. Picture of DonDonApril 20, 2017

    Hmmm… MsBoyink may not be happy with me :-) But yeah… keep trying new things! It IS better to try than to be afraid of trying.

  9. Picture of Angie AngieApril 20, 2017

    Loved reading this whole account! How exciting and freeing. Oh, the places you’ll go! Love you guys!

  10. Picture of Janie FoxJanie FoxApril 20, 2017

    Looks great!  And loved the blog post!  Do you have a for sale sign on your 5th wheel?

    A friend of mine had hers on every site imaginable and ended up selling it at our park to one of the neighbors AFTER she put a for sale by owner sign out!!  Just a suggestion.

  11. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkApril 20, 2017

    Oh yea - we choose a highly visible spot and have front and rear for sale signs. With all of the traffic over the holiday it made sense!

  12. Picture of Andrea M ElkinsAndrea M ElkinsApril 21, 2017

    I’m just going to say “Ditto” to Don’s first comment.  :)

  13. Picture of Dennis KinneyDennis KinneyAugust 24, 2017

    Just now starting to think about downsizing our home into a condo and purchasing a 5th wheel or trailer for some extended travel.  Enjoying the info you share….hope to learn more

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