We met a lot of very nice people, particularly in connection with our flat tire the first morning, which happened to be a Saturday.
After our first night on the road we woke to this flat tire. RVs nowadays don’t have spare tires, which came as a surprise to the RV service support line you’re supposed to call if you have a problem. Practically, this matters a lot, as service trucks are equipped to change tires, not repair them. As it happened in our case, we were only two miles from town, so the driver took off the tire, took it to his shop and repaired it, and brought it back in under two hours. If we’d been a hundred miles farther west in the middle of South Dakota, this would have been a very long delay. Between the late start and having to deal with the flat tire we lost one day of our time to drive to Las Vegas.
The screw we found in the tire was identical to a couple we found loose in the RV. Just sayin’ it could have been “supplied” in the pickup lot of the factory.
When I booked this adventure, and again when we picked up the RV, I asked if roadside assistance was included, and was told that it was. So I didn’t extend our AAA coverage to include RVs. Turns out, “it’s included” means “we arrange it, but you pay for it.”
Apollo ( the rental company that purchased the RVs and for whom we were locating them) has a great business model for preventing giving you a credit. They collect $1000 as a deposit, not just a hold but an actual charge, and refund it at the end. So you have to pay for the tire repair, and there is no way they’re gonna give you any credit for that, or the loss of the extra day you bought. In fact, their logic about the latter was “Well, you got 10 days for $1 each and 2 days for $145 each. That’s $25 a day average, I can give you that…”
We picked up the RV on a Friday. Although we arrived at 11am, there were dozens of parties also picking up their RVs and we didn’t get done until about 4pm. The briefing was … brief. The water tank had never been filled or tested. You know, the one they say to sanitize and flush before use. The sewer hose was stuck in the carrier, and without fittings. The holding tank valves hadn’t been closed, so when we tested the drains, water ran out. But the A/C and heater worked, the slides didn’t get stuck, and 90% of the cabinet and drawer hardware was correctly installed and stayed shut. Sometimes going around corners the fridge door would suddenly open and the contents would crash to the floor.
The RV was a Winnebago Outlook 27D, which uses a Ford E450 base and got about 7.5 mpg overall. Driving it varied from very smooth, on a good road with no wind and under 60mph, to a highly stressful experience when all those conditions were reversed and you’re being passed by a semi at 80mph, in which case it feels like you’re driving a 27-foot sail. There are a lot of roads in the midwest with 80mph speed limits. I never felt safe much above 72, so there were lots of times when those semis were charging past. Plus if you have 3 people as we did, the third person is seat belted behind the table. The seat is very uncomfortable for an adult as you are tossed around a lot and cannot see out the front window.
Wal-Mart is everywhere, and a great resource to RVers, because they sell EVERYTHING in one place (except, oddly, alcohol in Wyoming, for which you have to go next door), there’s always easy parking for huge vehicles, and the price is right.
Here’s our summary opinion of the RV experience: it was nice for a national park experience when you’re planning to spend a few days, and the alternatives are tenting or $350 lodge rooms. Wow, at $14.08 a night, the senior rate in Yellowstone is unbeatable, even without any hookups. But driving it is kind of a pain, so it’s not so great for the road-trip experience, where you have to move 300 miles a day. We could also see that this mode would be stressful during summer, when RV parks fill up. Even in mid-May, it isn’t “the season” yet in Yellowstone, and places weren’t too hard to find along the way.