Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 10, 2015 - A trip to the USA to buy an RV

We debated for months about what our boating future would be, mulling over several appealing options.  We went back and forth many times.  In the end, we decided that we would like to continue boating in Mexico, but we do not want to be here during the extremely hot summer, which is also hurricane season here.  So, we will be leaving the boat in San Carlos Mexico, in a dry-storage lot for the summer.  Unless Kathy finds a good job while we are home for the summer/fall, we plan to return in the fall after hurricane season is over and the temperatures cool down again.  If Kathy lands a good job, then we will explore other options for getting our boat back home, like trucking it to Ensenada Mexico where Steve could then bring it back up the coast with help from friends, or putting it on a transport ship that will deliver it to Victoria BC, very close to home.  We will cross that bridge if we come to it.

After the decision to leave the boat in Mexico was made, we then had to figure out what we were going to do with our 3-5 months away from the boat.  Only one option seemed to make real sense to us; go back home to La Conner.  The kids can see their friends, attend the first part of the school year in thier school, and Steve can work full-time to replenish the “cruising kitty”.  The most logical method of getting us (including our cat, and our belongings) back home is to buy an RV, bring it to the boat in San Carlos, and then transfer our “stuff” from the boat to the RV and drive home via some interesting places like the Grand Canyon.  We have met quite a few cruisers down here that are doing exactly this, and they all are loving it.

After the decision to buy an RV was made, the next question was “where do we go to get an RV?”  Arizona has a large used RV market, and it is very close to Mexico.  Phoenix is about a 7 hour drive from San Carlos Mexico where our boat will be stored for the summer.

A few weeks ago I flew out of Loreto Mexico and landed in Phoenix to begin my search.  I rented a car for 4 days and drove nearly 900 miles during that time looking at dozens of RV’s.  As the end of my trip to Arizona neared, I feared that I was not going to find a suitable RV in our price range.  The day before I was going to leave, an RV that I had seen online many times (private seller) got an updated price which was greatly reduced.  I called and arranged to see it immediately as it was only about 20 miles away from my hotel.  The seller was retiring from work in just a few days, his house was sold and he needed to be out of that in a few weeks, and the RV had to go.  Interestingly, he and his wife are moving to Seattle to be near their grandchildren, and they are all interested in switching from RV’ing to boating!  So, the seller and I had a lot to talk about.  He was a great guy and we worked out a deal that afternoon.  I was the proud new owner of a 34’ Winnebago.  Yikes, that’s bigger than I ever intended!!!

Our "new" RV.  Man this thing is big!

We finalized the transaction the next day and he picked me up at the airport after I returned my rental car.  He then drove me around to the bank to notarize the title and bill of sale, to the DMV office to get a 90-day out of state vehicle registration, and even to a few stores to buy some last minute items.  The 90-day out of state registration allows a non-Arizona resident to buy a vehicle from Arizona and get a temporary license plate and registration.  You then have 90 days to get it back to your home state to get it titled and registered in your home state.  That couldn’t be more perfect!

I drove off in the RV mid-afternoon headed for a small town just a few miles before the Mexican border so I could cross into Mexico early the next morning.  Things were going well for the first hour or so.  I stopped at a rest stop and then got back on the freeway.  A few miles later the engine just quit!  I pulled over (no power steering or brakes) to the shoulder and parked.  After about 10 minutes of diagnostics I was able to determine that the fuel injection fuse had blown.  I put in a new fuse and started the engine.  It ran great, for about 3-4 seconds, and then it died again.  The fuse had blown again.  I called the seller and he offered to come down to help me.  How nice!  I accepted his generous offer.  While I was waiting I called several RV repair shops and towing companies.  By the time the seller arrived I had pretty much made the arrangements to have the RV towed to a nearby repair shop in Casa Grande AZ.   This is not how I wanted to start our RV experience.  Thankfully the breakdown did not occur in Mexico!!!!  The seller drove me to a local hotel and waited to make sure I got checked in.

The problem with the RV was a seized up fuel pump, which unfortunately is located INSIDE the fuel tank.  Lots of labor to replace.  While they were at it they replaced the front tires which had been wearing at a rapid pace due to blown out “air bags” in the front suspension, that allowed the front suspension to sag and cause uneven pressure (and rapid wear) on the tires.  Now the RV was all torn apart, and the shop was waiting for parts, and I was staying at a hotel in Casa Grande.  The seller felt so bad about this situation that he paid for a fair portion of the repair work, and also my towing, bus to Mexico, and hotel expenses.  How VERY nice.  Thank you Tim!!!

Being towed to Casa Grande Arizona

During this time, Hurricane Blanca was developing and threatening to hit hard where Kathy and the kids were on the boat.  I decided to leave the RV behind and catch an overnight bus to San Carlos MX (actually Guaymas 15 miles away), then hop on an overnight ferry to get to the Baja side, and then another bus to get to Loreto.  It was a 43-hour ordeal just to get back to the boat, but the storm was still a major threat and I am thankful that I returned.  The RV would not have been ready in time for me to drive down and catch the next ferry over to Baja (two days later), which meant I could not get back until after the storm had passed.  Not an option!

I spent my day back on the boat preparing for a hurricane.  I added another hefty line to the mooring ball.  I added chafe protection to our mooring lines.  I removed the exterior canvas and secured all items on deck.  I laid down the antennas.  We charged the batteries and ran the water maker because typically after a major storm the water becomes so polluted that it’s not a good idea to run your water maker.  Fortunately, the storm weakened substantially by the time it hit us.  The winds reached a maximum of 42 knots where we were, and another boat near us recorded a peak of just over 50 knots in his more exposed location.  It blew hard for 24 hours then began to subside.  We survived just fine with no problems.

We are now in San Carlos, getting the boat ready for storage.  In a few days I’ll catch another bus up to Phoenix, pickup the repaired RV and drive it down to San Carlos.  The repair shop says the RV is in great shape now and should serve us well for a long time to come.  I sure hope so!

Some pictures of our RV:

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