2019  HIKING, ULTRA-WALKING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Superstition Mountains at sunset, from Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

 

   
 
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   END OF AN ERA:  OUR DECISION TO  SELL  
  THE CAMEO & STOP RVing FOR NOW

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 
"Life changes -- and when it does, our priorities do, too. Continually re-evaluating your goals is   
the only way to ensure that you're still pursuing something that's relevant and important to you."
 
~ Whitney English, from the Day Designer website
 
 
Continual re-evaluation. Changing our minds. Being fickle (what my sister has called us). Being flexible (our preferred term!).

Whatever you call it, with so many variables involved in RV travel Jim and I have had plenty of practice making both quick and not-so-quick decisions in the twenty years we've been RVing.

Several years ago when we were still really enjoying traveling around North America on an extended and full-time basis with our 5th-wheels, we both said we'd probably continue doing so even if one of us was widowed. At that time, we didn't see an end to it.

 
One of our favorite repeat destinations was the USAF Academy campground in Colorado Springs.
The sites were large, reasonably priced, and we had lots of things to do in the area.

But after thirteen years of an increasing number of travel annoyances we were ready to "settle down" again and buy a house in early 2017. The Cameo 5th-wheel went into storage for almost two years before this past winter's trip to the desert Southwest.

We hoped that this trip would rekindle our passion for RV travel and we'd get excited about doing more of it again.


We did enjoy camping several days at Lost Dutchman SP east of Phoenix in December, 2018. 

However, that trip kind of put the nail in the coffin for our RV lifestyle, at least for a while.

So many things went wrong that stressed us out and only made us glad to go back home again. We knew "home" now meant being in our quiet house and community and not wandering around with an aging truck and RV, fighting traffic and crowded parks and campgrounds nearly everywhere we went. 

I'm not going to whine or even explain all of our reasons for making this about-face. I listed some of the main reasons back in the spring of 2017 when we decided we wanted to buy another house -- crowded campgrounds and RV parks, crowded national and state parks, difficulty making reservations when and where we wanted to go, and lack of the spontaneity that we so enjoyed for the first eight or ten years of traveling.

Those years were the ones before and during the Great Recession.  


It was much easier to get a campsite at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER)
in Anchorage, Alaska in the summer of 2012 than it was three years later.

Now don't get me wrong. It's great that the economy improved in the 20-teen years, but that also meant an ever-increasing number of Boomers being able to retire and more people of all ages who could afford to buy campers in all price ranges.  

Manufacturers began spitting out more and more RVs of lower and lower quality but there wasn't a commensurate number of camping sites developed to keep up with the influx, nor adequate technicians to repair all the substandard rigs.


In April 2016 we had to make reservations far in advance to get this spot at this private campground  
just outside popular Zion National Park in Utah; it was impossible to get a site inside the park.

2017 was the peak for RV production, with over half a million units sold to dealers that year. That's the year we came off the road and bought our house.  

Although overall RV sales were down about 10% in 2018 and even more in early 2019, the decrease hasn't been appreciable enough to make a dent in the problems associated with overcrowded campgrounds, poor manufacturing quality, and a lack of qualified people to repair RVs in a timely manner. 


We lucked out with a large site at Nellis AFB in early January, 2019 in the older section
of the RV park. The new section show above has about 200 sites crowded very close together.

Despite some good times during our recent winter trip we realized the thrill was gone and we put the Cameo up for sale when we got home.

We worked diligently to get it ready. We listed it at a reasonable price for its condition -- clean, attractive interior, all major components in working order, but general wear and tear after nine years of extensive use and decals needed replacing on the exterior -- and it sold pretty fast on Craig's List, at our list price, to the third couple who looked at it.

That's the executive summary. The rest of this entry delves more into the decal issue and our steps to successfully sell the Cameo ourselves.

DOGGONE THOSE DECALS! 

I guarantee you doggone wasn't the d-word we normally chose while working to remove those stubborn decals.

The Cameo's fading, cracked decals were one of the reasons we didn't enjoy our recent winter trip as much as we could have and it's our fault for making the decision to start removing them when we did. They needed to be replaced whether we kept the rig or decided to sell it, but many times I wished we'd waited to start the job until after we got back home.

 
Even at six years of age, the decals still looked good on the Cameo.
(Nice site in a national forest campground near Arches NP, April 2016)

The decals stilll didn't look so bad at the end of March, 2017 when we bought our house near Atlanta and put the Cameo in storage down at Ft. Benning, 90 miles south of us.

We learned the hard way that if we'd either paid (a lot) more to store the camper closer to us, or had kept using it frequently, we could have maintained the condition of the decals much better. It was sitting on hot pavement in the sun, wind, dust, and rain 24/7 and not on grass in the shade like we parked it next to our house on rural property in Virginia each time we went back there for a few weeks at a time. (We can't keep it at our current house in Georgia.)

Although Jim went down to Columbus every two or three months to check on it and do routine maintenance, the decals were noticeably more faded and cracked by December, 2018, when we left on our winter trip.

Examples of cracked and faced decals on the doorside (above) and off-doorside (below)

You see why I was half-embarrassed to be seen with the rig?? I'm no snob, but some RV parks won't let you in if your rig looks that worn. Fortunately, the interior still looked great.

While we were on our trip we researched various options to improve the looks of the exterior, all of which involved removing the old decals first. There are various methods involving heat, chemicals, or eraser wheels. We chose to use a goopy, smelly product called Graph-X Off.

Removing the decals carefully so the gel coat and underlying fiberglass isn't scratched or otherwise ruined is no easy task. It's messy, tedious, and time-consuming, whether a professional is doing it or an RV owner like us is doing it to try to save upwards of a thousand dollars in labor costs for a rig the size of ours.

 

 

 

The replacement method we initially chose was to mask the "ghost" images with thin, flexible tape and brown paper where the original swooshes/stripes/decals were located and repaint them in the original three colors with auto paint. We planned to do just one decal at a time from start to finish.  

Although we followed the instructions and photos on the Carriage-Cameo owner's club exactly, our initial painting results weren't satisfactory. We decided to just continue removing decals slowly on the trip as weather permitted and do the painting later . . . somehow, somewhere.

 

"Ghost" images on the doorside (above) and off-doorside (below)

Too much desert sun, heat, or wind wasn't good for the GraphX-Off gel we were using to loosen the decals so we could gently scrape them off. On days like that we couldn't work on removing decals.

On cooler days that were more conducive to removing decals we would have preferred to be out walking and otherwise enjoying our trip but we felt obligated to work on those damn decals when the weather was right for it. We knew it would be very difficult to work on them once we returned home and put the camper back in storage.

We miss the ability to park it on our own property so we could work on it, like we could when we lived on rural land in Virginia. We had it at our house in Peachtree City twice for a couple days after we got home from this trip so we could wash it and have electricity to clean it thoroughly inside and out.  It's next to impossible to do those tasks or any kind of maintenance in a storage lot.

 
Most of the decal removal was done in the two weeks in January that we were at McDowell Mtn.
Regional Park near Phoenix. We had a large site with more privacy to do the work.

I lost a lot of sleep worrying about how we were going to finish the job so it looked professional. One day I had a meltdown and explained to Jim all the reasons why it was impossible for us to do the repainting ourselves and end up with the results we wanted.

Jim agreed to consider professional refinishing options -- either painting the stripes back on or getting new decals. Both are very expensive if done right, but cheaper than buying another RV! 

Before we left Arizona at the end of January we found an excellent RV re-striping company in the eastern part of metro Phoenix and made an appointment for this coming fall to have decals professionally installed. That was dependent on us keeping the rig and taking it back out there this winter, not selling it.


Camping at Brazos Bend SP in Texas on our way home; the Cameo didn't look too bad.

We were able to remove only about half the decals before we returned home in early February.

Although the exterior of the Cameo looked a bit odd, it looked better than with so many faded, cracked decals. The new owner wasn't put off by the looks of the rig since it still looked very nice inside and everything else about it met his needs.

He does plan to have the decals removed and new striping painted on later. He has a friend in the vehicle-painting business who has promised him a good discount so he should be able to get the job done for less than it would have cost us. New decals applied correctly are expensive; new painted stripes are even more expensive but they'll be more permanent.

SELLING THE CAMEO

The hardest part about selling the Cameo was deciding to do it! We loved it for so many years, and still loved it despite its aging body.

You wouldn't believe all the discussions we had for two years before making our decision.

?????

The second hardest part was getting it ready to sell. All the major systems were in good working order but Jim did extra maintenance on it, we spent a long time cleaning it thoroughly, and we moved it from Ft. Benning (90 miles from home) to a comparably-priced storage lot about 12 miles from home so it was easier to do final cleaning/staging and show it to prospective buyers. 

Before it was buyer-ready we had to decide how to sell it -- do it all ourselves, try to sell it to a dealer, or do it on consignment. We quickly ruled out the latter two options after talking to a few dealers (very low-ball prices because we weren't trading it for another rig) and discovering all the pitfalls of consignment.  

OK, we'll do this ourselves!

Note that the only time either of us had ever previously sold a motor vehicle ourselves was a $50 clunker Jim sold back in the '70s!!

 
We were able to park the Cameo in our driveway for a couple days when we got home so we could
wash the exterior, steam clean and vacuum the carpet, and do other jobs requiring electricity.

We learned a lot in the process. Listing the Cameo for sale took a lot of prep work, including determining a fair price, choosing where to list it, taking and editing photos so it showed well, and writing accurate, honest descriptions.

I swear it was almost as complicated as selling a sticks-n-bricks house since we hadn't sold a rolling residence before.  

Research re: pricing included looking at ads online for the same make, model, and year Cameo as ours, both by dealers and by individuals.

We knew the dealer prices were higher than we'd ask because they have to make a profit. Most individuals also usually make the mistake of listing vehicles, including RVs, too high in hopes of either making a killing or having room to negotiate.

 
We brought the Cameo to the house again for the first showing in early March.
It was much easier to clean, stage, and inspect it there than in a storage lot.

We hate dickering over prices so we chose a price that we could totally justify and hoped we'd find an educated buyer who had done enough research to know it was a good price! Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened. 

One smart thing we did was go look at two models of used Cameos at a dealership about 40 miles away. Even though they were a year or two newer than ours, they looked horrible in comparison and the prices were 'way too high. We encouraged potential buyers to go look at them to compare them with ours, in an effort to convince them that our price was fair and reasonable.

In our sales arsenal we also had links to Cameo listings online that were 20% or more above our price for the same or comparable rigs.

 
Another campsite we occupied several times was this secluded spot
on the western, less busy side of the Tetons in Wyoming.

OK, so we possibly sold it at a lower price than some other, somewhat comparable, Cameos. Maybe you're thinking we should have asked more. We don't think so. We had a rock bottom price we could live with and we were still well above that.  

In fact, we said several times that as much as we used the Cameo in the nine years we had it, we'd more than gotten all of our money out of it. We got it at a very good price when it was new in 2010 and dealers were having great difficulty selling RVs. We paid cash + trade-in, and we lived/traveled in it most or all of the time we had it. The Cameo served us very, very well. 

We are frugal people, however, and we didn't want to give it away! So we set a price.

 $$$$$

We chose to list the Cameo for sale in three places:  the international Carriage-Lifestyle online owners' club, the local Facebook Marketplace in our town, and Craig's List in both south metro Atlanta and Columbus, GA (the Cameo was still down there when we first listed it).  

The Facebook and Craig's List ads were free.

A basic Carriage-Lifestyle owners' club ad was also free; however, we paid a mere $5 for a fancier ad that was highlighted in each weekly e-newsletter that was sent to members around the world. That's where we discovered some foreigners will buy RVs here to tour the U.S. on vacation, then sell them when they leave -- great idea!

 
The Craig's List ad had 21 photos, more verbiage than shown here, and contact information.

All the ads linked to a then-hidden page with more photos and details on our website. 

Each of the three ads and our personal web page had counters that gave us several kinds of information. We got the most views and inquiries from Craig's List in metro Atlanta and very few from Facebook Marketplace. There were also several hundred views on the Carriage-Lifestyle ad.

The first couple who looked at the Cameo saw it on the Carriage-Lifestyle owners' club website and drove from another state to see it. The other two couples, including the actual buyers, saw the ad on Craig's List.

 
20+ photos scrolled across our inexpensive "featured" ad on the Carriage-Lifestyle owners' club website.

All the potential buyers were already pretty sure they wanted a Carriage product and had gone to our detailed web page before contacting us. We had several inquiries but only three showings, and the third one was the purchaser. 

We also spent a while researching how to accept payment safely. That turned out to be one of the easier parts of the process, although we agonized over it for a couple weeks.

We ended up accepting a certified check from the buyers' credit union after we talked with a bank representative to make sure it would go through OK. The buyers were honest people but you have to be very careful these days.

 

After the sale:  The new owner got his grandson a cute toy 5th-wheel and truck, too (above).
The Cameo is shown in his neighbor's driveway above, and in the couple's first campsite below.

Sometimes RVs are purchased sight-unseen from buyers in other states or countries. At the other extreme, sometimes your next door neighbor or a family member buys it. Our sale was closest to the latter. 

The first couple came from two states away and spent two hours inspecting it but left without making an offer -- until after it was sold. The next day two couples from Georgia looked at it. One retired fella decided it was more camper than he needed for weekends fishing at his favorite lake, and his wife didn't seem too thrilled with the idea of hanging out in an RV even for short periods of time.

The third couple expressed genuine interest, but left without making an offer until the next day, when they called back and offered us full price. They lived just a few miles from us but needed it initially as a weekday residence while the husband works a new job out of town. After he retires they plan to use it for traveling around the country.

We finalized the deal a few days later. It was a win-win for them and for us, and they seem to be very happy with the rig.  

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have to admit that Jim and I had mixed feelings when the buyers drove off with the Cameo.  

We had a sense of relief because we'd been back and forth about our decision for at least two years and the reasons to sell it outweighed the reasons to keep it. On the other hand, we had some great times with that and our two previous 5th-wheel coaches! We have mostly fond memories of traveling all over North America in them since the year 2000.

Those campers allowed us to visit some magical places that we will never forget:

 
Sue on the Eielson Alpine Trail at Denali National Park in Alaska;
Denali Peak, North America's highest, is in the background.  (July, 2015)

Other unforgettable experiences were seeing Denali very close from a plane flight (2012, above) and   
hiking along Exit Glacier near Seward several times in 2012 and 2015 to spectacular Harding Icefield.

 


We enjoyed the Maritimes, too (colorful harbor scene in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Aug. 2014).

As I write this several months later we still think we made the right decision to sell the Cameo when we did. It was getting older and we feared one of the major systems would need repair or replacement. And it would cost a bundle to get those decals replaced or the swooshes painted.

It was also too big for many campsites that we would have liked to have occupied over the years and I never did learn all the nuances of handling a big 5th-wheel.

I could comfortably drive it on any type of roadway and get it into and out of pull-through campsites and fuel stations but I never backed it into a campsite or did all the hooking up and unhooking myself. That was my fault, not Jim's. He showed me how to do all of it in case there was a time that he couldn't do it.

 
Even in wide back-in sites like this, Jim did the parking. (2016, Kings Bay Sub Base, GA)

The biggest issue we faced was the age of our truck, not the camper. It's a 2008 diesel Dodge Ram 2500 with a ton of miles on it. We had several mechanical problems with it on our trip out West recently and wondered if we'd make it back home without a breakdown of some sort. 

If the truck was totaled or needed a very expensive repair like a new transmission or an engine overhaul, and we still had the Cameo, we would have had an expensive problem because we don't intend to ever buy another big truck like that.  

Sometimes we wish we still had an RV because we're so used to traveling in one. We always had our own kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom with us on the road. We will not fly anywhere (too many hassles) and we don't like staying in hotels or even using rest area restrooms.

 
It was always nice to stop when/where we wanted to go potty, walk the dogs, or get lunch
while in transit from Point A to Point B.   (June, 2015 on the road to Valdez, Alaska)

When we get nostalgic for the camper, like I am as I write this entry and go through old photos, we'll have to try to remember all the stress we were under sometimes and all the reasons we came up with on our way home from the recent trip! 

I foresee getting a smaller, used RV at some point -- something I can maneuver and set up more easily -- maybe in the next recession when lots of people can't afford their 10- or 20-year RV loans or storage fees and have to sell their campers on the cheap, and fewer people are occupying campsites! 

Not that I'm hoping for a recession or wishing people ill will. I'm just sayin'.

Next entry: spring scenes at Callaway Gardens

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, and Holly-Pup

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2019 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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