It was a bit after 4:00 on a sunny fall day. The service department of the local RV dealer had closed. A small car parked, unnoticed, behind the service center and two figures slipped from the car and made their way furtively through the sales lot slipping between RVs, watching carefully for salesman or other staff. Anyone watching a surveillance camera would probably immediately call the police or send security to the lot. These two shady figures sneaking around the lot were . . . . looking at RV paint schemes. Okay, I admit it! It was us! We did it! But “it” wasn’t much of an offense. The scene of the crime was a local RV dealer where we had had a less-than-stellar sales experience while trying to buy our new motorhome and we wanted to check out a few full body paint designs uninterrupted by pushy sales people. Sometime ago I had relayed our experiences with the RV sales world. At that time, I thought we had found our new motorhome, ordered it, and were done RV shopping. How wrong I was.
Around about early October the call came in that our new GT3 had arrived at the Keystone RV Mega Center in Greencastle, PA. Our awesome sales person, Becca Eyler, texted me a bunch of pictures of our new pride and joy. We excitedly began browsing through them and almost immediately alarm bells sounded. Things were quite different from what we ordered.
The bedroom cabinetry had been rearranged and the giant drawers we loved were gone. The wardrobe was smaller and bedroom TV bigger. Bear in mind, if given our choice we wouldn’t have one TV anywhere in the whole RV so a bigger TV in the bedroom wasn’t an enormous plus for us. The kitchen had changed too with a bigger refrigerator eating up the tremendous counter space and shrinking drawer and kitchen storage by a third. There were other differences too but the biggest problem was that they had installed a loft bed! We specifically ordered a unit because we didn’t want a loft bed and all the dealers seemed to feel that was a necessity. For us it is in the way, designed for children, and is a feature we will never use.
We were crestfallen.
Happily, the good folks at Keystone RV Mega Center realized this was a vastly different product than what we had put our deposit on and let us back out of the deal. Meanwhile, we had gone to the Hershey RV show to browse around. It may seem odd to go to the biggest RV show on the planet after ordering a new RV but with 40 manufacturers and over 1300 units the Hershey show can be a bit overwhelming from a shopping perspective. We went to enjoy the day and check out all things Georgetown as well as shop for accessories. We knew we’d need some new stuff for our Class A. While perusing the Campers Inn Georgetown display two things happened: 1: We greatly disappointed the salesman who was sure he had a sale locked up. 2: We learned about the Georgetown GT5 and both kind of wished we had seen that model before ordering the GT3.
After the disastrous GT3 order we had to seriously question our go-forward strategy. We both love camping and decided we weren’t done with it yet nor did we want to put the money into our little Navion that we felt was needed.
Suddenly, the GT5 we had oggled at Hershey was back in the mix. But now I had serious trust issues with Georgetown. How could we know a newly ordered GT5 would come in any way like we hoped?
Conveniently, I had the contact information for Rob Schwindaman from Forest River who are the makers of Georgetown RV. Rob had reached out to me with one of the engineers to talk through the changes on the GT3. He said to call with questions so I did. We talked extensively about the GT3, the GT5, the come-to-Jesus meeting held at the assembly line after the muffed loft bed installation on our GT3, and life in general. Rob had just come from the product meeting for the GT5 and was ready with a list of planned changes for 2019. He also assured us that the assembly line folks would be paying a lot closer attention to build sheets “or else”.
It is noteworthy that the RV industry isn’t like the car industry in any regard. In the automotive industry, the line is shutdown, retooled, and then started up again with a hard changeover to the new model year. Not so with RVs. Model year changes are eased into production as old supply dwindles, and new supplies and designs are brought to stock. Late model year units tend to be a blend of old and new.
Rob was confident that if we ordered a GT5 it would be done right and without surprises. I was confident I’d touch base with Rob throughout the build process to be sure. We took a deep breath and had Becca place our order for a freshly built GT5 in the 31R5 floor plan. Unlike the GT3, the GT5 had full-body paint as an option. Full-body paint was on my list of things I’d have if we ever did this again . . so full body paint it was. After snooping the local dealer lot we had decided on the Seminole paint scheme.
Meanwhile, since camping season was over, I decided to see if we could sell our Itasca Navion myself. We were going to trade on the GT3 because we would be camping until it arrived but that season was over and there was plenty of time to try to sell. Like cars, you can usually do better selling the old yourself than trading. Ultimately that worked out well and Lil’ Nav found a new home with a nice gentleman from Wisconsin and we pocketed quite a bit more money than the proposed trade value. Win win. I’ll admit that, while I don’t get emotionally attached to “stuff” it was difficult to watch our little camper that we had for 12 seasons drive off into the sunset.
Our order for the GT5 was placed in early November with a predicted arrival time of late January or early February. Of course, that didn’t account for hell freezing over and Forest River having to shutdown manufacturing for a period of time due to extreme cold but hey I didn’t really want a guy trying to assemble a motorhome while wearing mittens either. Deer season and the holidays kept me busy until January. Nonetheless by the middle of February I found myself staring at my phone every day wondering when a text from Becca might appear that our coach had arrived from Indiana.
Georgetown is built in South Bend. I secretly wondered if the delivery driver had to stop somewhere in Pennsylvania to undergo some form of Fighting Irish degaussing.
Suddenly this past Tuesday while in a meeting my phone buzzed with a new text from Becca. The coach arrived! She was actually off but her manager had let her know. (Apparently free from any leprechauns or other Irish paraphernalia.) She said she would send me pictures the next day. I can’t say I wasn’t worried. After the GT3 fiasco I worried about the paint being the correct scheme, the interior decor being different, unexpected and extreme changes, or *gasp* a loft bed!! But when the pictures arrived all was well. In fact, all was better than well. The changes were nearly exactly as Rob had described before we ordered. There were two pleasant surprises evident in the pictures. The drawer space in the kitchen was vastly improved and one drawer in the bedroom that was difficult to access had been changed to a much-better front opening cabinet. The paint job looked beautiful! We were elated!
I checked the weather and texted Becca about a Friday pick-up which, at the time it looked like the best day. It is noteworthy at this point that the Georgetown GT5 is 34′ 11″ in length, 12′ 3.5″ tall and 8′ 4″ wide. This is considerably bigger than our 2007 Navion which was something like 23′ 6″ long, 10′ 9″ high, and 8′ wide. I decided I didn’t really want to add on our tow-behind car on our very first trip with the new wide-body coach so decided to rent a car, stay locally near the dealer in Greencastle Thursday night, and drop the rental car off prior to driving the new rig home.
This plan worked fabulously especially since the @#$$^$% groundhog lied his buck teeth off about an early spring and Mother Nature dumped 3″ of snow on us Thursday night. We’d have been in a world of hurt had we driven in on Friday morning. Due to a major crash, route 81 was closed and all traffic was delayed and detoured. I was confident the roads would be clear and dry by the time we headed for home with the motorhome in the afternoon.
I could probably prattle on for another few pages about the inspection and delivery process. It would be extremely boring except to say it went well. Becca was awesome and knows her stuff including when to admit she doesn’t know and seeking help. The only real problem we found was some loose wooden trim on the front side of the front slide. I suspect it came loose in transit. Larry, the tech from Keystone, reattached it. Time will tell if that fix holds up or we need to to something a little better.
Once we got through inspection, and paperwork, the RV was ours. All that was left was to grab some lunch, return the rental car and make tracks toward Leesport and our heated storage unit. I got behind the wheel and started the Ford V10 engine. Somewhere in Saudi Arabia an oil Sheikh smiled. With Becca’s help, we checked all the lights, got the mirrors adjusted and pulled on to the highway. The engine roared as it made its way through the 6 speed transmission. On route 81, the big RV came up to speed surprisingly quickly. I looked down to see my speed at 75 mph. Whoa! Back ‘er down! I was scared and nervous about driving the big rig . . . for about 2 minutes. As we rolled along I mentally applied the lessons we learned in the driving class we took and realized quickly it was no different than driving our smaller motorhome. It is just a bit longer but with a lot better view out the giant windshield.
Our route home was pretty straightforward and all highway driving with fairly light traffic. We picked up some congestion near Harrisburg and it was a good opportunity to lose some inhibition and drive normally rather than cautiously hanging back in the right lane. It turns out that, so far anyway, there is really no magic about driving the bigger RV. Just be aware of things. Especially be aware that the brake pedal sticks out a bit close to the accelerator and it is possible, if one wears a size 11 shoe, to accidentally press the brake while trying to accelerate to pass a truck. *Ahem*. Otherwise we made it back to Leesport without incident.
As hoped the roads had been clean and mostly dry by the time we travelled but we still picked up a bit of salt residue. (Where is all the rain when you need it?) We did what any normal person would do. We washed a 35′ RV by hand in the middle of winter. Thank goodness for heated steering wheels for the ride home.
At this point, our new vacation-home-on-wheels is tucked safely in a heated storage bay waiting for us to load up our RV possessions that are piled in the bay with it. We also have some shopping to do for new RV-specific accessories. Despite the pending strike of the latest “Storm of the Century” camping season will be here soon so we won’t be wasting time. There is also a bunch of documentation to read, sort, and file away.
Many have asked about our first trip. Most likely we will probably stay close to home to learn the systems and do a bit of a shakedown cruise. An alternative may be to venture a bit further and head West toward Punxsutawney. I always wanted to do a little groundhog hunting . . .
Note: If you are in the market for any sort of RV be it a travel trailer, 5th wheel, motorhome, or expandable reach out to Rebecca Eyler at Keystone RV Mega Center in Greencastle, Pa. They are a top notch, honest dealer and will help you find the camping rig to fit your needs at a reasonable price.