The decision to upgrade our RV was easy, the details were not. My old “cabover” truck camper only had two beds, the dinette, and the canopy. That meant that it could sleep 4, with 2 per bed. Unfortunately, I have a family of 5-6 (depending on the weekend) and they’re not getting any smaller. While supplementing with a tent is an option, I really want to camp in the cooler spring & fall months when pre-teens will really protest. Therefore, an upgrade was in order. Here were my criteria:
- Short & Light (ish): I want to take it in the woods, and not need a turbo diesel
- No Slides: Many are NOT designed to be usable when closed. I want to pull into a rest area or driveway, hop in back, and have a meal. Besides, slides are known to break down, leak, cause structural issues, etc. For me, the space & weight aren’t worth it.
- 4+ beds: Girls can share, grown-ups don’t, and room for a teen
- <$20,000: It needed to be loan-able ($5,000+, not too old) but I didn’t want to spend a lot
- Self-Contained: A bathroom for the girls to potty, and me to shower on long outings.
- Extras: Sales tax, location, amenities, warranty, interest rate, etc. all played a role
Apparently, the term ‘bunkhouse’ is a common feature or style of travel trailer, which applies to any model with a bunk bed. These are a lot harder to find on the used market, but I did find a nice 10-year old model for $8,000. (And a few worse ones too.) If trailers are a 20-year asset, that’s $800 per year of life. If I got a brand new one, that’s the equivalent budget of $16,000 for 20 years. Considering the interest would be higher on an older model, a new model was even more attractive, so that’s the route I went.
I started with the Coleman Lantern series, made by Dutchmen. Birdy and I had toured the 17FQWE at the Idaho Outdoorsman Show earlier in March, and were surprised at the sale price of <$12,000. Apparently, many others were too, because there were only 3 left in a 500-mile radius by the time we decided to get serious. This, and other light-weight models (like the Jayco) suffered from the lack of a few features. Mini-fridges, 2-burner top instead of oven, smaller tanks, smaller furnace, etc. The next level of models ranged in the $18-$24k price point, but improved on these features and more.
Broadening my horizons, I found a dealer offering some models in this range for substantially less. They claimed to focus on customer service, and included a ‘Road-Ready’ package with every purchase. This had all those basic things that aren’t included like water/sewer hose, AC adapter, battery, filling the propane tanks, etc. Nelson’s RVs in Caldwell, Idaho lived up to their claims, and sold me a Keystone Hideout 19FLBWE for about $14,000. They had it road-ready before I got there (or committed) and installed the brake controller and special hitch for me. These and a second deep cycle battery were all financed into the package at 4.75% (with my credit).
We drove down in the morning, confirmed that we liked the unit, and started the process. With the online application, paperwork took no time at all. Most of the time was spent with their technician showing me how everything works. I inspected every window seal, AC plug, appliance, etc. and had all my questions answered. I even discovered features that weren’t mentioned, like the outdoor LP hookup for an exterior grill!
We pulled out of the parking lot, and headed to the Wahooz Family Fun Zone. I always see the water slides as I drive by on the interstate, but never stopped to have fun. Birdy wanted to have fun with the kids, and this had it in spades. Sure, it could get pricey (depending on your approach) but there was more to do than we had time for. We had a pizza, and MrCheeze and Princess got two attractions and arcade, while LilPill and I played in the “Kiddie Korner.”
Princess went on a 3-story climbing thing. It was a hex or octagon with all manner of catwalks, ropes, and other challenging ways to traverse it. They had harnesses, referees, and a neat orchestrated light system. Then she took a ride on their indoor scrambler ride. MrCheeze played laser tag with Birdy, then they all expended their cards on video games. I was impressed multiple times by the amount of staffing, cleanliness, and customer service. This place is well-managed, the security guy was even carrying a AED in his backpack full-time!
We stayed up way past bed time, and went across the street to “boondock” in the Walmart parking lot. This was our chance to run the heater on batteries all night, and see how it holds up. A fierce wind blew in that night, raining and making for rough conditions. I was grateful for the shelter of the new trailer.
A breakfast of cereal greeted our day. The plan was to discover any ‘little things’ and have time to get them addressed immediately. Fortunately, their in-house inspection did the trick, and nothing needed attention. (The technician said he secured some pipes that he found rattled loudly during the inspection.) We hit the road, hoping the truck would behave with the new load on the hills to come.
Pushing wind the whole way, progress was tough, and mileage awful, but we arrived at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center without overheating! (I may cover the solution in another post.) Here, we hopped in back for a picnic lunch with a view.
Inside were the typical exhibits about life on the trail, the hardship, the path taken, etc. There was taxidermy of livestock & wildlife, as well as wax figures depicting cowboys, indians, & pioneers. Multimedia exhibits offered narratives of ‘life on the trail’ while hands-on displays let kids try to pack a wagon with ‘the essentials.’
In addition to Oregon Trail history, they had information on the gold mine and methods used at that site. The museum is co-located with a preserved stamp-mill and lode mine. We checked out the moving model inside, then walked down to the real thing! The museum also covers other facets of early colonization such as trapping, forts, and trading.
Being Spring Break, we were in luck to find several other activities were going on. We got to make beeswax candles, and feel some pelts. However, we didn’t have time for the full-size wagon packing, movies, or rag-doll making activities. We grabbed our souvenir magnet from the gift shop and hit the road. We stopped briefly at the bottom, of the hill, so the kids to go stand on the real Oregon Trail first, then went straight home.
Do check out the gallery for more great pictures, and feel free to comment any questions you may have about these great attractions.