“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” ~Dr. Seuss (Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)

You may remember that this whole RV journey began back in 2017. Mr. Wonderful (MW) was planning a 25th anniversary trip for the following year and figuring out how to get me to the last two states I had never travelled in…North Dakota and Hawaii. Really!! For that trip and future use, we bought a 2018 Rockwood Mini Lite 1909S travel trailer in October of 2017. Named Penelope, she was 20′ long hitch to bumper (around 18′ of living length) and perfect for our anniversary journey and future weekend and multi-week trips. Over the next few months, we took her on several outings to get a handle on this RV thing. Oh, and MW officially retired from his job at American Express, so we had our plan.

On 26 September 2018, we headed north from our home in North Carolina on our “Planes, Trains, Automobiles, RVs, and Cruise Ships” trip. (If you’d like details of that journey, including hundreds of pics and how we made both states, start here.) Before the end of the FIRST WEEK, MW was already musing about doing a LOT more of this type of travel. Truth be told, he had probably been thinking about it since our first few outings with Penelope. Having spent many years taking 2-3 week road trips, we both enjoyed not having to lug our stuff in and out every night, sleeping in the same bed, being able to cook if we wanted, and having our own space. We even stopped at a dealership in Minneapolis to see what was out there and took a gander at our first Grand Design. For the next several weeks, along with playing tourist, we talked more and did quite a bit of research on different RV manufacturers. By the time we headed back east, we had Grand Design on the brain and headed to Goshen, Indiana, to see how they were made. After that, it was just a matter of finding the right one. We settled on a Reflection 150 273MK, which was compatible with our Chevrolet 2500 HD, Brutus. After negotiating with a couple of dealerships, we ended up at one not too far from our NC home. We said goodbye to Penelope and hello to Petunia in December of 2018. I know…crazy, right?! So I guess this was plan B. (Below pics are after we painted the dark cabinets and made her ours.)

Now that we had the bigger rig, MW and I talked more about longer trips. I absolutely LOVED our big, 2+ month journey, and he was interested in spending 4, 5, or even 6 months on the next one. I didn’t like the idea of being away from our home back in North Carolina for that long, though. I’ve never worried much about people stealing. It’s all just “stuff”, although it would tick me off for sure. What did bother me, though, was the thought of someone breaking in and squatting or wrecking the place just for fun. Those stories on the news ALWAYS make me so ANGRY!! As 2019 rolled in, MW broached the subject of selling the house and living in the RV full-time for a couple of years to see some more of the country. Is that possible? Can two people really go from sharing 3,000+ square feet to 250 and not kill each other? We decided to give it a shot.. Our builder in Tennessee hopped on barn building, which would give us a place to park and a “home base”, and we spent the next few months prepping the house for sale, getting rid of everything we didn’t want to keep, and making plans to relocate everything else. We had been planning to build a house in Tennessee and move when MW retired, but it was still a BIG change. Greensboro had my five BOOGERS, the kids, and my BFF! (Like everything in life, though, you can’t predict the future. Turned out, after a couple of years, the only one left in Greensboro was the BFF.) In the middle of this flurry of activity, my Dad died unexpectedly. Plans to list the house went on hold as I spent time in Georgia taking care of family stuff. About a month later it was finally listed and the sale closed in 8 weeks. Whew!! Now we were stuck together in close quarters!! If you’re counting, this is the THIRD iteration of our plan.

Fast forward to last fall. Our 2 years living in Petunia had stretched to over 4, and our builder was scheduled to start a house for us in a few months. (Plan IV?) BUT…we still had places to go. We still had Great Adventures to take four of the five Boogers on. (The oldest had his in 2022.) We still enjoyed our time on the road. We hadn’t killed each other…yet! We weren’t quite ready. BUT if we were going to commit to traveling for a few more years, a few changes needed to be made. I needed a spot to stretch out when MW had a particularly loud snoring night. MW needed the weighty kitchen storage to not be across the rear of the trailer behind the tires where it gets slung around like crazy and needs regular shoring up. I needed just a little bit more storage space in the bedroom. I needed more light…especially in winter. After summer in Alaska, we BOTH needed blackout shades! I’m sure that isn’t all of the list, but you get the picture. Our builder was crazy-busy and more than happy to put us on the back burner. Now to take care of the switch to Plan E.

I started searching for a new RV last fall after we made the decision. The goal was the shortest floor plan we could find that accommodated the list of must haves. Turns out that many of the manufacturers make a model that is about 33′ and would work. We narrowed our hunt down to two and ended up, once again, choosing Grand Design. In November we took our last trip in Petunia down to Campers Unlimited in Gadsden, Alabama. There we traded her in on a Grand Design Reflection 303RLS. Her name is Priscilla, and as I write this, I think MW is still infatuated with her. I know I am. A salesman once said that, if you can get 80% of what you are looking for in an RV, you are doing great. There are absolutely a few things we don’t like…tankless water heater, corner shower, lack of map space, steps that fold into the doorway and dump trash inside, and a lack of access to parts of the kitchen and sitting area without putting one of the living room slides out. (On the plus side, there, I have an app on my phone that lets me put them out easily, even from outside.) But all in all, she fits the bill.

Modifications began before we even left the dealership with the installation of a gooseneck Gen-Y hitch. That thing is so smooth we sometimes look back to make sure she is still there. It also gives us the entire truck bed without having to do anything but flip the gooseneck ball over. They also ordered a DVD player for us to install later. (The brochure said it had one, but the actual trailer just had a radio.) We also had them send us an extra towel ring for the bathroom. Back at the barn we made more changes for livability and to add personality and remove some weight.

Additionally we added a spice rack, expanded the trash can cabinet, added a water fountain to further filter drinking water, modified a drawer to accommodate the air fryer oven, added bins to the fridge and freezer to keep stuff in place during transit, added a retractable clothes line over the shower for drying, added a variety of hooks for hanging towels and jackets, made some closet modifications, added a shoe rack on the foot of the bed, changed out the small exhaust fan in the bathroom for a MaxxAir, and installed an electrical management system. Whew!!

One of the big drawbacks to Priscilla is the lack of space for our map. I made it years ago, and we have added information consistently during our travels with the thought of having something to look at later when memories fail. We talked about cutting out the door jamb and reversing the opening direction of the bedroom door, but I was concerned about how it would look. Then, when searching for map options online, I saw an artistic version divided into three sections over a sofa. Perfect, except it didn’t have highways on it. So making a new one became my biggest project before hitting the road again. (Actually, I didn’t quite get it done and spent quite a bit of time the first week or so out finishing the last panel.) I’m REALLY happy with the way it turned out.

Now let’s talk about weight. (NOT mine! That’a a whole other post!!) All vehicles have a curb weight and a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). The former is what it weighs before you put people and stuff in, and the latter is the max weight including everything. Vehicles that can tow also have a max amount they can pull. SIDE STORY: Years ago I rented a 3-cylinder Geo Metro when I was at FAA Supervisory School. One night we loaded me, another woman, and three grown men into that thing to go out to dinner. Honestly, I believe we could have walked faster than that thing moved and am absolutely certain that we were grossly over that vehicles GVWR! Luckily it was flat land in Florida. Penelope was no problem for Brutus, our 2015 Chevrolet 2500 HD. While we had to be careful of what to put in the trailer to not bust the trailer GVWR, she was never going to be too heavy for that truck to handle. When we traded up to Petunia, we also had no issues. She was well within the tow capacity of Brutus, and because the largest part of the interior weight (refrigerator, stove/oven, and pantry items) was behind the trailer wheels, the pin weight (amount that sits in the truck bed and adds to the truck’s GVWR) was relatively low and well within range. Priscilla, however, is a different ballgame. The kitchen weight is over or in front of the tires, increasing the weight in the truck bed. To see where we were, we stopped at the truck scales on the way home after we loaded most of our stuff. Uh oh… we were about 200 lbs under on the trailer’s GVWR and 500 lbs OVER on the truck’s. Not good! We carry a LOT that weekender’s don’t like more food and cooking stuff, a full set of tools, a compressor, a second spare tire, some trailer parts, etc. Taking that stuff out was not an option. We’ve actually used all of it over the years, and you do not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere and need any of it. Additionally, there have been quite a few times when we had to carry a full tank of water, which weighs approximately 450 pounds and would now put us over on the trailer’s GVWR, too. So, as I touched on above, we first looked at ways to reduce weight in the trailer. We replaced the sofa and mattress for much lighter versions, replaced the wooden valances with cloth, added the water fountain with an extra filter so we didn’t have to carry cases of bottled water, replaced our Blackstone with a much lighter weight, 3-burner stove and aluminum griddle top, and a few other things. Then, we changed up another plan and replaced Brutus a year early for a Chevrolet 3500 HD with an 11,700 lb. GVWR and an Allison transmission…Big Jake. With the new setup, we are well within the truck numbers, even after adding the last of our stuff, and Priscilla now has enough room to carry about 300 lbs. of water without busting weight.

Don’t feel sorry for Brutus, though. He got a nice new home with my Daughter-in-Love, Alene. She was having trouble with her van about the same time we were truck shopping and decided she would like driving a giant truck. It’s a little bit like putting a work horse out to pasture. Instead of hauling our heavy butts all over the country for another year, he gets to drive her back and forth to work in the tiny town of Lincolnton, Georgia. Much less taxing! Plus, he has a transmission that is less than a year old, so should live a long and happy life there.

So why is all of this weight stuff important? There are LOTS of people out there towing trailers that don’t give a flying flip about any of their weights. They hook up to their truck, put it in drive, and as long as it rolls, they’re golden. Unless you are also talking about one of those crazy people that tows at 80 mph, that will typically work in the flatlands. HOWEVER, get into the mountains and everything changes. You’ve seen semi trucks slowly climbing a steep grade, right? Even worse than the engine/transmission strain of hauling too much weight up is slowing down too much weight going down! That can quickly become very dangerous for you and anyone around you if your brakes decide they can’t stop the extra. I’ve seen a semi hit one of those runaway truck ramps, and it would not be pleasant. Even worse would be running off of the side of a mountain down a cliff. Now you have my two cents on the importance of towing weights.

Well, that’s enough for now. I’m moving right along, though. Stay tuned for more!


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