After the purchase of our 1973 Winnebago Brave, we quickly had the feeling we may have bitten off a bit more than we could chew. The unit was 40 years our senior, needed a ton of mechanical and cosmetic work and let’s not forget we had never even been inside an RV, let alone camped in one before. As the flood of anxiety about the rash decision to hit the road with our family of 6 started to flood my mind, I knew if we just took each day one at a time, we would pull through just fine.
Starting with the major mechanical work first, we replaced everything from the brakes to the alternator and everything in between. In the end, we replaced or repaired everything except the motor. Surprisingly, it was still in good shape and after getting 3 second opinions – it was estimated to last a few more years, at least.
When all the dirty work was done inside the engine, it was time to redo the interior. Brown wooden walls, yellow fixtures, ancient carpet and dated fabrics – just wasn’t our idea of the perfect new home. We knew a lot of work needed to be done, especially if we wanted the kids to love it as much as we did. And at this point, the twins cried every time they went inside and the older girls were less than thrilled that this was the unit we actually purchased.
We kept telling them, this little Winnebago was the coolest motorhome on the market back in its prime. They replied with sassy remarks like, “When was that?” or “Well what happened?” we explained that all it needed was a great new family to give it a little tender love and care. Seeming unsatisfied with the response, with smiles and giggles, they agreed to help paint which at least was one step in the right direction.
After the carpet was torn out, we let the kids paint to their hearts desire. I mean they really had a great time. Mistakes were meaningless, as everything could be fixed or corrected – so they really got into the project and treated it as a blank canvas. Trips to do-it-yourself retailer like Home Depot & craft stores like JoAnne’s, to pick out materials, were now exciting errands that again let them showcase their creativity. They chose chalkboard paint for the front door, white boards for the ceiling and whimsical retro printed fabrics for the seating and sleeping areas.
Making the space both practical and functional, were our top priorities. With a family of 6, in a 21ft. motorhome – we needed to be creative to utilize the space we had available. Side projects like our multipurpose ottoman, came in handy for seating, storage, and schoolwork. Fabric closet organizers were utilized for storage in the closets and on the backs of the doors. Small kitchen gadgets, utensils, clothing and even bathroom essentials could all be organized neatly with this easy system and it worked well to keep clutter to a minimum.
Once the inside was perfect, we slowly moved our belongings inside our new home. Everyone was allowed one cabinet for their clothing and personal items, with the exception of Antwon and I, who also had a small closet to hand up some clothes and jackets. Storage space was quite limited, but we managed to take along everything we needed plus some things we never used, like my favorite juicer and sewing machine. Shoes were one thing we managed to find limitless places to store. At times it seemed ridiculous how many pairs we had. A pair of flip flops, 2 pairs of sneakers, and a pair of boots times 6 people, plus Antwon’s collection of LeBron James basketball shoes, that he couldn’t stand to part with – totaled over 30 pairs of shoes.
When the big day finally came, we packed up the kids, said our goodbyes and pulled out of the driveway heading for Kentucky. The engine was loud, but tugged along strong. Cars passed by, as we drove well below the speed limit. People waved frantically with big smiles and wide eyes reminiscing of childhood memories. Each stop for gas, would bring a new group of locals around the RV to admire, ask to check out the inside and offers to purchase it on sight, with cash in hand. We entertained each with a peek inside our home, which usually led to more questions, but passed on all offers to ‘take her off our hands’. The kids were impressed with their new home. In fact, one day our middle daughter responded, “Yes sir, he’s ours. And before you ask… He’s not for sale!” when the cashier at one gas station asked her if that was her RV outside. The interest in this little metal box – that we transformed with love and care, was both weird and entertaining to them, and they were slowing starting to love it as much as we did.
As we pulled into our first campsite, we were welcomed by the onsite Campground Host and escorted to our site. As everyone unloaded, Antwon proceeded to plug in the motorhome to the 30 amp receptacle only to discover it didn’t fit! In a total panic and almost too ‘manly’ to ask for help, he finally signaled the Host over to ask an embarrassing question. After about two seconds of silence and a puzzled look- he said “It’s got an adapter on it… You’ll need to pull that off.” As we all looked at each other and laughed, we knew this was a moment we would always remember.
After all, this was the start of our life on the road. This was the beginning of our new adventure. We knew there would be many more moments just like this one and we were excited to experience each one! RVing was new to us, and being comfortable enough to admit it showed us how much we had yet to learn and how helpful fellow RVers are.