Apr 17, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

2014-04-1 HomeIf I hadn’t said it, yet, we’re back home. The good news is that our VW-Winnebago made the whole drive without any major catastrophes. We did have a minor catastrophe, a rear tire blow-out just out of Des Moines, but the transmission (no thanks to Volkswagen’s “service”) and major driveline bits all got us 2,000 miles home. We’re still assessing what we’ve learned from our Winter 2013-2014 experience.

2014-03-31 IA (2)The tire event was an adventure in itself. If you look at the picture (left) of the shredded tire, you’ll notice the entire tread vanished. It came off in one heavy, fast-moving piece, bouncing into the middle of the 3-lane traffic behind us. It was a Monday, on a slightly cool day, so none of the usual Iowa motorcycle suspects were on the road. Lucky for them. Anyone tailgating us would have been clobbered. Anyone unable to make an emergency avoidance maneuver would have been hit, too. When the tire popped, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw what looked like a whole tire bouncing down the road.

2014-04-01 Back home (3)A day after we got home, it snowed. Wet, heavy shit that took 3 hours to clear from the driveway, paths, and porches. Two days after that, I got started on the reason we came back in April; my income taxes. Six days later, taxes are done and I started tearing apart my “office” for remodeling. I’m still on that task. If we luck out, winter will eventually turn into spring (it snowed last night, so I’m only holding out a little hope for summer).

2014-02-22 CoR (17)Over the 8.500 miles we’ve owned the Winnebago Rialta, we averaged 18.08mpg at 55-70mph highway speeds and a whole lot of local driving in New Mexico. Not bad. If we sell it for about what we paid for it, our total cost-per-mile will amount to about $0.65. Not great, but that includes a whole lot of camper improvements, all of the stuff I did to the driveline before we left, new tires, and the cost of repairs on the road. It’s possible that the next 50,000 miles could be event-free. My wife is telling everyone who asks “Never make your transportation your home. The two should always be separate.” Not a great sales pitch, but I think it is one of the lessons we’re going to take away from our experience. The Rialta is for sale, or will be when we finish cleaning it up to sell. The snow will have to melt and I need to finish with the office remodeling before that begins.

2014-04-01 Back home (7)The bicycles and the WR took a beating this winter, including getting buried in ice and suffering mesquite, goatheads, cactus, and other assorted pointy or abrasive New Mexico obstacles. I have not taken Elvy’s bike or the WR down from the trailer and won’t until I have time to do serious maintenance. The bicycle is fine, but she has no inclination to ride it until the weather is spring-like. The WR’s tires are shot, the chain flops as freely sideways as it does in the direction it was designed to move, the sprockets are spiked, and the bike needs a general clean up and inspection. It’s a dirt bike, so all of that is “normal.”

2014-04-01 Back home (8)So, the V-Strom officially has more miles on it in April of 2014 than it got in all of 2013, which isn’t saying much. I rode the V-Strom exactly 76 2013 miles. Embarrassing, but the WR was my go-to bike all last summer and, obviously, our primary local transportation this winter. A brand new battery, which had been sitting empty and uncharged all winter, in the V-Strom and two bumps on the starter and off we went for a couple of local rides last week. I do love fuel injection. It’s a fine motorcycle and the only reason it didn’t get ridden last summer was that I didn’t go anywhere having spent the whole freakin’ summer getting the RV ready to travel. Talk about wasted effort.


  1. The snow must have been your welcome home present.

    Does it feel good to be home - snow and all?

  2. Sort of. I'm not that fond of remodeling old houses and that's what I've been doing since finishing off the 2013 taxes. I need a break. I miss New Mexico, too.

  3. Thank you for posting your Rialta experiences. When they first came out, they looked ideal and, in fact, I had looked into picking one up. Since then, the benefits of a separating the vehicle and the lodging seemed more important than the convenience of an all-in-one unit. Of course one of the conveniences is the ability to tow a small trailer with other conveyances...

  4. Welcome home! Reading about your journey was something I looked forward to everyday! Thanks for all the effort and time it required.

    Would you ever consider moving to New Mexico? Now that I'm retired, my wife and are are considering leaving California and relocating to New Mexico.

  5. We traveled in a 1985 Vanagon Westy for 15 years. It never left us by the side of the road. However, being a bit of a mechanic (I restore Split Window VW buses as a hobby) I always carried a cabinet full of spare parts. The older the Westy, and myself, got the little voice way back in my head that said: "if I break down and can't fix it myself, who will?", got louder every year.

    Then, in 2012, I purchased my first ever brand new pickup, a Tacoma. I then I realized I now had, in comparison, a 100 percent (hopefully) reliable vehicle. OK, how can the Taco become an RV?

    It became an RV hauler, as we chose to tow a 13' Scamp trailer. A plus is that the Scamp is made right here in Minnesota in the small town of Backus, north of Brainerd, since 1971. One really nice thing about the Scamp, is that there are many options to choose from to get it built the way want it to be set up.

    With this set up, we learned of the pluses of being able to leave your abode at the campground while you journey elsewhere in the truck, as your wife Tom has wisely advised. Granted, the 13' is not necessarily meant for long term occupancy by a couple, but for a week or two on the road it fit's the bill for us.

    The Rialta is sized just right for a small RV, and I often considered buying one. I lurked the Rialta sites for many years, to conclude, after buying the Scamp, no thanks.

  6. Randy, I would absolutely consider certain parts of New Mexico as a retirement location. The lack of medical care facilities is a deal, but not a deal-breaker. You've probably noticed I'm pretty willing to let nature's chips lie where they fall. We really liked TorC and are still looking at buying property there. Silver City is a more upscale, California-like community if the "old hippy" atmosphere of TorC isn't for you.

    Fred, wise choice. The Scamp/Casita camper is a cool choice, especially for short (1-2 week) trips. We met a guy in Elephant Butte who lives full time in his 13' Casita, but he was convinced it was a 1-person home. I concur. There are a bunch of lightweight 15-20' campers available that a 4L 6-cylinder small truck can pull. For me, it will be manual transmission or nothing from here out, though. Modern automatics are too complicated, fragile, and electronic to be reliably serviced on the road. Ford and Toyota have fairly good service organizations, too. VW does not. Nissan is between those groups. I can fix a lot of busted stuff, but not so much when the manufacturer doesn't provide service parts or reliable service information and never when I have to lie on frozen ground to do the work. I'm too old for that shit.

    Richard, there are a lot of good things about the Rialta idea. Too bad nobody else has tried it in the US with something more practical for the driveline. We loved living in our Rialta, but driving it was a tense experience with all the "what if it breaks" worries. In the end, my wife decided she really likes driving the thing. That was a monster plus. I hate driving anything. The 18mph average over 8,500 miles was pretty cool, too. Our best tank was nearly 21mpg and the worst all in-town was 15mpg.


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