Uh? Really?

We are getting black and blue from pinching each other, asking ourselves “did we really do this?” We have been spending the last year looking at ways to downsize, looking for class B camper vans, understanding the van life and generally just keeping an eye out for the right unit. We have looked at numerous different manufacturers, drove out of our way for hours to check out a single van and have made many offers on what seemed like “just the right fit” for us. Well, that has now all went out the window. Tossed aside a year of researching and thinking about downsizing with a big bang. Ripped off the bandaid and went bigger than what we had! We procured a 2008 NewMar Kountry Star 3916 class “A” motorhome, a 39-foot diesel pusher.

Our “new to us” 2008 Newmar Kountry Star 3916 diesel pusher class “A” motorhome
2008 Newmar Kountry Star 3916 Floorplan

Back in December 2018, we made a day to visit the plentiful dealers in our area to check out Class A units in our area. Class “A” units are motorized motorhomes, usually larger and on a power-train/frame like a coach passenger bus might have under it. They can be both either a “diesel pusher” with the engine in the back (sometimes rarely in the middle) or a “gas puller” with the engine in the front. Each with their pluses and minuses, with the diesel having much more power and thus capacity. A class “B” is on a van chassis, like a Mercedes Sprint or a RAM Promaster chassis, can be either gas or diesel engines, vary in lengths from 20 to 23 feet and rarely are 4×4 optioned.

This rig checked off many of our “self-sufficient” check list items thanks to the previous two owners that kept it like in great shape and made some excellent upgrades.

  • Tires were in great shape and replaced recently.
  • All six of the batteries (two chassis and four coach batteries) were recently replaced and a water maintenance kit was installed.
  • A larger and more advanced inverter/charger that was rewired to cover more circuits in 2014, most of the outlets in the coach are on the inverter. This was perfect for Jason’s office equipment and will eliminate the need for a UPS.
  • New convection/microwave and television updates in 2016.
  • The most recent owner was also a ham radio operator and left a number of antennas that Jason still needs to figure out how we may utilize those.
  • An 8,000-watt diesel generator with an added wireless starter (including temperature, time of day, low battery top off etc.)
  • Over 100 gallons of fresh water, 35 gallons of LP gas (for the refrigerator and the stove only) and an added macerator pump for the wastewater.
  • Upgraded Pioneer XM Radio with NAV and Android Auto for driving.
  • Added Good Sam GPS navigation system with 8″ display.
  • Upgraded Fanstastic fans in the bathroom and the kitchen.
  • Upgraded with a grab bar in the shower to prevent falling.
  • Upgraded color LCD video camera system with two cameras in the rear, integrated with turn signals for blind spot coverage left and right.

We found this gem just down the street from our current location is Independence RV in Winter Garden, Florida. Dan E was a great salesman, listening to our needs, not interfering with our own conversations and did not rebut our negative comments about a rig with some stupid sales spin on each con. He actually listened to those positive and negative comments on the three or so rigs we looked at before suggesting the NewMar to us. It was really outside of our comfort zone and was not even on our watch list.

The process of procuring financing on an RV, especially of this size and value, can be difficult for full-timers. Independence RV was also willing to work with Essex Credit (a division of West Bank) that lends to full-time RVers. We used a link from the KOA website that gave us a discount that basically equaled the closing costs. We were very happy with the Essex process, with only a minor exception of timing for the paper to actually get from the West coast to the East coast in time for our signing. We were delayed a few days while we waited for it show up here. Independence RV has been amazing to work within sales, delivery, and financing. (We are not being paid by any of these companies to endorse them.)

The chairs are stored now in our “basement” and Jason is converting this space into his office area.

We had some pre-delivery checklist issues with the motorhome at pickup time, but the dealer put everyone onto resolving the problems right away. The windshield had a minor chip and a larger spidered chip in it. That was something we did not expect to be dealt with because we knew about it at the time of sale and they were “fixed” already. Our rig was on consignment through them and they made sure the owner had it repaired using their insurance, which was done at our campsite the next day after we picked it up. When we left the lot with it there was only one thing on the “we owe you” you list, a replacement spring on the front window’s MCD shade. Based on our experience, we would highly recommend Independence RV to anyone interested in a motorhome purchase.

The slides are in on the Kountry Star and still very functional, blocking only a few dresser drawers in the bedroom when closed.

Well, we have changed from our vehicle towing our house to our house towing our vehicle. This really means we no longer need the truck but something smaller to be pulled behind the motorhome for daily driving and exploring. This kicked off the process to try to find our “toad” (a/k/a towed behind) for the motorhome. We had some pressure to do this quickly because of the tight turn around left in our schedule here in Florida. We had to find something quick so we could get on the list to get the tow package setup on it.

Motorhome magazine maintains a comprehensive year by year list of what vehicles can be towed by a motorhome and whether it is “dolly” or full-trailer requirements, or in our minds most desired “four-down” method. Four-down is when you can “flat-tow” the vehicle without any additional trailer or equipment, all four of the vehicle’s tires are flat on the ground rolling along. It requires installing a tow “plate” on the front of the vehicle which connects then to the hitch of the motorhome. You also need some sort of supplemental braking system on the “toad” in all but two states in the US. The Spartan chassis of our motorhome was already equipped with the M&G Engineering air brake system that interfaces with the air brakes of the motorhome.

2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Background

To utilize the existing brake system, and to minimize the efforts of hooking up for travel, we set out to find a 2015-2017 Jeep Wrangler. These are favorited by motorhome owners because of their simplicity to towing them. All you do is hook up the tow system, throw the 4×4 transfer case into neutral and then put the vehicle in “park” before towing it. Some vehicles have pages and pages of instructions to tow them or require special pumps to run fluids while you drive. Some also require a dolly to get the front wheels off the ground or worse a full trailer to get all the wheels off ground. More and more research went into then the internet to find what we needed. We just happened across what we needed at the Jeep dealer a mile down the road who took it in the day before. We had not even seen it yet on the Internet that morning. So now we are the proud owners of a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Backcountry, trading in the 2015 RAM 3500 truck.

Jason, Barb and daughter Allie in front of the new coach, chipper and before we started the hours of moving from the trailer over to the coach.

Allie was with us too, visiting her mom and dad while avoiding the great polar vortex of 2019. Her help moving into the new rig was great, also she got to be part of that experience with us. Moving from a trailer to a motorhome is a lot of work, much more than we anticipated. We have much more stuff than we thought we had, it took hours to transfer from the trailer over to the motorhome while parked in the dealer’s lot. Independence RV does allow new owners to stay in their lot overnight during the transition, with full hookups! We wanted to get back down the road to our spot and we made that happen. We had boxes and boxes to unpack the following week. Should we decide to ever transition to a class B, we will make sure we can get everything packed in about 2 large storage tubs.

After living now in the motorhome for almost a week, we are indeed very happy with our decision. There are still boxes to unpacked and the stuff stowed, new systems to be figured out, learning how to drive an air-brake diesel pusher and preparation to leave from Florida soon. Now that we have acquired the two big pieces of this new puzzle, we need them to work together in concert. Over the next four weeks that we remain in Florida, we still need to get the Jeep fitted with the Blue Ox towing package and the M&G Engineering brake controller. Then we need to do some test driving, get weighed again with the Escapees Smart Weigh and prepare to head North!


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