We woke up Sunday morning (September 28, 2003), had breakfast and called Mrs. Smith. She was as anxious to meet us and show us the motorhome as we were to meet her and see it. There was only one minor snag, however. It wasn't in Round Rock as we had presumed. It was in Georgetown, about six miles farther north. No sweat. We set a specific time to meet her, got an address and directions, then left for breakfast.
We finally realized the opportunity to attach the disembodied voice on the phone to a real live person. Let us tell you, Mrs. Smith may be a retired grade school librarian and a very nice Texas Lady (note the upper case letters) to boot, but she's definitely no "little old lady." Words like "bright,""vivacious," "creative," "spirited," "enterprising," and "buoyant" come to mind. She appreciates the arts and does a little artwork herself. We weren't rude enough to ask her age, but if she's "old," she sure fooled us.
We met at her home where she explained that her stepson (who we shall call "Will" to maintain some level of privacy in their lives) had gone ahead to open the motorhome up, start the generator and air conditioners and generally make sure all was well. We followed her to Georgetown and the parking lot/field where the RV was parked.
(With violins playing in the background...) It was fabulous! Exactly what we'd been hoping for! (Jump to Mug Shots to see what we mean. Then, hit your browser's "BACK" button to return here.)
Both Mrs. Smith and Will spent more than two hours showing off the details of the motorhome, every switch, every door and drawer, every neat little facet of it's construction and operation that they were aware of. The more they showed us, the more we loved it.
Among the most major questions that we had to answer was "How well would this motorhome accommodate Marguerite? Could Marguerite live comfortably and safely in it? Permanently?"
The five steps into our home in Calgary are a major obstacle for Marguerite. Would she even be able to get in and out of the motorhome? The best way to find out is to get her over to it and have her try it. Mrs. Smith and her late husband had already been using a low step stool to help with getting into the coach. She set it up in front of the motorhome's automatic steps and Marguerite tried getting into the motorhome. The first time, she was a trifle inelegant, but she had little or no serious difficulty. While the motorhome's steps were steeper and higher than those at home, there were also more places to hold onto as she moved up. Similarly, getting back out wasn't too much of a challenge either.
Could Marguerite move around inside the motorhome satisfactorily? We had always assumed that she would have the least trouble moving around the living room area and the most trouble passing through the bottleneck and moving around the bath and bedroom. (See the floorplan for a diagram. Use your "BACK" button to return here.) Here is where we had a bit of a surprise.
With the main slide closed, there was ample room to move around if you were able-bodied, but there wasn't enough room for efficient use of the walker that Marguerite needed. At the same time, the various furnishings of the living area were still too distant for her to reach easily to allow convenient movement without the walker. Still, she judged that she could navigate well enough that it wouldn't be a problem.
However, with the main slide closed, once she got to the galley area, everything was close enough to allow an easy grasp of the dinette seats, the table and the galley's counter top for her to stabilize herself and walk freely to the back of the coach. This was exactly the reverse of what we had anticipated! Even when she arrived in the bath/bedroom area, the furnishings were close enough to allow more or less sufficient freedom of movement.
Once we'd opened the main slide there was easily enough room for Marguerite to use her walker to move through the entire front living area including the galley.
The bottleneck, however, as we had feared, was indeed almost too tight. As it stands now, Marguerite has barely a half inch (one-and-a-quarter centimetres) of clearance on each side of her walker as she eases past the sliding door. The biggest problem is that National RV has placed several magnetic slugs in the edge of the door to help it remain closed when someone wants privacy in the bath, and the lowest of these "grabs" her steel walker every time she passes. At the moment it's merely a nuisance but it's sure to become unbearable with time and repeated encounters. We've been discussing various ways of dealing with the problem, from merely removing the lower magnetic slug to cutting a narrow slice off the back of the sliding door (to widen the passage) to removing the door entirely, but haven't decided on a final action yet. The important message is that it's temporarily bearable and holds several promises for a solution.
When the bedroom slide is closed all access is blocked to the drawers and rear cabinets for Marguerite, and Stan even has trouble accessing the rear cabinets. With the bedroom slide open, Marguerite can access the drawers under the wardrobe but still cannot use her walker at the foot of the bed. However, she can sit on the bed and slide left or right to get to the cabinets in the far left corner. Thus, the bedroom is acceptably available to her when necessary.
The bath area is large enough to allow limited manoeuvring with her walker and small enough to allow movement without it, especially after we add several handle holds in strategic positions.
So, the answer is that Marguerite can get along just fine in the Dolphin.
A complication that cropped up with the insurance company while we were in the T-DOT office was that Stan made a peripheral comment about eventually becoming a "fulltime RVer" and living in the USA in the motorhome for an extended period of time. The woman at the insurance company immediately became obsessed with that concept, apparently failing to register the fact that we needed that FAX pronto! We really didn't know if we'd actually cut through the resulting fog completely enough to get the FAX or if this would create an added delay.
"Look. That doesn't matter at the moment because if we don't get that FAX we can't even get the motorhome out of the parking lot! Don't obsess about something that we're going to do two years from now and miss the whole point of this call. We need that FAX, and we need it within about the next hour and a half before either you or the T-DOT closes, or we're going to have to find another insurance company. Can you do it or not? Here's the number you're to FAX the letter to..."
The moral to this story? "Stan, learn to keep your #@$!%# mouth shut!" Tell them only what they want to know. Ignorance is bliss.
The government doesn't like the competition!
Alberta will issue a CDN $20 temporary plate that will allow you to move an unregistered vehicle from only one point to only one other point, and only within a given 24 hour period. Thus, you may need to buy one for each day you're on the road, or an additional one for each stop along the way.
Clearly this is yet another way that Canada's wealthiest province gouges it's tax payers!
Of particular significance is that the lady in the T-DOT was very careful to warn us that only Texas police were bound to honour the temporary plate. The police in other jurisdictions didn't have to and sometimes would pull you over and either write you a ticket or make you get a temporary permit from their jurisdiction before you could move again.
Realistically, however, this seldom happens except in some small backwater jurisdictions that rely on citations and the resulting fines for almost their entire annual operating budget. If you stay on the expressways and don't break any other laws, no one will bother you.
That Monday morning (September 29, 2003) we met Mrs. Smith at her home and from there went to her bank to perform the actual sale/purchase of the motorhome. It was absolutely imperative that we pay her for the motorhome by Tuesday noon at the latest so she could pay off her loan by October 1st or one of us was going to have to swallow a US $1,000+ October loan payment. Neither of us wanted to take that chance so Monday morning was D-day!
What is there to say? The bill of sale was signed and notarized. The cashier's cheque changed hands. Mrs. Smith arranged for the bank to immediately wire the money to the loan company in California. The motorhome was ours! All that remained was...
Ohmigod! We still had to
We'd come a long way, mostly with incredible good luck and flying by the seat of our pants. But, we still had a long way to go, both figuratively and literally.
So now all we could do was sit and wait for the loan company to grind it's slow way through the red tape and eventually courier the title (on which they'd signed off all claim) to Mrs. Smith. Friday morning (October 3, 2003) we called Mrs. Smith and she was elated. The title had arrived! We immediately drove to her home and from there went to a local Texas Department of Transportation (T-DOT) office to effect the title transfer. That's when we hit another speed bump.
The insurance documents that we had brought with us to prove that we had insurance on the motorhome weren't adequate. There simply hadn't been enough time between our buying the insurance and our leaving for Texas for the insurance company to get a formal "pink slip" to us. All we had was an unofficial copy that came as part of the web-based application we'd submitted, a photocopy of that application and a photocopy of the cheque we'd written. As we left Calgary we merely collected all the documentation we could and headed for the airport. What could we do now to make up for the shortcoming?
The lady at the T-DOT agreed that a FAXed letter from our insurance agent stating that we were covered would be adequate. Fortunately, Stan had the agent's phone number and immediately made the call to request such a FAX.
While we were waiting for the FAX we decided to return the rental car rather than just sit there and waste time. When we got back we found that, yes indeed, they did get the letter Faxed to the lady at the T-DOT office in time. We'd dodged another bullet! From there the title transfer went through without a hitch.
Next speed bump: temporary plates. Virtually every state and province in North America has some provision for issuing temporary plates for transporting a formally unregistered vehicle legally. But, each jurisdiction has it's own ideas about what limitations it should impose.
A Texas"One Trip Permit" is valid for fifteen days and you can itemize up to five stops along the route. The cost is a very reasonable US $5.00. We got one.
So now we owned our very own motorhome and, even better, we were legal at least in Texas. The next step in the choreography was to FAX a copy of the notarized Bill of Sale and the clear Title to US Customs at the border so they could make sure that we weren't stealing the motorhome. They needed a minimum of three business days in which to accomplish this and there were reportedly heavy fines for failure to give them that warning. We took care of that at a local UPS store that very afternoon. Then Mrs. Smith delivered us back to our motorhome, bade us goodby and we bedded down with visions of a glorious adventure dancing through our heads.
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This page was initially created on 2004-March-12.
The last revision occurred on 2005-December-19.