Best Laid Plans

MCD writer Jill Malcolm often shares the trials and tribulations of other RV owners. This month, she encounters a doozy of her own.

One thing I know for sure is that when you start something you never know where it’s going to end. This is true for everyone, but it is particularly true for RV owners. We get used to it. Travelling or living in a motorhome or caravan can mean you are never quite sure what is going to happen or where you are going to be next.  Here follows a tale with a twist that Bill and I could never have envisaged. 

In February this year, we sold our Geist caravan and bought a new-to-us Coastal motorhome. We were very pleased. It was exactly what we’d had in mind, but we’d always been a fan of the way Coastal motorhomes are built. Budget constraints meant we never thought we’d own one. It was an early model and lacked the chic interiors of the more modern ones but we bought it because it was within our price range, the layout ticked most of the boxes, and it was roomy and functional. It also had personality and we grew to love its comfortable retro interior. 

So off we went on our inaugural journey, down into the depths of rural Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu. Apart from a noisy engine and road noise, which required us to shout at each other, and the fact that it was manual so I didn’t feel comfortable driving it, we were overjoyed with our purchase and congratulated ourselves almost every day about how clever we had been. Pride before a fall!

At home again, Bill backed the Coastal down our steep driveway. We unpacked and then he manoeuvred the vehicle forward into its position on the purpose-built concrete pad at the side of the drive. It was a tight fit but one he had done a hundred times with bigger RVs than the Coastal, and every time I’d felt a twinge of pride that my man was so adept. 

Our neighbours had just finished building a glamorous new boundary fence and Bill, not wishing to damage neighbourhood harmony,  left the driver’s seat and moved to look out the window and make sure he was not too close. To his surprise, he saw that the fence was moving… only it wasn’t. Bill had failed to put the handbrake on properly, and next minute, three and a half tonnes of motorhome came barrelling backwards down the drive, crashing into the garage and spraying glass-like confetti all over the car therein. 

This was not a cheerful sight
This was not a cheerful sight

It was one of those moments when everything suddenly goes into slow motion. The noise brought out the whole ‘hood. I’d been inside the house and rushed out to see, not the fearful dent in the motorhome, nor the crumpled garage walls, nor the car’s paint measled by shards of glass but to my enormous relief, the vision of my ‘adept’ husband unharmed and rising up like the Phoenix from the floor of the motorhome.  

Over the next few months, we dealt with three different insurance companies with less hassle than I had feared. The car was re-painted, the damage to the house and garage repaired, but the Coastal, our pride and joy, was written off.

Flourish book extract

Well-meaning friends began muttering that the universe was trying to tell us something. “You’re not so young anymore (as if we didn’t know). “Haven’t you done enough?”  They didn’t get it.  We’re addicted. As long as we breathe we’ll have an RV. We began looking for a replacement even before the insurance company paid us out and had in mind to try and find something similar to the Coastal. But, thanks to Covid, all hell had broken loose in the  RV industry and there wasn’t a lot to choose from.  

The Coastal's aluminium construction caused more of a problem
The Coastal’s aluminium construction caused more of a problem for renovation than fibreglass would have

Close to where we live, Bill spotted two likely-looking motorhomes in someone’s backyard and rightly surmised that one of them might be for sale.  The KEA Beach Rest was comfortable, roomy and well looked after. It wasn’t a great beauty but apart from a high mileage, it ticked all our gotta-have boxes. We took it for a spin, made sure it fitted in our driveway and parking area and in our minds we had all but bought it. As a precaution we had the motor checked. A couple of smallish faults came up and while we were waiting for these to be resolved, Bill spotted online a likely looking motorhome of similar proportions for sale at the RV Super Centre. 

“Might as well have a look while we’re waiting.” he said.  But two minutes of viewing and we knew it wasn’t the one. “While we’re here, why don’t you have quick gander at that Nomad van over there?” Bill said. “Not interested,” I said, “the last van we had (a Fiat Ducato) was a disaster.” 

“I don’t mean to buy it, just have a look  out of curiosity,” he insisted. One hour later we’d put down a deposit. The Nomad was nothing like the motorhome we’d set out to buy. But sometime during the hour we were poking around it, a penny dropped.  It was not only better suited to the way we intended touring but a lot easier to drive and park than either the dearly departed Coastal or the motorhome we’d thought we wanted as its replacement. Basically it had all we needed although not necessarily all we wanted. But it would be the seventh RV we have owned and we knew what we could live with and what we couldn’t. 

Self service handover at the Kea RV Super Centre
Self service handover at the Kea RV Super Centre

The Kea Nomad M 700 was on Mercedes Sprinter, a practical, no-frills comfortable van conversion and an ex-rental with not too many miles on the clock. It was immaculately presented – as good as new.  It had swivel front seats and a good-sized rear lounge that converts to a king-size bed and a dinette that can be converted to a small extra bed. It came with a solar panel, diesel heater, water tanks and a slide-out barbeque. 

Sure, there were compromises because of its smaller size but we have travelled in many different motorhomes and knew we could comfortably accommodate them. Drop the soap in the combination bathroom, for instance, and it would be impossible to pick it up. It has no cabinets and the basin tucked into one corner is ridiculously small but with a routine and a bit of logistical thinking, it is quite feasible to get around these shortcomings. 

General storage is less than we’re used to. We’ll adapt. I’m a messy cook and the bench space is limited. Bill will add a flap on one end and take out the microwave and I’ll be keeping meals simple. We’re going to add another solar panel and attach an awning. We’ll remove the safe in one of the underbed lockers to increase the storage. We don’t have bikes so we’ll work out a way of fixing our folding chairs outside of the van. Adding our own touches and making everything work will be a big part of the excitement. 

As I’ve said, you never know how things are going to turn out. On the very day of the Nomad’s intended delivery, Delta forced us into lockdown. Where there’s a will there’s a way and although it’s going nowhere, the Nomad is finally home. Lateral thinking on the part of sales consultant, Tom Harkins, enabled a contactless collection, so In a brisk breeze, we signed the papers, left the company’s copies on the table in a folder, unplugged the extension cord, rang Tom and, resisting the temptation of a celebratory wine, drove the Nomad home in triumph. In the humdrum days of lockdown it was as exciting as a trip to Paris. 

Looking for motorhomes or caravans for sale in NZ? Browse our latest listings here

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