LIVING THE DREAM, Part 17: “Wildcat v. Dutch Star — Running Neck and Neck”

May 22

Appalachian Campground

Hiawassee, GA.

I can’t believe it has already been over a week since we arrived at the campground! Time has flown since we set down camp and restored order by putting things back in their proper places. Since we moved out of and traded in our 2011 Forest River Wildcat for a 1999 Newmar Dutch Star motorhome, people have asked us how we like our Class A. I tell them that the advantage of living in a motorhome is not having  to hitch it up to something before we can transport it from Point A to Point B. And because it’s a Newmar Dutch Star, a brand most respected for its quality, even an old one is homey.

Still, even though we love our Class A, we have noticed a vast difference between it and our Wildcat in terms of space, storage, layout, and number of slides. To follow is a comparison and contrast of the two units.

First, the Wildcat was 34.8’ long while the Dutch Star is 35’. Now that might seem like a lot of room but, inside the motorhome, we don’t feel the extra space, as the cockpit (where the driver’s seat is), takes up about a foot or so of that space. The Wildcat seemed longer, and the living/kitchen areas, more distinct. Because the bathroom and bedroom were part of the loft area in the Wildcat, it seemed that we had more room.

Second, we discovered quite a difference in the amount of storage in both units. In the Wildcat, there were cabinets everywhere — and I do mean everywhere! Yet, we managed to fill every one of them within the year we had it. My favorite was the pantry with four wire baskets for different kinds of groceries. What a shock, though, when we found out that only a single, narrow cabinet was all the pantry our Dutch Star offered. Our solution to that problem was to purchase a six-basket rolling pantry with a cutting board on top at Wal-Mart. It was relatively cheap, around $60, and easy to put together, but even that doesn’t hold all of our food. That’s where the drawers in the dinette do double duty.

Two mirrored closets hold our clothes. Jeff’s side has drawers below that we share for our socks, underwear, etc. As far as space, the closets in the Dutch Star are slightly better than our Wildcat because they have rods for hanging our clothing. The Wildcat had holes for the hangers.

In the Dutch Star bedroom, each of us has a drawer and a cabinet on our side of the bed. Whereas the Wildcat had a slide in the bedroom, the Dutch Star does not. It is as though the person who designed the layout, measured the bedroom with barely enough margin on each side of the bed for us to get in, but as cramped as it is, the Wildcat space was even smaller. On the plus side, the Wildcat provided a vanity with drawers as well as a place for me to put on make-up. Because the bedroom was in the loft area, it was extra cozy, like our own little hideaway at night.

Also, the bathroom in the Wildcat was roomier, versus the one in the Dutch Star which is like a postage stamp with a sink and a shower. The shower in the Wildcat at least had shelves for our shower gel and shampoos, whereas the same area in the Dutch Star offered little in the way of shower storage. Although we bought some plastic shelves, hooks, and other fixtures, bath/shower in the Dutch Star requires me to step over a high ledge. As a “workaround”, I have a stool which can be folded and tucked away when I’m safely out. On the plus side, the Dutch Star does have a toilet-paper dispenser and a rack inside and out for hanging towels. In the Wildcat, we had to set the roll on the edge of the vanity.

The outside storage in the Wildcat seemed to be a little less than in the Dutch Star which reminds me of a Greyhound’s luggage bins on both sides.

Although she’s more cramped than we expected her to be, once we moved in our stuff, Dutchie is still comfortable, if not terminally bland. But, although the living area looks as if someone vomited beige all over the couch and the dinette booth, that is fixable, too, with colorful pillows, rugs, wall-hangings, etc. On our way to Georgia, we stopped at a Greenville, Alabama Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries. Before we headed to the check-out stand, we detoured through home furnishings where I snatched up a red pillow to spice up the motorhome’s vanilla-custard color scheme. More improvements will come but, for now, it’s good enough for this redhead.

Living in an RV is a “live and learn” experience at best and worst. As a newbie RVer, I chose our Wildcat based on the brick accents, fireplace in the living room, and overall liveability.  We made happy memories as we snuggled in our cozy loft bedroom, every night. But only after we decided to buy the Dutch Star for its mobility and  traded in the Wildcat did we find out about the mold that lurked in the fifth-wheel when I found my stack of LPs wet and moldy upon removing them from an area that should have been dry. Now that we have traded it in at Evergreen, the Wildcat will be cleaned up and repaired for a prospective owner to walk into it, like I did, sink into a recliner, and say, “This is the one.”

So, to anyone who asks us which one of our units we like better? That’s like forcing a mother to choose her favorite child. Truth is, we built good memories of our fifth-wheel and we expect to enjoy our motorhome.

Next, Part 18 of “LIVING THE DREAM”. Living in a home on wheels provides grist for a lot of story ideas. As a suspense writer, I can cook up all kinds of stories, some of them pret-ty grisly. So stay tuned!


LIVING THE DREAM, Part 16: New Home, New Inspiration”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hiawassee, GA.

We have completed our first week as “workampers” (camp hosts) at Appalachian Campground and are now plowing into Week Two, our most demanding week, yet, with Memorial Day up ahead. Many have called to reserve spaces at our campground. Still, we are glad we are here. Although we received offers from camps in Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, and both ends of South Dakota, we chose Georgia, as neither one of us had ever been there. As it turned out for two newbie camp hosts, we could not have asked for more breathtaking scenery!

We arrived in Georgia on our third day of travel, just as Jeff predicted. After maneuvering dark, curvy, shoulderless, mountainous roads and winding up, down, and round and round after midnight on Friday, we stumbled across our destination. We had planned to find a park and and turn in early, but, after navigating dark streets with poorly-marked signs in a city and state we were not familiar with, we turned right into the first campground we found, only to discover that — BOOM!—we had reached our destination. Eyelids drooping, we hurried through water, electricity, and sewage hook-ups before tumbling into bed.

Now that our camp-hosting job is underway, we’re answering calls on the park phone, taking reservations and collecting money. We’re also mowing, cleaning the cabins and restrooms, and greeting campers in tents, RVs, and cabins. Although Jeff does most of it, including the mowing, I expect to fill in with anything else that needs doing.

Appalachian Campground is peaceful and primitive. Note the key word: primitive. Although the Bearbottom Bathhouse is equipped with flush toilets and showers in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, campers must bring their own shower caps, shampoo, and conditioner, and anything else they need.

A washer and dryer are available outside the bathhouse for $1.50 per load.

Like the rest of the park, cabins ‘Nappin’ House’ and ‘Hemlock Haven’ are likewise primitive.  ‘Nappin’ House’, as its name implies, has only a bed, a small refrigerator, and a television that plays DVDs only. This smaller cabin is meant to sleep two people. It does not have a toilet, but the Bearbottom Bathhouse is nearby. Bringing a flashlight for those nighttime nature calls is essential, as Appalachian Campground has no street lights.

‘Hemlock Haven’, a larger cabin that provides not only a queen-sized bed but also a loft for adventurous extra guests and, especially children. Meant to sleep four to six people, the ‘Hemlock’ is the only one of the two cabins equipped with a toilet, sink, and shower.

In keeping with the campground’s rustic flavor, neither cabin has a kitchenette nor a coffee maker. Guests are encouraged to bring their own instant coffee and snacks. In other words, the only coffeemakers in these cabins are the guests, themselves.

When Jeff and I first looked inside these cabins, I saw an author’s retreat waiting to happen.  Both cabins feature porches with rocking chairs and barbecue grills that overlook the gurgling headwaters of the Hiawassee River.

Living in this new surrounding stimulates my writer juices. I can hardly wait to bring my Mac Airbook home from the ‘hospital’ — Mountain Mac in Hayesville, North Carolina — attack my current work-in-progress with renewed vigor as well as newer works with a new zest.

Eager for more information? Click on the links for Appalachian Campground, Workamping News, and Mountain Mac.

Next up, people have since asked us the two most expected questions: “How do you like living in your motorhome? How does it compare with your fifth-wheel?”

Stay tuned for Part 17 of my “LIVING THE DREAM” series. In the meanwhile, I do love receiving comments and questions from all of you.