After our experience with the rental, Tim and I were on the hunt for a Class B motorhome that would be the perfect fit for us. All of the models are very well made, and all of them share certain similarities, but we needed to find the chassis and floor plan that would meet our requirements.
We looked again at the few Roadtrek, Pleasure-Way, Airstream and Winnebego models that were in stock near our home, but none of these seemed quite right for us. By this time we had focused our search on Class Bs that were built on a Mercedes-Benz (or Freightliner) chassis. These models were much taller, but narrower, than the Excel we had rented and provided full headroom in the shower, as well as a full-height entrance door. Tim was pushing for the long Sprinter to give us more living space with the cat. Although the longer length scared me somewhat, I agreed with his reasoning.
We then determined that a trip to St. Louis was in order. St. Louis is the home of Van City RV, the top-ranked Class B motorhome dealer in the country, representing multiple manufacturers. Why not go there and look at virtually all of the available models in one spot? We might never see all of them in Colorado, and we wanted to look at all possibilities. However, we did not want to buy an RV so far in advance of the trip, which was not scheduled to start until September 2011.
We flew to St. Louis and immediately drove to Van City, where we spent the rest of the afternoon. John Chelist walked us through all of the models and quizzed us on what we were looking for. He helped us to focus our search and never applied any pressure to make a sale. It’s too bad that all salesmen are not like him.
We reconfirmed that a Sprinter was right for us, but which one? I had already given in on the length, so that narrowed our options to a Roadtrek Adventurous, Pleasure-Way Plateau or Leisure Travel Vans Free Spirit. John helped us rule out the Roadtrek because it features a second row of seats, which we do not need. That left the Plateau and Free Spirit, both of which we took for long test drives. I felt surprisingly comfortable driving both of them.
|Two Free Spirits On the Lot
The Free Spirit was completely new to us and was not a model that I had carefully researched prior to the trip. It was a beautiful rig with lovely finishes, as was the Plateau, and both would meet my design sensibilities. Both would meet our other needs as well. We left Van City with a lot to think about and planned to return the next day.
Tim and I spent a lovely evening in downtown St. Louis, sampling toasted ravioli, a local specialty We came back to our hotel and listed the pros and cons of each model. Tim came to the conclusion that the Free Spirit had a feature that no other model had – a “basement.” This was a cut-out, lidded compartment under the sofa between the rear wheels where the spare tire is often stored. What a perfect location for the litter box! The Free Spirit was also completely open between the main living area and the area under the sofa, allowing free access for the cat to access the litter box. This would not be possible in the Plateau. None of the other features seemed to be as important once we knew that the cat could be easily accommodated.
|The Lid to the "Basement" Is on the Left
|John and Sarah at Van City RV