Hi Everyone - at last here is our full report - the good, the bad and the ugly.
First, the Good. We got our unit and are very excited about the size and features of the 1988 19' Bigfoot
After disembarking from the ferry, our friends, Ken and Diann, met up with us and gave us a personalized tour of Sidney and Victoria. What a charming area it is and they were such great hosts.
We thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of BC and Vancouver Island, the green-minded mentality and would love to move up there.
The dealer, Kersti, at Southwest RV, had arranged to have our TT set up for us at the Goldstream campground when we arrived which was very thoughtful and a huge relief for us, being virgin RVers and all.
The frig was icy cold and the clean water levels were at half full. We had no idea how to light
the water heater though so showered using the campground facilities. We ended up sleeping on the dining area bed as it is a little roomier than the rear sofa (47"? versus 43"?), especially in the hip and shoulder area, which is where you need the extra room.
The next day, Kersti arranged for a mobile insurance rep to meet with us for the permit and registration
. Since we had proof of insurance coverage that included Canada for both our truck and trailer, we did not need to purchase additional insurance coverage, but did need a temporary operating permit. We received a copy of the Bill of Sale, proof of propane
certification and a completed Canadian application for title
transfer from Southwest RV -- we could not get a Canadian title
because we aren't residents. Next, Kersti had the trailer taken to Pete's RV Repair for installation of the Equalizer hitch and sway bars we'd bought online and trekked along with us (we hadn't realized they are so low once installed - mere inches from the ground). Pete's had never seen a four-point Equalizer sway bar and wdh before (they said that they sell a different model), but they did a great job assembling and installing it and also put on the new electric tongue jack that we had brought with us. Total cost for their work was about $98 CAN, and they were very friendly and gave us good pointers on taking care of our unit. Then it was back to the dealer for the walk through. Mike the tech was very helpful and made some last minute repairs to various things that had been missed during the pre-delivery inspection process. We give Southwest RV high marks for customer service - Kersti and Kelly took care of many details that would have left us baffled and running around aimlessly had we bought from a private party, Mike was helpful, and the other Southwest RV folks on the lot that day seemed very nice and gave us good recommendations on places nearby to eat. The unit tracked extremely well with the Equalizer hitch and sway bars. We returned to Goldstream that night and had our first experience backing up.
The loud sounds of grinding metal from the Equalizer hitch were quite unnerving. After about 20 attempts and verbal assistance from a neighboring camper, we finally got her in the site. We were still getting 16.4 mpg that first day of towing with the trailer mostly empty.
The Bad. We had neither good cell phone reception nor WiFi at the campground so felt a little out of touch with the world. Also, being newbies we hadn't had the foresight to ensure that we would have power, water and sewer at the campground (although quite a beautiful campground, Goldstream offers none of the aforementioned RV hookups despite being $22 per night). That said, we left for the US the next day and drove as long as possible, well past dark, where we found an RV site south of Seattle for the night. We noticed several trailer lights
were not working. Our gas mileage had dropped down into the low 15 mpg. The big surprise came when Val took off the cap to attach the sewer hose. Immediately upon removing the cap (remember, we've been using 1/2 tank of water and using the bathroom for 2 days), a flood of liquid came spewing out into the darkness. I was inside and heard her startled yelp then a prolonged rush of liquids running through pipes. Note to self - bring a bucket while RVing.... As it was late, we again opted for the campground facility shower and hit the sack. I was awakened in the middle of the night by an odd chirping sound that seemed to be coming from near the floor. I finally located the sound to a small plastic sensor which I vaguely recalled might be the propane
sensor. I stumbled out of the trailer and turned off the gas valves. The sound stopped.
After consulting with Mike at Southwest RV by telephone the next day, we made a detour to Camping World to purchase some supplies. Mike suggested we flush out the tanks as there might be debris preventing the valves from closing properly. We found a camp site outside Salem while still daylight and timidly attemped to flush the blackwater tank using a hose extension in the toilet. I was afraid to put the hose in too deeply as it was dark and I couldn't see how full the tank was. We lit the water heater with no problem and enjoyed steaming hot showers and settled down for the night. We were overjoyed with the functionality and condition of the bathroom. Late that night the propane
sensor began going off again. It seemed to stop when the gas was off so that was our solution. We retired feeling slightly more confident in our troubleshooting abilities. Our gas mileage was now in the low 14 mpg range. The unit had handled great on the highways, no swaying and little effects from big trucks passing. We had a heck of a time figuring out how to adjust the brake controller though: the instructions sound simple enough, but it wasn't so easy to find a flat, paved street on which we could drive 25 miles per hour to test and adjust it several times in a row and then when we did, it was really hard to tell when flipping the manual lever merely stopped the brakes
and when it locked them up... the feel and noises were similar. We certainly hope our trailer brakes
are in good shape... will have to get those checked to be sure.
The Ugly. Next day, we called the dealer to report our continued problems and received reassurance that we would be supported in obtaining service when we got home. Mike suggested replacing the batteries in the propane sensor and flushing the tanks again. As it turns out, the propane sensor is electric rather than battery-run, so we left it as is. That day we attempted several more vigorous flushes of the black tank (as a Q-tip and wipies had come out of the drainage pipe the previous night) only to discover a leak in the blackwater tank near the top. It was abundantly clear that the gray water valve and possibly the blackwater valve were inoperable as well.
We'd also discovered the roof to be warped and lopsided from a heavy Coleman air conditioner. The dealer had mentioned they had fixed a leak from the AC during their inspection by tightening the AC screws. The propane sensor was chirping on a regular basis now, so Val simply disconnected the black wire as a temporary fix. We pondered these conditions during the long drive back to Phoenix.
We debated the merits of simply selling the unit and looking for a newer one that had been garaged versus fixing the problems. We also reviewed the pros and cons of the other brands we'd considered (Casita and Escape). By the time we pulled into our driveway, the gas mileage had plunged to 12.3 mpg. The Equalizer hitch sat so low that it was scraping the normal height concrete sidewalk so we removed the sway bars and disconnected the chains to gain a few inches of clearance. Note to self - raise the trailer axle
Now that we're back and having slept on it and considered our situation, we feel more confident that a little plastic repair and new valves should fix the tank problems. We'll try replacing the propane sensor and we'll coordinate with the dealer to get that resolved, as she has promised to cover safety related issues. As far as the roof goes, Val found a mobile fiberglass repair person who seemed very encouraging about fixing the roof. Of course, that will be expensive because we will also look for a lighter weight
air conditioner in the process, because the one that was installed at some point on the trailer is enormous. (but you can't live without AC in Arizona!) Val spent hours at the MVD today waiting for them to figure out how to transfer the title
to us and eventually succeeded. It's officially ours!
We still believe we made a good choice in getting the 19 Bigfoot
- we like the roominess and open feeling and the build quality is excellent. If Escape
made an 8' wide unit, we may well have gone for theirs, but we really wanted something we didn't have to walk (or stand) single file in. We figure that we're just going through the normal things people do while learning how to RV, especially buying an older unit. Luckily, we're both pretty handy with home repairs. We plan to fix the roof and any other areas needing fiberglass repair (i.e. rock chips), repair the tank (and check the others too to make sure they don't have any leaks), replace the valves and the propane detector, raise the axle
height, deoxide and refinish the exterior, refinish the interior wood and the one area under the sofa window that has a water stain, and repair the curtains, as many of the clips have broken off and the fabric is fairly sun faded in large areas. Even though it's seen some use, overall, the unit is still in good shape. That said, we've agreed that the day Bigfoot
begins making the 19' again, we'll be first in line to buy a new one!
Kayla and Val
Kayla captured well our experiences, thoughts and dialogues. I added a few details and clarifications to the above, as well as the following (for now, anyway):
If traveling through California, try to avoid driving the I-5 through the Central Valley (Coalinga, Buena Vista, etc.)! Pesticide haze, ammonia-laden fumes
from the cruel dairies that make their cows stand and lie in mud and their own excrement night and day
, fields of oil rigs and very barren landscape. For hours on end.
We'd have taken the coastal route if we'd had time and vowed to avoid that section from now on.
Vancouver Island was beautiful and the Canadians very personable.
Thank you Ken and Diann for the thoughtful dialogues on RVing, Canada and life in general, and the gracious car tour of some of Victoria's loveliest areas.
Thank you to all the forum members who guided us and made great suggestions for this trip and the entire purchasing experience. Lainey, special thank you for the great road maps that you emailed to me of the area, and thank you to everyone else who provided helpful details, shared experiences and tips.
The Pioneer House had delicious food, friendly service and excellent clam chowder.
Kersti and her assistant Kelly have two of the most adorable puppies we have seen in a while: Flicka and Reckless.
We are very excited to be Fiberglass RV Owners and are eager to plan to attend another upcoming reunion now that we are no longer just "wanna-be's"! I will post some photos of our tow and tt within the next few days!