The Decision to Upgrade
When we decided on the early retirement it was done knowing that we would want to do a considerable amount of travel. After our experience with the Sprinter we knew that we enjoyed the flexibility and the pace that came with a small RV. One of Ron’s bucket list items was a Pan American highway trip. Ton tended to favor seeing more of North America. The compromise was to look for a vehicle that could handle travel outside of North America, but start the traveling in North America.
Based on our experience with the ERA and research we set some criteria for our perfect vehicle:
1. Under 24 ft in length, under 11ft in height. We want a vehicle that can be manuevered in urban environments as we do enjoy towns and cities.
2. Diesel engine. Better fuel performance, and outside the US lower cost for fuel in general. Diesels have longer life engines with more capacity to handle loads. The one problem with diesel now is ULSD diesel. Trucks built for the US market have required ULSD since 2007. At this time most of Central and South America do not have ULSD. We spent a great deal of time researching this issue and while there are some people who believe the issues are overstated, I think there will be long term problems running non ULSD diesel in a vehicle with ULSD.
3. No propane. Nearly every blog we read of people traveling overseas with propane appliances involved long technical discussions on how to find adaptors to fill the propane system, fit different kind of cylinders into the vehicle and some interesting tale of how to source propane. We wanted to avoid all of that if at all possible.
4. Minimal or no requirement to plug in. Our ideal vehicle would not require to be plugged in. In many places we were considering to go there would be no electric available,or the electricity would not be compatible with North American standards.
5. Comfortable cabin. The one thing we never tried with the ERA was just sitting and relaxing for a few days in one place. On trips like this we will have to learn to stop for a few days periodically. We needed to find a cabin that would be comfortable enough to do that, without causing an immediate case of “cabin fever”.
6. Capable of handling short periods of freezing temps. We never planned to be caught in below freezing weather, but it happened on a regular basis to us in Oregon (including a Memorial Day Weekend).
7. Rugged Enough. We do not plan to intentionally go 4 wheeling, but we regretted missing out on some dirt roads in Alaska and Oregon that we want to go back and do. Also, if we do head south we will need the capability to handle rough roads.
Vehicles We Considered
Our ERA. The first choice was the ERA. We were familiar with the van, and it had served us well. The Sprinter is used all over the world, and getting work on the van would be easy in most places we would visit. To give it the capability we wanted we would have to make massive changes in the electric system, and we would have to stay with propane. In addition we needed to modify the bed, find a way to cold proof the water system, and modify the exterior to improve the clearance. After a lot of discussion about how serious we were about having the capability to travel outside of the USA on a regular basis we decided to look at other options.
An internet search pointed us at some options that we would look at.
Earthroamer. The first vehicle we researched was the Earthroamer. It met all of our needs except for size, it is a really complete vehicle, but it is quite large. The Earthroamer really set the bar for us, but cost was an issue. New units were pushing up over $300,000. We did watch the used vehicles on their website and there was one that was very intriguing. This vehicle was a 2006 and the price was within our budget, and importantly it had an engine that did not require ULSD. We actually planned to visit Denver to look at this used vehicle, but an unexpectedly large snow storm in February on our trip back to Oregon caused us to skip Denver. By the time we were ready to go back and look, the unit we were interested in was sold.
Global Expeditionary Vehicles. The GXV website had two variations of pickup based RV’s that we researched. Their other vehicles were too large for our tastes. We sent an email to ask some questions about the Turtle model. They responded to our initial email, but never responded to a couple of follow up emails I sent. We studied their websites for ideas, but eliminated them from our options.
Pick Up and Camper Shell. We considered this option, but after looking at them at the Portland RV show, they just did not feel right to us.
Provan Tiger. Looking at some websites we saw mentions of Tiger vehicles. When we checked them on the web we liked the design and size. The price fit our budget. After reading the www.travelin-tortuga.com and www.whiteacorn.com websites, these vehicles had done the trips we were planning on and handled them with a minimum amount of drama. Mark at Provan responded within an hour of my initial email, and patiently to the barrage of emails I sent subsequently. At this point we decided to focus on Provan as our primary option.