And so the beginning grew out of an ending. A very painful ending at that.

The ending of three, long, painful years of waiting and believing. We believed justice would come, but I know now that justice is an elusive and fluid thing. It is too full of human elements to really spring from the full truth or total honesty.

We had spent a long, painful year after we bought what I began calling, “The Hog.” We had previously owned a Class C motorhome, a Leprechaun, that we really loved. We liked to camp in remote and very cold places in Alaska, so the Leprechaun was not quite what we had hoped in some ways. We kept running out of fresh water, filling up our black and gray waters, and we often drained our fuel tank running our generator for a weekend. We often got very cold because the Leprechaun just wasn’t equipped for cold, late fall nights or early spring nights.

The Leprechaun we really loved at first…

The “Hog” was a this huge, towering beast of a thing. Both beautiful and frightening to me at the same time. And she came with hundreds of broken items. A broken windshield, a strong septic smell everytime we camped, a leaky shower, cranky automatic jacks, and the list continued. She was frightening to me because she was so complex. We had thought the Leprechaun complex when we first purchased it. We had read the manuals for about a month before we started camping in it. So many things to know!

And the “Hog” was a hundred times more complex. She sat on a Freightliner chassis, which made half of her systems the responsibility of a local Freightliner repair facility and the other half a dealer that had a bunch of technicians that kept lying to us about fixing things. Everytime we brought her in with more writeups, they would work on some things but never the really hard things. Until we finally sued them. This forced the manufacturer to force them to fix the septic and leaks. The dealership kept fixing her over and over again. Mostly ignoring us but still pretending to try. They had been so good with our Leprechaun. We were completely baffled and constantly angry about it.

The first year’s warranty was getting ready to be over, and we still hadn’t gotten her completely fixed. So we sued them. The Hog cost a hell of a lot of money, and she was supposed to be our permanent home for several years after Dan retired. But his retirement was put on hold while we went through the 3 year agony.

Dan is my husband. He had suffered over 25 years of post-traumatic stress, brought on by witnessing the death of a friend in the military. In camping with our Leprechaun, for the first time in his life he had found what made him smile and forget his pain. Camping was a complete release of the stress he felt.

We spent our first summer in 2006, camping every chance we got. Alaska had become our home, after running away from a city full of layoffs and a house that we could not sell in Tulsa.

Alaska summers are horribly short, so we camped even when it was pretty cold out (in the 20’s). Dan was talking about retirement, so we started looking at large Class A motorhomes. None of them looked good to us. (except the ones we kept seeing on HGTV’s RV shows that cost $300,000.00 and up. We weren’t going to spend anywhere near that. The dealer where we had bought the Leprechaun had 2 Class A motorhomes that looked really great. We chose one of them.

From the day we did the walkaround in June of 2007, that dealership made our lives a living hell. They are now out of business (no surprise there), but they had just hired a new service manager around the same time that we bought the big rig. And he was not only a liar through the whole court case, but he was a moron during the time we tried to get our RV fixed. The service manager before him was an amazing guy who never let anything slip through the cracks. This new service manager let everything slip. If it weren’t for just a few good people he had, they probably would’ve blown up our motorhome.

Alaska was fast becoming a place where crooked salesmen sold autos and RVs for way more than they were worth, especially to military people and retired military (like myself). And then they failed to support them properly. And the two that went out of business in 2007 and 2008 blamed it on the economy. Yeah, right. That’s why there are some that are still doing well there?

It is a good thing that two of those crooked RV businesses are now out of business. If you’re ever in the market for renting an RV from a dealership here, the best one is Alaskan Travel Holidays, by the way. I would never go anywhere else to buy an RV or rent one.

So, after we filed a lemon law lawsuit, we found out someone in the dealership had taken our RV out joyriding when they were supposed to be fixing it and put an extra 1,000 miles on it and an extra 100 hours on the generator. We were livid. And none of them would fess up.

They tried to say we abandoned it because after we sent a letter to the manufacturer for our money back, we went and took our personal items out of the RV. The only reason we did it was to make sure we didn’t lose any of our things if the dealer decided to be jerk offs and have it impounded. They didn’t, but when we got it back the following spring it was a total wreck. Though I filmed it all and talked about it in court, their witnesses lied and their lawyer lied about us and won.

It was a blow on that first day, but I started to realize that at least now because of testimony, documentation, and video-taped depositions, we actually knew what was fixed and what wasn’t. Before this, we often would be told that things were fixed. And then they wouldn’t be when we took our next trip in it. In 2 summers, we only got to use it 6 times. The previous summer in our Leprechaun, we went on more than 20 trips and made over 150 short documentary films. We made about 3 films after we bought the Hog.

So, after the sting of losing, I realized that at least now I knew where we stood. Yes, we had purchased an extended warranty from Coachmen for $2,700 and gotten nothing in return. So had a lot of other people who had bought extended warranties just before Coachmen sold their RV division to Forest River. So many companies do crap like that.

So, after we heard we lost, we were a little bit stranded when it came to fixing the major things. But, we did some research, found a better mechanic and signed up for the Good Sam extended RV warranty. One of the best in the business. It’s great because you can choose from several deductible amounts. The higher the deductible, the less you pay each month.

Though we had loved the few times we had camped in it, we were always afraid of what would break next. Now, at least we’re not afraid anymore. It also encouraged me to start really investigating what it was we really had here. It was just about that time we got some very devastating health news about my husband Dan. He already had diabetes, but now we were told he had cirrhosis of the liver (we don’t drink at all) and an enlarged heart.

We were planning on selling our home and moving to the Lower 48 anyway, but now we started talking  a lot about fulltiming. We read a book from Good Sam about it, and we started reading all the discussion boards at Good Sam’s website about fulltiming. So fascinating!

Dan and I are both travelers. In the time we have been together for 13 years, we have moved about 8 times. (or more!) We just get the itch and cannot stay in one place.

That was the thing about that lawsuit. We must have been preparing, in the back of our minds, to lose just in case. And like most human beings who have been through tough times before, we decided to take what I call “The High Road.” Instead of sitting around and whining about how they lied on the stand and we told the truth blah blah blah…Dan and I began to put our lives back together and fast!

The court case and its preparation had literally nearly drove us both insane. So the feeling of relief was a bit strange right after it was over. But we also felt like:

“You know what? We’re not going to let anyone beat us down. ”

Though I knew that what the other side’s attorney said about me during his closing arguments just wasn’t true, it didn’t matter because I knew – deep down – I had told the truth to the best of my ability and was just trying to protect an investment my family had made. Dan had to put off his retirement for 2 years because of their inability to find their butts with both hands (in my humble opinion..LOL) I had fixed electronic systems on several types of aircraft during my military career, and here was a ragtag lawyer with scuffed shoes and an angry demeanor trying to make me look dumb. Not gonna happen.

After it was over, quite a bit of strange relief feelings showed up. And we found out our RV was actually worth more than we thought it was. And that was a pretty good thing.

So, I began looking at it with a microscope. Every system. Every component. Learning everything about it. I fixed up several houses we have owned, so why not learn as much as I could about our next home?

Dan’s illness and my desire to help him see every state in the U.S. during his lifetime made our decision about fulltiming for us. It was exciting to think about!

In the next chapter, I will go through the systems that I investigated as I went through every inch of the Hog. Maybe it will help you in some way with your own RV. Or maybe you have never had an RV and are thinking about buying one. Perhaps it could help you in that way.

See you next time!


So, we stepped over him (the defense’s lawyer) and moved on.

For 2 long years, we had to keep the RV in the crappy, filthy condition the dealership had given it to us in. (to preserve evidence, in case someone needed to look at it) It felt so good to finally be able to wash it. Wow. It looked so different.

UPDATE: Someone asked me recently on the IRV2 forums why we lost the court case. Here’s my answer (might help you someday)

We lost because of some several reasons.
(this is very complex and long, but it could save you on your next brand new rig)
1. The Alaska Lemon Law is VERY specific. You must write the manufacturer and the dealer a letter stating specifically the following:
That you demand a refund
That there are the following nonconformities: (things that are broken)
That you demand your money back within 10 days of the letter

What we didn’t do:
We did not write the dealer because we had already asked them 4 times to give us our money back.
Because our rig was in their shop for the winter to get things fixed and we did not want them to sabotage it or have it impounded and we knew the manufacturer was working with them to get it fixed.
We had already written the manufacturer an email previously that said we wanted our money back and the manufacturer had a conversation with the dealer to tell them we wanted our money back.
You must write both letters within 60 days of your first year’s warranty expiring.
They have 30 days to get all nonconformities fixed.
They must have made at least 3 attempts to repair the nonconformities we complained about in the letter.

2. The lawyer on their side got about 8 mechanics and the service manager to lie about the attempts they made to repair the rig. They lied about our complaints dating back 3 years that we had been smelling septic that long. (they didn’t start writing the complaints about the shower leaking and the septic smell until the last year before we wrote the letter)
They had not wanted to work on the septic or the shower so they never wrote these complaints on the workorders.

3. We did not receive any work orders until just before we wrote the letter, so we never saw what our workorders actually said. We had to piece these together for court which was very complicated and took months. Their workorders were not accurate. We only got to see workorders after our lawyer asked for discovery documents. The workorders were an absolute mess! It was hard to figure out which of the hundreds of writeups were completed and which weren’t.

4. After we wrote the letter, we asked for permission to go on the lot and get our personal effects out of the rig. They said we could. Reason: we wanted to get our stuff out – we were afraid they would have it impounded and we would lose all our camping gear. Their lawyer lied in court and said we abandoned it. We called that fall to ask how repairs were going and to ask where our rig was because we had not seen it on their lot for about a month. They sounded nervous and said they were waiting on parts. I asked if I needed to report it stolen. They really acted nervous then.

Their lawyer made me look like a liar in court because I never got to explain why we went and got our stuff. (when you are testifying, you explain your side, then they try to defend their side and they can say whatever they want about you). Their lawyer said we abused it and neglected it, and we were in closing arguments so I never got to explain.

You can see by the way it looks that we never abused it or neglected it.

5. We had bought a Leprechaun from them before, and we had loved it and their service manager had taken very good care of us. He left, and the owner hired a “friend” as a service manager who basically put them out of business with his lousy management skills. The service manager lied on the stand about us saying we were really happy with the way they handled our service, and he said I never told him about the septic smell and the leaking shower until right at the very end of it all. (I could not defend this very well afterwards because they never gave us any workorders. A lot of the writeups we told them about over the phone or even in person never got written down. We had trusted them because of our previous experience. I will always get a signed workorder after repairs from now on, believe me. No trust anymore!)

6. We had witnesses that had worked there who overheard the service manager call us whiners and pains in the ass and that the septic smell was all in our heads. (they later found the gray water valve pipe was completely broken off and that the septic’s vent valve had never been installed at the factory)

7. The dealership was out of business halfway through the court case, so we had to drop them from the suit. But the manufacturer still used all their liars on the stand. Not sure what the motivation was there for them to testify, but it had something to do with Anchorage being a small town and them trying to protect their professional reputations. However, the only good mechanic they had quit the business altogether and went to the North Slope to work in the oilfields. Luckily, we found out during his deposition that he had been the one to finally fix the shower leaks and the septic smell. We had never known if it was ever fixed or not before that. He was the only one we trust to tell the truth.

8. I said, during my testimony that I had told my husband that the one thing we were not going to do was lie, if we were going to pursue this. We told the truth through the whole thing. I have a very good memory, so I was able to piece together every single incident.

9. During his closing arguments (so that I could not defend myself with rebuttal testimony), their lawyer tried to make us look stupid first by saying we wrote up a couple of items like Sirius Satellite radio doesn’t work and the 6 CD changer isn’t working (we don’t get sirius satellite in Alaska because there are no towers in Alaska and the rig never had a 6 CD changer in it though these were two things our salesman said it had).
He tried to make it seem like our witnesses that used to work for the dealer and had overheard all the remarks about us and knew that the dealership refused to do much of the work because the manufacturer was not going to reimburse them if the work was repeat work – he made them look like disgruntled employees because they had been laid off. (though everyone had eventually been laid off anyway). These two witnesses were some of the most honest and best service writers you would ever want to meet. So because the lawyer did it in closing arguments, no one could rebut what he said. He tried to make me look like I was the only one who thought the rig was a Lemon, though the service manager had referred to it as a Lemon around the shop and then testified he didn’t believe in the Lemon Law and that there is no such thing as a Lemon. The lawyer in his closing arguments also made it look like the hundreds of writeups on our rig was normal for an RV this size. (our Leprechaun had maybe had only a dozen cosmetic issues in its first year).

10. We had paid $2,700 for a 7 year extended warranty, but the dealership told us that our warranty was up after a year. (the rig had 2300 miles on it when we bought it because it had to be driven Washington state and the salesman said he would extend our warranty because of the mileage.) We never got that extension, and we never received the extended warranty we paid for.

11. Coachmen Industries sold their Coachmen RV division to Forest River just after we filed suit. They put 18 million dollars into a warranty fund to cover warranty claims on RVs that had been sold to customers before they sold the RV division to Forest River. In their Proxy (the document that explains the sale), Coachmen Industries said they were responsible for the units they sold before they sold Coachmen RV. They did not put enough money into the warranty fund to cover claims for people who bought extended warranties because that fund was being depleted by a million bucks a month and will run out this December. What did Coachmen do with the other 70 million bucks? They filtered it through Coachmen Industries to pay off debts and fund their housing division.
Not only is this deceptive, but bad business.
We could not find anyone from the original Coachmen RV industry who would testify to the Proxy so we could not admit it as evidence.

These are just a few reasons why we lost. And I believe the jury was tired of the whole thing by the time it was over because they only deliberated about an hour. They probably just wanted it all to be over, too.

What I recommend to anyone buying a new RV:

1. Don’t take delivery on an RV that already has problems. We had a huge crack across the windshield and a bunch of other problems, and it just went downhill from there. Everytime we said we wanted our Leprechaun back and our money back during the walkaround, they kept saying they would give us free winterization and free oil changes and so on. We trusted them because of our previous experience with our Leprechaun.
DON’T TRUST ANYONE. Get everything in writing, because you may have to go to court someday to prove it.

2. Test drive your rig. They would not allow us to do that, but we trusted them. Ours had hydraulic fluid spewing out of the engine on the way home and a Check Engine, Oil overtemp, and Digital readout Check Engine indicator on the way home. (home is only 15 minutes away).


4. If you are going to buy a new RV, buy it in a state that has a Lemon Law that covers RVs.

5. Get an extended warranty through Goodsam, instead of your dealership. The manufacturer could go out of business and take your extended warranty with them.

6. If you are thinking of filing a Lemon Law Lawsuit, make sure you know the law in your state and satisfy the notification requirements TO THE LETTER. In your notice letter that demands a refund, LIST EVERY NONCONFORMITY, not just the ones they have tried to fix several times.

Ok, I warned you this was long and drawn out. Will I ever sue anyone ever again? No, probably never.

Is our rig perfect? No. Apparently when they had it in their shop that last time, someone took it for a joyride and put an extra 1,000 miles on it and an extra 100 hours on the generator. They also spilled something all over our brand, new pillowtop mattress and left a big, red stain on it. It was filthy when we got it back, with someone else’s urine all over the toilet. (we had given it to them clean when we took it in).

The power converter is now broken but because it is a new writeup is covered under our Goodsam warranty. The jacks are still a question mark because our rig is on a Freightliner chassis so they are part of Freightliner’s responsibility. We found them to be erratic, but the dealer kept saying they worked fine. The check engine light is still an issue, but the Freightliner people said it is probably just a bad sensor for the coolant.

The dealer blew up our batteries two winters in a row, (they kept leaving the batteries on all winter through -20 temperatures) and this last time they put the wrong batteries in there. So I just spent about 3 days cleaning and painting the battery trays and installing new batteries for the cabin.

Other than that, it looks like they fixed everything else.

7. Learn your rig, inside and out. Get a good manual and read the manuals for the rig again and again. Check out every single inch of your own RV. Don’t let other people be the only ones who know how to fix it. Learn how to winterize and dewinterize it yourself. Keep all electronics and such clean and perform as much of your own preventive maintenance as you can.

8. Salesmen are liars. Mechanics can be liars. Lawyers will do anything to win.

Don’t let other people walk all over you, like we did. I am not being negative. Just stating the facts for us. Maybe it could help someone else.

Sorry this was so long! Told you it was going to be complex!!!!

Have a great RVing kinda day….