Jumping Off: My New Home on Wheels

I’m a homeowner! To a 1987 Toyota Dolphin Mini Motorhome!

This whole buy-an-RV-and-live-in-it-full-time thing is happening a lot faster than I originally imagined. I have no idea what I am doing and it feels a little like I am in a bit of a dream.

On Sunday, JonBoy and I took a lovely little morning drive out to Whidbey Island via the Deception Pass Bridge. The hour and a half trip meandered through misty fog. There we met with a man named Vic at his home to check out the Dolphin. The very first thing I noticed was… a spider. And then another. And another. And not just any spiders. Big spiders, tucked into the corners and perched along rims. Of course it is the time of year for these eight leggers, but my first thought was INFESTATION. I didn’t want to go inside. I imagined the rig was taken over by spiders big and small, and I thought of scenes from the show Infested. Well, I had to get over whatever imaginations I had in my head and actually go into the inside to check it out. We didn’t drive almost two hours to turn back because of some crazy assumption.

I immediately started looking into every corner, every nook and cranny, opening every cupboard, terrified that some scary rat or big spider would jump out at me. Thankfully, nothing did. Nothing. In fact, the thing was spotless. For its 26 years, it was in great condition. I poked the walls and knocked on the wood as I had seen an RV inspector do in a youtube video I had watched the night before. In particular, I was looking for signs of water leaks, water damage, mold, mildew, etc. It’s a common problem in RVs, especially older ones. Yet, I couldn’t find anything.

That is until I went up towards the overcab bunk and started removing the cushions. If I’m going to search for something, I might as well expect to find it. There deep under the cushions was the first evidence of some sort of leak. Bummer! Bummer for me and bummer for Vic. After looking at it in more detail, he said he’d drop the price significantly. I had been specifically looking at this amazing Toyota Dolphin rebuild the night before, and they had to do the same thing. Their floor plan is different, but I have been planning on doing similar remodeling. If it weren’t for reading about their remodel, in addition to several others, I probably would have said no thanks out my car window as I headed for the hills. Instead, I considered the option of tearing out the damaged areas and reconstructing. What to do?

Test drive! Just as we were pulling out, a beautiful deer walked straight out of the trees and directly towards us with absolutely no fear. She was so close to us. Being me, I considered this a “sign.” I felt great behind the old wheel. My boyfriend, the exact same age as the rig we were in, sat beside me as we took off onto back country roads with an empty tank of gas. I love driving trucks, especially older ones. Something about them reminds me of my dad. We pulled off on a side street and rummaged through the maintenance records that had collected over the years since 1987. It was clear that someone had once loved this motorhome. Detailed mileage logs and service tickets and manuals. Besides the water damage, it looked as though everything about this RV was great.

87 dolphin mileageWhen we got back, I told Vic I’d have to do some research on the cost of what this job would require, as well as whether or not I could even do it. It’s not like I’m a carpenter or anything. We parted ways, he heading back into his house and we continuing our day trip back home. We picked up sandwiches and stopped off at a quiet, cold beach for lunch before taking the ferry across to Mukilteo.


I think I had made the decision to buy this dolphin before we had even left Vic’s house, but I had needed some sort of support for that decision. Jon once told me that with me, there is no second place. He meant that once I get an idea of something in my head about what I want (whether it be what type of food to eat or where to go on a trip or whatever), all other options disappear. I have eyes for nothing else. I kind of have to agree with him on this one. Now this can be a very good thing and this can be a very bad thing, but doesn’t the best of us and the worst of us always end up being the exact same thing? I think it just depends on the circumstance.

For this particular case, I’ll have to wait to see how this motorhome turns out to know whether or not it’s a good thing, because sure enough, I got that feeling I get when I have made a decision before actually making a decision. I got Vic to drop the price even more,  I pulled more cash out of my bank account than I ever have in my life, I printed out bill of sale paperwork, I lined up insurance and I scheduled a trip out to see the motorhome again two days later. But I still hadn’t made a decision. Right….


My wonderful aunt Deb accompanied me on this next trip to Whidbey Island. She drove us through the evening fog until we arrived back at Vic’s place. Vic is a character. I had forewarned Deb about the condition, but once she saw it, I think she thought I was crazy. “I think you will just have a loooooot of projects,” is all she kept saying.

Have you ever stood on a cliff with water below you, trying to work up the strength to jump off? You know that you’ll most likely land in the water, come up for air and want to do it all over again, but there is that chance that it won’t turn out that way and you’ll do a belly flop or hit a rock, or worse. The only way of finding out what happens is the act of jumping. I’ve sat up on a good number of rocks waiting for me to feel ready to jump, knowing all along I am going to do it. I’m a big believer in waiting until you are ready to do something, but I also believe there are times when we convince ourselves we are not ready when we really are ready. This is a result of overthink.

I was ready to buy this motorhome. I was scared shitless, but I knew I was going to buy it all along. I knew I just had to jump off that cliff. Fortunately, I didn’t have a chance to overthink. Deb and I sat with Vic in his small kitchen, which smelled of stale smoke, while a little dog hid under the table with his paws up on my knees and a small boy and small girl showed my aunt their toys. I wanted to (over)think about what I was doing and make sure I was making the right choice, but I didn’t have time or room or space to think. All of the commotion around me matched the commotion that was happening inside of me. It was probably better this way. I had thought enough. Sometimes thinking gets in the way.

toyota dolphin

So I jumped of the cliff, knowing full well that once I jump there is no turning back. I crossed that point of no return when I passed the envelope of money across the table to Vic. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible and start driving the RV so I could know whether or not I had made a good or bad decision. I wanted to start tearing into that rotten wood right away. I needed to know for sure.

Instead, all I could do was grip the wheel with sweaty hands and a tense body, driving through the foggiest night on a narrow country road across the freaking Deception Pass Bridge, which passes 180 feet above the water for over a quarter mile. I was terrified. As time passed though, I eased into my new rig. I turned on the old radio. I got a feel for the gas and the brakes. By the time I pulled up to my parents’ house, I was in love.


what next?I’m now in the process of tearing out all of the wood rot, and so far it’s going okay. I have no idea what I am doing. Every time I get to a point where I feel like this will never be finished and I’m way over my head, I just tell myself to keep going. Keep moving. That’s the only thing I can do right now. It’s too late to turn back now. And I wouldn’t want to anyway.


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