Farewell to Our Unity

NOTE TO READERS: Based on the title, you may have jumped to some conclusions about the topic of this post. It is not a divorce or separation announcement (that might have been titled “Farewell to Our Union”) since Pat and I are still very happily married and living together in harmony. It’s also not a rant or screed about the sad state of affairs in our country – not to mention the rest of the world, as well – though those who know me may well have expected such a thing. Since it is neither of those things, what is it? Feel free to read on and find out …

Pat and I have long been interested in RVs, perhaps inspired by her parents’ travels during their golden years. Every winter, they would escape the brutal Minnesota climate and journey to the southern US, towing a fifth-wheel trailer behind their pickup truck. Starting back in the 1980s, we would attend the annual RV Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center and ogle the various show models, vowing to own one someday. Over time, we honed in on smaller, self-contained motorhomes, with the idea that we would wait until our kids had left the nest to actually buy one. One particular Canadian manufacturer, Leisure Travel Vans (LTV), captured our fancy around 2010 or so, and our plan solidified around that choice. We were impressed with the LTV designs and craftsmanship, and especially with the claim that they held their value much more so than other RV brands.

The RV Show at the Minneapolis Auditorium

I retired in July 2016, and by the end of that year we had decided to take the plunge. We were living full time in Grand Marais at that time, so our travels to the Twin Cities were relatively infrequent, but we made a trip down in February 2017 to begin the process of purchasing an RV. We attended our last RV Show in Minneapolis on February 10, after which we visited the only Minnesota LTV dealer, a relatively small operation called Lake Region RVs in Ramsey, MN. After looking at various LTV models, discussing options with a friendly salesman named Seth Pasch, and taking a test drive, we decided on a model called the Unity Corner Bed (one of four layouts for the Unity line), and drove back to Grand Marais with a pile of literature and a plan to order one once we decided on the various options. We submitted a purchase agreement via email and made a down payment in early March, with the expectation of taking delivery in April of 2018.

As time went by, we eagerly anticipated the arrival of our new toy. In September, we went on our final tent camping trip, which involved driving to Winkler, Manitoba, as well, where the LTV factory is located. We had a great tour of the factory, which convinced us even more that we had made the right RV choice.

(I was going to put in some photos of the factory, but I can’t find them. Maybe I’ll come back and add them later if I can locate the photos.)

In January 2018, I received a call from Lake Region RVs informing me that our Unity Corner Bed model had arrived. I reminded them that we were not planning to pick it up until April, since we had no place to store it in winter weather. And pick it up we did, on April 17, 2018. I drove it straight from Lake Region RVs to the cabin and parked it in a spot I had picked out among the trees on the east side.

The RVstored on the east side of the cabin

We started out slowly, taking baby steps to learn how everything worked and getting comfortable with RV living. Our first RV camping trip was to Tettegouche State Park, a whopping 62 miles down Highway 61, where we were visited by our friends Gordon and Michele who at that time lived in nearby Silver Bay, MN.

Our first RV trip to Tettegouche

The Tettegouche trip went very well, so we took a bigger step by travelling with the RV around Lake Superior and Lake Huron, also stopping for a quick visit with my eldest sister Ellie and her husband Richard in Dundas, Ontario.

Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, June 2018
Pat, Ellie, and Richard in the RV, June 2018

In late July, Pat and I took the RV for a weekend trip to Scenic State Park near Bigfork, MN, with a stop along the way to play golf at the Wilderness at Fortune Bay, near Tower. We camped overnight at the Fortune Bay RV Park before heading on to Scenic.

Scenic State Park, July 2018

In early September, I drove the RV to the Twin Cities for the ASE Annual Golf Tournament and the Saari Family Picnic, where I showed it off to assorted relatives.

Saari Family Reunion, September 2018

In early October, my friend Steve Aldrich and I drove the RV to Biwabik, MN. We played golf at Giants Ridge (The Legend and The Quarry) on October 2 and stayed overnight at an RV campground in Biwabik before playing The Wilderness at Fortune Bay the next day.

Then came the first REALLY BIG trip, during which we spent the entire winter from October 2018 through April 2019 away from the harsh winter climate. I’ve thoroughly documented that trip previously in a 12-part series titled Pat and Dave’s Excellent Adventure.

During the summer of 2019, we continued to store the RV at the cabin, and I used it fairly frequently to go golfing at Gunflint Hills. In July, we took the RV to the Jergensen Family Reunion in Dubuque, IA, stopping along the way at Governor Dodge State Park near Spring Green, WI. We also visited Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright estate, while there.

Fort Dodge State Park, July 2019

In September 2019, Steve Aldrich and I again took the RV to play golf at Fortune Bay and Giants Ridge. This time we stayed overnight at the Fortune Bay RV Park.

From October 2019 through April 2020, we stored the RV at an outdoor storage facility called Surelock RV Storage in Inver Grove Heights, MN. (This was the only time we had it winterized.) Then it was back to the cabin again for the summer, again using it frequently for golfing at Gunflint Hills.

In September 2020, we took a 3-day trip with the RV to Lake Itasca State Park, in large part to judge how safe we might feel travelling with the RV during the height of the Covid Pandemic.

Itasca State Park, September 2020

The Itasca trip went well enough, so we decided to go on another winter trip, from October 2020 through April 2021. Again, this one has been documented in detail in a 10-part series called The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn.

During the Sojourn, we discovered that storing the RV at the cabin had resulted in some issues, notably tree sap accumulation and damage to some wiring by mice or other critters. Also, we were not planning to use it during the subsequent winter. So, starting in April, we stored it at an indoor facility called Airlake Self Storage, in Lakeville, MN.

In August, we took it on another big trip, this one also documented in detail in a 4-part series called Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade.

But a funny thing happened on the way back home. On September 24, I got a call from Lake Region RVs, asking us if we’d like to sell the RV on a contingent basis, because they were desperately looking for inventory, given the backlog that had developed due to Covid issues. At the same time, demand for used RVs had skyrocketed, again due to Covid, since many people feel more comfortable RVing during the pandemic than traveling in other ways. Given this situation, they offered to pay us 98% of what we bought it for, if we could get it to them within a week or two. After some teeth gnashing and agonizing, we decided to take them up on it, and dropped it off at Lake Region on October 1.

And now it has been sold. Seth Pasch, now the President of Lake Region RVs, closed the deal and personally gave us our check. After a grand total of 30,200 very enjoyable miles, we’ve said farewell to our Unity. When we bought it, we didn’t intend to keep it for more than a few years, but it still feels like a great loss. We had wonderful times in it, and it truly did hold its value, even more so than we could have expected.

And now we will cherish the memories as we continue to travel in different ways. One specific result of our RV travels is that I learned to enjoy travel blogging, so “watch this space” as Rachel Maddow says, for more travel-related posts in the future.