A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Introducing Retrograde!

I had a crazy-busy weekend. I am going to Burning Man again in late August (my 3rd Burn!) Last year my friend Erik and I rented an RV and split the cost. The total ran about $2000 to rent for the week. I’m really glad I rented once, because it gave me an excellent idea of how to operate an RV and what to expect in most RV’s.

This year, though, rental was going to be another $2000. Even split, it’s hard to justify that cost. I knew I could probably find something decent to buy on craigslist. I spent pretty much an entire day (Saturday) reading online and trying to decide what I wanted. There are many options. I could have bought a conversion van and put a small camping porta potty in it (cheapest), or bought a truck and a 5th wheel trailer and towed the 5th wheel (most expensive.) I looked at my cash situation — I had about $3K accessible, and could stretch that to $4K at the most. That ruled out a 5th wheel + truck. It still left lots of conversion van options, but after thinking about it some more, I decided I probably didn’t want to go to multiple Burns without an RV or trailer of some sort. Porta potties are nice but you do have to empty them, and a conversion van didn’t get me a fridge or cooking gear.

On Sunday morning I decided I really wanted an RV. (Well, ideally, I wanted a 5th wheel and a truck, but I wasn’t keen on getting a loan to do so.) I hit up craigslist in earnest and started calling around. I made a list of what I wanted: automatic transmission, under 100K miles, working toilet, smogged, runs well, holding tanks for black & gray water were the top priorities. After that, stove/oven, air conditioning, propane refrigerator, solar retrofit potential, and generator were the “nice to have” features.

I found a perfect RV at the very top of my budget: $3900. But it had a generator! So Richard and I drove up to Oakland to take a look. Oh, he was a beaut… I fell in love at first sight. Original 1970’s decor, complete with green shag carpet. A working toilet. A Honda generator!! Air conditioning! Dan and Patricia, the sellers, were as sweet as could be. They spent hours with us showing it off and I could tell they had put a lot of love into it over the 8 years they had owned it.

The RV started right up and I took him for a (very slow) test drive around Oakland and Berkeley. There is some goofiness (the RV door sticks a bit, the parking brake isn’t catching quite right, the sound system was stolen and will need to be replaced, and the stove and oven may or may not work.) But all in all, he’s in excellent working condition considering his age. He drives well and the engine sounds great.

As I was driving him home, I knew he had to have a name. The interior was very retro, and I was amused that I had bought such an old “backwards” RV, so I christened him Retrograde.


I have to go get him smogged and registered this week. (Dan and Pat gave me a $60 credit toward the smog check, so my total came out to $3840.) I also need to put some insurance on him. I paid cash and have title in hand, which was the best part… I knew I hadn’t stretched myself too thin. Even at about $1000/year in maintenance, which is what Dan and Pat sounded like they had put into him, it’ll still be about as expensive as renting an RV for the next 3 years for Burning Man. Plus, I own him now, and can take him to Tahoe or camping or wherever we want to go. Oh, it was a happy day yesterday. Totally exhausting, but wonderful. Welcome home, Retrograde!

More pictures of Retrograde on my Flickr page

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