The “PERFECT” but alas, non-existent ONE

Dave and I keep looking, and he keeps wandering into random fifth wheels every time we look.  As frustrating as that can be sometimes, especially when we’ve narrowed down the list yet again, it is also great because we learn something new each time.  Last weekend he peaked his head into and Heartland Edge 397 and this weekend it was a Dutchmen Voltage 3970.   So last night, I kept myself awake  configuring the “perfect” fifth wheel for us.  It doesn’t exist and to custom order one would be stupid expensive. 

 

So without further ado, here’s what I’d pick and choose for the “perfect” fifth wheel, starting at the front cap and working toward the rear and using stock photos from the manufacturers.

 

Crossroads RV makes the most perfect use of the front cap known to mankind, and it’s not on all of their models either which is unfathomable.  Their Elevation toy hauler line has two models which have the perfect front cap, the Las Vegas and Sonoma.

 

Elevation15_LasVegas_bedroom  There is a TON of light when you walk in the bedroom, even without the lights on and on a rainy day in November.  Using the front cap for a window floods the room with light, allowing for a much more enjoyable space to curl up and read, relax and hang out.  I also love that “window seat” in the front cap which has a lot of visible and non-visible storage.

From the front bedroom perfection of the Elevation’s bedroom to the Dutchmen Voltage 3970 bathroom.  It is roomy and does not feel claustrophobic or confined.

voltage_3970_bathroom_hazel_decor_big-thumb  Well let’s be blunt, I despise that sink immensely and it would be on my wish list of things to have changed out immediately.  But otherwise, this is a good solid, residential feel to a bathroom on wheels.  And as Dave loves to point out and test, you aren’t going to injure yourself tripping up stairs when you’ve had one too many glasses of wine like some models. 

 

We have looked at a lot of toy haulers and they ALL universally suffer from the same problem from our perspective, trying to do too much in the space and thus resort of galley sofas.  voltage_3970_main_living_area_back_to_front_no_kitchen_hazel_decor_big-thumb  The 3970 is the first one we’ve walked in and the L-shaped sofa worked.  I will admit, I hated it when we first stepped into the coach but it quickly grew on me.  Dave sat directly in front of the fireplace and reclined with ease.  I was opposite him on the sofa of awesomeness, more on that sofa later in another post,  and we were comfortable.  If it were just the two of us and Pickles and Leo there would be no misgivings but cram two mutts at 60 and 90 pounds and the foot space is a little cramped.  But overall, this living room space is well thought out and functional.  The television is large, the fireplace is low to the ground and there is plenty of storage space, some of which is even accessible by the short person of the family.

 

The kitchen has been a huge concern and has eliminated more than one coach from further consideration.  The Dutchman Voltage 3970 however has the best kitchen to date in terms of storage, functionality, and ease of use.  And one of the strongest selling points of the coach has the crappiest photos from the manufacturer.

voltage_3970_main_living_area_front_to_back_hazel_decor_big-thumb

 

The refrigerator and pantry sit next to the sofa of awesomeness on the slide-out and the remainder of the kitchen is U-shaped with lots of storage and counter space.  It would be possible for two people to work in the kitchen and not be constantly bumping into one another.

 

And into the garage we go, yep garage.  First off, I’d shave two feet off of the eleven or twelve foot garage and put that two feet into the living room.  It would open up the living room foot space and provide more space for dogs to stretch out or kids to play.  So, in our “perfect’’ coach the garage is smaller but we don’t intend to use it for hauling toys but rather as a bonus room.  This a a huge space with a patio to the outdoors.  It is perfect for sipping morning coffee, eating dinner, or coming in and shedding muddy clothes after a hike.  A great place to wipe down filthy dogs and dry out boots.   But it also works great as an office space and gaming space, be it board or video games.    There is the added bonus of a completely separate space if you happen to have a fight with your spouse and you need to go to your separate area for a bit. 

 

So, what would my nine or ten foot garage look like?  Well, combine the features of the Heartland Edge 397, Crossroads Elevation, and the Dutchmen Voltage 3970.

 

First up the Edge’s features.

phoca_thumb_l_2015%20EG%20397ED%2067 and phoca_thumb_l_2015%20EG%20397ED%2064.  So, dual patios.  The amount of light that floods in is amazing and the amount of extra living space acquired is tremendous.  The 397 also has this great television which while shown above, doesn’t show off it’s best feature and that is that it pivots to the outside for viewing.  Now I realize in my shortened garage this feature and the ones below are incompatible but it is a great feature.  The 397 also does one thing extremely well, there is a ton of storage built into the wall which is truly great.

 

The Elevation line has one of the single best features in any garage, the washer and dryer is in the garage!

Elevation15_Richmond_garage  No longer is that necessary appliance eating precious space in the living quarters but rather it’s now in the garage where it belongs.  One simple change that frees up so much living space it boggles the mind.

 

The 3970 has the best dining space created in the garage that we’ve seen.

 voltage_3970_garage_front_to_back_hazel_decor_big-thumb  The table feels substantial, not flimsy and stows away somewhere.  The bench sitting is comfortable and more importantly the table is large.  You can easily eat dinner or play a board game.  The 3970 does let in a considerable amount of light for there not being a second patio or sliding glass door.  Also, that recliner in the photo is comfortable and you could easily spend hours in the recliner.

 

The rear patio/ramp on the 3970 has an essential feature which isn’t found on most other toy haulers we’ve seen.

voltage_3970_garage_porch_with_stairs_hazel_decor_big-thumb  Can you guess what the feature is?  voltage_3970_garage_porch_steps_big-thumb

Yep, something as simple as stairs up to the back patio with a handrail.  Why don’t all toy haulers with patios come with this?  No seriously, why?  It makes the patio far more accessible, far more useful, and far safer than without it.  Now old dogs, cranky knees, and people can get onto the patio without tromping through your home.  No muddy footprints and no wee ones jumping off the patio to get down (well in theory).

 

Now for the little things that make all the difference.  First, entry steps are the single most important thing.  They are the first thing a customer experiences, so why are so many fifth wheels so awful with steep entry steps and only three of them?  Best steps ever, for me, I first experienced on the lovely Jayco Pinnacle 36REQS

2892-Pinnacle%20-%20_0004_Pinn38FLSA_Steps%20copy  These steps are easy to use, not steep and feel supportive.  They are made by Lippert I’ve learned and were on the Voltage 3970 that we saw.  Why aren’t they more widely used or a factory option on every coach I will never comprehend.  Dave already knows that if the steps aren’t present on the coach we decide on these steps will be replacing whatever steps are standard.

 

Scare lights, never thought about these until we started looking at the Crossroads Elevation and they were listed as a standard feature.  Now I wonder if they are on all the toy haulers we’ve looked at and they just aren’t listed.  I must remember to ask next time. 

 

This one is more of a complaint about all manufacturers in general and their websites.  Why are the pictures, if they exist mind you, out of date?  Seriously, if you’ve released the next model year then update your websites to show what that model year looks like not the previous model years.  Nothing drives me crazier than looking at pictures online and realizing that “Opps, this is last year and the next year is available at the dealer”.    And when manufacturers take pictures, take the same pictures of every coach, every time, for every model in a particular line and then upload them in the same order.  Nothing is more frustrating, well after my first complaint, then trying to compare model features but the same pictures for different models are unavailable.  It isn’t that hard to do, as an example Truck Masters here in Arizona takes and uploads the same pictures in the same order on every truck. 

 

Now for the compliments and both go to Heartland.  Heartland consistently, across model lines has the most information available and published for the consumer.  I know that I can look up R-values on a Heartland model or water capacity.  The information is consistent, except those rare times when it says TBD which baffles me.  Second, is customer service and this compliment and shout out goes specifically to Marie Pennington, Social Media Specialist for Heartland.  Heartland has a gem in Marie and she has made every interaction with Heartland easy and enjoyable.  We can ask her anything about a Heartland model and she will track down the answers for us promptly and efficiently.  While we haven’t decided on any particular model yet, if two models are close the relationship we’ve built with Heartland through Marie will tip the scales in Heartland’s favor.  Personal, informative, and friendly customer service will always win in my book.

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The “PERFECT” but alas, non-existent ONE

Dave and I keep looking, and he keeps wandering into random fifth wheels every time we look.  As frustrating as that can be sometimes, especially when we’ve narrowed down the list yet again, it is also great because we learn something new each time.  Last weekend he peaked his head into and Heartland Edge 397 and this weekend it was a Dutchmen Voltage 3970.   So last night, I kept myself awake  configuring the “perfect” fifth wheel for us.  It doesn’t exist and to custom order one would be stupid expensive. 

 

So without further ado, here’s what I’d pick and choose for the “perfect” fifth wheel, starting at the front cap and working toward the rear and using stock photos from the manufacturers.

 

Crossroads RV makes the most perfect use of the front cap known to mankind, and it’s not on all of their models either which is unfathomable.  Their Elevation toy hauler line has two models which have the perfect front cap, the Las Vegas and Sonoma.

 

Elevation15_LasVegas_bedroom  There is a TON of light when you walk in the bedroom, even without the lights on and on a rainy day in November.  Using the front cap for a window floods the room with light, allowing for a much more enjoyable space to curl up and read, relax and hang out.  I also love that “window seat” in the front cap which has a lot of visible and non-visible storage.

From the front bedroom perfection of the Elevation’s bedroom to the Dutchmen Voltage 3970 bathroom.  It is roomy and does not feel claustrophobic or confined.

voltage_3970_bathroom_hazel_decor_big-thumb  Well let’s be blunt, I despise that sink immensely and it would be on my wish list of things to have changed out immediately.  But otherwise, this is a good solid, residential feel to a bathroom on wheels.  And as Dave loves to point out and test, you aren’t going to injure yourself tripping up stairs when you’ve had one too many glasses of wine like some models. 

 

We have looked at a lot of toy haulers and they ALL universally suffer from the same problem from our perspective, trying to do too much in the space and thus resort of galley sofas.  voltage_3970_main_living_area_back_to_front_no_kitchen_hazel_decor_big-thumb  The 3970 is the first one we’ve walked in and the L-shaped sofa worked.  I will admit, I hated it when we first stepped into the coach but it quickly grew on me.  Dave sat directly in front of the fireplace and reclined with ease.  I was opposite him on the sofa of awesomeness, more on that sofa later in another post,  and we were comfortable.  If it were just the two of us and Pickles and Leo there would be no misgivings but cram two mutts at 60 and 90 pounds and the foot space is a little cramped.  But overall, this living room space is well thought out and functional.  The television is large, the fireplace is low to the ground and there is plenty of storage space, some of which is even accessible by the short person of the family.

 

The kitchen has been a huge concern and has eliminated more than one coach from further consideration.  The Dutchman Voltage 3970 however has the best kitchen to date in terms of storage, functionality, and ease of use.  And one of the strongest selling points of the coach has the crappiest photos from the manufacturer.

voltage_3970_main_living_area_front_to_back_hazel_decor_big-thumb

 

The refrigerator and pantry sit next to the sofa of awesomeness on the slide-out and the remainder of the kitchen is U-shaped with lots of storage and counter space.  It would be possible for two people to work in the kitchen and not be constantly bumping into one another.

 

And into the garage we go, yep garage.  First off, I’d shave two feet off of the eleven or twelve foot garage and put that two feet into the living room.  It would open up the living room foot space and provide more space for dogs to stretch out or kids to play.  So, in our “perfect’’ coach the garage is smaller but we don’t intend to use it for hauling toys but rather as a bonus room.  This a a huge space with a patio to the outdoors.  It is perfect for sipping morning coffee, eating dinner, or coming in and shedding muddy clothes after a hike.  A great place to wipe down filthy dogs and dry out boots.   But it also works great as an office space and gaming space, be it board or video games.    There is the added bonus of a completely separate space if you happen to have a fight with your spouse and you need to go to your separate area for a bit. 

 

So, what would my nine or ten foot garage look like?  Well, combine the features of the Heartland Edge 397, Crossroads Elevation, and the Dutchmen Voltage 3970.

 

First up the Edge’s features.

phoca_thumb_l_2015%20EG%20397ED%2067 and phoca_thumb_l_2015%20EG%20397ED%2064.  So, dual patios.  The amount of light that floods in is amazing and the amount of extra living space acquired is tremendous.  The 397 also has this great television which while shown above, doesn’t show off it’s best feature and that is that it pivots to the outside for viewing.  Now I realize in my shortened garage this feature and the ones below are incompatible but it is a great feature.  The 397 also does one thing extremely well, there is a ton of storage built into the wall which is truly great.

 

The Elevation line has one of the single best features in any garage, the washer and dryer is in the garage!

Elevation15_Richmond_garage  No longer is that necessary appliance eating precious space in the living quarters but rather it’s now in the garage where it belongs.  One simple change that frees up so much living space it boggles the mind.

 

The 3970 has the best dining space created in the garage that we’ve seen.

 voltage_3970_garage_front_to_back_hazel_decor_big-thumb  The table feels substantial, not flimsy and stows away somewhere.  The bench sitting is comfortable and more importantly the table is large.  You can easily eat dinner or play a board game.  The 3970 does let in a considerable amount of light for there not being a second patio or sliding glass door.  Also, that recliner in the photo is comfortable and you could easily spend hours in the recliner.

 

The rear patio/ramp on the 3970 has an essential feature which isn’t found on most other toy haulers we’ve seen.

voltage_3970_garage_porch_with_stairs_hazel_decor_big-thumb  Can you guess what the feature is?  voltage_3970_garage_porch_steps_big-thumb

Yep, something as simple as stairs up to the back patio with a handrail.  Why don’t all toy haulers with patios come with this?  No seriously, why?  It makes the patio far more accessible, far more useful, and far safer than without it.  Now old dogs, cranky knees, and people can get onto the patio without tromping through your home.  No muddy footprints and no wee ones jumping off the patio to get down (well in theory).

 

Now for the little things that make all the difference.  First, entry steps are the single most important thing.  They are the first thing a customer experiences, so why are so many fifth wheels so awful with steep entry steps and only three of them?  Best steps ever, for me, I first experienced on the lovely Jayco Pinnacle 36REQS

2892-Pinnacle%20-%20_0004_Pinn38FLSA_Steps%20copy  These steps are easy to use, not steep and feel supportive.  They are made by Lippert I’ve learned and were on the Voltage 3970 that we saw.  Why aren’t they more widely used or a factory option on every coach I will never comprehend.  Dave already knows that if the steps aren’t present on the coach we decide on these steps will be replacing whatever steps are standard.

 

Scare lights, never thought about these until we started looking at the Crossroads Elevation and they were listed as a standard feature.  Now I wonder if they are on all the toy haulers we’ve looked at and they just aren’t listed.  I must remember to ask next time. 

 

This one is more of a complaint about all manufacturers in general and their websites.  Why are the pictures, if they exist mind you, out of date?  Seriously, if you’ve released the next model year then update your websites to show what that model year looks like not the previous model years.  Nothing drives me crazier than looking at pictures online and realizing that “Opps, this is last year and the next year is available at the dealer”.    And when manufacturers take pictures, take the same pictures of every coach, every time, for every model in a particular line and then upload them in the same order.  Nothing is more frustrating, well after my first complaint, then trying to compare model features but the same pictures for different models are unavailable.  It isn’t that hard to do, as an example Truck Masters here in Arizona takes and uploads the same pictures in the same order on every truck. 

 

Now for the compliments and both go to Heartland.  Heartland consistently, across model lines has the most information available and published for the consumer.  I know that I can look up R-values on a Heartland model or water capacity.  The information is consistent, except those rare times when it says TBD which baffles me.  Second, is customer service and this compliment and shout out goes specifically to Marie Pennington, Social Media Specialist for Heartland.  Heartland has a gem in Marie and she has made every interaction with Heartland easy and enjoyable.  We can ask her anything about a Heartland model and she will track down the answers for us promptly and efficiently.  While we haven’t decided on any particular model yet, if two models are close the relationship we’ve built with Heartland through Marie will tip the scales in Heartland’s favor.  Personal, informative, and friendly customer service will always win in my book.

Meet Lana: “There’s no Hitch in her Giddy-Up”

WP_20151122_003

 

FINALLY my lazy parents did something about having no wheels with which to transport me in the style in which I’ve become accustomed.  They left here yesterday morning early and came home after dark with Lana.  Now mind you, I have no idea WHY it took so long to pick out a truck and they haven’t introduced me to her formally but from the pictures she sure is pretty!  I can’t wait to leave my mark on her!

 

Pickles is right, we did take a long time yesterday but after we signed all the paperwork we took a “test drive” to Tucson to measure the mattress in the Heartland Big Country 3900FLP and to walk thru the Heartland Landmark Newport.  We did both of those in record time and then Dave poked his head into the Heartland Edge 397 and fell in love.  And yep, we are all over the map still trying to make up our minds on the right fifth wheel.

 

We purchased a new 2015 Dodge Ram 3500HD Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 Long Box for roughly $5,000 more than what we were considering purchasing from CarMax.  The mileage was less than 50 and the tires were brand new.  It was additional money well spent. 

 

WP_20151122_002

We looked at all the lower priced models from the tradesman on up and we decided to test drive the one we purchased.  We could only test drive this one because it was the ONLY one we looked at that had side rails already.  I couldn’t have gotten in the cabs of the other models without a step stool and no way that was happening!

 

Ok sure, the gray is boring to look at and is just like almost every other Dodge truck out there that isn’t white but it isn’t white so I consider that a plus.  Dave was nervous as all get out driving it for the first time.  Lana has wide hips, no seriously Lana is much wider than James.  He was nervous but he did just fine.

 

We purchased from Larry H. Miller Dodge in Avondale and it was a completely painless, dare I say pleasant, car buying experience.  Jonathon Robison was our salesman and he was easy going and pleasant.  No high pressure sales tactics employed and we would both recommend purchasing a vehicle from Larry H. Miller.

 

WP_20151123_001There she is in our driveway.  She just barely fits, as you can see her rear end hangs over onto the sidewalk somewhat.  I’m dubious that she will fit in the garage but Dave thinks she will just barely.  Time will tell.

WP_20151123_007  Oh did I mention that I’m just barely taller than the bed of the truck?  I’m flat footed on the sidewalk and as you can see my nose is below the top of the tailgate.  No, that’s not intimidating at all!

 

 

For me, most important was the ride comfort and would there be room for the animals.  The answer is yes, although the ride isn’t quite as comfortable as James right now but we both realize that is because the backend is lighter than it should be.  And to be honest that deck in the back seat and the storage lockers on each side are awesome.  The storage lockers provide a place for dog leads to go and I no longer have to worry about them falling out of the door.  The deck means a lower step to the floor for Wally and an easier step in for him as well, not to mention a hidey hole for Leo should he want one.

 

Archer-Logo

 

Dave and I are HUGE fans of Archer which airs on FX.  We spent the drive to Tucson yesterday trying to name the vehicle and ultimately Lana just fit!  On the show, Lana is Archer’s love interest at times, nemesis, and now the mother of his child.  But in her own right she kicks ass and takes names and is often very fond of saying “NOOOOPE!”.  Well, that whole “NOOOOPE!” sentiment fits the truck.  As we learned, the truck accelerates like a bat outta hell and routinely says “NOOOOPE!” to cars that try and cut us off.  (I mean who in their right mind is going to try and cut off a truck this size?)

 

So, Lana she was christened and her motto is “There is no hitch in her giddy-up” quite simply because she gets out of her own way very quickly.  Overall, we spent more than we wanted to right before the holidays but we are comfortable and happy with what we purchased.  Lana will be in the family for many years to come!

 

20151123_082105

Meet Lana: “There’s no Hitch in her Giddy-Up”

WP_20151122_003

 

FINALLY my lazy parents did something about having no wheels with which to transport me in the style in which I’ve become accustomed.  They left here yesterday morning early and came home after dark with Lana.  Now mind you, I have no idea WHY it took so long to pick out a truck and they haven’t introduced me to her formally but from the pictures she sure is pretty!  I can’t wait to leave my mark on her!

 

Pickles is right, we did take a long time yesterday but after we signed all the paperwork we took a “test drive” to Tucson to measure the mattress in the Heartland Big Country 3900FLP and to walk thru the Heartland Landmark Newport.  We did both of those in record time and then Dave poked his head into the Heartland Edge 397 and fell in love.  And yep, we are all over the map still trying to make up our minds on the right fifth wheel.

 

We purchased a new 2015 Dodge Ram 3500HD Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 Long Box for roughly $5,000 more than what we were considering purchasing from CarMax.  The mileage was less than 50 and the tires were brand new.  It was additional money well spent. 

 

WP_20151122_002

We looked at all the lower priced models from the tradesman on up and we decided to test drive the one we purchased.  We could only test drive this one because it was the ONLY one we looked at that had side rails already.  I couldn’t have gotten in the cabs of the other models without a step stool and no way that was happening!

 

Ok sure, the gray is boring to look at and is just like almost every other Dodge truck out there that isn’t white but it isn’t white so I consider that a plus.  Dave was nervous as all get out driving it for the first time.  Lana has wide hips, no seriously Lana is much wider than James.  He was nervous but he did just fine.

 

We purchased from Larry H. Miller Dodge in Avondale and it was a completely painless, dare I say pleasant, car buying experience.  Jonathon Robison was our salesman and he was easy going and pleasant.  No high pressure sales tactics employed and we would both recommend purchasing a vehicle from Larry H. Miller.

 

WP_20151123_001There she is in our driveway.  She just barely fits, as you can see her rear end hangs over onto the sidewalk somewhat.  I’m dubious that she will fit in the garage but Dave thinks she will just barely.  Time will tell.

WP_20151123_007  Oh did I mention that I’m just barely taller than the bed of the truck?  I’m flat footed on the sidewalk and as you can see my nose is below the top of the tailgate.  No, that’s not intimidating at all!

 

 

For me, most important was the ride comfort and would there be room for the animals.  The answer is yes, although the ride isn’t quite as comfortable as James right now but we both realize that is because the backend is lighter than it should be.  And to be honest that deck in the back seat and the storage lockers on each side are awesome.  The storage lockers provide a place for dog leads to go and I no longer have to worry about them falling out of the door.  The deck means a lower step to the floor for Wally and an easier step in for him as well, not to mention a hidey hole for Leo should he want one.

 

Archer-Logo

 

Dave and I are HUGE fans of Archer which airs on FX.  We spent the drive to Tucson yesterday trying to name the vehicle and ultimately Lana just fit!  On the show, Lana is Archer’s love interest at times, nemesis, and now the mother of his child.  But in her own right she kicks ass and takes names and is often very fond of saying “NOOOOPE!”.  Well, that whole “NOOOOPE!” sentiment fits the truck.  As we learned, the truck accelerates like a bat outta hell and routinely says “NOOOOPE!” to cars that try and cut us off.  (I mean who in their right mind is going to try and cut off a truck this size?)

 

So, Lana she was christened and her motto is “There is no hitch in her giddy-up” quite simply because she gets out of her own way very quickly.  Overall, we spent more than we wanted to right before the holidays but we are comfortable and happy with what we purchased.  Lana will be in the family for many years to come!

 

20151123_082105

Our CarMax Experience

bg-2015-location-banner

 

CarMax had a beautiful 2012 Dodge Ram 3500HD Laramie Longhorn that on paper meet our towing needs and at a price we were comfortable paying.  Earlier that morning, Dave had applied for and was rejected for a car loan.  Turns out that most banks and lenders consider a 3500, or it’s equivalent, a commercial vehicle and will not issue consumer loans.  Thus we knew we would have to go through a dealership for financing.  Thus CarMax was more attractive because family members have had good luck with vehicles purchased via CarMax.

525

 

Dave and I talked about it and looked at the pictures and eventually he called the local CarMax to get more information.  The information was good and of course we were approved for financing, so Dave paid to have the truck shipped from it’s location to our local CarMax.  So, now we have $280 invested in a car we’ve never physically seen but looks good in the pictures.   A risk but one we were reasonably comfortable taking.

Then, Dave started looking more closely at the pictures and discovered a potential problem with the tires.

525b

So, he placed another call to our CarMax contact and asked for the tire depth since the tread looked to be extremely low.  I freely admit I knew next to nothing about tire tread but I learned on Thursday evening last week.  Dave guessed the tread to be 2/32nd’s which is the bare minimum legal limit of tire tread.  Our concerns were realized when CarMax called back and confirmed the tread was low at 4/32nd’s.  Dave then requested that CarMax reduce the price of the vehicle because we would have to immediately replace the tires because we didn’t want to be driving around a 6,000 pound mobile missile.  CarMax refused on the grounds that the tires were within the legal limit and thus their pricing was firm.

525c

The seats were gorgeous and the red exterior was exquisite.  But seriously, even if everything else except the tires had been perfection, CarMax was, no make that is, asking full price for a used vehicle that a wise individual would immediately have to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500-$2,000 on six new tires.  Add that expense on top of what CarMax was asking for a four year old vehicle and the numbers just didn’t add up.

 

So, if you end up looking at CarMax for a tow vehicle be sure and ask about tire tread depth prior to paying for the vehicle to be moved to a location near you.  Did CarMax try and sell us an “illegal” vehicle?  No, but they are willing to sell a mobile missile at new car prices.  And honestly, while our local contact was fair and reasonable to deal with, overall dealing with CarMax left a bad taste in both our mouths.

James Decides to Retire Early

20150301_134400

 

James, the faithful Range Rover of my youth, decided that his service to the family was over a week ago.  He just gave up the ghost, didn’t let me have one final swan song ride.  Instead, he gave up and caused Mum and Dad oodles of unnecessary stress just before Thanksgiving, the best food feeding frenzy of the year!  I’m officially going to go pout in my corner. 

 

20150718_131928

 

Pickles may be pouting but he is correct, James decided to retire while we were on the way to my parents house for dinner with the extended family last Tuesday.  The alternator light came on and we were lucky enough to be able to turn into a local neighborhood to call AAA.  James was towed home on a chilly Tuesday night and once disconnected from the tow truck he fired right up and pulled into the driveway with no issues.  So, you can imagine just how frustrated we both were!

 

20150301_134238

 

Dave immediately resumed the search for a truck that would tow the fifth wheels we have been looking at the last couple of months.  We knew we were going to have to replace James eventually but that was sometime next spring.  Apparently James figured it out and decided on early retirement without consulting us. 

 

20150228_152150

 

Wally and Sangria have enjoyed many hours in the backseat off-roading and hanging their heads out the windows.  They fit nicely in the back seat together and loved the big windows.  Pickles used to ride on the cover to the rear.  His cage snugly fit between the roof and the cover so he didn’t slide around.  He could see everything and loved the view freaking out little kids as we were driving down the road.

 

So, as you can imagine our last week was spent looking for new trucks and facing sticker shock.  But more on that in the next post.  James was a much loved, well used, and faithful vehicle for the seven years we had him.  I would never hesitate to own another Range Rover.

 

Rest In Vehicle Peace James

Heartland Big Country 3900FLP Impressions

 

Saturday morning arrived and I was all set for a day of football and family time but much to my displeasure Mom and Dad disappeared again for the vast majority of the day. When they finally stumbled in the door some seven hour after they departed, they were tired and out of sorts. I’ve decided to take a back seat in this post because I know my parents moods and they are bummed.

 

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Friday, of last week, I called La Mesa RV in Tucson and verified that the Big Country 3900FLP (the only one in the state) was still on lot and would be available on Saturday.  I then asked that the unit be turned on and the lights on Saturday morning and the patio extended so that we could get a more realistic view of the unit.  They agreed and sure enough come Saturday morning the unit was there and waiting for us just like I had requested.  So far, this was a VASTLY different experience than with their counterparts in Phoenix.  The very nice salesmen even left us alone to talk and discuss things without interference.

 

Overall our first impression was fabulous, the light from the sliding glass door and the patio combined to make a great fifth wheel experience.  There is plenty of internal storage for just about everything I could reasonably think of bringing.  There is room for Pickles to hang out in the kitchen, in the living room, and on the patio.  The patio is perfection.  Not only could Pickles be easily rolled out there in his cage but both dogs could lay on the deck on sun themselves and there would still be plenty of room for me to curl up and read.  Dave could see everyone from his desk at the kitchen table and thus wouldn’t be too far from the action so to speak.

 

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The double slide out in the bedroom makes it feel huge.  The ability to walk around the king size bed without tripping over your feet, or someday Wally’s sprawled sleeping self in the middle of the night, is huge.  The large window in the bedroom lets in a ton of light which also helps add to the feeling of spacious living.  The under bed storage was also extremely nice.

 

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The bathroom was probably the least favorite thing.  There was plenty of headroom in the shower for Dave, who at 6’2 doesn’t always fit in RV showers.  I was surprised at how cramped the bath was.  Everything you need was there but it felt super tiny and you definitely would not be drying off comfortably in the shower.  Note to self: shower with the coach blinds down to prevent scaring any potential neighbors!

 

The patio is the huge selling point for this model and it doesn’t disappoint.  The awning on the coach completely covers the patio which is perfect.  It is large enough for dining al fresco, reading, bird sunning, dog lounging and avoiding the creepy crawlies that roam on the ground.  It is truly the selling point.  We both love the patio.

 

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Now for the problems, which were made all the more evident when we once again went to the RV Show on Sunday and walked through various other fifth wheels from Heartland and the competition.  We are hoping that the issues noted below are isolated incidents with this particular unit and not representative of the 3900FLP build quality overall.

 

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This the the kitchen corner desk/table countertop corner facing the kitchen.  On a brand new, built in August 2015, the countertop is lifting away from the wall.  It is a visible gap and the slightest pressure from above makes the gap more apparent while some slight pressure from below stabilizes the structure (as Dave learned below).  Now, Dave already devised a potential solution if we should experience this issue but overall,  it was unexpectedly poor build quality.

 

Same area, this time on the wall next to the sliding glass door.

 

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There are also issues with the wood lamination in the bedroom.

 

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And the furniture in the living was not up to the level of comfort we’ve come to expect from Heartland, this was made even more apparent after Sunday afternoon.  It’s decent to look at but there would be no curling up in the sofas and losing yourself in a good book.  The recliners weren’t all that comfortable as well.  We realize that everyone’s definition of comfort varies but this particular coach appears to have gotten the least comfortable furniture ever.

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The entertainment center and fireplace were extremely nice.  Roomy cabinets that will easily accommodate the XboxOne with plenty of room for books and games.  But why is the stereo front and center?  It is an eyesore, all blue and glowy.  If it had been recessed or behind a glass cabinet I would be much happier.  Yes, I can live with it but it is an eyesore that isn’t present on the Big Country 3800 which is the almost exact same floor plan without the patio.

 

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Overall, we love the 3900FLP in concept and design but we have a lot of questions to get answered from the factory about build quality and design.    We have conflicting answers from the factory and dealer on axles.  We have generator issues to be resolved.   Needless to say, we won’t be purchasing the one sitting on the lot in Tucson.  The price is good but there are too many issues that were noticed by us on a general viewing walk through to be comfortable purchasing that particular model.  We know things jar loose or break with time, travel and use.  

 

Conversation with Heartland and Ourselves

After we viewed the coach and spent Sunday looking at other coaches at the RV Show, we had questions and concerns which we raised directly with Heartland.  Marie Pennington is our customer service point of contact and Joel Eberlein is the General Manager for the Big Country model line.  Marie and Joel were both extremely helpful in addressing our concerns and tracking down answers for us.  Customer service has been excellent and deserves public praise in an industry that often overlooks customer satisfaction.

 

The 3900FLP received a design update this fall and the above living room picture is no longer representative of what the new models look like for the 2016 product line.  With Heartland’s permission, we are sharing the new living room which directly addresses our concerns.  The stereo is no longer an eyesore and the color scheme is much improved.  The sofas also look like the ones we sat in on the Big Country 3800 over the weekend which are a significant improvement over the ones on the FLP we walked through.

 

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Heartland is confident that the lamination and cabinet issues we found on our walkthrough could be addressed and solved during the PDI by the dealer.  Dave and I are both of the same mind, if they exist when we order and do our PDI those are both reasons for which we would refuse to accept delivery of the coach.  One is cosmetic which will drive me bonkers once I notice it and one is structural.  We both understand that the countertop issue may reoccur with wear and tear but new from the factory, it should not be present.

 

Our other big concerns, were the axles and whether or not our current mattress would fit.  The FLP comes standard with 7,000 pound axles and our dealer told us that 8,000 pound axles were an option.  This has been confirmed by Joel and has eliminated our weight concerns for cargo carrying capacity entirely.  Marie has also confirmed this morning that our mattress will fit the clearance needed for the double slides in the bedroom.  I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled that made us both.

 

Barring a radical change of circumstances, we have made up our minds.  Come early first quarter we will be placing our custom order for the Big Country 3900FLP.  It is the best fit for our needs.  If gives us so much extra space with the attached patio.  Pickles, Wally, and Sangria can all sun themselves without worrying about creepy crawlers.  Dave has space to work and we all have space to relax, cook, read comfortably, and game.  So, after the holidays are over the decluttering and downsizing will begin in earnest as we prepare to transition to fulltime this summer when our lease ends.

Another Sunday, Another RV Show

Sunday dawned and we decided to go to the RV show at the stadium to see if there were any models we liked in comparison to the Heartland Big Country 3900FLP*.  We ignored the toy haulers knowing their layouts didn’t suit our needs.

Heartland Landmark Key West

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This is the top of the line Heartland fifth wheeler and it is the only Landmark at the show.  It is nearly perfect in that it has the double slides in the bedroom which make the space feel amazing.  There’s plenty of room for Pickles  (who is quietly napping after dinner as I write this) and Wally and Sangria to stretch out and snooze. 

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The Newport floor plan suits our needs better with the option to make the half bath a pantry/office for Dave.  I just wish the bedroom had double slides.  Also, it’s hard to decide on a coach you’ve never stepped in because there aren’t any in your local area.  Maybe if we go to the Tucson RV Show on Saturday we will get lucky.

Heartland Oakmont 390MBL

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Dave loves this coach, the extra bedroom would make a fantastic office and gaming room.  It would also give us somewhere to roll Pickles out of the way and shut the door when he’s cranky.

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The construction insulation value of all the walls, and there being no upgrade or winterization option, make this coach an interesting but difficult choice for fulltimers.  That being said, the recliners on the coach are divine and we both didn’t want to move from the heated massage.

Lifestyle

There were two models at the show and both would work, the LS38RS and LS39RE.

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I preferred the FB model and I don’t think Dave really had a strong opinion either way.  The fit and finish was good but nothing was so spectacular that our jaws dropped.  And to be blunt, the asymmetrical lines throughout were driving his engineer mind bonkers.

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Augusta Luxe

To be honest, I don’t know which model we walked through but I do remember the entryway and steps were atrocious  (I wrenched my back exiting).  Also, and I wish I had thought to take a picture if this, the whole LUXE inscribed in the wood door frame at the door made it a commercial vehicle and not a home.  For the price, it was utter crap.

Closing Thoughts

We don’t live in a small town, admittedly Phoenix isn’t the largest city in the nation but it isn’t tiny, and yet trying to look at a good representation of manufacturers and models is blooming frustrating.  Hours of driving, high pressure sales, exclusive dealerships that do not carry all or even most of a model line, and brochures about as scarce as an wrapped gift on Christmas morning.  We’ve had some really awful experiences and some good ones.  We haven’t made a decision yet but I think we are getting closer.  Tomorrow we are going to the show at PIR to look at the Redwoods and hopeful a Rushmore model.  Fingers crossed that something meets every need and we both love the same coach.

*Blog post about our drive to Tucson will be up later this week.

Wherein Mum and Dad change their minds

Have you ever thought to yourself, “My parents are just flat out crazy?”  If you haven’t you’re lucky, mine are and I certainly thought so when they proclaimed “We’ve found the motorhome!”  They were flat out crazy, sure it would have been a great option if they didn’t have care and custody of me the universe’s greatest feathered companion of all time! 

 

Shortly after their last posting I watched Dad begin to research fifth wheelers and toy haulers and when I saw those patios on the toy haulers I was all a flutter with joy!  There finally was someplace to relax and hang out safely in my cage while soaking up the sun and chatting with my wild feathered friends.  I was immensely pleased when they spent all of the last week researching and look at those patio wonders.

 

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Enough of the mouthy little feathered punk, although he has a point.  We have spent the last week or so looking at fifth wheels and toy haulers.  A lot of time was spent this weekend driving around and climbing in out out of our top choices.  We narrowed our search down to Heartland, Jayco, Grand Design, and Forest River.  They all had toy haulers and fifth wheels that on paper met our needs.

 

Let’s just say there can be a tremendous amount of variation between manufacturers on fit and finish.  We, well Dave, stepped in one Forest River toy hauler and immediately knew it wasn’t the right one.  Grand Design has a decent toy hauler in the Momentum but not enough to keep it in the running.  In the end, Jayco and Heartland were the two final choices.

 

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I absolutely fell in love with the Jayco Pinnacle 36REQS the moment I stepped into the coach.  It felt like home.  The furniture was comfortable, it felt spacious and open.  There was plenty of open space and kitchen was spacious.  The bedroom was wonderful as well, the washer and dryer being in a separate cabinet not eating up closet space was a HUGE plus for me.   One of the nicest things about the Jayco were the entry stairs.  They are rock solid and my bad knees much preferred the five step entry to the competition.  The arched ceiling in Jayco was also a huge plus.  The coach overall just felt larger and more spacious.

 

The Jayco Seismic the first picture, was the only toy hauler to make it into the final three.  It is an absolutely gorgeous toy hauler with solid fit and finish.  It would be a great weekend play coach or extended holiday coach.  It would not workout well for long term living though for our family, despite Pickles insistence that he needs to patios.

 

Two things eliminated the Jayco from the running.  First, lack of basement storage and no patio option.  If we knew these were upgrades coming from Jayco in the next year or two it is quite possible we would wait.    Jayco builds gorgeous short term vacation fifth wheels and if we were looking for that, there would be a Pinnacle 36REQS on order after the first of the year.

 

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We looked at two Heartland Big Country’s over the weekend, the 3800FL and the 3950FB.  They were nice, spacious with vastly improved fit and finish over the Heartland Cyclone 4200 toy hauler we looked at.  The entire family would be able to fit comfortably and there was plenty of basement storage.  They checked almost all the boxes.  It wasn’t until we got home Saturday evening and Dave started poking around that he discovered the 3900FLP which checks every box we have.  Unfortunately, there is only one 3900FLP in the entire state and it’s about a two hour drive from the house.  We are going to look at it on Saturday.

 

If it meets our expectations then it truly is the one and the motorhome concept is truly out the window for good.  We have a list of questions into Heartland.  I will take plenty of pictures and post the best ones this weekend.  Pickles will get the best of both worlds and I won’t be losing any storage beneath the coach.