It’s a good thing despite initial impression

As you know, we spent a couple of weeks in New Mexico at the beginning of May on our final shake down trip after picking up The Gump from La Mesa.  We needed fuel and food and so we stopped at a Petro truck stop just over the border in New Mexico.  Dave pumped diesel and I went in search of snacks.  Fuel and food obtained we continued on blissfully unaware that we, well I, had picked up an unwanted passenger for the trip.

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We arrived at Percha Dam State Park mid-afternoon on Saturday and settled in comfortably.  Come Monday morning I was starting to feel a wee bit off but then Tuesday arrived and I spent the day in bed wondering if I’d survive.  Whatever cold/flu virus I picked up was nasty awful and hit me hard.  That first week is a blur, I was miserable and felt like I was drowning.  I finally start to feel better and wham Dave gets hit with it that Monday of the second week. 

We changed campgrounds, for a variety of reasons, on Thursday and go to the KOA in Las Cruces.  We hunker in the bunker so to speak, not doing much of anything.  Sunday morning arrives and we leisurely pack up and head back to the house for the final time.  About four hours into the trip back, I tell Dave he is weaving.  He denies it and I say, hey hon seriously you’re weaving.  He’s congested and coughing up a storm too.  I quickly make reservations at KOA Tucson/Lazy Days and here we are until Memorial Day.

MOM, stop rambling and get to the point!  No one wants to hear about you and Dad’s snotty adventures in New Mexico!!

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Pickles has a small point, but the background information sets the stage.  What driving back to the house on Sunday proved was that we are both capable and ready to adapt to life on the fly without it becoming a huge bone of contention.  We needed to pull off and recover and we quickly found a spot where that could happen.  Sure, it was a mere two hours or so back to the house but it wasn’t worth the risk.  It isn’t just some random life belongings we two behind us but the items we’ve deemed most personal and essential to us.  That ability to adapt and react in a timely manner isn’t surprising to me but it does prove that we are capable of doing so to any remaining family members who doubt our sanity.

Dave is feeling better every day.  We are both enjoying the nightly trips to the hot tub after Pickles goes to bed for the evening.  Wally is getting a haircut Friday morning thanks to a local mobile groomer that could work him in on short notice.  Sangria and Leo happily lay out on the deck during the day while Pickles hangs out in the sun.  Overall, the six of us are quite pleased and content with ourselves. 

We are dreading going back to the house come Monday.  It no longer is home and it is going to be hot with a lot of hard work in front of us.  That being said, we are both motivated to get it accomplished as quickly as possible so we can be free and clear of the house and it’s expenses. 

It’s a good thing despite initial impression

As you know, we spent a couple of weeks in New Mexico at the beginning of May on our final shake down trip after picking up The Gump from La Mesa.  We needed fuel and food and so we stopped at a Petro truck stop just over the border in New Mexico.  Dave pumped diesel and I went in search of snacks.  Fuel and food obtained we continued on blissfully unaware that we, well I, had picked up an unwanted passenger for the trip.

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We arrived at Percha Dam State Park mid-afternoon on Saturday and settled in comfortably.  Come Monday morning I was starting to feel a wee bit off but then Tuesday arrived and I spent the day in bed wondering if I’d survive.  Whatever cold/flu virus I picked up was nasty awful and hit me hard.  That first week is a blur, I was miserable and felt like I was drowning.  I finally start to feel better and wham Dave gets hit with it that Monday of the second week. 

We changed campgrounds, for a variety of reasons, on Thursday and go to the KOA in Las Cruces.  We hunker in the bunker so to speak, not doing much of anything.  Sunday morning arrives and we leisurely pack up and head back to the house for the final time.  About four hours into the trip back, I tell Dave he is weaving.  He denies it and I say, hey hon seriously you’re weaving.  He’s congested and coughing up a storm too.  I quickly make reservations at KOA Tucson/Lazy Days and here we are until Memorial Day.

MOM, stop rambling and get to the point!  No one wants to hear about you and Dad’s snotty adventures in New Mexico!!

20160525_101216

Pickles has a small point, but the background information sets the stage.  What driving back to the house on Sunday proved was that we are both capable and ready to adapt to life on the fly without it becoming a huge bone of contention.  We needed to pull off and recover and we quickly found a spot where that could happen.  Sure, it was a mere two hours or so back to the house but it wasn’t worth the risk.  It isn’t just some random life belongings we two behind us but the items we’ve deemed most personal and essential to us.  That ability to adapt and react in a timely manner isn’t surprising to me but it does prove that we are capable of doing so to any remaining family members who doubt our sanity.

Dave is feeling better every day.  We are both enjoying the nightly trips to the hot tub after Pickles goes to bed for the evening.  Wally is getting a haircut Friday morning thanks to a local mobile groomer that could work him in on short notice.  Sangria and Leo happily lay out on the deck during the day while Pickles hangs out in the sun.  Overall, the six of us are quite pleased and content with ourselves. 

We are dreading going back to the house come Monday.  It no longer is home and it is going to be hot with a lot of hard work in front of us.  That being said, we are both motivated to get it accomplished as quickly as possible so we can be free and clear of the house and it’s expenses. 

Learning Experience and curve

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We thought ourselves smarter than the average bear when we decided to purchase The Gump last December.  After all, we had done a lot of research, looked at a lot of different models and manufacturers, we knew what we wanted and needed for our family, and we walked away from the ultimate choice at least twice before deciding to purchase.  It was a non-emotional and well thought-out purchase.  And yet, as we’ve learned we would have landed in the same spot if we had bought the first time we set foot in The Gump.

Listen folks, Mum is about to admit that she was wrong and that Dad handled the situation much better than she did.  Also, can we get The Gump back already!  I miss travelling and impressing folks with my sparkling personality.

Pickles is right, Dave handled the service issues much, much better than I did.  I come from a background where every decision, choice was treated like the life and death matter it was (aerospace) whereas Dave can navigate murky waters of corporate life with an ease I cannot comprehend.  Guess whose skills are more relevant in the RV world?  Yep, not mine.  I’m ok with that, now.  I’m perfectly content to be the writer of the blog and planner of trips.  Those dark, murky waters of slime can be navigated by Dave, I’ll be content to be the port in the storm from here on out.

Rather than turn this into a rant, I’ve decided to share a couple of lessons we learned in the last nine weeks of extended shake-down service.

Lesson One

The closer to home you get your rig worked on, the better.  Nope seriously, sounds like common sense but we learned this one the hard way.  Two hour drive one way through some of the worst traffic in the nation to check on progress of repairs means you won’t be checking in on a regular basis.  Phone calls and emails are easy but are also easy to ignore and dodge.  It’s much harder to ignore a person who shows up and wants to see the status of repairs. 

Next time, despite the lack of trust in the dealership closer to the house we will be taking it there instead of the dealership we’ve spent months building a working relationship with simply because ten miles is a lot closer than two hours.  Our showing up yesterday did far more than all of my emails and phones in the weeks since we dropped off The Gump for service.

Lesson Two

Be willing to make repairs yourself even if you aren’t the handyman type.  We heard this but took it with a large grain of salt.  After all, if you could pay to have the work done professionally isn’t that less risky than let’s say  Tammy All Thumbs trying to repair something?  Short answer, undoubtedly yes but should you opt for the professional repair option be prepared to be royally and repeated screwed.

We have a simple, easy to repair safety issue that Dutchmen is refusing to repair.  The details are for another post but the repair is less than $35 in raw materials and some time and labor.  Fair enough, when the quote came in for the repair let’s just say it was far in excess of 100% markup in what I thought was the cost of raw materials.  I told Dave, nope we’ll figure it out.  He’s always engineering stuff and this time the conceptual can be made real.  We’d save a ton of cash and get The Gump back that much sooner.

Lesson Three

Spreadsheet action items are your best friend.  Your rig may be your weekend get away or it may be your home but either way, the spreadsheet is your best friend when it comes to tracking ongoing issues and repairs. 

Our dealership is busy and our service advisor is swamped.  I know this logically but honestly, I’d become lazy and dependent like we all have on just throwing ongoing issues in an email as they came up.  Guess what?  Emails are easy to lose track of and a pain to follow-up on individually when there is long list of problems awaiting resolution.  Spreadsheets on the other hand, attach to an email just as easily and keep everything that is ongoing in one place. 

So, as you can imagine we now have an action item spreadsheet for The Gump.  That same spreadsheet will be used until we no longer own The Gump.

Conclusion

So, would we do it all over again knowing what we know now?  Yes, no hesitation and no regrets.  We would do things differently regarding service and letting Dave handle interactions with Dutchmen and Keystone.  But as for The Gump?  No question we made the right decision for us, even if we haven’t made the right decision every time since.  Life is a learning curve and we’ve learned a lot in the last four months.  But much like the photo at the top, the sun is beginning to break through the clouds and there is light at the end of the road.  I’m off to grab a cup of coffee and plan the next shake-out trip.

FUNNY Things we miss

Two weeks we’ve been home and I’ve been trapped in this huge house without my evening sunsets!  Seriously, what are Mom and Dad thinking?  They know I’m a solar powered bird, why did we come back to this miserable house with it’s dark interior?

His screaming highness is right, two weeks we’ve been back in the house and I don’t think a single one of us is happy. 

Dave and I haven’t been sleeping well.  Scratch that, we really haven’t slept in two weeks.  We each get a couple of hours of light sleep each night which is little more than glorified dozing.  Restful, restorative, re-cooperative sleep has alluded us both since we’ve been back at the house.  Our formally oh so comfortable bed at the house has not been that comfortable.  And truthfully, it’s huge and I’m constantly waking up searching for Dave because he’s too far away.  A bed we thought we’d hate and replace first thing, is now something we find we are missing.  Odd funny but there you go, we are odd folks.

The house is dark.  It isn’t dark as houses go, it’s just dark in comparison to The Gump.  The hallway isn’t flooded with light, there’s no sky light above the showerhead, and no fabulous views out any of our windows.  Sure we can look at the golfers or look at pavement, but how does that possibly compare with views like this?

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The funniest thing I miss?  The Gump’s kitchen, which just sounds odd even as I type the words.  I have a huge kitchen here at the house with more cabinets and food storage space than a family of two humans could reasonably utilize.  It was a HUGE bonus when we first moved in, and has since become a liability.  The Gump’s kitchen is reasonably sized for two people’s cooking needs.  I have plenty of storage, admittedly most of it is out of my reach but that’s why tall husband’s and step stools exist.  I like having the stove within easy reach of the kitchen sink.  Sure there are things I’d change about the kitchen, which I will be covering in my next post, but overall I miss my small and compact kitchen.

Greatest thing we all miss?  Our back deck!  Wally, Sangria, and Leo miss basking in the heat and sunlight on the deck in the afternoons.  Pickles misses the sunlight and wild birds chattering at him from afar.  I miss being buzzed by hummingbirds as they fly close to inspect Pickles.  Dave misses the fresh air and sunlight pouring into his office, especially on mornings when I’m cold and he’s not.  We have a huge yard for suburbia and it isn’t the same.  There is far too much ambient noise, car fumes, and golf course activity to make spending any length of time outside a pleasurable experience.

Overall, it’s safe to say that we are eagerly looking forward to The Gump’s return from being serviced.  Not only do we miss “Gumping”, as time in The Gump has come to be known, but we miss close proximity to one another and the sunlight and fresh air.  Still deciding on our first trip once we get him back, but I’m thinking The Gump will be experiencing a lake in New Mexico next (right after I decide on which one).

AT&T Unlimited Data: What does it Actually Mean?

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Pickles was going to write this post but as you can see, he’s decided that napping on the job is priority one.  Guess it falls on my shoulders to share what we learned about what AT&T unlimited truly means.  Sometimes it helps having a family member who works in mobility.

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AT&T does truly have unlimited data without ever incurring an additional fee no matter how many times you exceed the 22GB “cap”.

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s always, Unlimited Data Plan smartphone customers will still have the comfort of knowing that, no matter how much data they use in a billing cycle, they will continue to pay a single monthly flat rate. That is the essential promise of the Unlimited Data Plan, and we are pleased to continue honoring that promise.

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What AT&T unlimited data plan means is that when a customer reaches 22GB of data per billing cycle, network access is throttled back only under certain conditions.

Because the amount of congestion at a cell site can vary significantly, the performance impact for affected unlimited data plan customers may also vary significantly. Standard speeds and latency will resume once the cell cite is no longer congested, or the customer’s data session moves to an uncongested cell site. In addition, speeds and latency will return to normal at the start of the customer’s next billing cycle.

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What does this mean for the RV  Community?

Quite simply, if you are in a less congested area and have exceeded your 22GB cap, your data will NOT be throttled down for the remainder of your billing cycle so long as you remain in an uncongested area or use most of your data during non-peak hours.

If you are in a highly populated area, then expect your data to be throttled once you reach your cap.  But let’s be blunt, aren’t most RV’ERS looking to escape heavily populated areas in the first place?  

Don’t have an AT&T unlimited plan?  They are still available if you sign up for the DIRECTV package available here.

Our PDI Experience

This post is late because we got home from Tucson and immediately came down with very bad colds and the flu. We are both finally recovering and feeling human.   So without further ado, our PDI experience with La Mesa RV Tucson follows.

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Lana and The Gump headed for home for the first time

 

We went to Tucson the third week of December and lucky us, it was the coldest week in the last several months.  Dave was grumbling about the amount of stuff I was packing to take but hey, we were camping out on the lot for at least two days so stuff had to come along.  Once the normal spousal grumbling ceased we made our way to Tucson, fully expecting the worst.  We had heard so many horror stories about dealers rushing the PDI and things not being caught.  I had warned La Mesa I was going to be a stickler and they assured me that it would be no problem.

Our expectations for far exceeded and there was no single question that wasn’t answered or concern addressed.  The PDI was actually an incredibly reassuring experience.  Every person we dealt with was professional, polite, and low key.  When we arrived we greeted by our salesman, Chris Johns, who introduced us to our service manager, Floyd Hall.  Floyd and Chris are exceptional individuals who I will heap praise upon in the next post

Floyd had one of his service advisors, Dave Masters, walk us out to the fifth wheel and he proceeded to walk us through the outside of the coach.  Dave had more questions than I did but the Dave’s asked and answered until my Dave was comfortable.  Then we went inside where I had more questions, which were comfortably asked and answered.

Not once did either of us dig out one of the numerous check lists we had found online prior to leaving for Tucson.  I’m infamous for making lists and so it is shocking that not once during the entire PDI process did I feel the need to pull out a PDI checklist.  I attribute that to the patience and professionalism of Floyd and his team.

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Hard at work for the first time in The Gump

 

When we purchased the coach, part of the deal was that we would spend a couple of nights on the lot at La Mesa before signing off on the PDI.  I cannot tell you how invaluable those nights were.  Dave worked during the day, as you can see above.  (He actually hates that picture but I’m proud of him since he lost fifty pounds in 2015).  Every morning we had an e-mail waiting for Floyd with questions or things that went wrong overnight.  Those camping nights were far more educational than the physical walkthrough.  Every morning John, our service technician, would knock on the door prepared to fix stuff, everything from misbehaving  MCD shades to gouged flooring.

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The first selfie I think we’ve ever taken

 

Speaking of gouged flooring, the amazing ladies at Creative Colors International out of Casa Grande, AZ did an amazing job repairing our linoleum (of which they had never seen or repaired before).  The repair job is so amazing that neither of us can pinpoint the exact location where the floor was damaged.  The pictures below are of the repaired area, before and after.  It’s a little evident in a close-up photo but everyday life, not at all visible.

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Before

 

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After

We are pleased that the floor looks so good and the linoleum didn’t have to be ripped up and replaced.

 

We left on Friday morning, after three nights on the La Mesa lot.  Almost every concern or issue we had was addressed prior to returning home.  The outstanding issues were under discussion with La Mesa and Dutchmen for resolution.  The Gump will be returning to Tucson at the end of January for outstanding items and the new stuff we’ve found on the first trip out.

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Our landing lights, one of which was out and only discovered while camping on the dealer lot

 

Our biggest advice and take-away from the PDI experience?  Staying overnight on the dealer lot before signing off on your rig cannot be under-estimated.  So many issues and concerns were addressed that we would not have found during the normal PDI process.  Should we ever replace The Gump, we will be overnighting on the dealer’s lot during the PDI.

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.

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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.

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