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?

20160122_171713

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).

Advertisements

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

image

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.

image

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

A

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.

            Source

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.

     Source

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 first truly stressful week concludes

This week has been a trial of patience for me and parents.  First, in a time span of four days we changed campgrounds three times.  Personally, that’s a little much for me!  I like riding in the car but seriously, this bird needs some play time away from those pesky dogs who insist they must sit by me in the car.  So finally we settle in and next thing I know, the furnace goes out in the middle of the night.  I am a tropical bird people, I demand heat!

Pickles isn’t far off, it has been a trying week for residents of The Gump. When we pulled out a week ago we were looking forward to a nice stay at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  It was a mere two hours from the house but cooler than Phoenix.  We got here and Dave decided that he could back into the space without assistance.

20160116_203047.jpg

The tree won the argument and Dave no longer believes that backing in without my help is such a great plan.  So, we park and I get everyone settled while he gets us hooked up for the next two weeks.  By this time, he is upset with himself, tired, and stressed out that he has irreparably harmed The Gump.  So, you can imagine his joy in realizing that he read the site information wrong and that while we had 50amp power and water, we didn’t have sewer.  Frustrated, tired, and pissed off that everything so far had gone horribly wrong we decided to change campgrounds the next day.

20160118_130315.jpg

Scrambling quickly we decided on Alamo Lake State Park, change our reservations, and climb into bed.  Well as you know that didn’t work out so well, and we ended up back at Dead Horse Ranch.

The night we all tumble into bed exhausted but content at the new site at Dead Horse Ranch.  We took showers before bed and suddenly the blasted furnace kicks on but is only blowing cold air and not kicking off.  Dave fiddles with it, pulls power, resets the blasted thing, everything you can think of in the dark.  Finally, we settle on pulling the fuse and going to sleep. Pickles was in his usual spot in the kitchen, the fireplace was on.  I woke up cold on Wednesday, stiff joint cold which isn’t a sign of an adequately warm home.  I check on the bird, he’s fine a little mouthy but fine.  I grab a sweater and read until Dave wakes up.  He starts work and eventually gets a chance to fiddle with the furnace.

Nothing we try works, so we contact our service advisor who recommends calling Keystone.  Keystone’s wonderful advice?  Take it to a local dealer and have them look at the issue.  Astounded that on a rig less than forty-five days in our possession that’s the advice, I grumble but call the closest dealer.  Nope, they don’t have furnace parts in stock and they don’t make housecalls (so to speak) and so we’d have to drag The Gump there and leave it for multiple days.  That SO wasn’t happening!

I did a little research and found RV Medic who were able to come to us the same day.  Imagine that, reasonable service that wouldn’t require moving The Gump.  So, Gideon Ephart from RV Medic showed up and diagnosed the problem.  A blown circuit board on the furnace.  We paid the fee and had the circuit board replaced.  Once again, we would have heat and the trip could continue.  Well, Thursday night the furnace started acting up again but different than last time.  We once again called RV Medic and they came out.  Turns out we were the lucky ones and got the first bad circuit board in six years.  Woo Hoo!  Problem is now solved.  The furnace ran all night like it was supposed to and Pickles can once again claim to be the world’s most spoiled Severe Macaw.

Look, we don’t mind the work and the little things that go wrong. We greatly appreciate small, family owned businesses like RV Medic which solve problems quickly and efficiently.  What we didn’t expect was the cavalier attitude of Keystone/Dutchman about the problems we are experiencing.

Sangria and Daddy
Stressful week but they’re so happy it was ALL worth it

We have reservations for two peaceful weeks at Fool Hollow Lake State Park starting tomorrow.  With a working furnace, and what we expect will be a mostly empty park due to weather, we are looking forward to packing the family tomorrow and moving .

Lessons Learned This Trip (So Far)

We’ve been gone five days this trip and the first three were filled with lessons learned.

image

Dave decided he could back The Gump in alone just using the truck mirrors.  He forgot to account for the tree on the passenger side.  The tree decided to fight back and now The Gump has exterior war wounds.  It had to happen sooner or later and now we know.

image

Not all camp hosts are created equal and the lovely view above was the last straw after wounding The Gump earlier in the day.  We didn’t come prepared for dry camping, our fault since we misread the campsite descriptor as including sewer.  Damage, no sewer hookups, and a neon green cactus made us change our plans and reservations.

After some quick, but thorough, research we made new reseverations with full hookups and cell coverage according to the maps.

image

Well, those cell coverage maps failed to account for the dead spot we landed in.  Zero bars on either AT&T or Verizon which was just soul crushing, because go around the bend and wham four bars of coverage. The site had full hookups but was primitive and poorly marked.

We stayed but sat down and came up with a new strategy moving forward.   First night or two of a new locale we are staying at a known quantity  (either via word of mouth or listed amenities confirmed with campsite personnel) and we will then use the next day to scope out the cell coverage where we truly want to be for two weeks or a month.  The constant moving from campsite A to campsite B is stressful and exhausting.  A little more foresight and planning on our part can elminates, well greatly minimize, the stress.

image

Sunday morning we are returning to Fool Hollow Lake State Park.  We both love it there, as do the flock.  Pickles has loved hanging out on the back patio here at Dead Horse Ranch and at Alamo Lake state parks.  The dogs and Leo have been as pleased as punch about it too.

image

Our First Week

We’ve been here a week today and so what is the general take-away you might be wondering? If your spouse isn’t your best friend then the close quarters will not be to your liking. Luckily, we are best friends and so far so good!

Biggest Challenge
image

Pickles is the biggest challenge so far. Birds, much like toddlers come with a lot of kit. It isn’t so bad when the sun is shining and we can chunk him on the back patio to hang out. He’s loving the experience but his cage eats up real estate which can be challenging at times. We knew that going in so it isn’t a surprise.

Our mission when we return to “civilization” is to look for different options for him. We need to have the ability to let him come out and play safely (for him and The Gump both) and sleep at night. His travel cage isn’t an option because he doesn’t have the room to spread his wings. We will figure something out, even if it means making it ourselves.

Biggest Surprise

image

Wally has been the biggest surprise. At fourteen and half, he isn’t the most spry dog but he has embraced the lifestyle with enthusiasm and gusto. Sure the stairs up into The Gump aren’t his favorite but hey that’s why we got a toy hauler with a back patio so the dog ramp could be used. He is active and loving every minute.
image

Sangria has taken to the woods like a duck to water. This is the same dog who won’t poop while walking her home neighborhood. But apparently, put her princess bum in the woods and pooping is no longer an issue. She’s been awesome the whole time.

image

Leo loves laying down and chattering at the birds and squirrels. He hasn’t tried to escape once, well the cold may have something to do with that. Overall, one very happy cat!

The Humans

image

Once we solved the data dilemma, or rather Dave did, we have settled in quite comfortably. The Xbox One is connected and we can game. We have settled into spots on the sofas with ease. We have our own space but are never far from one another.

There are certain things you learn to live with and handle. The black tank backing up because of the 10° temperatures at night, the after effects of broccoli for dinner, and forgetting to turn on the bathroom fan after use. But overall, small things compared with the solitude and peace we’ve experienced in the last week.

Our Top Tips for Newbies

1. Be adaptable – you will forget something and things will act up. A little patience goes a long way into making challenges molehills and not mountains.
2. Forgive and forget – yup, things will annoy the crap out of you pretty quickly in tight quarters. Grumble and forget is our best advice.
3. Bring more socks than you need if the weather is inclement!
4. If not connected to 50amp shore power, be prepared to flip the breaker often until you get in the habit of checking amp usage. Coffee pot, fireplace, and microwave/convection oven cannot all run at the same time!
5. You will never miss that missing width from a residential king mattress.

So while we have much to learn and figure out still, it’s been a very good week. Everyone is happy and healthy.

The Importance of Exceptional Personnel

First impressions are powerful things and rarely does a company get a second chance to make a good first impression.  Our first impression of La Mesa RV was so far from favorable that honestly I’m surprised that we gave them a second chance.  The second chance impression was even worse than the first which I found impossible.  So when we first contacted the Tucson dealership it was with zero positive expectations and every belief that the experience would be as negative as all previous interactions with La Mesa had been to date.

We got lucky.  Our call to Tucson to view the Heartland 3900FLP was answered by Chris Johns.  Chris is Internet Sales and not a salesmen waiting like a vulture outside the front door.

Chris is polite, soft spoken, and funny.  He did everything I requested and didn’t seem to mind the obvious chip on my shoulder (Dave is more forgiving than I).  Chris and the outside sales guy, Terry, left Dave and I in peace to discuss the FLP.

We made multiple visits to the Tucson dealership in the coming six weeks.  Every time Chris answered our questions and let us wander in peace.  He gave us the space and time to do our research and make a decision.

Chris Johns is the sole reason La Mesa RV got our business.  He alone is responsible for delivering us as customers.  I was ready to price shop and drive across country to give  another delearship our business.

Floyd Hall is our Service Manager and the reason La Mesa will continue to get our service business.  Floyd is an extremely busy man but he is polite, funny, and conscientious about doing what is right for the customer.  Floyd answered our overnight emails every morning and got our concerns addressed promptly.  That level of service and response has continued since we took possession of The Gump.  We have no concerns that Floyd will ensure things are done right the first time.

Dave and John of La Mesa were immensely helpful while we were there as well.

Chris Johns and Floyd Hall are exceptional employees that La Mesa RV is lucky enough to employ.  They completely reversed our opinion of the corporation and are the reason we will drive four plus hours round trip to return The Gump to Tucson for future work when there is another La Mesa RV less than ten miles from our house.  Chris and Floyd made, and continue to make, La Mesa RV Tucson a delearship we would recommend in good faith to friends and family.

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.

20151218_135228.jpg
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.

20151216_150120.jpg
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.

20151215_171013.jpg
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.

20151216_074658.jpg
Before

 

20160105_112511.jpg
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.

20151216_182200.jpg
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.

Introducing “The Gump”

image

There she is, all lit up at night while we are overnighters on the La Mesa lot for the PDI.  Pickles is home with his grandparents, thank you Mum and Daddy, along with the rest of the flock.  I will endeavor to carry on without my feathered task master.  We decided upon a Dutchmen 2016 Voltage 3970. 

image

It was a very close decision between a Heartland Edge and the Voltage.  The difference came down to does it feel like a long werkender/two week vacation or does it feel like home.  Voltage won out because of the larger bathroom, huge kitchen with lots of storage, and the living room set-up.

image

We talked about names on the drive down on Tuesday.  It had to be something we could agree upon and would fit both our personalities.  Dave gets credit for the name this time, I was stumped.  “The Gump” comes from The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L. Baum.  It’s a perfect name, it’s geeky and obscure and very bookworm appropriate.  I’m the bookworm, he remembers obscure details about everything, and we are both geeks. 

image

I freely admit I love how it’s lit up at night.  Sure blue wouldn’t be my first choice but I don’t think Dave would agree to pink lights so no complaints here!

image

We brought our own bedding which has helped tremendously in making it ours instead of a generic toy hauler.  Sure, the bed isn’t horrible but we are already talking about replacing it as one of the top items on the list.  Bedroom is spacious.  There is a place for Sangria’s bed is the closet and room for Wally at the foot of the bed.  Leo will have no shortage of spots to stretch out and sun himself or curl up and fall asleep.  Pickles will have lots of spots to hang out.  He can sleep in the kitchen at night and be out of the way, in fact there’s his nighttime spot below.  There is a lot of daylight inside and he can always go hang out in the garage or patio when it’s not below 70° outside.

image

Overall, with the barest of minimums we’ve settled in comfortably.  We both know things will continue to crop up once we start using The Gump on a semi-regular basis in 2016 but hey, that’s no different than sticks and bricks living. 

image

Dave is comfortable working in the garage even if it isn’t quite perfectly set-up yet.  And yes, it’s COLD here in Tucson and he’s running around in shorts! 

image

We are looking forward to our first planned vacation time which is in January, assuming we sign-off on the PDI this week.  If we do, then first thing I’m doing this weekend  (after the flock has forgiven me) is booking a reservation somewhere responsibly close.

The Sofas and Recliners of AWESOMENESS

phoca_thumb_l_2016%20OM%20400FL%2015

 

We first sat in the recliners of awesomeness at the RV Show in a Heartland Oakmont 390MBL, although the ones pictured above are from the photos of the Oakmont 400FL.  These amazing recliners and sofas not only hold your beverage but offer massage and heat to the lucky sitter.  As soon as we sat down and turned on the recliner we were both in heaven. 

 

We are now ecstatic every time we find one in a coach we tour.  Never thought having a particular recliner could be a selling point of a coach but man oh man, these recliners are comfortable and go a long way in replacing the iJoy we will be giving up.   Yesterday, digging around for information and opinions on iRv2 about Dutchmen toy haulers, I poked my nose into the discussion about replacing the sofas in a toy hauler.  Imagine my utter delight when I found the brand name of the recliner and sofa of awesomeness!

 

They are made by Clay Madison and are the Jaleco product line.  We are both thrilled that I’ve managed to source the recliner we both fell in love with at a RV show.  My only complaint is the only leather choices are so dark in color.  Seriously, offer lighter options like the only pictured above or even better in cream or light dove gray.  If I’m going to spend time, money, and effort to replace my RV furniture then it isn’t going to be in dark, drab, light sucking colors no matter how comfortable and awesome the recliner is.

 

The recliners are available on Amazon for much less than direct from the manufacturer, unsurprisingly.  I completely admit my joy when Dave spotted them the moment he stepped into the Dutchmen Voltage 3970 on a whim last weekend.  Apparently, the little things bring me great joy in life!

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.