Our Overall Review, impressions, & wish list

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While The Gump is in for service, we thought we’d share our overall impressions about the design and things we would change in a perfect world with unlimited finances.  For reference, here is a floorplan of our Voltage 3970 (ours has the stowable table in the garage not the living room).

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Master Bedroom and Bathroom

Not much here either of us would change, this is especially true of the bathroom.  The bathroom is filled with natural light, although Dave would consider this a detriment when he’s trying to sleep late, and plenty of space to take a shower and dry yourself off without feeling cramped.  Dave isn’t overly fond of the placement of the medicine cabinet but small complaint compared to some of the bathrooms we toured.

The master bedroom has a couple of items we would both change.  First one being the cabinetry above the dresser which houses the television.  While the two small cabinets surrounding the television are nice, we would both gladly give up the storage space for a larger bedroom window.  The television could be on a slide-out mechanism tucked into the laundry closet. 

There are two heater vents, one in the bedroom and one in the bath.  These vents are less than three feet apart and if you are the partner sleeping closest to the closet on a cold winter’s night you are going to be grumbling about the absence of a heater vent.  Dave is always hot and so he blocks off the heater vent by three quarters in the bedroom and closes the bathroom door except for a couple of inches for Leo at night.  So basically, the hottest person in the family gets all the heater vents and stubbornly refuses after all these years to switch sides of the bed.  So yes, in a perfect world I would move the heater vents because I know I’ll never get that side of the bed.  (Love you honey)

The other major thing I’d change in the bedroom is the bar in the closet.  The bar itself is good, the holes in the metal keep hangers from flying about during travel  However, on each end of the bar those same holes are unusable because the hangers collide.  So it sits there and waits to smack me in the head if I forget its there as I stand up from using the shelving built into the front cap. Small issue but a headache at least once a week for me.

The last little thing are the accordion fabric blinds in the bedroom instead of  MCD shades.  The fabric blinds don’t come all the way down past the window hardware and so cold air seeps in at night.  These blinds also do a horrible job at blocking light in an east west bedroom like ours.  Dave loves to sleep late, or well I should say he used to love to sleep late on weekends.  Now, the daylight forces him to depart from the land of nod well before ten o’clock on a Saturday morning.  MCD shades would do a much better job in blocking cold or heat depending on the season and keeping the room dark during the day.

Living Room

The room with the most changes for both of us, and changes we agree on and differ.  First major change is the entertainment cabinet.  It’s great and awful at the same time.  It’s tall and has a built in bookcase which I adore.  However, those same tall cabinets are wasted space.  So few items are actually tall that most of the cabinet is storing air and not actual items.  If they had just including adjustable shelving for every tall cabinet it would have made much more sense.  Yes, relatively easy fix but matching wood would have made me much happier.  There are also two cabinets that open upward but they failed to install actuators to hold the door open.  So, you are trying to wrangle stuff with one hand and hold open the door with the other.  Not so easy when you are short or when you are tall and you are having to dodge sharp metal corners.  The last thing is that the cabinet would be far more useful if it were an inch or two deeper.  It doesn’t fit a console and we don’t think it will fit the satellite box without leaving the metal door propped open.

The sofa of awesomeness that we loved so much is now not so loved.  Part of that lies squarely with Dutchmen (to be discussed in another blog post) and part of it is personal comfort.  The sofa is comfortable for anything but watching television or playing video games.  The odd angle you have to cock your neck at to see the television makes for an ever growing crick that is painful after a couple of days.  I’d much rather have a wing back chair or Euro-recliner that could be moved to face the television.  We aren’t so concerned with guest seating as everyday life when it’s just the two of us.  Design decision we can rectify in time but so many toy hauler manufacturers make this same odd viewing angle decision in toy haulers and we just don’t understand why.

The L-shaped sofa is a nightmare but if we change it Leo would never forgive us.

That’s right Mom, I love that sofa.  It lets me hang out and watch birds and squirrels and chipmunks.  I’ve had far too many interesting afternoons soaking up sun on the back of that nightmare as you mistakenly call it.

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As you can see, Leo has truly claimed the entire back of that sofa as his own.  We know where to look when we can’t find him.  However, from a human perspective the sofa is a mess.  The recliner (not visible above) completely blocks off access or egress of the non-reclining portion of the sofa.   So, whoever is relaxing in the recliner has to move every time another person wants to sit down or stand up which defeats the concept of relaxing on the sofa.  There’s no easy solution here unfortunately, and for us the sofa has been claimed by the dogs.

Another problem without an easy solution is the fireplace.  We love the blasted thing and it is great for Wally.  But it pumps out a lot of heat that is directly below all of the electronics in the entertainment center.  So every time we turn it one we know we are slowly cooking the electronics to death.  Unfortunately, there is no other place to put the fireplace and neither of us would give it up.

Kitchen

I love my kitchen.  No seriously, I love the layout and the storage.  Everything I need is right there and I have plenty of storage space.  Is it perfect, nope but it far and away the best kitchen in any RV model we walked through.  It has the same problem with metal cabinets opening upward that the entertainment center does.  The design looks pretty but it’s functionality is severely limited by the failure to install actuators.

The oven is worthless.  It was something we both thought we’d need and now I’d give up that item from storage space.  The oven is a propane hog and it’s an odd size.  Cookie sheets don’t fit, whereas a cookie sheet will fit in the convection oven.  I would love to have the oven removed and shelving added to store skillets and sauce pans, or baking dishes that I know fit in the convection. 

I have a huge amount of storage in my floor to ceiling pantry but one again a lot of that is storage for air.  I also store a lot of air in the cabinets above my metal ones in the kitchen.  These are once again too tall to be easily reached by me and seriously how many tall things do you store in the kitchen (besides alcohol bottles)?  Personally, in both of these I’d like to see adjustable shelving that made better use of wasted space.  Sell an after market package that matched the interior wood that let customers design shelving that actually works for them.

I love the center island of the kitchen.  It clearly separates the kitchen from the living room and provides a nice countertop.  I wish it was about two inches deeper however.  Those two inches would make a world of difference for cutting boards or serving dinner.  It isn’t an insurmountable problem, just more of a minor annoyance if I’m in a nitpicky mood.

Garage, Loft, and Outside

The Loft or as it is known here, inaccessible storage.  Seriously, why is this even here?  It’s a huge heat loss.  If you find people willing to climb up there and sleep, you then have the ladder issue to contend with.  We have a frosted glass door separating the garage from the rest of The Gump.  The ladders are steel.  It just takes one minor miscalculation before that frosted glass door is shattered by that steel ladder.  Another problem, assuming we have a full house with at least one other person, but up to four, sleeping in the garage how are they supposed to get the bathroom in the middle of the night if the ladder is blocking the way?  It just a horrible use of space.  We are going to use the space for storage.  We aren’t sure how yet but it makes a great place to store out of season clothing and bedding in vacuum sealed bags.  I’m also going to hide my needlework stash up there since I can’t bring myself to get rid of all of it.  Of course, getting anything back down from the loft is easier said than done.

The garage and deck are pretty close to perfect.  The television cabinet could be improved.  It could run the length of the wall and contain more storage space.  It would also be nice if it were about six inches lower from my perspective.  The garage is one of our favorite places to be honest.  It is flooded with light and stays surprisingly warm even in subzero temperatures with a space heater.

There are things we would change however.  The garage doors leading out to the deck do not open flush.  Thus limiting the size of any potential toy you are considering parking in the garage.  Also, the workmanship on those doors is inconsistent.  There are gaps in the framing that we are going to have to find black caulk to seal.  The Mylar coverings on the screens are also inconsistent in fabrication, some are longer than others and do a better job at covering the screen.  We used felt as a stop gap measure but long term we will need a more permanent solution that isn’t quite so redneck.

The new deck railing is phenomenal.  It is sturdy and we never worry about the dogs being able to push it down.  The steps off the deck are fantastic too, I just wish they were telescoping somehow for those few situations where the steps are too short to secure the deck railing and reach the ground.  We both wanted a Florida porch option for the deck.  We are now in disagreement over the wisdom of such a desire.  Dave is adamant that it would be a potential liability with disastrous consequences should it be in place and we were in a sudden windstorm.  I  agree with his concerns but I still want the option.  I want some type of defense against mosquitos and flying critters.

The outdoor television, the cause of so many of our problems indoors, is in a weird place.  It’s wickedly high off the ground so that anyone sitting outside is going to be craning their neck upwards to watch the game.  It isn’t under an awning so it will have almost constant glare during the day, and the panel opens all the way up so it doesn’t work as a shade device.  The whole placement is just wrong, almost like it was a complete after thought and then someone said “WHOOPS!  We forgot to install an outdoor TV!” 

General Observations

A central vacuum was high on my list of wants when we were looking at rigs and I got my wish.  I hate it.  It is a power hungry, unwieldy, inefficient mess of a vacuum. For the amount of amperage it consumes, it should do a much better job at sucking dirt off my floors and out of my carpet.  Instead, I blew a breaker (usually the house breaker) every time and every time only a fraction of the dirt was removed.  We are investing in a Dyson and putting the central vacuum equipment in the loft.  I would not personally recommend a central vacuum to anyone.

The Gump came with Furrion televisions installed.  We had never heard of them but they are amazing.  They are vibration tested and are designed for RV and marine use.  The picture quality rivals or exceeds our top of the line Samsung television here at the house.  The blacks are deep and the colors are rich.  We highly recommend the television.

Overall, we are happy and pleased with our choice.  Yes there are issues that drive us nuts or that we need to come up with solutions to that fit our needs.  We would both recommend the rig.  In fact, we and the animals miss The Gump and eagerly look forward to his return.

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).

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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