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!!

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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. 

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).

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 .

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
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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

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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.
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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.

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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

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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.

Introducing “The Gump”

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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! 

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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.

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

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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. 

 

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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!

 

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

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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. 

 

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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!

 

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Heartland Big Country 3900FLP Impressions

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Conversation with Heartland and Ourselves

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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