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. 

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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.

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 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.

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.