Posts Tagged With: RV

Boys and their toys

Bikes

See the bikes in the middle left side of the picture? They are barely visible. One is a recent sport bike. There is a covered bike just past it.

Boys will be boys, they say, and the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

My new toy is the Georgetown 328 sitting in front of the silver Honda in the picture above. But there was a time when the toys that I loved most had two wheels. I’m not so sure that I’ve gotten over that yet.

We recently took a short “shakedown” camping trip with our new motor home. Laura has already written an article about it….in that article she mentions that this was a “city” RV Park, with a mixture of full timers, roving temp workers, and people passing through from one place to another. It was not a “vacation destination” park. It was a great place for a shakedown trip, though.

We were enjoying our stay. We met a nice couple from Canada traveling in a 5th Wheel who were parked in the space facing the front of our rig. We didn’t meet the people on the passenger side of our rig. There was an older coach on the driver’s side. It looked like a full timer’s coach, because there was evidence that it hadn’t moved much in the recent past. There was nobody around, but I noticed a recent Kawasaki sport bike parked next to the coach, and in front of that was another bike. It was covered, but I knew it was an old timer, because it had old fashioned wire spoke wheels peeking out. I didn’t really give it much thought when I first saw it.

So later I’m sitting at the dinette in our coach…it’s approaching dusk, and I’m on my second beer. The first one was a 22 ounce IPA, so I’m buzzing a little. I’d been working on a writing project (fiction) on my laptop. I could see the coach with the bikes out the window. Then I see movement inside the coach….somebody got home. I went back to my writing, not paying too much attention. When I looked out the window again, there was an older man puttering around with the Kawasaki. He wasn’t much older than me, but he had lived a hard life….that was pretty obvious by his attire, and the way he walked with a slight limp. He had uncovered that other bike.

Holy Shit.

It’s a restored Yamaha RD 400 – the monster two stroke of the mid 1970s low end street bike scene. I haven’t seen one of those in years. They were legendary.

The Yamaha RD 400

The Yamaha RD 400

I watched this guy putter around a little more, while trying to continue writing. It was no use….now my mind was on motorcycles, and that’s sometimes really hard to shake. I want to go talk to this guy about his bike…..but I didn’t want to bother him, and I can be a little shy at times. Then I saw the man from Canada walk over to him, beer in hand. That clinched it. I got up and went outside.

The two men were talking about motorcycles…..the Kawasaki, from what I could tell. They both smiled and nodded at me as I approached.

“Is that really a RD?” I asked.

The old biker’s face lit up.

“Sure is,” he said.

We launched into a long discussion about 1970s motorcycles. All three of us were into bikes, but the guy who owned the RD was  really into them, and did a fair amount of racing back in the day. That’s why he looked so torn up….he had been injured badly a few times. He still liked to hang out at the tracks, and still did some racing, but not like the old days. He referred to his Kawasaki as his baby.

This guy was trying to sell the RD, and almost had it sold, but the deal fell through right at the last minute. He was working on finding another buyer. The bike was nicely restored…..it sure didn’t look like it was more than 40 years old. He laughed, and said he wasn’t up to starting that thing anymore. Kick start only, and sometimes it took quite a few stabs. I remember hearing that from people who owned them back in the day.

It was really fun talking to these guys about bikes. We had all grown up at about the same time, and we were interested in rival bike categories.

The old biker guy was from the “racer boy” part of the motorcycle world. I remember these guys. They loved these two strokes, and they knew how to ride better than most. Many of them were just plain nuts, and they always wanted to race you. I got challenged by them more than once.

The Canadian had the killer bike of the day….the bike that was the fastest out of the box for a few years. The bike that almost put Harley Davidson, Triumph, Norton, BSA, and others out of business. The bike that got stolen more than any other type too…..the Honda CB750.

Honda CB 750

Honda CB 750

This was the “every-man” bike of it’s time. Kind of like the Mustang or the Camaro.  Reliable, fast, easy to ride. It’s strength was stoplight to stoplight racing, and in a straight line, it could take anything but an occasional Norton 750 Combat Commando….at least until the Kawasaki 900 came out a few years later.

And my category? British bikes. I fell in love with the Triumph 650. This started when I was 14-15 years old, reading magazine articles about Steve McQueen and his Desert Sleds, and watching the Wide World of Sports coverage of the Baja 1000.

Steve McQueen loved these bikes, and did a lot of desert racing with them. He also used one in the movie “The Great Escape” to attempt a jump over some barbed wire (no, that was no BMW, folks…look at the engine).

The moment I remember on Wide World of Sports was a slow motion shot of a guy on a Triumph 650….he was going full bore over some really rough terrain, and at one point he was holding onto the handlebars, his whole body flying behind him, quite a ways above the seat! Wow.

I also got to be up close and personal with one of these bikes when I was about 14 or so. My cousin hired my brother and I to clean out her garage, and her husband of the time was into bikes. He had a desert sled….a real nice one. A Triumph 650 stripped down and punched out to 750cc. It needed a bath, so I got to push it around the corner to a coin operated steam clean place and wash it. I would done that for free. No, I wasn’t riding it, but just pushing it down the street for everyone to see was a thrill.

I never had a desert sled, but I did eventually end up with a Triumph 650 street bike – a TR6 Tiger – which was the single carb version.

My bike looked just like this one.

My bike looked just like this one.

Why did I find myself in this motorcycle category instead of in with the racer boys or the Honda 750 crowd? Mostly because of my early love of these British twins, but there were other factors.

I was about 20 when I bought the Triumph. I was a little beyond the flat out crazy part of my life by that time. That made the RDs less attractive to me. Most of the people I knew who owned RDs  were younger, more athletic, and crazier than I was. Plus, I found two cycle engines to be annoying. They were peaky and noisy with the ring ding ding sound, and you had to mix oil with the gas too, which could be a pain in the neck. They were cheap….I could have picked one up for less money than I spent on the Triumph.

And how about the Honda 750 category? Why didn’t I fit there? A few reasons.

First, the Honda 750s cost more money than I could afford at the time. New ones were way out of my price range. They were also a relatively new model, so there wasn’t a good stock of cheaper used specimens available.

Second, you had to be VERY careful where you left them, because they were getting ripped off left and right. My boss at Hughes Aircraft Company lost two of them from the company parking lot in about three months time (and in full view of the guard shack, I might add…..Hmmmmmm). My dad had a friend who got two of them ripped off, and his insurance company refused to cover a third one.

Finally, while the CB 750s were really fast in a straight line, they didn’t handle very well. My favorite part of riding was going up to PV Drive East or other twisty mountain roads. The Triumph, with it’s low weight, low end torque, and good steering geometry, excelled for that kind of riding, challenged only by smaller bikes like the RDs and other British bikes – most notably the best handler of them all…….the Norton Commando. Ducati put out bikes that would handle as well, but they were rare, pricey, and even more unreliable than Brit bikes – due to their unusual Desmo valve drive assemblies.

I picked a side, and bought the Triumph. And while I loved that bike, it was far from perfect.

Brit bikes used Lucas electrical components. An old biker joke….why do Brits like warm beer? Because they all have Lucas refrigerators. Hahaha. I have a friend who used to be a motorcycle mechanic….he used to say “Lucas, Prince of Darkness” quite a bit. Lucas stuff was junk….I got rid of most of it early on, replaced with cheaper and better components from Japan.

Then there were the oil leaks. I was working at a small company called Testo at the time I bought the Triumph, and my supervisor there already had a nice 1971 Norton Commando. Even the owner was into Brit bikes…he had a basket case Norton Atlas that he was planning to put together. One of the owner’s best friends was a Ducati fan, and he had a nice one from the early 70s. I’ll never forget when he walked into the place and saw my Triumph sitting next to my friend’s Norton. “Look, two puddles!” We all got a good laugh out of that.

The rivalry was there back in the 70s, but it was mostly all in good fun. That came out a little bit in the conversation at the campground, but in a very gentle way. Much more apparent than the old rivalry was the comfortable feeling of diving into this lost world…it was like putting on an old pair of worn-in shoes. That conversation was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

What about today. Do I still love motorcycles?

Yes, but I haven’t ridden in about 12 years. I still have a bike. No, not the Triumph. I sold that in about 1981 for $100 more than I paid for it in 1975. The bike I have now is a 1985 Honda 700cc Interceptor. I bought it for $250 and restored it. A friend of mine’s son in law had crashed it on the freeway. He walked away, but the bike looked like a pretzel.

This Honda was a lucky find for me. The bike got backed into by a UPS truck when it was almost brand new. UPS bought all new plastic fairings for the original owner. He kept the very lightly scratched original pieces for spares, and I got all of them. I had to get one new wheel, tires, a new chain, and various other parts, most of which I found at the junk yard. Total cost of the restoration was about $1500, but a big chunk of that was back-registration. It took me about three months to get this bike back into working order. I rode it a lot between about 1992 and 2002. It is now sitting in the garage, mothballed.

The Interceptor is a much better bike than the Triumph was in most ways. It handles better, it has more than twice the horsepower, and only weighs about 120 pounds more than the Triumph did. I was living out in Canyon Country when I got this bike, and it was great to blast around the winding roads out there. It was only a so-so commuter. If I could keep it moving, it did pretty well, but it would get hot sitting in traffic for very long, with it’s high performance V-4. The biggest problem with commuting was the riding stance. While it is less radical than a modern sport bike, it still has low bars and high pegs, and it forces a lot of strain on your wrists. You don’t notice it while leaning through mountain roads, but you really notice it when grinding down long straight boulevards or stretches of freeway.

Eventually I found myself with a case of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. It wasn’t just due to the motorcycle. I was on the computer all day long at work, and using a mouse all the time really took it’s toll. I also play cello. You bow with your right arm, which of course was the arm that I was having a problem with. Riding that Interceptor just made the problem a lot worse. I had to give up something. I couldn’t stop working. I wouldn’t stop playing cello. I reluctantly gave up riding the bike. That, along with some physical therapy, solved my Carpel Tunnel problem.

I still haven’t lost the bug, though. When I see a nice bike, I always have to check it out, and it get’s my heart a fluttering. Someday I’ll start riding again, I think to myself, but only for a moment. It’s a nice moment.

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shake-Down Artists Have Nothing on Curious George

So “Curious George” will be the Georgetown’s name.

I had more seriously thought of “Prince George of Redondo” in honor of the royal baby (why not?) as well as our Georgetown AND where we live.  But a fellow blogger mentioned Curious George and I thought about it and decided – “I like it!”

Bob can continue to call it “The Georgetown” but you and I will know it’s Curious George – just need the monkey decal.

Okay, on to other business.  When we last left our intrepid team of Bob, Laura and Curious George, we finished up the PDI (Pre-delivery inspection) at Mike Thompson RV.  Basically by the time we left, they’d done the few things that needed doing, opened up the goodie box and gave us a $25 gift certificate which we used to buy a much longer sewer hose (a must!) and something else – I don’t know.

(Parenthetically, as Bob is very detailed and precise, some of you have probably figured out that I, Laura, am neither.  So when it comes to the technical stuff, you can expect me to be less than forthcoming and the phrase “doohickey,” “thingamajig” or “whatsis” may be used.)

Also, our very nice salesperson, gave us a gift of a couple of bottles of California Red.  I don’t drink the stuff due to allergies, but Bob likes them.

The first trip in an RV is traditionally known as the shake-down trip.  Man, sometimes they can be brutal.  I’ve read plenty of posts in forums of all sorts of crap being discovered on the shake-down trip.  Thankfully, a lot of the stuff found is minor, but sometimes it is definitely NOT minor.

Let’s examine this, shall we?

In my not so humble opinion, some RV manufacturers expect their customers to perform the very vital function of quality assurance, or QA.  Basically, having seen some videos on the manufacturing process, it’s really true that it’s half car, half house.  Okay, so in a car, manufacturing is pretty assembly line, but as we all know, building a house is pretty much custom for each house (unless we’re talking about manufactured housing).

And as we know when you have a car, you can still have problems – so bad, that in California we have “lemon laws” that give us the ability to get rid of a car that is a continual problem.  Yeah, you have to prove that this isn’t just a one-time problem, but a pattern.  It’s not an easy process.  But at least there is a law that provides you aren’t stuck with a lemon.

It’s harder when it’s a house – you sometimes are stuck with having to sue a builder or contractor, which means hiring an attorney and a bunch of experts.

And with a motorhome, you get . . . both a car (the chassis) and a house (the actual motorhome on top of the chassis.)  This hybrid nature is often problematic – as our guy at the PDI said, “Hey, these are made by people, not machines.”  Well, kindof.  Yeah.  I suspect the chassis always has fewer problems than the house part and it’s widely known that what is going to fail will not be the engine so much as the house on top of it.

So . . . I’ve read the horror stories and so we came equipped with a 100-point punch list that Bob cribbed together from lists out there plus his items he added on his own.

The good news is that at least a fair amount of the punch list items were taken care of or addressed at the PDI.  But we still had a lot of things to do in the coach on our trip to get through the rest of the list.

Now, Mike Thompson RV kindly comped us a couple of nights at a local RV park there in beautiful Colton, California.  What?  You don’t think Colton is beautiful?  Just smoggy and . . . I don’t know, hot and smoggy?  Well, you’re right mostly, but for a couple of days it was fine.

By the way, I know there are a lot of complaints about Mike Thompson RV and we had a few.  We had a bad feeling leaving their Santa Fe Springs store – the site of the very pushy sales manager.  At the time we went there, we were not that close to buying and told this guy that, but . . . you know, sales men have to sell.  I think it’s written in their book they’re handed on their first day or something.

So after that bad taste, we had almost written off the dealership and we had definitely written off another big Southern California dealership (nameless, but anyone from SoCal will have to know who I’m talking about) due to some very bad business practices.  But what happened with Mike Thompson was – we went to their Fountain Valley store a few months back and found that those guys weren’t pushy one bit.

Then we went back this last time and met Matt Mahoney.  Actually he walked up to Bob and started chatting while I was in the bathroom.  By the time I’d left said bathroom, Matt was practically pals with Bob and started showing us a few models.  By the time we met Matt on our last go-round, we were much closer to making a buying decision and so it worked.  I mean, he worked with us versus trying to sell us and even offered to drive the motorhome that we end up buying from the Colton store to Fountain Valley.  Matt walked us through the entire buying experience and he was great.

I know salesmen can really do a great job – Matt did a great job with us.  I never felt “sold” and he was about our age and stage of life (empty nester, near retired) and it was obvious that he was having a great time in the motorhome business.  You can always tell when someone likes their job – and it makes a difference.

Okay, so where was I?

I took a detour, but I did want to say – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Mike Thompson and definitely Matt Mahoney as a salesperson to seek out.  He’s normally working in the Colton location, in case you’re wondering.

 

Front door

Front door

 

So now we’re here at our front door at the RV park.  We pushed the slides in and out, we cooked food, including oatmeal both days, we used the toilets, and slept in the bed.  We tested out everything we could think of, including the entertainment system.  In fact, we found out that indeed, the sub-woofer works (accomplished by Bob blasting the beginning of a DVD’s sound and Laura screeching in reaction to the blasting.)

So far, everything works fine.

All important picture of stinky slinky

All important picture of stinky slinky

Naturally, we have to include a picture of the sewer hook-up as well as the other hook-ups.  All of this worked fine and we were definitely glad to have used the gift certificate from Mike Thompson to buy the longer sewer line.  Yep – always a good thing!

The only thing that didn’t work well on this was the doohickey to open the water filter – even though it was the right size (it got swapped out at the PDI), it was so tight that Bob didn’t want to break anything trying to force it.  We’ll have to figure that out.

This baby is bigger than my fridge at home!  GAH!!!

This baby is bigger than my fridge at home! GAH!!!

 

Now, I love the residential refrigerator.  It’s a Frigidaire, as is the full size microwave.  I think we’re going to be happy that we got this versus the absorption fridge that many motorhomes have, since there is a lot less issue with fires.  But the other side of the coin is we’re seriously considering solar panels if we want to do any boondocking (well, longer than a day or two) because this fridge doesn’t run on propane as an alternate, only electricity.  See, it’s always a tradeoff.  Below are a couple of pictures of the inside of the fridge – we didn’t exactly load it up on this short trip, but you’ll note that there is beer and AND a few items in the freezer.  I’m in love with the french door style of fridge and lust for one for my home.

Note the beer

Note the beer

 

 

Nice big freezer! That means . . . ice cream!

Nice big freezer! That means . . . ice cream!

 

Well, what you can’t see with the freezer is that it has two baskets – a shallow one and a big deep one, too.

I’m going to add a few more pictures because honestly, I’m almost done here.  I’m sure Bob will be able to write much more intelligently about a host of other issues, but . . . things worked fine and we had a nice time.  And got to stay in an RV park, which was a first for me.  I don’t count the short trip to Joshua Tree mainly because it wasn’t that crowded.  Okay, maybe I should count it.   Okay, so this was my second time in an RV park, and one with people in it!

A note on the park, though.  I’m hesitating naming them, but I’ve decided to start doing reviews of RV Parks.  Once I get a widget on the blog, I’ll direct you to that and you can read reviews.  Just suffice to say – this is probably a fairly typical in town type of park – a fair number of people live there semi-permanently for mostly reasons like they’re working nearby and have a house somewhere else, or they’ve relocated to the area.

The guy next to us was one of semi-permanent residents.  Bob noticed he had a cool motorcycle, a Yamaha RD-400, and it was obvious he’d been a frequent flyer from way back.  Yeah, he’d done a lot of drugs in his mis-spent youth.  But a nice guy overall.  He and Bob and one of the other “neighbors” had a longish conversation about this and that (guy stuff).  Why was he living there?  Couldn’t get an apartment due to bad credit?  Liked the idea of moving at the drop of a hat?  I don’t know his story but he had one, of that I’m sure.

We brought the Breville Keurig coffeemaker because we can't wake up without the java

We brought the Breville Keurig coffeemaker because we can’t wake up without the java

 

A big-ass beer for Bob

A big-ass beer for Bob

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

When the two days were done, we drove our baby to our new storage unit. George will be staying in a sumptuous open air but covered RV storage unit in beautiful Bloomington. Much like Colton, it’s hot and smoggy. Which is why the storage is a lot cheaper than something closer to us. Here are a few pictures of the motorhome, the car and the space – it was a bit of a challenge to get him into the space, but once we were all done and George was snug as a bug in a rug, we drove home, wishing we were on the road!

We’re scheming for the next trip which is now just about a week away – MORE TO COME.

Getting George into his storage space

Getting George into his storage space

A tight fit as we have neighbors

A tight fit as we have neighbors

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

RV PDI

 

IMG_1374

The week of March 17th was really long. We bought our new Georgetown 328 on the preceding Saturday, but needed to get finances, insurance, and storage arranged before we picked her up. We scheduled our PDI (Pre Delivery Inspection) for Monday, March 24th, 9 days after the date of purchase. The dealership was fine with that, because it gave them plenty of time to get the unit ready to go. The business person who did our paperwork suggested that we could do a shakedown trip with a couple of comp nights at a local RV Park, and we took them up on that.

That long week was a mixture of excitement and apprehension. All of our prep work went really easily. Finances were no problem at all, and we had everything we needed in place by Tuesday morning.

Laura and I had already done quite a bit of research on storage back in December, and targeted the Colton/Bloomington/Redlands area due to the low cost of covered and indoor storage. It would be nice to have the coach closer, but paying 300 bucks a month for outside storage didn’t appeal to me at all. Having the coach way out in the eastern boonies isn’t bad for an escape point either…that way we are doing all of the nastiest city driving in a small Honda Accord instead of a large Motor Home. One other great thing….the dealership is about 3 miles from the storage yard, so it will be easy to get over there for maintenance or warranty work.

We did some quick research on the insurance that the dealership offered us. It was exactly what we needed for a good price, so we told them to go ahead and set it up. Bottom line, we had everything in place by mid week.

The apprehension I was feeling was due mainly to RV forum posts I have read over the last year about new RV quality problems. There were also a lot of posts about dealerships that tend to be less than helpful – including some posts about the dealership that we bought our coach from. There’s lots of negative stuff out there. You read story after story of a long list of defects, repairs that keep your new baby in the shop for weeks at a time, and dealers who are not responsive. All of this made me pretty paranoid. Of all the major dealers in our area, there were less negative stories out there about our dealer, and since this dealer is also the largest, I figured that was a good sign.

I created a check list of things to look at during the PDI. It had 100 items on it! I cobbled it together from some check list examples available on the internet, and things we saw while we were sitting in the coach as sale paperwork was being done. I also put together a “PDI” kit – with a flashlight, a digital multi-meter, a DVD, a CD, and a few other items that could be used for testing various items. I put those in one of those reusable grocery bags, so I could carry it into the coach easily.

Concerns that I had specifically about this unit were as follows:

  1. Missing CD/DVD/Stereo Player head – it’s removable like many car stereo units.

  2. Nasty looking black spot on the carpet right behind the motor compartment cover, between the driver and passenger seats.

  3. Missing microwave turntable plate

  4. No manuals in coach – most dealerships we went to had manuals already there.

  5. Screen on window above kitchen counter either misaligned or broken.

I had also read mixed reviews on the residential refrigerator/battery/inverter set up, and tried to find that equipment while we were in the coach. No luck. I was concerned for a reason. There was a long thread on one of the RV Forums about somebody who had picked up this exact model Georgetown last year. The refrigerator wouldn’t run on batteries, with the coach engine running or not. It would only run on shore power or the generator. He discovered that the factory had left off the inverter! This guy was pretty handy and didn’t want to wait around for service at the dealer, so he had Forest River send him the inverter and installation kit. I don’t blame him there….why didn’t the dealer notice something as major as this? It took this guy less than an hour to install the inverter. No problems after that, according to him.

The tension built as Laura and I drove the 60 miles or so from our house to the dealership in Colton. I decided that the best thing to do was let the tech run through the normal PDI presentation first, and then use my checklist to remind me of things that weren’t covered.

I was a little worried about having the dog with us too…..I wanted both Laura and I to be able to pay attention during the PDI. I was afraid that the dog would get nervous and be a problem for us. As it turned out, she was perfect. No trouble at all. We had her with us because we were going from the dealership straight to the campground for our shakedown.

Right before we left home, I got a call from or salesman, Matt. He said that he had to be in Fountain Valley for another PDI, and he was going to turn ours over to another person at the dealership named Stephanie. That made me a little nervous too. And to top it off, we underestimated the traffic, and were running about 15 minutes late. Laura called Stephanie from the car and let her know we were running late, and she said she’d be watching for us.

The dealership is part of an RV “Mall” in Colton. The three biggest dealers in So Cal were on that street, along with some other RV related businesses. Our dealer was second on the street. We pulled into the parking lot, gathered up the PDI kit and the dog, and started walking towards the entrance. Stephanie was out there next to a golf cart, and waved to us (do we look like your typical RV buyers?) We walked over to her and introduced ourselves, and then piled into the golf cart for the ride out to our coach. Stephanie was a riot – very bubbly. She and Laura hit it off right away. I was still a bundle of nerves, so I didn’t join in the joking around too much.

By the way, this dealership is pretty big. It was nice not to have to walk over to the PDI staging area.

When we arrived at our coach, it was parked front out, and there was a red carpet along the passenger side! Kinda cheesy but fun.

Red Carpet with goodie box.

Red Carpet with goody box.

The tech who was assigned for our PDI was sitting in the coach watching the TV. The awning was out, and there was a big box of goodies by the door. When he saw us walk up, he came out of the coach and introduced himself. He was a little bit older than Laura and I, and had that So Cal “drawl” that is part country, part hippy, and part surfer dude. The tech is an RV’er himself, and a former teamster who drove truck for many years. He had a easy charming way about him, and it was pretty obvious that he enjoyed what he was doing.

We started on the outside of the coach, at the front passenger side wheel, and worked our way to the back, and then up the drivers side, and to the front. The tech did a great job on this, explaining each item and compartment. The dual house batteries and inverter were both on the passenger side – and it’s no wonder that I didn’t recognize them. Forest River puts a black fiberboard sheet in front of sensitive stuff like the inverter, water pump, and hydraulics for the leveling jacks. There are two white round screw in covers in the fiberboard, about 5 inches in diameter, that can be unscrewed to allow access. If you just open the compartments, which look like storage compartments while closed, you only see the fiberboard and the round access covers, and they aren’t labeled. The tech showed us how the entire panels could be removed should any serious work need to be done to the components behind them. Then he laughed and said if he ever had to take them off he’d probably never put them back on. I actually like the extra protection, personally.

Cover over inverter with access holes.

Cover over inverter with access holes.

 

As we got to the back, Laura noticed that something didn’t look right with the 7 pin trailer connector mounted to the tow bar. Sure enough, it was broken. The tech made note of it, and arranged for it to be repaired. According to the forums, this happens all the time on 2013-2014 Georgetown 351s and 328s. The metal retainer for the connector is on the bottom of the tow bar, and if you are pulling into or out of a steep driveway (like many gas stations have) it takes a beating. Good catch by Laura on this one! One of the posters on a forum thread about this said he was going to have the bracket moved from the bottom to the top of the tow bar. That would solve the problem. I might even just take the connector out of that holder and zip tie it to the top…..we’ll see. I don’t want to have to pay to have that connector replaced when it gets nailed again, and I don’t want it getting broken while we are towing, either.

The bent 7-pin connector housing. The plastic part of the connector is actually broken, but you can't see that here.

The bent 7-pin connector housing. The plastic part of the connector is actually broken, but you can’t see that here.

 

On the drivers side, we started with the 50 amp electrical service, which was plugged into a pedestal already. He showed us the auto switch that changed the coach over from shore power to generator and back again, and also the converter, which allows the shore power to charge the coach and chassis batteries.

 

50 Amp cable coming out of the back of the coach. The converter and auto transfer switch are in here.

50 Amp cable coming out of the back of the coach. The converter and auto transfer switch are in here.

 

Next was the water and sewage compartment. This was pretty typical, but unlike most coaches I’ve seen, the holding tank outlet comes under the coach, rather than terminating inside the compartment. I think I like that better, because if there is an “oops” it’s not going to dump waste inside your compartment. The compartment door can be locked after all the connections are made. Good thing. I’ve read about a prank that teenagers like to do with the sewage systems. If the cap is still on the sewage outlet, they open the black tank valve. The guess what happens when the owner opens that cap to attach the sewer hose! I’ll be sure lock our compartment, to avoid karma for all of the outhouses that my friends and I pushed over when we were 16-17……..

 

Water and Sewage

Water and Sewage

 

Here’s where we noticed the second problem. There is a housing for a water filter in this compartment that is supposed to come with a removal tool. They put the wrong tool in, and it didn’t fit. We were provided with a correct tool, but I didn’t get to try it out until after we were at the camp ground. I tried to use the tool, and still couldn’t get the housing off…..it’s a little too tight, although after reading the instructions, I think I know why I was having trouble. More on that in another post.

 

Filter Housing wrench too big!

Filter Housing wrench too big!

 

Past that were some more storage compartments, and then the generator. The tech removed the cover and showed us where the oil fill, check, and drain was, and how to start the generator from there. He mentioned that it can also be started from inside the coach.

5.5 Generator with cover removed.

5.5 Generator with cover removed.

 

Next was the propane tank – he showed us the shutoff and fill valves, and told us that it was full. He mentioned that the gas tank was full as well.

Propane Tank

Propane Tank

Around front, we opened up the engine compartment and he showed us where the dip sticks, fluid fills, and filters were. It’s going to be interesting trying to pour oil into this…not a lot of room.

Engine compartment

Engine compartment

I took a look under the coach in several spots. Very nicely painted structure down there. Wire and tubing bundles were all fastened against the frame – nothing dangling or loose that I could see anywhere.

We entered the coach and then worked from the passenger seat back, around the back, and up to the driver’s seat. The first things I looked for as we were starting were the problem items I listed. CD/DVD/Radio head unit was installed. The black spot on the carpet was cleaned – I couldn’t even tell where that was. The screen on the window over the kitchen counter was fixed. There was a big pile of manuals on the dinette table. The microwave turntable plate was still missing, but Stephanie mentioned that they found one and would have it at the coach before we left. All of this made me feel very much at ease.

 

Missing Microwave turntable. We got one before we left. Nice Microwave - house sized.

Missing Microwave turntable. We got one before we left. Nice Microwave – house sized.

 

The inside demo went just as well as the outside demo. The tech ran us through each system in detail. Right after the Microwave was the stove. He uncovered it and showed us how to light a burner.

 

Stove Burner demo

Stove Burner demo

This coach has an oven in it as well. We were happy about that….hard to cook a pizza in a convection microwave. This is the only thing in the coach that has a pilot light. The tech suggested that we light the pilot right before we are going to use the oven, and then turn if off afterward. That will keep us from wasting a lot of propane, and it’s safer too. It’s easy to light with one of those long fireplace lighters, which was included in our goody box.

Oven....pilot light underneath the sheet metal shelf.

Oven….pilot light underneath the sheet metal shelf.

Next was the sink – and hot water/water pump test. The coach didn’t have city water attached, so the water was being pumped out of the fresh water tank.

Hot Water!

Hot Water!

 

Next was the refrigerator. The tech cracked me up when he was talking about the residential refrigerator. Apparently he’s got one in his coach too, and he loves it. He said “This will only take a couple of hours to get cold. No need to wait a long time to load it. Just fill it right up and boogie.”

Fridge demo

Fridge demo

We love the freezer in this thing. It’s huge! This unit also has water and cubed or crushed ice in the door, just like at home.

Freezer. It probably holds more than the one we have at home.

Freezer. It probably holds more than the one we have at home.

There are two thermostats in the coach. One controls the air conditioner and furnace in the front half of the coach, and the other controls the units for the bedroom area. It’s easier to use than the unit that was in the rental.

Thermostat for the front part of the coach. The bedroom unit is exactly the same

Thermostat for the front part of the coach. The bedroom unit is exactly the same

There is a command center in the hallway just before you enter the bedroom. It has the buttons for the slide outs, also the water pump, the water heater, and a system called Arctic Pad which will heat the holding tanks if it’s really cold out. There are also level indicators for battery charge, holding tank levels for fresh, grey, and black tanks, and propane level. Everything appears to be working.

Command Center

Command Center

 

The couch in the salon is a convertable, very similar to a home model. It works the same way. Queen bed. It can be made and stowed, which is nice. A lot of the coaches have either jack knife sofas or air mattresses. Sorry about the grainy picture – it was the best I got. Probably was moving around too much.

Convertible sofa extended partway out

Convertible sofa extended partway out

Here’s the “missing” radio/CD/DVD player. It’s wired to the salon TV, and also the surround sound system. We tested it with a DVD and a CD. Works good, but you have to read the manual! Things like turning on the sub-woofer aren’t very intuitive. Speakers aren’t great quality, but not terrible. The Newmar we looked at had a lot better sound system, but that coach cost about 30K more than this one. I’ll keep the extra money!

Radio/CD/DVD player. It comes with a small remote.

Radio/CD/DVD player. It comes with a small remote.

The controls for the leveling jacks are up front too.

Controls for leveling jacks

Controls for leveling jacks

 

There is a rear view camera display on the dash. It also shows the side views when you activate the turn signals. Using this will take some getting used to, and I can’t see it well when I’ve got my polarized sunglasses on. Good display quality…and it’s got a lot of options. I’ll need to read the manual on this thing.

 

Rear view camera display

Rear view camera display

 

There is a front pull down bunk in this coach. I like it because it’s manual. Most coaches have electric bunks up here, and they tend to fail. I doubt we will use this much until we have grandkids that are a little bigger. It’s rated for 200 pounds, so only smaller adults can be up there. A ladder came with the coach for this. It’s stored in the large compartment in the back.

Front bunk

Front bunk

 

This coach doesn’t have curtains for the windshield and side windows – it has roller shades. The front one is powered, and will only come part way down when the engine ignition switch is on so it can double as a sun visor.

Front shade part way down

Front shade part way down

The side shades are manual pull down, and look just like the front shade. You could pull them part way down to act as sun visors too…..they are easy to reach from the driver and passenger seats. I like this a lot better than the mini blinds that were in the rental coach.

We tried out everything. I didn’t see anything wrong….all the systems worked. Air conditioners, fans, furnace, stove, microwave, fridge, Radio/DVD player, TVs. I was surprised at the picture quality on the TV off of the antenna. The HD came through really well, and looked just great.

After we got all the way through the inside of the coach, he took us back out and showed us the contents of the “goody” box. There was a lot of stuff in there. A fresh water hose, a sewer hose, pressure regulator, chemicals for the toilet, a nice offset truck air gauge, a long lighter for the oven, and a nice little mechanic’s tool kit. After we looked at that, he said that we had a $25 dollar gift certificate coming, and he suggested a couple of things we should buy in the dealer’s store. He said the sewer hose in the goody box is lousy, and suggested that we get a better one in the store. He also suggested that we buy a 30 amp to 50 amp adapter, since there are a lot of parks that only have 30 amp. We thought those were both great suggestions, so we went over to the store and picked those two things up. While we were at the store, the tech talked to one of the mechanics about the broken 7 pin connector.

When we were done in the store, we went back to the main office in the golf cart. Laura and I finished off the remaining paperwork and gave them cashiers checks for the down payment, and a check for the insurance. With that, we were basically done. We went back to the coach.

As we arrived, the mechanic was busy putting on the new 7 pin connector, and he said that somebody was bringing over the missing microwave turntable and the correct removal tool for the water filter housing. They both showed up within a few minutes.

The tech came back, and walked me through buttoning up the coach to get it ready to drive. We put in the awning, moved the slides in, retracted the jacks, unplugged the 50 amp cable, and stowed what needed to be stowed.

All in all, this was a great PDI, with the only defect we found fixed before we left. I was extremely pleased with the service at the dealership. I guess I could mention their name now – it was Mike Thompson’s RV. One thing I forgot to mention – I took video of the entire PDI with my iPAD. Most of the pictures in this article are screen captures of that video.

Now it was time to drive off to the campground. I punched the address into my iPHONE. I also had a printout of a Google Maps page that the finance person gave me, but I’ve gotten to where I don’t like trying to read those printouts while driving, especially when I’m driving something new. So I used the iPHONE GPS, and put the phone in my shirt pocket so I could hear Siri talking to me.

Laura and the dog were taken back to the car in a golf cart (Stephanie took care of this)….I was going to meet Laura out on the street in front of the dealership.

So now it’s the moment of truth. I closed the door of the coach, making sure that I could hear the steps retract. Then I sat in the driver’s seat and fired up the engine. I didn’t have to back up, so the drive out to the street wasn’t too bad. There was a travel trailer parked in the roadway. There was enough room to squeeze by, but it felt a little tight. I made it out just fine, and made a right turn on the road. Laura was out there waiting. The drive to the park was easy….get onto the 215 freeway, and go about one mile up the road (I think it was about two offramps down the road). The coach handled great, and felt like it had more pep than the Fleetwood Flair that we rented back in November. It seemed to handle very well….I was in-between trucks a couple of times, and felt plenty stable as their air pushed on the coach.

I’ll cover the arrival and set up at the campground in another post.

Bottom line, I’m very pleased with the quality of the coach (so far) and the service at Mike Thompson’s RV. I think I’ll go over to Yelp and put some good words out there.

To be continued……..

Categories: The Hunt for the Wild RV | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

RV Shopping 3 – It Heats Up

Here’s what happened since the last post.

IMG_1177

In RV Shopping Part 2, we described our trip to the Orange County RV Show, which was a dealer show. We looked at quite a few new coaches, and only liked one of them a lot – the Forest River Georgetown 329. We also looked at used Diesel Pushers for the first time, and looked at a few used Class A Gas coaches. The show was a good experience, which we enjoyed very much.

After the Orange County show, we dived into some more intensive research. At first it was centered on Diesel Pushers……are they a good choice for us, what prices could we expect, maintenance and repair costs, and so on. We also learned a lot about determining value using the NADA Guide and other sources. Then we started to focus on the possibility of buying a new coach – could we afford it, what brands were the best for our price range, and so on. We wanted to sit down with a dealer and talk dollars on a new coach just to see what we could do, given the amount of money we could get out of our IRAs without taking a large tax hit.

Buying a new coach has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you get better financing terms, and you get a warranty. You also know that your coach hasn’t been lived in by anybody else, or abused by anybody else. On the bad side, you take a depreciation hit, and you have to go through the problem “shake out” that seems to be the norm on new motor homes.

Our next shopping trip was up north – a dealership in Moorpark that sells new Newmar coaches and higher end used coaches, and a dealership in Thousand Oaks that sells new Itasca coaches and a wide variety of used coaches.

Moorpark

The drive out to Moorpark was longer than I expected. From Redondo Beach, it’s the 405 freeway all the way through the Sepulveda pass and deep into the San Fernando Valley. Then there is a big left turn on the 118 freeway, and you are on that freeway almost to the end of the line. I think of this area as being closer than going down south because I did a commute in the same direction for 9 years, to the Santa Clarita Valley which is only a few miles past the 118. It’s very familiar to me. I tend to underestimate how long the 118 freeway is.

This dealership is a small, family run company. They have very good ratings from customers, and the feel at this place is very good. They have no service facilities. They sell the high end and very expensive Newmar line, which starts out with the entry level Bay Star line, and goes all the way up through 300K plus Diesel Pushers. These coaches are made in Indiana with support by the local Amish community (some of the Amish work at Newmar and others work at other vendors and as independent craftsmen). Woodwork is better than anything I’ve seen, even in the entry level Bay Star units. Tiffin comes close, but no cigar. Neither Laura or I thought that we would be able to afford a brand new Newmar, but there were some used coaches on their website that we were interested in. When we got to the lot, only one person was there – the yard manager. Very nice guy, and he did a good job of showing us coaches.

Since we were trying to figure out financing options, we wanted to sit down with the somebody at this dealership and see what they could offer us for an entry level Newmar, even though we didn’t really think we could afford it. We weren’t able to do that. The yard manager isn’t allowed to work deals, and said we had to come back when the owner was there to talk money. We looked at four new coaches…the Bay Star Sport 2702 and the Bay Star Sport 2903 which are the lowest end of the Bay Star series, and two at the higher end of the Bay Star line –  the 3124 and the 3308. The Bay Star Sport units were pretty, but too small. The Bay Star 3124 was a nice unit….a large step above the Bay Star Sport line in both scale and features. The Bay Star 3308 was a really nice coach, and we were quite taken by it. It was the right size and had almost all of the features that we wanted. We had a very limited financial conversation with the yard manager on the 3308. The MSRP listed on the sticker was $143,126. The yard manager said that this coach would probably go for the mid 120K range. That isn’t a good deal – it’s only about 12% off of MSRP.

After that conversation, we went over to one of the used coaches we were interested in. It was a 2008 Monaco Cayman 35 Foot Diesel Pusher. The coach looked nice, but it was pretty well used, and it didn’t smell very good. Asking price was 99.9K. Low NADA for this coach is 69.8K. We asked the yard manager why the asking price was so far above Nada low retail, and he didn’t have a good answer. I also asked him why the Cayman had been for on their lot for so long (more than a month) with such a high price. His answer was that it was a Monaco coach, and since they went out of business before being picked up by another manufacturer after the 2008 crash, most people didn’t want to buy them. My first thought was to ask why they didn’t lower the price to compensate, but I didn’t say anything. I asked if they sold used coaches on consignment, and he said that they had a mixture of trade ins and consignment units. That might be what was going on with the Cayman….the private owner might not want to accept under a certain value for their coach.

Laura and I sat in this coach while the yard manager went out to do something in the office. When he came back, he told us that the Bay Star 3308 was going to be put on sale for the coming weekend, for 115K. This is about 20% off of MSRP, which is the low side of normal discounts off of MSRP. It may be a decent price for a Newmar, but it is less of a discount than the 25-30% that is a typical for most coaches. He said we could call the owner and make an appointment to talk about it.

We didn’t end up trying to tie in with the owner of this lot. It was pretty obvious to us that 115K was well above our price range, and even if we got them down to 30% off of MSRP, it would still be pretty tight. A Newmar just isn’t going to be our first coach.

There is one bit of advice that I would give to the owner of this dealership. If you want to get more sales, hire somebody else that can talk dollars, and make sure they are on the property when you aren’t. We’ve been there twice, and missed the owner both times. Not good. You are leaving money on the table. A good salesman would have tried to work us down to the Bay Star 3124 or even a Bay Star Sport. It probably wouldn’t have worked with us, but it might work with somebody else in a similar situation.

Thousand Oaks

Moorpark and Thousand Oaks are a lot closer together than I thought. You just take Hwy 23. It’s about a 15 minute drive.

There are two lots for the Thousand Oaks dealership, both on the same street. One has their lower end stock….used motorhomes under about 60K. The other lot has higher end used coaches and their stock of new Itasca Motor Homes. Itasca is built by Winnebago. The lines are almost identical. Originally Itasca was a higher priced line, but that isn’t the case these days.

We hit the low priced lot first. I didn’t like any of the coaches they had on this lot. I’ve been on their website pretty often, and their stock looks fairly good there, but they didn’t look so good when we actually went into them. I didn’t see one coach that I would consider. I’m thinking that many of the coaches here are traded in units that dealers didn’t want to sell. I asked the yard manager if their coaches were consignment. He told me that they owned all of them…..that tended to reinforce my suspicion here. They are buying used coaches on the wholesale market and trying to retail them.

The high end lot had some interesting coaches. There were two Diesel Pushers from their web site that I wanted to see. One was a Fleetwood Discovery 40x. That one looked very nice. It was way over priced compared to the NADA low retail value, but I got the impression that this company would negotiate. There was only one thing that turned me off about this coach. Size. A 40 foot coach looks HUGE when you are standing next to it. I thought that something only 6 feet longer than the coach I rented would be no problem. I’m not so sure about that.

We looked at one other Diesel Pusher that was on the website – a Safari Cheetah. This one was cheaper than the Fleetwood, but it didn’t look nearly as good, and it was also a 40 foot monster. It just didn’t feel right to me.

As we were on our way out of there, we looked at a another gas coach that had just arrived – a Winnebago Sightseer. It was a 2010 model, and it looked pretty good. It had a very interesting floor plan. Laura really liked it. The manager of this lot said what he thought the price would be (89K), and also said it was around 35 feet long. It looked longer to me, so when we got home I looked it up. This coach is over 37 feet. I wouldn’t consider a coach that long with a gas engine. Too much weight to pull mountain grades.

Over all, this lot was not bad, but all of the used coaches had some kind of issue. If budget forced us into an inexpensive coach, I’d give it a much harder look.

Sorry there aren’t any pictures for this post. I didn’t take my own pictures….it’s more difficult to do when you have sales people breathing down your neck, but that’s not the only reason. With the exception of the Bay Star 3308, there really weren’t any coaches that appealed to me. I thought about pulling some of the pictures from the websites of these two dealers, but I don’t think that’s kosher from a copyright standpoint, so I opted not to do that.

More in the next post with pictures this time…..another dealer show in Orange County.

Categories: The Hunt for the Wild RV | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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