Our time with family camping in Door County was short as the weather decided not to cooperate, but it was still great to see everyone and spend a little time at the campfire and playing games. After leaving Door County after a month and a half, we headed south to do a night of moochdocking at my Dad's, get some laundry done and visit with the boys and my mom quick before we needed to head south to Goshen, Indiana for our first RV rally.
We got to Elkhart just at 4pm…um, Central time, ie. 5pm Eastern Elkhart time, which is too late to check in for the rally. We headed over to the Elkhart campground to spend the night. We weren’t alone though because there were several other Grand Design RV’s doing the same thing. We were planning on spending the night at our first boondocking site at a casino, however, with temps being well over 90, we would be running the generator all night long and it just didn’t make sense to burn through propane, when we could get closer to the rally site and have FHU pull-thru site with a Good Sam discount. We got a good nights sleep and were up early and over to the rally shortly after they opened at 10am to check in.
The Elkhart County fairgrounds is a gem of a fairground in every way. It is huge, has beautiful grounds and can accommodate around 500 RV’s. There are numerous FHU sites with 50amp, numerous more 30amp with water and the ability to create many more temporary sites with 30amp and water. Being that we were coming in the second day for arrival, we were escorted to a temporary 30amp and water site. Holy RV campground! It was a bit overwhelming to see over 375 RV’s and over 800 people milling around. The Grand Design rally started Tuesday with a hilarious “presidential” entry by the CEO of Grand Design and wrapped up Friday with an arial shot of all the participants surrounded by Grand Design RV’s, followed by a concert at one of the stages. This rally far exceeded our expectations and the organizers really did a great job organizing the events, meals, seminars, excursions, creating an amazing swag bag and just plain herding cats, i.e. attendees! Every day started with a full breakfast and announcements and then the day wrapped up with a full meal and fun event such as line dancing, campfire stories, concert and S’Mores. We, however, did not take part in all of the evening events as we met many new friends that we just plain hung out with at our RV’s and got to know one another. It was a very casual environment, with more folks stopping by to say hey or pull up a chair and sit awhile.
We signed up for the Amish Brown Bag excursion and spent the day touring Amish sites, with stops at a woodworking shop, buggy shop, quilt shop, E&S wholesale, bulk foods and a bakery. At each stop we received a gift for our brown bag. We scored Amish pretzels, popcorn, jam, and cinnamon rolls. We also attended an Amish Threshers dinner at an Amish families homestead. This was followed by a very interesting Q&A session with the owners on Amish life. Very interesting!
One of the benefits of coming to the rally is having the ability to choose 3 things you would like to have fixed while at the rally. Being that our RV is relatively new, we choose a couple minor things that we could think of at the time, which was 4 months ago. Additionally, they added our bent hydraulic jack to our list that we damaged in Door County. When we arrived we checked in with service to ensure they had all of our requests, including the jack and to let them know we were there. Within 3 hours we had a knock on the door from the tech and he was ready to take care of our items. He did a great job fixing those items as well as checking out a couple other items we inquired about. He also let us know that he would check to make sure the tech who would be installing the jack knew we were there. He came by the following day to install the new jack right at our site. Strangely enough, the last day of the rally, I went to open the microwave and it sparked and went dead. Dead as a door nail. Rick went over to the service desk and because it was the last day of the rally, they were unable to get a new microwave to the rally, so they will ship s a new one to our next destination. While there, Rick also got a couple packages of LED light strips for the outside lighting. Did I mention that all of this was FREE?!?!?!?! We were one of almost 400 RV’s there and just about everyone submitted a list of repairs of varying degrees, from minor things to larger items like awnings, leaf springs, jacks, etc. All were taken care of and then some. I can’t even tell you how many techs were there from Grand Design and Lippert, a major supplier of RV parts. Grand Design has a company motto, “We strive for nothing less than customers for life.” I think they definitely have a few!
In addition to Grand Design and Lippert booths, there were numerous other RV parts, supply and product vendors set up with booths and conducting seminars. We went to several seminars where we learned some new things and affirmed some things as well.
We also visited the vendor booths (insert large amounts of dollars leaving the wallet here). First, we found a fellow RV’er selling sink cover storage racks for an Amish gentleman who makes them and stains them to match the RV wood décor. They were very well made, including backer braces and I am always playing move the sink cover, while doing dishes, so this was something that would help to organize the kitchen area and reduce the clutter.
Next up was a extension pole and microfiber, double-sided mop heads for the wonderful Wash and Wax All I had bought Rick for Christmas. This stuff is amazing and allows you to wash and wax your rig in one step without water. Soo many RV parks today do not allow you to wash your rig with water in their park and with a Beacon wash running well over a hundred bucks a shot for truck and RV, this was a wise investment. Rick got to work on Sunday washing half of the RV. It works amazing and the mop heads clean up easily in the wash.
We then came upon the sign vendor that creates any type of vinyl monogram of sayings or pictures to put on anything, including your RV. We had talked about getting something for the back of our rig and after seeing all of the other great things they were producing, we succumbed to ordering ours. It really turned out nice and we put that on Sunday as well while we were washing the RV. Watcha think?
On Saturday morning we said goodbye to all of our newly made friends and as luck would have it, we will be visiting next week with one of the couples who are staying for a couple weeks, just 20 miles south of us when we get to our next workamping gig in Hanover, IN. We will meet up with another one of the couples when we get to our workcamping gig in Mesa, AZ next spring and will possibly be crossing paths with a couple others as we move to different areas and try to fit in some of the smaller Grand Design rallies held across the nation. Grand Design is definitely like family, everyone from GD staff, to techs, to fellow GD owners. An amazing experience!
We stayed at the campground through the weekend to avoid the mass exodus of RV’s and enjoyed a couple quiet days taking in the horse show and racing events. We were able to get most of the RV washed, our new rally acquisitions installed things organized and stowed for our travels.
During our time in the greater Elkhart area, we also had time to visit the RV Hall of Fame and Museum, some local eateries, the laundromat and of course Walmart. We also stopped at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce and picked up a CD driving tour of the area, including the Amish countryside. We split the CD’s up into two days and really enjoyed the wonderful things we learned about the area.
We left the fairgrounds Monday morning and made our way south to Hardy Lake State Park. This location puts us close to our next workamping gig, which we will travel to on Tuesday. This park is quiet with most of the campers checking out to get back to the daily grind after the holiday weekend. The campground here, as well as the park, is very well kept, clean bath houses and we even scored a 60ft paved site with 50amp electric. Rick was able to get the rest of the RV washed in the shaded area of the site, which was good because the heat index was 100! A quiet dinner and a relaxing night of TV was in order, followed by a good night sleep so we are fresh for our next big adventure on Tuesday.
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Holy smokes is it HOT!!! We are on our first road trip with The Grand Beauty, pulled by the Beast. Overall the trip has gone well, but long and HOT.
We started off the trip at Harrington Beach State Park in Belgium with family. We had a great time relaxing and trying to keep warm. Yes you heard that right! Thursday night got into the very low 50's and with all the windows open, it did get pretty chilly! My cousin, Kassi, was a trooper and braved it out in a tent...with layers of clothes, a blanket and a sleeping bag. But we lived to enjoy another day at Harrington Beach on Lake Michigan.
Friday after a little bit of rain, Rick, Kassi, our son Nicholas and I went for a nice long walk through the park. They do have some great picturesque trails on the lake, through the woods and around an old quarry which is now a lake. We even saw a couple deer who are not afraid of people or the pictures you take of them. Later in the afternoon, the rest of the family showed up and we had 7 sites in the non-electric section of the campground. We celebrated some birthdays and had a great night at the campfire, except for the darn hollow log that just wouldn't cooperate. Saturday morning we packed up early as it started to get warm and steamy. This is where the hot, hot begins!
After saying our goodbyes and emptying tanks, we were on our way south. The drive through Milwaukee was uneventful, except for the bumpy roads that were pretty jarring at times. I wonder if I-10 across the south is really worse than these roads! Our first day was the longest drive from Belgium, WI to Springfield, IL. We left at 11am and arrived at the IL State Fairgrounds campground a little after 6pm. With 7 hours of driving, we were both exhausted and hot. It was 96 degrees when we arrived and very humid. We opted for full hookups with 50amp so we could run both air conditioners. Unfortunately, those sites were in the blacktop parking area. After setting up, Rick looked like a drowned rat! By the time we were done and the rv was cooled to a steamy 88 degrees, we decided to go get a quick dinner out. Way too hot to cook. We found a cool, hole in the wall gyro shop and had a relaxing dinner. When we got back to the RV, it had cooled considerably and we crawled right into bed, exhausted from the long hot day.
Sunday we were up early, as it was going to be another hot day, with temps hitting 100. We went out for a Fathers Day breakfast and a quick fuel up at Walmart along with some needed items. We had originally planned to stop at Lincoln's home Sunday morning before leaving, but decided to forego that and get packed up before the heat of the day set in. We were hooked up and on the road by 11am. It was already in the low 90's and humid. Today was going to be another long day, with us looking to make it to Lebanon, MO where we had reservations at Happy Trails RV Park. Southern IL roads were in better shape and we sailed along. The landscape began to get a bit more hilly and trees were dotting the landscape rather than the flat, farm landscape of Central IL. Hitting St Louis proved to be a bit more challenging. We were wanting to go around STL on I-255, but due to construction and very confusing road signs, we missed that exit and ended up going straight through STL where even more confusing signage continued. When you are in a big truck pulling 42 feet of heavy metal behind you, it is almost impossible to make quick moves, much less change lanes on a dime like the other little cars were doing in front of us. Oh, and let's not forget the semi that decided he did not want to get on I-65 and cut back in front of us. Luckily, Rick saw he hesitated and gave him a bit of room to course correct. I think that proved to be the longest and most frustrating part of the trip thus far. Although, one other frustrating detail that proved to complicate things is that the new Tire Pressure Monitoring System(TPMS) for the RV continued to malfunction both days. This is a separate system from the trucks TPMS system and is monitored on a cellphone app. When working correctly, it is really cool and continuously monitors the temperature and pressure of each RV tire and alerts you to any abnormalities. The past two days however, it has continued to loose connection to two of the tire transmitters and then throws off an alarm on the app. Each transmitter has a flat, watch-like battery and initially we attributed it to the batteries going dead prematurely, so we changed them out with new ones that were sent with the unit. We soon ran out of fresh batteries and were getting pretty frustrated with it. Rick then decided to take the batteries out and let them sit when we hit a rest area, re-installing them before we left and that seemed to work for a bit, but then re-alarmed again further down the road. Our last ditch effort was to move the two alarming transmitters to different tires. We will see what happens there. We do have a communication into the company and an order for free replacement batteries. Perhaps it is faulty transmitters. If it is, we will need to wait to get those installed until we are back in WI.
We arrived at Happy Trails RV Park around 4pm, which made for a 5 hour drive day. Many Fulltime Rv'ers stick to a firm rule of 3 hours of drive time or be off the road and set up by 3pm. I now can completely understand and appreciate that way of thinking! If we were not needing to be at our destination by Monday, I would not be pushing the drive time soo hard. After these two days of 5 to 7 hours of driving, not to mention in this heat, we are beat! Hopefully a good night sleep and only 3 hours of driving to our final destination tomorrow will be better. I will leave you with some pictures of our lovely full hook up site by the pond.
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Winter has flown by...and it hasn't. The calendar is moving but I wish the weather here in WI would play along. We were teased with a day in the 50's and now headed back to the 30's. Come on Mother Nature, we have alot of work to do outside to get the house ready for selling in mid-April! Plus green grass would be nice for the real estate pictures! Drab brown with no leaves and no flowers blooming is just, well, drab!
We have been busy with inside work and the sorting through of everything! Even though we have moved a couple times over our married lives, we have still managed to accumulate stuff. Stuff that I am getting excited to get rid of and live more simply. Just the other day I was going through all of my office stuff and found a landline phone we used way back when we were first married...why??? To all my UnitedHealthcare peeps, I finally shredded the manual for the conversion to the new Facets claims payment system, well new back in 2011!!! LOL It just shows that we hang on to alot of stuff over the years that we never refer back to or use again. It really has been liberating to see large stacks of paper be eaten by the shredder and things we no longer use or will use in the future be put in the sale pile. I know we will get to stuff like the things the boys made growing up and such, that will require a box of Kleenex or two to get through, but I figure we can take picture of the precious things and they can keep what they want.
We have been interviewing estate sale companies and have had three stop by to look at what we have. We have narrowed it down to two and should be making a decision this week. We will have the sale three weeks after the house goes on the market, in mid-May, as it coincides with the annual village wide rummage sale here. Hopefully this will allow enough time to get an accepted offer based on the recent sales trend in the neighborhood, which have all been less than a week.
We have been receiving weekly updates from Burlington RV on the status of our upgrades and repairs and we are down to waiting on two parts to come in and be installed. We will be going to look everything over on Saturday and our hope is to bring her home Good Friday. Then the task of starting to pack everything in begins; optimizing the just over 400 sq feet of space and basement storage in our Solitude. I must say our basement storage is probably some of THE best for a 5th wheel and you would think we could pack it to the hilt with everything and anything BUT there is one tiny thing we need to keep in mind, and that is WEIGHT. The frame and suspension of the RV is rated for soo many pounds of additional cargo. Our Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) is 14,200 and our Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 16,500. This leaves us 2,300 pounds to play with. That means all of our belongings AND water and propane cannot exceed that. It may sound like alot but when you start to add up all of your clothes, food, dishes, computer, kayak, tools, camping accessories, etc. , not to mention that a gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds and we have a 93 gallon fresh water tank on board, it can add up quickly. This means that the cast iron pans we love to use on the campfire will be limited to one and the awesome heavy duty Calphalon pans we use at home will need to find a new home. Bringing items along that are lightweight or multipurpose is the name of the game now. In fact, I found an all in one printer/fax/copier that alot of folks use on the road and it weighs 5 pounds, whereas the one I have at home is over 26 pounds! I even thought I could help the cause so I am loosing weight too! LOL
If we do pick up the RV on March 30th, that gives us two weeks to get it packed and move it off site for the house to be ready for real estate pictures and listing. My dad and stepmom are putting in a 50 amp plug for us on their property just north of us, so that we will be able to hang out there in between our camping this spring and summer and when we return to WI to visit family & friends. It is good to know we will have a place to land, that can accommodate our 42 feet of home when we are in WI. Thanks guys!
We also have been working on getting all of the medical/dental/vision squared away as well. I just had the PRK laser eye surgery done as a f/u to the Lasik I had done many years ago so I should be good for vision for awhile until I have to break down and get cheaters. Rick is scheduled for his eye exam and the boys are getting all their vision checks too. Dr visits are underway, prescriptions refilled and discussion with Dr's for refills down the road. Dental visits scheduled and poor Rick needs a root canal before we go, perhaps two. Ouchh!! As we get more acclimated to the full-time lifestyle, we will probably look into the dental and pharmacy benefits to be had in Mexico. I have read many blogs on their dental tourism and how wonderful it is and how cheap too.
That is all for now and I suspect our next update will be when we bring the RV home. Til then, Happy Easter!
With the truck purchase behind us and Rick happily driving it every day to and from work and adjusting quite well to the bigger wheel base, our focus turned back to the 5th wheel. We knew that preliminary research led us to the Grand Design Solitude 375res, but we wanted to ensure we were making the right choice in not only the RV but the company. With this being our only home and the fact it had wheels, we wanted to ensure we felt good about the company, the quality of the product and the service after the sale. It is a huge chunk of change and we wanted to make the best investment right, NOT a rolling money pit!
So, what better way to do this than to go to the company's manufacturing facility?!?!?! Grand Design welcomes factory tours and we were lucky enough to get on a tour of the Solitude line in July. We spent a day down in Shipshewana, IN enjoying the Amish folks and spent the following day at the Grand Design factory in MIddlebury, IN. The tour was very good and I recommend it to anyone looking into purchasing an RV. Our tour guide Justin was very thorough and was patent with all of our questions. Believe me, we asked alot!!! He was also honest when he did not know something but promised to get answers. We saw the Solitude from every angle at every stage of build, up close. This really helps as an owner to understand where all of your internal workings are and how it was constructed as you contemplate future upgrades. After about an hour and a half, we felt that we made the right choice. We also got to meet the infamous Bill Martin. For those that are not Grand Design owners on the Grand Design FB blog page, Bill is Grand Design social media, solver of all problems, extraordinaire! Bill is another reason we feel confident about our decision to go with Grand Design. He has been extremely responsive and helpful to the FB group of owners and attends rallies as well to meet and talk with owners. He is a great representative for the company and an example of what every company should strive for in customer service! (More on what Bill did for us in a bit. )
So having the tour and then meeting Bill, how can the day get any better? Well how about the co-founder and president of Grand Design, Don Clark, coming over to greet all of us. Wow! He talked with all of us (12) for awhile in the lobby and then invited us up to the boardroom to talk further. Knock me over with a feather...what company president takes over an hour out of his day to do that??? No topic was off the table. We asked the hard questions about recent axle issues and what they were doing about it. We asked about the recent acquisition by Winnebago. We felt he answered honestly and really wanted to hear what we all had to say. So do you think we bought a Grand Design Solitude? Umm, you betcha!
Riding the high of just coming from the factory, we started looking around to see if, by chance, there was a dealer out there that had the model we were looking for with the options we wanted. Unfortunately our search turned up nothing. We then happened across a blog post where someone else was looking for the best place to buy a Solitude was and there was a salesperson responding that they would not be beat on price, even for ordering an RV. We decided to see what he could do for us. We knew we had the local RV dealership that we had visited several times that we could compare with. We messaged him with what we were looking for and he came back with a crazy low price. Rick then started talking with our local Burlington RV dealership and after the dust settled, they would meet their price and store the RV for us over the winter free of charge!
We ordered our 5th wheel on August 26th with the options we were looking for. We did end up adding a generator and we are sure glad we did. We were told that the factory is at about a 3 month lead time, which we were fine with since we really weren't looking to use it until 2018. A week later we got a call that Grand Design was going to be adding our 5th wheel order to the next production line which starts at the end of the week! AWESOME!!! We got ahold of Bill Martin to see if by chance he could take a picture of our baby coming together and sure enough, he delivered.
Bill also called and went over some updates for the 2018 model they would implementing in our RV such as the integrated bathroom sink, storage box in steps to living room and supposedly a secret storage in the top of the bedroom dresser. We have yet to validate that one but would be cool!
With seeing those pictures we knew we were close to delivery and on September 30th we went to pick her up. We spent several hours there completing paperwork, getting a tour of the service facility and completing our PDI walk thru. I am sure that they have other walk thru's that go much quicker but not ours! Not because we need alot of education on how to use the different systems but more so because we went over it with a fine tooth comb. It is going to be our house and this is our opportunity to ensure everything, and I mean everything works and that we identify anything that needs to be addressed. Rick was on the roof and underneath it and everywhere in between. The staff was very patient with us and we documented the list of items to be addressed while it is there for the winter. It was then time to hook her up and take her home. Now we have pulled a camper before but something that is over 13 ft tall and 41 ft long is a whole other story!
We brought her home and it was amazing how well the truck did pulling that behemoth. We pulled onto the front lawn so we could transfer our gear out of the old camper into the new one.
Here are some initial pictures on the inside. We will take more once we get it back after the winter and have set it up for full time. If you remember from the previous post that showed the floor plan, the living room area is elevated from the kitchen/dining as is the bathroom and bedroom. In this picture, I am standing in the living room looking down at the kitchen. The door in the middle is the pantry. The refrigerator and stove on the left side are in a slide that comes in, and on the opposite side, there is a dinette that is also in a slide. The very right side are the stairs going up to the bathroom and bedroom. I love the stainless 70/30 split sink with the pull out sprayer faucet. The island also has a bunch of drawers and under sink storage.
This picture is standing in the kitchen looking up to the living room. The living room is windows all around with two opposing couches that fold out to beds and then two theater recliner seats with massage and heat. Oooh, they are soo comfy. In the forefront you can see the dining area to the left. This also has large windows all around. It also has the only carpet in the RV. To the left is a nice hutch that has the ability to hang another TV or a computer monitor.
This is up in the living room area. Yes, that is a fireplace. It throws off alot of heat and works well to take the chill out without running the furnace. We can also have it on without heat and change the surrounding colors. The TV is called a televator as it can be raised or lowered. Each window has room darkening shades to make it nice and dark. Above the TV is the radio/CD/DVD player with surround sound in the cabinet. In the forefront is one of the other additions for 2018. The silver rectangle is on each side of the theater seats and are trays for setting drinks or snacks. They swivel in or out, sorta like airplane trays. You can also pull them out and store them if you don't want to use them. I bought a 5 x 7 area rug to make it more homey.
This last picture is the bedroom. At the top of the picture, you see it has a AC that runs on sort of a race track system throughout the rv with the other AC to keep the entire coach cool. The queen bed is in a slide and has little windows on each side and one above the headboard. We bought a cool mountain scene cling on for the above the bed window since it does not open. We will put that on in spring and share pictures with you then. We saw a fellow Solitude owner do that and it really looks cool with the light coming in through it. If you see at the end of the bed under the comforter, there is a handle. This pulls out a padded bench to sit on and if you open that padded lid, there is storage underneath. So far I have used it as a clothes hamper. The glass closet doors slide open to reveal a really large, almost walk in, closet that has shelving for clothes and shoes, along with plenty of room for hanging clothes. Off to the right of that is another 1 door closet that can house a washer/dryer but we will use that as storage, probably Rick's closet! LOL
Well there you have it, a sneak peak of the inside. I will share more pictures in spring when we have it all moved in and ready to go full time.
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