In one of our last posts, I hinted on an expensive upgrade that we were about to do at the beginning of year two. With putting on almost 10k miles on the RV last year throughout 16 states, and since this our home for the foreseeable future, we decided it would be wise to upgrade the suspension and brakes. With the Grand Design Solitude 375RES having amazing storage, we are easily able to go over cargo weight and with the weight of the trailer itself, it could have easily justified 8k pound axles. Now that we have seen the way people weave in and out of traffic in front of the RV, we wanted to make sure we had really good stopping power as well! So we decided to upgrade to the MORryde independent suspension and disc brakes. This was a hefty investment at about $6800, but the safety of ourselves and our rig, we feel, justifies that. We have read alot of reviews and blogs about fellow RV'ers making the upgrade and being very satisfied with the switch...so we jumped in with wallets open!
Rick is going to be our guest co-blogger today. He usually likes to take the pictures and proofreads but since we are getting a bit technical, he is much better at explaining that.
The WHY Behind Our Decision to Upgrade
In our search for the perfect RV for us, we looked and inspected numerous makes and models. We even had a spreadsheet of our wants and needs and several met some of these requirements but none really met all. We settled on Grand Design for many reasons, that you can read here, with the plan to upgrade certain items to better meet our needs. Some of these upgrades were convenience and comfort items but the big one was safety. We have heard of MORryde Independent Suspension on many sites and at the GD rally and then also the disc brakes that improve braking and stopping distance. We looked at other manufacturers who use independent suspension on their high end 5th wheels and respect the fact that it removes all suspension fail points such as leaf springs, shackles, wet bolts, equalizers and axles. The switch to disc brakes is a no brainer when having the suspension done.
While attending the Grand Design National Rally in IN last year, we were able to look at several suspension upgrade products from different companies. Some offered disc brakes only, some were equalizer replacements and still another was what is called a slipper springs system. In my opinion, the downfall of these is that it does not remove the leaf springs and shackles and wet bolts, which are all failure points. We found the conversation with MORryde representative was very informative. He spent alot of time with us and answered all my questions thoroughly and knowledgeably.
With our Solitude 375RES there is a great amount of storage and with our options, cargo is doable, but limited. We are full-timers and are packed accordingly. Once we were packed and on the road, we did weigh at a CAT scale and were over on capacity by a couple hundred pounds.
When you consider an independent suspension it does add weight by a couple hundred pounds but it is under the frame and not carried by the frame. We did talk with Grand Design, Lippert and MORryde and this does not void the warranty. The system does also allow for 4 wheel alignment, similar to a auto alignment with caster, camber and tracking, which is a plus.
After talking with the MORryde rep and others who have had both or just one option done, we decided this is the way to go for us. Again, other systems may be more applicable to other situations, this is just our opinion from our research, applicable to our situation.
We had heard that appointments at the MORryde Service Center were booked out 6 months, so we decided to go ahead and line up our appt for the following summer (June 2019), when we knew we would be back in the area. This also locked in the rally price. It also gave us time to workamp and get finances in order to pay for this pricey upgrade.
The Upgrade Process
A couple weeks out from our appt, we received an email confirming our appointment and outlining our visit logistics, such as when to arrive, the exact location and some of what we were to expect. If your planning to have any work done at MORryde, know that they are in the city, not an industrial park so the roads are somewhat narrow with some sharp corners. We did a satellite map view to map out the right roads to take so we wouldn't get stuck with our 42ft behemoth on some residential street.
We arrived a little before noon, hoping that they would be able to get us in the service bay and measured before end of the work day around 2:30pm. We entered the Service Center Customer area and were greeted with a welcome board that had our name on it. Nice!
As you can see, they had alot of service customers this week. I can tell you some went smoother than others. Especially the guy that pulled up with no appointment... Umm, sorry sir, no we cannot help you today, these other folks have appts they made far in advance. Sighhh. Anywho, MORryde does customer service right. They have a lovely customer lounge that had very comfortable leather chairs and couches, cable TV, tons of magazines, a nice big table to spread out on for working or eating and a very well stocked fridge and snack bar. They also had a Keurig machine that was very popular. There was good wifi in the lounge as well as out in the service area. The icing on the cake was that they offer lunch from Panera every day. Just put your order in with the receptionist and they will order and go get it for you. We definitely took advantage of this both days! As far as other meals, they have a book of recommendations in the area and all the staff are very eager to add their favorites if you ask.
Once we checked in, our very competent and incredible service tech, Sergio, who has been with the company, I believe 19 years, came out to measure for the independent suspension. Sergio had us pull forward into a level area of the parking lot and we thought we were pulling pretty level and he confirmed we were only an inch high in back and could correct that with the suspension. He said that was not bad at all considering he has had folks come in that were 5 inches or more! He also measured height as we were concerned that this upgrade would add to our already dauntingly tall rig. Brochure height lists us at 13'6 ft tall and when Sergio measured we were only 13'3 ft. Whew, 3 inches may not seem like much but when you are wondering which overpasses are too close to call!
Once we were measured, we backed into one of the overnight RV spots that have electric while Sergio went to finish up on the RV he was working on. We had our fingers crossed that he would finish and we would be able to move into a bay so we would not have to set up in the parking lot for one night and then pack up and move into a bay at the crack of dawn and set up again. We waited in the lounge and watched the clock tick by. Sergio finally came in to let us know he finished up the other one and the owner just needed to pay and they would be pulling out their RV and then we could back in. Looking at the rigs already in the bays, there is really not alot of wiggle room to get the big rigs in there, be it on the side or overhead. I (Julie) just could not watch this happen, so I went inside, but with Sergio's help Rick nailed it! Perfectly! Whew! Fit like a glove!
Once inside, Sergio and staff where able to get it jacked up with bottle jacks and the wheels taken off. We were then allowed to get into the rig since it was the end of their work day. We were able to put out all the slides, had 50 amp hookup and wifi service. We were soo glad to be in the shop and settled and the process started...until the first shift notification horns! OMG, the first one really caught us off guard! Since this is not only a service center but a functioning production plant, they have loud notification horns. They went off at 5pm, 9pm, 1am, 5am. For sleeping we turned on the AC with fans and were able to sleep. By the second night we hardly noticed them anymore. The folks in another RV that were not able to get their rig inside the first night mentioned that there were lots of trains that came through near the plant outside, but we never heard those.
The next morning we were up and ready, with slides pulled in for them to start work at 6am promptly! Sergio was there and ready to get to work. At 10am they take lunch and you are allowed to come into the bay and checkout the work. By this time they took off everything and cut off the leaf shackles, ground down and prepped the area to install the suspension. The electric over hydraulic brake controller was installed in the front bay and the wires and hoses were pulled through. They also had our new IS assembly sitting there waiting. Based on the measurements that Sergio provides, the night crew custom assembles them, with the disc brakes, specifically for our rig. We also talked to Sergio about the shape of our old axles, leaf springs, shackles and wet bolts and he said the axles were in excellent shape and everything else looked to be in very good condition after 10,000 miles on the rig. We then had our Panera lunch they ordered for us and talked with some other couples having their suspension done as well. We also found out the Mobile Suites brings their new units over to have the independent suspension inspected before shipping them out. There were a couple sitting in the lot waiting for their turn in the bay.
At the end of their work day, you can occupy your rig again and pull out your slides. By this time the had the channel steel welded to frame that accepts the IS system and the system was placed to be welded the next morning.
The second night went much smoother now that we were used to the loud horn and we again were up at the crack of dawn for them to start at 6am. This was hopefully to be the final install day, but as we saw with another couple, a wrench might be thrown into the plans causing work to spill over to the next day.
By 10am lunch they had everything welded into place and the underbelly was sealed back in place. We were very encouraged, as was Sergio, that we would be done that day.
By this time we were really ready for the job to be complete and be back on the road. The lounge is really nice, but you can only sit still there for soo long! We didn't leave because we wanted to be available when they were ready. We ordered lunch again and as we were finishing, Sergio came in to let us know they were done with the installation and testing and they just needed to align it. So we waited...patiently...2 o'clock was coming up quick and we were getting nervous that we were not going to make the magical cut off time. Sergio finally came in around 1:30 and said they were done and it was time to hook up and take it for a road test. After taking it for a spin, we settled up the bill, which was a bit more than the original quote because of upgraded Timbren seals that were installed. We thanked Sergio for a job well done, collected our MORryde tshirts and stickers, that replaced the Dexter axle stickers, we were on our way!
We then headed northwest through Chicago to WI. We gave the disc brakes and suspension a bit of a workout in Chicago and they performed perfectly! We then pulled the rig to northern WI and have been here ever since. We are ready to make our next move and really see the new components in action. We can say that the interior items stayed in place much better and the disc brakes were very responsive and it did not feel like the RV was pushing the truck anymore. We really feel like this was good investment and hopefully this in depth narrative helps others considering independent suspension and disc brakes.
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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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