First Time at the Ark Encounter

As a rule when we are with our RV friends we don’t talk about religion.  We also stay away from politics, and really any subject considered controversial.  We are a diverse group of people who are bound together by our common interest in RVing and since we love each other and respect those differences it just seems to work best.  I am writing this blog post in that spirit.  My goal is to write an impartial review of The Ark Encounter as a place you might want to visit in your travels, and although I am fully aware that this particular place might evoke strong emotions in people, I will not be covering either my feelings (or those of anyone else I was with) in this post.  I do think it is fair to say that the experience is designed to evoke emotion, and you should be prepared for that going in.

One last note, as much as I appreciate comments on our blog posts please know that any comments on this particular post that do not honor this impartiality will be deleted.  I apologize in advance for taking that step, but I don’t believe this blog is the proper forum for those type of discussions.  The pictures and comments I post are designed to give people a feel for what they can expect to see, but are not intended to unduly influence anyone’s opinion. They are also not 100% comprehensive, so please keep that in mind.  I am neither a religious scholar nor a scientist and as such am simply presenting the information at face value. Thanks for understanding.

Picture taken from inside the park in front of the Ark. From left: Me, Lee, Dede, and Denny

I had really never heard of the Ark Experience until Denny started telling me about it.  My interest was immediately piqued because I love “big stuff” and the idea of a life-sized ark really sounded cool.  So Denny planned the day trip and told Lee about it, but they kept it a secret from me, so I was completely surprised by the destination when we arrived.  The Ark is built in the middle of a huge field in Williamstown, Kentucky and the large parking lot (with plenty of RV parking) sits very far away from the Ark.  When you enter the parking lot, signs clearly state that you will need to pay $10 prior to leaving, which is probably to stop folks from just popping in, taking a picture, and then leaving.  You can see the ark from one corner of the parking lot, but it is so far away that you don’t really get a feel for the scope of it.  Plus the inside is way more interesting than the outside, so if you are planning on visiting the ark, it’s definitely a place you will want to pay admission for.

We did have a little confusion in the parking lot and weren’t sure where to go, but eventually we walked to a small building which is where we bought our tickets.  The day price was $40 for me,  (they had a military and senior discount and DeDe received both which took the price for her to $31),  but they also had multiple day passes and combination passes with the Creation Museum which was 45 minutes away. We chose the day pass, and I winced a little at the price, but Denny offered to pay for us and I was happy to accept.  We are on a limited  budget and rarely spend that sort of money on any experience.

Admission area with both a ticket booth and credit card machines which was a nice feature

The annual fee is definitely a bargain for folks who plan on going frequently. As I mention they also have a military discount

One you pay your admission you get on a large bus and are driven to the site.  It opens into a large plaza where they had food stands and some nice gift shops. We walked down into the ark area  and it was neat getting up close.  The ark is HUGE, and on the back side has a building that is attached to it to give additional space for exhibits, restrooms, and elevators.  The guys noticed that some bolts were used in the construction and I noticed the sprinkler system, but none of that bothered me at all.  Obviously the building needs to be built to modern-day code standards, and I appreciated the fact that it was wheelchair friendly. We actually paced a woman in a wheelchair throughout our visit and she was having a wonderful time, taking pictures, and didn’t seem to have any issues with the layout, even in the smaller side spaces.

There was a ramp going up to a huge door

The line to the entrance took us right under the aft section.

Having worked in the fire protection business for 15 years I was glad to see the sprinklers

I should mention we went on a Friday, while kids were in school, in October, and it was busy and at times crowded. It was obvious that these lines were built for many more people so you should definitely take that into account when you are visiting.

The inside of the ark was even more impressive.  Three floors, beautiful wood, and really amazing in scale.  Plus they had a fund-raising program where you could sponsor a plank of wood and then go online and see which piece was yours, which I thought was pretty cool.

This picture shows a cross-section of the wall.

The curved front near the door from the inside

The center portions had air vents

And there were walkways above which allowed the inhabitants to go above the animal pens and drop in feed

This sign explained in detail how the feeding system worked

The first and second floors were mainly animal pens and the construction was very interesting.  Different types of pens for different types of animals and food, water, and waste solutions for each kind.   It was obvious that an incredible amount of thought had gone into how you would transport this many animals and I found all of that pretty interesting. They also had calculations showing how they thought 8 people could manage the workload and the amount of food, water, and oil that would have needed to be stored.

The cages for the larger animals were pretty big. Denny is in the pic for scale and he’s a big guy at 6’3″.

Different types of clay vessels for different liquids

Lots of bird and small animal cages

Sacks of grain

This stand explained how they could feed and care for reptiles and amphibians

Large model of the ark

Sign showing how they made the calculations on distribution of labor, space for cages etc.

The second floor also contained a small petting zoo area and the llamas were pretty cute and the door of the arc which had a large cross made of light projected on it.

Petting zoo

Door…you can see the cross projected above me

The sign next to the door talked about how there was only one door to salvation.

All along the outside of the ark there were various small rooms explaining  various tenets of Creationism.  These contained detailed posters with lots of information and unfortunately caused several pedestrian “traffic jams”.  It was harder to read the information and take pictures in those areas so it is important to not that the few posters I am including here are only a small portion of the information presented.

This poster was about how many of each animal was taken into the ark. The bible says seven seven which Hebrew theologists disagree on whether it was 7 pairs or 7 individual. Quite a bit of theological thought has gone into this particular question

Whatever the number that is a lot of animals and the explanation for how that many could fit on the ark is explained by the concept of “kinds.” Essentially one animal would be the forefather of many types of animals.

This is the Kind of cats for example

And this is the kind of dogs, wolves, and foxes

The animals were very well done and looked realistic

Tons of detail in the presented information, but I grasped the concept pretty quickly.  I was more interested in the dinosaurs since I was surprised to see them on the ark as well.  The explanation of the dinosaurs had kind’s as well and some of the animals that Noah brought on the ark have become extinct.

Two of the several Kind dinosaurs

This poster explained that Noah didn’t need to bring full size brontosaurs with him, but instead could bring two of the  babies

This poster explained how freshwater fish survived. Noah didn’t need to bring the ocean dwelling fish on the boat of course.

They even covered Unicorns on the ark and their belief is that unicorns were actually rhinoceros.  DeDe and I were particularly interested in this. She had heard as a child that the unicorns were playing and wouldn’t get on the boat and I had heard Noah was mad at them, but either way it’s probably true that unicorns were rhinos…which is a bummer because the world would be a better place with a few unicorns in it. 🙂

Speaking of childhood stories, there was a side section that had lots of cartoon animals on it.  I went inside expecting to see a kids area, but instead found a section on why childhood ark images are dangerous.  There were several examples of childhood arc images and they talked about the 7 D’s of Deception which “attack the truthfulness of scripture.”

This poster was to the right as I walked in the door.

The third floor contained the living quarters which were done in exquisite detail.  It also explained how the 8 people on the ark were our forefathers and explained further how each pair went on to populate different continents.  There was also an area where you could get a 3D model of yourself by walking into a photo booth where they took 360 degree pictures.  Lee was fascinated by this technology and the statues were incredibly detailed but the prices were extremely high.  Hopefully this technology gets more popular in the future because I would love one of these of the girls.

amazingly lifelike

But Yikes on the prices

Speaking of diversity, the visiting crowd as also pretty diverse.  I saw people of all ages including many school age children and there were numerous African-american people along with several Amish/Mennonite families, some Asians, and a family from India.

The third floor had many more side rooms including one explaining that there had only been one Ice Age and a series of life-sized cartoon panels showing a college aged student struggling with their faith. The most interesting one for me was a series of booths showing how the bible had made its way around the world in written format and the exhibits ended with a large panel talking about how we know the bible is true.

As you can see the lines formed for the side rooms

This panel talked about climate change and whether it was mad made or a natural occurence

Numerous panels showed a side by side comparison of a creationist versus evolutionary view on a particular subject

Numerous panels talking about the first time the bible was translated into a native language

The red pins represent an area of the world where less than 2% of the population is Christian.

India had the largest number of red pins. I worked with several people from India and although most are Hindu in certain areas of the country there are Islamic.

Australia only had a few areas with red pins which I assume are aboriginal populations

The elevator was near this panel and we took it down into a very large gift shop.  The prices were reasonable and they had excellent ice cream along with fudge and other treats.  Next door there is an extra building with a large buffet and several smaller food kiosks.

It was a full day with lots of walking, one man I talked to had walked 4700 steps, and I can certainly see why some people might want to purchase a multi day pass.  There is a small zoo and petting area, which we did not see and donkey and camel rides available for an additional charge.

In summary, I appreciate Denny taking us there and found the ark itself to be an amazing piece of construction.  The price, however, I feel is on the high side, because a family of five could easily spend several hundred dollars on a day trip. To be fair, amusement parks cost just as much, but I wish the price point for children was a little lower for parents of large families who wanted to attend the experience.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full-time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

A “World’s Largest” Kind of Day

As I mentioned before, DeDe and Denny are avid blog readers, and the last couple of times we have visited they have put together some very special days.  I’d love to say I had visited every place in Central Ohio, but as I have discovered hanging out with them that is simply not true.  What makes it so special is not only do they plan the days, but they go to great pains to pick things that they know would interest us and make great blog posts.

Well, they certainly outdid themselves on Wednesday with an adventure that was jam packed with cool museums and several “world’s biggest thing.”  If you know me at all by this point, you know I love, love giant anything.  Biggest chair, biggest iron, largest wind chime etc…I am there.  So when we were on our way tour first stop, Denny made a slight detour so I could see the world’s biggest basket.

Longaberger is a local company that in it’s heyday was the maker of some amazing handcrafted baskets.  They had so much success that their corporate office was built like a giant basket.  Nope, not making that up…see for yourself.

For scale see the orange traffic cone at the bottom.

The company also owns a large campus that used to have shops and beautiful gardens and was a popular tourist destination at Christmas time.  This campus, according to Roadside America, held the World’s largest basket of apples, and since it was pretty close by we also decided to stop there.  Technically it wasn’t open, but we drove in anyway and wandered about a bit taking pictures.  The facility is obviously being used for something (trash bags in cans and a few potted mums) but it had definitely seen better days.

The large;y empty facility

With the giant basket of apples

After seeing the apples we stopped at a gas station for “fry pies”.  These are made in Berlin, Ohio which has a thriving Amish community and are so much better than the standard fruit pies you see in stores.  These were more like a fruit filled donut and really yummy, but very sweet.

Despite the side trips we eventually made it to the Warther Museum and Garden.  Neither one of us had ever heard of this small museum, but DeDe and Denny had been a couple of times.  Ernest “Mooney”Warther led an extremely interesting life.  At the age of 5 his father died and all of the children had to go to work.  Mooney’s job was herding neighbor’s cows for which he was paid 1 penny a day.  When he was 6 years old he came across a carving knife in a field and started whittling. As the story goes, one day he met a man at a train station and the man taught him to carve wooden pliers.  Without any instruction, Moody duplicated the effort and spent years carving the wooden pliers.

Eventually he stopped his “whittling phase” and started carving trains.  The first few weren’t very good of course, but even the early works showed a high level of talent.  He started working in a steel mill at 16, got married, had 5 kids and eventually built a small house and work shop.  Despite having a regular job and family he never stopped carving and as his access to more expensive materials became possible he added ebony and ivory to his carvings.  He also started using blueprints and learned to carve to scale starting at 2:30am and carving until he had to go to work in the morning.  This was his hobby and despite numerous offers he never sold a train, and in 1963 the Warther museum was built to house the collection.

The museum building was built on his home property and around his workshop which he continued to use while the museum was open until his death. The workshop is that little white building to the left.

Workshop

He had an extensive arrowhead collection found during walks in the area and his early days he used the arrowhead material for embellishments on his trains

The museum itself costs $13, which initially I thought was high although I felt it was justified after seeing the train collection.  The grounds themselves are free and that included touring his home and the little button house he built for his wife.  Frieda, who was born in Switzerland (Mooney was second generation with Swiss born parents) started her own hobby after they were married.  She collected so many buttons that he eventually built her a place to put them all.  He also used the button material when money was tight for his trains and I loved the idea that she found her own hobby and passion in their marriage.

The button house

Each panel was grouped by a specific type of button and then put into a pattern

Her prized possession was the button in the center which was from Mrs’ Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural dress

The dining room was her work space and there were strings of buttons everywhere

The grounds were also very beautiful.  The grapevine on this arbor was over 100 years old

He built a large play area for the kids which included a 65 foot swing (that is not a typo). Lee was a little freaked out by this picture of one of the daughters swinging on it lol

After touring the grounds we entered the museum, which started with his earliest works.  One of the most interesting ting for me was that as his carving got more intricate he needed better knives to work with.  Eventually he created his own knife, with multiple interchangeable blades.  This carving tool was revolutionary and is actually not available for sale.  Only family members know how to make these blades. More importantly learning to make these knives led to him making a carving knife for his wife, which was so admired by the neighbors that the Warther knife business was born and the family still runs a knife business in a workshop attached to the building.

An early knife he created and used to whittle

Very cool fountain outside. The “whimpled” look on the blade was originally used to hide imperfections in the steel he could afford, but they continued the look even with better materials

The current workshop is part of the tour

The knives for sale were very beautiful, but way out of our price range

I did like this hanging knife rack though

Denny bought me a paring knife when I wasn’t looking and it is a beautiful knife. Wonderfully balanced and designed for right handers so Lee is not allowed to use it 🙂

But really it’s all about the trains and I know I am taking forever to get there, but there was alot going on in this museum.  There were three rooms of trains and they were all beautifully displayed.  Out tour guide was excellent, sharing lots of personal informaton about his process and although I am not really a train person I loved the craftsmanship.

One of the many display cases

This was one of my favorites and he carved this piece mutiple times to get it right. Whenever he recarved a piece he would usually throw the older “flawed piece” in the fireplace

There was a great display showing his materials including a block of ebony, an elephant tusk…

And the eyetooth of a hippo which contains the purest of ivory

He also had a fascination with Lincoln carving many pieces that pay homage to the type of man he felt the president was

This culminated in a replication of Lincoln’s funeral train which contained an amazing level of detail

Tiny carving of President Lincoln in his coffin

Truly the detail was amazing and some of the tiny carvers and train wheels are even on motors and parts of them move

My absolute favorite piece though was a recreation of the steel mill he worked in.  The piece is incredibly detailed and many of the pieces move, powered by a motor that he made using an old washing machine motor.  He created this device completely on his own and it’s clear what a creative genuis he was.  He only had a second grade education, but he was an avid reader and his mind never stopped. We took some pictures and Lee took some video, which is really the only way to really understand how wondrous it was.

The mill replication

Each little figure was a recreation of someone he actually knew

The sitting sleeping guy in the middle was a worker and  his head would nod up and down, and the guy on the left was a foreman who would slam his fist into his open hand and the other guy would wake up.

He included himself in the work and I think he is the guy on this machine

Really amazing museum, but we weren’t done yet.  We stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s and headed to Berlin to see the museum of ships started by David’s grandson.  We found time on the way to stop at the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and this may have been my favorite part of the day.  The clock performs on the hour and on the half hour and through sheer luck we only had to wait 8 minutes to watch it chime. Very cool and we all enjoyed watching the free show in the town square of Sugar Creek.

DeDe and Denny

The band started to come out. The figures were probably 4 feet tall

The second museum is the David Warther Carvings and Museum and inspired by his grandfather he started carving ships as a small child. His museum is $10 to enter, although they gave us each a $2 discount when we showed a coupon from the other museum.  David is still a working carver and when we joined the tour in progress he was actually explaining how he makes ivory thread for the masts on the ships.  He couldn’t find what he needed so he and a friend invented a block of steel which he rubbed the ivory in to create very tiny threads.

David Warther..really nice guy

His thread creator

The ships were beautiful and almost all in ivory, but I have to say I liked the trains better.  Lee though, who loves ships, was fascinated.  He started with the oldest ancient ships and works his way up to ships from the 1800’s.  One of the things I did like was every ship had a magnifying glass in the case so you could see some of the detail.

David works in his workshop and stops and gives part of the tours

The detail is even more amazing when you realize that to create the black line he scratches the ivory lightly then blots the piece with ink.  The ink wipes off the polished ivory but stays in the scored material creating the thin detail lines you see above.

One of my favorite pieces

Lee loved the pirate era ships

This ship had 179 oars and each oar took 1 hour to carve

My favorite ship looked very different from the others but the tour guide wasn’t sure why.

This piece was really neat though and I was curious about how he made the “basket look”

The level of detail was really beautiful

 

After the ship museum we headed into Berlin to eat some dinner at Mrs Yoder’s one of our favorite Amish restaurants.  But we had to stop at a couple of places first.  We saw the World’s Largest Amish Buggy first inside the Wendell August Forge and we stopped at DeDe’s favorite gift shop The Village Barn

I bought this really cool triangle basket

It was made by a 6 year old Amish child and I made sure that the kids receive 80% of the profits before I bought it. It was really well made

And pretty inexpensive. . . I also bought this silverware basket to put pens and pencils in.

Loved browsing the gift shop although we don’t have room for anything

I think this is one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken of Lee and his mom

Tempted by this little sign but again no room

By the time we drove back it was almost a 13 hour day and I was pooped.   It was a truly lovely day and incredibly thoughtful of them to plan it.  Loved that we saw so many cool things, but I definitely needed a good nights sleep!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

Made it to Columbus – Lots of Family Time

When we used to bring the kids to Columbus on our vacations it never felt like we had enough time to see all the people we wanted to see.  And we’ve passed through a couple of times in the last three years on our travels, but again the time was too short.  This time we wanted to make sure, as much as possible, that everyone got enough time with us and scheduled two weeks in the Columbus area.  Not surprisingly the time filled quickly and the schedule, as usual, felt pressed.  Unlike previous visits though Lee decided to divide up our time.  In the past we largely stayed together because it was our vacation too and we wanted to be with each other, but now that we are together all the time this didn’t feel as necessary.

When we arrived into town, late Thursday night,  we went to Lee’s parents house.  Dede and Denny as always were amazingly welcoming and are not only avid blog readers, but they truly love our “gypsy” lifestyle and we are the envy of all of our friends because Denny sends us RVing related care packages while we are on the road. We never know what surprises he will have for us when we see him, but we always know it will be something thoughtful and relevant to the life we live, which is no small thing.

We park on the street when we visit but stay in the house. As you can see DeDe has a green thumb arm and her flowers were beautiful. That’s one years worth of growth by the way

Happy we got to see some of the color in the trees. We try not to keep it on the street more than a few days since it is so tight (and out of respect for the neighbors) and this time we are sending our rig to the shop on Tuesday.

Denny had some beautiful steaks for us which Lee cooked.  I think he liked the big grill!!

And of course pie. They stocked the house with lots of treats, I had to remind them we are 50 now and trying to watch our sugar and cholesterol lol

Denny brought out the first present…collapsible bowls. He really knows me!

My absolute favorite was a new mat for the outside. Denny picked one with a dog on it because he knows I miss having a puppy. Loved loved it!!

Plus a bacon bowl maker for Lee…seriously he should be a professional gift picker outer for a living

Friday they went to work…yep, still working in a greenhouse at 72 and 73, mainly for something to do, and we tried to get settled. Because we were taking the rig to get repaired I needed to get everything out I would need for two weeks.  Wow, that was rough.  We are so used to having everything with us all the time, that slicing two weeks out really gave me pause. Lee had to clean out a chunk of the “basement” so that the technician could access the furnace.  Thankfully, our in-laws had room in their garage for our stuff, and we also took advantage of the time to do some purging.  DeDe and Denny are gracious enough to allow us to use a corner of their basement and although we don’t have a ton of stuff some things like extra T-Shirts and magnets we want to keep but don’t have space for.

I also  spent some time trying to get a handle on the pictures and blog posts from Indiana.  I have been using my phone just to save time in these posts, but unfortunately I downloaded the new Apple iOS and suddenly my pictures were in a format that wasn’t compatible with my laptop.  What a mess.  Eventually, Lee figured out the new phone settings to get JPEG’s in the Iphone 7 and he downloaded a safe app to convert the 350 pictures I had already taken that I couldn’t use.  I was seriously about ready to tear my hair out, but thankfully he stepped in and fixed it.  At least I wasn’t alone…turns out the internet is going crazy with folks trying to figure out the same issue, but for me the timing was pretty bad!

The day I packed all of my stuff up and using a super cute little Fiat 500 Denny loaned me I was off to my nephew’s birthday party.  He was turning three and it was dumb luck that I was in town for the birthday, but I was thrilled to be a part of it.  I have two 3 year old nephews and it bums me out that they don’t really know me, so any opportunity to be involved I am up for.  It was a low key party at a local ice cream shop and their party room had a great play area.  I stayed until 11:30am and then was off to spend some time with my dad.

Lex in the slide

My niece Elise on the left on the cool sundae teeter totter

Loved the birthday cake and the farm animals were edible. I had some of the pig!!

My mom on the left and my brother holding the cake

A nice surprise when I got to see my cousin Josh on the left. Crazy now that Josh and Eddie have grownup jobs!

Lex has lots of cousins on his mom’s side including these triplets who were all cute as a button

Dad and I were going to watch the Ohio State football game together, but I was starving so we decided to go to lunch.  As a surprise he took me to Schmidt’s Sausage House which is a very old restaurant in German Village I hadn’t been to in years. We had to wait about 45 minutes to get in, but we enjoyed the chocolate shoppe while we were waiting and once we got in the food was terrific. If you love German food and are ever in the Columbus,this food is the real deal, but don’t try to take your camper there, because the streets are cobble-stoned, very narrow, and there is definitely no big rig parking!

The housing in this area have been lovingly restored and are really quite beautiful

Their candy is amazing, but since I am trying to watch what I eat a little I just tried one piece of three different kinds. Absolutely get a buckeye if you come visit which is a Columbus specialty because of the Ohio State Buckeyes and basically is peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. YUMMY!

They sell their meat over the counter as well and are known for the knockwurst and bahama mamas

Dad loved his meal. I loved the pretzel nibblers which are the best I have ever had.

We watched the game, which was a blowout, but I did see a player get ejected for targeting.  This is a relatively new rule in College football to help with concussions, but the penalty for that particular offense seemed pretty extreme.  Dad and I talked about that system versus the pros and the yellow/red card system in soccer and then I went to bed pretty early.

The next morning we talked some more, it’s amazing to me how many subjects we can cover, and then I went to church with him.  Dad has been going to a new church and really likes it and I really like both the service and the pastor as well.  They have all their sermons online now and since it was the first part of a four part series I may check that out in future as it’s tough for me to find the time to go to service on the road.  We also had a fantastic lunch with my cousins Jimilea and Ron, Aunt Susie and Uncle Don, and my Dad’s ex-wife Barb.  I adore Barb, but had lost contact with her the last few years and was extremely excited to see her.  We are now Facebook friends and I gave her the blog information and they all had lots of questions about the RV lifestyle.  It was fun, although it’s tough being the youngest at the table lol, but overall I think I did a decent job of explaining why we had made such an unusual choice.  Really glad I got to see them all and I enjoyed talking about our travels with them. Plus at the end when Barb said she was really proud of what a centered and grounded woman I had become that was really nice to hear. Hey, I may be 51, but parental approval is still pretty nice, especially from people who knew you when you were a teenager!

From left, Susie, Don, Jimilea, Ron, Dad, and Barb

After brunch Dad and I went back to his house but made a few stops first.  I had made a promise to myself that I would see my Uncle Jimmy’s grave and Dad immediately said he would go with me.  But first we stopped and saw the project Uncle Jimmy worked on before he died, and I was blown away.  A few years ago, Uncle Jimmy and a group of 3 other local octogenarians decided they wanted to build a ADA baseball field. They went to the city before they started the project, who said if they raised $250,000 they would give them a piece of land and the utilities.  I think they thought that would be the end of it, but they didn’t know my Uncle Jimmy.  His group raised over $580,000 and not only did they build the field but also a picnic shelter, bathrooms, and a playground…all handicapped accessible. Absolutely amazing.

The ballfield has a special surface so if a kid falls from a wheelchair they won’t get hurt

The picnic shelter

And playground

Part of the way they got the money was through plaques and I was happy to see our family had purchased one for my grandma and grandpa

Basball is really big in our small town and although I had seen many cool water towers as we have traveled the country I think the Grove City one stands up to any of them

Afterwards we went to the cemetery and I got to see both Jimmie’s grave and this bench that grandma had made for herself. It was a really beautiful moment with my Dad and I am really glad he was there for me since it was very emotional

Great time at Dad’s and we made plans for later in the week, but it was off to dinner with our friends Bryan Noodle and Susan and then onto Mom’s.  Bryan Noodle is a great friend of Lee’s from a previous career and as an avid part-time camper we have a lot to talk about.  He and Susan have been super supportive about the lifestyle, so we definitely wanted to see them and their amazing girls Maggie and Sydney. Once again they knew their audience and bought Lee a beautiful pie. Seriously can anyone buy him a diet jello or something? (Please do not do that. I will not eat diet Jello, or any kind of Jello or any kind of diet anything. -Lee) and Bryan cooked some amazing filet mignon and a cheese potato casserole that was so delicious that there wasn’t even a scrap of it left when we were finished.  The food was excellent, the conversation better and before we knew it many hours had slipped by and I finally had to leave to head to my Mom’s.

Crisp top apple..one of Lee’s favorites

Wow these steaks were good and cooked perfectly. (It was a close call. As you can see above, they were very nearly burnt. Whew. – Lee)

Lee, Susan, Sydney, and Maggie. I loved this island in their house which Bryan built himself

Very sweet and special girls…Sydney and Maggie

I made it to Mom’s with some difficulty because it was pouring down rain.  Plus, everywhere we go in Columbus seems to have construction and I barely recognize the streets anymore.  Mom and I talked for awhile and then we both went to bed and I slept in the third different bed in three nights.  I am carrying all my stuff with me, but the pace was kind of rough so I was glad I would be spending two nights with Mom.  Mom and I went to lunch at my favorite Asian place in town, Eastern Bay (really not what I remembered) and then I saw Eddie and his family and went to dinner with some college friends.  Sandy had reached out when she went to a wedding in Seattle, but with our work schedule I was unable to meet her.  Absolutely knew we wanted to get together in C-Bus though and we had a nice time catching up.  It did strike me though how different our conversational topics were from 30 years ago, but we are also all still basically the same people and it was really nice to catch up.

Mom at the Chinese Buffet

Me, Michelle, and Sandy

The next morning Mom and I got up and helped my niece Elise get off to school (my brother lives next door to my Mom) and then we went to work on her attic.  She recently lost her husband and actually has her house up for sale, and she is giving my oldest daughter her Christmas village.  We pulled down a lot of stuff, which was a little emotional, but Mom said it was good for her and we managed to pack the 5 boxes into the Fiat.

My beautiful niece Elise. Such a sweet kid.

 

Mom and I are going down to see my sister and Kyrston next week, but her car will be full of stuff for my sister Wendy.  Lee, who is meeting me in Charleston, agreed to take Kyrston’s stuff so we had to make the transfer.  By the way, if your head is spinning from the schedule, you are not the only one.  We actually had to write some of it down since it was getting so complicated, but it’s definitely all worth it because there are so many people we wanted to see.

While we were going through stuff, I picked out this cute little pot that Bud (mom’s husband) had purchased. I have been looking for something to try and grow herbs in and I think this will work perfectly. Plus this way I can have something from Bud.

OK, I am going to stop here and pick up when we went on a day long adventure with DeDe and Denny.  Still keeping up with the blogging but it feels like I am barely keeping ahead of things.  Part of me can’t wait to get to our Amazon gig just so I can rest a little lol.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time at the RVMH Museum

Our second day in Elkhart, we decided to see the RVMH Museum.  I think every one of our friends had visited the museum and although I had heard mixed reviews it definitely was something I wanted to do. The MH in RVMH by the way actually stands for manufactured housing not motor home, which was the first of many surprises, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  This place is best described in pictures though so let me walk you through it.

First off it is a really beautiful and large campus located on a large piece of property in Northern Elkhart.  If you are just passing by, they do have a huge parking lot and allow overnight stays, although there are no hook-ups of any kind.  We arrived bright and early when they opened and paid $12 each to enter.  The cost seems to be the biggest complaint, and I agree it is on the high side, but I personally felt it was totally worth it at the end.  If you don’t want to pay the $12, you can stop and take a picture with the elk outside and then visit the huge gift shop, which had lots of cool RVer items..many of which I had never seen before.

RVMH building

Lee immediately noticed that the museum was next store to the Furrion headquarters. I couldn’t place the name initially but Lee reminded me they make many, including ours, of the TV’s and electronics in RVs Coincidence…I think not!!

Nice pond in front which faced the turnpike

And I got my picture with the Elk painted like an RV. Yes it’s goofy but I think everyone I now has this picture and I couldn’t wait to take it

Like I said, huge gift shop, and the prices were pretty reasonable. I ended up buying toy trucks pulling fifth wheels so I could give them to my 3 year old nephews. They’ve been tough to buy for during our travels and they don’t really understand what I am doing so I thought the toy might help my brother and sister explain it

The building is currently divided into 4 major areas but they definitely have room to expand.  Upstairs there is a big RVer library that has manuals, magazines, and other books about RVing.  We walked upstairs first, at the suggestion of the very nice woman who was working in the gift shop, mainly to see a birds eye view of the gallery.

Along the wall leading to the library were the faces of contributing members. Not surprisingly they were all white men until

1980 was when the first woman appeared. There were more women later, but it’s not a very diverse group which is a shame because the people who are RVing is definitely becoming a more diverse group

We spent a little bit of time in the library. As a general rule I love them, but this one was not quite my cup of tea. Still it’s cool it exists and if you are ever looking for something specific, they might have it

And we got to see an overview of the showroom floor

We walked back down and were faced with three large rooms.  We started on the left (as we faced them) and went into the exhibitors hall.  The exhibitors hall is exactly what you would think with booths provided by numerous vendors.  It’s definitely worth a look though because a few of the vendors have provided historical artifacts and we found that part enjoyable. It felt a little like an RV show, without the people, and although I didn’t begrudge the museum the opportunity to have additional sponsorship, I did think wonder how these sponsorships impacted entrance fees.

Most of the exhibits were like this KOA Exhibit

But a few like Onan had some interesting things. This is an example of the first ever RV generator from the 1950’s. I thought that was neat

Lee was especially fascinated by this example of the first hitch. This clothes line tensioner was designed by Bill Whichello in the 1940’sw. It soon became obsolete with the electric dryer, but since he was an avid RVer he used the basic design to to make his own travel hitch. He decided other people might want the same thing and the towing industry was born

There were lots of stories, like the one above throughout the museum.  Initially RVing was a hobby and many of the standard features we have today started with as inventions that solved a problem by an enthusiast.  The whole history truly shows American ingenuity at it’s best and we both found it fascinating.

Next up was the Founders Room, and that is really what people come to see.  There are tons of old RV’s crammed into this section and it was extremely well done.  We have been to RV museums before..including an excellent one in Amarillo, Texas and although I really liked it.  Each description card had really good information and I read every one.  What fascinated me the most were all the examples of “firsts.”  As you know from reading my blog titles I am a big fan of “first” and seeing how things we take for granted got started was really cool.  My only complaint was this section was jam packed and a little cramped.  They have lots of unused space in other areas of the building and in my opinion they should expand this area and make it even better. Anyways, here are some of my favorites, but by no means are these all the RVs we saw. 

First up was a 1913 travel trailer which was custom made for a cal-tech professor. It was billed as the oldest RV in the world and the wood was really beautiful

These “telescoping apartments” were made in 1916 in San Francisco and actually provided warm water for shower from the engine radiator heat.

The Tennessee Traveler was a really cool example of an early motorhome

With a little pot belly stove inside

And a cool front seat.  Amazing that this was the precursor to the current day Captain’s Chair

They had Airstreams of course including the original 1958 model

And this prototype which was the smallest airstream ever built. They actually didn’t mass produce these, but they look an awful lot like our current day tiny campers to me

The 1954 Yellowstone Travel Trailer was one of the firsts to have a residential style refrigerator and stove. Again major innovation and thank heavens someone went there!

The 1985 Fleetwood bounder was the first Type A motorgome to have storage compartments in the “basement.” Needless to say they changed the industry.

This 1967 Fan Luxury liner was one of the first examples of Mor-Ryde suspension. We found that particularly interesting because ours was in the process of being installed and I had no idea they had been in existence so long and was encouraged by the fact the design seemed fundamentally similar.

This 1938 Hayes Motor Home was possibly the first to coin the term. It features a full steel body, including underneath, which makes it varmint free. For those of us who have had a mouse in our house that is an attractive feature!!

From a sheer beauty standpoint I loved this 1928 Pace Arrow Fleet Housecar. It was a high end model built in New York and the grill work on the outside was fantastic. Reminded me of a trolley car. Someone should bring this back 🙂

The 1929 Weidman Housecar was also really pretty and I loved how functional it was.  Could totally see a family going on a camping trip in this.

Compared to this 1969 Pace Arrow motor home, with the very cool front grill

 

 

My absolute favorite though was probably this 1955 42 foot mobile home It reminded me of that trailer Lucy used in the movie and was  open so you could walk inside. It was incredibly spacious, especially for the time, and although it needed more windows, the floor plan was solid. I’m guessing these were mostly stationary, but it was designed to be towed

Really nice living room with a sewing machine, that many people I know would appreciate today

Long kitchen with a four burner stove

Bunkbed area and there was a master bedroom on the other side

And a modern bathroom with a full sized toilet

My second favorite was this 1937 Hunt Housecar which was designed by cinematographer Roy Hunt to use on movie shoots.  We probably owe quite a bit in function and design to the movie industry as they have used these vehicles since the beginning when filming on locations.

I couldn’t live in this but thought it looked really cool, like a Jetson’s mobile

Finally we toured the last section which was the Go RVing Hall.  This section again was pretty sparse and the materials were largely provided by vendors but they did have an excellent model of the RV Manufacture process which I found fascinating.  I really didn’t know the order they used when they created an RV and it was neat to see the overview.  Plus they had a few new models on display and we walked through a very nice Jayco and checked it out.

Lee and I like the concept of a Super C, but we haven’t found one yet we think we could live in. The models are getting closer though.

After we finished with the museum we did walk outside and see the manufactured home on display.  Lee was curious and I’ll have to admit when we walked inside the double unit we were pretty blown away.  First of all, their was so much room (in comparison to our RV) and there were some very nice features.  Lee actually talked about how he could live in one of these eventually which really surprised me.  We talk about getting a piece of land and eventually putting a house on it someday, but I always pictured building a small home.  A manufactured home might be a better solution, especially since we plan on finding a place kind of out by ourselves and are not really interested in one of the senior living communities.

We liked the porch

And the kitchen was fantastic

After we saw the home, I was starving and we tried a local diner called Stacks Pancake House which the gift shop employee recommended.  What a terrific little restaurant.  For $7.99 I got an excellent club sandwich, soup, chips, and a drink.  The service was great, the place was clean and  I give it my highest recommendation.

Check out these breakfast prices…now that’s what I am talking about

Perfectly prepared club sandwich!  I did pay an extra 99 cents for the cheese 🙂

So that’s all of the posts on Elkhart, Indiana.  It was a jam packed two days with a Mor-Ryde installation, buying RV Furniture, seeing friends, and of course the museum.  We are on our way to Columbus to see our families, then a quick trip to the Carolinas to see my daughter and sister, and finally will arrive at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY October 30th.  I am committed to keeping up with the blogs as best I can…although I often find myself writing these posts at 4am, and because Lee and I are going to be in two separate states for awhile, it’s going to be doubly hard to get these out in a timely manner. We are making it a priority though, and ask for your patience as we wind through the next couple of weeks.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time Getting a Mor-Ryde Suspension and Disc Brakes

Getting a Mor-Ryde suspension is a major expenditure and I understand how important this post may be to those who are considering the purchase, but as you know we had other tasks to complete while in Elkhart so I was unwilling to stay in the work bay area and document the process step-by-step.  This post therefore is an accounting of our personal experience along with an overview of the work that was done.  If you are looking for a more technical explanation of the work (or a second opinion) I absolutely recommend reading Howard’s blog posts on their upgrade, especially because his account was what convinced Lee and I of the necessity for ourselves.  Also I am going to have Lee jump in on the explanation of what the system actually does.

Let me step back a bit though and start at the beginning. Before we ever started full timing, we attended an RV-Dreams rally and read Howard’s blog.  From those experiences we learned about Mor-Ryde suspension and placed it on our “Must Have” list.  Our rationale at the time was simply that most RV’s are not built for a full-time lifestyle and the heavy-duty Mor-Ryde independent suspension would provide us with a solid foundation (literally) for our travels. When we started our journey in November 2014, we discussed making Mor-Ryde our first stop, but we were very excited about getting out there and there were so many things to do and see.

So we put it off, and then life happened, plus our travels didn’t take us close to Indiana.  And things were fine with the rig, we had a two year warranty on the Lippert suspension system, etc.  Fast forward and one month after our manufactures warranty expired and right before our trip to Alaska one of our shackles broke.  It was our first major repair and although covered by our warranty, we decided to upgrade all of our shackles to heavy-duty ones.  Then we went to Alaska, our rig took a beating, and we noticed unusual wear on the tire nearest the previous broken shackle.  We went to a Camping World service center in Texas, convinced something was wrong, but although the insurance adjuster thought the axle was bent, the extended warranty company would not accept the claim.

At that point we had two choices. Take the axle off and pay for a new one ourselves if we couldn’t prove it was bent or live with it until we could schedule a trip to Mor-Ryde.  We have never been big fans of putting band aids on problems so decided that we would schedule a Mor-Ryde install, along with a trip to see family in Columbus, in October.  We reached out to the company in February of 2017 and received a quote for the work. Please keep in mind these prices do fluctuate as the price of steel and labor changes.

It wasn’t cheap, and the 8,000 lb (8K) suspension (which we wanted for the additional weight carrying capacity) was quoted at $3600. The price for the 8K plus disc brakes was $6200 and if we wanted to upgrade to an H rated tire that would be an additional $615 per wheel and tire.  At this point I’ll be honest I had some sticker shock and we discussed pitching the idea and doing a Lippert upgrade instead.  But Lee felt very strongly about the quality of the Mor-Ryde suspension and since Lippert had refused to work with us after the shackle broke, I agreed, so we scheduled the basic suspension upgrade for $3600.

We exchanged several emails back and forth with Rob regarding our truck and Open Range fifth wheel and whether everything was compatible and whether we could keep our existing G rated tires and drum brakes, but everything seemed to line up and we felt comfortable with our choice.  It was still a chunk of money, but since it was a necessary purchase and exactly what we have contingency funds for I made my peace with it. Plus I don’t like to worry about our structure any more than Lee does, and the idea of walking way with a new foundation was extremely appealing to me.

Fast forward again and after we finished our summer work kamping job we headed from Oregon to Indiana.  We were both concerned about making the trip on our possibly bent axle, but thankfully we had no issues and soon were a couple of days away from Mor-Ryde.  At this point we realized we had no idea of exactly what we were supposed to do.  We never received any sort of “orientation email,” and were sorely lacking on information on the specifics.  Where would we park?  Could we come in after hours?  Did we need to have water in our tanks? were all questions we needed answers for.  I sent an email to Rob, but finally I also called and we spoke to someone else at the company.  He stated we did need water as only electrical hookups were provided, and we could come in after hours.  There are several spots in the parking lot, so we needed to pull into one of them, unhook the truck, and at 6am someone from the shop would come out and pull our rig into a bay and they would get started.

That made sense, and after following the signage at their compound, we found where we thought we should be.  It was 6:30pm at this point and the end of a looong driving day so we spoke briefly with our neighboring rig, unhitched, set the alarm for 5am and fell asleep.

There were several unbranded rigs in the parking lot waiting their turn for upgrade. It was obvious from the activity that business was booming.

Lee backing into the spot. The parking lot was nice and big but the spots themselves were tight so it took a few tries to line up properly.

Our spot for the night.

I would love to say we had a good night sleep, but we weren’t prepared for the train.  Less than a block behind us was a major intersection and the trains blew their whistles every time they passed.  Train traffic was frequent, with at least one every hour and the whistle was long and loud.  We have double-paned windows, and had both the AC and a fan on, but the whistle still woke me up at least twice, so we were both a bit bleary eyed when we started the day.  It also didn’t help that it was drizzling and since the waiting room wasn’t open so without any coffee in our system we just hung out trying to stay dry until 6am.  At 6am no one came to see us, and finally we walked over to the bay to make sure we were in the right place.  The techs assured me that we were, and our account manager would be with us shortly.  They did say the office should be open and gratefully I went in and got a cup of coffee.  I also noticed that our name was on the welcome sign, which really made me feel more comfortable.  There are actually multiple locations for Mor-Ryde in Elkhart and in the back of my mind I kept thinking we were in the wrong place.

The office portion is the brick building but doesn’t open until 6am.

Waiting Room, which was comfortable but I wouldn’t want to spend a whole day there

Not sure why everyone else was last name and ours was only first names, but I’ll take it!

Bring your own reading material…this 2006 TV Guide crossword puzzle was one of the choices!

We had a few sips of coffee in us when Rob came into the room around 6:10am.  There were three couples at this point and he was working to get everyone situated so we waited our turn.  The first two jobs were a little easier and those folks quickly got sorted out and then he turned to us.  Lee was already annoyed because we weren’t sure what was going to happen next when Rob asked him to pull the RV up so he could get some measurements.  By this time it was raining much harder and we looked at him in disbelief.  We had unhitched at their direction and now had to hitch up again, in the dark, in the rain. It also had to be with our truck, and although they offered to have one of their techs do it, Lee was having none of that.  So Lee went out and hitched the truck up and I stayed behind and gently tried to talk to Rob.

I explained the situation with our axle and asked him to please make sure no one disposed of it until we had a chance to see if it was bent.  He said that would be no issue and at that point I also said it would have been nice to have an orientation packet of some kind.  He looked at me and was surprised and said “You didn’t get one?” when my response was no he asked who we had been communicating with.  When I said him, he then immediately said, “Oh I should have sent one, I can be bad about that.”  OK, not a great start.

By this time, Lee had the truck pulled up and the tech came out to do the measurements.  Thankfully it had stopped raining during the hitching process so at least we weren’t all standing out in the rain.  It was dark though and we stood outside while our tech Allen measured and then Rob asked him to check the number of bolts on the brakes.  At this point things went south.  We need a 4 bolt brake system to work with the 8K suspension and we had 5 bolts so we would be unable to get the 8K upgrade without an additional $1200 for drum or $2500 for disc brakes.  Rob was very matter of fact about that, but we were really stunned.  Well, I was stunned, Lee was livid, and although he didn’t say much I have rarely seen him so angry.

Standing and discussing the brake situation

Keep in mind we had exchanged numerous emails back in February and at no time did he ask us to check the bolts or better yet send him a picture of the assembly.  Apparently only about 10% of the Open Ranges have the 5 bolts and we unfortunately fell into this category. Worse, as we were trying to talk it through, he really acted like it was no big deal, but obviously it was a big deal to us.  At this point I knew I needed to get Lee away so we could talk, so I told Rob we needed a minute to process and we would get back to him.  From his perspective the clock was ticking and he had a tech just sitting which I appreciate, but I was absolutely not going to be rushed into any decision.  Rob did suggest at this point we could do the 7K upgrade with the existing brakes but he wanted to weigh the RV first.  We were OK with that, so a tech pulled the RV into a bay and we went to discuss our options.

I won’t go into all the details of that conversation, but it was definitely tense.  At one point they came out and told us they wouldn’t put the 7K on because our weight was already slightly over that, which made the decision even tougher. Lee wanted to walk away, but I was uncomfortable with that because we didn’t have a solid Plan B.  At this point I decided to try something I rarely do and walked over to try and negotiate.  Yes, I had the quote in writing, but they were obviously not hurting for business and Rob’s stance was he wasn’t going to lose money on the deal. As a business person I appreciated that, but I also was not going to just roll over either.  So I took a deep breath, channeled my inner Bill, and tried to come up with a middle ground solution. I stated that I believed Mor-Ryde was the best in the business and was simply asking him to live up to that reputation.  Rob agreed that he would like to see this issue resolved for everyone concerned and went to check on some pricing.

I used the time to talk through options with Bill and reach out to a couple of friends to see what my options were.  I can’t say how grateful I was that folks took my 7:00am phone calls, and their advice was solid and blessedly free of emotion. Eventually Rob came back with his offer and we separated again so Lee and I could discuss.  I was asked to not specifically talk about the terms of the deal, which I agreed to, but I will say that Lee was not happy with the pricing to replace the drum brakes, but was very pleased with the pricing to upgrade to dics brakes.  Since that is what he originally wanted, he felt the deal was more than fair and we agreed to the new pricing and the work began around 8am.

At this point I was exhausted and pretty hungry so we went to my favorite breakfast place, Bob Evans, for breakfast.  The food was excellent as always and the service was great, but I was very disappointed that their prices had gone up and our breakfast ended up costing $25.  As much as I love their breakfast sausage, eggs, and coffee that is simply too much to spend for breakfast, so it’s going to be awhile before we go back again.

Bob Evans Breakfast

At that point all of the furniture stores were open and we started that journey, (see previous post), and we didn’t get back to the bay until 4pm.  The shift that works on the RV’s was done at 2:30pm, but the bay was still open and other workers in the area were grinding or banging metal.  We had just enough room to put the slides out and again we had 50 amp electric, but it was very bright in there and of course the sound of metal on metal carries.

All that being said, I actually slept better than the night before!  For some reason the workshop sounds didn’t wake me and the AC, a fan, and the double-paned windows did the trick.  The only downside was we had to be up and out, with the slides closed, by 6am so they could start working which required another 5am start.  Our neighbor in the bay was pretty unhappy because she, like us, was told they didn’t work in our bay at night.  Although this was technically true, it is one large warehouse and there is no separation between the two areas.  Too bad they don’t have some sort of sliding door they could close at night, that would work wonders for both the noise and privacy.  Basically though it is what it is, and you should know your limits going in.  If you don’t think you can handle staying in the parking lot/bay, save yourself the aggravation and get a hotel room.  Yes, it is an additional cost, but better I think than being really unhappy for two days.

Our slide missed the big fan by just a few inches, but it fit

They place the RV up on their jacks

We used buckets to catch the condensation from our AC units so it didn’t get all over the concrete floor

This was the warehouse that was on the other side of us..lots of people working there on second and third shift

One cool thing about coming back was we got to see the work that had been done on day one.  There was no one there to talk to,  but we saw our axles laying next to the new Mor Ryde system.  Plus they had started the new brakes and that was cool to see as well.  Again, I can’t speak to how the system works but seeing our old Axles next to the new Mor-Ryde one it all seemed like a no brainer to me.  The new system was HEAVY DUTY and the old system was rusted and looked pretty frail.

Old Axles

The axle itself was not bent but the spindle could have been. Unfortunately the only way to see that was to take the axle apart.

The new system

The next morning we spoke to Allen and talked about finding out if the spindle was bent.  He said it would take 20-30 minutes of labor per side to take the axle apart.  At that point, with no obvious damage, I decided to let the axle issue go.  I wasn’t willing to file a claim if we didn’t see obvious damage and I didn’t want to pay the hourly rate to have the tech take them apart with no guarantee we would find anything.  We also asked when he thought he would be done and he stated around 10am on Friday, so we hopped in the car and drove off in search of furniture.

I probably should mention here that when you are calculating the cost you should include the price of meals.  Yes, you can stay in the waiting room and yes, they will order you a free lunch the first day, but if you are planning on seeing the area at all you probably are going to eat out.  There are lots of reasonably priced places in the area, but since your rig is unavailable to you between 6:00am and 2:30pm you will probably end up eating out at some point. And it’s a great area with lots to see, so I really don’t recommend sitting in the waiting room anyway, free lunch or no.

We were fine with the extra day actually since it was only 4 hours to Columbus and we weren’t crazy about fighting evening traffic.  We called some friends and made plans to eat dinner that night and explored the area.  Around 1pm we were standing outside a little furniture shop when I got a phone call.  Rob was on the phone asking how close we were because the rig would be done at 2pm.  What?!? OK then.  We knew our tech would be taking off promptly at 2pm so we hurried back to make sure we got a walk through of the rig.  Technically we could have just paid and driven away, but no way would we do that without a walk through. We got back in plenty of time and we did receive an excellent handoff from the tech.  I took a lot of pictures, but didn’t understand much of it so I will let Lee jump in here and explain.

(Basically the independent suspension separates what’s happening on one side of the rig from the other. If the tire on one side goes over a bump, the axle, which is a rigid pipe between the left and right tire, will be at an angle. When you consider the fact that most rigs are 12 or 13 feet high, a few inches of lift on one side translates to a lot of lean at the top. And all that is also happening inside. It also allows the box to flex and twist quite a bit. The independent suspension allows each tire to travel up and down 5 1/2″ without any other tire, or the “box” being affected. Here’s an image that might help explain. As you can see, there’s a fair amount of lean in the axle. This is one of the reasons that you have to be careful when you open the fridge!

 

Mor Ryde’s system uses a cross bar between the tires and then a shock absorber and a massive rubber spring to allow 5 1/2″ of vertical travel for the tire, without having an effect on the opposite side. If you go to their page, they have a nice animation that shows it in action. Click here, and scroll down and click the play button on the animation.

So this gives a much smoother ride, as the trailer isn’t jerking the truck around as much, and it’s easier on the contents of your box, and easier on the skeleton of the box. 

What most impressed me was how robust the components are, and how carefully they do the work. Once they remove the old axles they use measurements they’ve taken to weld steel tubing to make sure when they’re finished that the rig is as close to level as possible while being towed. The geometry of the angle of the trailer will have an impact on how much weight sits on each tire, and how much sits on the hitch. The disc brakes are powered by a hydraulic pump that is activated by the integrated electric over hydraulic controller in our truck, and they showed me everything I needed to know about the pump, and the lines to the brakes. I also asked for an extra set of seals for when I need to repack the bearings, and they were happy to give me those. We also got a nice owner’s manual and service manual, and some instruction on what to expect that would be different from our old brakes. As far as the suspension goes, there’s no instruction needed, and the difference in the ride and the handling was immediately apparent, and tremendous. I went over numerous sets of railroad tracks at different speeds immediately after leaving the shop, I was amazed at the improvement. I also feel a lot better knowing that I have a little more “breathing room” on our weight, and the disc brakes are a significant improvement over the old drum brakes. There is a slight delay from when you hit the pedal to when they activate, but it’s very short and easy to get used to. Overall, I can’t say enough about the product, and the technicians who did the work. While we got off to a rocky start, I felt that Rob did a great job of getting the situation under control and finding a solution that we and he could live with. I plan to send them a detailed letter with some suggestions for how they might consider changing their process so that the customer experience is a little better, but overall I couldn’t be happier with the end result, and I even think the pricing is quite fair considering the end result. – Lee)

We thanked Rob for working with us and thanked the technician for doing such a great job.  Overall, we were both very happy with the quality and efficiency of the service work, it was just unfortunate we got off to such a rough start.  I don’t know what was in that orientation packet, but I would never have this work done without that information, and of course the customer service portion of the experience could use some work.  This is not an inexpensive upgrade and a little “concierge service” would have gone a long way towards enhancing the experience.  We are very happy we had it done though, despite the additional cost, and I personally feel much safer in our new foundation.

As far as the driving impact, at this point it is hard to say.  Lee definitely feels that disc brakes from drum brakes was a significant improvement and we do see less shaking of the rig as we travel.  It’s not rock solid of course and unfortunately the interior ride in the truck is still pretty bouncy, but that’s our truck. I hope this will extend the life of our RV.  Time will tell, and of course I will report out as we continue to travel, but for right now we feel really good about the upgrade.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time Buying RV Furniture

We had a whirlwind two days in Elkhart and Shipshewana, and since it was so packed with what I consider “quintessential RVer experiences”, I decided to break up the weekend into three different posts.  The three posts will focus on the search for custom furniture, our Mor-Ryde upgrade, and finally visiting the RVMH Hall of Fame museum.  This post is all abut buying the furniture.

I should take a step back and say if there is a Mecca for RVers it is the Elkhart/Shipshewana area.  Many of the RV manufacturers are located in the area and it is full of shops and stores that support that industry.  It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that business is booming.  Almost every business had Now Hiring signs and most of the manufacturers were hiring with starting wages of $15 an hour.  I know lots of folks in the country are having trouble finding manufacturing jobs, but if you know someone who is looking to learn a trade, this area of the country seems like it would be a good choice.

Almost everyone seems to wander through here at some point or another and whether it’s to see where your RV was “born” or just take advantage of one of the supporting business it’s a pretty nice place to see the midwest.  It doesn’t hurt that Shipshewana has an active Mennonite community and there are tons of arts and crafts stores, Mennonite restaurants, and furniture makers.  We grew up in Columbus, OH and are very familiar with Amish craftsmanship, but we were surprised to learn that some families specialized in RV furniture. Really smart considering the proximity to Elkhart and Lambright was by all accounts the best of the best.

Oh and I should probably explain why we were looking in the first place.  You may remember that before we hit the road, we replaced the extremely uncomfortable “couch” that came with our front living room model with a standard sticks and bricks style love seat.  Because it didn’t fit in the slide (the loveseat was deeper than the slide) Lee had to build a box for the front of the loveseat base to rest on and although the loveseat is very comfortable when you sit on it reclined, your feet dangle.  Basically everyone feels like they are a little kid sitting on a big people couch, which I could probably live with but the greater problem is it blocks the window behind it.  I get very little air flow in that corner and over the last three years I have liked the situation less and less. So since we were in the “mecca” of RV furniture I wanted to at least explore what my options were and although I wasn’t sure the timing or price would be right at least I would know what was available for the future.

The original couch. Fit the spot, looked decent, but crazy uncomfortable. You can’t really see it from this angle, but the front “drops” down seven inches from the level of the slide box to the floor. 

New couch. Very comfortable, but obviously oversized.  Lee had to build the box underneath because the front hung over the edge and it would tip over on occasion lol. If you’re interested you can read about the specifics on his DIY Inside Modifications page.

Here’s our friends Jim and Diana the first time they came to visit. I always havepeople put the foot rests out so their feet won’t dangle and people would always laugh but as you can see it looks and feels a little “tight”.

So I was looking for a couch like the original couch above, but more comfortable and with the reclining features of the second couch and decent upholstery.  Tall order I knew but definitely worth a look.  I am a bargain hunter at heart so instead  of starting at Lambright’s I decided to check out the surplus stores so off we went to White Pigeon, Michigan.  It was about 25 minutes from Elkhart and there are three surplus/salvage stores in close proximity there.  Our first stop was Bontrager’s Surplus and I was really surprised by what we found.  The sheer volume of stuff available really defies verbal description so let me just show you in pictures instead.

Racks of flooring, paneling etc. Check out the smile on Lee’s face. I didn’t think I would ever get him to leave. 

Floor to ceiling trim pieces

Cabinet fronts

The upstairs was full of couches and although they were older models, the prices were great

I really liked this one which was only $650 and we even went back and looked at it a second time, but it wasn’t much smaller than what we had already

Lee ended up walking away with a replacement lift rod for our front door which was only $7. Not only do they cost $25 retail but Lee has had a hard time finding them online

Next up was Johnson’s Surplus and although at first glance the stores seemed the same they did seem to specialize in different items and had some variety.  Again, amazing amount of stuff packed in a relatively small space.  This store seems to specialize in the frame more and had tons of axles and a huge stack of windows.

So many axles.  We saw a pickup truck come and pick one up while we were there.

I thought it was interesting they sold decals

Less furniture than Bontragers and not nearly as nice in my opinion

All the places we went to had stacks of doors

They also had more light fixtures.  Once again, tough to get Lee out of here

Finally we went to Graber Industries which was a real hodge podge of stuff.  Seriously this place made the others look super organized.   Even less furniture there, although Lee did find, and buy for $20, a fireplace surround. We’ve never been huge fans of our fireplace surround, and for $20 if it doesn’t work out, we aren’t out a ton of money.  At this point I was feeling dejected.  I’m not a snob and I felt very comforted by the fact that these places existed at all, but it was pretty clear I wasn’t going to find anything to fit that slide in one of these places.  We were also vaguely on the lookout for padded kitchen chairs (ours are not and since I use that space as a computer area sometimes, and Lee sits there for several hours to make cigarettes, we hoped we could easily get a couple of RV chairs but we hardly saw any of those and they were always in sets.  Nothing to do at that point but get some lunch, and I found a Chinese buffet in the area that was only $7.99 for lunch!

The fake stone fireplace piece Lee bought

The buffet was mediocre

But it also included a Mongolian grill and that was really good

After lunch we decide to head straight for Lambright’s.  We had seen what was available in the bargain section, time to check out “top of the line.”  We drove down from Michigan and back into Shipshewana and since Lambright’s is outside of town into farmland.  Once we got close, we slowed down because there was a ton of buggy traffic on the road.  Coming from Ohio, we have some experience driving in this traffic but if you have never done it there are a few things you should know.  The roads in this area are standard country roads and bicycles and buggies use the breakdown lane.  Unfortunately those lanes don’t always exist or are too narrow and essentially you are sharing the road with folks going much slower than you are.  Poor driving conditions such as rain or snow always make it much worse, and all I can say is have patience, be hyper vigilant, and please be aware that every year Amish people die from collisions with cars and trucks.

 

Be especially careful at dawn and dusk because the black buggies are really hard to see, especially in the fog.  If you look to the right you can barely see a carriage on the cross street

The buggies all have the caution triangles which is good and all bike riders wear safety vests

As you can see to the left, they often get very close to your car and although the horses are well trained, they are animals so one of them spooking is always a concern.

I always worry more about the younger people. This was a group of teenagers and just like teenagers driving our cars they seem to be less cautious. The kid sitting on top made for a cute picture but as a mom made me cringe.

Shipshewana has somewhat narrow streets and lots of buggy traffic

It also has lots of cute stores

And Yoders which is well known for meats and cheeses. I showed some self restraint and we didn’t even stop

We finally arrived at Lambright’s which is a large facility but was only manned by the owner, Vernon, and one of his sons.  It is a low key place, but with a wonderful selection and the furniture was incredibly comfortable.  We started to explain what we were looking for and Mr. Lambright was familiar with the problem.  He flat out said that a comfortable custom couch could not be made to fit the slide and went on to explain that the problem was the height of the back,  He further said that if anyone said they could make a comfortable one they weren’t telling the truth but that he had taken his couches in the past and built a rolling platform for folks to put their feet on for other people.

That was interesting and very similar to what Lee had done, and it was good to hear from a credible industry expert that it was a tricky problem.  As Lee and he were getting into specifics I wandered around and randomly sat down in one theater seat setup.  Wow, was that couch comfortable and as I sunk into it, I understood immediately what all the fuss was about.  Mr. Lambright just smiled when I asked about the model and stated “The Lux” model was brand new and he didn’t even had information sheets on it yet.  The price in ultra leather (which is the material most RVers want) with mechanical levers (versus electric) was $2055 though and I sadly stood up since that was well beyond what I was willing to spend.

Approaching Lambright’s which is in the middle of several farms

The Lux model. We both liked the extra storage at the bottom which was a nice bonus

While we were there this beautiful clock started chiming and I wandered over to take a look. It was presented to Vernon by the city and the numbers moved when it chimed on the hour. Beautiful piece of work

We thanked him for the information and left, feeling a little dejected by the overall lack of “middle-range” choices.  On the way back to Elkhart we stopped at Mastercraft but there was a handwritten sign that they were closed for a couple of days and then at  Brad and Hall which carried multiple vendors in one location.  The best part of Brad and Hall was the wonderful salesperson Suzanne who talked to me about different fabrics.  I always knew I wanted cloth instead of leather and was surprised to find out from her that there was a significant difference in price.  She didn’t carry the Lux model yet because it was so new but said that a similar brand was actually $650 cheaper if you purchased it in cloth.  Well, that was interesting, and something we didn’t discuss with Mr. Lambright, probably because almost everyone goes with the ultra leather.  She couldn’t give me a price on the Lux but was happy to get a quote but said it would probably take until the next day because Lambright’s generally only answered their phone once a day.  I really liked her so asked her to get a quote, and Lee and I headed back to Elkhart.

Large showroom and the salespeople were very nice

It had been a long day, and we weren’t done yet as we were going to see our friends Pat and Bridget.  It had been over a year since we stayed with them in Louisiana.  We were delighted to discover they were in Shipshewana getting some work done on their new fifth wheel and met up for dinner at the Chubby Trout. We stopped first to see their pretty new rig and I really enjoyed the tour.  Once again we picked up right where we left off with an RVer relationship and the time just flew by.  We left them with hugs and promises to get together next year and went back to our rig for a good nights sleep.  I was really tired at this point and pretty quickly was fast asleep. 

The next morning we were once again up and moving very early and I decided I wanted to go back to Lambright’s.  I was very curious what his price would be in the cloth and more importantly wanted to discuss how that would impact the comfort.  We arrived at 7:30am and waited until they opened, and it was a beautiful, foggy morning.  Once inside I tentatively asked about the cloth, but he did confirm that it made the couch “stiffer.”  Unfortunately he didn’t have a version in cloth but there was a similar chair I could try.  Although I didn’t sink in, it still felt pretty great and the lumbar support is amazing.  Truly I think that is their secret. 

He did confirm that the price was $650 cheaper and we talked a bit about how we would take delivery.  At this point it was still informational and we were bummed to find out that there was a 5 week lead time and they were closed for the two weeks after Christmas.  Our thought was we could swing by after Amazon and pick it up but the two week closure made this impossible.  He was extremely helpful talking through options and at one point stated he could make himself available for us to just come and pick up the couch.  Our other issue is how we would dispose of the old couch, but he did say we could leave it for a small additional charge and he would donate it.  I liked that idea since it is a perfectly good couch, but Lee wasn’t crazy about the idea of switching couches in a parking lot in late December.  Understandable!   Armed with new information we once again thanked him and then left to discuss our options.  

Money aside, both of us were concerned about navigating these roads in late December and since he doesn’t carry a cell phone I was extra concerned about how to communicate with him if something went wrong. Since Suzanne at Brad and Hall had mentioned something about shipping I called her back and she did verify they could ship the couch to Kentucky where we would be working.  The shipping cost was a very reasonable $195, but this was further offset by the fact we would save $110 in taxes by shipping out of state.  Now that was interesting, and something we thought we could work with.  She also had the final quote from Lambright’s and although their price was $300 higher than his, they accepted American Express (versus him only accepting cash or check) and they of course had email and phones, which was a big deal to me since this whole thing was somewhat complicated.

OK so now the price was only $1855 total, and that included everything I wanted, along with shipping. Since we have been running so tight on budget and our Mor-Ryde was more than expected (teaser for next post) it really wasn’t a great idea. On the other hand I had no idea when I would be back in this area and the price was more than fair for what I would be receiving, and I had no doubt that the Lambright furniture was of the highest available quality and would hold up over time.  Ultimately I made the decision to go ahead and buy it, and hopefully I won’t regret that decision when I receive the couch.

Even if you aren’t looking for RV furnishings, I do recommend that you do some looking while you are in the area.  It will be good to know what is out there and there is nothing like sitting on an actual couch which is something you can do when you are here.  Plus it allows you to see the Elkhart/Shipshewana area, which I really enjoyed.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

September 2017 Budget

September was a bit of an odd month since we were partially work kamping and partially traveling back east.  Our travel costs were high since we were making the trip in a compressed time frame and although we received some pay in September our last checks were actually paper copies and had to be mailed us.  Not sure why they do this and thankfully they allowed a one time mailing address for that check so we had those mailed to Lee’s parents.  Consequently that $1708 is NOT included in this budget because the cash is not in the bank.   Even without this money though we broke even for the month with $49.50 to the good, which was nice.  We also have a profit sharing check that will be coming at the end of the year and that should be an extra few hundred dollars each, but that doesn’t come until December.   Details are listed below.

 

Campground Fees – We spent $89 camping as we started traveling.  That wasn’t too bad and the two days boondocking with Cori and Greg helped. 

GroceriesWe went over by $200 because we stocked up both at Winco and Costco.  I also think it was because we kept spending like I had recycling money coming in but that dropped off sharply in September.  Another factor was I tried about 20 new recipes for my recipe book in those last couple of weeks and every time I try to do that in a compressed time frame, my budget always spikes. 

Dining OutWe did really good in this category especially we tend to over spend when we travel.  $38 to the good.

Entertainment –  This was our saving grace as we only spent $25 in this category.  That’s a good thing since next month I am sure will be crazy. 

InternetNot quite sure why we went over $74 in this category.  I really need to look into this. When I get a few minutes.  With our schedule that may be a while. 

CigarettesSince we were going to be traveling, Lee went ahead and stocked us up.  We get lots of questions about this category so for the record we buy online and buy in bulk, so our costs are using quarterly in this category.  The budget amount is last years annual divided by twelve. 

So we did OK, but once again just breaking even does cause a downstream problem. We know our costs will be higher while we are traveling so then you are dipping into savings to cover those costs until the next gig.  It’s hard on what we make to make that money back, so you’re always sort of vaguely in arrears even when in a particular work month you are ahead.  That’s why I think most people we have met who are longtime working RVers develop the same jobs and a route.  It is much easier to budget when you know  how long your breaks will be and you can budget those breaks in and try to keep travel costs down. We are still working it out, and will definitely have more info at the end of this year, but it’s pretty clear (at least to me) why folks who work limit their travel. 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.