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Southeast (Gulf Coast), Texas, United States

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday -- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We woke up a little late on Sunday, had a good breakfast, and headed out about 9:30am to tour the park. The first thing that we did was to take a couple of pictures of the campground that we are staying in. It is a little Mom and Pop type campground with a lot of 'weekend fishing trailers with connecting side rooms' and with the PA discount, it is only $15 per night with full hookups. It is only 5 miles from the park entrance, and has very strong and free WIFI.

We drove from the south end of the park to Gatlinburg on the north end. After that, we drove around a scenic loop, and then headed to Cade's Cove. At Cade's cove, we saw several old buildings and some wildlife --- turkies and deer, but no bears today! The following pictures pretty much tell the story of the day:
On Monday, we get back on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Asheville, NC, and continue eastward toward Virginia.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday -- We are in North Carolina!

This morning, we left Walmart about 8:30am and headed toward Cherokee, NC ……… the start for our tour of the Smoky mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).

Along the route, just as we entered North Carolina, we were following a river with pretty good rapids. Before long, the White Water Rafters were everywhere. We came upon one spot where they were putting a lot of rafts into the river, and stopped to watch.
Here are some pictures:

After watching for a while, Patsy and I decided that this rafting was not for us!!

We had reservations for Saturday and Sunday nights at a campground in Ela, NC, about 8 miles from Cherokee, and we got there about 1:00pm. After eating, we drove in the car to Cherokee, and began our tour on the BRP.

Some pictures from the parkway follow:

We did about 100 miles on the BRP, and then got off in Asheville to eat at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. First time in a while, last time for a while....... it was not that good!!

Friday – Leaving Red Bay

On Friday, we packed up the motorhome, cleaned the windshield, dumped the waste tanks, and did the laundry in preparation to leave the Red Bay Campground and be on the road for a few days.

It turned out to be somewhat eventful. On Thursday, we thought we had two more dealers to contact for prices. We made contact with one, and planned to call the other on Friday. However, on Friday, we were contacted by two additional dealers. Dickey-Stout RV out of Amarillo had made delivery of a new Bus in the campground and heard about us, so he made a contact. Another dealer in Memphis contacted me over the Tiffin Forum. We talked to both and let them make us a proposal. We expect to hear prices from these dealers via email in the next couple of days.

We finally left about 1:00pm, and headed toward Chattanooga, TN. Along the way, we stopped at the “Lost Luggage” store called Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, AL. They had a lot of stuff, but nothing that we needed. To us, it was a lot like a large garage sale……….. other people’s used stuff!! Here’s a picture of the store:

We made it to Chattanooga at about 7:30pm……….. and found out that it was 8:30pm due to the fact that we had just crossed into the Eastern time zone! We gassed up the motorhome and car at a Sam’s and drove down the interstate to a Walmart, and spent the night on the parking lot. It was a nice quiet night.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday & Thursday -- Red Bay Alabama

On Tuesday morning, I met with Bob Tiffin to discuss the weight issues that I think are present with the Bus design. He admitted that they were heavy, but since he warranties the chassis for 10 years, he isn't going to overload. We discussed some of the items that make it heavy that I don't intend to order, like the hydro hot system and the residual refrigerator with the extra 4 batteries. In the end, he offered to find a rig similar to what I want to order, have a guy pick me up, and we take it to the certified scales to have it weighed with me present. We did, and I am not content with the weight issue, and we are proceeding.

In the afternoon, Patsy and I went to Sherman, AL to visit Karen, our salesperson at Sherman RV, to discuss refreshing our price on the coach. Up to now, we had only talked on the phone, and she was very pleasant to work with. She is going to re-bid our cost, and send me an email. We were going to drive a 40ft coach, but it would not start!!!

On the way back to Red Bay, Patsy and I stopped at Elvis Presley's birthplace and museum in Tupelo, and did a quick tour. Here are some pictures (Patsy at a fountain, Statue of Elvis at 13, and the house that Elvis grew up in):
When I had left Bob's office on Wednesday, I asked him if Patsy and I could come back and take a picture with him. He was pleased to do it. We did not have time on Wednesday, so we went in early Thursday morning, and met with him. Patsy did not go with me the day before, so it was the first time that she had met him.

While we were with him, we mentioned a couple of items that still concerned me. We discussed the hydraulic (HWH) vs electric leveler systems. He convinced me to go with the electric.... which was my choice going in. He had the same rationale, so that was good.

Just before going to the factory, I got on the Tiffin owners network, and read about an owner with a Spartan Chassis (my choice) that had a "wandering down the highway" problem. Several other owners on the network also chimed in about similar problems, therefore, it got my attention. Bob was very familiar with the issue and the owner, and he himself had driven the coach. He did not see a problem. He told that if I was still concerned, he would get the same guy from yesterday to take me out to drive a 40ft motorhome on each chassis. We accepted his offer, and ended up driving the two motorhomes about 30 miles each. In the end, I liked the Spartan chassis much better, as well as the design of it. It was a very good experience. Patsy could also feel the ride difference........ but neither had a wander problem.

We did get pictures. I took one of a small desk that had Bob's wife's name on it in the side of his office, and his desk, as well as one of the three of us. Bob Tiffin seems to be everything that the 'legend' says!!!

Our current plans are to leave Red Bay on Friday morning, and head toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Smoky Mountains. Not sure when I will have WIFI again, but will post then!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, and We Made It To Red Bay, AL

We got into the Allegro campground at Red Bay about 9:30am. They were and still are very busy. This campground is also the Tiffin Repair and Service facility. We were first parked on the 'runway' without hookups for most of the day:

At about 6:00pm, we were moved to the side of the repair shop, and had water and electric hookup. That is were we will remain for the rest of our stay.

Right after we got here, we went to the factory and took the tour. I really wanted to see what made up all the weight on the bus. We got a good tour.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's Monday, and We're in Little Rock!

While we were watching the football games on Sunday, I noticed that it did not take long for the TV pictures to 'shrink'! I checked the coach battery, and it had water, but low voltage. We drove late Sunday night, and stayed on a Walmart parking lot in Benton, AR...... just about a 1/2 hour out of Little Rock. We had to use the generator all night due to the heat, and when I shut it down in the morning, the coach battery was quickly at 10.5v. That is why we stayed at Walmart.......... I have a Walmart battery and it is in the engine compartment, and if I had to change it out, I wanted the compartment to be cool.

I checked inside the Walmart to make sure that they had a battery, and then went outside and began the long process of taking the battery out. It took about an hour because both batteries had to come out, and but I got it done. Battery power is good now!!

It was about 10:00am when I finished, and we called Deanne and told her we were coming over. We had lunch together at a local Italian restaurant, then spent the afternoon with her and doing our laundry at her house. Since she had been in Victoria the week before, we did not have much to catch up on, and she did not have anything for me to work on, so we left at about 5:00pm and headed to Red Bay, AL, and the Tiffin factory. Before we left, we did take some pictures of her and Izzy...............

We drove until about 10:00pm and parked for the night at a Walmart near Tupelo, MS....... about 45 minutes from Red Bay. Tomorrow, we plan to camp at the Allegro (Tiffin) campground while we investigate my concerns about the Allegro Bus.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's Sunday.... and We're Heading East

We left the Lake Mineral Wells State Park this morning, and began our trek East. First, we went 4 miles out of our way to visit the Hill Country BBQ place that advertised the 'largest Rocking Chair' in the world. We saw it, and got pictures, but had to crawl over a fence to do it because they did not open until 1:00pm on Sunday. Here's the pictures:

We drove as far as the Flying 'J' in Dallas, and after we got gas, I decided to pull over and see how the Houston Texans game was going................and we ended up sitting there until it was over.

We then left and continued towards Arkansas. When we got close to Texarkana, we pulled into a rest area to connect to the internet and check out the Cowboys game....... and it is now 8:30pm and we are still here.

We called Deanne and told her we would be there in the morning, so we will hit the road again at half time.

More later......

Visiting the State Parks

On Saturday, we slept in late, and were getting ready to drive around the area when we had a knock on the door. It was a park ranger who had a message that we could stay Saturday night if we wanted. The Lake Mineral Wells campground is not all that impressive. For a park with a lake, most of the campsites aren’t even in sight of water, much less ‘on the water’. We had already discussed driving the car over to the Possum Kingdom State Park, and see what that campground looked like. If good, we would secure a site, and come back for the motorhome.

We also had looked at the map and noticed that the town of Perrin was only about 20 miles from here. That is the location of the National Rally for the Texas Boomers next summer, so we decided we would drive past is on the way to Possum Kingdom. Perrin is a small town, and the campground is a ways out of town. It was starting to look like it was ‘in the middle of nowhere'! It turned out to be a nice contry campground, and the signs at the entrance made it clear that it was not in the middle of nowhere!!!

Here are some pictures:

We got to Possum Kingdom State Park about 1:00pm. It turned out to be a longer drive than we expected, especially after going to Perrin. The campground was very nice, but the better sites were taken. After talking to the park personnel, we found out that they would have a lot of sites on the water beginning on Sunday night…………. When all the working people left!!! We called Lake Mineral Wells, and secured out site for tonight, and decided that maybe we would come back to Possum Kingdom for Sunday night.

Since we were already a ways west, in the car, and had time, we decided to go ahead and visit the third park on our agenda………. Fort Griffin. It has the remains of an old fort from the 1800’s, and is the home pasture for the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd. We walked the fort remains for a while, then drove over to the campground area where the longhorns are kept. We got to see a group of about 10 longhorn calves. The campground we very remote, but well kept with good facilities. There were only two rigs there, and one belonged to the host!!

Here are the pictures:

I am publishing this at a Texas Rest Area on I-20 west of Fort Worth. We have changed our plans, and are going to skip the Dallas RV show (we figure the same dealers and rigs), and are heading east to see that part of the country and to visit Tiffin earlier.

Another Coach and Re-Visiting the RV Show

On Friday, we visited with a salesman at McClain’s RV in Fort Worth to see an Itasca Horizon. It was a nice motorhome, and we like a lot about it. However, when we compared it to our baseline, the Allegro Bus, it came in a distant second place. I got the salesman to call the factory and get the "four corner" weights, and I was really impressed. They were:

LF = 5915
RF = 5946
FA = 10,861

LR = 9253
RR = 9235
RA = 18,488

Winnebago made this a really well engineered coach. However, on the inside, the Tiffin is still very much nicer. Also, the Winnebago has to be modified to use a stacked washer and dryer, and it is on a Freightliner chassis with a rear radiator.

We used some show passes given to us be Vogt RV to go back to the show and re-look the Bus immediately after looking over the Itasca.

We then headed out of town toward the west and the three Texas State Parks that we wanted to visit. We got to the Lake Mineral Wells State Part at about 4:30pm and talked the lady into giving us a site for the night, and had our name put on the waiting list for Saturday night. This park is only about an hour out of Fort Worth and gets full on weekend.

We set up camp, went to the local Walmart for supplies, had dinner, and went to bed early.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tarrant County RV Show -- Ft Worth

We attended the RV show yesterday. It was a nice show, and we made some progress. They had a Tiffin Bus with the floorplan that we like on display. We went when the show opened at 1:00pm, and stayed until about 4:30pm. I met Aaron Vogt, owner of Vogt RV, and in a discussion, I told him that I was buying in Missisippi. When he asked why I was not considering Vogt RV, I told him that I gave them a chance, and the salesman didn't seem to want to quote me a price and that when I pushed it, he gave me the highest price of all that I recieved. He told me that they are normally the lowest, and asked for another chance. We have a new sales contact, and I sent him my quote sheet............... We will see!!

Tiffin had a sales rep there. I discussed my concerns about the rear axle weight on the coach, and at first he gave me the normal Tiffin brush off........ "we haven't had any failures of the axles on this coach" type of stuff. I finally asked him to call the factory and get the four corner weights of that particular coach. He told me that he did not think they had that kind of information available. I then told him to call 'Dorothy' at the factory, and she would have them! He finally did, and she gave them to him.

I was pleasantly suprised. The rear weight on this coach was 18,600 lbs compared to 19,400 lbs on a similar coach that I had information on. In fact, this coach has the hydro hot package (about 400 lbs extra) that was not on the other coach, and a feature that I do not want. This coach also has a CCC of 3253 lbs with 4 people!

Although I am pleased with this set of numbers, I am getting confused and concerned about data from Tiffin that does not seem logical and consistent. I have a copy of the Tiffin weight sheet from the first coach, and I copied the VIN number down on this coach so that when I get to the factory in a couple of weeks, I can make sure we are looking at the same data.

The PA park that we are in is very nice, and right in the middle of Arlington. I will update this post with a couple of pictures before we leave. The name is Treetops RV Resort, and they had a nice pool and a garden area. The PA rate is $14 a night for full hookups, and well worth it. Here are the pictures.....

And here's a closeup of Granny in the pool for Matthew and Aubrey: