Monday, September 8, 2008

All RVs, All the Time

Monday, Sept 8

(First: A photo for Aimee, who seems to believe that her Nittany Lion should have made it into yesterday's blog!)

Today we started out under cool and cloudy skies to the RV/MH Hall of Fame, which we had passed 4 miles east of us on I-80 (now called the Indiana Toll Road) on our way here on Saturday. I haven't written about this, but Joe got a new toy the day before we left home--a Magellan GPS. We have been letting it guide us around town since we arrived, and it did a great job yesterday in South Bend. Today, however, I just knew it was taking us the wrong way to the Hall of Fame-- after all, I had seen the place from the highway as we drove past it! Get back on the highway, go 4 miles east, and take the exit with the sign saying "RV/MH Hall of Fame". How much easier could that BE??

Well, sure enough the Magellan had the old address for the place--it is now in a brand new (huge) building right on the Interstate, and is no longer located in the southern part of Elkhart. We drove right through downtown to a nondescript area and the gadget announced, "You Have Arrived". But, we hadn't. Luckily, the intersection where we found ourselves was on a nice old fashioned paper tourist map I'd picked up, and I then guided us the old-fashioned way to our destination.

The RV/MH Hall of Fame was totally fun. We saw all kinds of old RVs and motorhomes--prototypes of the industry's first offerings, as well as hand-built one of a kind motorhomes and trailers. We loved every one of them. I simply can't understand why we didn't buy a motorhome years ago, when we were already yearning for one every time we'd pass a camper on the road. I think it just never occurred to us that it was possible! So we thoroughly enjoyed everything there, from the first tent campers built on little trailers, to the first cars with built in sleeping arrangements, to the earliest travel trailers and motorized "homes". That first Winnebago is certainly a classic! We had a great time for a couple of hours. Here are a few photos--note the wonderful wood interiors, and the classic shapes.

Joe's family (all 5 of them) travelled across country when he was a kid, in a small trailer very much like the one below:
This tiny trailer basically has only a bed in the interior. The back "galley" drops open for outdoor cooking. Once upon a time, we would have been very happy with this upgrade from camping in a tent! We recently saw this same style, new, being sold at Cabela's-- it is small enough to be pulled by less powerful cars, but still provides a little comfort for sleeping.

This was the prototype for the silver bullet-shaped Airstream trailers. They are still made today, and are as beautiful as ever.
The first mass-produced Winnebago. If we had invested $1200 in 100 shares of Winnebago Industries in 1970, when it first went public, in 2005 that stock would have been worth $1.94 million dollars!

After having some lunch, we drove back to Elkhart to RV Salvage & Surplus. This is a humungous warehouse of every conceivable kind of RV part and surplus supplies, from the new cap for our bumper (which had fallen off on our first day out) to decal designs which you see on the sides of those new enormous Class A RVs, to furniture--couches, dinettes, and recliners, to the kitchen sink (and the holding tanks which the sink drains into.) It was a store to gladden the heart of every do-it-yourselfer, and Joe especially loved it. In addition to our bumper cap, we picked up a replacement blade for our bathroom vent fan, and a clearance light (which has been missing since we bought Mo.) Definitely a fun stop.

It started raining on and off while we were in RV Salvage & Surplus. We started driving to our next destination, but 2 minutes on the road and our master fuse blew. This happened exactly the same way in February in Georgia, again in the rain--we think that the wipers, along with the Magellan, lights, etc. is just too much for the electric system. When this fuse blows, EVERYTHING goes out! Luckily Joe is now an expert at changing it in under five minutes--the problem is that I always have to stand in the rain, waving the cars around us, while he does his quick replacement. Oh well, it was no big deal--he is VERY fast at this! And we didn't cause much traffic backup in that few minutes.

Next stop was the Four Winds RV Factory. We chose to take the Class A tour, because we were told by the guard that it was the best one. It was fascinating--we had a private tour for 90 minutes through the entire process of building a Class A RV from the ground up. I wasn't allowed to take a camera in, so my description (which isn't as good as photos, I know) will have to suffice. We started in the shop where the framing is done, saw how the laminate walls are cut and adhesed together, and went along the entire line, beginning with the naked chassis, which consisted only of the wheels, bus frame, and engine, plus a steering wheel. The floor gets put on first, then the vertical interior pieces (our guide described it as like building a house inside-out... instead of putting up the walls, then going inside to finish, they put all the interior together before adding the walls.)

So we saw the inner pieces slowly going in, along with the addition of the electrical system, plumbing, carpeting, etc. Then the cabinetry was included, the furnace, hot water heater, etc... the framing for the bed, tub.... Then the walls get added on, the decals are added, and then back inside for the finishing work--the final cabinetry, the furniture, etc. We also saw about 6 or 8 different models which were ALMOST finished--they were going through their final inspections, and we went inside them to look around. These were all giant (by our standards) Class A motorhomes--the smallest was, I think, around 35 feet long (Mo is 27 feet) and they are WAY higher up, with underneath storage compartments which we don't have. I found the floor plan I liked the best--wouldn't you know, it is only offered in the highest-priced gasoline powered model (the diesel powered RVs are a lot more expensive and more deluxe.)

The tour was over at 5, and we were pretty tired by that time. We decided not to try travelling anyplace tonight--I suspected that might happen. So we came back to Elkhart Campground, after first stopping to pick up some groceries. It started raining again as we got back to the campground, and it's been raining constantly, sometimes VERY heavily, ever since. I looked at the weather channel and I think, if we are lucky, the rain is going to pass on over us tonight, and preceed us up the coast of Lake Michigan. We will have to try not to drive to quickly so we don't catch up with it! Meanwhile, I sure hope our cabover isn't leaking.... I don't want to wake up and discover it is all damp again. But when it rains hard like this, I fear the worst. That is one of the good things about a Class A-- not so much roof leakage!!

Tomorrow, the plan is to head up to Michigan--and add another sticker to our States Map.


Ann M. said...

I wish I had pictures but my grandpa made his "own" pop-up way back when my mom was growing up. (she's in her 80's) We had the trailer with all the neat little doors he had on the sides. Unfortunately I think the metal rusted out and my mom had to get rid of it.

We get your rain today. Lucky you missing Tuesday meeting night.

Aimee said...

Thank you for my Nittany Lion!!

I can't believe you got out of the RV salvage and surplus with so few items!!! I'd have thought you'd pick up lots more. Maybe a new electrical system?? :)

Aimee said...

Okay, I'll try this comment again....
Thank you for my Nittany Lion!!! When I say Nittany, You say Lion!!!

Can't believe you got out of RV Salvage with so few purchases. I would have thought you'd buy out the store! Maybe a new electrical system?? LOL

Good to talk with you yesterday! Hope everything is still smooth travelling.