Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Winds and Home Sweet Home

Sunday, March 24th

We work pretty early, knowing it was a long drive home. We pulled out about 9am, and headed into the foggy drizzle. As we drove west out of the foggy cloudy weather, the winds picked up and we began fighting a head wind. Although this wasn't ideal, it was better than a crosswind!

About to hit the road for home

We were going a few mph slower due to the winds and lots of semi traffic, but didn't have any issues getting back to Texas, and then home. We did stop once for fuel though, and if the winds had not been so bad, we probably could have made it home without fueling. It was cheaper in Arkadelphia than Goshen by about 10 cents a gallon.

Back home, we unloaded a few things, visited with our kitties that were very glad to see us, then headed out in the car for local Tex-Mex. It had been a long 9 days without it!

Tango loving my lap

Mambo purring up a storm

Overall, we had a good time on our trip. We only added one new state to our "camped in" map, and that was Illinois. Technically, we did not "camp" in Mammoth while in Indiana. Oh well, we will get to add it when we return to go to the Heartland Owners Rally in June. (We already had Arkansas).

Tomorrow, we'll back Mammoth into the driveway, so we can reload all our "normal" gear, in anticipation of the upcoming Heartland Owners Club Chapter Rally in Montgomery, TX in a few weeks. They anticipate a hard freeze here tonight (go figure, it was nearly 80* when we left), so we'll hook up electric and run the furnace, just to be safe.

We will also have to redo our decal, "the Dorsey's MAMMOTH", it had to be removed for the work HL did. Oh well, I have a feeling it will happen sooner, rather than later. ;)

Go South!

Friday, March 22nd

We got up fairly early today, as we were checking out and hitting the road back to Texas. We loaded up the truck and headed out on the Indiana Toll Road. Although it was nearly $20 for the trip, it was nice not to worry too much about the traffic or narrow lanes or passing vehicles. The roads were relatively clear, even though there had been some snow and below freezing temps overnight.

Eileen at the Staybridge Suites, Elkhart, Indiana

We made good time skirting Chicago and back down I-57, except that the truck started making a funny noise. We pulled over to investigate, but could not hear it sitting still. We nursed the truck off the highway and disengaged the 4x4, and the noise went away. Guess we'll have to have it looked at sometime

The extra fuel tank worked like a charm as we drove, and we didn't have to stop for fuel. We did stop for lunch, and a few pitstops. Boy, that was nice not having to deal with truck-stops!

We made it safe and sound to Effingham, IL, back to Camp Lakewood. We didn't make reservations, but that was not a problem. We settled in for the evening. Not long after us, a Sundance pulled in, right next to another Sundance in the park. We haven't really had time to visit with other HL owners on this trip, since it's been less than ideal weather for being out doors. Tomorrow they anticipate another winter storm to bring snow. We'll be gone before that storm gets here, though!

Settled in at Camp Lakewood

Saturday, March 23rd

We got up and got going, and Tony decided we needed the LP tanks filled, just in case. Also, one of our tire sensors had given a low-battery warning, so I bought a t-shirt and replaced the battery while Tony got the LP. We pulled out about 10am to head on down the road again, to Marion, AR.

Getting ready to roll, after getting LP

Again, we fueled the OEM tank while driving. How nice! It takes about 20 minutes to add 3/4 of a tank, while driving around 60mph.

We crossed from Illinois to Missouri to Arkansas.

going over the Mississippi River

entering Missouri

entering Arkansas

It began to rain as we got closer to Marion, so even though we could have gone further, we decided to stop and avoid the stronger  thunderstorms that were approaching from the west. We stopped and stayed at the Memphis KOA, in Marion AR.

Our site at the KOA

Movie Stars and Mammoth Makeovers

Thursday, March 21

Today, we again were slow to get going. We woke up to about 2 inches of snow, and it was snowing. We had planned to go to the Central Railroad Museum, but we just didn't get moving fast enough. We knew that sometime after lunch Heartland would be calling us to say Mammoth was ready, so we didn't want to stray too far away into an adventure.

View out of our window of the snow

Snow collected on the new tank, and you can see the teflon plate on the hitch (green).

One of the unique things that happened yesterday in our meetings was that we were asked to participate in a testimonial video. We agreed, and that was scheduled for today, as well, so we knew it would be another busy day.

We also took a quick trip back down the road to Goshen, so we could fill up the big fuel tank in anticipation of the drive back home. Ouch! that's a lot of $$$ to fill up!!

About 11:00, we got the call to set up the video shoot. They decided to do it in our coach, so we just had to wait until it was ready. We ate lunch and about 2PM, we arranged to meet the videographer for the shoot. Mammoth was not entirely ready, but we were able to do the video inside. I guess we'll be famous! I'll get my autograph pen ready....

After a few more little items, we were finally ready to hitch and go. But wait! That pretty new fuel tank blocks the view of the hitch! Whoops! We improvised with a piece of tape marking the hitch location, and had no issues getting her locked and loaded. We thanked all the workers that had helped give Mammoth a nose-job, neck lift, and makeover, then headed back to the hotel with her. We ate our leftover pizza, then went to work loading the stuff we had unloaded just 4 days before. She was now ready to head back home in the morning. She looks so good! Almost brand new! She even got fresh decals, as our originals had prematurely aged and discolored.

(Picture taken the next morning) Ready to go!

Nice new decals!

For some reason, I have lost track of the days. I cannot seem to remember what day it was, but we went over to Great Lakes RV to check out their Heartlands. I thought it was Tuesday, but I can't seem to remember. Anyway, I'm sure they thought we were crazy, to want to tour winterized rigs with no batteries in 20-degree weather with 20mph winds.

Official Heartland Business and Tour

Wednesday, March 20th

Today, we got another late start, but Tony got us breakfast and we got ready and headed out. Lake effect snow was falling, but the wind was still blowing so not much was sticking to anything.

Our first stop was to visit Martin Marketing, the company that creates the personalized shirts, hats, flags and other printed and embroidered pieces for the Heartland Owners Club. We stopped in to visit about the upcoming Rally, and also so I could try on a light jacket that I was wanting to buy. We had a nice visit with them, and I placed my order.

Martin Marketing

We then headed to lunch, at Luigi's Pizza, recommended by the locals. We had a great pizza, but the service was a little slow. Our waitress got a large party, and got very busy. We didn't hold it against her though, we weren't in a hurry. We had half of the pizza left over, so we decided to take it back to the hotel room fridge before we did other running around.

14" pizza from Luigi's

After dropping off the pizza, we headed over to RV Parts Nation, an RVparts and surplus store. Remember that Monday we had ordered speakers? Well, Heartland had already seen the broken speaker, and since they had to remove them anyway, they said they would replace them with new. We decided in good faith we needed to purchase the speakers from RVParts Nation, since they had ordered them for us. I am not worried, we'll find them a good home. We spoke with the owner and learned a great deal about their business.

Next on the agenda was a tour of the Heartland Factory, at 3pm. We headed over and parked, walked into the corporate office and waited for our tour guide. It was Dave Willis, the Regional Rep for our area, whom we had met last month at the Dallas RV show! We also met Bryan Walczak, who is the GM over Big Country, Gateway and ElkRidge. Unfortunately we received some mis-information that we could not take pictures on the tour, so we didn't ask if we could and thus, didn't take any. The tour was quite impressive, lots of things going on all over -- and it was quitting time, so I can only imagine what it is like when everyone is working. We saw Bighorns and Landmarks being built.

After the tour, I had made arrangements to meet with Coley Brady, Director of Sales for Heartland. We had met him before at the North American Rally in Gillette,WY, but now, as the Editor of the Heartland Highlights Newsletter, I was on official business. Tony and I had a nice visit with him, and Steve Lidy, the Marketing Director, and then Coley introduced us to Chris Hermon, the President of Heartland RV. It was a brief introduction, but glad I got to shake his hand.

Coaches awaiting final release

Corporate headquarters for Heartland RVs

After all the official business was done, we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Tonight was chili-dogs! We both crashed pretty early today, it was a long and busy day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Exploring & Improvements

Tuesday, March 19

Today, we are still trying to figure out the time zone. Our bodies still say it's an hour later, so we didn't really get moving as fast as we had hoped. Tony went down and got us some free breakfast, and we had waffles. They were pretty good!

Once we got moving, we decided to drive over to Goshen, to see where the North American Heartland Owners Rally is going to be held this June. We also stopped at a truck stop for cheaper fuel that was recommended by one of the other patrons at Dually Depot, a local transport driver. Tony wanted to put some fuel in the tank, to make sure it was operating correctly. We put in about 40 gallons, and headed over to the fairgrounds, where the Rally will be held. There we looked around a bit, then tried the pump to transfer fuel to the OEM tank. It worked as advertised! It took about 15 min to pump a full tank.

We stopped for lunch at Subway, then we headed back to Elkhart to stop in and see the status of Mammoth.

We went by the office and John escorted us over to the shop. We met with Tim, who was already sanding and finishing the repaired area. He showed us another coach that was having a similar repair, so we could see what all had taken place. Tim assured us that Mammoth was in really good shape, that reinforcement was added and there was no sign of frame damage. We also went over some other areas we wanted Heartland to look at, and they agreed to do so. We felt so much better after this meeting, and any fears were calmed by the good folks working on our coach.

After visiting Mammoth, Tony wanted to stop by Dually Depot and check on a few things. The light on the switch they had installed didn't seem to be lighting up, and the fuel gauge on the tank was a little foggy. We drove over there, and they immediately looked into the issues. While we were waiting, we decided to also get a teflon slide for the hitch plate. We have been buying the teflon discs that slide up on the hitch-pin, but these tend to wear and then fall off easily... making it a hassle to get hitched up. This plate is the same material, but it has attachments to weld it to the hitch plate on the hitch itself. No more falling discs! They also confirmed the light was working and replaced the foggy gauge, so we were happy campers once again.

It's funny, in both these cases, I was the one who said, "Stop at Dually Depot!" and encouraged these two upgrades to our towing experience. But Tony is the most happy I did!

pic here

After a little more waiting for the hitch plate, (which was never boring as we listened to transport drivers talk about their trucks and experiences,) we headed back to the hotel and had a free dinner there... yes, they serve "bar food" in the early evening, so we made a meal out of salad and meatball sliders. They also offer two (small) free cups of beer or wine per person.

Mammoth goes to the "spa"

Monday, March 18

Today we had to be at the factory between 7:30am and 8am. Did I mention we are now in the Eastern time zone? This means we had to get up at 4am pre-daylight savings Central time! Well, it was 6am Eastern, so that we could get ready and have the free breakfast at the hotel. There was a light dusting and some snow flurries, but not enough to cause issues with the roads. Temps were below freezing now! Glad Mammoth is winterized.

We drove about 2 miles over to where we were told to meet the factory representative. John met us and asked us to follow him to the building where the work would be completed. We are in an industrial area, near the airport, and nearly every other building has a Heartland logo on it! We dropped off the Mammoth and said our good-byes, telling ourselves and facebook friends, "she's off to the spa for a makeover".

Dropping off Mammoth for her spa treatment

We then drove around to look at the other Heartland Buildings, including where the corporate offices are located. We then drove by a building that said, "Dually Depot" and decided to stop in and see what was there. Well, we ended up purchasing an auxiliary fuel tank for the truck. This tank can hold up to 115 gallons of diesel. It has a pump that pulls the fuel from the tank into the OEM tank, and can be transferring while driving. We had been looking at these tanks for a while, and Dually Depot had a previously used tank of theirs for sale. They made us a really good deal, so we decided to have the install completed right then. It took a little bit longer than we anticipated due to a parts delivery delay, but once cleaned up and installed, you'd barely know it was a used tank. All of the installation parts for the hoses, pump and filter are new. We should now be able to travel about 3.5 times further before needing to add fuel. This helps so that we aren't a slave to searching for the nearest diesel truckstop, and we can be more selective on price when purchasing fuel.

After the tank install we went to lunch and then over to RV Nation, a local parts and surplus store. We picked out a replacement outdoor speaker since we noticed one of Mammoth's was damaged just before our trip. They looked and did not have them in stock. They said they could have it on Wednesday, so we went ahead and asked for them to order two, since we would not have to pay for shipping and the price seemed pretty good. This place has a lot of the normal RV parts, but also some new RV furniture and even some tires. Also, in the back, a lot of salvaged items. Need a slightly used-looking black tank, anyone? They had a few. The folks here at RV Nation were very helpful and friendly.

This building looks like it might have been an old Circuit City. Notice the flurries!

Inside RV Parts Nation, just a small area of their offerings

After that, we headed back to the hotel. we were up way to early, so we decided to take a nap. After the nap I did some work, then we went to eat dinner at Texas Road House, since we had a gift card. It is still cold and flurries are blowing by. Tomorrow's high is going to be in the 20s!

On to Elkhart with the ElkRidge

Sunday, March 17th

Happy St. Patrick's Day! We forgot to wear green, but oh well, we had more important things to address.

Today, we got up and started prepping Mammoth for her visit to the Heartland Factory. We had to remove everything from the coach, so we started gathering everything together so we could unload it easier once we got to the hotel in Elkhart. This, along with winterizing the coach again with RV anti-freeze, took a little longer than we'd planned so we didn't pull out of the park until nearly 10am.  We also had an issue with the water heater snap pin that holds the door closed. Turns out it was just too cold and brittle, and snapped right off! With some ingenuity, Tony found a suitable replacement with a small ring from my keychain.

The drive took us up to the outskirts of Chicago, and then along the edge of the state and Lake Michigan, through South Bend and then to Elkhart. for some reason the GPS avoided the Indiana Toll Road, and took us what seemed like a longer route. But it was pleasant, through the countryside. During the last day or so we have seen a large number of brand new trailers and 5vers. If you look carefully, you'll see they are being towed by transport drivers – they have a small sign on their trucks stating their company. These "in transit" coaches are sometimes pulled by a truck that seems mis-matched – towing nose low or high, or looking a bit overweight – Makes you understand why the rig may not arrive in "perfect" condition.

Luckily the winter storm system headed this way slipped further south, and we managed to not see any snow. We arrived at the hotel about 4:30pm, and got checked in just fine. We were able to get a 2nd floor room, which we thought would be more convenient then higher up in the hotel, for all of our trips unloading the coach. We were able to pull the coach along the side of the hotel and unload, and use their luggage cart to aid in our disembarking. It took 3 trips with the cart to get all of the items from the coach to the hotel room, but we got it done!

Welcome to Elkhart

the "stuff"

more "stuff"

Pulled up along the side of the hotel, we didn't have too far to move the stuff.

After unloading, we headed across the parking lot for dinner at Steak-n-Shake. It was pretty good, but my avocado slices were not ripe at all on my California burger. Oh well, what is a Texan in Indiana to do? At least the red velvet shake was very good!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Road Ramblin'

Saturday, March 16th

Today, we awoke and got started fairly early. Since we did not unhitch the Mammoth, it didn't take long to pull up the legs, unhook water and electric, and stow the gear. We pulled out of the Marion KOA at 9AM.

view of the KOA from the overpass

We stopped for fuel and ice right away before we got on the road, and then we started up I-55. Wow, what a rough road! The pavement was concrete, but the surface had heaved and every section was a different height, it seemed. The bumps seemed to fall at a triplet rhythm to the music we were listening to!

We had a pleasant drive through a small part of Missouri, then we crossed the Mississippi river into Illinois. Wow, what a bridge!

entering Missouri

approaching the Mississippi River

The state line, in the middle of the bridge

Welcome to Illinois

Temperatures were starting to change, as well. When left Marion, it was probably in the 50s. I don't think it got much warmer, as we went North.

As we approached Effingham, our next overnight stop, there was a lot of road construction, and our GPS did not match up with the roads. There was a detour for our exit, so we took it, and got a little turned around. We stopped at a parking lot and figured out where to go. After a round-about way, we made it to the Camp Lakewood RV Park.

The welcoming sign

In our site

The lake

Eileen at Camp Lakewood RV Park, Effingham, Illinois

They have recently been purchased by someone new, and there were various improvements going on in the park, in prep for the spring season. We had no trouble pulling into our site, as the new owner helped guide us in. The sites have fresh gravel, and seemed to be pretty level. They have recently installed heated faucets, but our site didn't have one yet... We stretched our hose over from the site next door. Not a problem, we had enough hose, and they even offered to bring us a hose extension if we didn't. Luckily, the temps were not expected to dip below freezing tonight, but it was going to be in the 30s.

They gave us some recommendations for places to eat, too, and we unhitched and headed over to the Niemerg's Steakhouse, a local favorite. It was getting busy, but we were seated in abut 10 min. This place was much like a "Sizzler" from our neck of the woods. Order your entreƩ, then visit the salad bar. We had a good meal at a fair price, and then split a piece of great homemade French Silk Pie!

The menu

French silk pie was yummy!

After dinner, we fueled the truck and headed back to the park. We re-hitched the truck, so it would be ready to go in the morning, and settled in for the night. The Park's wifi was pretty good, and we were able to stream and watch the episode of "Big Bang" we missed on Thursday.

The weather for tomorrow looks a little bleak. We hope that it will not snow/sleet on us tomorrow on the way to Elkhart.

Friday, March 15, 2013

To Mammoth's Birthplace, Elkhart, Indiana

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Last June, at the North American Heartland Owners Rally in Gillette, WY, it was determined that Mammoth needed some TLC from the factory to repair some frame flexing. This meant a trip to Elkhart... Well, finally! We are able to make the trip during Tony's Spring Break.

We had to remove nearly everything from the 5ver to take it to the factory, so last week we brought her home and started packing things up and unloading. It took about 15 trips to remove all but the bare essentials. We determined it would be cheaper and easier on us to stay in RV parks going and coming, rather than finding hotels/motels with good reviews, affordable pricing, and parking for a Mammoth!

We also gave her a quick (2 hour) bath, including the roof.

Tony took off Friday, a rare treat since it was the day before Spring Break starts. We had the coach ready to roll, and we pulled out at 7:10am. Our goal was to be in Little Rock, AR by lunch, to meet up and visit with a couple of my former coworkers/customers.

We made good time, and got to the Cracker Barrel about 1ish. We had a good visit with Amy and Martha, then headed on to the Memphis KOA in Marion, AR.

Our site is not all that level, barely wider than the coach width, and it barely fits the truck and trailer hitched up, lengthwise. But it will do for overnight! It was 74 when we got here around 4:30. We opened the windows and enjoyed the breeze and birds singing. Once the sun went down, the temp started dropping, and cooled off nicely. There is a free pancake breakfast in the morning, then we head to our next stop, Effingham, IL. Temps are supposed to be in the 40s there!

Eileen at Memphis KOA, Marion, AR

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