Wow…what a busy time we have had of late! We were pleased to be able to spend the 22nd through the 28th with Ashley, Garreck and Toby, and got to see Emma and Eli a few times. On the 28th we headed to Madison for our first Rally…the Family Motor coach Association (FMCA) 92nd Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase which was held at the Alliant Energy Center grounds in Madison, WI.
The whole time has been a blur, so we will recap as best we can with photos and some verbiage. The 22nd through the 28th were spent having fun with Toby during the day, and hanging with the whole family at night. Ashley, Garreck and the whole gang also came out to our campsite at Cliffside in Caledonia to camp for the weekend.
After all of that work, Toby deserved a trip to the Harbor near their house for a stroll along Lake Michigan.
Monday was prep day for our trip to the rally. I camp across some old photos of rallys that I had been to in the past. My parents were members of the Holiday Rambler Travel Trailer Club when I was younger, and we attended quite a few rally’s over the years, so I guess it is in my blood.
We were up and ready to roll early on Tuesday. We don’t have sewer here at the camp ground, so we had to hit the dump station on the way out. We have been real pleased with the Pure Power Blue product that we started using for the tanks. After that quick exercise, we hit the road with sunny skies.
We pulled into the rally grounds just past noon. WOW!! 1,800 or so motorhomes all converging on one place! We thought it would be a nightmare, but they have this stuff down pat. Within an hour we were in our spot and hooked up to 30 AMP electric. Our site was in a huge field near the area where all the events would be taking place. They pack you in quite tight, and you have to make sure your black and gray tanks are empty, and you are full with water when you arrive. There is a dump station, but it is quite hard to maneuver out of your spot once everyone is in. They also provided a “Honeywagon” service at a cost of $30 for those that used up all their space. In addition, they had a fresh water delivery service if you needed it as well…at least from what I saw, they didn’t use the same truck for both! We fared real well. By the end of the week, our tanks were only half full, and we had half of our fresh water left. Another thing we love about this Coach is the storage capacity. We can carry 100 gallons of fresh water, our black tank holds 63 gallons, and our gray tank holds 71 gallons. If we use water sparingly, we can easily go more than a week for just the two of us.
After we got set up and had the lay of the land, we went and checked in and got our info sheets for the week. The full schedule of events started on Thursday, so we spent a lot of time highlighting what seminars or entertainment we wanted to go to. Terri put Toby down for a nap, and I headed out to the Orientation for first timers. I learned a lot of good info about how to navigate this city that sprung up in a day. I got back and Terri headed down for some Bingo.
After that was done, we took a drive around town. Terri lived in Madison for a while, so we drove through the areas she lived and worked in, then ended up near campus for a burger.
We got back to the Coach, and chatted with a lot of other attendees, then went over our schedule for the next few days. FMCA offered over 100 different seminars, and had great entertainment every morning and night. They also had a motorhome showcase set up outside, and a huge exhibition hall with every type of product you could imagine.
We spent Wed morning riding our bikes and getting a feel for the area. Madison has some of the best bike trails in the nation! We went all over the place, and of course found a park for Toby to play in for a while. We got back in time for our first seminar at 1145 put on by the Geeks on Tour called Technology for Travelers: Pictures, Maps, Movies and Blogs. We learned a few things and headed back to the Coach for lunch. After Toby got his nap, Terri and he headed to the Zoo which is real close to where we are parked, and it is free!
The timing worked out well, as I had a service guy coming to do annual maintenance on my Hurricane heater. If you recall from several posts back, we love this hydronic heater. It is one of the first generations used in motor homes, so not everyone works on them. They have since progressed from Hurricane to Hydra-Hot and now Aqua-Hot. I’m sure there are a few other derivations in between. It was good to find someone who works on these things. He took his time and walked me through everything that needs to be done so I can do it myself from now on. You basically have to unwrap the thing (it has an insulating blanket around it) remove a couple of access panels, and then you are able to remove the necessary wires to get at the igniter and the carbide tip that sprays the fuel in. He showed me how to do all that, then cleaned all the parts up and replaced a couple of O rings. We then replaced the fuel filter (can be had at NAPA) put everything back together, then fired it up and all works great! Hopefully no more flame outs this winter!!
Terri and Toby were still at the Zoo, so I headed for my next seminar called Never get on your roof again! This was a very informative seminar put on by RV-Armor. They can apply this system to your roof in two days, at your camp site! It goes on as a liquid, then hardens. It is Miami-Dade Hurricane rated, and also level 4 hail rated. They clean up the whole roof, remove old caulk, then apply two coatings. It is not cheap…my Coach would cost about $4,200 to have done. However; annual roof maintenance can run about $700 per year depending on what needs attention. I have a fiberglass roof, and it is holding up quite well, but having the piece of mind may be worth it. I signed up for Lee the owner to come a give me a free inspection.
Later in the afternoon, we hit the bike trails again and had a blast. We got back in time for the opening of the motorhome showcase. There are some awesome Coaches here, but the more we looked, the more we realize how happy we are with what we have. New is nice, but not so much the price!! It was early to bed for a full day on Thursday…everything would be open.
We had pre-signed Terri up for a drivers safety course, which kept her busy from 0800-1100 on Thursday and Friday mornings. That left Toby and I to head over for coffee and doughnuts each morning where they also had the Frustrated Maestros perform each day. This is a group of RVers who meet up at different rally’s and put on one heck of a show. Full concert band and vocals, all FMCA members. We had not realized it before, but Toby LOVES music performances. We had to stay each morning until they played their last song. He was definitely the youngest attendee, and quickly became the hit of the rally. Everyone seemed to know his name, and the FMCA photographer took his pic for the FMCA magazine.
The exhibitions were open on Thursday, so Toby and I headed off to see what was going on. I had a few things that I wanted to get accomplished here, as prices are usually greatly reduced at rally’s and every manufacturer you can think of is on site and can provide installation and maintenance.
When we were done with the Gecko, we found the Zip-D awning folks and signed up for a cleaning and inspection. I also stopped by the RV Safety Foundation booth and signed up for a 4 wheel weigh on Sunday to make sure we are not over loaded and get a good reading on what my tire pressures should be based upon my tires and weight.
We met Terri for lunch, then headed back to the Coach for naps. I went to another seminar while they were napping called Tire Safety and Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems. This was very informative. I’ve been shopping for a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for quite some time, and this seminar, followed by some more research later that night gave me the info I need to make a purchase. I bought the Tire Tracker TT-400C with 10 sensors so I can monitor the truck when we are towing it as well. This is a very important system to have. If you can determine you have a leak or a high temp condition immediately, you reduce your chances of a blow out or fire. If you’ve ever seen the results of a blow out on a motor home or trailer, you know what I am talking about. A blowout can result in thousands of dollars of damage, or worse…death. I got the system with a three year warranty for $426. Not bad with about 15% off for the show price. Later I’ll show some pics of the system as I installed it today. I didn’t want to do it at the show because I wanted to get the Coach weighed and the correct pressure readings first.
Thursday evening we grilled out, and spent a nice night with the folks camped around us. We got to meet a lot of people here…from other full-timers to part timers. Everyone here is really nice and friendly.
Friday morning Terri was back in her seminar, and Toby and I headed out for coffee, doughnuts, and music again. When that was done we cruised the exhibitions again, then headed over to the Colosseum for a seminar on the FMCA Assist Program. This program is well worth the $40 FMCA membership fee! It is included with your membership. If any of you own a motorhome, I would strongly urge you to join FMCA for this benefit if nothing else!! This is really a travel insurance policy, not a medical policy. It is underwritten by Lloyds of London and run by Seven Corners. A short synopsis here, but for more go to http://www.fmca.com to check it out. FMCAssist Worldwide benefits of : Emergency Medical Evac/Repatriation up to $500k per incident; Emergency Medical Reunion up to $50k per incident; return of mortal remains up to $50k; Return of dependents up to $50k per incident; Vehicle return (US only) up to $5k, pet return up to $1k; Prescription Medication and Glasses Replacement (shipping only…they coord with your doc) up to $500. Seven Corners takes care of everything. They had several folks that had to use their services explain how things went, and it was all quite easy…provide Seven Corners with your name and member number, and they work with the hospital, your doctors, drivers, whatever to get everything done. If you are not a full timer, this program is only in effect if you are more than 100 miles from home. For full timers it applies everywhere. There are many more things that they provide, so go on the web site and check it out. More specific to this program, go to http://www.fmca.sevencorners.com
We met Terri for lunch, and she put Toby down for a nap so I could attend the Cummins engine care and maintenance seminar. This was very good as well, and I picked up some really good info on additional care and maintenance of our engine.
After that, Lee from RV Armor showed up and we checked out the roof of the Coach. He said we have done a fantastic job taking care of the roof, and it really doesn’t need anything right now. We talked for a long time, noted that we are the same age, and that we will be in the same park in FL in Oct/Nov this year, so I made a soft appointment to possibly get the roof done. We will see. Terri and I are still talking this through. If we decide we are going to keep doing this full-time gig for a while, we may just pull the trigger on this. It would be nice to never have to worry about roof leaks again, and the system has a lifetime parts and labor warranty that transfers with the coach. Lee was a commercial roofer for about 30 years before he got into this business, and now is full-time as well and has his business on the road.
After that was done, we took a long ride around the lake on the bikes. So long in fact we thought we wouldn’t make it back in time for the evening entertainment.
We got back just in the nick of time, as Roger and Mabel were waiting for us to take us in their golf cart with them to see the group of three guys and 30 instruments called New Odyssey perform. These guys were AWESOME! Check them out on-line to see what we mean.
On Saturday, Terri did not have class, so she was able to join us for coffee and doughnuts and the Maestros! The rest of the day was very relaxing, and we spent some time getting the Coach ready to move back to Caledonia on Sunday. Roger showed up around Toby’s nap time, so he and I headed back to check out the new motorhomes again.
When we got back, the Zip-D awning guys were waiting for me, and $30 and an hour later, they had all of the awnings lubed and serviced. They also showed me everything so that I can do this on my own from now on. A lot of the stuff on these motorhomes does not come with a service and repair manual, so the more you can learn from the experts, the better.
At 5 on Saturday, we were invited to the President of FMCA’s motorhome for a meeting of the 60 and under crowd. This was a good thing, and we had a great time. FMCA is doing all it can to energize the younger generation to get involved. It is true that Terri and I were among the youngest in attendance, so it was great to meet a bunch of folks our age and discuss what we can do to improve things for our age group. We signed up to be part of the under 60 task force, so we will see where that leads.
Later that night, Mabel picked us up and we headed to the Colosseum to listen to William Florian perform. This program was good as well, but he had a lot of story telling, and Toby seems to only be down with the music, but he did enjoy most of it.
We were amazed when we awoke early on Sunday…the place was clearing out like crazy, and no one had to wait in line or anything. When I went to the orientation on Tuesday, one of the officers said that he can’t believe how so many coaches disappear in such a little amount of time.
We were taking our time a little bit, as our appointment to get weighed wasn’t until 0930. We headed over to the weigh site a bit early, as they were predicting high winds and rain later in the day, so we wanted to get on the road and get settled back in near Ashley before that happened.
We got to the weigh site and pulled right on the scales. This is a four tire weigh, so they can check you side to side, and front to rear. My chassis manufacturer weights are as follows: GVWR, 33,200 lb; GAWR Front, 13,200 lb; GAWR Rear, 20,000 lb. I have 12R 22.5 tires and have been running them at 110 psi front and 100 psi rear based on research I had done. Our weight results were: 5,200 front left and 5,450 front right for a total of 10,650, so we are good with our weight on the front. Rear axle results were 10,550 rear left and 9,800 rear right for a total of 20,350 which means were are 350 pounds over on the rear. The RV safety guy asked if we had dumped our tanks yet, and we hadn’t so he said we are good to go all around after we dump as the weight we are carrying in the tanks would more than fix the problem after we dumped. This is still kind of close for me, so we will see what we can rearrange from the rear of the Coach to the front just to make sure we are safe. He further noted that we should be running 95 PSI on all tires after they did their calculations and knew all my tire specs and all. So…once back at the campground in Caledonia this will be dealt with.
We made good time, and thank goodness there was no one in our site (check out is 3 PM and we arrived at about 1230). We got set up and grabbed Toby and headed to see his mom and dad. We had a great time grilling out and getting caught up, and watched as the storm we had been hearing about all day started to roll in.
We headed back to the Coach just at dark, and ran into the meat of it. We pulled into a bank drive through to wait out the hail. After things let up, we got back to the coach and checked for damage, and all was good. The flowers we picked up didn’t fare the best, but I think they will bounce back.
After a good nights sleep, we were up and at it. Terri got her exercise in, and I spent the morning installing the TPMS.
It took about an hour or so to get everything done. It helps if you’re not Dumb Ron! After I had everything installed, I started getting alarms, and realized I never set the baseline PSI. The unit comes from the factory at 78 PSI, which caused it to alarm as I had reset all of my pressures on the Coach to 95 and the truck is at 40. I think I have the thing figured out now though. I can scroll through all the tires to see the PSI and temp, and there are 3 low pressure alerts, 2 high temp alerts, high pressure alert and the sensors are really light weight, and I can replace the batteries myself rather than having to send it back to the manufacturer for that to be done. I’m sure it will take a while to get all the bugs worked out, but this is a piece of mind we have wanted to install for some time.
Well, that is about it for now. We are here until Thursday, and then we head up to the Wausau area where the entire family is joining us for our nieces wedding this weekend. Not only will all of our immediate family be here, but all of my siblings and their kids will be in town as well. It has been a long time since that has happened, so we are really looking forward to it!
As always, we hope this finds you Happy, Healthy and Living Your Dreams!!