Thursday, April 17, 2014

Southwest Culture Road Trip Summary

I just got back from a very long road trip to the southwest.  It all started when we escaped New England in early January and spent two months "snow birding" in Florida.  Then, we embarked on a multi-state road trip heading west visiting places in the southwest.  It was a great trip and one that gave us many life long memories.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Sky Line Drive


Since leaving Memphis, our focus has been to get home and leave the sightseeing in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania for future trips.  I would have loved to stop in Nashville for 2-3 days and see the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Theater, and the Grand Ole Opry.  Seeing a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway is on the bucket list.  The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is another place I want to see.  And I want to take the tour of the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth, PA.  But they’ll all still be there for a future trips. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All the Way To Memphis



"Well, it’s a mighty long way down the dusty trail."  Having just driven across the deserts of west Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, I now appreciate that line by Ian Hunter (aka Mott the Hoople).   As I left Amarillo, my DEF alarm went off indicating I had driven another 3,600 miles.  It didn’t seem that long ago that I had just filled it up.  But, then again I had just got done driving across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona to Las Vegas and then back again.  It was a lot of miles and I thoroughly enjoyed the tree less desert terrain.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Palo Duro Canyon, TX



Continuing east from Tucumcari, NM the terrain remains open plains dotted with scrub junipers and small mesquite trees.  Distance mountains and mesas shrink from the horizon and it becomes flat with 20 mile vistas.  I-40 becomes a straight line running to the eastern horizon.   We see an occasional ranch, a few cattle, old wind mills, and a crumbling building every few miles.   It goes on like this for 100 miles.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tucson to Tucumcari

Well, I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari.  Always wanted to use that line from Little Feat's song Willin, and now its a true statement.  Today was a travel day and the target destination was Tucumcari, NM.  Not because there's anything here (trust me there is NOTHING here), but it fit my mileage quota for the day traveling east on I-40.  And we made it without taking that left at Albuquerque!!! (you Bugs Bunny fans know what I mean).

Going from a Class B to a Class C - A Small Motorhome Comparison

************  UPDATE  *************
J. Dawg Journeys has moved to a new home!. I'm now at http://jdawgjourneys.com/.  You can enjoy this writeup and lots of new articles about my travels at my new web site.
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I recently traded my Class B Roadtrek van for a Class C Winnebago View.   I owned my Roadtrek 190 Simplicity for 2 years and loved it.  I’ve now owned the Winnebago View Profile 24V for 2 months and also love it.  I've actually been on a road trip since buying it in January and have put over 5,000 miles on it.  With two months of living in it and driving it, I feel I can give a first hand comparison of the two vehicles.  I'm not trying to show how one is better than the other or give a detailed feature comparison since they are different vehicles.  I just thought it might be helpful to others to share my experiences with the two products.   

My 2012 Roadtrek 190 Simplicity
First, let me say that I have no axe to grind and have no affiliation with or compensation from either of the vendors of these motorhomes.  Also, I respect that there are folks who love their Class B and would never think of trading up and there are similar folks who love their Class C. The specs I quote were accurate at the time I wrote this article.

We're all different and have different needs and different uses for our RV's.  I'm more of a traveler versus a stay put camper, but I do some stay put camping during the year.  I'm also a minimalist camper.  I like small, simple, and tend to get by well with the bare essentials.

So, it all starts with the reason why I traded up.  I began traveling the country with my Roadtrek and logged over 33,000 miles with it.  It is a great road trip vehicle and I loved traveling in it.  But my reasons for trading were two fold.  First, I wanted to be able to live in an RV for two months parked in Florida for the winter.  I found that the living space within the Roadtrek did not suit me for that type of living.  This was the major drive for trading up.  Second, I wanted to stay with a small motorhome, but have just a little more space like a permanent bedroom.  The Mrs. and I at times like to take naps (its an age thing) and the permanent bedroom versus a fold down couch was much more preferable. 
  
2014 Winnebago View Profile
Expanding on the small motorhome requirement, I wanted something that I could drive pretty much anywhere. I liked the nimbleness of my Roadtrek (I used it to go grocery shopping at home) and didn’t want to give that up.  I wanted to still be able to pull into a McDonalds, get fuel a regular gas station, camp in all state and national parks, drive the scenic roads, and not have to bring a toad.

So why a Winnebago View?  It best fit our requirements.  I’ll give the specs below, but I think it’s still small, has the floor plan we liked, built on a very reliable chassis, is fuel efficient, is from a large reliable vendor with a large dealer network, and the model has a demand on the trade in market (lots of people own them).  I had also talked to several campers who owned them (either a View and Itasca Navion) and all were very pleased with them.  I also follow a few blog writers who have them and all have the same positive comments.  

So, now the comparison

Size

Roadtrek  - length 20' 5'', width 7', height 8' 9", GVWR 9,600 lbs, wheelbase 155"
Winnebago - length 25' 5", width 7' 6", height 11' 3", GVWR 11,030, wheelbase 170" 

The Winnebago is a larger vehicle. For me, the most noticeable difference is the height (its a higher profile).  You need to be more cognizant of trees and over hangs. The extra 3" on each side is negligible and I don't notice the extra 5 feet in length.  It fits in parking space if you back in and can overhang otherwise it takes 2 spaces.  So far, I have been able to go everywhere I went with my Roadtrek.  Here's a lousy picture that shows them side by side.  The Winnebago has the slide out and the door is open.  You can see that they're very close in width and the extra height on the Winnebago.



Features

The living features are very similar between both units.  Same type of appliances, heat, hot water A/C, inverter, entertainment, toilet, on board generator, swivel seats, and batteries.  The key differences - Winnebago has a 5.3 cu ft frig vs the 3.0 cu ft in my Roadtrek, 2 12V wet cell batteries in the Winnebago vs 2 6V AGM in Roadtrek, Winnebago has tank heaters, hot water heater is AC and propane, all lighting is LED, it has a shower stall, the beds are permanent (no fold out couch), a 16 ft power awning, and a separate range hood that vents outside. For me the biggest differences are the frig - it can hold a lot more food, the permanent beds, and the small slide out give more living space.

Cockpit - I liked the onboard computer on the Chevy Roadtrek.  The Sprinter has no TPMS, no fuel range estimate, and no MPG calculation.  But you can check the oil from the dash display on the Sprinter.  You can also use the coach batteries to help start the Sprinter if the chassis battery is weak. The cockpit on my Sprinter came with built in privacy shades on the windshield and door windows.  I like these better than curtains.

Handling

Very similar.  They both drive very easy.  The extra length of the Winnebago takes a little more looking when making a right hand turn. I found both the Roadtek and Winnebago will get a small push when being passed by a semi.  I drove the Winnebago recently in 25-35 mph cross winds.  It did want to drift more in the wind and gusts did shove/push it more than the Roadtrek but it was not an unsafe feeling.

Capacities

Roadtrek - freshwater 36 gal, grey 23 gal, black 10 gal, water heater 6 gal
Winnebago freshwater 37 gal, grey 36 gal, black 36 gal, water heater 6 gal

For me, I really like having the larger black tank.  I had to dump the Roadtrek every 2-3 days.  I can go a week on the Winnebago.  The dump on the Winnebago is gravity for the black with a pump to push the grey to the dump hose.  I didn't mind the macerator on the Roadtrek.  It was easy to use.  The dump procedure on the Winnebago has a couple more steps.

Fuel Usage

Roadtrek - my Roadtrek had the 4.8L V8 gas engine.  My fuel mileage averaged between 16-18 mpg.
Winnebago - the Winnebago had a 3.0L V6 diesel. My fuel mileage is averaging 15-17 mpg.

Diesel fuel is about 15-20% more costly than gas so, I'm paying about 20% more for fuel with the Winnebago.

Maintenance

Roadtrek - I only had one incident where I needed to go to the dealer and that was to do a propane test.  My Roadtrek was super reliable.  The Chevy Roadtrek could be also be serviced just about anywhere.  I did all my own routine maintenance and the cost of supplies and parts were reasonable.
Winnebago - The frig was DOA when we first started it up but that got replaced before we left the lot.  Otherwise there's been no problems no far.  The maintenance for the Sprinter is not as available as the Chevy.  The cost (parts and labor) is also more.  An oil change takes 13 qts of oil and a filter you need to get from MB. The diesel needs a regular fuel filter replacement and DEF added every 3,600 miles. Everything from MB is expensive.  An extra key for the Sprinter cost almost $200.  For the Chevy it cost $50.

User Groups

Roadtrek - I found little value in the RT International Group.  The Yahoo group has 3,200 users and the Roadtreking FB group has almost 1,600.  Both are very active and responsive to questions.
Winnebago - There is a Winnebago Owners Club (WIT Club).  There's a small (160 members) FB group and there is a Yahoo group for Views/Navions owners with 6,500 users who are also very active and responsive.  There's also the Sprinter Forums group for Sprinter specific issues.

Costs

Roadtrek - My RT 190 Simplicity had a list price of $84K.  I paid $71K
Winnebago - My View Profile 24V with just about every available option listed for $122K (the paint job was a $6K option).  I paid $52K plus gave them my two year old Roadtrek.

So that's the comparison from my perspective.  The bottom line - They both are great vehicles.  Both are reliable.  They drive very similar and can pretty much go the same places.  I like having the extra space and for that I'm paying more for fuel and maintenance for the Winnebago.  But I made that decision so I would have something to live in while wintering in FL. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gallup, NM



Another day on the south west culture tour and we made it back into New Mexico.  Gallup was a short 128 mile drive from Winslow.  There’s not much to see on this section of I-40 except trains going by heading west.  Also, it wasn’t as windy on the road as the day before.

We spent the night at the USA RV Park right in Gallup.  When we arrived, there was a line of  5-6 rigs pulling in all at the same time.  Everyone must have been on the same schedule.  It was a nice enough park at $30 for the night.  Basically, a pea stone lot with about 100 spaces with full hook-ups, cable, and free wifi.

We spent the next morning checking out downtown Gallup and listening to Navajo radio as we drove around. Yup, KYAT 94.5 fm, its all in Navajo - Yah-ta-hay!  The town is on the edge of the Navajo and Zuni reservations and it’s the Native America Jewelry Capital of the World.  At least it seemed so with all the retail and wholesale jewelry shops.

The Visitor Center was very helpful in directing us to right areas and shops.  We visited the Cultural Center which has a nice museum of the Navajo culture.  We visited a few jewelry shops.  It appears that retailers buy jewelry from the artists in the reservations.  Since Gallup is right off I-40 and near the reservations, it’s a good spot to market the jewelry.  Gallup is also known for its wall mural depicting Navajo events.  Here's a picture of one.


 
J. Dawg's new bolo ties
We were looking for Zuni jewelry and found the best place to be Joe Milo's Whitewater Trading Post which is about 17 miles south on Rt 602.  I like Zuni pieces because of their inlay and geometric designs.  I found a couple nice Zuni bolo ties made my local artists.  One's a Navajo rug design and the other is Rainbow Man, a Navajo Yei (sorta of a deity).

We drove thru Zuni Pueblo and then proceeded west on Rt 53 towards Grants.  Rt 53 is the road less traveled and it is a very scenic road thru the Zuni reservation.  A key point of interest is El Morro National Monument, also know as Inscription Rock.  Its a really big outcropping of sandstone and was a traveling stop for the Indians, Spanish, and US settlers because of its natural water spring.  Over the past 400 years, people left inscriptions on the rock.  Its a dramatic setting and a piece of living history to see the signatures and inscriptions going back to the 1600's.  Here are some pictures.

El Morro




This is a pretty area of New Mexico.  Its not heavily traveled and it was nice to get off the highway and do some exploring.  I read several Tony Hillerman novels that took place in this area and it was nice to see what I had visualized in his books. 

We ended up the day in Grants, NM.  The wind was blowing hard again with gust up to 50 mph.  Luckily we had a tail wind most of the way.  Next stop - I don't know.  We're seeing where the wind blows us :)

New "Green" RV Annoucement



Webegone Industries has just announced a new revolutionary RV that redefines the concept of green camping.  It’s so green, you could call it emerald.  The new Falso is a 26 foot class b+ vehicle built on an carbon reinforced plastic chassis.  The chassis, made from recycled plastic, is extremely light weight and is totally rust resistant.   

The RV is powered by a new 1100 cc engine that uses soda a fuel.  VP of Development, Rhun A. Mukk, said the new V twin dual cylinder engine will actually run on any carbonated fluid but does best on caffeinated beverages like regular Coke or Mountain Dew.  Cans of Red Bull or 5 Hour Energy can be used as a fuel additive to enhance the engine’s performance.  The engine puts out 500 horse power and has 625 ft pounds of torque.  Mr. Mukk stated that Webegone made a breakthrough discovery that allowed it to harness the incredible energy of caffeinated carbonated fluids. “When I saw what it could do to my kids, I asked why can’t we harness that to use in an engine?” said Mr. Mukk.  The new engine is capable of 100 miles per 2 liter bottle.  A simple stop at any convenience store or Walmart is all that’s needed to refuel the 8 liter tank.

The new Falso comes in two floor plans.  The Primo model sleeps 2 with a twin bed configuration that has a dinette and slide out sofa.   The DiLusso model offers the same floor plan as the Primo but adds a second story popup roof, similar to a popup camper, with two additional beds and a sitting area on the second floor.  The DiLusso is great for families with children because the second story really creates a separate room for the kids.

The Falso also has a revolutionary waste tank concept.  The black waste is actually composted and used to fuel a unique heat pump that extracts the heat from the waste and uses it to heat the RV.  While still equipped with a dump mechanism, the use of the heat pump drastically reduces the interval between needing to dump the waste tanks.  Also, with the compost feature, the composted waste can also be used as fertilizer in a garden, if so desired.

The Falso’s body is made of carbon fiber fabricated from shredded plastic shopping bags  It is a one piece monocoque design with no seams.  The carbon fiber is extremely strong and impervious to leaks.  The body carries a 30 yr warranty. The design of the body also employs stealth technology similar that used by the Air Force in its fighter planes.  The stealth technology makes the Falso undetectable on police radar detectors.  While Webegone does not condone speeding, the new stealth feature does allow for insurance discounts from several carriers.

The Falso comes with newly designed solid hard rubber tires made from recycled rubber.  The company that makes the tires, Ebonite, says they are rated for over 100,000 miles before the tread wears out.  

The Falso will be offered with a solar panel option to charge the on board bank of lithium ion batteries.  The battery bank provides 10,000 kw hrs of DC power.  Mr. Mukk said with the battery bank and solar, a person could boondock for a couple weeks before having to charge the batteries.

Webegone President and CEO, Lotta B. Essen, said pricing for the new Falso will be available in June.  Webegone Industries is headquartered at 1313 Yellow Brick Rd,  Emerald City, OZ.