Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Catching Up

You know you need to get caught up on blogging when you are writing about the Midwest while sitting on the beach in Florida.  It seems a little out of whack but sometimes that’s how things go on the road.  Since our last post we made it down through the midwest to our winter destination at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in the Florida Panhandle. 059

After Entegra, we stopped in St. Louis for a visit with family.  We arrived on a gorgeous fall day with the sun shining on golden leaves and temperatures well into the 70’s.  Not too far from my parents house is Dr. Edmund A. Babler State Park which has a campground, a really nice campground, in fact.  Great location, nice campground, and has miles of trails to explore the suburban St. Louis woods – score!  (Click here for a our RV park review.)

In a big city like St. Louis there is always something new to do and see.  On this trip, we took the short drive down to Eureka to see the Route 66 State Park and Museum and Purina Farms.  Dubbed “The Main Street of America” this iconic highway spans from Los Angeles to Chicago and represents a part of Americana.  During its heyday, in the mid-20th century, Route 66 was alive with American’s new found love for traveling in the automobile.  Speeds were lower and car travel was leisurely.  The route was lined with roadhouses, motor lodges, roadside attractions, scenic views and became the embodiment of independence and the spirit of adventure. 


Sadly, the official Route 66 is no more as it was decommissioned in 1985 but the nostalgia and embodiment of this famous road still persist.  The state park visitor center is in an old roadhouse (with its roots dating back to 1935) and keeps the memories of this iconic road alive with interesting memorabilia.  The 419-acre park also offers plenty of recreational opportunities with miles of hiking, equestrian, and cycling trails.  338

A few miles away from the Route 66 State Park was Purina Farms.  Purina Farms is a great place for anyone who wants to learn about animals of all sorts from the barnyard to the house.  The goal of the farm is to celebrate the many ways that animals enrich our lives and does this by offering a variety of educational and entertaining programs.  We started out at the cow milking demonstration where a feisty Holstein was somewhat cooperative while children learned where their milk really comes from.  Then we moseyed through the petting area on our way to the canine performances where eager pups dock dive, catch high-flying frisbees, and skillfully run through agility courses.  As part of their outreach program animals on the Purina Pro Plan Performance Team are taken to various locations throughout the city.  Professional trainers answer pet care questions and allow guests to pet the dogs and cats.  Throughout the year, Purina Farms hosts special events when the farm comes alive with barnyard babies, wagon rides through the farm, and lots of animal–themed family fun.


After St. Louis we sped over to Louisville to catch up with our good friends Linda and Rob (of My Quantum Discovery Blog).  We were having a water pump issue and Rob offered to put in a new one that Entegra supplied.  How nice is that?  In no time, Rob had our problem fixed but the best part was that we got to hang out with them for a few days (and buy a couple more bottles of Kentucky bourbon).274

Driving down I-65, I happened to be reading the blog No Bad Days RV’ing (from our good friends Rhonda and Susan) and noticed they were on I-65 heading south to Nashville.  Quickly I grabbed the phone and texted to see where they were going for their next stop in hopes of meeting up with them.  While we didn’t plan on spending the night in Nashville, we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to see them.  We scored the last open site in the park which happened to be right next to them.  Turns out we both have new RVs since we last got together so we spent the afternoon touring each others rigs and shared travel stories over dinner.  What a lucky catch-up that was!

The next day we said our goodbyes and were off traveling south on a rural road with little traffic and smooth surface.  We spent one night at a nice state park (Frank Jackson SP) in Opp, Alabama where we got a site with a great water view and enjoyed the hiking trails lined with Halloween scarecrows.  The scarecrows are an annual event and local businesses and residents put up hundreds of them along the trails.  Many depict scenes reflecting their business such as the local landscape company that had a scarecrow with a fern on his head and pruning shears in his hand.  Some of the scarecrows were a little creepy and I was a little unnerved jogging past them in the early morning fog. 


The next day we arrived at our destination in Santa Rosa Beach Florida, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, where we will be volunteering for a couple of months.  Look us up if you happen to be in the area or come by and say hello. 




Friday, November 20, 2015

RV Park Review - Watkins Glen KOA Camping Resort (Watkins Glen, New York)

Website:   Watkins Glen KOA

Location:   1710 State Route 414, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Date:   October, 2015

Price:  $66/night

Site:   #135

We were looking to spend a couple of nights near Watkins Glen to hit the wineries, waterfalls, and nearby museums around the finger lakes of New York  and this park seemed to be in a good location for us to do all that.  There were other options closer to downtown Watkins Glen but they were closed for the season when we visited.  This park is quite large and can accommodate any size RV with plenty of activities to keep the entire family busy without even leaving the park (but we wouldn’t recommend that).

Site description:

There is a wide range of RV sites and lodging options.  RV sites include back-in and pull-thru and range from full-hookup, water and electric, to tent sites.  For non-RV’ers there are assorted 35 camping cabins and cottages that can sleep up to six people and cover the spectrum from rustic one-room cabins to cottages with multiple bedrooms, a/c, televisions, and full kitchens. 

The roads and sites are gravel.  Depending on the site you want, your patio may be gravel, paved, and include outdoor furniture.   All sites have a picnic table and fire pit.

Large pull-thru with "premium patio" equipped with furniture and a sunken fire pit.
The park is definitely big rig-friendly and easy to navigate the roads.  Our site was level and long enough to fit our tow car. 


The park has free wifi that worked very well at our site.  Our 4G Verizon phone reception was good and the open pull-thru sites work well for those wanting to use satellite.  There is cable which broadcasts 70 channels.  


This RV park is called a camping resort for many reasons.  Recently, KOA rebranded and divided their parks into three categories – Journey, Holiday, and Resort – depending on the location and amenities offered.  This “resort” has the usual amenities like the playground, dog park, pedal cars, and jumping pillow but throw in a zip line, giant waterslide, bumper boats, laser tag zone, outdoor theater, mini golf, climbing wall, fitness center, heated indoor pool (30’x50’) and spa, fishing pond, and hiking trail and you will see why “resort” is an appropriate name. 


There is a laundry facility, multiple bathrooms/showers, pavilions, and group picnic areas.  The large camp store has an assortment of souvenirs, gifts, RV accessories, and food.    

Surrounding area:

The surrounding area boasts lots of activities from exploring the natural wonders to wineries and museums.  The region is known for its waterfalls including the popular Watkins Glen Gorge that has 19 waterfalls and many more in the surrounding area.  Watkins Glen sits at the southern end of Seneca Lake and offers many opportunities to get out on the water for sight-seeing and a diner cruise.  Close by are 40 some wineries and breweries that draw many visitors.  A 30-minute drive south will put you in the town of Corning home to the spectacular Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Art Museum.  Watkins Glen Speedway hosts major motor racing events including the NASCAR Sprint Cup.  Click here for a link to our blog post about what we did.

What we liked: 

The rural setting of this park is very nice yet it was close to many attractions and things we wanted to do.  The park is very big rig-friendly and there are a lot of site types to choose from.  The hiking trail was a big plus.  Wifi worked great and lots of cable channels.  A paved patio is always nice but, then again, for the price it should have been paved.

The not so good:

By far the worst thing about this park is the price.  If you come here in the summer and use all the amenities (especially if you had kids) then maybe we could see getting $66/night being worth it but all we wanted was a place to park and hook-up the RV since we spent very little time there during the day. 
Upon check-in we noticed that the park was not very crowded and asked that they not put us right next to people if at all possible.  The women in the office told us that our neighbors were leaving the next morning and that was the only site option.  Turns out they didn’t leave and there did appear to be other sites available.  Oh well.

Spirit’s two cents: 

The best part about this park from our four-legged friend’s point of view was the hiking trail that ran alongside a small brook.  While the trail was only a mile or so long, it still gave her some exercise other than just walking around the park (although the park is certainly large enough to take your dog on a good walk).  There is an off-leash dog park in the park but it was fairly small for a big dog to get a good run in.  About 20 minutes away from the KOA is a national forest that has miles of hiking trails.


Monday, November 16, 2015

A Visit to Entegra Coach

The day we took delivery of our new Anthem back in May, we called Entegra Coach and made a service appointment.  We know what you are thinking . . . why so quick to think there would be problems?  Hang on dear readers!  If you know one thing about RV’ing it is that things break.  It doesn’t matter if your motorhome is a year old or 10 years old, there will be problems.  New motorhomes come off the lot all polished up looking and sounding great but add a few thousand miles and roads that resemble moon craters (yea, we’re talking about you Pennsylvania!) and you will quickly discover problems.  The Entegra two-year warranty (and three-year roadside assistance) was a big selling point for us and we knew any manufacturer that offered that must build a solid coach to begin with, but after six months living in it and a few thousand miles we did have some reasons to go for repairs.

If you have never heard of Entegra Coach, you are not the only one.  Entegra is fairly new in the RV realm.  It’s 118predecessor was Travel Supreme and since 2008 Entegra Coach became a member of the Jayco, Inc.  Entegra makes three models of luxury Class A diesel motorhomes – the Aspire, Anthem, and Cornerstone – with just over 2,200 units sold.  We feel the quality, warranty, and customer care that Entegra produces are the reasons they have become a fast climber in the Class A diesel market.  Pretty sure you will be seeing a lot more of these parked next to you. 

In our experience, RV service has rarely been an easy pleasant experience and we were very much hoping that Entegra’s focus on customer service would be a positive experience.  What we really liked about the Entegra service process was that we were assigned an appointment date (albeit you have to book far in advance) and service representative (Owen Brown, in our case) that would coordinate the work being done and act as the liaison between the service technicians and us.  Let me back up….what we really liked were the FRIENDLY professional people in the service department. 

Three weeks prior to our visit we were asked to complete a form outlining the problems we were having and service needs.  In our case, the punch list included 20 or so items that included things like the convection oven not working, two shade motors not working, a door latch needed to be painted, awning needed adjustment, instrument panel needed to be refastened, and a faulty check valve in the water pump.  During that three-week time period we had great email communication and follow-up with Owen and had to add a couple of more minor items.  A few days prior to our appointment date, there was a final email/call to make sure all items were on the list. 
Our awesome service advisor, Owen.
Service starts early at Entegra and every morning we needed to be out of the coach at 6:30 am.  Yes, there really is a 6:30 in the a.m.!  To accommodate owners, Entegra recently increased the size and comfort of their lounge.  Here you can relax comfortably in the luxury of a pleasant atmosphere with hot coffee, cold water, televisions, and restroom/showers.  Being out of your home during service can be a pain but the lounge was perfectly comfortable and we were able to take Spirit in with us.  By 2:30 our coach was back and ready for us with the slides out.  At the end of each day Owen gave us an update on the work that was done and the status of what was left to do.  We loved staying on the lot and got to know other Entegra owners and swap stories and were treated wonderfully by the Entegra staff. 


Entegra is located in Elkhart County, Indiana - the hub of RV manufacturing and Amish Country – which means there is lots to see and do and eat.  Our days passed quickly with tours of Newmar and Jayco RV’s, visiting the Amish Mennonite information center, eating delicious Amish food (including numerous cheese factories), shopping, and making a pilgrimage to the RV Hall of Fame.  More on all that in the next post. 

One morning we were treated to a hot breakfast cooked by the Entegra staff.  This informal gathering allows you to meet other owners as well as some of the Entegra Customer Service staff.  Joyce Skinner provided us with an update on Entegra happenings and a chance to ask questions or voice complaints.  After breakfast, it was off to the newly expanded factory for a tour where we saw the 2016’s being rolled off the line.  Sorry, no pictures inside the factory were allowed.

All finished and just waiting for paint.

Factory tours are a great way to really get to know your RV.  Here you can follow the build procedure from when the naked chassis comes on line to when the walls are put on to when it gets the final polish and drives out of the production facility.  Entegra made some drastic exterior changes to the front and rear caps of the 2016 models that give it a stylish updated look that we love. 


With the increasing sales of Entegra motorhomes the service department realized the need to keep up with the number of coaches on the road and added nine new service bays.  Another great addition is the service bay dedicated to Spartan Chassis issues.  We were able to get a full alignment at Entegra rather than driving 100 miles north to the Spartan facility.  Entegra advertises that they have “The Quietest Riding, Best Handling Coach on the Market Today. Period.”  So when we said ours was all over the road and a tough cookie to handle they ran the alignment, adjusted it properly and fixed our handling issues. 


Our experience at Entegra overall was very positive and they are great to work with.  A big “Thank You” to Owen, Joyce, and all the technical support and service staff that has helped us work through our repair issues. It is so nice that you can make a reservation for your appointment and that they are ready to go with all of your repair issues when you arrive.  The idea is to get you out of there within the week or early.  Our list was, for the most part, taken care of including the items we added after the initial list.  The one item that was not properly fixed was a water pump issue we were having.  Entegra replaced a valve but the problem ended up being in the water pump.  That is where our mechanically capable friend Rob (of My Quantum Discovery Blog) replaced our water pump and finally fixed the problem.  Entegra had given him a new water pump to bring to us and we arranged a meet-up.  Hey Entegra, you might owe Rob a hat or jacket or just put him on the payroll as your mobile repair guy.  Thanks again Rob! 

Before we left Entegra we scheduled another appointment for the spring.  Why not?!