Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tampa RV Show

We made it over to Tampa for the show which was extremely crowded on Saturday. About a thousand RVs of all sizes on site to walk through. Not too much innovation in the motor homes noted apart from the Monaco Vesta, which was a real design beauty with lots of upscale perks included as standard. Nice mid size, spacious interior with beautiful cabinetry and furniture, diesel fuel for good mileage, good exterior storage, but a tad pricey compared to our 2010 Serrano. We had hoped to see some 2011 Serranos there and were disappointed to find only one. We learned later that there had been eight at show's start, all sold and gone by Saturday save the one we saw. That made me feel good about my purchase.

The real innovation seemed to be in the campers and trailers. We saw one with a full size step up kitchen with wrought iron railings, beautiful white washed wood cabinetry, a fireplace, spacious bedroom and a drop down roofed outside deck with flat screen TV as well as toy hauler space/screened porch out back. Another had a trendy Euro design interior. Several had full outdoor kitchens with flat screen TVs to watch during food prepping. No more seventies design with nubby sofas for the purchasers of these beauties!

I was disappointed in the exhibition hall offerings. Not much innovation there in terms of interior appointments and accessories. Weirdly enough, lots of jewelry. I personally never wear or take my jewelry with me on vacations since our travel style is strictly jeans and shorts and t shirts. I guess some folks do, though.

There were lots of dogs there. We took one of ours, which was a mistake because it was too crowded for her to be comfortable and she got a little grumpy after several hours of evading legs and feet. The food was the usual yucky carnival sort of fried somethings or other so we only sipped lemonade. Promised entertainment of bagpipers and dog acts was absent on Saturday afternoon and we never encountered any of the Bloggers we hoped to see there. Still it was a fun day and we got a custom wooden sign for the RV.

What we also came away with was a sense of being very pleased that we purchased the Serrano. We didn't see anything else with the possible exception of the before mentioned Vesta that would tempt us away from our 'Badger.' If I wanted a bigger gas model, I loved several of the Winnebagos and the Bounders. But as far as mid-sized diesel goes (32 feet) I think the Serrano is a good buy and a good ride. And since we don't want to tow, it works well for us.

All for now. Happy trails to you along the roads less taken.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Long time, no post, well slap me with a sandspur studded sock...

SOME RANDOM PHOTOS FROM OUR RECENT WANDERINGS: The Badger, Cedar Key water scene, lunching at the Lightner Museum, Castillo De San Marcos, Brightly painted authentic circus wagon at Circus Museum, Cedar Key RV park, behind Ca D Zan, Anastasia Island, Bok Tower.

Whoops! Time sure passes quickly doesn't it? Yes, I've been busy with other things, notably finishing a novel, editing, formatting, etc which took up all my time and energy throughout the fall season. Then, the holidays came. Now, its 2011 and I can sit back and breathe easy again. Even catch up in the Blogosphere.

I read my last post where I told about the Serrano. There was more to the story. We did pick it up. The tricky finance manager (who looks like a weasel if you want to imagine him) hit me with a third set of papers which he claimed were to clean up the messy notations on the last (2nd set) he'd given me. The numbers were different for the third time and in the end I paid more than I'd agreed to both as down payment and as monthly payment. By this time I was weary of the whole miserable purchase process, had spent nearly three hours of a walk through on the new unit and had turned in the Winnebago. I just wanted to go home. So I admitted defeat to myself and did. I let the guy get away with incompetence at best and shady business practices at worst.

During the walk through we discovered that somebody had ruined the bedspread, we were missing a pantry basket, and there were several other minor repairs that needed done. Not so minor was a shower that did not work. The tech guy promised that all would be fixed two days later. Long story short, we waited two weeks for the shower to be fixed, they never did, and Danny bought the part and fixed it himself. Otherwise, I doubt we'd be able to use the motor home yet!

Its four months later and the other issues are not repaired. I bought a new bedspread at Wall Mart.

I had to go through major contortions to get the bank information from the dealership too so I could contact the loan folks and get the paperwork so my first payment wouldn't be late.Lots of headaches here RV folks. My advice. Never deal with Orlando RV. The service department guys are polite but you can't count on them and the finance manager is nearly impossible to work with. He asked me to lie to Bank America too, on top of everything else.

Okay, that update is out of the way. Aside from the getting of the Serrano, we really love traveling in it. The Queen size bed is very very comfortable, living space is quite ample with the slide out out, the automatic awning is huge, outside storage amazing, fuel economical (diesel), upholstered furniture very comfortable, flat screen TVs with surround sound well paced for viewing. Window arrangement and fan placements make ventilation for the dogs easy. Despite being 32 feet long, we haven't had any difficulty parking on our trips and have not towed my car as yet. Danny says its easier to drive than the Winnebago was. It can carry a lot more weight than the View, too.

We've done some week end trips in it: beach day trips and Florida on a tankful trips. We went to St Augustine for Thanksgiving and to FT Meyers, Sarasota, and Cedar Key between Christmas and New Years. Which leads me to another thought.

What were the highlights of 2010, RV travel wise? Below is my list with recommendations in order of chronological visit.

1. Savannah and Tybee Island, Ga. Try a walking tour of the lovely historic city which is download able on your iPhone. Park the RV at the train station. But do this in cooler weather. Summer would be tough. Tybee Island has a neat little museum and interesting lighthouse complex to visit and Ft Pulaski is well worth a couple hours time. Take a picnic: there are walking trails adjacent to the fort and shaded areas to relax and dogs are welcome, too.
2. Top Sail State Park in San Destin, Florida. An excellent RV park for staying for a week end and the prettiest beach I ever walked on.
3. St Mary's and Golden Isles. St Mary's is a picture perfect and quaint little town with shops to walk through and some good sea food restaurants on the marina. You can take a ferry to Cumberland Isle and see wild ponies running on the beach. Nearby Fernandina Beach is dog friendly and sugar sand is beautiful but we enjoyed the swimming at Ft Clinch State Park nearby. Dogs had to stay in the RV there, though.
4. Asheville. I would move there if I could. Asheville has everything: wonderful art and culture, shopping, great restaurants, friendly people, beautiful mountains and it is a dog friendly city too. We enjoyed staying in an RV park right on the French Broad river adjacent to a paved walking and biking trail that went on several miles to a beautiful riverfront park on one side and adjacent to a wetlands, and recreation area on the other. The dogs would probably vote this as their favorite park of the year. Then of course there was Biltmore! Incredible just about describes that, but not quite. Allow a full day for Biltmore. Spend a half day up at Grove Park in the two museums and crafts shop and eat at the cute little tea room. You won't be sorry.
5. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Amazing, spectacular. One of the most beautiful drives we've ever taken. We particularly enjoyed the crafts center just past Asheville, Linville Caverns, Altapass, Mabry Mill, and The peaks of Otter. Got off the Parkway at Natural Bridge, Va which turned out to be one of our favorite side trips. Despite the tacky entryway, this natural wonder is not to be missed.
6. Monticello at Charlottesville, Va. Probably our favorite single stop. Plan a full day here and at the adjacent tavern and Monroe home (Ashlawn).
7. Tamarack in Beckley, West Va. Hours of happy shopping for mountain crafts and art and books and the best dang food I've had in a long time, made by Greenbrier chefs. Good RV parking here, too.
8. Bok Tower and gardens, Winter Haven Fl. A delightful surprise with a cool 1920s mansion to tour and a really nice gift shop. Lots of RV parking and picnic areas shaded by tall trees. Incredible photographing opportunities.
8. St Augustine. We love St Augustine. Parking is a problem in the city, though. We stayed out on Anastasia Island in a really nice KOA. Beach was a short (5 minute) bike trip away and they had a bus that looked like a trolley car that picked you up at the camp office to ferry you into town. Paid twenty bucks a person for the whole week end and it dropped you off on any one of twenty historic spots and you could re board as often as you wanted. The lighthouse and Gator Zoo were included as was the Mission and Fountain of Youth. Made it all easy. We couldn't do everything in a week end so we will go back. We really loved the Lightner Museum which has a really good restaurant. The Flagler college tour is a must do. Enjoyed the oldest house and the Castillo as well and wandering around the shops of old town. Wonderful city, lots of art and good eats. Beach was as pretty as as Fernandina, second only to Destin.
9. The Edison and Ford winter homes in Ft Meyers, Fl. Definitely go there. Fascinating day. Don't miss the Edison museum, too.
10. Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, Fl. $25.00 buys you a full day. Gardens, incredible architecture at the art museum not to mention world class baroque art (Think Velasquez, Rubens, Rembrandt et all), delightful food at the museum's restaurant, a tour of the magnificent mansion Ca D Zan on Sarasota Bay, Mable Ringling's rose gardens, the Asolo theatre, and the two delightful circus museums. We were blown away by the circus museums which we hadn't expected to be so interesting. Definitely a favorite memory.
11. Cedar Key, FL. Cedar Key so laid back and stubbornly tacky that is ultra cool. In a reverse way. This is a remote (one gas station, no supermarkets, no fast food, no neon, no malls or movie theaters, no Wall Marts, no hotel chains), sleepy town where everybody is happy to know your name. It reminds one of Florida in the mid twentieth century. Stay in a mom/pop hotel or RV park next to the gulf or marsh, eat seafood in a mom/pop restaurant, shop local art, bicycle, fish, rent an air boat or hang out in a local pub. At our RV park they offered free entertainment in the form of blue grass band by the water and free soft ice cream and they sold home made key lime fudge.

We're looking forward to our next get away. Up this week end: day trips to Tampa for the Big Big RV show. I'll try to be a better poster in 2011.