Sprinter RV

Monday, Feb. 26, 2018: Travel Back to Florida

Mid-afternoon, we leave Cleveland, where it is 48 degrees and sunny, for Florida, where Mike has a couple of meetings.  We travel in Escape, Advanced RV’s Super High Top demo model.  For dinner, we stop at a rest area for soup and salad from home, and then stop for the night at a Pilot truck stop between Cincinnati and Lexington.

Class b rv

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and a Bump in the Night

After a good night’s sleep, we are on the road by 7:30am, having green smoothies from home for breakfast.  We achieve our goal of meeting my sister and her husband at noon at Big River Grille in Chattanooga at Hamilton Place, just off I-75, in a high-end mall.  After lunch Mike and I stop at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.  We learn the gruesomeness of these multiple day Civil War battles from the short, well-done film at the Visitor Center and then walk one of the many hiking trails, marked with numerous monuments to the soldiers from both sides who fought here.

Sprinter RV

About 11PM, as we are falling asleep at a truck stop near Macon, Georgia, we feel a great jolt to the camper, like an earthquake.  Mike quickly throws on some clothes and goes out.   A 5th wheel, backing in next to us, has hit our front corner on the driver’s side.  The driver apologetically says, “This rig is too big and we’ve driven too long today.”  He gives us all the information for making a claim with his insurance.

 

Thursday, March 1, 2018: Sarasota:  Longboat Key and Lido Key

We enjoy a leisurely start, thinking we have plenty of time to meet friends at noon on Longboat Key in Sarasota on the west coast, without reckoning the traffic at peak season.  With heavy congestion and two slowdowns for accidents, travel is slow and we arrive a bit late at our friends’ new home overlooking the Gulf.  After lunch, we enjoy a swim in their pool and a soak in their hot tub.  We head to Lido Key, where Mike has a two-day meeting starting this evening.  I check into the Lido Beach Hotel for the night, leaving the camper out-front in the hotel designated area. A friend and I walk to St. Armand’s Circle for dinner at Blu Kouzina, an excellent Greek restaurant.

Friday, March 2, 2018 – Wednesday, March 7: Travel to Sarasota

In the morning, I meet friends at the Lido Beach Hotel for a walk on the beach and then do laundry at the hotel.  For lunch, we walk to the Lido Key public beach and concession stand for their outstanding lobster rolls.  I relax by the pool at the hotel until I drive the camper to meet Mike at a friends’ house after his meeting.   For dinner, we go to St. Armand’s Circle to Crab and Fin.  We move into the friends’ house for a few days, leaving the camper on the street out front.

Each day we get a good walk in, enjoying the beach trails around Lido Key, and the good restaurants in Sarasota, like Mediterra and Mosaic.

On Sunday Mike and I go to the Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, the spring training home for the Baltimore Orioles. Today, they beat the Boston Red Sox 10 -7, in an action-packed game.

Ball game

class b travel

On Tuesday, we hike in the Myakka River State Park, south of Sarasota on SR 72. We see alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the river, and, using the park’s trail map, hike through the shady live oak and palm tree forest and climb a lookout, overseeing the sandy pine flatwoods and sunny dry prairies.

road trip

off the grid

On Wednesday afternoon, we drive down to Siesta Key to visit friends, watch the sunset on this beautiful, white beach, and stay the night in their parking lot.

van life

Thursday, March 8, 2018:  Florida State Parks…the Real Florida

About 7:30AM, we depart our friends’ house at Siesta Key.  We drive to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park off Gulf Shore Drive in Naples.   On this undisturbed barrier island, we walk the white sand beach.  The Florida State Park tag is “…the Real Florida” and we imagine this area untouched, with its sand dunes, mangrove swamps, and coastal hammock (forest). The Calusa Native Americans and later the Seminoles lived on this coast.

Home on wheels

luxury class b rv

Late in the afternoon, we drive up to Koreshan State Park, where they have overnight camping, and we get their last available site.   It has been a couple of years since we stayed in a campground and we quickly remember what we used to enjoy:  saying hello to our neighbors, one from Ontario, Canada, and the other from Maine, and strolling through the campground, seeing all the different RV’s and where they are from.  Even in this campground, we did not bother to hook up. Two large, luxurious buses drop off middle school kids from Boca Ratan for a camping experience and the kids are getting set up in their newly pitched bubble tents.  It is a cool night, so inside the camper, we are happy to find that the smoked, peppered salmon, avocado, mango and red-leafed lettuce, all from home, still make a good salad.  On Mike’s I-pad through Netflicks, we watch the film Wind River Range with Jeremy Renner and an episode of Orange is the New Black.

Friday, March 9, 2018:  Koreshan Historic Site and Night in Naples

In the morning, we enjoy the view outside our window of blue sky and palm trees.  Mike checks with our neighbors to make sure that our subwoofers during last night’s movie did not bother them.  They did not hear it, confirming the good sound insulation in Escape. In chatting, Mike learns that the Canadians are close neighbors and friends of Natalie MacMaster, the Cape Breton Celtic fiddler and step-dancer, whom we have heard a couple of times in Cleveland.  We enjoy hearing about their rich farming lives near Peterboro, where MacMaster now lives. The world is small.  We walk along the nature trail and end up at the Koreshan Historic Site.  As we visit the restored historic structures, one docent tells us about the Koreshans starting their utopian community in Utica, New York in 1880, moving to Chicago, and then to this property in 1883.  Another docent tells the story of the strong women who led this community, the last one dying here in the 1980’s.

camping

We shower in the camper, fill the water, and dump the tanks, pushing to be out at the 1PM checkout time.   We drive down I-41 to the hotel where we are meeting a group for a sunset cruise.  Onboard, we enjoy the talk by the naturalist who points out the various keys and bays we are passing and identifies the birds, including flocks of skimmers flying low over the water and several brown pelicans.  At the point where the bay meets the Gulf, we enjoy a perfect sunset.  As we motor back to the hotel, bottlenose dolphins dive around us and play in our wake.  After dinner in the hotel, we decide to spend the night in the hotel parking lot.  We put down the E&P automatic levelers and close the window shades.

class b rv bathroom

Saturday, March 10, 2018:  Busted! And Lovers Key State Park

Last night at 2AM, two uniformed security officers from the hotel knock on our door and politely ask what we are doing parking there.  Mike explains that we had been at the hotel for a sunset cruise and dinner, and using a line recommended by our RVing friend Dave Munro, says he had a few drinks, thought he should not drive, and since there were no rooms available at the hotel, we stayed the night here. One guard thanks Mike for his honesty – Mike had one drink – but explains that this is private property and we must be out first thing in the morning.  Mike politely says this is our plan.  We sleep the rest of the night and depart at 7:30AM.   This is the first time we have had any trouble “sleep-stopping.” We were tucked into a normal parking spot, but maybe the levelers and shades gave us away.

We get coffee at the mall across the street, read the newspaper, and then drive a short way up to Lovers Key State Park.  We walk five miles on the beach, mostly in a light rain, enjoying the shorebirds, pelicans, gulls and herons.  The beach is pretty empty.  We have lunch in the camper, take a nap, shower and get ready to travel to our dinner event in Naples.  On our way south to the dinner, we wash the camper and stop at Whole Foods for the few things for our trip home.  After dinner and showing the camper to several people at the party, Mike, who had no alcohol, drives north for about two hours to get a jump on our 20-hour trip home.  We stay overnight at a rest stop south of Tampa.

Sunday, March 11, 2018:  Push North

This morning we get coffee and bagels at Dunkin’ Donuts and continue to travel north on I-75 to SR301 at Ocala. At the Orange Shop, a road side market, we buy bags of Temple oranges and grapefruit to take to the office, and continue up to I-95 and then I-77.  At dusk, we stop at a beautiful new rest area near Olin, North Carolina, the I-77 Iredell Co. Rest Area, which serves both I-77 North and South.  We walked the large, elliptical walkway around it, enjoy the small fountain and the clean, modern bathrooms.

Monday, March 12, 2018: Travel Back to the Cold

This morning it is sleeting, with temperatures in the 30’s.  The snow and ice continue on into Ohio and I am grateful for Mike’s good driving and the Sprinter’s steadiness in these conditions.  We travel and make it home around 4PM, already missing the warmth and sun of Florida.

To discover more about Escape, click here, or to learn how to start the process of building your own custom Class B Advanced RV motor home, click here.

Giddy Up Tales

A 9-day road trip in the Advanced-RV Giddy Up takes Andrew and Katharine from Advanced-RV headquarters near Cleveland, OH, along the shore of Lake Erie, and into Canada. Follow along in Part 2 of our 7-part series, as the couple visits the Grand Canyon of PA and a historic winery.

 

We topped off freshwater at the park and headed east across PA to Galeton for diesel. Giddy Up needed 12.8 gallons from driving over the hilly terrain and running the hot water heater. We got our bearings to the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon of PA at the Tioga County Visitor’s stop. The eastern rim of the PA Grand Canyon is best viewed from Leonard Harrison State Park. Besides amazing views of the Canyon, there was a nice memorial/remembrance to the Civilian Conservation Corps that built parks and camps throughout PA’s forests—including Cherry Springs and Leonard Harrison Parks. The influence of the CCC was strong here. The viewing area was beautifully laid with stone walls and walkways, and the view was fantastic.

road trip

Giddy Up’s nav system took us down some back roads along the Pine Creek Rail Trail to Darling Run, getting us back to PA-6 (Grand Army of the Republic Highway) toward Tioga. PA-287 and PA-15/US-99 brought us rapidly into New York and to the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, NY. We did some creative parking and ran through the museum quickly—we needed to get to our overnight stop in Hammondsport before they closed. We very much enjoyed the glass blowing/working demonstration and numerous displays.

adventure

A short trip from Corning to Hammondsport brought us to the Great Western Winery on the southern end of Keuka Lake. Great Western Winery was established in 1860, and retains the designation U.S. Bonded Winery No.1. It is enormous and has eight stone buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We did not get to see any of the buildings—it was too early for those tours. But we did taste a few wines. They specialize in American Champagne and Sherries. We took a stroll around the farm area and the pressing building that had stained glass windows and repurposed doors. It looked like a church, but the stained glass helps minimize the light, they tell us.

class b travel

A chilly night that got down to 36 degrees made us check out the Espar heater for more than hot water—and the heated floor was a nice plus!

 

In the morning, after Andrew made omelets on the induction cooktop, we looked at the Great Western Winery museum before we left in the morning. (I find it amusing that the wineries that survived Prohibition were the ones that made the sacramental wines….)

custom class b rv

Click here to get information about renting Giddy Up for your next adventure.

Click here to get information about purchasing Giddy Up.

 

Quiet air conditioner

We have installed our Quiet Air Conditioner on almost all of our builds in the last few months. Clients have chosen this because it’s whisper quiet, 20% more efficient, and it’s an excellent design. It automatically raises the temperature a couple of degrees at night so when your metabolism goes down as you are sleeping, you don’t get cold. There is also a dehumidifier mode.

Air conditioner for motor home

Our Quiet Air Conditioner for Motor Home has excellent cooling and dehumidifying capability, even in demanding conditions like high outside temperatures and radiated sun.  The Quiet RV Air Conditioner is also better constructed with more compressor mount isolation; all metal, balanced fans; and an excellent design balance between compressor, evaporator, and condenser components. It is easy to operate, with modes that match widely varying comfort needs. This unit can be retrofitted to Class A, B, B+, and C motor homes, trailers, and 5th wheels including Airsteam, Roadtrek, Pleasureway, Hymer, Leisure Travel, Winnebago, Prevost and more.

SAVE 15% when you make a deposit and schedule your installation by April 30. Call Viki at 440-283-0405 ext. 159 to secure your Quiet Air Conditioner!

Learn more about Advanced RV here: www.Advanced-RV.com

fifth annual Advanced Fest and open house

Last call!

Save your spot at our Fifth Annual Advanced Fest and Open House before registration closes on Friday, April 6, 2018.

You’re invited to join us May 4-6, 2018 for a weekend of fellowship, fun, and learning at our brand new headquarters, just down the road from our current facility in Willoughby, Ohio! Look forward to meeting other Advanced RV owners and enthusiasts, our very own craftsmen, and our business partners from around the country. Engage in a variety of workshops, seminars, tours, discussions, and more!

Trust us, you don’t want to miss it. Register online here: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07eeu4m5a7a2f78137&oseq=&c=&ch=

(One registration per attendee. If multiple attendees will be staying in the same RV, only include the RV information on one registration)

Custom Rv

A 9-day road trip in the Advanced-RV Giddy Up takes Andrew and Katharine from Advanced-RV headquarters near Cleveland, OH, along the shore of Lake Erie, and into Canada. See how the adventure begins in Part 1 of our 7-part series, as the couple heads from Ohio through Pennsylvania.

Class B RV rentals

We met up with Viki and Giddy Up at Advanced-RV a little after 1:00 p.m. We jumped into our tour, lessons, and training test drive, and then we were on our way. Meandering up the Lake Erie seashore, we arrived at Bucci Vineyard around 6:00 p.m.– Fred and another couple were already into a wine tasting, which we joined. Linda brought out food to share. Fred (70) and Linda (69.9) want to sell the Vineyard and B&B soon. We sat under an impressive wisteria canopy, not yet blooming. Finally, around 8:00 p.m., we unpacked our things in Giddy Up, got our stuff organized inside, and went to sleep!

Custom Rv

In the morning, we headed up the seashore route to Erie, PA. Eventually, we find our way out of Erie and onto PA-6 through Youngsville, PA, until Warren, PA. We added 9 gallons of diesel in Warren and then took Kinzua Road deeper into Allegheny National Forest. At Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny Reservoir, we saw enormous carp. A fellow sightseer, a local, said they’d pulled some out longer than a yard. We also stopped at the Timberdoodle Flats Interpretive Trail and took a short walk around looking for a timberdoodle, a type of bird, apparently. We saw none.

Road trip

 

From there, we drove on to Smethport, PA for a driving tour of Victorian homes, small mansions of the past. Cool little town, absolute stone piles—some of those mansions, home of the magnetic Wooly Willy! I had one as a kid.

In the afternoon, we meandered south to Kinzua Bridge State Park. We stopped to see the remains of the enormous railroad bridge that towered higher than the Statue of Liberty above the valley floor. It was in operation until 2002 and wiped out by an F1 Tornado in 2003. It has been rebuilt as Sky Bridge. The wind was blowing really hard, and it made a weird howling whistle up through the railroad ties, and it was HIGH. Did I mention it was high? ‘Cause I thought we were going to get blown off…

We took a large loop/detour south towards Elk County, joining PA-555. The rain got heavier as we drove east, and we did not bother to attempt elk viewing areas. Suddenly, three elk obliged us by feeding near the river as we drove past. Seeing the elk were the reward for the southerly detour. (And for the rain, during which time I was grateful Andrew was driving. Though this vehicle is a dream to drive…)

 

PA-555 gives way to PA-120 in Sinnamahoning in Bucktail State Park. The rain continued to get torrential until the Kettle Creek area, where we turned north on PA-144. That started taking us up in elevation and eventually out of the rain as we entered Potter’s County. We were eager to find Cherry Springs State Park and our reserved camping site under a grove of trees. Although the ground was damp, the skies were just partly cloudy. We reconnoitered about the campsite (no one else was at the park), walking up to the public sky viewing area and also checking out the “pro-side” of the park across the street for more “seasoned” astronomers.

I am completely impressed with PA state parks and this one, in particular. It didn’t hurt that we were the only ones there. But given that the area had been completely denuded by lumber companies, they’re the gold standard in conservation as far as I’m concerned.

We had dinner in Giddy Up and enjoyed a bottle of wine from Bucci Vineyards while we waited for the sky to get dark. We tromped back up to the sky viewing area, surprised to find that the seat rows had luminescent markers we had not seen in daylight. The clouds came and went, providing glimpses of the sky. Ursa Major, Ursa Minor with Polaris, Cassiopeia, Orion, Virgo, Sirius, and Jupiter were among those we sighted with the Skyview App. The clouds coming and going were like curtains opening and closing in different parts of the sky, revealing the stars behind them. I would love to come on a clearer night.

Back in Giddy Up, Andrew christened the shower (at least christened for this trip) and we slept in the tree grove under the dark skies.

You could rent Giddy Up for our next adventure! Click the link to reserve Giddy Up for yourself. http://advanced-rv.rentals/

Sprinter grill guard

We’ve been working hard to develop a product that is both aesthetic and durable, and we’re thrilled to finally share with you all our new Sprinter Grill Guard! This grill guard / brush guard is designed to accentuate the rugged character of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

3/16” full aluminum upper and lower guard tubes defend your Sprinter’s front end, while a series of replaceable skid plates protect your chassis’ underside. You can also upgrade with fully integral winch and light bar options! This grill guard is truly ready for any adventure you throw at it.

Sprinter bull bar

Grill Guard Features:

  • Mounts directly into four existing bolt locations on the Sprinter frame, no drilled holes needed
  • Replaceable skid plates
  • Front license plate mount
  • Winch Hook Isolation Mount on top tube

Grill Guard Construction:

  • 3/16″ aluminum construction
  • Stunning powder-coat finish protects your front end from scrapes and dings
  • A series of replaceable, rigid skid plates defend your vehicle’s underside

We offer 2 winch options that integrate seamlessly with the grill guard for Sprinter, complementing your vehicle’s rugged aesthetic. When you opt for a Sprinter grill guard / winch combination, the possibilities are limitless. Choose the winch that fits your needs and upgrade your Sprinter bumper bar into a powerful way to pull, haul, or carry. Winches mount to a custom plate that fits a standard 2″ trailer hitch receiver for increased functionality. With the winch in action, you can retrieve your vehicle should you come across the unforeseen mudpit.

winch

Sprinter Winch Features:

  • 8,000 lbs rated line pull
  • Durable powder-coat finish
  • Advanced sealing

Sprinter Winch Mount Features:

  • Proprietary bracket designed to mount to the Sprinter chassis frame
  • Equipped with 2″ receiver for the winch to mount to

You can also upgrade with an off-road LED light bar to enhance your Sprinter’s forward visibility. Like the winch options, this off-road van light bar fits right into the grill guard for a uniformly elegant design. The included custom brackets make the LED light bar easy to install without adding additional mounts or weight to your rig.

Sprinter Light Bar Features:

  • The Sprinter van light bar / Sprinter bull bar works great for off-road driving light, daytime running light, or fog light on your Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
  • Single row of LEDs
  • 2,520 raw lumens of cool white light output
  • Emits a 60° beam pattern

To learn more or order your grill guard, click here: https://advanced-rv.com/grill-guard/

Check out this video to see more. It wasn’t created to be technical, but to showcase the rugged design of the grill guard.

 

 

addendum

Many of you have asked questions about the cold weather operation of the Volta battery system, described in Marcia’s recent blog about our January trip to Florida.  As Marcia wrote, we drove Escape, which has the first Volta system installed by Advanced-RV.  Here is more background that I hope clarifies the battery issues she described in her “ tell it like it is” report.

 

Last summer, when we first installed the Volta battery system in Escape, we were so anxious to get started testing that we didn’t include the automatic battery heating system.  Not needed in the summer, right?  The tests of the Volta system went well. Since the system had plenty of stored energy, there was no need to plug in, even when running the air conditioner for multiple hours. Compared to our 12V lithium battery system, the Volta 48V+ system  is about 250 pounds lighter and the recharge rate (using the higher voltage, high output alternator)  is about 1.8 times faster. The Volta system can easily recharge the batteries while operating the air conditioner.

recreational vehicle van

When we left for Florida, thinking it would be a warm weather trip, we didn’t worry about not having installed the automatic battery heating system (an automatically controlled, low energy, resistance heated blanket inside the battery insulation). This heating system automatically maintains the batteries at a temperature high enough that battery life is maximized. Without the heating system, the battery temperature control failsafe kicks in. It will not allow the batteries to be used at below 32 deg F and it won’t allow the batteries to charge below 43 deg F. These are conservative settings that assure long battery life.

 

As Marcia noted, on our first sleep-stop, we experienced high winds and temperatures dropping to 14 deg F. The battery temperature control failsafe worked as designed, shutting down the batteries when they got too cold, fortunately, not until morning. The existing battery insulation, even without the automatic heating system that we had not installed, worked well under these conditions. As confirmed on the Silverleaf control, the battery temperature dropped slowly through the cold night, and rebounded relatively quickly as it warmed up outside.

Custom RV

After we returned, never having plugged-in over the 17-day trip, we installed the automatic battery heater on Escape and we have routinely  installed this heater on every subsequent Advanced RV Volta installation.  Now, we are ready a March trip back to Florida, ready for cold but hoping for warmth.

 

Thanks for your questions and this chance to clarify Volta battery system operation.

 

To learn more about Escape, click here.

RV travels

Marcia and Mike Neundorfer spent two and a half weeks in January traveling Florida and the Southeast coast in an Advanced RV. They spent all but three nights of the road trip in the motor home. This is Marcia’s reflection on their RV travels:

Friday, January 12, 2018: Can’t escape the cold

We depart Cleveland in “Escape” around noon, in a rush to get ahead of the storm blowing in.  This morning the temperature dropped from 50 degrees to 30 and the rain turned to sleet. We hope that driving south will bring us warmer weather, but when we stop at 6 pm at a closed truck weigh station between Cincinnati and Lexington, it is 22 degrees and snowing.

Saturday, January 13, 2018:  Still can’t escape the cold

At 6:50 am, Mike hears the furnace turn off.  It is 14 degrees and windy, so this is not good.  We recently put the latest Lithium battery system in Escape, but we did not install the battery heating system, since we knew we would be testing these batteries on this “warm” trip to Florida.  To protect themselves from charging and discharging in cold weather, which shortens battery life, these batteries automatically shut down.  We drive to a Love’s truck stop and they put us in a warm bay.  After a long breakfast at Hardees, the batteries are warm enough to supply van power, but have not reached minimum charging temperature (43 degrees).  Luckily, we still have plenty of battery power for the day.

At 3 pm, we stop in Chattanooga at my sister’s house where we planned to spend the night, but it is still below freezing and the batteries are not charging.  At 5:30 pm, they are at 27% and a minimum of 40 degrees, so we get back on the road.  At 10:30 pm, south of Macon, Georgia, the batteries have reached temperature and are fully charged.  We pull into a Pilot Flying J, get the RV washed, and stay the night in their parking lot.

Sunday, January 14, 2018:  Tallahassee, Florida and Cedar Key

We stay warm through the night, but outside it is barely above freezing.  For breakfast, we follow the signs for Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Georgia. With peach and pecan trees extending in straight lines for miles, we arrive at a large barn like building and are welcomed by a friendly staff.  After breakfast, the manager (from Buffalo) takes us on a private tour of their peach packing area.  On the way back to I-75, we pull next to a barn, falling down over the old Ford truck inside—its peach hauling days long over.

Class B RV

Travel Southeast Coast

Continuing south, at Cordele we exit I-75 for a more rural experience on Route 33. We pass cotton fields and pecan orchards into Florida.  At tiny Monticello, we stop for lunch at Monticello Pie, “Local Food, Local People.”  We walk around the town’s rotary and city hall.  At Perkins Opera House, built in 1870 and still hosting performances, Mike asks the guy in the office about visiting Tallahassee. He calls his friend who runs a tour service there and she agrees to take us on walking tour of Tallahassee in 45 minutes.

Monticello, Florida

Beth is great.  She takes us through the downtown historic district, explaining how Tallahassee became the capital of Florida.  She shows us the “first” churches built by slaves, 200-year-old live oak trees, and an old cemetery where Union and Confederate soldiers are buried. We walk around the Florida State Capital Complex, looking up at the 22-story new capital building and the 1902 historic capital, with candy cane striped awnings

Florida Landmarks

On Beth’s recommendation, we drive down to Cedar Key, arriving at 8 pm. We “camp” in the parking lot next to the city park and walk over to the Island Hotel and Restaurant, established in 1859, for a beer and burger.  In the morning, it is only 37 degrees.  A guy from a condo across the street tells us he is surprised by two things:  that we were allowed to stay the night in that lot and that he was he did not hear a generator.  We realize that one reason we get away with parking anyplace is that we do not use a generator, which makes us more stealth.

For breakfast we walk to Annie’s Café, a tiny, weathered, wooden shack with one small space heater for heat.  We poke around the harbor at low tide and walk through the community garden.  We enjoy this funky town, which seems like a small, less developed Key West.  The shower in the camper feels great.  On the way out of town, we hike through Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve and Birding Trail.

Cedar Key Restaurants

Cedar Key Landmark

We arrive at the Tampa SuperShow around 4:30 pm and we are grateful that George Mauro from Humble Road has secured us a camping spot at the fairgrounds next to his Class B.  These were the only spaces available, too small for the big rigs, but perfect for us.  We meet James and Stefany Adinaro from FitRV for dinner in Brandon at Boca, a good farm-to-table restaurant.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018:  Industry Day at the Tampa RV SuperShow

Today is Industry Day at the Tampa RV SuperShow.  We do the rounds of the show, see a few old friends, and show Escape to a potential client. We go to dinner with Otis and Nick from Silverleaf.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018: Manatees, St. Petersburg and Sarasota

We show the RV to a couple from south of Tampa, then drive down to Apollo Beach to visit the Manatee Viewing Center. We take about a ½ mile walk out to a 50-ft. observation tower with a great 360-degree view of  Tampa and the coastal islands to the north and west, and mangroves and palm trees to the south and east. We loop back on the boardwalk to the protected marine reserve maintained by TECO Big Bend Power Plant.  On this cold day, masses of manatees are huddled together at the plant’s warm outlet waters.  These big brown-grey blobs hardly move, except for the occasional flap of their tails and a pop up of their small noses for air.

Apollo Beach Manatees

For a late lunch, we eat at Circles Waterfront Restaurant, TripAdvisor’s #1 restaurant for Apollo Beach. In St. Petersburg, we stop for a short visit with our friends Nancy and Roy Bookbinder, the Piedmont blues performer who travels the country in a Class B.

Visit St. Petersburg

We camp on the street bordering Lido Beach in Sarasota, Florida.

Lido Beach Sarasota Camping

Thursday, January 18, 2018:  Chris Craft in Sarasota, Florida

Why does 37 degrees in Florida feel so much colder than it feels in Cleveland?  We bundle up and walk down to Lido Beach Resort for coffee and the newspaper, make a smoothie in the camper and head out to visit Chris Craft.

Mercedes Sprinter RV

Chris Craft, a high-end boat builder since 1874, is now located near the airport in Sarasota.  We had left a message yesterday, requesting a visit with the president, who is a friend of a friend, but did not receive an answer, so we just show up.  The kind receptionist contacts the V.P. of Sales, who generously shows us a slide show of the history of Chris Craft, discusses the current business and then takes us on a tour of every department. At the end, he introduces us to the two owners, who come out to see our RV.

Chris Craft

Class B Motorhome

We head further south, hike in Oscar Scherer State Park north of Nokomis and spend the night at a Walmart in Port Charlotte.

Friday, January 19, 2018: Fort Myers, Florida and Sanibel Island

In Fort Myers, Florida we stop at our friends Dave and Carol’s, and go with them to a tiny, good old-fashioned breakfast spot. From there, we drive to Sanibel Island to visit our friends Barbara and Zack.  We find their condo on the east side of the island, with a view of the Gulf and a short walk to the beach.  We think we will visit a few hours, but at their kind invitation we decide to move into their cabana on the first floor.  We go to dinner in Fort Myers at the Cracker Box, a tiny, quirky place with live music.  Dave and Carol, and friends of Barbara and Zack’s, join us.

Cracker Box Fort Myers

Saturday, January 20, 2018:  Ding Darling Natural Wildlife Refuge

Mike and I walk the Sanibel eastern beach, joining the many shell seekers.  We have a lovely breakfast at Barbara and Zack’s and then Zack takes us to Ding Darling Natural Wildlife Refuge, about 10 minutes from their condo.  Zack stops at the best bird viewing places and helps us identify the many shore and wading birds.  Barbara takes photographs and moves the car ahead, while Mike and I walk along Wildlife Road. For dinner, we go to an excellent French restaurant on Sanibel.

Ding Darling Natural Wildlife Refuge

Sanibel Eastern Beach

Sunday, January 21, 2018:  Seashell Museum

We walk/run the Sanibel beach down to the lighthouse, have another excellent breakfast at Barbara and Zack’s, and go to the Seashell Museum. We are fascinated by both the science and art of seashells and the creatures that live inside them, all so well displayed here.  In the late afternoon, Mike and I have a swim in the pool and then enjoy grilled lamb chops at Barbara and Zack’s.

Monday, January 22, 2018:  West coast to East Coast, Florida

What we thought would be a few hours visit with Barbara and Zack on Sanibel, now has turned into three days.  We hate to leave, but midmorning we head back to Dave and Carol’s to watch the video of their cruise through the Northwest Passage. We drive down to the Edison/Ford Winter Estate, but decide that we don’t have enough time to enjoy it.  We head across Alligator Alley to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, get groceries at Whole Foods, and stop for the night in the parking lot of the Original Pancake House, where in the morning we will meet a friend for breakfast.  Just as we are settling down for the night, we hear a loud knock on the camper side door.  Mike answers in a deep, aggressive voice.  There is no response.  Mike goes out, while I have 911 ready on the cell phone.  No one is there and there is no more knocking.  This is the first time this has happened. It might have been someone leaving the bar next door.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018:  Fort Lauderdale, Florida and a parking ticket

Despite the late knock on the door, we sleep well.  We meet our friend for breakfast and then head north up A1A.  At Lauderdale-on-the-Sea, we park on a street side, pay the meter, and take an hour beach walk.  When we get back, we find a $25 ticket, saying that motor home parking is not allowed here.  There was no sign indicating this and our camper fit within the lines of the parking space.  We go into the Chamber of Commerce across the street and they suggest we park in their lot and walk up two blocks to City Hall to dispute the ticket. The woman at the City Hall desk takes our complaint and says she will have her supervisor call us.  We have a good lunch near the pier. On the way out of town, we get the first call from an assertive administrator insisting that we must pay the ticket.  Mike complains again that there was no way of knowing that we were in violation.  In a few minutes, we get a second call from a more accommodating person, saying the ticket is excused.  We drive about 100 miles south of St. Augustine and stay the night at a Flying J. I work on my blog, with the passenger seat turned around and my feet up on the adjustable foot stool.

Custom RV

Wednesday, January 24, 2018:  Jekyll Island and Hilton Head

Near St. Augustine, we meet a friend for coffee and then continue north to Jekyll Island, Georgia. My maternal grandmother and grandfather met here about 1908. She was a governess for one of the original prominent families who started the Jekyll Island Club in the 1880’s as an exclusive Gilded Era retreat.  My grandfather was the master of the harbor where these families docked their yachts after sailing from northern ports.  We do a tour of the historical center, pass the partially restored “cottage” where my grandmother worked in the winter season, and then hike Driftwood Beach, voted one of America’s 10 Most Romantic Beaches.

Jekyll Island, Georgia Driftwood Beach

We continue to Hilton Head and meet friends for dinner there.  We spend the night at the Hilton Head Walmart, tucked between pine trees and magnolias, like the best of South Carolina campsites.

Thursday, January 25, 2018: To the Outer Banks, North Carolina

We get coffee at a Hilton Head Dunkin’ Donuts and catch up using their WiFi.  We take two laps around the lake at the center of Jarvis Creek Park and see two alligators sunning themselves on the bank.  We drive to North Carolina and spend the night in a Food Lion parking lot in Whitesville.

Friday, January 26, 2018:  Deserted Beach and Ocracoke Island

We drive to Wilmington, North Carolina, stop at their downtown Dunkin’ Donuts, and walk the River Walk.

Wilmington, North Carolina Travel

East of Jacksonville near Camp Lejeune, we stop at another Food Lion for a few groceries and the checkout clerk recommends the Cuban sandwiches at La Cocina next door.  They are excellent.  At Cedar Island, while waiting for the ferry out to Ocracoke Island, we walk the deserted sandy beach at low tide in our down jackets and hats.

RV Camper Van

Visit Ocracoke Island

Okracoke Island Sea Grass

After a 2-hour ferry ride, we arrive at Ocracoke Island in the dark.  We drive down the main street looking for life on this cold January night.  We stop at one place with lights on and discover a new brewery that describes itself as “Sorta Open.”  We order a couple of beers.  At the bar, a young guy from South Africa tells us that if we want food, we can order from a Mexican place down the street and bring it back.  Mike calls them, and although they say they are closing, they agree to fix us some food.  Mike drives down to this tiny roadside trailer and brings back the best burritos we’ve ever had.  We spend the night in the Visitor Center parking lot.

Saturday, January 27, 2018:  Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras

It is a sunny, 55-degree morning and we find Magic Bean Coffee open. We drive up Ocracoke Island, stopping at a beach where as far as we can see there are no people or even footsteps.

Orcacoke Island Beaches

We catch the ferry from Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras and continue to drive with Pamlico Sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  We stop at Pea Island National Wildlife Reserve and do a 4mile hike on the nature trail around the inland lake.

Pea Island National Wildlife Reserve

At the Wright Brothers National Memorial just south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, we find the Visitor Center closed for renovations, but we take a quick look through the temporary center commemorating the 1903 first airplane flight by the brothers from Dayton, Ohio, Orville and Wilbur. Out on the field, just beyond the two barns where they lived and worked, granite markers indicate the take-off and landing points of four flights that day, the farthest being 852 feet in 59 seconds.  It seems so short, but this was the first manned, powered and controlled flight of an airplane.

At Virginia Beach, we meet clients for dinner at their restaurant Mahi Mah, a delicious, busy Asian fusion place located in the ocean front Ramada, which they own. They offer us an ocean view room, but we turn them down.  We are comfortable in the camper, like our own bed, and don’t want to schlepp our stuff, so we camp in the parking lot.

Sunday, January 28, 2018:  Monticello

After free coffee from the Ramada, we head up the street to Neptune’s statue on the Virginia Beach boardwalk.

Virginia Beach Boardwalk Landmark

The “boardwalk” is a wide, concrete sidewalk, with a separate concrete bike lane.  On this cool, rainy morning, people are out jogging. We head to Charlottesville to visit Monticello.

At the Monticello Visitor Center, an inviting, two-level wooden complex, we view a good introductory film on Thomas Jefferson.   We take the shuttle bus up to the mountaintop on which Jefferson’s home is situated. We explore the cellar passage, where the stables, ice house, and wine and beer cellars were located.  For the house tour, our guide is excellent, answering questions and explaining the architecture of the home and the background of its contents and residents.  He presents the paradox of Jefferson’s statement that “all men are created equal” and his being a slaveholder all his life.  We walk Mulberry Row, where the slave quarters were and end up at Jefferson’s grave.

Monticello Jefferson Statue

We continue west and stop for the night just before we reach the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Monday, January 29, 2018:  Sad encounter on the Blue Ridge, Roanoke and home

In the morning mist, we get on the Blue Ridge Parkway and for the first 30 minutes we see one bicyclist and one car.  As the fog lifts, we stop at a few overlooks to see the vistas opening up below.  One hour into our drive, off the road and down the embankment, we see a red Chevy Blazer with the front end smashed into a tree.  We stop and scramble down the hill.  The car is locked, but through the window we see a man’s body, sprawled face down across the front seat.  Mike hurries back to the camper to get the instrument for breaking a window in an emergency.  I watch the man’s back and detect no sign of breathing, so we decide there is no need to break the window.  We call 911.  A park employee happens by and he radios in.  We wait about 40 minutes for a police car and fire engine to arrive.  It appears that the man died before the car went off the road.

We arrive about an hour late at our friends’ home near Roanoke.  After brunch, seeing the temperatures in the high twenties all the way to Cleveland, we decide to drive all the way home.  We arrive at 9:30 pm.

It was a good trip traveling through Florida and the Southeast coast, seeing many friends, clients and potential clients.  We did not use any campgrounds, never plugged in, and dumped twice.  We rarely made plans more than a day ahead. We enjoyed many places, old and new, and once again appreciated the ability to travel so comfortably and flexibly in Escape.

 

To purchase Escape for your own travels, learn more about the  vehicle here.

fifth annual Advanced Fest and open house

Save the date! Our fifth annual Advanced Fest and Open House will be held on May 4-6, 2018 at our NEW plant, just down the road from our current facility in Willoughby, Ohio.

We’re excited to bring together our clients, potential clients, staff, and business partners from around the nation at the festivities. This fun, event-filled weekend is all about celebration—we look forward to connecting with you, sharing stories and conversations, and exploring the unique, innovative motor home features we’ve created on the Mercedes-Benz 3500 Sprinter platform.

The weekend schedule includes a variety of workshops, facility tours, and discussions. We’ll have a great time enjoying live entertainment, bonfires, and wonderful food. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet our passionate craftspeople and company owner, Mike Neundorfer. Like we said, it’s all about belonging, so be sure to get the contact information from the friends you meet—that way, you can find them down the road.

Here are a few testimonials from past attendees of Advanced Fest:

“As I see it, you have developed an atmosphere of trust, loyalty, enthusiasm, excellence, and a feeling of family with your staff and clients.  It doesn’t get any better.”

“Multiple day programs create a connection between owners, guests, and staff so that at the end, everyone feels like family.”

“The innovating. It’s great. You’re an idea factory.”

Read more about our fifth annual Advanced Fest here

Click here to register.

 

 

Meet Roger and Jan, owners of “Hans,” a 2012 Mercedes Benz Sprinter 3500, and a 2013 Ocean One conversion by Advanced-RV. In August 2017, the couple traveled Quebec Route 389 and the Trans-Labrador Highway 500 and 510. This is their adventure.

Leaving Quebec

We left starting in Baie-Comeau, Quebec on Sunday, August 20 on Quebec Route 389, which runs north from Baie-Comeau, QC, 406 kilometers (252 miles) over twisting blacktop and rough gravel road to Fermont, QC, near the border with Newfoundland and Labrador.

We headed for Manic 5, a hydroelectric dam and power plant (the fifth and biggest on the Manicoughan River, thus the name) in the rain. The road was good blacktop pavement, but it twists and turns—and climbs up and down—as it works its way northward from the north coast of the Fleuve Saint-Laurent (Saint Lawrence River) through the heavily forested coastal mountains. We were told that the road twists and turns so much because they had to build it where the ground was solid enough to support the heavy truck traffic to the power plants and mines to the north. Manic 5—or more properly “Barrage Daniel-Johnson Manic Cinq”—draws water from a somewhat uniquely constructed dam that consists of seven arches supported by buttresses to lessen the amount of concrete and fill necessary to hold back the reservoir of water to power the generators. At the time it was constructed in the late 1960s, it was said to have been the largest construction project in North America. It now supplies power to the Province in the winter and New England in the summer.

We had arrived about 5 p.m., just in time for the last tour of the facility and spent the night boondocking at an overlook that gave us a glorious view of the dam lit up for the night.. We refueled at the Manic 5 gas station, a facility with fuel, restaurant, small cabins and gravel parking area for trucks. It’s 209 km from Baie-Comeau, and we purchased 34.09 litres at $1.374ca/litre ($5.2009 USD/gallon – not figuring the conversion anymore, as the US dollar is up against the Canadian dollar but the prices are higher and there is a 15% Harmonized Sales Tax on everything).

 

Headed out from Manic 5 on a steep, pothole-filled, gravel road we continued 223 km to Relais Gabriel over two and a half hours. The road further along was not too bad, but had lots of grades with washboarding. There was also a lot of road construction—mostly to replace culverts where streams cross the roadway, seemingly in preparation for paving. After lunch, Jan started driving 175 km of pavement to the “former town of Gagnon” and Fire Lake, and from there 67 km of nasty, nasty gravel road but some incredible scenery, especially as we passed the Manicouagon Impact Crater, which is the result of a meteor collision about 214 or so million years ago.

The hard, pitted, narrow road with many sharp turns had numerous railroad crossings, and at each crossing the potholes were numerous and deep so we were reduced to crawling speed. It took 4 hours to go the 242 km (150 miles!) from Gagnon to Fermont, QC, where we spent the night boondocking at a municipal campground.

 

van camper

 

Across the Border 

 

From Fermont, QC, it is just a short jump past the giant CAT dump truck and around the corner on a paved road to cross the border into Labrador City, NL.  We stopped at Tamarack Golf Course before getting into town to play 9 holes at a very well-cared for local course. We stayed overnight in the parking lot behind the Visitor Information Center. In the morning we did some shopping at Canadian Tire and Walmart—the last of those until central Newfoundland, picked up a Satellite Phone in Wabush (to be used in case of emergencies only) and set out in the rain for Churchill Falls on good pavement. Churchill Falls is a government company town owned by NALCOR (the Newfound and Labrador Energy Company). We boondocked overnight in the Town Centre’s parking lot. The next morning we toured the NALCOR power plant. It is entirely underground and built into 3.9 billion year old rock. It produces over twice the power of the Hoover Dam, sending power to the eastern seaboard of CA and US.

 

We traveled onward over 305 km of good paved highway to Happy Valley – Goose Bay, where we boondocked a couple nights on the beach at an abandoned campground called Gosling Park. There is a very well done Labrador Interpretive Centre at the nearby town of North West River telling the history of Labrador from when the First Peoples came about 10,000 years ago following the retreat of the last glaciers at the end of the Wisconsin Glacial period, then the Aboriginals, the Innu, the Inuit, the Settlers, the Metis to the Resettlement in the 1930s. “Modern” Labrador development didn’t occur until the 1900s because the land was so harsh and the flies so bad (the Trans Labrador Highway is only about 20 years old.)  We considered, but did not take, the local supply boat to several native communities on the northeastern coast of Labrador to Nain.

We drove on toward Cartwright, leaving about noon and arriving about 7 p.m. Of the 400km, the first 67km was good pavement, followed by ok gravel road, then 100km of bad washboard and potholed road until the turnoff onto Hwy 516. Then it was 85 km of gravel, to Cartwright. We boondocked in the airport parking lot for the night, then went to the “Experience Labrador” outfitters and took a boat tour to the “Wonderstrand”—so named by the Vikings in about 1400, for its 53km of sand beach. We spent the rest of the time enjoying a rare day of sunshine in the harbor, watching the tide go out and the lights of the town come on.

 

luxury rv

The next morning it was on towards Battle Harbour, and back over 85km of ok gravel, then another 100km of washboard, dodging potholes and embedded rocks, to St. Mary’s Harbour where we boondocked in the Visitors Centre parking lot before going on to Battle Harbour for the next day and night. Battle Harbour is the site of a very successful and busy cod fishery business from the 1500s until the Cod Moratorium. Imposed by the Newfoundland government on a temporary basis in 1952 but still active, this moratorium essentially ended the cod fishing industry in Newfound and Labrador.

Battle Harbour is now a National Historic District/Heritage Site: “[A] restored salt fish premises and community on an island in the Labrador Sea, with virtually no modern distractions…” There are, however, guided walking tours, whale watching boat tours, hiking trails, wonderful accommodations and gourmet meals prepared by women who lived on the island until “Resettlement” of remote Labrador communities in the 1970s.  This is a must-see place to spend a day and night, or better, 2 or 3 days.

After a wonderful breakfast of homemade waffles with Partridge Berry jam and maple syrup (all meals are prepared onsite with local ingredients as much as possible), we travelled on about 90 km to Red Bay, site of early Basque whaling operations from the 1600s, where paved roads were welcomed again.

We drove on to the historic L’Anse-Amour lighthouse and then L’Anse-au-Clair, where we dropped off our unused sat-phone and crossed back into Quebec. We just caught the evening ferry at Blanc Sablon over to St Barbe, Newfoundland, on August 30—10 days after we left Bair-Comeau.

 

In the End

I said that we “welcomed” the paved roads at Red Bay, but not fondly, for the rest of our time in Labrador and Newfoundland, we had to be ever vigilant to dodge cracks and pits and potholes and rough transitions at bridges—even on the Trans Canada Highway in NFLD. The maximum posted speed limit on the TCH is 100 km/h, most roads had 70 or 80 km/h, and back roads had posted limits of 50 km/h or less. And we rarely drove that fast with our house on wheels because of all the dodging we had to do to stay in our seats and keep the dishes quiet.

 

Custom RV

According to my Fuel Buddy app, we covered about 2,245 km (1,395 miles), using about 318.8 ltr (84.22 gallons) of diesel, at a cost of 512.19 CAD ($410.82 USD). That figures to 16.55 mpg. Good tires are a necessity. We have new Michelin Defenders, and together with a good suspension system (the VB Air suspension that ARV installs) the roads were bearable.

The dust was bad on the dirt roads, covering Hans and crusting our bicycles. Some people we spoke with later, who had made the same TLH crossing, spent a couple hours cleaning dust from all the nooks and crannies in their Class C RVs, but our Sprinter with ARV’s added insulation was quite dust-free on the inside. We suffered no great harm despite the shaking (but the 600km of gravel wore through the fiberglass tray that holds our drain hose as the only visible casualty).

It was a wonderful trip in a far away place, and an adventure we would recommend to all travelers. However, it is a trip we would not make again until the roads are paved—and then with some reservations. The provincial government in Newfoundland, promise that the whole highway will be paved by 2020, but the people in Labrador tell us that they have been hearing promises of pavement for many election cycles and will believe it when they see it.

Also some suggestions: leave the bikes at home because of the dust, because the roads are bad and narrow and because there are no bike paths in NL. Take your fishing gear as Labrador is said to have some of the best fishing in the world, and there are many places where lakes and rivers meet the road. And lastly, plan the week to take the boat to Nain—we couldn’t figure how to deal with leaving Hans alone for that much time.

The adventure to Labrador is off the beaten path … but we wish we could have gone to the even more rugged and beautiful places far off the highway, accessible only by ski-doo, boats and bush planes.

 

adventure

After we left Labrador we spent all of September on the island of Newfoundland, which is an ancient land of friendly people, unique beauty and interest: from the site at L’Anse aux Meadows where Lief Erickson landed in 1000 A.D; to Gros Mourne National Park where you can walk on the earth’s Mantle; to the many coves and inlets on along the coasts such as Twillingate and Fogo Island and the site of one of the “Four Corners Of The World” (according to the Flat Earth Society;) to Gander in central NFLD, the site of the largest airport in the world in the early days of transoceanic flight; to Bona Vista where John Cabot landed in 1497 opening the land to European fisheries and  still vital communities; to Saint John’s, the capital city at the eastern-most point of North America.

conversion van rv

It is a land well worth visiting and more accessible than Labrador – but not without challenging pothole-filled roads. When visiting Newfoundland however do not miss the chance to take the ferry over from St. Barbe, NFLD to Blanc Sablon, QC, to visit the Cote Nord and from there the road on up into Southeastern Labrador –  to Red Bay and up to Battle Harbour – is in good shape and well worth the few hour’s drive to be “Lost and Found” in Labrador as the NL Traveller’s Guide puts it!

To start designing your own Advanced RV, visit our website here.