RV travels

Marcia’s RV Travels: Florida and the Southeast Coast

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

Fifth Annual Advanced Fest May 4-6, 2018 – Registration Is Now Open!

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.

 

 

Off the Beaten Path With Hans: An Adventure to Labrador

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.

class b rv

A Special Visit From Our New Friend George From Humble Road

A month or two ago, Greg, owner of Radio Days recommended that Mike N take a look at the Humble Road You Tube channel. Mike searched Humble Road, was impressed and then looked further into the work of Humble Road originator, George Mauro and was blown away. Mike loved George’s incredible photography and videography, not to mention his humble and creative approach.

 

Mike immediately sat down and wrote George an email inviting him to visit Advanced RV. George accepted the invitation and they met within a few weeks. Mike and George spent time getting to know each other and shooting some fun video George had outlined.

 

custom rv

Mike and the rest of us at Advanced-RV feel honored that George visited and even more honored to be part of Humble Road reporting. George and Mike plan to stay in touch and to collaborate in many ways in the future.

 

We recommend that you visit the Humble Road You Tube site, subscribe to his channel and start to look at George’s fun and amazing videos starting with “A Special Visit To A Special Place.” We warn you to make sure when you watch George’s first video you have time to watch them all. You won’t be able to stop watching.

 

 

Learn more about Advanced RV here.

Custom RV

What Affects Personal Comfort in a Class B RV?

Thank you to Bruce Henshall, Director at Qdot Dynamics Pty. Ltd., for creating this article.

 

Have you ever noticed that some rooms are comfortable to sit in while some others are distinctly uncomfortable after just a few minutes, even though the air temperature is the same?

Have you ever experienced the office thermostat being changed up and down by some folks who like it warm and the others who like it colder?

What are the factors that contribute to a comfortable environment and why is it so difficult to find the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of just right?

Air temperature alone is not a good predictor of how comfortable you will feel in an air-conditioned space.

Your body is finely tuned to detect how much heat is entering or leaving your body. Lose too much heat and you feel cold. Gain too much heat and you will start to feel hot & uncomfortable.

 

Sprinter RV

 

Striking the right balance between heat loss and gain is the key to finding a comfortable environment.

Heat is transferred between the body and the environment via 3 pathways – convection, radiation and conduction. Convection is typically from the body to the surrounding air, radiation can be from sunlight or being close to a warm object and conduction is from a solid to your body surface (think of lying on the cool bathroom tiles on a hot day)

Factors that affect human comfort

  1. Air temperature
  2. Radiant temperature
  3. Air speed
  4. Humidity
  5. Personal factors – metabolic rate & clothing levels

The first 4 factors are functions of the environment and air conditioning systems. The last one is a function of your activity levels and what you are wearing.

Air temperature is what you can measure with a thermometer or your air conditioning systems thermostat.

 

 

luxury rv

 

Radiant temperature is a measure of how much heat radiation is falling on your skin and clothing. Think of how nice it feels on a cold day standing in the sunshine.

Air speed affects the convective heat transfer from your skin to the surrounding air. You would be most familiar with the way air speed interacts with air temperature to give ‘wind chill’.

Humidity is a measure of how much water is dissolved in the air. This is important for personal comfort because the body can lose heat by sweating. If the air is already full of water (high humidity) then sweating is less effective.

The two personal factors of metabolic rate and clothing are very important and probably have the largest effect on your comfort levels

Your metabolic rate (think of having an internal furnace that is burning food and turning it into heat) is a function of activity. Its typically low when you are sleeping and resting but quickly rises when you become active.

Clothing levels directly change the amount of insulation between your body and the environment. More clothing equals lower heat loss, great if you are outside on a cold day but if you are overdressed on a hot day indoors then this may cause you to turn down the AC thermostat unnecessarily. If you are sitting down in a chair, then that chair also counts as your clothing.

So how do these 5 factors interact? The University of California has put together the ‘Centre for the Built Environment   Thermal comfort tool’ that will give you an insight into finding a comfortable combination of these factors.

For the technically minded, you can find this tool on line at http://comfort.cbe.berkeley.edu/

Figure 1 is an example of an environment that 95% of people would regard as comfortable. The red circle is square in the middle of the blue ‘Goldilocks Zone’ – just right

Figure 1 – Just right

 

If you change any or all of the factors above, then you can move the red circle out of the blue zone into uncomfortable.

Figure 2 is an example where the radiant temperature is up a bit (some direct sunlight on your body), the air flow has decreased and humidity has increased. Note that you are still seated quietly in the same clothing as the first example and the air temperature has not changed from 80⁰F.  This is a condition that 1 in 5 people will find uncomfortably warm.

 

 

comfort

Figure 2 – Uncomfortably warm

 

Why do I go to sleep comfortable but wake up cold even though the air temperature hasn’t changed?

As you move into sleep your metabolic rate decreases and you are generating less heat. Starting from our original example of comfortable conditions and decreasing the metabolic rate to sleep levels we see that 70% of people would find these conditions too cool with that level of clothing.

 

comfort class b rv

 

Figure 3 – Too cool during sleep

Another interesting point from the Berkeley comfort tool is that even with every condition exactly right 95% of people will be satisfied but 5% will still be dissatisfied. Personal comfort is a very personal thing!

Two other factors that can influence your comfort levels are to do with air quality –  CO2 (carbon dioxide) and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) concentrations. CO2 is produced as you metabolise food, so there is no getting away from it. However, ensuring that there is a supply of fresh air will dilute the CO2 and prevent that ‘stale room’ feel. High CO2 levels will lead to fatigue and poor concentration. VOC ‘s come from most of our modern plastic based furnishings & paints. Probably best known is the ‘new car smell’. Different people can have vastly different reactions to VOC levels in the air. Again, the only remedy is ensuring a good supply of fresh air enters your living area.

 

 

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Summary:

  1. Adjust your clothing levels to suit your environment. It’s the most effective factor that you have direct control over. Getting this right will save on air conditioning & heating costs.
  2. In hot conditions it pays to eliminate direct sunlight entering the room. This contributes to the radiant temperature that you experience.
  3. Ensure that you have an appropriate amount of fresh air entering the room. It will improve your levels of comfort and reduce fatigue.
  4. Air temperature, Air speed and humidity are functions of your AC system. Ensure that your system has the right cooling capacity, will deliver the right amount of air flow and can dry the air in humid conditions.
  5. Comfort levels during the sleeping hours can be improved by use of an air conditioning system’s SLEEP function. This will allow the air temperature to increase slightly and help to prevent waking up cold as your metabolic rate decreases through the night.

 

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Learn more about Advanced RV’s systems here: https://advanced-rv.com/framework/

 

custom class b

Crow – A Custom Class B Motorhome Dream Turned Reality

Thank you to Crow’s owners for creating this article for us.

 

Like a small but growing number of women my age (boomer generation) I came to RVs some twelve or thirteen years ago, seeking a solution to traveling with three large German Shepherds. Not intending to live in it full-time, and wanting the flexibility of using it as a second vehicle, I decided the “B” Class was the right fit. Here was ostensibly safe, reliable transportation for a small traveling circus, at a reasonable cost, that would enhance the possibilities of extended travel for me. It would have a bed, a head (wc & showering capability) and a galley of sorts…and could be parked, I’d hoped, just about anywhere, including ‘stealth’ overnight sleeping, city streets, and the most rural and forested places with road-access.

 

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I was both thrilled and disappointed. Thrilled to have fallen upon a real classic, the VW/Winnebago Rialta (discontinued in 2005) built on the VW Eurovan chassis with a telescoping bathroom, and skylight, 21 mpg on the road. With a feather and foam mattress topper my dogs and I could not have been any cozier. Disappointed, however because the insulation left us wanting in the colder months, and unable to keep cool with the undersized a/c during the hot summers as we travelled through the south. The ride was noisy, so it was hard to listen to books-on-tape. And the worst of it all was that repairs, from the very smallest, to the large mysterious ones, became a constant source of anxiety because VW quickly disavowed any responsibility for the vehicles once they stopped production (no one wanted to work on crawlers) and truck repair facilities didn’t want to work on VWs…so as the Rialta aged, and I travelled less and less, the breakdowns became more frequent and the fears getting on the road became prohibitive to being on the road!

 

 

Once again, determined not to give up so easily, I started looking for a replacement. I climbed in and out of the tried and true Airstream, Pleasure Way and Roadtrek models built on the Sprinter chassis I had been reading about…but each of them, with hefty price tags, has some serious setbacks. Not the least of which was dismal dealer ratings.

You drive off a lot after paying close to 200 grand for a vehicle and then what? Apparently not very much according to the various online ‘boards’ and ratings available. And my own experiences with repair work at several RV sales and service places up and down the Eastern seaboard certainly cemented those impressions.

Assuming you are a rather trusting (read naïve) individual, or handy and can do most everything yourself, you may remain undaunted by those things…but there remains these ‘other’ concerns one might have like gas or diesel? Engine size? Tires? Size of water and waste tanks? Roominess? Heat and a/c capabilities? Comfort? Bathroom functional? Storage? Well, you get the point…and making real comparisons was even tougher. I found that for the money, the vehicles couldn’t deliver what I was expecting.

Eventually, after a year or two, I cannot recall how I came upon Advanced-RV, but I seem to think I read a small article in a trade publication? Or saw something online? About a small new company that did custom Class B builds, which at the time included kennels for dogs under the sleeping berths. THAT appealed to me immediately and I looked at their website, which I must admit was difficult for me to navigate, being a technological dinosaur! Even more daunting was the technology describing the various builds…no more propane cooktops? No more generator? Lithium ion batteries? Additional alternator? Air suspension? 360 cameras? High-top with ductwork for the heat and a/c? Incomprehensible! I had to speak with a friend (an engineer) and ask about some of these things, which I discovered were indeed possible and state of the art!

 

custom rv

 

I sent an inquiry on the website and made a call to the number provided to see if I could afford one of these RVs (no prices were mentioned) and was knocked out altogether when the company owner returned my call within MINUTES.

This was the beginning of what I hope and expect will be a long and enduring relationship with a company and individuals I have only great respect and admiration for…

I am currently the very proud owner of a 2016/17 build, CROW…super high-top Mercedes Benz 3500 6 cylinder 24ft custom Class B, built by Advanced RV of Willoughby, OH. You can go online at the Advanced-RV.com website and have a look, along with their other builds in the ‘Gallery’.

Imagine yourself in a vehicle that drives like an automobile! It is smooth and quiet and handles like a dream…

Imagine yourself in a first class hotel each night! One of the twin beds is articulated with a massage function, allowing me to ‘lounge’ with back and legs up, fully adjusted for my comfort after a day’s drive…outfitted with my own favorite down and linen bedding!

 

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Imagine a bathroom, sparkling clean, and roomy enough for most if not all people… with additional space provided OUTSIDE the confines of the allotted footprint! And a porcelain toilet! With marine-quality fittings!

 

large bathroom class b rv

Imagine a galley kitchen with portable (induction) cooktops stored away until they are used, freeing up counter space! And a large refrigerator and freezer! A built-in microwave/convection oven!

Built-in coffee maker! Or perhaps you’d prefer an electric kettle? And plenty of cabinet space to store your cookware, tableware and even pantry items!

 

conversion van rv

Imagine a safe, temperature-controlled environment for your animals! No more worries about the heat or the cold because the built-in systems will keep the temperature you choose and you will have the capability of checking it wherever you go whenever you are unable to bring them along (whether hiking, a museum exhibit, or dinner) to ensure their safety!

 

recreational vehicle van

Imagine your ticket to a sane, safer way to travel. To more independence. To greater freedom.

I did. And found it all and a great deal more in the capable hands of Mike Neundorfer and all the folks at Advanced-RV. I can promise you, if these are the things you are hoping for in your own life, you will not be disappointed. Your build will only be limited by your imagination…

 

View our Gallery of custom Class B motor homes here: https://advanced-rv.com/gallery/

Camper Van

An Advanced RV Honeymoon Camper Van Style

Brittany Immormino, part of the Advanced-RV team, and her new husband Steven enjoyed their honeymoon … the Advanced-RV way. Read about Brittany’s honeymoon in her own words!

As many of you know, Steven and I took a motorhome on our honeymoon, and it wasn’t any ordinary camper van. We traveled in Giddy Up, a 4×4 Advanced-RV. Giddy Up has the highest audio configuration, coziest articulating twin beds, ample fridge space to hold all of our wedding leftovers, and numerous safety and visibility technology to make driving this Class B even safer.

Class B RV

We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to travel in Advanced-RV rental vans when they’re not in use. Each time our team members take trips, we come back with a list of tweaks and ideas for how to improve this or that. Well, after our trip in Giddy Up, you could count our list on one hand. After years of all of our team members scrutinizing every square inch of our motorhomes, the implementation of everyone’s ideas made the trip incredibly comfortable and effortless. And I don’t think our star struck eyes caused us to see everything in a good light. Plain and simple, Giddy Up was an absolute dream to travel in for our honeymoon.

luxury rv

During our trip, we kept a journal and are glad to share some of our most cherished memories from our two-week trip. The following list outlines our main stops in chronologic order, and the asterisks mark our favorites:

    • The I Love Lucy Museum in Jamestown, NY

sprinter rv

    • Ellicottville Brewing Company
    • Hiking at Letchworth State Park

custom rv

    • Glen Iris Inn

    • Horseback riding at Overland Morgan Farms

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    • St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Canaseraga, NY
    • Clute Park Campground (the only campsite we stayed in to stop to dump and fill up with fresh water mid-trip)
    • Watkins Glen

travel

    • Corning Museum of Glass

    • The Rockwell Museum, A Smithsonian Affiliate
    • Longwood Gardens

We had wonderful weather for the majority of our trip, and Steve did most of the driving. Thank you to everyone who continues to support us and ARV. We hope to see you in Cleveland soon!

Learn more about Advanced RV here.

Camper Van

Custom RV manufacturer

Brinton Lincoln Joins the Advanced RV Team

Mike Neundorfer, of Advanced-RV, is pleased to announce that Brinton Lincoln has joined Advanced RV and associated companies as Vice President of Operations. Brinton honed his leadership skills during 13 years in the US military and as a principal in a successful Cleveland, Ohio start-up. His degrees are in business and strategy. Brinton has immediately assumed the lead in current production and facility configuration for our relocation and consolidation in our new, enlarged facilities. “I am honored that Brinton has chosen to join the Advanced RV team and help us to realize our many product and production goals,” says Mike Neundorfer.

Advanced RV team

Brinton states “It’s a true pleasure for me to join such a tight knit and talented team. Advanced RV differentiates itself through its dedication to customer satisfaction.  Everyone within the organization aims to not just meet, but far exceed expectations.  Impressively, they accomplish such by continuously innovating state of the art technologies all while accepting nothing less than the very highest quality of craftsmanship.  I am both humbled and excited to join the ARV team.”

Read more about Brinton on our Team page here.

 

Class B RV

Off Grid Peace of Mind in a Class B RV

Jean and Ed, owners of Dottie, are enjoying the first few months of a planned 18-month tiny home immersion experience. They sold their traditional home earlier in the year and will transition to a new home in the fall of 2018 once construction is completed. While they have plans to follow the sun once we start into the winter, they can currently be found at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. Solidly into their second year of volunteering at this gorgeous park, Jean and Ed devote five out of every seven days to their duties in the MeadoWatch and Meadow Roving programs at Mount Rainier. This arrangement works out beautifully in that the Park system provides free camping to volunteers and the couple stay on-site, in Dottie, with daily short trips between their campground and the Paradise area of the Park.

off grid

“Other than our daily back and forth trips of approximately 9 miles, we have an occasional drive into the local town of Ashford that is about 14 miles away from the campground”, said Jean. “We always have plenty of battery power throughout this 5-day stay”. Jean and Ed commented that this is probably not surprising to other experienced ARV owners—but it doesn’t hurt to remind the community.

Dottie is outfitted with ARV’s current production-level, version 2 Lithium battery pack—but Jean and Ed do have the older alternator. This 800Ahr unit is supplemented by solar panels that contribute an incremental amount of power and a weekly round trip to their former neighborhood (three hours in each direction) provides all of the power that they need. With a 420 watt capacity, the highest power contribution that Ed and Jean have observed through their Silver Leaf system is +13A. The Park campground (Cougar Rock) does provide drinking water and a place to dump Dottie’s tanks, but—as is the case at many campgrounds, there are no electric hookups. Although generators are allowed in certain loops of the campground, Jean and Ed are happy to report that they have not needed to use their Genset this entire summer. “If we had to depend on an electric plug-in system or run our generator all the time”, observed Ed, “this wouldn’t be workable”.

effortless systems

Solid engineering and useful innovation are hallmarks of ARV. In fact, the company is in continual beta-test mode with various products and technologies. “We are always searching out compelling offerings—particularly in energy storage technology”, said Frank Kolasinski. “Enabling our customers to stay off the grid as long as possible is the goal”.

Although the warmth of spring was late in arriving at Mount Rainier, the summer has proven to be remarkably dry and sunny. The two volunteers have documented over 50 days of sunlight at the Park so far which enables them to execute their normal breakfast and dinner activities as well as occasional full-day fan ventilation with little or no reduction in available battery power. “On a few really hot days in the high 90’s, we even ran the house AC for intervals”, said Jean. “We always had plenty of power and were never close to needing the Genset”.

Dottie will return to Willoughby, Ohio this fall to be updated to the latest alternator before Jean and Ed head south and winter in Southern New Mexico and South Padre Island in Texas. Once the weather breaks in 2018, they hope to travel to Alaska before settling back in for another summer of volunteer work at Mount Rainier.

You can see more photos of Dottie in our Gallery here

Luxury RV

VB AirSuspension Installation – Now Easier to Retrofit

Advanced RV now offers a new generator mount that streamlines the VB AirSuspension installation for Winnebago and Coachman Class B and C motor homes. Advanced RV has always done VB AirSuspension upgrades on Class B and C motor homes manufactured by others. One of the challenges with these installs can be interference with OEM equipment under the chassis. Advanced RV re-routes wires and plumbing, and makes other changes as needed to accommodate the VB air suspension install. With the new generator mount, this process is quicker and cheaper.  It take two days and can usually be scheduled within two or three weeks.

 

VB airsuspension installation

 

Learn more about installing VB AirSuspension on your motorhome here.