Final car towing check, some parking practice, and we are ready to leave St. Pete. Not easy to find a large vacant parking lot in Pinellas County!
One full-time RVer’s description of the land traveling life has stuck with me. He said you pick a thread and wind your way down that path. Pick a different thread and you have a whole different experience. The possibilities for new and interesting travels are endless.
Our first major destination goal was Charlotte, Michigan, a small town (pop 9036) south of Lansing. They pronounce Charlotte with the French pronunciation, i.e. second syllable accented. We opted to attend a week-long class hosted by Spartan, the company that manufactured the chassis of our American Eagle Coach back in 2000. Spartan is best known for manufacturing fire trucks, but they also make the chassis for certain trucks and Class A motorhomes.
While not inexpensive, we figured this training, highly-rated by past attendees, would be money well spent if we could learn more about proper maintenance and avoid a future costly repair. Bob is really good with house systems like electrical, plumbing and generators, but newer diesel engines and chassis systems were virgin territory. Spartan offered a thorough coach inspection and a maintenance appointment, which we figured was in order since our buyers survey was somewhat abbreviated. A day of drivers training was also part of the package.
The weekly Spartan classes are usually filled up well in advance, but there was an opening for the May 15th class, so we decided that would be an appropriate way to get started on this new adventure. Hopefully “Rosy” would make it all the way from Florida to Michigan. Bob also hoped that we wouldn’t freeze our tails off being so far north in May.
Our first stop turned out to be close to home, in Bushnell, just north of Tampa, where we found a 4 wheel RV weighing program through the Escapees Club. It seemed important to know if we had a weight or balance safety issue before we took off. We loaded up with full fuel, water and propane, along with all of our gear. They even weighed the occupants sitting in our usual seats, Rascal included. We came in just under max weight for each axle, and well balanced on all wheels. That was good news, and meant we didn’t have to spend time off-loading or rearranging our stuff! We dropped Bob’s Lincoln at our friends Chuck & Sheree’s ranch for the summer and said farewell to Florida and the 95 degree – feels like 105 – April weather.
As we passed through Georgia we caught up with Bob’s Civil Air Patrol friend Joe who we hadn’t seen in many years. Bob managed to dig up his phone number the day before we passed through the area and Joe said we definitely had to deviate slightly through Cordele. He and his wife Betty met us at the local state park in their fifth wheel where they saved us a spot for a couple of days of buddy camping which was a nice surprise. We then wound our way clear of Atlanta and hopped over to Scottsboro, Alabama, to visit Bob’s sister and her family for Easter with a week at a lakefront RV resort and sightseeing trips to Huntsville and Chattanooga. Next we passed through the Smoky Mountains with time in Kingsport, Tennessee to see our relocated Florida friends Russ and Susie. Such warm welcomes and time with friends and family got the journey off to a very pleasant start.
We left time in the schedule for unexpected delays, and did in fact have one breakdown. On the interstate in the middle of the Daniel Boone Forest in Kentucky we hit a pothole, heard a loud noise and the rear of the coach dropped. Not good. At first we thought a tire blew out and then suspected an airbag failure. It was scary to be perched on the narrow shoulder of the highway with vehicles zooming past as Bob attempted to troubleshoot. We limped along the shoulder and slowly made our way about 6 miles to the next exit where there was miraculously a truck stop at the top of the mountain. Bob’s quick problem-solving identified a snapped leveling arm which was replaced by a mobile mechanic and we were back on our way. “See what happens when you take the interstate? We should have taken the back roads.” I begged to disagree, and imagined “Rosy” endangering other drivers and ourselves had we blocked one of those shoulder-less, windy, hilly roads. We are still debating the merits of interstate highways, which for now have been mostly avoided.
We continued onward through Kentucky, with time in Berea, an intriguing college town. Moving north, we spent a week in Florence, Indiana just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. It’s sort of in the middle of nowhere, but with a nice big rig oriented RV resort and a couple of little towns to explore it was a pleasant place to regroup, catch up on business and do more route planning.
Bob wanted to stop in Decatur, Indiana, home of the American Coach facility (now owned by a company called REV) where “Rosy” was manufactured many years ago. We took a 3 hour factory tour and spent time at the REV service lot awaiting an appointment for a couple of non-urgent maintenance issues. Five nights camped at the courtesy service lot was an interesting experience and we connected with owners of almost brand new coaches in for warranty repairs. We got an earful about the problems they were having and came away with the feeling that perhaps having an older coach might not be such a bad thing.
Thirty-nine nights after we left St. Pete, we made it to Charlotte, on schedule for class. Yay! The weather was actually very pleasant, with a couple of days in the 80’s, although Bob will tell you it was way too cold with temps in the 40’s some nights. Armed with more knowledge from the class and the wallet a bit lighter after a bunch of needed catch-up maintenance was identified and completed we’re more confident continuing this adventure.
The thread westward is still under construction, with more visits with family and friends, an RV rally and hopefully a good spot to view the August 21st solar eclipse in Oregon.
Fun with friends at Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park
Love those Georgia pecan trees
Picture perfect campsite at Goose Pond Colony, Scottsboro, AL
Chilling in Indiana
Time exploring a local park and planetarium with friends in Kingsport.
Over the rivers . . .
. . . through the woods . . .
. . . past farmland . . .
. . . and a big city – eek – (Cincinnati) . . .
Our “class” on the service lot at Spartan in Charlotte, MI
Time in the pit doing coach walkarounds in class
We graduated! Good learning experience. Although I’m sure glad I didn’t have to pass a written test . . .