Category Archives: Travels with the Pewter Palace

April Trip to the “Motherland”, (Cayo)

2018 will go down as the winter that never ends…yes, it is April- long past the Easter holiday and we are still getting snow.  We had chatted with Chuck Cayo (a.k.a Avion guru) over the winter about bringing our Pewter Palace to his repair and service business this spring so we could have a punch list of things done including the installation of a new ZipDee awning system, replacing our old Carefree system and vinyl awning PLUS installing new awning systems all way round the rig.

Chuck is the grandson of one of the two original owner brothers of the Avion (and Cayo) corporations in Benton Harbor, MI.  We were in luck and Chuck said he had a window of scheduling that could put us in the ques for Mid April.  Perfect!  By then, Kevin would be off of his extremely rigorous and mandatory 24/7 “on call” status with NYS DOT (yes, overtime this winter was big with so much snow…but I also once again became a “snowstorm widow” not seeing him sometimes for what seemed like days on end!)

So we booked it in figuring also that perfect weather would be our guide.  NOT!!!  We hit the road a little earlier on Friday than originally planned just to be able to scoot out of NYS before yet another sleet, snow and rain storm came barreling through.

NY, PA TO OHIO BORDER:  We got as far as over the Ohio border and found an excellent rest area/truck stop directly off Interstate 90 Westbound at exit 223.  This Flying J truck stop has about 8 dedicated RV parking spots on the left front area of lot.  Much quieter there than in back with big rigs.  There is a Denny’s restaurant that opens at 6 AM.  Nice breakfast.  And the Flying J store and bathrooms were great, spotless with store having very good variety of foods, snacks and beverages even at 10 PM when we arrived.

As we approached through OH and into Indiana and Michigan the next day we caught a storm of rain, and some snow….yeah…it followed us!  Ugh!  There were some high winds (25-35 MPH)  but Avion’s are so aerodynamically designed that honestly Kevin said that the wind is really a non issue.  We cannot say the same for other RV trailers and Class A’s we saw along the route who were blowing all over the place!

A great thing we also learned was that the state of Ohio has really become RV Friendly in that they have been upgrading some of their rest areas and creating some dedicated RV overnight parking WITH ELECTRIC HOOKUPS!  there is also potable water and a dump station area onsite at these special rest areas.  You can pick up the info flyer on these at any of the rest areas.  There is a self-pay kiosk where you pay $20 for an overnight with electric and put the chit on your dash so you don’t get rousted in the middle of the night.  Bad part in their planning was the sites are quite short and close together.  We are talking a parking lot folks!  But honestly, with the 28.7 feet of our trailer plus our Chevy Suburban’s length we were hard pressed at the first one we checked out to be able to fit our rig.  And God help us if someone pulled into either side of us because the first rest area were all straight back in’s (no angle to pull out or in) so to make that “J” turn to get out with approx. 48 feet of rolling metal- would be impossible.  The photo below shows that back in only lot.  Fine for small bumper pulls, vans, small class B & C’s.

 

Below is the flyer detailing some of the info about these special rest areas.  Again, only in OH on RT 90 (wish NYS would take cue and do this!) and it is only for ONE night stays.  Good in a pinch, esp. if it is so late at night that its too late to get to a campground and you want an easy off, easy on in the morning.  We suspect these spots are very full in season!!! They are first come, first served.  The Rest Area as Mile Post (MP) 79 on the Westbound side did have 8 pull through sites on angles which was a little better, but again we just fit nose to tail.  BTW–the OH rest areas are beautiful! huge, have pay showers if needed, and you can eat off the floor they are so clean.  Decent offering of typical fast food Starbucks, Burger King, etc.  Nothing to write home about food wise for this gal.

new_rv_lots_brochure_2016  This is a printable brochure from the OH Interstate Authority all about the program.  Check it out!

Of course the 90 degree turn in Cleveland OH is always fun!  Check out the very cool building on the right but then please………Take it slow please!!!!

AT this point it is lightly snowing…

On through Indiana for a bit, still is amazing when going through the Elkhart area to see all the many manufacturers of RV parts, trailers and motorhomes just finished their assembly line and waiting to be shipped to dealerships all over the US.  Elkhart is the RV capital of the world (no kidding!) and if you want to stop there, you can even go on factory tours that are scheduled (advance reservations are suggested because of set times/days of the week they are done).  We did not stop this time, but had visited the RV Hall of fame during our last visit to this area last summer when we attended our first Silver Avion Fellowship Rally.  The RV/MH Hall of Fame sits right off the left side of the highway as we were heading west.  Easy in and out, plenty of RV parking.  Worth supporting and definitely worth the visit to see some of the really rare, early tent campers on Model A’s etc right through to modern styles.

On to Michigan and nearer the “Motherland” by every passing mile!  This was now Saturday, April 14 and we had made reservations to stay in Coloma/St. Joseph KOA just north of Benton Harbor MI.  We had always planned to get to MI early enough on Saturday to visit the ORIGINAL AVION FACTORY AND HQ in Benton Harbor first.  Onward we went, despite frigid temps and blowing winds and the occasional snow flake or two…

We had reached out to a historical facebook page of folks who love Benton Harbor history. They, along with the wonderful book published by Bob Muncy about Avion’s were key to us finding the original location.  Bear in mind, to those who live in IN and MI this pilgrimage may seen downright ridiculous, but for us, who are so literally obsessed by “everything Avion” we just had to find the original site, buildings, and location of where our “baby” was born!!  And we did!!!

1300 East Empire Ave, Benton Harbor, Michigan.  Thanks to some clues from those facebook folks, google satellite image maps (comparing them to Muncy photos) we found the Avion Maternity Ward–still intact, but now a Cheese Factory/Importer was in the manufacturing plant and next door, the Avion HQ and Sales room was empty but perfectly intact as it was in the heyday!  This was an awesome experience, brought chills to our spines (disregarding the weather!) and truly was so cool to park our rig right in front of both buildings.  Kevin was in his glory!!  It was so cool!  Good we were there on a weekend as there were no cars to jockey around in the parking lots!

Check this out!!  Here is our video as we pull up in front of the original Avion HQ

On to our KOA in Coloma/St. Josephs.  Nice campground, easy access.  We had the honor of being their first “American” campers of the 2018 season….yes…it is now snowing a bit with the rain!  It got down to 29 degrees that night.  We did have to take a different site than we were assigned because as nice as this campground is (and the owners were very nice!) the campground lies very low and many of the sites were flooded due to rains for the past few days.  Since the rain was supposed to continue through our stay we did not want to have to test out the Avion’s buoyancy much less need a tractor pull competition to get her out of mud.  The owners understood and were accommodating for sure.

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We ventured into Coloma for dinner, cute downtown, neat boutique type shops including one very original 5 & 10 Store that functions much like it did in dime store heydays. The owner obviously loves retro and loves his G & M Variety store.  You can get everything from fishing tackle and slogger shoes to makeup and very nice home decor or hardware items….and penny candy, etc. still too!!  The set up is just like original dime stores (just minus the little old/ancient sales ladies following you around every corner and every aisle for fear you were going to steal some pair of socks or something)…it was very cool!I only wish it has fountain service where we could have gotten a yummy grilled cheese or roasted hot dog on a grilled bun!  (ahh the memories!!).  We ate at the local brew pub in downtown.  Decent, but nothing out of the ordinary for us.  Back to camp, bundle up and relax.

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Sunday we spent day tripping in our car going to visit Holland MI.  Sadly, lesson learned not much is open on a snowy, cold Sunday in Mid-April.  We hit a terrible snow storm enroute and were very happy to not be towing anything.  Eight cars spun off the highway in one hours worth of the trip, no DOT trucks in site.  Waylaid at a great Antique shop which worked out well to let the snow pass by and melt off highway a bit.  Holland was a bust, most was all closed and we got there so late due to 25 mph max on highway during storm.  We did eat at a great restaurant in one of the shopping mall areas.  I think the name had “Annies” or “Ann’s” in the name.  Also a “wooden shoe” antique mall on outskirts heading out of town was worth the stop.  Prices for antiques are alot better in MI compared to NY!

Monday morning it was up bright and early and off to see Mr. Chuck Cayo in Watervliet which was only about 15 minutes from our campground.  We arrived to find the door to the main shop locked.  oh no……the service door was open and in we went to meet one of his helpers “Bill” who explained to us that Chuck had been hospitalized on Friday due to emergency medical situation—clogged artery!  Nearly took him to the big Avion lot in the sky!  YIKES!  So Bill assured us Chuck was doing well, but would be in hospital for at least the rest of the week.  He took our three page (yes, three page) punch list and keys, we parked our baby the Pewter Palace, gave her a hug around the beam and wished her well.  We also took time again to check out the other Avions in the lot for sale or for repair.  Always fun to see after market creative fixes, additions, etc. and variety of rigs.

We had told Chuck we just need her back for Mid to Late June….seems like so far away…we miss her already but know she is in very good hands!  Till June little lady!!

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RV-MH Hall of Fame- 2017 Visit to Elkhart, Indiana, RV Travels with the Pewter Palace

The city of Elkhart, Indiana may not mean anything to someone who has never owned or camped in an RV.  However, for those of us who have fully ingested the “bug” Elkhart, Indiana is the RV Manufacturing capital of the WORLD!  No kidding!! Really! In this blog post I include many links that bring this history of RVing to life!

Here is a sneak peak of the RV/MH Hall of Fame exhibit area!  See more links below!

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For decades upon decades countless brand name RV manufacturers have set up their company production lines in and around the Elkhart area. If you visit, you can plan to take a factory tour if you want too but check ahead because they are only offered at certain factories on certain days of the week and times.    Because of this, a multitude of outsourcing smaller manufacturing businesses have populated the area producing everything possible for those large brands like Fleetwood, Winnebago, Forrest River, Thor, etc.  Things like smaller plants that make the windows, the cushions, the hitches, the extruded plastic AC covers, electrical and plumbing fixtures.  It was comical being at a stop light and seeing flatbed trailers stacked with 15 shower stalls, trailer frames, stacks of windows being rolled down the road to finish off someones new trailer or motorhome! The majority of all the RV’s from tiny pods to large 45 foot diesel pusher Class A’s are made in Elkhart.

SO–it is no coincidence that the RV & Manufactured Homes Hall of Fame is located in Elkhart, easily seen and reached by Interstate 80.  Don’t get me started on why the MH does not stand for Motor Home…but it actually stands for Manufactured Houses which to some degree is also represented in this museum (especially a small MH outside the building that is open for a tour- more of a sales pitch for the builder than anything I feel) .  I suspect it was during lean years of funding for the museum that they had to expand their scope to include manufactured houses into the museum’s mission.  It is just my humble opinion, but doing this inclusion of manufactured homes into an RV museum was a disservice to the tens of thousands of RV owners whose homes (whether part time or full time) are truly on “wheels”.   Manufactured homes may be indeed built on an assembly line like an RV but by no means do they function nor are intended to be moved from spot to spot weekly, seasonally or for that matter ever…once put on their foundations.

Neverthless, when we were venturing to our very first (and not to be our last for sure!) Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart in the summer of 2017 we made the pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame and enthusiastically became Life Members!  (Actually this was more a fiscal decision than anything because they made it easy to justify a Life Membership versus us just paying for admission to the two of us for the day–a difference of about $10 if i remember correctly.  So now we can go anytime we want!)

Here is a link to the museum’s website so you can do your own “touring”!!  WE DO encourage you to visit this museum, support its livelihood and share with your friends.  Its exhibits truly do paint an accurate and colorful vision into the thread of our own Americana!

 

One of the reasons, we justify for return visits is that the museum was in the process of expanding their parking area to the north of the building and supposedly this will allow for even more boondocking (or limited hookups) for the RV family of which we are a part of and supposedly special events, perhaps even themed rallies (by year of RV or brand perhaps?!!).  On the second floor of the museum is an archive library which although very unorganized by Library Science codes (our librarian friend Robin Stiles would throw a fit the way someone has tried to organize their collection–NOT!) we did find quite a treasure trove of Avion files including manuals, advertising pieces, etc.   The archive section of hanging files is fairly easy to use- someone thankfully put those in alpha order so at least the “A”s were easy enough to find.  As for the stacks..not so much–we scratched our head for a half hour trying to figure out what method someone had employed to categorize the shelves and shelves of RV manuals, books, how to guides and more…to no avail.  Sadly, there was no volunteers present in the library that day either- perhaps that could have helped.  BTW- in our exit survey we did comment that we highly recommended they tap a college intern who was studying Library Sciences or a retired librarian who would get in there and reorganize the stack system so that folks could find things.  Even if they did not go by Dewey Decimal system…alphabetical like the hanging file folders would have been better.  And then please…label the shelves or areas!  Ok enough of my rant, I should talk, my files at home are not much better!

For the purpose of this blog post, i am going to literally add in all the photos we took while on tour at the museum  into a flip book on our website at some point-but it is time consuming (so will be perhaps a 2019 winter project).  For now, here is a great link to the exhibit area of the museum.  The photos are arranged by vehicle type so will be pretty easy for you to scour and select.  Check out the other link below which actually lists by rig their complete inventory with description and photo.   We spent over 4 fours and really enjoyed going in and out of many of the vintage trailers and RV’s of all types, names, shapes and sizes.  Some homemade, some “state of the art” when produced in the 1920’s, 30’s, -70’s.

At some point, when I have time—I am also going to include a “flip book” of the Avion brochures and sales pieces that we found that were right around our rig’s year which is 1973 onto the resources page of our http://www.ThePewterPalace.com website for easy access anytime.  For some reason (maybe the Avion Coach Corp was feeling a fiscal pinch in 1973) we have a hard time finding that particular year or even 1975 brochures, etc.

Interestingly enough, this was also the year (1973) that the Avion Coach Company made the most significant change to their body style and design.  So you would have thought this would have been a major push to new marketing.  The transition between the front and rear sections from ’72 to ’73 is very noticeable.  It went from the more traditional fan sections of aluminum nose to the more “bread loaf” style like ours is with only three sections.   You will see the difference immediately in the photos below..

PRE-1973 AVION Nose and Rear construction:

Below is our 1973 with NEW AVION design rolled out that same year (affectionately called the “breadloaf” style) design which afforded more interior headroom, less seams that can leak too!

Not only was this a major exterior change visually, but it also greatly opened up the living space in the nose and rear bathroom areas extending headroom on both sides.  When we were at our Silver Avion Fellowship Rally going inside the 1960-early 70’s models you can really tell.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some purists who love the earlier styles and while we do love them too as they are truly the classic look…we appreciate the bit wide open more space of ours especially since we will be living in ours full time when we retire.  When you are dealing with less than 200 sq. feet of living space on a full time basis—every square inch of floor and head space counts.  I would also go so far as to say, anyone who is over 6′ tall would definitely want the newer (tongue in cheek, ours is 45 years old this year!) style affording more headroom and less a feel you have to crouch to get into your dinette area.

our 73 Avion nose, breadloaf style

(our 1973 Avion, dubbbed “The Pewter Palace” in winter storage in Queensbury, NY for the LONG winter of 2017-2018)

So back to our trip to the RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum.  Surely, for anyone interested in “vintage” anything, this is a great place to visit.  Also, if you own a vintage Shasta, Scotty, Winnebago, Bolus, Silver Streak, Airstreams or any of the other dozens out there, you will want to visit this mecca of motor and non-motor recreation vehicles.

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Spend some time in the archive library to find and take photos (no they do not have a place to pay for copies to be made either—zheesh!) with your cell phone or camera.  Fellow RV’ers and the actual manufactures or collectors of such ephemera have been very generous in donating volumes of great stuff to peruse through–so please do check it would when visiting and leave yourself enough time…and storage space for photos on your camera.

Enjoy and hope to bump into you someday at the RV Hall of Fame!  If you are an RV hobbyist or depend on your RV full time to keep a roof (albeit mobile one) over your head—please support this museum and its mission in any way that you can.  This is a core part of our American History experience and the American experiment!

Here are directions!

 

 

 

 

Its All About the BLACK TANK!

You would think we would have better things to discuss with the holidays approaching and time spent now daydreaming (or really planning) for our 2018 Avion Adventures!

But honestly, with our Pewter Palace in winter storage, it seems like a good time to discuss those not so popular things like….black tanks and sewer smells!

We are fortunate in that our 1973 Avion has both a grey water and black water tank. Up to and through 1972 Avions were built with only one discharge tank (held black and grey combined).  yikes!  That would not do for us at all–Especially once we start full timing.  These tanks, when our rigs were built were not the size that most modern trailers are.  In fact, our grey water is 25 gallons and our black is also 25 gallons.  Through our experience, we pretty much can get a little over a week with our grey water (assuming no showers – we use the campgrounds shower, and not dumping dish water on the ground outside rather than down the drain).  We can get about 5-7 days with black water tank, again, depends on if we are spending most of the day away from camp either siteseeing or going to work.

Lets remember, that up to that point (1972) these rigs were totally produced for the leisure market and living full time in them was virtually inconceivable.  Were there some full timers in the 70’s?  I suspect so, but nothing like the ever increasing rage and trends that are going on now.  The internet has certainly made it all so much easier and seamless-even for those who telecommute now for work.  Full Time living on an RV is really quite simple and easy.

Also, I would bet that most travel trailer campers also were using private or public campgrounds that at least had some hook ups with at minimum, dump stations.  We still see a considerable amount of campgrounds, especially those in more rural locations having just electric and water intake available at the actual site you have, and then you have to drive to the dump station to empty your black/grey water.  The NY State Campground we were at this summer for the Tin Can Tourist NE Rally (Sampson State Park, nice place!) had water and electric at our site, but a communal dump station area for discharge.  Many, many state and national campgrounds and parks are still this way.  Lets face it, the cost for putting separate lines to a campground with over 200 sites would be outrageous in today’s costs.

So back to the original intention of my blog post.  Black water…..how to manage it as efficiently as possible with NO smells.

When we had our 1998 Class A Itasca Motor home, we constantly had issues with “smells” which were sewer gases leaking from (I guess)  improperly constructed vent tanks. it seemed more prevalent when we were on the road down the highway but none the less, we still could “smell” when we had to dump.  We tried a variety of toilet treatment chemicals purchased at a variety of camp and RV stores…all supposed to offer the best in waste breakdown and prevention of smells.  We tried the gadget on top of the roof that was a directional rotating wing type cap that was supposed to help.  I guess the swivel vent did help a little.

But guess what…back in 1973 the engineers of the Avion’s knew what they were doing.  To date, we have NEVER had any of those smells in our Avion! And remember, we just got done living in her for three and a half months full time, stationary.   We have the vintage, standard fixed cap on the vent pipe that comes up thru the roof.  Yes, we do have a more modern (but still plastic) toilet but the fact that the black water holding tank is directly below the toilet I think helps to prevent issues.  You literally can “see” when your tank is getting filled…ok, not a great site to behold- but a good check and balance anyway.

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A photo of our 1973 Avion LaGrande, 28 foot bathroom.  What you cannot see is the tub/shower and two very spacious storage closets in addition to the under counter storage.

 

BUT…what I truly think has really made the different is using this!  UNIQUE Brand RV Digester (remember…we do not get paid for any endorsements…this is just our feedback to help fellow RVers)

Our rig came with a bunch of the traditional and well recognized brands of other digesters, but i really wanted something different to avoid past issues.  In doing research and with checking LOTS of reviews on Amazon, this one consistently rose to the top…pardon the pun.

This stuff is so eco-friendly too!  (My daughter would hopefully even approve!)  Reviews note that Unique RV Digester is also proven to “unstop clogs, dried out and caked on gunk”.  Glad we did not have that issue…but truly, we see lots of posts on RV FB chat sites where especially vintage RVs have sat for so long unattended that their sewer systems have to be pretty yucky.  Supposedly, if you load your tank with the prescribed amount of this stuff….let it sit, then take your rig on the road for a little hula dancing down the road this stuff will unshake and degrade the sludge and make it possible to drain and start reusing your system effectively again.  There were many testimonials to this effect on Amazon and honestly, I was quite impressed reading them.

Many Avion owners (and other vintage trailer owners for that matter) have realized the fact that well…those “monitor panels” really do not work well or at all after decades.  The sensors they use on even more modern units to signal when your tanks are getting full leave much to be desired.  In fact, their lousy.

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Unique RV Digester, in some cases has even proven itself to clean the detectors and get those lights working again.  That did not happen to us…but no problem…like i said–we can give it an “eye spy” and see when our black water/sewer tank is gonna need an emptying.  Nothing like an eye witness right??

What I can tell you is that the Unique RV Digester solution has worked beautifully for us.  We have NO Smells, No clogs, and everything drains beautifully.  We did follow the initial start up instructions and for the rest of the season were on the “maintenance” dosage after each dump.  We also put a little in our grey water too, just to help breakdown any food particles and grease that may have slipped down when doing dishes.

An added funny….you know part of what we love about RV camping is meeting other folks, sitting around a communal campfire and sharing stories, jokes and fun times.  Well, wouldn’t  you know, when we were at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally this summer in Elkhart Indiana the conversation turned to RV Black Tanks.  (Don’t ask how we got there!!) but lo and behold, a fellow Avioner mentioned this same UNIQUE RV Digester with the same gusto and recommendation we had.  He also has been a long timer and it was great for Kevin and I to hear others have had such success and recommend it too.

So armed with this first season going so well, we have stocked up on our Unique RV Digester and are ready for smell free travels!

Hope this blog post helps fellow Trailer and motorhome owners too.  If you want to order this stuff…here is an Amazon link.  They do track you down and the company will offer you coupons for future purchases.  Read about their company, they are pretty cool too!

One life….Live it!

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If you see us on the road…beep, wave and say HI!!

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Silver Avion Fellowship Rally & The National RV Hall of Fame Museum

Our first big, long (1889 miles) trip with our Avion, LeGrande 28 footer took place from July 28 until August 6, 2017, a total of 10 days on the road.  We traveled from upstate NY where we live, out to Niagara Falls NY, crossing over into Ontario at the Peace Bridge, then to London ON for one night in London ON, then crossing over into Michigan over the Blue Water Bridge (below)

into Huron Michigan then to Frankenmuth MI for our first multi day campground.

After three nights in Frankenmuth Jellystone Campground (below), we drove south to Elkhart, Indiana for our very first annual Silver Avion Fellowship Rally.

NOTE:  This post is going to be pretty much exclusively about the Avion Rally because, well simply it was so awesome to see so many Avions “nesting” in one roost and we met so many great people that it deserves its own post!  We will make other posts about the other stops on our trip.

The Silver Avion Fellowship Rally-Event page (who by the way does have both its own event Facebook page and another page of Fellowship Rally folks) is an annual event which for at least the past 6 years, we believe has been held at the Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana which is easily accessible from major highways.

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The campground is large, has easy to navigate streets to get to most sites (more on that later) and a large indoor meeting hall which makes ideal space when hosting rally activities like pot lucks, etc.

Like I mentioned the variety of years, models and lengths of the Avions that were at the rally was so cool. I think we topped out at about 23 rigs and about 50-60 people.  Some came in early on Weds, others arrived on Thursday like we did.  Some came as late as Saturday.  This location evidently is an easy haul for many current Avion owners.

It stands to reason…Benton Harbor, Michigan is only about a 1.5 to 2 hour drive north of Elkhart and this is where all the Avion’s were made in the day.   I am sure that there was a huge regional marketing effort, many workers from the factory enjoyed also owning them, and there were dealers here too.  2016-10-08 16.42.26Ours still bears the original tag of the dealership that sold her back in 1973 located just 3 hours northeast of Elkhart!  Our baby has come home! (via two trips through Alaska, out to California at least 6x’s, Florida every winter for a decade and thousands of other pleasure miles around the west, mid west and continental USA- all by the three previous owners at some point in her life)

Along the way to Elkhart we did make a slight detour to swing by to visit Cayo Repair, owner Chuck Cayo being the son of Avion Corp Founder. (sorry they do not have a company website, only a minimal FB presence from link above)  Chuck is known as the guru of Avion’s and Avion repair.  He has grown up with them, and thankfully from what we understand his son has gotten involved in the repair and restoration end which ensures hopefully at least through our lifetime we have a lifeline!

(Cayo deserves a separate blog post too very soon!)  Back to the rally!!

Elkhart is home to the largest assemblage of RV manufacturers and secondary feeder manufacturing market industry in the USA.  It is no wonder you see lot after lot, factory after factory all making frames, windows, gaskets, furniture, bedding, you name it…until the final product is assembled and shipped to your local RV store for sale.  It all comes from this mecca!  It also is no wonder then, that the National RV Hall of Fame Museum is located right here in Elkhart.  A few years back they included the “manufactured houses” (a.k.a double wides) into their mix.  In our opinion, selling out to greed for more sponsorships and the two simply do not mix, but hey–we re not trying to keep a non profit museum afloat in tough times either.  After we got ourselves settled Thursday evening and had some libations with fellow Avioners, we drove a short 15 minutes to the RV Hall of Fame museum. We spent a solid 4 hours there including time spent in their pretty good archive library.

The museum is pretty cool and it is obvious it is being supported by brand names such as Thor, Winnebago and others.  We honestly did not spend any time at all with the new modern RV’s but went right to the very large exhibition space that begins with the very earliest and first “RV’s which were no more than homemade trucks or cars that had been retrofitted with some pull out storage compartments which then made room for a bedroll.  From the early 1900’s right through the 60’s, 70’s 80’s were some of our favorites.

Here is a great shot showing the scope of the types of rigs they have which are in various levels of restoration. Most are nearly in perfect condition, but some, perhaps some that have been more recently donated still need some work and you can see that they are doing their best to tackle.

There are aisles and aisles of great things to see all set up very professionally with dioramas, period appropriate props, etc. which really adds to the feeling that you are in the moment when that particular RV/trailer was being used.  A good amount of the trailers from the 1930’s and up you can actually walk onto!!

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2017-08-03 11.04.44I have tons of photos of many or most of the rigs in the museum, like I said we were there 4 hrs! Here is a great funky hippie era mobile!  One RV had shag carpet like what ours was originally sold with!  Can you even imagine keeping shag carpet clean when camping??  What were they thinking?

Another day trip we did not far from Elkhart also includes a foray to visit several RV parts outlets (Bontragers, Factory Surplus RV and Johnson’s Surplus), where entrepreneurs by over production or discontinued parts from the RV manufactures so one can go picking to find replacement parts, etc. for those campers and motor homes that have been produced in more recent years.  Of course, no parts available specifically for a 44 year old Avion, but we were able to find the frosted plastic 4 x 4 lens covers for our overhead lights in bedroom and kitchen areas so that was good.  If you have one of those newer and cheaper made campers, these places could be a mecca for you.  Or for those talented enough to make your own custom camper, they have everything you would need from axles to windows, cushions to cabinets.

But wait!  There is more!  The Elkhart and surrounding area, even back up a short way crossing over the Michigan border has tons of Antique and Resale shops!  Big malls, little ones in historic general stores (which is what i found!) and everything in between.  For those who love the Amish arts and traditions (and foods) the area about 35 minutes east of Elkhart in Shipshewana, boasts a huge Amish community and shops filled with quilting supplies, arts and crafts for sale and many Amish-style restaurants.  We have been to Amish country in PA before but never have we seen so many buggies in our lives in one place.  At one point I counted 12 buggies on the road we were on.  This is a boon for the tourism in the area and worth the visit if you are a quilter—they even have a regional “quilt garden” trail you can follow where flower beds have been created and designed following well known quilt patterns on a large scale!  Very unique! Sorry to say, I was driving and so we do not have any photos of buggies.

This trip has definitely driven home to us (pardon the pun) that traveling with a towable trailer and being able to unhitch and take your own vehicle on day trips, into town, over back roads really is very nice.  When we had our Class A 32′ we did not have a tow car and felt extremely limited in our ability to explore the areas we were camping in .  Not so with our Avion bumper pull…..it is great!

So after spending almost two days exploring the area off and on, we also had some great times at the rally including social meal times, Saturday morning Tech Talk, and cocktail hours spent roaming from one rig to another and of course, listening, learning and asking questions of seasoned owners of Avions.  One member, Dean had been employed at his father’s Avion Dealership for pretty much a span of 30 years and Dean, at perhaps in his late 70’s (or early 80’s?) at this point is a virtual encyclopedia of Avion tech info and stories . Here is one of the group photos, Dean is in the red t-shirt.dean in red

Sadly because I had to be at work on Monday, we had to leave on Saturday afternoon and missed so much of the good party time of the weekend.  Next year if we re able to attend the rally we will be sure to do our vacation time AFTER the rally so we can stay through till  Monday morning and not miss one ounce of the fun and great people.

Along the way at the rally we met fellow newbies, Hal and Cathy King from North Carolina.  We hit it off very well and enjoyed seeing their 60’s era Avion which they have decorated so great.  We had brought some roof vent screens that someone had given us and we played them forward to Hal and Cathy since they fit their rig.  It was so cool to see inside different rigs to see how folks have redecorated, or in some cases preserved the interior to exactly how they were when originally sold.    Along with other shots taken by other Avioners, here is a photo of Hal and Cathy at the bottom, Cathy is in the pink shirt.  Kevin and I discussed how fun it would be to team up with other owners, including Hal & Cathy and do small trips to destinations together.  Helen, Georgia which is another one of those Bavarian themed towns is  one we have planned to get to and this might be the perfect rendezvous spot for them and us! (Kevin and i have set a goal of visiting every Bavarian/European themed town in the USA)

(Above photos are from the Silver Avion Fellowship FB site and taken by various attendees)

PS:  The Elkhart Campground, site of the Rally has some very good features for large group gatherings but it also has become obvious that they have tried to fit in too many sites in the safari area and have effectively cut off the ability for anyone to drive down the angled in lanes to have a turn at end of each row to keep rigs exiting in the correct direction.  Those turn areas  now are sites.  So effectively, you pull in on an angle to your site and the options you have when leaving is to completely back out (not gonna happen) or to hope you have enough room to turn against the angle of all the rigs and get out.  This is what we had to do, since we had to leave early on Saturday.  Not easy, but thankfully there was enough room to our right we could do that.  If our neighbor had been a big 45 ‘ Class A rather than an Avion we would have been in real trouble.  Greed makes people stupid.

We had such a good time and would encourage any and ALL Avion owners (or wannabees) to attend this annual rally.  To keep up with the event planning for next year, ask to join this group!

 

 

Inaugural Camping Trip! Success!!

We finally got a chance for a get away from tag sales, house painting, work stress and the like and hit the road in our Pewter Palace to a fabulous resort campground in MA- about 4.5 hours (traveling not more than 60 mph + heavy traffic).

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We have Kevin’s sister, Valerie staying with us for a few weeks and this was a great opportunity to do some camping, site seeing as well as do some Mayflower genealogy while we were at it (more on that later).

After researching several campgrounds in the eastern section of Massachusetts and reading traveler reviews, etc. we chose Normandy Farms Campground in Foxborough, MA.  This campground is huge, but the service, cleanliness, amenities and access to where we needed to go where perfect!

2017-06-27 12.38.56Honestly I can say that I have never stayed in such a well run campground.  The bathhouses (with laundry and showers–BTW free showers) were spotless and had A/C.

 

Here are some shots of the facilities around the park.

The activity areas, of which there are many were well kept, groomed, beautifully landscaped and included every outdoor sport one could imagine from fishing, basketball, bocce, horseshoes, pickleball, 4 swimming pools (one indoor heated, one outdoor heated–yes 82 degrees at 10 am was luscious!  3 hot tubs (2 were inside, one was combo with

heated outdoor pool #1), a sauna, a snack bar where you could even get a full New England Seafood Dinner or Boil down to a modest cup of chili or an ice cream cone–and everything in between for very fair and reasonable prices. (hint, to order the larger seafood dinners/lobsters they ask you to give them a two-hour heads up so they can have it ready for you- as i suspect someone is sent out on staff to get the fresh lobster for your order)

We arrived later on Sunday than anticipated due to just plain old heavy traffic on the Mass Pike from all the weekend Bostonian’s heading back to home from their weekend get away to the Berks or our LG area (LOL!)  Sadly we missed the live music and happy hour bar in the adult only loft of the Recreation Activity Lodge (but wow, what a place!).  They have the same again  on Thursday night but we were checking out on Weds.  Check in starts at 3 PM, check out is by noon.

Reservations were easy to make online, their website is fairly interactive and you can get a good feel right away for what is available and in relation to other sites in the campground.  When we go back, we will try to get Site # 311 or A-6-A.  They offer some nice privacy and easy to get in and out of.  Site 311 is on an end, right near where we were but offers a nice buffer of plantings from the road and also still easy to access the nearby bathhouse.  Site a-6-a is on a nice rise and is close to the really awesome playground so if we are there with the grand kids that would be a great spot.  It is also close to Pool #1 which we liked very much because it is heated and has the outdoor hot tub which we prefer.

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Above is site 311 which is a full hook up pull thru and where we will try to get anytime we visit Normandy Farms Campground.  The trees and bushes to the left serve as a really good screen from the road and so you will only have folks on your backside.

We all spent the whole day in Plymouth MA on Monday.  The drive from the campground is easy and about 35-40 minutes.  We visited the Mayflower Society Mansion Museum which was quite impressive.  Kevin and Val got in for free since they are direct line descendants of Wm Bradford and several other Mayflower passengers.  Val is a very dedicated and exacting genealogist who has done amazing work documenting the Sherman family history (and also has done my Craige & Gronemeyer history too).  We did some shopping, ate outdoors on a 2nd story deck (seafood of course) and I did some antique hunting while Val and Kevin visited Pilgrim Hall and saw Wm. Bradford’s original bible which is pretty neat to think that in three more years, it will be the 400th anniversary of that Bible landing in the new world!

Back at the campground (it is large with well over 400 sites) most of the sites are premium and full hook up, but they do also have a couple of Yurts, large tent rentals and several cabin rentals which all looked really nice (about $125-$148 per night in peak season).  But we LOVE our Pewter Palace and she towed like a dream, we set up with no issues and totally enjoyed our time spent here.  The campground is constantly patrolled by staff to ensure rule management, there are lots of young pre-teens and teens but honestly we can say that on many occasions over our three days here we kept having to remark how absolutely quiet the place was.  I don’t know if we just lucked out and had really quiet folks on all four sides of us or what, but whether it was 8 AM, 2 pm or 8 PM you could hear a pin drop outside.

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We loved that and even though we were not thrilled with the lack of foliage screening between sites (they do have very large boulders between sites and a strip of grass. The boulders also serve as your fire back.  A tire rim is provided for fire ring – not quite what one would expect for this high end of a campground (we thought we would have an actual grill) but no worries because we bring our Weber 1200 series portable gas grill.  We did have a very tall, large oak tree between our pull thru site and our neighbor which gave us some very nice afternoon shade.  We also learned from observation that when we are booking sites to be sure that we book a site that has our curbside facing south/south east so that the sun is behind our rig at high noon and late afternoon so that the awning really does its stuff and we are not fighting with sunlight stealing real estate under our awning.  Just food for thought and this campsite fit the bill and made us mindful of this for future.

We used our awning with no problems, i installed my solar powered fairy lights 2017-06-25 22.25.05for the first time–a tip from our full time RV online friend, Courtney on AStreaminLife.com .  I will do a post just on them soon too with where to purchase, etc.  These little babies glow for a minimum of 6-8 hours each night without fail!

The weather was terrific while we were in MA (we kept seeing reports of bad rain and hail back home LOL) but Tuesday late afternoon, a rain and thunderstorm did roll in with very heavy wind gusts which forced us, and our neighboring rigs to roll up all of the awnings.  Our neighbor to the rear learned the hard way, after his cross bar broke and the awning collapsed.  Since our awning hardware is original and over 40 years old we did not take any chances.  As always, the reminder and rule # 1 in camping is –roll up your awning if you are going to be daytripping or away from your campsite for any time….a broken awning is no fun and costly!  PS:  we knew we did purchase awning tie down swivel posts (like the screw in dog posts) but found them when we were packing up to head home…we will put them in a more accessible place next time! They probably would have done the trick but better safe than sorry.  The weather (and shade from the oak tree) was enough that we actually just kept the awning rolled up for rest of the night on Tuesday and all Weds morning before pack out.

Even Anna and Reddy loved their stay at Normandy Farms.  We loved the excuse we had to take them on multiple walks during the day so we could also take a gander at all the other rigs in the campground.  Great exercise for the whole family!  Only four Airstream’s in camp, no other Avions 😦

We will definitely be back to stay again and highly recommend this campground if you want to enjoy the cape without the crowds, visit Boston (train station in town, not far away) and Plymouth.

Thanks for sharing the road with us and our Pewter Palace!

 

2016 Winter Hibernation

Sadly our first tow of the Pewter Palace had to be to bring her to our winter hibernation garage.

At least she will be high and dry and that is good. Kev said she towed like a dream. Suburban had no problems with weight or anything. You can see from the video she really tracks the car well, no sway or swagger. 

We winterized her, opened all cabinets as others on blogs have suggested just to let mice know there is no safe haven. Put mouse blocks and large box trap down just in case too. But the big garage is well fitted out and we never had any probs with our motorhome stored there in past years either.

I did take all cushions off because I am going to recover in a red theme over the winter. We decided to take mattresses off too just so they are safe here at home in case a rodent does get in.

Snug as a bug in a rug…

So here is her maiden Sherman voyage!!

https://youtu.be/jomB1oF1YdI