FORT BELVOIR ARMY BASE- TRAVEL CAMP! As I have mentioned previously, thanks to Kevin’s Army service and discharge classification (there are only specific ones allowed) we are able to use these FAM or Travel camps as they are called which are right on a military base (all branches of service) and in many cases RVers are granted use of the PX the Commissary and other on base services. These camps are NOT open to the general camping public.
The rates (we paid $47 p/night in May 2021) to stay are not necessarily cheaper than the rack rate at nearby private campgrounds, but the security is outstanding, you know you are only camped next to other military folks, and the use of the other base services like pool, hair salons, gyms, etc. granted at some bases is really nice. PLUS..in this case WE CAMPED RIGHT ALONG THE POTOMAC RIVER AND A 1/2 HOUR FROM WASHINGTON DC! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON THE TRAVEL CAMP.
LOCATION, LOCATION,LOCATION! Easy access to I-95, Washington DC, Alexandria & Historic Frederickburg, VA and many historic sites including Mount Vernon.
Our timing for over Memorial Day to be at Fort Belvoir was in hindsight not perfect. DC was a mob scene and most of the museums in DC that we had not already seen where still closed or on severe limited pre-reservation timed entry passes due to Covid-19 still. It was a bummer, but we did spend a great full day at nearby (about 35 min drive) in Fredericksburg, VA. This is a colonial town with tons of history, historic buildings, great restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed a great “German lunch” at Deutschland Downtown and had fun touring some of the historic buildings. Worth the day trip in our opinion.OH…and did I mention there is a huge IKEA store about 15 minutes from the campground. Yup…dropped some coinage there too another day! We also did a quick trip over the Mount Vernon just to visit their book store and gift shops as we have been there many times for our living history reenactments so no need to tour this visit.
Anyone who has an Avion (or Airstream for that matter) knows that the clearance underneath these silver babies is less than optimal and can really cause issues especially trying to do boondocking or dispersed camping-which is something we plan to do a lot of once we are full timing starting in 2023. We found in our 28′ we had issues, but it was even more pronounced in our 32′ since our tail end extends that much further back from the tire axels.
At times we were even limited as to what gas stations, parking lots or even campsites because of the “dip” from street to lot/site. NO MORE!
After lengthy research, discussion with people who have installed it and with Technicians at MORryde and then more research we decided to take the big plunge and have the MORryde Independent Suspension System AND Kodiak (7K lb) hydraulic disc brakes installed on our 1987, 32S model Avion. This decision is not for the faint hearted and a huge investment (just over $7K total for axels/suspension/Kodiak Disc brakes as of this post in Fall 2021) and this does not include the new 8 Lug tires and rims we needed to get for the hydraulic brake install we wanted.
Anyone who has the original MORryde suspensions on their Avion’s (late 60s into late 70s) knows that the center rubber sheer spring that hangs down (encased in steel) in between your tandem tires takes a ton of the impact from road travel and it is certainly touted as one of the best suspension systems that Avion installed back in the day and any travel trailer can have. We loved it on our ’73 and missed it once we started traveling with our ’87. This new version from MORryde, called their “I.S.” (Independent Suspension) system basically replicates that type of system from the older Avion’s WITH ONE HUGE DIFFERENCE!
We now have that 70’s type of MORryde Rubber Sheer Spring on EACH OF OUR TIRES! The results is a super smooth ride, less wear and tear on the trailer frame–and with new axels and all these new components there is piece of mind that we will not likely have problems with axel failure/breakage and have a hard time trying to find the correct old “split axels- the Dexter Adjust-a-ride” we did have.
If you think about your suspension like we do, it is the foundation of your “house”. It needs to be strong, in good working order and built to last. Our Avion is our home (full time starting in 17 months, 3 days, 2 hours, 29 seconds but who is counting right??) and we want a strong foundation for the tens of thousands of miles we plan to do each year with her over some pretty challenging terrains.
For the sake of brevity, we will list PRO’s and CON’s of our experience, the system and the end results. In the end, would we do it again? yes, but read on!!
PRO’s to our process-products-end result:
Increased our ground clearance from 8.5″ (at low point of old axels) to over 15″. No more worries about getting off road, into gas stations or parking lots. Our rear side frame and front tongue frame sit at right around 26″. NO more worrying about dips into parking lots from the street or uphill grades from street.
The MORryde website has excellent information and videos. And phone calls in advance to their tech folks were very helpful in our decision making to go with the IS versus the 3000 or 4000 systems. Your Avion may benefit from the other systems and worth inquiring about!
The Kodiak Hydraulic Disc brakes are game changers! Wow! what stopping power and peace of mind. So different than electric brakes! Makes braking of the trailer feel totally “as one” with our tow vehicle. No more grabbing, no more concerns on long down or uphill travels. These are beefy! Just the new brake system alone was worth the install!
All new axels, rotors and all brake components so less chance of failure or need to hunt down vintage parts to fit/work. We like having a new, rocksteady foundation under our trailer.
During install process we were able to examine the trailer frame since belly pan was removed (we had not done that prior) to see it was in excellent condition- even our Tech was super impressed with quality and condition of this 34 yr old frame!
MORryde allows you to park the night before your appointment in their lot outside garage, then once install commences you are allowed back onto your “elevated rig” after the day shift is done. This saves on hotel costs– our install took 2.5 days.
The MORryde Service center staff are very good. The Tech and Service Manager listened to our questions, were responsive to our concerns and talked us through the process as it was happening in real time. (BTW we were the first vintage trailer to get an IS install) They also gave us a tour of the entire facility so we could see these IS systems being fabricated on site.
We knew what our costs would be before they started and this was all reviewed with us in advance. There was no type of upselling or gimmicks. The products stand on their own and we really feel their shop labor rates were very fair.
The Tech you get is assigned to your rig from start to finish and are highly skilled and trained. They are very professional, the shop is clean, well managed and everyone is super friendly. (well you are spending a bundle too!)
The waiting area during the day is stocked with goodies, drinks, etc. and very comfortable with overstuffed sofas and with WIFI and rest rooms. You can also order and get a complimentary lunch from several area restaurants who delivers to the MORryde office. No charge to you- we did Panera both days.
To their credit, when an issue was relayed from us back to MORryde they made good on sending out new parts at their cost and covered the labor costs in a refund to us to have this correction done locally at a shop we found near to us. Kudos out to Adirondack Truck of Queensbury!
CON’s to our process-product and end result
We did not know that the rig was going to be lifted SO high. Originally we were told up by 4-6″ and we were fine with that. Then as install progressed we were told it changed to 7-8″. We now have a full 11.5″ from top of our tire to top inside of wheel well. Looks odd because all of us are used to seeing our low lying, stealth to the ground rigs. To counter this somewhat we have purchased Fender Flares (aftermarket bought at Bontragers near Elkhart) to install by riveting on the exterior of the well lip to help mitigate the space visually. We will temporarily remove the track you see below that we riveted on to slide our Zipdee Tire Shades into, then will rivet the fender flares on using the same rivet holes and refasten the tire shade track over top of this once again. Due to the curvature of the wheel well opening (at approx. 1 pm and 11 pm locations) we are going to have to apply small sheets of anodized alluminum from behind to fill in those gaps. Not an ideal fix, but its the best we have come up with. If you have another idea please let us know!
Our frame, (measured at front and rear frame on tail before it rises upward) now sits at 26″ above the ground. Before this install it was approximately 18″. This height has resulted in perhaps a lessening of the aerodynamic nature of the Avion design. However on our trips since we have not encountered any issues with this even on highways with winds and Semi trucks zooming by- but we also use a Hensley hitch which certainly is a big help and have a high top cap on our pick up which deflects wind.
No pre install weigh in like video’s said they would do. When we watched the MORryde videos during our decision making process we really liked the fact that part of the process included weighing your rig so that the correct sheer springs weight range would be installed. We know our trailer is street side heavy due to Corian countertops and all appliance on that side. We had hoped this weighing step and install to account for this would solve any undo stress on one side of the axels/tires. Needless to say when we arrived we were told they no longer do that weighing part of the process. We were not happy with that explaining again we knew we were heavier on one side and in the end (keep reading full story) it would have saved a lot of angst as a result.
We were not made aware that our specific I.S. axels were going to be wider than our original ones. We were told this is due to the necessary deflection needed for the tires to toe out or in independently we now had our tires extending out about 2.5-3″ outside of the wheel well! We question the need for this still. Was it really because this is the standard length for modern RV’s and what their shop is set up to make? This was a total surprise to us and not a happy one . We did not realize it until the entire install was complete. It really changed the look of the trailer profile. Hence another reason to purchase the aftermarket tandem aluminum fender flares at about $75 each. We have added another project to our list to rivet these in place after removing our tire shade track and replacing it over top the fender flares (a project just completed). ** The tires extending past our sidewall profile also can mean more damage should a tire fail, and certainly without the fender flare, way more road grime, water from wet roads, mud etc. spewing onto our vintage aluminum skin trailer body.
“Houston we have a problem!” On our trip back to upstate NY (Lake George area) from Elkhart, IN- this is a 780 mile trip of all highways we found at our pit stops that some of our interior decor, drawers, gear, and equipment that NEVER had bounced around or shifted before was now doing just that! Wait a minute!!!!!!
We were supposed to have a smoother ride, not a bumpier one! We also noticed porpoising (rocking nose down to nose up) of our trailer when hitting even slight road seam bumps that we had not seen before. Houston!!???? another issue!
Not all communications via email were responded to in what we feel was a timely manner by MORryde staff, especially with our issue after install was brought to their attention. We do recognize that Covid-19 certainly had a part in this as did some staffing changes at MORryde. We know everyone is busy but waiting weeks for a reply is not appropriate in this tech age. Once a reply was gotten, we were instructed what measurements we needed to do and send to them. With this information, MorRyde determined that indeed the WRONG SHEER SPRINGS had been installed *Yup, that weight thing again”- Avion’s are heavy!!-they are not the cardboard box trailers produced today. Even though we had given them our weight parameters…someone obviously did not compute this correctly from the get go. So what was happening was that the #2 Sheer springs originally put on at the shop were insufficient to carry our weight and were causing the axels to bottom out when hitting even mild to medium bumps in the roadways-trashing our trailer inside and pounding on our frame unnecessarily on that first trip.
Sheer Spring REDO! With new #3 sheer springs in hand, you can see the big difference in size! See photo below. We had to take another day off from work and had a local shop (Adirondack Truck on Big Boom Rd, Queensbury- who were great!) take out the springs from our install and replace with these beefier ones. We are very happy to report a 2.5 hr trip two days later on our next camping adventure proved we had no more jostling, drawers were shut, gear not strewn about–so issue appears to be solved and the ride is smooth as we had hoped for and been promised. Needless to say, the issue we had caused us undo stress wondering what on earth we spent all this money for? Did we ruin the quintessential look of our Avion only to have a bumpier ride? In the end…the ride is better, the clearance is better and we have the peace of mind of a very strong foundation (suspension) and a new braking system second to none!
Final thoughts read below…..
For those who wish to see some of the quick video footage we took during the install process here you go!
Welding of new brackets to support axels. Video link
New axels with highlight on the Kodiak Disc Brake system. Video Link
Our Tech, Matt doing the welding of first axel onto frame. Video link
Closer look at streetside axels after being welded to frame. Video link
Balancing and aligning our new tires on axels-Hunter System. Video link
In summary...it was a stressful project from start to finish. We were under the gun to have our house batteries relocated before we left for Elkhart, then a 780 mile trip out there. We did not get our Avion into the shop until 2pm on first day of appointment, ended up being there 2.5 days and missed two days with fellow Avioners at our SAF rally. We were shocked by the resulting height of the trailer and over extended tires past our sidewalls. AND, the saga did not stop and we had to have our sheer springs replaced within a month due to a size miscalculation on their part of which they did send us the correct replacements and covered labor. But all is well now and we are happy!
In the end…we have a super rugged, solid foundation to our home and now we have an AVION OVERLANDER® rig now….and that is the beginning of a new story!
PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG SO …You can stay tuned so you can see the debut of a new separate off grid adventure blog from us with a separate, additional URL at AvionOverlander.com that will only focus on off-grid, off road- boondock and dispersed camping adventures, tips and more—coming in 2023 when we hit the road full time and do a lot of boondocking and off road/off grid adventures! (not to worry thePewterPalace.com will not be going away and will continue to be the repository for our campground reviews, regular trips, projects, tips and more!)
As always, if you have any questions, want more measurements, etc. please do not hesitate to reach out to us at any time via direct email to PewterPalace87@gmail.com!
If you have not been to a SAF (Silver Avion Fellowship) Rally you are really missing something special! The Elkhart, Indiana Rally is the “Mother Ship” original rally that has now birthed other rallies to spring up in Texas and Arkansas to host rallies at least annually as well. Every rally across the USA gives a huge warm welcome to fellow Avioners regardless of age of rig, condition or for that matter…if you don’t have one yet- attending a rally and staying at a local hotel, etc. to come to the rally to chat with current owners can be super valuable. We all love to talk Avions!!
The Indiana SAF is held in mid-July annually and as of this post it is traditionally held at the Elkhart Campground which is easily accessed by major interstates. On average 30-40 Avions of various ages, lengths, models and condition flock to the campground filling at least one of the full hook up site fields! The campground is also very convenient to the RV Hall of Fame (a must see!), great antique shopping, grocery stores and any other retail you can imagine right in Elkhart. Another short day trip is to Shipshewana, IN which is home to one of the largest groups of Amish and Mennonite communities- the area is chocked full of amazing stores, antiques, livestock and goods auctions, gorgeous gardens, even a Quilt Garden Trail and much much more! Just watch out for buggies!
Not to be missed when you attend the rally is a trip “upcountry” to Bontragers and Johnson’s RV Salvage/Overstock type stores. Since Elkhart, IN is the “Capital of the RV Building Industry” a lot of overstock parts, gently used parts, and salvage are snatched up by these two retailers to sell the general public. It is said if you cannot find what you are looking for at one of their locations…its not available. We have enjoyed going but in truth, we have found very little useful to our vintage trailer besides generic parts and RV supplies that typically can be found at any RV parts store. But it’s a fun adventure anyway! We actually prefer to go to the Johnson’s location that is only about 10 minutes from the campground and located on a main drag right in Elkhart- just google it when there!
WHAT WILL I SEE WHEN I ATTEND THE ELKHART SAF RALLY?
The Indiana rally starts on Thursday but at least a third of the attendees start rolling in from Tuesday forward. By Friday evening, everyone has arrived. The rally ends on Sunday at campground check out, 11 AM.
When you arrive the rally coordinators will warmly greet you (and everyone else will wave to you as you come in!) and give you your packet with schedule, a rally sticker for your rig or keepsake, info sheet on local retailers, restaurants, –and yes, directions to Bontragers and Johnsons!
Here is a slide show from the 2021 Elkhart SAF Rally! Maybe you recognize someone you know?!! If not, come to the rally and you will be one of the gang in no time!
THERE IS LOTS TO DO RIGHT AT THE RALLY!
Morning Coffee and snacks with topic chats from fellow Avion owners (Saturday and Sunday morning). A great place to get answers to your questions, offer tips (trials and tribulations too!) and hear about resources around an informal cup o’ Joe. Some owners have had their Avions for decades, others have worked in or owned Avion dealerships! This is time to really pick some brains!
Welcome Reception/Happy Hour: BYOB but refreshments are available and many bring a bottle of something to share too! Dive into some nibbles, meet fellow Avioners and get the low down from the rally hosts on schedule highlights, additions or any changes.
Saturday Evening Dinner: Once again the volunteer kitchen crew do a bang up job putting out a great buffet dinner (yes, all of this is included in your very affordable rally fee!) Bring your own plate, cup, bowl and utensils and dive in!
Evening Entertainments: This varies from year to year, sometimes its a costume dress up affair, other times its a techy online version of Trivial Pursuit, there is even a super hilarious mystery gift round robin exchange where I think its more fun to watch the antics than even getting a gift! Some years (since Avioners love to have fun) there are more than one of the above!
TECH Talk! This is a more formal, scheduled time that anyone is welcomed to join in the event hall to pose questions (or you can submit them in advance which is appreciated) and our panel of Avion Guru’s will do their best to answer your questions. There is also plenty of time again to share tips, resources and how to’s with fellow owners. This event is really a “must do” for first time owners or newbies to Avions! Don’t miss it! Special time and attention is given to first timers!
“Walk About Trailer Tour”- Wanna see inside some of the Avions at the Rally? This is your chance! Look for the “walk about” on the schedule and take a stroll with attendees to go inside any trailers on tour! Its totally optional to open your rig up for tour- we have had everything from “works in progress” to total gut and modernistic rehabs! Its a great way to get decorating ideas, discuss specifics about their rig and enjoy putting a face to the Avion!
Informal Happy Hours at Avions! Be sure to get the scoop and find out who may be hosting an impromptu Happy Hour right at their rig. Bring your chair, a dish to share and your own liquid potions! Rock back, enjoy the camaraderie that IS an AVION RALLY!
If this isn’t enough, the campground has a nice pool, and other amenities and of course, don’t forget that visit to the nearby (10 min) RV Hall of Fame to see vintage camping rigs dating back to the early 1900’s, kitchy ones from the 40-50’s and groovy ones (yes, shag carpet) from the 70-80’s!
At the 2021 Rally a small group of us opted to do a private group authentic Amish/Mennonite dinner at a Barn! It was fabulous!
SO DON’T MISS OUT ANY LONGER! PLAN TO ATTEND AN UPCOMING SAF RALLY IN INDIANA, TEXAS OR ARKANSAS!! OR ALL THREE!! BUT HOW??
Simply really! Each of these rallies has their own dedicated Facebook group page where all the specifics about their rallies (date, where, how to register, highlights of events to happen and a direct way to contact the rally coordinator(s) if needed. Folks are very responsive so reach out!
Remember, any Avion, any age and condition is welcomed! Don’t own one yet but want to? That’s fine too just let the rally coordinators know and they can fill you in on how to attend and may have some suggestions for local lodging or if the campground has rentals or cabins. In most cases registered attendees to the rallies make their own camp site registrations when contacting the campground directly. Discount rates typically are given for rally dates.
These Facebook group pages are by invite, so go to the site and click on the button to ask to join! Yes, that simple really!!
We hope to see you at an upcoming Avion Rally! Once we go full time in 2023 we plan to visit the rallies in TX and AR but in the meantime, we have also joined their Facebook pages to get to know folks virtually!
Links to our other Winterization Tips and Practices in our Avion
We have had RVs (Class A and 2 travel trailers) and live in upstate NY which unfortunately is not “year round” friendly for RVing. So we must winterize and store our RV. We do store inside a cement floor, steel storage building which is optimal but we know many of our fellow RVers must store outside on a driveway or field/lawn (field/lawn is worse scenario and try to avoid this if you can!)
We also have owned a small 5×8 cargo trailer where we have kept our living history reenacting equipment, including clothing, blankets, candles-you name it for over 30 years. Annually these things must be protected from those nasty little critters….MICE! Mice love to find quiet, dark places and are especially attracted to candles, paper, cloth and of course even the “whiff” of food, grease (even splatters or on towels, or leftovers on potholders, etc.)
We SWEAR by FRESH CAB sachets! We have used them effectively now for over 10 years along with our other winterizing techniques which we have detailed fully in a past blog post….cue link —- LINK FOR ARTICLE.
Does Fresh Cab keep mice away?
“Fresh Cab is the only botanical rodent repellent effective enough to be registered by the Federal EPA and trusted by licensed pest control experts for both effectiveness and safety. Fresh Cab keeps mice out of homes, cabins, basements, attics, garages, sheds, and storage units.
Fresh Cab is a natural product, no harsh chemicals.”
The scent in our opinion is very nice, a mild Balsam Fir (..like those little balsam pillows in mountain area souvenir shops!) and outdoorsy scent (its all herbals) and in fact when we were selling our ’73 folks noted how nice and clean it smelled. The package says each sachet lasts about 2-3 months. Typically for us, we winterize at the end of October. I go back into the rig in January then again in March to toss out a few more sachets leaving the original ones there too (I think they have some residual effect).
NOTE: the sachets are made somewhat like mega-sized tea bags and I cut them in the middle where the thin paper connector is so i can put more around in various areas.
Why use these over traps and poisons? Simple..We do not want dead mice in my trailer. Period. They stink as they decay, a dying corpse does not deter other mice from coming in, the dead mouse could become maggot filled and its just gross to take dead mice from a trap! We do not want poisons around where pets or grandkids could come in contact and I want to reach places that are hard to get to! We want to deter them from liking/loving our trailer as much as we do! So we REPELL them from the get go- so we are not hospitable!
WHAT AREAS TO FOCUS ON?
Inside the camper:
Around floor edges
Under the sofa and chairs
Inside back edges of cabinets and drawers (Utensils may harbor food scents!)
Under bathroom cabinets and beds
Around any vent openings in closet floors, etc. where there is access to the undercarriage of your rig.
In tight or hard to reach places I literally open the cabinet door and do a hefty “pitch” and toss the sachet bag to the rear of the cabinet so it lands on the back edge floor—that is where mice like to scamper!
Outside the camper: (just be sure to remember to take them out in spring before your first camping trip!!!)
In the hot water heater compartment
All/Each Underbelly compartments (storage areas accessed from outside the camper)
In the sewer/dump station compartment
Battery box (mice like to chew wires!)
OUR TRIED AND TRUE METHOD FOR PLACEMENT AND USE:
We use 12 sachets in our 32′ trailer, each “tea bag” is cut in half at the paper connector so actually 24 packets in our RV at all times. This is overkill based on the square footage recommendations on the packet but we want to ensure we never have mice and so far this has worked for us. In spring I will take the obvious ones out that are in the common sitting areas, along floor edges, and hot water tank and furnace areas but WE LEAVE the ones from the winter i tossed into the back of cabinets, into the sewer compartment outside bay and over all the vent openings in closets, under bath and kitchen sink and anywhere inside the trailer that we normally do not access like under the bed storage, under back edge of sofa. We leave them there for rest of our summer/spring/fall camping season. Then in October we clean out all the old and replace with fresh new ones.
Again using Fresh Cab is NOT the total solution! Please be sure to review my other full article so you get tons of other tips on how to winterize your rig. Nothing is worse than a mouse infestation! LINK TO FULL ARTICLE.
WHERE TO BUY THEM??
We now support our local ACE HARDWARE store who sells Fresh Cab and we purchase two of the large size multipack boxes.
Many first time Avion owners wonder what the big (normally black but sometimes red) numbers mean on one of the front side and back side panels of their Avion! These are NOT your VIN#!!
These are member numbers from a prior owner of your trailer, who back in the day joined the official Avion “Travelcade Club” which conducted all sizes of Avion exclusive rallies (some as big as 2000 trailers!!) around the USA and also conducted escorted caravan tours all over the USA ….even to Alaska!
Here are some examples of these numbers on ours and other trailers! ***If you have one on yours please share a photo of it to us so we can add it to this slideshow! (we have a link to a source to order #s and unit sets at end of this post!)
If you have a “ghost” number, meaning the vinyl numbers are no longer there but due to fade, etc. you can see these aprox 3″ high numbers that was the Member’s number- you are half way there! It is NOT unique to that trailer, it belonged to the Member themselves. As we all know, and Kevin and I are examples of this, the first Avion you buy may not be the LAST Avion you buy! So by having the Travelcade # assigned to the Member, versus the trailer, you can “move” your number to your next Avion!
Having the original Travelcade Club numbers on a vintage trailer is cache and special! In our opinion, and many others share the same feeling—you SHOULD RETAIN THEM and preserve them for nostalgia purposes. Some will note, the trailer may even fetch a higher resale amount if it has the original numbers–even though we know they were not issued to you since you may be the 3,rd, 4th or 8th owner of that particular trailer.
There are Avion owners who have the originally published member annual rosters and with a little patience on your part, they can assist in helping you find out who the Travelcade member was, where they lived at the time, etc. Its kinda fun to know that part of your trailer’s history back decades! To have assistance to look up your numbers go to one of the Avion owners facebook pages, and post preferably a photo of your numbers or ghost image. The folks with the books will see it and reach out to you if they find something! (Avion owners are good folks, and generous to the core!)
Our 1973, 28 Foot LaGrande Avion we owned from 2016-2020 did have to original Travelcade member #s and we were very proud of them. Below is a photo of our ’73 with our numbers 14229.
Sadly our current (and forever) 1987, 32S model owners during the days the club was in operation never joined, so we do not have any on our rig.
YOU HAVE OPTIONS-—if you have a ghost number showing you can order a new set of those numbers and apply them. Sometimes there was also a “state unit” identified underneath the numbers. I have posted a link below to a reputable source for new replacement numbers.
If your rig NEVER had numbers, you technically can, if you wish – create your own, perhaps personalized to something that connects to you. The Travelcade Club no longer exists (died out in the 90s once Fleetwood took over the company and phased out the Avions), so technically you are ok to create something new. ******You may wish to contact one of the folks who own the old registries to see if that # sequence was already used. If it was an assigned number you may want to go with something different, or at least honor that original member and know the # history to share with others. BELOW I HAVE A LINK TO WHERE TO ORDER NEW NUMBER AND STATE UNIT SETS!
Here are some other pictures of the Travelcade Club paraphernalia and other memorabilia! Please visit our other blog articles that go into more depth about the Travelcade club and also other emblems you may find on the outside of your Avion!
NEW!!!! GREAT RESOURCE FOR HAVING REPLICA TRAVELCADE NUMBERS MADE UP FOR YOUR TRAILER! See link below. We know folks who have ordered from this Ebay store and have been very pleased.
We hope this information helps! If you have any questions or need resources for other Avion trailer items please check our Resource page! We do our best to keep links current and we apologize up front if a link is broken or no longer exists…the world is constantly evolving and its hard to keep up sometimes!
If you haven’t already please subscribe to our blog Www.thepewterpalace.com and our YouTube channel! We appreciate it!
Be well!! From Kevin and Luisa Contact us at PewterPalace87@gmail.com
[Buckle your seatbelt, this is a long post but can be done in segments!]
Originally our 2021 “big trip” of the summer was going to begin by crossing over the border to Toronto, Canada and proceeding in a leisurely path west along the Canadian highways and byways reaching the “mitten” of Michigan- The Upper Peninsula and then heading south to join up with fellow Avioner’s in Elkhart, Indiana for the annual SAF rally.
The lingering Covid 19 and the pandemic restrictions of travel crossing borders and prohibition to enter Canada put a total kabash on all that. We had to cancel reservations and rethink our plans.
Answer! Let’s go South and experience the Shenandoah’s and Smoky Mountains! I have always said to Kevin, give me campsites with views of water or mountains- preferably both….and my heart sings and my soul rejoices. So in mid December 2020 we switched plans…..South we go instead of North!
PRIMARY GOALS: We would do a 3-week adventure with the goal of driving the entire length of the Skyline Drive (toll to get on), the Blue Ridge Parkway and end up at one of our “national bucket list of European-themed USA towns”–Helen, Georgia which boasted a Bavarian/German theme and set in a mountain setting.
SECONDARY GOALS: in planning this trip we also had some important secondary goals we wanted to accomplish.
(1) Stay at a minimum of one Military Base FAM/TRAVEL camps. I will do a separate blog post about this program in the future and link it back here.There are specific classifications of military or former military that can use these parks. They are not open to the general public.
(2) Stay at as many National Park (NPS) Campgrounds and State Campgrounds as possible to save $$ and see how our 32 foot travel trailer will be in these eastern seaboard, and older campgrounds.
(3) Stay at an Army Corps of Engineer Campground to see what they are like.
(4) Use Luise’s recently obtainedNational Park Service Senior Lifetime Access Pass to its fullest advantage to save $$ on park entrance and campground fees. (Mission accomplished!—you can get as soon as you turn 62)
(5) Use our new subscription to RV Trip Wizard to do the planning, routing and travel assistance. (see my notes later on how we felt this went for this type of trip)
Let’s start with the planning portion. While we are still recreational campers (not full time living yet!) and the constraints of a start and end date- planning is important to get your desired trip in within the time you have been granted vacation from work. I retired at the end of 2020 but Kevin is still working full time (bless his heart).
We had purchased a subscription to RV Trip Wizard thinking this would be the be all-end all to our planning needs. We based this on fabulous multiple reviews from bloggers we follow, fellow travelers, etc.
“The Bad/Ugly” What we found out, or rather I found out was that RV Trip Wizard likes highways….not scenic byways. It constantly tried to route me off of the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway! I tried applying the “avoid highway” setting but that did not work because some of our trip needed highways/intertstates to get from point A to point B.
“The Fix” so what I ended up having to do was to create a Part A, Part B and Part C of our trip—each with its own unique trip plan and had to save each of them seperately. This way I could segment out and use interstates when desired, or the avoid highway mode when needed for the byways and back roads we wanted. It was VERY time consuming, tedious and not at all what I had hoped the program could do. I am totally sure if you are choosing to do long trips using major highways that the software will be fabulous as it does offer a lot of nice features.
“What the Program DID do Well!” there were pluses to using RV Trip Wizard though. That included a great pin point locator of campgrounds along our route with many filters we could apply as desired e.g. National, state, private campgrounds, things nearby to see, gas station locations, etc.
In the end, although I had printed out each PART on paper (yeah about 23 pages worth) I never used one of the sheets nor did we trust to use it as our GPS- so we resorted to our Garmin RV which is also only so-so. Published paper maps from the NPS and state tourism bureaus worked in tandem with our GPS- we only took a wrong way twice!
BTW— We booked 95% of our campground reservations by January 15, 2021 ( for a May 28 departure date) so we would assure ourselves places to stay! Booking this far ahead is critical in our opinion if you have a larger rig like ours, are somewhat picky what type of site you want. You can always cancel a reservation but these days with the glut of RVers on the road- do not wait to make early reservations if you have specific destinations in mind.
SO ONTO OUR TRIP! ….WHEW! Thought we would never get there!
PART ONE- NY, PA TO VA & onto THE SKYLINE DRIVE
SECTION 1 Plan- leave home Thursday, May 28 and drive to first overnight- boondock (about 6 hrs) at Cabella’s in Hamburg, PA.LINK This is a frequent boondock for us because we avoid NYC and RT 95 completely. We prefer to loop through PA going out to Harrisburg and then south. Although the roads in PA have been in perpetual construction mode since the early 90’s we still find this route preferable to going through lower NYS, NJ and MD along RT 95-especially when towing a trailer!
ON TO VIRGINIA….FORT BELVOIR ARMY BASE- TRAVEL CAMP!As I mentioned above, thanks to Kevin’s Army service and discharge classification (there are only specific ones allowed) we are able to use these FAM or Travel camps as they are called which are right on a military base (all branches of service) and in many cases RVers are granted use of the PX the Commissary and other on base services. The rates to stay are not necessarily cheaper than the rack rate at nearby private campgrounds, but the security is outstanding, you know you are only camped next to other military folks, and the use of the other base services like pool, hair salons, gyms, etc. granted at some bases is really nice. PLUS..in this case WE CAMPED RIGHT ALONG THE POTOMAC RIVER AND A 1/2 HOUR FROM WASHINGTON DC! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON THE TRAVEL CAMP.
(we will do a complete campground review in the future, watch for the link!)
Our timing for over Memorial Day to be at Fort Belvoir was in hindsight not perfect. DC was a mob scene and most of the museums in DC that we had not already seen where still closed or on severe limited pre-reservation timed entry passes due to Covid-19 still. It was a bummer, but we did spend a great full day at nearby (about 35 min drive) in Fredericksburg, VA. This is a colonial town with tons of history, historic buildings, great restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed a great “German lunch” at Deutschland Downtown and had fun touring some of the historic buildings. Worth the day trip in our opinion.
OH…and did I mention there is a huge IKEA store about 15 minutes from the campground. Yup…dropped some coinage there too another day!
SECTION 2–NEXT STOP- ONTO THE SKYLINE DRIVE TO LURAY, VA
We stayed four nights at Fort Belvoir, in VA then drove essentially west to pick up the Skyline Drive just south of the town of Front Royal (we will cross paths with Front Royal on our way home too!) It was an easy drive west and Front Royal is a good place to GAS UP before starting the Skyline Drive. There is only ONE GAS STATION ON THE SKYLINE DRIVE at Big Meadows (Byrd Visitor Center) which is about a halfway point. PLAN YOUR VISIT……
**Fee to enter the DRIVE is $30 unless you have a NPS (National Park Service) Pass. I have a Senior Lifetime Access Pass so we were FREE!
–Info about Senior Lifetime Access Pass (you must be at least 62 years young!) ....Here
PRO-NOTE– if you show up after 5 PM or before 9 AM to the entry gates at any of the four entries to the DRIVE you will most likely get in for free and see a note that says….”please pay when you exit” . This, is at least the case right now, with staffing stressed to the max in part due to Covid 19 and previous years drastic funding reductions to National Parks. Be a good doobie…and pay when you leave! They need the $$!
** BE SURE TO GET THE OFFICIAL SKYLINE DRIVE MAP! You will need it as there is little to NO CELL SIGNAL for most of the drive and the map gives you mile markers, locations and services at rest areas and key sites to not miss.
** if you have a CD player in your car or available, the first NPS visitor center ( Dickey Ridge) southbound on the Skyline Drive sells a really nice auto tour CD that narrates what you are seeing as you drive along, allows you to pause it for stops and gives you background history of areas you are passing through. Worth the small cost in our opinion. Sorry…they do not have an app…and with no cell signal-not gonna work anyway! LOL
As soon as you enter the Skyline Drive you will see it is a tad winding in spots, but not too bad and there are TONS of SCENIC PULL OFFS on both sides of the road. The roadway is one lane south (our direction) and one lane north. All rest areas with/without services are accessible from both directions. That being said:
“there were many scenic pull offs that clearly were intended to visit when traveling northbound. We were traveling southbound and with our total length of 56 feet—we passed by some because the pull out was on a blind turn or there were too many vehicles already there, making it tough for us to easily get in and out. “
Best time to do pull offs is earlier in the morning. You will find the traffic lightest then too. There are no street lights, so when it gets dark…it is DARK- we recommend NOT doing the DRIVE in the dark due to wildlife, winding blind turns and narrow roadways. (there are no guardrails, no shoulders). We were traveling through on the first full week of June, 2021 and the traffic was very, very light. We were surprised and often had no one within any eyeshot of us for miles. There were many times where we felt we were the only ones left in the world!
We found the Skyline Drive to be a beautiful and very relaxing drive. the drive includes going through lush woodlands, and riding atop the mountains, slicing through carved out divides and circling around the midline of 4000 foot high mountains. No semi-trucks, no commercial vehicles, no billboards, just wooded wilderness, beautiful vistas and lots of “oh wow!”, “amazing” and “look how far we can see!”. It was enchanting and exhilarating at the same time!
Next stop….LURAY JellystoneCampground & Luray Caverns!
We picked Luray Jellystone Campground because it was easy off the SD (Skyline Drive) and had quick access to gas, the caverns, downtown shopping, etc. **There are ONLY FOUR entrances onto the SD so planning where to camp overnight you should factor that in so you are not spending a lot of time traveling back roads to get to a campground if you are only spending a night or two and hopping back onto the SD.
I will not go into detail here on this campground here. Suffice it to say, it was a typical Jellystone. Lots of kids, families with golf carts, sites were ok but nothing out of the ordinary. Please read our campground review for the good, bad and ugly details.
We stayed there two nights, mid week. Would we stay there again? probably only if we had the grandsons with us.
We LOVED Luray Caverns and their “add-on at no charge” other attractions in their complex. Just minutes from the campground on the same highway too. We arrived just as it was opening (I think we were ticket #4 & 5) so it was nice and cool. No worries…inside the Caverns is beautifully tepid cool all the time- a great place to go on a scorcher summer day! Plan to spend the day there is a lot to see and do from the caverns to the Heritage Museum to the Antique Auto Museum and the Toy Museum (not so great, a little tired and forgotten) and for an additional fee, a tree tops ropes course.
Get there early to have the cave nearly to yourself to stroll!
Just new within the past year, the caverns has gone completely NO STAIRS! They built and extensive ramp with easy grade to access the main entrance and all of the pathways through the caverns are all ramps or easy paths with sturdy handrails. This is a wonderful thing! They are very proud of this accessibility feature and rightly so!
There is a very RV FRIENDLY pull-through Gas station right at the foot of their huge parking lot. Plenty of room for RV parking if you get there in the morning!
When in Luray, take a few more minutes to visit COOTER’S GARAGE and the DUKES OF HAZZARD MUSEUM -owned by Ben Jones an original cast member! It’s just west by a few minutes from the Luray Caverns (on same highway). Its a great stop, we missed on our southbound route, so we caught it going back up north on our return trip. Easy access off of Interstate 81 that northbound or southbound direction too! There is no charge to enter the museum, but they have a nice small gift shop attached that you will want to purchase something to support their efforts. I purchased some locally made jam.
There is RV parking to the east side of their parking lot. We got there just before closing and so the parking lot was virtually empty mid week. The cafe unfortunately has very odd and limited hours so do not count on a bite to eat there. The museum is great with tons of memorabilia and actual cars (or some repro’s) used in the TV show. Dating ourselves, watched it regularly! The gift shop also has DoH stuff to purchase to show you remember when……Daisy Duke was America’s heartthrob!
PRO-NOTE: Even if you have to get there after hours, you can still see these cars as well as others like the ones used in the show displayed outside 24/7!
SECTION 3- BACK ONTO THE SKYLINE DRIVE TO LOFT MOUNTAIN!
We hopped back onto the Skyline Drive (SD) after spending 2 nights at Luray Jellystone. The drive continued to keep us in awe with beautiful scenery, the occasional deer spotting and amazing woodland vistas. The NPS rest areas are excellent, some with snack bars and all with gift shops (of course!) and clean restrooms, 24/7 maps to take, hiking maps, etc. There is usually at least one NPS Ranger during (9-4 pm) who can also answer specific questions about hikes, natural wonders, wildlife, etc.
Below is SKYLAND rest area which also features a restaurant, grab n go snack bar, gift shop and what appear to be beautiful lodging cabins that have spectacular private balconies overlooking the valley to the west. They were doing construction on the exterior to add we believe a large outside dining deck to the restaurant area. Restaurant has limited hours. If you are not camping, or want a night of blissful luxury you may want to book a stay! One of the most beautiful rest areas, however the bathrooms i the rest area itself were down a very large flight of stairs. really?? I must have missed the main floor ones! Check out the link here…
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MILE MARKERS!Skyland is Mile Marker 45, Loft Mountain is Mile Marker (MM) 80. (reminder, below you will see Big Meadow Visitor Center on the map below my fingers a bit. This is the ONLY GAS/DIESEL station on the entire 105 miles of the Skyline Drive! Top off or Gas Up here!
This does not sound like much of a trek, but when there is an awesome view from pull offs along the way and you stop to take pictures and drool….it can take a while believe me! Plus remember…the speed limit on the SD is 35 MPH and that is all you want to go anyway so you do not miss anything or anyone (like a deer or bear!)We did 25-30mph most of the time.
LOFT MOUNTAIN NPS CAMPGROUND
LOFT MOUNTAIN was our first National Park Service campground experience. I had used online booking, reviewed online sites that show photos of the actual sites and thought this would be a good fit. We were Site # F165. Non electric, no services site….which is all they have ANYWAY! I booked this in late December and there were already limited sites available so book early! We stayed 2 nights and rate was $15 per night but with my Senior NPS pass (see above for link) it was HALF PRICE…A WHOPPING $15 FOR TWO NIGHTS OF DRY CAMPING on top of a mountain with deer out our door and spectacular sunsets!
Be sure if you do camp at Loft Mountain campground that you take one of the several paths to the Amphitheater to watch the sunsets!You may get lucky like we did and see Elk literally 5 feet from you on the path! Sadly, again due to Covid restrictions/ and we think low staffing again, there were no programs scheduled at the outdoor theater but we understand there normally would be nature talks, music bands, solo musicians, etc. at least on weekends. We were there June 4-6, 2021.
Below are photos of our campsite itself in the Loop F, site # 165. We would try for other sites next time. This site is fine for a trailer under 28 feet due to the curve and the very un-levelness (is that a word?) of the site. Our power jack barely had enough pole to level us. Thank goodness we had the large red Anderson Jack Block to secure us in place. Even with this, I had nightmares of us falling off our block, and dreamt of a bear using our trailer as a scratching post and knocking us off our “perch”. (read that story “Mr MaGee Goes Camping” to my grandsons once too many times I think!)
While at Loft Mountain on our first full day we did a day ride (no trailer in tow) to Staunton, VA using the southern most entry point to the SD which is ROCKFISH GAP. We wanted to have a nice lunch at another highly rated German restaurant, The Edelweiss. You are getting the theme here about our culinary preferences aren’t you!? ** let us know if there is a super good German restaurant where you live or travel—we would love to check it out!
We also did some walking around the campground looking at sights (including views, deer and elk) but did not do any of the many hikes off of here due to my arthritic knee acting up. We would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are on the SD or doing Interstate 81 as it is right off of there as well. Just use Google!
So this will end our PART 1 from our 2021 Summer 3-Week trip over the Shenandoah Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park. Thank you for taking the ride with us! Here I am pointing to my Shenandoah National Park sticker on our 1987 Avion travel trailer we affectionately call “The Pewter Palace”!
Part 2 will include the Blue Ridge Parkway beginning in Rockfish Gap, through the rest of the Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Mountain Range and on into the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Be well, travel safe, slow down and enjoy the journey!
The Good, The Bad…the Ugly! It may not be the most glamorous topic for discussion, but keeping you and your family healthy has a direct correlation to continued enjoyment of the RV travel hobby.
The UGLY! Cross contamination of the fresh water spigot tap can cause serious illness—and contamination of your entire fresh water system! It can happen very easily, without your knowledge or even innocently on your part and it DOES happen!
Here are just a few possible CAUSES OF CONTAMINATION to your fresh water tank:
HOW DOES CONTAMINATION OF FRESH WATER HAPPEN?
Campground issues…..these are out of your control!
Campgrounds are not regularly testing their potable water supply (yes, it happens*)
Local municipal contamination, causing an emergency “boil water” advisory- especially prevalent after major storms.
Fresh water pipes could be broken underground before they get to spigot.
Improper placement of fresh water spigots by campground ownership
AND THE BIGGEST/MOST COMMON REASON?? Fresh water spigot tap contamination from a previous camper!
What YOU and OTHER CAMPERS do DOES makes a difference!
Lack of proper procedures during their black water tank flush process
Improper series/order of steps when hooking up or breaking down camp- we have seen people cleaning/rinsing their septic hose by turning on the fresh water spigot and rinsing under the water flow. Do you have any idea how much bacteria is splashing back up on to that faucet outlet??
Improper storage of your fresh water and sewer hoses
Broken, cracked, frayed hoses or couplers on hoses
There are countless conversations on facebook, YouTube and other blogs about first hand witnessing of unsanitary (for you and them) practices or lack thereof. This is serious business, ecoli infections can kill someone!
TIPS TO BE MORE SAFE WHEN USING CAMPGROUND DUMP STATIONS AND FULL HOOK UP SITES:
Always wear clean disposable gloves when doing your sewer dumping and DO NOT leave those gloves anywhere but in your own trash bag!
Put a small spray bottle of H2O with a mild bleach solution in your outside fresh water compartment. I bought a 4 inch travel size one with spritzer nozzle at Wally World for a couple of $.
Spray your bleach water solution EACH and every time you hook upand break down! Spray it on…both ends of your fresh water hose, the spigot at the campground pedestal/faucet before you hook up your hose. Spray the ends of your fresh water filter(s) too. When spraying spray around the outside and into the openings of hoses, filters, and spigot.
NEVER set the open ends of your fresh water hoses or filter ends on the ground!! NEVER NEVER! Have a helper hold them. If you must set stuff down because you are alone, then take a clean new plastic kitchen garbage bag and put that on the ground near the water spigot and lay your items on it like a carpet. Throw bag away after use.
DO NOT store your water filters in your basement storage areas. (may be ok for modern campers with large storage areas where you can have lidded plastic totes) Way too much dirt, germs and debris can find their way into them. We store ours in a clean dish pan in our shower floor or kitchen sink.
If the weather has been wet, use a paper towel or sponge to slide down the length of the fresh water hose before storing to take off mud, dirt, bugs, etc. Be sure you get all or 99% of the water out of your hoses before storing.
Always screw the two ends of your fresh water hose together so nothing can get in there while not in use. Would not hurt to again spray with the water/bleach solution before storing.
Using your water/bleach spritzer spray off your dump valves regularly. Keep them properly greased/lubed up as directed by manufacturers recommendations. Keep your storage bays as clean as possible.
Store your “stinky slinky”, septic hose in a separate area from your fresh water hose and equipment.
Have a box of gloves, a bucket of clorox wipes and paper towels always handy in that basement bay or next one over.
Consider always carrying a gerry jug (we have two 6 gals) with you filled with fresh water you know you can trust. Just in case the water from your campsite smells a little off, has high iron or sulfur content even though it may be potable. Your AM coffee will thank you!
Install an under counter fresh water filter below your faucet. There are many types from electronic to flow through traditional. We have one on our dedicated drinking water faucet. It is so good it even removed the pink dye color from the winter antifreeze!
Consider buying a Berkey Water Filtration system that sits on your counter. Found on Amazon or their dedicated Berkey site. Not cheap but great peace of mind.
Dump the black water tank first….then the grey water!
Put at least 4-6 or so gallons of water (depends on size of your tank or how long you will be not camping) back into your toilet and add your black tank digester. We prefer Happy Camper or Unique brands.
You do not need to use RV toilet paper….any Septic Safe labeled T-paper is fine as long as you use sufficient water each time you flush. What I tell my grandsons is if you do #2…then hold the pedal down for as long as it takes you to slowly count to at least 6.
*I recall reading numerous reviews about a campground in south western Arizona that had multiple complaints and even was shut down by their local health department due to fouled fresh water being run through pipes to their campsites. It pays to read campground reviews before you park! (NOTE: we always have at least 4-6 filled milk jugs of our own home water with us on any given trip. If anything, we use them to “flush” when boondocking or using our toilet at a rest area.
Are you bothered by the beam of light that comes through your roof vent in the morning—saying “wake up its 6 AM??”
Even though we have MaxAir Vent covers in the smoke plexiglass color we still find that the morning light coming in really robs us of some extra ZZZZ’s! So I looked for an inexpensive way to fix this issue. We do have modern Fan-tastic in our Avion, but this fix could be used with other types of roof fan vents too! A quick look on Amazon and even just Google shows there are all sorts of sizes available out there.
Then again, you could wear a sleep mask but we find them a little uncomfortable and can be hot.
Key to choosing a window shade is that it should have perforations so that you can still use the fan feature when your “shade is drawn closed”. Here is an image similar to what we purchased, on clearance at Camping World for $6.
First thing I did was cut off the actual retraction roller bar part. I did not want to have to screw that into our ceiling and felt that I would not be able to get a strong enough bond to take the pressure that was needed to “pull” the shade across our vent screen area. I left the other end intact which had a stiff rod through it and a small fastening area (on left end below). I felt this would add some stability as this would be the end that will be unrolled/rolled up to stow the mesh.
I used the Scotch brand traditional velcro squares below. I did NOT use the heavy duty click together type which the velcro adheres far more permanently to your surface and these are usually what I use for far heavier items.
I then applied 3 pairs of 1″ white velcro squares on the cut end of the mesh.
When I work with velcro I match up the two parts of the velcro first, then remove the clear plastic sheet to expose the sticky side on one side- afix into place where I want it. On this project that was all done on the kitchen counter. Then when I am ready to install I peel off the clear plastic protector on the other ends and push entire thing into place. This method takes the guess work out of trying to line each piece up properly.
This cut off end will be attached to the rear edge of the vent shroud trim piece. I did not use removable velcro squares but you can find them in 3M product lines, though they might be rectangular and thinner- they will work. The mesh piece is not heavy so HD velcro is not needed. In the photo below you can see the 3 sets of pairs of velcro.
NOTE: I chose to put the black side of the mesh towards the roof vent. I felt that having the white exposed to our bedroom would make the mesh far less noticeable on the ceiling –as I plan to just roll it up and stow it on the ceiling. If you prefer, with using the velcro squares it is just as easy to take down completely when not in use- but the velcro will wear out quicker. The instructions on the package if used in a car application said the white to the outside, black to the inside of the car.
When you go to install the velcro squares to the fan trim piece be sure that trim piece is really clean. Ideally clean with a little rubbing alcohol first, and dry to ensure a great seal of the sticky back velcro.
Next step for me was to hold those velcro tabs in place a bit just to ensure they are well bonded to the plastic wide fan flange. I let the mesh hang for about 15 minutes as part of this process.
Next step was to hold up and extend the shade, using the original tab on the end that has the bar reinforcement in the hem. I held it up as taught as possible but not so tight to put pressure on the 3 sets of velcro on other end nor to obstruct or push against the rotator motor that hangs down.
Once I found that right point, I installed one more sticky back velcro square to the ceiling and one to the top side of that tab so the mesh would stay in place covering the vent screen area. There is still plenty of “air space” gap on each side so that the vent works properly. Using velcro here makes it easy to open the mesh to take down or to make adjustments on the fan controls if necessary when mesh is deployed.
Pictures of the complete install are below– Since the white side faces down and it is so light weight, I rolled it up and secured it with two blue laundry clamps, like clothes pins that I had handy. I will buy some small white ones to use permanently. As it stands right now, we plan to keep the mesh rolled up and on the ceiling and unroll as needed. Not the prettiest of hacks, but we believe this will surely solve the problem of sun beams on our face!
Total project time, about 15 minutes.
Pull down style car window sun blocking mesh screen
Scissors (to cut off retractor bar end and trim mesh if needed)
White Velcro sticky back squares (3M makes removable ones too!)
If you do this project, please let us know and post pictures of your own to inspire others!!!!
As always, stay safe, have wonderful journeys and hug your Avion!
WHY? People have had the windows on their Avions blow open and get broken off of the rig when a gust of wind hit their rig while going down the road or in a bad wind storm. Don’t let this happen to you!
When we owned our 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande Model we noticed that one of the three prior owners had put on some “make do” hardware that held the windows more solidly closed while rolling down the road or during winter or very bad weather (rain or wind). Below is one of those “make do” clips but overtime it was only functional with our little slip of a wood shim in it! So the time to find a new “fix” was due!
CAUTION! These old Hehr windows especially the “awning type” which are the one piece large windows that crank open from the bottom out…CAN AND DO have the potential to catch a wind and fly open when rolling down the road at 50+ MPH. In case you do unfortunately lose a window or purchase a reno project Avion, Hehr does still make awning style (and Jalousie) windows and some online companies also carry a limited amount of dimensions. NO ONE in our research makes the rounded front curved windows that flank your center front window so please baby those fixed windows- we also have them in the rear bedroom of our ’87!
*note, since purchasing our 1987 32S Avion (jalousie window style) we do not have this issue with rattling or fly open accidently windows but we still make double-triple sure they are fully secured before we begin towing because if open even a little bit the wind could catch the smaller pane of a jalousie and pull it open to and strip your window crank system in the process. It seems the issues of rattling windows is more prevalent with the awning style windows found on pre mid 80’s models.
Additionally, some of our window torque operators (those little metal boxes that your crank handle fits into to raise the window out) were less than perfect, wear out quickly due to soft metal gears inside and did not always “snuggly” hold our window shut.
WHAT TO DO TO PREVENT WINDOWS HAVING A MIND OF THEIR OWN??
They are cheap, come in boxes of multiples and made for a decently attractive but functional solution to ensuring our windows were all securely closed to prevent accidental opening during trailering.
We put a stainless steel screw into the pre-drilled hole and the “pin” which is intended to fit into a round hold in a bookshelf wall is actually what holds the window closed. (sorry evidently did not take a photo of this before we sold our 73 Avion!)
Part of our routine before we got underway for a trip and then when we arrive to set up at our campsite was simply to take a cordless power drill and unscrew the stainless screw to be able to rotate the clip away from the window frame to allow the window to open. We did not remove the clip entirely, merely rotated out of the way so it was ready to be deployed again to do its job once we were packing up and making ready to leave our campsite.
Last but not least….we cannot stress enough the importance of a “WALK AROUND” safety check BEFORE you tow your RV 2 feet! The walk about is Luisa’s job so there is a second pair of eyes on the hitch area and all its hook ups, etc. This Walk-Around will be where you check to see that all of your windows are secured down, if using clips like we outline above, they are engaged and tightened, awnings latched/locked in place. I will be posting a complete other “walk around” post to go into more details on this very important safety standard of practice.
We took a 3 week long, 3341 mile trip in the Pewter Palace beginning on May 28, 2021.
After a quick boondock stop at our favorite Cabella’s in Hamburg, PA and a four day stay at Camp Belvoir (Military Travel Camp-see separate reviews for military camps we are very fortunate to be able to stay at) we landed wheels at the Jellystone Camping Resort in Luray, VA on RT 211. We were there the first week in June.
WHY CHOOSE THIS LOCATION?
-Very close to the Skyline Drive/ Blue Ridge Parkway junction.
-Easy access to the famous, and well worth the visit- Luray Caverns (which also has a bonus of an antique auto museum, heritage village and toy museum all on same ticket)
-About 18 minutes from Cooter’s Garage- a museum dedicated to the legacy of the TV show…The Dukes of Hazard. Complete with autos, memorbilia, interviews, personal props, etc.
-Plenty of local retail, including a WalMart Superstore, gas, other boutique type stores in downtown Luray are all within 10 minutes.
CAMPGROUND REVIEW-AMENITIES, SITE, CAMP STORE
This campground is a Jellystone so most of the attention is towards families, kids and fun. However, during our visit that is not what we found. We honestly felt that the facility was “milking Covid restrictions” in our opinion by having most of their amenities either closed or on very limited scheduling. (note, by the time of our visit the Governor of VA had curtailed all closure restrictions, mask restrictions, etc. and masks were only required for those not fully vaccinated to enter businesses or closed in public spaces.)
For example, here are our observations.
The Pool Complex: Their pool complex is beautiful but….the four nights we were there, the water slides (evidently weekends only till mid June) and splash pad were not open, only 1 of three pools in the pool complex was open at any given time (appears they rotate which one is open) all others had caution tape strung around them (looked pretty tacky), the pool side snack bar was not open at all. The jumping pillows were open limited hours- so kids liked that. There was no posted adult only swim times, no hot tub and no scheduled activities for anyone/age group that we were aware of. On a plus note…..Their mini golf course was open and in very nice condition- perhaps one of the nicer ones we have seen at a private park. They have tons of golf carts to rent and this seems to be a major event for most campers here. They are very expensive and have a 2 day minimum rental. We have never seen so much cart traffic in a campground. Folks here do not like to walk.
Here is a link to their full scope of amenities…there is a lot. BUT-We did not see any evidence any were open except what is noted above. https://campluray.com/attractions/
Campstore Clamp Down! What really was a big turn off for us was as you walked around their very large and well stocked camp store there were signs on nearly every shelf, every hanging display and everywhere we turned that basically said…”Do NOT Touch any items unless you plan to buy them” and this they claimed was due to Covid. This was overdone and in our opinion totally a big turn off and ridiculous! Seriously???? does this mean that the management points to items they want to buy in the local supermarket when they personally go shopping for their families?
Our Site: originally we were booked (online sight unseen) to site # 97, a corner site which is typically our preference. Upon arrival it was clear the site was very unlevel, our streetside neighbor way too close and way to short for our 56 total length. To their credit, when I phoned the desk, they were very pleasant and accommodating and allowed us to immediately relocate to a pull through site #181. Most sites are lightly graveled with spotty grass. They do have upgraded sites on the ends which have concrete pads and better maintained- are they worth the extra $$- for you to decide! Our site was pretty average, nothing grand for sure, no views, width was good and it was much more level, directly across a big lawn where the rental cabins are. It was fine and certainly close enough for us to walk to the pool complex, etc. Without being self contained it would have been a decent hike to bath house facilities.
Location, Location, Location: The biggest factor for us to stay at this campground was its location and proximity to hop off the Skyline Drive and only have to travel a short way on a state highway to the campground. The Skyline Drive does have an entrance fee but once paid is good for 7 consecutive days. The Skyline Drive is beautiful and was our favorite. There are ONLY4 ENTRANCE points to the Drive,
Front Royal Entrance Station near Rt. 66 and 340
Thornton GapEntrance Station at Rt. 211
Swift Run Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 33
Rockfish Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 64 and Rt. 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway).
An entrance pass is required in order to enter Shenandoah National Park, whether you’re driving on Skyline Drive or hiking in from the boundary. All entrance passes are valid for unlimited entry for seven consecutive days, beginning on the date of purchase. Entrance passes may be purchased online or at any of our entrance stations.
Shenandoah Entrance Pass – Single Vehicle – $30.00 Unlimited entry for one vehicle and all passengers for seven consecutive days, beginning on the day of purchase. Vehicles must be private, noncommercial, and with a seating capacity of 15 or less.
We have my NPS Senior Lifetime Access Pass ($80 one time fee) so for us the entrance was totally FREE. The campground’s location is a great hub and spoke location with easy quick access to Luray Caverns, local shopping/services and all it has to offer and to Cooter’s Garage a fun attraction on the other side of town (still on RT 211 heading west towards Interstate 81). We actually did Cooter’s on our return trip home at the end of our vacation since we were traveling RT 81 Northbound.
Nuts and Bolts…. campground WiFi coverage was fair to lousy and the park was not at nearly full capacity either! So if you do not have your own internet booster/hot spot you are pretty much out of luck. We did better just using our Verizon MiFi hot spot. Fact–do not plan to have cell or any type of signal when touring most of the Shenandoah National Park.
WOULD WE GO BACK? probably not. I believe there are other campgrounds in close enough proximity to the northern terminus or middle section of the Skyline Drive near the caverns, etc. that warrant our business. Understanding we are not big into campgrounds geared towards young families anymore (used to be and still do when grandkids are with us) but rarely do we use most of the amenities that those types of campgrounds justifiably have to attract families. On our return leg of our trip we stayed about 25 minutes north of Luray, at the Shenandoah River State Park (SRSP). A drop dead gorgeous park, river swimming, kayak/canoe launch, pavillions. SRSP campground is smaller in size, no amenities (pool, etc) but very new and beautifully set up. Super nice, clean bath house, shower facilities and laundry room. I will do a SRSP review in more detail with photos, etc. once i complete it and cross link it here.
SHOULD YOU DO THE SKYLINE DRIVE?
ABSOLUTELY! IT IS A FABULOUS DRIVE, 35 MPH, “WOW” AT EVERY TURN AND OVERLOOK. We thoroughly enjoyed our drive and our time in the Shenandoah National Park for the week! If you are a hiker you could easily stay a month in the Shenandoah NP and not see or do all you would want to!
Happy Travels, stay safe, stay hydrated and enjoy every mile! If you like this post, please comment- subscribe to our blog to get notifications of new posts! We have a lot more coming about our big journey through the Shenandoah’s and Smoky’s including some amazing photography and more campsite reviews of state and national campgrounds!
Adventures with a Vintage Avion Luxury Coach Camper