Tag Archives: vintage camping

Replacing Avion Rubber Window Trims

With the exception of TIRES….the project that seems to get the most play on any of the Avion Forums, Facebook pages and Instant messaging is “what and how do I fix my windows that look like this??

We have had countless requests to create this comprehensive project blog post so here it goes.  Included is step by step “how-to’s”, where to buy materials, videos, tips and tricks!

By no means are we professionals at this-we just love our Avion and want to make her whole.  We make mistakes, we try to help others to not make those same mistakes if we can avoid it…but there are some folks on the Avion facebook pages and forums that have done 2, 3, 4. 6 makeovers of Avion windows who should and could be tapped for their expertise too!

(BELOW IS WHAT OUR 1987 32S LOOKED LIKE WHEN WE BOUGHT IT IN MARCH 2020)

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This is what our windows looked like AFTER we finished (or nearly finished) our project

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First...assemble the tools  we suggest  you have handy:

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  1. Heat gun (a hand held hair blow drier will work in a pinch)
  2. Power screwdriver
  3. Heavy duty scissors, or kitchen shears
  4. Needle nose pliers
  5. Set of picks (blue handles)  (can be found at big box hardware stores)

also, not pictured but needed…..

  1. Tape measure (we have found best to have a cloth measuring tape AND a regular metal measuring tape
  2. Phillips screwdriver (in case, like with ours, the screw cover had been screwed down to hold in place after shrinkage from age had started to pull away corners)
  3. Can of Pam cooking spray, to help lubricate the tracks before inserting new trim
  4. A hard plastic Bone tool (we have a link on our Resources/Links Page)
  5. Rages, shop cloths or disposable wipes & cleaner (we use GoJo Brand Workshop/Garage Hand wipes.  They have a ruff side but it does not hurt aluminum skin or window tracks, but really removes grease, grime and goo from window tracks.

NOTE: For the purpose of this blog post I am going to refer to the window glass bead as “trim” and the trim that goes around the outside of later model Avions like ours (87) as the “screw cover”.  The Glass Bead is what term to look for on the sites linked below that sell the right stuff.  The glass bead is the rubber trim that pushes into place that sits and hugs the glass of your window.  Don’t ask me why they call is a bead…it is far from that in my book…it is trim.  but using the right terms, Glass Bead and Screw Cover will keep you out of trouble, especially when trying to locate the stuff online or speaking with someone at these companies.

IMPORTANT TIPS- SOME OF THESE WE LEARNED THE HARD WAY!

(Don’t skip this part please!)

  • Do this project when weather is warm so old trim and new is as pliable as possible.
  • Take your cloth measuring tape, and measure each window around the metal trims- both the bead trim and the screw cover if applicable.  Using a cloth measuring tape makes it easier to loosely measure window curved corners.  Get that total for each project and ADD 10-15 feet for safe measure.

Pro Tip (ha ha) make a schematic of your trailer NOW and write down each glass bead trim track and  if you have them, screw cover track length for each window.  This will help in installation steps to follow.  ADD 2-3 INCHES TO EACH OVERALL LENGTH!

  • Always order at least 10-15 extra feet over what you think you need.  You are going to screw up your measurements or the 45 degree corner angles , etc. on occasion.
  • Do NOT take any old trim off until you are ready to tackle that particular window.  This we found was especially critical with the curved front and back windows.  We did not know this, removed all trim and over a few weeks of very hot 90 degree summer weather, the curved/bent glass pieces shifted down.  We had to manual slide them back into place and shim them to be able to get new trim into the tracks again.
  • We do not recommend microwaving (some do!) or laying out your new trim in the sun unless the temps outside are cold and you need to warm up the rubber to get it pliable.  The concern with heating new trim up too much is you do NOT want to stretch the trim as you are putting it in because once it cools it will shrink back to its normal length causing you problems in corners and seam areas.
  • We do recommend using the 3M trim adhesive we will  show in our steps.  We used this in all radius corners (rounded corners) as well as wherever seams butted up against each other (both under the trim as well as over top the seams).  This product is linked in our Amazon product list on our Resource/Links page.  We used just over (1) 5 oz tube for our ’32 foot trailer.  We did end up buying that second tube for like the last window, but this stuff will come in handy down the road for sure!

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  • This project requires strong finger strength.  There is no way around it.  Kevin was the only one with the finger strength to get especially the glass bead (the trim that sits against the windows) to seat in properly.  I had no problem putting in the screw cover which is in the outside track.  Be ready for finger cramping at night!
  • Use continuous lengths of trim for each window.  Do not piece together unless you absolutely have to.  The more seams you introduce the more likely you will have failures and leaks. Some of the curved windows will required a straight side piece and then one continuous piece for the rest-for example the curved front and, if you have them the rear side windows.  On our 32S we also had the small little windows underneath our picture window in salon.
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    This is our 1973.  Note the trim piece on right is a straight piece with 45 degree angle cut corners . The rest is one continuous piece around the two curved outside corners.
  • When you receive your ordered new trim, dry fit a small piece in each window track to be sure  you have ordered the right stuff.  We found out the hard way (too!) that our front and rear large windows with curved side glass pieces had a very slightly different trim profile than ALL of the other windows.
  • We highly recommend using the fill-able syringe we have on our Resource Page to put the 3M Black Adhesive into so you can create a small exact bead of goo to put into track corners and at butted seams.  I snip off the first 1/8″ to use with Parbond and with this 3M material otherwise the tip as  it is made is so tiny, its really tough to push this thick material through.
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Here I am using the fill able syringe with Parbond to fill any open unused screw holes left when we removed the original screw cover rubber trim that lays outside the window.  This screw cover is not on earlier models (e.g.our 73 did not have)  but was on our 1987

STEP # 1:  ORDERING THE RIGHT TRIM FOR YOUR TRAILER WINDOWS

Decide what trim, for your model year Avion (or other vintage trailer for that matter) you are going to need.  Here is what we ordered and from whom for our 1987 Avion 32S window project.  (Caution!  this may or may not be what you need depending on year!)  You can use the resources we have listed below to take a bit of your old trim you have cut off to measure and try to match up with the product #s online.  For best search…you may want to actually SEND the company a sample and let their in house folks match you up with the right stuff you need.

Interstate and Pelland are the two we have dealt with the most.  They have very good customer service, thank goodness because their websites are really pretty bad!

(at the very end of this post we will show you specific links to the product #s and sources that we used on our ’73 28 Foot LaGrande Model and our  ’87 32S model)

STEP 2:  REMOVE OLD TRIM OFF A WINDOW AND PREP IT FOR NEW TRIM

Like with many or all projects, good surface preparation is key to a good finished product that will last.  

  • We found removing the Rock Guard really makes working on the front window much easier, but the rock guard can be left on if needed.  To remove your rock guard, check for any set screws in the upper track used to prevent guard from sliding out inadvertently.  To remove guard really is best done with 2 people on step stools.  Lift guard open up to an angle where the person (normally on the left) can begin to slide the guard out to the left along that upper track.  Keep sliding, the person on the right may have to help it over the bend of the guard on the end a little by flexing it out if possible or giving it a nudge, its going to be tight getting it past that point.  Continue to slide guard off which ever end of the track it feels most wanting to slide to.  We have found the person who helped on the right, needs to run around with their step stool to join the person on the left to guide it off due to overall length.  You do NOT want to bend this guard out of shape nor have it snap or crack.  They are nearly impossible to find original replacements for !

(1)  Remove old trim from the window you plan to work on today.  You may need a screw driver or needle nose pliers to pry it out and away from window track.  Do not bend metal track!  We highly suggest KEEP all the old Trim…at least for now!  See photo capture to learn why!

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Keep your old trim for now!  bundle it in froggy tape, mark which window it came from!  Case in point, we could not find the front/rear trim in time for our rally so we  “Frankenstein-ed” back the old trim putting it back in  and used 3M to hold it in again.  AND the black top trim piece we needed is back ordered…so we had to reuse that for now too!  Lessons learned!

(2)  Use cloths, scrubbies and a cleaner to get out all gunk, goo, bugs, etc from metal track.  Again, we use GoJo Brand Shop Wipes which are pre-moistened with a cleaner designed to remove grease, grime but are made for hands-so no harsh chemicals.

(3)  Remove any unnecessary screws (in the case of the screw cover, remove any exterior screws that were put in to hold old trim stuff on.  You will NOT be putting screws into the new trim.

(4)  Fill any unneeded “screw holes” made from old screws with Parbond or similar.  If there is obvious gaps in where the metal tracking butts up against each end, you can fill that slightly too.  The premise is we want to close up any unnecessary holes that can allow water into the trailer walls.

(5)  CHECK YOUR WEEP HOLES!  This is a great time to check your weeping holes on most windows.  They will typically appear as 2 small holes or square slots at bottom of the window on the tracks.  These allow any water that does get in to “weep” out of the holes rather than “seep” into your Avion wall!  I take a small pick or a screwdriver or large pipe cleaner and stick it in each weep hole to clean out grime, bugs and debris.  This cleaning of weep holes can become part of annual (spring and fall) or monthly maintenance routine depending on where  you are camping!

(6) Now is the time to do any black paint touch ups on the metal track that may have been chipped off or clean up any rust and repaint.  We used basic Semi-gloss Black Rustoleum brush on paint and a small brush.

STEP 3:  READY TO APPLY THE WINDOW GLASS BEAD (Sore Finger alert!)

(1)  Take your cloth measuring tape again if you had not written down how many inches the tracks are for each window.  Get your complete measurement of the bead track.  Add at least 2-3 inches to that measurement.  Yes, there may be some waste but if you cut to short trust me you will have FAR more waste in the end.

(2)  Start at either one of the bottom corners OR the center, depending on how the original one was done.  For all corners you will be doing a 45 degree “picture frame” fit.  I cut it by eye but if you are a stickler for precision, I guess you can find some angle tool to help you measure it.  (I do the angle cutting, Kevin would need the angle tool!)  You can try to push the rubber glass bead in without using Pam spray first.  If it goes in, it will require a bit of pushing with strong fingers and putting it in on a slight angle into the track first then laying it flat to the window.  You may need to use the Bone Tool or a pick to get it in to some places.  Here is a video we shot doing our 1973 Avion which really shows the technique that works best to get the trim in and snug to the window glass itself.

(3)  The whole KEY to doing this right is to push back on the material as you push it in.  This is to ensure the material will sustain its integrity and length for as long as possible once exposed to heat, sun, wind and weather changes.  You do NOT want to stretch it, you want it to be in there really tight and seated into the corners, bends and butted seams.  At the seams, we apply a little 3M underneath the two ends and really back off that finishing end so that the butting is very very tight.  In the corners, the same thing.  Cutting each end on that 45, cut it a little long and use the pick tool to force those pointed ends down inside the metal track corners too.

(4)  Use the 3M Adhesive (or we used clear Parbond on the ’73) to seal those seamed joints well.

(5)  Step back and take a look.  If you see some areas bulging a little, go back over them with your fingers, or the Bone Tool to get them to lay flat.  The bead should lay very tightly on the window glass if installed properly.  (Annually check those butted seams and corners and fill with e.g. that black 3M as needed.

STEP # 4:  INSTALLING THE SCREW COVER TRIM- EASY PEASY!!

Now for the far easier part!  The screw cover really goes in quite easily.  This is where we did use Pam spray to lube the track on some windows, while others seemed not to need it at all.

Again, the use of the screw covers on the Hehr windows was not in play until we believe the 1980’s.  We also cannot vouge for fact that all screw cover product #’s are the same, so again, look at a piece of your original, measure the profile end and look at the vendors to get the right stuff.  Be sure it is rubber…NOT vinyl!  Although our Ebay Source (below) advertises the product we ordered as “vinyl” it is clearly a rubber product.  Both are sold as screw cover, but vinyl is really sold more for boating and will not be able to bend around your radius curves.  Screw cover trim is far easier to find as  it is in regular use today on boats, cargo trailers, etc.

(1)  Using your window measurement of that outside track with that added “fudge length” adding 2-3 inches.  Cut your rubber screw cover.

(2) if you have not already prepped, cleaned, touch up painted your screw cover metal track do that now.  Fill in any holes from removed exterior screws with Parbond or similar.  Sand off rust, carefully repaint with black Rustoleum paint

(3) We found all screw covers on our 87 started at center bottom with a straight butted two ends together seam.

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(4)  To start, we put a small bit of 3M adhesive on the side we started with, then “clicked/pushed” the screw cover into place going around radius corners.  We put a bead (using the syringe) around EACH CORNER RADIUS bend too!  These corners are where you will see pop out first from age/sun shrinkage.  Having an adhesive in there should help prolong life.

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Above photo closeup of the OLD Screw cover.  A previous owner-we suspect the one in FL had put screws in through the rubber in an attempt to hold the rubber in place on each seamed corner and radius curve.  By doing this you are essentially creating holes for water to get in and to penetrate behind the screw cover “seal” and leak into your window track and ultimately possibly into your walls.   When you feel the need to put screws in like this….DON’T— just simply buy new screw cover and install!

(5) Kevin found the Bone Tool very helpful by flattening out the screw cover rubber and really forcing those little hooked ends into the metal track to grip well.  (see video below)

 

ANOTHER TIP TO SHARE:  When applying the glass bead AND the screw cover it really helps to have a second person who can keep the remaining trim above or at least level with the shoulder of the person applying the trim into the windows.  This prevents the drag of gravity trying to pull down on the excess material and helps the install.  If you don’t have a second person, then at least lay the excess over your shoulders to lessen the gravity drag downward and fighting against you trying to install “upwards” which you have to do to do this project right!

(5) Again, just like with the glass bead, you want to NOT stretch this screw cover.  During the install keep pushing it back slightly upon itself, especially around the radius corners so you are getting as much trim in as the track can hold.

(6) Butting the ends together, cut long and trim slightly as needed but to ensure a really tightly butted seam.  We lay some 3M adhesive on the final few inches of the trim before we do the final cut and butting of the raw edges.  Make sure those edges are straight for the neatest look.

(7) Apply a thin bead of 3M black adhesive over top of this seam as well.

This new glass bead if installed correctly should last in normal conditions at least 8-15 years or more.  Of course, if you are in hot weather states in the summer and your trailer is outdoors, the longevity may be less.  We know that the glass bead on ours was at least 20 years or more old and may have even been original.  Our trailer was bought new in FL, lived in FL till 2012 then sold and moved to PA.  Was stored outdoors.

Here is a PDF that I created and have posted on the Avion Trailer Owners Club Facebook page for its members.  I”m happy to share it here with you too! UPDATED 6-29-20-AVION Flexible Screw Cover Rubber Molding, Tips, Source to Buy for ’80s models

OUR SHOPPING LIST:

WHAT SPECIFIC PRODUCTS WE ORDERED FOR OUR 1973 AND OUR 1987 AVIONS AND WHO WE ORDERED FROM!  This may or may not be what you need!  Do your research, purchase sample kits or ask them to send you a sample or buy a foot of what you think you need FIRST!

Special note-JULY 2020:  We have yet to find the correct new replacement glass bead for our curved front and rear windows.  We are sending a sample to a Pelland and Interstate to get them to ID and select correct one. When we get it, we will update this post with that info!  All other materials that have worked for us are listed below with links to products and their distributors.

SOURCE DETAILS:    PELLAND ENTERPRISES:

Pelland also sells a great sample kit on their website…worth getting before you place your order!    https://www.pellandent.com/RV-Window-Seal

WINDOW GLASS BEAD:    Pellandent.com    H009-344-19

009-3441-pelland, glass bead for 73 and 87

  • 1973-  Used for all windows
  • 1987- Used for all curb and streetside windows AND for the straight inner trim on front and rear curved windows on each side of our jalousie center windows.

Model #  H009-344-19    for Hehr 5900 windows   

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TOP SEAL TRIM (flat piece that you cut to fit.  May need 3M on edges for extra hold)

h009-482-1-Pelland Enterprises, Top Seal

1987- used on all windows needing it, which are the straight windows, jalousie type.

  • PellandEnt.com   Model # H009-482
  • above may look a little too curved at the bottom of the arrow but when it arrives it really is more the flat that you will need.
  • https://www.pellandent.com/7900-Top-Seal-Hehr
  • July 2020 Price was $4.48 per foot

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SCREW COVER TRIM:

SOURCE DETAILS:  EBAY  SELLER – She is excellent to deal with.  Responds directly to questions, ships super fast.  Very good transactions.  Her “store” is full of various trims, etc. for RVs and Boats.

 

Search for:  BLACK RV Trailer Thick Vinyl 3/4″ Insert Trim Mold Flexible Screw Cover 100 Ft.

3 QUARTER INCH THICK , FLEXIBLE

  • July 2020 Selling for 100 feet @ $72.95 with FREE shipping!
  • She does sell it in various precut length hanks.  Buy what you need, and then some!

NOTE:  Be sure to order the correct ” Thick Vinyl 3/4 inch”.  She has a lot of various similar trims in her Ebay Store.  We did not order the thick stuff the first time and it was way to thin and would not have held up in the track for long and would have fallen out on the road.

So that’s it.  This is hopefully a very helpful post to all who need repairs or total replacements of their window trims.  The project is worth taking on.  Window and seams areas are the leading source of water damage to vintage trailers.

We hope we have helped you on your journey!  We love feedback so please leave a comment!

Safe travels!  Hope to meet you on the road or at a rally someday!

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Looking to Connect with Avion Owners?

What are you doing at 7 PM (EST) on Tuesday nights? 

Join us for a live, virtual chat ZOOM meeting with fellow Avioner’s from all over the USA (and the world)!

If it is one thing that this Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic has taught me, it is how to connect virtually with people in meaningful ways despite not being with them in person.

For my work, I have become very proficient at hosting live ZOOM meetings (you can start a basic Zoom account for free!) and have found that these LIVE virtual in-person meetings have enabled my colleagues, friends and family members to share stories, tips, timely topics and even share documents, photos, etc. in a meaningful easy way.  SO WHY NOT DO IT WITH AVION OWNERS?  LET’S GET TOGETHER TO “TALK AVION!”

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SO…..Kevin and I are launching “Avion Tuesday Talks” –weekly topic —  live chats via ZOOM at 7 PM (EST).  Each week, we will have one manageable topic and hope to attract long time Avion owners to brand new owners….and everyone in between.  Even members of any of the Avion Facebook groups who are still “in the market to buy their first Avion” are welcomed.

Suggestions for future topic talks are always welcomed by shooting us an email, posting a suggestion on our facebook page or posting a comment on this blog anytime!

NOTE:  These meetings are best joined by you using a laptop with built in camera and speakers.  PC’s with audio and video are fine too.  Cell phones are ok but a little clunky to get the best experience.

My Pewter Palace Zoom account can handle up to 95 attendees.  Right now, I am also doing just the free subscription so our chat can only be 35 minutes (yup, i know i will have to put the timer on!).  If this catches on, we will explore upgrading to the paid service where longer 1 hr chats can be done.  But lets crawl….before we walk and see if the interest among Avioners is there first!

HOPE YOU WILL JOIN US AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!  You can find the events listed by date on ourPewter Palace facebook page under the “events” tab.  This is where the topic of the week will be listed as well as the direct link info to log in and then join us at 7 PM.

Not familiar with Zoom??  It is super easy to learn and use!  Here is a terrific tutorial to view before your first live Zoom meeting!     Watch now!

87 Microwave Gets a Facelift (removal++)

On our project list for our new to us ’87 Avion was to remove the original 1987 humongous microwave.  In truth–the edges of interior box were rusty and surely this behemoth sucks a huge amount of juice when “fired up” and running.  Plus…do we really want to trust the safety of a 33-year-old Microwave?

As an aside, in case you don’t know…Kevin and I have over 30+ years of 18th century living history reenacting at historic sites, museums, national and state historic parks from Nova Scotia to Colonial Williamsburg.  Yes…we are THOSE people who make and wear clothing and live the life of our forefathers and mothers in 1757-1781.  As a result of the immersion into this hobby, Kevin and I have long ago learned how to cook, clean and survive without a microwave for days on end.

Yes, at home I do use a microwave, but camping life and its pace and fresh air seems to shrug microwaving for us.

When we bought our ’73 Avion right off the bat we began looking to see what cabinet we could retrofit to install a small microwave thinking we needed one in an Rv.  Doesn’t every RV have one after all? (our Class A did).  But our common sense took hold and I asked discerningly- “what do we really use it for??”.  Perhaps heating a left over cup of coffee (can be done in a sauce pan), or reheating a left over (we rarely have leftovers and if so, tin foil can do the trick on the grill, in a covered pot on the stove or in our Avion oven)So did we REALLY need a microwave and to hack into the pristine, original cabinetry that Avion’s were/are known for?  We decided to wait a year of using our 73 before we hacked.  A year turned into three and there was no doubt, no microwave was needed for us.  We are resourceful camping souls from the 1700’s after all-  having logged literally 1000’s of hours in reproduction canvas tents, hauling water and cooking over an open fire even in 95 degree summers (with 3-4 layers of wool and linen clothing to boot)!  Running water and a toilet are high style for us!

So fast forward to our newly purchased ’87 Avion.  The 32S has a front kitchen.  It’s one of the big reasons we love this floor plan.  Here is a photo of the behemoth microwave that came with her off the assembly line in Michigan 33 years ago this past February. Yeah, the # buttons were like the size of a postage stamp!

orig microwave in our 1987, 32S_ march 2020

Here below are some photos after the microwave was removed, and the cabinet interior cleaned up, a floor created over the framing and wiring for the stove exhaust hood safely wrapped, encased and secured.  Kevin did a super job on this and WOW!!  Look at all this space I have now!  More than enough for some modern convenience contraptions I really do use like…my air fryer, small InstaPot, my crockpot and metal stock pot (for the occasional Lobsta’ dinners now and then or the rally chili cook-off contest!)  Plus maybe even some oversized boxes perhaps of dry cereals, oatmeal, etc.

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I had the brainstorm one night that instead of trying to salvage some original Avion cabinet doors to put in here, how about a corkboard?  In 225 Sq Ft of living space you always want to err on the side of versatility and each thing, full timers will tell you, should have at least 2 purposes!  So onto Amazon I went and found this beauty–a wood framed, magnetic chalkboard!  I have the link for it in our page that features our Favorite things/resources. (no, we do not have an Amazon store, we do not get any residuals from anything you order, its just us helping you to find things we love, use and have tried before)

 

I love the way the black chalkboard matches the look of the black front refrigerator and oven.  Really looks like it belongs!

So let us know?? what cha’ think?  We simply love it!  We used the same hardware as we had replaced in the kitchen (seen on right photo above) and so here is the big reveal below side by side….you decide!!  BTW…this board is chalkboard and magnetized so i am thinking a fun place to put grandsons current photos and some little magnets from special places we go to around the USA!!

 

Another project checked off the list!  This one took about a total of about 3-4 hours total including refit of interior cupboard, staining of frame, going to store to get hinges and the intallation this evening

Happy travels!

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Our ’73 Avion is Sold!

Update 6-20-20.

Yes, We have sold our beloved 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande! This hard decision only came because we have just recently purchased a 1987 32S model that has a little more space for grandkids and visiting family/friends from out of state when we go full time living and will be traveling around the USA and Canada in our Avion beginning in 2023. Ironically, we have found out that the 28′ actually has more storage capacity than our “new” to us 32′!-more downsizing is on the “to do list”!

So our 28 footer has found a new home and new owners Val and Michael. Ironically we bought this trailer from someone on VT in 2016 and now 4 yrs later she is moving back to VT to a lovely active family who no doubt will enjoy her like we have and make many great memories!

Which Camping Club is a Good Fit?

2018-07-03 17.37.10There are a lot of camping club membership programs to chose from.  Each RVer has to do research and soul searching to find what fits their current and future needs best.  We spent years researching and deciding before pulling the plug to join the clubs we have so far to save $$ on camping fees and support.  

I am not going to go into every club membership here in detail.  A simple search of YouTube and the web will provide our followers with plenty of opinions by full time and part time RVer’s, and those who weekend (or vacation) camp only.

What I will focus on in this blog post are the decisions we made, that we felt worked best for us at this point in time.  Each of you will have different needs, preferences, geographies to consider for traveling–so only you can make a decision that is best for you.

What we have in our “travel club kit” currently is the following:

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Good Sam Club (regular membership, not the roadside assistance membership)

Why? for the discounts at Camping World and at participating campgrounds

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AAA with  RV Plus  ( you MUST have the RV Plus to get adequate RV/towing covered)

Why?  for roadside assistance, RV towing, and discounts at campgrounds, attractions, dining, hotels, general travel discounts at retailers.

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KOA Membership Small annual fee, you build points with stays but in truth you would have to do a lot of KOA nights to really make the points amount to much.  Meanwhile we do get discount on every booking at a KOA we do with this membership.  KOA’s are fairly consistent and we happen to have a few of them at points on our regular vacation travel routes- so why not stay a little cheaper?  You can purchase these memberships directly at the campground or when making a reservation online they will ask you.

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Jellystone RV Park membership: (basically same set up and reasons as KOA has)

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Passport America:  We made the decision to purchase the LIFETIME membership.  This membership gives you discount at participating campgrounds all over the country.  There typically are # of night restrictions and many parks do not offer the discounts peak season, weekends or holiday weekends- understandable.  Discounts vary from park to park.  The reason we bought our lifetime membership pass now is that while we are both still working and have good cash flow, and can purchase at 2017 rate…why not?  Now its paid for, and one less monthly bill coming in once we are retired and our incomes are more stretched.

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Thousand Trails:  This is the big kahuna!

You can purchase an annual pass…currently on their website that is $599 per year for one “zone” e.g. Northeast.

We also chose to purchase the VIP lifetime, nationwide membership package. BUT we did not buy “new” and we did not by the annual zone type pass.  We went through a resale broker who came very highly regarded by several full time RVers we have been following for years including RV Love who has an excellent video on this and other camping membership clubs.

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By going through a re-seller, we used Campground Membership Outlet,located in Florida the process was pretty simple for us, but it did take a few months for TT to get their act together for the final processing and to send us our membership documents, etc.  Campground Membership Outlet has been in business over 20 yrs and we felt far more comfortable going through them than purchasing from a private seller on Ebay or Craigslist.  Yes, these plans are for sale on those sites too but buyer beware as there is a lot of fine print you need to be aware of and to be sure you are getting a legit membership.  The staff at CMO, Kim & Chad were excellent to work with and sent us explanations of what currently plans they had in their inventory at the time we were looking.  This inventory is going to change since it all depends on what current members are turning their packages in for resale.  Our package originated from someone who bought in the 1990’s.  We were able to purchase a membership package for $1,000’s less but actually with better perks and less restrictions on # of overnights, less restrictions on nights out of network before you can book again and a much better 120 day advance booking window. We felt it had advantages over the annual zone pass.  Thousand Trails is a national network (though there is definitely limited participating campgrounds in the middle sections of the country.  See the map graphic below and check out their link for more info.

There a lot of research and comparing that needs to be done when you are looking into Thousand Trails.  We have heard their TT direct sales people are pretty high pressure…(another reason we liked going through the resale broker).  And yes, depending on the resold club membership package you purchase- you can also resell your membership down the road if desired and recoup some of your initial investment.

With a Thousand Trails membership you do incur the initial investment, and you do pay an annual maintenance fee.  Ours is right around $550-600 per year.  This too is locked in with only up to a 3% raise after 5 yrs.  Again, even before we go full-timing, right now if we do 8-10 nights of camping  at a TT campground we have more than paid for our annual maintenance fee.

Why did we purchase the LIFETIME membership package now in a lump sum? 

  • We saved money compared to contemporary plans which are only going to go up in cost each year.
  • We have the disposable income now  while we are both working full time
  • With inflation who knows what these packages will be once we do retire
  • The longer we wait, the less of those more lucrative older plans that are available because they are being snatched up by many full time RVers.
  • We live debt free now and want to continue that once we full time. Honestly, we have heard some folks who have purchased new plans paying upwards of $10-15K for their memberships.  YIKES!  P.S.Thousand Trails corporation does do financing but again, we did not want to have those monthly bills after we retire.
  • We use our membership now to save overnight camping costs, but more importantly we crunched the numbers and once we go full time we will literally pay for our entire package  (ours was $3500) by the very first year we are full timing after less than 100 days of overnights in participating TT campgrounds.
  1. Thousand trails participating campground fees for us now range from free to $5.00-$8.00 per night versus rack retail of $35-65 per night for the same park!
  2. With our package we can book up to 120 days in advance, stay up to 3 weeks at the same campground, get a newspaper and 2 free coffees per day
  3. Our children can use our membership to rent a campsite or a cabin rental with hefty discounts for up to 2 weeks each year.
  4. We can also gift this membership package as a legacy inheritance to our children when we no longer can be on the road- and then they have it for their lifetime.

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There are add on packages (some are shown on map above as blue and gold) that also include the Trails Collection (gives you access to Encore RV Resorts).  We have chosen  not purchase this collection yet, but will as soon as we launch full time. Encore RV properties do tend to be nicer, with more amenities and are in some prime resort areas. There is one here in the Lake George Region (Lake George Escape Campground)- but even with our current plan we can stay there for a significant discount which is ok for us right now without having invested in the $200 per year additional cost for the Trails Collection.

Full disclosure…from what we have heard and experienced ourselves, not all TT participating campgrounds are equal.  In the basic TT plan, many are older parks, some certainly not what we would consider a “resort” level by any means…but when you are staying in a full hook up site for free (our program they are free for us!) to under $10 per night..we are certainly willing to deal with some cobwebs in the bathrooms, some peeling paint on playgrounds (or no playground) and perhaps worn down gravel driveways.  The way we look at it, once we full time we will plan to spend 2-3 weeks in a TT campground cheaply (do our laundry, take long showers, pump out our tanks, refill our water, perhaps dip in a pool or hot tub) then roll on out to either boondock a bit…or use the money we saved by staying in a TT campground to book a week at a luxury RV resort stay at a future date.  Works for us!

In closing, again, this is our plan and may not be right for you.  Only you can decide by doing the research needed.

This year, in 2020 we will also become life time members of ESCAPEES. 

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This is a national club with a lot of member support, great online forums and meet-ups, conventions with workshops, etc.   It is not just for full timers, though many full time RVers belong to it and love it.  Reason for this is they host rallies and RV caravan trips, club members get excellent discounts on certain RV equipment needs and they too have their own RV parks where we can stay for really cheap for a great stop off point along our wanderlust trail.

Once we know our full time launch date we will most likely add Coach-net RV Roadside Assistance membership since it is deemed the most comprehensive and best for national travelers.  We plan to continue our AAA RV plus however, just to be sure we are covered in all geographies and to continue to get their travel discounts  no matter how we are traveling.

We also are members of Tin Can Tourists and Harvest Host too….but those and others are for another blog post in the future!

Happy travels from Kevin & Luisa Sherman in the Pewter Palace!

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Mud Flap Install- Protecting the Beauty!

We spent the following week preparing for our big trip out to Elkhart, Indiana to enjoy the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally with 41, count ’em…41 other Avions! While at it…we installed a mud flap system to protect our silver beauty!! 

Back story.……When we returned from our longest road trip to date (16 days) to Dearborn, Michigan this past May/June for the TCT (Tin Can Tourist) Centennial Rally we noticed that at some point, we must have driven over some loose gravel, rock chips in a construction zone because on the curbside of our Avion front area (yes, the area where Airstreams have those protective “wings”) we had a whole lot of small, tiny dings into our aluminum skin.  We  know these were not there prior to our trip.  It is worthwhile to note that with our multiple excursions now through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana…that the roads in those states are not nearly as good, or well maintained as ours are in NYS.  So ok, higher gas taxes, and over all taxes may have some redeeming quality…but we still live in one of THE most expensive states in the union–so not much solace there.

So we have decided to purchase a mud flag bumper guard set up for our tow vehicle which is a 2011 GMC 2500 Denali HD, 6L gas, 4 WD, Crew Cab with Leer extended bed cap (which we LOVE!!).

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A mudflap system would have most likely 99% prevented these chips from happening.  Only sorry we did not do sooner, 46 years on the road and our baby got dinged!  Not only does a mudflap protect from errant rocks coming up and hitting your rig, or worse yet, your rockguard or windows…BUT it also handles…well….MUD (snow, slush, dead animal debris, floating garbage or UFO’s on the highway!-yes it happens!)  Kevin works for NYS DOT and can tell you amazing stories of what his crew finds on the highways.  Mud was the other thing that washed up onto our Avion body front during this most recent trip.

Kevin got lucky when he inquired about pricing for a Rockstar Mud Flap bumper system at our favorite local after-market auto parts detailer and installer- Mac The Knife (Mac also is the one who redid our rock guard and spare tire cover- he does great work!)  Mac happened to have a left over demo model of a Rockstar brand system that he had had on display in his shop a few years back.  Yeah, it was dusty but Kevin got it for less than 1/2 price off current retail …and it is the same system being sold today for over $479 list.  Here is link to similar set up that we have which is currently available through ETrailer.com.  FYI-We have purchased several things from ETrailer.com and are very impressed with the ease of ordering online, their quick shipping and quality products.  They have a huge inventory of tons of stuff and their customer service reps are very good.

Bear in mind, these things are heavy.  We realized that since this will be a one time purchase for us…and when we are in our 70’s and 80’s and still on the road (don’t laugh…we will be good LORD willin’ and the creek don’t rise!) we needed the easiest way possible to lift this baby off the back hitch to store it away if we did not want to cruise around with it on the truck (it does add weight= lesser gas efficiency when not towing)

Here is a good video to show how you hook on the system to your rear bumper.

So Kevin had the idea to create a semi-permanent fix which was to affix the flap system to the receiver piece insert which then can be pulled out with the mud flap bumper system.  Otherwise, we would also have to be pulling off the entire (and super heavy) GenY Torsion Hitch with the whole mudflap bumper system attached as one unit.  That GenY Torsion Hitch is also a great piece of equipment and we will do a separate post just on that and cross link it here at some point.

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view of bumper step, where guard sits atop for custom look

Steps we did:

  1. Retro fit a longer 12″ insert reducer from 2.5″ to 2″ so that we could bolt the mud flap guard system right to that. Here is the link to the additional hardware bracket needed as well.   Link to hardware sold at ETrailer.com
  2. Kevin used a DeWalt Saws-All with brand new blades to cut off the excess length off the reducer.  Be sure to clamp down the reducer so you get as straight a cut as possible.  The reducer was too long and butted right  up to our spare tire, so that needed to be trimmed back by several inches.  Doing this however, then threw off the alignment of the pre-drilled side holes in the reducer, making use of a hitch pin lock impossible.
  3. He then used several different drill bits to cut new holes in the correct positions needed to now be able to throw the hitch lock 5/8 ” pin through. It has a key lock and we have had it rekeyed to match the truck ignition so you always have it handy!
  4. We followed some video’s found on YouTube for the Rockstar brand installation because as we mentioned, this was a store demo unit and therefore we had no instructions or paperwork with it.
  5. Once installed where we knew it was properly in place, we also had to install a Heat Shield (bought on Amazon, see our link/resource page) to prevent the heat from our large exhaust pipe from damaging (a.k.a melting!) our heavy rubber mud flaps.

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It is very important to have this heat shield if your exhaust goes out back before using the mudflap unit. If your pipe exhausts to the side you will not need the heat shield.

IF you are purchasing a brand new kit, you may have to put your unit together yourself.  See Video    As a demo model…Kevin did not have to do these steps!  Ours was ready for install!

 

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This is showing the install WITH the GenY Torsion hitch in place.  The GenY now can be removed by itself and the mudflap guard system stays on the vehicle unless we decide we want to take it off for non-towing times, or touring. Still to do was install the heat shield, and apply some bumper pads on truck bumper to protect from rubbing of mud flap bumper tabs.

If you have any questions about this install, or why we chose our hitch or this mudflap system, feel free to email us directly at 1973Avion@gmail.com!  We would love to hear from you!

Safe journeys!  Share photos of your mud flap project with us on our facebook page!

Kevin & Luisa Sherman

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Avion ’73 Rear Tire Carrier & Tire Cover

Recently there has been several newer Avion owners seeking info on the rear tire carrier and their original hard plastic covers.

Did you know this was an OPTIONAL item back in the day when Avion’s were being ordered or purchased? Yup….a SPARE TIRE CARRIER for the rear bumper would set you back another whopping $33 for tire holder and $16 for the spare tire!!! This explains why you will see some Avion’s of this or earlier vintage with nothing on their rear bumper. I am not quite sure where or if the owners carried a spare, lets hope they did somewhere! Perhaps strapped down on the top of the 1973 Mercury Station Wagon roof rack!! [ my dad had one of these!!]

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Check out these 1977 AVION Trailer OPTIONS and Standard Equipment lists!

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(yeah…what happened to THOSE prices right!??) Above is an awesome list of options from a 1977 sales sheet we found at the archive library at the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Indiana in 2017!

Lucky for us our 1973 Avion (that we purchased from the 4th owner who resided in VT about 2 hours from us) had the original tire carrier welded onto the rear round bumper. We would never travel anywhere without a spare tire. But we are constantly amazed at how many RV owners of all brands and styles do! Seriously?? To us having a spare tire is safety and responsibility 101.

Here is a photo of the rear of our Avion in as purchased condition in fall 2016.

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Shortly thereafter, we purchased this great vinyl spare tire cover which I really love. This enabled us to take off the original hard plastic spare tire cover (another optional purchase when originally ordered) in prep for its refurb.

Note- if you are looking for reproductions to replace worn out Travelcade stickers like the one centered above our running lights, please visit our blog post all about Avion Medallions and Emblems. I have links to all about this sticker and where to purchase reproduction replacements!

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Here is the link to that vinyl tire cover. It has held up very well in 3 years. The elastic stays supple and strong, the vinyl has not faded and it comes in a variety of sizes.

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These hard plastic covers were originally sold with a nice locking bolt feature (see picture below), but most of those locks are long gone now. Occasionally we will see one still existing on an Avion. Below is one that we came uponm for sale in Milford, Michigan when attending the 100th Centennial of the TCT (Tin Can Tourist) club rally. The owner of this ’74 Avion had her out on the end of a driveway for sale, BTW it was sold within 1 week of the rally! Some one got a good deal at $4500!

(below is NOT our Avion. Photo is a Avion for sale on side of road in MI in May 2019)

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Once our hard plastic cover was removed, we knew it was going to need suring up of the center mounting hole.

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There is a considerable amount of stress over 45 years that is put on that bolt and the center circular opening had stress cracks and its thickness of hard plastic worn thinner from rubbing and wear.

We took the cover to a local auto body repair shop, Dave Ure’s in Queensbury. We were pleased with the results but it came at a higher cost than anticipated, $434.00 when all was said and done. ouch!

They did do a great job of applying some additional reinforcement material on the back interior of the tire cover around the center hole while also applying a beautiful hard auto finish paint coating and sealant of the outside of the tire cover. We had selected the color to compliment our interior color scheme and add some pop to our rear end! The finish and coating applied resulted in a very durable, hard finish that no doubt will last a very long time.

For the lettering, we wanted something that would add some “bling” and even more pop to our “rear end” of the RV. We also wanted to some double duty marketing opportunity to promote ourselves and this blog. So we laid out a rendering of the lettering we wanted and took it to Mac The Knife who we had refurb our rock guard and had done an awesome job (better and cheaper than Dave Ure’s shop) Mac followed our instructions to a tee. Mac The Knife is an auto detailer on Quaker Road in Queensbury only about a mile from our house. We are very happy with the results.

Total cost of the lettering by Mac the Knife was: $200.

So while we have a considerable investment (nearly $700) in our original cover, she is beautiful and will surely last us a lifetime of enjoyment! yes, its secured in place!


Below are some photos of our rear tire carrier hardware.

This is the optional feature that sold for the $33 in 1973 when our first owner (we are owner #5) purchased our 1973, 28 foot LaGrande.

We have yet to do a repaint on this. It honestly does not show since the cover is on, but at some point we will repaint it completely. The photos may help those of you who are chosing to have one fabricated. To the best of our knowledge there is no one who currently has these for sale in stock, so you would need to be lucky enough to find one from a parts salvager. NOTE, we believe that the 1980 models and newer of Avions had a very different configuration and system for spare tire storage.

It should be noted that this carrier is really hefty and well made. It is securely welded to the round bumper. We have since installed a clamped on (with long bolts) hitch receiver so that we can mount a bike carrier or a storage shelf on the back of our bumper when needed.

One of our plans include attaching vintage metal coolers (aluminum skinned, bought on Ebay, $25-45) to the rear bumper to serve as extra storage area for sewer hose, and spare electrical cords. They can also double as ice chests for beverages once set up at camp. They even have bottle openers built into their side handles! The original hollow bumpers are too small of a diameter to handle modern sewer hoses and couplers. We DO however keep a spare 30 amp RV power cord in stuffed in there and snake it out when needed…which has happened that we need an extension to our regular built in cord. For example, at Sampson State Park in the Finger Lakes of NY.

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Safe and Happy travels to you! If you have enjoyed this post, or found it helpful please follow our blog by activating the box at top right of this page!

Let us know if you have enjoyed this information. Also let us know if there are topics that you wish we would cover and have not yet! We are always interested in what YOU are interested in when it comes to Avion life and passion!

Thank you!

Kevin & Luisa Sherman

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2019 Tin Can Tourists Centennial Rally-Mega Avion Sightings!!

2019 marked the 100th birthday of the original Tin Can Tourists club and we were excited to be part of honoring its rich history.  The best part of THIS particular rally was that there were 17 Avions!

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More about the history of this international club can be found here at Tin Can Tourists can be read here on their very interesting history page.  

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We joined TCT in 2017 when we purchased our 1973 Avion travel trailer. Its super affordable at $20 per person per year.  This grants you access to their forums, newsletters, TCT swag, and of course, to attend TCT rallies that are held all over the USA! This club promotes safe, fun camping and camaraderie among fellow campers. It does focus on antique, vintage and classic camp trailers but is open to all modes of wheeled campers, motorhomes, and car/tent campers and no longer has a mandatory vehicle age to join as long as members support the goals and mission of the club.  It’s no wonder that the club theme song is “The More We Get Together”.   We certainly can attest to them holding up these goals.  So far we have attended TCT rallies 2 times in the Finger Lakes of NY and this trip put us square one in their large Centennial rally which was held at Camp Dearborn in Milford, MI and have had terrific times.  We will look forward to hopping around the country once we are full timing and attending more and more TCT events.

We started our adventure out to TCT by first going to Watkins Glen NY to meet up with fellow “aluminum lovers” Steve & Courtney Adcock, full time Airstreamers who go by “AStreaminLife.com“.  Then we spent two full days in Frankenmuth, Michigan one of our favorite unique get away spots since it is a Bavarian themed little city.  You can read about this part 1 of our Spring 2019 trip here. 

We arrived on Monday, May 13 at Camp Dearborn in Milford, MI.  This massive city-owned park has a very unique history itself and is filled with a variety of camping options.  TCT uses this camping site annually for their Fall rally which is well attended.  But this spring Centennial Rally had over 170 rigs registered…for a total of over 350 attendees which was terrific.  Even more terrific was the sheer variety of the rigs that converged!  I took so many photos that I am going to put most of these into slideshows on this blog in an effort to save space.  However some of the trailers were just SO notable that I have chosen a select few to post their photos individually as well as our photos to show what a great time we had and our campsite.

Our campsite at Camp Dearborn all set up….Site 98 (paved site, huge 8 person table, fire ring with full hook ups, 30 Amp service, special rally rate I think of $37 per night) which was right on what could be considered the 100% corner intersection which was awesome because we had such nice sweeping views of the campground and no one on one side of us since it was a corner lot.  Also, the bath house is right across the lane if that is important to you.

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We had been experiencing some very chilly and rainy weather along the trip, but as soon as we got to Camp Dearborn it seemed the Sun God decided it was time to give us a break and it reached into the mid to high 70’s nearly every one of the 5 days we were at the rally.  Perfect camping weather!

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Here we are in our original vintage “Avion Travelcader” knitted caps.  We purchased these on Ebay and they were a hit for sure! Back in the day, all Avioners at rallies wore them!
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These great gals were camped in site behind us.  Wendy (on left) was from GA and had flown in to stay at her first vintage rally with her sister, Laurel (camper owner and from PA) who owns a 2015 reproduction Shasta camper.  These gals were terrific and we have made lasting friends.  Looking forward to seeing Laurel again at the TCT at Sampson State Park in NY in September!

The Centennial rally boasted a nice selection of group activities each day.  Not too many to where you feel you are on a hamster wheel but each evening there was a different nationality themed dinner.  (actually we would have liked to see a few more “how to” or other types of learning/sharing workshops during the day as options to attend).  Italian, French, Canadian, Polish Buffet dinners all were good.  It was actually fun standing in line with 100’s of fellow “Canners” and those lines moved fast but allowed all of us to get to know each other.  The “big tent” was also the site of live band music 2 different nights, a few slide shows, safety workshops, new member welcome and the Centennial Rally Dance which touted a “Roaring 20’s” theme that we dove into (well, I dove….Kevin came along for the ride as a wonderful husband will do!)

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Here is a slide show of some of the unique campers that I took photos of.  These certainly are just a sampling of what was there.  Kevin and I enjoyed taking full walks around the entire massive campground on their paved roads at least 1 x per day to see what had just pulled in since some folks started coming in on Monday like we did, but others continued to come in all the way up to Friday afternoon.  So each walk held new surprises to see!

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One of the special features of this particular Centennial Rally was that any vintage rigs “Made in Michigan” were specifically featured and showcased.  TCT did that by issuing each of us a special commemorative sign that we had out and could keep.  Also one evening a guest speaker did a great presentation on Michigan “wheeled” industry from car making in Detroit to RV trailer making history.

Even our dog Reddy got into the act by wearing her “Avion” sweater I had recently crocheted for her.  She also loved her stroller since at age 11 her arthritis gets the best of her on long walks we did around the rally.  Many thanks to Avioner Rhonda who has now given me a Travelcade patch to sew on Reddy’s coat to complete the look!

With this “Made in MI” focus, 17 Avion trailer owners descended on this rally and it was so completely awesome to see Avions of all ages, sizes, and levels of renovation!!  We met several new Avioners who we had only known of by mutual facebook posts (so nice to put faces with names!) , but also got to get even better reacquainted with several Avion owners who we had met 2 years ago when we attended the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart, IN. (which we are attending again this summer!)  Truly building these relationships with fellow Avion and other vintage camper lovers is such an important part of our zest for this hobby.  We learn, laugh, share and support each other.

HERE IS THE AVION TRAILER SHOWCASE!!

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We stayed at the rally until Sunday morning and then pulled out to take a fairly easy time home.  We (well, Kevin did) drove 7 hours through MI, OH, PA and into NY along Interstate 90.

As part of our trip home we overnighted at a winery who is a member of Harvest Host which is a membership organization that allows wineries, museums, golf courses, historic sites, organic and regular farms an opportunity to showcase their facilities by allowing Harvest Host RV members to stay overnight on their property.  These are typically boondocking overnights and only fully contained RV’s (motorhomes and trailers) are allowed.  No tent camping is permitted.  Some hosts we have seen do have some limited hook ups, some will allow a few nights if requested.  The impetus of this is that the RVer will support the business by taking a tour, a tasting in their winery, purchasing of goods at their site store in lieu of being charged for a camping stay.

We stayed at Merritt Estate Winery, a Harvest Host member which is a nice place, but admittedly, their parking lot and accessibility could be really challenging if you are not coming in at a very “off” time, e.g. early in morning or definitely before 2-3 pm.  After that time of day, if there are any trucks, vans or cars in their parking lot- where they want you to turn around in is going to be really tough unless you are a small camper van or small class A.  When we got there, they had not moved a large white truck or van of theirs out of the parking area where they wanted us to turn around in .  They say they are tour bus friendly but I suspect that the buses disembark their passengers at the top of the driveway, not below in their small parking lot.

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We did enjoy having a nice quiet picturesque site and the wines were good and gift shop had some nice cheeses and I bought three bottles of their wine…so we more than paid for our site in the end.  But a Harvest Host site is a nice alternative, and this site was only about 10 minutes off I-90 which made it also convenient.   Below is a slideshow of some more pictures of our overnight at Merritt Estate Winery.

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A word of warning to fellow Harvest Host members, PLEASE check out their Harvest Host site using Google Satellite before committing to go.  Call the host on the phone and clearly discuss what kind of space and turn around area and access they have.  These owners (normally non RVers) do not understand the turning and backing capabilities of RVs.  Our combined rig and trailer is just under 50 feet long and cannot spin on a dime.  One Harvest Host site in OH we had checked out enroute to MI would have been a disaster trying to use, although the owners were very willing to have us stay over.

If you are interested in joining Harvest Host, please use our exclusive 15% discount codeYou save money and we get a small referral fee credit (that we put towards future purchases at Harvest Host site gift shops to support their businesses)

Hope you have enjoyed our Part 2 of our Spring 2019 trip in our 1973 Avion. Here is a link to Part 1 (Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes to Frankenmuth MI) if you want to check that out!  If you want to be sure to get notifications of future posts and travels, please subscribe to our blog!

Thank you!  Safe travels!

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Luisa Sherman