So in continuation, here we are back again....1 month into new ownership of our 2017 Newmar Essex and we've yet to make a "real" trip yet. We've spent 2-weeks in our Dealer's on site camp ground going through the PDI and day to day orientation on using all the systems installed in our new home on wheels. ( that period included our having taken the RV Driving School's training mentioned previously as well as our shopping for a new vehicle we can tow behind the coach). Our existing two cars were not flat tow capable and we had no desire to use a dolly or trailer).
Oh yeah, now we need a Tow Vehicle.
So we began looking at popular flat-towable vehicles using various forms of information such as FMCA's towables guide and determined the Jeep was clearly most popular and one of the easiest to pull. We'd also noted that many others pulling in and out of NIRVC during the course of our stay were equally pulling Jeeps so it became clear they are popular with motor home owners. So off to the dealers we went soon to find out that were by far "to proud" of their new inventories and not so willing to deal on pricing (Basically, we must have visited 5-6 separate Jeep dealers in the DFW metro area and all were asking full MSRP for their Jeeps so off to the pre-owned lots we went). At this point we're still flexible and open to consider both the Wrangler Jeep or the Cherokee (SUV). So we pull in a pre-owned dealer's lot and as Lydia sights, there sits a pretty, sharp looking Wrangler Rubicon that is all white sitting on oversized wheels and tires with a slight upward lift kit. Lydia likes it and is drawn to immediately upon stepping out of our car. Of course, within seconds a salesman pulls up in his golf cart and is already engaging her even before I've been able to shut off our car and get out of it.
I already know it's not the vehicle for us but I need to let Lydia make her own decisions, Anyway, 5-10 mins. later we're off on a test drive only to make it about a 1/2-block down the street where we quickly realize that it's not the vehicle for us. (she's driving). Heck, I couldn't even find the door window button while the jeep is beating the smile out of both of us on what was a reasonably flat and good hard paved surface. She's looking at me and I'm looking at her, both of use laughing and saying NOT!. Just too hard a ride for us. We wanted something with more comfort and besides, we agreed at 62/66 we'd already passed our use by date to be driving something like that. We returned, got out of it and walked the pre-owned lot some more looking a few other vehicles we might want to consider but then left to head to the next lot. We couldn't stand the salesman tagging along with us trying to convince us we need to buy something from him right then and there. As I said we left and visited a number of other pre-owned dealers in the DFA area throughout the next few days which had turned to looking at brand new Grand Cherokees by that time.
Wow, talk about sticker shock...In short, I'd told Lydia "I've never paid MSRP (full price) for a new vehicle in my life and I'm not going to start now". We can find a better deal in Houston than from these "stealers" in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was wrong, the new car pricing in Houston was the same, i.e. full sticker price, so soon afterwards we suspended our search telling ourselves there was no rush to get a new tow vehicle and that we'd eventually find something to our liking at an acceptable price.
It came to be in the form of Autotrader.com. and 4 weeks later when we ended up once again back in Houston (actually Katy, TX) where we'd found a pre-owned 2016 Black Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 SUV with the prerequisite Quadra Trac/Quadra Steer II option (required to flat tow the SUV model Jeeps). It was a one owner with 4,300 miles on it that had been traded at a BMW dealer and we bought it for $44k which was then, approx. $16k less than a new '17 with the close to the same features. A Black car, We did not intend to buy a Black car but the price was worth sacrificing the color. It also has the Hemi while we'd wanted the V6 Diesel but again, it became a matter of value for money spent. We've since come to widely appreciate the JGC.
This RV stuff. Wow, one can spend a helluva lotta money in a short period of time. The purchase of coach, or better our 40% cash downpayment by itself was by far the largest check we've ever written (it was actually a cashier's check but you get the picture). Since then, we've bought a car to tow behind it and as well need to get that sorted out in the form of towing gear.
Now armed with a new Tow Vehicle we soon returned to NIRVC (our Coach dealer) in Lewisville, TX (as we had some, a few small warranty repair items already to be addressed) and had them install the towing gear. At their recommendation, We agreed and opted for the Roadmaster set-up (base plate/tow bar) including the Blackhawk II 10,000 tow bar, together with the SMI Air Force One braking system. All systems a go, we latched onto it and headed back home to SW Louisiana.
Enough? Well not quite (for me).
Leave it to me to want something out of the ordinary and shame on both of us for dropping into a Golf Cart shop in Houston, TX (I'm thinking street legal golf cart at this point). I had been wanting one for use in our small neighborhood even before we purchased the motor coach but now..its something even more to consider. I may not have mentioned earlier, when returning to the US, we'd decided to downsize, get out of the big S&B houses in the form of a smaller 2-hr townhome which within it's Home Owners' Association (and the fee we pay) takes care of all the exterior including lawn care & maintenance - making it easy for us to come and go (in our new motor home) at our leisure without having to worry about the home. This was a good choice for us given that its just the three of us now (Us + our pet Miniature Schnauzer)
Back to the cart, Oh I tell her (Lydia), having something like this to use at home as well as carry along with us when traveling in the coach would be so much fun. What is it we ask the sales persona, whereby he informs us It's a Garia 2+2 and it looks and smells just like a golf cart but isn't. Its a fully street legal US DOT compliant 4-passenger low speed vehicle (LSV) manufactured and imported from Denmark. We're sold, got to have it and it just so happens we learn that Garia's Americas & Mexico distribution center is also located in Houston, whereby a few days later we're back, visiting the distribution center with our sales person from the Golf Cart shop and choosing the color combinations (for both the LSVs exterior and interior) of our liking which of course were those which would match up as closely possible with the paint scheme of our new coach.
Done. 4-weeks later the Garia is delivered to us at our home in SW Louisiana and a week later it's been legally titled, state inspected and registered (as a legal motor vehicle) in the State of LA to include being issued it's own license plates. We're legal! albeit per US DOT laws (and all states as well), our use of the Garia on public roads is restricted to roads where the published speed limits are 35-mph or less unless we're crossing an adjoining roadway to connect to another 35-mph road whereby we can traverse such roads with speed limits up to 50-mph including driving down them up to 1/2 mile if similarly connecting to another 35-mph road/street. All that's ok with us as our intention to use it will be when we're camping ("glamping" might be a better term here) at RV parks or resorts in populated areas where we can use it to drive around locally. This I can mention now has worked out very well and it's truly a lot of fun not to mention quite a conversation piece as well given its somewhat uncommon appearance. We have learned that some Valet's don't take to parking it for us but it's always fun to ask them to. Also (and as of the writing of this blog,) in 12-months of use we've yet to be stopped by a single police officer anywhere we've used it (likely owing to the fact it's clearly displays a state issued license plate on the rear).
I might add here, We also opted for the single high capacity SMI Samsung Lithium battery in the Garia (which replaces the 6 6-vlt conventional golf cart batteries). The Lithium battery gives the Garia something in the range of a 40-mile distance charge, is totally maintenance free, will hold a full charge for up to 6-months while being guaranteed for 10-years for the date of purchase.
I have to say, while the idea of it may not be to the liking of many, the Garia is a "load of fun" and actually has both "eco" and "sport" modes whereby the maximum speed obtainable (as built) is 25 MPH (but a slight re-programming of the onboard CPS enables it to achieve 40-mph, but please don't tell anyone). Oh and yes, Garia does make a "golf cart" version but those are not street legal. Pricey, yes. The Garia 2+2 is not a golf cart and is quite more expensive but to each his own as they say. We liked it, wanted it and now own one.
How do we add this up - a Jeep SUV and the Garia + the Motor-Coach?
Next up was to determine how best to transport the Garia on/with our coach. We looked at number of options including trailers, but finally made our decision of go with a special built Hydralift mounted on the rear of our coach (also available for ATVs, Trikes, and golf carts). NIRVC, again our Coach dealer helped us work with Hydralift and special order the lift which was specifically designed to handle transporting the Garia by means of its 50" x 96" platform which we purchased and had installed by their expert technicians. The lift is quite impressive, built using strengthen alloy steel components and nicely powder coated. Installation took the better part of 1-week and included special welding of its substructure to the tow/hitch receiver of our Spartan K3 chassis rated for 20,000 lbs towing capacity put us well within our capacity being only ~ 6,700 lbs. (Lift @ 650 lbs + Garia@946 lbs + Jeep SUV@ 4,933 lbs + Tow Gear @200). Prior to the installation (as well as before purchasing it), we checked with both Newmar Corporation and Spartan Chassis to reconfirm our coach's capacity to handle both the Lift and its cargo (being the LSV) to which both agreed would easily be accommodated (and not influence our OEM warranties on either the coach or the chassis).
While having the Hydralift installed by NIRVC, I also opted to use the opportunity to to have an engine compartment fire suppression system installed. Purchased online from Fire Fighting Products Inc., it is a 40-lbs nitrogen and chemical fire suppression filled bottle with 2 separate nozzles which were mounted above and on both sides of our ISX15 Cummins power plant. Fully automated, the system will deploy in the event temps inside the compartment reach a pre-determined level (i.e. fire). The system was relatively cheap, approx. $400.00. and can be seen in the photo of the rear engine compartment below (red bottle).
Next Up - our inaugural 1st trip/tour.
With plates on the shelves, and the pantry and fridge and freezer loaded up, the Garia on the lift and the Jeep latched to the rear, we're soon off on our first real RV adventure. It's going to a 5-month trip that will take us over 10,000 miles from SW Louisiana up to Niagara Falls, NY/Ontario then back down along the East coast to Florida before returning to our home base in LA. The subject of our next blog entry.
Our Grand Cherokee with Roadmaster set-up.
The Garia 2+2 visiting neighbors a few streets over.
NIRVC Hydralift Installation along with the Fire Fighting Products Inc, Fire Suppression System.
Set-up to Go.
Garia's colors worked well and match up to the coach. Note; The rear passenger hand rail which host the State License plate is removable and stored in a basement compartment when loaded and being transported behind the coach (due to DOT width restrictions).
On our way back home with the Hydralift installed. All in, 70' 3" OAL.