Newmar RV Factory, Wakarusa Dime Store and RV Motorhome Hall of Fame and Museum

6/11/13 Tuesday at Buchanan, MI (Bear Cave Resort-TT/Mid Atlantic)

Knowing we had a big day ahead of us, we got up at 7 am, packing lunches and breakfast stuff done by 8:20 am, when we left. As John drove down Red Bud Trail, he realized that we were leaving too soon. We’d arrive by 9 am and the Newmar Tour started at 10 am. I suggested we go on anyway, who knows what the road held for us. There was construction ahead, but we took a route around it (I noted how nice it was to have a cushion of time), yet we arrived at the Newmar by 9:17.

For THIS tour, no open toe shoes. I’d worn my sandals, but happened to have my tennies in the car. Whew! Also no cameras allowed. So that’s why you don’t get photos of our tour. Since a good bit is similar to our RV tour of Tiffen in Red Bay, AL, I’ll note certain things that struck me:

They have a LOT of Amish men working there – you could tell because their straw hats are on pegs next to their sweaters. They also have Amish style beards. They get paid for piece work, not by the hour. Our guide said they were building about 3 rigs per day the last 2 years, but this year it’s 5 and next year looks like 6. So now they’re often done with their work by noon, after starting at 6 am. Since it gets so hot here, I think that’s why they work so early in the day.

The chassis wheels sit on steel pads so that when they want to move it, they don’t have to turn on the engine, they just send air to those pads (like a hover craft) and push them along. We got to watch that. Cool. Also, they need to sweep the trash that has gathered below from their work (shavings, pieces of materials) out of the way. So they have a line of grills alternating with yellow cellar type doors. When they open the yellow door, they sweep the trash in. It falls to a conveyor belt that takes the trash to a garbage bin. Efficient.

As they put new systems in (say electrical, or plumbing), then they test it before moving on to the next. The plumbing is tested to 100 psi. Their insulation is batting: R 16 in the roof and R 11 in the walls. All the major appliances are put in via the front door. Except the residential fridge (put in all their rigs now) for which they built the nearby window large enough to take it out.

Unique to Newmar: Comfort Drive is built into their chassis system, so you don’t have slop in the wheel, you can push a button to resist the wind, the ride is just plain smoother.

At the end of the line (painting is done in a separate building, just like Tiffen), they do a front end alignment, since putting the slides in affects that, and a quality control inspection, test drive, test in rain bay. The RV ships within 48 hours to the dealer. All rigs are ordered by dealers. The majority of these have been specifically requested by new owners. Only Guaranty RV (where we bought our Miss Zanzibar) deals in high end Newmar on the West Coast. 2 dealers in California and 2 in Arizona carry Newmar products up through the Dutch Star level.

After the tour we went to Monaco RV Service to ask for our estimate for the bedroom leak ($1300, about 10-12 hours) and found out about a nearby park where we could enjoy our picnic lunch. Since this was so close to downtown Wakarusa, we walked, after lunch, to the Dime Store. It’s all candy – much from the days of our youth. Their specialty is jumbo jelly beans. Fun for kids especially!

On to the RV Hall of Fame and Museum. We didn’t have an address, so we got lost for little while (it’s way back off the road in an Industrial Park). Cost: $8/senior (60). My favorite part was the display of very old RVs.

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1913 “Earl” Travel Trailer and Model “T” Ford – the oldest travel trailer in the world. The last year you had a color choice in your Model T Ford.









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1916 Telescoping Apartment (on 1915 Model T Ford). Made in San Francisco – as after market camping accessories for early trucks.











1916 Cozy Camp Tent Trailer






IMG_9712Model AA Ford Housecar – the donor discovered it in a barn in Athens, AL. Restoration completed in 2003. The engine ran fine when purchased, even after 40 years of storage.




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1954 Holiday Rambler Travel Trailer











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Shasta Travel Trailer – Shasta was started in 1941 near Lake Shasta, CA. It was purchased by Coachman Industries in the 1970’s










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1931 Mae West Housecar – an enticement by Paramount Studios to get Mae West to leave Vaudeville. It’s designed as a chauffeur driven lounge rather than a camper unit. It transported her from home to shooting location.








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Star Streak II – built in 1988 to fit in a standard garage. I love the stylish interior.

We got some grocery shopping accomplished then headed for home. On our way up Red Bud Trail, we saw this turtle on the road! Sweet ending to a fun day.



About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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