|The Big Surprise Is
The quiz was fun, but we must have stumped most of you because only a few responded. Those that did send in their post card had the right idea--- the big surprise was the purchase of a new motorhome. But no one had all four clues figured out.
The first clue was "from Pennsylvania." Bounders earmarked for delivery in the eastern half of the U.S. are built in Pennsylvania.
"Plus 10," the second clue, was an easy one. Everyone guessed 34 feet which is 10 feet longer than our 24 foot Mallard Sprinter.
Since Bounders are the most popular motorhome and their symbol --- a kangaroo --- is well known, we figured that clue number three ("symbol of Australia") would be a snap. It was for most.
But no one associated "Lazy Days" (clue #4) with the name of the dealer in Tampa, Florida where we purchased our Bounder. Since they are the largest RV dealer in the world, advertise heavily in all RV magazines and we were in Florida, we thought this was a given.
We got a kick out of the answers you sent. Leta & Clair Callahan
suggested that our surprise was a 34' Dutch Star (from Pennsylvania Dutch?)
basement model (Australia is the basement of the world?) class A motorhome
so we would have more leisure time (lazy days?). 34' Bounder guessers
included Earl & Donna Lincoln, Ed & Laurie Waples, Liisa Paunonen,
Uncle Herman and Jim & Norma Neve who did an extra thorough job and
gave us the exact city in Pennsylvania (Paxinos) where the Bounders
are built. Good Job!!!
The Hofmeisters were camped in Kissemmee and struck up a conversation with a couple camped nearby. Fred and Doris Davis --- full-timers from the west coast, had just picked up their new Bounder from LazyDays RV sales in Tampa, Florida. They had purchased it over the phone --- from California--- and drove cross country to make the trade. They said that no one could beat the deal from LazyDays. That impressed the Hofmeisters and for a minute they talked about driving over to Tampa when they were camping in Lakeland to "just look." They dismissed that idea. It would be too much torture since they still weren't ready to buy.
A few days later, when they pulled into the Coast to Coast Campground in Lakeland, they were told that the park was having an RV show and to be sure and browse through the models. Since they were right there, Barb convinced Ron that it was harmless to look. One of the models on display was a 34' Bounder and it seemed so big to Barb. Ron asked for a price after trade in and it was better than he thought it would be. He started doing some figuring and later suggested they take the short drive to Tampa to see what kind of a price LazyDays could come up with.
LazyDays has to be the largest RV dealer in the world just from the size of their lots --- one each for motorhomes, trailers, bus conversions and used RVs. Salesman Pat Overby was very helpful and he took plenty of time to show the couple Bounders and other similar motorhomes. They discussed used coaches, diesel vs gas engines, hydraulic levelers, awnings, back up camera and made a deal on a 1993 34' Ford Chassis Bounder with all of the luxuries except a horn to play "On the Road Again." The Bounder they wanted was not in stock, but Pat promised it would be there by Dec 1.
Both Barb and Ron remarked that this was the most relaxed buying experience ever. "There was no pressure and everything was handled very professionally and speedily," said Ron. Just as promised the motorhome was indeed ready. In fact Ron and Barb received a call on Saturday, November 28th saying the coach was in. Monday morning early they left West Palm Beach and drove to Tampa arriving at close to four p.m.
Barb explained, "We figured we were too late to take delivery that day, but we hoped they would let us park in the lot anyway. You see, there was a Kinkos Copy Center just down the road and I wanted to get the December newsletter printed and out before we started moving. We were told to check in at the main office and when we did, we were greeted by our salesman Pat, and the credit gal, Lori. In less than one half hour, all the papers were signed and the house was ours. They told us they would park us next to the Bounder and we could move in at our convenience. They added that we could take as much time as we needed. It was a beautiful surprise."
By six p.m., the two motorhomes were parked side by side in the service lot and the gates were locked for the night. The security couple came to say "hello" and mentioned that if there was anything they could do to help, just to holler. At first Barb and Ron just looked at their new home with awe. They would get the walk through in the morning, but in the meantime, they just opened cupboards and drawers and languished in all the room.
Ron sat on the couch then one of the chairs and back on the couch. His eyes were looking up at the blank TV screen. "This is gonna be great. I can lay here and watch football games." Barb groaned, but turned on the TV so he could have the full effect.
Barb's thoughts were about how nice it was going to be to be able to walk to the bedroom or bathroom and actually close a door and she would be able to keep the computer set up and not affect dinner at the dinette.
After a while, they put their comfort on hold and started moving. Barb wasn't sure where to begin. Since she hadn't been able to make a bed without sitting on it for the last 3½ years, she opted to make the bed first. "It's like a bed in a house," she exclaimed, "I can walk around it." Deciding where to put things was somewhat of a problem although Barb commented that she had been "moving mentally" all that month so she had a pretty good idea where everything could go. "Having so much cupboard and outside storage space is like heaven," she added.
Ron moved goods into the outside compartments and carried baskets full of things into the Bounder while Barb put things away inside. At one time Ron was heard to holler, "Where did all this stuff come from? We must have been overweight." As Barb was putting it away she too wondered where it had all been stashed.
At 10 p.m., they took a break to deliver the newsletter to Kinkos. Instead of waiting for it to be printed, they made arrangements to pick it up the next day. There was more moving to do. Finally at midnight, Ron and Barb pulled the shades and fell into bed exhausted. The first night in their new home.
Their "move in coordinator," Bill, spent about 1½ hours doing the walk through with the Hofmeisters the next morning. They learned about the two furnaces, two air conditioners, the hydraulic leveling jacks, awnings (1 patio & 4 window), two televisions, built in VCR, microwave, water filter system, back up camera, water and sewer hookups, 7000 Onan generator and all the storage compartments.
The rest of the day was spent between moving, folding newsletters, and taking a tour of the facility. Barb wanted to know all about this efficient and very successful business. She was most fascinated by the 48 service bays some of which are very specialized. For example, two bays and a team of specialists are devoted to just making RVs handicap accessible. The couple saw some horribly mangled RVs which were being rebuilt and one whose repair was just completed. After hurricane Andrew and a local tornado, the service department had had some major repair jobs.
Barb was especially impressed with the 40 X 20 training room where walls were plastered with 10 large customer service signs. Their motto covers a large outside wall: "To make sure that our customers feel so good about the product that they bought and their decision to buy from us that they become our customers for life."
After spending a week in Winter Haven, they went back to LazyDays to get some minor warranty work done and were again treated like someone special. Although it took three days to get the necessary part for the furnace (new model year parts weren't in stock), Ron and Barb were camped in comfort in a service bay right next to the customer lounge and lots of fresh coffee. They understood that normally there is a hostess there who makes and serves fresh sticky buns each morning. She has been in Miami since Andrew though. LazyDays set up an office there to help house the homeless.
Ron and Barb weren't the only ones "camped" in the service lot either time. Others were moving from motorhome to motorhome and 5th wheel to 5th wheel and so on. After all the company sells approximately 250 units a month and services about 30 units a day.
Barb wondered how Ron would feel driving the monster and he surprised her by taking to it like a duck to water. Barb detailed the driving experience. "The night we left Tampa ---the first time --- and headed to Winter Haven, it seemed to get dark fast and we were on a curvy, two lane road with no shoulder. He drove it like it was nothing and all the while I was thinking that I couldn't have done that. He made me drive it on our way to Texas and I have to admit it isn't that much different from our Mallard Sprinter. Actually it is stranger being the passenger. If I walk all the way back to the bedroom, I can't see Ron. He can't see me either because of the side aisle design and it is so long."
Ron commented, "It doesn't take long to get used to luxury."
It's been a wonderful year, visiting family and exploring the East coast as well as being able to help Mom out in Florida. The new motorhome is icing on the cake. We have been blessed.
Lately we have run into a lot of retired military who are full-timers. They look so young. Stick with it Dave, Robert and Jim.
The Escapees retreat in Livingston has a free video library with hundreds of films. Fun!
I really feel like a big shot driving our new Bounder. I'm right up there with the truck drivers.
I never get tired of going to Cypress Gardens. It was especially nice going with Mom and the poinsettia display was absolutely gorgeous.
Here you all are ready for New Years resolutions to lose weight and Barbara publishes a recipe for a bread pudding with run sauce that will put on calories just reading it. Don't feel bad, I fight this all the time.
It was great to visit with Capt Keith Scott and Jo again. Over lunch,
Keith and I compared notes and both agreed that we don't miss the current
political turmoil at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
They may think that they have cut to the bone, but I know where there is
Special Kind of People
Joe and Kay Peterson, founders of Escapees, were full-timers long before it was fashionable. After meeting at Parents Without Partners in 1963, they talked of living in a trailer someday while Joe worked construction sites. Kay said this idea fascinated her. She continued, "Ever since I was a little girl, whenever I saw a bus, I'd just stand, watch it and long to get on to go somewhere." With eight children between them, they waited until 1970 when only three were left at home to take to the road.
They lived in a 12 year old, 26 foot Airstream Trailer. The kids slept in a camper shell in the pick up. So the kids could get their schooling, Joe stayed on a job for a whole semester before moving on. In 1973, they sold the house and traded the old trailer/truck package for a new truck, and 31 foot Airstream.
Someone wrote to Woodalls Magazine (now out of business) asking for any information on full-timing. Kay answered and was pleased to actually receive money for her writing which was accepted.She decided to write more. Soon she was writing for Trailer Life and Woodalls and that material became her first book Home Is Where You Park It. Kay also wrote The Rainbow Chasers which is now out of print. As it became obvious that RVers wanted more technical information, Joe wrote too. They wrote two more books.
It was because of their column that the idea of Escapees grew so rapidly. By 1980 when Woodalls Magazine ceased publication, there were over 1,000 Escapees. The Petersons readily give credit to many others for the growth of the organization. Harry and Peggy Lewis won the contest to name the organization early on. Stan Christian proposed the Co-Op idea at the National Snowbird Association rally on the Slabs in California. When he suffered a heart attack and it appeared that his idea would fail, Kay appealed to the Escapees to keep the campground the idea alive. Without Bob Anderson and Ken Pollet, Casa Grand (their first co-op) would never have been. Joe said, "We had no guide lines and made it up as we went along." Cathie and Bud Carr (Kay's daughter) do a super job of managing the office and grounds at the headquarters in Livingston.
There are several retreats across the country now, Co-Ops along the
snowbird route, 50 employees and a mail and message service which is unsurpassed.
For information write to ESCAPEES, 100 RAINBOW DRIVE, LIVINGSTON,
When we had chosen the motorhome of our dreams and all was settled except
the price, Mr.Wallace personally finalized the deal with a price we couldn't
refuse. From the moment we entered the salesroom to the final good-bye,
we knew that this business was special. I wanted to know who was behind
the makings of such a company. I was directed to interview both Mr.
Wallaces--- father and son --- H. K. and Don. Here is the story.
Don had an idea to open a landscape business with his brother-in-law back in Florida. In the mid 70's, he sold the farm, bought a tractor, took his 16 foot travel trailer and headed south. He sold that trailer for a bigger unit, made a little money on the deal and before he even had a chance to camp in the new trailer, sold it. He got to thinking that maybe the RV business was a better business to get into than landscaping. Don bought two used trailers (one had been in a fire). He and his mother rebuilt the burned trailer and they sold those units.
From these sales, he went to his dad and brother and said, "We need to take a look at this business."
In 1976, they found 2 acres (1/4 of what is now the main lot). After some investigation, they decided that Prowler Trailers were the ones they wanted to handle, but when they called Prowler, they discovered that Tampa already had a Prowler dealer. Fleetwood told the Wallaces that they could talk to that dealer and if he was willing to sell his inventory, they could take over the business in the area. The other dealer only had two trailers in stock and was willing to sell them to the Wallace family. Don had a car with a hitch, but not the rest of the stuff needed to tow the trailers across town. ith the help of friends, he moved the trailers. Don made a trip to Pennsylvania and picked up another trailer and a mini motorhome and got a tent trailer on consignment. That was the beginning of the LazyDays business. Their goal at the time was to sell 2 new and 2 used trailers a month.
The first winter in business, the family members went to the nearby campgrounds and went door to door telling the story about LazyDays and business grew by leaps and bounds. In 1983 they had their first 50 million dollar year and their sales go up each year.
H.K. Wallace has been in sales all his life --- most recently as an auto parts jobber. Prior to that, he had a couple grocery stores. He got started in the grocery business early. In Tennessee he worked in his parent's grocery store from the time he was a little guy.
LazyDays has been a family operation from day one. Son Ronnie died tragically in an auto accident in 1989 and his loss is still felt. Both H.K. and Don said Ronnie was the creative one. A lovely framed photo of Ronnie sits on an easel in a prominent position in the lobby.
Sister Connie is credited with being the brains in the service department. It was her idea to have the salesmen work in teams with service managers. There are 30 salespersons at Lazy Days and 5 service managers. Each service manager works with 5 or 6 salespeople. They work as teams and with such a large staff, it works well.
Customer service is the main concern of everyone at LazyDays. I wondered where they find such helpful, friendly employees. Don said that they don't search for jewels. "Ninety percent of the employees are are just diamonds in the rough." And from day one he tells his employees, "look, it's OK to be nice to customers."
With 150 employees over three lots spanning many acres, it seemed amazing
that each and every one of them went out of their way to make our purchase
and stay there happy. If you ever get near Tampa, make a special trip to
check out this RV dealer. Whether you are just looking or buying, they
will treat you special. They must know what they are doing. They are well
on their way to a 100 million dollar year.
Food, Gambling & History
We had been there 3 years ago and made a special point to stop again just to eat lunch at Mary Mahoney's. We had especially remembered the warm, wonderful bread pudding. Last time we were introduced to red beans and rice for the entre'. This time we each choose something different from the lunch specials. Ron had crab stuffed shrimp which he said was delicious. I had shrimp ettouffee and loved it. Both meals included a tossed salad loaded with shrimp, green beans and bread.
Lunch is the best time to eat at Mary's because their lunch specials are reasonable --- $4 --- $7. Their regular prices are a bit hefty --- mid to high teens. Eating at the old French House is really an experience. It was built in 1737 and was continuously occupied as a family dwelling until 1964 when the Mahoneys purchased it. Mary died in 1985 but her tradition continues with her son Bob, running the restaurant. He visited with us during lunch just like Mary used to do.
Since our last visit to the area, they had legalized riverboat gambling. Several casino riverboats docked along the gulf coast are open 24 hours and never leave the pier. We went to the Isle of Capri Casino and were terribly dissappointed in the odds on the poker machines. One has to have two pair to get even money. That is a bad bet. Black Jack looked OK --- no strange rules, but we were so turned off by the machines that we left. They seemed to be quite busy, but after Vegas and Laughlin... well what can I say?
Beauvoir, the last home of confederate President Jefferson Davis is on Route 90 in Biloxi and we took the tour. It was very interesting, especially if you like Civil War History. Make sure you take the time to view the orientation film. That makes the trip more meaningful.
Did you know that the beautiful white sand along the coast is not natural?
The 26 miles of beach from Ocean Springs to just beyond Pass-Christian
is all man made and the sand was imported from the Bahamas? It is
white and beautiful.
This 'N That
Happy New Year!!! Hope you had a great holiday. Thanks for all the great cards. I want to personally welcome all of our new subscribers. I sincerely hope that you like Movin' On and that you will stay with us a long time. We like getting letters and look forward to hearing from you. Please tell us a little about yourself.
We have become an international publishing company. Orders for books have come from Germany, France, the Soloman Islands and all provinces of Canada. Our newlsetter goes out to the same countries. Other far away orders have been from Hawii and Alaska.
One of the reasons that we picked a Bounder is storage. Bounder was the first to come out with a basement model and it holds a lot of stuff. No, I haven't filled it full yet. Ron worries about that.
Ron and I always said that we loved our 24 foot Mallard Sprinter and never complained about space until we ordered the Bounder. Suddenly, words came out of our mouths that we had never heard before. "I can't wait until I can move without you being in the way" or "I can't wait until I have a closet that I can really hang clothes in." You get the idea. When we had no choice, we endured beautifully.
The first guests in our new house were daughter Glenda, husband Eric and granddaughter Liisa who joined us in Winter Haven, Florida for one night. They camped across from us in their brand new Coleman pop-up. We all ate inside our house and weren't crowded. Mom Hofmeister came out to visit too.
It is New Years Day as I type this (I'm just a day behind). Can you guess what Ron is doing? Yep, he is oh so comfortable on the couch watching the Rose Bowl game (one of three games today). We were reminiscing about being there one year ago and how much fun it was to see all the floats being built. This year's game is at least a game. We were so embarassed last year.
Met some new friends while camped at LazyDays. Joe and Kathy Micena were getting some warranty work done on their motorhome and we really struck up a friendship. Joe is a retired butcher and deals in fleas now. Flea markets, that is. They do quite a business and carry a whole store with them in the motorhome and van. It was fun to learn all the ins and outs of that business. They insisted we come for dinner one night. Joe served some of his homemade Italian sausage and ravioli. It was great. Kathy collects, of all things, sharks teeth which she finds while walking the beaches of S. Carolina.
When we went back to Winter Haven for a week after we bought the Bounder, we met another neat couple. Colin and June Carroll, from Ontario, Canada were parked next to us in their Prevost bus which Colin had personally converted to a motorhome. We got a tour of the inside and it is delightful. Just like a miniature house. It has hardwood floors, and beautiful cupboards. Oh what stories they had to tell. Originally from Scotland and England, they have lived in Canada since the fifties and said they would never go back to England. After I told them how much I loved England and we discussed the great weather we had the two times we were there, they understood my love. But they said it is usually cool and rainy and North America is much better for lots of reasons.
Did you read the article about Escapees? Do you wonder where that name came from? Special Kind of People is the real name. Say the letters S K P and what does it sound like? Escapee. So they are usually called "Skips" or Escapees.
Thought you'd like to know our plans for the year. We will of course be at the LBJ ranch from February through the end of April. The first of May we will go straight back to Michigan to clear out our storage locker for good. We will be there for one month at the most. Early in June, we will go north in Michigan and west through the upper peninsula. We have been trying to visit Wisconsin, Minnesota, and points west for nearly four years. This time we will make it.
While we are at the ranch this year, we plan to explore lots of little towns on our bicycles and golf all the golf courses. We will have lots of fun things to report on.
So far my plans are to publish a newsletter in March, April, May, July, August, Sept, October, November and December this year. I am taking February off to get used to the new computer that we plan to get in a week or so.
We will also need some extra time to get back into the swing of things at the ranch. I need to plan the course in Word Perfect that I promised to teach this time. It is in my head, but I need to put it on paper.
CORRECTION Did any of you try the AT&T 800 number that I gave you last month? It was incomplete. I goofed again. This time it is right, I promise. 1-800-CALL-ATT-1. Use this number whenever you are locked out of getting AT&T the normal or second choice way (10-ATT). The 800 number works anytime because it is an 800 number.
Signs along the way
Bumper sticker in Livingston, Texas
If this car were a horse,
Bumper sticker near Trinity, Texas
Being a grandparent means you
Sign on a church in Franklin, Texas
Seven days without prayer makes one weak
|Copyright © 1999, Movin' On with Ron & BarbTM- All Rights Reserved|