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Old 10-24-2006, 01:50 PM   #1
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We left from our home in Orange Park, Florida on the afternoon of 15 September, headed out on what would become a cross-country journey. After buying our Meridian, we had taken several local trips shaking out our routine and equipment. We then spent several weeks packing our coach with clothes and other necessities. After work on that Friday, I hooked up the tow dolly, put the PT Cruiser on it, took a shower and we hit the road.

Our plan was to take a 3-week vacation to visit our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids in Scobey, Montana. Since this was our first long trip in our newly acquired 2005 Itasca Meridian, we had an alternative plan to continue on to California to see our folks and brothers and sisters, if we felt up to making the trip. This would also depend on the performance of the coach.

One of my planned RV-related stops was to visit the Winnebago Plant in Forest City, Iowa. We wanted to get the ceiling fan for the bedroom, and do the plant tour. We did two Wal-Mart overnights, and then arrived at the Winnebago Facilities on Sunday evening. We stayed the night in their Rally Park, took the PT Cruiser off the tow dolly and spent most of the next day touring and visiting the service/parts departments. It was very interesting to see the plant and their museum.
We departed Monday afternoon headed for Scobey, MT. One Sam's Club overnight and we were at our daughter's place on Wednesday. We took the Cruiser off the dolly for getting around. We spent 4 days visiting and playing with the grandkids.

We had no problems with the coach and the driving pace wasn't too bad, so, then we were on the road again headed for California on Sunday.

We stayed at a truck stop one night, and then arrived at an RV park in West Yellowstone. We spent a day at Yellowstone National Park, then off to California. Two more Wal-Marts and we arrived at our folks places in Vacaville, CA. Cruiser came off the dolly, again, and we spent 4 days visiting friends and relatives and cleaning the tar from road construction off one side of the coach and PT Cruiser!

We departed Vacaville on Sunday afternoon headed for the second of my planned RV-related stops. This was 3-T's RV Products (3tsrv.com) in Lake Havasu City Arizona. I had read of their suspension upgrades for RV's and had made an appointment for Tuesday Oct 3rd to get our coach upgraded. We arrived there on the afternoon of the 2nd, and Sue Allen got us in and out that same day. I shouldn't have cleaned the coach/toad in California, as it was re-coated on Interstate 5! Only this time it was both sides! Cruiser was used to check out the area, and visit the London Bridge while the coach was being worked on.

We stayed at an RV park in Lake Havasu, and just driving the coach from 3T's to the park, I could feel the difference! I would highly recommend this improvement to anybody with a similar coach! Also had 3T's install the heavy duty springs on the rear leveler jacks, and now they work as fast as the fronts.

Due to 3T's getting us in early, we had an extra day to visit the Grand Canyon on the 3rd.
During a fuel/lunch stop in Arizona at exit 53 on Interstate 40. I have the coach/ toad/tow dolly cleaned/washed and spray waxed by a mobile cleaning service for $55...great job and well worth the price!. This is where I discovered the driver's windshield cracked from a stone I picked up earlier. We drove the coach with the toad into the National Park and seen what we could after parking with the tour busses. We couldn't stay in the park, as we had no reservations, and the campgrounds were full. We departed and found an RV park to stay at that evening.

A few more overnights in a Wal-Mart, Casino RV Park in Vicksburg, MS (with a great seafood buffet!), and another RV park, we were back home in Florida.

Twenty-three days on the road (15 of which were drive-days), 20 states and 6886 miles. We burned $2500 dollars of diesel. Would we do it again? Yes, but I would want more of a leisurely pace next time. Three weeks is not enough time to all the things we wanted to do. Only once was I able to put out the lawn chairs and bar-b-que.

Our Meridian worked great. All systems worked as expected, and the Cat 350 purred right along. The exhaust brake worked where we needed it. Mountains were no problem. I do think the coach batteries may be lacking, as the power management system would shut the 110v off sometime during the night. I'd use the generator the next morning to charge back up, use the engine heater and microwave while getting ready to roll.

The PT Cruiser with the tow dolly towed very easily. I only knew it was there, because I used the backup camera to keep an eye on it. A couple of notes with using the tow dolly:<UL TYPE=SQUARE>
<LI>Check the straps occasionally; I had a trucker blow his horns several times when I passed him, and I checked the car at the next exit...straps had loosened.
<LI>Plan on getting dirty when loading or unloading. Couldn't find a way around that.
<LI>Check for the tilt-locking pin. I lost mine somewhere between Pensacola and Jacksonville! No damage was done, but I was stunned that it was gone. I don't know how it got away...Retaining clip was in. ..[/list]
We used both the coach factory Magellan GPS and our portable Garmin C320 GPS. I would use the Magellan for our navigation and trip routing, while Norma would use the Garmin to find places to overnight. It worked well for us. It's kind of funny, because I used to think GPS wasn't necessary, now I like traveling with the 2 systems! We didn't open a map at all. I think maps are headed the way of film cameras!

I also picked up a laser thermometer at Harbor Freight before our trip. I think is was about $40. I used it to check tire temperatures when refueling. A loss of pressure would be indicated by a higher temperature. It worked well. If you use one, the sunny side of the vehicle will be hotter than the shady side, and the tow dolly tire behind the diesel exhaust will be hotter than the other.

Another issue is road construction and repair. We did not find a state where the roads were not being worked on. I expected an occasional area, but it was going on all over the states. Allow time in your schedule for delays.

Coach is now on the side-drive...gave it a good bath, needs a headlight alignment (I didn't mention the headlights out of alignment, did I?...discovered it at night in the mountains, of course! ), new windshield, and front end alignment (think I'll get it checked, due to all the pot-holes and road construction). 2400 miles on the 3-T's suspension upgrades made the trip back home much more enjoyable. I'm very happy with it.
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Old 10-24-2006, 01:50 PM   #2
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We left from our home in Orange Park, Florida on the afternoon of 15 September, headed out on what would become a cross-country journey. After buying our Meridian, we had taken several local trips shaking out our routine and equipment. We then spent several weeks packing our coach with clothes and other necessities. After work on that Friday, I hooked up the tow dolly, put the PT Cruiser on it, took a shower and we hit the road.

Our plan was to take a 3-week vacation to visit our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids in Scobey, Montana. Since this was our first long trip in our newly acquired 2005 Itasca Meridian, we had an alternative plan to continue on to California to see our folks and brothers and sisters, if we felt up to making the trip. This would also depend on the performance of the coach.

One of my planned RV-related stops was to visit the Winnebago Plant in Forest City, Iowa. We wanted to get the ceiling fan for the bedroom, and do the plant tour. We did two Wal-Mart overnights, and then arrived at the Winnebago Facilities on Sunday evening. We stayed the night in their Rally Park, took the PT Cruiser off the tow dolly and spent most of the next day touring and visiting the service/parts departments. It was very interesting to see the plant and their museum.
We departed Monday afternoon headed for Scobey, MT. One Sam's Club overnight and we were at our daughter's place on Wednesday. We took the Cruiser off the dolly for getting around. We spent 4 days visiting and playing with the grandkids.

We had no problems with the coach and the driving pace wasn't too bad, so, then we were on the road again headed for California on Sunday.

We stayed at a truck stop one night, and then arrived at an RV park in West Yellowstone. We spent a day at Yellowstone National Park, then off to California. Two more Wal-Marts and we arrived at our folks places in Vacaville, CA. Cruiser came off the dolly, again, and we spent 4 days visiting friends and relatives and cleaning the tar from road construction off one side of the coach and PT Cruiser!

We departed Vacaville on Sunday afternoon headed for the second of my planned RV-related stops. This was 3-T's RV Products (3tsrv.com) in Lake Havasu City Arizona. I had read of their suspension upgrades for RV's and had made an appointment for Tuesday Oct 3rd to get our coach upgraded. We arrived there on the afternoon of the 2nd, and Sue Allen got us in and out that same day. I shouldn't have cleaned the coach/toad in California, as it was re-coated on Interstate 5! Only this time it was both sides! Cruiser was used to check out the area, and visit the London Bridge while the coach was being worked on.

We stayed at an RV park in Lake Havasu, and just driving the coach from 3T's to the park, I could feel the difference! I would highly recommend this improvement to anybody with a similar coach! Also had 3T's install the heavy duty springs on the rear leveler jacks, and now they work as fast as the fronts.

Due to 3T's getting us in early, we had an extra day to visit the Grand Canyon on the 3rd.
During a fuel/lunch stop in Arizona at exit 53 on Interstate 40. I have the coach/ toad/tow dolly cleaned/washed and spray waxed by a mobile cleaning service for $55...great job and well worth the price!. This is where I discovered the driver's windshield cracked from a stone I picked up earlier. We drove the coach with the toad into the National Park and seen what we could after parking with the tour busses. We couldn't stay in the park, as we had no reservations, and the campgrounds were full. We departed and found an RV park to stay at that evening.

A few more overnights in a Wal-Mart, Casino RV Park in Vicksburg, MS (with a great seafood buffet!), and another RV park, we were back home in Florida.

Twenty-three days on the road (15 of which were drive-days), 20 states and 6886 miles. We burned $2500 dollars of diesel. Would we do it again? Yes, but I would want more of a leisurely pace next time. Three weeks is not enough time to all the things we wanted to do. Only once was I able to put out the lawn chairs and bar-b-que.

Our Meridian worked great. All systems worked as expected, and the Cat 350 purred right along. The exhaust brake worked where we needed it. Mountains were no problem. I do think the coach batteries may be lacking, as the power management system would shut the 110v off sometime during the night. I'd use the generator the next morning to charge back up, use the engine heater and microwave while getting ready to roll.

The PT Cruiser with the tow dolly towed very easily. I only knew it was there, because I used the backup camera to keep an eye on it. A couple of notes with using the tow dolly:<UL TYPE=SQUARE>
<LI>Check the straps occasionally; I had a trucker blow his horns several times when I passed him, and I checked the car at the next exit...straps had loosened.
<LI>Plan on getting dirty when loading or unloading. Couldn't find a way around that.
<LI>Check for the tilt-locking pin. I lost mine somewhere between Pensacola and Jacksonville! No damage was done, but I was stunned that it was gone. I don't know how it got away...Retaining clip was in. ..[/list]
We used both the coach factory Magellan GPS and our portable Garmin C320 GPS. I would use the Magellan for our navigation and trip routing, while Norma would use the Garmin to find places to overnight. It worked well for us. It's kind of funny, because I used to think GPS wasn't necessary, now I like traveling with the 2 systems! We didn't open a map at all. I think maps are headed the way of film cameras!

I also picked up a laser thermometer at Harbor Freight before our trip. I think is was about $40. I used it to check tire temperatures when refueling. A loss of pressure would be indicated by a higher temperature. It worked well. If you use one, the sunny side of the vehicle will be hotter than the shady side, and the tow dolly tire behind the diesel exhaust will be hotter than the other.

Another issue is road construction and repair. We did not find a state where the roads were not being worked on. I expected an occasional area, but it was going on all over the states. Allow time in your schedule for delays.

Coach is now on the side-drive...gave it a good bath, needs a headlight alignment (I didn't mention the headlights out of alignment, did I?...discovered it at night in the mountains, of course! ), new windshield, and front end alignment (think I'll get it checked, due to all the pot-holes and road construction). 2400 miles on the 3-T's suspension upgrades made the trip back home much more enjoyable. I'm very happy with it.
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Old 10-24-2006, 02:23 PM   #3
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Tom and Norma: Sounds like you had a great vacation, thanks for sharing the adventure. I was also happy to hear you liked the 3Ts handling package. You mentioned road construction in almost every state. Well it is good to see our fuel taxes used for road improvements. Hopefully the road projects will be finished when we decide to travel West to East in a few years.
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Old 10-24-2006, 04:12 PM   #4
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Tom:

Thanks for the trip review. We also recently did our first long trip from Va. to the West, 16 states and 5,300 miles. In fact, we may have crossed paths since we were in the Grand Canyon/Flagstaff area about the same time as you. We were also more than pleased with the overall road performance of our Journey on the Freightliner chassis, in spite of the fact some folks call them 'Freight Shakers.'

I know that 3T's offers several packages for the FL...some sort of handling package and an 'anti-rock' kit. Can you tell me what they installed on your rig?

Finally, we also started out (with our first motorhome) towing with a dolly. As you said, getting dirty (and sometimes wet) during the loading process was unavoidable. We finally gave up and sold the dolly and started towing four wheels down. It surely is much less trouble.
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Old 10-24-2006, 04:36 PM   #5
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Hey Tom, Thanks for your excellent report. We are going to cross country next year hopfully, and I was concerned about the time frame. Thinking 4 to 5 weeks just wouldn't be enough time. Now I think it would be just right.
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Old 10-25-2006, 10:28 AM   #6
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smlranger,

We did both the handling package for the front and the anti-rock in the rear. A little over $900 total, installed. Basically, it is new heavier duty Monroe shocks, new mounting (changes angles) and a steering stabilizer/sway bar in the front. I could feel the difference just leaving the parking lot. And the drive home (2400 miles) was much better than the drive there.

GaryCA recommended them, and I'm very pleased. If you are ever back in the Lake Havasu City, AZ area, The 3-Ts group was joy to work with.

bobpie,

Glad to be able to contribute to the forum! It was all the folks here on IRV2.com and at RV.net that helped us make our decision on what to buy and then put it to use. I think our learning curve and fear of the unknown would have been a lot worse without all the help and advice. It's great to have the help of other folks with the same interests and some even have the same coach!
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Old 10-25-2006, 11:49 AM   #7
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Tom & the Group,
I just made my appointment at 3-T's for the installation of the anti rock kit and handling packages for next month. Tell me if there is anything else I should have them do while I'm there.
They tell me I can come in the night before and they will have room for me to hookup. Any other info I should know?
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Old 10-25-2006, 01:48 PM   #8
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bill j

If your rear levelers are slow to retract(mine took 20 minutes!), have them put the heavy duty springs on. I did this and they are almost as fast as the fronts...in all cases less than 3 minutes for full retract.

The hookup is 30 Amp power. They have several outlets. We weren't in town long enough to recommend a good restaurant. I think we had Chinese, but it wasn't anything special.

Tell Sue HI for us! She took good care of us.
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Old 10-25-2006, 01:48 PM   #9
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Be sure to check out the roll-up screen for the screen door, I bought one from 3-T's and did the install myself, I'm sure they will also install. My better half really appreciates the unobstucted view.
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Old 10-25-2006, 02:04 PM   #10
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">If your rear levelers are slow to retract(mine took 20 minutes!), have them put the heavy duty springs on. I did this and they are almost as fast as the fronts...in all cases less than 3 minutes for full retract. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Tom, I spray my rear jacks with silicone spray whenever I have them out for any period of time, they work fine.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Be sure to check out the roll-up screen for the screen door, I bought one from 3-T's and did the install myself, I'm sure they will also install. My better half really appreciates the unobstructed view. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Doug, I replaced the screen with a removable screen, works fine for me. (Besides I'm cheep!)

I do appreciate the info especially the 30A availability, will look for the Chinese place.

Thanks all.
Bill j.
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Old 10-26-2006, 05:31 AM   #11
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Nice report, Tom! Wow.. you guys certainly set an agressive schedule. Putting the miles on the rig is certainly a great way to become familiar with it.
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Old 10-26-2006, 06:45 AM   #12
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Bill J. When you get to 3Ts have John check out the epoxy on the front and rear caps that hold the hinges for the access panels (generator and engine). He reset and glued the hinges of my front hood. John also replaced my door strike with a teflon coated one. John and Tina and Sue are great people.
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Old 10-26-2006, 09:00 AM   #13
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Gary, Will do, I've been keeping an eye on those glue spots and will have them check. I guess I'll try the Teflon door strike, I'm tired of replacing the tape on it. I here nothing but good things about the team at 3-T's.

thanks,
Bill J.
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Old 10-26-2006, 09:43 AM   #14
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Great reading, thanks for taking the time to tell us about the trip and 3T's. Good Miles
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