Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shades of Glory

A couple of posts ago, I vented my frustration with the window shades in Phannie, and I really don't think I wish to revisit that rant except to include a few photos that precipitated our visit to McKinney last week and the acquisition of new custom shades:

We had made an appointment with MCD Innovations after reading about other RVers' experiences with this firm.  Upon our initial telephone inquiry, they gave us an overview of the installation process, and we settled on an appointment that would be available in about a month.  (Apparently, they have plenty of RV business.)  They also mailed us a packet of information about the product and the installation and pricing plans, along with some samples from which we could choose shade textures and colors.

The normal installation scheme involves showing up at MCD's headquarters on a Monday morning with your RV, being prepared to leave it there until 5:00 p.m. the following Friday.  They can easily accommodate fulltimers, as they have 50-amp electric hookups serving about 20 spaces in a large concrete parking lot alongside their factory.  (There is no water or sewer, though; you would need to show up with a full water tank and empty black and grey tanks.)  Although McKinney is only about an hour's drive from our house in  the D/FW mid-cities area, we elected to drive up on Sunday and spend the night in Phannie, to avoid the Monday morning demolition derby that is rush hour in the D/FW Metroplex.  

MCD Offices in McKinney

We arrived late Sunday afternoon and, although MCD's headquarters facility was clearly closed, we were soon met by a friendly gent named Mac, I think, who directed us as we backed into our preassigned spot #11 among perhaps ten other RVs.  Mac lives in a motor home near the entrance to the parking area and apparently serves as a greeter and host.  From his vantage point, he can easily see the flow of RVs into and out of the parking area.

RV Parking Area at MCD

All settled in for the night...
After getting settled, we went to Shogun, a Japanese hibachi restaurant for a nice dinner, then came back to Phannie, where we watched a movie and turned in for the night.  

On Monday morning, the order taker, a pleasant young lady, made her way to every coach to finalize the orders and receive the initial payment, which was for the materials ordered.  The installation fee would be paid on Friday, as it is calculated by the hour and based on the amount of time required for the work involved.  We already had our fabric selections picked out (the really attractive ones are more expensive--imagine that!), so it was only a matter of deciding which windows were to be done.  Because of the large number of orders that day, we were among the last to place our order, so we had some time to kill well beyond the 8:30 a.m.  time that we were told to expect the order-taker's visit.    

After our order was taken, a young man showed up to do the measurements, which took only a few minutes. Then he disappeared into the factory, and soon the order-taker reappeared with an invoice, which we paid by credit card.  She said we would pay for the installation on Friday, at which time the installation charges would be known.  We told her that we were planning to pick up our coach on Saturday, so she said we could do the credit card transaction over the phone on Friday.  We left the keys with her and hopped in Mae for the drive home, but not before stopping for lunch at Baker's Drive-In, a legendary local burger joint.

Upon our return the following Saturday, there were only a few RVs in the parking area, and no one appeared to meet us.  We picked up Phannie's keys from the agreed-upon hiding spot and went inside to inspect the new shades.  We were not disappointed; these are the American Duo models with two rollers, one for the day shade and one for the night shade.  The shades operate much like the old-timey roller window shades in that you pull them down to the desired level, then pull again and the springs in the rollers roll them up.  However, these are much improved in that when you pull down on the shade to retract it, you can release it and it will gently rise to the fully retracted position.  Pretty neat!  A motorized, remote-control version is also available, but Sandy and I thought we would probably not wear ourselves out by raising and lowering the shades manually.  

Comparison Night Shade (Left) and Day Shade (Right)
So, everything went just about as planned, and we're very pleased.  The cost?  Well, they are priced according to window sizes, and we had large, medium and small windows to cover which, I suppose, would be the case with most rigs.  For these particular day/night shades (with an upscale fabric choice), you can figure an average of slightly less than $300 per window, including the removal of the old shades and installation of the new ones.  

And the end of my frustration with Phannie's old window shades?  Priceless!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Meet Boris and Natasha!

This past weekend we had the good fortune to meet fulltimers Paul and Mary, whose exploits appear in two of our must-read blogs, Bullwinkle’s Travels and The Great RV Escape.  These wonderfully friendly folks checked out of the work world at an enviably early point in their lives and are having a fine time traveling the country in their beautiful Winnebago Tour motor home, Bullwinkle, and their trusty Jeep toad, Rocky.  (We like it when people name their vehicles; it makes our own similar habit seem somehow less juvenile.)  
Paul, Mary and Sandy with Bullwinkle

It's always fun to meet fellow bloggers in person after having first become acquainted with them in their words and pictures. We've found that the first meeting in person is generally just a validation of what you think you know about them already and, therefore, something to anticipate with a degree of excitement.  It's much like meeting a personality you've watched on TV for a long time--but one who happens to have watched you, as well!  Because of this, it is a very short and easy step indeed from cyber friend to real friend. There was no awkwardness, just starting a live visit where the last blog entry ended, with the only new thing being the sound of our voices.

Like all the RV bloggers we've met, Paul and Mary are irresistibly nice people with great personalities and very quick wits. From their very well written blogs, we already knew much about their clandestine plans that led up to their retiring and becoming fulltimers.  They blogged about their retirement preparations for months in advance with cloak-and-dagger subterfuge, using the pseudonyms Boris and Natasha so their imminent departure from their small company would not be discovered.  They were key members of the staff, and the foreknowledge of their leaving would have caused all sorts of complications for them.  It was better, they thought, to give the customary notice for the sake of a smoother and shorter transition.  These episodes in their blog were among the most captivating of all we have read, as the expertly written journal was not unlike a good mystery novel that could only be read one chapter at a time. 

Once notice was given and their identity revealed, Paul and Mary launched on their adventure, and who would they run into but other blogger friends we have met like Ed and Marilyn and Gordon and Juanita, along with others we hope to meet as time goes by.  We were totally delighted when we received Paul and Mary's e-mail announcing their plans to visit the D/FW area; we quickly set a time to get together and visit. 

Paul, Mary and Sandy inside the "Moose"
We had a nice brunch at the Blue Mesa Cafe in Southlake and then took a quick tour of our neighborhood and the little house where we keep Phannie and Mae.  They were gracious in their comments, and we talked of perhaps getting together again in the summer, when we might be able finally to meet Sue and Doug and other bloggers we "almost" know.  That would be a hoot, for sure!
Paul makes some yummy selections at Blue Mesa's buffet
Mary and Sandy, doing a little "grazing"

We continue to marvel at the winsome nature of those we meet in the RV world--a winsomeness that is especially prevalent among RV bloggers.  I don't think I can remember encountering  any RVer who was anything but pleasant and helpful.  Well, I take that back...I do remember a certain lady in Kerrville who was gave us pause, but she was actually more eccentric than unpleasant.  You can read about her in this post from 2005, our first year of RV travel when we had a fifth wheel named Homer.  It is, by the way, a post I most enjoyed writing; I hope you enjoy reading it.  I describe this lady under the subheading, "Take-It-Easy RV Park in Kerrville."

After bidding goodbye to Paul and Mary, we fired up Phannie and drove the short distance up to McKinney in order to make good our appointment to have custom shades installed by MCD Innovations on Monday.  More on this adventure next time...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Give Up!

Because I am a patient man, it has taken me a while to arrive at the conclusion that the day/night shades installed in most RVs—including Phannie—are, well, of the devil.  While I would not want any harm to come to the person who invented these things, I believe he needs to be tied up like a prime rib roast with these little strings that are the source of my frustration.  Where would he have gotten the notion that the guide strings, upon which these shades are totally dependent for operation, could possibly be something that would work for more than four days?  And the pleats--getting those to stay in place absolutely requires cuss words, and I've sworn not to swear.   (Or did I just swear then?  I'm not sure.)

Mind you, I think the idea is a good one:  A shade that can be pulled up and down that will afford either translucence for daytime or opaqueness for night.  But the strings—I have had to repair half of them on Phannie already, and I had similar luck with the ones in Homer, her predecessor.  And, as those of you know who have had to repair them, the fix is not exactly easy.  In fact, it is downright sadistic.  If I am to be punished, and I have a choice between repairing a day/night shade and a public flogging, I would just go to the courthouse square, bend over and say, “Bring it on.” 

Well, I’m throwing in the towel.  I have an appointment at MCD in McKinney, Texas next Monday for a retrofit of all the shades in Phannie’s lounge.  From what I’ve read in the blogs, MCD’s design seems unchallenged as the antidote for the demonic day/night shades with strings.  I talked to the folks at MCD several weeks ago and made the appointment.  They were very friendly and helpful on the phone, and they invited me to drive Phannie to their facility Sunday evening and stay the night to be ready for Monday’s design session, so that’s what we intend to do.   We don’t think we’re going to bother with replacing the shades in the bedroom, as we never open them anyway.  Besides, I’m halfway afraid to touch them for fear they, too, will break.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress.