Trip to Michigan via Nashville – Visit with Fulltimers and RV Shopping

Karen and I finished up a trip to see her mother and family in Howell Michigan a couple weeks ago. We first stopped off in Nashville Tennessee to pick up her brother who joined us on the trip. Unfortunately we did not have much time to spend in Nashville touring. Karen’s brother is a professional musician and has lived in Nashville for years.  Figure we will make an extended trip there in the future. I’ve already got some ideas for a campground which is Seven Points Campground, a Corp of Engineer Park.

Karen ran off shopping with her sister and mother in Michigan while I took a couple day trips.

Ryan and Deanne from California

Montana with Nice Ram

For quite a while I’ve been sending emails back and forth to a reader of this blog. Ryan and Deanne are from California. Ryan is originally from Michigan and as luck would have it they were in town visiting his father. So off to the south of Detroit I drove for a day trip. I got a grand tour of their wonderful 2018 rear living room, 35′ Montana 3120RL. And a ride in their new beautiful Ram truck that’s equipped for maximum towing with 4:10 gears, dual rear wheels, Aisin transmission and the high-output Cummins diesel engine. We drove to a local joint for Coney style hotdogs which is apparently a Detroit original. As would seem to always be the case, when meeting fellow lovers of RV’s, it took only a few minutes to feel like I’d known the couple for a while. Great conversation for sure. Thank you Ryan for all the valuable conversation in-person and through the internet! Thank you Deanne for the tour or your home. She had a list of what she would change in this fifth wheel. Wonderful input for us who are still looking to buy one.  As a side note, one of the things I like about the Montana is the very large user group. The Montana Owner’s Forum is huge.

My second day trip was to the Haylett RV dealership in Coldwater Michigan. Home of my favorite RV tour videos and one of several dealerships we might buy from if we go with the Montana. Although I’ve known three people who bought their Montana fifth wheels at Lake Shore in Muskegon Michigan. It’s the volume – lowest price dealership. All three seemed to have had good experiences.

While at Haylett RV I was able to compare the 2019 Montana with the newer 2019 Anniversary Edition.  Funny how in just a few months there have already been two significant changes to the same 2019 trailer! I’ve also been reading Keystone is incorporating more technology in their upcoming fifth wheels. That will be the third significant change in one year! So far they plan to hardwire cellular and WIFI into the trailer using some kind of Furrion system.  Here is part of the news bulletin:

“At the end of September, Keystone RV Company will launch another industry first, all Keystone RVs will be 4G LTE and WiFi ready, standard. New Furrion technology offers an antenna that integrates 4G LTE and Wi-Fi with standard VHF/UHF/AM/FM reception. WiFi and cellular signals are routed to a wall-mounted base inside the trailer.”

The trip to Michigan from Tennessee lead us through Kentucky. This was the first time I’d been on Interstates through south to north Kentucky. I was impressed with the scenery. Karen’s brother Steve had made the trip a number of times and alerted us to an upcoming view of Cincinnati Ohio as it entered our view on Interstate 75/71. I cut some photos out of Google Maps that don’t do it justice. Basically, as you approach from the south, down a hill there is a curve. As you make the curve Cincinnati’s tall downtown buildings suddenly come into view.

Here is the view approaching Cincinnati




Bam! As soon as you come around the corner the city appears.

North of Cincinnati is Jeff Couch’s RV Nation’s Dealership. Home of the low price volume dealer for the Forest River Cedar Creek. A trailer which has a ton of changes for 2019. Most importantly is their introduction of a 35′ trailer in direct competition with the Montana 3120RL. Wish we would have had time to stop to look over the new model. Karen likes the double bowl sinks in the Cedar Creek which come at the expense of a deep pantry.

Keystone Montana 3120RL

Forest River Cedar Creek 34IK

So that now makes a total of four RV companies who are building our top floor plan. The others are Vanleigh with their Vilano 320GK or Beacon 34RLB and Grand Design’s Solitude 310GK. Subtle differences in some parts and major difference in others among the four trailers. I’ll not get into that unless someone asks in the comments section. If you are looking for a 35′ “luxury” fifth wheel, these are the four we looked at.

We drove four days on this trip with a little over 500 miles between destinations each way. Karen and I really enjoyed the quick brake from our sticks and bricks home. We both still can’t wait to get on the road sometime next year. Till then we keep downsizing and fixing up the house.


20 thoughts on “Trip to Michigan via Nashville – Visit with Fulltimers and RV Shopping

  1. Things to consider when looking at rigs for FT living….size of tanks, CCG (cargo carrying capacity) axels, tires, warranty & customer service. All rigs will have problems but how the company supports you after purchase is crucial.


    • Size of tanks we have considered based on how we intend to use them. Axles are 7,000 pound and tires no less than G rated. Warranty seems to be about the same for most (one year with three year foundation). Cargo on what we are looking at is around 4,000 pounds. Customer Services is the hard one. Figure we will have a backup plan such as using a company that specializes in repairs and does not sell RV’s if we have to.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good for you…you have done your research!! We have a Grand Design, their customer service is stellar however the CCC is lacking. Disc brakes are also great to have. Jeff upgraded ours & will be changing the leaf springs soon! When we upgrade to a new rig in a few years, we’ll take a serious look at Vanleigh. Good luck


      • Great walk through video. This guy does the bang test on the side walls of the slideouts. So when I was looking at the Montana 3810MS I did the same bang test and the walls sound hollow compared to the GD. Check it out>


      • For sure the GD slide sides sound better built when you bang on them. But not a reason not to buy in my opinion. It’s all a give and take for sure.

        I follow two blogs where they own Grand Designs. Did that on purpose to follow anything they said about repairs. And both had larger trailers and I wanted to see how they travel and pick spots.


    • I am researching the GD Solitude line as well. I have found (in my research) that the GD customer support is second to none. GD has come out with a new S-class solitude. The 3350 RL has a very large basement and a CCC is 4400 + , depending on the options(which are not many).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rick, that 38′ length in the 3350RL is the magic number for full timing in my opinion and others. I’ll have to run it through my grading criteria to compare against our needs overall. 4400 pounds of cargo is awesome and something Grand Design has neglected in the past.

        Do you know if there is a volume dealer somewhere in the nation from which to compare pricing? We have a local dealer whom I’ve visited with at the RV show for the past five years and went to their lot three times. They gave up their Montana dealership. The manager says they wait three weeks for parts from others. Grand Design ships in a couple days as they maintain extra parts in a warehouse for all their components. He says it really takes the strain off his dealership when customers are not upset waiting on parts.


      • Mark,
        I have priced one through this lady that i found. I actually found her when I was looking for a Jayco bulk dealer…she told me that she suggested GD to her kids and they love it She gave me a quote with a King bed .
        I have checked several on the local rv dealerships and the CCC on the yellow spec sticker on the rigs I looked at was 4K +. They do not advertise the GD as a discount b/c GD doesn’t want the brand to be devalued.
        You can contact me by email and I can give you all the details.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love reading your updates Mark.

    I visited the two largest Montana dealers in Los Angeles two weeks ago and both said they would match the lowest US pricing I’ve seen on the Montana 3120RL, being about $52,250 from the huge discounter, Lake Shore.

    I’m encouraged by your comment about the three Montana sales that went smoothly. Of the two units we inspected, one unit was mostly faultless and the other must have been assembled on a Monday morning, as the quality of the build was terrible. Of course this dealer who I actually preferred of the two said they would put right any and everything that was suspect. However, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I told the guy that it was nothing personal, and that I knew he had absolutely nothing to do with what he was sent from the factory, but that if I was making a decision to write a cheque that day, I’d go with the other dealer. When I see for example, staples showing through the finish and the fibreglass sheet that sits under the front king pin, warped across the entire width of the RV and a gap at least a half an inch at the tow pin front edge, allowing water to drive up into there, its a bit like seeing an iceberg. If what you can see worries you, what about what you can’t see and will discover after you drive out of the dealership.

    Having read almost every one of the thousands of Montana posts on their forum, I’m now convinced that I would never buy a new unit, sight unseen and risk getting a Monday morning or Friday night production run model. Mark when your ready to buy, inspect the unit your actually going to buy and know what your getting. I spent four hours each, going over and under the two I inspected and all the issues were assembly issues, not design problems.

    My wife also loved the twin bathroom basins on the Cedar Creek. I can just see all her make-up stuff extending across the bench top onto the other side, my side…lol.. For the price,Spc and finish I like the Montana floor plan and RV overall better and will be what we go with. Opps, plus a RAM 3500 SRW.


    • Thanks for the comment Rob. I have to agree not to buy one without inspecting the actual unit. Hopefully whomever we end up buying from will have two in stock. When I was at Haylett RV in Michigan I asked the salesman if they allow you to park somewhere overnight so you can find anything that is wrong before you left. He said they do not have any policy set on that. They could let me stay on their lot but they don’t plan to ever sell a new RV to someone with known problems. He claimed they inspect them upon arrival from the factory and if they do not pass inspection they send them back. Haylett is maybe less than two hours from the plant.

      Getting someone to match a price out of Michigan in California is outstanding. Personally, I’d be willing to add on what it would have cost me to drive and pickup the fifth wheel.

      Agree on the Montana vs the Cedar Creek, especially the 2019 Cedar Creek Hathaway with all its changes.

      The 2019 Montana 20th anniversary edition went to a flat ceiling rather than it being radius. Over a two day period I was in the 2019 with flat ceiling and a 2018 with radius. I still like the radius ceiling. But some of the changes in the 20th anniversary were nice such as all windows with day/night shades and hardwood cabinet stiles (previously only on the legacy package). I could careless about not having a back cap. Can’t wait to read up on the new WIFI and 4g cellular connectivity Montana is building in. Their solar prep is nice as well.

      Another biggie in these 35′ trailers is to make sure the basement is still large. Also some, such as the Heartland Bighorn and Grand Design Solitude, go to a less beefy frame when the unit is 35′. Some might also sneak in 6,000 pound axles. You can see it in the cargo ratings. The Montana 3120RL has huge cargo capacity, as does the Cedar Creek Hathaway 34IK. Suggesting they left the beefy frame. New National Highway Safety regulations stipulate the manufacturer must also provide tires that have at least a 10% better rating than the weight the trailer is designed to max out at. Glad to see that rule go through. I’d suspect E rated tires on these 15 to 16,000 trailers are a thing of the past. Oh by the way, all the 2018/2019 Montana’s I’ve look at come with Sailun tires. Better than the G rated version from Goodyear some say.


      • 2019 Montana Legacy package changes…
        • NEW! Legacy Edition Package
        » Disc Brakes
        » Generator Prep
        » Surge Protector
        » Furrion S-Vision Cameras (side view and rear View)
        » iN-Command with HVAC Control
        » Hardwood Cabinet Framing (Stiles)
        » Electric Power Cord Reel (N/A 3130RE)
        » Rear Fiberglass Cap (N/A 3700,3701,3790,3791)
        • Hi Back Desk Chair with Step Ladder Deleted


    • “fiberglass sheet that sits under the front king pin, warped across the entire width of the RV and a gap at least a half an inch at the tow pin front edge”

      Good points that if you can see this what is wrong that you can’t see. I saw a front cap on a Vanleigh Vilano the first few months that they starting building them. Whomever painted it masking was terrible, with lines that were bad. Could not believe that made it out of the factory. But then again, it was at an RV show where many do not know the difference:)

      Montana rep once told me you can engineer the best fifth wheel possible. But… It’s only as good as the meth head that put it together. Think he was having a bad day!


  3. When we were looking at the Montana’s we had the opportunity to view two of the same models side by side. I recall the horizontal surfaces having brad nails and staples protruding from them with putty piled round. This was on a front living floorplan, granted. Also, the Montana’s did not insulate the underbelly with wool directly on top of the underbelly layment. If I recall correctly they also use one piece Cloroplast sheeting there. These are some of the reasons we went with CC, No wooden horizontal surfaces with nails protruding, full insulation in/on the underbelly and a segmented rigid ABS underbelly layment. OSB deck also turned me off. I’ve seen too much exterior rated OSB go to mush in my trade over the years, I know they speak of less seams because of the sizes offered but I’ve seen no evidence of seam popping or creaking in quality plywood tongue and groove flooring fitted correctly. CC also use two-ply roof membrane. You might want to ask Keystone about this.
    If I had my druthers, we would have the larger tank capacities in the Montana’s. 9 gallons fresh, 8 gallon black and 8 gallon gray is nothing to sneeze at. The CC’s have a 40Kbtu furnace vs the Montana’s though not as important IMO.


    • Lots of reasons to choice the Cedar Creek. I’m thinking they got their cap fading issues fixed in 2018. Another great reason is Forest River is not a Thor product and they have been around forever. Combined with the Cardinal they own a lot of the market share. And I believe they and DRV are now the only main players who are still building hung walls rather than laminated.

      I’m personally liking some of the changes in the 2019 Hathaway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, main players. Newmar, Luxe and Riverstone are the other more niche one’s I know of. It might just be me but compared to our previous R-9 vacuum bonded foam walled RV the CC is acoustically different. Much quieter inside and out. I can sense it but have not measured it. When the family visits we can be loud(ish) late and not hear it outside. It’s almost too quiet like when you wake-up in the morning and find new neighbors next to you but you heard nothing all along.

        I like some other floorplans by different manufacturers better though. Montana has great selection there.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We recently bought the Montana 3791 RD and love it. A few minor issues but nothing major. We could not be happier with our 5th wheel and can’t wait to go full time next year in it. I had also gotten prices from Lake Shore but then shopped around closer to my home. I had no trouble driving 10 hours if I had to but a dealership a few hours away gave us a better deal in the end. Best of luck finding what works best for you.


  5. How fun! Nice to meet new RVers and see more rigs. We still live our 2013 3852RL that we got at Lakeshore (we lived in CA at the time) and the 2913 Dodge Ram duality from IL. 5th year on the road full time!


  6. So glad you and Karen had a chance to get away for awhile. I’m not surprised you spent time at RV dealers. It’s hard to stay away while getting ready to make a final decision and as usual you are really doing your homework. I’ve heard the COE park’s are really nice in TN. We loved the Nashville area and hope to visit there again. So many places to see……
    Looking forward to hearing of your final decision and your purchase…. knowing you’ll be joining the rest of us in your full- time journey very soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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