Country Coaches Are Well Made Motorhomes

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We have owned our 2002 Country Coach Affinity for just under 5 years now.  We have added about 30,000 miles.  In my opinion our Country Coach is a well made and good performing motorhome.  Is it better than the other motorhomes out there?  I don’t know, but will say that it is by far the best of the motorhomes that I have owned or rented.  I will list a few reasons why I am of this opinion.

Full Recreational set up.

  1. I enjoy driving it.  It took me a little while to get used to the size, but after doing that I find that I look forward to time behind the wheel.  It is steady on the road even in wind or big trucks passing you.  It goes up or down big hills and mountains with ease, and does not overheat.  On good roads it is almost silent at highway speed.
  2. It is beautiful inside and out.  First class materials are used everywhere.  High quality leather upholstery.  Beautiful carpet and floors.  Custom Corian countertops.  Top end fixtures, lights, shower, faucets, wood, wood finish, paint, clear coat.  And so on.  Our clear coat is starting to have some problems on the curved part of the roof.  But the paint itself is amazingly color fast after 12 years in the sun.
  3. Top Quality mechanical and electrical.  CAT C12 motor that has plenty of power and seems to be very reliable.  Wires are all laid out carefully and are marked.  Two heating systems.  Diesel aqua hot type and roof heat pumps.  Two hot water heating systems.  Diesel boiler and electric heat.  Built in surge protector and water filter.  Basement doors hung with piano hinges for precision and durability.  Well made slide out trays in basement.  All electric coach with dual inverters and all AGM batteries.  All brass yacht type catches on cabinets.  Very well insulated.  R20 roof and dual pane windows.
  4. The high opinion of most owners and motorhome owners.  Many times the opinions of people at large means something.  In this case the almost uniform high opinion of others of the Country Coach product concurs with mine.

Campground Mt Shasta

Is our Country Coach perfect, no.  I have things fixed all the time.  But when you use something like this you always have a list of things needing attention.

If I were to buy another motorhome today I would first look for a Country Coach.  I am happy with my decision to buy five years ago.

Public Campgrounds VS Private (Commercial) Campgrounds

Emegrant Lake Oregon

Many want views like this from their campgrounds.  So do we.  This is a very nice public campground in Ashland OR.  It is called Emigrant Lake CG.  Not only do you get great views like this, but it is also fully equipped with full hookups and 50 amp power.  It is also 100% full.  Even though it is away from all road noise there are lots of activities here like jet skiing, fairly noisy dogs, and lots of kids.  And noisy neighbors very close to us sitting outside playing loud music.  Don’t get me wrong, for me this is a 8 out of 10 park.  Off season this is likely a 9 out of 10 park.  If there was wifi I would rate 1 point higher. Wifi in my opinion is a basic utility these days needed by almost everyone.  There is good 4G Verizon.

SP train from 50's

The previous couple of nights we stayed at a private park located in the Cal Expo area of downtown Sacramento CA.  That park was right near the wonderful Old Town Sacramento Railroad Museum where I took the above picture.  They even let my wife and I into the museum for free because I volunteer for CA State Parks.  The Cal Expo RV park had either asphalt or gravel/dirt spaces.  Their utilities were also complete with good 50 amp power.  A very nice fenced in dog park.  Plus wifi free that actually worked well.  Good 4G Verizon.  This was a noisy park due to freeway noise and moderate train noise.  The cost was about the same as the public campground.

Old Town Sacramento
Old Town Sacramento

Close to the Cal Expo park was shopping and eating in a great old refurbished Sacramento as it was in the 1800’s.  Both these parks cost about the same.  How would I rate this park.  Harder to do because I don’t like noise.  Because of the bare gavel and no site development at all besides utilities I am going to rate it a 7-8.  7 if you don’t like freeway noise and 8 if you don’t mind.  This park was about 60% full.

Bakersfield RV Resort
Bakersfield RV Resort

The above image is from the resort’s web site.  A couple nights before we stayed for a couple of nights at the Bakersfield RV Resort. This is one case where the word resort is true.  This is one of the best private parks amenity wise I have ever stayed at.  Very spacious sites with some grass.  Good wifi.  Very nice pool and hot tube.  Clean bathrooms and showers.  Very friendly staff.  Free DVD’s from lobby.  A good restaurant.  Not great but good food.  The freeway was a couple blocks away but you could definitely hear it.  We also noticed lots of police-ambulance noises.  This park is a 10.  It made staying in a town that is definitely not a 10 pretty good.  I did not love the noise, but the facility is so nice I am still going to rate a 10.

Conclusion.  Which is better, public or private parks?  In my opinion it depends entirely on the park.  I think generalizing does not work well.  As we continue to RV we are getting better at picking places to stay.  I generally use all the information available to pick places.  This includes, RVparkreviews.com, Woodalls-Good Sam ratings, Google ratings, Google maps & other maps.  In general planning out RV routes and places to stay is very laborious.  It takes me a lot of effort and work to do it.  I find if you just wing it you end up at places you don’t like well and skip attractions you want to go to.

 

Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet? could mean several things such as a location or a state of mind.  When I say it in this post I am referring to both.  Many if not most people rush through life without tasting much of it.  Not really smelling the roses.  To see what I mean, the next time you eat do it very slowly.  Chew each bite and mentally enjoy each flavor.  It is a very different experience than quickly eating fast food.  Or even good food eaten quickly.

This particular geranium was from my mom's patio.
This particular geranium was from my mom’s patio.

So how do you more thoroughly taste life?  You have to take the time to enjoy little bits of the moments of your day without being in a rush.  If you become tired, rest.  If you are are thirsty, drink.  Get off the fast track and move at your own pace.  Of course to do this you have to have the time and financial self sufficiency needed.

Coach at roadside stop

Since I was in my 20’s I have always liked campers/motorhomes.  I started renting them in my 30’s, and buying them in my 50’s.  I think I have always been attracted to them because the offer freedom.  Freedom to explore, stop, rest, and live almost anywhere.  A big one like shown in the picture is not cheap, but no where near as costly as a fixed house.  I am not even sure they are a good substitute for a fixed house forever.  But maybe they are until you “get there”.

freedom plate

Motorhomes are just tools though.  You can use them to scurry from place to place.  Stop at RV parks next to freeways.  Make most stops one night stays.  And then you are still on the fast track.  You will wear yourself out and ask questions like, “Are We There Yet”.  The answer will be no.  You have just moved into a mobile housing unit and still in the rat race.

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Being close to this

Barbara and Frazier on a beach in OR

Not this

traffic-jam

That is how I feel.  But do keep in mind that lots of folks like crowds and buzz.  If that is you then my advice is wrong for you.  I spent many years and millions of air miles running lots of places and now I am through with that.  Time to chew longer on what you have and not spend so much time buzzing around.

 

Digital Camera Pictures Vary Between Cameras Like Film Varies

I currently have three working digital cameras.  The one in my three month old smartphone, an older Sony compact camera, and a year old Nikon DSLR a 3200.  On our recent trip to southern Utah the Nikon really surprised me how well it adjusted for mid day pictures in brilliant sun.  Normally by far the best pictures are taken early in the morning or late in the day.  My Nikon 3200 when put on the landscape icon on it’s settings dial produced really good mid day pictures.  The camera in my smartphone had a much harder time with this lighting.  I remembered my Sony compact had a landscape setting too and decided I would do a test today to see how it worked with mid day light.

 

Here is the Nikon 3200
Here is the Nikon 3200
The Sony compact
The Sony compact
And my cell phone
And my cell phone

The Nikon DSLR did by far the best job of these three.  The Sony washed out the colors in the distance a bit.  The cell phone decided to focus on the trees in mid range and then put a strange lighter border section between the mountains and the sky.  In my opinion the only acceptable picture is the Nikon one.  But lets try a test where mid day sunny skies are not a factor.

Nikon
Nikon
Motorola Cell phone
Motorola Cell phone
Sony compact
Sony compact

All of the files on the digitals are about the same size approx 2.1-2.5 mega pixels.  In this case in my opinion all three are comparable pictures.  I prefer the color on the Motorola just a bit, and the Sony second.  Which puts the Nikon in third.

Conclusion.  The Nikon benefits from good software.  It has given an acceptable picture in mid day with color that is not washed out.  The Sony compact on the other hand is about six years old and does not benefit from software advances from the last couple of years.  And then the Motorola software has the right idea, but puts a gap between the sky and mountains.  And focuses on an object not in the center of the camera.  For tough mid day bright sun shots I am amazed at how good the Nikon works.  There is no way you could get shots as good as it does unless you are a wizard at post press.  And for this inexpensive Nikon the shots that came out of the camera had the color and saturation right.  Traditionally using film to get good mid days shots called for a polarizing filter.  In my humble opinion with Fuji Velvia 50 and a polarizing filter you would get even better shots of Monument Valley.  But that is only speculation as I did not shoot Velvia when we were in Arizona a month ago.

And for close up shots of flowers in late afternoon any of the digitals I have produced good results.  In this situation any of the shots would be OK, but here I preferred the look of the cell phone camera.

RVing As A Lifestyle

This is how our motorhome looked when we bought it 5 years ago.  It was used then.
This is how our motorhome looked when we bought it 5 years ago. It was used then.

My first big motorhome trip was in 1980.  I rented a 28′ Beaver class C motorhome and drove it from Southern California to British Columbia.  5,000 miles in total.  We rented a number of additional motorhomes over the years and then bought our first one about 9 years ago.  Then we moved up to our current rig in Nov 2009.  My motorhome trips have always been a combination of business and pleasure.  On our first trip to British Columbia I visited clients all the way up and all the way back.  Our big summer trip last year we also visited clients.  Motorhomes make great mobile work places and also are lots of fun to see the sights in this great, big country of ours.

Lots of people these days buy an RV and use it as their sole place to live.  I have always used RVing as work/pleasure tool and have never been much motivated to get rid of our house without wheels.  I would say to do that successfully you need to be able to be happy in a small space.  Very small.  The biggest RV is smaller than most very small apartments.  I think it is very useful to be mechanically capable.  Lots of things break on houses on wheels and it helps to be able to fix some of them.  You need money.  Fuel, big tires, repairs, insurance, living on the road is not as cheap as many think.  But it is a choice that many have taken successfully.

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It does give you a way to be in beauty spots for extended periods of time.  But it is not the “Sunset” life.  What I mean by that is RV life can tend to be a lot of parking lots with close by neighbors.  The Sunset life is the life of style from Sunset magazine.  I would strongly suggest that anyone thinking of selling all and moving into an RV full time do it in baby steps.  Rent first or do extended vacations first.  See if you like the life.

Pigments vs Pixels – Film vs Digital Photography #3

Photographic film uses pigmented particles to display color.  Electronic display screens use electronic means to display color with density rated in pixels.  The results are similar but not the same.  Back 40 years ago the photographer in the family bought Kodachrome 64 and shot slides.  When developed they were displayed by projecting the images on a screen.  Kodachrome 64 was capable of very saturated colors with deep reds.  It had very fine detail rendition.  To get this result took decades of development.  In my opinion, today for the best display of brilliant colors looking at slides on a light table or projecting them on a screen is still the best result.

botanical gardens bldg

The above picture was taken with a Motorola Droid Maxx phone camera.  This picture was taken in January and basically this is what came out of the camera.

Even before I started buying digital cameras about 15 years ago I still considered it a chore to get out the slide projector and show the latest batch of them.  Today nearly no one will do this.  So is it worth it to shoot film when you are only going to see the results on a flat screen?  Yes.  When you capture that image with either negative film or slide film you always have the original film.  You can have prints made from the film.  You can rescan the film as that process improves.  If you take a digital picture you only have the digital file.

Frazier on walk

This is our dog Frazier shot with an Olympus Stylus Infinity using Fuji Supurbia (cheap print film).  I had it developed by The Darkroom and they sent me the results scanned and negatives.  The original scan was about 4 megs and I slightly upped the color saturation using iPhoto

This sounds very complicated but simply put, if you have some red roses in your back yard you want a good picture of you may not be able to get the red you want if you do not have a camera and display screen capable of capturing and displaying the red tones you want.  On the other hand a camera loaded with Fuji Velvia or Kodak Ektar 100 will give you the colors you want easily.  And if your display cannot reproduce the colors you want today if you take film and get a better display later you will be able to see the picture you wanted to capture.

But for most people modern digital cameras take very good pictures easily.

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The picture above was using a Nikon DSLR.  It was taken at mid day and the reds on the Jeep are relatively true and vivid.  

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But nowhere near as nice as this reddish rose taken with my Olympus DSL and Velvia 50.  Admittedly part of the appeal of the rose picture is the subtle bokeh.  

As I said in post #1 on photography I have both types of cameras and intend to use both.  If photography is fun for you I suggest the same.

 

Film vs Digital Photography #2

After spending a couple of years taking similar pictures with both film and digital my opinion is that both have a use.  You can use one or the other or both as I intend to do.  Why, because it is fun to do so. Is one better than the other?  No, not really, they are different and give different results.  Similar results, but not the same.  And the use of a film or digital camera, each has positive and negative.

Here are a few comments on plusses and minuses of both.

Lake in Mt Laguna meadows

The above picture was taken with my cell phone.  The original is about a 4 meg f2.4 shot taken about 11am in the local mountains.

  1. Most simple film cameras take a picture as soon as you press the button.  Most simple digital cameras do not.  So if you are trying to get a great shot of your kids or grandkids, most of the time a simple film camera even a disposable one will work better.  I have been able to get great pictures with my cell phones and compact digitals over the years, but getting kids pictures to turn out great is hard because they are always moving.
  2. A big benefit of digital cameras is that you can see the picture you are going to get before you take it.  Using live view  you can adjust the scene till you get the shot you want.  This is very easy with a modern cell phone.  And also fairly easy on a DSLR.  A big problem though is seeing the screen clearly in full sunlight.  It works wonders at dusk.
  3. Many inexpensive film cameras that sell used cheaply are beautifully made with metal cases and lenses.  My Olympus OM2n from 1980 can be bought today on ebay for next to nothing and is a thing of beauty.  The quality that it was built with is first class.  I would guess you could buy a very good OM2n today with an 50mm f1.8 lens for $100 or less.  The least expensive digital camera that looks and feels almost as good is the Olympus OMD or the Fuji DSLR.  The OMD will set you back $800 and the Fuji $1,400.
  4. Digital cameras provide instant results.

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This picture is also from my cell phone and I just love the colors.  This is almost untouched in post processing.  I just moved my cell phone around till I got the lighting and shot I wanted.

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I did the same here but with my Nikon DSLR on live view.  I just moved the camera around till I got the lighting I liked.  For these two shots digital works better.

Hailey fathers day 2012

When you shoot film many times there are happy surprises when you get the roll developed.  The original of this picture on a good screen is a great picture.  Very wide dynamic range, crisp details, beautiful colors.  This was shot with inexpensive Fuji snapshot film and my 1953 Voightlander Prominent with a 100mm f4.5 lens.  But I want to emphasize that you need a good screen to see the beauty of this shot.  On my Apple retina screen you see all the detail and colors.  On my larger Samsung monitor the strands of blond hair are not bright and clear and the colors are dull.  Plus Hailey’s skin tones a far better on the Apple screen.