Road Trip Bonus Post: The Bayliner of RVs

We’ve now spent a week getting to know the features and quirks of our CruiseAmerica Standard RV – the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak. Miranda has christened this the “Bayliner of RVs”, to use a boating analogy. Now, before any Bayliner owners get their noses all out of joint, we have owned not one, but two, Bayliners, and enjoyed them both. So… we know of what we speak.

Not fancy, but functional

Bayliners are known to have good interior layout and good use of space. Our RV does, too. Sleeping accommodations are above the cab for Miranda and aft of the galley for me. Both can be curtained off. There is a dinette table that could accommodate 4 in a squeeze. It folds out to another berth. The galley has a deep sink, cooktop, microwave and a good sized refrigerator freezer. It is a little challenged for counter space, but has good storage space for food and utensils. There are storage cabinets up high all around, more than we need. The head is tight but functional.

Bayliners were also known for having issues with fit and finish, using some lower quality materials. Our RV suffers from the same issue. All of the lamination and edge moldings is pretty chinzy, and many have separated. Little things like locks and latches are of low quality and are bothersome. The systems work pretty well – propane for cooking, water heating, cabin heating and refrigeration, shore power for 120V AC, and a dinky DC “coach” battery. There is a basic monitoring system, but it is a bit cheesy. When we told the guy at check out that the holding tank monitor showed full, he said “yeah, that always happens”. We learned the hard way that the coach battery takes some abuse. Ours gave up in Yellowstone NP, making it so that the cabin heat would not fire up during the 30-some degree mornings. However, this is more likely a reflection on quality of service rather than equipment.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I suspect that our RV is heading for a refit and sale, so we might not be seeing a typical example, but ours has not worn particularly well. I had a peek at CruiseAmerica’s used RV sales pages and see that refurbished models of similar mileage go for mid-$30s… that seems like a pretty good value, assuming that everything gets fixed in the refurb process.

Miranda came up with the Bayliner moniker as we were driving down a secondary, two-lane highway that had a bit of a crown on the road surface. The RV wallowed and rolled much like our Bayliner in choppy seas. On the other hand, we flogged it over a 4900 ft mountain pass on dirt forest roads and survived. So maybe it can handle tougher conditions than we can. I’ll also note that it can’t really be driven safely faster than 65 MPH. By the time it gets to 70, it starts a little shimmy that is, shall we say, unsettling. Now you might think that 65 is plenty fast. Maybe. Unless the speed limit is 80 and you are in the right lane getting waked by everything that moves, including ALL the other RVs of various types.

So if our CruiseAmerica is the Bayliner of RVs, what is the “Nordhavn” of RVs? Forget the Super and Mega Land yachts we saw – 50 footers towing land dinghys like jeeps, SUVs and pickups. What about the roadworthy, well-built, well-finished models in the same size range? It seemed clear that the spiffy ones were built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis and diesel powerplant.

Wow, look at that pop out! Now, that’s the Nordhavn of campers.

It’s clear that many companies make these – we saw them with brand names such as Jayco, Leisure, Prism and even Winnebago (a name I remember from road trips as a kid). They all seemed to be quite similar in exterior design with much more aerodynamic shapes, and in general, just looked like they were higher quality. I wonder if there is a single coach builder and all of these companies are just resellers? I didn’t get to tour the inside of any of these, but several we saw in the same size (25 ft) had side pop-outs to create more interior space. Of course, I’m sure that the price of one of these compared to our CruiseAmerica approaches the Nordhavn-Bayliner price ratio. Checking the Winnebago website shows the model above sells new for around $175k.

Miranda and I also had discussions about the “ideal” type of RV. There are several different classes of RV (which I know almost nothing about). Ours is apparently a Class C, which I think means a box built on a truck chassis. It seems to us that this is the least useful type – for example, at 25 ft long and 12 ft high, these cannot travel on the smaller roads in the national parks, including the famed Going to the Sun road in Glacier NP. A very common alternative we saw was the trailer towed by a pickup, where you can at least park the trailer and explore with the pickup. We saw these in lengths that must have been up to 40 ft, some with 3 pop-out sections. There were lots of very cool-looking variations on the Mercedes Sprinter vans, which seem to be small enough to fit on the various park roads. They do look a bit too compact for comfortable living, at least for an old guy like me. Of course, there are the Mega and Super land yachts towing the land dinghies. These all seem to be in the 40 ft range, and while I am sure they are comfortable, they seem like a handful to deal with. I concluded that the ideal setup would be to have a crewed Super land yacht that towed a 4×4 while we drove from place to place in a really nice sports car, maybe like the C8 Corvette we saw in Yellowstone.

Now this is the way to see our National Parks!

CruiseAmerica Assistance Services

We called the CruiseAmerica Assistance Services from Old Faithful village to get the dead battery replaced. They took our information to pass onto someone who would “work the case”. About an hour later I called back, as we were waiting to explore the area. They said that they haven’t gotten to us yet. I mentioned that we were in an area with very limited phone service and couldn’t wait hours for a call back, and I asked them what their service level agreement was for returning roadside service calls. After a few moments of silence, the response was “we don’t have one, we just answers the calls in order”. I finally got a call back from someone who told me to go to any NAPA store and buy a battery, and they would reimburse me when I returned the RV. I explained that I wasn’t in a place to be able to search for NAPA stores and asked them to recommend one nearby, suggesting West Yellowstone, and specifically questioned whether the NAPA stores would actually be able to replace the battery. They sent me the info, but when I called the store, sure enough, they indicated that they don’t install batteries. Exasperated, I started searching within the park to see if there were places that might do RV repairs. It turns out that Miranda found one 100 yds away from us in Old Faithful Village. The gas station was able to replace the battery, and they were, as it turns out, a NAPA dealer. There was nothing in the documentation showing where the coach battery was located. We eventually found it and the nice guy at the service station replaced it, while also cleaning up the battery box and lubing the sliding mechanism, obviously for the first time. The battery that came out was a high quality Lifeline AGM deep cycle battery, but at a Group 31 size, clearly too small for the job. I’m sure it doesn’t help that it gets run completely down to 10V every day that it’s used. Of course, as is typical with customer service folks these days, everyone I talked to was nice… they just didn’t solve my problem.

Anyway, renter beware with regard to CruiseAmerica “assistance”.

6 thoughts on “Road Trip Bonus Post: The Bayliner of RVs”

  1. Wow! Another adventure story for the books. So glad you were able to solve the battery problem. Could have been a nightmare.10 days and you should arrive here. Can’t wait to see you.LYPTS&B

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  2. Kudos to Miranda for the Bayliner moniker. Sounds like it is well deserved. Bayliners are kinda like crazy girlfriends. We all had one at one time, we just don’t talk about it now that we have the DELUXE model. 🙂

    I know absolutely nothing about trucks but this was one interesting twist that developed during the my time owning Precision Glass. The Engine of Commerce that powered the service industry in this country was Ford Econoline Vans. More than 3 million of these beasts have been sold over the years. When I purchased Precision there were probably 6 in the fleet, but they also had a couple of vehicles I’d never heard of: the Sprinter. As summarized by Wikipedia…. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a light commercial vehicle (van) built by Daimler AG of Stuttgart, Germany as a van, chassis cab, minibus, and pickup truck. In the past the Sprinter has been sold under the Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, Freightliner, and Volkswagen nameplates.

    The guys who owned Precision were gear-heads to their core. They had 2 Sprinters in their fleet and were in the process of getting another one during the transaction. They viewed the Sprinter as a total GAME CHANGER. The Sprinter had a tall ceiling and the layout of the cargo box allowed for a lot more glass. Like 30% more, and it could accommodate some tall windshields that were otherwise just a huge pain-in-the-ass. Plus they had GREAT gas mileage. Double what you’d get with the Ford. But the big plus was that THEY WOULD LAST FOREVER! The Ford vans tended to run great for 60 or 70,000 miles but then they’d start to have maintenance issues and get this very rickety-creaky-broken down sort of feel. The German Built Mercedes Sprinter, so it was thought, would run-like-new for 250,000 miles.

    Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Nürburgring. The Sprinters started breaking down, and repairs were 4, 5, 8 – TEN TIMES what we were used to spending on the Fords. The early model Sprinters had great gas mileage, then the EPA jumped in and the fuel economy plummeted. Routine maintenance was a nightmare. The Sprinter required frequent tune-ups (for some reason) and they were like $850! The Ford was four quarts of oil and a filter.

    So the ironic twist was that the bloom started to wither on the Sprinters, and we began selling them off. There was a guy who owned another Glass Shop who, like myself, didn’t make any money on the Glass Shop but he had a source for used Ford Vans from a big corporate fleet and he’d resell them at a modest profit. So instead of buying a $30,000 Sprinter, we’d get a Ford with 50,000 miles for about $8,000. And they were fine.

    Towards the end of my tenure there, the lifecycle of the Ford Van had come full circle. Remember how I said they’d start feeling all rickety and pathetic? Well not unlike my Uncle Mike, they would get older and older and have all sorts of health issues – but they never died. They didn’t need tune-ups: the oil was leaking out so fast that we were “auto tuning” with each added quart. Tires? Ten bucks a piece from the Russian guys down the street. (Who would always say “I’ll have those tires tomorrow” which always made me think “because they’re going to go out and steal them tonight”.) Like my Dad used to say, the Fords were “not much good for pretty but pretty much good for work”. Here here.

    When I sold off 5 years ago the guys were done with the Sprinters. They all wanted the new Transit vans. I don’t see many Sprinters in use for commercial purposes, but I definitely see lots of cool looking Sprinters as recreational vehicles. In fact… take a look at this cool promo.
    https://youtu.be/lChFqyv43kA BESPOKE COACHES.

    Larry, I know Miranda O’Keefe. Miranda O’Keefe is a friends of mine. And Larry, she’s no Bayliner (or Dayliner, as the case may be) person. She is a BESPOKE customer if I ever met one! (No worries, you can get one nicely equipped for only $125,000)

    Safe travels. John.

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    1. John thanks for the history on Sprinters vs Econoline. From my limited experience I think the big deal here would be diesel vs gas. The CruiseAmerica is based on the Ford E-350, and the gas engine really struggles. I think a diesel would do much better. Plus that peace sign symbol on the front is just cool.

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  3. I’m amazed just how many things you two get accomplished with lots of service people. Must be your progressive charm. Aunt Jan

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