Tag Archives: Winnebago Vista 21B

Spring Break Part 1: Orlando

3 Apr

After a long, cold winter, heading south to some sun and warmth sounded good for spending Spring Break with our daughter.  We decided to head to Orlando and go to Sea World and then spend the rest of the vacation at the beach.  This would be our longest number of days in the Vista and the first time there had been 3 people staying in it.

We stopped for the night in Tifton, GA at the Agrirama.  It is a Museum of Agriculture and Historical Village right next to I-75 and has RV parking with full hook-ups right in the large parking lot.  There was even weak wi-fi available, so it was an easy place to spend the night.  The museum was closed when we got there, but we walked around the grounds and saw some old buildings, a pond, and some farm animals, including a cow who put his horns down and rammed through a fence post when we walked up.

The next morning on the way to Orlando, traffic was inching along for miles.  It turned out that a car had been heading the wrong direction on I-75 and ran head on into a large truck pulling a fifth wheel.  Both vehicles were damaged substantially, but it appeared that everyone survived.

Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake

The next two nights were going to be spent at Bill Frederick Park in Orlando.  It is a city park and is a real treasure.  It is a large park with a lake, swimming pool, playground, children’s farm, nature and bike paths, cabins, and a campground all in a great location for visiting Orlando.  The campground is scenic and shaded and there are several options to chose from.  Dry camping is $15/night and in a field next to the campground.  Water and electric are $18/night and a full hook-up is $25/night.  There is a dump station at the exit.  The first site we stayed at was level and backed to the lake.  The second site was quite sloped from front to back.  The park is gated at night and campers are given an entrance code if they arrive after the gates are locked.

It was about a 5 mile drive to Sea World from the park and on the way, we passed a WalMart on Turkey Lake Road that appeared to allow overnight parking and that was very close to Sea World.

Sea World tickets are expensive.  The best discounts I could find were the promo codes offered at Retail Me Not. That gave a $20/ticket savings.

The most fun we had all day was first thing in the morning at the dolphin tank.  They were very active and playful after a night without crowds.

Sea World didn’t seem as interesting as it used to be.  Perhaps it is because we have seen so many other great aquariums and nothing beats sailing in the ocean and having dolphins ride your bow wake in the wild.  The Shamu show used to be one of the highlights, but after the death of a trainer by one of the whales, there was understandably very little interaction between the trainers and whales so the show was much more subdued.

Campground Review:

1.  Tifton Agrirama, Tifton, GA.  Cost $20.  Level, full hook-up sites on a blacktop parking lot in front of the museum.  Easy access to the interstate. Weak wi-fi included which was nice since ATT only had Edge data available.  Due to close proximity to the freeway, road noise was present.  Good, reasonably priced safe, clean, place for an overnight stop.

2.  Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, Orlando, FL.  Cost $18/day for electric and water.  Site #29 was level and backed to the lake.  Site number 12 was quite sloped front to back.  The sites are paved and spaced so that there is a bit of room between them and they are not all lined up in a row.  Mature trees make the campground attractive and the bike paths, children’s farm, disc golf course, etc. mean there is plenty to do there.  3G cell service was available.  There is no cable or wifi, but stations can be accessed with an antenna.  We would definitely stay there again.

Georgia State Snipe Championship – Valdosta Yacht Club

9 Mar

It was wonderful to escape the cold weather and make a trip south to Valdosta, GA for the Georgia State Snipe Championship.  This was our first regatta since Halloween and the first time back in the RV after a snowy southern winter.  Valdosta Yacht Club was the host of the race.

The Yacht Club is located on Long Pond in Lake Park, GA very close to the Florida border.  It is a small club with an attractive clubhouse and launch ramp.  The property is combined with property that is owned by several people who have cabins or campers there as a weekend getaway spot.

We were greeted by a friendly group of local sailors who told us to find any spot we wanted to park the RV for the night and who could not have been more welcoming.

We found a pretty level spot back in the boat yard under palm trees draped with Spanish moss and boats that had been sitting so long that the Spanish moss was draped from the spreaders.

boats with Spanish moss draped from the spreaders

We were dry camping, so it was nice that the evening temperatures dropped low enough to not need fans or air conditioning.  As we were getting settled in for the night, a horn blew and the sounds of an approaching train were so intense that it felt like the train was coming through the boatyard on its way north.  That happened a couple more times in the night, but once we saw that the track was across the street, it didn’t sound so ominous.

The Yacht Club had a crew with 4-wheelers to launch your boat, so the boats all got in the water quickly.  The wind was light and coming from all different directions, so it was tricky sailing.  After 2 races, we were about in the middle of the fleet.  The warm and sunny weather was such a nice break from winter, that not doing better was not terribly distressing.

Sunday morning, the race was delayed.  We had quite a long drive home, so we opted out of waiting for that race and packed up and headed home.

Gas prices were heading up rather quickly, so we tried to plan our refueling stop for the Costco near Chattanooga.  Towing the boat our mileage varies from about 12-13 mpg.  It is worthwhile to periodically gauge how taking the RV would compare with towing with our car and staying in a hotel for the night.

Gas for the trip was $220.  Gas if we had taken our car would have been around half or $110.

Lodging was $0.  A Quality Inn nearby would have been $50/night plus taxes x 2 nights.

Food would have probably been about $75 higher without the RV.  The host yacht clubs usually have a dinner that we pay for because it is an opportunity to socialize with the other sailors.  They frequently have donuts and coffee in the morning and after race snacks, also.  The first night, we ate a dinner I had prepared at home versus going out to eat and ate breakfast and lunch food from home, also.

Other costs are not factored in such as the regatta entry fee, the cost of purchasing and maintaining the RV, paying the dog sitter who watches Ginger, etc.

Cost via RV – $220

Cost via car/ inexpensive hotel – between $250 and $300

There tends to be a bigger spread in the costs the longer the trip is because campgrounds are rarely as expensive as hotels, but you can stay in a lot of hotels for the price of even the most inexpensive RV.  The RV, for us, has a lot of advantages.  We can take Ginger with us to a lot of places.  We can sleep in our own bed with our own sheets and blankets.  There is no suitcase to pack since I keep clothes, toothbrushes, etc. in the RV.  We can avoid eating out a lot.  And most of all, it makes it easy and encouraging to go places we’ve never been before.

Synopsis:

Valdosta Yacht Club – Cost $0 for visiting sailors to dry camp.  There was a bath house with showers available and it was walking distance to a little gas station/market if needed.  It is a very small club on a small lake/pond, but big enough for a group of about 15 boats.

The host club members were extremely gracious.  Not only were they helpful in launching the boats, they sent everyone a link to the photos from the regatta (including the one at the top), and also sent a copy of the newspaper article with pictures from the regatta.

Would we go again?  Absolutely

We found a free dump station to use on our way home.  It was at the Welcome Center for Perry, GA – Exit 135 off of I-75.  There was an off-leash fenced dog run near the dump station.

Not Quite an Airstream . . . But Getting Close!

6 Mar

BEFORE

Prior to purchasing the Vista, we considered purchasing an Airstream and renovating it similar to the many examples online. But, the desire to tow a boat led us to buy an RV, even though it displayed a distinct lack of vintage charm.

Vista 21-Bs were built from around 2002 to 2006.  The decor is traditional motorhome style that could have just as easily been done in the 1970s. The only solution to getting more of a mid-century look was to renovate!

Before

The first things to go were the wallpaper border in the galley and the LOUD clock above the refrigerator.

Before

Next, was removing the “privacy” curtains that were in the way for making up the bed and not all that useful for an RV that is so small you aren’t likely to have guests staying with you.

The vinyl and formica trim around the bed area was replaced with custom mahogany and inlaid oak trim that Pat made.

Trim replacement

This was designed to coordinate with the “surfboard” style table that he made to replace the formica table.  It is also the same trim he used to replace the upholstered trim on the dinette benches.

Dinette benches with upholstered trim Before

Surfboard style dinette table with wood trim - After

The table is made of the same mahogany with oak inlay as the trim.  The inside edge is gently arced.  It is attached with the same mounting bracket as the old table.  Here you can see that the upholstered trim pieces on the dinette back have also been replaced with wood and I reupholstered the cushion seats and backs in these fabrics that I purchased at Gifford Street fabrics in Huntsville, AL.

The original magazine rack on the back of the dinette was made of pleated upholstery fabric and was generally unattractive.  Pat built a more nautical looking magazine/book rack to replace it.

Mahogany magazine rack

One advantage to replacing the dinette upholstery trim with wood is that it is easy to clean.  Since the dinette is close to the door, it is a natural place to grab when entering the Vista and wood is a more practical solution than draping the upholstery with a rug to keep dirty handprints off of it.

The carpet had to go because it was impossible to keep clean.  Several other Vista owners had installed Allure flooring successfully and that is what we chose, too.  We also wanted to re-cover the couch at the same time.  The couch in the Vista is a jackknife sofa and so opens into a bed.  But the style in which it was upholstered with puffy, lumpy backs and cushions made it not only uncomfortable, but a retro style from an era we didn’t particularly savor.  The frame was covered with upholstery and was falling apart where the sofa mounted onto it.

Ginger didn't mind the "before" sofa

I wasn’t sure that I’d have the tools to re-upholster the sofa, so we pulled it out and took the back and seat part to Ray’s Upholstery along with fabric we had purchased at Gifford Street Fabrics.  I showed him a picture of a mid-century sofa style that I liked and he was able to re-shape the existing foam and re-upholster the couch into a look close to what I wanted at a minimal cost.

Sofa re-upholstered

The flat cushions are much more comfortable and the minimal look works well in such a small space.  I made the 3 pillows on the couch and also added self-covered buttons to the back to complete the look.

While the sofa was out, Pat rebuilt the frame out of oak plywood.  We also removed the carpet and laid the Allure flooring.

Allure Lisbon Cork floor in RV

The carpet is very easy to remove in the Vista.  It is not glued down and the subfloor was in good shape.  The Allure flooring is a floating floor that is lightweight, thin, and easy to install.  For the Vista, we bought 3 boxes of it.  We installed it from the cockpit to the bathroom including under the dinette and sofa.  If you didn’t install it under the sofa, you could probably get it done with 2 boxes.  We used angled trim for the transitions between the cockpit carpeting and the Allure flooring and a flat trim between the bathroom linoleum and the Allure.  Pat made some thin oak trim to finish the edges of the battery compartment.

curtains in sleeping area before

The cab-over sleeping area had pleated curtains everywhere.  They were attached with flimsy tracks and were in the way when making the bed.  We removed them and made flat window coverings backed with black-out curtain lining.  They are attached with screw-in snaps that we purchased at West Marine.  I made a quilt with a mid-century style to it in keeping with the look of the rest of the RV renovation.

Sleeping area "after"

The TV had originally been mounted to the countertop above the refrigerator which took up a lot of space and was difficult to view.  Pat made a bracket and attached a swing-arm TV mount to it so the TV is stowed flat against the wall when it isn’t in use and can be angled any direction to make viewing easier.

RV flat panel TV wall mount

In a 21 foot RV, storage space is at a premium, so we mounted a wine glass rack under the cabinet in the galley.  Champagne corks work perfectly as a stopper to hold the glasses in place while under way.

A fresnel lens adhered to the rear window makes viewing out the back MUCH easier.  It allows you to see almost the whole trailer behind you.

There were many other smaller modifications including re-covering all of the valances in coordinating fabrics, installing a battery cut-off switch, installing XM radio, replacing the radio with one with a line-in jack, replacing the burner for the refrigerator, fixing the incorrectly identified black and gray water tanks, etc.  It all got finished just in time for the early spring weather we are experiencing.

We may not have a vintage Airstream, but this renovation got us closer to that style while allowing us to enjoy the convenience of an RV.  Time to go camping!

AFTER

BEFORE

Corinth Recreation Area – Bankhead National Forest

6 Mar

It was the middle of November and we knew cold weather would make camping less pleasurable soon, so we took advantage of a beautiful fall weekend and headed to the Corinth Recreation Area in the Bankhead National Forest.  The drive there was a trip through rural central Alabama.  The campground was about 40 miles from a major freeway.

On arrival, we were given a choice of 2 sites in the Yellowhammer Loop.  We chose site 14 with a view of the lake from the side windows of the RV.  The people in the site next to us had music playing a little loud at first, but they left shortly afterwards and it was quiet for the rest of the weekend.

Ginger had developed lameness in a front leg, so she was only able to go for short walks, but later, we were able to go and investigate the area.  The Firefly Loop was very nice, but maybe not as wooded as the Yellowhammer Loop.  Either one contains plenty of attractive campsites.

 

The campground is located next to Lewis Smith Lake and there are boat ramps within the day and overnite use camping areas.  The water level was quite low when we were there, possibly because the water levels are controlled by Alabama Power and they are lowered during the winter.  The campground closes between December 1 and the middle of March.

There were no real “hiking” trails within the campground, but plenty of places to walk, including over to the day-use area.  The day-use area looked like it had a roped off swimming area for summer, along with picnic spots and a boat ramp.

One interesting bit of “wildlife” in the campground were armadillos.  They have gradually made their way into Alabama and are becoming quite common in the central part of the state.  They hop along keeping their nose buried into the ground looking for treats.

 

We camped here during football season and football is big in Alabama.  It is an area full of natural beauty, so it was a little funny to see campers sitting outside their RVs with big screen TVs and tailgating set-ups here in the midst of a National Forest.  We built a campfire, cooked dinner and contented ourselves with listening to the games on satellite radio.

 

Synopsis:

Corinth Recreation Area, Double Springs, AL – cost $23 for a full-hook up, paved, level, site.

Beautiful area and immaculately maintained.  Sites had fire rings, lantern poles.  Clean restrooms.  Nice mix of shade and sun.

The campground is closed to through traffic, so it is quiet.  Hosts were friendly.

Would we stay again?  Absolutely.

 

Halloween Regatta – Atlanta Yacht Club

5 Mar

One of the Snipe regattas with a large number of participants is the annual Halloween Regatta held at Atlanta Yacht Club.  After our dismal showing at the Snipe Masters, we decided to order some new sails and do some measuring and modifications on the boat to see if it would help us with boat speed.

The yacht club campground was pretty full since this is a popular event and even non-sailor members of that club like to come.  A fellow sailor lent us his dolly, so we didn’t have to use the RV to launch the boat.  It was very helpful.  It is such a pleasant place to sail and camp and the only downside is the ban on dogs.

Since meals were included in the race fee, I didn’t pack much in the way of food.  As a vegetarian, that was a mistake!  At the chili dinner, carrots and celery had to suffice for me until we got back to the RV where there was some string cheese, Fritos, and red wine to fill up on while viewing the full moon over the lake.

I’m happy to say that we had much better results in this regatta – a 1st, a 2nd, and a 1st in the B fleet.  Winning the B fleet means we will sail in the A fleet next year and we will be up against stiffer competition.

Halloween 2010 Goblin Fleet Winners - Atlanta Yacht Club