Posts tagged: Amish

RV Capital, Amish Country and Corn Belt

By , September 7, 2010 12:59 pm

Northern Indiana covers all of the above distinction. Elkhart County (Elkhart, Middlebury, Goshen and Nappanee) alone produces more than 50% of the nation’s RV. As the RV capital, it rightly has the RV/MH Museum Hall of Fame, all kinds of RV manufacturers/service centers/accessories/campgrounds and rallies.

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The area also has a good sized Amish community, where delicious baked goods and horse drawn vehicles are the norm. We enjoyed the family style Thresher’s Dinner  at Amish Acres Restaurant Barn. Our Dasy’s stomach ached with too much food. 😉 We admit we succumbed to their baked goodies. We bought too many cookies and pies to keep track of, I personally feel like a little piggy! They were good, some more excellent than others.

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Everywhere you go, you see corn and more corn and soy bean. Indiana is part of the corn belt. Corn belt refers to Midwestern States that predominantly grows corn and more recently soy bean. Most of the corn grown are grown for feed.

While in this area we also met some wonderful friends in Plymouth. A couple invited us to dinner one night and showed us his expansive collection of model train communities of towns and villages. The collection covered his entire basement, of course it didn’t start like that. One day his wife went away, when she came back, he had built another section ! 🙂 It is his passion and his stress reliever. We had a great time with them.

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We spent a week at Pla-Mor Campground. At the beginning of the week, there were plenty of sites available but towards the Labor Day weekend the huge campground was almost filled! Right next to us was an old Class A styled Airstream. We have friends from Kenosha that have an Airstream trailer, so we had to take some pictures for them. It could have easily found its place in the RV Museum. 

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Birthplace of the Beastie…

By , September 7, 2010 10:31 am

As Dasy mentioned in our previous post, after leaving Colorado we were aimed for Bremen, IN.  Actually, we were going to Nappannee, but the closest campground we found was down the road in Bremen.  Nappannee is famous for two things (that we know of)…

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RV manufacturers and the Amish.  It just so happens that our RV is made by Newmar, which is in Nappannee and the owners are of Amish descent.  Our first full day there, we went to the Newmar plant to see how they built our RV (the one pictured above is a new 2011 model…  very nice!).

IMG_4028We were greeted by Mahlon Miller, the owner of Newmar Corp.  He gave us a quick introduction and some history of the company and then opened the floor to questions.  Some of the guests asked some pretty pointed questions about how Newmar weathered the depression and what effect it had on them as far as staffing and such.  Mahlon was pretty straight forward and didn’t dance around the bush, which I thought was pretty admirable.  They never closed, but went from making 16 units a day with 1000 employees to 3 units a day with 400 employees (that’s what they’re doing currently).  The RV industry as a whole was hit pretty hard and several well-known brands have folded.  Mahlon said that it’s finally looking like it’s picking up again.  Throughout our stay, I heard bits and pieces around the community of what the Miller family had done to keep Newmar going.  They’re the kind of folks most people would want to work for. Smile

As for the coaches, they start with a bare rolling chassis from Freightliner or Spartan, depending on what the unit will eventually become.  The fifth-wheel chassis are built in-house.  We were able to see almost every step of the process throughout our tour.

Here is the outside fiberglass shell going into place.  It’s once giant sheet that is epoxied and screwed to the superstructure.

IMG_3178 First, they do some basic prep of the frame, creating the sub-floor and basement areas, along with most of the components that go in there.
IMG_3179 Next is basic framing.  Newmars are all made with an aluminum super-structure, then several layers of wood and laminates for the basic shell.
IMG_3181 Electrical is done next, with some of the interior structural components going in while there’s still a lot of room to work.
IMG_3186 Here they are putting on the fiberglass side of the rig.  It is epoxied in place, then pressed in with an external wooden rig until it’s adhered correctly.
IMG_3193 The outside shell is then cut to allow for windows, slideouts, vents, etc.  Some more of the interior finishing is also done.  From what I could tell, they’re doing some kind of interior work the entire time that the exterior stuff is being done.
IMG_3195 Next, front and rear end-caps get applied.  They’re mostly fiberglass, with minimal framing.  Most of their structure is inherited from the RV chassis when it gets mounted.  Glass and roof panels are always handled with a vacuum system.  The roof is mounted after the end-caps are installed.
IMG_3209 Slide-outs are added and lined up.  Slide-outs are made exactly the same way the rest of the coach is, just in smaller areas.
IMG_3202 Most of the exterior structural work is done at this point.  More interior is done, cabinetry is finished up, along with tying in the wiring and plumbing of the slides.
IMG_4065 Prep for paint is started, which LOTS of stuff getting masked off.  They even go so far as to mask off everything INSIDE the basement compartments!
IMG_4064 A final vacuum sanding is done on the entire body, then the whole thing is sent over to the paint building, where it is painted.  We didn’t get to see the paint area… they said it was pretty boring and takes about a week for a unit to come back.

What comes back is basically this:IMG_3212

A nice, shiny Newmar coach!  The one pictured above is an Essex, the second most expensive model.  I want three…  in different colors! Winking smile

Below are some other interesting shots.  They show just how much wiring is involved in an RV, a little bit of the furniture being installed and a cool picture of how they move them…

When the chassis arrives in the building, they put “air pads” under each wheel.  Whenever they have to move an RV from one station to the next, they hook the pads up to an air compressor and push it over on a cushion of air.  Pretty much like upside-down air-hockey tables. Smile They said they can do it with two people, but they generally use three just for an extra set of eyes (and brakes).

There’s also a couple pictures of the furniture (which is built in-house) ready to get installed and the floor grate that is the trash system.  There’s a grate covering a conveyor belt that runs the entire length of the plant.  All trash goes into the grate, then is collected at the end of the belts.  It apparently works very well, we didn’t see any trash or scraps anywhere during out tour, unless it had just been cut off a unit they were working on.

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We also picked up a handful of parts while we were at Newmar… some light covers that had faded, a couple of switches that were missing or broken, some exterior parking lights, and various other knick-knacks needed for our RV (they were actually pretty cheap for most common parts).

If you have an RV or are thinking about getting one, it’s worth touring the RV plant to see how it’s made.  We hope yours is made as well as ours!

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