Starting on September 12, 20 days was how long we ended up hanging around in the Elkhart/Middlebury area in Indiana while our 2017 coach was enjoying her two year warranty service at Entegra. Hard to believe that we’ve had the new coach for two years already! Twenty days may sound like a long time but it wasn’t actually in for service during that entire period, we were also biding time waiting for an October 3rd chassis maintenance appointment 100 miles north at Spartan Motors in Charlotte, Michigan where we spent 4 more days.
As usual we booked a room at the pet friendly Candlewood Suites in Elkhart (for Sparky’s comfort – and our sanity). It was great because we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn each day! Even though we weren’t staying at Camp Entegra and it was a little bit of a hike from the hotel, every afternoon we would drive there to check in with our service advisor, Ashley, and our tech, Jim, to learn of their progress for the day and to answer any questions they had about our issues. I must say that thanks to the two of them, this was probably one of the better service appointments we have had since 2013 when we bought our first Entegra.
One reason for the improvement in our experience was a significant change they made to the service writing process. The past few times we have been in for Entegra service, on the morning of our appointment we would meet with our assigned service advisor to discuss each item on our list. The SA would type their version of what we said about the issue onto a work order which would be given to the technician doing the repair work. What was written was then subject to the tech’s interpretation. There was no direct communication between us and the tech, so as you can imagine a lot was lost in the translation. The problem was further exacerbated when the tech reported back to the SA often not ever explaining what they had done to resolve the issue. This system was frustrating and fraught with error and misinformation to say the least.
We were quite pleased on this visit to learn that they had reverted back to the original process like we experienced in 2013 with our first coach. Our service advisor (Ashley) and our tech (Jim) joined us on board our coach and we all went thru each item on our list together, so everyone had a clear understanding of what the issue was. Many items were immediately resolved this way. Each afternoon Ashley would provide an update of what had been resolved and how it was resolved and on most days we would even get to talk to Jim for a more detailed explanation. Communication was definitely much improved!
Although being in for service isn’t always fun, it’s always a great opportunity to meet other Entegra owners and to catch up with owners we have met in the past. We were delighted that several friends were there including Mark & Cherilyn and John & Cyndi so we were able to spend some quality time with them having some meals and catching up on all their news and sharing stories of our recent travels since we last saw them. We also ran into Pete (sans Laura) briefly while we were there. And there were new friends to make too – Sparky (no, not our Sparky) & Linda. Don & his wife, and Ray & Linda. Plus Rob’s aunt and uncle, Linda and Herb, were at a Fleetwood Discovery rally at the Elkhart Fairgrounds so we had an opportunity to visit with them.
As mentioned above we weren’t in service for the entire 20 days. Four of those days were weekends and a few days were spent just hanging out at free camp Entegra or at a Shipshewana campground once our service was done. Most of our issues were completed within a week except for two items. We knew that there was a problem with our slide topper but didn’t realize that the fabric had actually torn so new fabric had to be ordered. Since it was coming from Colorado, it took almost a week for it to be delivered and find its way to service. Luckily we had the time to hang around and wait for it.
Another issue was an intermittent problem with our small awning over the entry door. Of course, getting those intermittent problems resolved is always a challenge, things always seem to work fine when you are in service but as soon as you leave, the problem magically appears again. That intermittent problem was inadvertently solved one afternoon when our tech, Jim, pulled our coach out of the service bay where he had been working on that awning. Bang! Crunch! @#$%#$! Whoops! It helps to put the awning in before backing out! Luckily there was no damage done to the fiberglass sidewalls of the coach, just the awning itself. Needless to say, he felt really bad, but we didn’t! Although it took a few days to get a replacement, to us it was a blessing in disguise – we now have a new awning that works perfectly.
And like we have done on previous service visits, we took a couple of factory tours of the Entegra plant (offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 p.m.). On one hand, it was disappointing that the production lines were not in operation (2:00 is quitting time for the predominately Amish/Mennonite staff so they still have daylight for farm chores), but with the factory still and quiet it was much easier to hear what our tour guide, Don Brubaker, was saying. We’ve taken this tour a number of times but it seems each time we learn something new. At the end of the tour, we were able to climb on board several nearly complete models of the 2019 Entegra coaches as well as their new 37′ Reatta diesel pusher. Rest assured, we have no plans to upgrade! We’re very happy with our coach as it is.
Having been to the Middlebury and Elkhart areas numerous times, we immediately headed for Yoder’s Popcorn to stock up on our favorite Lady Finger popcorn, Heritage Ridge Creamery (formerly Guggisberg Cheese) to sample (and buy) our favorite cheeses and the Rise N Roll to peruse all of their goodies.
And of course during our 20 day stay, we visited quite a few of our favorite restaurants. For breakfast we frequented Callahan’s Restaurant in Elkhart and Four Seasons in Shipshewanna, both of which practice egg weirdness as well as the Mayberry Cafe in Elkhart where eggs are “normal”. We tried several new places too, the ones that were decent were Allen’s Bristol Street Cafe (normal eggs) and RG’s Pancake House (weird eggs) in Elkhart, the 5&20 Country Kitchen (normal eggs) in Shipshewana and the Dutch Kitchen (normal eggs) in Nappanee.
Located close to Entegra, you can’t beat the quality of the food for either breakfast or lunch at Aunt Karen’s Cafe in Middlebury, lunch or dinner at the Blue Gate Restaurant in Shipshewana (love their fried chicken) or 41 Degrees North in Middlebury.
Not wanting to eat out every night, we’d often dine in our hotel room, picking up fried chicken at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, delicious Chinese food from the Great Wall Restaurant and subs from DaVinci’s Italian Restaurant.
With Mark and Cherilyn, we tried a new restaurant, Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub in Elkhart where we split a Smoked BBQ Plate which was excellent – and so was the company! See this post for more details about the restaurants we visited on this trip and in the past.
Once service on the coach was done we moved from camp Entegra (which is free, but provides electricity only) to Shipshewana South Campground which has full hookups so we could catch up on laundry before leaving for our appointment at Spartan Motors in Charlotte, MI for our 2 year chassis maintenance (which would also be electric only for a few days).
Just before our departure for Spartan, we had an opportunity to take a tour of CHaSE Manufacturing in nearby Nappanee. Chase manufactures all of the solid wood cabinets, doors, panels and trim for Entegra (and several other higher end RV manufacturers in the area) and Rob had ordered some materials from them that he will need to complete several upcoming projects.
When CHaSE called to tell us our order was ready, Toby, our sales rep, invited us for a personal tour of their facility. With only 100 employees, it was very impressive to see how much of the manufacture and finishing of their products is done by hand. Very labor intensive! Wish we could have taken photos but most of the employees were Amish so that wasn’t possible. It really made us appreciate the excellent quality of the handcrafted solid cherry woodwork inside our coach!
While in the Elkhart area we also picked up a few other supplies. New firmer foam for our driver and passenger seats from a Flexsteel shop (Bill Trump) in Leesburgh, IN and new Snap-Pads to put on our leveling jacks from the factory in Mishawaka, IN. We also did a bunch of food and supplies shopping at Costco, Sam’s etc. in the Grape Road area of Mishawaka.
On Tuesday, October 2nd, it was finally time to say goodbye to Middlebury and head north to Spartan Motors in Charlotte, MI, a 98 mile drive. Once settled in on a site in their overnight parking lot, we checked in with service writer Katie Emenhiser to review what warranty service was required and any other issues we had. Bright and early the next morning, at 7:00 a.m. our tech, Nick, greeted us at our coach. This time Sparky didn’t have the luxury of a hotel room so he spent each day in our van. Fortunately, everything was completed by Friday noon so we headed back to Entegra to spend another free night before beginning our southward journey.