Thursday was our first day of class at Camp Freightliner so Sharon and I got up early to make it in time for the 8:00 am start which was really early for Sharon… Fortunately the coffee was brewing and soft drinks and water were also provided. As soon as we entered the class we were greeted by the instructor Mike Cody and given a binder containing several hundred pages with an outline of the content to be covered in class over the next two days. The information in each class participant's binder was specific to their motorhome down to the VIN number of the rig. Information such as the date the chassis was actually ordered and built as well as detailed information about all the items installed by Freightliner on the chassis were included.. This information alone was worth the cost of the class!
The class started off a bit slowly as Mike introduced himself and we introduced ourselves to the other participants but soon we were off to the races as Mike began covering a lot of material about each of our motorhomes. It didn't take too long to learn that Mike is a southern boy (even though he spent a good amount of time in California) and if his accent doesn’t give it away his vernacular and humor certainly will. After the first day it was apparent there is an awful lot to know about our rigs and that Mike probably knows more about each of our rigs than the class collectively knows about any one of them. This guy knows his stuff…
The first day went by pretty fast and other than a small morning break and a break for a tasty lunch (provided by Freightliner from a local establishment) we were bombarded with a wealth of information. Before we knew it it was time for the first day of class to end. After a little Question and Answer session we were dismissed but told to return before long for a bar-b-que dinner also to be provided by Freightliner from another local establishment. Meal time provided us the opportunity to visit one and one with Mike as well as our fellow classmates. A special treat for us was one of the participants was celebrating his 60th birthday and his lovely bride made a very delicious birthday cake to share with the class, lucky us!
Day two started especially early since we had some very active thunderstorms roll through that night that made sleeping in a motorhome a bit uneasy. The second day was a much longer day as more questions were asked by the participants. Now let me make this clear that although it felt at times the class was wandering off course we found that by listening closely to the questions others asked and to Mike's answers to these questions was where many of the real gems of information came forth. These non-textbook answers and the follow up was where much of the real applicable information was gained.
What we felt Camp Freightliner did for us in this class was to take all the information we already had available to us within our owners manuals or on the internet and repackage it for us in a format very specific to our needs. For example I now have at my fingertips pictures of all my schematics, step by step instructions on how to do some of my own maintenance if I chose to and easier to use formats for record keeping with regard to maintenance. More importantly I have the knowledge necessary to ensure I will not be taken advantage of in the service of my coach, Remember, a little knowledge can be dangerous!
A big surprise also came when after two years of driving our FRED, we felt sure we understood the mode switch on our 2100 series Allison transmission only to discover through attending this class that we were using it wrong! I assumed that when engaging the mode button on highways I was using it much like in our old Toyota Camry to increase gas mileage, but this is not true at all for the motorhome as that button provides no benefit on flat stretches of road! It actually works best providing economy when traversing those small but annoying hills where there is a constant gear shift from 5th to 4th and back to 5th or when accelerating through the gears such as when in stop and go city traffic. This is an example of the cool information specific not only to our chassis but to our style of driving that we learned that will benefit us in the future.
For Sharon the class was invaluable for other reasons. She had been so intimidated by her lack of knowledge that she feared what the class could offer for her. However after attending the class she now feels so much better about the function of our motorhome and fully understood most of what was presented in class. This knowledge has made her excited about knowing even more. These last couple of days we have actually had more productive discussions about the inner workings of the motorhome than we ever had prior. I know had I ever attempted to teach her the basics I envision there would not have been this level of excitement from her (undoubtedly more yawning and deference would have been involved). So after this class it is nice to have her now excited to be part of the process of motorhome maintenance.
We can’t give out a lot of really cool generic information since most of the really cool information we came away with was more specific to our FRED chassis and our style of driving. Our opinion is that anyone choosing to invest in this class will more than likely get the tuition fully refunded in savings achieved in driving your particular chassis for better efficiency and mileage and/or in properly servicing your chassis. We say, take the class and take it from Mike Cody…man this guy really knows his stuff… and while taking it go ahead and schedule your maintence to be performed at their service center. I mean who is best qualified to work on your chassis that the people who built it!