Cruise Master 36′

Close to 200 years ago, Lewis and Clark were on our country’s greatest-ever voyage of
discovery. We recently embarked on a less-ambitious discovery trip of our own through
Michigan’s wild and scenic Upper Peninsula, or U.P., with a guest who had never been there.
The Georgie Boy Cruise Master 36-foot coach that served as our steed, in place of the raw
muscles used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, provided both the first-timer and her guide
with fine accommodations for the trip. The Cruise Master is positioned at the high end of
the Georgie Boy gas-powered coach product line. It’s available on either the Workhorse W22
or the Ford Super Duty chassis; both have a 22,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr)
and deliver solid performance and dependable travel. Our test 36-footer, a 3600SD model,
was built on the Ford chassis and sported two large slideouts; sticker price is $102,609,
as tested. Up front, there’s an 11-foot 4-inch streetside slideout that moves out 30 inches
and houses the sofa bed and dinette, and out back the side-mounted queen bed and large
wardrobe are in a similar-size slideout that moves about 22 inches toward curbside. The
combination works well with the midcoach kitchen and self-contained streetside bath. The
entire coach is assembled of well-chosen materials that combine to produce a motorhome that
is highly functional, yet classy and durable. Cosmetically, the Cruise Master is hot. The
test motorhome featured the full-body paint option ($6,993), which includes the paint and
graphics; a color-matched Carefree main awning; awnings on both slideout rooms; and
stainless-steel wheel inserts. In total, the coach looked great on the road or in repose.
Despite its size and having a full boat of hardware and accessories, the Cruise Master
still had a generous payload capacity. It weighed 18,680 pounds wet but empty, which means
it had a tidy 3,320-pound cargo capacity before exceeding its 22,000-pound gvwr. Even after
deducting its 770-pound five-person sleeping-capacity weight rating (scwr), the coach still
could carry 2,550 pounds of payload. That’s very good for a motorhome like this one. Due to
the Cruise Master’s generous payload capacity, we happily flung open the basement-style
compartment doors and loaded the areas with all of the camping and travel gear we wanted.
Easy-open latches and nicely trimmed details give the storage areas the same quality image
as the balance of the coach. As we pointed the coach northward, we noticed how expansive
the windshield seemed to be. Technically, it was probably the same size as that of many
other coaches in this range, but the A-pillar dimensions, dash and interior contours
apparently contributed to the excellent forward visibility. Likewise, we appreciated the
comfortable cockpit layout. The optional soft touch driver and passenger seats ($770) felt
good on contact, but the seats were a bit too softly padded for our taste and the engine
hump required some climbing over for entry and egress. That’s a common trade-off for a
gaspowered coach, so it was no big deal. Georgie Boy’s sound insulation did a good job
because the engine’s roar just beneath our feet was minimally intrusive. The jaunt started
with a run up Interstate 75 through Lower Michigan. Many stretches of I-75 are potholed
concrete with bulging or misaligned expansion joints, and the familiar Ford chassis
delivered a firm, but acceptable, ride over those areas. Even when the joint spacing set up
the rhythmic bump/bump/bump we know and love, the coach was remarkably quiet and free of
squeaks and other noises. This motorhome appears to be built pretty tight, and that’s
saying a lot for a coach with two large slideouts. Our first night’s stop was at Benton
Lake national forest campground near Brohman, Michigan. This location is down a long haul
of sandy unpaved dirt road with washboard sections. Again, we were impressed by the Cruise
Master’s quiet, rattle-free handling of the rough road. Access to Benton Lake’s sites is
fairly unobstructed, so even after dark we had no problem swinging the motorhome’s aft end
around and tucking it into the site, with the help of our assistant and a pair of handheld
FMRS radios to provide backup guidance. The motorhome’s optional backup monitor ($315)
provided a bit more peace of mind when making that after-dark backup maneuver, as well as
during daylight driving moves elsewhere. The slideouts were deployed in no time, and the
next coach revelation was a delight. The blinds that cover the cockpit windows actually
work smoothly and effortlessly! Even in higher-cost coaches, we’ve had to do a lot of
wrestling and fiddling to get the blinds to roll ahead of their stowed position and across
the windshields, and re-stowing them can be a chore. Most of the hardware is similar among
coaches, but Georgie Boy designers and engineers went one step beyond a simple installation
by doing the job right. We wandered the pitch-black campground, eyes to the sky, in search
of the Northern Lights we heard might put on a show. They remained elusive, much to the
chagrin of our first-timer, but by daylight she appreciated the early stages of Michigan’s
fall colors that had already begun their display. Curiously, our freshwater tank, filled at
the last campsite, was about 1/3 low when we arrived at Benton Lake. Our usage rate would
not account for the water level, and no leaks were to be seen. It turned out the overflow
drains at each end of the shallow side-to-side-oriented tank were allowing water to escape
with each slosh of the tank on the road. We used a pair of plugs, whittled from a cedar
branch, to solve the leakage problem for the duration of our trip, and the manufacturer
tells us a permanent plumbing cure for the unwanted drainage has been worked out. The next
day we toured the Traverse City area, a must-do for northern Michigan newcomers, and more
than once we appreciated the Cruise Master’s sensible mirror placement. Some narrow roads
and tight spots had us easing cautiously along while eyeballing our flanks and avoiding
close-by traffic. Stops at the Traverse Bay Woolen Company and the Chateau Grand Traverse
winery outlet, both with parking lots sized to handle full-size motorhomes, gave us a
chance to peruse some local products of interest. They’re no Cascade Range, but Michigan
has a few hills that suitably challenge a motorhome’s powertrain. The climb east out of
Traverse City on State Highway 72 is a good example. The brief, but intense, 6-percent
grade we tackled modestly slowed us to 51 mph at 3,000 rpm in third gear, and a run down a
similar hill netted 40 mph at 3,500 rpm in second gear under engine compression. Later in
the trip, we encountered some serious in-town grades in Houghton and Hancock, at the
gateway to the U.P.’s Keweenaw Peninsula copper country. They challenged the motorhome’s
ability to start from stop and accelerate on a sharp grade. With a stab at the throttle,
the Ford V-10 never failed to motivate the coach in fine fashion. Back on the flatland, our
lunch stop was, naturally, Albie’s Pasties in Grayling. Albie’s is one of the first pasty
shops we always hit en route to the U.P., and our first-time visitor enjoyed her first –
but far from last – authentic Cornish pasty. The lot at that restaurant is compact and
can’t manage many large motorhomes at once, but there’s plenty of parking close by. Our
next destination was Woodstar Beach Campground, near Manistique, on the scenic north shore
of Lake Michigan. We had no close neighbors due to our off-season visit, so we opted for a
location with the motorhome’s curbside facing the lake. We appreciated the Ford chassis’
tight-turning radius as we maneuvered back among the trees into our spot. We hit a good day
between the fall rainstorms, so we were able to enjoy a long walk on the shore in the
golden light of evening. Early the next day, we arose to start a fire and sit in the sun’s
first rays as they broke over the horizon across the lake. Alas, the gathering clouds soon
blocked the sun and the rising wind chilled us, so we hastily retired inside to enjoy the
view from the snug warmth of the coach interior. Although back inside, we enjoyed a lake
view curbside windows. The dinette held us comfortably. The cushions were par for a fixed
dinette, and overhead lighting from two fixtures helped us avoid eyestrain while we dined
or used the table for other functions. The kitchen was sized about right for our kind of
motorhome-travel use. It was large enough for spreadout room and compact enough so that
everything was close at hand without being crowded. The optional composite-surface
countertop ($630) has a very appealing tactile feel, and it’s easy to clean, as well.
Blustery winds and sporadic rainfall accompanied us en route to Copper Harbor, a tiny burg
at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula and the most remote point of our journey north. Most
of the U.P.’s state highways are wide and well done, so we didn’t concern ourselves very
much when the wind tried blowing us around from side-to-side. The coach delivered us to our
destination, the Harbor Hideaway Motel and Campground, in shipshape with minimal wear and
tear on the driver. As we parked in the compact campground out back of the hotel, again
using the two-way radios for assistance, the cold weather was beginning to roll in. We
fired up one of two furnaces to warm the coach, so it was snug and welcoming when we
returned from a stay in the campground’s authentic Finnish sauna. The private sauna is
available to campers for a nominal fee that’s well worth it. A sauna visit will help almost
anyone sleep, and after we dragged our totally relaxed selves back to the Georgie Boy, we
made good use of the motorhome’s sizable dressing area and settled in for the night. Since
the main curbside wardrobe moves out with the bed in its large slideout room, the extra
floor space opened up forms a wonderfully large dressing space adjoining adjoining the
bedroom and bath. While the modest-size bath is self-contained, with a nice-size corner
shower and compact but effective vanity and cabinet arrangement, the main wardrobe is huge,
as is the general dressing area. Our coach displayed a strange hump and slope in the floor
between the bedroom and bathroom, but a manufacturer’s spokesman assured us this was a
glitch and was being addressed at the factory. Our final night of the U.P. trip was spent
listening to the drum of rain on the roof and feeling the coach body shift and waggle in
the blustery fall wind. We had the leveling jacks extended, but the coach still shook a bit
in the breeze. The furnace’s warm-air distribution was particularly well done in this
coach; each floor register produced a healthy breeze when one furnace was blasting, and two
furnaces created a veritable heat wave. Stretched out on the sofa or sprawled back in the
optional footrest-equipped recliner ($315) with optional soft-touch fabric($504), we found
the Cruise Master’s living area a most accommodating place to pass a relaxing evening. We
read, enjoyed soothing music and munched on savory smoked whitefish and salmon, along with
freshly baked pasties, purchased at some of the U.P.’s many fish markets and bakeries. The
Cruise Master served as a marvelous steed for our simple voyage of discovery. Our Michigan
first-timer was able to see and enjoy enough of the area to whet her appetite for a return
trip for more exploration. Ford’s chassis moved us along in reliable and easy-driving
style, and the Cruise Master’s features surrounded us with comfort and helped make our trip
relaxing and enjoyable. Among the higher-end gas-powered coaches on the market, the Cruise
Master delivered the goods and impressed us with its quality and sensible design. We hope
the motorhome that hauls us on our return to the North the next time around will be as
satisfactory. Georgie Boy Manufacturing LLC, (877) 876-9024, georgieboy.com

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