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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