Spirit – Our Phoenix Cruiser

I’d like to start by saying, we LOVE our Phoenix Cruiser. We researched different RVs and crawled in and out of dozens of them at the Hershey show but in the end, it was pure luck that we bought one that is so well made and truly meets our needs.

We camped in tents for years on end in just about every type of weather. We stayed in hotels and timeshares during our vacations. We even spent a night in an Ewok Village type tree house in Chile, but we had no experience whatsoever that would tell us what was important in an RV.

Our Phoenix does everything we want it to. We can be totally off the grid for weeks at a time. We can be snug and warm in freezing temperatures and dry in tempests. We can drive it almost anywhere and park it with a minimum amount of frustration. AND we can get in and out of most gas stations without hitting anything.

Phoenix USA is a small RV manufacturer located in Elkhart, Indiana. They sell factory direct and are willing to customize their coaches to fit the customer’s needs. They attend several RV shows a year and receive a lot of customer referrals from existing owners. They have a LOT of happy owners like us who are happy to show off their Phoenix.

What we found out after we bought this motorhome is that the company is extremely responsive to customers and have excellent customer service. Add in a very active and helpful owners’ forum and you have a winning combination. Phoenix is currently building on the Sprinter diesel chassis and the Ford E-350 and E-450 gas chassis. Their coaches run from 21′ to a bit under 31′. We chose to stay under 30′ to stay under the length restrictions at some of the state and federal parks. So far, we’ve had no problem finding a site with room for us.

Our Phoenix is under 30 feet long from bumper to bumper and is built on the Ford E-450 Super Duty chasis with a V-10 gas engine. It has two axles with dual tires on the rear to support the weight of the house. We haven’t had any problems with tail wag, sag or drag that seems to be common with some of the RVs out there. When we tow our Subaru, we have to look in the mirror to be sure it is still there. There is no sway or drag from the tow. Sure, we slow down when climbing through the mountain passes but we probably have close to 20,000 pounds that we’re dragging up that slope. We’re slower than the passenger cars but faster than the tractor trailers. We figure that is “just right”.

Interior

We consider the coach to have five “zones” inside: The bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, living room and truck cab. All are extremely well thought out and functional. We upgraded to beautiful cherry cabinets, leather upholstery and kept standard vinyl on the floors for easy cleanup (for muddy boots and cat “gifts”… aka hairballs). We also upgraded to insulated glass in the house windows. The house windows came with MCD day/night shades that have two pull down blinds. One is a sun filter that you can see out but it blocks a lot of heat and makes it harder to see in. The other blind is a block out shade that prevents even silhouettes from being visible to the outside world. The kitchen has a mini blind and the house door has just the pull down block out shade. The house door also has a very neat retracting screen that rolls into the door frame when not in use.

Our zones are as follows:

Bathroom: We have a full bath across the back with a functional shower (no ducking and no yoga moves needed to wash yourself – this was important to us), a good size wardrobe (with a light in it), vanity, medicine cabinet, upper/over the toilet cabinet and narrow floor to ceiling utility cabinet. The window, skylight over the shower and ceiling fixture provide ample light. We have more storage in the bathroom alone than we’ve seen in the entire inside of some of the other RVs. You can brush your teeth without hitting your head, use the commode without needing a footstool or putting a cheek against a wall and even change your clothes in there if so minded. We had three custom changes made to the bathroom: 1) added a hand sprayer for the toilet; 2) added an extra shelf in the over the toilet cabinet; 3) upgraded from the little bath vent fan to the Fantastic Fan. We bought our own towel rods and toilet paper holder and Phoenix installed them for us. Caution! Emotional statement: We LOVE having a nice, warm bathroom just steps from our beds. No going out in the rain and snow to a bath house or trudging into the woods to find a suitable tree. No frantic searches for a rest stop or gas station while on the road. No nasty public rest rooms. Our shower. Our toilet paper. Our toilet. So nice.

Bedroom: We wanted a permanent bed. If you only travel a weekend here and there and maybe a week on vacation, setting up and taking down the bed every day is fine. But if you plan to do it 365 days a year, it gets old fast. Our model has twin beds with a walkway between them. This is an extremely efficient use of space that allows both parties to move around and get out of bed without disturbing the other person. It also gives room for shirt cabinets over the foot of each bed as well as high cabinets the length of the room. We have a large window next to each bed that gives good air circulation and awesome views (We sometimes sit on the bed to work or read and gaze out at the world). There are mechanicals under one bed but the other has a decent amount of storage space accessed by lifting the bed board with the help of little hydraulic lifters. One tug and up it goes. The mattresses are memory foam and quite comfortable. We had the factory make four custom modifications to the bedroom: 1) added cabinet doors to aid in accessing the under bed storage; 2) added shelves to both shirt closets (we have ample hanging space in the wardrobe in the bathroom); 3) reversed the door to the shirt closet closest to the stove so that cabinet can be used for pots and pans, etc. As it turns out, we should have reversed both doors, neither is used for bedroom items; 4) eliminated the vent in the ceiling (with one fan in the living room and one in the bathroom, we chose to forego one hole in the roof and gain nearly total darkness when we close off the bedroom. We can turn on the bath fan and leave the bathroom door open to draw air through when needed.

Kitchen: We didn’t know how awesome our kitchen was until we checked out some other RVs and realized how NON-functional theirs were. We have a recessed, two burner, propane cook top with corian covers, a deep sink with corian covers, a flip up counter extension and a pull out cutting board that we use as another counter extension. With the covers on and the extension up, you have five and half linear feet of counter space, plus the cutting  board. That may not sound like much, but we’re only 28 feet long… and that includes the truck nose. Phoenix packs a lot into a small space. If we need more work room, we set up the wooden table that comes with our model (when you get the couch instead of the dinette you get a separate table which stores securely against the wall in the wardrobe closet when not in use).There is a handy pocket in the countertop behind the burners where you can store the Corian covers. The convection microwave fits a quarter sheet pan without a problem, has racks so you can cook on two levels at one time and the exhaust fan does a good job of getting grease and smoke out of the house. The refrigerator/freezer is good size and seamlessly switches between power supplies when we hook up to electric or power up the generator. We set it to auto and ignore it. There is a three shelf pull out pantry next to the refrigerator that holds a lot of dry goods. Our hot water tank lives under the sink and we have manual switches to set it on electric or propane. We had one factory modification made to the kitchen: 1) we had the wooden flip up counter extension covered with the same beautiful Corian that our counter and covers are made out of. In addition, we later had an Ikea wall bar mounted over the stove where we hang two wire Ikea wine glass racks. These make nice, light shelves for all that counter clutter. We remove the lift-off shelves and stow them in a cabinet during travel so they don’t rub the wall while we bounce down the road. Ikea sells baskets, cups, dish drainers, etc. that fit on the bar if we want to use it for a different purpose. We cook in the coach almost daily and have had no problem with the space. It took some time to adapt to a smaller kitchen but we pulled off a full Thanksgiving dinner in it (turkey breast instead of whole turkey). It sure beats crouching down in the snow trying to boil water on a backpack stove balanced on a rock. Been there, done that, will probably do it again but are loving our current situation for now.

Living Room: The kitchen and living room are one area but we mentally separate them into two zones (we have a rule – one person moving around in each zone at a time – it cuts down on small space frustration). The living room has a European recliner and a two piece electric memory foam couch that can recline separately for comfort or open fully out into a queen bed. I’ve used half the couch as my bed for more than six weeks at a time when the granddaughter was on board and was very comfortable on it. The couch and two beds lets us sleep four adults comfortably. We opted for the entertainment package so we have a nice big flat screen TV over the truck cab with a DVD player and surround sound. There are cabinets over the couch and along both wing walls behind the cab seats. We had the factory make one modification to the living room: 1) floor to ceiling cabinets with custom desk behind the Euro chair. We started out full time on the road with both of us working half time on computers. The flip up desk gave us a very functional work area and the cabinets hold a LOT of stuff. The Euro chair works as a desk chair though I need a booster pillow for height. When not working, John loves moving the Euro chair to the center of the room, putting in a movie, cranking the surround sound and enjoying the experience! Our one slide out has the couch, pantry and refrigerator on it. We can function with the slide in but then the couch can’t open out fully as a spare bed. There are ample ceiling lights plus individual reading lights at each seating position. We brought an upgrade kit for the Fantastic Fan and Phoenix installed it for us. The upgrade changed the fan to a remote controlled unit that closes when it senses water and reopens when it dries out. It has temperature sensor so it turns on and off as needed and can also switch to draw air in or out. We bought Fantastic Vent Covers for both vents, had them shipped to the factory and Phoenix installed those for us also.

Truck Cab: We opted for the five way power seat for the driver so that seat doesn’t turn but the passenger seat rotates to add another comfortable seat to the living room. The truck radio is wired into the house speakers so it can be used to supply music to the house when driving or in camp (as long you don’t run it for days and kill the truck battery, BUT, if you do that, there is a handy switch on the dash to pull power from the house batteries so you can start the truck back up and recharge from the alternator – they thought of everything. The 12v power ports in the dash stay active when the engine is off so you can charge cell phones, etc. up there. There is an additional 12v charging port in the overhead cabinet that runs off the house batteries. The memory foam seats are comfortable and there is a good view out the front and sides. The power side mirrors are heated and there is a ceiling mounted monitor for the backup camera. The console has three cup holders and three additional surface slots as well as several nooks on the front where we keep a water bottle, tissues, DVDs, etc. The truck comes with cruise control and a tow/haul feature as well as a radio/dvd player. There is an option for an in dash sound system/GPS/backup camera but we did not choose to get that. Phoenix uses the cut away Ford chassis so you can move from the seats back into the house without hitting your head on the ceiling. There are two good size cabinets overhead in the cab. We had one factory modification made to this space: 1) We purchased a Wilson cell phone signal booster system and Phoenix installed the components for us. The outside antennae is at the rear of the coach, a thinset coaxial cable runs to the front cabinet and our booster is mounted in the cabinet as well as the mount for the inside antennae (which can be removed from its mount and set different places for better signal).

Exterior

We opted for full body paint. It is a considerable uplift in price but you get full automotive paint which makes it easier to clean and maintain. Besides, it’s gorgeous!

We have an onboard propane tank, gas generator that runs off the truck fuel tank, connections for water, electric and cable, PLUS we had the factory add a low pressure propane connection on the passenger side to allow easy hook up of a BBQ grill. We included the option for stabilizing jacks which make campsite set up and leveling incredibly easy. We can be backed in, hooked up and leveled in fifteen minutes. We love it! Our awning is push button control and runs 17 feet down the body of the coach and opens out to about 10 feet. It takes minutes to deploy both the slide room and the awning. There are no additional poles or guy ropes to be messed with.

All recent models of the Phoenix Cruiser come with both a macerator and a three inch dump valve. Both black and grey holding tanks are insulated with electric heat strips to avoid freezing and have built in flush systems for easy clean out of the tanks. The macerator hose end screws onto most campground waste portals so it becomes a closed system and no messy spillage occurs. For long term stays, most people hook up the three inch dump hose and then open the valves as needed.

The Phoenix drives beautifully. We have a lower, streamlined profile so we don’t catch as much wind as the bigger RVs out there and it holds to the road well. At just over 10 feet tall, we fit under most bridges with plenty of room to spare. When we are ready to move on, we just close her up, set the GPS and head out onto the road to wherever we want to go.

As the Phoenix slogan says – we “Adventure Anywhere”.

If you are interested in more information about Phoenix Cruisers please check out their website at http://www.phoenixusarv.com. They have links there with photos, floor plans, a list of their current inventory, a “build your own” page (make sure you click at the bottom to see the factory direct price), owner’s forum and even videos so you can see how they are built. You can also call and set up a free factory tour if you are ever in the vicinity of Elkhart, Indiana.

If you are interested in seeing our Phoenix, drop us a line on the forum or this blog and we’ll check to see if we will be in your area. We are active on the forum under the webname “2 Frazzled”.  You can also ask on the forum if anyone is in your area that is willing to show you their coach. Most owners are happy to do so.

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2 Responses to Spirit – Our Phoenix Cruiser

  1. Will Lloyd says:

    Hi John and Holly – this is Will Lloyd. You guys showed us your PC a year or so ago, we met off of 81 north of Winchester. Just to let you know, we finally purchased one. We found a used one in Texas and flew down to look at it, we ended up buying and driving it home. Thanks for the help along the way. Will and Joyce.

  2. Will Lloyd says:

    We saw your web address in your signature on the Phoenix forums. We live in manassas Va and we’re hoping to take you up on your offer to show you were phoenix cruiser. We are considering them but would love an opportunity to see one First. Wasn’t sure how to get in touch with you so I thought I would give this a try. Thanks.

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