Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bob Lee and Country Coach ...a Story of Entrepreneurship

Country Coach: a story of entrepreneurship

The story of Country Camper, all the way back to the Barbie toy of Bob Lee’s daughter for which the company was named, has always captured my imagination, my interest, and inspired me throughout my journey in this great industry.

Country Camper was founded in 1973 with two employees building slide-in campers. It grew to a corporation spanning over eight city blocks in Junction City, Oregon and employing 1500+ employees at Country Coach’s peak manufacturing years. Country Coach’s product lines encompassed both front and side door entry diesel pusher luxury motorcoaches from 32’ in length to 45’, with up to 4 slide rooms. Country Coach built at least twelve different Class A models (and even briefly a Class C Max)*, along with the custom-tuned proprietary DynoMax chassis. The motorcoach company became one of the industry’s premier manufacturers of luxury diesel pusher motorcoaches.

“There were definitely some challenges to overcome,” said company founder Bob Lee’s wife Terry Lee. “When we had the gas crunch in the late 70’s/early 80's, we also built trailers and park models too; we even put our employees to work fabricating stove inserts.....anything to survive the industry downturn.”

Terry worked in the company and served as corporate secretary and treasurer for the first 20 years of the company’s history. The Lees, along with brothers Ron and Lenard in early years and in later years, Bob and Terry’s daughters Kenda and Brenda, ran a family operation.

For many years, Bob and Terry logged 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year on their motorcoach, traveling to industry shows and club rallies, where they’d park beside Country Coach owners. “Motorcoachers are the best source of information as to what is most important to have designed into their home on wheels,” Bob always said. So he and Terry would listen, gather ideas; and then take that input back to his Country Coach team. The next model year debut usually found many of those motorcoachers’ suggestions incorporated into the new coach designs.

Pictured: Pat Mason, Bob Lee, Tom Slagle, Ron Lee, Gary Obermire, at Country Coach Friends Club Friendship Rally

Recognition came from many avenues. Country Coach was presented the Oregon Governor’s Award for Corporate Excellence in 1984, the Private Industry Council’s Outstanding Employer Award in 1987, the U.S. Senate Productivity Award in 1988, Oregon’s Private 150 Award in 1994, and RVIA presented Bob Lee with its “Distinguished Service to the RV Industry” award in 1995. Bob Lee was inducted into the RV/MH Heritage Hall of Fame in 2000 having held positions of leadership for nearly 30 years on the Commercial Council for Family Motor Coach Association, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, and the Oregon Reinforced Plastics Association. Lee also chaired the Annual RVIA Manufacturers Shows, held each year in Los Angeles, CA and Louisville, KY, for many years.

Bob Lee was always one to share the credit with brother Ron Lee (VP of Engineering and Manufacturing for many years), Ed Read (then VP of Production), as well as the entire engineering, design and manufacturing team for the old world craftsmanship and significant product innovations Country Coach brought to the industry. Those innovations included a coach systems monitor with speech processor; air leveling for the motorcoach; HVAC control technology; and hydronic heating coach systems, as well as introducing code-compliant custom bus conversions built on a production line.

Bob Lee sold Country Coach to National RV Holdings, Inc in November, 1996. He continued to serve as Chairman Emeritus in an advisory capacity at Country Coach for several years. In November 2009 due to unfortunate economic factors, the company was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed its doors.  In January 2011, Country Coach Corporation (CCC), a service and parts facility, opened within buildings on a portion of the original Country Coach campus in Junction City, Oregon. CCC company owner Ron Lee (Bob Lee’s brother) completed the manufacture of a new Country Coach Allure motorcoach in 2015 and sold the company to Winnebago Industries later that year.
*Original Country Coach lines included over the years Country Coach Prevost Conversion, Concept, Rhapsody, Lexa, Affinity, Magna, Intrigue, Allure, Tribute, Mystique, Max, and in the early days the Country Camper.        
Bob Lee passed away October 8, 2017 and will be sorely missed in the RV industry. Godspeed and blue skies to Mr Lee as he enters Heaven's Highway.                      

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bob Lee Heads Out On Heaven's Highway

On Heaven's Highway:
Bob Lee, RV Industry Pioneer
Bob Lee headed out for heavenly highways on Sunday October 8th. We miss him already! I have a trove of memories and lessons learned from this man. We all have Bob stories to tell, don't we?! One of the smartest days of my life was the day I said “Yes” during an interview at Country Coach, Inc.  You know I took the original Country Coach job interview as a “favor” to a job placement manager at Trend Business College, whom I feared might not give me a “good job interview” if I didn’t’ go to this one. What a good thing this turned out to be!
The story of Country Camper, all the way back to the Barbie Toy of Bob Lee’s daughter for which the company was named, captured my imagination, my interest, and my journey began. Through the years, I met hundreds of Country Coach owners and other brand motorcoach owner friends. Among my most inspirational people I will say without hesitation was Bob Lee himself.
I remember a plant meeting, where Bob shared of his boyhood years on the farm and how when they were planting seed when they’d empty a gunny sack they’d hang it on a fence post. Over time there got to be a lot of seedbags on fence posts. He said we never really noticed the eyesore. He encouraged us to go back to our departments and look for gunny sacks. He encouraged us all to strive for excellence in everything we did. Another time he talked to us about building every motorhome as if our own mother would be driving it. His stories took root with me; I learned a lot from Bob.
Bob was a team builder. He came into the marketing wing late one December afternoon in the early 90’s and saw an assembly line of busy hands at work labeling postcards. It was the last day before a holiday closure and we had 17 different dealer mailers printed that we were attaching customer labels to. All had to be done and ready to post during closure for winter shows happening at dealer locations. He pulled a chair up next to me at that assembly line and started labeling postcards. It was the employee Christmas party that night and he wanted his employees out of there at a decent hour so we could get home too and ready for our Christmas party. He was a “rollup his sleeves” kind of guy.
Bob played hard too. I remember a show in Montana where a late afternoon water fight broke out just before show’s close. There were four or five salesmen against three marketing folks. Balloons were flying; then Bob got into the fray. He started filling water balloons for me and my team! Most likely in other companies, it might result in some heads rolling for not tending to the business at hand til the show officially closed for the day. In our case it resulted in the company owner himself taking note of the stacked numbers in favor of Sales staff …so he manned the spicket to fill the water balloons. No damage to coach interiors or exteriors occurred, but there were a lot of wet salesmen…They didn't toss balloons back with nearly the same fervor once Bob joined my team. For that few minutes we played just as hard as we all worked during that show!  The end of the show I learned, “We were going to be flying home on the private plane, not commercial.” OK, I thought, that will be fun! Well, that was until we got to the airport and I realized it was a little four-seater plane I could look over the top of practically (not nearly big enough to appease my apprehension of going from Montana to Oregon in a small aircraft). It took every bit of self control and "mind over matter" to load up in one of the two back seats of that little plane! I have to say the scenery was amazing. We landed safely in Eugene Oregon as scheduled with me none the worse for wear. In fact I consider it among the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I was only able to experience because of Bob Lee!
I regret a job I didn’t take. After the original Country Coach closed in bankruptcy one day I got a call from Bob. He wanted to talk to me about an idea he wanted my help with. It was to create a coffee table book on the story of Country Coach told in tandem with the story of the industry’s development during those same years. I wanted to say YES in the worst way. Who wouldn’t want to work with Bob on such a project.  I quite literally had made a verbal commitment to another offer of employment the day before. I kept my word with them but still regret not having collaborated with Bob on that coffee table book.
Thanks for so many memories, Bob, and Godspeed. May blue skies and sunshine greet you on Heaven’s Highway. 
A private service will be held at a later date.  In Lieu of Flowers, you may send memorials to Junction City Local Aid in Bob’s memory. JCLA , P.O. Box 493, Junction City, OR 97448

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Country Coach Motorhome Wiring

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that sets your Country Coach apart…Like the Country Coach Wiring Process by Sherry Fanning

When we were building Country Coaches, I produced the employees newsletter. There were twenty different departments in the production facility at that time. One issue of that employee newsletter featured a tour through the Dash and Wiring Departments.  I was impressed with CC’s commitment to meeting stringent coding requirements set forth by RVIA to ensure your coach wiring systems were not only state of the art but user friendly, safe and easy to maintain, too. Wiring systems were first documented on schematics using CAD. From there, wire number lists that documented identity of each circuit by number and description of function were generated for use in construction, installation and service. The wire number lists and a full set of schematics were published in the user’s guide with each coach.
One of the many unique features of the CC wiring department was the fact the wiring was color coded wiring, identical from coach model to coach model, all labeled on both ends with numbers for tracing purposes and bench assembled into harnesses. They did not run a single wire at a time. Along with quality checks, wiring systems were subjected to dielectric strength testing to assure proper wire conductor strength and performance. Tests were run using high voltages at very low amps. Specific energy management systems (transfer switches, inverters, control centers, converter switches) were bench assembled in the “clean” room. This impressive process was visible on factory tours via the large picture windows into the room. Some of you probably watched the work in process yourselves.
An example of the intricate and simultaneously user friendly wiring in the Country Coach is in the Dash. The Dash/cab area is the nerve center from which most coach systems operate. For example the layout of the dash prioritized controls strictly for driving functions, with items such as air leveling and the systems monitor placed within easy reach. During wiring installation, harnesses were kept extremely neat with splicing never done. Components run to AMP plugs via a modular system for ease of maintenance. Should components fail, they unplug easily for replacement.
A favorite CC Tour guide was one Jim Reab who noted that an estimated 3 miles of wiring went into a Country Coach—that’s a lot of wire!
The workmanship in the Dash and Wiring department all those years ago is evident in the motorcoaches driven on the highways and byways of this nation yet today. Country Coach artisans and craft persons really did build every coach as if our own mother would be driving it.
Bob Lee, company founder, used to instruct us to approach our jobs with that philosophy whenever we’d meet in company meetings. Evidently his employees took his directives to heart—I see  Country Coaches visiting Premier RV Services in Junction City, Oregon that are not only still operating beautifully and but are still looking like what they are – The World’s Finest Motorcoaches!

Friday, March 31, 2017

How Does the Motorhome Start Solenoid Differ from the Ignition Solenoid


Yes all the Diesel pusher coaches have ignition solenoids (relay).

The purpose of the ignition solenoid is to supply a continuous uninterrupted 12 volt source for the dash systems. This is what is being referred to as a continuous duty solenoid. Unfortunately most all coach manufacturers used a low amp solenoid and the result is earlier than usual failure.

We need to not confuse this with the start solenoid.

The start solenoid is a similar solenoid installed in the rear of the coach. It supplies dedicated direct 12 volt to the starter solenoid that is mounted on the starter itself when the key is turned to the start position. We have found on many of the 2008 Intrigue and Magnas that this start solenoid was no longer used causing a chattering of the starter when engaged.

It is a simple install to add this solenoid to these coaches and solves the chatter issue.

Basically the purpose of these solenoids is to insure a reliable 12 volt power source to the components due to the long runs of wire that are involved in getting power from one end of the coach to the other.

Power Gear Automatic Leveling System Set Up

The Power Gear Automatic Leveling System Set Up Procedure

Initial Zero Mode – Zero mode is indicated on the control touch pad by all lights on the pad flashing.

1)      First, place a carpenter’s level on the floor in the center of the coach

2)      Next, manually level the coach

a.       Push the front leg button until the jacks contact the ground

b.      Push the rear leg button until jacks contact the ground

c.       Push the left and right button to verify all jacks are on the ground

d.      Using the carpenter’s level complete the leveling process manually by pushing the appropriate buttons on the touch pad.

3)      After it has been verified that the coach is level the zero level point(this is the point that the control sees as level) can be set

a.       To set zero level, push the retract button three consecutive times

b.      After the “retract“ button has been pushed three times all of the lights on the touch pad will stop blinking except the on off light.

c.       The on off button light will flash 20 seconds. This mode is prompting the user to tell the automatic control box if the chassis has an air bag suspension system.

d.      If the chassis has an air bag suspension system press the RETRACT button again three times within 20 seconds from the time the zero level position was programmed (during the time the on off light is blinking)

e.      If the unit does not have air bag suspension system DO NOT TOUCH ANY BUTTONS with in the 20 seconds the on off light is blinking.

Resetting Initial Zero Point

If the zero point has been set and the control is functioning normally, the user can reset the zero point by following the steps below.

a)      First, the control box has to be put back into the zero mode.

a.       This is done by pushing the front button 5 consecutive times followed by the rear button 5 consecutive times within 10 seconds

b.      All of the lights on the touch pad will begin flashing. This indicates that you have successfully returned the control box to zero mode.

b)      Last, follow the instructions above to set the new zero point.

Source TIP Sheet: Troubleshooting Info on Power Gear, 2008  (excerpt from RV Technician Training)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FMCA Adds Continental Tire Option to Member Tire Program

FMCA Adds Continental Option to Member Tire Program
Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) has partnered with Continental Tire to give members more  choices in purchasing RV tires. For prices and step-by-step instructions on how to buy tires through this program, please visit Continental Tire Program page.  FMCA is giving its members more choices when it comes to equipping their motorhome with tires. 

Below is a step-by-step how-to on purchasing tires through the Continental Choice Program.  

 Get the specifications for the tires you need to have replaced. At this point, the program covers only motorhome tires. 

Use the specifications to find out which Continental tire is a match. You can do this by calling Continental (704-583-8889) or by using the pricing tool found below. This tool is extremely helpful and will give you pricing for every single tire that matches your search.

Find a local Continental dealer who can do the install, and set up an appointment. Also let the dealer know which tire you are looking for. That way, you can be sure the dealer will have the tires in stock and ready for your appointment. You can find a list of dealers at www.continental-truck.com/truck. From that page, select Dealer Locator in the top right corner.

When you go to the dealer, show them your FMCA membership card. You will pay the dealer directly for the tires and installation.  Keep in mind that Continental quotes only the tire price and federal taxes. Any mounting, balancing, or other services the installer offers will be at an additional charge. We cannot quote those fees up front.
Be sure to look at all the exciting benefits of membership you enjoy thanks to your ongoing membership in FMCA.
(This is a requirement in order to be a member of Country Coach Friends Incorporated a fun loving owners club open to all brands of motorhomes, and an international chapter of FMCA).