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We’re Rollin’!! (Shades, Of Course)

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Apparently Ron White was around… no joking!

Like many others who’ve come before us, we grew to strongly dislike our pleated window shades.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re much better than nothing (we found this out by experience), but they certainly left us wanting a better solution.

When searching for our new-to-us coach, we walked through dozens of RV dealer lots and looked inside hundreds of RV’s.  Many of these were new and were equipped with the latest innovations in window dressings.  So we were not ignorant to the fact that roller shades existed and therefore knew from the beginning that our pleated shades were last decade’s light-blockers.  Most of the pleated shades in our coach were functional, but even on their best day, they’re still a pain in the butt.  This was especially true on our wider windows which definitely required a pair of hands to move in either direction (one on each end to keep them tracking straight).  This meant having to awkwardly bend over a couch or dinette any time a change in outdoor visibility was desired.  Another quality we did not like about our pleated shades was the fact that you really couldn’t see through the day shade.  You could make out shapes and large objects, but it was like looking through frosted glass.  We like to be able to see outside – even in our larger sticks-n-bricks housing – but especially now that we live in a much smaller space.  So this basically left us having to choose between seeing outside or blocking out some of the sun’s energy – we couldn’t have both.

After living in the RV for a while, we came up with a short list of things we’d like to change about Lucky. These are separate from our list of things that NEED to be changed due to being broken or sub-par functioning.  Fixing a water pump, as an example, which is allowing city water to flow into the fresh water tank is not a want – that’s a need.  Our wants list held larger projects, which would have little or no value to us other than our enjoyment – meaning we couldn’t take them with us when we eventually part ways with our 40 ft friend, so any money we spent would be an investment in our happiness.  In no particular order, the list was/is: new tile flooring throughout the coach, a substantial solar array on the roof, and new roller shades.  As you can see, life would go on without any of these items, but they’re things we want (hence the “wants” list).

The inviting front of the MCD factory, complete with rocking chairs.
The inviting front of the MCD factory, complete with rocking chairs.

When we began thinking about pulling the trigger on one of our “wants” list items, we figured that if we’re going to do it, do it soon so we can begin enjoying our investment.  I think we thought solar would be the first project to be checked off the list, but due to not being able to find a qualified, recommended installer at the right time, right place, we set our sites on shades.

The decision to go with MCD Innovations for our roller shades was never really a decision.  In my mind, they’re the Kleenex of roller shades.  Their competitors may make very similar products, but we had confidence that we would not only be happy with MCD’s product, but their reputation for customer service is stellar.  On their website, they lay out the process to visit their factory and have their shades professionally installed.  We have never had anything factory work done, but it sounded great and we figured that there couldn’t be a better, more qualified place to have our new shades installed.

From my first contact with MCD to book our appointment, my expectations were fulfilled.  The woman I spoke with on the phone was welcoming, pleasant, and seemed genuinely appreciative for our interest in their products and services.  Remember, MCD has grown to be a large company, supplying the OEM shades to the majority of the RV industry’s key players (Fleetwood, Monaco, Winnebago, Itasca, Keystone, Thor, Jayco, Forest River, and many more).  So we are a very small fish in a very big pond, but they seem to understand that this is a big investment for us, even if it’s only a blip on their revenue radar.  We set our appointment for our factory install to begin on Monday, March 14th and we were told that we could arrive on Sunday, March 13th.

View of our "campground" at MCD
View of our “campground” at MCD

Their factory provides twelve, 50 amp electrical pedestals for complimentary use during install.  At this time there are no sewer or water connections, but we were told it’s something they have in their future plans.  After a four-day trip (through torrential rain and flooding in Louisiana) from Clermont, FL to McKinney, TX, we arrived with empty grey and black tanks, and enough water to get us through the install process.  We were told to count on being there until Friday at 5:00PM, but we may be excused earlier.  Upon arrival, we parked in our assigned spot.  We found that our designated power pedestal was not functioning properly, so I hooked up to the one next to us – not a problem.  On that Sunday evening, there were five RV’s present, including us.  Throughout the week, folks came and went and we spent two nights as the only tenants in the entire place.

Monday:

Calvin measuring the big twin windows in the hallway
Calvin measuring the big twin windows in the hallway

Shortly after 8:00AM, Tremaine came out to welcome us and go over some basics about our info, what we wanted to have done, and night shade fabric selection.  At the conclusion of his visit, Calvin wheeled his installer’s cart out to our front door.  After introducing himself and a quick briefing on what our desires were, he set to measuring each window space.  Upon conclusion of measuring and telling me about some options that I hadn’t considered, he submitted the information to the front office for our quote to be drawn up.

During this initial visit with Calvin, I mentioned that at some point we were looking to recover/redo our window valances.  They weren’t horrible, but they did look slightly dated with a geometric print and a little more “flashy” than we’d prefer.  Calvin mentioned that they worked with a company up the road that handled such things.  Calvin called him there on the spot and within ten minutes a man named Wilson pulled up outside our RV.  He quickly informed us that he no longer had anyone who did upholstery work , but if we wanted wooden valances, he could accommodate our desires.  While we had thought about our valances, we had not come to Texas thinking that would be a project for now.  After getting his quote, we began to weigh our options.  My thought process was that we had come to north Texas to have the factory install our new shades.  If we had the shades installed, then went somewhere to have the valances redone in the future, we would end up with shades re-installed by whoever installed the new valances. In order to get new valances and factory installed shades, we had to do both this week.  So, drawing from the non-existent valance budget, we negotiated a final price for new beech wood valances.

The before picture
The before picture of our dated, legged valances

It was also during this time with Calvin and Wilson in the coach, the idea of “legless” valances became an option.  Most RV valances, particularly those with pleated shades, have “legs” that extend down the sides of the windows.  These serve a couple of functions, but the most important seems to be to house the strings which the pleated shades run up and down.  Now that we were getting roller shades, which are fully housed above the window, we no longer needed legs.  This would free up some room in the booth dinette where the legs impeded the last ~4″ closest to the wall, allow the use of a couch arm where a leg currently blocked, and give us a few more inches of width in our hallway leading to the bedroom where three long legs ran down the wall.  The more we thought about it, not only would “legless” valances be cheaper and quicker, but they actually seemed preferable to their “legged” relatives.  Legless valances for us!!

Tuesday:

Inside the massive MCD factory/warehouse
Inside the massive MCD factory/warehouse

Monday afternoon, we had reviewed and paid for our shade quote, so Tuesday was our shade production day.  This took no participation from us, but we knew that somewhere in the massive building before us, OUR shades were being custom-made.

Out with the old!
Out with the old!

Wilson also stopped by that day to remove all the current valances and shades.  This was not a quick or enjoyable process.  The order in which items are installed in an RV dictates how easy or difficult they will be to remove.  In this case, it appeared that valances had been installed prior to most furniture items, so some screws were literally inaccessible with the furniture in place.  This meant that a few legs had to be ripped out of the wall and/or broken in half to accomplish the removal.  It was very difficult for me to hear breaking wood, scraping, and scratching, but I stayed strong and had faith that in the end all would be well.  He took the top of each valance for a measurement reference for his replacements and also a couple of pieces of wood that he could use to match the stain throughout the coach.  He finished by taking more measurements and finalized his design ideas with us.

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Calvin stopped by and took a few more measurements to confirm numbers he had discussed with Wilson.  He also told us that our shades were produced and if we had not opted for valances, he could have had us out of there that morning.  He said it in a way that just told us that they were on top of it and he was ready to go whenever Wilson had the valances completed.

Inside the Tupps Brewery
Inside the Tupps Brewery

Thursday (St. Patrick’s Day):

We confirmed with Calvin and Wilson that both would be ready to begin the install on Friday morning and they estimated to have us completed by noon.  We then took it upon ourselves to find some local St. Patty’s day festivities in McKinney!

Friday:

After going three days with no shades whatsoever, we were ready to see our new investment in place, and not be woken up by the blaring sun each morning.  Just after 9:00AM, Wilson arrived and began bringing in our new valances – they looked great!  He stained them to perfectly match all the existing wood in the coach and beveled the edges to match our current woodwork.  Shortly after, Calvin arrived with all of our shades – they too, looked awesome!

One of the first bedroom valances to be installed
One of the first bedroom valances to be installed

I lent a hand to Wilson anytime he needed it, but just generally tried to stay out of everyone’s way.  It’s very difficult for me to sit back and watch other’s work, but I just told myself that A: I had paid for this, so I may as well enjoy it, and B: they are professionals.  Everything in the bedroom went smoothly and we could finally see our products in place – together.  They looked and worked better than we had even hoped!

When the guys got to the large twin windows in the hallway, they hit a speed bump.  The cause wasn’t clear, but the result was that the shade was 5/8th’s of an inch too wide for the valance.  It seemed that neither party felt they were to blame and we were asked to make the decision on how to fix it.  The choices were to have a new valance made or to cut down the shade.  We were very reluctant to cut down the shade because we were already right on the edge of minimum coverage and we had already discussed how we wished the shades could be slightly wider (to help the night shade keep sunlight out since we had deleted the legs).  The option to have this valance (the largest in the coach) redone also had issues: Wilson didn’t have enough left over wood to do it and it would take a considerable amount of time.  I suppose we can be too accommodating at times and I really did not want to simply jump to the option that we felt was easiest for everyone and then I would be the one feeling like I got the raw end of the deal.  So we carefully thought it over, looked at what the change in coverage would be versus the time cost of a new valance and decided to have the shade cut down.  At the time, it left us feeling like somehow we were being punished for a mistake that took place between the two companies, but it seemed to be the best option when all factors were considered.  Now that it’s done, I think it was the right choice.  The shade still gives good coverage of the window and it looks fine.

The big valance that was 5/8" too short, or the shade was 5/8" too long - depends who you ask.
The big valance that was 5/8″ too short, or the shade was 5/8″ too long – depends who you ask.

In the living room, there are three, large, identically sized windows over the dinette and two couches.  Somehow, Wilson had only made two.  At lunch time, Wilson went to his shop and made another one.  During his absence, Calvin pulled me aside to let me know that he felt the other two large, living room valances need to be better secured .  When you remove the legs, the top valance has to bear its full weight and is unsupported from the bottom.  Calvin talked privately with Wilson upon his return and changes were made to secure these valances.

With all the valances in place, Calvin was in charge to finish up the shade install.  I feel obligated to take a moment to speak about Calvin.  He is everything I want in an RV tech: he isn’t a salesman and will tell you what he honestly thinks, even if it doesn’t benefit him or the company; he is VERY particular about his work and prides himself on being the best at whatever he does; and he is very conscious of other people’s property and opinions.  With the hiccups experienced during the collaborative install, we were well behind the planned timeline, but Calvin stuck with it until after closing to ensure the job was done and done right.  As a single father, he has two young children and I couldn’t believe that he would stay late to take care of us on a Friday – top notch individual.  He alone makes it worth the trip to McKinney for shade install if this is something you’re considering.

A finished product!

With everything finished, we could finally take in our new window treatments!!  It all looked and performed unbelievably well!!  The valances don’t look like much, but that’s exactly what we wanted.  They simply blend into the coach and draw no unnecessary attention – very classy and understated.  We had decided to gamble and opt for the black night shades when we arrived.  It was a 180 degree departure from the light, cream-colored shades we had before, but we thought it could really turn the look of our nighttime interior around for the better – we were right!  The reddish-brown wood valances and the flat black shades look better than we envisioned – very happy with the combo!  The performance of the shades is perfect.  Calvin went through each shade (two per window) multiple times to make sure it rolled up at just the right speed and stopped exactly where he thought it should – even accounting for changes in temperature and how that would affect the speed of the spring return.

As far as some of the delays and troubles with installation: stuff happens.  I don’t think we’ve done one thing with this RV that went as smoothly as it could have.  There was never a moment where MCD didn’t reaffirm its commitment to having us leave satisfied – and they delivered.  Both Calvin and the front office made sure we felt confident in their customer service and that no matter what happened, they would make it right.  For us, all’s well that ends well, and this ended very well.

We ended up with eleven manual American Duo Day/Night shades, two manual American Solo Night shades (window over the sink and entry door), and a Screen Door Pull-Up shade.  You can calculate the cost of their shades, based on the type, height, and width right on their website.  We did our entire coach, minus the windshield, for a cost of ~$3,300.  They charge a labor rate of $95/hour for installation – they do not charge for measuring, just the actual installation.  When we made our reservation, we were told to budget for six hours of install, but we were only charged for two hours.  Calvin charged us for what he conservatively estimated to be the time it would have taken to do our install if everything would have gone perfectly smooth.

McKinney:

The downtown McKinney square
The downtown McKinney square

It’s worth taking a moment to comment on the city of McKinney, TX, where MCD is located.  It is a suburb north of Dallas.  It seems to be a rapidly growing area with MANY new, nice homes and businesses.  We were very pleasantly surprised by the town and everything it has to offer.  Within a five-mile radius of the MCD factory, you can find hundreds of places to eat and shop.  This includes the historic downtown McKinney square – a very cool place for local shopping, eating , and drinking!  McKinney also has two of its own craft breweries.  We went to Tupps Brewery on St. Patrick’s Day and had a great time.  Even if you don’t drink beer, it would be worth the trip to Tupps.  It’s located at an old Cotton Mill and they have re-purposed many of the items found on the grounds into useful and artistic items at the brewery – very, very neat!  At the time of paying for our shade quote, MCD supplied us with a bag full of documents telling us about area attractions.  Also, while there is a lot to do around the factory, it is in a very quiet area and traffic noise at night was minimal.

Well, that just about wraps up or MCD/McKinney
experience!  If this is an item on your wants or needs
list, we would recommend it!

See you on the road!

Ryan, Kim and Jet

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