May 10, 2019

The Advanced RV Configuration Experience

3 days configuring a new and custom Advanced RV motorhome -- all the details.

The Advanced RV Configuration Experience

Custom building a motorhome from scratch is an amazing experience. We recently completed the Configuration with Advanced RV and we want to share all the details with you.

We are Damon and Mitzi Janis. Widowed in our forties after long and successful marriages, we found the courage to love again and married. We are rebuilding a life we love.

We love to travel and explore. We are inquisitive and love to learn. We love the open road and open spaces. We love freedom. We love beauty, peace, and quiet. We live slowly.

We are building a motorhome with Advanced RV to intentionally share in this experience together. Assuming we both continue to live — some subtle widow humor for you :) — we will experience the joys and freedoms of traveling together and exploring this beautiful land.

For three days we worked with multiple team members at Advanced RV to define, to the smallest details, exactly how we want our motorhome to be configured and built.

The Configuration experience was exhilarating, satisfying, and a load of fun. On day three we visited a design center to pick out fabrics — Mitzi sews and quilts and knows and loves quality fabrics. As we left the design center, she sat in the back seat and said enthusiastically, “I absolutely love these fabrics!” Like a kid in a candy shop she had to see and touch them again without delay. So she pulled the samples out of the bag, spread them on her lap, took pictures of them, and ogled over them in happiness as we drove back to the Advanced RV factory.


Before the Configuration process starts, there are a couple of preliminary steps. First, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis was ordered. Second, we created our wishlist. And third, we got to name our motorhome.


There are several decisions to make on the chassis: size, color, and type. These decisions, like all the Configuration decisions, are driven by how you plan to use your motorhome.

We plan to live in our motorhome for extended periods of time. We plan on boon-docking (being off the grid) frequently and living in it through the four seasons in all weather conditions and climates.

With that in mind, we decided on the 170 extended length Tenorite Grey 2x4. We told Mike Griffiths what we wanted and he placed the order with Mercedes, sending us the confirmation. Simple!


After ordering the chassis, we fully enjoyed creating our wishlist. Advanced RV can do anything, and they encouraged us to include everything we could think of on our wishlist. We used this list as a starting point for the Configuration.

For a couple weeks as we prepared for our trip to the factory in Ohio, we would have new ideas and we added to our list. We ended up with 34 items, including these:

  • farmhouse sink
  • quilt racks for hanging Mitzi’s beautiful quilts
  • curved overhead cabinets
  • heated floors
  • hooks for bathrobes in the bathroom
  • workspace accommodation for an iMac computer and a Bernina sewing machine
  • articulating bed and love seat combo
  • central vacuum
  • auto leveling
  • all weather capability

Creating the wishlist got us excited about our upcoming Configuration. It helped us visualize what we wanted, how we would use the motorhome, and gave us hours of pleasure visualizing our perfect motorhome. We felt thrilled anticipating the moment when what we envisioned in our minds will become a physical reality.


All Advanced RVs are given a name. They are called by their name through the entire Configuration and Build process. We loved naming our motorhome.

We have eight children between us. We have experience naming a child. We might say that naming our motorhome was maybe just a little more enjoyable and less stressful... than naming our children :)

We discussed lots of naming options and finally settled on the Hawaiian word Malanah.  Damon came across this word as a teenager.  He always remembered the sound and feel of it.  We looked it up and discovered it meant ‘buoyant’, ’to float’ and ‘to move together, as people’. For us it represents resurfacing after the loss of our spouses. Rebuilding a life we love, together. Letting in the happiness again.

And so with that we headed off to Willoughby Ohio to prepare for the birth of Malanah :)


This was our first time visiting the Advanced RV factory. It’s nestled on a clean and green industrial street near Cleveland and is easily accessible.

We drove up, parked, and with great anticipation, rang the doorbell.


We were immediately greeted and welcomed by Trisha Eller. She cheerfully invited us to come in and let us know they were expecting us and were looking forward to our visit. She made us feel special and welcomed.


Trisha introduced us to Brittany Immormino-Paley and Rob Wick who would be our primary contacts during the Configuration. When Rob learned we hadn’t seen the factory before, he offered to give us a tour.


It’s an amazing facility. Clean and organized. You can tell the people who work here take pride in their craft, their work spaces, and the motorhomes they are custom building.


An Advanced RV customer in 2015 got the idea of putting articulating beds into his motorhome for more comfort. It’s an innovation unique to Advanced RV, as they figured out how to do it!  Since then, many customers have opted for these types of beds.


We loved the articulating beds. However, we also needed a workspace large enough for our desktop computer and Mitzi’s sewing machine. The beds take up the entire back space so it seemed like we would have to give them up to have the space we needed.

Weeks earlier while we were creating our wishlist, Mitzi came up with the idea of combining an articulating bed with a love-seat sofa in the back. The love-seat sofa would fold down flat like a regular full-length sofa-bed for a complete sleeping area combined with the articulating bed, but when it was in the retracted sofa position, there would be room for a workspace!

We had no idea if this would be possible. As we walked around the factory, we explained our desired layout to Rob. He listened carefully and totally understood what we were asking for. After we finished the tour he met with several more engineers to see if they could put a design together that would work.

Later in the day he came back and reported with a big smile on his face that they could do it! We were so pleased.


Most of our time over the three days was spent with Brittany. She walked us through the entire Configuration process, documented all of our designs, and provided valuable perspectives along the way.

The best way to understand the Configuration is to see it. Here are pictures from the wonderful time we spent with Brittany and others.

Mitzi looking for a thread color to go with the UltraLeather we picked out for the furniture. Brittany is recording our choices.

The Malanah Vehicle Workbook where everything about the Configuration is recorded in detail.

Rob’s been with Advanced RV from the start and knows the build process inside and out. He works with customers during configuration to handle all the technical and engineering aspects of the design. Sometimes he likes to draft on paper, so we visited him at his drafting board to see what coolness he was cooking up.


Frank Kolasinski is an expert with the technology that goes in the motorhomes. Here he’s showing Damon where the battery pack is located, and how it’s protected.


Frank and Damon discuss the technical details of the entertainment and battery system.

Mike Griffiths visited the Configuration room to review some details of our build. He’s an expert in everything mechanical. He is also the person who placed the chassis order with Mercedes.

Brittany points out where we can put the Advanced RV branding. While some owners decide to not include it, we want the Advanced RV brand on Malanah. It represents a wonderful company built on high standards and virtues and we are proud to be part of it!

Brittany illustrates with old-fashioned pen and paper a design idea to help us visualize it better.

Mitchell Dunbar made a visit to help us make Malanah logo design decisions. He does marketing and social media for Advanced RV. Here he’s showing us examples of logos other Advanced RV owners have created to give us ideas on what we can do for Malanah.

The design center has thousands of fabrics and patterns to choose from. We went through every board on this wall, and some around the corner! We were about 30% through this wall when we found the perfect curtain fabric. Mitzi said to Damon, “We’ve got it, do you want to stop searching?” He replied, “I’m just a little curious to keep going.” Mitzi and Brittney had a good laugh.  His idea worked well, as we found additional fabrics for the accent pillows :)

Here’s woven fabric we found at the design center for the curtains. It was the perfect blend of the colors we had selected earlier in the Configuration room. Brittany and Mitzi were so excited when we saw it on the rack.

Mitzi is holding up the furniture sample with a fabric she is considering for an accent pillow. Brittany is recording every little detail. She didn’t miss a thing!


The design center has a room with a skylight to let in natural light. Brittany brought all the samples we had selected in the configuration room, added the samples from the design center, and laid them all out so we could see how they worked together in the natural light. It was so satisfying to see how a beautiful web of colors and textures and materials came together.

Frequently during the configuration, we would step outside of the room and walk a short distance to where the finished motorhomes are kept. Here Brittany is showing us how the splash guard behind the galley counter works to protect the curtains and wall behind it.


Mary Kapeluch works on the upholstery team. She visited the configuration room to talk with Mitzi about the curtains, accent pillows, and the fabrics she chose. Everything is hand-crafted and custom made. The furniture builders and upholstery teams are amazingly talented to craft exactly to what we want!


We had a day after Configuration to see the area surrounding Willoughby. We’d never been before, and looked forward to exploring and experiencing the area. It was a great day.

Rob took the time to print this map and write down recommended places to visit near Willoughby. It was super helpful and resulted in a great day.


The top of Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Before heading over to the Ledges, we stopped at Zuki Sushi House. It is 5 star rated with hundreds of reviews, and ….looks like a hole in the wall place. The reviews were right on — the food and service was amazing.


The path towards the Ledges, also in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is absolutely beautiful. When you get to the end of the path, you walk down some stone steps into…


the Ledges! It feels mystical. We were transported into a different time by the seclusion, quiet, and vibrant green moss under a canopy of trees. It’s like being in another world. These are striking geological conglomerate rock formations that extend for 1.8 miles.


Mitzi has a great-great-great grandfather named Newel K. Whitney who lived in Kirtland, Ohio, about 10 minutes from Willoughby, in the 1830’s. His store has been preserved and restored because it is significant in the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Mitzi had never visited this place before, and was grateful to be there and make a connection to her ancestry.


When the Chassis arrives at the factory, Advanced RV will start the build. They will send us weekly updates with pictures and progress. Then the exciting day will arrive when we travel back to Willoughby and take delivery. We look forward to sharing it with you!

So until next time…