Category Archives: Our motorhome

Throwback Thursday Post: Random Stuff I’ve Learned While Roaming the Country In An RV

Random MusingsI first published this a year ago and it’s all still true!


Here are a few tips, observations and random musings gleaned from our life on the road:

When you hook up your sewer hose, make darned sure that all of the “hooks” are engaged and the hose is securely seated against the fixture. Otherwise you will end up with a disgusting smelly mess when you go to dump the tanks. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Did you know that California passed a law prohibiting shops from providing disposable plastic bags for free? You have to take your own shopping bags or purchase a re-usable plastic bag from the store for no less than 10 cents each. Same goes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since I re-use plastic grocery bags to scoop the kitty litter box, I was forced to purchase rolls of disposable plastic bags from the pet store for that purpose. Does that make sense to you?

Investigating the local cuisine of every area is fantastic! We’ve enjoyed New Orleans Cajun and Creole cooking; Arizona authentic Mexican food; fantastic smoked salmon in the Pacific Northwest, and finger-licking Memphis barbeque. In New Mexico, green chili capital of the world, you can have your New Mexican dish served with green chilis, red chilis, or both (Christmas). Christmas is the best!

I’ve attended Sunday morning service at different denomination churches all over the country. I find that the similarities far outweigh the differences. Maybe we would get along better if we focused on the love of Jesus rather than sectarian differences.

When you buy an RV, make sure it is livable with all of the slides in. We have spent days at a time with our slides in – while in transit, while getting warranty repair work done, and while at campsites where we can’t effectively level. Aside from having a few cabinets/drawers that are inaccessible, we can live quite comfortably. That’s good design.

If you travel to higher elevations (like, Santa Fe at 7500 feet), things you bought at sea level will randomly spit at you when you open them. Mustard. Hand lotion. Shampoo. The occasional can of root beer. You have been warned.

Check your tires’ inflation pressure early and often. Inflation pressure varies significantly with altitude and temperature changes. Since both can vary greatly during national travel, it’s better to over-check than not. Investing in a tire pressure monitoring system is even better.

The desert has a lot of spiky, dangerous plants, but the worst is the teddy bear cholla cactus. A furry-looking plant with a deceptively gentle name, its easily-detached segments studded with a million tiny fish hook spines exist solely to cause you harm. They will hurt you. Avoid at all cost.

If you belong to a Credit Union, they likely belong to the Credit Union Co-op / Shared branches scheme. That grants you access to a nationwide network of “sister” credit union branches at which you can conduct business: deposit checks, make withdrawals, arrange for wire transfers, and complete essentially any transaction that you can perform at your home location. It effectively turns your local credit union into a national bank. That’s been extremely useful for us as we travel.

After travel, please be careful while opening overhead bins as items may have shifted during your flight. Also, the refrigerator.

Wine tasting at 3 wineries is about my limit for one afternoon. Any more than that and I’ll get loopy and buy too much wine. Then we are forced to drink it. Such a problem.

That’s all for now!

 

 

Attack of the Stink Bugs!

presentation1.jpgLiving in the woods as we do most of the time, one has to expect wildlife. But, by and large, we’ve had very little bug-intrusion into our living space. We did manage to pick up black ants in Alafia River State Park during our first few months of RV living, but ant traps and months traveling through the desert eliminated that issue. We may see the occasional spider or fly inside the bus, but that’s about it. We saw more critters living in our South Florida house.

Until now.

220px-Pentatomidae_-_Halyomorpha_halys-001Enter …. the brown marmorated stink bug. We had been happily drifting through Tennessee and North Carolina, blissfully unaware of this unpleasant nuisance. However, when we arrived at our current camping spot near Greensboro, NC, we extended our slides to find that at a dozen or so had invaded our living space. We weren’t sure what we were dealing with at first, as these square-ish insects flew clumsily around, bumbling into walls and windows.

After catching and squashing the initial infestation, it became quickly apparent that we were dealing with stink bugs! I don’t know whether we had picked them up in Hendersonville and brought them along or acquired them here. But, as we started looking around, we realized that they were everywhere.

The brown marmorated stinkbug is not native to the US. Accidently imported from Asia into Pennsylvania in 1998 (presumably in cargo), it has spread throughout the US. With no native predators, it has become a particular pest in orchards in the east, causing millions of dollars in lost crops. And we are in one of the hot spots.

The stinkbugs survive winter by seeking inside spaces in the Fall. They don’t eat anything or reproduce, they just hibernate there until Spring. But, during their Fall drive for inside, they can worm their way through the tiniest cracks into your home. And, although our slide seals seem to be adequate barriers for most unwelcome visitors, these little buggers seem to be able to get through. And they are tough little buggers — conventional traps and insect sprays are ineffective. You just have to catch them and either squash or drown ’em.

So, now we’re on stinkbug patrol. We make rounds a couple of times per day, inside and out, disposing of any stinkbugs we see. The weather is getting much cooler here and we’ve noticed that the bugs are far less active. It looks as though we’ll be able to clear our bus of stinky stowaways before migrating back to Florida.

Whew!

 

 

Faucet Frustration

After our successful visits to Entegra and Spartan Motors for our warranty and service work, we have been enjoying a time of defect-free camping! At least, until a few weeks ago.

Our original kitchen faucet was lovely, but had a screw-on handle that began corroding within a few months, causing it to detach and fall out. At our 2 year warranty visit, Entegra replaced the faucet with another that was, frankly, sort of cheap looking. It didn’t appear to be the same quality as the original but it was what they had, so we went with it. It worked, which was all that really mattered.

After a pleasant morning at DuPont state forest, we returned to the bus to find water dripping from the bottom of the kitchen slide. That was NOT normal! We immediately searched for the source of the water leak, only to find that the 3 month old faucet had sprung a leak! The cheap plastic attachment that connected the pull-down sprayer to the faucet unit had failed and was leaking profusely under the sink. We quickly shut off the water flow, mopped up the leaked water, and began assessing our options.

Now for a quick primer on motorhome plumbing. Individual sinks don’t come equipped with shut off valves – the only control point is the main water valve into the bus. So if the kitchen faucet is out of commission, there is no water at all. No bathroom sink. No toilet flushing. No refrigerator cold water-through-the door. Nada.

A call to Entegra revealed that, although they could ship us out a free replacement faucet, it would take days. We had experience replacing faucets from our stick-and-brick home days, and could surely handle this on our own. So, off we went to a nearby Home Depot to shop for a suitable replacement. We purchased a Delta faucet of similar style and dimensions, and bore it triumphantly home to install. A faucet is a faucet, right?

Not exactly.

Our RV plumbing is equipped with screw-in fittings, while residential faucets come with pressure-style fittings. We hadn’t even opened the new faucet box before we realized this. I guess we should have looked at that first …. but never mind. We noted a Camping World not too far away, perhaps they would have a proper RV faucet? Off to Camping World only to find … no joy. They had a few (cheapo) faucets in stock, but nothing in the style we needed.  By now, it was getting to be late evening. Back to Home Depot to return the faucet we had purchased earlier and then buy plugs to temporarily cap off the kitchen sink water lines. Installed, the plugs allowed us to re-pressurize the rest of the bus and at least have water overnight while we evaluated our options.

We commenced researching and identified a suitable adaptor that would allow us to install the residential faucet. Jeff was concerned about leaks springing from fittings not designed for RV application, but further research indicated other motorhome owners had used the adaptor successfully. We were in business!

The next morning we headed back to Home Depot to repurchase the Delta faucet that I had previously selected and the aforementioned adaptors. We finally opened the faucet box only to discover that Delta, in its infinite wisdom, had “improved” their units by attaching non-flexible plastic supply lines in place of flexible metal-clad lines. Since we needed those supply lines to bend like a pretzel, this wasn’t going to work. GAAAAH!

stainless-steel-kohler-pull-down-faucets-k-r18594-sd-vs-64_1000Back to Home Depot. By now, the employees knew our names and our life story. We exchanged the Delta faucet for a comparable Kohler faucet. We opened the box on the spot to verify fittings and supply hoses. All good!  Back at the bus, the actual installation went smoothly. We now have a beautiful, and functional, high-quality kitchen faucet that should last as long as we own our bus. Entegra even sent us a reimbursement check.

Life is good. But we kept those water line plugs …. just in case ……

 

 

Spartan Service Experience

003After a couple of weeks getting our motorhome all spiffed up at the Entegra factory and S&S Paint, we headed northward to the Spartan Factory, birthplace of our motorhome’s chassis. The Spartan facility is located in Charlotte, Michigan. Please note that the correct pronunciation of this city is shar-LOTT, not SHAR-lot (emphasis on the second syllable, compliments of its French roots). We pronounced it incorrectly before being set straight by a Michigan native! Duly noted.

The Spartan service facility is ALWAYS busy … always.  Part of the reason for this is the Spartan Academy, a 5-day school for motorhome owners that is held weekly during much of the year. The class includes a thorough inspection of your rig and any needed repairs, which ties up much of the technician capacity. Class participants are given priority and other service appointments are scheduled around them. We tried to book almost a year in advance and were on the waiting list for months before an opening appeared for our desired dates.

The Spartan RV overnight parking facility is basic, but adequate. 50 amp hookup is available at every spot, and water was available onsite. As we were only there two nights, the electrical hookup alone was adequate for our needs, however, it is helpful to arrive with full freshwater tank and empty holding tanks! My only (minor) complaint was that the sites are not level. We didn’t put our slides out and just lived on a slant for a couple of nights. The folks in the class were given the “flattest” sites, but even they weren’t completely level. During our stay a dump station was under construction, which will greatly improve the site amenities as the nearest dump station is some distance away.

002

The customer lounge offered comfortable seating, free wifi and coffee, and restrooms. Although locked during off-hours, a card-key granting access to the lounge was available upon request. It would have been nice if they offered showers, but for a short stay that isn’t critical.

008

The service technicians were competent and efficient. We requested the annual/biennual service be completed which included changing out essentially all filters and fluids along with a complete chassis lube. They did a thorough inspection and found items needing repair, some of which were included under our 3 year chassis warranty. For example, we had noticed that our chassis air bags routinely leaked out almost completely within hours (overnight). Googling indicated that this may be normal, so we didn’t think too much about it. But, the tech found a leak in one of the connections (created by the installation of our toad air braking system) and fixed it. At our next stop, the air bags lost almost no inflation during our week’s stay! Who knew?

We had arrived early the day prior, so completed our paperwork in advance of our appointment day. The tech took our rig at 7:15 am, and by 5 pm everything was completed. Our wallet was more than $1900 lighter, but our rig was now repaired, maintained and fully functional. They aren’t cheap – but they are good.

Before leaving, we made another service appointment for September, 2020. We’ll be back!

Factory Service at Entegra

026Entegra coaches are unusual in that they provide a two year bumper-to-bumper warranty on our coach, instead of the more customary one year. We’ve had some warranty issues fixed along the way, but we arranged our routing to allow for our final warranty work to be done at the factory, in Middlebury, Indiana as we are coming up on 2 years since our purchase.

002Entegra’s service facility is bright and clean, with 8 service bays and approximately 20 coach parking spots with electrical hookup (water and sewer dump is available nearby). We arrived the afternoon before our appointment and hooked up for the night. Bright and early the next morning (6:30 am!), a service tech arrived to drive our coach back to one of the bays. A short while later, our service coordinator escorted us to our coach where we reviewed all of our requested items in detail. In addition to our list, the tech also goes through their own annual inspection checklist and evaluates all of the systems. While they set to work, we settled into the customer lounge.

027The customer lounge is large and lovely, equipped with comfy sofas, TVs, work tables, free wifi, refrigerator, microwave, and free Keurig coffee. There are men’s and ladies restrooms each with a clean and beautiful shower facility. The lounge is accessible 24/7 with an entry code for off hours. It is a very comfortable way to spend the day.

024The only one who did NOT like the lounge was Pumpkin! It was unsafe to leave him in the coach while the repairs were done, so we had no option other than to use the Entegra-provided pet pen in the lounge. He was NOT a happy camper!! I draped the pen with a blanket to provide him some privacy, but he still voiced his displeasure every time he saw me. As the service days went on, we had to be very intentional about blocking off his coach hidey-holes, because he knew what was coming and would attempt to avoid being stuffed in his carrier! He survived the experience – barely.

Our service experience was stellar. The technicians were knowledgeable and corrected our issues properly, the first time. They even fixed a few things that we hadn’t identified. Joyce, the service manager, walked out to the lounge a couple of times per day to make sure everyone was being taken care of properly and supply free Entegra T shirts. We met all of the key customer service players and went on a factory tour. We had the opportunity to meet other Entegra owners and compare notes. We felt welcomed and quite at home. The only downside was the early 6:30 am daily coach pickup! What was estimated to take 6 service days, actually only took 4 — and it didn’t cost us a penny.

005While at Entegra, we obtained a quote to repair some scratches and dings on our exterior from Entegra’s preferred paint facility, S&S Automotive in nearby Wakarusa. After finishing up at Entegra, we headed there. S&S’s small lounge isn’t as nice as Entegra’s, but it does offer comfy lounge chairs, a TV, free wifi, and free Keurig coffee/tea. Restrooms are nearby in the shop. The lounge and restrooms were not open off hours, but the facility has several parking spots with electrical and water hookup and a dump station is on property. The half-dozen Entegra coaches parked on the lot proved that they worked on our type of rig all of the time!

The S&S technicians were artists. It took several days to prep the surface, paint, and reinstall a section of the front diamond shield coating, but at the end it looked simply perfect. They brought the coach back to us each night, so we didn’t have to stay in a hotel at any time. We also did not have to haul Pumpkin out every day since they were only working on the exterior (which he appreciated!). The work was not free, but they stuck to their estimate, and we thought the cost was fair. Everyone there was super-nice and accommodating, and did a great job.

With a couple of days to spare before our appointment with Spartan in Michigan, we simply headed back to Entegra to park for a couple of nights (with permission). We could have found a campground, but this was convenient and free!

So what did we do for two weeks while our rig was being all fixed up? We biked the Pumpkinvine trail. We browsed shops in Shipshewana and caught dinner and a show at the Blue Gate restaurant and theater. We saw the play “Simple Sanctuary” which was surprisingly professional and engaging. We ate at the famed Essenhaus restaurant in Middlebury.  We went on a half-day Newmar coach factory tour (a close competitor to Entegra, but we still like ours better). We took a day trip over to Indiana Dunes National Park – I’ll do a separate post on that. I drove to Chicago for a two day business trip. We stopped in at Amish Acres in Nappanee, but I wasn’t overly impressed (too tourist-y). We took motorcycle rides through the Amish countryside and sampled the delicious local Amish cuisine and the baked goods. It’s a good thing we aren’t staying longer because the goodies are fabulously addictive!  Maple frosted cinnamon rolls ….. pies ….. cookies …. doughnuts ….. YUM.

We even had a mini family reunion with Aunts/Uncles/cousins who live in this area. My dad is from around these parts, and still has a lot of family here. My sister drove my mom and dad up for the day and we had a lovely time catching up. Some of my cousins I hadn’t seen for over 20 years! It was a blessing to be able to reconnect.

Overall, our experience here was most pleasant and productive. All systems are working, the exterior looks pristine, and we’ve picked up a lot of new useful information about our rig. Another owner turned us on to the web page “Cummins Quick Serve” which includes all operation and service manuals, bulletins, and the latest service intervals – invaluable! We’re even looking at our route to see how we can come back through here in a year or two to have our general service work done here. It won’t be done under warranty, but if we have to pay someone, we’d prefer it be someone who knows what they’re doing!!

Later today, we’ll be heading up to Michigan, to the factory that built our chassis – Spartan Motors. I’ve heard wonderful things about their service, so we’re looking forward to it.

I’ll keep you posted!

Rule #1 of RV Life: It’s Always Something

its-always-something.jpgI used to be a runner …. trained for and completed more than 25 half marathons, 6 full marathons, even two 50K ultramarathons. Early on, my more-experienced runner sister shared a truism about running events:  It’s Always Something. Conditions are never “perfect” for a race. Maybe the weather is less than ideal (hot, cold, rainy, windy), or you are experiencing a wardrobe malfunction (something chafing or not right for the conditions). Maybe the race organization is less than stellar (poorly-marked course, too few water stops, disorganized start/finish) or the course is too crowded. Maybe the terrain is different than you trained on, or perhaps you just don’t feel 100% that day. There is always something. But you learn to roll with it, persevere, and aim to finish despite the issue du jour.

RV life seems to be the same. We bought one of the nicest RV’s available from a manufacturer with an excellent reputation and two year warranty. But it seems that SOMETHING is always broken, glitching, malfunctioning or otherwise causing some level of aggravation.  All of the time.

Some of the issues we’ve experienced are due to our own learning curve. For example, the day we were panicked over our generator not charging the house batteries — that was caused by the Spartan shop not re-engaging a breaker after generator service. Later, we thought our house batteries were shot, but discovered that the auto-gen start settings were incorrect (they were resetk to default during the aforementioned service). After the programming was adjusted, the system has oworked well since. We’ve learned how to recognize and correct this type of problem.

Other items are to be expected due to the stresses of being in a moving home. We’ve encountered a window shade mount falling out, kitchen sink faucet handle broken, wall board popping loose in one spot, tear in slide topper, etc. Many of these problems are cosmetic, minor, or easily fixable, just part of daily life on the road.

And, I guess you have to expect that all of the bouncing around can reduce the life of appliances and accessories.  The JBL sound bar on the outside TV isn’t working. Our rear Girard awning is out of commission – it trips the circuit breaker when we try to extend it. Our Samsung microwave went out and had to be replaced. The rear Coleman air conditioner unit failed and was replaced. Our Winegard Trav’ler satellite dish motor has failed and been replaced twice! Dealing with these issues under warranty is a bit of a hassle, but they don’t stop our progress. It’s more of an inconvenience – and usually incurs some expense on our part.

But we’ve also had serious issues that stopped us in our tracks. Like, severe (undiagnosed) tire alignment issues which forced premature (emergency) replacement of the steer tires and, later, the tag axle tires. We might have recognized the issue earlier if we’d been more vigilant, but we just didn’t expect the alignment to be so severely out of spec on a brand new coach. That learning experience was not cheap – new tires and alignment ran north of $3000. And then there was the day our Blue Ox tow bar failed on the road. THAT just shouldn’t happen. Still, we figured out solutions on the fly and were able to stay on track.

This last issue though, just about sent Jeff over the edge. When we fired up the engine to leave Cosby Tennessee after sitting for a month, the Check Engine Light came on. A call to Spartan customer service revealed that the error code was related to the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) head in our diesel emissions control system. We have an appointment at the Spartan factory in a few weeks, so customer service thought we should be fine to make it there, just keep an eye on it. What the customer service did NOT advise was that every time we re-started the engine, the computer advanced the severity of the code. By the time we reached our campground destination, the Stop Engine Light came on, rendering us effectively immobile – more than an hour from the nearest repair facility. The engine was perfectly fine, but due to EPA regulations, the computer was throttling the engine because it thought we had no DEF.  ARRRRRGHHH!

Jeff’s worst nightmare is having the bus towed – a non-trivial exercise that includes disengaging the drive shaft! We’ve heard horror stories about damage incurred due to towing. The idea of being towed an hour away to sit in a repair shop parking lot for days waiting for parts wasn’t exactly life inspiring either. So, after considerable research, several calls to Spartan and not a little angst, a plan was developed. Although the needed part (a new DEF head) wasn’t readily available, Spartan arranged to drop ship the entire tank assembly (containing the DEF head) to us. Once we had that, Coach.net emergency roadside service was dispatched to swap out the tank unit at our campsite. As we are still under warranty, it was done at no cost to us. We were good to go!

We set off to our  next destination, my home town of Anderson, Indiana. Not 15 miles down the road – you guessed it – the check engine light came on again. Same error codes – no DEF.  By the time we reached Indianapolis, the error was already advancing in severity and de-rating the engine, so we headed directly for the nearest Cummins service center in Indy. It was Saturday and nothing could be done until Monday, so we unhooked the toad, packed up Pumpkin and drove to my sister’s house to wait out the weekend in comfort. Monday, it was revealed that the DEF pump supply and return hoses had been reversed during the tank swap, causing the DEF pump to suck air. A simple fix, and we were back on the road. Since this particular problem was caused by human error and not equipment failure, we had to front the almost $500 repair cost, and are being forced through a convoluted process to get reimbursed. We are now sitting in our nice Anderson campground for several weeks, hoping that this particular problem is permanently fixed. In the next few weeks we have service appointments at both the Entegra factory AND the Spartan factory, which should address any and all pending warranty repair items — including fixing the rear slide out which got tweaked during our Brown County DEF repair process and currently won’t fully retract. <sigh>

The moral of the story is that this life is not for the easily frustrated. Due to the variables and stressors involved in moving the beast from place to place, failures WILL occur, with regularity. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed if you throw money at it, but some aggravation is inevitable. That’s part of the price of living this life of exploration and adventure. You have to roll with it, persevere and endeavor to travel on, despite the issue du jour.

Because it’s always something.

 

Throwback Thursday: Moving Days

Since we are in the process of packing up to move North, I thought it was a good time to revisit this Throwback Thursday post! The main thing that has changed since posting this a year ago, is that Pumpkin is now a bit calmer about the whole proceeding.  He still doesn’t LIKE it, and may retreat behind the TV to get out of the way, but he pops out as soon as we hit the road. And once we reach our new destination he’s totally chill. Pumpkin is an RV adventure cat now!


21d89630b2308f383404a768f516e5b4

Every couple of weeks or so, we pack up our worldly goods and head to a new area. Do you ever wonder what that involves? If you’re interested, here’s the basic step by step process.

Prepping for the road

  • First thing: isolate cat in front section of bus. We can’t move slides unless we know where he is! He can’t hide anywhere dangerous in the front half of the bus. We bring his litter box up front so he has everything he needs.
  • Prep the outside:  Pack up any patio items (chairs, grill, etc) and stow in basement. Bring in awnings, if extended.
  • Load bikes:  Take backflip truck topper off pickup truck bed. Load both bicycles onto carriers on top of truck. Extend Load-All ramp and prep for motorcycle loading. Engage truck parking brake. Drive motorcycle up ramp into wheel chock. Secure with straps. Put motorcycle into “tow” mode. Stow ramp. Load Backflip cover and secure for travel. Release parking brake.
  • Prep bus holding tanks: Fill fresh water tank (if dry camping), unhook and stow fresh water hose. Turn on water pump. Empty and flush black water tank, using separate water hose. Empty gray water tank. Rinse and stow sewer hose and fittings. Unhook and stow fresh water pressure regulator.
  • Prep interior:  Pack/stow any loose items. Shake out and stow throw rugs. Retract and latch “L” sofa section and kitchen drawer extension. Push in dinette table and lock it. Sweep the floor. Lock shower doors. Lock refrigerator & freezer doors. Stow satellite dish. Turn off heating/cooling systems and water heater (gas / electric). Turn captains chairs to front. Take out trash. Check that all drawers and cabinets are firmly closed and latched.
  • Bring in slides:  Start bus engine to air up airbags, raise leveling jacks, turn engine off. Check for obstructions, then carefully retract rear slides and front slides, keeping eyes on cat. (After the slides are in, he can go hide under the bed if he wants.)
  • Final prep for moving:  Unplug and stow 50 amp electrical cable and surge protector. Set generator to “auto on” mode. Walk around bus to ensure everything loaded and secure. Lock all basement doors. Verify satellite dish stowed. Plug in toad brake remote indicator at bus dash.
  • Hook up toad: Start bus, warm up engine, pull out of site and drive to spot suitable for truck hookup (level, straight). Drive truck to bus, line up. Extend blue-ox tow bar arms and secure to truck. Put truck in 4 wheel down tow mode. (That’s really important!) Pull bus forward to fully extend and lock tow arms. Finish hook up:  safety cables, air line, electrical line, dead man switch. Push programmed button (3) to set truck interior brake position for air brake system. Verify truck is in tow mode.
  • Final walk around, hop in, and drive!

Driving to destination

  • Plot route to destination on RV GPS (also usually on my iPhone as a double check).
  • Depending on distance, plan ahead for suitable rest stops and/or truck stop for diesel fill up. Rule of thumb is drive no more than 300 miles in a day, and stop halfway for a break and lunch. We like to arrive at our campground by mid-afternoon.

Arrival at new destination

  • Stop at office to check in. Pay fees and receive directions to campsite.
  • Unhook toad:  Take out of tow mode. Unhook all lines/connections and stow parts in bin. Put cover on tow bar.
  • Drive motorhome to new site, maneuver into optimal position, making sure bus wheels are straight. I usually guide Jeff using hand signals, although sometimes the hand signals are creative, and possibly less than complimentary.  It depend on how tight and challenging the space is! Park truck at site.
  • Isolate cat to front section of bus.
  • Check electric pedestal with surge protector. If operational, hook up 50 amp cable. Hook up water pressure regulator, inline water filter and freshwater hose. Turn off water pump, turn on water supply. Hook up sewer hose.
  • Extend slides, keeping eyes on cat. He’s getting pretty used to all of this by now, so he’s usually chill. Deploy leveling jacks. Unplug and stow remote toad brake indicator.
  • Extend L sofa and kitchen drawer extension. Turn around captains chairs. Turn on water heater and heat / AC. Lay out throw rugs. Unlock fridge and shower doors. Deploy satellite dish. Re-program main TV for local over the air digital channels.
  • Choose motorcycle unloading area. Unload backflip cover, set aside. Extend LoadAll ramp. Unstrap motorcycle and carefully back down ramp, drive to site. Retract ramp and stow wheel chock. Install backflip truck bed cover. Drive truck back to site.
  • Unload bicycles. Cover motorcycle and  cover / secure bicycles.
  • Open a bottle of wine!

As you can see, moving day is quite involved! It typically takes us two hours to pack up completely and get on the road. You can’t rush the process or risk missing something important. We are usually on the road by 9 or 10. By the time we reach our destination, check in, hook up and unload — it is a tiring all-day affair.

That is why we are finding ourselves staying longer at each destination. Doing this once or twice a month isn’t bad, doing it every few days would be entirely too much like work!

Taking your house in for service

This is a Throwback Thursday post, first blogged in January 2018. We still find that getting service done on the motorhome is one of the more  logistically challenging aspects of fulltime RV living. Sometimes you can have a mobile RV guy come out to work on your systems, but some things just have to be done in a shop. We have had to adjust our itinerary several times to accommodate motorhome service needs. We actually planned our entire 2019 itinerary around our Entegra factory visit next summer. We will have our “post delivery inspection” and any warranty repairs completed before our 2 year bumper-to-bumper warranty expires.


First posted: Jan 2017

When your car needs service, you just drop it off at the local garage. If it is going to take a few days, you can borrow or rent a car. But when your car is also your house …. it’s a bit more complicated!

You may recall from a prior post, we experienced an issue with our rear engine hatch. Our particular bus has a motorized cover, not manual. At delivery, we noted that one of the two cover actuators were missing. The dealership replaced it, everything seemed to be working, and we set off on our way. Unbeknownst to us, the actuator was not identical, and opening/closing the cover caused it to torque and damage the cover and bracket. In fact, for a while, we were unable to open the engine cover at all.

Back home in South Florida, we identified a local authorized warranty repair center. They were able to remove the offending actuator which enables us to open / close the hatch (with some difficulty). However repairing the unit required pre-approval from Entegra and replacement parts, which they were unable to source before Thanksgiving, our launch date. So we had the parts held at Entegra in Indiana, until we could arrange for repairs at an alternate facility.

It should be noted that most repair facilities do not have hookups or even just a parking spot for you to stay with the motorhome. So, if you have a multi-day repair (like this one), you may have to go stay in a hotel for the duration (not a simple endeavor with a cat). If the repair facility isn’t attentive to your rig’s power needs, you can come back to find your house batteries drained and spoiled food in the fridge. We attempted to find a repair facility in the vicinity of our Gatlinburg cabin after the holidays. However, since it was winter, the facilities would not guarantee our rig wouldn’t freeze and recommended we winterize before dropping it off. Um, no. Not going to do that.

So, on to Plan C. Since we were coming back by Dixie RV anyway, perhaps they could work us in around that time. And they could! And they have parking sites with power hookups, and we can sleep in the bus every night! And Entegra can ship the parts to them in time!  Sold! Since they kinda broke it, it only seemed fair for them to fix it.

Dixie RV was great. They worked around our travel schedule and addressed everything we listed. We cleared out each morning and the bus was parked back in a hook up spot each evening by 5 pm. It all worked out. Rear engine cover fixed!

We had to make some accommodations to stay on site. We just left the slides in the whole time,  it’s a lot simpler to do so. You just have to plan ahead and take everything out that you may need from those cabinets that are blocked when the slides are in (mainly clothes and food). We only had electric hookup, so were in water conservation mode. No long showers or laundry. But hey, it was free camping! And at night when everyone cleared out, it was super quiet. We spent a total of three nights there.

It felt a bit surreal to come full circle from last summer when we picked up the bus. Six months ago we were such newbies. Now we feel seasoned, and comfortable handling and living in this rolling home. We are back where we started this adventure and will now encounter new territory!

Westward Ho!

Random Stuff I’ve Learned While Roaming the Country In An RV

Random MusingsHere are a few tips, observations and random musings gleaned from our life on the road:

When you hook up your sewer hose, make darned sure that all of the “hooks” are engaged and the hose is securely seated against the fixture. Otherwise you will end up with a disgusting smelly mess when you go to dump the tanks. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Did you know that California passed a law prohibiting shops from providing disposable plastic bags for free? You have to take your own shopping bags or purchase a re-usable plastic bag from the store for no less than 10 cents each. Same goes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since I re-use plastic grocery bags to scoop the kitty litter box, I was forced to purchase rolls of disposable plastic bags from the pet store for that purpose. Does that make sense to you?

Investigating the local cuisine of every area is fantastic! We’ve enjoyed New Orleans Cajun and Creole cooking; Arizona authentic Mexican food; fantastic smoked salmon in the Pacific Northwest, and finger-licking Memphis barbeque. In New Mexico, green chili capital of the world, you can have your New Mexican dish served with green chilis, red chilis, or both (Christmas). Christmas is the best!

I’ve attended Sunday morning service at different denomination churches all over the country. I find that the similarities far outweigh the differences. Maybe we would get along better if we focused on the love of Jesus rather than sectarian differences.

When you buy an RV, make sure it is livable with all of the slides in. We have spent days at a time with our slides in – while in transit, while getting warranty repair work done, and while at campsites where we can’t effectively level. Aside from having a few cabinets/drawers that are inaccessible, we can live quite comfortably. That’s good design.

If you travel to higher elevations (like, Santa Fe at 7500 feet), things you bought at sea level will randomly spit at you when you open them. Mustard. Hand lotion. Shampoo. The occasional can of root beer. You have been warned.

Check your tires’ inflation pressure early and often. Inflation pressure varies significantly with altitude and temperature changes. Since both can vary greatly during national travel, it’s better to over-check than not. Investing in a tire pressure monitoring system is even better.

The desert has a lot of spiky, dangerous plants, but the worst is the teddy bear cholla cactus. A furry-looking plant with a deceptively gentle name, its easily-detached segments studded with a million tiny fish hook spines exist solely to cause you harm. They will hurt you. Avoid at all cost.

If you belong to a Credit Union, they likely belong to the Credit Union Co-op / Shared branches scheme. That grants you access to a nationwide network of “sister” credit union branches at which you can conduct business: deposit checks, make withdrawals, arrange for wire transfers, and complete essentially any transaction that you can perform at your home location. It effectively turns your local credit union into a national bank. That’s been extremely useful for us as we travel.

After travel, please be careful while opening overhead bins as items may have shifted during your flight. Also, the refrigerator.

Wine tasting at 3 wineries is about my limit for one afternoon. Any more than that and I’ll get loopy and buy too much wine. Then we are forced to drink it. Such a problem.

That’s all for now!

 

 

Full Circle

040We’re back in Orlando, Florida! Land of palm trees and balmy breezes. Home to Mickey Mouse, and our official mailing address. Also home for our son, Sean, his long-time girlfriend and her family, as well as several other good friends.

We are parked back at the Orlando SE KOA, where we’ve stayed a couple of times before. This time, we’ll be here more than 2 months – the longest we’ve stayed anywhere since we started this crazy adventure almost exactly a year ago.

It’s both comforting and odd to be back here. I’ve almost gotten accustomed to constantly having to find my way to new places. Here, the roads and surroundings are reasonably familiar. Although we’ve never actually lived in Orlando, we’ve spent quite a bit of time here. I look outside my window to see palm trees, as I did for 35 years outside my South Florida homes. It’s nice to unpack and know that we don’t have to re-pack up until the end of January. It’s also nice to get our mail every few days, instead of every few weeks!

So what are our plans for this extended stay?

This KOA offers some ongoing fun activities, like 8 am aerobics, Saturday breakfasts, movie night, craft fairs, and bingo night. Last time, we were so busy running around playing tourist, we didn’t take the time to enjoy the campground. I intend to participate as often as possible!

We also plan to visit Mickey Mouse as well as catch up on a variety of bus chores. Deep cleaning (inside and out) is needed after a dusty year on the road. I intend to sort and purge unneeded items. I brought some things because I had room, but have been surprised at just how many items haven’t been touched in a year. Purging and organizing can be very satisfying. Not to mention Christmas decorating and preparations!

The best part about being back here in Orlando is the ability to spend time with the family and friends who live here. In fact, the very first thing we did upon arrival was order pizza and head over to Sean’s place. We hugged and laughed and made plans for fun activities to come – starting with Thanksgiving dinner with the entire clan. We had way too much food, played games and laughed a lot. Big family gatherings are the BEST!

I’m looking forward to more great quality time with people we love.