RV Repairs Complete – Time for Camping?

Repairs Complete – Camping Trip #2 coming up

My gosh, after purchasing the RV in August I thought we would have been out camping at least once  month.  Here in November we are almost ready for camping trip #2 now that we have completed our RV Repairs.

Sacramento Truck Center

Freightliner Oasis service center in Sacramento (Sacramento Truck Center) did a great job.  Lawrence kept us informed of the progress and it was ready to pick up on Tuesday – although we had to wait until Wednesday to pick it up because of work commitments.

It’s funny that because of a newbie mistake on my part we identified a relatively minor issue – the air line leak in the dash that lead up to identifying a second potentially more serious issue with our front right brake having had a hub seal leak so the brake and seal were replaced.  First – the start-up procedures I understood was that I should turn the ignition on and all the lights should go off then I start.  Actually what I’m looking for is the ‘Wait to start’ indicator (a coil on our dash) to turn off, NOT all the lights.  Because I was still not confident about the start-up process and the display lights I paid more attention to what was going on and noticed the air leak at the dash.

When we took the Journey into Freightliner I decided to have them do an external inspection and they found the brake issue.  This leads up to a couple of things we (re)-learned.

The books and blogs we read indicated that a 3rd party inspection is important before purchasing a used RV.  This confirmed that!  A dealer “certified” RV is not worth the paper it’s written on, though I must say that  the dealer we purchased our RV from gave us 15 days to drive (and have the RV inspected).  We decided not to have a separate inspection and purchased an extended warranty instead (which we would have done anyways).  We did take the RV out and provided the dealer with a ‘laundry list’ of things to fix which they did.  However we are not experts especially when it comes to the chassis and diesel engine.

Have an inspection before you buy a used RV

The bottom line here is that if you are purchasing a used RV you should always get a third-party inspection unless of course you have the qualifications  to inspect the RV  yourself.  Secondly an extended warranty can pay for itself. We have had about $2000.00 of warranty payments so far on our RV – half the cost of what the 3 year extended warranty cost.

Start-up Checklists

Now I am going through the Freightliner chassis checklists and trying to figure out how to complete these.  The Journey is our first diesel vehicle and much of the vocabulary is new to us.  After spending some time looking though the chassis manual, the Cummins engine manual and blogs I think I’l invest in a DVD instruction set to help us understand this .  I figure the $100 for 6 hours of DVD instruction on basic RV maintenance from Home on the Road will be beneficial.  First I can decide what maintenance I can do myself since I’m fairly handy.  Secondly I’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on when I talk to a professional.  Look for a full review on the DVD set once I order and watch it.

Sounds like a good article for other new folks.  It’s probably simple stuff once you’ve done it once.

Happy Trails!


Where’s the RV (Part 2)

Back from the shop… Back in the shop

We picked up the RV last Saturday November 8th.  La Mesa got everything done – new Sharp R-1880LS Microwave/Convection oven, new rear bedroom window and all the rest of the things that needed to get fixed got fixed (See prior post here)!  Yippee!


Camping here we go!  We made reservations for Thousand Trails Lake Minden and on Tuesday (Veteran’s day) I spent most of the day loading the basement bays, getting the water filter installed and general clean-up.

Thousand Trails – Lake Minden

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I noticed when I started the RV on Tuesday that the air pressure light didn’t go off – so I finally went ahead and started the engine thinking that maybe I misunderstood the instructions on the start-up procedures.  As soon as I started the engine the air pressure light went out, and all was fine. Afterwards I verified that the dash lights should go out (in random order) with the air pressure light going out last, and the brake light staying on.

Today, Friday the 14th we picked up the RV from storage a little after 7 and I had the same problem with the air pressure gauge.  Again, I went ahead and started the engine and the air pressure came up OK. Once we got home I was tinkering around and thought I heard a hissss in the front cab, even after nothing was running.  Christine came to the rescue and heard the hissing noise then peeked under the dash. She could feel the air coming out behind the air pressure indicator on the dash.  Once the engine started, the chassis air pressure was good – over 100 psi; but I was not certain if the leak would get worse and possibly create a safety hazard, so I shut everything down.

I called Rick at La Mesa RV in Davis and he pointed me to the Freightliner service center at Sacramento Truck Center in Natomas.  I talked with Lawrence there who suspected that it was the gauge that needed to get replaced and didn’t think he had one on hand.  I took the Journey in to the Sacramento Truck Center and they quickly started working on it.


Journey at Sacramento Truck Center
Journey at Sacramento Truck Center

Christine picked me up and we went back home.  So instead of taking our Journey out for the second camping trip Christine went back to her phone conferences and I started doing more research on our LED lighting conversion project.

Before lunch Lawrence called and after doing a general external inspection that I requested he reported that there were some issues with one of the brakes – lots of oil that need pressure washing, some repair work and the brake shoes need  replacing.  Also he determined that it was the air pressure gauge that was faulty and a new one would arrive on Monday.

It looks like the extended warranty will be covering a majority of the costs. We’ll see next week what it all adds up to.

We have two product posts almost ready to go – but they need photography and video while we are out camping to finish them up.



Techno-Crap Happens

Laptop Lost

Christine and I have worked in the technology sector since about 1980, so we know ‘stuff happens’.  My first personal computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80 with dual cassette tape (then upgraded with an expansion bay)!  It was on this computer that I taught myself COBOL and switched jobs where I worked from supervising database administrators to programming.  Anyways, I dropped my laptop.  Shouldn’t be a big deal since I have a Kindle Fire HD that I use for light-weight web browsing, Facebook and reading/listening to books along with a high-powered desktop that I use for photo and video editing (along with the occasional flight simulator exercise).  But I only lasted about a week without a laptop before I was shopping.  A laptop provides a full size keyboard and a ‘real’ operating system that shows flash-videos from some of my favorite blogs – an important consideration for surfing on the couch.

Off to Amazon

So my laptop requirements are pretty light.  Besides surfing the web I also need to do some photo sorting using Adobe Lightroom and maybe some lightweight editing using Photoshop.  Other than that, I’ll use my desktop for any heavy-duty processing until we start full-timing.  Plus, this will make a good second/backup PC once we full-time.  My big home-built desktop uses an ASUS motherboard so I’m familiar with both the ASUS brand as well as their good support.

As I browse through Amazon, I like the choice of low-end laptops on the market.  I ended up zeroing in on an ASUS X551MAV 15.6-Inch Dual-Core Intel 2.16 Ghz Laptop, 4GB RAM and 500GB Hard Drive:


This PC has enough memory and hard drive space for our needs and the Intel Celeron N2830 2.16GHz processor should have enough guts to do some Lightroom photo sorting and some editing. I ordered the PC and it arrived a few days later.

It is amazing  how lightweight this laptop is. Perfect to actually use as a LAP-top, and it does not get real hot as it sits on my lap.  The evening I received the laptop from Amazon,  I powered it up and after a few screen prompts Windows 8.1 started installing. After a very short time it rebooted and the keyboard and mouse died. Nada, nothing. Nothing I tried to do worked, so I held down on the power button and the laptop shut down. I restarted and the Windows installation resumed and I had keyboard and mouse control again.

I installed some basic things – Open Office, Wunderlist, Microsoft OneNote (Free), Chrome and Avast antivirus, then uninstalled McAfee antivirus. Everything worked fine until I upgraded my Avast to the paid version, then my keyboard and mouse died again. I called ASUS support and they walked me through powering down the laptop (30 second press on the power button) then resetting the BIOS (F2 while booting – which did not help), then starting in Windows Recovery mode (full power down then F9 while booting) and doing a ‘refresh’. The ASUS support tech said this should take care of it, and sent me a link to re-install the keyboard drivers.


I went through the process of re-installing Windows 8.1, uninstalling McAfee and then re-installing the keyboard drivers and installing Open Office, Wunderlist, OneNote, Chrome then I installed all the Windows updates (something I didn’t do first time around). I then installed AVAST and then entered my key for the full version. When Avast rebooted the laptop, again I didn’t have keyboard or mouse control. Techno-Crap!

Is it ASUS or Avast?  I decide to go the Avast route since I’ve already made my ASUS call.  I re-initialize the PC again, re-install Windows updates & all my software up to the point of entering in the Avast key – still using the Free version. Everything is working fine.  I call Avast support and explain my situation – that once I enter the key I lose my keyboard and mouse.  The technician sends me my key as a file via email and I ask if there anything that he can do to help diagnose the problem before entering the key since that is where it lost contact the last few times.  He downloads a utility that shows a number of application errors (errors that don’t show up in the standard Microsoft error log), plus he believes the Microsoft firewall is interfering with Avast.  He then suggests that I spend $100 or more getting more personal support ;-).  I decline and say I will run with what he’s found.

The only applications that I see that would be generating all those errors is probably the ASUS free stuff, so I remove all the games and the ASUS cloud backup app.  I decide to run this way for a bit before installing the key.  Looks good for 24 hours, so  I install Lightroom & Photoshop to see how they run.

After a couple of days I lose my keyboard and mouse control again.  Double Techno-Crap.  (Is there a Maxi-Pad for this?) I can’t get into Windows Safe Mode – or even the DOS prompt mode.  Again, I refresh my PC, but this time I leave McAfee anti-virus and install all the rest of my applications & remove the ASUS junk.  It has now been 4 days and still running OK without Avast.  In the meantime, I decided that I’m tired of spending 2 days refreshing the PC, installing Windows updates and then re-installing my applications.  I upgraded my Acronis disk cloning/backup software on my desktop to the latest version and added the 3 PC upgrade so I have a license for the new laptop.  Once that got installed I made a full backup of the hard drive and a recovery boot on a USB stick.  At least I won’t have to spend 2 days re-installing Windows updates and my applications.

I’m going to run this way using McAfee for a couple of weeks and then decide if I want to try to go back to Avast.  I have been a FREE Avast user for years, and it’s funny that when I finally decide to pay for the extra protection that the paid version has (Avast firewall and some other tools) that it fails to work on my new laptop.  I don’t know if it’s an Avast problem or ASUS, but it upsets me that AVAST wants me to pay for their help to decide whether it’s their problem or ASUS.

 Bottom Line on the ASUS Laptop

ASUS X551MAV Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
Low Cost Klickety-Clack Keyboard
Limited amount of 'Junkware' Keyboard-Touchpad issues
Decent performance for the price No DVD player
Comfortable spacing of keys on keyboard Screen a bit hard to see in sunlight
Light weight Decals on keys look like they will rub off soon
USB 2 & USB 3 and HDMI ports AvastAnti-virus not working
1 year waranty Can only return PC once during the warranty period

All in all it seems like it’s a good choice.  I am not expecting a fast PC, but I am expecting one where everything works.  Now the laptop has Acronis backup software running, I will decide if the removal of McAfee or installation of Avast is creating the problem with the laptop. I will also consider getting a square trade extended warranty since ASUS limits their returns to one.

Also Purchased:

Short-List of things to get for the New RV

More Shopping to come… what’s on our Short List of things to get for the new RV now?

We have been shopping for our new Winnebago Journey a year now.   Last year at this time Christine and I decided that we not only wanted to buy an RV, but to experience the full-time RVer life style. We chronicle the decisions we make and the resources we use to make those decisions. We started with books and blogs that helped make those decisions, and those were the first items we reviewed.

What’s next now that we have the basics covered?  In our earlier posts we covered buying for the inside in Shopping List for first Camping Trip #1: Home Stuff.  Then in the next post I covered our first major upgrade – the Tire Minder tire monitoring system.  Next I discussed the basement in Buying for the RV Basement post.  This gets us to items that are important, but we could camp without them.

Short List – next 6 to 9 months

1.  Zero Gravity Reclining Chairs.  We tried my daughter’s boyfriend’s zero gravity chairs on or first camping trip and they quickly moved from short-list to “A” list.  We bought a pair of chairs  that were on sale at Camping World this last week.  They are amazingly comfortable (Camping World brand).  We looked for sturdy chairs that also had a side table to set a drink or kindle on.

2.  TOAD tow bar and base plate.  A Towed vehicle (TOAD) is our way to get around once we ‘arrive’.   Top Contender: Blue Ox.

3.  Surge protector.  With all the electronics in today’s RVs – both built-in as well as bring-along – surge protection is a must.  Both built-in as well as portable (at the pedestal) are available with price ranges from under $100 for small portable units to over $600.  Top Contender:  Built in Progressive Industries hard-wired unit.

4.  LED Lights.  This is a quick and easy way to gain more juice from your batteries by using less.  LED bulbs use about 1/8 of the power of incandescent bulbs, give off very little heat and last a long time.  This is a no brainer because it is important that we become independent of the grid for up to a week.  Top contender: M4 Products.

5.  Composting toilet.  A composting toilet will allow us to use the black tank for grey water that will help extend our visits whether it’s a camp site without full hookups or in the wild boondocking.  Top contender:  Natures Head.

6.  Screened gazebos/tent.  It’s great being outside, but we know from experience that there are times that the outside bugs are too much especially when eating.  Protection from those flies, mosquitoes, bees and other wild critters can make a more relaxing experience.  Still investigating these.

7.  MaxxVent Vent cover.  The bench seat of the dinette got wet after accidentally hitting the switch for our roof vent during a rain storm.  A vent cover is a high priority because we want fresh air in the RV.   Side windows are liable to get water blown in so if we want fresh air a covered roof vent is important to us.  We will replace both the one in the bathroom as well as the one in the dining area.

8. Faucet upgrade in the bathroom.  The standard faucet in the Journey is OK, but it’s old and ready to get replaced.

9.  UV screen/privacy shade.  Options here are inside or outside shades.  We are leaning towards inside shades where we don’t have to worry about storage of wet shades.

Short List – before we Full-Time

1.  Solar Panels – being able to live off the grid is part of our plan, and solar panel weight, prices and options are increasing almost monthly.  We’ll give this technology another year then start shopping seriously.

2. Replace the house batteries with Lithium-Ion (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries.  This is quicker charging, longer life batteries than the typical gel batteries in most RVs. A great combination to go with the solar panels.

3.  Portable reverse osmosis water system – fresh water is hard to find outside campgrounds. How about making fresh water from pond water?  Small units won’t break the bank even if they are not used all the time.

4.  Tire covers.  With our RV storage inside now we don’t need tire covers.  However once we are full-timing tire covers are a must to keep up the life expectancy of this investment.

5.  RV GPS.  While my android app for RVing with Google Maps will work in the short-term.  I don’t want to lose my new roof vent (or worse) because we took a route with one too many low bridges to go under.

6.  Induction cooktop.  82% efficiency for cooking while boondocking sounds like a winner to me,  the batteries last longer  and there is less reliance on propane.   Do we go portable or built-in?

Another list done!


Waiting for Repairs to get done

Where’s the RV?

We purchased our Winnebago Journey from La Mesa RV on August 9th.  The ‘prep’ was completed and we picked it up on August 25th and that weekend we took it out camping.  This was our ‘shake down’ trip because we have a 15 day warranty from La Mesa on several major components.

Prior to purchasing the RV we negotiated to replace the large window in the bedroom because the double windowpanes have so many stains we could hardly see through the window.  This did not come in during the Journey’s prep time, so that was an outstanding item we were waiting for. In the meantime we took our Journey out for its maiden voyage – see about our first trip here.

Shake Down Cruise

In our first trip out we wanted to exercise the RV as much as we could, taking it up to Thousand Trails Lake of the Springs.    In that trip we found the following problems we wanted to get addressed:

  • In using the microwave/convection oven I tried making brownies.  No heat out of the convection oven, so we ended up using the microwave to cook the brownies.  Ugh!
  • The arm rest in the driver’s seat will not adjust
  • The grey waste tank for the shower does not show any level other than empty even when it was full
  • When the grand kids arrived we tried to play the DVD/surround sound and only got audio, no video
  • The kitchen dinette table’s leg is loose
  • The upper tail lights had some lights out and one of the cases has a crack
  • On the way back home in nearly 100 degree weather the cab A/C only blew hot air

Actually nothing really major.  I contacted La Mesa within the 15 day window and asked to have these things addressed when the window arrived.

On September 15 I received a voice mail from the service manager at La Mesa saying that the window had arrived.  After calling him back he explained that the service center was only open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  No early/late drop-offs.  So I arranged for both of us to take the morning off of the Wednesday the 25th to drop off the RV in Davis – 20 miles away.  I scheduled a 9:45 drop-off so we could avoid some of the early morning commute through Sacramento.

Wednesday the 25th

Our plan was that Christine would work at home because she had a 6:30 and 7:00 – 8:00 teleconference.  We also had Bathfitters coming in about 9 to install a new shower/tub combo.  As luck would have it Christine’s work password had changed.  She had been in New York the previous week and had missed that email message in the 600+ emails that collected in her inbox during that time.  SCRAMBLE time.  We figured that she could go to her work that is 25 miles away – the opposite direction from Davis; attend her teleconferences and make it back to the house in time for Bathfitters.

Now, realize that we have had a drought in California for the past few years.  We were having mid 80 degree clear weather all week including the Tuesday before our appointment.  The forecast?  RAIN!  Yeah RIGHT.  Rain?  in September?  In central California?  Ha ha ha.  My work had scheduled a division picnic and canceled it because of the inclement weather.  I thought that was pretty funny.  I figured we might get a little drizzle if anything at all, then clear off by 10 a.m.  Well before lunch. Nothing to impact our plans.

Christine rushes off to get to work, attend her teleconferences and reset her password a little before 6.  I head out to the storage facility a little after 6 and pick up the Journey.  It’s starting to drizzle.  No problem, as I expected drizzle.

By the time I arrive home – about 6:25 – it’s raining.  No, really.   Oregon type rain.  Not drizzle.  Not sprinkles.  It’s pouring!  My plan was to take this opportunity to drain the fresh water tanks and clean them out – using the drive to La Mesa to have the water swish around.  Also, we had a bunch of stuff we wanted to put in the RV – items that would stay in the RV permanently like extra sheets, batteries etc.  I try to stretch the fresh water hose to the RV from the faucet in the front of the house… darn.  I’m short.  I add our extra 5′ hose.  Double darn (or something like that).  Still 3′ short.  So I add the green lawn hose.  What the heck – I’m adding chlorine to the water then draining it.  A little hose taste will be gone during the flush.  Now to hook the hose to the Journey.  It’s pitch black and I can’t get the bay light to turn on.  In the RV to find the flashlight, dripping water all around.  By the time I get the water tank filled with the chlorine mix it was raining so hard that the gutters were overflowing the sidewalk and I am wet through and through.  Am I still in California?

I then load up the items we wanted to store in the RV.  Every time I open the Journey’s door the entryway gets soaked.  By the time I get done I put some dry clothes on, park the Journey across the street at a house that is empty I’m ready for a break.

Our Black Lab
Our Rescue Golden

Oh shoot!  It’s getting close to 8:30.  I get the dog pillows arranged in the garage for our 2 dogs (Kadie & Danny)  and Sam our daughter’s dog who’s visiting (somewhat long-term, but that’s another story).  That’s 3 big dogs all over 50 lbs., not 3 2 lb.  Chihuahuas.  I figure they can stay in the garage while Bathfitters installs the new tub/shower.  I just get their pillows out and their kongs loaded when I hear the van pull up, and into the driveway.

Dogs in the garage, Bathfitter is here, still time to get to Davis.  But no Christine.  We can do it.

I sign the required paperwork for Bathfitter, and he asks where the work area is.  Huh?  How about the kitchen?  We go in and look at the kitchen and he asks if he can use the garage.  Garage?  Yes, but the dogs are there, and they don’t like the rain.  Well, they will survive one day in the wild.  The rain has tapered off a bit, but I’m concerned about accidents on the freeway getting to Davis and need to leave… like now.

I put the dog pillows against the house along the patio, close the side door and open the garage door for Bathfitter and call Christine.  She’s stuck in traffic because of an accident.  Did I forget to tell you the Californian’s don’t understand when it rains after being dry the roads are a little slick?  No?  Well, believe me.  Rain and California just don’t seem to mix on many levels.  So instead of her driving to the house and following me to Davis, we are both going direct to La Mesa.

Finally I’m on the road to Davis at 9:10.  that gives me 40 minutes for a 20 minute drive.  Should be doable, depending on where the accidents are.  It’s still raining, but it’s down to a steady drizzle.  Traffic is slow but steady all the way to Davis and I make it in about 30 minutes.  It was so nice being in the Journey again.  I was ready to keep on going… and going… and, well you know the rest.

Rick, our service manager is on the phone so we start just about on time.  Christine arrives right after Rick and I are starting the walk-through inside the coach finishing looking at the tail lights.  Like me, he checks out the DVD, turns it on & off and tries the 39.5 different button combinations.  Nada.  Check.  Some of the items on the list are not specifically on the 15 day warranty list (it is a Used Vehicle, says Rick) but he says he will ask.

When he comes back, good news and not so good news.  The 15 day warranty will cover everything except for the cab A/C unless it’s minor because that wasn’t on my list that I emailed to him in the 15 day window.  OK, we still have the extended warranty to cover items; but I wanted to have as much covered without having to pay the deductible as I could.  I sure thought I had included the A/C in the list.

Now down to the brass tacks.  I say, “what’s the possibility of getting this done by Friday of next week?  We have a camping trip scheduled.”  I could almost detect a smirk on Rick’s lips.  At least a quiver.  He replies something to the effect of… ‘don’t think that’s a possibility.  There are 5 RVs ahead of you’.  I almost say, “what’s the point of scheduling this then?”, but I keep my mouth shut.  I do tell him that I would rather them keep our Journey and get everything fixed instead of having to take another half day off for a drop off, and half day off to pick it up.  Besides both the DVD and convection item are things that may need parts.  And one thing I’ve learned in reading other blogs is that when it comes to RV repairs, patience is not a virtue but a necessity.

Off for coffee at Dutch Brothers  then on to work.  I arrive at 11, and Christine is back at the house in plenty of time for Bathfitter to go to lunch.  Our new baby is in the shop.

Once I got home I found that I had sent Rick 2 emails in the 15 day window, and one of them included the A/C problem.  Whew!  I thought I was going crazy.

Where’s the Journey – October 10th – Still waiting for repairs?

Today is Friday the 10th of October.  La Mesa has been great to work with, and I appreciate that they are getting all the items on our list taken care of.  I had thought of dropping Rick an email a couple of days ago to find out what the status was, but decided to wait a little longer.  Can’t rush a good thing.  I would like an update though…

 Update Monday October 13th

Rick at La Mesa must have read my  mind, he called and provided an update today.    Window: at the glass shop getting some adjustments.  Microwave/Convection Oven – being replaced with a new one.  Dash A/C: repaired.   DVD player: reconnected and working now.  Rear tail lights: repaired.  Table leg: fixed.  Armrest: operator error.  I missed the status on the grey tank gauges.  Another week and we should get the Journey back.

Thanks you for the great service Rick & La Mesa!

Update Saturday October 25th

No more updates from La Mesa, and it has been over a month that they have had our Journey. It has been 12 days since the last update. Time to call. We miss our Journey… and we WANT TO GO CAMPING. Yes, I am shouting.

 Update Monday October 27th

Christine called and I emailed Rick at La Mesa to find out what the status was of our RV.  Microwave had arrived and the Norcold refrigerator recall kit is due this week.  At least now we know the status, however I was disappointed that we had to solicit an update from them. Oh well.



Buying for the RV Basement

New RV Accessories – Buying for the RV Basement


Continuing our tour of the RV and preparing for our first camping trip we go to the basement.  When buying for the basement we see a number of major systems that support the RV.  Besides storage, there is the Power System, Water and waste control, on-board power generator, storage and of course the coach power supply also called the engine.


Journey Basement Storage

Planning your storage is challenging.  In our case where we will be week-ending before full-timing we have opted to use large plastic bins for most of our storage in our Journey basement.  We also have a some full-width basement storage that is astride the central frame of the RV.  We are still trying to figure out the best way to use this area.  There is a big ladder stowed across this and we slid the synthetic grass carpets (a new purchase from Home Depot at a sales price of $20 each)  across it, but loose.  We have to figure out how to use this storage area and keep things stored here stationary and not sliding around.

One caveat is where to place heavy things.  When loading your RV it is important to balance your weight as good as you can.  One thing we found was that we had more weight than we should have in the back vs. the front.  To balance your RV, load it so it has the same percentage of recommended Gross vehicle weight for the front and back.   For example  for a total weight of 27,250 lbs according to the Toyo tire weight list I should have 9,610 lbs on the front axle and 17,640 lbs on the rear axle with dual tire setups.  If you can, you should also weigh the RV’s corner weights so you know the RV has the same weight on each side.  This is more of a challenge because most RV/Truck scales will just weigh by axle not by corner.  Larger RV shows and a many RV rallys provides this service.  Check out Howard and Linda’s site RV-Dreams for their schedule of doing  full RV weighing.  For more information about how important RV Corner weighing is  see Howard and Linda’s article at RV-Dreams Weighing.  For longer tire life it is crucial to have the  correct tire pressure for you weight and to have your weight balance front to back and right to left.

I know this is a bit of a segue but for and RV owner weight and storage go hand in hand.  Fortunately we had a wide selection of storage bins that fit in our storage compartment.  The main focus for us is making sure that our storage is balanced.

Electrical System

Journey Battery Compartment

The RV has two bays dedicated to the power system (besides the engine itself).  The battery compartment hold the house and chassis batteries.  In our case both sets of batteries are pretty new, so they will last for a few years at least.  When we do we will consider replacing our batteries we will probably go with Lithium Ion or similar technology.  See Technomadia’s article – Promise of Lithium #1. and About RVing’s experiences converting to Lithium Ion in their article Lithium Batteries for RV’s.  In this article Ron Jones explains his experiences converting to Lithium Ion.  I exchanged emails with him a few months ago, and he is still using and excited about his experience using Lithium Ion batteries after 3 years using Lithium Ion batteries in a full-timer environment.  Although the cost for the upgrade is substantial, lithium-ion batteries have a longer life, shorter recharge time and are much lighter.  Also the technology continues to evolve quickly and prices are going down and reliability and ease of installation continues to improve.  We won’t replace our current house batteries until they get older, but more efficient, lighter technology will be an important consideration.

A second bay in the basement is where the coach connects to shore power.   For our RV it’s a 50 amp system, so we use “dog bones” (See RV Geeks video here) to hook up to 30 amp power pedestals that are typical in older RV parks and even 20 amp converters that connect to typical house circuits.  These three connectors allow the RV to connect to just about any available “shore” power situation.  Our RV came with a dog bone for 30 to 20 amp connections and a 20 amp converter.  However just because we can connect to any power does not mean that we should.  Power quality can vary from park to park and even by hour.  This means that your RV could be subjected to brown-out (where a 110 volt circuit falls below 115 volts) or voltage spikes such as lighting strikes.  If you take a look at this RV-Travel article Do you need s surge protector,  you will read of about having both low voltage and voltage spike protection.

Now that we have decided that we need some protection the question is how much?  Prices for a 50 amp protection varies from $100 to $500 or more.  That’s fodder for another article as we are still mulling over our decision there.  Needless to say, at a minimum we have dog bones and connectors to make a basic connection, secondly we need to decide on whether and how much protection we need for low and high voltage  conditions.

Our RV came with the basic dog bone for 30-50 amp hookup so we were good as far as getting power to the RV.

Water/Sewage service center area

Journey Water/Sewage compartment
Journey Water/Sewage compartment

Our RV came with a sewer hose and a new fresh water hose.  During the walk-through the right-angle connector was also shown, but somehow it was forgotten.  Fortunately before we left for the dump station on our first trip I checked the hoses & connectors before leaving  and saw that it was missing, so after a quick trip to the Thousand Trails Trading Post we had the connector and clamp.

We added a spray bottle of Lysol to clean the fresh water connector as well as a few old car towels for general cleanup.  After our first camping trip we got a Dual-Flush connector from Amazon that allows us to merge our two grey water tanks since we are usually not concerned about dumping grey water on the ground.  Grey water with food waste such as from the kitchen sink is often considered sewage, and can attract varmints  such as rats where grey water from the shower should only contain water and soap and in some locations you can dump this on the ground.  Always check the local regulations before dumping any waste water on the ground.

Generator – Air Compressor

In the front of our Journey is the 8000 watt Cummins Onan generator and an air compressor connector.  We already had one 50′ air compressor hose and added another 50′ high capacity hose with the proper quick connect coupler.  We also added a truck style inflator.  See the Tire Pressure Monitoring system article for more information on air compressor accessories.  Other than the hose and tire inflator this area did not need any additional purchases.



New RV Accessories – TPMS

RV Accessories – TPMS – Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Now that we have our RV, let’s look at some of the accessories we felt were critical.  We will start in the cab.  The rubber meets the road in an RV with the tires.  Many RVs have dual wheels that make it difficult to check if the tires have any issues, and the correct tire pressure is based on the weight, brand and model of tire being used.  For a great overview of tire pressure and how to inflate RV tires, see RV Geeks HOW TO: Inflate High pressure RV Tires and the follow-up UPDATE: High Pressure RV Tire Inflation  videos.  Most often when tires fail it happens over time, not suddenly.  Tire pressure and temperature is the best way to monitor the current condition of RV tires.   In addition we wanted to monitor our TOAD (Towed Vehicle) so we needed both 10 tire monitor ability and the range to reach the Toad.

We weighed our RV with full diesel and LP tanks but otherwise empty after getting it from La Mesa RV in Davis, and we weighed each item going into the RV for our first trip, so I was able to estimate our loaded weight.  Since we are spending the week-end at Thousand Trails, we don’t need to pack very much water.

TPMS choices

Once you get your tires to the correct pressure based on the vehicle’s weight and tire brand how should they be monitored? Of course you could manually check the pressure, but pressure is only half of the story.  The temperature of the tire is also important to know to understand if something is going wrong. After reviewing a number of websites and blogs we narrowed our choices to a couple of choices.

Tire PressurePro has the advantage that it interfaces with Silverleaf Electronics’ products if you are looking for a complete engine & tire

Tireminder Package
Tireminder Package

monitoring system.  Since we believe at this time that the Freightliner’s engine monitoring system is good enough for us, we decided to go with Tire Minder, especially with the endorsement of this product from Gone with the Wynns in their list of Must Have gadgets, and reading many reviews on Amazon and Camping World’s websites.  Only Camping World had the latest version TM66-M6 kit that includes a monitor, 6 monitoring modules, 12 batteries plus a hardwire booster for the toad.    This version can monitor 22 tires – more than enough for our RV & Toad.

Getting the pressure right

We purchased a basic stick tire pressure gauge from O’Reilly auto parts.  We then adjusted the pressure of the tires to Toyo’s recommended pressure based on their weight/pressure chart +200 lbs. for a quarter tank of fresh water (8 lbs. * 25 gallons).  It ended up that all the tire pressures should be set to 95 lbs. for both axles given my assumptions.  The tires were at 105 lbs.  Note that the Journey’s weight will change once we start full-timing or pack for a longer trip.

TireMinder installation


The installation of the TireMinder system went without a hitch.  The included printed instructions were easy to follow and in English.  It came partly charged, but since the RV was in storage when I received TireMinder I charged it up.  When I arrived at the storage facility the Journey was already pulled out and sitting off to the side so I could work on it.  The tires were cold so I didn’t have to worry about that.

Following the instructions, I inserted the batteries into the monitoring module.  I then released the air until the tires were at 95 lbs. according to my stick gauge.  With the monitor in learn mode, I selected the correct tire on the display then screwed the monitoring module onto the tire stem.  After just a few seconds (the manual states it could take up to 30 seconds) the LED turns green and the tire pressure is displayed on the screen.

I pressed the down button and repeated for all 6 tires on the Journey.  It’s a bit tight putting on the monitoring modules on the dual tires, but I was careful and didn’t drop them.  The modules have a molding that is easy to grip.

Next we need to purchase the monitoring modules for the toad.


Monitor Mode

Once done I switched TireMinder to monitor mode and cycled through all 6 tires reviewing the tire pressure and temperature.

Once the Tire Minder is installed and the tires being monitored there is a deviation of up to 3 lbs. both ways from the target 95.  Tire Minder is accurate +/- 2% so that could account for part of it, but me reading a scale on a stick may also be part of it.

Other Accessories

We were going to order a Tire Minder digital gauge, but after reading reviews ended up ordering the Acme Automotive A567 Truck Digital Dual Foot Tire Pressure Service Gauge 2- 150 PSI sold by JB Tool Sales on Amazon.  The next time out we will weigh the RV after getting fully loaded then use the new digital tire pressure gauge to correct the tire pressure then see what the Tire Minder reports for pressure.

Besides TireMinder and the Acme digital tire gauge we have two 50′ high capacity hoses, truck tire inflator and air nozzle.  I also added a gauge & release valve following the instructions at the top of this post provided by RV Geeks.  Everything connected with the same standard quick connectors that the coach is equipped with.

Next Up – Accessories to purchase for the basement!

Time to SHOP for first Camping trip

Shopping List for first Camping Trip #1: Home Stuff

Now that we have our list made – see our earlier post on Preparing for Camping – Making Lists – we have to decide what to load the RV with.  Yes, it’s time to shop for first camping trip.

Of course we want a comfortable home on the road with our RV.  Now go back to the list and decide what you need to buy and what you already have.

Choice 1 – move things between the house and the RV

As long as you are not full-timing (yet) like us, you will move some things to the RV before you head out each trip.  Such things would definitely include perishable items such as fruits and vegetables.  Other items may include pots and pans, clothing, towels and so on.  You may even want these items on a separate list, if you are a list-maker like me.  For us these include ‘big-ticket’ items such as:

  • Vitamix for our smoothies & soup
  • Cuisinart for just about everything else
  • Soda Stream
  • Personal electronics like phones, kindles, iPads, etc.
  • Chargers for those electronics (may want to buy some specifically for the RV)
  • Diesel Shoes (shoes I wear when walking around truck stops and keep handy on the RV)
  • Pots and Pans
  • Games
  • Selection of DVDs for grand kids and rainy days
  • Food
  • Seasonal clothes

Choice 2 – buy things for the RV

Now we come to the fun part… shopping.  Our RV has a king size bed, so our queen size sheets in our house simply won’t fit no matter how hard I try.  We purchased a mattress cover and 2 sets of sheets.  Since we are planning on full-timing we decided to buy things for the long-term, not just for weekend trips.  They included:

  • Batteries for the remotes, flashlights and weather station
  • Corelle Dishes (4-set that is enough for the two of us plus for serving or a guest that didn’t bring their own)
  • Storage – 2 sets of Snapware that we purchased at Costco and has a lifetime warranty – some for the kitchen, others that will be used in other areas.  We also purchased a set of shoe-box sized plastic containers that fit in the small storage cabinets in the living area. If you want a great perspective on storage options on RVs see Gone with the Wynns article and video – RV Organizing, Don’t be a Hot Mess.
  • Phone cradle since we use Google maps for our navigation and don’t want to move the cradle from car to RV
  • Sheets, mattress cover & pillows
  • Bath towels
  • Kitchen towels
  • Garbage/recycle bins for under the sink
  • Spice containers – we have plenty of spices so we opted to buy more glass containers and split the spices we most often use.
  • Consumables
    • RV Toilet paper
    • Holding tank chemicals
  • Vacuum – after our first camping trip thinking we could have 3 large dogs and just sweep things out while camping, we realized that does not work for us.  The house vacuüm is too large to use and store on the RV.  After watching many reviews and based on our own experience with Dyson we ended up finding a sale on the Dyson DC59 Digital Slim Cordless Animal Vacuum with a 20 minute vacuüm time and a quick recharge at Target.  We have yet to try it out camping – so as they say in TV Land – stay tuned!

Choice 3 – use things you have

If you have already been a camper you may already have a few things that can simply be moved to the RV.  For us they included:

  • Coleman stove & propane bottles
  • Extra toothbrushes & personal hygiene items
  • Snuggle blankets
  • Extra electronics chargers
  • Spices
  • Silverware & utensils
  • Sponges, sprayers, dish soap
  • Broom

If you made your list, it is pretty easy to decide what to

  • Move to the RV before each trip
  • What to buy and store permanently in the RV
  • What you already have and can keep in the RV

Next up ->  I’ll stay on the inside, but cover the front cab area.  Let our paths cross soon!


Preparing for camping – Making Lists

Oh crap!  Honey, I forgot the beans.

Now that we have an RV, the rest is easy right?  What should we take with us for a weekend camping trip?  If you have had any experience camping you know it’s easy to forget small and sometimes major things.  If your campsite is close to a store then you may be lucky and get those forgotten items.  But what if it’s your grandfather’s recipe for that special barbecue sauce?  Or that special bathing suit?  The answer of course is to make a list.

Making Lists

If you are going to make a list, especially a long list it helps to have some organization to it.  For camping in an RV  I mentally go from room to room – bedroom, bathroom, galley etc. thinking about what is not packed or what may already be there.

Making lists mentally are great, but when it goes beyond 5 items my brain is in overload.  If my fingers were not attached, I would probably forget half of them!  For me, paper lists get lost and forgotten.  I almost always have my phone with me now and fortunately there are apps for that.  After trying several list apps over the years I have finally settled on Wunderlist as the best solution for my needs.  The nice thing about Wunderlist is that there is a PC, Android and iPhone solution.  It even works on my Kindle Fire.  Since it is cloud based I see the same list on any device I use as long as I have Wi-Fi or cellular access to get the updates to the list.

Besides being a simple list you can have sub-lists, comments and notes for each item on the list.  This dropped my what to pack list down from well over 100 items to just over 50.  By naming the items by room I get simple categorization because Wunderlist allows for alphabetic sorting as well as a few other sort options.  For example here is my high level list without the sub-items:

Wunderlist Sublist
Wunderlist Sublist

Some of the items will expand out – such as the Galley Salad/Smoothies list item has 19 sub items (see the example to the left), so it is as simple or complicated as you want it to get.  You could also categorized some of these as permanently packed to make it easier.

Besides  being accessible on a variety of devices I have found printing the list to PDF is  helpful if I need to share the full list with someone or keep a printable copy of the original list.

Besides using Wunderlist for my what to pack list, I also use it for my bigger projects like installing solar and my next oil change.

We still forget things, but that usually because we get sidetracked or in a hurry and don’t check the list.  Then, we forget the beans!

The opinions expressed here are solely our own, and (unfortunately) we received no compensation for this blog article.

Software described: Wunderlist

Also available in the Microsoft Store, Google Play store and Apple iTunes.

 Next Up:  Putting the list to work.  What if you don’t have all the items that you put on the list?  See our list of things we purchased for that first trip, and why.


Buying the right RV – Done!

Our Journey – Maiden Voyage

We did it!  We’ve gone from looking to buying the RV.   In August we purchased a 2008 Winnebago Journey from La Mesa RV in Davis, California.  Prior to purchasing this RV we had placed offers on RVs in Oregon and Southern California during the first week of August.  Getting information about an RV that was remote was a real challenge.  On August 8th we got an email from La Mesa and saw they had 3 Journeys along with some other brands that we are interested in at the Davis dealership.  So we gathered information from NADA and  J. R. Consumer Resources so we could have some idea what price ranges would be proper.

Buying the right RV!

On August 9th we drove to Davis to check out several RVs including a 2014 36 foot Journey, a 2008 and 2007 40 foot Journey (actually 39 1/2 feet) and about 10 other RVs that fit our requirements.  We had originally been looking at the 32 – 36 foot range and thought that the new 36 foot Journey would be great (See this post for some of the decisions we have wrestled with).  We loved the fireplace and the fact that it was brand new.  But with our long-term plans for full-timing in the RV and going back and forth between the 3 finalist RVs we settled on the 2008.  First, it only had 17,000 miles and was in near-perfect condition.  Second, the price was more attractive to our pocket-book than the new RV and third, the extra space really makes the decision of which RV to buy easy.  Since it’s a used RV we opted to buy an extended warranty and La Mesa offers a 15 day warranty on specific items.  With the 2008 Winnebago we felt we were buying the right RV.

We purchased the RV on August 9th, and picked it up on August 25th.   Between the 9th and the 25th I spent some time each evening reading the various manuals from Winnebago, Freightliner, Cummins, Norcold, etc.   On the way home from Davis after getting our 2 hour orientation and signing the final paperwork we practiced driving, turning and even doing 3 point turns around Sleep Train Arena.   We then loaded a few things into the RV then drove it to storage.


We are so excited about our RV!  We were able to take it out on her maiden voyage on August 29th – September 1st.
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For our first trip we drove to Thousand Trails’ Lake of the Springs near Oregon House California – about 20 miles east of Marysville.  I could not believe how smooth it rides and how easy it is to drive.  With the rear engine, it’s quiet in the front cab.  I must admit I was a little nervous at first, but we had an older Suburban and Prowler Trailer several years ago and this was much easier to drive.  It didn’t take long before we were more relaxed – especially once we got out of the Sacramento city traffic.


Once we arrived at Lake of the Springs our first challenge was to find a spot large enough for our Journey and the 10 person tent we were setting up for our daughter & boyfriend.  The first few places we tried to slide into would have been OK for just the RV, but not an RV and a large tent.  We finally located a double space that was available and set up camp.

We wanted to check as many things as possible during this first trip out because of the 15 day dealer warranty.  We extended the slides, hooked up power and water, got the awning extended then took our dogs for an orientation walk.  Both of our daughters came up with family and friends to inaugurate this milestone.  What a great weekend.  2014-08-30-1805-03-LOTS Journey-2

Our laundry list of things not working was fairly short.  On Saturday I go to make some brownies for daughter C, and could not get the convection part of the Microwave/Convection oven to work.  I downloaded the manual and tried every which way to get it to do something and other than the fan going on for a short time, no heat.  Our electricity usage  bumped up about 1 amp while the fan was running, then went back to flat line.  So we microwaved the brownies; which was not exactly the way they are supposed to be baked.  But, they did get eaten.  When I tried to get the DVD player to work I got audio but no video on the front room TV; but the bedroom TV worked so the grand kids watched Disney in bed while we prepped dinner on Saturday.

Our grey water tank for the kitchen filled up quickly and after doing some searches on some blogs found out that the two grey water tanks are not connected.  There is one for the kitchen and one for the bath.   A simple gate valve can combine the two so they will balance out.  Also, the grey water gauge for the bath holding tank never registered past empty. And on the way back home it was hot, and the dash A/C quit working.

We reported these and a few other issues to the dealer and took the RV back in for the warranty work on September 25th.  They are also installing a new replacement bedroom window that is stained between the dual panes.  La Mesa has been great to work with.

We have made a lot of purchases since buying the RV, so in the next post I’ll share what we purchased and why these items were first on our list.

as Dale Evans and Roy Rogers sang… Happy Trails!