Full Speed Ahead – Full Timing!

Crazy Times but still FULL SPEED AHEAD.  I started this post with the title Full Speed Ahead – Full Timing! in 2 months!  Well,  we are now just over 1 week away from that milestone – that’s an indication of how crazy it’s been.

In reading this post, it may seem daunting to look at all the things we have done if you are a new RV owner or are looking to purchase one, however remember that we purchased Lola in August of 2014.  We started our RV research nearly 9 months before that.  We read books, went to RV shows and changed our minds about what type of RV to buy several times.

Much of what is listed below we did step by step and a little at a time.  We bought Lola early enough that we didn’t have to rush to ‘re-break’ her in and get her customized to our needs.

An overview of what we’ve done to prepare for Full Timing! RV lifestyle

The last months before full timing is crazy!  What’s crazy about it?  There are a dozen things happening, all at the same time.  All of a sudden everything we are working towards is becoming very real.  Setting up for our retirement income(s), deciding on a domicile plan, selling our house, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of… even packing up the RV!

Get the house ready to sell… Sale Pending!

Salepending

Almost SOLD!

Since January Christine has been busy painting the inside of the house while I’ve finished our grandson’s chest of drawers.  We have also been making regular trips to our favorite donation centers to get rid of clothes, furniture and nick-knacks.  We have  already had two garage sales, and donated many special things to the Cancer Society and Goodwill.  Some things we need to keep until almost the last day.

Then, early this month we put the house up on the market and it sold in 3 days.  What a relief.  We are in the last week and a half before closing now and everything (knock on wood) is going well.  Going from Sticks and Bricks to Diesel Fumes (and the great outdoors).

Retirement Planning and Finalization

Financial Planning

We have been working with a financial planner for over 2 years to evaluate our post-retirement income options.  Work and Social Security retirement paperwork is ready to go and our health plan options are almost finalized.  We have a detailed budget of our anticipated expenses, and how we are going to meet those needs.  We’ve gone through dozens of budget variations and have taken a middle of the road approach to our forecasts.  Thanks to the several bloggers who have shared their expenses and RV-Dreams for the sample spreadsheet template we used as a jump-off for our own analysis.

Domicile & Mail Service

We decided to go through Escapees and set up Domicile in Florida.  California taxes are just way too high for us.  Escapees also provide mail service so we can continue to get snail mail forwarded to us wherever we are.

Preparing Lola

Chassis Prep

For our first annual oil change at Freightliner last fall we had Sacramento Truck Center go through and change all fluids and check everything out as if she had not had any service done to her since her 2008 manufacture.  This set us back some, but we did not have any service records from her prior owner(s).  Especially since she only had 16,000 miles on her we were afraid she might not have had all the time-based maintenance done.

Communication

Staying in touch with the family is critical.  We purchased the WeBoost Drive 4G-M to extend our cellular coverage.   In addition, later this year we will be purchasing a Wi-Fi extender (probably Wi-FI Ranger).  Technomadia has been a great resource and well worth the membership for technology information, product reviews and peer-based forums.  In another post, I’ll cover how we stay in touch while driving separate vehicles, with family and friends while traveling and maintaining our online blog presence.

Entertainment Prep

Last year we also installed an HD Jack antenna extender (booster), and recently received the Channel Master so we can record over the air programs.  In addition, we purchased the Amazon Fire Stick so we can pick up our favorite Amazon shows (Bosch anyone?) that we can use with the Wi-Fi extender.  We also copied a couple hundred hours of DVDs to hard drive, and have a couple of shoe boxes full of Blu-Ray.  We also have our Amazon Kindles and our music is on an iPod that connects to Lola’s sound system.  We are now set up for a couple of years of vegging out after our walks, hikes, bike rides, kayaking, beer tasting, wine tasting, farmer’s markets, etc!

Solar Panels & LED Lights

We already wrote about our solar panel and lithium battery upgrades that will help us stay off the grid and limit our generator time here.  Recently we upgraded all the interior lights and exterior marker lights to LEDs from M4 Products that will cut our energy consumption for lighting.

Preparing for the Unexpected

We have an extended service plan for both the chassis as well as tire for Lola that we purchased when we got her.  In addition, we have Coach-Net for the specialized roadside assistance we felt RVs need.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Our review of the decision-making process to select a TPMS is posted here.

Interior Fans, Heating and Cooling

Lola has A/C and a furnace, but to keep the air moving we upgraded the kitchen/dining area roof vent/fan with a MaxxAir fan that has a built-in cover.  While we were at it, we went ahead and upgraded the bathroom fan with the same model.  We also purchased a Dyson bladeless fan that cools and heats and a small heater that uses propane bottles when we almost froze our butts off up in Oregon Thanksgiving Day.

Miscellaneous Equipment

Some of the miscellaneous equipment that has come in handy in our first trips out are:

  • ViAir RV Air Compressor reviewed here.
  • Battery Charger (purchased when we left the Toad’s lights on and left our charger at home)
  • Voltage Regulator reviewed here.

Trip Planning

Our first trip out east is NOT as much of a ‘retirement mode‘ trip as we would like.  We will be taking a trailer with some woodworking – house-fixing equipment that will be stored in northern NY – and need to be there in early June so we can work on a rental house there.  But first we have to stop in Florida to register our vehicles since the RV registration expires in August.  Since I’ll be dragging the trailer and Christine will be driving the Pilot until the trailer get’s stored, we want to make this first trip relatively quick with our only long layover once we get to Florida.

We also mapped out the major holidays for this summer and fall and made some reservations for those.  We will post a separate post on trip planning, but as teaser we purchased the Garmin RV 760LMT specialized GPS for Recreational Vehicles.

Toad (Towed Vehicle) tow bar & base plate

We decided to keep our older Honda Pilot at this time until we have a better understanding of our Toad requirements.  We purchased the RoadMaster Falcon tow bar & base plate for the Pilot so we can tow it.  Of course as I mentioned initially I’ll be pulling our little 5 x 8 trailer and Christine will drive the toad.  After that though it will be smooth sailing together!  I need my navigator close at hand!

Animal Prep

Traveling with 3 mature dogs, each weighing 65-70 lbs can be a challenge.  How much food to take with us?  What about medications?  Our strategy to start off with is to store 30 days of dry food.  We have 2 dogs that need medication twice a day.  For one medication we are going through Costco and get 3 months worth at a time.  For the other we are getting a year’s worth.  Carrots are one of their main treats, and we hope to get them at Farmer’s Markets along the way along with our greens.

Camping at LOTS – Lake of the Springs

Camping Trip #3 – Camping at LOTS

Saturday January 17, 2015 – Oregon House, California

We are back at Thousand Trails Lake of the Springs (LOTS) for our third camping trip in the Journey.

We found a campsite that overlooked the fog and low clouds of the Sacramento valley.

Overlooking Sacramento Valley

Sutter Buttes sticking up out of the clouds below

Originally we had planned to leave Friday mid-morning after Christine finished with her teleconference.  Then first I had to work all day Friday and then Christine ended up having another teleconference Saturday morning.  So I picked up the Journey from storage early Saturday morning and got it packed while the other half worked.  It is an easy 90 minute trip and we broke out of the clouds mid-way to Oregon House.

We selected “I” section because it’s the easiest section to get into and out of for a 40′ motorhome, plus it is a bit more remote than the sections that are closer to the little lake on the preserve.  There were only a half-dozen campers in “I” section at the top of the hill.

We first tried  the same site we used last time, but it was uneven and our front tires were way up in the air, so we decided to try another spot.  We backed into a 2nd spot overlooking a little ravine towards the east, but we didn’t have enough room.  So we pulled into a 3rd spot and it was pretty good, but when we leveled the Journey our back wheels were off the ground.  So back out, turn around and back into the spot.  Finally!  Sound like the Three Bears?  Christine is becoming an expert guiding my parking!  Well, anyways – home at last.

LOTS Journey

The Journey pointing West

Lake of the Springs Thousand Trails

Lake of the Springs Thousand Trails

Once we got set up the dogs wanted to explore and stretch their legs after that long hour and a half trip!  We took them out to explore the preserve.  It surprised us how empty the campground is.  This is a holiday weekend and even though it’s January we expected more weekend campers wanting to escape the clouds and fog in the valley below.

There are some nice trails throughout the campground.  Some of the areas are closed off – “hibernating” for the winter.  It is quiet and peaceful and before long we started relaxing and forgetting about work.

Before getting the slides out I wanted to finish the product videos that I had started some time ago.  We purchased the Hughes Autoformer Power regulator and I had done an unboxing video.  Before posting I wanted to include how it gets set up, so out with the camera.  The video and finished product review are posted here.

Then we pushed the slides out, brought out the dog beds and our books and we all stretched out to read and snooze.

Quick Pizzas - Mushroom and Olives

Quick Pizzas – Mushroom and Olives

For dinner we made some quick pizzas using our new microwave convection oven.  I put together some home-made pizza sauce and we added some sliced mushrooms, olives and sweet peppers with a few onion slices.

Great way to finish off the day!

Sunday, January 18th 2015 – Oregon House, California

The dogs got us up at the usual 5:30, and I took them out to look at the stars.  It was fantastic – a low moon at the horizon and thousands of stars at Thousand Trails.  Christine stayed in the Journey to catch a few more Zs.

Thousand Trails - Deer

Thousand Trails – Deer

We took the dogs for another walk through a hibernating area and spotted a family of deer foraging.

Manzanita Leaf

Manzanita Leaf

The manzanita are just starting to poke out new leaves, and the bark is all smooth.  In the summer the outer bark splits and looks like red paper wrapping the bush.

Manzanita Branch

Manzanita Branch

Here’s a shot of a Manzanita branch with the red wood circling an old branch cut.

Lichen and Moss

Lichen and Moss

If you look, there is lots of color – sometimes in unexpected places.  I liked the cooler color of the lichen with the moss.

Lichen on Rock

Lichen on Rock

Manzanita Blossom

Manzanita Blossom

A few manzanita are blooming too!  Great to see some real color in January.

Lichen and Moss

Lichen and Moss

Manzanita

Manzanita

And some new Manzanita bark – just starting to peel.

Sunday Smoothie

Sunday Smoothie All Done!

Then, back to the Journey for a breakfast smoothie, and more reading and complete veg-out.

In the afternoon I took out the RV QuickShades and finished the product review for the new shades we bought, and posted that product review here.  One thing that surprised us was how transparent the shades were at night:

RV QuickShades at Night

RV QuickShades at Night

Because it was very cool we couldn’t test how much heat the RV QuickShades kept out of the coach – we will revisit that in an add-on review later.

Another dog walk taking us by the lake at Lake of the Springs –

Lake of the Springs at Thousand Trails

Lake of the Springs at Thousand Trails

You can see what a nice day it was.

Monday, January 19th, 2015 – Oregon House, California

Last day at the campsite.  More reading and walks.  We were sad to have to take the Journey back to the barn.  We can’t wait until we are full-timing!

Journey @ Lake of the Springs

Journey @ Lake of the Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

CJ!

 

Cool Shades – RV Quickshades Unboxing and Review

Cool Shades – RV Quickshades Unboxing and Review

Our (new to us) 2008 Winnebago Journey has curtains on the interior of the front windshield, the pilot’s side and the co-pilot/door. While the curtains are good at blocking light and some heat, you can’t see out of them. Shades for your RV windshield are used to restrict viewing into the RV yet allow those inside to have a view outside. In addition UV rays get blocked either on the outside of the windshield or close to the surface of the windshield reducing heat inside the RV. This will help interior materials such as the dash last longer and reduce A/C costs.

RV Shades are either attached outside of the windshield or inside. Usually the shades that attach to the outside of the RV use snaps, Velcro, magnets or twist lock. Interior shades usually use suction cups.

We narrowed our choices to 3 brands – all seem to be excellent. QuickShades, Magna Shade and Sunguard.

Coach Window Shades

Company Product Considered Comments
RV Quick Shades RV Pana Shade 108W x 46H We ordered a set of samples and just a few days after our order we received 4 samples about 4″ x 2″so we could see the quality of the fabric and the colors offered. For our sized rig the shades were $84.99.

Pros

  • They hang inside the rig so they don’t get damp or dirty from the weather
  • Initial setup is easy and installation is quick
  • They offer good privacy during the day as well
  • Good UV and heat protection (more on that as we use them)
  • Quick Delivery
  • US made
  • Warranty – “Yes”
  • Price

Cons

  • Pana Shade offers almost no privacy during the night (see our video review)
  • Their sizing PDF chart is a real hassle to use. First of all there is only one header for the columns in a 14+ page file, leaving you to either guess at what the columns mean or scrolling up and down.
  • Also please note that when they state “This chart is offered as a guide only; we have not, personally, measured all of he coaches listed in the Size Chart” they are correct.  Our rig was in storage, so I went with the listing on the chart for our pilot side window and our side screen is about 2″ too small.  It will still offer UV protection and daytime privacy though.
Magne Shade Magne Shade system The Windshield Shade package is $496 plus $29 shipping. To us it looks sleek and the reviews are very good. They offer a variety of fabric colors and styles. One concern that some people voiced was that they did not use the product as often as they would like because it fits on the outside of the coach – having to go outside to install the shades as well as challenges on storing them if they were damp or dirty. Because we have a concern about stowing damp shades away we opted not to buy Magne Shade, but they were are #2 choice.

Pros

  • Stylish sleek look
  • Large variety of fabrics  including photo patterns
  • Installation available in North Carolina
  • Claims easy setup to attach the shade to the magnets on the windshield with the supplied pole (about 30 seconds in the video)
  • Easy to clean – just hose off
  • Excellent UV/Heat protection
  • Great setup videos on the web site
  • Very good reviews
  • Warranty – “Yes”

Cons

  • Price
  • Exterior shade so it will can get damp/wet and dirty
  • Ladder required (only for installation process aligning where magnets are placed)
  • Concerns about staying on in high wind situations

We’re curious to see the privacy offered at night with this product.

Sunguard EZ RV Shades Sunguard actually sells both external shades like Magne Shade and internal shades like RV Quick Shades. The external shade offers a variety of fastener options. Stainless Steel and Twist Lock snaps thatrequire drilling into the rig, and Velcro. Their web page does not offer any details on the internal shades nor any way to order online – you have to order through their dealer.

Pros

  • External or Internal shades available
  • External shades look very sleek
  • 6 year guarantee and 30 day return policy

Cons

  • Price – $350 for Class A exterior windshield cover, $200 for interior (but sale prices are less)
  • No local dealers for us, challenge to find online

We purchased RV Quick Shades in October, and installed them in January. While we like the looks of the external shades we don’t like that we may have to store wet material in the RV.  Once we use our new shades during the summer we’ll report the heat difference with and without the RV Quick Shades installed.

Here’s our unboxing and setup video for RV QuickShades – let us know what you have for your cool shades.

CJ

VIAir 400P RV Air Compressor

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

The Unboxing and Review of the VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor:

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor in the box

Unboxing

You may wonder why we are looking at purchasing an air compressor when our rig already has one built-in.  There are a couple of reasons why we decided to buy the VIAIR 400P Air Compressor.  First when we use the Journey’s built-in air compressor the diesel engine is running while we go from tire to tire checking and airing them up.  Our neighbors probably don’t appreciate this early in the morning or late at night and it’s even a little irritating to us.  Secondly this air compressor actually can  air up a tire from zero to 100+ pounds of pressure.  The tire just has to have a good seal!  Built-in air compressors often can’t fill up a tire from zero to over 100 pounds pressure.

Now, let’s be truthful here.  The manual does state that you hook up the VIAIR to your vehicle’s battery and use it while the vehicle is running so the batteries won’t run down.  However our toad (Honda Pilot) can fill this need and is a lot quieter than the Journey’s diesel engines.  In some cases you can run this off the chassis battery while when connected to shore power depending on your setup.  As a backup you can also connect it to the chassis battery and use it while running the diesel engine.  It has more “oomph” than our built-in air compressor if the air pressure is really low.  Also it’s compact.  There is no tank and as you can see in the video it’s small.

What’s in the box?

VAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

VAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

  • Convenient canvas bag with pockets and handles

    VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor Canvas Bag

    VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor Canvas Bag

  • VIAIR Air Compressor with battery connectors
  • Instructions
  • Tire Pressure Inflator
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Air Inlet cover & Filters
  • 2 air hoses
  • Adapter

Assembly

Easy-connect hoses make it quick to connect the hoses once you figure out how they connect ;-).

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor unboxed

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor unboxed

Using it

  • Connect the RED VIAIR clamp to the positive (RED) connection of your battery
  • Connect the BLACK VIAIR clamp to the (BLACK) negative connection of your battery
  • Connect the two air hoses to the air compressor
  • Connect the air gauge to the air inflater
  • Connect the air inflater/gauge to the hose
  • Use the built-in (big) gauge to read the pressure & inflate (note the air gauge goes to zero if you remove it from the wheel’s stem)
  • Optional – double-check the inflation using a digital (recommended) or analog gauge

 

Hope you enjoyed this review,

JC

 

The following review(s) were not paid for by Viair or Viair Dealers to say positive things about Viair products. Our goal is to share with you, the viewer, honest and unbiased Viair product reviews to show what to expect when you purchase a VIAIR brand compressor.

Are you protected (Surge Protection-Voltage Regulator)?

Surge Protection, Voltage Regulator or both?

Are you protected?

We have visited many RV parks over the years and never worried too much about poor quality electricity. That is when our mode of transportation was a Volkswagen Vanagon or our antique Prowler trailer. Neither of these had much in terms of electronics that could be damaged by low or high power. We only had lights and a small fridge.

All of that has changed buying a modern RV. Our 2008 Winnebago Journey has enough electronics just in any one of the rooms to call for investing some time researching how to protect devices like TVs, microwave/convection ovens, PCs and air conditioners (just to name a few devices) from power surges and low power conditions. Both can damage electronic devices.

The National Electric Code specifies a range of 126 Volts to 114 Volts as acceptable (105% – 95%) Average is about 117 volts. High voltage can burn out fuses (if you are lucky) or worse burn out your appliances and electronics. Low voltages can cause air conditioners and other larger appliances to work harder and heat up more. Both situations can results in fires and safety issues besides damaging equipment.

In reality, if I want the ultimate protection I need to buy both a dedicated surge protector and a voltage regulator… or do I?

Our Finalists

Of the many surge protection and voltage regulator devices available these three stood out in our research.

Product

Pros

Cons

Hughes Autoformer
50 amp Voltage regulator and Surge protector

Provides 10% boost in low power
situations if power is less than 115 volts

Provides Spike and Surge Protections

Simple easy to understand
diagnostics lights

Boost indicator lights

Portable

Only 2 Year Warranty

High cost – MSRP $548.00
($520.94 at Amazon) compared with dedicated Surge protection only
devices

Hardwire installation kit is an extra $65.00

Not weather proof – must be covered if not installed inside

Progressive
Industries ems-hw50c Surge Protection

Less expensive – MSRP $431.00 ($347 at Amazon)

Remote display included

Hardwired

Open Neutral and Open Ground protection

Lifetime warranty

No Boost – shuts down power below 104 volts or above 132 volts

 

Surge Guard
10175 RV Voltage Regulator – 50 Amp

Provides 10% boost as low as 95 Volts

Easy LED status panel

Rain-tight enclosure

Can be mounted inside

 

More expensive – $660.90 at Amazon

Does not provide surge protection (Surge Guard does offer a variety of surge protection products)

1 year warranty

Other Resources used to learn about the products

Manufacturer links

Other Resource Links

 Our Decision – Hughes Autoformers 50 Amp RV Power Booster

After looking at the various options we decided to get Hughes Autoformers.   Even if the power looks good when you get to a park, that’s no guarantee that the voltage will remain good when everyone switches on their A/C during the middle of a heat wave – or when you arrive at the park and the section you’ve been assigned to has “Low Voltage” like you see below.

WARNING  - Low Voltage

WARNING – Low Voltage

Here’s the unboxing and review on YouTube.

Besides providing surge protection it boosts the power between 3% and 10% depending on the situation.  This would help out in those ‘Low Voltage in Section A’ situations. You may want to buy a surge protector anyways though – to protect the Autoformer!!!

The device came with no instructions however it’s fairly obvious how to set it up.  No manual in the box must have been an oversight because I was able to find it online – but not at the manufacturer’s website!  Plus their contact information is in a horrible blue against brown background that I can hardly read on my PC.  However the product itself seems solid and well built.

One negative is that it is not weather proof, so either must be installed inside the bay (there is a kit you can buy for this conversion) or cover it up.  We elected to cover it up for now, but will probably move it into the electrical bay sometime in the future.

The 50 amp power plug on the Autoformer plugs into the power pedestal at the park, then the rig’s power line plugs into the Autoormer.  It has 3 lights on the side – one central status light and two outer lights that show whether there is 30 or 50 amps coming in to the device.

  • Amber light – all is good – you have power and it’s within specs
  • Red Light – Park power is low – boost in progress.  It takes a few seconds for the Autoformer to analyze the power and decide whether to boost the power.

The Autoformer will boost when the park power is below 112 Volts and go into bypass mode at 115 Volts according to the manual that is posted here: Hughes_Autoformer

Always turn off the power at the pedestal when plugging in your RV power into the Autoformer or the Autoformer into the park pedestal.

You may need to supply pig-tails to go from the Autoformer’s 50 amp plug to a 30 amp park circuit if you buy the 50 amp Autoformer.

We only used the Autoformer for a long weekend and our park power was good.  We will update you with another post as we use it more and when we get the conversion kit to keep it in the electrical bay.

As always, Happy Trails!

CJ

 

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!

 

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

Kadie

Our Rescue Golden

Danny

Sam

Sam

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.

 

 

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!

Jengle

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.

Camping!

We are so excited about our RV!  We were able to take it out on her maiden voyage on August 29th – September 1st.


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!

 

All the stuff you need to know about RVing

All the stuff you need to know about RVing

By Ronald E. Jones and Robert G. Lowe

Ronald E. Jones & Robert G. Lowe

All the stuff you need to know about RVing

I found this book by Ronald Jones & Robert Lowe at Ronald’s website About RVing.  Here is the bookstore on his website.  What initially caught my eye was his experiences using Lithium Ion batteries for both coach and chassis battery (more about that on another post).  The book is a larger size paperback that is professionally done.

This book is an excellent overview of using and maintaining an RV.  And I’m not just talking about engine maintenance.  Here are the major sections of the book:

  • Getting Ready to Drive the RV
    • Towable RVs
    • “Drivable” RVs
    • Learning to Drive Your RV
    • Driving Practice and Practice Driving
    • Try This When Learning to Drive Your RV
    • Things To Do Up Front for Pilot and Copilot
    • Driving Suggestions
    • Getting Ready to Drive
    • Hooking Up the Toad
    • Backup Up an RV
    • Fueling Up
    • Temporary Parking
    • Copilot Help is Special Help
    • Special Insert on RV Weight
  • Stuff Inside the Coach
    • Learning to Live in Your RV
    • Living Room
    • Kitchen and Dining Area
    • Bathroom
    • Bedroom and Laundry
    • Closets and Storage
    • Packing Your RV
    • Special Insert on Buying an RV
  • Outside Stuff While Parked
    • When You First Pull Into the Campsite
    • Hooking Up the RV at the Campsite – Part I
    • Checking Shore Power
    • Hooking Up at the Campsite – Part II
    • Unhooking – Getting Ready to Go
    • Propane
    • Special Insert – Sewage
  • All the Other Stuff you Need To Know
    • Towing the Toad
    • Supplemental Braking Systems
    • Coach and Toad Protection
    • Winter Camping
    • Winterization
    • Preparing to Use Your RV After storage
    • Maintenance
    • Accessories, Services and Extra Stuff
    • Special Insert – Boondocking
  • Border Crossing Stuff

Each section provides a detailed overview of what to expect living in an RV with literally hundreds of tips and suggestions on making it easier to live on the road.  It introduces the novice to RV language like Toad, Dolly, Dumping, Shore Power and Boondocking just to mention a few.  For the experienced RVer the over 400 tips alone are worth the cost of this book.

Some topics are more introductory – such as Engine Maintenance.  You are not going to learn how to overhaul an engine, but you will learn how important it is to do proper maintenance on an RV and when to look for expert help.

This book is a keeper for my library.  It’s already all marked up.