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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.

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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

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









Cool Shades – RV Quickshades Unboxing and Review

Trippin' with the Engles...

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.


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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”


  • 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.


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


  • 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.


VIAir 400P RV Air Compressor

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor unboxed

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


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


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,



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.




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


Only 2 Year Warranty

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

Hardwire installation kit is an extra $65.00

Not weather proof – must be covered if not installed inside

Industries ems-hw50c Surge Protection

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

Remote display included


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!



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!

RV Buying – About RV Depreciation

 Understanding RV Depreciation…

COO-DepreciationJanuary 24, 2014

No matter what kind of an RV you talk about, they depreciate.  Quite a lot actually.  RVs with engines depreciate quicker because of the wear and tear of their motors.  There are advantages to buying new – you get to pick out the features you want right up-front, no one else has lived in the RV, you get a manufacturer warranty and of course – it’s NEW!  Used RV buyers can take advantage of depreciation on the unit, selecting from a wider variety of models covering a several years, lower cost of add-on options if they are already installed and often used RVs have very low mileage on them.

Whether buying new or used – depreciation is something you need to understand.  The National Automotive Dealer Association (NADA) publishes the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), Low resale and Average resale prices each year for almost all RVs.  This gives us a quick gauge of the current value for a specific year and model of an RV.    It is important when considering depreciation over time, that it is based off of MSRP.  For example if average depreciation for a 5 year old RV is 3% that originally cost $100,000 then the depreciation for year 5 is $3,000 even though you may have purchased that RV used for $50,000 ( that makes it 6% depreciation on your used purchase price).

If you are buying new or used, depreciation is a real cost of ownership, just like buying gas and paying campground fees.  When you sell or trade in your RV, depreciation becomes very real – especially if you are financing your purchase.  Fortunately, very few purchase RVs at MSRP.  Discounts from 20% to 30% (depending on the value of the motorhome) are common – check out some of the larger RV dealerships.   Regardless, you can expect your RV to be worth about 50% of MSRP within 6 or 7 years.  While that may frighten some, you have to remember that there are many other ways to keep your overall living costs at a reasonable level compared to a brick and stick home.  This is a lifestyle choice that can provide exciting opportunities, and many want to understand what it takes to live this lifestyle.  Depreciation is only one factor – but one that can’t be ignored.  If you are looking at spending a couple of years or more touring the country RV full timing can be very attractive.

Sample Depreciation
Year Model Engine MSRP Average Depreciation Depreciation % Difference
2013 34b 340 246736 205710 41026 0.16 -0.17
2012 34Y 340 224750 182770 41980 0.18 -0.02
2011 34Y 340 211376 153190 58186 0.27 -0.09
2010 34y 340 204182 132270 71912 0.35 -0.08
2008 34h 350 198491 114330 84161 0.42 -0.07
2007 34h 300 183882 100370 83512 0.45 -0.03
2006 34h 300 166218 84700 81518 0.49 -0.04
2005 34h 300 161883 68050 93833 0.58 -0.09
2004 34h 300 151873 60480 91393 0.60 -0.02
2003 34h 300 145684 54430 91254 0.63 -0.02

RVersOnline.Org has an article about general depreciation schedules for RVs in their Archives.  It makes for good reading for those wishing to further understand the impact of depreciation.

More about RV Cost of Ownership – what we have found out – to be posted soon