Camping Trip #2 – Fantabulous or Disaster?

Our second camping trip… Finally!

After we bought our Journey in August, we’ve had one opportunity to take our coach out for a camping trip, until this past weekend.  We had thought there would be plenty of opportunities to camp this fall, however it spent almost 3 weeks at the dealer getting the initial ‘prep’ done before we took it out the first time.  Then Christine was off to New York and when we were all set to take the Winnebago out the 2nd time on November 14th an air leak forced us to take it in to Freightliner.  We decide not to take the RV up to Oregon for our family Thanksgiving dinner.

December 12th – All set to go to Lake Minden – Nicolaus, California

On Friday, December 12th I picked up the RV from storage and we got loaded up.  We stopped by Sacramento Valley Truck center, filled up with Diesel and weighed the RV.  The last time I took the RV to La Mesa they put more air in the outside dual tires, and according to the information I had from Toyo and the RV recommended weight, it was too high.  Both of the dual tires need the same pressure.  When I weighed the Winnebago the first time back in August I had too much weight in back.  If you are at 90% capacity in your coach overall, then the weight at each axle should be at 90% of capacity.  When loading up the RV today, I moved more items towards the front and now I want to check the tire pressure for our new weight.

At only 33 miles away and on the flat-lands this trip should pose no issues.


Friday, December 12th – Lake Minden

The weather for the weekend was perfect for December.  The forecast is for showers Friday afternoon, then a mixture of cloudy and sunny weather for the rest of the weekend.  No more rain until Monday.

We had remembered all of our kitchen gadgets – Vitamix for breakfast, rice cooker/steamer to make some soup and the Cuisinart to shred carrots for the dogs (something we add to their dog food).

About 5 miles from Thousand Trails Lake Minden the Tire Pressure Monitoring System’s beeper went off with a high pressure condition for one of the dual tires.  The pressure was still well within limits for the tire at warm running temperatures – reporting 116 lbs pressure.  To be safe, I pulled off at Riego Road.  I realized I had put the sensors on the opposite side of the coach than what the monitor was displaying.  Other than that everything looks OK, so we drove on to our camping spot.
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I was planning to finish the videos on the Hughes Autoformer and the RV Quick Shades, but the rain started so we decided to crank up the TV antenna, kick back and veg out.  TV reception was great, but Christmas music on Sirius was better – that along with listening to the rain come down.

Saturday, December 15th – Lake Minden

After feeding the dogs, having breakfast and then taking the dogs for a walk I was ready for some fun.

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Jeff, Kadie & Danny


Lake Minden has a lot of cropland and walnut orchards around.  A bit soggy but the dogs loved it!

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Around the swampy creeks


Nice evening reflections…

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Sunset @ Lake Minden


Lake Minden
Lake Minden – From the farmer’s perspective

I am looking forward to learning more about the RV, and the first thing I wanted to check out was the weight of the RV and calculate the correct tire pressure; then make sure all the tires are inflated properly.  At 9,320 lbs on the front axle and 16,960 on the rear axle we were at 90% for both axles.  Looking at the Toyo chart, that puts me at 93 lbs. all the way around – that makes it simple!   Tire pressure management is done when the tires are cold.   Even sunlight shining on the side of the tire can make a difference in tire pressure.

The Journey has an air compressor used for the suspension, and there is a fitting by the generator that can be used to fill up tires etc.  However, to use the air compressor the engine has to run to maintain the compression.   Since I am not the fastest at this stuff – and I am being careful taking off the TPMS sensors so they don’t fall between the dual wheels (they are unscrewed and taken off to use the air gauge and to inflate/deflate the tires).  I do the front tires first since the sensors are easy to access.  Then do the co-pilot rear dual tires.  The outer dual valve stems are reversed, so the opening faces the inside.  This is a bit more of a challenge and I have to take of both sets of sensors off because they are on the wrong sides of the coach.  I could re-program the monitor, but since I’m taking all the sensors off anyways I’ll just swap them.

When I move over to the driver’s side rear dual wheels, the inside  tire shows no pressure. The sensor, manual and digital air gauges all read ZERO.  This was the tire that had shown over pressure on the way up.  It will not build up any pressure at all.  I shut down the RV – by this time I am really tired of hearing the engine idle while I air up the tires.

One of the great things about RVing is the people you meet.  Kelly, one of our neighbors a few RVs down stopped by after seeing me out with all my air hoses and still struggling with my chores.  Kelly and his wife have been RVing for about 4 years now after retiring from Exxon.  He thought that my built-in air compressor did not have enough oomph to fill up an empty tire.  He had purchased a passive in-line pump from Les Schwab that increases the output of the Journey’s air compressor.  This didn’t help, and we realized that we could actually feel the tire wiggle on the wheels. Yikes, it was off the rim!

Kelly also mentions that there is no way 93 lbs is enough pressure for an RV of our size.  We need to follow the chassis label (110 lbs @ max load) and it should be much closer to that pressure.  Great… did I under-inflate my tires?  Uncertainty leads to worry.  What if I ruined my tire and possibly put the coach and family in danger because I mis-understood what tire pressure to keep in the tires?  I feel like a dunce.

Warranty?  What Warranty?

We have an extended warranty on our tires, however after calling USA Travel Care’s tire warranty service the the tires themselves are covered and up to $50 for towing.  Roadside repair is not covered.  My USA Travel coach extended warranty covers up to $300 for towing when I have a flat, and my RV insurance has unlimited towing.  Seems like a simple solution, eh?  Get towed and have the flat fixed.  That way the warranty covers the cost.  I have no idea how much a tow will cost us.  After a call to Geico they decide it’s covered but it’s getting late so we decide to call back on Sunday to get towed and get the tire fixed.  I called Les Schwab and they don’t tow RVs (remember this for later in the story).

Sunday, December 16th – Lake Minden

After having breakfast and taking the dogs for a walk I’m back on the phone with Geico. They call around, and after over 4 hours off and on the phone with them (partially because of he poor cell coverage for AT&T at our location – we keep getting dropped) they finally locate a service that will come out.  They will be there in 2 hours.

Great!  We start packing up, get unhooked from water and stow our things.  I lower the antenna and put my tools away.  Then I stand back and check the RV.  The antenna is still up.  Well, crap.  I go in, and try to lower the antenna… it’s lowered all the way according to the crank.   I wind it up, then lower it down again.  When I go outside, it’s still up – proud and dandy.  I go back inside and the handle for the antenna comes off in my hand, and it’s jammed tight now.

This is not good.  We don’t want the antenna to get ripped off and damage the roof.

Okay, I have not been up on the roof yet, and that is one of the things I wanted to do so I can check the seals around the vents.  I am a little apprehensive about getting up on the roof.  As I have “matured”, my balance is not the greatest, so I have to be careful going up on the bricks & sticks house roof to clean the gutters etc.  Here’s a pretty smooth, curved surface with no gutter.  I get the A-Frame ladder out and check out the side.  There is no way I can reach anything from the side on the A-Frame ladder.  So on to the back of the coach and up the rear ladder.  The roof is in good shape… and not slippery at all.  I make my way along the center line of the coach roof to the antenna.  I don’t see anything on the antenna to ‘fix’.  There is a geared sprocket like thing but it won’t move. Fortunately there are two pins with a slip washer on them. I take them out and the antenna comes down, then I put the pins back in holding the antenna in place.

As I scrabble back to the rear ladder I inspect the seals and overall condition of the roof. Everything looks good.  I think it should be easy to replace both of the fans in the kitchen and the bathroom.  Both are noisy, have to be closed when it rains and the rear fan’s gasket is loose.

Down the ladder and back on safe ground!  Whew.  I’m feeling good.  Two major achievements this weekend so far.  We tested out our heating systems – the furnace worked both on propane as well as electric, and our new Dyson fan worked great to maintain the temperature.  And I inspected our roof. We also managed to record some power usage using our Kill-a-Watt meter.

Things are really going good.  Another neighbor stops by, and they have just retired 3 weeks ago and are gradually making their way down the west coast starting from Seattle.  They have been getting rain all the way down.  Their older Bounder has had NO PROBLEMS at all.   Hmmmm.  Well, we’ll get the bugs worked out of our Journey.

He spoke about CoachNet and heard good things about them, and I can see the advantage of working with a company that understands RVs – especially newbies like Christine and I.

Geico calls back… the towing company can’t tow us.  So they are back calling around to find someone to give us a tow.  Finally after a few more dropped calls and exchanges they contact a company that can tow us – but not until Monday.  I was instructed to call back at 8 a.m. Monday.

We continue to pack up and I notice there is a bunch of soot by the water heater vent.  We heard the water heater go on, but didn’t have any hot water.  However we have an electric water pot and that served us OK.  Now I know the reason we didn’t get hot water – something’s wrong with it.  Another thing to add to the list to get fixed.

In the meantime, Christine needs to be able to go back to work on Monday, so we contact River City Indoor RV storage where I dropped off the Honda Pilot and asked them to pull it out; then contacted our daughter and asked her to pick me up and take me home to get the keys before picking up the Pilot so I could take Christine and the dogs home.  I go back to Lake Minden just as it is getting dark after Christine fixes a great dinner.  Danny, our Golden Retriever and I spend the night so we can deal with Monday’s adventures.

 Monday December 17th – Lake Minden

Right at 8 o’clock I call Geico and they call the tow company dispatcher.  The tow company reports that a diesel can’t be towed, and Geico calls around for a company that can bring or repair the tire on-site.  While I’m waiting for Geico I call CoachNet.  I want to know if I sign up for service, how long before I can get covered.  They report that coverage starts the next day, even for a ‘pre-existing’ condition ;-).  I get signed up for their premium service that includes the tow vehicle.  Just in case…

Geico calls back, and report that the only place that can provide service is Les Schwab.  Since they don’t have an agreement with Geico, I would have to contact them myself, pay for it then get reimbursed.   Ha!  Didn’t I call Les Schwab early on?  But I asked the WRONG question.  I asked if they TOWED RVs, not did they provide on-site service.  I called Les Schwab and talked with Danny.  He was out in an hour.

 Rescue at Lake Minden

All set for the dramatic ending for the Rescue at Lake Minden?  With Jeff and his side-kick Danny the Retriever and Danny from Les Schwab as they are the key characters.  What’s the plot though?

Danny from Les Schwab got all set up and was going to take off the outer dual wheel, but couldn’t find his air wrench.  Evidently his pickup was taken in to replace the catalytic converter and someone had taken out the wrench and not put it back.  No worries though.  Danny crawled under the coach and using a thing-a-ma-jig that looked like an over-sized leaf blower he popped the tire back to the wheel, then aired it up.  And I do mean POPPED! When he put the TPMS sensor back on the wheel he could hear the air leaking.  Well that answers that question!  To be safe, he follows me back to Sacramento so he can check the tire & wheel at the shop.

Les Schwab – Sacramento

Back at Les Schwab Danny removes the wheels and check out the tire & wheel.  All looks good.

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So I ask him about my tire pressure.  I show him the weight report and he types in some numbers from the side of the tire and comes up with…. (Drum roll)… 93 lbs – front and back.

What a relief!  At least I was right in my research on tire pressure.

What a great Les Schwab story. :) and actually what a great weekend camping.  Not only did we get a chance to get the RV out, we learned lots.

Took the Journey back to storage and the rest is for another day.


Over the next few weeks I have done some testing on the TPMS sensor, and now I’m not certain whether it’s the sensor that’s bad or the valve/valve stem.  More research on our next camping trip!

Techno-Crap Happens

Laptop Lost

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

Off to Amazon

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 Bottom Line on the ASUS Laptop

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

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

Also Purchased:

Short-List of things to get for the New RV

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

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

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

Short List – next 6 to 9 months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short List – before we Full-Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another list done!


Time to SHOP for first Camping trip

Shopping List for first Camping Trip #1: Home Stuff

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

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

Choice 1 – move things between the house and the RV

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

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

Choice 2 – buy things for the RV

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

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

Choice 3 – use things you have

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

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

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

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

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


Preparing for camping – Making Lists

Oh crap!  Honey, I forgot the beans.

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

Making Lists

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

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

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

Wunderlist Sublist
Wunderlist Sublist

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

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

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

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

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

Software described: Wunderlist

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

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


Making the Right Decision or being Wishy washy – Gasser vs. Diesel, New vs. Used


Are we making the right decision?

We visited La Mesa RV in Davis, California and got all excited with the smell of new RVs.  You know that smell, don’t you?  The exciting smell of money and fresh carpet, along with thoughts of life on the road again. We could taste being on the road!


Fleetwood Excursion 35 ft. DP

We first looked at a new 2013 Fleetwood Excursion 35 foot DP.  This is a slightly longer RV than the Wynns of Gone With the Wynns Blog have.   But we didn’t like the general layout and felt that the overall workmanship of the unit was not really what we were searching for, but buying new is appealing and the year-end model is close to our budget.

We have focused on used diesel pushers for the past few months, and the sales rep at La Mesa  asked how set were we on DPs and not Gassers.  As a matter of fact, I am disappointed in the lack of used smaller diesel pushers that we could actually touch and feel.  So his question came at an opportune time.

I told him that I am frustrated at not finding a used rig locally to look at that we are interested in over the past few months.  He pointed out the advantages of buying a new RV over a used unit.  And he was quick to point out the extra maintenance costs of buying used.  That is something I worry about as well, the fear of buying a used motorhome  that was close to falling apart and spending our retirement years on the side of the road and not on the road.  We then checked out the Winnebago Adventurer Gasser RV.

Winnebago Adventurer
Winnebago Adventurer

The quality difference of this high-end Gasser is noticed immediately.  The fit and finish were better than the low-end Fleetwood DP, had a king bed and nice galley.  We then checked out the Winnebago Sightseer and REALLY liked the U-shaped couch and TV arrangement.

I think if we were ready, the check would have been written.  Fortunately we didn’t have a check book, and fortunately I spent some time looking at the storage arrangement on the Gassers because the next day at work I was thinking about our vacation and retirement plans.  We are planning on taking full size bikes for both of us, and most likely a single 2 person kayak or two single person kayaks.  Add a couple of nice outdoor lounge chairs and a few key kitchen appliances along with our fairly light-weight exercise equipment and I was having problems picturing how those larger items are to be stowed away on the Gasser.  Diesel pushers generally have better storage compartments for these types of items.

We then spent some time going back through rv-trader and eBay web sites looking at some beautiful Country Coach and Winnebago Journey DPs that have a ton more storage.  Yes, they are not new and we will have to have a larger annual maintenance budget but they still seem to fit our planned mobile lifestyle better.

Seriously consider different solutions before making your final decision as this is an excellent exercise to verify what type of motorhome to meets your needs.  Buying new has significant advantages over used, and in our case that would mean sacrificing quality and/or space.  This showed me how important it is to have a good understanding of the activities and lifestyle you want when you vacation or full-time in an RV.  We could have ended up with a great RV that does not meet our needs.  See our earlier posts on New vs Used,  and the Different Types of Class A RV engines.

An Emotional Response

Downsizing and Rightsizing
February 7, 2014

An Emotional Response
Not easy getting rid of ‘treasures’

Our plan over the next few years involves downsizing our home while we are working, before full-timing in our RV.  The plan is to decide now what we plan to keep, what to store and what to give away or sell.

Our first pass at going through this is this weekend, with our daughters.  This is fun because we will be opening up boxes of kids stuff that are in the attic.  The last time we checked out the contents of most of these boxes was, well let’s just say a really long time ago.

On the other hand how do you decide which mementos to keep?  That first finger painting that I got for father’s day?  The clay figurine from third grade?  The Christmas card from a relative no longer living?  There is not enough room for us to keep all these things, and most of this ‘stuff’ is going to be taken by the kids, sold or donated.  It simply won’t fit in an RV.

So… bring in “the kids” and let them help in the decision process.    We all have our say about what goes.

I keep reciting my mantra, “I want to simplify my life”‘.  I don’t know if it’s working or not.  Let’s see if we can rightsize our possessions to fit our future lifestyle.

Saturday February 8, 2014

The emotional ties to getting rid of our children’s nick-knacks certainly does not extend to our children!  In a short order they picked a few items they wanted to keep and left the rest for us to decide what to sell or donate.  We ended up with only a couple of boxes full of items to think about and a few dozen boxes that need to go to the garage sale or be donated.  Probably the most difficult items to decide on were our Steiff stuffed animals from Christine’s grandparents in Germany.  So much for the kid’s emotional response.

Surprisingly enough, we maintained focus and have a great start on our rightsize project.  The real challenge lies ahead of us when we start going through the items we have tucked away in the corners of the house.


Class A Motorhome Engine Types

Class A Motorhome Engine Types –

Diesel Pusher?  FRED?  Gasser?

Class A motorhomes can have different types of engines that are either placed in the front or the rear of the coach.  Manufactured motorhomes give buyers a choice of diesel engines in the rear called a diesel pusher, a diesel in the front that is a Front End Diesel (FRED) or a gasoline powered engine (gasser)  in the front.  Each have different advantages.  Here is what we have learned so far:


Gasoline engines are less expensive than diesel engines.   They are most commonly built on a truck chassis with leaf spring suspension and Ford is the most common engine used.  The coaches generally are lighter weight and carry and tow less than most diesel-powered motorhomes.  Because of the weight capacity difference, few gasoline powered coaches have washer/dryer units and typically have linoleum  for hard flooring and not tile.  On the other hand there are many floor plans available with prices for new units well under $100,000.

Diesel Pusher (RED – Rear Engine Diesel)

cumminsHaving a diesel engine in the back allows for a quieter ride up front making it easier to carry a conversation even when going over mountains.  Diesel engines have greater torque and run at a lower RPM than a gasser.  This allows the engine to go farther between servicing and up to 5 times the mileage (500,000 miles) before typical engine overhaul.  It also allows for greater weight capacity and better performance in general – especially through the mountains.  Diesels also generally offer better fuel economy although the price of diesel is higher than gasoline.    In addition diesel engines typically use exhaust back-pressure or air-braking to aid braking and have air ride suspension systems (air bags) that means less sway in high wind conditions or when freight trucks pass.

The conventional wisdom is that for motorhome lengths that are greater than 36′, diesel is the only way to go.

With all the great features of a diesel, what’s the drawback?  First – the initial cost of a diesel-powered coach is more than a gasser.  However recently there have been some smaller (36′ or less) diesel pushers selling for under $150,000 new.  Secondly maintenance is more expensive (but less frequent) than a gasser; and it is usually easier to find a gasoline engine mechanic than a diesel mechanic.

Here is a good article by Bryan Henke of Freightliner Custom Chasis.

FRED (FRont End Diesel)

As the name suggests, FREDs have the engine in front.  Generally they do not have air suspension or air brakes and have less carrying capacity than diesel pushers – an important consideration for full-timer RVers.   Some report that engine noise is less than a gasser, but more than a diesel pusher.  Because the coach is still a rear-drive unit the drive shaft occupies a fair amount of space down the length of the basement.

Ok, that’s it for tonight… While we have not made this decision yet – we are leaning towards a diesel pusher.  Any suggestions?

Why Full Time RV

Full Time RV – It’s Human Nature

why_fulltimeMobile lifestyle is human nature.  Since the first humans have been on earth they have migrated across continents and across the world.  It’s in our nature, in our blood.  My ancestors came to the colonies from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France and Switzerland in the mid 1700s.  By the early 1900’s they had migrated to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado with some ending up in Oregon.

Maybe the question of Why RV should be why not?  There is a human desire to find out what’s over the next hill and around the next bend of the trail or road.  Some people live the full timer RV lifestyle because they want to, others because their job or circumstances make this the best choice.  Regardless, just about anyone can live the mobile life (and I don’t mean cell-phones).

So, why are we going the live the Full Time RV life?  More than anything else, this is a lifestyle choice.  We are going to tour the US and Canada over an extended period, exploring the nooks and crannies that only Charles Kuralt and a few others managed to unearth.  Staying in motels and eating out all the time is very expensive, limits our options on where to stay and makes it difficult to travel with pets who are an important part of our family.  Every RVer – full-time or not – has their own reasons.

We have friends who successfully transitioned to a full timer RV lifestyle for several years.  This allowed them to visit and stay for extended periods of time in places they could explore, then travel on.  This appeals to our sense of adventure, wish to explore and make new friends.

How else can you go out and kayak on a lake in the morning, then return to your home and enjoy a stew that has simmered while we are gone.  Then, a few days later you are ocean-side sipping wine under your awning enjoying the gentle lapping of waves under palm trees.  There is an independence and freedom associated with RV life that only a few take the effort to enjoy.

Happy Trails


Deciding on the type of RV

What type of RV is best for you?
What type of RV is best for you?

Trailer? 5th Wheel?  Motorhome?

January 23, 2014

One of the many difficult decisions that we need to make is the type of RV to full-time in.  RV decision-making is complex.  Over the past 4 months we have been able to narrow down our choices.  To do this, we went to 4 RV shows and visited a couple of dealers in Oregon and California over this period.

One thing to consider is resale value.  Currently resale values for Class C motor homes are higher because of the demand for these mid-sized RVs.  Trailers and 5th wheels also are attractive and since they have no engine their resale value is greater and maintenance is less (until you factor in the pickup or other vehicle to tow the trailer).  Check out Buying a Used Motorhome and not get burned by Bill Myers.  I think it was the best 3 bucks I spent in a long time.  He has a great discussion about the different types of RVs.

How do you FEEL?

Probably the most important consideration is how you feel in the RV.  Does it feel right for you?

The Types of RVs we considered

5th Wheel Trailers

We find that 5th wheels have some big living areas that feel more like a traditional front room that we really like.   The 5th wheels that meet our needs are large so we need a big heavy-duty dual wheel pick-up truck to haul it.  We also need a king cab so our big dogs can travel up front with us.  We do not like either of these options, so 5th wheels are out.

Class B Motorhomes

We had lots of fun times back in the ‘80s in our VW Vanagon Westfalia camper, but every time we decided to go someplace, everything gets stowed away for each side-trip and errand we go on.  Current Class B motor homes are larger and have more amenities, but they don’t fit our proposed lifestyle.  They are great for weekenders, but they are just too small for us now.

Class C Motorhomes

Class C motorhomes range in sizes up to small Class A range.  This is closer to what we like.  But we face the same problem as class B – still not enough room for us to comfortably live in with us and the dogs.  Sound like the 3 bears?


Trailers are another consideration and we spent many weekends camping with a Suburban and an old Prowler.  However, like a 5th wheel we would have to get a heavy-duty dual wheel pickup truck with extended cab for us and the dogs.  Too cramped and we are not interested in driving around in a big pickup when we go sightseeing and exploring.

Class A Motorhomes

Type A on Dirt Road Web-rvbuiltfortwoClass A motorhomes are what our friends Judy and Jan retired in, and that was what we pictured all along.  After reading about so many people selecting the wrong type of RV the first time, we want to make sure that we don’t fall into that trap.  Class A just seems right for us.  With a slider or two the motorhome opens up to give plenty of room when camping.  Closed up, many provide enough room for the dogs and even the grandkids can buckle up when they go trippin’ with us.  Plus we can pull a small Jeep that will get us around more conveniently than driving a pickup.


We spent 4 months looking before our decision was firm to go with a Class A motohome.  We used the last RV show we attended to test our assumptions.  We walked through trailers, 5th wheels and motorhomes again.  We feel good about our decision and are looking forward to the next step to narrow down our choices further.

Here is what we did:

  • Walk through as many RVs as possible to get an idea of the variety of layouts and options.
  • Look at both new and used units since there are differences in the same model over different years.
  • Write down our likes and dislikes because there are so many things to keep in mind.
  • Spend some time in the units that we like and envision living there cooking meals, watching TV, reading.
  • Check out the storage and think about where you will fit your things – such as is there space for your kayak, fishing gear and bikes?


  • RV Shows – sponsored by a single dealer or several
  • RV Dealerships – both brick and mortar as well as web inventory
  • Manufacturer websites – you can download brochures and get video tours – often for prior years too
  • Websites such as eBay, RVSoodle, YouTube, RVTrader and of course general Googling are especially good to research new and used units.  Many include videos, pictures and layout diagrams
  • Blogs and Reviews – we have found the following very helpful: FMCA, iRV2, Gone with the Wynns and RV-Dreams
  • Magazines such as Motorhome, Trailer Life, FMCA Magazine
  • Books – search online and view our expanding reviews.

Your RV is home.  Have fun with your RV Decision Making, and don’t rush.  Remember – write a list of features that you do and don’t like as you tour the various RV types and models and keep track of those that meet your needs.