Audio Video Tech Stuff

Studio

My home studio. That is one part of our transition to retirement that I will miss. Lots of high tech goodness in that part of the house.

I will have some recording gear with me when we go out on the road full-time with the Castaway and it will be far more modest than my current studio. Although, I think I will still be able to get some good sound even with the limited space and gear. However, that is a different topic for another time.

Today is about how we are approaching the Audio Video technology in our coach.

The current equipment in the coach is okay. In the forward section of the coach:

  • Entry-level Sony STR-DH550 AV Receiver
  • Bell Expressvu 6131 HD Satellite Receiver
  • Entry-level Sony Blu-Ray Player
  • Winegard Satellite Antenna Control
  • Winegard Digital TV Antenna Control
  • Two 120mm Cooling Fans in the Forward Cabinet
  • Two as yet unidentified boxes routing the HDMI satellite feed
  • Two Sony LED TVs

In the back section of the coach:

  • One Sony LED TV
  • One Entry-level Sony Blu-Ray Player

We are adding a few things to make the place a bit more geek-friendly.

I had Newmar pre-wire an Ethernet Cat 6 Cable between the forward AV cabinet and the back AV cabinet. For some reason, this caused our dealer to ponder such a custom request. Why would we need an Ethernet cable? Isn’t everything wireless today?

Well, yes and no. Read on.

We will set up a wired and wireless local area network in the coach to allow media streaming to all of our devices and screens. We expect to carry at least two iPhones, three iPads and a laptop. And we want to be able to throw things up to any of our TV screens. We will have a fair amount of technology in the coach.

We will install an Apple Airport Extreme in the back AV cabinet. It will be connected by Ethernet to a Synology DS416play NAS. It will also be connected by Ethernet to Apple TVs in the forward and back AV cabinets.

The NAS will run an iTunes server for all of our music and video content. This will allow us to stream media over the wire to the Apple TVs and, by extension, video content will go out to the TV screens. Wired lines still provide the best performance particularly when streaming high definition video content.

I have already configured our Harmony Elite remote along with the Harmony Hub to simplify the operation in the forward section of the coach. I will configure our older Harmony touch remote to operate the technology in the back section of the coach.

The NAS will hold basically all of our data, documents and media content, so it will be the overall digital workhorse for our coach.

I expect to have most of the technology in and running over the next couple of weeks. I will do a video walkthrough to show you how it all worked out.

Cross Border Expedition

JungleCruise

We have booked our second expedition for the Castaway. This one is a bit more of an adventure. We will be travelling about 1,000 kilometres to Petoskey Motorcoach Resort in Michigan.

Our first trip was very successful and it was also very local. We traveled only 50 kilometres to our campsite. Short drive and a two-night stay.

This expedition will be more of a test. We will be following this route:

Route

We will be breaking the drive down into two segments. The first segment will take us across the border and we will stop for the night at the Port Huron KOA. That will be about a 5-hour drive and whatever time it may take to get through U.S. Customs.

We have never crossed the U.S. border in a motorhome before. And we have never brought our dog across the border.

Tabby is a wonderful golden retriever and very friendly but she has no passport.

What do we need to bring our dog across the border?

Tabby must be healthy, and she is, and she must have a valid rabies vaccine certificate. The certificate has to be issued from a licensed veterinarian and includes the following information:

  • Breed, gender, age colour, markings and any other identifying information
  • Date of rabies vaccination
  • Expiration date of vaccination certificate or date that the next vaccination is due
  • Veterinarian’s signature

The CDC website outlines all of the requirements for bringing a dog into the United States.

What about crossing the border in an RV?

We will need to have our passports.

We may have to prove residency so we will have copies of our Property Taxes as well as some utility receipts.

We won’t travel with any food. We will pick up what we need once we cross into the United States.

We are only staying for a week so we do not have to worry about hitting the 182 day visitor limit. Once we start snowbirding in the United States, we will have to fill out a Closer Connection form and send it to the IRS so we are not held liable for U.S. taxes.

And we will make sure that we have U.S. travel packs for our mobile devices.

The second segment of our drive will take us to the beautiful Petoskey Motorcoach Resort. We have a great site reserved for the week. As we have not yet set up a toad, we will be renting a car. The folks at the resort will arrange to have the rental car brought out to our site.

The trip back will be a full day of driving — probably about 10 hours or so depending on traffic and any delays at the border.

We will be heading out in 4 weeks.

 

Look Up

Tree

A wee bit of trimming by the staff at Thousand Islands KOA.

Although the campground provides sites that are big rig friendly, well, let’s just say that this particular site was very, very tight.

Lorraine was spotting me into the site and she was focused on getting the Castaway cleared left and right. The site had a landscaped patio area with some large rocks on the driver’s right and a number of trees on the driver’s left. There was very little room to swing especially for a pull-through site.

I was focused on Lorraine. She was focused on clearing the sides and back. Neither one of us thought to look up.

The trees. One in particular. We are 12 feet 10 inches at ride height. Likely a touch taller than the lowest branch of this one tree.

I raised it with the roofline at the front of the coach although, once we had levelled the Castaway, the lowest branch was clear by a small margin.

Fortunately there was no damage to the body of the coach.

But there was no way we could pull out at ride height. The branch would have had its way with our various antennas and air conditioning units.

On departure day, two young men came out to our site and dealt with the offending branch. They were very careful and brought the branch down without incident.

Getting out of the site was also challenging although I am beginning to get better at maneuvering this 40-foot coach.

Lesson learned.

Always look up.

One Thousand Islands

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I have not counted them one by one. That said, according to reputable sources, there are 1,864 islands in the thousand islands region.

We are almost at the end of our first trip with the Castaway and, with a few minor exceptions, we had a very successful breaking in of the coach.

Here are a few shots of the campground and the marina directly across the street from the campground.

More on our first experience with the coach in the next few days.

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First Trip

 

KOAReservation

We are heading out on our first bonafide excursion with the Castaway. A way to break ourselves into the RV lifestyle and to get that first experience being out in the coach on a campsite away from home.

We decided to book a site at the 1,000 Islands KOA as they offer full service pull through sites for big rigs. This KOA is not too far from where we live. Our local KOA, which is much, much closer, only offers electrical and water and we want to go through the process of setting up the coach on a full service site. I want to log more miles on the rig so a longer drive is a good thing. Plus, the 1,000 Islands is a beautiful part of Ontario. The weather forecast so far is promising and it is the Father’s day weekend. Our son will be along for the trip. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Here is the map of the campground:

KOAMap

It is a really scenic area although the sites are not guaranteed. We will be placed somewhere on sites 23-25 or 32-37 as those are the only 50 amp full service pull through sites.

I will be travelling on business for the next couple of days and that will give me some time to pull together our packing list for the trip.

Really looking forward our first camping experience in the Castaway.