Port Huron KOA

KOA1

We made it! From our home, across the U.S. border, to our first waypoint, Port Huron KOA.

The drive was almost six hours and trouble free. We stopped for fuel at the Flying J in Napanee, Ontario. Another stop for lunch at a service centre near Cambridge, Ontario. And then customs.

How I worried about customs.

This was our first time crossing the border with a motorhome. The first time crossing the border with our dog. I prepared all sorts of documents including the vaccination certificate for our golden retriever, reservation confirmations, and various proof of residency documents — just in case.

All we got? Three questions: how many people in the vehicle, where are you from, and do you have any groceries.

That was it. About a minute and we were on our way.

Our first overnight stop was at the Port Huron KOA.

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The entrance into the park looks calm in this picture largely because I took the shot at around 9:00pm. When we arrived at around 5:00pm, it was very chaotic. People and RVs everywhere. This was one very busy KOA.

We had a super site for the evening.

KOA1c

The site looks quite large and it is. For a KOA. We had neighbours very tight to the driver’s side of the coach.

Because this park is very large and very busy it is not very peaceful. Lots of activity. For us, however, we were looking forward to Petoskey where we knew it would be a different style of camping. Petoskey would be glamping.

That said, we had a wonderful evening by the coach enjoying the long summer evening with a pizza and a fire.

Our travels will take us to Petoskey and I will fill you in on our journey tomorrow.

Here are a few more pictures from our stopover.

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KOA3

Bon Voyage

BonVoyage

We head out on our first real road trip with the Castaway early Saturday morning. The excitement is building as we get ready to cast off. Ok, I know. That was a pretty bad pun.

We built our packing list for the trip and we have been refining it as we go. It has helped us to get the coach prepared for departure.

We expect to cross the border early afternoon on the Saturday. We will be spending one night at the Port Huron KOA before making our way to our final destination which is the Petoskey Motorcoach Resort in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Although we are still very much newbies, we have learned to call ahead at the campgrounds to make sure our rig will fit.

We will have no issues at Petoskey. Their sites are very large and designed specifically for big rigs.

KOA sites? Well, let’s just say the ones we have used so far have turned out to be really tight for our coach.

Initially, our booking at the Port Huron KOA on the way up to Petoskey was a large super site. But then we changed our dates and we were assigned to a much smaller back-in site. We asked to be placed on a waiting list for an upgraded site. We called them up last night and success. We are back on a large super site, site 38.

KOASite

On the way back, we are assigned a pull through site at the Port Huron KOA which looks to be fine for our coach. But, we will check that site out on our way up to Petoskey to make sure.

This will be our first border crossing with our coach and with our dog. Hopefully it all goes well.

Two more sleeps.

Break/fix

Service

We’ve had our coach for a few months now. And we have been living in it for the most part. We have taken the Castaway out for a few trial runs, one weekend trip and one overnight trip. Later this week, we take the Castaway out for a much longer run.

This is all part of the breaking in period.

We expect things to go wrong with the coach. We expect to keep a list of things that have gone wrong and to get them fixed.

What has been our experience so far with the Newmar Dutch Star? Excellent.

Here is what we have found so far that needs to be addressed under warranty.

Exterior

  • Paint flaw on the driver’s side fuel tank cover
  • Missed silicone sealant under the passenger’s side mirror

Interior

  • Slight gap in a small section of tile grout (roughly half an inch)
  • Lift of a section of fabric trim on entrance door to master bedroom (about 10 inches of trim needs to be glued back into place)
  • Tile cracked under one of the recliners on full wall slideout

And that is it so far.

We did have to repair a kitchen latch. We were a bit forceful in testing out a storage bin for one of the kitchen drawers and managed to break the upper latch mechanism. We ordered the part and I installed it last night. Easy fix.

We will be heading down to Nappanee in the spring to have the coach serviced and to make a change.

We decided that we missed something when we built the coach and Newmar is going to help us out for a small amount of money. What did we miss? Windows in our bedroom slideout. The bedroom slideout on the passenger’s side of the coach is currently windowless. Why? Well, it had something to do with the style of bed that we ordered. We ordered a bed that inclines and retracts. No one had told us that this feature would drop the two windows in the bedroom.

We’ve decided that the two windows are important to us and Newmar will fit them back into our coach. The bed won’t incline and retract which is fine. That part we won’t miss. We are missing the windows.

It will take roughly 12 hours of labour to install the windows so we will need to be at the factory for a couple of days. By then we will be close to the one year anniversary for the coach and we may as well get it serviced and deal with any warranty items at the same time.

I received the estimate from Newmar a few days back for installing the windows. I will sign off on the estimate and we will book a date to get the job done next year. I will also bring along any warranty items that need to be addressed although the list so far is pretty small. Hopefully the list stays that way.

Weight A Minute

Weights

There was a bit of an issue with the 2016 Newmar Dutch Star weight limits. Specifically on the front axle. You can download the pdf of the Product Information Bulletin here. The relevant section for us was the following:

A new front axle configuration with a 15,400 lb. rating will be made available for 2016 model year 40′ Dutch Star motor homes.

The Castaway came off the line with the 15,400 lb. rating. When we weighed the coach on June 18, 2016, she had 14,160 pounds on the steer axle. And we were pretty much fully loaded. Not sure that we could add another 1,200 or so pounds to the steer axle.

Imagine my surprise then when I came across this post on the iRV2 forum:

I have the 2017 Rand McNally motor carriers road atlas. It has 6 of the Canadian provinces with steering axle weight limits of 5500kg or 12,125 pounds.

What? That seems way too low.

And it is.

I did some digging to find the national standards for Canada which you can look at here.

NationalWeights

There it is. A maximum of 7,250kg on the steer axle. But, there is a bit of a key point in the national standards:

It should be recognized that each jurisdiction retains the authority to allow more liberal weights and dimensions, or different types of vehicle configurations, within their jurisdiction.

I decided to check out Ontario here. Schedule 17.

OntarioMeasures

So far so good.

And now the Ontario weights for the same designated bus or recreational vehicle.

OntarioWeights

Well, this takes a little bit of work doesn’t it? The Castaway would be fine in Ontario. Our GAWR rates the steer axle at 6,985 kg. Our combined tire widths in mm is 624 which would allow 6,864 kg and the single axle would be 9,000 kg. The lowest measure would be the combined tire widths on the steer axle at 6,864 kg or 15,132 pounds. A tad under our 15,400 pound rating for the steer axle.

And yet, it is not a more liberal standard as stated in the Canadian national standards. According to those standards, the steer axle limit is 7,250 kg which means we should be fine with the GAWR of 6,985 kg.

Confused? Me too.

But honestly, how weird are the rules and regulations here in Canada? We have national standards but they vary by province. I took the time to review the Ontario standards but I am not going to go into each provincial standard to see whether the coach is technically legal or not. The rules and regulations are very dense and getting at the weight limits is definitely not straightforward.

I would have expected that our coach met all Canadian regulations to be on the road. And it probably does.

I’ll let you know if we ever get pulled over for being too heavy on the steer axle. Somehow, I doubt that this will ever happen.

#weightandsee

Up On The Roof

OnTheRoof

I finally made it, up on the roof, the very top of the Castaway, our 40-foot motorhome.

I wasn’t sure how to get up on the roof of my Newmar Dutch Star. I have two ladders, one 8-foot step ladder and a 7-foot multi-purpose ladder. After checking with the customer service team at Newmar, I used the 7-foot multi-purpose ladder to make the climb. They assured me that the side panels were more than strong enough to hold the weight. Fully extended at a safe angle, the ladder was almost two feet short of the top edge of the coach. Not ideal but I was able to hold on to the top edge of the coach and swing my legs over to the roof itself.

Success. A castaway has landed on the roof.

I needed to finish detailing the very top areas of the coach that were simply out of reach from the step ladder. Being on the roof made it so much easier to apply paint sealant to the top part of the front and rear caps as well as the top ridge of the sides of the coach.

I found a number of items on the roof: air conditioning units, vent covers for the Fan-Tastic Fans, drain-waste-vent outlets, a small solar panel, a cover for the solar prep wires, the satellite dish, the digital TV antenna, radio antennas and antennas for the Sirius XM radio.

I spent roughly 3 hours topside. Lorraine was kind enough to ferry up the supplies. Things like detailing spray, clay bars, paint sealant, microfibre cloths and fluids. Even though it was a cloudy day, there was enough heat and humidity to produce a lot of sweat. The constant moving along with the cleaning and waxing activities does constitute a pretty good workout.

Here is a short video about the experience up on the roof.