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.

Captain’s Log June 12

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Date: Sunday, June 12th, 2016
Weather: Windy, cloudy and cool at 12 degrees Celsius
Mileage at Start of Day: 875 miles
Mileage at End of Day: 890 miles
Total Daily Miles: 15 miles

Today’s objective is to get the RV out of the driveway, dump our grey and black tanks and fill up our fuel tank.

Preparing the coach for departure is relatively straightforward. We have only one shore line to disconnect. With our surge protection system it is as simple as unplugging the coach from the power station. Our power reel makes it easy to stow the electrical line.

We then go through the coach to make sure that all the loose items are properly stowed and secured. We do a visual inspection outside the coach to make sure that nothing is leaking or amiss. We check the tire pressure on each wheel. We check to make sure all compartment doors are firmly closed.

Our technician told us to get the coach to ride height before bringing in the slides. This apparently is a topic for which there are many arguments pro and con. However, Newmar advised us to follow this process: when arriving to a site, slides out and then jacks out and when leaving a site, jacks in and then slides in.

It takes our coach several minutes to bring up the jacks. The engine has to be running for this part of the process. Parking brake engaged. Transmission in neutral. Engine start.

Once the jacks are up it takes a few more minutes to inflate the air bags. Visually confirm that we are at ride height and then turn the engine off. Remove the jack plates. Bring the slides in.

Start the engine and do the circle check.

Everything looks good and we are now ready to get the coach back on the road.

We have a driveway that runs about 1,000 feet through a heavily wooded forest:

Driveway

When we brought the coach home, we were able to navigate the coach up the drive to our house and we wound up parking it about here:

ParkedCoach

The challenge for today: find a way to get the coach back out to the street.

Lorraine and I had spent time clearing out a section of about 25 feet or so that was almost straight back of the coach on the left side of the driveway. That should allow enough swing space to get the coach pointed in the right direction. It took a couple of attempts and finally we gained the upper hand.

We could drive the coach to the street.

Success.

The next task was to drive to the local KOA and dump our tanks. The local KOA is only a few kilometres from where we live. But this is the first campsite that we have visited with the coach and our first time dumping tanks.

The campground map:

KOA

We are new at all of this so it wasn’t really apparent where we should go. We checked in at the office, paid our dump fees and then pondered our next steps when we got back to the coach. There were two coaches already at the dump station and they were facing us so clearly we were going in the wrong direction.

Lorraine jumped out and asked one of the staff how we should approach the dump station.

“Follow Route 66 and go around.”

We drove along Route 66, Sunset Blvd and turned right on the Road to Hell before making a final turn on Goa Way.

We were next in line for the inside dumping station — this site has two dump stations — directly behind a rental RV. It was evident that although we were doing this for the first time, so were they. They handled the process with bare hands. Yuck. And they spilled material all around the dump station. Double yuck. And they did not do a great job cleaning up.

I pulled the coach in and Lorraine cued me when our wet bay was in line with the dump station.

I have to say that doing the research and going through the videos here made a huge difference. Dumping tanks is easy!

We had our disposable gloves, our clear elbow joint, a high quality sewer hose and our Lysol disinfectant.

I opened our wet bay and put on my gloves. I then removed the cover for the sewer hose. I double checked the grey and black valves to make sure that they were closed. I then removed the tank valve cover.

Over to the sewer line storage bay. I removed our sewer hose and removed the covers to both ends. I removed our clear elbow joint.

Back to the wet bay. Elbow joint attached. Sewer hose attached. Extend hose out to the dump station. Make sure everything is connected and secure.

Great. All looks good.

I partly opened the grey valve for a few moments to confirm no leaks. And there were none.

Close the grey tank valve.

Open the black tank valve. Lots of material and lots of velocity. It really did not take long to empty that tank.

Close the black tank valve.

I attached the dump water hose to the sewage rinse inlet and I introduced water into the black tank for about 3 minutes. I then closed the water and released the black tank valve again. Everything came out all clear but, just in case, I repeated the process. Again, all clear. The black tank was clean.

Once that was finished I removed the water hose for the black tank rinse and closed the black tank valve.

Then I opened the grey tank valve.

Awesome. Everything is working just as it should. The grey tank emptied out.

Close the grey tank valve.

Time to clean everything up and put everything away. We sprayed all of the connection points with Lysol and we rinsed our work area.

Very straightforward. The dumping station even provided an area to dispose of our disposable gloves.

Next and final stop was to top up our diesel tank. We made our way to our local truck stop, a bit of a longer drive, and fueled the coach much like we would fuel a car. Except for that really big bill at the end.

We made our return trip home and set up the coach

A very successful day.