Planning and Organizing

Being stranded has turned out to be a great opportunity to really focus on getting things organized in the coach. With limited space, how and where things get stored can make a big difference in daily life.

Clearly, a small space forces a certain level of minimalism. That said, we have everything we need. Hard pressed to highlight anything that we are missing aside from a repaired awning.

Being retired means that I have a lot more time available to help smooth out the ride, as it were. And one area that really needed some smoothing?

Our checklists.

There are a lot of things to remember when getting a coach ready to leave and getting it ready to arrive. I’m surprised that the manufacturers of motorhomes don’t publish checklists for their customers. I have some general documentation about our coach from the manufacturer but it is really, really superficial and it is generalized to the point of being irrelevant.

I have been revising our checklists for our coach and I am printing them out and placing them into a binder. I will follow the same protocol that pilots use when preparing an aircraft for takeoff and for landing. I will work through all of the checklist items. There are so many of them that I can’t remember them all and there is a tendency on my part to assume everything is okay and make haste to get on the road. Forgetting something in the process without a checklist is highly possible. For me.

Here is the departure checklist (still under development as I need to add the checklist items for getting our car ready for towing behind our coach):

One for testing air brakes:

One for arrival:

 

I have several other checklists. One related to getting our access point to WiFi and LTE for Internet access. Others for maintaining subsystems like our generator and heating system.

We’ll have two copies on board, one for me in the cockpit and one for Lorraine as she helps out with the circle check.

I’ve seen first hand several accidents that occurred simply because the owner of the coach was in a hurry to get going. Preventing unnecessary damage to the coach by trying to exit a site too quickly is one thing. The consequence of a critical system failure while driving could be catastrophic.

Safety first.

Otherwise we wind up in the House of Blues.

Pain Cave

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, perhaps not as ominous as all of that. Unless you are familiar with pain caves.

A pain cave is a place where a crazed cyclist goes to suffer. Spinning for an hour or two. Sometimes longer. With nothing but suffering.

Suffer, suffer, suffer.

I created a pain cave behind our coach.

Kinda looked like this:

I’ve been racing and riding bikes since I was 14 years old. And, closing in on 62 years old, I haven’t given up riding.

Taking the bike with us on the road wasn’t easy. That smart trainer you see in the picture, the one with the word Tacx written on it, weighs about 50 pounds. My Colnago bike, an Italian steel master built frame, is a bit heavy as road bikes go. It weighs about 19 pounds. My race bike, currently in storage, weighs just under 15 pounds.

I figure I can get to the equivalent weight of my race bike by losing 4 pounds on my body.

Finding a spot to store the bike in the basement of our coach proved challenging. We spent most of yesterday finishing our unboxing and our organizing from our big move. As part of that work we pulled everything out of basement and reorganized it.

After a lot of shuffling and debate on whether to keep our pullout tray or ditch it for more room, we were finally able to make a spot for the bike and for the trainer.

Last night I went out behind the coach and I did a few sessions on Sufferfest just to see how everything would work, moving the bike and the trainer into position and getting all of the requisite measurement systems functioning.

The Tacx gets power for the sensor data that goes to the tablet from the energy I provide when spinning. The coloured lights that you see under the pedals indicate workload. The bright reddish purple colour in the second photo indicates a lot of load for the rider.

The tablet reads the sensor data from the Tacx smart trainer and translates that data into metrics: speed, cadence, heart rate, power amongst many other data points. And, because it is a smart trainer, the software on the tablet controls the resistance to the rider. When the software calls for a hard effort, the smart trainer complies. This is known as ERG (ergometer) mode. The resistance of the trainer is controlled by the software, not by the rider.

I prefer to call it ARGH mode. It can really hurt.

Anyway. Proof that you can take a road bike with you in your motorcoach and you can train outside without needing to plug into electricity or the Internet. In my case, the Sufferfest training videos had already been downloaded to my tablet and my wattage provided the requisite electricity for the trainer. When I finished the ride, I connected back to the Internet and uploaded my ride data to Strava and Training Peaks.

If a ride doesn’t get up to Strava, it never happened.

Snowbird Safety Towing Checklist

The Freightliner Chassis Owners Club had an article in their Winter 2017 publication of RV Soul on the importance of having a towing checklist. They credit the list to Blue Ox, a company that specializes in products for motorhome owners to flat tow their vehicles.

Here is the list:

  • Inspect the tow bar, dolly or trailer for loose bolts and worn part – tighten or replace before hooking up. If you have bolts that are consistently coming loose, use Loctite® or put on a double nut to keep them tight.
  • Hook up on a flat, smooth surface.
  • If you have a coupler-style tow bar, check the fit of the coupler on the ball. Adjust if necessary.
  • Hook up the tow bar.
  • Set up the towed vehicle’s steering and transmission to tow.
  • Check your parking brake to ensure it is off and disengaged.
  • Latch the legs on a self-aligning tow bar.
  • Attach the safety cables. Cross the cables between the vehicles and wrap the cables around the tow bar legs to keep from dragging.
  • Attach the electrical cable and tow brake system connections.
  • Check the function of all lights on both vehicles.
  • Locate your spare key and lock the towed vehicle’s doors.
  • Drive with care and remember your vehicle will be about 25 feet longer while towing.
  • Each time you stop, make sure to check the tow bar, baseplate and safety cables to ensure they are still properly attached. Pay particular attention to the hitch clips and pins that secure your tow bar or drop hitch to the motorhome hitch. Many breakaways occur because a pin clip has been removed and the pin drops out, allowing the toad to be dragged on the safety cables. Check the tires of the towed vehicle to make sure they are not going flat. If you are using a dolly or trailer, check the wheels to make sure they are not hot to the touch. If the wheels are hot, it may indicate a brake or bearing problem.
  • Before you start each day, check the lights to make sure they are working properly.
  • Between trips, clean the tow bar and cables to keep them in good shape. Also, clean and lubricate the tow bar as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions (usually by applying spray silicone lubricant).
  • Have a checklist. It’s just too easy to get distracted and forget something (like ignition position, emergency brake, breakaway hook-up, transmission in wrong position, etc.).
  • Make sure you have a second key to the tow vehicle. That way you can leave your rig parked and hooked up without having to worry about unlocked doors.
  • Check all the connections every time you fuel up or make a rest stop.
  • Never let yourself be interrupted when hooking up. Keep your mind on your work.

There were a few items that stood out for me. Making sure that we have a second key to the tow vehicle safely stowed. Checking hitch clips and pins. And having a thorough checklist.

I remember reading about Nina and Paul, the couple behind the popular Wheeling It blog, when they had their first RV accident in 2016: their tow car came loose while in transit. They avoided a potentially devastating accident although they did incur a fair amount of damage to their toad and some damage to the rear of their coach. One of the big lessons that they learned through the experience:

More Regular Checks On The Road: It’s possible we could have avoided all this by implementing more checks on the road. When we first hook-up we follow a pretty rigorous process where both of us double-check each others’ work (4x check), so we know without a doubt that the cotter pins were firmly on there when we started driving. But once we start driving we generally don’t check again. In this case we took a ferry (we were stopped for a while) and then had some bumpy driving thereafter and admittedly we did not double-check the tow connections after either of those events. I honestly have no idea if this would have helped (we really don’t know exactly when we lost the cotter pin), but I think that getting into the habit of walking around the rig and doing a double-check of tow connections whenever you are stopped (or things significantly change) is a good idea.

One thing I do think about when getting ready to travel is to treat every trip as a new trip and to be disciplined in running through our circle checks. Sometimes I just want to hop in and get started as quickly as possible. Easy to do in a car. Not safe to do in a large motorhome.

A Super Clean Windshield

The windshield must be clean.

And not just clean. Super clean.

Inside and out.

I always clean the windshield before we start a drive and I always clean the windshield when we set up at our site. There is nothing like a really clean windshield. No haze, no streaks and, for a few minutes into the drive at least, no bugs.

My approach is probably a bit different than most.

I use product from Griot’s Garage: Window Cleaner, Glass Cleaning Clay, Fine Glass Polish, Glass Sealant.

If the exterior windshield requires a major treatment I will clean the windshield, clay it, clean it again, polish it, clean it again and then apply sealant. A final buff and clean and the glass is all good to go. I will usually do a major treatment on the exterior windshield once the sealant is no longer repelling water.

Otherwise, it is regular cleaning of the exterior windshield with the glass cleaner.

The interior of the windshield uses an approach that I took from a ChrisFix video:

Works like magic.

He has another video on how he deals with the outside of the windshield. A bit different from my approach and it does yield a great result.

The RV Geeks use steel wool to clean their windshield. I’m not prepared to try that technique. Some mixed views on that approach in the auto detailing community. But here it is just in case you want to give it a try on a windshield you don’t like.

Washing Our Coach

Lorraine knows this better than anyone.

I like things neat and tidy.

Whenever we travel, whether it is in the car or in the coach, clean is good. Especially the windshield. But preferably the entire vehicle.

And I am also fussy — in case that wasn’t clear yet — about the products I use on the finish of either the car or the coach. I hate scratches and swirls in the finish. I want to keep the finish looking like new.

Relatively easy to do with a car.

Very difficult to do with a coach.

Unlike the picture above, not every place we take our coach has a resident detailing service.

But I have found something that I hope Lorraine might add to the Christmas list this year. Something that we can use to make the task of keeping our coach clean much easier.

I already have the tools I need to wash the coach. The big challenge is how to dry the coach. Particularly if it is outside in the sun.

David Bott of Outside Our Bubble fame, put together this video on how to keep a motorhome clean using the CR Spotless water system.

The products are available in Canada through one of my favourite online detailing retailers, autoobsessed, right here.

CR Spotless offers a couple of packages specifically for motorhomes including this luxury package:

Don’t panic Lorraine. There is a basic version for about $500.