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.

 

Checklists

Checklists

The Circle Check and motor coach pre-trip inspection is an important part of every trip on the Castaway. And we conducted our circle checks. That said, we rushed things along and we did miss some items.

Update: I’ve had a few people ask me for pdfs of the checklists below. Here is the Freightliner checklist. And here is our checklist.

Freightliner, the company that manufactured the chassis of the Castaway, provides a comprehensive section on Pre- and Post-Trip Checklists in Chapter 9 of their Operator’s Manual. You can download the pdf from this link (select the Recreational Vehicle Chassis Operator’s Manual).

This is their recommended approach to the pre-trip inspection:

PreTripChecklist

Hang on because our pre-trip inspection will be a bit more detailed. I am putting it into a checklist form on Evernote to allow either Lorraine or myself to use a tablet and literally check off each element. If we have missed any important element, we can readily add it to the checklist.

Our Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist:

Approach Vehicle
No leaning or leaks
Nothing under the coach

Enter Vehicle
Check previous log, notice any repairs needed/completed, any issues that need checking
Locate Insurance Card and Vehicle Registration

Engine Compartment (Engine Off)
Look for fluids on ground or dripping from the engine or transmission
Check Oil Level
Coolant reservoir: sight glass level, radiator cap, secure, no leaks
Power Steering Fluid Level; no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Water Pump: no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Air Compressor: no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Belts: no cracks, frays, proper tension (no more than 3/4″ of play)
Pulleys: no chips, cracks, welds, securely attached
Hoses: not cracked, no bulges, no leaks, clamps secure, no loose connections
Alternators: securely mounted, wiring properly attached and not corroded
All Clamps and Fittings secure, tight
No Leaks (anywhere)

Preparation for Starting Coach
Adjust: Driver’s Seat, Mirrors (left & right), Steering Wheel (tilt & telescope) lock in place
Check Seat Belt Operation: Seat belt must be securely mounted, adjustable, latch properly, and in good condition (not ripped or frayed)

Safe Start Procedure
Coach is in neutral, parking brake is on
Apply Service Brake
Ignition start
Observe Oil Pressure Gauge shows normal pressure normal and temperature rising to normal
Check Amp/Volt Meter working and showing normal output
Turn On Lights (in & out), Flashers

Inspection of Entrance Area
Check door operation from outside, hinges securely attached, door seals intact, no glass damage
Stair Treads: fastened securely, no hazards
Handrails: present and securely fastened
Step Courtesy Light: operational

Right Front Wheels
Rim: no cracks, bends, weld, or damage
Right Front Tires Tread Depth: must be 4/32″ minimum, wear pattern even, no recaps
Tire Condition: Check that tread is evenly worn, check sidewalls for cracks, abrasions, bulges, or other damage
Tire Inflation: check the air pressure with a gauge
Valve Stems & Caps: not missing or damaged
Lug Nuts: all present, free of cracks, tight, show no signs of looseness (no rust or shiny threads)
Hub: oil/grease seal behind rim, no leaks
Splash Guards: attached and secure, no damage

Front Air Brakes
Inspect rotor, brake pads or drum and linings
Check for wear, oil/grease, or damage, secure and bolts tight
Check Air Chamber not leaking, cracked or dented, securely mounted
Air Hoses, Lines, & Fittings: secure, no leaks, worn or damaged
Air Tanks: secure, no leaks

Front Suspension
Air Ride Suspension: check for damage and leaks
Shock Absorbers: secure and no leaks

Right Side of Coach
Check All Lights, Reflective Equipment: clean, functional (not cracked, broken, or missing)
Clearance Lights (amber lens)
Turn Signals and Flashers (amber lens)
Windows: closed properly, no damage to glass
Compartment Bay Doors: Check all, open and close properly, latch securely, interior cables not frayed and secure
Front Bay: Check Safety Triangles (3) or Flares (6)
Fuel Tank: secure, fuel cap(s) are tight, no leaks from tanks or lines
Under Bus Frame: Check for damage
Exhaust System: intact, no leaks

Battery Compartment
Hold Downs: secure
Cable Connections: tight, no corrosion
Cell Caps: present
Battery Box: secure
Compartment Door: operates correctly, fastened securely

Right Rear Wheels
Rim: no cracks, bends, weld, or damage
Right Rear Tires Tread Depth: must be 4/32″ minimum, wear pattern even, no recaps
Tire Condition: Check that tread is evenly worn, check sidewalls for cracks, abrasions, bulges, or other damage
Tire Inflation: check the air pressure with a gauge
Valve Stems & Caps: not missing or damaged
Lug Nuts: all present, free of cracks, tight, show no signs of looseness (no rust or shiny threads)
Hub: oil/grease seal behind rim, no leaks
No debris between tires, duals evenly spaced
Splash Guards: attached and secure, no damage

Rear Air Brakes
Inspect: rotor, brake pads or drum and linings
Check for wear, oil/grease, or damage, secure and bolts tight
Check Air Chamber not leaking, cracked or dented, securely mounted
Air Hoses, Lines, & Fittings: secure, no leaks, worn or damaged
Air Tanks: secure, no leaks

Rear Suspension
Air Ride Suspension: check for damage and leaks
Shock Absorbers: secure and no leaks
Drive Shaft: check not bent or cracked, secure and U-joints not loose or worn
Splash Guards: attached & secure, no damage

Rear of Coach (Top to Bottom)
Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional
Clearance Lights (red lens)
Brake Lights (red lens)
4-Way Flashers (amber lens)
Back-Up (clear lens)
Reflectors (red lens)
Rear Bumper: secure, intact
Exhaust System: intact, no damage or signs of leaks such as rust or carbon soot.
Tailpipe: secure, not damaged or twisted, secure

Left Side of Coach (Repeat from Right Side)
Rear Wheels: repeat
Air Brakes: repeat
Drive Shaft: repeat
Clearance Lights: repeat
Windows: repeat
Turn Signals, Lens: repeat
Bay Doors: repeat
Under Bus, Frame Check: repeat
Front Tires: repeat
Suspension: repeat
Splash Guard: repeat

Front of Coach (Top to Bottom)
Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional
Clearance Lights (amber lens)
Turn Signals & Flashers (amber lens)
Inspect Windshield: no damage to glass, sealed securely, no illegal stickers or obstructions
Wipers & Wiper Arms: check hardware, blades, hoses, clips, all secure and operate smoothly
Windshield Washers: must operate correctly
Headlights: low and high beams
Front Bumper: secure
Mirrors & Brackets:securely attached, no cracks or broken glass, no stickers or obstructions to view

Inside Coach Walk Through
Fire Extinguisher: charged, dated, securely mounted
First Aid Kit: present
Overhead Compartments: Check function, secure and clean of debris
TV Monitors: secure, not loose
Seats: secure
Floor: clear of debris, hazards
All loose items secured
Satellite dish retracted

Driver’s Area
Shades: left and right operational
Windshield: no damage to glass, clean, no obstructions
Primary Panel: all instrumentation operational
Driver Heat and Defrost Fan/Temp tested
HVAC Control Panel
Fog Lights
Mirror Heat
Hazard Warning Flashers (indicator light on dash must be working)
Headlight Switch
Mirror Adjustment: properly adjusted
Fast Idle
Tag Axle Air Dump
Engine Brake configured properly
Emergency Parking Brake Release Show Location
Steering Wheel Area Tilt & Telescope Lever: locked
Check Steering Wheel Play: no more than 2″
Check Electric Horn: must test
Turn Signals: indicator light on dash must be working
Air Horn: must test
Wipers/Washers: check for proper function
High/Low Beam Head Lights: must check (indicator light on dash must be working)

IMPORTANT NOTE Checks of brake, turn signals and 4-way flasher functions MUST be done separately. Have copilot help check outside lights

Travel Mode
Levelling Jacks retracted
Wait until ride height is achieved
Slides in
Visually confirm slides are fully retracted

Air Brake Check
Start with air pressure up to maximum (governor shut off) then shut off engine
Open door and window to hear any air leaks

1) LEAKS: fully apply and hold foot brake pedal, hold foot brake pedal for one minute, check for no more than 3 psi air loss
2) ALARM: Turn ignition on and keep pumping brake until ‘low air warning’ alarm light and buzzer activate
3) BUTTON: continue pumping brake until brake valve button ‘pops’ out

Parking Brake Check: with parking brake ON, put bus in gear and apply slight accelerator pedal to be sure park holds.
Service Brake Check: determine brakes are working correctly and do not pull left or right, drive forward at 5 mph and apply brakes, should not pull to left or right and coach should stop smoothly and sufficiently.

Ready to hit the road!

CAT Scale

Weights

As we made our way on our first excursion with the Castaway, we decided to make a stop at KAL Tire to check our air pressure and then over to a local CAT Scale to weigh our coach.

Perhaps we should have done this the other way around, weigh the coach first and then adjust the air pressure. I have to tell you though, that I am finding the advice on tires and tire pressure to be quite divergent.

Newmar, the manufacturer of our coach, has their own weights and recommended tire pressures which they affix to a sticker near the captain’s chair.

NewmarWeights

The steer axle is 15,400 pounds and the drive axle is 30,000 pounds. They recommend a cold inflation pressure of 120 psi for the front, 90 psi for the duallys and 85 psi for the rear,

Of course, those weights represent the Gross Axle Weight Rating, or the maximum distributed weight, the axles of the coach can support. We do not intend to max out the load on the Castaway.

Our dealer had inflated our tires just prior to the delivery. We were told to keep them at 110 psi for the front and 90 psi for the tag.

Taking them to KAL Tire, they recommended 120 psi all around.

And the tables at Michelin Tire have a different set of pressures yet again based on how much the coach weighs.

In our case we have a steer axle of 14,160 pounds or roughly 7,000 pounds of load per axle end. Michelin recommends 105 psi for the front tires.

As our drive axle weight is combined, it is not possible to get a direct load from the Michelin site. That said, they do recommend 80 psi for the duallys and for the rear.

Very confusing.

We drove down to our campsite in the Thousand Islands with the tire pressure as set by KAL tires. The Castaway rode very well. That said, I am going to place a call directly into Newmar. We’ll see if we get any further clarification on how much air is too much, or too little.

It’s A Jungle Out There

20131006_disney_463

Or maybe we should call this post The Attack of the Crazed Robin.

From the Journal of Zoology:

The Robin shows aggressive behaviour not only towards intruding Robins but, to a varying extent, towards a stuffed adult Robin, foreign species (especially in flight), living and stuffed juvenile Robins, and a stuffed red breast.

To which I would add: the Robin shows aggressive behaviour towards 40-foot motorhomes.

We live in a forest. And we have lots of birds on our property. They occasionally fly into the windows of our house but otherwise they have their space and we have ours. We have always been on friendly terms.

Until last week. Last week I was literally at a loss over what to do about this crazy Robin.

He would perch on a large stone about 5 feet away from the rear end of our coach and literally attack it. Over and over. I was worried about the damage he might do the the paint as he would go full out with wings and claws.

We tried chasing him away only to see him return. We put spikes on top of the large stone hoping that he would not land on it. No effect. He found a way to perch in between the spikes. We even purchased a fake owl hoping that the predator would convince him to go elsewhere. No effect.

This was one very determined Robin.

But why was he so obsessed with our motorhome?

Being a bit slow, it took me a few days to figure it out. I searched Google for “how to deal with robins”. And it became clear. The Robin wasn’t obsessed with our motorhome. He was protecting his territory from another Robin. The Robin that he saw from his stone perch. The Robin that was being reflected by the mirror-like finish of our coach. In other words, he was at war with himself and nothing he did would get rid of the other Robin. At a certain level, Mr. Robin and I had the exact same dilemma: how to get rid of a crazy Robin.

As he was always attacking the same section of the coach, we decided to install an anti-reflective Robin deterrent guard: some strategically placed cardboard and garbage bags.

And, so far, it seems to be working. He is no longer concerned with that part of his territory. I just hope he doesn’t perch on another part of the property. We have a very large coach. It might not look quite as sharp fully clad in cardboard and garbage bags.

Captain’s Log June 12

20160429_animal_kingdom_172

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.