From that to this:
If there was one area of our coach that was a constant source of frustration, it was our entertainment cabinet in the Newmar Dutch Star.
It was a mess. Once I added a few additional components, like a satellite receiver, Apple TV, a Logitech Harmony Hub and a couple of cooling fans, I had an equipment stack that was literally one piece of equipment heaped one on top of another stuffed into the cabinet.
Every time we hit a bump in the road, clang! Equipment jumped up and down.
Although the two cooling fans were relatively large, they could not keep up with the heat as the fans had no room to operate.
And why all of this trouble?
I’m not sure why Newmar made the cabinet so useless for audio visual equipment. The cable routing was inordinately complex, solely to allow the option of having two independent programming feeds to the two TV sets in the front of the coach. And yet, only one sound source for the AV receiver.
I finally got around to changing all of that this past weekend.
The first task was to empty the cabinet of all the equipment. That included the Winegard Satellite Antenna Controller, Sony Blu-Ray Player, Logitech Harmony Remote Hub, Bell Expressvu Satellite TV Receiver, two 1×4 HDMI splitters, an Apple TV, a Sony AV Receiver and two cooling fans.
What was left behind was a huge mess of cabling.
I simplified the wiring dramatically by opting for one HDMI source coming from the receiver and splitting that source to the two TV sets. Each TV set playing back the same content. All I needed to put back into the cabinet was one 1 input, 4 output HDMI splitter, not two.
There were 6 HDMI cables in the cabinet. All I needed were 2 — one to feed each TV set — and the other 4 were pushed back behind the wall. I can always pull them back if I ever need them (2 of them were to send output to the exterior TV set in the basement bay which we did not install on our coach).
The rest of the wiring was to feed the AV receiver. I replaced the Sony that came with the coach. In its place is a Pioneer slimline receiver. Not as powerful in terms of pure wattage but a better sounding unit with vastly better setup protocols for doing the on-screen programming to tune speakers and subwoofer.
I had replaced the stock subwoofer that came with the coach. It was stuck inside a kitchen cabinet and sounded awful. I picked up a small but mighty sub that fits nicely behind one of our recliners. Sounds awesome in the coach.
I had a friend build two nice shelves for the coach. I was able to place all of the equipment neatly in place with a vastly simplified cable plant.
The two cooling fans are now mounted on the outside of the cabinet grill. They pull the hot air out of the cabinet far more effectively than before. So much so that I will add a temperature probe as the fans no longer need to run continuously except, obviously, when heat conditions warrant the cooling.
All of the gear is velcro’d to the shelves so no more flying equipment when driving the coach.
And, everything is neat and tidy in the cabinet. The Pioneer receiver and Apple TV are both wired via ethernet to the back entertainment cabinet in the bedroom which is where I have a router and a NAS installed.
Very pleased with how it all turned out.
This, apparently, is what downsizing looks like. An older couple with a few boxes and a plant. I found the photo online here.
Downsizing is an incredible amount of work. I fully appreciate why some people decide not to move. It really is a lot of effort.
Our house is empty now, for the most part. Still a fair amount of stuff to work through yet before we close the doors for the last time at the end of June.
I have found that downsizing can be a very stressful and emotional exercise.
The toughest room for me to deal with was my recording studio.
Last week it looked like this:
Waiting for the new owner to come and pick it up. Like most of the other stuff in our house.
I’ve told Lorraine that I am very excited about what happens next. And I am trying to manage my emotions as we go through the process of getting ready to go out on the road and experience new adventures.
The time between now and then? Well, let’s just say that I will be happy when it is all behind us.
Maybe like the couple in the photo above. That part of the job looks finished for them.
Our house sold on my 60th birthday in March of this year. I was having lunch with my sister, her partner and Lorraine in Arizona. I told them the news and I said that Lorraine and I were now homeless.
My sister’s partner corrected me. “You are now home free!”.
We approached our real estate agent in September of 2015 about selling our home. At the time I thought that it would take a couple of years for us to sell the house. We lived in the country, the house was expensive for the area and it would have a much smaller pool of interested buyers.
We went ahead and put in our order for the new coach in October of 2015. I thought it would be wise to have the coach for at least a year or two before we went out on the road. There is a fair amount to learn about the RV lifestyle and the coach itself. Looking back, I’m really pleased we got it then.
We listed the house in March of 2016 and we took delivery of the coach in June of 2016.
And we waited for a buyer.
Lots of showings during the first year. Not one offer.
We relisted the house in March of 2017. Reduced our price by 5 percent. Two offers within a few days. The second offer came in firm with no conditions which forced the first buyer to clear conditions if they wanted the deal. They wanted the deal. Close date of July 7.
We are in the process of downsizing and it is certainly a big task. We will move into a condo in a beautiful heritage home in the heart of the downtown. For a year. And then we will be off in our coach. Full time for the first year, perhaps longer.
I was out mowing the property last night. And it is a beautiful spot. The house and the property served us well. I will miss it. More than the other houses that we have lived in over the years.
Very mixed emotions as we go through this part of the transition into retirement.
Space. Room to spare.
Unfortunately, many of the sites we have visited with our coach have very little space. Sites are small and tightly packed.
We first learned about checking for clearance when we visited the 1,000 Islands/Ivy Lea KOA in Ontario, Canada. It was our first trip out with the coach. We made a point of telling the KOA folks that we had a 40-foot coach and we would need a site where we could fit. “No problem”, they told us, “we have big rigs in here all the time.”
Looking at the site below, everything looks great. Getting to the site was a real adventure. Everything was very tight for space. And once we got in to this site? Well, what you do not see clearly from the angle of the photograph are the branches of the evergreen tree on the driver’s side resting directly on the roof of the coach.
Lorraine was very focused on the lower clearance of the coach when she guided me into the site that she did not look up. The coach lifted the branches over the top of the roofline and once the airbags had deflated, the branches remained propped up by the roof itself. Fortunately the branches did not damage the coach.
The only way we were able to exit that site was to have the KOA staff come and cut several branches from the tree.
Lesson learned. Or so we thought.
Milton Heights is an old park with narrow roads and very narrow sites. For our stay, things were quiet and the surroundings pleasant.
Our entry into our site did not go as smoothly as planned.
Lorraine guided me into the narrow site. It was paved and, quite rightly, she wanted to ensure that the coach was positioned more or less centred on the narrow strip of pavement.
Unfortunately, the post for the water and electric service was tight to the narrow strip of pavement. Less than two feet. I hadn’t put the slides out as I had recently changed my routine when setting up at a site. Park, leave coach at ride height, turn engine off, exit coach, connect services, re-enter coach, slides out then jacks down. Thank heavens I followed that protocol.
I went to connect the services and, sure enough, there was no way that we would be able to put our full wall slide out without hitting the water and electric service pedestal.
Not enough space.
If I had followed our old protocol, we would have experienced damage to our full wall slide.
So, back into the coach. We repositioned the coach as far right on the paved strip as possible.
Just enough room to get the slides out.
A good reminder for us to really think about the space requirements for our coach. Many of the sites we visit were designed for a different class of motorhome. What I have learned is that if a campground looks tight, it is tight and it is best to walk out to the site first and check all clearances including clearances for the slides before making our way.
The Vantrue X2 dashcam was one that I picked up from Amazon a few weeks ago. I wanted to have a small, yet functional, dashcam to capture our travels and, specifically, to capture any issues that might crop up when driving our coach.
The X2 is a capable dashcam. Very small, light and discrete. I have it positioned on the centre of the windshield quite high, just below the dark tint that occupies the first ten to twelve inches of the windshield. I can see it from the driver’s seat. I cannot see it when we are in the coach.
This dashcam is almost useless on battery power. It will burn through the onboard battery within minutes. The windshield mount includes a USB port which makes it convenient for a permanent installation. The only problem? Not designed for a coach our size. Running a cable to a suitable outlet would be quite a job especially if I wanted to keep the cables out of sight.
My first thought was to run the USB cable from the camera into the AV cabinet above the driver’s seat. Not really possible without making quite a mess: cabling that would need to be tied, looped over the windshield night and day shade rollers, and through to the back grate of the AV cabinet.
My solution was pretty elegant. The only downside is that it requires a little bit of extra work.
I ordered an Anker Powercore USB charger.
It can easily provide power to the X2 dashcam for a full day of driving and then some.
I placed some velcro on the top ceiling lid immediately above the dashcam and on the bottom of the Anker Powercore. A short USB cable to connect the Anker to the X2 and I had all the power I needed without complicated cable runs and holes in the coach.
The only maintenance for this setup is to disconnect the Anker to charge it up. Very easy for me to do as part of the setup and teardown routine in the coach.
Attached is a video taken on a cool, overcast day when we were leaving our home. Our drive is about 1,000 feet long and fairly narrow with a lot of trees. You can see Lorraine guiding me out from the house. Good thing I have such an awesome co-pilot.
The dealer for our coach, the Hitch House, is located in Barrie, Ontario and, while the city itself is well north of Toronto, it seems to be firmly in the grasp of the Greater Toronto Region. It is a tough drive through some of the most heavily congested roads in all of Canada.
We dropped the coach off last weekend and it will be with the dealer for about three weeks. We will pick the coach up sometime during the week of May 7th.
Looking forward to getting our coach back home though. Here is where we left the Castaway.
Our coach came out of storage last week and we took the Castaway over the the dealer for some scheduled service and warranty items.
This was our list:
1. Kitchen Sink Leak: drain pipe leaks where drain meets down pipe immediately underneath the sink.
2. Loose Fabric Trim: fabric trim by pantry drawer leading into bedroom has come loose in a couple of areas.
3. Cracked Floor Tile: cracked floor tile driver side behind the recliner that is closest to the kitchen galley.
4. MCD Day/Night Shades: MCD Day/Night Shades over dining area appear to require reprogramming. Day shade inoperative over main dining area window and night shades over main dining area window and small dining area window out of synch.
5. Winegard Rayzar Digital TV Antenna: Unit is producing an E3 error during operation (motor movement error).
6. Sofa Bed Latch: Latch for inflating sofa bed doesn’t stay closed when inflating.
7. Passenger Side Basement Door: When door side slideout is open, first basement door rubs bottom of slideout (door out of alignment).
8. Front Wheel Vibration: At highway speed, roughly 100km and above, front exhibits a vibration that is characteristic of unbalanced wheels.
9. Driver Side Fuel Cover: Missing clearcoat?
Technical Service Bulletins
1. 467 RSB – Recall 16V 826: Power Steering Fluid Leak (potential fire hazard)
2. 472 TSB – Slideout Motor Mounting Bolts (under-torqued). We hear loose mounting bolts on both front slideouts (Full Wall Slideout and Off Driver Slideout) while driving the coach.
1. Trim Edge: Trim Edge popped off door side woodwork. Small piece of trim was placed beside the passenger seat in front of coach.
2. Service of Coach: As required (fluid levels, lubrication, etc).
3. Coach Detailing
The service team at the Hitch House has been hard at work on the coach. We received some good news with respect to the potential fire hazard recall item. Freightliner inspected the coach and our build was fine. We did not have the issue and no remediation work was required.
Given the overall complexity of the coach, we are pleased that we have not experienced a substantial number of issues after our first year of ownership.
One negative though. The detailing team is backlogged and unable to work on our coach.
I will have to do the detailing work myself, which I had done last year. Very time consuming.
The Castaway is back home for a few days. We brought her out of storage yesterday.
I was a bit concerned about whether we would have any issues taking the coach out of storage. She had sat there for about six months. We did check in on the coach from time to time during the winter months however we were not allowed to run the engine inside the storage facility and, given the layout of the storage area, we could not readily take the coach outdoors.
The tires maintained their inflation. That was a surprise. I had brought along the air compressor fully expecting to inflate the tires. No need. Each tire was fine.
Circle check revealed no issues.
And the big moment. Would the engine start?
Without a hitch. It took a bit of time for the air pressure to build up and then, jacks up and off we went.
In the province of Ontario, we are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license to operate a coach that weighs above 11,000 kg. And an air brake endorsement.
Good thing. These vehicles are the same size as a commercial bus and it takes a somewhat different mindset to operate them safely.
Getting back behind the wheel after a six-month hiatus did not feel at all uncomfortable.
The coach is awesome to drive and the 40 minutes that it took to get home pass all too quickly.
On Saturday, we take the coach up to our dealer for servicing. That will be about a 3-hour drive. In one of the most congested traffic areas of Canada.
That drive will be a bit more challenging.