We had to replace a bad tire on our travels to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last month. That tire, located on the front driver’s side, now checks in at 101 PSI cold. The tire on the other side of the steer axle checks in at 110 PSI cold.
My sense of balance requires both tires to be at the same pressure: 110 PSI cold.
No problem. On our way to the Flying J a few nights back, we planned to check the pressures running hot and level the driver’s side to match the passenger’s side.
Only I did not have enough air from the air pump.
I took the air hose, connected it to the tire valve, and waited. Not long, probably 10 – 20 seconds. I had no idea how quickly the tire pressure would change but when I checked, it had not changed at all.
I spent a bit longer, perhaps a minute or so. Checked the tire pressure. And still no change.
I tried 5 minutes. No change in tire pressure.
I then went to the Flying J counter to settle the fuel and dumping charges and to ask them about the air pump. It was working except that 115 PSI was the max. And, as the heat had increased the tire pressure on the driver’s side from 101 PSI to 111 PSI, I was trying to get the tire up to 120 PSI to match the level on the passenger’s side.
With a 115 PSI air pump, that was not going to happen in my lifetime.
They told us to go into the trucker area and use those air pumps.
We made our way over to the trucker area. We are basically the same size as a big diesel bus so we were not entirely out of place. Just mostly out of place. There were at least a dozen lanes and every lane was full. We queued behind one tractor trailer. He pulled out of the lane and stopped about 50 feet or so in front of the pumps.
We pulled in and got to work on the front tire.
Same exact experience as before. Could not move the tire pressure north of 115 PSI.
Time to leave. Except for one little problem, the tractor trailer still stopped about 50 feet or so in front of us. No way out.
I had to do something that I did not really want to do, namely, back the coach out of the pump lane. Lorraine stepped out to spot and we figured out a way to retreat without impacting a truck.
I had no idea as to how to exit the trucker area. It took us another 5-10 minutes of roaming around to finally break free of the Flying J trucker area. I am very sure that I entertained a few truckers as we drove in random patterns around the parking area looking for a way out.
Getting our own air compressor has suddenly jumped to the top of the must have list for our motorcoach.
Our coach has been spending most of its time at a site we created on our property in the country. We have a 30 Amp service for the coach. No other hookups although we did install a water bypass to allow treated water to go to our outside faucets. We can fill our freshwater tank by connecting to the faucet in our garage.
When the coach is at home, we do spend quite a bit of time living in it. It is where we have been sleeping and, when we have those few rare moments, relaxing. We still do our cooking and personal care in our house.
That allows us to keep our gray tank use way down. Our black tank does fill over a two to three week period and, if we do not have a trip planned, we need to find a dump station.
We have two choices: use the station at our local KOA where they charge us $35 to dump our tanks, or drive about 30 kilometres (18 miles) to a Flying J where they charge us $5 to dump our tanks.
Last night the choice was easy. We needed to top up our fuel and add some air to one of the tires.
We also wanted the ride.
We love to travel in the coach. It really is a unique experience and it is so much fun. We take about 45 minutes or so to get the coach ready for travel. When I got home from work, Lorraine and I got busy with preparing the Castaway for the trip.
I have become quite comfortable with manoeuvring the coach so backing out of our site and navigating down the long, narrow and winding drive is almost second nature.
We had a beautiful evening to enjoy the short drive out to the Flying J and back.
There was another motorcoach beside us when we pulled in to the Flying J. A 2003 Monaco Dynasty hauling a massive toy hauler that weighed about 18,000 pounds. A 2003 Dynasty, despite being 13 years old, still commands about $150,000 CAD in the used market. Very nice looking coach.
I asked the owner if he was comfortable hauling 18,000 pounds on a hitch that is rated for 10,000 pounds. He seemed fine with it. I wouldn’t take the chance. Our coach can haul 15,000 pounds.
He spends most of his time travelling to racing events — he had a car in his toy hauler — and he told me that I had to take my rig out to a NASCAR event.
And I thought to myself, that would be a cool ride.
The Castaway is a beautiful coach. Not perfect mind you. There are a few weird things about the coach that I find a wee bit irritating. For example, our tank monitors.
We have a system which monitors our black, gray and fresh water tanks. Despite being in the year 2016, our coach reports the status of the tanks this way: E, 1/3, 2/3, F.
We spend most of our time in the coach in a hybrid dry camp. We have 30 Amps of shore power and no water or sewage hookups. We do have potable water that we can bring into the coach through a temporary hookup. Once the gray and black tanks fill up though, we have to find our way to a dump. We will be taking a drive this evening to a Flying J located about 20 minutes from where we live and that is because our black tank hit the dreaded “F” status. Whenever that happens, our toilets shut down.
I find it really frustrating to determine how close is close with our existing system. Why didn’t Newmar put a better system in place? A system like the SeeLevel RV Tank Monitor? This system, created by a fine Canadian company, Garnet Instruments, provides tank level information using a percentage of full readout. As in, your black tank is 95% full.
I suppose we would not be as annoyed if our coach was always on a hookup. Our current arrangement is more akin to boondocking and we are constantly guessing as to our actual capacity.
When the freshwater tank reads “E”, is it just below 1/3, or roughly 30 gallons remaining? Or is it empty with less than a gallon remaining?
We will be heading out to the Hershey Show in September and I hope that the SeeLevel product will be on display. I’ve looked at several videos on the installation process and it looks like something I might be able to do on my own.
Here is one such video by Motorhead Garage.
I then came across this video.
RVs catching fire? Does that happen very often?
I decided to ask Google.
About 263,000 hits in the News. I went through the first few pages, fire after fire.
We do have a small fire extinguisher in our coach. There is no way that it would be able to contain the type of RV fires that Google showed.
I decided to do a bit more digging. It turns out that in Canada, the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners keeps track of this sort of data. For the province of Ontario, during 2007 — the most recent report that I could find — there were 6,347 fires. 60 of them involved a Motor Home, Camper or Trailer. RVs on fire accounted for less than 1% of all fires in Ontario. As a percentage of the total RVs on the road in Ontario? I don’t know. But I would hazard to guess that there are at least 60,000 which brings 60 down to a very small percentage of RVs that catch fire in any given year.
In the United States, the average seems to be roughly 3,000 RV fires in a given year. RVs on fire account for about 1% of all fires in that country as well. Bear in mind that the statistics are fairly rough if you go into more detail — highway fires versus stationary fires. But you get the idea. The risk of fire is certainly a factor however it is not a common feature of owning and operating an RV.
Maintain your RV, do your vehicle inspections and be safe on the road.
Fires can happen anywhere whether you are in an RV or in a house.
Well, it turns out that our blog is not the only one focused on the RV lifestyle. Thank heavens.
I have been blogging since 2004, which seems like such a long time ago now, and my personal blog gets a lot of traffic. The RV Castaways site, being new, is just starting to build. If you are visiting us for the first time, welcome!
We have been following a lot of blogs since we started our journey into retirement. There are, of course, many sites that we visit every once in a while and, no doubt, a vast number of them that we have never visited at all.
Here are a few of our favourites.
A very impressive website created by a very impressive couple. In one sense, they almost singlehandedly convinced us to make our dream of travelling extensively in an RV a reality. Jason and Nikki have left the RV community to explore somewhere else, something to do with water I think, and we do miss their RV stories however the spirit of adventure still continues. One of our favourite sites and we continue to follow them on their new adventures.
Marc and Julie fulltime in their RV even though they are still working. And they have really upped their game with their newly designed website. I know how much work it takes to build a quality website and to produce quality videos. They put a lot of effort into creating great content and their videos have helped us with a lot of our questions about the RV lifestyle.
Peter and John have a wide following due, in part, to their wonderful how-to videos. We have learned so much from this website. Everything from how to empty our black tanks to leveling our coach.
It was this post, 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing, that introduced us to Nina and Paul. Nina posts regularly about their travels and she does an amazing job reviewing the campsites they visit as well as the process they follow to plan their travels here, here and here.
Well, what can I say? David and Brenda do march to the beat of a different drummer! Highly energetic and passionate, we have gained a lot of insight from them on both the technical and non-technical aspects of the RV lifestyle. And David had founded AVS Forum many years back, a site I used to visit all the time. A guy who is passionate about technology and audio? Of course I love his website.
I go here every day. I spend most of my time on the Newmar Owner’s Forum. Such a great community of people here. Although, for now, I have been lurking. Still a bit shy to post.
I’m not sure how I stumbled onto Mike’s blog but he seemed to be in a very similar place in life to me. He was nearing retirement, looking at purchasing a Newmar Dutch Star to go travel fulltime, and his approach to blogging was very helpful to us particularly with his journey to purchase his RV. We’ve traded a few emails and he does post from time to time on the iRV forums. He always has lots of great content to share.
Mike and Karla have created a really great website. They also travel in a Newmar Dutch Star. Mike has taught me a lot about how to plan for and equip an RV. Check out some of his thoughts on How To’s and Gear and Gadgets.
I hear you. It is too soon.
However, the storage facility for our coach has already been in contact wanting us to set the date for bringing the Castaway in for the winter.
We will miss her.
We have travel plans for the coach in September and early October. Within six weeks or so, I will have to ponder this question: how to winterize our motorhome?
From what I have read, there are two basic approaches although I will offer up a third:
- Drain all water and use an air compressor
- Use RV antifreeze
- Take the coach to Florida and forget about winter
The RVgeeks have a great video on winterizing the RV:
And, for a really detailed set of links on winterizing your RV, check out this post on iRV2.
Our coach, the Castaway, is equipped with three television sets.
When I was a kid, we only had one. A black and white TV set. No remote. But we did have a big TV antenna on top of the roof.
You see, back then, this thing called cable TV wasn’t in the market.
We were able to bring in a handful of channels from our big TV antenna, five in all. Two were American stations, two were English language Canadian stations and one was a French language Canadian station.
Yes. Those were the days my friend.
Our coach has a satellite dish with access to hundreds of channels, a digital antenna which finds whatever digital TV channels are in range, along with an extensive array of digital video entertainment from Blu-Ray and various Internet-based video channels.
So why do I even care about a limited set of cable TV channels that may be available when I am at a site?
Well, I wanted to see if I could connect to cable TV as part of the shakedown of the coach.
I went and purchased a 50-foot cable and I tried to hook it up when we were at our site in Petoskey, Michigan.
First problem: where, oh where do I connect the cable? It was obvious where the cable TV connection was at the site as it was at the same post as the electrical hookup.
I could not find a cable TV connection on the service side of the coach. One of our neighbours, also in a Dutch Star, was kind enough to point out where the connection was housed. It was hiding under a covered port in the same part of the basement compartment as the shore power reel.
Well, I went ahead and connected the cable from the coach to the post. So everything should work now, right?
Inside the coach, our TVs allow us to automatically scan and program channels coming from either a cable TV service or an outdoor TV antenna. Under the TV’s system setup, you make a choice on the source, antenna or cable, and then let the TV set do the work.
Only, no cable TV channels.
I tried it several times on all three sets.
Bad cable? Perhaps. And, until I picked up another one, I would have to make do with the several hundred other channels of video at my disposal. Which is what we wound up doing.
But it bothered me. Why wasn’t it working?
The Winegard Rayzar Antenna control panel.
You see that little green light in the photo?
The one over the button that says “ON/OFF”?
Well, it turns out that if you want to pass the Cable TV signal through to the TV sets, that little green light has to be dark otherwise the only signal present in the antenna line is the signal coming from the Winegard antenna. The cable TV signal from the site will be happily ignored.
Lots to learn about all of the various systems in our coach. Wish me luck.
We had gone to the Hershey show last year and we are going down again this year. Last year our focus was on narrowing our decision for a new motorhome. This year? Well, this year we would just like to enjoy the show and learn a bit more about the odds and ends of the lifestyle. We won’t need to be quite as focused in terms of where we spend our time.
I have a number of gadgets that I wouldn’t mind picking up at the show. They include:
- Tire Pressure Management System
- RV Level
- Adjustable Water Pressure Regulator
- Sewer Hose Extension
- Package of Assorted 12V Fuses
- Telescopic Ladder
Lorraine and I have also talked about whether we want some signage for the coach. Something that might say “Castaway” for example. I suspect we may pick up a few other items while we are down there.
We’ll also spend a lot more time exploring the various travel booths at the show. Last year we spent most of our time exploring the coaches.
We’ll still walk through many of the new coaches this year and we will probably tell ourselves that our coach is much nicer than any of the 2017 models. At least for now. That could change in another 10 years or so.
It will just be the two of us for the show. We have booked a site about an hour’s drive from Hershey. Not too far and not too close.