We are heading out tomorrow to pick up our new coach. We will be at the Hitch House for two days. I expect that the process will be a touch overwhelming.
There will be lots of paperwork and lots of information to process. The technician will be spending quite a bit of time with us to go through the operations of the coach. We will be living in the coach for a few days before we bring our motorhome, the Castaway, home. And we have to complete a thorough inspection of the coach.
Their checklist is very comprehensive and it will help us identify any initial delivery issues with the coach.
Lorraine and I are also planning an initial trip with the coach later this summer to shake it down and to see if there are any other issues that need to be addressed.
We are quite realistic about what to expect: there will be issues. This was true when we bought our first home. This was true when we built our first home. This will be true with our new coach.
We went with the Hitch House and Newmar because both companies have great reputations for customer service. Although it is a couple of hours drive to the Hitch House, I am hoping that we can capture all of the initial issues with the coach, review it with them beforehand and bring the coach out to get them addressed all at one time as opposed to making several trips back and forth.
We will report on our initial experiences over the next few days.
Should be fun.
We have some learning ahead of us with the new coach. The electrical system is the one that will likely take the most effort on our part. We don’t know how to use electricity on a coach.
Well, I mean we know how to turn things on and plug things in. We just don’t know how all of the various systems work together.
Our coach will have three separate electrical systems: 12-volt automotive DC, 12-volt DC coach and 120-volt AC coach. Power will be generated from multiple sources including the on-board generator, shore, batteries and eventually solar. We will have an inverter, an automatic transfer switch, an automatic generator start on low battery, a surge protector and an energy management system.
In short, if you will pardon the pun, we will have a complex electrical system to manage.
There are several resources that I found very helpful in terms of learning more about the electrical system of an RV.
The first one is from RVTechMag.com.
I’ve created this tutorial to help explain some of the basics of electricity as related to RVs. It’s certainly not going to turn every RVer into an electrical engineer or service tech but it may help many of us to better understand the basics of electricity and how it relates to RVs in general. I’ve organized and categorized topics so that they begin with raw basics and build from there. That way you can either start at the beginning or skip the stuff that you know and go right to your area of interest. You can use this as a study course if you wish or simply a reference source to refer to as needed.
The second is from RV-Dreams.com.
I was thinking about what I should cover in a “Basic RV Electrical” section. Then it dawned on me that I would want it to be really, really basic. I asked myself this question: What is the absolute minimum I need to know about my electrical system…
Gone With The Wynns offers a lot of great video tutorials on solar.
Solar power is our main source of electricity on the road and we’ve learned way more about it than we ever wanted to! From our current and past RV Solar Systems to simple explanations on what it is and how it all works, we try to keep things as simple as possible with these complex RV electrical systems. Click on any of the posts below for more information on solar, inverters, chargers and portable power.
And finally the RV Geeks offer a variety of video tutorials on electricity for RVs.
Behind my mask, when I took my driving tests for my D Class and my Z endorsement, was pure fear. I did not expect to experience such stress. I did not expect to experience driving test nerves.
The mask I normally wear is a mask of confidence. It is a mask that says: I am okay and I have it all under control.
My first driver’s licence was issued when I was 16 years old. In those days, if you completed a driver’s education course, all that was required at the examination centre was successful completion of a short multiple choice exam. Within ten or fifteen minutes, I had my driver’s licence. No fear. No stress.
Totally different experience when I took the DZ tests.
What would happen if I did not pass the DZ tests? We would not be able to bring the coach home as we had originally planned. And because Lorraine was delayed in taking her DZ courses, my DZ licence was on the critical path. No one else in our family would be able to pick up the coach from the dealer.
I did not want to let Lorraine down.
Failing something can be hard to take. Failing something can be embarrassing.
There were fifteen people in my class and every person was stressed out over the written and practical tests.
Why was everyone so nervous? What consequences did we face?
It then became clear to me: being nervous in these situations is actually pretty normal. The thing to watch out for?
Fear of failure often leads to failure!
It is so important to shift the nerves and anxiety into positive energy.
I told myself that I can absolutely do this. I told myself that I can ace these tests and, as it turned out, I did. Out of 160 test items over four different exams, I missed only 2 questions.
I used 4-7-8 breathing to ease my nerves and anxiety:
- Slowly breath in through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 7
- Slowly exhale for a count of 8
Repeat this process a few times and suddenly the nerves and anxiety levels calm down.
I did not treat the driving test as a test. I told myself that I was going for a drive. I have been driving for over forty years now. I know how to drive. Sure, I don’t often drive 4o-foot vehicles weighing over 30,000 lbs, but I know how to drive.
When I started the drive, I knew I had it. I knew that I could show the examiner that I could safely operate this class of vehicle.
“Congratulations!” he said at the end of the test. “You aced it.”
Lorraine took her Z endorsement training last week. And she had her tests on Friday. She was also nervous and anxious. She also aced the tests. Learning to control our nerves and our anxieties is part of life. Getting our commercial driver’s licences for our motorhome was a milestone in getting ready for our new adventures.
That was another important part of the process for us: keep ourselves focused on the goal. This was simply just another step in the process.
We get to drive the coach home this coming Saturday.
What else do you need for a new RV? That was the question we faced when we finalized the date for picking up our coach from the dealer.
We did a lot of research on the web and we found advice on everything from cleaning supplies to folding bicycles.
We then made a list of essential items for our RV.
Electrical (Surge Protector and Dogbone)
The very first two items we knew we would need for the coach: surge protection and a dogbone.
As we have a fully electric motorhome we wanted to make sure that the electricity coming into the coach would be protected from surges and inappropriate voltage levels.
We went with a Surge Guard 50 Amp hardwire unit. This product monitors the electricity and shuts off the power when it detects surges, open ground, open neutral, low or excessive voltage, miswired pedestals, reverse polarity, or elevated neutral current conditions that could damage electronic equipment in a coach. We had it permanently installed in one of our bays.
We also picked up a 50 Amp/30 Amp dogbone. This adapter allows us to connect our 50-Amp service to a 30-Amp outlet.
Our coach is equipped with a 50-foot power reel so we did not need to buy any extension cables.
Water (Regulator, Sewage Hoses, Filter)
Our coach has a 50-foot hose on a power reel for water so we did not need to purchase a standalone hose for drinking water.
We will need a separate hose to rinse our sewage tank.
As water pressure can be quite variable at campsites, we picked up an adjustable water pressure regulator with a guage and splitter. The splitter is used to keep one line dedicated for drinking water and the second line dedicated for sewage tank rinse.
A guage on a regulator allows us to set the water pressure ourselves. We will set the regulator at 65 psi.
We also opted for a sewage hose kit with ground hose holders and a clear elbow joint to connect to the tank.
We have a water filter on our coach however we are going to be looking at a more sophisticated water filtration system. Not right away mind you. But we do think it is an essential part of an RV.
Wheels (TPMS, Wheel Covers, Compressor, Gauge)
Weights and tires. Weights and tires. It does not take much research to understand the importance of knowing the weights of the coach at the corners and making very, very sure that the tires are properly inflated and maintained.
We are still researching a tire pressure management system (TPMS). There are quite a few in the marketplace. TireTraker seems to be one of the most popular systems. We won’t be heading out on the road without a TPMS.
To protect the rubber of the tires, we will be getting some wheel covers. Not sure that we will get anything too fancy. Just something basic to prevent any damage from the sun.
We will also be getting a portable air compressor to inflate the tires. The Viair 400P-RV is probably the one we will purchase.
Finally, a good quality tire pressure guage to check the tires. Even with a TPMS, I suspect having a spare gauge will come in handy.
Technology (GPS, CB Radio, Dash Cam, Boosters)
Although the coach is equipped with an in-dash GPS, we think it best that we have a second RV-specific GPS for the co-pilot. I know from experience that it is best for me to be focused an the driving and not on reviewing or updating a GPS while in motion.
Garmin offers the RV 760LMT. I use a number of their GPS products and like them.
A CB Radio might seem somewhat old-fashioned in an age of smartphones. That said, when we are out on the road, we cannot always count on cellular particularly in the more remote areas of Canada. A CB Radio will let us listen in to the truckers and give us a bit of insight into road and weather conditions as we ride. We will go with a Cobra 29 LX. Because we have a fibreglass RV, we will also need a No Ground Plane CB Antenna. Lots of them here.
A dash cam will help keep a record of our travels, and in the hopefully unlikely event of an accident, a digital eyewitness. We’ll probably go with a Garmin as well. Perhaps this one.
The last bit of technology will help boost our cellular connection as well as our WiFi. We haven’t firmed up our decision on products yet. What we did do was purchase The Mobile Internet Handbook from Chris and Cherie at Technomedia. Highly recommended.
Odds and Ends
A variety of other items that we think will also be essential for our RV:
- Jack pads for when we level the coach
- Folding ladder to get up on the roof of the coach as the Dutch Star does not provide one
- A tow dollie for our car
- An RV foam fire extinguisher
We will no doubt find more items that we consider essential once we hit the road full-time.
Our new coach is a fully electric coach. It needs a 50-amp service to run all of the onboard electrical systems.
A typical household breaker might offer a 20-amp service although our panel has quite a few 15-amp breakers. A 20-amp service requires 2,400 watts. A 30-amp service will need 3,600 watts and a 50-amp service will take 12,000 watts. That is quite a difference in power between 30 and 50 amps.
Plugging a 50-amp coach to a 30-amp service means that you won’t be able to use everything on the coach. In our case, we have two large air conditioning heat pumps on the coach as well as a number of large appliances. Connecting to a 30-amp service, we could only run appliances if we used our generator.
Last week we had our electrician install an outdoor 30-amp service for our RV. For a number of reasons we could not go with a 50-amp service.
We had room for the 30-amp breakers in our panel and we also had 8/3 wiring roughed in from the panel out to the back of the house. 8/3 can easily support 30 amps. For a 50-amp service, 6/4 wiring would be required.
For our site, the electrician had to run a conduit from the side of the house, trench an 18-inch conduit out to a decking post, and terminate the 30-amp service in a covered outlet (pictured above). It took two electricians a full day to complete the task. And it was very expensive. The cost of site inspection, labour, the trenching equipment, the conduit, the 50 feet of additional 8/3 cable as well as the outlet was much higher than we expected. It was important to us that we installed the service to code. Make it right.
The coach will be on our site for a number of months and we need to have some shore power. We will need to run our generator if we are in the coach during the hot summer months to have some air conditioning. For cooler evenings, we can do our work in the coach and have enough power to run the lights and perhaps the AV system by being connected to our 30-amp service. And it will give us a bit of practice for when we have to connect to 30-amp services at other sites.
Do you need a commercial driver’s licence to drive an RV?
The answer is yes if you live in Ontario and the RV is more than 11,000 kilograms (24,250 lbs). If the RV has air brakes, you also have to complete an air brake (Z) endorsement.
From the Ministry of Transportation’s website:
Class D Licence
The Class D licence lets you drive any truck or vehicle combination exceeding 11,000 kilograms, provided that the towed vehicle weighs less than 4,600 kg. If it weighs more, you will need either a full Class A or restricted Class A licence.
With a Class D licence you can also drive a car or light truck covered by a G Class licence.
To apply for a Class D licence, you need to:
- be at least 18 years old
- hold a valid Ontario licence other than G1, G2, M, M1 or M2
- pass an eye test
- submit a medical report
- pass a written test about operating large trucks and tractor-trailers
- pass a road test
Both Lorraine and I had to go through the somewhat lengthy and expensive process of becoming truckers.
You can call me Trucker Rick. I have my DZ licence.
In a few weeks time you will be able to call Lorraine Trucker L. She is in her air brake program today and tomorrow and her D program in another two weeks.
We both found the courses to be very interesting and very worthwhile.
If things do not work out in retirement, I can always try my hand at trucking.
When we returned to Canada from the Hershey RV Show in October of 2015, we came back with thousands of pages of brochures, guidebooks, and magazines. In a word, the show was a bit overwhelming. So much to think about and so much to process.
Our main objective was to decide on a new motorhome. We had already narrowed down our field of choices based on Class A Diesel Pushers. And we had already narrowed down to the following manufacturers: Newmar, Entegra, Tiffin.
Lots of research followed. I went to all of the manufacturer sites. I went to all of the major Internet forums and followed as many threads as possible on ownership experiences with these particular brands. I went through hundreds of videos on YouTube. I downloaded manuals and brochures. Over a period of a few months, I took in a lot of material about RVs.
Granted, this was not the first time we had looked at RVs. We had come very close to purchasing a Newmar Dutch Star back in 2006. It looked like this one:
In all of our research, we kept coming back to Newmar. No company is perfect and certainly no motorhome is perfect. Newmar has built a terrific reputation in the market. Lorraine and I particularly admired Newmar’s corporate principles:
At Newmar, we believe that a motor coach is more than just a vehicle. It should be a dream come true. A passport to countless hours of fun with your family and friends. A road to a lifetime of cherished memories and new discoveries.
For over 40 years, we’ve applied our Christian principles to the creation of motor coaches that have enhanced the lifestyle of people all over the world. And we’ll continue to do that for countless generations to come. It’s why we take pride in every rivet, every weld, every mechanical function and aesthetic of design.
Part of our research was to determine how we would get to a fair deal price on a motorhome in Canada. At the Hershey RV Show, there were all sorts of deals to be made.
Depending on the coach and dealer, 25 – 30 percent off list seemed to be in the range for a new motorhome.
Being Canadian gets complicated though. You have to start from the US list price converted to Canadian dollars, a much higher amount. The Canadian currency floats which means that a deal price is subject to the volatility of the currency markets. The Canadian dollar was in a bit of a free fall during the latter part of 2015. And every penny drop in the value of the Canadian dollar added a significant amount to the overall cost of the coach. A deal might need a right of refusal based on currency volatility. And, of course, we pay taxes. Thirteen percent on the deal price. Ouch.
The Canadian dollar was trading closer to 80 cents at the time we did our deal. Many pundits were predicting a 60 cent dollar within a few months. That did not happen and the Canadian dollar today is almost at the same level as it was last October. At the time we were really concerned that we might see a steep drop in the value of the Canadian dollar. We decided that we should do a deal sooner rather than run the risk of a decline in our currency.
We wanted to buy in Canada. This is where we live and we wanted to support our Canadian businesses. Although there were some great deals to be had at the Hershey RV Show, we intended to shop Canadian.
We headed out to the Toronto Fall RV Show in October of 2015. Most of the major dealers were there and we were able to spend time talking with a few of them about their coaches. We also made several stops at dealers in and around the Toronto area. We probably logged close to a thousand kilometres of driving over those two days to look at different coaches and to get a feel for the calibre of the various dealers.
We knew when we went to the Hitch House that we had found a good dealer. It helped that Newmar also had their Canadian manager on site for our visit. We spent most of the day at the Hitch House and, shock of all shocks, we decided to put an offer down on a new Dutch Star 4002 then and there.
We were now committed to our future dream. At least from a financial perspective.
This was our production report when our order went to the factory in November:
Here we were, in late October, making decisions about our future. The first of many decisions.
The time that we spent at the Hershey RV show last September was a milestone for Lorraine and myself. And not because of RV shopping. That part was fun and educational. That part was really an outcome from a much more significant decision, a time when we decided to dream about our future and to answer the question: what happens next?
I was quickly closing in on sixty years of age when we went down to Hershey. I was very uncertain about the future and, frankly, a bit concerned about the lack of vision for life after work.
How could it be that at this time of my life, I was so anxious about what happens next?
I thought the plan to get to retirement was pretty straightforward: get the kids off to a good start, save money, pay off the house. Only, there wasn’t a plan on what we would do during retirement. Aside from planning for it, we hadn’t really talked about how we would live during that time of our lives.
I had read Chris Crowley’s Book, Younger Next Year. This book was really life changing in many ways. Highly recommended.
In his book, Chris talks about the waterfall. The waterfall is the moment in time when our life ends. As we get older, it becomes louder. We can hear it. We know that it is coming. We think about it more and more. And it challenges us to think about one of life’s more important questions: what happens next with the time we have left?
Chris highlights four important attributes of living life well until we reach the waterfall: exercise, nutrition, connecting with others and kedges. A Kedge is his term for ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
All I was focused on was getting to the number.
Lorraine and I spent most of our time talking about the future in terms of the number. What number do we need to retire? What number do we need to live well in retirement? What number do we need to deal with the unexpected during retirement?
I had built highly complex spreadsheet models going out thirty years. I had introduced multiple scenarios. Retire early, retire late. Different rate of inflation numbers. Different rates of return from our investments.
I would go through the number with Lorraine. Is this the right number? What if I had made a mistake? What would happen then?
Lorraine kept telling me that the last thing she was worried about was the money.
I did not have the presence of mind to ask her what the first thing was that she worried about.
But I knew.
It was us.
It was about our ability to keep growing and developing as a couple. To take those wonderful moments that we have been able to enjoy together over the past thirty-five years of marriage: the long weekends, the one-week vacations, the evenings out here and there. To build anew our relationship.
We started dreaming about what life could look like after retirement. And we knew what wanted: new adventures.
We started to think about traveling. And then about traveling in a motorhome. And to do so full-time.
Retirement will be an exciting change and a lifetime accomplishment. Lorraine and I will create the future us.
- We will pursue a new chapter of life — the best time of our lives
- We will follow our passions and our dreams
- We will awaken our spirit
- We will rediscover joy and serenity in life
So, although part of the journey on our blog will focus on our new RV, which has been a terrific and fun experience, what happens next is really a challenge to think about the future. Our future. The future us.