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.
We are heading out on our first bonafide excursion with the Castaway. A way to break ourselves into the RV lifestyle and to get that first experience being out in the coach on a campsite away from home.
We decided to book a site at the 1,000 Islands KOA as they offer full service pull through sites for big rigs. This KOA is not too far from where we live. Our local KOA, which is much, much closer, only offers electrical and water and we want to go through the process of setting up the coach on a full service site. I want to log more miles on the rig so a longer drive is a good thing. Plus, the 1,000 Islands is a beautiful part of Ontario. The weather forecast so far is promising and it is the Father’s day weekend. Our son will be along for the trip. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Here is the map of the campground:
It is a really scenic area although the sites are not guaranteed. We will be placed somewhere on sites 23-25 or 32-37 as those are the only 50 amp full service pull through sites.
I will be travelling on business for the next couple of days and that will give me some time to pull together our packing list for the trip.
Really looking forward our first camping experience in the Castaway.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
Where the deer and the antelope play? We do not see much in the way of antelope. We do see quite a few deer where we live.
This one was looking for a tour of our new motorhome.
My son was at home and his tablet, never really very far away, allowed him to capture the moment.
Checking the panel and what do I see? Freshwater tank, 1/3. Gray tank, 2/3. Black tank, 2/3.
Time to top up the freshwater tank and empty the gray and black tanks. The gray tanks contain whatever material was drained down our sinks. The black tanks contain the waste from our toilets.
I guess that stuff has to go somewhere.
This will be our first time dumping our tanks. We will be heading over to our local KOA and we will give it a try.
There are lots of how-tos on the web. I found these two videos to be the most helpful in terms of getting a sense of the process.
Jason, of Gone With The Wynns, provides a clear, step-by-step video. He mentions that the first thing that you should do is put on your gloves although in the video he does handle the sewage hose before donning them on. Probably best to get those gloves on right at the start.
The RV Geeks provide a really thorough walkthrough on emptying the tanks. Their wet bay is very similar to ours so I found this video very relevant.
What are some of the key points to remember for a newbie?
- Wear protective rubber gloves.
- Dump the black tank before the gray tank. The gray tank can clean the residue from the sewage hose when you dump it after the black tank.
- Wait until the black tank until it is at least two-thirds full before emptying the tank. And don’t leave the black-water tank valve open when hooked up at a site. Liquids will drain from the black tank which will leave solid waste behind. That will make life difficult later on as solid waste will accumulate in the black tank.
- Use a high quality sewer hose.
- Carry an extra garden hose for rinsing. Store the sewer hose and rinse hose away from the drinking water hose. In our coach, we have a separate compartment for the sewer hose.
- Never use the fresh water hose for rinsing sewer hoses or the dump station area.
We all have sparks, imaginations.
That’s how our minds, create creations.
For they can make, our wildest dreams come true.
Those magic sparks, in me and you.
A dream, can be a dream come true.
With just that spark, in me and you.
I have a personal blog that has been out on the web for a pretty long time now, since April 2004. It gets quite a bit of traffic for what it is, mostly my own random thoughts and pictures about what I experience in life.
People do comment on the posts. I had posted about bringing our new coach home on that blog and someone elected to send me this encouraging note:
Great! But what’s the main rational in general, and how does this make sense though compared to other possible options, particularly longer term?
The person was thoughtful enough to include a number of links to things like how to invest and live abroad. Links that have absolutely no interest or relevance to me personally.
But the phrase “how does this make sense though compared to other possible options” was what caught my attention.
The underlying assumption, how does this make sense, is really another way of saying to someone that it really doesn’t make sense at all especially when compared to other more sensible options.
I think back to a team member from my time when I worked for a large Canadian bank. This was about ten years ago. He was approaching retirement. He had a dream. His dream was to sail. He bought himself an older sailing vessel. He spent a couple of years getting it ready to go. He had to spend some time getting himself ready to go, including hip replacement.
Sailing is not for me. For Ted, though, this was his passion. If I remember correctly, he did not even have that much experience with sailing. He was determined. He wanted to retire early to pursue his dream, which he did. I was excited for him.
Here is a recent shot of Ted and Ronalie from March of this year.
Don’t they look awesome? Happy? Healthy?
Ten years have passed. And they have been travelling the world on a sailboat. Life is good for my former colleague. He followed his dream.
How does this make sense though compared to other possible options?
Follow your dreams. Naysayers will never understand them.
If you look carefully at the roofline of our coach, you will see a satellite dish antenna, roughly midway, peering out at the southern sky.
This is our Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 automatic multi-satellite TV antenna.
This unit caused me a lot of grief. It works fine now but I will share my story in the hopes that if you have a similar problem, you can find an easier way to get it solved.
The problem was an EL Motor Home Failure. Let’s see how I got to that problem.
One of many tasks for the new motorhome was to connect the Bell Expressvu receiver to the audio visual system. That part was relatively straightforward. Connect the RG-6 coaxial cable to the rear of the receiver, connect the HDMI cable to the output of the receiver and the input of the coach’s system splitter — in my bay everything was clearly marked — and plug the unit into an available electrical outlet.
Great. Now for some satellite TV.
First, power up the Winegard unit. The power up sequence worked fine. I can hear the unit moving and automatically positioning itself to find the Bell satellites. From what I know about satellites, which is very little actually, Bell leases two of them: Nimiq 3 and Nimiq 6. Nimiq 3 is at 82 degrees west and carries the standard definition channels. Nimiq 6 is at 91.1 degrees west and carries the high definition channels.
The Winegard dish found both satellites and showed that it was locked on *82 and *91.
Or so I thought.
I turned everything on and the satellite received showed an Error 15 on the TV screen. Basically, the receiver was not seeing the satellite.
How can this be?
So I consulted the Winegard manual. With hindsight, this turned out to be a huge mistake. The manual had a significant omission, namely the type of antenna. More on that one in a moment.
Here is the page on how to configure the dish for Bell Expressvu:
Notice step 6: Press the Select button until the asterisk is next to “SM Mount,” and then press “ENTER.”
And notice step 8: Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “SM ExpressVu.” Press the Enter button.
When I looked at my Winegard unit, it said “LG ExpressVu” and not “SM ExpressVu.”
Obviously the unit had not been configured for Bell TV. Or so I thought.
I followed all of the instructions and then I got to step 15: The TRAV’LER antenna will enter the search routine as part of its normal operation.
Only there was no normal operation. Instead I received a flashing EL MOTOR HOME FAILURE on my Winegard unit.
That cannot be good.
I went outside and I could see that the satellite dish was pointed straight up to the sky.
My first reaction? I must have broken the antenna. My second reaction? How do I get it stowed? After all, I cannot drive the coach with the antenna sticking straight up into the air.
Back into the coach I go. But nothing I do stows the antenna. All I get is a flashing EL MOTOR HOME FAILURE.
There is a troubleshooting section in the manual but it does not show an EL MOTOR HOME FAILURE error. It does show something close, an EL HOME FAILURE. Here is what you should do when you see that error:
Something is preventing the mount from raising as it attempted to find the HOME position. Look for obstructions if the unit has recently been manually raised or if the electronics have been replaced. The calibration may need to be reset. Contact Winegard Technical Support.
I sent them a note and a robot told me that support was closed until Monday. This was Saturday evening.
I am not a patient man. Time for more DIY damage.
I found out how to reset the antenna on the Internet. Follow these steps:
1. Press [POWER] and hold for 2 seconds to turn “ON” the TRAV’LER Interface Box. Wait until the Interface Box finishes “connecting to antenna”. The TRAV’LER may enter the “Search Routine” after 10 seconds this is normal (See NOTE Below).
2. Press [ENTER] and hold for 2 seconds or until the unit displays “Enter User Menu”. Press [SELECT] to move the asterisk to “Yes”. Press [ENTER].
3. Press [SELECT] to move the asterisk to INSTALLATION.
4. Press [ENTER]. You will be asked to provide a code to enter the Installation Menu.
5. Press [ENTER] 4 times to enter code 0000.
6. Press [SELECT] to move “ * ” to “Calibrate EL”.
7. Press [ENTER].
8. Press [SELECT] to move “ * ” to YES.
9. Press [ENTER] to start the elevation calibration procedure. The LCD should now display “Calibrate EL In Progress …”.
10. After a few moments the IDU LCD will display “On EL Hard Stop?-Yes*No”. Visually examine the antenna to verify that the antenna is against the Hard Stop. The antenna will be pointing as far up as it can go, this is the Hard Stop.
11. Press [SELECT] once to move asterisk to “Yes” if antenna is on the Hard Stop.
12. Press [ENTER] and the LCD will display “Calibrate EL Success”.
13. You may now stow the antenna.
Only these steps did not work for me. Why?
It goes back to LG ExpressVu and SM ExpressVu. It turns out that they are two different antennas. One is “Low Ground” and the other is “Surface Mount” or something like that. Through some additional research on the web, I found a dealer installation pdf and it talked about the two differences. My antenna was, in fact, an LG ExpressVu. Because I had reconfigured it to be an SM Mount, exactly as the manual directed, it was unable to stow. It remained stuck in the fully upright position, pointing straight up into the sky.
I had to go back into the installation menu to change the antenna type back to LG ExpressVu. I followed all of the steps and at step 6 I selected “LG Mount”. And to do that operation required a passcode. I used the one in the manual: “0022”.
More searching on the Internet. I finally found the passcode to change the antenna type buried deep in the web somewhere: 2112.
Once I changed the antenna type I followed the rest of the protocol making sure I used LG ExpressVu. I was able to successfully calibrate the system and get the antenna safely stowed.
I powered it up, connected to the antenna, and the Winegard unit could see *81 and *92 again.
The Bell receiver? No joy. Why was I not getting any satellite signal to the receiver?
And then it hit me. The switch.
I had taken one of our Bell ExpressVu receivers from the house. I have an SW44 switch in the house. I remembered reading somewhere that the receivers are sensitive to the type of switch.
I went into System Setup and then the diagnostic section of the receiver’s menu system and selected “Test Switch”. After about ten minutes or so it automatically found the new switch from the Winegard unit and voila, satellite TV.
Technology really should not be this hard.
Lorraine took this shot as I was bringing our coach, the Castaway, up our driveway.
We live in the country. We have 7 acres. We have a long, twisty gravel road that runs about 1,000 feet. Our house is on a hill surrounded by a forest.
Getting the coach up to the house was the second most challenging part of the drive. The first most challenging part of the drive was leaving the dealership.
Of course, I decided that it would be a great idea to take my first drive with our new motorhome through the busiest highways in all of Canada: the 400 highway and the 401 highway in Toronto.
Outwardly, I believe I looked calm.
Inwardly I was terrified. For the first hour or so. Then I became captivated with the driving experience. This is one amazing coach. Wonderful feel on the road. The 450 hp Cummins diesel provides all the power necessary to climb hills. The three stage engine brake helps to slow the coach without excessive wheel braking.
Once we had cleared the Greater Toronto Area, I was able to set the cruise control and enjoy the driving experience.
I loved it.
Lorraine took a few videos to capture our first ride in our new motorhome.
Still so much to do before we head out on the road but this is a major milestone for us. We have the Castaway.