Network Redesign

Why is the Internet so bad? A question that I am asked many, many times in our travels. Yes, there are many parks where the underlying WiFi is indeed awful. But a number of parks have invested significantly in improving their WiFi service and yet it doesn’t seem to make much difference for many users.

Getting the best possible Internet does begin with the basics: a good external antenna, a good router and a wee bit of technical knowledge.

I had been running two systems in our coach: a Winegard ConnecT 2.0 and a Ubiquiti AirCube and NanoStation Loco M5. The Winegard provided cellular and 2.4 GHz data. The Ubiquiti provided 5 GHz data. Between the two systems, we were able to keep well connected to the Internet wherever we travelled.

We have over 30 devices in our coach that connect to the Internet and we routinely use several hundred Gigabytes of data a month. The Internet is very important to our lifestyle.

I can live with speeds as low as 7-10 Mbps but prefer to get as much speed and reliability as possible.

I had been planning the redesign of our network in the coach for a few months. Last week, I received all of the new equipment. The equipment will replace the Winegard and Ubiquiti platforms.

One network platform to rule them all.

The router is a Pepwave Max BR1 Mk II. The Pepwave is an advanced mobile router that provides cellular data and WiFi connectivity. The antenna is a Poynting 5-in-1 rooftop antenna. It will receive cellular, 2.4 and 5 GHz signals. I purchased these items from MobileMustHave Mobile Lifestyle Solutions.

In our coach, we have two cabinets for AV equipment. This is our front cabinet:

The cabinet from top to bottom:

Winegard satellite dish interface, Sony Blu-Ray player, Logitech Harmony Remote Hub (for our universal remote), Wally satellite dish receiver (we use Dish TV), video splitters for the two front LEDs, Pioneer AV receiver and an Apple TV.

I will have to rearrange the front cabinet to install the Pepwave router, a Sonos booster for our Sonos speaker systems and a network switch.

I have the Pepwave out in the coach right now along with one of the switches. I have to wait for the installer to come in and mount the rooftop antenna before I redo the front cabinet. Here is that equipment:

When we built the coach, I had Newmar run an Ethernet cable from the front AV cabinet to the rear AV cabinet located in our bedroom.

I have completed all of the new wiring in that rear cabinet. It looks like this:

There are three components in the rear cabinet: an Apple TV, a Playstation PS4 and a Synergy DS916 with 16 Terabytes of storage. There is also an IR extender to control the components in the cabinet with a Logitech Harmony universal remote. You can make out the eye of the IR extender at the top left side of the photo — it is the small black box with a green light.

All of the components are hardwired to a network switch. That switch will be connected to another switch in the forward AV cabinet and that switch which will be connected to the Pepwave.

The forward cabinet network switch will be hardwired to another Apple TV, a Sonos booster, our Wally satellite receiver, and our Pioneer receiver.

The rest of the devices in the coach will connect to the Pepwave over WiFi.

And the Pepwave will get data from at least three sources: WiFi as Wan over 2.4 GHz, WiFi as Wan over 5 GHz and cellular data.

I haven’t settled on a cellular provider as yet largely because we are currently achieving high-speed Internet on the existing WiFi source and I am not in a rush to implement the cellular portion of the new network.

I have done an initial systems test. I wired everything together to test all of the components. And everything worked as expected. Once the antenna has been installed, I will go to work on rewiring and reinstalling the components in the front AV cabinet.

I have the new router programmed to my liking and I am very impressed with the Pepwave router. I have decommissioned the Ubiquiti network and I will decommission the Winegard within another two weeks or so.

Even though I am waiting on the antenna to be installed, I have been using the new router with the paddle antennas.

Seems to be doing well so far.

5th Wheel Or Class A?

It was always Class A. Whenever we talked about our plans to live in an RV during the early part of our retirement, it was always focused on a Class A motorhome. We did look at a few travel trailers, like the Airstream, and a few fifth wheels, but never considered them seriously.

Downsizing does take place within the RV community. More of it than what I thought would be the case. And switching also takes place within the RV community. People switching between the various classes of motorhomes, 5th wheels and travel trailers.

One couple we follow online, Dave and Diane, recently made the switch from a large Class A motorhome to a premium 5th wheel. Dave has a lengthy post describing, quite fairly in my opinion, the pros and cons between the two:

As those of you that follow our blog know, after over 6 years full-timing in 2 different Class A motorhomes we decided to switch to a New Horizon 5th wheel.

With that in mind I started thinking about how many times I see people asking on different forums “which is better for the full-time lifestyle, a Class A or 5th wheel” and how many times the people answering that question have only owned and actually lived in one or the other and can’t possible give a well-rounded answer.

When we are at the Florida RV Supershow in January, I plan to spend more time looking at the various 5th wheel manufacturers.

Would we ever want to live full-time in a 5th wheel or a travel trailer for that matter?

It just doesn’t have the same appeal as a Class A motorhome.

However, if we see a radical shift in the pricing and availability of fossil fuel, we might not have a choice in the not too distant future. I have yet to see any Class A motorhome companies planning, or even discussing, their transition to a greener energy source.

Foremost

Foremost? If you want to find out anything about the new Foretravel coach built on a Prevost chassis, skip the Foretravel website. For some strange reason, you won’t find anything on the site about their new Prevost conversions. And don’t get me started on their poor website design or the fact that their website is still insecure.

Foretravel will charge you a lot of money for a coach and there is some level of support for their business model so perhaps the whole website thing isn’t much of a factor for their business. But still. The Foretravel site has to be one of the poorest website designs I have seen in the RV industry.

Oops. I got started.

Where was I? Oh yes. I was curious to learn more about their new Prevost build.

First up is an over-the-top video of their new coach. A video full of dramatic theme music, exploding volcanoes and references to Pompeii and Vesuvius. Fair warning. You might not stay with it for the entire 11 minutes and 32 seconds. That’s okay. I understand. In addition to hiring someone to build a decent website, Foretravel needs to hire someone to create a decent promotional video.

Doesn’t it want to make you run out and spend $2.8 million USD on the coach?

Meh.

This coach doesn’t grab me. Especially not at an MSRP of $3.735 million Canadian. If our current tax and spend Canadian government regains power at the end of the month, they will slap an additional “luxury tax” on vehicles over $100,000 Canadian. Assuming that one would be foolish enough to pay list price for this coach, the sales tax would be $485,510 CAD. Throw in the new luxury tax of $373,470 CAD and the total would come to a mind-blowing $4.6 million CAD.

But wait. There is a sale. Right here. A brand new 2020 Foretravel Prevost H3-45, with an MSRP of $2,882,70 USD for only $1,999,999 USD.

That might change everything.

Let’s run those numbers again. $2,667,638 CAD to buy the thing. Sales tax of $346,792 CAD. Luxury tax of $266,763 CAD. Probably a bunch of other little taxes here and there to bring it across the border: import fees, air conditioning taxes, gas guzzler taxes, excess weight taxes, perhaps some dealer prep. But, leaving those extras aside, the total comes down to a more manageable $3.3 million.

Sign me up.

Here is part of the description for the 2020 Foretravel:

The 45′ Emperor Sauna Suite (45ESS) M.S.R.P. $2,882,700. Foremost, by definition, means first in place, first in order or first in rank. The Foremost in luxury motor coaches is here and available now at the #1 volume selling motor home dealership in the world. For over 50 years Foretravel has remained at the pinnacle of the luxury motor coach industry. Offering only the finest in coach design, materials and quality. This legendary coach manufacturer has now infused its more than half a century of coach building expertise into the “ultimate in excellence”, the Prevost H3-45 VIP The Prevost chassis and shell is truly second to none and reserved for only a select few motor coaches and motor coach enthusiasts per year. In a Prevost coach market, filled with opulence and options, the Foretravel Prevost stands second to none. You will not only find the customary luxury features found in most all Prevost conversions, but an unprecedented level of function, livability and appointments never before offered in a motor coach.

There’s a bit more detail about the coach on the ad including a photo gallery. You can find that here. It is also featured on RV Trader over here.

Not sure about this particular Prevost conversion. Having spent a lot of time with the other Prevost conversion builders, the Foretravel model doesn’t strike a chord with me.

The exterior, not surprisingly, looks similar to the other Prevost conversion builders. Perhaps the four windshield wipers on the front might be different though. Then again, it is a Fourtravel (bad pun).

The interior and the colour scheme?  And the flooring? Not to my taste but presumably you can have the coach built to your own decor preferences.

I was expecting a bit more punch from Foretravel as this is their first foray into a Prevost build. I doubt that the other Prevost conversion builders are too worried about this entry. Nothing particularly earth shattering, given all the references to exploding volcanoes in the marketing material.

WiFiRanger Converge

WiFiRanger finally announced a shipping date for a new set of products built on a rooftop platform they are calling Converge.

Converge looks like this:

Here is their news release:

23rd, 2019 – Meridian, Idaho – WiFiRanger, the leader in Innovative RV connectivity & control solutions, today announced the availability of multiple roof-top and internal connectivity solutions, filling out their Vehicle Connectivity Integration System VCIS(™) strategy with options for all RV markets and vehicle types.

“We’ve heard our OE and aftermarket customers tell us that one size does not fit all styles of RV’s and customers. This new offering extends our solution set, allowing an upgradeable platform spanning from value packed to extreme connectivity.” – Kelly Hogan, CEO & Product Visionary, WiFiRanger

The new offering includes 3 high performance roof-top platforms dubbed Teton, Denali, and Everest:

The value packed Teton system includes high performance WiFi boosting, with a drop in LTE modem option, positioned at an industry disruptive price point.

Denali extends the outdoor WiFi power capabilities further with 5X the power of competing systems for better range and throughput, built in Cat 4 rooftop Extended range LTE modem with integrated GPS.

The Everest platform is the most capable connectivity solution ever debuted to the industry. Offering outdoor dual chain, 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz high power WiFi, an integrated Cat 6 multi carrier LTE modem, a second slot for an additional LTE modem, USB 3.0 connection for up to Cat 20 LTE & 5G futures, and up to 64GB storage of telemetry data.

All offerings are delivered in the flexible Converge enclosure, and offer simple “tray swap” upgrades allowing owners to improve their systems simply and effectively with no changes to the enclosure. Each system ships with the TetherPoint(™) wire harness which facilitates locating an LTE unit conveniently within a vast array of floor plans and easy addition of indoor TetherPoint(™) routers to extend capabilities in the future.

Complimenting the outdoor platforms are new indoor TetherPoint(™) routers. Matching the outdoors naming theme, the options include Poplar, Aspen, and Sequoia:

Poplar, the value packed option, includes a powerful 2.4Ghz WiFi radio, while Aspen includes both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz (AC1200 WiFi) broadcast capability.

Sequoia is unmatched, offering high power 2.4Ghz & 5Ghz radios, (AC1200 WiFi) up to 2 additional LTE embedded modems, USB 3.0 port for up to Cat 20 and 5G futures, and a USB 2.0 port for tethering multiple handheld devices.

I have to admit that the marketing language is a touch over the top.

Examples?

“Vehicle Connectivity Integration System” — I often find myself asking other RVers about their Vehicle Connectivity Integration System. Don’t you?

“an upgradeable platform spanning from value packed to extreme connectivity” — give me EXTREME connectivity. I am so tired of getting by with less than extreme connectivity. I mean, why bother if you are not going to be extreme.

“industry disruptive price point” — a fascinating way to say cheap.

“the most capable connectivity solution ever debuted to the industry” — why, it is nothing less than the world’s best, most extreme, industry disrupting Vehicle Connectivity Integration System (VCIS) ever. Really.

Well, marketing is marketing.

I am interested to see how the product will be received and reviewed. It has been hinted at for some time. Looks like we will still have a bit of a wait before anything hits the shelves.

Teton and Poplar will begin shipping October 15th, 2019 to aftermarket customers. Denali and Aspen will commence shipments mid-November, and Everest and Sequoia will begin shipping January 1st, 2020.

I will be updating my Vehicle Connectivity Integration System later this year once we return to the United States. I expect to go with either Cradlepoint or Pepwave for the router and a Panorama 5-in-1 antenna.

Wonderful to see some competition in the roof-top space from WiFiRanger. I am not a fan of the Winegard Vehicle Connectivity Integration System products.

Tire Pressure

Tires and inflation. The great mystery for many motorcoach owners. I found it a bit confusing when we first took delivery of our coach. Our dealer had inflated our front tires to 120 PSI and our rear tires to 95 PSI. The factory had installed a sticker which showed the steer at 120 PSI, the drive at 90 PSI and the tag at 85 PSI. After taking delivery, we took our coach to KAL tire before a major road trip — at that time I did not carry an air compressor — and they inflated all the tires to 120 PSI.  I had the coach weighed on a CAT scale and I made a guess that the tires should be 110 PSI on the front and 85 PSI on the rear. When we were at the factory earlier this year, Newmar weighed the corners of the coach and inflated the tires to 110 PSI at the front and 75 PSI to the rear.

What tire pressure should I use? Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question.

The tire pressure you should use depends on the type of tire and the weight of the coach. There is no substitute for getting the coach weighed, preferably on all corners.

Assuming that you are running a coach with a tag, here is the process that Michelin recommends to obtain axle and wheel position weights. Not necessarily easy to do on a CAT scale. Before we had our corners weighed, we did a rough calculation based on axle weights only.

We’ll use our coach as an example.

We run on Michelin XRV 305/70R 22.5 LRL tires.

Our coach was weighed with 3/4 tank of fuel, 2/3 fresh water, empty grey tank, 1/3 black tank and no passengers.

Our corner weights:

7,290 lbs. left front, 7,115 lbs. right front
8,270 lbs. left drive, 8,645 lbs. right drive (duals)
4,275 lbs. left tag, 4,345 lbs. right tag

Tire pressures need to be the same across an axle which means that we use the heaviest tire weight on an axle to determine the load/inflation for each side of that axle.

Michelin provides the following table for our tires:

A cold tire pressure of 110 PSI will support a weight of 7,300 lbs. on a single front tire. Our heaviest single front is 7,290 lbs. therefore 110 PSI would be the target tire pressure for our coach.

A cold tire pressure of 75 PSI will support a weight of 9,530 lbs. on the one pair of duals on the drive axle. Our heaviest weight is 8,645 lbs. on our drive duals therefore 75 PSI would be the target pressure for our coach.

A cold tire pressure of 75 PSI will support a weight of 5,375 lbs. on the single tag tire. Our heaviest single tag is 4,345 lbs. therefore 75 PSI would be the target pressure for our coach.

How do you get the required tire pressure for your coach?

You need the tire model. You need the load/inflation tables from the tire manufacturer. Michelin provides an online PDF which you can download here.

And you must know the actual weight of your motorcoach. You cannot determine the correct pressure for your tires unless you know the actual weight of the coach. Preferably the corner weights.

The consequence of running tires underinflated or overinflated can be deadly.

We carry a precision tire pressure gauge suitable for our type of tire which means that it is accurate to at least 120 PSI which is our maximum load. We carry a portable air compressor that can inflate tires to at least 120 PSI. We have found through experience that we cannot count on the tire pressure services at fuel stops to provide enough pressure to inflate our tires to 110 PSI.

Before any trip on our coach we check our cold tire pressure and we use an air compressor to inflate the tires as required. We visually inspect our tires for any signs of wear or distress.