Tag Archives: projects

2018 – Project: Wide Angle Lens for hitching the 5th Wheel


I know that there are nifty bed mount cameras for this, but I was looking for a low tech solution and found one that I am sharing with you.

The challenge is backing the pickup up to hitch the 5th wheel. In our setup, the only way to see out to back window down to the hitch is to prop yourself up at a strange angle in the seat, twisting around while keeping your foot on the fuel peddle, ready to switch to the brake. My neck and back don’t work very well for that kind of Jujutsu move anymore so I looked around for a cheap alternative.

My solution was a wide angle lens that sticks to the back window of the truck. The lens “bends the light” letting me look through the rear-view mirror and see the hitch. To help things out, I put some fluorescent tape on both the edge of the hitch and the front of the hitch.

Once I put the wide angle lens on the window and tried it out, I took scissors and cut it in half, using only the bottom half on the window. That kept the lens low enough that I can look through the rear view mirror when driving without the camper and not see much of the lens at all.

This setup has been surprisingly helpful. I line things up without turning around at all, just looking in the mirror as I back up to the 5th wheel. Admittedly, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but this set up works well, especially when you consider the low cost.


See individual photos with captions.

2018 – 5th Wheel Service in Chanute, KS

We’ve fulltimed in our 2007 Hitchhiker II for five years now and have been pleased with how well it has held up. Last year we decided to keep it for a few more years and upgraded to a Bigfoot hydraulic leveling system. We love it. This year we had a couple of bigger repairs to do so we made our way to Chanute, KS, where our NuWa Hitchhiker was built, for factory service. We dropped the camper off early on Monday morning and moved into a nearby motel for the duration. While this isn’t a review of the motel, I will mention that we were very pleased with the helpful service we received at the Chanute Knights Inn and recommend it.

The big ticket item on the 5th wheel was the big slide out that had some water damage and needed to be completely removed and basically rebuilt from the floor up. Another job was replacing the rider’s side lower-front panel that had an unfortunate run-in with a big boulder in North Dakota last summer. Also, it was time to replace all the slide seals on the camper; a bigger job than you might think. All that plus a few other minor projects were on the schedule.

On Thursday the service center, true to their word, reported repairs complete. Happily, no other big problems were found during the work. After deflating our bank account we were ready to move back in. All in all it was a positive experience and we are pleased with the service we received. When I thanked the service manager for their work I commented that I hoped not to see them again for a long time. He laughed and said he hears that a lot.


See individual pictures with notes here.

2018 – Project: Dish Tripod

I’ve written about my satellite TV setup before, mostly in reference to the Winegard Carryout I used for a few years. You can read those posts here:

As I mentioned in the later reviews, I finally decided I was happier using a regular dish rather than the Carryout.  The reasons are in the final review so I won’t rehash them in this post.  All this to say that for the past few years I’ve used the home style dish and intend to keep on using it.

One of the weak links in this setup, though, was my tripod.  I inherited a small very basic one that is rather flimsy.  If the ground is unlevel, I put something under one leg to attempt to level it.  I also stake it out with guy wires to hold it steady in the wind.  It works but is far from an elegant solution.

I looked at the TV4RV tripod for some time.  However, it is pricy and I had a hard time pulling the trigger on it.  Finally, though, I went for it and I’m glad I did.

The tripod is actually a modified surveyor’s tripod; each leg can be adjusted independently.  A compass is supplied that fits right into the top of the tripod, and you are supposed to aim the direction before you ever mount the dish onto the tripod. One key is getting it perfectly level, something that is easy enough to do using a simple bubble level and the individually adjustable legs. The other key is getting it tall enough to “look over” any trees, etc. that are in the line of sight to the satellites. In some locations the sky is clear and I just leave it low to the ground. In a few places, though, I need all the height I could get.

Generally, the whole setup is less than 15 minutes. I describe the process here.

You can anchor the tripod using a screw in doggie stake or, if the ground is rocky I just use a five gallon bucket of water. I think this is the Cadillac of portable dish tripods, and in spite of the cost, it’s a good investment for those of us who need to set up a home-style dish on a regular basis.