Tag Archives: upgrades

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.

IMG_20180303_100148.jpg One of the weak links in this setup, though, is the 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’ve been looking 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’ve just finished setting it up.

IMG_20180303_100219.jpg 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.

The whole setup took about 15 minutes and I think in the future it will take less time than that.  In my case the new tripod was set up right next to the old one, so I just moved the dish from one to the other.  In other words, there wasn’t much aiming involved in the initial setup.  However, I’m fairly confident that it won’t be hard to master the setup process.

IMG_20180303_111056.jpg The whole thing is supposed to be attached to the ground using one of those screw in doggie stakes.  In my case the ground was too rocky, so I ended up using an alternative method using two tent stakes.  Also, you are provided a bungee cord, but I opted to go with a strap.  Of course, different situations will call for different anchoring solutions, for instance, using a 5 gallon bucket of water.

So, I now have the Cadillac of portable dish tripods.  I’ll report back on any future discoveries I make while using it.

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Reflecting on our 2017 Adventure

IMG_6081.JPG Our 2017 Adventure had both ups and downs.  It was a year with several unexpected expenses that included a broken windshield and various camper repair projects.  Later on we decided it was time to put new tires on the camper.  At four and a half years they still looked good but camper tires are notorious for failing at about that age.  We also ended up putting new tires on the truck, but, sorry to say, that came after a major tire failure that did damage to the truck.  Not long after that the truck ended up in the shop for a bigger repair.  After working through the issue with the warranty company, the repair ended up costing us hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.  Still, it was an expense that hit the bank account pretty hard.  The lesson learned wasn’t a new one, but still hit us in the wallet: when it rains it pours.

2017 also brought some medical issues our way, some are still ongoing.  That reminds us of another old lesson made new: life happens, even when you are living the RV dream.

20170319_175836.jpg During the year we tried a bit different approach to travel.  Rather than moving every 1-2 weeks during the months when we aren’t volunteering we decided to slow down in the early spring while we waited for warmer temperatures up north.  We spent a month on the Alabama coast, then another month near Knoxville, TN.    The result was mixed.  The month in Alabama wasn’t bad at all.  We were in a park that had lots of winter people and lots of interesting activities.  The month in Tennessee, so close to the month in Alabama, seemed longer.  The campground was crowded and the weather was wet.  All this added up to a less than enjoyable stay for us.  Lesson learned: be careful when scheduling longer stays to be sure the campground/area is worth the lengthy stop and don’t schedule longer stops too close together.

While we were in Indianapolis we were joined by our son and family for a few nights.  The camper was really crowded.  Still, it was fun seeing our loved ones and accommodating our “guests.”  None of us would have enjoyed this set up for a longer stay, but for a few nights it was great and we would happily do it again.   The lesson learned is that changing things up for a special occasion can be fun even if it is inconvenient.

We enjoyed family a couple of other times during the Adventure, spending a week near Jackie’s brother and his wife, Jim and Phyllis. This was followed by a couple of stays near Jackie’s family in Iowa.  Then in the fall, my sister Susan joined us and traveled with us for a couple of weeks.  These family times are a real bonus and make traveling even more fun.  Same lesson: it’s a real bonus being with family and friends.

We always enjoy worshiping with the various congregations we visit in our travels.  This year we especially enjoyed the Church of the Nazarene in Summerdale, AL.  Being that this was one of our longer stays we got to know the folks a bit rather than just being one or two Sunday visitors.  Then, we finished the year by filling in for a month for a pastor friend of ours in Denison, TX and then accepting an interim assignment (still ongoing) at Baytown, TX.  A good lesson is that while being a perpetual church visitor is always interesting, nothing takes the place of being part of a worshiping community.

20170511_122726.jpg During 2017 we towed the camper nearly 5000 miles, visited 17 states, and stayed in 34 different places.  This year, when we arrived in South Dakota we completed visiting all 50 states (although not all in the RV).  We started and finished the year volunteering on Battleship Texas.  This marks our fourth season of wintering in this unique location on the Houston Ship Channel.   We are still working on our 2018 Adventure and expect to continue our journeys in this New Year.

2017 Project: Bigfoot Leveling System

20170614_150431.jpg We really like our Hitchhiker II LS 5th wheel. However, we’re missing a few extras that the newer rigs have. A couple of months ago we decided that for the foreseeable future we’d like to make a few upgrades and keep our current 5th wheel. The biggest upgrade for us was adding a power leveling system. We found that the Bigfoot Leveling System by Quadra was highly regarded by most everyone. This is a powerful hydraulic system. They make a fully automatic system – just push the button and it figures out what is level by itself. We opted to save nearly $900 and install a single pump, manual, four jack system. With this system you have a remote control and using the bubble levels already mounted on the camper you level the camper. The guys at the factory told me our 5th wheel was a bigger project than many and it took a day and a half to do the install. The good folks at Quadra were nothing but helpful and professional. They even let us sleep in the camper while it was parked overnight inside their facility. This is a new system for us, but we found ourselves on a rather un-level site our first night out with it. It took just a minute or so to bring the camper perfectly level. Jackie and I were both all smiles watching it work!

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The more things change the more they stay the same

camping

It goes without saying that moving to fulltiming from a traditional “stix and brix” life is a major transition. We made the move and have never looked back. While the many changes are obvious, I’ve concluded that more stays the same than some might think. In spite of the downsizing involved, I think most people morph to a life that is similar to what they lived before. Now, let me hurry to say that if the move to fulltiming is connected to retirement or a new livelihood lots of major changes are baked in, RV lifestyle or not.

P2248680.JPG If, for instance, you enjoy watching TV, there’s a good chance that you’ll want a decent TV solution in your RV – probably satellite TV and a nice TV to watch. If you spend a lot of time surfing the Internet, you’ll want the best cell Internet package you can afford.

P2248685.JPG I see people on forums debating whether or not to have a washer/dryer in their RV. The answer is actually pretty easy: if you had a washer/dryer in your house you’ll probably want one in your RV. If you enjoyed going to a laundromat before, you’ll probably want to keep going to one. Admittedly, this approach has its limits – for instance, while dish washers are available, they aren’t all that common so you might have to surrender to dish washing in the RV even though you always used a dish washer in your old life.

Without doubt, living as a fulltimer means that some things will be more challenging than they were in your pre-fulltiming days. There will be times when you won’t be able to get the satellite signal or when you are camping without a sewer connect, thus limiting your use of the on-board washer. It’s all part of the adventure and you will have to find ways to accommodate such things.

Still, though, thinking that one is going fulltime and that once you are “out there” that everything will be different is probably mistaken. Lots of things will be different – hopefully, in great ways. However, you will still be the same person who wants oatmeal for breakfast most mornings, wants to do your laundry “at home,” and wants to watch the evening news on TV. Knowing this will help you make decisions about stuff like whether or not to sign up for a big data cell plan or buy a combo washer/dryer or get a fancy satellite setup.

2016 – New Air Conditioner Project

20160621_120731.jpg Our surprise  change of plans means we’re “enjoying” our first Houston summer since retirement in 2013.  It’s also our first extended hot/humid stay in our 2007 Hitchhiker II.  Of course, the weather isn’t unexpected.  After all, we lived in this area for many years.

While we’re ready to cope with the “summer swelter,” apparently our Hitchhiker isn’t.  It’s wired for two rooftop units, but only has one and as an uncommonly hot June arrived the comfort level in our house, well, let’s say it wasn’t so comfortable.

My first effort at keeping my cool was putting Reflectrix on several of the windows.  It makes the camper feel a bit cave-like but it does help.

Unfortunately, not enough.

My second effort was to close off the vents in the bedroom and keep the door closed.  The idea was to keep all the cool air I could in the kitchen/living room area.  I think it made a difference – at least it made the bedroom hotter.

So, unfortunately, not enough.

My third effort was buy a portable air conditioner.  These units have a big dryer-like hose on them that vents the hot air and humidity out the window.  The 10,000 btu unit we got was pretty loud and, if I put it in the closed-off bedroom it worked okay.  However, downstairs still got uncomfortably warm.  Not only that, but the unit we had tended to spit water at us.  I decided it was not only lacking in cooling ability for our needs but was probably somewhat defective.  I took it back.

We still didn’t have enough.

My fourth effort was to call an a/c guy to come in and evaluate our rooftop unit.  By now I was starting to think my only hope was adding the second rooftop air conditioner.  He thought my air conditioner could use a good cleaning and that it might help a little.  However, he warned us that our air conditioner was, after all, a 2007 (or earlier) model.  Freshly cleaned or not it was getting close to going to the air conditioner retirement home.  Maybe, he suggested, it was time to bite the bullet and go for a new one.

A few days later, with the wallet somewhat deflated, our Hitchhiker has a new 15,000 btu air conditioner.  I’m not sure how it will do come August, and it may be that we will have to deflate the wallet even more for a second unit, but for now….

….I think we have enough.