2019 – Project: Roof Vents Repair and Upgrade

One of the few things we don’t like about RV Fulltiming is dealing with severe weather and the other night we had a big thunderstorm come through. For a few minutes we had nickle sized hail. Tell you what, having hail beating down on the RV is attention-getting! Our motorhome has three roof vents/exhaust fans. One is covered. The other two, one in a hallway and the other in the bathroom, have no cover over the lid.


We were already aware that one of those lids had a small corner crack so replacing it was on the agenda. The hail storm, though, moved that project to the front burner. The hail broke through that lid, knocking holes in it. The other lid cracked but held. As the storm continued, I grabbed some gaffer tape and taped the broken lid from the inside the best I could. The next morning I got on the roof to survey the damage. Happily, the only damage was to the two lids. I taped them both up some more and ordered replacements as well as new vent covers.


The project was easy enough and in an hour or so I had the new lids plus new covers installed. The covers will not only protect the lids in rough weather and against sun damage but will keep the rain out if the vents are left open. They can also be cracked open when we are traveling to create airflow through the camper.


This is an easy upgrade and I recommend it to anyone who has a RV that doesn’t have the covers.

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.

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2018 – Shortstop – Santa Fe Safari Campground – Chanute, KS

We’ve spent a couple of nights at Santa Fe Safari Campground in Chanute, KS as we prepare to drop our 5th wheel off for service at NuWa. These are the folks who made the camper and we are looking forward to having a couple of things repaired on it. Just a few minutes from the manufacturer’s service department is this nice city campground. My guess is that over half the RVers who come to this city campground are here because of NuWa service and sales. No one can argue with the price: free for the first two nights, then just $10 a night after that. The campsites are basically parking lot sites with 30/50 amp electric and water. There is a dump station on site.

This city campground even offers free WiFi! There are two sections. The east side is closest to S. Santa Fe Ave. and has all pull through sites and has the good WiFi signal. The west side sites are all back in and are close to restrooms (not well kept) and beyond the range of the WiFi. However, the sites are a bit wider and longer. They are also close to the dump station. We spent one night in the eastern section and then moved to a back in spot so we could stay hooked up and be ready to report in to the service center early the next morning.

Some of the pull through sights are are just barely wide enough for two RVs. People who are trading RV’s park the two rigs “face to face” so they can more easily move their belongings to their new digs. This is perhaps the only time you’ll ever see a RVer happy to have another rig parked very close by!

While Chanute isn’t exactly a tourist destination, this is a great small town campground for a great price.

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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.

Reflecting on our 2017 Adventure

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.

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.

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

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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2016 – 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.

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

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.

Project: Sewer hose security

We’re in a site in which the sewer hook up lacks the screw in fitting – its just an open pipe. I’ve seen other solutions – some commercial – and others like filling a sock with sand. However, that gives you one more thing to carry around. Here’s my solution – two tent stakes and an old bungee cord. I’m thinking of patenting it and selling the kit….”this deluxe sewer hose security system can be yours for just $19.95 – but wait! We’ll send you two of these systems for the price of one, just add shipping and handling.” Think I’ll make any money?

(Serious note: don’t drive the tent stakes in too deep – you might hit the sewer pipe)

Project: New Camper Step

It isn’t unusual at all for us to end up in a camp site where an extra step would be nice. We looked at different products in RV supply stores and also searched on line to see what was available. Finally, we settled on this exercise “step deck” from Walmart. The cost was less than the RV specific ones we found and it is almost exactly the same size as the RV steps. It can also be adjusted to two heights, 4″ or 6″, and is light weight. If you would like to carry an extra step “just in case” you might want to check out one of these.