Category: Living In It

Home Sweet Home

By , January 28, 2010 11:49 am

Now that we are settled in the Star. Here’s what it looks like…for now.  🙂

We have converted the dining area into our computer/desk area. We converted the extended leaf off the kitchen counter into our eating area with the addition of two bar stools.

We have four plants in 6-inch green plastic pots (two anthuriums, one spider plant and one golden pothos). Spider plants and golden pothos are excellent air purifiers. Anthuriums are in the same family as peace lilies which are also excellent air purifiers. I rearrange the plants now and then.

There are four cushions and one “pillow” cushion between the couch and lounger.

The “laundry room” (behind the louvered doors to the left of the bathroom sink) has two small laundry baskets, one for dark load and one for white load.

There are pictures of family, friends and places/events on the wall.

So, what makes a house/trailer/RV a home? It depends on the individual. Below are some qualifiers:

  • Pictures 
  • Plants
  • Napping spot
  • Play area
  • Work/study area
  • Decor/styling preference
  • Good lighting
  • Art work
  • Garden
  • Smells (or lack there of!)

This is our home sweet home. Enjoy your visit.

Bedroom Bedroom2 Pictures2 BathRoom1 BathRoom2 ComputerArea  Eating  Kitchen  LR Pictures1  LoungerFrontDoor

It’s Cold! In Florida!?!

By , January 13, 2010 12:54 pm

Florida has been experiencing record breaking cold for the past several days. It’s been rough for people. Crops are dying, pipes are bursting and people are yearning for warmer weather. Last Saturday, we saw sleet and ice pellets in Florida!?!

The past several nights in Ocklawaha has been in the 20s and low 30s. Tonight’s low is expected to be 38 degrees, above freezing!?! Yeah!

You may ask: How do they stay warm in the RV?

Well, because it has been ridiculously cold we disconnected the water supply from the pipe (after we filled our fresh water tank). We also wrapped the outside pipe to prevent the pipe from bursting. So here is how we cope in the RV:

  • Turn on the “basement” heater so the plumbing in the bays do not freeze and burst.
  • Turn on the “house” heater and set it to a comfortably low temperature. The “house” heater uses the more expensive propane gas.
  • Take out the down comforter and extra blanket.
  • Take out and turn on the electric oil-filled radiator. What a great unit!
  • Open the blinds when the sun is out.
  • Close the blinds and use solar shade for extra insulation when the sun goes down.
  • Close the bigger of the two slides to conserve heat loss (notice the space size when the slide is in and when the slide is out).

Slide-In Slide-Out Radiator

The electric oil-filled radiator is an awesome unit. 

  • It is heat safe and less drying than the heat fan.
  • The electric radiator gives you heat and let you conserve your more expensive propane gas.
  • The unit is highly recommended.

Here’s to warmer weather!

Odor Be Gone!

By , December 30, 2009 9:34 am

As with any brick and mortar place (aka house), it may take some time after you have moved in before you can call it “home”. There is always cleaning (again!), some painting and maybe some remodeling. The same applies to living in an RV. 

This RV has the layout and scheme we wanted. It has good “bones”. But it stunk! There was cigarette smoke, stale air, gaseous odor and a “funky” smell we couldn’t put a finger on. It was a challenge!

So we took action to root out the smell. After some time and effort, we finally got the cigarette smoke, stale air and the gaseous odor out. But the “funky” smell was still there!

We have done the following:

Jonathan realized I was going to ‘drive him crazy’ or ‘break his home’ by rooting behind things I shouldn’t if we didn’t find the “funky” smell.

So, he set to work. He removed the tool rack behind the holding tank bay and inspected the area for leakage and cracking. Nothing was amiss, no leakage or cracking. Excellent! There was a seal or caulking around one of the tube that could use some resealing so Jonathan took care of that.

While Jonathan was working outside, I set to working inside. I found in the washer/dryer manual under "maintenance” about the checking the ‘pump in the pre-chamber area’.  It stated that this area can occasionally get clogged. I opened the pump and it smelled to high heaven! I cleaned the areaimage and wiped it dry.

So, that  “funky” smell was the smell of sour water. I am leaping for joy that we no longer have that “funky” smell. The “funky” odor is GONE! It’s finally “home sweet home”. 

Here is the pump in the pre-chamber area.

 PreChamber2 Pump

 

For good measure, we have ordered Xtreme Vents from Coiln’ Wrap to replace the old roof vents.  We are also going to replace both vent caps under the sinks (one under the galley, one under the bathroom) with the Studor Mini-Vent cap.

We have already replaced the cap under the bathroom. The one under the galley/kitchen sink will have one soon.

 vent_New Vent_Old 

Here is to an odor free home! Odor be gone! 🙂

Things You Can Learn In An RV Resort

By , December 29, 2009 12:28 pm

SewerValves

What you are looking at above is the correct way to hook up a sewer hose in a 2001 Newmar Dutch Star motor home.  The reason you are seeing it is because it’s not quite as obvious as you might think it is. 

The purplish tint is applied to stuff that’s not really important in this post.  What’s important is that are usually two valves in a motor home waste system and they empty into a sewer hose that normally goes through the floor and then into a sewer cap.  IMG_8934

In the picture to the right, you can see the different valves and labels.  The “sewage water holding tank” (commonly called black water) is the valve for dumping everything from the toilet.  The gray water valve on the right dumps the waste water from all the sinks and the shower. 

When we got the Star and I started checking everything out, I couldn’t get the clear elbow to attach to outlet correctly.  I also couldn’t get a sewer hose to attach and then bend backwards to go through the big hole in the floor.

IMG_8936 In this picture, you can see the clear elbow attached, but it sticks out too far.  Normally a sewer hose goes on the bottom of that elbow and then goes through the hole in the floor.  The elbow sticks out too far and there isn’t enough room for the hose to come up through the hole.

I figured that someone had damaged the original pipe system and then replaced it all with the stuff we have now.  I was planning on ripping it all out and rebuilding it.  But first, I wanted to see what the original system was supposed to look like. 

Luckily, while we were at Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, we spotted another Dutch Star that was very similar to ours.  We stopped as the owners were coming out so I asked if I could look at the guy’s sewer system. 

As we were walking around to the sewer bay, I started to explain my issue.  The gentleman mentioned that his outlet pipe swiveled down to line up with the hole.  When we got to the bay and started looking, I instantly realized it was exactly the same system as ours.  Hmm…

IMG_8937So, here’s what our sewer pipe outlook and elbow look like if you swing the whole assembly down into place…  perfect!

We probably would not have figured this out.  I might have gotten lucky and realized it moved when I went to rip it out, but that’s not really very likely.  Just talking to another owner and doing a bit of exploration saved us a lot of time, effort, inconvenience and probably a fair chunk of money too.

In short, if something doesn’t seem right on an RV, ask others who would have had to deal with the same issue.  If you can find someone with the same unit, that’s even better!

RV Toilet and the Geo Method

By , December 28, 2009 11:48 pm

RV water tanks (fresh, gray and black) are critical to the RV house system. The fresh water is self explanatory. The gray water is waste water from your sinks and shower. The black water is water from the toilet. The smell from the black water tank can be quite challenging and absolutely odorous (“I don’t want to go in the RV,  I’ll stay out here”), especially on a hot day. The goal for the black water tank is to have no blockage and no odor… And to keep it clean.

To address the smell from the black water tank, we have used various blue chemical solutions (that we have purchased from both Camping World and Walmart). During our visit in Sarasota, we met up with Jessica and Duncan from Traveling On the Skirts. We asked them what they do to treat the black water for their old fifth wheel. They clued us on the Geo Method for maintaining the gray and black water tank.

After some research, we decided we definitely want to try this method.

The Geo Method uses three basic household products:CalgonDetergent

  • Water softener (some recommend the non-precipitating type like Calgon, White Rain, Blue Raindrops, and Spring Rain)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Chlorine bleach (used infrequently compared to the other two ingredients)

Water softener helps remove the gunk from the tank and prevent it from sticking to the tank. Laundry detergent cleans the tank. Chlorine bleach is used to deodorize, sanitize and disinfect.

Water softener falls into two groups:

  • Precipitating (Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, Raindrops, Blue Dew, Borax, Climalene, Melo, White King Water Softener, and Borateem). This group is not recommended for the Geo Method as it does not work quite as well but you can use them if you cannot find the non-precipitating kind.
  • Non-Precipitating (Calgon, White Rain, Blue Raindrops, and Spring Rain). This group is recommended for the Geo Method.

The Geo Method is not necessary for every time you dump the tank. Once the tank has been “cleaned”, reduce the frequency as appropriate.

Regarding the toilet bowl, the Star manual specifically states:

 Do not use chlorine or caustic chemicals, such as laundry bleach or drain valve opening types, as they will damage the seals in the toilet and dump valves.

So, we will be foregoing the use of bleach in our implementation of the Geo Method for the black water tank. 

Thus far, we have emptied the black water tank and used the Geo Method (minus the bleach) three times. On the way from Sarasota back to Ocklawaha; the black tank had only water, detergent and water softener. It had a good sloshing on the way home.  

It’s still too early to judge its effect but we are hopeful…

New Slow Cooker for New RV

By , December 22, 2009 5:41 pm

Since we have more space in the Star, I am now able to I have a slow cooker (again!). 🙂

I enjoy cooking with the slow cooker. They are just awesome. Easy and delicious. It takes a little planning & preparation and the slow cooker does the rest.SCVC651-F Crock-Pot® Countdown Slow Cooker

The old slow cooker was an oval programmable 6-quart from Crock-pot. Jonathan said I had to give it up because there was no room for it in the the Storm (our previous RV). 

This slow cooker has found a happy home with the “parentals” (that’s one of the many monikers Jonathan uses to refer to his parents, I think it’s funny).  

I have had a number of opportunities to use that same slow cooker with the “parentals” (in their house!).  🙂

The new slow cooker is a round manual 4-quart from Crock-pot

SCR450-B Crock-Pot® Slow Cooker

One of my favorite slow cooker recipe is a pork dish from Allrecipes.com. It’s called “Slow Cooker Pineapple Port Roast”. It’s has five ingredients:

  • 1 (3 pound) boneless pork roast
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dried cranberries

    Put it all together in the crock-pot, cook it on low for 7 hours and you have got a fantastic meal. Add a side salad to round it up.

    image

  • The first dish I made in the new slow cooker is a lentils and ham soup. It has just completed cooking. It smells great. 🙂

    Lentils_HamSlowCooker  Lentils_HamBowl

    Bon appétit!

    We are clean people

    By , December 18, 2009 10:11 pm

    You must be holy, because I am holy.          1 Peter 1:16

    Cleanliness is next to godliness.                  John Wesley, 1778

    Cleanliness requires tireless effort. And we sure put a lot of effort and time into getting the Star clean.

    The dealer we bought the Star from did a good job in cleaning out the coach (we saw what it looked like and what it smelled like day after he got it from the auction). The dealer took a week to clean the Star. But we can still smell the cigarette smoke in the coach; it was pervasive. We are non-smokers.

    We were not going to get too comfortable until it’s been cleaned to our satisfaction. So, we set about to cleaning our new home. 

    We have done the following:

    • Fumigated the RV (“basement” and living quarters)
    • Bleached and sanitized kitchen and bathroom
    • Cleaned the leather feature, cabinets and walls
    • Bleached and sanitized all appliances (microwave, stove and washer/dryer)
    • Steam cleaned the carpet and upholstery (“hot water extraction” method using RugDoctor)
    • Aired out the Star
    • Vacuumed tirelessly

    These are some of the products we used:

    • Bleach and water
    • Baking Soda
    • Raid Fumigator
    • Simple Green
    • Lysol Sanitizing Wipes (from Costco)
    • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
    • Febreeze Extra Strength
    • Meguiar’s Gold Class Rich Leather Cleaner/Conditioner
    • RugDoctor steam cleaner with upholstery attachment  (rented from Lowe’s)
    • Zep Smoke Odor Eliminator (from Home Depot)

    Smoke Odor Eliminator, 16 Oz.Simple Green 13022 All Purpose Cleaner. 22 oz.Lysol  Sanitizing WipesExtra Strength Fabric Refresher,Lightly ScentedArm & Hammer Arm   Hammer 84104 - Baking Soda, 16oz Box - CHU84104

     

    Note of interest:

    • We went through one pair of yellow cleaning rubber gloves
    • We went through one can of Lysol Sanitizing wipes (110 wipes)
    • Zep Smoke Odor Eliminator is good stuff
    • Baking soda is a fantastic product (cleaning, cooking, odor removal, etc…)
    • Lysol sanitizing wipes and Simple Green are also great at removing grime

    We steam cleaned Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The cost of the steamer is about $46/day ($25 for steamer, $3 for upholstery attachment, $18 for cleaning solution)

    jwk_cleanDR RugDoctorSolutions jwk_cleanUnderJLounger jwk_cleanValance

    We have been “cleaning”  for about two weeks now. We are almost there. We are waiting for everything to completely dry out before we get too comfortable.

    The effort will be worth it when can finally enjoy our thoroughly and deeply cleaned home.

    Fight The Power!

    By , December 14, 2009 6:21 pm

    Lightning

    Photo from Kuzeytac on flickr, under Creative Commons license

    A soon-to-be RV’er posted on her blog about a couple of RVs she is considering and an issue came up about the power.  One RV is 30 amp, the other is 50 amp.  There’s some confusion about which is better and why.  I don’t have an answer for that particular question, but I can shed some light on the differences between the two and how RV electrical systems work in general.

    Warning: This is going to be long and somewhat technical… proceed at your own risk! 😛

    RV electrical systems

    Let’s start with how RVs are wired.  As far as I know, almost all RVs have two distinct electrical systems:  AC and DC.  This pretty much applies to just about any RV, whether it’s a tow-behind, fifth-wheel, or motorhome.  Some of the real small ones may only use one type, but that’s the exception, not the rule. 

    AC (alternating current) is what your house has.  If you plug a toaster into a three prong socket, it’s using AC.  Normally the AC sockets in your house put out somewhere between 110 and 120 volts.  We’ll just say 110 to keep it simple. 

    DC (direct current) is what your car has.  If you plug a cell phone charger into your cigarette lighter socket in your car, it’s expecting to get around 12 volts (although it can actually be anywhere from 11 to 15 volts).

    An RV is a house and a car, so it has both.  All the engine stuff is 12 volts DC.  If it comes in a car, it’s probably 12 volt DC.  This includes a majority of the overhead lights (just like a car dome light), the headlights, turn signals, radio, cigarette lighter socket, power seats, etc.  All the house stuff is AC… microwave, washer/dryer, air conditioner (the one with the thermostat… the one on the dashboard isn’t really electric and only works when the engine is running, so it doesn’t count in this discussion). 

    When you’re actually staying in an RV at a campground, you’re probably using some odd mix of both AC and DC stuff.  We use our air conditioners (AC), our microwave (AC), our coffee maker (AC), our radio (DC), and our overhead lights (DC) a lot.  So, we really need both AC and DC power to be comfortable.

    I’ll address DC stuff in a separate post some day, for now, we’re dealing with AC.  I just needed to make sure everyone understood what I was talking about first.

    Amps and plugs

    So, what’s the deal with AC and what types are there?

    That’s where the “amps” come in.  IMG_0177Saying an RV is 30 amp or 50 amp isn’t technically accurate (so don’t flame me about it). It doesn’t mean that an RV needs 30 or 50 amp, that’s just what it’s set up to use.  It’s also generally used to describe the type of socket that it uses when plugged into “shore power”.    Shore power is simply what you plug it in to when your parked at a campground and need power for your appliances.  It’s normally a collection of sockets and breakers on a post right next to your parking pad (picture to the right).  We’re going to call that a pedestal.

    Here’s a short table with the different plugs and sockets that are generally used:

    Amperage (Amps)

    Plug (male)

    Socket (female)

    10/15

    IMG_0172

    IMG_0178

    30

    IMG_0170

    IMG_0169

    50

    IMG_0176

    IMG_0171

     

    You should notice right off the bat that the 10/15 amp looks like your normal house appliance plug.  10 and 15 amp plugs are pretty much the same, although there are some subtle differences we aren’t going to worry about right now.  I’ll also mention the odd-ball, a 20 amp plug.  I don’t have a picture of one because they’re not normally used around a house or RV and you should have to worry about them unless you’re trying to run a drill press or something.

    The 30 amp plug looks kinda like your normal house plug, but has bigger prongs and they’re “tilted”.  This is to make sure you don’t accidentally put it in a 10 amp socket. 😉

    The 50 amp has even bigger prongs… and there are more of them. :S

    Your RV is going to come with one of those plugs, probably the 30 or 50.  So what’s the difference?  Power!  …How much you get and how much you can use.

    Feel Da Powah!

    Almost everything that uses electricity can be measured in amps.  Amps is simply a rating that describes how much power something can or does use.  Different appliances use different amps.  A regular 40 watt light bulb in your house draws less than half an amp.  A 1000W microwave oven can draw almost 9 amps.  A car headlight is generally between 4 – 5 amps.

    So, if you’re plugged into a 50 amp outlet and you’ve got a 50 amp RV, you can use a great big air conditioner (cools quickly even when it’s real hot out), your big microwave (cooks evenly and fast), a great big TV and a sweet treadmill for working off the microwave burritos. 🙂

    But, if you’re on a 30 amp circuit, you can run a smaller air conditioner (takes longer, doesn’t work as well when it’s really hot outside), use a smaller microwave (takes longer, may not cook evenly), get a smaller LCD TV (LCDs use a lot less power than tube types)… and, uh, go jogging. 😉

    I mention the treadmill because I remember some RVer somewhere wanting one or having one…  Normal treadmills can draw about 15 amps… 20 if you’re “husky” and run fast (I know, but it’s the best I could come up with).  Oh, ladies… your amazing 1800 watt hairdryer can draw about 16 amps on a bad day!

    So, your 30 amp RV is parked and plugged in.  You’re running on your treadmill, while drying your hair and the air conditioner comes on…  For a split second, then everything stops!  Why?  Well, you exceeded your amperage.  Treadmill, 15 amps…  hair dryer, 15ish… You’re already at 30 amps.  The air conditioner is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

    Actually, it should have only broken a breaker.  What’s a breaker?  One of these switchy things:

    IMG_0179

    Those are meant to stop you from using more electricity than the circuit can handle.  Generally they’ll save you from bad things happening.  What happens when you bypass them or when they don’t work right?  Something starts melting or burning.  Different wires can handle different amounts of electricity.  If you try to get too much electricity on one wire, it gets hot and will start burning stuff.  Fire is generally not a good thing to introduce to your RV.

    “So, Jonathan… if I want to use lots of electricity, I just need more amps for my RV, right?”

    I’m glad you asked!  The short version is “yes”.  The long version is not so easy.  Since we’re already way into the long version, I might as well just give it to you.  Go take a look at the picture of the 50 amp plug again.  What’s different about it when you compare it to the 30 and the 10/15/20?  Here’s a hint… start counting.

    It’s got FOUR prongs!!!  The others only have three.  Well, if you’ve got only three prong sockets on your pedestal, there’s not really a good way to get another prong on there.  This is where we start messing with adaptors and stuff.

    I’m tired of typing, so I’ll try to wrap this up and I might explain some more later…

    Adapters and Cheating

    The best pedestal you can find should have a bunch of sockets and breakers…  it’ll have a 50 amp socket and breaker, a 30 amp socket and breaker, and probably a couple of 20 amp sockets and breakers.  That there is electrical gold! (Well, assuming it’s actually wired right and putting out the amperage its supposed to).  You can plug in anything into the right socket and it’ll work!  Most excellent!

    But what happens if you have a 30 amp plug and only have a pedestal with a 50 amp socket?  Easy, you get an adapter.  50 amps is more than you’ll need, so the adaptor just kind of ignores the extra prong on the 50 and lets you use half of it.  But, the circuit wasn’t designed to be used like that, so go easy on what you use…  Air conditioner and microwave at the same time are probably ok, just don’t fire up the hairdryer too. 

    Ok, so what happens if I have a 50 amp plug and I only have a 30 amp socket?  Err…  things just got complicated again.  What you basically have is an RV that wants 4 wires (prongs) but you’ve only got three.  You can get a single adaptor that will allow you to physically plug the 50 amp plug into the socket, but there just aint enough wires available.  One of your 50 amp wires isn’t connected.  That can cause one of two things to happen.  If you have a fairly simple electric system, you can probably run half your appliances.  Maybe the air conditioner will work and nothing else does.  Maybe it’s the other way around.  Chances are pretty good that something important isn’t going to work…

    …Or, nothing works at all.  That’s what happens with our RV now.  IMG_0167It’s got some smarts and knows what you’re trying to do.  It doesn’t like it and simple refuses to do anything.  I’m pretty sure our “transfer station” is the brain behind this (picture should be over there on the right).   While it’s annoying when we don’t have a 50 amp connection, it does save us from blowing up the microwave or air conditioner, so I guess I can’t whine too much.

    There is one more option for tricking the system if you really need to.  I have no idea what this thing is called, but it can work in a pinch.  It’s a weird adaptor that has two 30 amp plugs connected to a 50 amp socket.  The theory is that you can take two 30 amp circuits and combine them into a 50 amp.  It’s risky.  You HAVE to be sure that they are different circuits first.  When you pull up to the power pedestal in Uncle Bob’s Wonderful Campgroundland, do you have any idea what kind of monkey wired that pedestal?  Nope, neither do I.  Did he use one circuit and just wire each plug into it?  Maybe… it’s cheaper that way. He only had to run one wire and it works if you’re only using one plug at a time.  What happens when you use one of these funky adapter things if the pedestal isn’t wired with individual circuits?  IMG_0174I have no idea, but I’d bet that it’s not good and I don’t want to be the one to find out.  Oh… campground employees tend to get real torqued up if you use one of these “combiner” things and they find out about it.  Just for reference, there’s a picture of one over there to the left.

    Shutting Down

    Ok, I have more to talk about, but I’m tired of typing and you probably didn’t make it this far anyway.  Maybe I’ll go into the adaptors and stuff and how they all work in a future post.

    Not An Elektrishun

    Ok, I hate to say it, but I know I have to… I’m not an electrician.  I don’t play one on TV.  I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.  Any of the above is based on my limited understanding and research.  None of it is guaranteed to be accurate and I’m not responsible for anything you do or anything that happens.  I’m sure I have some bits in there that some electrician-type friend (that would be Rob) will ping me on.  I’ve probably got some of the jargon a bit whacked and I may have used amp as a verb when it should have been a noun or some such nonsense.  I’m just trying to present an idea of why this stuff matters and how to deal with it.  Don’t beat me up over it.  Oh, if anyone of our readers does have a link to a better description of this stuff, feel free to post it.  If you’re shy, just email me (addy on the About Us page) and I’ll post it up with this entry.

    If you’re in an RV (or going to be), there will come a day when your plug don’t fit someone’s socket.  All I’m trying to do is stop my peeps from freaking out about it. 😉

    Note from the editor: Much of the 50 amp stuff I figured out thanks to my awesome family who wired up a 30 amp connection before we got here, then had to call an electrician back a few weeks later to wire up a 50 amp when we got the Dutch Star.  You guys rock! 🙂

    Additional note from the editor: If you’re the one with the treadmill, email or comment with the following information from the tag near the plug on the treadmill – Volt (V), Watts (W) and/or Amps (A).  At least two of those should be listed.  If (A) is listed, that tells you how much they expect it to use.  If the other two are listed (V and W) I can tell you how to figure out the amperage.

    Perfect Vacuum for the Star

    By , December 13, 2009 9:03 am

    I believe I have found the perfect vacuum for our RV.

    I have owned two Dyson vacuums. I love them, I can’t say enough about their suction power.

    I needed something small and reasonable for the RV. It has to work, it has got to suck, and is bag less.

    I bought the Black & Decker Flex Cordless when we had the Storm. It is a great little vacuum for the Storm but too small for the Star.

    Then I bought the Shark MultiVac ultra slim vacuum for the Star. The Star has more space and carpeting so I needed something that would clean both carpeting and wood floor easily.  The Multivac is a great concept but cumbersome to use and store. The hose wasn’t long enough to reach in certain spot.

    After that, I returned both vacuums to Walmart and bought the Shark Navigator. I like it! Here are a few of the highlights:

    • Powerful suction
    • Bag less
    • 15 pounds
    • Brush roll shut off
    • 1 Dust Brush
    • 1 Crevice Tool

    Navigator1 Navigator2

    I tested it last night. It works great! It sucks in a good way! 🙂

    The Star has its Navigator.

    All is well.

    The Dutch Star Space = Happiness

    By , December 4, 2009 6:40 am

    We are both happy about the space in the Dutch Star (I keep on wanting to call it the Death Star!).

    We like the layout, the space, the neutral palette and the leather furniture. The two slides make a huge difference. I can actually do my exercise/stretches without being too concern where I place my hands and feet. Yeah!

    It’s got a brand new pillow-top mattress (full size queen bed, 60” X 79.5”)  that meets Federal fire Safety Standards (CFR 1633).  The Star has leather chairs for driver and passenger. It’s also got a “J Lounge” love seat and an fabric Flexsteel Magic Bed Sleeper Sofa (82” wide).

    We are keeping the protective plastic runner on until we are done cleaning and moving.

    Here are some inside pictures of the Star.

    Main1 Main2 Kitchen

     BR1 BR2br3

    Some minor modifications…

    By , December 3, 2009 12:25 pm

    After thinking about the previous post, we decided to do smthng about the size of the Storm…  We stretched it a bit, added a few slides, tossed a bigger engine in and called it a day.

    Newmar2Actually, we bought a 38 foot Newmar Dutch Star.  ;)  It’s a diesel pusher (meaning the engine is in the back) with two slides.  One slide is for the living area, the other for the bedroom.  Even with the slides in (closed), it’s a lot larger than the Storm.  Enough that we felt comfortable and not cramped with four of us chilling out (the parental units came to check it out the night we got it).

    Newmar1

    The Star drives much better, is way more comfortable and is in better condition than the Storm.  Most importantly, it has a LOT of room!  It feels more like an apartment than a camper.

    DutchStar

    As you can see from the reflection in the picture, our Storm is still here.  We’re going to be doing some minor fixes and customizing to the Star, then moving all our stuff over.  Once we’re done with that, the Storm gets shuttled off to the dealer we got the Star from and he’ll sell it for us.  With the fixes and minor upgrades we did to the Storm, we’re hoping to get back out of it what we have in it without taking a loss. 

    In short, it’s a lesson learned.  We made an educated guess on the kind of unit we’d need and came up short (hehe).  We’ve got a few days before we can call the Star “home”, but we’ll be posting up more about it as we go.  Right now, it’s being fumigated and waiting for an electrician to upgrade the connection to 50 amp. 🙂

    It’s too small!

    By , December 2, 2009 2:37 pm

    That’s what we said to a 25-foot Class C RV that weClassC_Rental rented from Cruise America earlier this year. We wanted to do a “trial run” before we bought an RV. 

    If we had not visited an RV dealership and had seen what a new RV look like or what a used RV look like that is cared for, the rental experience would have turned me completely off to the idea of living in an RV. The rental RV had over 100K “hard” miles on it and it was only one or two years old. It was a very used RV, it was an abused RV. I sanitized it & bleached it before we set off on your trip.

    The rental experience taught us the following:

    • A 25-foot RV is too small for us to live in
    • We do not want a Class C RV
    • We want a Class A RV

    On the way we met a retired couple in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. They were “boon docking” or dry camping in the parking lot the night before. They received permission from the manager to do so. They had a shiny 40-foot Alfa Seeya with a matching enclosed trailer. Jonathan said it was his “garage”.  The trailer did have a couple of bikes and toys for the grandkids.

    Notice the sign on the lower right of the trailer, it say “Retired Kids At Play SLOW”. 🙂

    AlfaandTrailerAlfaTrailer

    They have an RV “estate” some where in Florida. They are “professional shufflers”. They offer lessons and clinics if you want to learn to play shuffle boards. 🙂

    ProfessionalShufflers

    They have been “full timing” or living in it for a couple of years. I distinctively remember asking him how long the RV was. He said it was a 40-foot diesel pusher and “very easy to drive, especially with the backup camera”. He also said that you need at least “36-40 foot RV if you plan on living in it full time”.  While he was talking size, all I thought about was that is HUGE! The size intimidated me.

    After living in our 30-foot RV (with no slide-out) for a few months now…I am thinking he may be right.

    All your packet are belong to us…

    By , November 30, 2009 11:21 am

    Repeater

    One of the issues we’ve had since leaving our brick and mortar house is how to stay connected to the Internet.  We make do in a number of different ways, some of which are temporary depending on what is available at a campground, others are more permanent (and creative) in nature.

    On our trip down to Florida, we stayed at several campgrounds.  Some were commercial, others were parks.  The commercial ones were easy… they all had some kind of Wi-Fi available.  We just had to make sure we were close enough to the access points to use them (we actually moved sites in Hilton Head because we couldn’t get a strong enough signal).  The parks were another matter… no service was provided of any kind.  We made do with public hotspots (Panera Bread was a favorite) and with my cell phone data plan.  The cell phone option isn’t a good one due to bandwidth limits, but it works in a pinch.

    Now that we’re at our “winter home” in Florida, we have a different issue.  We’re miles from any kind of hotspot, we have almost no cell phone service and the RV is too far from the house for us to snag my mom’s Wi-Fi signal.  The access point she uses is on the opposite end of the house from where we are, and there’s a lot of back yard and an aluminum framed screen room between us.  We’re about 200 feet from the wireless router and our various laptops can only see that it’s broadcasting… they aren’t getting enough signal to connect to it.

    After much experimenting with other solutions, we eventually ended up with a solution that works for us.  We added a Linksys Wireless-G Range Extender to the front of the RV.  It gets just enough signal for it to work for us.  It basically connects to the Wi-Fi in the house (it’s obviously got a pretty good antenna) and then rebroadcasts whatever it receives.  It’s basically a wireless repeater.  All it does it grab packets off the radio signal, stamps them with it’s MAC address and shoots them back out.  It’s not elegant, it adds a bit of latency, but it does work.  Wireless_Networking_in_RVHere’s a quick and dirty diagram I made to illustrate (click for full sized version). 

    There’s a lot more involved than what’s on the diagram, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.  Since this worked for our setup here, we’ll probably keep it for when we’re on the road.  It was a lot easier than messing with DD-WRT and the other odd stuff I tried.

    No longer homeless!

    By , November 25, 2009 8:35 pm

    Our house is back! 🙂

    StormDark

    We had to send the Storm into the shop for a while to get some work done and have been without it for a while now.  We just got it back yesterday and are getting “resettled”.  Here’s the quick rundown on what we had done…

    • New suspension airbags installed
    • Water tank fill hose replaced
    • Water tank breather tube cleaned
    • Exterior propane outlet installed
    • All tank level sensors replaced
    • New engine air conditioner compressor installed

    I’ll give a longer post on some of those later.  It would have been about $3000 worth of work if we hadn’t gotten the extended service plan when we bought the RV.  That plan just paid for itself a couple times over. 🙂

    Sorry about the bad picture, but I didn’t feel like setting up the good camera and tripod in the rain.

    We’re cooking now…

    By , October 25, 2009 4:36 pm

    …well, we were last night. ;)  We had Rany (Dasy’s sister) and her husband, Seth, over for dinner last night.  We are parked at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, VA.  Cooking grates are provided, so I picked up some steaks and corn-on-the-cob at the local Food Lion.  Between rains, I managed to get it all cooked on the grill.  The corn was a touch under-done, but the steaks were excellent and definitely worth the effort.  We look forward to many more. 😉

    Switching topics here…  we sold Dasy’s car.  We now have to go back to DC tomorrow in order to pick up the title (which I didn’t realize she’d stored) and transfer it.  It doesn’t make much sense for us to completely uproot just to drive up to DC when we have to come back this way anyway.  The cost of gas for the RV is a bit prohibitive as well.  So, we just extended our stay at the park for another day and will drive the Jeep and Lexus up in the morning and I’ll bring Dasy back in the Jeep.  It’s not exactly how I would have planned it if given the option, but I don’t mind driving a couple hours in order to be rid of another vehicle…  and Dasy’s much happier about not having to drive to Florida.

    No pictures this time… I just wanted to do a quick status update for everyone.  Pictures will follow in a day or two on the full update.

    Details, details…

    By , October 21, 2009 11:58 am

    BullRunCampsite

    We’re still in Bull Run Regional Park and will be for a couple more days.  We’ve been taking care of all the little details needed for us to actually get “gone”.  Here’s a quick idea of what we’ve been up to…

    • Jeff at Adrenaline Offroad installed new ball joints in my Jeep – I’m now comfortable towing it long distances, but still need a new front drive shaft.
    • We installed a new battery charger in the RV, as it still isn’t charging the engine battery when we’re plugged in – this is a hack until we can track down the real issue, but it works.
    • We dumped the waste and refilled the water tanks – I’ll probably write an article on this later for those who don’t know what’s involved.
    • We re-arranged almost everything in the basement storage areas.  We got a bunch of bins from Costco that allow us to stack much more in the basement.
    • I installed the TV, Playstation and HD antenna – We get a handful of very strange channels on the TV, so I’ve clearly got to figure out something there.
    • We bought a new radiator heater for our long-term wintering in Florida…  It should do a better job than the small forced air heater when we’re parked.

    We’re going to be re-arranging quite a bit more as we settle in, but it’s getting there. 

    I added a new tab up above for the parks and places that we’ll stay at.  There’s not much there now, but we’ll fill it in as we go.  My sprained ankle is slowly on the mend, so hopefully I can do some exploring in Bull Run before we head out this weekend.  I’ll update the page for that once I can.

    Other than that, we’re just muddling along…  saying goodbyes to friends, remembering last minute things we need to put into storage (or reclaim from storage), last minute maintenance, etc.

    Finally on the way!

    By , October 15, 2009 7:22 pm

    JeepBullRun

    Well, the house is officially rented and we’re out.  We’ve relocated to Bull Run Regional Park, which is about 20 miles away.  We’ll be here until the 23rd, then start working our way south.  We’ve got at least three days of solid rain forecast and temperatures should be dropping steadily.  That’ll make arranging stuff in the RV a bit more of a hassle, but I guess we should probably get used to it. 😉

    The park is pretty nice, but since I’m coming off a sinus infection or smthng and I managed to sprain my ankle a few days ago, I’m not really up to checking it out very much.  Hopefully I’ll get some more pictures and info about the park later.

    In the meantime, we just wanted to post up and let everyone know that the adventure has actually and officially begun!

    My lovely wife has said that I can’t end this post without showing some of our hard work…  Here’s a couple shots of the kitchen and family room.  You might recognize them from a previous post I made…  Just imagine a big fish tank, some rugs, etc. 😉

    EmptyHouse2

    EmptyHouse1

     

     

     

    Short update and a quick tour

    By , August 17, 2009 2:52 am

    First, a quick update…  we’re in Christiansburg, VA, about 4 hours from home.  We stopped for the evening because we didn’t feel like rolling in to our neighborhood and having to do 12-point turns to get parked at 11 o’clock at night. 😉  We’re not impressed with the campground, but it was there and fairly cheap.  It’s got power and water and we can dump our waste tanks in the morning before we leave.

    The trip down the mountain in Gatlinburg was relatively uneventful, except that Dasy hadn’t fastened the front curtain very well and it came loose.  I had to do a quick stop for that, as it was near impossible to concentrate on not falling off the mountain while getting smacked in the face with a floppy curtain.  Otherwise, the RV handled it just fine.  I think our brake issues may finally be behind us, as we’ve noticed no other oddities in that department since leaving Waynesboro a few days ago.

    The family reunion was fine, but we didn’t actually do much other than the zip-lining.  That was fine by us and we got to spend a fair amount of time with a bunch of the family we don’t see too much of usually.

    Since I’m awake and harvesting various pictures from several of my digital cameras, I figured I’d give you a really short tour of the inside of the RV.  Basically, I wanted a couple of reference pictures before we did too much to change anything.  They’re not great shots, but they show the inside fairly well.

    The first view here is from the “hallway” looking forward into the main living room area (click on it for a larger view).  StormInside1 It’s a bit messy, as this was taken after the brake issues on the Blue Ridge Parkway and we were just kind of shuffling stuff around while we waited.  About the only things you can see here that we’ve already changed are the speakers and stereo.  They’re all relatively cheap (on special at Crutchfield), but they’re WAY better than the junker system that came with it.  The rear speakers (you can see one laying on the couch) aren’t mounted into anything.  They’re just boxes with long wires.  I can run them to the bedroom, stick them outside for patio listening, or stick them in the cabinets above for movies.  I just wanted some flexibility instead of cutting dedicated spaces for them.  The next major changes are going to involve the TV system.  It’s an older tube TV, so it doesn’t accept the digital signals and it takes a lot of power.  I’m going to switch it out with a small LCD.  The mounting kit arrived right before we left and I didn’t feel like dealing with it.

    StormInside2 This next shot is from the main living area looking backwards towards the bedroom (I’m standing next to the living room table).  The main door is on the left, followed by the small pantry, the fridge, a closet, the bathroom sink, then the bedroom as you look towards the back.  The kitchen is on the right, although it’s not pictured very well.  It has two steel sinks, a microwave, a three-burner stove, an oven and a ton of little cabinets.  The black box on the wall is the main sensor panel that tells us when our various water and waste tanks are full or empty, plus the status of our water pump, propane supply, battery voltage, and a few other things about the RV’s current state.  Behind that wall is the shower and the toilet, which is separate from the bedroom.  I’ll diagram or photograph the whole bathroom area eventually.  It’s kind of neat how it was designed and is one of the things we really liked about the RV when we were looking at it.

    I’ll probably do a video walkthrough of the RV eventually.  I found out that my laptop doesn’t have enough guts to handle the video from my camera, so all video will have to wait until I can get time on the home system to do some editing.  I may also have some decent footage of the zip-line stuff, but I haven’t gone through it all yet, so I’m not entirely sure. I’ll let you know when I get some editing done.

    The Return Home

    By , July 26, 2009 7:58 am

    Days 2 and 3 were both fairly uneventful. 

    We left Little Black Creek Water Park around 7 am and headed north on I-59.  We stayed on I-59 until Chattanooga, then we picked up I-75 for a bit.  We followed that north to I-81 at Knoxville, which put us on the main road that would get us the rest of the way home.

    We decided to call it a night and found Baileyton RV Park (N36 20.341 W82 49.393).  It’s a nice little place, but we chose it because we were overdue for some power and internet connections (they have WiFi).  The site was slightly sloped, but otherwise it’s a nice place. 

    We took a walk around the park, mostly checking out other motorhomes.  We had a few short conversations with other guests, then went back to our RV to clean up and get ready for bed.

    Showers were in order, so I turned on the hot water heater.  About 20 minutes later, Dasy checked it and reported that “it’s kinda warm”.  That was good enough to take a shower in my opinion, so she went first.  She came took a very quick shower and came out to report that the hot water “isn’t”.  Turns out that the hot water heater wasn’t working at all.  I checked other gas appliances, and none of them were working either.  I called the dealer (at around 9pm) and Marilyn walked me through checking all the safety switches and valves.  Apparently the safety solenoid needed to be reset.  I did so and the hot water kicked right on.  At least I had a hot shower. 😉

    Day 3 was just a straight shot up I-81 to I-66 then dealing with the traffic around DC.  Nothing important or interesting to relate, just a long but safe trip home. 

    I parked the RV at the curb (I’m sure all the neighbors loved that).  We have plans to get it on the driveway later, but with a 15 degree slope, it ain’t gonna be easy.

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