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Dash Cam Love

by Richie
Dash Cam Love

TURTLE CAM

It’s Valentine’s Day, and nothing says Love like sweet new electronics!

As the Sochi Olympics play in the background, I’ve been on a jag of watching those crazy Russian dash cam videos on YouTube. Check out Vodka Video – lots of wild fender benders and possibly the world’s worst drivers. They slide, they slip, drive way too fast, never use the brakes, and have spectacular smashes and near-misses. Hilarious to watch – no one gets hurt – but some fancy cars get banged up. And the drivers seem pretty calm about it all. Must happen a lot.

Seems like most folks in Russia have these tiny video cameras in their cars. Mounted on the windshield, the high-def digital cameras turn on automatically and record your whole drive. How great would that be when we’re touring around in the coach!

dash cam

 So that was Tim’s gift for Valentines – dash cam DOD LS300W. We took it on a test drive tonight – in freezing rain on a dark-dark night, a true test of any camera. The picture quality was better than I hoped for, even under those extreme conditions, and should be truly splendid on a sunny day.

Here’s our tame video from the new dash cam (no smash incurred):

 

We’re hoping to capture some good video of the countryside as we travel around this year. And also hoping to avoid any crazy drivers!

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Remember the 60’s?

by Richie
Remember the 60’s?

winter

I’m trying hard to remember the 60’s.
Degrees, that is!

It’s been a wicked winter. Interminable. Tenacious and Endless. As I pull on another sweater and stare out frosted windows at ice and snow that refuses to melt, my thoughts take flight to warmer climes. 

I’m checking the maps for the shortest route to the beach. Any beach. Where the sun is glinting on sand and surf instead of upon icicles and salted roads. Watching beach webcams is now my daily entertainment. Here’s one of my favorites…

live_cam_image

The motorhome is currently in the shop for service. We like to beat the spring rush and get the RV ready to roll in February, before everyone else wakes up from a long winter nap. 

RV maintenance can be pricey – more than servicing a car because there’s so many other components like slide-outs, appliances, and 100 miles of electrical wiring.

wiring

We do fix all the simple stuff ourselves, especially if it’s mechanical – I’m pretty brave about taking things apart and fiddling around. But the big electrical and hydraulic systems are another matter. These are complicated (and expensive) components which are beyond my Poke & Hope abilities. 

Such as the inverter LCD panel which has been fitful since we bought the coach. It’s the only way to turn on the inverter, and it has deteriorated to a point where it works only 1 out of every 10 times.  panel

What’s an inverter? Simple answer is it allows us to use the electrical outlets when we’re not plugged into power. It converts (inverts) power from the three big DC coach batteries to AC outlet juice. So if I’m stopped at a rest area or stuck in an Epic Traffic Jam and want to turn on the TV, use the toaster, or blow dry my hair (hah!) the inverter comes into play.

There was evidence the previous owner had replaced the inverter LCD panel – it must have been fritzy for him, too. So we ordered a new one. And then another. And then two more. Went through four new panels in all, with a fifth waiting in the closet. Obviously there’s an underlying problem. But each time I brought it to the dealer for inspection, it was the 1 in 10 times it was working. Of course.

This time the dealer finally pulled the inverter out from underneath the dinette and shipped it back to the factory. Yep, bad circuit board. Not something I could have fiddle-fixed, even though I tried gamely for about a year.

inverter

Next week the coach will be ready to roll.
And I may not be able to resist the call of the beach!

 

 

 

 

Hear the Call of the Beach:

Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Dear Santa

by Richie
Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I’d like to visit you at the North Pole, in the off-season when you’re not so busy. So here is a list of RV’s that I could use for the trip. Feel free to deliver any one of these under my tree or in the driveway.

Tiffin Allegro Bus – with dishwasher and two bathrooms

tiffin bus

 A-Liner – lightweight hard-sided pop-up

aliner

Presidential Fifth Wheel – with Super Cab dualie truck

pres

Thor Axis – brand new this year

axis

Dynamax DX3 – bunkhouse model

dyna2

R-Pod – retro cool and cozy

rpod

Airstream Interstate – luxe Class B

airint

Monaco Vesta – regrettably only made for two years

vesta

Keystone Raptor Toy Hauler – with His & Her Harleys

raptorfw_exterior

Love,

Richie (On your Good List)

P.S. I’ll leave milk and cookies for you.

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Back Up Plans

by Richie
Back Up Plans

We’ve missed a few camping outings due to a death in the family, which has left a big hole in our lives. We miss Jane terribly, and are just beginning to imagine how we will manage without her.

We did spend a weekend at Lincoln State Park to find some solace, and it was a good idea to get away for a few days to contemplate quietly with the placid waters of the lake in view.

Back at home, we’ve got a yard full of vehicles on display, taking up two driveways. There’s three cars plus the motorhome which had to be moved this weekend because our storage facility is repaving their lot.

Turned out to be good timing, though. It gave us a chance to switch out the dashboard radio, which we expected to be a day-long ordeal including multiple trips to Lowes, like most of the projects we undertake.

The radio in the dash houses a flip-up LCD panel that connects to our back-up camera on the coach. Even though we’re only about 30’ in length, including the new motorcycle rack, the rear camera is a necessity for almost everywhere we try to park or turn around. We simply can’t see what’s behind us without it, and this requires one of us to jump out of the coach and shout confusing instructions to the driver – “NO, TURN TO YOUR LEFT!!!”

The LCD panel had been acting up recently, stubbornly refusing to eject from the dash even with repeated coaxing, and last weekend it failed completely. I tried the usual rounds of Google searches for repair hints – turns out lots of motorhomes use this Jensen model – and I even called the manufacturer for tech instructions. In short, it’s unrepairable. Must be replaced entirely.

The local car stereo shop wanted about $1000 to install a new radio and mount a separate LCD panel to dash. Not the best option. Then I found a couple of Jensen replacements online, but they were upwards of $700. Sheesh! At last I stumbled on an outfit in Canada that was having a one-day sale for an Innovatek model that looked identical to the original in-dash Jensen – only $129. Woo Hoo!

I added it to my shopping cart online, but of course I had to poke around for a “better” deal before I pressed go. When I returned to the Canadian website a few minutes later, the price had jumped $40, and then before my eyes it was changed to “No Longer Available” !!  I panicked and called their customer service. A French-accented woman listened to my garbled story and then told me to “Press submit on the shopping cart NOW, NOW, NOW!!”

I’m still not clear what was going on, but we got the radio for the low, low price and it was delivered overnight via DHL for free.

Turns out the installation was simple as could be. The old radio popped right out of the dash, and the new one slid in like butter. Three quick plug-in connections and we were finished!

Easiest thing we’ve done in weeks.

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RVIA Show 2012

by Richie
RVIA Show 2012

Louisville, KY
View Map

Thanks to our friends at the Auto Channel, I had an opportunity to attend the RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) show in Louisville and peruse the exciting offerings for 2013-2014. This is the annual RV manufacturer’s show, and a chance for them to wow dealers with the latest in innovative design.

As the saying goes, the devil’s in the details, so I concentrated on both the small and large innovations. I was looking for usable design features – clever features to thrill the RV buyer – and I was not disappointed! Here’s a compendium of brilliant design touches I stumbled upon:

BATHROOM

There’s no question that RV bathrooms can be cramped and dark. Thank goodness several manufacturers are addressing this issue, even in small units. A running theme was the use of very large skylights in the shower, which gives a sense of spaciousness and a less claustrophobic bathing experience.

Even in Class B motorhomes, I saw a trend toward dedicating extraordinary floor space to the bathroom. Sure, this addresses a consumer complaint, but in a 23’ Class B that’s a lot of space to give up in the rest of the cabin. Everything else becomes compressed when you lose all that footage to the bath, and I’m not sure that’s an important enough benefit to compromise living space in the rest of the unit.

Huge Bathroom in a Class B

KITCHEN

Kitchens are always a big focus, especially for the cook in the family. I loved the trend toward upscale residential faucets in the the more expensive coaches, and I expect it’s only a matter of time before this feature will filter down to smaller units as well. Induction cooktops also make a lot of sense, especially when you’ve got 50 amps of juice to power it.

Upscale Faucet – Monaco Dynasty
Induction Cooktop – Monaco Dynasty

Another great design was the use of curved sink islands in some larger Fifth Wheels. Good thinking! The curved design opened up the aisles and reduced the hip-bump factor.

Curved Sink Island – Aviator

Airstream also showed a microwave-in-a-pantry concept, which frees up space for an additional overhead bin. Not sure how practical that might be, but it sure was innovative thinking!

Pull-Out MW – Airstream

The one noticeable absence was a lack of built-in coffee makers in the new RVs. Really? No coffee maker? I know that’s an old-school feature, but from this addict’s point of view it’s a serious omission. Get between me and my caffeine at your own peril!

 

LIVING ROOM

The usual floor plan for a large fifth wheel is to situate the master bedroom upstairs, with the living quarters and kitchen on the lower level. I was impressed with Jayco’s reversed design in the Pinnacle, where the living room is located up a half-flight. The overall effect is a quiet, comfortable room to relax and watch TV, away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and dining room, as well as the entrance door. A bonus was the tall ceiling in this area, making the room seem even more spacious.

Aviator stepped further into the comfort zone by offering luxury power recliners with a lighted charging station and desktop between. My friends took the opportunity to relax in style.

Power Recliners – Aviator

 

Power Chair Controls

BEDROOM

 

In a large motorcoach, I spotted a dedicated hamper drawer in the bedroom. This was a feature I’d never seen before, and it solves a persistent problem – what do you do with all those dirty clothes?

Hamper Drawer – Allegro Bus

In smaller RVs, where space is always at a premium, I saw a couple of clever Murphy bed designs that seemed to solve a lot of problems. The dinette/couch is usable during the day, then the bed folds down for a comfy nighttime sleep. My only dislike was that in several units the Murphy bed blocked one of the primary windows when it’s folded up. Think about it – you can only look out this window when the bed is down, and that would be at night when it’s dark outside. Essentially you’re giving up a key view for a queen size mattress. So the Murphy bed is a good idea, but it has a big trade-off.

 

Murphy Bed – Folded Up

WINDOWS

Speaking of windows, there were some lovely touches found throughout the show. Renegade showed windows that were framed inside like a residential home, and what a difference it made in the ambiance of the living room. Airstream added a splendid art glass window in the bath door. And Sabre showcased a slide-out with full-length windows on every side.

Framed Windows – Renegade

 

 

Art Glass Window – Airstream Serenity

 

Slide-Out Windows – Sabre

 

EXTERIOR

The RV industry has gone a long way to making units attractive on the outside as well as inside. And there’s still some innovation left to explore. Monaco’s 2014 Dynasty will offer LED running lights in the nose cone, a beautiful and interesting touch of class to this flagship coach.

LED Running Lights – 2014 Monaco Dynasty

Manufacturers have also gotten smart by installing side-opening doors on exterior storage bins. No more kneeling in the mud to rummage for those tiki torches! The industry is also moving toward larger entrance doors. All of us wide-body folks thank you!

Side Opening Bins, Extra Wide Door – Holiday Rambler

Overall, I had a great time touring the RVIA show, and can’t wait until next year to see more design goodies!

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Our Coach

by Richie
Our Coach

We’ve had a bunch of questions about our motorhome, so here’s a tour…

We own a Coach House 261 Platinum XL motor home. It’s 26′ 10″ long, and weighs about 7 tons.

 

Coach House is a bit of a boutique manufacturer. Made in Florida, these RVs are built on a Ford Econoline chassis. They are considered a Class B+ van conversion, although there’s nothing “van” about them, other than the driving seats. We love the design, interior appointments, and drivability. This is our second motorhome of the Coach House brand.

Our rig has a full kitchen and bathroom with corner shower. The sofa in the slide-out nook folds out to a queen size bed. The dinette also converts to an extra bed. Both furnace and air conditioner keep us comfy year round, plus all windows are screened for those pleasant days when fresh air is welcome.Even though this is considered a small RV, there’s plenty of room for two adults and a big dog.

Chances are you’ve never heard of the Coach House brand. They’re kind of rare, and we’ve spotted only two others on the road. You can find out more at www.coachhouserv.com

Top photos: Coach House brochure

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Crawling Out Of The Tent

by Richie
Crawling Out Of The Tent

There was a time when we were dedicated tent campers, back when we were young and thin, say about 3 years ago. We’d carry a minimum of equipment, sometimes on our back, and enjoy the sights & sounds of the great outdoors for a week or a weekend. More often than not, those nightly sounds included screaming kids, irate parents yelling at the kids, and a dog or two added to the decibels. But hey, we were out in the woods, getting some fresh air and exercise.

We’d make a point to scoff at the RV’s with their televisions and microwaves, and all manner of ridiculous electric appliances and lights spilling out under awnings twice the size of our tent. That’s not camping, we’d say. That’s just moving your living room to the woods. We couldn’t understand why anyone would need to haul around so much stuff if you’re just camping, for pete’s sake.

Then something changed. Maybe it was age, maybe it was the weather getting more unpredictable. But somehow we saw the light, literally a glow, of the usefulness of electricity and permanent walls. The RV world was calling, and its song was irresistible. No more sleeping with rocks and roots jammed into our backs. We could stand up indoors to get dressed in the morning. And a private toilet! With a shower! And hey, looky here, they have air conditioners and furnaces. Whoa.

It was a done deal nearly as soon as it occurred to us that this could be the way to extend our camping season beyond only the clement months of May and September.

We’d always been enamored with Class B van conversions, and with relatively little thought, other than the fact that we weren’t comfortable towing a trailer, that’s the direction into which we plunged. I started shopping around for a used unit within our budget, scrutinizing photos online, talking with dealers, and randomly picked a older Coach House 23′. Best guess I ever made.

 

That little coach got us started, and we’ve never looked back. We’re RVers now. We’ve left the bugs and dirt behind, and our old tent is neatly wrapped up in the basement. I’ve got to say, I don’t miss it a bit.

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