Most people consider this the off season but we still like to go camping for a couple of weeks at a time. We enjoy staying in the bus as much as being at home and we can easily get the sites we like that overlook the Arkansas river.
Recently we upgraded our 2015 Equinox to a loaded 2020 model. I had to remove the front of the car and splice into the wiring harness while the car had only 100 miles on it, talk about nerve wracking. Everything went well and we saved a ton of money. It isn’t as easy as the video says but on a scale of 1-10 it’s about a 4. The upgrade was well worth it with the added options and updated technology. It should last us for a very long time.
Next up was a little bus maintenance. Our Hydro Hot heating system was working pretty well but if you didn’t turn it on for a few days it was hard to get it to start back. Once it lit it would work perfectly until the next time you left it off for a few days. We had a cold snap coming and I wanted it working correctly. Following the very detailed troubleshooting guide indicated the burner controller was bad which is a common issue. I ordered the part and $400.00 later I installed it. The unit fired right up and ran for 2 weeks no problems. It got warm and I shut it off. Another week passed and switch on…. nada. After further research I found a consensus that the ignitor coil would act this way so another $300.00 and walla another new part. It has never failed to light since. I hate throwing parts at things but I guess sometimes it can’t be helped and by doing the work myself I basically did the same thing a shop would have done and saved a few hundred dollars on labor. Everyone is afraid to work on these for some reason but they are actually pretty simple. I didn’t take a picture of the process but there are plenty of videos around if you’re interested.
Having everything operational led to an unplanned trip to our favorite campsite again for 2 more weeks. After hanging out in the rain and cold and letting our thoughts wander we have decided to look into selling the house and living in the bus. We have actually talked about it before but I think we are ready to actually do it. I managed to work the reservation system and we are now scheduled to stay for 5 weeks straight. It will be our longest time in the rig but I don’t anticipate any issues. We know we can stay in it full time. The challenge is finding a suitable piece of property to locate an rv pad on. I don’t want to rely on campsites since we have to remain within driving distance of my work. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. Currently, after the 5 week campout, we have scheduled 2 weeks camping and 2 weeks at home through July so we are almost living in the bus anyway. We also recently scheduled our two week-long yearly trips. In Late May we are going to Gatlinburg, Tn and for Christmas it’s back to Destin, Florida for a Gulf/Beach front site at Camp Gulf. We are really excited about that. Spring will be here soon so keep hanging in there !
Well it is a bittersweet day the “Condo on Wheels” has moved on. It is always difficult to see something you have learned to love, created memories in, and worked so hard to make just right, move on.
Just as a review I had listed the ad on RVTrader.com, RVT.com, Facebook Marketplace, and of course Craigslist. Surprisingly, I got a very small percentage of resellers bugging me and only one suspected scammer that almost had me but I figured it out. The vast majority of responses came from RVTrader. I had nothing from Facebook, zero from RVT and a couple from Craigslist. It took me approximately 16 weeks to sell which I consider not bad for the off season. The buyers came from the RVTrader ad. If you are looking at selling or buying this is the place I recommend.
Hopefully the new owners will get as much enjoyment out of it as we did. I know they will appreciate all the upgrades I did. It was not doing it justice to be sitting in the back yard unused so I am glad it will be starting a new journey.
This is always a slow time of year for using the RV because of holiday commitments and of course crappy weather. We will be doing a 2 week stint at the local campground for New Years to celebrate “The Bus” and honor the “Condo on Wheels”.
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as our adventures continue ….
It was finally time for a real test. We were making our yearly trip to Florida. Typically we drive down and rent a condo overlooking the gulf. We have been doing this for 10 years. Since the bus is 95% complete and I found a spot at Top Sail State Park and RV Resort in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida we decided to take our first RV trip to Florida.
Because it was the first road trip, I decided to stay on mostly interstate instead of the normal “shortcuts” we typically use. As it turns out it was about the same time just slightly more miles. I-40 to Memphis was as always a caravan with 18 wheelers. We only had one issue when there was a fatality accident ahead of us. We were lucky to get by before they closed the road but it was a sad scene. I am pretty sure texting was involved as there were no skid marks just a high speed impact into the rear of a trailer. Jumping onto I-55 brought us across the Mississippi River. Traveling through Memphis is always nerve wracking. The rest of the morning took us down I-22. Lunchtime came and we pulled off the side on an exit ramp, made sandwiches, and fed the pups. That is a great feature of travelling in a class a. Now that the dogs had full bellies, Sofi found her happy place.
Switching to I-65 took us to Birmingham. Just on the other side was a Camping World and Cracker Barrel. We were going to boondock on our first leg. Camping World was a bust they had no real overnight spots and the lot was very crowded. Moving on to the CB they had a spot in the back that was just big enough to park and leave the car hooked up. We had a good dinner and retreated to the bus. I ran the generator till about 9:00 to top of the batteries and even with the heater running and the residential fridge we were able to go all night on batteries no problem. We fueled up a few miles down the road and followed our directions to the RV Park. It was a very nice park with pretty, private, and spacious sites.
There are lots of biking and walking paths. They also have a pool, shuffleboard, an kayak and bike rentals. For beach access there is a shuttle to take you to the boardwalk over the dunes then about a 1/4 mile walk to the beach.
A nice relaxing week brought us to time to return. I had been looking at the computer and realized Tiffin Motorhome was located in Red Bay, Alabama. It was only 30 minutes off of our return route so a factory tour was in order. The drive to Red Bay was about 25 miles of two lane road from the interstate. Not a bad road but it did get dark on us. I found out that the headlights on the bus are useless. I will be replacing those in short order and until then no more night driving. There are multiple small rv lots around the factory for those awaiting service. The first two we tried were full but third times a charm. It was basically a gravel lot but had full hookups for $25.00 a night. I did have to unhook the car but I was going to use it the next morning anyway.
The next morning off to the factory tour.
The tour was very informative and you were really up close and personal with the production lines. For the cost of FREE it was well worth doing.
The rest of the trip home was trouble free. We really enjoyed of first road trip and using the bus is just so much easier all around than pulled a trailer. We made no real plans except for our destination reservations. Playing it by ear was so much more enjoyable than having to be at stop one at this time … and so forth. For me in the future this is the only way to travel.
Thanks for keeping up with us and look forward to sharing more as the adventure continues ..
Finally finished with painting and replacing shades. It is now time to unload the fifth wheel and officially move into the bus. We have a spot reserved in 5 days to stay on our inaugural camp out for 10 days. We are so excited. It’s funny how as we get closer to completion the list doesn’t get any smaller it just shuffles up. Most of the items slated for upgrade or replacement now are superficial and don’t affect the operation of the RV.
Once the new carpet was installed things started moving pretty fast. All the furniture we had removed got to go back in.
Since I had to remove the old toilet to paint behind it and it was awkward to get to the flush pedal I decided to replace it with the same model we liked in the fifth wheel, a 17″ Thetford Aqua Magic Style II. Of course the waterline didn’t mate up. I needed 3″ more to reach. $125.00 later I had all the tools to make that happen. It’s much easier to flush and is a self cleaning design unlike the old one with a hand sprayer. Well worth the investment.
Our new love seat was still a question. Would it fit? I had measured 1000 times and the tape says probably. I went to put it in place and it was tight. A little pull here and shove there and bam it fit. When stretched out it clears the window box by 1mm, it clears the front slide wall by 1mm, and there is just enough room to get my fingers in to operate the buttons.
After getting everything installed, I found that by pulling straight up across the driveway I could actually dump the tanks at home which allowed me to calibrate the level sensors and flush everything to clean them. No pictures needed there. We then made a test pull of the toad using my truck. I still need to drill through the firewall to wire in the braking system but everything else is ready to pull.
Things really feel like they are moving along now. We are about half way through painting, All the valances are recovered and awaiting install, and our inaugural bus camp event is only 15 days away.
Going back a few weeks, one of the first decisions we made, if you remember, was to replace the ugly and worn carpet. Upon removal we found leaks and mold. I repaired the leaks and treated the floor with Wesley’s bleach white to kill the surface mold. This really helped the musty smell.
If you ever do get a chance to pull some RV carpet you will have a Staple o rama event of your own. They must pay these people based on the number of staples used.
We had already decided on which carpet we wanted so when we made the call that we were ready it was a little disappointing to hear we were going to have to wait three more weeks. We asked to be penciled in if there was a cancellation and bam they called a couple of days later.
I was very nervous about using Carpet Barn even though a builder I know highly recommended them. Rv’s are so much different than residential work. The man they sent has a lot of experience in boats and rv’s so that help ease some of the anxiety. After talking to him it seemed like he had a clue so I left him to do his work.
I am so pleased with the job Rick did. He paid so much attention to detail it is amazing. I am now a Carpet Barn customer for life.
Next will be installing the new loveseat, mounting the pilot and co pilot seats, installing the new fireplace, installing the new valances and shades, and bringing the eurocliner back in. The list never seems to get shorter lol. Jeez, I forgot about finishing the painting…..
If you recall in the process of renovation the refrigerator quit working. I had the infamous No Cold, Never Cold, Norcold. Rv absorption refrigerators are designed to be used with very little electric needs. In turn they are at best a compromise of technology. Making heat to make cold does not make sense in terms of efficiency and any little thing that is off will create warm temps. There is also the very real risk of a fire when things go really wrong. Since my unit was 15 years old I wasn’t going to repair it. New models of the same thing cost $4000.00. The only advantage to a new marginally performing style fridge is the fact it would fit the same space with no modifications.
After the successful replacement of the seals and toppers I was feeling pretty good so I started looking into residential style replacements. The Samsung RF18 french door model is the unit of choice but it gets terrible reviews. I looked more and found that GE makes a french door model GWE19J that has the same dimensions and includes an icemaker and an internal water dispenser. It is considerably more expensive but gets much better reviews. Dana happened upon one at a local open box/overstock store for the same price as the Samsung so I ordered it.
Removal of the old Norcold was pretty straight forward. Taking the shelves out and door off allowed for easy removal. Once out I took the cooling unit off the back so it would fit out of the door. The remaining cold box was very light and getting it out was pretty easy with Dana’s help.
The new fridge is the same width and depth as the old but is taller. I had to remove the drawers that were under it.
Relocating various wiring harnesses, moving furnace blower over a little, relocating the electrical outlet, and plugging the vents and access holes were fairly straight forward. I also removed the old gas line. There was evidence it had a tiny leak for a long time that had gone unnoticed so I am convinced the old fridge failed so I would find this. Thanks Karma 🙂 I needed to build a platform for the new one to sit on and it needed to be supported.
I was not going to have access to the top to keep it from tipping so I made some braces to prevent it. They weren’t going to be attached to the fridge so the measurements were crucial.
I also had to work through a small 3″ wide space that was 7″ to the floor to secure the rear. I attached a piece of angle iron to the fridge frame. I install a mounting block on the platform. It had to slide right over the top of the block so again measurements were critical.
There was no way to bolt down the front so I made some blocks to keep it from sliding out of the hole. The left to right movement was a moot issue because of the tight side to side clearance.
The new fridge fit through the door easily (with my two strong children doing the lifting) after taking the doors and hinges off with just some minor damage to the coach dash pad (could have easily been prevented but I was tired at this point). We stuck it in the hole for the first time and the side clearance was so perfect a piece of paper wouldn’t fit in there. Sliding it back under the anti tipping blocks we stopped and put the doors back on. One good push to it to the back. I needed a couple of spacers back there to level it but was lucky to have some shim stock so no problem there. My front blocks required some minor modifications but worked as planned. Replacing the freeze door, replacing shelves, and hooking up the water line was all that was left. Everything lined up almost perfect and worked as planned.
The new refrigerator looks amazing and looks like a factory install. It is huge inside compared to what we are used to. 18 CuFt compared to the 12 CuFt that was in there and the 9 CuFt that we use in the fifth wheel. Before we take it on the road I will have to make some door blocks and get some shelf bars to keep stuff from moving around. Heck we can store all our regular items in just the doors lol. If you are ever thinking of doing this it is a difficulty level 4 out of 5 but the end result is amazing. Next up is the carpet install. It is the only thing I am paying to have done. Stay tuned …….
Well I haven’t posted anything in a while so this will be a long one. We are still using the fifth wheel, more about that later, and have been camping. We got booted from our first attempt at a 30 day stay because of massive flooding of the Arkansas river and had to go back home. To make matters worse all our local reservations have been cancelled until October because the two local Corps campgrounds we stay at were basically destroyed. This has opened my eyes a little to the thought of living full time in the rv in a fixed location. Had we not had a house to return to it would have been difficult to find a place to stay that is within an hour drive of my work.
We did have a good vacation in Nashville though. We stayed at Safe Harbor RV Resort and it was one of the nicest places we have ever stayed. Great park with nice amenities, short drive to downtown, and lots of nearby restaurants. Some of the sites are small so look at the low numbered A section. The park is located on J Percy Priest Reservoir just SE of downtown. Our week long stay was very relaxing, so much so I forgot how to read a calendar and thought we had one more day before we were supposed to leave. We were an hour out of town visiting an old friend when we got the “why are you still here” phone call. The park host was very forgiving. When we got back it only took me 30 minutes to pack out and hook up. I offered to pay for the new peoples first night stay for having to wait on us but she wouldn’t let me ( She didn’t charge them either).
Now you probably want to know why the fifth wheel. Our DP purchase has turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated. I knew of several issues that needed to be addressed like tires, roof reseal, engine service, replace house batteries, and the need to build a parking pad at the house. I had budgeted $10,000 to make the needed repairs. What I didn’t know was that there were a multitude of unknown problems that only appeared when you tried to fix something simple. This would be the start of an emotional roller coaster ride where one minute I am ready to tackle the issues and look forward to getting to use the bus to the next where I feel like I was hit in the head with a brick with no hope of survival.
To begin I replaced the aged out rear tires ( dated 2003) with 4 new Toyo’s. The cost was $400.00 each plus $150.00 to mount. In the process of doing that I found one of the leveling jacks leaking badly and on the way home the check engine light came on. I have a friend that runs a truck shop so I went directly there. I had him repair the sensor, remove and rebuild the jack, service the engine, and flush the radiator. Cost $1500 but at least he didn’t charge me for the fence I backed over in his parking lot. I also noticed the dash gauges for oil pressure and water temp aren’t working but since they work on the Aladdin electronic monitoring system I decide to wait on repairing that till later.
When we got home and started looking things over we noticed most of the windows are fogged up between the panes. I hadn’t seen it before somehow. I got an estimate on those from a local place and it will run between 3000 and 5000 dollars to get them replaced with either single pane laminated glass or repair the double pane glass. This won’t keep us from using it but will eventually have to be taken care of.
The next thing we decided was to replace the carpet. First step is to pull the old carpet out. They put this crap everywhere ! It was inside cabinets, on the walls, and under the cabinets. This required removing about 3 times as many things as I had planned on. To make it worse they not only used 1.5 million staples but some type of NASA designed industrial glue. I did a little research and ended up buying an oscillating cutter. Using that with a scraper blade on it was a lifesaver. I don’t know how I would have gotten the carpet out without it. The new carpet installed is quoted at $2200.00 but should be cheaper since we did the removal ourselves.
The discovery that was made upon removal of the carpet was moldy wet floor and many old leaks. You could not tell it had been leaking with the carpet in place and new carpet can not be installed until the leaks have been stopped, another unexpected surprise. I had to replace a couple of small pieces of sub floor and begin searching for where the water was coming from. As it turns out all the wiper seals on the slides need to be replaced. I knew the roof needed to be resealed so I started there. While resealing the roof I found the slide toppers were all trash and were funneling the rain water into the damaged wiper seals. They looked fine from the ground but the back center of every one was shredded. To make it worse whoever had it 2 owners ago left it outside and put the slides in while they were covered with leaves and debris. This caused gaps in the inner seals that let water come in freely. At this point pretty much all I could see was a giant vacuum in my bank account sucking me dry. I called a couple of RV places and estimates were roughly a grand per slide to replace the seals and another 500 dollars for each slide topper. One even said that to replace the inner seals the slides may have to come out (they would) which would make the cost higher. I was completely ready to cut my losses and move on. After a little liquid relaxation and a small hangover I again got out the research tools and scoured the internet. I was able to learn how to do the toppers and order the fabric, replace the seals and order the correct similar replacement, and learned a couple of tricks for removing the old ones. Currently I have two of the slides resealed and two of the toppers repaired and all the seals and fabric to do the other two. It takes me about 8 hours labor to completely do each slide but the cost was only $1100 for all the materials. I did not have to do anything to the inner seals. After cleaning out all the debris they were fine. I am just waiting for the next rainstorm to see how effective the repairs are on that side.
Because it is now summertime, I am limited to working outside the rv in the morning hours. My routine is start the generator and the a/c’s, work outside till I can’t stand it, then go inside. On the interior I have replaced all the halogen lights with LED’s and am in the process of painting. We also decided we wanted new furniture. The questions to be answered are matching or complementary colors, will it fit in the space, and will it fit through the door. After carefully measuring, shopping, measuring again and finally finding what we wanted that met the above criteria we ordered a power reclining love seat ($1200). I began the removal process of the jackknife sofa and got it out after completely taking it apart. Once removed I was greeted with the surprise of a 24″ deep platform that the sofa was built on. The love seat would require 39″ to support it. Not only was I going to have to build a platform that would support our weight but it had to move in and out with the slide and it needed to be removable to aid in the carpet installation. I was able to bolt in a couple of pieces of angle iron and used 2×6’s between them to create the platform. To help support the weight I put furniture movers on the bottom side to protect the carpet. On the other side we wanted an electric fireplace ($200.00) to go with the eurocliner and ottoman we already had. To accomplish this I had to remove a table and cabinet. After taking it out I also had to relocate an outlet and light switch. All in all not to bad right, wrong. In the midst of this the generator is now on the fritz and randomly shuts down and the refrigerator has stopped working.
There are many little things I had to patch and repair along the way and many more left to discover. I hope there is nothing else major. It is very hard to keep my eye on the ball when it keeps getting further away instead of closer but I am learning to stay focused on the project at hand then just move to the next one. At this point everything I am doing has to be done no matter whether we keep it or sell it because it is unmarketable the way it is. I think from a financial standpoint I will still be at least even( value vs investment) and when we are done everything will be working properly. I have saved thousands of dollars in labor costs by doing everything myself. So far the budget is looking a little unrealistic. To date I have spent about $9000 of my $10,000 budget. $2000 of that was for the gravel parking pad and electrical pedestal and another $2000 for the towbar and brake setup for the car which I installed myself. I still have to buy carpet, fix or replace the fridge, service the Aqua hot unit, service the generator and or repair it, and replace the television. I know I will be over budget the question is by how much. The good thing is by spreading it out over time I can keep everything paid for as I go instead of dipping into savings like I had planned to. The downside is I will not have the rv paid off as quickly as I had planned. I am about 40% done with the renovation and will just keep on keeping on. Hopefully it will be complete in time for our next vacation at the end of October. Its ironic that when I posted on the IRV2 forum about our purchase someone responded that I should plan on 20-30 thousand dollars to get it up to speed. At the time I thought they were being facetious, turns out they were probably spot on.