Sunday, August 23, 2009

RV's and their Roofs

RV’s and their Roof

One of the things that I hate to climb onto, and one of the things that demand regular maintenance and inspections is the Roof of your RV or Camper. Remember, IT keeps the weather out of your RV, if maintained, but it will allow water to get into the damnedest places in your RV if left to itself. And visible water damage to your RV or Camper, will hurt the re-sale value of your unit more than pretty much any thing else.

A Personal Problem: As I mentioned above, I do hate getting on and off of my Rig’s roof. First I do not like heights, and second, even on jacks an RV is not the most stable place to stand. And the Ladder; I cannot fathom the reasoning behind placing a ladder onto the rear of an RV that cost 1/4M$ or more, with treads that are an inch wide, and 12-inches or so long. Two shoes can barely fit on a tread. And when you get to the top you have to straddle this miniature device and slide your butt onto the roof. I do it, but I hate it!

Straight Ladder: So, deciding that this ladder was insufficient, I looked around and found a great extendable ladder made just for use on RV’s and it packs away in a small package for storage. So after using it several times I learned another lesson. The lesson I learned here was that an extended ladder when placed on the edge of a Rubber or Fiberglass roof can cut or scratch the roof, right along the edge, where EVERYONE can see it. And, pretty soon you have a good chance of these cuts developing into leaks, or at the very least leave you with a very ugly marred roof edge.

Materials: The Roof-Top of Coaches, and other Campers have evolved over time. In years past they were almost exclusively covered in a solid sheet of a Rubberized compound, usually the same as what was used on Mobile Homes.

Today, the majority of the cheaper units still use Roof materials made of Rubber Compounds, while the more expensive ones utilize Fiberglass materials either alone or in conjunction with layered Composite materials. These Composite materials are used for added support for the Fiberglass, but often also for insulation and strength. All of these Roof designs suffer from one common problem.

Even though they, in themselves are designed and mounted to be waterproof for the life of the RV, the first thing that happens after installation, is the installation of devices and accessories, onto the roof.

Some of the most common installations are; Sewer vents, Cabin Air Fans/Vents, Air Conditioners, TV Antenna’s Satellite Antenna’s, Radio Antenna’s, Air Horns, Solar Collectors, Weather stations, etc. Each of these installations require the cutting of, or drilling of, holes through the roof, and then the subsequent sealing of the item to the roof with common outdoor sealants.

The thing you need to know is that your RV or Camper, and it’s roof flex, and this along with the stress of temperature differences over a day, and a season, that are constantly pulling on the sealant used on your roof. And ….. the sealant WILL pull loose or crack open over time. It is just a matter of time.

Your job is to climb up there and check your roof; every 3 months if your unit is in storage, or always before and after each trip you take. If you find problems with the sealant on the roof, it is relatively easy to trim it off of your roof, and apply a new coat of sealant. The sealant is available at almost all RV parts stores.

Fiberglass and Rubber: FYI, one of the great things about a Fiberglass roof is that it does not leech a chalky residue onto the sides of your RV like the Rubber roof does. When I was negotiating the purchase my HR Arista, I was concerned about these same seemingly perpetual streaks on the side of my old PACE-ARROW.

Rubber Roof: The HR rep was there at Lazydays that day, so he and I had a long conversation about the different roof materials. He stated that the residue I was seeing is part of the design of the roof material, and all Rubber roofs will leech this fine white dust onto your sides of your RV or Camper.

This leeching keeps the roof material clean and flexible. He also stated that these Rubber roofs should be cleaned regularly (ready for this?-- “every 2 months”), and only with the appropriate “approved” Rubber Roof cleaners. And the final thing I got from the rep was that you should NEVER seal the roof after cleaning. It will get amazingly dirty and feel very hard and be near impossible to clean. The Rubber material, again, is designed to leech it’s outer surface, so it should be cleaned and never sealed.

Fiberglass Roof: Now with my new HR Neptune, I have a fiberglass roof, and only need to inspect it regularly, and occasionally clean it of dust, pollen, leaves, bird poop etc. And if the manufacturers design is good, the fiberglass will have more than adequate support, and there should never be any cracks develop from people working on the roof. Overall, while a Rubber roof is perfectly adequate, and should last for 15-20 years or if taken care of, a fiberglass roof is the better choice, in my mind, to date.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Baggage Storage Compartments

Baggage Storage Compartments-

One important part of the RV is the quantity of, and size of each, Baggage/Storage compartment accessible from the outside of the RV. It’s amazing how many people will shell out a quarter of a million dollars, or more, for an RV and pay only passing attention to the available storage space and their configuration. Generally speaking, everything that you use outside the RV, needs to be stored outside the RV in these compartments.

Some RV’s will have only 3 or 4 compartments, while others will be lined with compartments down both sides of the RV. Some will have one or more “thru-compartments”, and others will have one or more compartments with “slide-out” drawers. The thing you need to picture is; what you have that needs to be stored outside, and then where will it all fit. You will see that a number of the items you need, are so big that they will only fit in certain compartments, which in turn limits your flexibility in your layout plans.

I use Plastic Totes (see-thru where possible, with tops) in different strategic sizes to combine most of the similar items together, and I use stick-on labels to easily find the ones I need when I go into the compartments. By Strategic I mean that I have sizes of totes that hold specific common items, and are of sizes that fit together in the compartments so that;

1-I make the best use of the available space,

2-I keep the most used items to the front and the least used items to the rear of the compartment for convenience, and

3- When packed for traveling, there is minimal allowed movement of all of the items packed into the compartments. This eliminates those strange bumping sounds when you are driving down the road, as well as the potential damage by poorly packed items to each other.

Campsite Layout: One other thing to remember in your outside compartment planning, is the fact that your campsite and RV are designed with distinct uses for each side of the vehicle and the layout of the campsite.

The standard is that the driver’s side of the vehicle has all of the utility interconnections, and the passenger side has the access door to the RV, and the campsite is laid out with the passenger side containing the patio area, picnic table, fire pit, etc. and the Power connection, Water connection, and Sewage Dumping are always on the Driver's side towards the rear of the site Your storage should reflect the same planning.

In other words, when possible, I recommend that everything you will use in your patio area should be stored on the Patio side, and the other stuff, Electrical Power cord, Water Hoses, toolbox, general storage totes, spare parts, etc should be stored on the Drivers side, as you will be using these items less often.

Baggage Doors-

Then there are the Baggage doors themselves. There are the “Hinge-Up” doors, the “Hinge-Sideways” doors, and single latch and double latch doors, but whichever type of door you have, they all lock. Your baggage doors have locks for two reasons; the obvious one is to keep other people out, but they are also there to keep the items stored there, in the compartments when you are traveling down the highway.

Really….. I had to learn this the hard way. Several Years ago. we stayed at one of our kid’s house in Virginia, and waited until the last minute to head back to South Carolina. I rushed through my “Pull-Out: checklist, and did not check that all of the baggage compartments were locked.

An hour later, we are traveling down the road and a passing Semi went by us blowing his horn and pointing down with his hand. Helen and I did not have a clue what he was trying to tell us until I looked in my driver’s mirror.

And there they were ……. my two new large folding chairs were hanging out of my rear pass-thru compartment, one of them occasionally dragging on the asphalt. Very embarrassed, I started looking and luckily found a safe pull-off just down the road, and corrected the problem. You can believe I now take the time to check that all of the baggage doors are closed properly, and locked.

NOTE: Keep in mind that these compartments/doors have rubber gaskets on them to keep the weather out. If they are rotted, missing, or loose, you should repair/replace them to keep these compartments as water-tight as possible. Water leaks can ruin a lot of good clothes/equipment, if unnoticed for a period of time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Losing Weight as an RVer

Helen and I have been on a campaign for me to lose weight for several yearss now.

We took stock and started in earnest, shortly before we went on our trip to the Grand Canyon back in August, with our grandson.  We figured that, as he was only 12-years old, we would be limited in the type of restaurant/pub we frequented, as well as having early evening hours.  Although this limited us to a degree, we didn't mind, as we really looked forward to enjoying sharing the Grand Canyon, and the other sights with him and seeing  everything through his eyes.

The reason I mention this, is that we were able to start our management of my diet.  I will include a picture, but I had crossed 250 pounds one day, and I really did not like a lot of things about my size.

  • I had been really overweight most of my life, so I was used to that.
  • I had a car wreck in 2000, and, long story short, I ended up after 3 surgeries over 2 years. with some nice scars and no cartilage in my left ankle, so walking was painful to say the least.
  • I had been on Steriods since 1996, when I had a Kidney transplant, as part of my anti-rejection drugs, and they were eating my skeletal structure up slowly but surely.
  • I had 2 bad disks in my back that I could throw out very easily.
  • I had fallen into a Sedentary life-style, and had started breathing very hard.

I knew I had to do something, so we looked back at all of the diets we had tried, and rejected all of them.  I did remember what a professional trainer had once told me at the Gym I frequented before I had my transplant.  He said that {weight loss or gain really comes to CALORIES IN versus CALORIES BURNED."  He was a professional weight lifter, and he said all of his friends used this simple fact to place themselves in the appropriate weight category for upcoming competitions.

Lose It! - Weight Loss APP for iPhone

Also, at this time, and by chance, I had recently changed over to an Apple iPhone, and was enjoying all of the free APPs (applications) available to me.  I checked and there was a brand new APP called :Lose It!.  I loaded the APP, and checked it out.  It turned out to be the best tool I have ever seen, bar none.  Here is what we were able to do with LoseIt! :

  • Enter my age,
  • Enter my weight, 
  • Enter my lifestyle (Sedintary, Lightly Active, Active, and so on.
  • Enter my weight loss goal.
  • Then daily, I could enter my: Morning weight,  exercise type durung the day, calories burned while exercising, and foods eaten.
The real power of this APP, to myself and Helen is that I can enter my own custom recipes and foods.  I know you have seen software weight loss program, where you record your foods eaten, but this packaage lets me do 2 things that really streamline the process.

One, It allows the entry of personal recipes.  By that I mean, you define a recipe name, like Dons Ham and Cheese on Rye sandwich.  Then you find each ingredient in the foods list, and add the portion you used for the sandwich.

Two, if, for example you cannot find the low-fat cheddar cheese you used, you just get the food package, and add this as a new ingredient, includung nutrient values, into the new food section, and then add the new food to your sandwich.

Once you add the lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, and whatever you eat on your sandwich, then you go back and add this new recipe to your lunch meal.

Your daily data is updated, and you now have a recipe and a specific Cheese Food added that you can use again and again.  At the end of the day you have a summary of your CALORIC day, good of bad.

How I am losing;

Well, by using the Lose It! package I was aware of just how much we snacked, how large some of our  meals were, and we were able to see just which foods were the worst for me, and started making slow changes, such as;

  • Dropping the amount of  bread we ate.
  • Change to lower Calorie Breads, whcih were often as good as the old ones we just ate randomly.
  • Change to lower Calorie and Fat meats.  Less Red Meat, and more Chicken, Turkey, and Fish.
  • Change to a Low-Fat Mayonnaise, not Fat-Free, or tasteless varieties.
  • Use more Mustard on fods
  • Use Lower Calorie and Fat Salad Dressings, even making our own Balsamic Vinegarette.
  • Eat more salads, Chef Salads and Cobb Salads, and Salads with Chicken or Fish as an Entree'
  • Eat more Salsa dishes (with fresh vegetables and minimal oils), we have invented several.
  • Eat more seasonal vegetables and/or frozen, with canned vegetables as a last choice.
  • Eat more fruit.
  • Eat Healthy fruits for snacks between meals.
  • etc, etc. etc

To do the above, and minimize the costs, you have to become a savvy shopper. and know where and when the  best deals are.

I guess the pro f for me is the fact that right now I weigh 211 pounds, and feel great.  And of course,  I an continuing to stick to my plan, and adjust the CALORIES IN and CALORIES BURNED to reach my ultimate weight goal.

What does this have to do with RVing?  Well, traveling in an RV is a lifestyle, and your meals are an integral part of your travels as well as something that you need to manage to be healthier, have more energy, and enjoy the world outside your windshield.  Whenever we get me down to my target weight, we will go to what I call Phase-2, which is a maintain exercise and diet plan.

More on my progress and this personal weight loss plan in another Post later!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

LAUNDRY - Costs and Tips for RV'ers

LAUNDRY – Costs and Tips for RV’ers

If you are an occasional/regular/frequent camper, or a Full-Timer, you quickly realize that you can travel with a limited amount of clothes. Once you accept this, you know you have to wash clothes while on your trip.

Selecting a Campground based on Laundry:

You will often have several selections of campgrounds when you are planning your trip. I recommend that while you are selecting a Campground, that you add these questions to your others when you call them;

1- Do you have a Laundry?
2- How many Washers and Dryers are in the Laundry?
3- Is the Laundry well-lit and Air-Conditioned? (especially in the Summer)?
4- How many of the machines are broken at this time? If they don’t know, then they probably don’t care if/when they get repaired.)
5-Wh at is the cost per Wash (# of minutes for amount charged)
6- What is the cost per Drying (# of minutes for amount charged)
7- Is there a functioning change machine in the Laundry (or even on site)?
8- Is there a Campground Store, and do they sell detergents (in case you run out)?

Washer/Dryer Costs:

You find very quickly that there is a wide range of pricing for using the washing and drying machines in different campgrounds. You need to set an acceptable cost limit for yourself, and make your decisions based on these. For example some costs we have seen in our travels are;

1- Washer - $1.25 for 30 minutes and Dryer- $1.25 for 60 minutes. This works out to $2.50/Hour for the Washer, and $1.25/Hour for the Dryer.

2- Washer - $1.00 for 30 minutes and Dryer - $0.25 for 6 minutes. This works out to $2.00/Hour for the Washer, and $2.50/Hour for the Dryer

There other places we have been with both lower and higher pricing, but you should look at how many Washer loads you have and how many Dryer loads you have to use at the campgrounds pricing and calculate what your costs are going to be.One option is that often there are public Laundry’s nearby that use larger machines, and sometimes have lower per/load pricing? Check it out.

Clothes Washing/Drying Tools and Tips:

You also find out that the different campgrounds have different restrictions on drying clothes at your camper, from “not allowed at all” to allowing small specific clothes hanging devices. Here are some types of Washing and Drying devices favored by many Campers:

1- Built-In Washer/Dryer – Many of the larger and newer RV’s and Campers have a built-in unit, generally a combination unit, that can wash and dry a small load of clothes. I have one, and have talked to others that have them and there is a general consensus that they are excellent for washing a couple of sets of clothes/underwear/socks every 2-3 days to avoid using the campground laundry, but eventually those linens and towels will demand you use a laundry with a full-size machine.

You also have to keep in mind that the washer will use a significant amount of your water, and visibly raise the level in your Gray-Water Tank. And, the Dryer pretty much demands a 50-Amp service at your site. So, even though we own and use our Washer/Dryer, we still use the Campground Laundry, only less often than without owning one.

2- Clothes Line – There are still some Campgrounds that let you use a clothes line, but the vast majority do not. If you are allowed; run a line from your Camper/RV to a tree, but avoid driving nails in the trees. This really upsets the Campground owners, so do not do this. It is unnecessary really, as you can easily wrap a Bungee around the tree, and tie your line to it.

3- Clothes Stands – Some Campgrounds will allow you to use one of those free-standing Clothes Stands. You know the ones that accordion out, and stand alone allowing several wood or plastic bars that towels, and other laundry can hang on to dry.

4- Ladder Clothes Board – Some RV owners use a cantilevered clothesbar that hangs on the rear ladder (see Fig-4). This is one of the most popular choices by RV’ers; easy to build, easy to attach, uses minimal drying space, and stores easily in

your RV.

Essentially it is a plank of wood, generally 4 foot long, by ½ inch thick, by 6-inches wide. To make one;

  • Measure the distance between the ladder braces of your RV ladder,
  • Cut 2 notches on opposite edges of on end of the board spaced to fit the 2 ladder braces,
  • Start at the opposite end of the board and drill a row of 3/8-inch holes spaced 2-inches apart, 1-inch from the edge, down the lower edge of the board for clothes hangers.

5- Ladder clothes Hanger – There are several commercial versions of accordion-type extendable clothes hanging bars that bolt to your RV ladder. They cost $50-$80 and are found in your local RV accessory stores. They are easy to use, and store easily in your RV, and they are accepted by most Campgrounds.

6- AUTO Dryer – One thing my wife and I do is utilize the residual heat inside our Auto. We have a Jeep Wrangler TOAD and it has a roll bar. We buy those cheap plastic hangers you get at department stores in bundles.

And seeing as we almost exclusively wear T-Shirts and Polo Shirts while traveling and Camping, we wash these at the Laundry, and then hang them on the plastic hangers. We then hang these on a part of the roll bar in the rear seat, and drive back to our site. These clothes will generally dry in 4-6 hours on a sunny day inside a closed car.

I know most tow cars do not have roll bars, but you can pick up one of those extendable bars for travelers to hang clothes in the rear. These are relatively cheap and save a lot on dryer costs.

7- Other: - Traveling around the USA we have seen many other ingenious and sometimes stupid contraptions for drying clothes in Campgrounds. The ones listed here are pretty good, but I wonder about some of the multi-jointed, sliding parts, inter-latching contraptions made of plastic plumbing pipes. One , easily had over $100 in pipe, elbows, metal screw-in eyelets and cords, and was enormous. Do what is right for you.