Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tire Pressure.

In my humble opinion, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) is probably the most important automobile safety development since the airbag.  It's widely acknowledged that this is a piece of mandatory equipment in all motorhomes.

For some strange reason it is not standard or even optional equipment  on Ford motorhome chassis.  And since as of this writing Ford is the sole chassis provider, it means everyone who owns a gasser has to come up with their own solution to the problem. 

In our case, I chose a Tire Minder from Camping World.  This is a system that uses sensors that screw onto the tire stem.  The receiver is a battery powered hand unit that the co-pilot uses to monitor the condition of the tires.

All in all it appears to be a pretty good system.  But installation wasn't quite as easy as I though.

Tireminder insists that you have a "repeater".  This is a box separate from the monitor that is supposed to relay the tire pressure data from farther parts of the rig.  According I needed to find a 12v source and the repeater could remain on full time.

You'd think finding a 12v line in an RV would be easy.  I went to the web and got the Itasca wining diagrams and could not find any of the 12v lines the diagram said were in the back of the coach.

I ended up tapping off the generators 12v start line.  It was near the front of the genny  I'm still a bit adverse to drilling holes in the RV, so the position allowed me to route the cable underneath the door to repeater.

Repeater wired to Genny Starter

On my RV, there is a compartment next to the genny that could hold the repeater.  So I set the to run  on the surface under the door to the next compartment.  The cable mount used a tie to hold the cable in place

Cable to the repeater.


And there it is.  The TPMS repeater was installed.

The Tire Minder is a portable unit that uses a suction cup mount in the dash.  We consider it the co-pilots job to watch the Tire Minder - as a device it is complex enough that the driver shouldn't attempt to use it - much like a cell phone.

A lot of work for something that should have been standard equipment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shakedown Cruise #1

Definitely not the Maiden Voyage....

This weekend we took the rig out for a Shakedown Cruise #1.  The shakedown was to test our packing and travel procedures and was a short 50 mile trip to Joe's Truck Stop (real name honest).

On Saturday we had our first "day off" in a long time - no commitments, no work required on any of the house - so we tore into the basement and did some work on the interior - the interior was mostly repacking and hanging Command hooks.

One piece of interior work worth mentioning was strapping the quartz toaster oven to the counter top.  We determined a while back a) we wanted the toaster oven (convection ovens don't toast) and b) It deserved a full time spot on the counter.

But when you have such a thing, you have to worry about the travel.  We try (less successfully than we need to be) to keep freestanding things off the counters.  Everything needs to have a place and be in it.  The toaster oven, being a freestanding item, presented a bit of a challenge.

We ended up getting Quakehold TV straps for it.  These are adjustable straps that are used to hold TVs and heavy appliances in place in yachts, and yes RVs.  Camping World sells them as well as the local hardware store.

The basement area has long been the "long pole" in our activities.  During the haste to move out, we just crammed stuff into the basement.  We finally got the chance to organize the basement.  I dubbed it Basement 1.0.  We managed to stow my collapsible ladder - a major concern of mine.  But we sorted, organized and stowed all the stuff and even had room left over - we think some stuff is going to move from the upstairs to the basement.

We then got up Sunday morning to decided to take her out for a spin.

We targeted Joe's Truck Stop in central California because Joe's is a large full service truck stop just after the 680 merge onto I-5.  It includes a scale and a truck wash. 

We had long been curious about where we were with the weight on our Motorhome and it was getting a bit gucky sitting in the bay area weather.  We could address both those issues at Joes.

With our coach empty, we are rated for 2780 lbs of passenger, cargo and water or 24000 lbs gross.  At Joes we came in at 1780 lbs of cargo (23000 gross) which gives us about 1000lbs to go.  I was fairly pleased - we had a 1/4 tank of water and about 1/2 a black tank on board.  I also think we are about 95% fitted out.  Next time we are going by a truck scale, I want to get weighed with a full tank of water and see where that puts us.  I think a very real scenario for us is a) full gas tank, b) full propane tank, c) full water and d) empty black and gray. 

We also learned the scale procedure:  Roll your rig up on the scale, front wheels on the front wheel section, press the button and roll off.  Then head into the office, give them some money and they will tell you your weight.  At Joe's it is $8.50.

We also shelled out $45.00 for the truck wash.  Pressure wash and wax.  After about 15 minutes and the rig was bright and shiny.  We know some folks out there won't let truck washes clean their RVs.  We don't think the pressure wash wand will do anything more than what driving  65 in a rainstorm will do.

A clean RV is a happy RV.  After all, it is important for a Citizen of the Road to maintain it's hygiene.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Connected Citizen

Over the years, my wife and I have been pretty well connected - electronically that is.  Our work in technology provided incentive for us to get and stay connected.  Indeed we are the reason they have fiber on our street of our old house - it was put in to support my wife's ISDN connection - first and only (we think) installation in our neighbourhood.  That was in addition to the multiple telephone lines (all but one are now disconnected)

This has also spoiled us.  We have a high speed WiFi network at home (known as fangnet)  via aDSL, satellite T.V., mobile data though our cell phones.

So as we transition to road life, we have become aware of what the internet industry refers to as the "The Last Mile Problem".

The Last Mile is not the short walk prisoners on Death Row take to their doom, but rather that final connection between the high speed internet port and the consumer.  We still have the cell phones and the satellite TV (if you haven't seen Dish's RV deal, you should), but the high speed internet is an issue.

We need it for work and pleasure.  We've got a mobile hot spot from T-Mobile that supplements the cell phones and sort of works, but if we should stream a Netflix, that burns most of allocated data for the month.  And the other problem with mobile hot spots is that they are only as good as the surrounding cell service.  If there is a weak signal or a lot of people trying to use cellular data, things get unacceptably slow in a hurry.

Dish Network offers satellite internet - it looks very good - but it is hideously expensive - particularly at the data quantities we want.

We have not resolved the issue.  Since we are currently based predominately in Castro Valley, we have a cable modem from Comcast when we are parked.  But when we are not there...it's a problem.

There seems to be movement to solve the problem wirelessly, Google and others seem to be trying. 

We will watch them with great interest since it is important for a Citizen of the Road to be connected.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


We are now officially full timers.
It required a superhuman effort, but all of our excess belongings were disposed of in a combination of Garages Sales, Free Cycle events, one incredible “Free Day” in the garage and one call to the junk removers.

It was not easy, but I am happy to report we are still married. 

The garage sales were only moderately successful.  Things I thought wouldn’t sell, did.  Things I thought would sell, didn’t.  Price did not seem to be a factor.  Indeed most of the garage sales, I was giving away stuff.  I unloaded a bunch of free baseball stuff on a darling little boy that walked up with his dad.  I’m not sure he knew what hit him.

The “Free Day” was pretty wild.  We put notice of that up on Craigslist and as we opened at 10AM.  At 10:01, this car roars up and a guy jumps and starts grabbing things.  It kind of went down hill from there.   Fortunately I had the presence of mind to put away things we didn’t want give away earlier. 

And the last of it got piled in the drive way and we paid the guy to come pick it up.

I am still not happy about the amount of crap a) in storage and b) in the motorhome – I think further culling will be necessary.

Though it was very painful, I am now greatly relieved.  I believe that we had become “slaves to our stuff” and I spent an inordinate amount of time culling, carrying and packing “stuff”.  I will not have fond memories of the collection of stuff, though I do have fond memories of individual pieces of stuff.

Post Junk

We had long ago – long before we purchased the Itasca and set our move out date, booked a cruise on Princess.  During the stuff shedding process, I was very vocal about cancelling the cruise and staying to work on the house.

I’m glad we didn’t.

Even though we were totally exhausted the day before the Cruise, the cruise a) set a hard deadline and b) gave us some needed respite.  We slept through most of the first day of the Cruise.  After a week on the boat, we were still a bit sore, but refreshed with a new positive outlook.

But there is still some aftermath to deal with.  There is some additional work on the house – even though the tenants have moved in – that will need to be done.  And one nasty side effect of the push to move to the Itasca, is that the Itasca is not currently movable.  We just crammed and jammed stuff into the Itasca that will need to be adjusted, repacked, packaged etc over the next couple of weekends.

I need to do that before our shake down cruises – we have two planned:  One to Joes Truck Stop to weigh in and one with friends Bill and Diane who are also becoming full timers.  The “Maiden Voyage” however will probably have to wait until this summer – most likely to Grand Canyon/Williams AZ.
So far, it has not been a whole lot of fun being a citizen of the road.


Friday, February 13, 2015


Road people usually have some fixed base of operations.  After all, our road homes do not have unlimited storage.   Some people maintain thier old house - known as a Sticks and Bricks (S&B) - some do not, opting instead for storage lockers, kids garages or casitas.

So we were presented with the dilemma of what to do.  We bought the RV with the understanding between us, that we would live in it.  We were not about to buy an RV and let it rot in storage.

We will maintain the old house.  Mail, packages, absentee ballots, Juror summons etc will continue to go to our current abode, where my middle daugher is  keeper of homestead in our absence.  However while middle daughter becomes the "Creature in the Basement" (obscure reference to an utter horrid made-for-tv movie), and hosts her parents, the upper part will be rented out, contributing to our cash flow - maybe help pay for the motorhome.

But to do all this requires disposing of 25+ years of accumulated ...ummmm...stuff.  I've already disposed of my beloved radios (R-390A/URR and Heath HW-16), Claire finally went through her 3rd grade class notes.

We decided that we will store very little.  Pictures will be scanned.  Extras, collectables, precious things we have gathered will be a) sold at the garage sale, b) disbursed to family that wants them, c) donated, d) freelisted and e) taken to the dump.  My professional books will go to work where they will stay until I retire or the boot me out - at which time I will pass them out to my colleagues.
Our furniture has been described as being from the "Early Dormitory" collection, so there is no great loss there.   But we have hundreds - maybe thousands - of books we will need to dispose of.  Very few books will go into the RV.  Kindles are much more compact.

But we've only scratched the surface.   And there is a lot more pain to come.   I really don't want to get rid of a lot this stuff.

There are some things that we must store and a few (very few) things we with which we cannot part.  My first rifle - no value to anyone but me.  Some things from my mother I am holding for my niece.  I'm not sure yet what Claire will store.

Since I am a landlord (how do you think we are paying for this?), I will store the tools I use to turn property around.

I didn't know becoming a Citizen of the Road would be this painful.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Best Laid Plans....

Never say never...

I had a lot of experience with RVs as a boy.

Not all good experiences...

My parents owned a 28 foot Prowler travel trailer for a while.

I hated that Prowler for simply what it did to the ride on tow car.  We had a big Buick station wagon that we used for towing.  It was always overheating, the ride with that equalizing hitch was incredibly bad.  After the Arab Embargo hit, we never took it out again.   I think Dad finally let it go for payments.

My grandparents had both a truck camper (class D?) which they wrecked shortly after getting it (it was top heavy) and 28 foot Winnebago Class A - which I totally adored.

This led me, as an adult, to a aborted attempt to own a old Crossroads Class-A (never took it anywhere - just spent money on it and finally gave up) and then a 1990 Fleetwood Southwind 30E. 

I lived in the Southwind for 2 years while working a remote location.  I would go home for most weekends and return to home-away-from-home during the week.  It was very comfortable for me.  It was sadly lost in 2013.

But during that time, I learned a lot about RVs and what I needed in them.  For example I learned that levelers are not a luxury, but a necessity.

 So I had scoped out a fifth wheel, which looked to meet our needs.  The fifth wheel is a very stable trailer and had the advantage that tow vehicle can double as a run around car.

It made imminent sense to me and the Spousal unit.  We went so far as to identify a brand and a model line for the fifth wheeler.

Then came the Pleasanton RV Show...

While we were on our way to look at the Fifth Wheelers, the female member of the team, Claire, took a side trip to look at the Motorhomes.

Every once in a while you run into an RV that sings to you.  An Itasca Suncruiser 37F started singing to Claire.  We went back and looked at it near the end of the show and it was singing louder.  We went home and talked it out - madly researched it and went back to show the next day.   It was singing in harmony, with great gusto.

We knew about what they were selling for and we set a price.  Claire opened negotiations and I excused myself and went and sat in new Airstream with a TV tuned to the football playoffs.   She called me after 1/2 a football game to sign the papers.

We are now the proud owners of a 2015 Itasca Suncruiser 37F and are on the way to becoming Citizens of the Road.