Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shopping - Getting Ready Part II

We will be picking up the Roadtrek in two weeks and we realized that there are things that we will need for that first night. An RV is like a home and like every new house or apartment moved into there is a need to set up housekeeping. We were in Pennsylvania for the day (for my birthday) and we took a shopping list that we have been putting together for months with us to purchase some of the things we need - or don't need - to get hooked up at a campground and comfortable for the night.

Why Pennsylvania? There are few places near us in NY to buy RV specific things and we do not like to shop on the Internet. I like to look at the item and hold it in my hand before I decide to purchase it - even if it is something that I am going to need to purchase anyway. Even stores that are in NY that are also in PA seem to carry a lot more variety of things than they do in NY including Walmart. One of the things that you see a lot more of are things for RV's. And besides, I like Pennsylvania. So we were going anyway - and would be in those stores anyway, so we have been holding off looking for things until we got there.

Since we made the decision to purchase the Roadtrek I have been doing research as to what is necessary. Along the way I have learned many things about how to hook up and what is involved in maintaining and staying in an RV. Some of this involves hooking up the water that comes into the RV. Some of this involves getting the electrical connections made so that you have 110 volt power. And some of this involves getting what you have put down the sink and the toilet back out again and away to where it needs to go. So we needed electrical connections and various plumbing connections, all specific to an RV or travel trailer. We also knew that we would need to make up the beds in some manner to sleep on that first night, and we figured that we might as well get what we will need for that rather than piece it together from linens in the house.

To hook up the electricity, what I have learned it that you need to do more than just take the plug from the long electrical cord connected to the RV and plug it into the electrical box at the pad at the campsite. The power for the Roadtrek is 30 amps maximum. Your home outlets are generally 15 amps with a maximum of 20 amps. The plug for a 30 amp outlet is a large round plug with three, large, oddly directed prongs. If you want to connect this RV to the power outlet at your home you need a converter plug to size the 30 amps plug to a 15 amp socket (your standard three prong house plug/socket). According to a book I have read and many questions that have been asked by RV neophytes like me and others and answered by much more experienced RVers, there is no problem connecting a 30 amp RV to a 15 or 20 amp circuit - you will only draw as much current as there is available. AND - get this - there is no problem connecting a 30 amp RV to a 50 amp circuit (used for much larger RVs). The 30 amp RV has circuitry and devices that will only draw 30 amps without damage to the RV. I have also learned that when you get to a campground you need to test the outlet BEFORE you plug into it to make sure it has correct polarity and the correct voltage flowing through it - 110 to 120 volts. Apparently, not intentionally, but not all campsite outlets are in the best of condition and it is not uncommon to find a problem outlet. So in the event that the 30 amp outlet is bad, you could use the 50 amp outlet - provided you have the correct adapter plug. Following me here - it does get involved. So, of course, what do I need to buy - a variety of adapters and electrical test equipment. Sure, after spending all that on the RV, you don't want to mess up the electrical circuits, right - so you just have to spend a little more. Some Walmarts in NY have the adapter plugs but not one has all of those needed at the same time - so that was on the list for Pennsylvania. A voltmeter is needed to check that the 110-120 volts is flowing through the outlet. That is not easy to find. Mostly it has to come from an RV store. There is a device that does the same thing and more called a Kill-A-Watt. These are used by many homeowners to see how much electricity different appliances use. I was told that it will also tell me the line voltage so I had been looking for that near home. The only model I could find in the local home stores was the more advanced model and I really wanted the basic one, so that was on the list for PA also. The polarity tester I could get anywhere - but what the heck - it was on the list for PA as well.

I also needed a water hose. The RV has a water inlet connection that has a garden hose connector on it and at the campground there is a hose spigot to attach to. Well, that should be simple. There are garden hoses anywhere. BUT- you will be drinking this water and regular garden hoses contain lead in the connections and in the hose material to keep it from being damaged by the UV rays of the sun. So you cannot use a household garden hose - unless you want to find out what lead poisoning is like. You must get a special "white" hose - and yes, the color of the hose is white with, sometimes, blue lines on it. This RV hose is safe to drink from. (Something to remember the next time you send your kids to take a drink from the backyard hose.) The hose(s) were on the list too. And in case you are not so sure about the quality of the water coming into that hose, you can get a water filter that connects to the hose connection. Might as well. And oh yes, the water pressure coming from the campground spigot might be too forceful so you need a special pressure regulator connection too. On the list...

This brings us to the waste disposal part of what is necessary - and, thankfully, very little is required to add to what is included with the RV. What I did see on a few campground listings is that they require a "donut". This is a rubber ring that creates a tight seal between your dump hose and the dump hole in the ground (actually, a wide pipe sticking up). Not sure if we will need that or not, but it is on the list.

Add to the list some normal things - four flat sheets (fitted sheets will not fit), pillows, pillow cases, and bedbug cases for the pillows because we don't take any chances. Then my wife decided that she would like to have some containers to hold food items in the closets like cereal, etc. After a long discussion about mice and the like and what is necessary to keep them out as best as possible. Airtight containers are a must and ones that can take some bouncing around. So with a bit of convincing, my good wife set out to look for containers that she likes that will fit in the limited cabinet space that there is. All of this and a bit more was on her list...

We did not spend the day shopping. We have learned in the last two plus years of not traveling overnight how to cram as much as we can into one short day - and it takes four hours to get to PA. We arrived around 2:30 and spent some time in some of our favorite places to visit. We drove through the farm roads. I purposely drove past the RV park that we will be staying at for the night that we pick up the Roadtrek. It is open now for the season again. All looked well - as it had when I drove past last Fall. We also went to take a look at another RV park that I knew as a local attraction many years ago and is now an RV campground. This one caused some concern because as we looked at the few RVs and trailers staying there, none looked to be level. All seemed to slant either up or down. Not a preferred thing to have where you spend the night in your RV.

Before dinner in probably my most favorite restaurant - an object of the trip to celebrate my birthday - we stopped in a local store nearby - a small country version of a department store. I knew that there was a good possibility that I would find some of the things on my list. Sure enough they had the Kill-A-Watt model that I wanted and the price was reasonable. Looking in the camping department, there was a small section of RV related items. There were 12 volt light bulbs - don't need any of those now, but will at some point I am sure. There was also a small bubble level that clearly showed all four directions that the RV could be off. What the heck, for four bucks, event though it was not on the list - I grabbed it. There were a few things that my wife looked for but did not find them. We were both surprised as this store has things that we usually cannot find anywhere else. You know those things that you say, I really could use X and then find out that you are behind ten or twenty years and X does not exist anymore - until you get to his store and surprise! there is X - new and still manufactured. We left the store to have my birthday dinner.

Dinner was great and could not be beat! After a look through the gift shop - most of the restaurants here have gift shops - we headed for one of the two Walmarts that we know are well-stocked in this area. It was 8:30 pm when we left for the store, list in pocket.

We arrived at the store and I said, let's do this in an organized way. We took a shopping cart and headed for the automotive section where the RV things are. There was a large full counter of shelves full of things for RV - unlike the small section of shelves (shelf?) at the local Walmart. There were all three adapter plug cords. There were the water hoses - we placed a ten foot one and a twenty five foot long one in the shopping cart. There was the water pressure regulator and the water filter. All went into the cart. I looked at all of these cords and suggested that we add a plastic box to the list to store them in. The rubber donut seal was out of stock. There was the box they should be in but it was empty. Ok. Off to look for more.

Next we went to the electrical department for the polarity tester. They were out of it. It must have been a busy day. Then off to the linen department with a stop off along the way to pick up a plastic box for the power supplies.

The linen department was a big disappointment. No flat white sheets at all. A selection of pillows but there were only three of the four we needed. They had others but each had something we did not like about it. My wife was concerned as the local NY Walmarts also had no stock on flat white sheets. Not to worry I said, there is another Walmart here. We will just go there next. It was after 10:30 pm at the time. We picked up a few more items including a set of seal airtight plastic storage containers.

While late night at 24 hour Walmarts should be relatively empty late at night, that is generally not the case. There are people in the store shopping. But there generally are only one or two cash registers open. There was a long line at the register. We waited until it was our turn and started to check out. The man at the cash register made a comment at the RV things we were buying. He "fulltimes" in a Fifth-wheel RV. That means he lives in the RV with his family full time. A fifth-wheel is like a trailer that is attached to the flatbed of a pick up truck. They are generally not that large. He liked it. He asked about our RV and he commented with a smile that we will find that we don't need some of what we are buying. But then he said, but maybe you will...

We left the store and it was almost 11 pm. Oh by the way when we got outside, it was pouring rain. The rain did stop as we were driving. We got to the other Walmart and went for what we were missing that was on the list. We were only able to get the polarity tester. Everything else here was out of stock. My wife was concerned and I said that since we had to go back to where the other Walmart is to buy gas and it is next to the road that we need to get to the turnpike we would go back. She could at least pick one of the better of the rejected pillows. Ok - we headed back.

She went into the store and I don't know why but I waited in the car. It seemed like forever. She called me on my cell phone and told me that she came upon a woman who was stocking shelves and asked about the sheets and pillows. Now, unlike at home, this employee said that she would actually go to the stock room to find out if there were any more. Off she went and came back with a carton of more pillows and a carton of sheets. My wife had her pick and got everything she wanted. This would not happen in the Walmart or any store near us in NY.

By then I went in to meet her and we went to the cash register. Now, at Walmart at midnight - every cash register shuts down and then must be reopened for the new day. This happens at all 24 hour Walmarts without fail. And it was five minutes to Midnight as we got on the single line. Too late. At the stroke of Midnight the closing crews came out and the registers shut down for about ten minutes or so. It was well after 12:30 am before we got back into the car.

We started home. This was a night when we really needed the Roadtrek. It was 4 am when we got home. All in all, a fun day! Really!

Oh, and reservations for our first campground have been made. We are all set for the day of delivery...


  1. Our travel trailer was demolished by a drunk driver (no injuries, thank the Lord) right after we got it but we just couldn't give up our dream of "travel and adventure", so we've been car camping for a bit.

    We are now seriously considering a Roadtrek and I have to admit, I had forgotten most of what you just mentioned. It *is* still an RV requiring proper preparation!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I didn't realize that the 24 hours Walmart's close the registers at midnight. Good to know ... I'll plan my visits accordingly. I gather that you have stayed overnight at a Walmart?? I have stayed at many during my brief travels to date. No problems ... only encountered a couple where there was no overnight parking. I wound up in the parking lot of a church overnight instead. :)

    1. We have not overnighted in a Walmart yet. We do find ourselves there late night when we travel for a variety of reasons. One is that I like to exercise at night - at least walk - as part of my regimen to deal with my Diabetes, especially while traveling and eating a little more than usual in restaurants. So when there is no place else to go walking, we go to the 24 hour Walmart and walk around the store. We are also late night people and just don't want to go to sit and watch TV all night while traveling. So we find places to walk - Williamsburg is easy, as we can walk the mile long street late at night - and that is fun too!