Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting Ready

When we started looking for an RV or trailer we were very much aware that whatever we purchased we would have to be able to keep on our driveway or have a place to store when we were not using it. One of the reasons we ruled out a travel trailer was the local ordnance that requires that it must be kept behind the house-line of the property. The other reason is that no matter how much I want to learn, I just cannot get the hang of backing up a trailer to where I need it to go. Even the small trailers that we looked at were too large to fit from the front of our house on our driveway to the garage that sits at the end of our driveway and just in front of the rear of our house. We looked at local storage rates and we could rent an apartment for what some of these storage centers wanted per month to keep the trailer. One of the things that attracted us about the Roadtrek - or any Class B RV is that it looks like a passenger van and is not any longer than an extended passenger van. At first glance from the outside no one would know that it is anything else - and it would fit on the back of our driveway next to the house and only extend out a foot or two onto the rest of the driveway. Well, it would fit with one small problem.

When we purchased our house we liked that there were two chainlink fence gates that crossed the driveway at about the house-line and cut off the house's side entrance and the garage from the front of the driveway. At one point we had a circular driveway put in to avoid backing into the large avenue that we live on and with that we replace the chainlink fence with a white picket vinyl fence. We replaced the gates also with the equivalent in white vinyl. The left side of that gate stuck into the width of the driveway about two and a half feet. And that was just enough to make pulling the Roadtrek into the part of the driveway where it would have to go just too tight - especially if we ever would like access our side door - the door we most use as our entrance to the house - again. So the fence gates would have to go! Not a problem - I thought!Before - side opposite to the side that had to be removed. Both looked the same at the start.

I figured that it would be no big deal. After all it was a vinyl fence - plastic. Plastic breaks, if nothing else, easily right? Well, I went out and tried to pull the cap off the post that gate was attached to. It would not come off, so I went to one of the other posts and gave a yank. With a small effort it lifted off and I looked inside. Not a problem! The post was hollow. Surely, the post that I needed to remove would be just the same. I got a block of wood and a hammer and started to hit the side of the cap on the post I needed to see inside of. With a few hits, it started to lift and I looked inside. Oh boy. It was not only filled to the top with cement, but the former metal post that supported the chainlink gate sat in the middle of the cement and down into the ground. It also looked like the vinyl post had attached itself tightly to the cement as well. There would be no pulling that up like a sleeve once I got the rest of the fence detached, as had been my plan.

So what to do. I went out to the Internet and started looking at ways to cut cement. Now, it seems like every project I start out to do I discover that there is one more saw that I do not own. I recently bought a reciprocating saw (like a sawz-all) that I never thought that I would need to cut off some branches on a large and overgrown holly bush that flourishes in my front garden. As I seem to be allergic to holly when it comes into contact with my bare skin (something I learned the hard way turning holly wood on my lathe), that project turned out to be an experience. I thought that perhaps I could use this saw to both cut the concrete and the metal pipe. While it should cut the metal without much of a problem, there did not seem to be a blade for it to cut concrete. Recommendations seemed to be a grinder with a cement cutting blade followed by a metal cutting blade ending with a metal grinding wheel to flatten the remaining pipe flush with the ground. I watched some You-Tube videos of the use of one of these, watched sparks flying everywhere and the control that seemed to be required to keep one of these in one's hands without doing great harm to one's self and got a bit leery.

I asked a friend what he would do. He is the type of guy who does physical things - with much more ease that I can. He suggested going at the cement with a sledge hammer and then cutting the pipe off at the base. Hmm. OK. Safer, but that plastic fence post around the cement was going to make cracking the cement even with a sledge hammer a tough job.

I decided to get started and see what would happen. I was able to easily unscrew the two gates from the posts. Only the left post was a problem. The right post could stay just as it was and the far left post - that did not stick into the driveway could stay as well. It was just the left post that the gate was attached to that had to be removed. I took my reciprocating saw and tried to cut off the fence portion from that post. I started the cut flush with the post. As soon as I passed through the plastic the cut stopped. The blade hit concrete. I had to move beyond the first picket to be able to cut through both the top and the bottom cross pieces of the fence. With that cut and a few cuts next to the other post (which was not filled with concrete) the fence came away and the two posts remained. I peered down at the concrete and top of the metal fence post. I took my shop hammer an whacked. It bounced nicely back up and did not bother the concrete at all.

I had a thought. I got out my crow bar. I put it under the post and hit in with the hammer. It seemed to go between the concrete and the asphalt on the driveway. I gave a lift and the concrete post and metal post inside seemed to move about a quarter inch. It went back down when I removed the tool. I tried this several times and did get a bit of movement, but that metal post was certainly cemented below ground as well. No hits to the top of the plastic was bothering the concrete any at the top of the post. I took a cold chisel - never had any use for it in
the twenty or so years that I have owned it and tried that with the hammer on the top of the concrete. Nothing- a little dust and a few marks. I tried the crowbar and the hammer at the top and found that the vinyl could separate from the concrete but that did not get me far.I then took the saw and cut two parallel cuts down the back of the plastic post about two inches apart. There was a space of about four inches from the top of the post to where the concrete started. What the heck, maybe I could get the crowbar down and bust the vinyl post off the concrete. That worked. It took a lot of effort and a few more cuts as I went down the post but I was able to break all of the vinyl post away - in many pieces but it was gone. Now I was left with a column of concrete with a metal pole going down the middle and two remaining pieces of the plastic fence crossbar with concrete inside.

I gave a few smacks with the hammer again and the cement just looked back at me and I swear it smiled. I took the cold chisel and placed it on the top of the column and hit it with the hammer. A few shards came away. My wife who is "always right" said that I should do this on the opposite corner as the metal pole seemed to be closer to the edge there and indeed the metal pole did seem to be coming up through the cement on an angle. I put the chisel next to the metal pole in that spot and against the concrete and whacked. A chunk game off. "So, I was right," she said. I proceeded to do the same and bit by bit chunks started to come off. When the chisel did not seem to do the job any longer, the edge of the crow bar did. Each time I hit the end of either the chisel or the crow bat with the hammer. Some resulted in small pieces of concrete coming away and some resulted in large chunks falling off. I worked my way around the pole and down.

I was using my shop hammer - a rather good one. My wife was concerned that I would ruin it and at one point suggested that we go an buy another hammer. As the time was now past five in the afternoon, I said that we would do that tomorrow if we did not finish the job. I kept at the column with the chisel, the crowbar and the hammer. I kept coming to points where no matter how hard I hit or where I placed the chisel or crowbar, nothing would come off. There were just dents in the top of the cement. I kept at it and then another small chunk would fall, and a few more hits would result in a large piece coming away. By this time it was, just one more large piece and we quit for the night - but I kept on until I hit a spot about halfway down the pole that no matter how hard I hit - nothing would come off any longer. That was the point that I stopped. I had been working at this for almost three and a half hours. There it was about 18" of concrete with a metal pole sticking up out of the middle.

The next day we went to buy a larger hammer. Recently, a Harbor Freight store opened near by. Before this the closest Harbor Freight store was a state away. I bought a three pound sledge that came to an angle on the back and had a foot long handle. I looked at the large sledge hammers with the long handles and tried lifting one. I barely could get it up off the display shelf and went right back to the smaller hammers. Anticipating the need to cut the metal pole when the cement was finally gone I also bought a set of saw blades that said that they would cut metal, stone, cement, brick, and wood. I had not seen such blades before and for $10 for the set (and a 20% off coupon) it was a must buy.

We got home - my shoulder was still sore from the day before - I got my new hammer and and took a whack at the plastic piece still attached to the side filled with cement. The cement disintegrated and the plastic broke. Hmm. I went to the top of the cement and whacked. Nothing. I used the point at the back of the hammer and swung hard and a large chunk came off. Hmm. I kept whacking up and down the column switching from the face of the sledge to the point. In about twenty minutes the last piece of cement came away from the bottom of the pole. It was done - at least the cement was gone. Now I had to cut the pole.

I went into my workshop and looked at the new blades that I bought and then looked at another blade that I had. I had not realized that the blade said "bi-metal" on it and this should cut the metal pole. Perhaps I would not need the new blades after all. I installed this blade into the reciprocating saw.

I saw a video on the Internet that showed cutting with this saw flush. It said hold the blade to the ground and let the saw bend the end up to clear so that it will cut. OK. Let's see. I started the saw, held the blade on the ground against the metal, raised the saw up slightly and started it. The blade began to cut. It went in less than half an inch through and then the cutting seemed to stop. My wife decided that I should move around the pipe with the saw so I tried that. It cut again but then stopped again without much progress. I worked at it some more but the cut was getting no bigger. I looked at the saw blade and most of the teeth were gone. I moved the blade to a spot with teeth and tried again. The cutting started again but then stopped again. More teeth were gone. Obviously, this was not the blade to be using. I got out the new blades, picked a six inch long one and put it in the saw. The blade started to cut but I only got about halfway into the pole. I hit the pole with the sledge hammer to open the cut and it bent enough for the cut to be easily accessed. I started again but was not getting very far and this blade looked like it was wearing down. I took a longer blade from the package and tried the cut. This time, I kept at it with steady pressure on the blade in the cut slot. It took about ten minutes but the pole got to the point where another small cut and it would fall. And so it did. To our surprise, the base of the pipe remaining in the ground was filled with cement. We looked at the bottom of the pipe and that was filled with cement also. It was not the metal grinding away all of the teeth on that first metal blade - it was the cement. It was lucky that the blades that I bought were good for both metal and stone.

The edges of the stump of pipe in the ground were sharp. I tried hitting the edge down with the hammer and it did not fully do the job to rid the sharp edge. I did not want anything ripping up my new Roadtrek's tires. I have used my shop stationary belt sander to grind metal so I decided that if that would work, then my hand belt sander should work as well. It marginally smoothed down some of the metal edge. The sledge worked better and I kept going at the edge all around until it was relatively smooth and down. There was still a five by five inch hole around the pole in crumbled asphalt and that would need filling.

At least the cement and metal pole were gone. A job that I did not think that I was going to be able to do. Later we went to the local home stores - actually both of the large home store companies looking for asphalt patch. One store had nothing. The other did have a bucket of patch that was perfect for the job - but the directions said that it must be 65 degrees F or warmer to apply it. This cold day at the end of March it was about 40 degrees. Last week we had some days of warm weather but those seem gone for awhile with forecasts in the forties. It seems like it will be forever before it gets to be 65 degrees again. By then it is likely that the Roadtrek will have arrived. It is just wait and see now...

But at least that pole is gone!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Roadtrek is at the Dealer!

We received a call today from the dealer. The Roadtrek has arrived. The refrigerator should be there by the end of the week. Installation will follow. Delivery to us will not be for a few weeks yet due to schedules there.

This is ahead of the six weeks delivery time that we were told by the dealer and by Roadtrek, but Roadtrek had told me that if they had all of the various components on hand or a van that matched the specs then it could be less than six weeks.

It is all very exciting and a bit frightening too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why an RV?

For many the decision to go out and look at and eventually purchase an RV is made because of a love of camping, a desire to travel without high hotel costs, or a quest for the open road - go where you want and when you want - bringing your living quarters with you. For most it is an option to other methods of travel. For us now, (and four years ago if you told me I would be looking at an RV I would have told you that would never happen) it is a necessity.

I have been traveling with my family since I was a baby. Every year we would go on a summer vacation. As I got older, I began to travel this same way with my wife. In my entire life - until two years ago - there was never a year that I was not traveling somewhere overnight, a weekend, or for a length of time. We would always stay at motels and hotels. All of my trips but two were by car. My wife and I started traveling this way (don't tell her mother) before we got married.

I tend to find places that I have been before more comfortable than "new" places, so our trips would tend to repeat - always finding new things to see and do, but there are just some places that my year is not complete if I have not been back to - some of those several times in a year.

All of this changed two years ago. We discovered that there were bed bugs in our house. Where they came from we do not know. It is likely a hotel room that we had stayed in. These creatures find their way into luggage, clothing, etc. and travel to wherever you go next, and next, and next until you get back home and they make their way out and into your house.

Bed bugs have been around since the beginning of time. They exist by feeding off of human and animal blood. They are engineered to do this and nothing else. They have two skin piercing tubes in their head - one contains an anesthesia which is injected into your skin and the other is inserted right next to that first puncture to suck out blood. As they draw your blood into their bodies they grow larger and then travel quickly off before you can be aware that they have been on you. They find humans by the carbon dioxide that you breathe out. They are thought to come out only at night but they have been observed in the day light as well.

Bed bugs were just an accepted way of life until the end of World War II when it was discovered that the pesticide DDT would kill them. In fact, it worked so well that it wiped these creatures out from most modern societies completely. This lasted until government regulations decided that DDT was dangerous to the environment. Another chemical took it place in the 1970's and that continued to be effective to keep bed bugs away from the US, Canada, Europe, and many countries. That is until some government agency decided to ban that chemical pesticide and there is nothing to take its place. It is thought that the bed bug came back to the US through some traveler coming into the US from a Third World country. Bed bugs multiply exponentially and two will beget thousands. And then they spread and continue to increase. In the past several years in the US and other countries around the world bed bugs are infesting homes, hotels, playhouses, places where people sleep and then move on in epidemic proportions. They are especially rampant in the Northeast, though there are major infestations reported in the mid-west, the south, the west, the middle-Atlantic. Really it is across the country.

Not to disgust you any but to put our decision into prospective it is important to know what happens when you have them in your house. The will live inside mattresses, pillows, inside walls, under furniture, behind furniture, in closets, etc. They exist in three stages. As eggs they look like a white crust that has been smeared on a flat surface. Hundreds of eggs are laid in a line, several lines together. Once they hatch they are about the size of a poppy seed. As they feed and get older they grow to the size of a sesame seed - some larger. Up close they look like a beetle with various coloring though most commonly they are brown with mottled stripes on top. And under their heads there are the two tubes. I already described how they bite. Once they are full of blood they return to where they are dwelling. As they move they leave behind streaks of fresh blood - your blood - as well as streaks of black excrement of digested blood. This is most often how you will know that they are in your house. You will find these marks on your sheets, on your pajamas, and on your walls. While the bite is painless at first, some people are allergic to the bites and the person can react in a way that will require hospitalization - this allergic reaction can be fatal as any allergic reaction can be. There are some people who have no response what so ever to a bed bug bite and will never know it bit them. And then there are people like my wife and myself who will show a red mark on the skin where bitten - actually two red spots next to each other (remember the two tubes) - and these marks will swell and begin to itch. Because you are bitten so frequently you become over sensitive with time - even to other insect bites. This over-sensitivity does not seem to go away to other bites even if the bed bugs are eliminated. No matter what you try to do to avoid being bitten, if they are there they will find a place to bite. As we waited for the treatment to our house that would kill off all of the bugs, we covered ourselves completely with clothing at night to try to minimize the skin exposed to be bitten. This included a top that fit tight around the wrists and neck, pants that closed tight around the legs, socks on the feet, and a sock covering each hand. With no way to protect our faces we were then being bitten all over our faces.

I am certain after living through this nightmare that the stories of vampires are based in bed bugs. Like the vampire they come to suck your blood at night - and leave a trail behind them.

This was not only disgusting, but it was uncomfortable as well itching from the bites. We had our house heat treated. This is the only positive way for an entire house to be treated at one time and be certain that all bugs are killed. Jet engine heaters are placed outside the house and large hoses pump heat into windows all around the house and basement. All windows to the outside are sealed with plastic around these hoses to keep the heat contained in the house. Holes are drilled into the walls so that the heat will penetrate into the inside of the walls and kill the thousands living in them. All fabric and clothing must either be hung on hangers or prior to the treatment be heated in a clothes dryer on the highest heat setting for over one hour and then placed into airtight sealed plastic bags and not opened until after the house is heated.

Our house took a day to heat - well over 16 hours. The temperature that bed bugs die at is 120 degrees F. Our house was heated to over 150 degrees F. After the treatment it took two days for the temperature inside to come down with air conditioners running to a comfortable temperature. We did have the treatment done in August so a treatment in winter might not only take longer but also would cool down faster.

All of the bed bugs were killed. How do we know? A dog told us. I should have mentioned the dog - a beagle. This dog is specially trained just like a bomb sniffing and drug sniffing dog to recognize the scent of bed bugs - they have a distinct odor. When the exterminator first came into our house before the treatment he brought the dog. The dog found bed bugs all over the house. They were also in our passenger van - the one we traveled on trips in. The dog is brought back a month after the treatment. Not only can he sniff out live bugs but he also can sniff out eggs and larvae. The house was clear - thank God.

The van had to be chemically treated. There is a commercially available chemical that will kill bed bugs but it must be applied in a sealed area and no humans can go into that area for two weeks. It will not work on a whole house, but it will work for a car or van. The van had to sit with all windows shut with strips of this chemical inside for two weeks. The dog checked the van after that too - and it was clear as well.

This entire process - including house damage and personal item loss due to the intense heat in the house - cost us just about $10,000.00. We are not rich people. We had no choice. The treatment itself is a little more than half of that - but the heat did a lot of damage including blowing out our kitchen refrigerator.

So the bugs were gone - great! But then the problems really start because the one thing that you absolutely do not want to do is bring them back. Bring one pregnant female back in or a pair and you start all over again. So you become cautious - some will say that we are overly cautious, but there is good reason to be.

We stopped traveling any place where we would need to stay over night. All of our travel entertainment was gone - or limited to where we could go and come back home in one single day trip. I love traveling. And I did not know how I would ever be able to travel again.

Until - it came to me that if we could take our home with us - how ridiculous an idea - we could travel. An RV or travel trailer could do that...

So the RV has now become a necessity - for us. Yes, there are millions of people staying in hotel rooms every night. How many come away with bed bugs? More than think they do.

An aside- the day that the house was treated we had to stay away from the house and away overnight. We were told to find a local hotel and the exterminator would come with us with the dog to check the room. He did and the room was clear. There are websites that you can go to and see bed bug reportings and spottings. People who have been to places and have encountered bed bugs list these places on sites on the internet. A week after we left that hotel - the last hotel we will likely ever have stayed in - there was a listing for that same night that we were there - same floor three rooms down the hall from where our room was - bed bugs were in that room that night. They are out there.

I am very much looking forward to traveling again. We still take precautions and I will not go into all of that here. We may seem crazy to others - especially family- but only someone who has gone through this experience this way can understand why we are now as we are. And we are not alone in this. Other RVers that I have spoken to about this understand and will not go into hotel rooms for this and many other reasons.

Perhaps someday the government will permit the use of the chemicals necessary to wipe these creatures out again 0r some scientist will find a way to eliminate them. There are world wide conferences going on all of the time. There are local governments requiring landlords and hotels to do certain things to hold back the spread, but there is nothing that can be done yet to permanently rid this menace.

In the meantime, I will have my RV and take my house with me when I travel. Thinking about these bugs again to write it makes me itch... Ycch!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our Almost Stumbling Block

I had indicated in the first article that as we were going along shopping and in planning our purchase of the Roadtrek that something happened health-wise in April 2010 that became an issue in purchasing a Roadtrek - as it comes. What I found out that April was that I had to begin a nightly insulin for my Type 2 Diabetes and the unstarted insulin pens had to be kept at about 40 degrees at all times until they were started. An insulin pen once started lasts me for about a week and a half and those can remain at room temperature. On short trips there was no problem, but on longer trips - several weeks - I would need to have several insulin pens - unstarted pens with me in the Roadtrek.

Now anyone who knows these vans will say what is the big deal. The Roadtrek comes with a refrigerator as standard equipment. And yes, that is very true, but the type of refrigerator that is standard to Class B vans and most RVs is an ammonia gas refrigerator - known as a three-way. It will run on propane, battery power from the on-board battery bank, or plugged into 110 volt AC current supplied by the campgrounds. See - three power sources - three-way. This is a problem in that it when we take the RV out to touring attractions, amusement parks, festivals, etc. we will have to have that refrigerator running all of the time when there is insulin inside. It will run fine on the propane - burning propane by the way - but the nature of the cooling mechanism on these types of refrigerator's requires that the refrigerator be kept very close to level at all time for it to work properly.

Let me explain the difference in this refrigerator to the common one that you have in your kitchen. Many, many years ago when the idea of refrigerators was new, the first refrigerators worked on a principal of the exchange of heat through heated gas - in particular and in the case of the three-way fridge - ammonia gas. There is ammonia flowing through the walls of these refrigerators and that ammonia must be hot. It is heated either electrically or by the burning propane gas. Now that is pretty much the extent of my understanding of these refrigerators in how they work and please do not ask me to explain the physics of it all. For this system to work as it is supposed to, it must be kept level for the ammonia to flow as it has to. Running on battery or electricity it still must be kept close to level. If it is not it will both not cool properly and the system will burn out eventually. Also the system will drain batteries quickly. Now, your house refrigerator runs with a condenser. There is still a substance flowing through pipes in the walls but it does not have to be heated. And it is such that it does not need to be level. A condenser refrigerator would work fine in an RV if there is sufficient battery power or you are plugged in. But at that point - way back in 2010 - I did not know if such a thing existed for an RV.

Let me throw in another issue about the 3-way and leveling the RV that would be a problem for us. We travel to a lot of places where the parking is either on a hill or you are directed into a space on a field where many cars are being parked at one time. There is no way to pick a space more level than another and no opportunity to take time to start placing blocks under tires and moving back and forth to get level. We tend to go to many places like this and this had to be a consideration for any use of the Roadtrek.

I quickly learned, through the help of some very helpful folks on an on-line RV forum, that of course such a thing existed - it is called a "two-way" and it will run on 12 volt battery power or 110 volt AC. These units are common on boats - because a boat is rarely level. And I learned that it was possible to retro-fit one into an Roadtrek where the original refrigerator goes.

At that point, I thought, problem solved. But it was not that easy. First, I could not install this myself. Second, I had to make sure that whatever dealer I went to was going to get me the refrigerator and install it - without adding more to the price of the RV than I could afford.

When we headed off to the first dealer, I presented what I wanted. A two-way to replace the three-way refrigerator in the stock Roadtrek. He was not thrown by this, but raised the concern that the battery bank might not be enough to keep the fridge running between battery recharges. He suggested adding two additional six volt "golf cart" batteries to the battery bank. (An aside, golf-cart batteries are not small as one would imagine given the size of a golf cart, in fact they are larger than car batteries. Also two 6 volt batteries of this type give longer lasting power than two 12 volt batteries of the same type.) He suggested a model AC/DC refrigerator that he could get. When I got home I looked up the specifications and found out that it was about half the size of the Roadtrek fridge and would leave a large gap in the cabinet that it would be installed into. This was not good. I had to look on my own for what would fit and not lose much if any capacity.

I discovered - again with the help of great people at - that a company called Nova Kool makes an ac/dc refrigerator that is almost an exact outer dimension match the Roadtrek's fridge with just fractions of an inch smaller difference and it has a large interior capacity. I got the model number. One of the Roadtrek owners on the forum had recorded the installation of his refrigerator in his Roadtrek in photographs and a text narrative and I printed this all out to bring to the dealers with me to show them what needed to be done and what the best way to do it is.
The second dealer, also, had no problem with the switch, told me he could install it and it would be an even exchange for the stock fridge that would come with the Roadtrek. He also suggested one 12 volt battery instead of the two sixes. Now, no one was quite sure where to put these extra batteries.

The third dealer - the dealer we purchased from - also had no problem with the plan - at first. The minor problem came later. Just before it was getting to be the time to order the Roadtrek so that we would have it in mid-April after the thaw, I started emailing in detail to the dealer about planning for the refrigerator. I explained again the suggested need for the additional battery and asked him to find out from their service center where it could be installed. He went one better than that and went directly to the Roadtrek engineers. He was told by Roadtrek - NO, NO, NO! They told him that adding batteries into the battery bank would create a fire hazard and that the existing wiring could not handle it. He told me this and I went, "Oh, boy - now what?" If the refrigerator needed that extra battery to run what were we going to do now?

Again, I went back to the forums and started asking questions. Would the two six volt AGM batteries in the Roadtrek battery bank that power the interior of the RV carry the refrigerator for a full day when parked and still be of any use to us at night if we could not use our generator or hook up to land power? I got a number of opinions and several calculations to do to figure this out. Most important I had others who have a similar set up tell me that the batteries should carry for three days. That is more than enough and my concerns were once again put to ease.

Another bump came when the dealer suggested that I should obtain the Nova Kool refrigerator on my own, have it shipped to him, and he would put it in. I started a search to find one and discovered that retailers were not anywhere near by and that dealers would ship but I would be buying something from an unknown source and if there was any problem with the unit that was sent out, it would get complicated and costly to return it for another. I contacted the Nova Kool company directly and found them to be very pleasant and cooperative. They told me that they would work with my dealer and get a unit to him without the dealer needing to open a business account with them. I put the dealer and the Nova Kool salesman together and they worked out the details to get the refrigerator. All of the parts were now in place.

When we went to order the Roadtrek I asked about the original refrigerator that was coming with the RV. I had been told that I would be credited for the unit. I was told that Roadtrek agreed to ship the RV without any refrigerator but completely prepped for one with all connections in place. The price I had now from the dealer included the credit for the original fridge. Fair enough.

We are now all set. When we are away for any extend time I can put the insulin pens in the refrigerator running on battery power while we travel and while we are parked. When we have land power we can switch it to 110 volt AC power and at the same time the batteries will recharge. The insulin will stay at the necessary below 40 degrees F - and anything that we want to remain cold in the fridge will also get the benefit. No need to level (I was not looking forward to leveling this anyway.) A permanent solution that would not take up any valuable space inside - as opposed to stand alone, 12 volt powered ice chests as some had suggested.

Several experienced RV'ers who I have told about this refrigerator are impressed by the idea. The condenser fridge cools down faster than a three-way. This all seems good!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Friday, we purchased the Roadtrek 190 Popular. The decision was 18 months in the making and very late Thursday night I turned to my good wife and said, "Are we crazy buying this thing?" I actually did not get the answer that I expected to get. I thought that I would get a quick and encouraging "not at all". What I got was a pause and a long talk followed. After a couple of trips to the calculator and another examination of our finances, along with a review of all of the positives that this would bring us - most of this from her, we went to sleep still with the intention of making the trip to Pennsylvania that morning with our check book in hand. Now, this is the second most expensive thing that either of us have ever purchased with our house being first. It is not an decision to be made lightly. Of course, there must be a loan to make this possible. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous - still am - about the whole thing.

The trip for us is often a big part of the adventure and the two hundred mile trip to the dealer was no exception. I had checked weather reports for both home and Pennsylvania for three days. There was a large rain storm on Thursday and there were flood watches for many parts of New Jersey. The route that we usually take to this area of Pennsylvania only marginally touched the areas of concern and I figured that if there was a problem my recently purchased GPS with "traffic" routing would take us around any problems that might be ahead. Let me say now that I should have left the GPS turned off.

The route we were directed on started us off as usual. One mistake that I made was that I did not review the route before we started. We crossed the bridge into New Jersey and could comfortably gone one of two ways - on the New Jersey Turnpike or up to Route 78 both of which we have driven on many times. As we approached the entrance ramp to the turnpike I expected it to tell us to move to the right to go that way. It didn't. So it would be Route 78 - that was fine too. A little further along it started to tell me to move to the left and was directing me off the large interstate that we were on. The route it was sending us to, my wife was quick to point out, was not a major road but a road with traffic lights, etc. Thinking that it was sending me around some of the problems that I was concerned we might encounter, I obeyed the command and turned off the road where directed. Silly me, I should have turned around right away and gotten back on the interstate.

The route that the GPS was following when looked at on a paper map would look to be a better way to go. It is a diagonal into Pennsylvania through New Jersey that most likely would be quicker were it not for the fact that it is a series of roads through towns, traffic stops, traffic circles, and one lane roads. And all with speed limits below 45 miles per hour. The GPS also could not know that these roads would more than have its share of drivers who had some need to drive significantly slower than the speed limit, especially where the roads went down to one lane. Not to mention, that the route was taking us right through the towns with flood warnings and along the edge of rivers that were cresting and rising from the heavy rain that was overflowing the banks. Had we never been to the area of Pennsylvania that we were heading for and had we followed this same route - we might have considered one of those other dealers. Even with the GPS we had a few wrong turns and, of course, there was a bit of exciting language coming from me along the way. We did eventually get there but with the excitement and anxiety of what we were about to do, we could have used a more calming trip.

We went into the dealer and looked for the sales manager. The new salesman who we only know through our email contacts back and forth was not going to be there. We knew in advance that we would be dealing with the sales manager who we had met the first time that we visited the dealership and also had made given us the price quote. We encountered a salesman who asked if he could help us and we asked for the sales manager. He looked toward where he should be and he was not there. He would find him for us.

Right there was a Roadtrek 190 Versatile amongst the trailers and pop ups. We were told that the sales manager would be back to his desk in a few minutes so we went over to the Roadtrek and went inside.

Each time I go into a Roadtrek I am struck by how small it actually is inside - and each time this is a surprise to me. For some reason, I remember it being larger or at least seeming larger. It really is small - though the Versatile with its arrangement of four seats in the front with everything condensed toward the back is smaller toward the rear and gives a tighter feeling. Hmm, I thought. It was still not too late to change my mind... No, I realized that once it was mind I could make it my own - and like any new place that one moves into, it will take time to get used to. The sales manager came looking for us and told us that he was finishing with another customer and perhaps we should meet with the business manager about the finance application. He went off to get him and we went back inside the Roadtrek.

We opened the bathroom cabinet doors and looked inside. Hmm, smaller than I remembered. Sufficient for its purpose, though. I opened storage cabinets. We looked for the electrical outlets that we had not thought to look for before. There were two near the bed, two in the cabinet where the television and DVD player connect. I know that there are people who full time in one of these. For us it will be a place to sleep while touring at all of the places that we love to go to and some new places that would not have been possible before. The excitement started to grow.

The business manager found us inside and we got out and accompanied him to his desk. We had filled in the paperwork at home and brought it with us. He entered everything into his computer and sent it into the bank. There did not seem to be any problem. He told us that in an hour he would have a rate for us.

We were now ready for the moment of truth and the sales manager was waiting. We went over to his desk. It all seemed to happen very quickly. There was nothing really to discuss. We went through some small talk - I found out that the original salesman was alive and well - good - and that he was selling furniture now instead of RVs. We looked over the sales agreement and my wife wrote a check for a down payment. We both signed on the lines - owner and co-owner. And it was done. The actually process took all of two minutes.

The Roadtrek will be ordered now by the dealer and it will come from Roadtrek in about six weeks. Just in time for the warm weather (I hope) and a chance to test it out for a day in Pennsylvania at a campground in Lancaster so that if there we find any problems are get confused by anything we can easily go back to the dealer the next day for adjustments.

Before we left the dealership we went through his RV store - the first one we ever really had a chance to look around in and saw all types of things to buy. We did not buy anything. We left and headed to some of our Pennsylvania haunts and spent the rest of the day. We had a good dinner and headed back to home late - by way of our usual and comfortable route.

So it is now done. We own a Roadtrek - at least we will own a Roadtrek when it is delivered. I must say that my excitement is well mixed with anxiety. And the next morning I awoke with a lot of questions that I started to worry about - which my wife had answers for when I told her later.

While we are waiting for delivery in the next six weeks I will write a few more articles and fill you all in on some of the details.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

About to Purchase

The photograph at the top of this page is a Roadtrek 190 Popular (sometimes referred to by those in the "know" as an RT190P). A year and a half ago I had never heard of a Roadtrek and a year and a half ago I had never heard of a class of RVs called Class B. A Class B RV is a stock van from one of the large automakers - now usually Chevy, Ford, or Mercedes - that has the inside of the van striped away, the floor lowered and the roof raised with a cap. Inside of that the RV manufacturer adds a bed, a toilet, a shower, and a kitchen. Yes, all of that inside the van. The result is an RV no larger than a standard van. Some are made a bit wider and some are made a bit longer - but overall these can drive easily wherever a stock van with the exception of the height. The height if eight feet and nine inches tall, which can be a problem on roads with low clearance over-passes.

We are about to purchase one of these. We have been "about to purchase" one for about a year now. Before that for six months we were "looking to purchase" one. We first learned about Roadtreks and Class B RVs on the Internet (where else?). We watched all of the videos on the Roadtrek web site and really liked what we saw. There is a smaller model than the 190 - a 170 and in the video that looked just fine for the two of us. It happened that soon after there was an RV show not too far away - about 75 miles and we took a drive to go and see one in person. At this show there would be a Roadtrek dealer and a Pleasureway dealer (another Class B company). This was great as we could see them all at the same time and make comparisons. (Something that I highly recommend when deciding what you want.)

When we got to the show I found out that videos and photographs can be made to show things much larger than they really are (something I suppose porn stars have an appreciation for). There was a Roadtrek 170 on the display floor. We went inside and I quickly found out that while it looked just as the video and photos showed - the size was a lot smaller in person. I was so uncomfortable inside that I had to get out rather quickly. My heart sank a bit because I was really hoping that the Class B would be the answer that we were looking for.

For a reason that I will not go into here but may in a later article, if we were ever going to travel again we needed an RV or trailer. I have had experience towing a utility trailer and I do not like towing. Many can easily maneuver a trailer in reverse. I cannot and it causes me a great deal of anxiety now to try and do so - I had a real bad experience getting one stuck in deep mud in the process which when looking back is a very amusing story but still one that I don't like to recall. So the answer to 0ur need was to be an RV - one that would drive like a truck or car - and due to restrictions where we live could be parked on our driveway without causing concern of the neighbors or the local ordinances. The Class B would be perfect for us.

I walked over to another model on the display floor, a 190 Popular. This is built on a larger van body than the 170 and had more room inside. Not a lot more room but enough room to not feel claustrophobic. I have driven 15 passenger vans and for a short time I drove one of the small school buses. I drive a small van as one of our two cars and I could see that driving the Roadtrek was not going to be a challenge for either me or my wife - who is very comfortable driving our van. The price was a bit more than the 170 but not that much more. It is a somewhat less than other larger models of Roadtreks. I should say here that the price of these things is very high. Some are more than the much larger RVs - some rival the bus-like Class A's in price.

We got to compare the Roadtrek to the Pleasureway at that show. We liked the Roadtrek better. I was not comfortable in the Pleasureways built on Chevy vans - and the Roadtrek 170 and 190 are also built on Chevy vans - but I got the same claustrophobic feeling in the Chevy-based Pleasureway as I had in the Roadtrek 170. I did like the size and layout of the Pleasureway Excel which is built on a Ford chassis, but this model is expanded on the sides to make it wider and it would be a problem fitting it on our driveway - so that settled that question.

At that show we went back to look at the Roadtrek 190 models several times - there is a 190 Popular model and there is a 190 Versatile model. The Popular has a king size bed in the back and three seats up front. The Versatile has a queen size bed and four seats up front. While the Versatile seemed roomier, we did not need four seats for the two of us and the king size bed had the advantage of being made up side to side of back to front of the van plus it could be made into two twin size beds with a aisle up the middle to easily get in and out. We left that show with a lot of brochures and a good idea of what we liked.

We did some more research. I joined several online lists that talk about RVs, Class B's, and Roadtreks. And we spent a lot of time thinking. Could we afford it? It would mean taking a loan. Would be happy traveling in one? We were pretty sure that we would and we kept coming up with what we could do and what advantages it would have for us not only with travel but with two of our avocations - living history reenacting and a craft business. That first show was in October. During February the same show was running again and we went back to look some more.

This time we went right to the Roadtrek and spent a great deal of time with the salesman. He was extremely nice. He answered every question, put some of my concerns to rest and understood that we really knew nothing about any of this. He was patient and personable - and did not come across like a typical pressure you to buy salesman. The dealership that he represented - the dealership at this show is in Pennsylvania. The show was in New York. While this dealership is over three and a half hours from our home, he pretty much sold us on the dealership along with the Roadtrek 190 Popular. We left knowing that this was to be what we would buy - IF we buy.

It was the winter and we put off any idea of buying until the Spring or Summer. The Spring came and was hectic -and I learned that I had a medical situation that was going to change our plans with the RV a bit. I had to find a solution (which I will talk about in a later article) and I spent a great deal of time researching some more. We started off the summer "shopping". There are three Roadtrek dealers all within the same distance from us - in three different states. This is not like finding car dealers where there are several from the same company close by. No, where we are if you want a Class B you are going to travel to get it.

I will not say which dealers we went to but as I said they are in three different states - one of which is our own but three hours north of us. Our intent was and is to purchase new from the factory on order and not purchase what is in dealer inventory as we want specific lesser options that do not show up in dealer inventories. We went to one dealer, presented what we wanted, and were given a price. At this point the model was a 2010 on a 2009 Chevy chassis. The price we received seemed high - and the trip that we took to get to this dealer was through highways that were under heavy construction. In fact, every time we have headed in this direction on our travels over the years these same main routes seemed to always be under construction. Aside from the price, that put us off.

The second dealer that we visited gave us a better price and by now the Roadtrek models had changed from a 2010 on a 2009 chassis to a 2011 on a 2010 Chevy chassis. While the price should have been higher - the msrp was. The price from this dealer was lower than the previous dealer. We were impressed but there was one problem. The trip that should have taken us three hours of so to travel to the dealer took us over six hours. The reason was not just construction but also traffic that we would encounter each time that we would have to come back to the dealer for service on the RV portion of the vehicle when it was needed. This trip really put us off and, frankly, it was in the middle (in my opinion only) of nowhere. BUT the price was right and the dealer was working with us to put in the mod that I needed for my medical situation.

The third dealer was the dealer that we met at the RV show. I had been in contact with the salesman all along and we set an appointment to see him Obviously, from my previous comment here this is the dealer in PA. We travel to PA a lot - day trips, weekend trips, and longer. We are used to the trip and the roads. The trip is comfortable and getting to this dealer was easy - despite the three and a half hour drive and the tolls (tolls were collected to the other dealers as well). If we had to come to this area for service we would not mind so much and we could make a pleasure trip out of it. We arrived at the dealership to find out that on that morning the salesman had been taken to the hospital for a coronary by-pass. The sales manager stepped up when he heard that we had made the long trip and sat with us to price out the RV. I told him about the options that we wanted and the mod. No problem. He gave us a price in-between the two that we had - and this for the 2011 on a 2010 chassis. We asked for a test drive and he handed us the keys to a new 190 P on the lot. We thought that he would accompany us but he had the RV brought around and said "see you later". We got in and drove. We took some regular roads and part of a highway. I stopped and had my wife drive. We both liked the feel and the handling. Despite the large size it drove just like the Chevy van that we own. I thought that we had been out too long on the test drive - we got lost finding the dealership on the way back. We got there and he was surprised that we were back so soon. I sat down again and presented the lower price that I had from the other dealer. He said if he could confirm that he would beat it. And in a few days he did.

That was the end of August 2010 and the beginning of September. We were excited but I am a realist enough to know that I was about to purchase this RV just as the cold weather and the freeze was setting in. It would take six weeks to come from the factory and that put delivery into late October or early November. As soon as we got it we would have to winterize it and sit it on the driveway until the warm weather and the thaw. It made no sense to me to purchase until it got warm - and with the walloping winter that we had this year, I was correct to do this. (Six foot mounds of snow on my small driveway alone after we were shoveled out.) I told the salesman - the one from the show - that we wanted to put off the purchase until after the winter and he told me no problem. I told him that I would remain in touch - and through the winter I sent him emails with questions - and he responded.

One day I received an email from the dealership by a new salesman who was introducing himself. I was told that "our" salesman was "no longer with them". I immediately thought of his heart condition and wondered if he was alive or had to stop working. I asked about his health and was given no answer. I was very disappointing that we would not be working with him but there was nothing to do about it. This new salesman reassured me that all would be the same - we had the price in writing and he understood our need to wait out the winter. By then the snow was piling everywhere.

We begin to come up now to the present (finally, you must be saying). Several weeks ago I indicated to our "new" salesman by email that we would be coming soon. The response was great but you should know that there may be price changes as Roadtrek has now switched the 2011 from a 2010 chassis to a 2011 chassis - and there was no way to order anything else. I contacted the sales manager who gave us the price and was told that they would do "their best" to bring the new price as close as they could to what we had expected to pay. When he came back to me with the new price it was between a $1000 and $2000 more. Proportional to the total price of this vehicle that is not much but to me - and anyone - it is a big deal. I was angry that no one had ever indicated that this was a possibility but at the same time realized that if I wanted this RV it would be the same situation now at any dealer.

That brings us to today. We are about to purchase. We have plans to go on Friday and sign the agreement and meet with the business manager at the dealership about their loans - their rates are lower than the banks that we have spoken to. Now, Friday, as of right now, the weather report calls for rain in the early morning that should stop before we leave. This will be the end of a storm that is predicted to bring flooding to some of the areas that we must travel though. So we are keeping our fingers crossed that we actually will be able to make the trip on Friday. The weather has dealt us one bad hand this winter - and it seems that it is not over yet. So we shall see.

This has been just part of our epic. Once we purchase it will take six weeks for delivery and during that time I will fill you in on some of the details of the rest. Once we get the Roadtrek I will share our adventures in it with you. I am hoping that, as I have been told, what was shown in the Robin Williams' movie RV was great exaggeration. Let's hope so!