Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's Do the Time Warp Again - Part 3

For Part 1 and Part 2 see the week before this and the week before that.

Part 3

We continue our saga of our most recent trip picking up with our return that night to the campground. I pulled into the pitch black area where our site was moved to and looked for a road that would take us past the least amount of trees and boulders that were put here to make you think you are in a forest to make maneuvering in the dark easier without doing damage to my Roadtrek. With hesitation I slowly went forward and got to the site. Meryl at this point got out with the lantern and guided me into the small pull through site avoiding hazards. Before we had left I had put down our recovered level markers at the tires so that we would find the almost level spot on this site. She found the markers and guided me to them. At least we were in the site without incident.

Now, we were about to actually connect to the power and cable for the first time. We had tested the power box before we left for dinner with the polarity tester and the voltage meter and it tested OK but the box itself was hanging loosely from the post and the power boxes in this section do not use circuit breakers but glass fuses making it necessary to plug into these outlets live rather than the usual way of shutting off the breaker so that you plug into a dead and safe outlet.  We plugged in the Roadtrek wire to the Surge Guard (adding in a Plug Dog) and then cautiously plugged the Surge Guard plug into the broken box. The Surge Guard pulled the box to a forward angle on the post and the plug to the Roadtrek sat on the ground. Not the best but the night was dry. We waited and watched for the Surge Guard to cycle on and it did. We next connected the cable television connection and then we went inside expecting for the television that had a channel scan the night before to be set up when it was turned on. I turned the TV on to find a blank screen. We went back outside to make sure the connection from the Roadtrek to the campground box was good. It was securely connected with our coax cable.

Back inside to check channels. Some were there and some were not. I rescanned and the number of channels found compared to the night before was about half. Apparently, one side of the campground has a different cable connection than this area. Channels came in here but were not clear and the number of channels were half - and much more basic than those we had the night before. My outrage with this campground and what went on with us (see Part 2) went up a notch! We were leaving the next morning so we settled in for the night.

We were up the next morning - Saturday and dressed again in our colonial clothes to go off to Fort Frederick for a second day.  The first day there was to go through the whole fair and see all that was on sale. The second day was to seek out old friends and acquaintances, tour the fort itself, take time to watch the entrainment and just have a good time. We unhooked the Roadtrek and were off - and out of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground in Hagerstown, Maryland - not to return again.

At Fort Fred we were had an opportunity to see the French and Indian War era reenactors who were manning the fort march on the forts parade grounds. The fort is only manned this way for special events.

The barracks buildings in the fort are open for tours and you can look into various rooms of officer's quarters, enlisted quarters, and service chambers. There is also a museum that tells the history of the fort to the present on the second floor of one of the barracks buildings.This is there for the public whenever the fort is open, special event or not.

We stayed at Fort Frederick until about 3 pm. We wound up purchasing a piece of ironwork that we say that would be put to good use by our reenacting unit and it was small enough to tuck into the back storage of the Roadtrek. We were heading for our favorite campground in Lancaster, PA but on the way we planned to stop at a restaurant that was a bit out of the way in Thurmont, Maryland.

I had planned the routes for most of this entire trip before we left - as I usually do - since the in-dash Tom Tom GPS can take you through some routes that you really don't want to take with an RV - even with one as small as the Roadtrek. One problem, however, is that once the Tom Tom starts the route there is not always a guarantee that it will follow the route as it looked on the computer screen when planning. As we started out and were approaching Hagerstown heading north we saw that the Tom Tom was not taking us as we expected to go. I will explain in a moment why this is a problem. We pulled off the road to check the route on the GPS. As suspected, it was taking us the shortest and fastest route but it was taking us into Thurmont, Maryland through Cocatin Mountain Park, a national park in Maryland.

Cocatin Mountain Park is the location of Camp David, the President of the United States' retreat. Surrounding Camp David the park is open to the public and a major east/west route goes through the park. We once followed the GPS in a passenger van on this route to the same town of Thurmont and wound up in the middle of Cocatin Mountain Park on a narrow road that twisted and turned around sheer drop offs and went through forests and back to twisting turns around more sheer drop offs. After that harrowing experience I decided that I would avoid that route even if it meant driving more longer.

We looked at the routing in the GPS and then looked on a map and found a much longer in distance routing, but in actual time because it was on limited access roads all the way, the time was within five minutes of the route through and around the mountain. We headed off again with this new route.

The route was uphill a great deal and mileage in the Roadtrek was not great because of it. We made it to Thurmont in plenty of time and had a pleasant ride getting there.

After dinner we headed back out toward Lancaster. The plan for the second part of this trip was to make up for the two missed trips to Lancaster that we had planned but had to cancel due to the storm in October (Sandy) and my illness in December.

Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, PA is where we stay for our frequent trips to Lancaster. We have two spaces that we like at that campground (my secret - sorry) and neither was available for our arrival on this Saturday night when I made reservations for this trip. One of them would be from Sunday on, but the site they told me we would be assigned when I called for reservations seemed fine.

Arriving at this campground after hours is no problem. Often we know our site number and if we don't they always leave a note for us at a box at the office door with the site number on it. We pulled in at almost 10:30 pm.  For the last weekend in April, the campground was pretty crowded. We found our site, which was on the campground's entrance road to the rear of the office and I backed in - as I usually do at this campground. We got out to hook up and discovered that the electric connections were at the wrong side of the Roadtrek. Rather than try to put the wires under the van to the other side, I pulled out and drove forward into the space. The arrangement here of the hookups for this space was unusual but because the campground has rows with spaces that fit two RVs in a T formation, some sites at the end of rows - like this one - wind up with the connections on the opposite side than expected. Our box was next to the box for the trailer parked next to us - who was facing as expected. It was really not a problem but finding a level spot on this site facing in this direction was not easy. We finally came close enough and at least the front was lower than the rear which made the foot of the bed lower than the head of the bed. We hooked up and settled in for the night.

The next morning when we went into the office to pay for our stay - we would be staying here until Tuesday I asked if we could change to one of our "regular" spaces. They were happy to accommodate that and said that we could not move into that other site until after 2 pm when the RV that was in the site was leaving. This was not a problem and we went off to spend a Sunday in Lancaster.

End of Part 3.

I will continue my articles about this trip next week, but rather than Part 4, as we have now left our personal time traveling, I will continue with "Sundays in Lancaster" in the present.

Before I leave you for now I can't resist...

"It's just a jump... to the left... and a step to the righ-igh-ighty- right. Then put your hands on your hips... and bring your knees in tie- i -ight! But it's the pelvic thra- ah- usts, that will nearly drive you


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Let's Do the Time Warp Again! Part 2

When we awoke in the morning for our first day at Fort Frederick the sun was shining but the temperature was chilled. Getting dressed in the Roadtrek is easy, though the two of you do need to move to opposite ends of the floor and give each other a little room to maneuver. It is not much different getting dressed for the 18th Century but it does take some more room and a lot more staying out of each other's way - plus being able to help each other tie things that are behind you and out of reach. There are long full leg length hose to be put on - requiring a full leg stretch out - for a man this is not an everyday thing. The lady's petticoat (what would be called a skirt today) gets one to be a lot wider in the aisle with the yards of fabric in it. Because of the chilly temperature outside that was not supposed to increase much during the day, a few extra layers went on. On a regular day in the 21st Century getting dressed can take ten minutes. Dressing for the 18th Century can take a half hour - and then we have to go outside and smile at all of the gawking campers in the sites around us, and unhook to be able to leave. Then it is back in the Roadtrek and a rundown of the checklist to make sure all is secured, nothing has been left connected outside, and we are good to go. It was well over 45 minutes all together that we were on our way back to the past. Now the Roadtrek was out time machine!

The route to Fort Frederick from the campground is direct and almost all on an interstate. I programmed the Tom Tom to get us there the most direct way - as the Tom Tom's own routing was taking us through towns and mountain side roads that it decided was faster.

Fort Frederick is a Maryland historic park. During the regular season (this event takes place before the park is fully open for the season) the park has camping facilities for tents and RVs but no hook ups. With this event it is much easier to camp outside the park as most of their property is taken up by those participating at the fair including 18th Century tent camping. Most of the sutlers - those selling their wares - are sleeping in the marquee tent in the back of their selling space. Some have wood stoves inside to keep them warm - as it generally is cold at night during this event. One does not have to be a reenactor to attend this event. Anyone from the public can come. And one does not need to dress in 18th Century clothing - though it is much more fun for those that do. Reenactors are always looking for a place to "play" and an event like this is one great playground.

For this event you park on a large grass field that is quite hilly. The field slopes up and down across it. I have some concern when parking here with the Roadtrek because of the inclines and declines on the grass, unexpected holes, and if it has been raining the entire field turns to a muddy mess with a good chance that the heavy Roadtrek will sink into the mud. (Something I don't even want to think about.) We pulled through the field gate and were directed by boy scouts to a parking space down toward the end of the lot. When we got to the space they directed us to pull into we explained that we had to take up both spaces front and back because of the length of the van - no problem the kid said and he went on to park other vehicles next to us. The people getting out of their cars are mixed in dress - some dressed for the 18th Century, some mixed couples where one is and one isn't, and some dressed in everyday 21st Century clothing. As we were closing up inside the Roadtrek and coming out, there was a family getting out of their car next to us dressed in 21st Century clothes. He looked at me in my tricorn hat, coat, and breeches and said, "Your not what I expected to see coming out of that van!" I just smiled. I thought, "Don't you know that the Roadtrek is also a time machine?" I didn't say it; he would not have gotten it. Off we went to the gate to pay our $5 each admission to a day at an 18th Century Market Fair.

This was Friday. The event starts on Thursday and continues through Sunday. The big crowds come in
on Saturday. The market extends throughout the property and around the fort which you can tour and there is a regiment of French and Indian War British and Colonial Regulars within the fort. For a reenactor of the 18th Century, spending time looking through each sutler's tent, shopping, visiting the fort, watching the entertainment, and having a meal at the food area takes a good two days to do it all. For a casual visitor one day is enough. While we are looking and shopping we are conversing with others of the period - "Good day to you, Sir" (or "Madam") (there is no word "hello" in the 18th Century - it comes in the 19th Century). We look for friends who may also be there. We look for sutlers who we know and catch up. It is a time to spend in a most unusual hobby.

What follows will take up a lot of this article so I will talk a little more about Fort Frederick in Part 3. I will jump now to the end of the day. We stayed at Fort Fred until 5:00 pm when the Fair closes for the day. Back at the Roadtrek, I looked out in front of us at the steep hill down toward the exit path and decided that I was not taking the Roadtrek down that angle concerned with bottoming out. I put the van in reverse and the rear wheels started to spin on the grass on the incline before they grabbed and move us back onto the worn path in the grass that would take us back to the exit road by the way we came in. I was happy that the tires did grab when they did as I could see them digging their way down as they spun. This is one of those places where a four wheel drive Roadtrek would be an advantage - that feature was discontinued a few years back but was always done by a third-party company for Roadtrek - and they will still arrange for you to bring the Roadtrek there yourself if you would like the 4WD or AWD option. It is expensive and not necessary except for the rare occasion. It does not make the Roadtrek into an off-road vehicle.

OK - moving on. We left Fort Fred and headed back to our campground. We arrived at the entrance, pulled through to the section that our site is in, and as we approached our site there was a large trailer in our space. Gone, also was our flag. What?!? I have heard about this happening. I did not think it could happen in a commercial campground where all spaces are accounted for by the campground. We decided that the best thing was go to the office and let them deal with it. There was no sense it confronting the people in the trailer and having a fight. We would let "Ranger Smith" have the fight!

We are still dressed in our colonial clothing. The campground now was getting crowded as people were arriving for the weekend and people were walking around the grounds - mostly on the roads. We made our way in a big circle back to the office, parked, and went inside - in our colonial clothes. "May I help you?", a guy behind the desk asks. "Yes, I am, we arrived yesterday, and there is a trailer in my space." A voice comes out from behind a glass partition on other side of the room. "Oh yes, we can explain that." We moved to where the voice was coming from - and we were both enraged and trying very hard to hold our tempers. The story we got was that when we were moved the afternoon before to a level site we were moved to a site that was reserved. Still holding my temper I said that we were moved to that site by their employee who said he was coming back to the office to put the change into the computer. The response was - oh, we tried to reach you but you were gone. Really, as you read in Part 1, we took a walk for an hour after we were moved to that site and we passed "Ranger Smith" on the road while walking - who did not say anything to us about a problem. There was no response. It now became all matter of fact - well, the space is not yours any longer. You can pick another site out of these five - all of which were in the section in the woods.

"Where is my flag!?!"

"Oh we have that here for you."

"I had markers on the gravel marking where my RV went to be level - where are they!?!" "We have no idea about those - we will have to find out."

I was handed our flag and holder and Meryl was handed a site map with five sites circled. I was waiting for an apology. None came. Then she said that we had a small refund of a few dollars coming because the site we had yesterday that we no longer had today was more money than the site we were being put on. Really? When we made the reservation we were told that the preferred sites were the same as the standard sites - but apparently this only was for Thursday and Friday is considered the weekend. And still no apology. It occurred to me that had this happened someplace like a hotel they would be offering me this night free - lots of luck!

Both of us were fuming.We got back into the Roadrek and headed over to the "woods" where the road was narrow and the boulders and trees lined the edge and the edges of the entrances to the spaces. During the day it was maneuverable, but as I learned last year at this campground, at night in the pitch black it can be a disaster waiting to happen pulling the Roadtrek through.

We made our way to the first site. It was off on an angle with a large rock taking up one full side. I did not even try to pull into it. We went to all five sites. Just as the day before, the sites in this campground are not level - and now not only were they way off front to back but also side to side. we headed around again, and went back into the one that was the least off. I pulled around the space looking for some area that we could be close. I got to one point where it was close side to side and the front was at least lower than the rear and not the other way around. Still furious, I asked Meryl to call the campground that we were going to on Saturday night in Pennsylvania with hope that the site was available tonight. She tried and the office there was closed. This would have to do and when we came back from dinner at night we would have to be extremely cautious getting back to this space.

Now, we are still in our colonial clothes. Meryl headed off down the road to the office to tell them where we are and to find out what happened to our ground level markers. She was gone for a very long time. Cell service was marginal here and I was able to get through to her once, got cut off and she got through to me but could not hear me. Messages did get through. The markers were found by the people in the trailer and they gave them to a passing "ranger" in a golf cart who was on her way to give them to me. At one point they were at the office and Meryl said that they were very nice - and it was not there fault that the campground screwed us over. What made me even madder was that a year ago at this same campground when we arrived to check in there was someone in our space and instead of putting us there - or in an adjacent space moved us to the "woods" where we were now. I have to wonder if a little RV like a Roadtrek gets the same consideration - while paying the same money - as a larger RV. It sometimes does not seem that it does at some campgrounds.

While Meryl was gone, I changed back to my everyday jeans and shirt. She arrived and did the same and we then went outside to check the electric connection for the first time in this space. The electric box was barely connected to the post it sat on. As we opened it to plug the polarity tester to the outlet, it wobbled around. Wonderful! The polarity tested fine and the voltage was within range. We would have to be very careful when we connected the heavy portable Surge Guard to it that night.

The saga of the campground continues and we return to Fort Fred on Saturday. That will continue in Part 3 next week, but before I go I have to tell you what I found when we got home days later. On our answering machine AT HOME, was a message from the Yogi Bear - it was time stamped by our machine on Friday afternoon at about 1:30 pm telling us that they just tried to find us to tell us that someone else had our site reserved and that we should come to the office so that they could move us to another site. Friday afternoon - not Thursday when they claimed to try to find us. And with this message at my home- the answering machine outgoing message that we have at home is clearly not for a cell number - how would I hear it to go to the office - unless I was home!?!

End of Part 2.
Part 3 next week.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Let's Do the Time Warp Again! Part 1

Dewinterized and ready to go, what better first trip of the season than to not only leave home but also the present. Our Roadtrek would be our time machine to take us into the past. We were heading for Fort Frederick in Big Pool, Maryland, an historic fort that saw service in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the home of the annual 18th Century Fort Frederick Market Fair, a  market of reproduction clothing, weapons, gear, and miscellany of the 18th Century all for sale that attracts reenactors from around the US and beyond.

An ordinary trip in the Roadtrek takes us a few days to prepare.While we keep a lot in the Roadtrek that we use daily when we travel, with the first trip of the season we have to make sure that everything that we took out for the winter has been put back inside for the new season. We have been doing that over the course of a few weeks. It involves finding where we stored it and getting it out to the Roadtrek. We also check on things that we left inside to see what needs to be replenished. The day before the trip we spend filling the fresh water tanks, making the bed so it does not have to be made when we get to where we are going, and moving the clothing for the trip out to the Roadtrek's cabinets. For a trip like this - time travel - it means having clothing for two different centuries - 21st Century clothes and 18th Century clothes. And because the weather has been so unsettled this year, we had to prepare for the possibility of cold, warm to hot, or rain and this in two centuries of clothing. As it turns out we had a little of all three weather conditions.

Reservations were made at a campground in Hagerstown, Maryland -the largest city near Big Pool, Maryland - two months before. We were going back to the Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground that we had been to a year ago when we went to Fort Fred. Our reservations were for a "preferred" site which according to the website was the same cost at this time of the year as the "standard" sites. What "preferred" means here is unclear. After the difficulty maneuvering the narrow tree and boulder lined roads in this campground we requested this site area as it is more out in the open. Since there had been a problem last year when we arrived discovering that the space that was supposed to be ours was occupied, I wanted to be sure to get to the campground before the office closed at 7:00 pm. The trip according to our GPS routing would take about 6 and a half hours including a stop for lunch along the way. We started out at about 10:30 in the morning on the Thursday that we left. The time is about right to avoid the traffic on the avenue in front of our house to be able to back the Roadtrek out of the driveway and into the street. Earlier, we would be met with a steady stream of cars.

I have written a lot about our trips leaving Long Island with poor roads, continual construction somewhere on every highway, and the bridge tolls just to get to what is considered the mainland United States. The trip that morning was not too bad. We got off Long Island, crossed Staten Island, and headed into New Jersey to travel to and across Pennsylvania and then south into Maryland. We were going a different way. We were not taking the turnpikes but traveling on Route 78 which crosses PA. It involves riding through hilly and mountainous interstates where most of the other vehicles are large trucks that seem to be in more of a hurry than those on the turnpikes. We have traveled this way several times in our car and often the car is overwhelmed by both the inclines on the roads and the trucks. We would see how our 6.0 L V8 Chevy engine in our Roadtrek would fare on this route up against the 18 wheelers.

The Roadtrek handled the hills and mountains nicely. It never hesitated and had the power to keep up with and at times even pass the trucks. The trucks seem to command this route. Often traveling in pairs they do not hesitate to come up very close behind and also cut into the lane in front of you. During this trip we not only encountered trucks like this but also a several motorcycles whose drivers seemed to know no fear and foolishly road next to the Roadtrek in the blindspot and one tried to pass just too close for his own safety. It was a little unnerving as I had not encountered this in the Roadtrek before.

We arrived at the campground at about 5:30 that afternoon. I am going to write about the campground in its own review article so if you read this tale here and then that article you will hear the same story told twice - and I am doing that because the story of what took place over the next two days at this campground needs to be seen by anyone considering staying at this campground. I do not intend to stay there again. So - we arrived at the campground, went into the office and were told where I site was and that one of the "Rangers" would take us there - just follow his golf cart. Fine. This is Yogi Bear land and "Ranger Smith" the park ranger character in the cartoons is who is taking you to your campsite. We followed the golf cart to the "preferred" sites. We arrived at the site. He showed us the hook up connections and then was off.

I was on the long gravel site that was large enough to accommodate a Class A and most of the other RVs that were there were large trailers or Class As. I started to move the Roadtrek around the site to find a spot to stop that was level or at least very close to level. (Level sites are advertised here - and for the price paid that should be a given.) Well, I pulled all over that site and with the side of the Roadtrek with its connections on the side of the space with the electric box and hookups, the space was on an incline. I did not need the levels on my dashboard and my door to tell me that the front of the Roadtrek was pointing up. The space was a pull through and the front of the space was higher than the road in front of it while the rear of the space was higher than the road behind. OK. We would get out the leveling blocks.The space actually was near level side to side.

I carry a set of Linx leveler blocks. These look like very large, square "Lego" blocks.  I will do an article just on leveling the Roadtrek so I will not go into the mechanics of this here. Meryl went into the outside cabinet of the Roadtrek and pullout two blocks from the bag they come in. We put one in front of each rear wheel and I backed the rear tires up onto the blocks. I looked at the front back level and the bubble was still all the way forward as far as it can go. Putting the tires up two blocks high requires the assembly of a three block unit. We did that and there was no difference. The position of the bubble was still all the way at the front end of the level. Three blocks high requires an assembly of 6 blocks under each of the two tires and the set of leveling blocks only comes with ten blocks so three blocks was out of the question. I was not going to sleep with my head lower than my feet and it was not comfortable inside the Roadtrek up at this angle. This space would not do. I looked around at the other RVs and since larger RVs and trailers have built in leveling systems, they were using those PLUS several blocks of wood to raise them even higher to get level. I could not see any difference in the spaces around me. Meryl said to stay with the Roadtrek and she would walk back to the office and tell them that we need another space.

She was gone for about fifteen minutes when "Ranger Smith" came driving up in his golf cart to take me to a "level" spot. He pointed at one in the row behind us. I moved the Roadtrek there and that space was not only equally off front to back but also side to side. He pointed to another - same thing. And another back in the row we started in - same thing. I tried five spaces until we found one that was very close to level and good enough. Meryl had just arrived back when I tried that site. Fine. He told us that he would go back to the office and have them register the change of our space to this new one and that we should change the number on the hang tag that is required to be on the rear view mirror when in the campground. We then went though our usual routine and checked the electric box that we would be hooking up to for polarity and also voltage. The polarity was fine and the voltage was in range. The electric box was much newer than the box that was in the space we were given the year before - this one had circuit breakers just like all of the other electric boxes I have hooked up to except for here - the space last year had glass fuses - so when you hook up the outlet is live, rather than plugging into an outlet that is off and then clicking on the circuit breaker to make it live which is much safer!

OK - we were settled.  We then put out my level markers on the gravel at the tires to tell me where to pull back to when we came back to the site after leaving to go out for dinner or coming back the next day after our day at Fort Fred. One last thing was something new. On our last trip last September we bought a small wrought iron banner/flag holder that is made to stake into a garden or grass lawn.
We saw them put out at sites at campgrounds and thought that it would be a nice way to mark the space as ours. We bought a banner with a primitive colonial flag to go on it. We put the flag on the bar of the holder and staked it into the grass at our space.

It was too early to eat dinner so we headed off on foot for a walk around this end of the campground. We walked for about an hour and along the way we passed "Ranger Smith" in his golf cart who waved to us. After that we got into the Roadtrek and drove off to Hagerstown for dinner.

When we returned that night we hooked up - using our Surge Guard power/surge protector - to the electric box and hooked up the cable TV connection on the Roadtrek to the cable connection on the side of the power box. It was a cold night and I turned on the propane in anticipation of needing hot water - a very rare thing for us, as usually it is so hot outside when we are traveling that the water from the tanks is hot on its own - and to use the furnace if it dropped below 40 degrees F during the night as the heat pump does not work when it is that cold. We then settled in for the night, happy to discover that a few of the unusual channels with vintage TV shows from the fifties and sixties that we enjoy at home were on this cable setup. Nice. We had a very pleasant night in anticipation of driving the Roadtrek in the morning in our colonial clothes back in time to the 18th Century at Fort Frederick.

End of Part 1.
Part 2 Next Week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Comfortable and Easy Floor Covering

In our Roadtrek 190 Popular there is carpeting in the front of the cabin where the driver and passenger seats are and there is carpeting under the area that is made up as a bed. If you make the beds up as twins, then you step down on some very nice carpeting. If you make the bed ups as a King then when you step off the end of the bed toward the bathroom and the kitchen area, you are stepping onto a hard, fiberglass floor that gets cold in the winter and sometimes cold in the summer with the air conditioner going over night when stepped on with bare feet.

There is a reason why the carpet is not carried into this middle area. It is because the shower drain is there in the floor. You also want an easy to clean floor around the toilet and also where you are standing when cooking, not to mention coming in with wet feet when it is raining outside. We knew that it would be nice to put something down in that area but we were not sure what that would be. It had to be removable when using the shower, comfortable to walk on, and provide some insulation to the floor to keep it warmer. About a year ago we found just what we were looking for.

We were in Sears in the tool department and I saw a mat that is intended to be used to ease standing in a workshop. It is called the Craftsman Anti-fatigue Workshop Mat and it comes in your choice of red or black. Some of you have already seen this mat in some of the photos I have used to illustrate articles here on the site. We decided on the black color mat. This mat is made of a thick and heavy rubber-like material with a "diamond" pattern on the top. The mat fits almost exactly in the space that is uncovered in the Roadtrek 190. It will fit smaller, of course, in the 210 but should cover much of the area you would want to cover. It is comfortable to walk on - it has a bit of a sponge push back on your foot when you step on it. In the winter, the mat keeps the cold off your bare feet. If you are taking a shower, you just roll up the mat and put it on the side. If the mat gets dirty, you just roll it up, carry it outside, wave the dirt off it, and if necessary, clean it with a hose. Here is what the mat looks like in our Roadtrek -

Looking from the front to the back - the area uncovered in the back is under the mattress when the bed is made.
Looking from the back to the front.

The mat falls about seven or eight inches short of the carpet in the front.
Looking in from the side entrance door.

It is easy to recognize this mat in the store as it has this label on it that is part of the mat and does not come off. This part of the mat is barely noticed by the aisle bathroom door.
With the mat in place we also wanted something that we could put out right at the entrance for when it is raining. A door mat would not fit and would slide on the smooth floor. So what do you put on a floor that is slippery when wet - a bath mat.

We bought this mat in a home closeout store and it was inexpensive, durable and has rubber suction cups on the bottom. These mats are common and should be easy to find. It is soft rubber and can be laid where you see it in the photo above, or pulled more toward the step and let about an inch of the mat fold over. It is perfect to walk in with wet feet and with the third seat right there, you can just sit and take off your wet shoes and leave them on the mat to dry.

The mat rolls up easily and we just store it under the back of the passenger seat. It does not move from that spot when we are driving. It also does not interfere with the seat swiveling or moving forward or back. Any bath mat would do the same thing but be sure to get one that has the suction cups on the bottom. When we were shopping for this I discovered that not all of them do.

The Craftsman Anti-Fatigue Workshop Mat sells in Sears for $39.99. It does occasionally go on sale. As I recall it was on sale when we purchased it and it was less than $30. When you buy the mat, let it air out and unroll before you put it in the Roadtrek. It did have a rubber odor at first that was gone in a few days - and then we brought into the Roadtrek. It needed no cutting to fit in the width of the aisle and covers all that is necessary side to side. When it first goes down, the ends do tend to roll, but a few hot days in the van flattened it right out.

As usual, I am not paid by Sears or connected to them in any way. This was just something that worked so well that it is something to share with you!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

De-Winterizing and Tank Sanitizing Observations

With temperatures finally into the fifties and some days even reaching 60, and nights not dipping much below 48 degrees F it was finally time to de-winterize the Roadtrek. Of course, we needed a day that was not only warm but also dry - and that did not come that easy. Finally, with no other commitments and a decent day predicted we went outside - and we went outside to start just as it started to rain. OK, the next day was cloudy but dry and we were all ready.

The first thing that I did in preparation to de-winterize and sanitize the fresh water tanks was to print out my own article that was written after I did this process for the first time last year. It is all there step by step and while I had a fairly good memory of what I did, I wanted to have it all down in front of me to follow.

I got out the fresh water hoses, the hose-line water filter, and the tank filler nozzle. 
Water Tank Filler - Makes filling the tanks MUCH easier and less wet!
The water pressure regulator was set aside for one of the middle steps. The first thing we did was make sure the water system was in Summer Mode - which it should have been having been set that way when we winterized. Then we filled the fresh water tanks - of which there are two in the 190. I have found that it is best to only turn the water spigot on the house half way so that the water does not flow too quickly.

The tanks filled with no problem at all - which they should but as we go along you will understand why I make note of this here.

The Roadtrek tanks fill through the door frame - with the 190 and its two fresh water tanks, one fills from the driver's door frame and the other fills from the passenger side cargo door frame. Some find it easier to fill the tanks by moving the valve to fill on the city water connection and connecting the hose (with water pressure regulator) to that directly and filling. We have found it much easier to just use the gravity fill openings in the door frames.
Water going into the exterior (front) tank through the driver's door frame.

Water going into the interior (rear) tank through the cargo door frame.
Let me tell you about the tank filler. All this is is a tube connected to a screw on hose nozzle with a valve. The valve makes it very easy to control the flow of water into the tank right there - so when the tank is full and the water comes back out at you from the fill hole you can quickly turn off the water flow. The end of the tube is cut on a diagonal and the opening of the diagonal should be facing down into the tank. The tube is much smaller than the hose and fits into the fill hole much better than a hose end. This also allows air to escape from the tank as water goes in. The cost of this is about $6 or less and is cheap enough that it makes making one not worth the time. Last year when I ended the article saying that I had an idea to make the filling process easier, it was to make a device like the tank filler. I saw it in an RV supply shop during the season last year and bought it. As Harry Potter once said, "Mischief managed!"

The tanks were full and we were ready for the next step in de-winterizing - flushing the antifreeze out of the pipes. Remember that my instructions for winterizing do not have you put any antifreeze actually into the water tanks - they are kept empty all winter. The antifreeze goes directly into the plumbing. This is when you open all the faucets (I am not going into the details as you can read them in the de-winterizing article. But I took photos this time and want to share with you what you will see and can expect.

Flushing the cold water side of the sink faucet. You can see the pink antifreeze coming out of the line.

The water is kept running until it runs clear - no pink. This is repeated with the hot side.

And the toilet.

 And the inside shower - hot and cold! I find it easier to remove the shower head to do this - it just unscrews from the hose.
Don't forget the outside shower! The foam you see on the ground is the antifreeze.

 As per the directions, all of this is done with the hot water tank still in BYPASS. We don't want to flush the antifreeze into six gallons of water in the hot water tank and then have to flush all of that through.  At this point TURN OFF THE WATER PUMP! To save my batteries - I was running on coach batteries for this procedure - I turned off the battery switch at this point as no power will be need for awhile.

Now it is time to move the hot water tank valves out of BYPASS as shown below in normal operating position.

The next thing that is done is to connect the Roadtrek to city water. You are now going to fill the hot water tank - six gallons of water will go in. I do this with a city water connection because the tanks fills much more quickly this way. All that is done is take the tank filler nozzle off the fresh water hose still connected to your house - leave it connected to your house through the whole de-winterizing and tank sanitizing process as you are going to need it several times in the process. Put your water pressure regulator on the hose - I put mine in the middle of two hose connections or at the house spigot as it is easier than connecting the pressure regulator directly to the city water fill connection. It is actually recommended by several reliable RV sources that it should always go at the beginning of the water line at the start of the hoses to prevent water pressure buildup in the hose behind the regulator. Connect the hose now to the City Water Connector inlet as shown below:

You cannot see it in the photo but the city water valve is NOT set to FILL. It should be straight up and down. This is either a red or black handle valve right above the outside shower faucet.

Now the water at the house is turned on and "city" water will start to flow into the Roadtrek's plumbing and into the hot water tank. With city water it takes just a couple of minutes to fill the hot water tank.  LEAVE THE HOT WATER SWITCH OFF. There is no need to wait for the water to get hot - you can keep your propane off too - there is no need for it. Go inside the Roadtrek and turn on the hot water faucet handle on the sink. And you will get a burst of air coming from faucet as the air that was in the empty hot water tank comes rushing out. The faucet will then sputter with some water and then water should come running out of the hot water side of the faucet. It will not be hot - the hot water heater switch is off.  I go around to the other faucets and turn on the hot side also - just to make sure it is all flowing - it should be anyway, but for the three minutes it takes to turn on the inside shower and the outside shower, why not? At this point we finished de-winterizing, but we still had to sanitize the fresh water tanks.

When the tanks are empty for so long mold can start to grow in them so it is a good idea at this point to sanitize the fresh water tank(s). It is a simple process and it is also detailed in the original de-winterizing article. It is good to keep in mind that this process is a long process because it involves a four hour wait in the middle. I knew this but we started late and decided to keep on going not paying much attention to the time. We added the bleach mixture to each tank (some water still remained in the front tank) as per the directions in the original article (one half cup of bleach - Chlorox or whatever you have - into each of the two tanks - if you have only one tank, add a cup of bleach to the single tank) and then filled each tank - through the door fill holes with fresh water. Filling the tanks now through the door fill holes now is important as you want to flush the bleach that you just poured down the fill holes into the tanks.

This shows the funnel and tube that we made to put the bleach into each fresh water tank fill hole on our 190. I made the tube this long to give it some flexibility. A shorter tube was stiff and kinked. You will see in the lower right corner the top of a step ladder that I stood on to get up to the funnel with the measuring cup with bleach. Just pour the bleach into the funnel and it travels down and into the tank. This is pure bleach which will cause permanent spots on your clothes if you splash. Can blind you if you get it in your eyes and will burn your skin if it gets on you and you don't flush with water right away. Just be careful with the bleach. Now, this is no different than doing your laundry but it pays to be cautious.

I then went inside the Roadtrek, turned the battery switch back on, turned on the water pump, and turned on each faucet hot and cold and smelled for bleach. The odor was distinct. By doing this I was putting the bleach and water mixture into the the plumbing and the hot water heater. I also flushed the toilet but did not get down close enough to sniff - we know the bleach is in the water as we could smell it coming through the shower hose and the faucet. With the bleach in the tanks of fresh water and pipes, now you wait for four hours. We just then looked at the clock and it was 4:00 pm. Four hours brought us to 8:00 pm and at this time of the year it is still dark at that time. We decided that we would go out anyway to flush the bleach out of the system. We have read that bleach will break down in water after a time and turn to just water and that should mean that leaving this all in the tanks until the next day is not a problem, but it was simpler to just get it done as there were things to do the next day that had nothing to do with the Roadtrek. And to my thinking the less time the mixture is in the tanks after the four hours, the less odor there will be to flush away later.

The four hours passed and we went outside and drained the tanks - by opening the low point drain on the front fresh water tank. This is under the Roadtrek below the right corner of the driver's door. On some models and years this drain is an actual valve to turn. On my Roadtrek this is just a screw on cap. The tanks drain in about ten or fifteen minutes. Remember that bleach water will come splashing down out of the drain as you reach under and remove the drain cap. The tanks are in Summer Mode so the back tank flows into the front tank and the water then all drains out as the tanks empty.

With the drain cap back in place, now we went to refill the tanks with fresh water only. Reading the first article you will see that we had a problem last year at this point last year. I had thought to try filling the rear tank first - but in summer mode that just flows the water right into the front tank. I had not thought at this point to turn to winter mode and fill the rear tank. Perhaps I should have, because we had exactly the same problem that we had last year. With the front tank full, I went to fill the rear tank and the water came splashing right back out of the fill hole at me.  After mopping up the cargo door and in the area just into the under bed storage, I tried again - with the water on very slow. It seemed to be going in but it then just splashed back out again. There was air in the tank - I assume and the water was not going in. Why air now and not any time of regular filling the rear tank?We have filled the tanks like this for two years now without the splash and inability to get water to go down the fill hole. We speculate but do not really know that it may have something to do with the chlorine bleach that was just in the tank. Bleach does turn to gas when exposed to air. Was the tank full of chlorine water mixture formed a gas mixed with air? I have no idea. The front tank did not have this problem but the rear tank is much smaller in size. We tried everything that we tried last year and had no luck. We tried putting the system in winter mode - it did not fix the problem. I went in and ran the front tank out through the sink until only air came out and then tried filling the back - that did not help. At best I could get the rear tank 1/3 full. With that I tried running the back tank out of the little water in there through the sink to the point that only air came out. No good. We were about to give up for the night. I refilled the front tank as usual and then went to do the back again with the water on at almost a trickle. The water was not splashing back. All of this is now happening in the dark and with a flashlight I watched the fill hole to see if the trickle going in was trickling back out. It wasn't. I turned the water up just a little higher and the tank started to fill. It finally did fill. Something - perhaps running the air out through the sink with only the rear water tank on the line got the gas/air out which was the last thing we tried.  I have to remember next year to do this before trying to refill the rear tank.

Once the water was in the tanks, I went inside and ran the water through the faucets and toilet to flush the bleach out. With all of the running of water that we did to get the back tank finally filled the water was pretty much clear of any bleach smell. At that point we left it all as it was - fresh water in the tanks and plumbing and closed up for the night.

I did flush the tanks one more time - drained the the tanks, refilled - this time with no problem - and ran the faucets and smelled for bleach. There is a very, very slight odor still remaining. On our first trip we will bring bottled water to drink and after that trip, from our last year's experience, there should no longer be any bleach odor at all and the water from the tanks will be fine to drink!

Knowing what we were doing this time, it all went much faster than last year. It takes more time to get the hoses out, connect them to the house and bring them around to the Roadtrek and then roll them up when done than it takes for the actual de-winterizing. The sanitizing would have been much simpler and quicker had it not been for the same rear tank fill problem.  

With all the water that we put down the sink, we did decide two days later to dump the waste tanks so that they will be empty for our up coming trip. Because the trip is a little while away, we also drained the fresh tanks again - just so that we can put fresh water in when we leave - it may even be drinkable that way.

Now that it is done, the weather report for the weekend is talking about near freezing temperatures at night... With the days near 60 we will be fine!