Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Living in the Roadtrek - Watching TV

At home you turn on your TV and sit down and watch. You can do this in your Roadtrek also, BUT there are a few things that you have to do first - in each new location you travel to.

Roadtreks have always included televisions. In some models the TV has been an option, while in many the TV is standard equipment. Without getting into details of the entire entertainment system (I will get into that in another article), you now get a digital HD television, a rooftop television antenna, and an antenna booster. Your television can be connected to the antenna on the roof or a cable connection to the campground. The cable connection is outside just to the side of your city water connection in a little box with a flip up lid. Open the lid and you will find a standard cable screw on coax connector - exactly like the cable connector you have on the back of your TV or cable box at home.

You must be connected to 110 volt power either by electric line, generator, or inverter to have power to the TV system in the Roadtrek.

The antenna set up can be confusing, because, frankly, the new digital transmissions are confusing to those of us - most of us - who are just used to connecting an antenna wire and turning on the TV. I will talk about the antenna first - step by step. (I am talking here about the system that is in my 2011 190 Popular which will be similar to most of the newer Roadtreks.)

1 - In the front of your Roadtrek on the ceiling there is a crank. Around the crank is a disk with a triangle on one end. That triangle lines up with a mark on just in front of it. When the antenna is raised, this disk rotates and turns the antenna. That triangle must always be pointed to the mark on the front when you raise or lower the antenna.Unfold the crank and start turning. When it stops your antenna on the roof has fully raised straight up and the large wing that is attached to the top of the antenna unfolds. You have just raised your antenna. But this is JUST the first step.

2 - You can now turn the triangle around with the disk. The direction it points is the direction that the antenna will point. Digital signals are directional and if you want to receive them you need to be pointed in the direction of the signal tower. Just reach up and turn the disk.

3 - What direction you will need to turn the antenna changes with your current location. There are websites that will tell you what direction the channel signals are. There are also apps that do this. Without anything else, figure out what direction the nearest large city is in and most likely you will connect with channels.

4 - Go into the cabinet above your TV. There will be an A/B switch inside. A or B is determined by which side the installer connected the wires from the antenna and the cable system. My cables were marked by Roadtrek. Push the button for the antenna wire.

5 - Look above on the ceiling of that cabinet and you will see a wall plate with a little green led button in the middle. This is your antenna booster switch. It should be lit green which means it is on. I just leave mine on all of the time.

6- Turn on the TV. Go to the settings menu. Choose Signal Source and pick Antenna.

7 - Turn your antenna to the direction you need. I have a compass so that I know which direction I am turning the antenna. Get it to approximately where you think it should be.

8 - Go back to your TV settings menu and find "SCAN CHANNELS". Click that and this will take several minutes to scan and lock in digital channels. If you have only a few channels lock in after this finishes, it means one of two things. Your antenna is pointed in the wrong direction OR there are only those few digital signals in this area. I have been to areas with more than 40 channels and other areas with four or five. If you get no signals, your antenna is pointed in the wrong direction or you failed to do one of the steps above. This is often an trail and error - and timely process. Don't blame the equipment or Roadtrek - blame Congress for deciding that television had to be all digital. This is the nature of digital antenna television - even at home.

9 - If you have a lot of channels you are done setting the antenna. And you only have to do this again if you travel to a new location. As long as you stay where you are the channels will remain locked in.

Turn off the settings menu on your TV. You will now see a picture on your TV. If there is no channel on a number you should get a blue screen. If the signal is weak you will get a picture broken up into small boxes.

Now, you may not have any sound. Roadtrek has wired the TV sound into your Home Entertainment Center unit. Turn that on - there are TWO switches to turn it on - POWER and STANDBY. Set the mode to AUX (this may vary depending on how the connections were made - the home entertainment unit display screen is hard to see anyway so just push the mode button until the TV sound comes through) and you should get TV sound coming out of most of the speakers in your Roadtrek - but not all the speakers. I will get into this in another article as this is a bit complex. The two or three speakers that have sound now are more than adequate. Also be aware that in that same cabinet where the antenna booster and the A/B switch is, there is a turn knob with three positions on the ceiling of the cabinet. One position is to put the sound from the dash radio into the RT speakers. The opposite position is to connect the home entertainment unit to the speakers. I have no idea what the middle position does. Make sure this is switched to the home entertainment position.

I decided that I did not want to use the Home Entertainment unit for the TV sound. Why have to turn this on when the TV has perfectly good and likely surround sound speakers built in? All I had to do was go to the side of the TV and find the headphone jack. In that jack was a plug that came from the wires coming to the TV from above. I just pulled the plug and let it hang down and - PRESTO - sound from the TV speakers. No need to turn on the home entertainment unit. If I want to have sound from the Roadtrek speakers all I have to do is plug it back in. Simple. Easy.

Next - cable TV.

1 - Buy a standard cable TV coax cable long enough to reach from your Roadtrek to the campground cable connection. Go outside and connect your Roadtrek cable connection to the campground connection which is on the pedestal near the electric box. Just screw an end of the connector on to each connection. Twenty five feet should be a long enough cable. (A tip- you can get a cable with or buy adapters to add on - to make the screw on connections to push on connections and these are much easier to deal with.)

2 - Inside, go to your A/B box and select CABLE.

3 - Turn on the TV and go to the Source menu. Select "CABLE".

4 - Go to the Channel Scan menu and scan for channels - yes, you must do this also for cable.

5 - The TV will scan for all available cable channels and lock them in. In most campgrounds you are locking in ANALOG channels. We were in only one campground so far where there was a mix of both analog and digital channels coming through the cable.

6 - When finished turn off the menu and you should now be able to see the cable channels provided by the campground.

You do not have to do this again until you connect to cable at another campground. If you also scanned with your antenna and then connected to watch cable - AT THE SAME LOCATION - your antenna channels will still be available if you switch back - so you can switch back and forth as long as you switch the A/B box and the TV source menu.

Campgrounds use various providers for their cable TV. Some use a cable company and some use a satellite provider. So that you don't need a cable receiver box for a specific cable company in your RV, the campground gets the signal where it comes into the campground and converts it electronically to analog which will then play through your TV without a special and specific tuner box from the cable or satellite company. The cable channel selection, of course, varies by the campground and they usually give you a list of the cable channels available and their corresponding numbers on the back of the campground map - or in the literature they give you when you check in.

And you thought it was easy to just sit down and watch TV! After the first night at the campground, it is, but this process needs to be done at each campground or for antenna at each place that you stop for the night.

Some say "campers should not need TV". I like TV and so does Meryl. We look for campgrounds with cable connections.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I am going to start right off saying that I am not an "expert" in vehicle or RV batteries. I do know what I have learned from others before and after we got the Roadtrek about the batteries that the Roadtrek uses. I also know how they work in our 2011 190 Popular.

First, the simple - there are either two or three batteries in your Roadtrek. One is the engine battery just like in your car. This is a wet cell (maintenance required or maintenance free) vehicle starter battery. It is different from the battery(ies) that you have in your coach - those that run everything 12 volts inside your Roadtrek. Current model Roadtreks have either one or two "coach" batteries. These one or two batteries have nothing to do with starting your engine and in most, if not all, Roadtreks there is what is called an Isolator in the engine that separates the vehicle battery from the coach batteries so that if one drains it will not pull power from the other. You would not want to not leave in the morning because you ran down the coach batteries the night before.

My 2011 Roadtrek 190 Popular has TWO coach batteries. When we were buying the Roadtrek every salesman we encountered told us that this is a feature of the 190. It turns out that the current Roadtrek models of 190 and 210 and the Sprinter models have two coach batteries. I have been told by owners that not all of the older models do and many have just one.

Coach batteries must be what are called "deep-cycle" batteries. This means that they are not designed for short burst starting like a vehicle battery does but that they are used much like the batteries in a flashlight that provides steady power over time. This is a very simple explanation - so the electric engineers who would like to comment with detailed and scientific explanations please do, but for the everyday Joe Roadtrek owner this is enough to understand. There are many types of "deep-cycle" batteries and when you look at battery displays to purchase these they are often labeled as Marine/RV batteries. In the 2011 models, Roadtrek started to use AGM deep cycle batteries. They use two six volt, AGM, deep-cycle batteries. The AGM batteries do not have "wet" cells". There is no water inside the battery cells. These batteries will not boil over because there is no water inside. If overcharged, a wet cell battery can boil - if there is not a special circuit to prevent this. The two AGM batteries that Roadtrek is using now have 220 amp hours. I will explain this more later.

Besides not boiling out, there are advantages to AGM batteries. They hold a charge longer. They deliver more amp hours. They do not need maintenance. And they do not need to be vented which means that they can be installed in an enclosed area without causing any problem. The wet-cell batteries do need to be vented which means that the compartment that they are stored in must have access to fresh air - and this should be outside the coach. Roadtrek still installs these batteries outside the coach. I will get to where the batteries are installed soon.

I said that I have two six volt AGM batteries - why not one 12 volt AGM battery or two 12 volt AGM batteries. I will share what I have been told. Two sixes give more amp-hours than one twelve or two twelves together. Don't ask me why. Again, this is for the engineers out there.

I have also learned that one cannot/should not - likely cannot - mix AGM batteries and wet-cell batteries in the same system. Now this does not include the engine and the coach but if one coach battery is AGM then any other coach battery or batteries added must be AGM.

I also know that you should not let your batteries go below half power without recharging them to full power. This is something to consider when looking at how long you can go just using your batteries.

Again - basics. No science. I leave that to the many engineers that know RVs and batteries.

In 2011, Roadtrek changed the storage of the coach batteries. The first time that I saw this was the day I took delivery of my Roadtrek. Every Roadtrek 190 that I saw before this - and I had never seen a 2011 model - had two battery compartments. One was above the back passenger wheel and accessed by a locked compartment door from the outside. The other was a large compartment with a locked door on the side of the van in front of the rear passenger wheel. That compartment has a sliding shelf inside that would pull out so that you could easily access the battery there and its connections. This made it easy to check the water in the battery and test the voltage with a meter if you wanted to. In 2011 - on the 190 - that rear over the wheel compartment was gone. The compartment in front of the wheel remained, BUT both batteries are now there and there is no longer any sliding shelf. The only way to access the batteries is to lean in to a very small and not really lean-into-able space. For the most part, I would need to reach in and unhook the connections on the batteries and pull them out. These batteries are EXTREMELY heavy. I know this because I saw an AGM battery display in a store and I tried to lift one and it did not move. (No, it was not held down in any way.) I can open the compartment door with the key and look inside and that is as far as I have ever gotten - and to me there is nothing to see that I can do anything about.

As I have said, older models and model to model things change. You may have one battery or you may have two. If you have a 170 you have one battery - that I am sure of. I know a 2005 190 owner who has one battery. With Roadtrek things change from year to year and model to model - and sometimes even mid-way through the same year. Roadtrek does have two model years per year - for example, there is a 2011 on a 2010 Chevy chassis and there is a 2011 on a 2011 Chevy chassis. I have a 2011 on a 2011 chassis.

Now, you have battery basics. What do these batteries run? Inside your Roadtrek you have overhead lighting fixtures -large and small lighting fixtures spread all over the coach. These are 12 volts and run on the batteries. The water pump runs on 12 volts. The 3-way stock refrigerator has a mode to run on 12 volts. The hot water heater runs on 12 volts. The fan for the furnace runs on 12 volts. The ceiling exhaust fan runs on 12 volts. The macerator in the newer Roadtreks runs on 12 volts. Older Roadtreks have 12 volt outlets in the coach that you can plug 12 volt things into - just like the cigarette lighter outlet on your dashboard. My Roadtrek has NO 12 volt outlets. To install one, it would be necessary to tap into 12 volt wiring going to a light fixture. Older Roadtreks may have a 12 volt TV set - they do exist.

Now, I am going to explain amp hours. As I said, my coach batteries provide a total of 220 amp hours. Every appliance or light or whatever electric uses X number of amps per hour. Many appliances will have this labeled on them somewhere. You can also test how many amps something draws with an amp meter. The Kill-A-Watt meter found at home stores has this function along with many other functions. I will talk about this more with other parts of the electric system. With the batteries - if something draws one amp that means it needs one amp to run for an hour. You have 220 hours of power. Run two things that each need one amp and you have 110 hours. Somethings use a fraction of an amp - somethings use a lot of amps. Some things like motors - fans, etc. draw a lot of amps quickly and these will run your batteries down fast. I understand that the furnace fan drains the batteries quickly. So if you want to know how long you can go without having to charge the batteries, you need to add up the amps in each thing you have on and compare that to what the capacity of the batteries is - and remember not to let them discharge to less than half. Again, this is a simple and basic explanation of detail electrical principles. When we get to the section on 110 volt power, I will talk more about this and share with you the Green Acres TV show (from the 1960's) method of understanding how much is too much.

Alright - this is your battery system. Your batteries will recharge when you drive your Roadtrek. Your batteries will recharge when you are plugged into 110/120 volt shore power. Your batteries will recharge when you run your generator. Your batteries will DISCHARGE when you run your inverter. Roadtrek says that it takes 12 hours for the batteries to fully charge. I have been told that driving the van will charge the batteries faster.

I am now going to share with you the most important thing to understand about the battery system and this applies to the entire Roadtrek electric system and I will repeat this in each article.


The battery disconnect switch is located on the bottom right of the monitor panel. Here is a photo of mine.

See the rocker switch on the right. It says "BATTERY" next to it. See the little LED light to the left of it that says "ON" under it. That is the light that tells you the Battery Disconnect Switch is on. Yes, it is called a Battery "Disconnect" Switch and this is the same for all RVs and trailers. It is the most mis-named thing. It CONNECTS your batteries - turns them ON. Shut it off and it disconnects your batteries. If you want to use your batteries- IN FACT - if you want to use ANY electricity in your Roadtrek (except vehicle electricity coming from the engine battery) this switch MUST be ON. There is a sticker in my Roadtrek on the wall adjacent to this panel that says this. The sticker may not be on all Roadtreks. Make yourself a label if you need reminding. This switch is key to all your power. If you go to the simulator that I linked in the first article about the Electric System in general, turn off this switch with all other combinations and watch what happens.

One last thing about the photo - see the panel above the switch. The last column of LEDs on the right will tell you approximately how much battery power your batteries have. The C on the top stands for charging. If that light is on when you push the TEST switch, the batteries are charging from one of the sources I listed earlier that charge the batteries. After a long charge, that light may stay on even when not charging (when you push the test button). It will not come on in a day or so - or less. The G is "good" - basically there is full battery power. The F is "Fair" and the "L" is Low. Charge the batteries before you get to the "L". This panel is not absolutely accurate but it is good enough as long as you stay on top of keeping your batteries charged.

When we leave on a trip we turn on the Battery Disconnect Switch and it is not turned off until we get home.

When your Roadtrek is at home and you are not using it, shut off the Battery Disconnect Switch. While it is on, it will drain your coach batteries as there are a few 12 volt devices that remain powered on when it is on such as the propane alarm and the carbon monoxide alarm. If you are not in the Roadtrek between trips there is no need to have these running. Another good thing to know is that while you are driving, with the Battery Disconnect Switch OFF - your Roadtrek batteries will still charge from the engine running.

The next article coming in the electric system series will be 110/120 volt shore power.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Most Roadtrek models have four methods of bringing electricity into the coach:

"Shore Power"
Generator (optional)

The batteries supply 12 volt DC power. "Shore power" or hooking up to an outside electric outlet supplies 110/120 volt AC power. The Inverter has several functions but for now, the inverter changes 12 volt DC battery power into 110/120 volt AC power. The generator, which is noted optional, because you must purchase the generator as an option, creates 110/120 volt AC power with an engine.

I have noticed that there is a lot of confusion about the electric system from new owners. I have had several readers contact me with questions and questions come up on the forums. I am going to explain very basically the electric system in the Roadtrek. I will do this in separate article - each on one of the above sources of electricity. I am seperating it all for simplicity so that if a reader needs to come back to find out about one of these it will not be necessary to wade through an entire article about all of it.

The first place I am going to start is to share a link with you. This is the LINK to the Roadtrek Electric Simulator. This is a wonderful thing put together by a Roadtrek owner with a great deal of talent. It is a visual and working Roadtrek electric system - for each model and year Roadtrek. It is complete with all of the switches and options of running power in a Roadtrek - and they all work and show you exactly what happens in combination. The one thing that is essential to do when using this is to go down the left hand column and find the drop down menu for year and model and make sure you set in your exact year and model. It starts with models in 2000 and goes up to 2010. The 2010 models are the same as the 2011 models and likely the same as 2012 and the newest 2013s. You will find at the top of the simulator page a link to NOTES. Click on that and a PDF file will open with detailed explanations about the system - and this was recently updated in November 2011. The simulator is fun to play with and will help you understand things like what happens if I don't push this button but I do push that - or - what if my engine is running and I don't have the battery switch on. There are so many combinations.

The next article will be all about the batteries.

I had originally thought that I would run each electric system article one week after the other, but I have decided that that may be just too much electric system. What I will do is spread these articles out - and after they all have been posted add links so that they can be read in sequence if anyone would like to do that.






See our Living in the Roadtrek and How To page for other Electric System articles!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Trip to Connecticut

I wrote about having the Ezee-Lift installed on our Roadtrek. To do this we had to travel to Connecticut which I figured, given the price that shipping must be a heavy package and not having to do the installation ourselves, was worth the time, the tolls, and the gas. Besides, it was an excuse to take the Roadtrek out on a trip.

It is a busy time of the year for Meryl's business, and while she could get away for one day, she really could not get away for an overnight trip. The day that we were going was my birthday, so we decided that we would make the trip a birthday excursion, and just go up and back for the day. We did take clothes and supplies in the Roadtrek to stay overnight, just in case, but that just in case would really have to be big.

The trip to Connecticut where we had to go to have the Ezee-Lift installed, according to the GPS, was three hours and fifteen minutes. We wanted to arrive at about 1 pm and we also wanted to try to avoid some of the rush hour traffic (ha ha). It is a funny thing about Connecticut. Connecticut is about 23 miles from our house. The problem is in that 23 miles is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean named the Long Island Sound. There is no bridge. That has been an ongoing fight for more than fifty years, and while there has been willingness to build the bridge no one has really been able to find a place for it, as the attitude of the people on Long Island always tends to be "not in my backyard" or as it is actually called around here "NIMB" pronounced nimby. There is a ferry out on the east end of Long Island, but the ferry has a set schedule, is quite a distance from where we are, and costs a lot of money. (I have no idea if it would even take the Roadtrek.) So the way to go to Connecticut is to travel west into Queens County in NYC, cross the Throgs Neck Bridge into the Bronx and travel up and around to the start of the Connecticut border, and travel back east - all the time, if you could see across the Sound you could see where you just had been. So what you are doing is driving a U if you put that U on its side to the right. It is not so funny when you put our location into a store locator map on an internet site and have it come up to say that there is a store just 25 miles away - in Connecticut (if you have a boat car).

We have made this trip many times before - but never in the Roadtrek. We know that in Connecticut there is a major route that we cannot travel on with the Roadtrek, as it is not permitted due to its height. This is the Merritt Parkway or Route 15. I have software on my computer at home to program routes that can then be saved on either a Garmin or Tom Tom GPS. I always start planning a trip with this software because with the Roadtrek, you cannot rely upon the car-type GPS to not put you on roads the Roadtrek (or any RV) is not allowed on. The name of the Software is TYRE and it is free. It uses Google Maps and will route you much as a GPS does BUT then you are able to look at the route and find the roads that you are not allowed on (using other websites) and then basically route yourself around them - using waypoints that your drop on the map on places on the roads that you can travel on. This must be done very carefully in zoom mode to make sure the point you place is on the correct side of the road. It will then re-route and you can review the new route and continue with more waypoints if necessary to get to your destination if the software decided to send you on more roads that you can not travel on. (A truck or RV GPS would do this for you - they are expensive, but a possible new toy to buy at some point in the future.) Websites that I have found to do this only print out a readout of directions and from what I saw, left out exit numbers, etc. So - I create a route to Connecticut that works. I transfer it to the Roadtrek's Tom Tom - and the route in the Tom Tom goes out of its way to send me on the parkways that I cannot travel on. What happens is that TYRE is sending not the route, but the series of waypoints that you set for the route. The GPS then takes those and does its own routing which, if you have not put enough waypoints to make absolutely NO OPTION for the Tom Tom to go another way. I worked between Tyre and the Tom Tom for several hours until I had a route I could take the Roadtrek on. I should also add that we needed to change from Route 91 North to Route 84 East and the access road from 91N to 84E is on Route 15 - an extension of the Merritt Parkway. I worked another hour in frustration looking for a route that would not take me north and then back south to get on 84E from 91N. When I showed this to Meryl, she said that she did not think that the restrictions on Route 15 went that far north - and that we might be able to take the Rt. 15 access to 84 East. We decided we would see when we got there.

We started the trip on the driveway finding out that the walkie-talkies that we use for Meryl to guide me backing out into our street full of traffic did not work. Well, mine turned on and Meryl's turned on, she went down into the street to watch for oncoming cars, and I heard nothing. I looked down at the walkie-talkie and saw the power light out. Batteries don't last a year. OK. I stopped, opened the window and let her know. She tells me I just missed one of the few clear opportunities to pull out. We proceeded with her shouting when it was clear. I pulled out, she got in, and we were off!

Traffic in NY is not good. It does not seem to matter what time of the day. If there is not a tie up for an accident there is some construction going on. We got to the Long Island Expressway to start driving west and the road was heavily congested. This eventually came to a bumper to bumper stand still - well beyond rush hour. The problem was that there were three construction trucks in the left lane way up ahead - and the rear truck had an arrow flashing to move all traffic into the middle and right lane. But there was no construction. All that was happening was that the traffic was being moved right to go around these three moving trucks! Once around that traffic was not too bad in NY but that wasted quite a lot of time. Over the bridge and around through NY and into Connecticut where we got on I-95, the Connecticut Turnpike, not able to go up the Merritt Parkway which is an alternative.

No matter when we have been on the Connecticut Turnpike in the past several years - day or night, no matter what hour, there is construction going on. I am not sure what they are working on but they are always working and it is never finished. We lost an hour on the trip stopped in traffic, moving a little head, and stopping again, until we got off I-95 to the next part of the route which was north on I-91. Remember that the trip was supposed to take just over three hours total. We also added in a stop of lunch but we were well off schedule.

We decided to stop for lunch off of I-91. I-95 has Route 1 running alongside with many places to stop to eat, but I-91 has markings at exits of what is at that exit and it is less congested to get off and back on again. Be aware that I-95 does have rest stops with fast food restaurants, but triple the prices of the food at your local fast food restaurant and that is what you will pay at any of the rest stops on the Connecticut Turnpike. We saw an exit sign that said McDonald's and Wendy's and we pulled off. A sign at the exit told us to turn left to the restaurants and we did.

One of the big features of a Roadtrek is that you can "park anywhere". Well, that really needs to be "park almost anywhere" as there are a lot of little parking lots with little room for a large vehicle to maneuver. We saw the Wendy's and pulled into the lot. It was a very small lot. There was no spaces really large enough to put a 21 foot van and there was a drive through line of cars that extended almost to the entrance of the lot from the road. We could see that up where that line turned to the left to go under the drive through that NO WAY the Roadtrek could have fit under (I have yet to see a drive through that the 8'9" Roadtrek can fit under) that there was an exit to the right that would take us back to a side street and back on the road we came on. We could also see the McDonalds almost next door with a much larger parking lot. We waited on the line of cars, and moved up until we could get out of there - and did.

We got to the McDonalds lot and it was not much better, but a car had pulled out of a space near the exit and I could just pull the Roadtrek right in. Lunch was quicker than getting from I-91 to finally parked. Happily, the road back was easy to get on and the entrance to I-91 was directly on. We headed north again.

When we got to the cut off on Route 15 where the access from I-91 North to I-84 East was, we could see trucks pulling off onto Route 15. There were no signs of any kind with any vehicle restrictions and we just followed. Now, let me tell you a little problem with routes transferred to Tom Tom with waypoints. No matter what it wants to go to those waypoints in order and will take you in circles until you go back. We had to stop Bedelia as I call her from telling us to get off and go back, get off and go back. Meryl cannot see the GPS screen from the passenger seat - a problem in how the GPS/radio is designed and set right in the middle of the dash. I could not and would not try to do anything to change the route while driving, so I pulled off I-84 on an exit and looked for a place to pull the Roadtrek over - which was not easy to find. Eventually, I was able to pull off the road, clear the route and tell Bedelia to go to the Ezee-Lift address directly as there were no longer any roads we could not drive on. We got back to I-84 and headed to our first destination of the day.

I told you about the trip to Mr. Jone's home, the inventor and maker of the Ezee-Lift, already in my article about the install. The very much country roads are scenic, narrow, and in some places one lane. There were moments when we were very close to the edge of the road that just dropped off into the forest about ten feet below. Slow and easy is the way to do it. And we did. The trip that was supposed to take just a little over three hours was almost five hours.

We got to Mr. Jones and he put in the Ezee-lift and as I told you then he gave us a way to get back to I-84 without the twisty, single lane road. Nice. What we did need now was gas.

I had been watching gas stations along the road from and to I-84 and the gas prices were ridiculous. Connecticut has one of the highest gas taxes in the country. NY is not much less but it is less. Where at the time gas was $3.99 at home for regular, gas here was ranging from $3.13 to $3.35. And all of the stations next to those prices said "CASH". Credit prices were fifteen cents higher and up. We saw a Sunoco station up ahead with a large sign that said $4.02. I never thought that I would ever be happy to see a gas price at $4.02, but I figured that even with a credit card charge added on top of that it had to be better than what I saw. Unless you carry a LOT of cash on you, the Roadtrek takes 35 gallons and that means at these prices of say $4.25 per gallon cash that you will need almost $150 in cash in your pocket for just that one fill up. I don't carry anywhere near that much cash. It has to be credit. I got really excited when I went up to the pump and saw that the $4.02 was the cash OR CREDIT price! Eighty dollars later on the charge card and we were back on the road.

So where were we going? There is a chain of outdoor stores called Cabellas. The stores are few and far between. There is one in Pennsylvania between Allentown and Harrisburg off of I-78, and there is one in Connecticut in Hartford. We have been to both before, and the Pennsylvania store is larger and much more fun, but the Hartford store is OK for a Cabellas fix. This is a store that is referred to as "shoppertainment". There are things to see and do in addition to things to buy. The stores have a large, walk through aquarium with floor to ceiling fish tanks containing large, local game fish. At the Hartford store, the tank is about half as long as the one in Pennsylvania. There are local wildlife - stuffed - all over the store in natural habitat displays. If you are opposed to hunting do not come into any of these stores. There is an electronic shooting gallery, an archery range, a "gun library" to look at antique guns - all for sale, and a restaurant that serves game and common food items as well. This is where we were going.

Cabellas caters to RVers with RV parking and an RV dump station including fresh water. At some of their stores you may stay overnight in the parking lot. You always ask the store manager for permission to do this. The Connecticut store does not permit this and there were signs in the parking lot that stated no overnight parking. There was an RV parking lot and there is a dump station in the rear of the parking lot, near the RV parking lot.

We pulled into one of the large RV spaces big enough for a Class A and parked. We were the only RV there. We walked into the store past a display of kiacks hanging from the overhang for sale. Inside the store there is a large camping department, a small department for trailers and some things for RVs, a large gun department, a large fishing department, a boat department with boats on display, and a large camping department. If you have any interest in camping or outdoor activities, there is something here to look at. We had no intentions of buying - just looking and we had a great time. There is even a display of taxidermy wild animals from Africa including an elephant. (I already gave you the waring if you are anti-hunting.)

Dinner was to come next - my birthday dinner - and we were heading for Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut which is further east. Look for a coming article all about Foxwoods, as there is an RV connection there.

I will skip past Foxwoods and tell you about the way home. I would love to say that leaving at 11:00 pm would find clear roads all along the way but no, in Connecticut that just does not happen. I will say that the delays and construction was much less than we encountered during the day on the Connecticut Turnpike, but it was there. Any thought about staying overnight was put right out of my head when I saw how tied up the return roads were during the day. The trip would be much better at night - and it was. On much of the route in Connecticut, we were one of only two or three vehicles on the road. It was pretty good considering what it was like during the day. When we got into NY however, even at almost 2 am, the roads were congested - no construction, just traffic. Yes, the "city that never sleeps" really never sleeps and they drive. It was quite late when we pulled the Roadtrek into our driveway. But we had a real good time!

I know that this has been a really long article, and I hope not too boring, but I am sure some of you are wondering how did the Roadtrek do on the trip?

First, it is still winterized as there have been some near freezing nights in March and into the beginning of April. There are may things inside that are out of place and the cabinets are not stuffed and made noise-proof as they would be when we are packed for a regular trip. There was a lot of banging inside on rough roads - nothing new, but noises that were silenced by full cabinet were there with partially full cabinets. There is a new noise that we cannot yet figure out. It showed up at the end of last year - a hollow sound - and it happens when we first start to drive and quiets as we keep driving, but comes back again if we stop and start again - but like most noises in vehicles, it does not happen every time.Tires for the trip were 60 psi in the front and 80 psi in the rear and the ride was pretty smooth, away from potholed roads. I think that I will leave the tires at this for the next trip - maybe experiment at some point with the max recommended psi in the front which is 65. But so far 60 seems to work. The Roadtrek behaved and the ride was comfortable. Oh yes, and the audiobook on my mp3 player played so nicely through the dockboss on the Ipod connection to the Eclipse radio!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Roadtrek Can Go Anywhere - Almost...

To be fair this is not just about Roadtreks but motorhomes in general. One of the things that is attractive about a Roadtrek is that it can be parked in any surface parking lot. It drives the same as any van so it can go on almost any road. You can go anywhere in a Roadtrek. This is true - but what happens when you get there?

That is what I have been encountering planning trips now that we are comfortable enough in our Roadtrek to head off to more of the places that we have always liked to go and new places as well. Here are some examples.

In the city of Richmond, Virginia there is a museum called the Museum of the Confederacy and next door to that museum is a building named, "The White House of the Confederacy" which was the home and office of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Parking for this museum is either on a busy Richmond street or in a tiered parking lot at the hospital next door. When we had visited these museums years ago, we parked our car on an upper floor of the hospital parking lot. I have been thinking that these museums would be nice to return to. Exhibits have changed and we enjoyed these sites when we were there years back. I contacted the Museum of the Confederacy to ask about parking a vehicle that required a height clearance of 8 feet 9 inches. I got a prompt response back that it would not be possible to park in the hospital garage because of the height of the vehicle. I was told that there is valet parking at the hospital and they could possibly park the van outside. I thought to myself when I read this that there was no way that I would have a valet come into the Roadtrek to take it somewhere to park it and hand over the keys with all of our belongings and valuables inside. So this was out of the question. There was still street parking but it was unlikely that spaces would be available. So, there was no way to visit these museums with the Roadtrek.

I encountered this even greater in a more significant destination - Washington, D.C., our nation's capital and one of the most visited destinations in the United States. There are few campgrounds around Washington, D.C.. The most popular one is some distance outside of Washington in College Point, Maryland. If you ask on the RV forums where to stay if you go to Washington, D.C. with your RV, the just about everyone will tell you Cherry Hill Campground. Now, for most people this campground is ideal as it has a metro bus stop on site at which a bus comes hourly and will take you to the nearest metro train station to travel into Washington, D.C. The bus ride is about a half hour. The metro ride is also about a half hour. But it is possible to leave your RV safely at the campground and go to see D.C. About a year ago, we saw representatives from Cherry Hill Campground at the Hershey, PA big RV show. Meryl went over to talk to them about alternatives to the bus. I have a problem. Since I was very young, I experience motion sickness. If I am driving I am fine. If Meryl is driving, I can - sometimes - tolerate the trip. But more often than not, I cannot. I have to drive - and there is no way, of course, that I can drive the bus. So, I have a problem. This is my problem and has nothing to do with the Roadtrek - but I know I am not the only one with this problem. Meryl asked what can be done to avoid the bus. She was told by the people from the campground that on weekends the metro parking lot was free and would have many spaces available. All that would be necessary would be to take the train - which I can manage, though a half hour ride is about my limit. Fine. We could go to Washington, D.C. and I very much would like to go back to Washington, D.C.. It is my most favorite city for things to see and do. I actually made reservations for three days in Washington at Cherry Hill Campground for this summer.

Waiting for the trip, I started to check out the metro parking lot and getting information necessary to take the train. I stumbled upon a reference to the safety of parking in this parking lot. There were many comments about how it was not a good place to leave a vehicle especially on a weekend and that there was no security. Vehicles were broken into and stolen. Oh boy!. I contacted Cherry Hill Campground and asked them directly if it was safe to park in that lot for the day with the Roadtrek. I got back an answer that said, "No, do not park there due to security issues." That was that. I could not risk losing the Roadtrek. No trip was worth that. I cancelled my reservations at the campground the next day. Again, this is my problem and not due to the Roadtrek - but it is another place I am not going with the Roadtrek. Looking at other campgrounds which are further away in Virginia, the metro parking lots were all garage parking with the exception of one that again, posed security risk.

It is not just these places. I looked North to visit Boston. I have not been to Boston for many, many years - it got too expensive to stay in hotels there. The nearest campground is miles away up to the northwest of the city near Lexington and Concord. To get to Boston from the campground you can either find a commuter train and take that to the city or you can drive into the city but as far as I was able to find there is only one outdoor parking lot in the city and that is at the expo center which has parking available only when there is no events taking place. For the time being, we have crossed Boston off the list.

Then there is the lack of campgrounds in areas that one would figure are prime places for campgrounds. I am continually surprised to look at a site that I would like to visit and then look for a campground to stay in to go there - and find nothing at all. Evidently, camping and campgrounds are few and far between in some areas - and plentiful in others.

So, not to be discouraging, there are plenty of places to go and see in your Roadtrek - but don't be surprised that if you look to visit an attraction, you may not find a way to do so with your RV.

Of course, there is a solution. It is possible to tow a small car behind the Roadtrek and this resolves all of these problems. Maybe, someday, we will.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hotter than a Firecracker on the Fourth of July - PART 2

I left off in the last article with the arrival at the campground. We wanted to get out of the campground as quickly as possible and get over to Roots Market, the local farmer's market that I wrote about a year ago when I detailed last year's Fourth of July Roadtrek road trip. This was Tuesday and Roots (pronounced Ruts by the locals) is only open on Tuesdays. There is not much to say that I did not tell you about last year, so I am not going to repeat myself.

The weather reports for this entire trip were a little of everything and they included excessively high heat warnings, severe lightening storms, rain downpours, and a mix of sun and clouds - take your pick. We had places that we wanted to go in Lancaster and had to decide day to day what we would do when to maximize the weather. Two of our days would be dictated by what is open and Roots Market is the Tuesday place to go and Green Dragon Farmer's Market is the Friday place to go. We also were going to Kutztown Folk Festival and we planned two days, one of which would be the Saturday we were leaving for driving through the Amish farms and visiting local sites and shops. The one thing that would be consistent about the weather was the heat - and as I titled these articles - it was not only hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July but it was hotter than a firecracker each day of the trip - excessively hot.

So how did the Roadtrek do in the heat?

Last winter we put a commercial product called Reflectix in some of the windows in the Roadtrek - and have left it there. This is a foil/bubble insulation that is sold in home centers and is easy to cut with a scissor and fit into the window openings. In the winter, this helps keep the heat in the Roadtrek. In the summer, it helps reflect the heat away from the windows and is supposed to help keep the inside of the Roadtrek cooler. Many RVers use Reflectix. We have it in the two side rear windows and in the window over the sink. We have pieces that we carry that we can place this at night into windows that we need visible while we are driving. The Reflectix was put to the test on this trip.

Temperatures outside were in the high 90's and went into the low hundreds. The 2011 Chevy has a thermometer on the dashboard that shows the temperature outside - which I have at times been doubtful is accurate, but on this trip it was close if not matching to thermometers we were passing on the road on business signs. We also have a thermometer inside that has a remote unit that we have placed inside the refrigerator to keep check that the fridge is keeping properly cold. That thermometer is kept up front with us and also reads the temperature around it. On one of the days, the Roadtrek was parked in a lot while we were at a local attraction. When we got back to the Roadtrek after about three hours, the temperature inside the Roadtrek was 114 degrees F! This was the Fourth of July. The dashboard A/C brought the temperature down - and was cool blowing directly on us as we drove off, but it took awhile for the inside temperature to come down into the 90's and eventually lower. So much for the Reflectix... But I must say that we were not really uncomfortable - as long as the dash A/C was running.

Twice during this trip we decided that we would have lunch inside the Roadtrek. Once at Green Dragon where we bought very good sub sandwiches from a popular stand called Raub's Subs, and the other time at Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market where we bought cold cuts at a meat counter. We took it all out to the Roadtrek. I started the generator and turned on the Roadtrek A/C. It was hot when we got into the Roadtrek - the temperature inside was over 100. The Roadtrek A/C took a little while to get things cooled down, but by the time we settled to start eating, it was comfortable. This is one of the great things about having the Roadtrek. You have your "home" and all of its comforts with you everywhere you go. We had an air conditioned dining room to have lunch in - the front seats of our Roadtrek with pull out table.

One afternoon we decided to go back to the campground and spend some time before heading out to a restaurant for dinner. We backed into our site, hooked up the electric and the cable, and turned on the air conditioner and sat in comfort watching early evening TV. Outside this site is one of the bathhouses and recreation rooms. When we got to the site there were cars parked across the front of the building. There was just enough room for us to back the Roadtrek into the site. Had a larger RV come back to do what we did, it would have been difficult getting in with these cars there. There was a large group of people inside the open building - no A/C - playing bean bag toss. Meryl asked me what they were doing. I explained to her that this seems to be the national pastime of RVers - bean bag toss. I have read about playing this game at campgrounds on just about every RV forum and here it was. We were comfortable inside and I doubt these people wanted to be intruded upon. It seemed to me that they all knew each other well and it was a private party.

As I said, the reports of the threat of severe storms were constant - but happily they never came. We did, though, not go to Kutztown on the Fourth of July as we had planned - and as we always do - because the reports were certain that day of storms. We spent that day driving around the countryside - visiting towns like Bird-In-Hand and Intercourse. The storms never came. We went to Kutztown on Thursday instead. It was just as hot but the weather threat reports were not as urgent.

Kutztown was emptier than usual. For one it was not the Fourth of July, during which we were told it had been more crowded with people, though not up to expectations. The other problem was that the Fourth was in the middle of the week. We found this everywhere we went this week. There were not the usual crowds, except at the campgrounds, which seemed to be full. This is a full day outside. There is one place of cool refuge and that is inside the quilt exhibit building which is air conditioned. This year there was another cool place to retreat to - though most of the day there were lines to get in. This is the 150th Anniversary cycle of the Civil War - or as it is known in the South -the War Between the States. In recognition of this, the Pennsylvania 150th Civil War Commission had a special exhibit inside a trailer of artifacts and story boards about the Civil War in Pennsylvania and this trailer was air conditioned. We spent the entire day - heat and all. We had lunch at our favorite stand run by a local Lions Club that serves PA Dutch sausage sandwiches cheaper than any other booth at the festival. We brought our own cans of soda cold from the Roadtrek fridge. At the Kutztown Festival there are lots of crafts demonstrated and for sale, entertainment, and lectures about the local life of the Amish and Mennonites and their culture. This year they added lectures on the Civil War in Pennsylvania and there also was a small encampment of Civil War reenactors. We stopped to chat and commiserate about the heat. One difference between reenacting the Civil War and the Revolutionary War is that you can wear linen for the Rev War period - Civil War soldiers wore wool. Try going outside in wool on a 100 degree day. These guys do.

I want to share how we were inside the Roadtrek at night with this extreme heat. While it was not in the 100's at night it stayed in the high 80's and low 90's. This was hotter than it had been last summer when we were in the heat of southern Virginia. I have commented how cold it can get inside our Roadtrek with the air conditioner running. On the nights of this trip, the A/C was on set to low fan and auto - as we always keep it. It kept the inside of the Roadtrek comfortable with no problem at all. It was not super cold up front as it has felt on less extreme nights but it certainly was cool and we did not feel the heat that was outside at all. The CoolCat - yes, this is the model name of the Chevy-based Roadtrek air conditioners - did a great job. Now, I did notice something that had me concerned. When the air conditioner ran for awhile there was a noise as if something was flapping around inside. I only heard this when the a/c was on at night - never during the time it was on in the morning when we were getting ready for the day or during the few times during the afternoons that we had it on. I began to think that perhaps at night, without the intense heat outside but with the moisture that was still heavy in the air, that ice particles were forming inside the air conditioner. We have had this happen to air conditioners at home. I looked inside of the grill behind the air conditioner on the roof of the Roadtrek and there was nothing caught inside that would make any noise. The only difference between running the air conditioner in the night and the day was the intense heat outside during the day - and no ice should be forming then. I did see inside the Roadtrek looking at the air conditioner's filter that it was thickly packed with dust. It needed to be cleaned. We decided to leave that task until we got home - which we did. I will write a separate article about this at some time in the near future. Be aware that this filter needs to be cleaned at least once a year.

In our model Roadtrek and in similar Chevy-based models there are two vents on the ceiling over the bed - which is actually under the area that the air conditioner is in. These can be directed forward and back and in combination and direct air conditioned air down upon you in the bed. We slept very comfortably in nice cool air each night.

I am not going to go day by day on what we did. We had a great time each day - despite the heat. But, we had a new experience at the campground in our Roadtrek. No, not something bad. We met our neighbors.

Since before we got the Roadtrek we were told by RVers and I was told on the forums that everyone is friendly. Everyone comes to say hello or wave. Everyone will want to see your Roadtrek. A Roadtrek and all Class B's, at least where we have gone so far, are unusual to see. We did see one other on this trip parked in a diner parking lot. There were no others in the campground. I told Meryl about how friendly everyone is and we tend to be shy people - Meryl is less so than I am. Well, when we pass anyone in a campground Meryl will make a point of waving and smiling. RARELY, does anyone ever wave back. She always then looks at me and says "I thought you said everyone is friendly?" I just shrug. Maybe it is not an East Coast thing.

There was a trailer in the site next to us every day of the trip at the campground. There seemed to be a couple similar in age to us there. They were out a few nights sitting under their awning when we came back in. Remember, we go out in the morning and come back relatively late at night when we travel. So if we are going to encounter anyone it is at night when they are sitting around their fire pit or in the morning when we are unhooking and getting ready for the day. We started out the trip with some water in our waste tanks left from testing the repairs to the leak that I wrote about several articles back. The tank monitors started to read full way before they should have and I was not taking any chances so I decided that we should empty the black and grey tanks on Friday morning before we set out for the day - and replenish the water in our fresh water tanks which did seem to be getting low. So, we went out in the morning to dump the tanks. While we were setting up to do this, Meryl was outside and I was still inside pouring water down into the black tank through the toilet to make sure there really was enough water to dump. It turned out from doing this that I found out the tank was only half full - but at that point it was full and we had to dump it. When I got outside, there was Meryl talking to some lady. It was the lady from the trailer next door. She was asking about the Roadtrek as they had never seen one up close before. She said that others in the campground had been curious about the Roadtrek also. We told them all about it and the conversation got to RVing in general and she shared some concerns and I offered some of my stumbled upon wisdom as I share with you here on this site about ways to deal with what she was concerned about. Then she called her husband over and we all got to talking. We spent over an hour talking - we had intended to get away for the day sooner - but this was great. Our first neighbors that actually talked to us. I don't think they ever saw anyone dump with a macerator before so they watched. It went without a hitch or a splash...

Day to day, as I say, there were storm warnings. They never came until Saturday evening. We were driving home that night. We always drive home at night so that we can enjoy one more full day of the trip. We stopped at a favorite restaurant - Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA which is both a local favorite and a popular tourist restaurant that is off from the main tourist area. As we were heading there the radio was now pinpointing storm hits and the sky was getting darker when it should have remained summer late afternoon bright. We got to the parking lot of the restaurant and it was full of cars which is not unusual for a summer Saturday night at this particular restaurant. There was no place to park the Roadtrek as the few spaces remaining in the main lot were too tight together with cars on each side and no place to pull into two spaces front to back for the added length of the Roadtrek. There is a lot on the far side of the restaurant that had open spaces and spaces that I could park over a curb of grass which makes it easy to park a Roadtrek without sticking out into the lane behind. We parked. Meryl asked if we should bring umbrellas and I said, "Nah, too much bother."

It was crowded inside the restaurant and we were seated in a small dining room off from the main dining rooms. There were no other open tables. It happens that these side dining rooms which can be used for private parties have windows - and no place else in the restaurant can you see outside from your table. We were not even started with dinner when the rumble of thunder could be heard. Then the flashes of lighting and the bolts could be seen and the skies opened up and all of the moisture that had been collecting for days and days came down to the ground. Oh boy!

Driving in the rain is not one of my favorite things and driving in the rain at night is way at the bottom of my list. I watched as it poured. I did not need this with what I wanted to be an end of the trip relaxing dinner. But almost as suddenly as it started, within a fifteen minutes, the rain stopped. The black sky turned light the evening sun could be seen through the clouds. How nice. So the threatened storms and rain did make one appearance and it was just long enough to be noticed. We drove home on wet roads but with clear skies.

There will be more trips to come this summer. We may try dry camping for a night but that depends on a few things. We will also be out for an extended trip of almost three weeks and you will come along for the trip.