Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Every so often I come across something that has a good use for the Roadtrek - either inside or outside. I will be sharing these with you in articles as we go along. I have no connection to the companies that make these and I am receiving nothing to endorse them or write about them.

Two things that I have found recently is something called a GoBand Seat Organizer and related to use with the Roadtrek, the Kord Manager. Let's look at the GoBand first.

Our 190 Popular has three front seats - the passenger seat, the driver's seat, and a third seat. Other models have an additional fourth seat up front. We find that third seat very useful to keep things on while we are driving - in the winter our coats go here. In the summer, we start collecting small packages that get placed on the seat. With small packages, things do start to move and fall while driving and we have used the seat belt to hold them in place. We have also  We also tend to drop magazines there that we want to read during the trip (instead of screwing a rack on the wall inside the bathroom cabinet). Since getting the Roadtrek we have been looking for a better way to carry magazines, books, and all of the brochures that are picked up for attractions along the way. There are seat organizers that go on the back of seats, but until now we have not seen one that goes on the FRONT of a vehicle seat. While walking through the auto section in KMart I came across the GoBand.

It just happens that the GoBand has a video and I will share that with you here -

In the Roadtrek this slips over the seat back cushion (after taking it out of its lock on the wall behind) and moves down to the bottom of the seat.

You get a nice expandable pocket on the seat back and if someone is going to sit there, you just push it down to the bottom as shown in the video. Here it is with a stack of magazines -

Of course, as you are moving the magazines will slide down a bit - and expand the pouch, but they are held in place and that is what is important.

This can be found at KMart Stores in the auto section. It costs $8.19. Here is what the packaging looks like.

The other item I want to share with you now is not directly for the Roadtrek but for a 30 amp extension cord that you may have for your Roadtrek. We keep ours in our porch and once this nice small bundle of electric cable is removed from its packaging it never gets small and easy to store again. It is heavy and rolling it up can become unwieldy especially in the cold which is when we most use the cord to charge the Roadtrek batteries in the winter. Up until now it just gets rolled as best we can get it and plopped down on a shelf on the porch. Then I found the Kord Manager in Walmart in the Electric section.  Here is the Kord Manager -

It is a reel with a handle that when combined with a sliding center becomes a crank that rolls the cord up onto the reel in your hands. The plug and socket are large on a 30 amp cord and they will just fit through the holes on the side.

 To use you put either the socket or the plug into one of the holes. There are two holes with smaller holes on the sides in two sizes. While the larger hole looks like it should fit the large 30 amp cord
gauge it does not. This is not that important as the size of the plug or socket will keep it in the hole.  Once the plug or socket is through the hole, you hold the black sleeve in the middle with one hand and crank the knob with the other hand. The cord will roll up onto the reel very easily.

Our extension cord is 30 feet. You can see here hoe that fits. A longer 30 amp cord may not fit.
  The Kord Manager costs about $10 in Walmart. It has made rolling, unrolling, and storing our 30 amp extension cord much less of a chore.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Our Roadtrek

I have written about what is in our Roadtrek 190 Popular as ordered from the factory in many articles with a little bit here and a little bit there but I have not written this all out in one place. As you have been reading through our adventures and what it is like owning, using, and maintaining a Roadtrek - or any Class B - you may have wondered what came with the basic Roadtrek and what options did we choose - and why. Here I will put down what we ordered. In the past two years there have been some changes, I am sure, but basically things will be the same.

When you sit down with the salesman to purchase a new Roadtrek to be ordered from the factory you are given an order form that lists all of the base models and the options that you are to choose from. Each has a price - the msrp or list price - and the total will be what the msrp for your Roadtrek will be as ordered. Of course, the salesman will then take out a calculator and tap, tap, tap and the result will be a selling price lower than the total msrp. This is when you haggle, argue, or walk out. What we learned is that dealers are competitive to make the sale and will negotiate with you on the price and will meet another dealer's price - unless that price is considered suspect.  You will be expected to give a down payment to secure the order. The rest is expected on delivery - unless you are financing through the dealer which will result in your signing a finance agreement after your credit and finances are investigated. That is the process of the purchase.

Now to our Roadtrek:

Base Model: Roadtrek 190 Popular - built on a Chevy 3500 Express van with a 6.0L V8 engine. At the time, standard to this model were Captain's Seats and Lounge Seat, full length wardrobe, standard galley <kitchen>, temporary bathroom <meaning aisle bathroom>, pantry and dinette (twins or king size). This is how it was written on the order form. The twins or king size referring to how the bed in this model can be made up. <All of these things are the things that set this model apart from other models.>

Also standard on this base model is a 110 Volt 19 inch TV on rotating bracket with DVD player.

At this time the base model 190 Popular had as standard a Box Awning on the side of the van. This had been an option prior to 2011. I will note here that we did not want the awning and had been ordering the 190 prior to the 2011 model (we started shopping when the 2010 model was available) we were not ordering what was then the Optional awning.  The Roadtrek order form has several delete options. The awning in 2011 was not among the deletes. We told the dealer that we did not want the awning. It was confirmed with the factory that it could be deleted on the order and we deleted it.

We ordered the following options:


Locking Rear Differential

Continental Spare Tire Kit <This is the spare tire that hangs outside the cargo door over the bumper. The alternative is that the spare tire is kept under the bed in the behind the rear cargo door storage area.>

Over Cab Storage Drawer <a storage drawer that is over the front driver/passenger cab just below the ceiling.>

Onan Microlite Gasoline Generator (100V, 2.8kW)

Screens for Rear Cargo Doors and Side Windows

SE PACKAGE: silver paint with grey paint on lower body

Non Power Bed  <The option was to order the Power Bed Sofa. By not choosing that option you get the non power bed on platforms in the rear of the van - as in my Roadtrek.)

Minimalist Striping (replaces standard graphics and striping)  <no cost>

DELETES: (What we deleted from the standard Roadtrek)

Delete Front and Rear Bumper Covers  <minus $>

Delete Exterior Word Decals (Roadtrek, Motorhomes, etc.)  < $0>

This was how we ordered our Roadtrek. As I have written before we did not want the standard Dometic three-way (propane/battery/110v) refrigerator that comes with the Roadtrek. This was negotiated with the dealer to order the Roadtrek without the refrigerator, for the dealer to purchase the Nova Kool two-way (battery/110V) compressor refrigerator on my behalf, and install that refrigerator at the dealer's service center in the space where the Dometic fridge would have been.)

Here are the options that we did not choose:
4wd System (now no longer available)
Removable Armoire (to replace the third seat with a closet)
Black Out Painted Sections Between Windows (outside)
Premium Brand 110v Coffee Maker
Folding mattress to turn third seat and front passenger seat into a bed
Sand Paint package (LX)
Permanent Bathroom
Power Rear Sofa Bed
Aluminum Wheels
We did not delete the crank up Winegard TV antenna

Why some of our choices?

We have had vans with locking rear differential and liked how they drive so this option for us was a must have.

The continental spare tire kit makes for a lot more storage space under the bed. That area is very much filled by the spare tire kit without the CSTK.

The over cab storage drawer adds a lot of storage room and takes nothing away but unused space over your heads when sitting in the driver and passenger seats. We use this a lot.

The generator is a must if you plan to camp at any time without the ability to hook up to 110v electricity. While the inverter does provide 110v power it is limited in use and time.

The screens are a good idea and I often see those without screens looking for ways to open them later. If you are going to run the vent fan in the ceiling you must open a window to give air to flow through. Without a screen on the window you are pulling in the mosquitoes at the same time.

The silver paint - we had just gotten a white car and saw how easily dirty it got quickly. The sand paint package is more expensive than the silver. For us, if we did not want white, it would be silver.

The Non Power Bed. We selected this sight unseen. We had no idea what it would look like but we saw drawbacks with the power sofa bed. As it is we gained storage space and a bed that can be made up with real sheets and feels just like a real bed.

We did not need front and rear bumper covers and this saved us some money. The original Chevy chrome bumpers look very nice. As it turns out, this gives us the advantage to pull the Roadtrek up to the tires when parking front up to a curb. The covers add to lower bottom clearance. If you have a front bumper cover do not try to pull up to your tires when parking up to a curb. In fact, don't pull up to the curb at all or you may damage your bumper cover and they are not easy to repair.

The choice to order the Minimalism Striping and to delete the Exterior Word Decals was our effort to make our Roadtrek stealth. No obvious writing outside that says RV. The dealer was nice enough to also not put his decal on that says RV dealer on it.

The options that we did not order were just personal choice of things that we would not need (neither of us drink coffee) and that would save us some money on the purchase.

So that is our Roadtrek. Other things inside are standard to all Roadtreks - like the air conditioner/heat pump, the furnace, the hot water heater, the inverter, and so on. There are some things in our Roadtrek that were standard that on some models and with various years  - including current models - are optional. In addition, new options are being added including solar panels for most, if not all models.  Here are some of the items that came standard on our Roadtrek:
Television with wall mount - 19" Digital LED Flat Screen HDTV Vizio TV (television is now an option)
Home Entertainment Center - DVD, Surround sound system with multi-speakers and sub-woofer, radio, usb, and auxillary inputs (now included with the television option)
Winegard Wingman directional TV crank up rooftop antenna - Roadtrek now includes a low to the roof Sole antenna which is multi-directional (but does not change direction)
Eclipse II dashboard GPS/Stereo/Back Up camera (a different radio with the same features is now installed).
As I have learned in the past two years and at the time we were ordering our Roadtrek, Roadtrek can be very accommodating and will work with you if they can to build you a Roadtrek with some modifications - like the awning that they deleted on our request. Don't be afraid to ask. I think that if it can be done, they will try to work with you to do it.

If you are shopping for a Roadtrek - new or used take a look at the Specifications page on the Roadtrek website. While the current year models come up automatically, you can change to previous years back to 2001 on the top line of the page. Here is the LINK - SPECIFICATIONS.

I have been asked by some with this model for the paint colors codes that are located in the door. I will post them here if anyone needs them and has a 2011 Roadtrek on the 2011 Chevy Express Van chassis.

Upper body - GM-12-WA519F
Lower body - GM-WA8945
Blackout - GM-WA5118

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Plug Dogs for Your Shore Power Connections

One of the things that we have struggled with when connecting shore power connections - particulary between the Roadtrek power cord and the surge/power protector unit and between anything and the 30 amp power extension cord that we have - is getting a grip on the plug and socket and pulling them apart. This has never been a problem with a campground power box outlet, as these are often so frequently used that they are easy to pull the plug out of. Some adapters, 30 amp power extension cords, and surge/power protection units plugs and sockets have handles built in on the back. The Roadtrek shore power cord does not and appropriately so because it needs to fit in the mousehole when the cover cap is closed. Our Surge Guard does have handles on the plug and socket and our 30 amp adapter plug/sockets also have handles. Our extension cord does not, but I have seen ones that do. Had I known how difficult these plugs and sockets can be to separate I would have bought a 30 amp extension cord that had the handles.

This problem is worse in the cold when things contract. If it is a very hot day, the plugs are usually easier to pull apart - sometimes. I kept looking in RV shops and websites for something that would add a handle. Short of cutting off the plug or socket and wiring ones on with handles I did not find anything. Until I heard about these...

I read about Plug Dogs when looking through a general RV forum. I did a search and eventually found the manufacturer's website. A Plug Dog is a handle that you temporarily add on to any connection between a plug and a socket. They are made for 30 amp connections, 50 amp connections, and regular household three prong connections. What you want for your Roadtrek is the 30 amp Plug Dog. Here is how they work -

Here is the Plug Dog out of the package. You see the rubber grip handle on the back and a velcro strap between the handle and the face of the Plug Dog. The strap is to secure the Plug Dog to the plug or socket. There is only one style of Plug Dog - you use the same for both plugs and sockets.

Here is the face of the Plug Dog - see the slots at the top and the hole in the middle - this is what your plug fits through. Like this ->

You just slip the prongs of the plug through the slits and hole and use the velcro on the back to secure it to the plug. The material according to the company is non-wicking and non-conductive and they state that it will not interfere with the electrical connection - even in the rain.

This is installed on the plug. Obviously, there are no prongs on a socket to push through the Plug Dog - so if you have a socket that you are plugging into that also needs a handle all you do is put the Plug Dog onto the plug with the handle facing front rather than behind as you see here. A plug and a socket that both need handles that you are plugging one into the other - just put the socket's Plug Dog over the plug's Plug Dog and then plug into the socket. Attach the velcro strap on the back of the socket and you have a plug and socket each with a Plug Dog.

That is all that is involved in putting them on. Simple! Now do they work? YES! Here is Meryl pulling the two ends apart. She could do it with very little effort and she has not been able to separate these ends herself before. And I have struggled just as much to get them apart - often resorting to slipping something between them - NO POWER ON, of course - to pry them apart.

And according to the company, if you still can't get them apart, the handles are made strong enough and large enough so that you can put one side on the ground, slip the toe of your shoe into the handle loop, step down, and pull with the other hand and they will definitely come apart - but I don't think this will be necessary as they came apart so well just with a pull.

Plug Dogs in use with my extension cord, the Surge Guard, and the Roadtrek power cord:

The Surge Guard plug and socket have their own handles so only one Plug Dog was needed for each connection shown here.
This is what the package looks like.

 And here is the back of the package -

I looked for these in RV shops and did not find them anywhere including Camping World. I purchased mine directly from the manufacturer's website which is here - PLUG DOGS . They cost $10 each. I purchased four of them - we counted all of the plugs and sockets that we have that may have to go together that do not have handles of their own. You do pay shipping (USPS) but it is not unreasonable and they shipped that same night and arrived about four days later at our post office box. I have no connection to the company that makes Plug Dogs. They are a good product that works  and does just what it claims to do. There are few things that you buy now a days that this can be said about. (Roadtrek is another company you can say this about.)  They solved the problem we had. If you have the same difficulty getting plugs and sockets apart on your shore power connections, you may find these great too!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Roadtrek Takes a Trip, Part 2

PART II - See last week for Part I.

I have written about our trips to the service center before. The dealer has a nice RV shop with parts and all types of things to buy for your RV. This is not something that we have to this extent near home so we head over there after we leave the Roadtrek across the road for service. One thing that is good here is that they have some replacement parts specific to the Roadtrek. In the past we have purchased two extra orange fresh water tank fill plugs - in case one gets lost or broken. We have purchased extra clips that hold the window curtains closed there. Meryl reminded me on this trip that we should look for an extra fresh water tank drain plug cap.

The drain plug cap looks like it should be easy to replace with any 1/2 inch plumbing screw on cap at Lowes or Home Depot. I bought two - one at Lowes and one at Home Depot and each did not screw on the drain hole properly. The screw threads must not have matched.We walked over the the plumbing section here and there it was - exact replacement - for a little over three dollars. We get 10% off at the shop because we bought our Roadtrek here so they made their big sale of the day to us. I like to have extras of the things that could get lost when we are traveling with no source of replacement. The drain cap could end a trip with no way to replace it right away. No drain cap no water in the tank (though in the 190 (and 210) we could shut down the front water tank where the low point drain is, and just use the interior, rear water tank - see the article summer mode/winter mode).

We continued looking around the shop. I had recently been looking online at a 30 amp plug that replaces the mouse hole that the power cable comes out of. Installation would involve cutting the power cable cord for shore power right there inside at the mouse hole, inserting this plug with cover unit into the hole from the outside in,and wiring the cable into the back of this plug. Now when connecting to shore power you use an RV 30 amp power cord that is not attached permanently to the RV. You would then just take the cord out of the storage cabinet completely, where the socket is connected to this new exterior plug (where the mouse hole is now), and then the plug on that cord goes into the outside power box outlet. This eliminates feeding the power cord through the mouse hole - which Meryl would like. A number of Roadtrek owners have done this already. Walking around the shop, there was this unit. We got to see it up close and what was involved, plus the power cords that are used with it. Looking we decided it was something maybe for the future and since the dealer's shop was selling it, if we did not want to do the simple job ourselves, the service center could do it for us. I also saw again something that I keep coming back to and looking at when we are here. There is a meter that plugs between the antenna and TV coax cable that shows the signal strength of antenna digital TV signals. It will tell you with a series of LEDs where to stop turning the direction of your TV antenna on the roof to receive the strong and most the signals. It runs on a battery and is $40. It would make tuning in the digital TV before scanning a lot easier. It is $40 and I have not decided the convenience is worth the $40. Maybe someday. We primarily choose campgrounds now with cable.

While I was in the store Meryl went into the showroom to look for new Roadtreks. There were none on the showroom floor. All of the Roadtreks were outside on the lot and we were not going to bother the salespeople to show us inside any of them - no point in our asking them to spend their time with no hope of making a sale. Had there been an ETrek I would have asked. There was not.

After the shop, it was off to lunch which is a short walk to a limited shopping center. There were still no showers, though it was very cloudy. We were here - the work we needed to be done was finally being done, and that was what was important. After lunch we walked a little further to an adjacent small strip mall with a great dollar store. Since our first trip here we have included a stop off at this dollar store. They just seem to have more or at least a different assortment of items from the other dollar stores we have been in. We wandered around the store. bought a few things and then went into the Staples Office store next door - there is not much else to waste time in.

What was beginning to concern me was that it was almost three hours and we had not been called yet to come back. I was envisioning that the found a real major problem with the air conditioner. We walked around the store a little longer and I suggested that we call them to find out what was happening. Meryl suggested that we just start walking back. When we got outside the store the wind was picking up a lot - real blow you over type wind. Half way back, we got a call that they wanted to show us something. Oh boy!

We got back to the service office and we were asked to come inside to the work area. We went back to the shop and there was the Roadtrek - plugged in with the air conditioner running. We went inside the Roadtrek and  no more flapping noise. What they wanted to show us was that it was fixed. Good. What had been wrong with it? When they took the front cover off all of the way they found that part of the rubber gasket around the cover - in the area of the vent that the noise was coming from - was loose and flapping around and knocking against the cover. They secured that down and the noise went away. A simple fix is always better than a fix that requires taking things out and apart.

The oil change on the generator was done. Now, we were going to be shown how to open the hatch. It was Rachel who had taken us back and she knows a great deal about RVs. She turned the two latches that unlock the hatch and pulled up from the bottom to take it out - just as I had. It did not budge. I had wondered if when the DC/AC fridge was installed at this service center the panel had been locked off as there was no reason to open it.  No, she said that generally they leave them possible to open.  One of the service techs walked past and she asked him to take it off. He put a screw driver into the slot of each latch and turned them 90 degrees. He grabbed hold of them, pushed slightly up and then out and down and it came off. Inside was fairly clean - a little vacuuming maybe on a clear day at home, now that I could get the hatch cover off. He showed me that the latches snap into catches and that there are three tabs that must be lined up on the top before putting the hatch cover back. Turning the latches back 90 degrees locks them once they are snapped back in. That was it - all accomplished that we came for.

We walked back up front with Rachel and when we got there outside through the window we could see that it was SNOWING. Large white snow flakes were falling fast. No scattered rain showers as predicted but snow! We had been joking earlier with Rachel about all of the bad weather we have had. When she saw the snow, she asked, "How can it be snowing?". My answer was, "Because we are here."  At least the temperature outside was high enough to keep it from sticking and it was melting as it hit the pavement. When we got into the Roadtrek to drive off the snow was still coming down lightly.

When we make these trips for a day to have work done, we are spending a lot of money on tolls, not to mention gasoline. Between the two bridge tolls in NY that have just gone up, yet again,  in the past two weeks and the tolls on the turnpikes the trip costs near $40. and that is probably a conservative guess. When it is part of a trip where we will be staying, it is just part of the anticipated expenses of the trip.  When we come just for service, we want to have a little fun visiting one of our favorite areas while we are so nearby. I had hoped that we would have been getting away from the service center earlier in the afternoon. As it turned out, it was 5:00 pm. Looking at the weather, Meryl asked if we should just start heading home. It looked to me like it would not last - and if the forecast would be correct at all would be ending - showers or snow in an hour or two. As long as the temperatures were not freezing the wet to the roads we would be fine. We headed toward Lancaster for a favorite restaurant of ours.

I don't often talk of restaurants that we stop at, but this one is one not to miss if in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania. The restaurant is the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA and I have heard people talking about this restaurant many times in other states. It is probably one of the largest buffet restaurants anywhere and the food is very good. It is a mix of Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish specialties, southern cooking, farm cooking, and what is generally called American food. I have recommended it to friends who come back raving about the great meal that they had there. We have dined there many many times over many years and this was where we headed. The ride from the dealer takes about an hour and we were there early enough to stop at a great store that is next door to the restaurant - Goods Store - a store that caterers to the local people including the Amish and Mennonites and is the place to go to when you can't find what you are looking for somewhere else. During the hurricane we discovered that we had used up all of the lamp wick for the oil lamps we have. We knew that we could get more at Goods. And we found it there in a variety of sizes.

Dinner was fabulous - as expected. We stopped briefly in the gift shop and then headed over to the local Walmart. When do we ever go anywhere without stopping in a Walmart. At home there are no Super Walmarts and generally out of state we can find things there that we can't get at home - at least at low prices. Out in the parking lot of the restaurant it had gotten extremely cold. The wind chill was taking its toll even with the thermometer on the dash of the Roadtrek reading in the upper thirties. If I had been considering just staying over for the night - either in a campground or in a Walmart parking lot, it was just too cold - and the next day according to local radio would get colder. The idea to stay over was for fun and not endurance so we just skipped that idea.

Before we left we stopped for gas at a truck stop. Gas prices in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey are forty cents a gallon less than in New York so we always fill up just before we leave Pennsylvania and then top off the tank at the last gas station on the turnpike in New Jersey before New York. I checked the mileage twice during the trip. After our long and weary drive coming with stopping and creeping along in traffic we got 15 mpg. Not bad! With steady interstate highway driving at the speed limit we got 18.7 mpg! That is close to the 19+ mpg we have been getting when highway driving. Compared to other RVs that expect 10 to 12 mpg (not to mention the big rigs that get 3 to 4 mpg), my Roadtrek gets wonderful mileage!
Well, it was after 11:00 pm before we left Pennsylvania and were on the road heading back home. I was really enjoying driving the Roadtrek.  The surface of the Pennsylvania Turnpike had been repaved since our last visit and the Roadtrek just glided over the surface - no bumps and nothing banging around inside. We had the local country station on and then when that faded away changed to the Philadelphia country station. The trip home was pretty much uneventful other than the upper level of the Verrazano Bridge being closed and having to get past and around the trucks to get to the road home. The sky was clear - finally! But when we got off the highway to get on the road that we have to take to get to our town, you can guess what was happening... it was snowing! Yes, we arrived home in the snow! I so love the accuracy of weather forecasts. And it was after three in the morning.

Well, so my Roadtrek after five and a half months got to go on a trip. I wish we had been able to go on a real trip, but I have to say that any reason to travel in the Roadtrek after such a long time with it on the driveway - and looking out at it and wishing we were anywhere but here - well, it was a good trip for the Roadtrek and us.

I dare not say when the next one will be. I do have an idea - and we need to make reservations soon. Before that trip I hope to de-winterize. And sad to say, as I am writing this, it has been snowing outside and in two days it is the official first day of Spring with a forecast for a wintery mix.