Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Finally Resolving the Window Cover Problem

The front of every Roadtrek roof has a signature thee windows. On the Chevy Roadtreks and also the new Zion, these are real windows. On Sprinter Roadtreks these are decals. I would so much have preferred decals.

Our 2011 Roadtrek 190 Popular came with three plastic panel covers for these windows. The covers for the two flanking windows have done a fairly decent job in blocking the sunlight that streams through the roof windows. The center window has done a poor job at this with light streaming through past the top of the cover - since we have owned the Roadtrek. I could never figure out why. The window covers are held in place with turn buttons that fit into slots cut into the covers at the Roadtrek factory. The turn buttons are installed at the factory to match the slots. Why did then did the cover not fit?  It took me until very recently to realize that the either the turn buttons are in the wrong place or the slots on the cover are in the wrong place. But how could that be? Surely, there is a template or computer guided cutter used to cut out or stamp out the cover. And when the turn buttons are installed there must be a standard placement.

To block the light coming through the window, the cover needs to cover the gasket that surrounds the window glass as shown in the photos above. The side covers do this. The center cover does this on the sides and bottom but not the top.

I decided to make my own cover to correct this and finally, get the coach dark when the sun comes up in the morning. Now, I have gotten the comments on the last article about blocking the light that comes through the ceiling fan - just wear a sleep mask. A sleep mask was the first thing I tried when I was being woken when the sun came up every morning. The sleep mask seemed a good idea and I put it on and in the morning it had moved off of my eyes and there was the sunlight. It may work for some, I must move a lot in my sleep and the mask was not staying on. I have heard from other Roadtrek owners about these windows who feel the same way as I do - the covers - particularly the center cover - just do not block the light. There are earlier year Roadtreks that did not come with any window covers at all.

I looked in home stores and craft stores for a hard, not flexible, material that would make a good cover. I was hoping to find a plastic similar to the original but found nothing like it at all. Most of what I found in craft stores - corrugated plastic board or foam core board did not block the light. I also looked at window cling material that is used for blackout windows which would have worked but I was concerned about a warning on the package that the glass could break with this material applied if the glass becomes too hot. These windows in the direct sun get VERY hot. I did not want to chance having these windows break - they are an odd shape and size and to replace one, you must wait for Roadtrek to send a replacement or hope to find a glass shop that is willing to match the shape with auto grade glass. I was in my workshop and  found a small piece of oak surface plywood that I had used for a project at sometime in the past. It is nicely finished on both sides, is the correct thickness - this was another problem in matching the cover as the cover must fit under the turn buttons. The original cover is 5/16" thick. This plywood just happened to be 5/16" thick. The turn buttons can be loosened - enabling more space under each one - but they can only be tightened down so far, so any significantly thinner material is no good. I went to Home Depot to find a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of finished oak plywood. Having been in Home Depots and Lowes stores in other parts of the country, I know that the condition of the wood sold is very much better than the wood that is sold in these stores local to me. Any trip out for wood involves visits to multiple stores to find wood that is not warped, cut up, or scarred. If one wants to build a boat you will find wood perfectly bent at these stores near me. Plywood should be different, especially hardwood plywood - but two stores and I found nothing usable. At that point I gave up to wait to go another day to more stores. Perhaps I was not meant to find the wood, as I returned to my workshop and was rummaging around in my wood stacks and there was a nice piece of oak plywood large enough to cut the cover from.

OK - so I took the original cover which is actually the correct size and traced it onto the plywood. In the Roadtrek I measured where the slots for the turn buttons were off - if the bottom of the slot on the original had been the top of the slot, it would have fit as it should. I traced the line of the bottom of the slot on the original and moved the original down so that the top of the slot would now be in the correct location and traced around the slot. I took the plywood over to my bandsaw fitted with a fine tooth blade for a smooth cut and cut out the new cover. A little sanding on the cut edge and the new cover was ready to test.

Perfect! The top of the cover completely covers the black gasket as the original should have.

No light now comes through the new cover! If I do this again, there is one more thing that I would correct. The length of the slots are just a little too long - on the original of all of the covers and on my new cover. Shortening this would hold the cover a little better and would prevent the little light that leaks through the slot.

Just to illustrate clearer what is wrong with the original cover. Here are two photos comparing the corrected cover in wood to the original grey plastic cover.

We tested the new cover out on the next trip and it worked perfectly. If you have mis-fit covers (how can that happen???), this is an easy way to make new covers if you have basic woodworking skills or know someone who does. (No need for big shop tools, a hand scroll saw for a few dollars will cut this out easily.) Finished oak plywood is really nice wood to work with - both sides are finished and the grain pattern is beautiful. I have not used any surface finish on the cover. If you do want to finish it, use something that will hold up to the heat of the sun coming through the glass in the morning when the window is in place. As I say, these windows get very hot in the sun. I have made Reflectix covers for the three of these roof windows (sometimes called "opera windows") to put up when leaving the Roadtrek in the sun all day to cut down on the intense heat that builds up in the coach in this area under the windows - but the Reflectix fits loosely and does not cut out the light.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hollywood Casino and Penn National Race Course, Grantville, PA

A year ago we tried to go to the Hollywood Casino with the Roadtrek. The casino is part of the Penn National Race Course near Hershey, PA - the city the chocolate comes from. Before going on that trip I contacted the casino and asked where RVs may park as I knew that they had a parking garage that we would not fit in. I was told that there was a special lot for RVs and trucks and that we should not enter at the main entrance but follow the signs past that and continue on to this special lot. When we got to the parking lot it was nothing more than a gravel road that went in a circle with a line of 18 wheelers parked in it every which way. There was no place to put even an RV as small as a Roadtrek. We drove around that lot a couple of times and gave up. In the distance we could see a regular parking lot for cars. When I had contacted the casino before we went, I was told very emphatically DO NOT PARK in the car parking lots. OK. We left.

This year we would be in Hershey again for the same event as last year and I decided in advance that we were going back to the Hollywood Casino. I brought their location up on Google Maps in satellite mode and carefully examined where the main entrance leads. There was a very large parking lot right before the entrance to the indoor parking garage just to the right. There was plentyl of parking there and I could easily see that the Roadtrek would have no problem finding a place to park there. After mentioning last year in a article here about our experience in the so-called RV lot there, I received a few responses that there is no problem parking if you just go into the car lot.  The heck with what management told us in the email... And that is exactly what we did.

This was at night and the lot we went to was not crowded at all. Most of the cars were turning toward the parking garage. We would have a short walk mostly uphill, but that was fine. There were two other RVs in the lot - one a Class C and another Class B off in the distance which could have been just a standard conversion van. We parked and went into the casino.

We are not gamblers but I love the atmosphere of casinos. This one, I learned from their website  has a museum. A museum of gambling? Nope. This casino's name and theme is Hollywood and this casino has a collection of Hollywood memorabilia - props and costumes from some pretty significant stars and movies. I am a long time film buff and have been going to the movies since I was an infant in my mother's arms. My parents were not going to stay home and not go to the movies and brought me along. I don't remember, of course, what I saw as an infant but I remember some pretty big films that we saw in the mid-50's and beyond. I love the movies! Anyway - I wanted to see the collection at this casino.

The museum is free and not very large but we saw some pretty neat things that impressed me. There are two costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe, props from Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra though the dress on display was a reproduction - everything else in the museum was original, and more.  Here is the motorcycle driven in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade - Harrison Ford and Sean Connery!

Another motorcyle - the Triumph ridden by Marlon Brando in The Wild One (and owned by him when he made the movie).

And another motorcycle - but the BEST of all - Steve McQueen in The Great Escape! This one got a big "Oh MY!"

There were costumes and props from Batman Returns - both Batman's outfit worn by Michael Keaton shown below and Catwoman's stitched together jump suit (no photo - it was dark in the museum and this all was behind glass which made photograph quality marginal).

From the movie Aliens - the Alien - (up on the ceiling hanging over you as you walked past)

From one of the Star Trek movies (Kirk era - Star Trek IV) - a phaser and autographed poster -

And from Back to the Future II - a hoverboard!

There was more in the musuem. And my photos here do not really do these objects justice.

The decor of the museum is also Hollywood and there are Roman Arches, backdrop sets, a full size park statue of a Rev War soldier on horseback, the front of a cruise ship (that I looked to see if it said Titanic but it didn't - but that was what it was supposed to be, and more. It is important to know that no one under the age of 21 can go through any entrance door to the casino. No children at all may enter. Some casino complexes - Atlantic City and the casinos in Connecticut have areas that children can go into and walk through to game rooms, shops, restaurants, etc. NOT HERE. They can't see the musuem. They cannot get to any of the restaurants that are part of the casino.

We walked around the casino and no, we did not make a bet. We had dinner and then after dinner we got to see something that neither of us had never seen before.

Penn National Race Course was running races and neither Meryl or I have ever been to a racetrack where the jockeys sit on the horses. Years ago we both were at a local racetrack - since closed - at which Trotters raced. These are horses pulling sulkies (carriages) driven by a jockey. We are not far from the famous Belmont Race Track but neither of us have ever gone. After dinner we went out of the casino and walked right into the racetrack. The racetrack is also free. (Another surprise as it used to cost an admission fee to go to the trotters track we had been to. While there are no children allowed in the casino - there were plenty of children with their parents at the track! This was all a new experience for us and I am sure if this is all common to you, you are wondering what the big deal is but it was a big deal for us. We walked up to the rail and were just a very few feet away from where the horse run. We heard the trumpet and the race was about to start. Each horse came out with its jockey and another horse ridden by what I assume is a trainer and they all walked around the track. Again - all new to us. We watched three races - had we known that the races were going on we would have come out earlier. Between each race you can walk up to where the horses are prepared for the next race - and when the race ended we followed the crowd to see what was going on and found this. There was a food stand outside so if you bring children to the track you can eat outside without going into the casino - though the Skybox Restaurant is within the casino where no children are allowed. Again, we did not make any bets. We did get to see a horse and jockey injured during the last race resulting in both a "people" ambulance and a horse ambulance going out to get them.

Now, while the kids can't go into the casino, there were lots of kids waving race bet tickets around and not one's that they found discarded on the ground. The kids were all making bets along with their parents! And lining up at the payout window with mom or dad to get their winnings. After the races the kids and their parents took off and we went back into the casino to see a free show in the lounge on the casino floor. Not a name but a decent band with a good singer.

Lots of excitement for one night out! For non-gamblers we had a really good time.  We had two events to attend this weekend - one during that day and one the next day and this was the highlight of the trip for us. The events were good too.

The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am not sure if you could stay overnight without drawing some reaction from the security cars that drive around the parking lots here. If you are inside the casino, no one will stop you from parking. If it is obvious late at night that you are sleeping there, I don't know if they will react. The Connecticut casinos anticipate that an RV will stay overnight - but this is in a specially set aside lot. Here that lot is full of 18th wheelers - which we could see in the distance. We were staying in a campground a bit of a distance away but we choose that not for our Hershey event but for our event near Kutztown, PA the next day.

Here is a link to the museum with hours -

The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is located at 777 Hollywood Blvd
Grantville, PA 17028. Their phone number is 717-469-2211. Their website is

Hooray for Hollywood!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We are "night" people. It is just how we are. We go to bed late and tend to get up later in the morning, even when traveling, unless there is somewhere that we plan to be that we must be at early. For some time now, I have been trying to find some way to block out the morning daylight that comes through both the Fantastic Fan cover in the roof and the spaces around the poorly fitting and warped night covers over the three "opera" windows in the front ceiling.The windows all around are pretty well covered by both the curtains that came with the Roadtrek and the insulating Reflectix bubble foil that I fit into the inside frames of some of the windows.

This article will focus on the light coming through the Fantastic Fan, as we have still not come up with an effective way to deal with the three ceiling windows, which Meryl and I are still working on. When I first started asking around the forums about what others do, the first suggestion was a commercially sold foam insert that goes up into the vent frame - and I bought one of these, even though I knew that on the Fantastic Fan with its control knobs shallow to the frame it would not work. Several said, "Oh yes! It works!". It doesn't. This insert is made for a vent with no motor which has a frame that is much deeper than the Fantastic Fan. That went back the next day.

Another suggestion was to cut a piece of Reflectix and use small bungee cords to hold it in place inserting the small wire tips of the six inch, thin cord, bungee cords in between the edge of the frame and the padded ceiling. This actually worked, but I cringed every time I pushed the wire tip of that bungee cord between the frame and the ceiling.  I even covered the wire with heat shrink tubing but even with that there was still a point and I was certain that doing this every night in the RV, sooner of later it would cut into the padded ceiling and the ceiling would rip. This was only a temporary solution.

I started to design a foam insert of my own design. We bought foam and took measurements, drew a pattern, test fitted the paper pattern and cut the foam. The foam was an inch thick and the knobs and controls come down less than that. I cut around the knobs to friction fit the foam up into the frame of the fan - it stayed up for about ten seconds and then came down. The foam had no support to keep it up and anything that might be added to support it would make it too heavy to stay up.  No this was not going to work - good foam cut for nothing.

I went to arts and craft stores looking for something that would work. There is no metal on the frame that attracts magnets. Even the screws were not going to work with magnets. What would work with magnets was the shower curtain frame on the ceiling that widely surrounds the fan. I started looking at ways to put something up around the frame - cloth, a quilted cloth, a piece of foam board that would sit inside the frame. All ideas that had their faults when examined closely. I was not giving up and I kept the idea of using the shower curtain track in some way in mind.

Now, a curtain hung from the track to the floor on the side of the track facing the bed would not work - it would not only block getting out of bed, it would also block getting to the toilet. In the middle of the night when you gotta go, you don't want to struggle with a curtain in your way when you are half awake. That idea was considered and dropped.

What would work? I had one of those "ah ha!" moments walking around a store when I saw the pop up fabric trash cans and clothes hampers. The wire in these to give them support and allow them to fold up flat would work fit inside the shower curtain frame with fabric fitted tightly around it. The wire would hold it in place on the frame and the fabric would stretch around the wire and not sag blocking all light coming through the fan in the middle. I wondered where one would get such wire - and then on our first trip of the season, actually saw it for sale in the surplus and hardware shop at Green Dragon Farmers Market. If there is something that is hard to find, this shop usually has it. They had piano wire in various thicknesses. This was a possibility taking shape - but buying fifty feet of piano wire on a maybe idea was not something to jump on. The idea needed to brew and perk a bit more. We had to know how the fabric would be fit and what fabric would block the light. We passed up the wire - it would be there next time, if we had an actual potentially working design. But the idea continued to perk...

That night in Walmart we are walking around the store - again, late night people sometimes look for places to be out late and a 24 hour Walmart in many places is easy to find (again, to those who are astonished - to each their own - this is "our" own), I pass in the auto aisle windshield covers that are just about what I am thinking about making. Would these fit? I took down the measurements (28.5" x 31.5" and considered "jumbo size" on some of these and "standard" on others) and when we got back to the campground and were settled in for the night, I measured the dimensions inside the entire shower curtain track. It was about 28.5" square - though the track goes off square on the shower side of the aisle slightly. It seemed like this might work - and we did not have to create anything or reinvent the wheel. The next night, back to Walmart, we would find out if this would work. We bought a pair - they are sold in pairs - for less than $10. The one we picked was silver fabric on one side and black on the other. The best part about Walmart is that one can return just about anything - open or not, as long as it is in the same condition as when purchased. If it did not work, it could easily go back - to any store - there or at home.

Back at the campground, I took the circle of folded covers out of their package and they popped open into huge potato chips. I took one of the pair and fitted it up into the frame. It was a bit tricky to get it in and it took the two of us to keep one side up in the frame while the other side went in.  Because the frame does go in deeper on the shower side, one side and that the cover is three inches in length longer than the dimensions of the frame, one side of the cover was going to curl, but it stayed close to the ceiling, was not in the way of any cabinets or the bathroom door, and most importantly, it stayed in place - even with a little coaxing to come down. Huzzah! It looked like it was going to work. That night we left it in place to see what we would see - or not see in the morning when the sun came up.

That next morning I would say that 90% of the light was blocked. It was not blocked completely as there was a grey, dull light coming through the cover around the fan opening. Not really a problem, the idea was working. That night I had the idea, that since we had two, if one worked two would work even better. I put the two together - black fabric side down and thicker silver fabric side to the fan - and the two of us fit the pair in place as one - just like the night before - with the curl on the kitchen cabinet side, which seemed the better side for it. The next morning - darkness. No light was coming through the fan vent opening. This was it! This works!

There are instructions attached on one of the pair to fold them together back into a less than one foot in diameter circle. "Put your thumbs here. Fold inward like a taco". Heck if that didn't work.

So if you are tired of the light streaming in from the Fantastic Fan in the morning when you really would like to sleep some more, this will do it!  Take your own measurements in case your shower track is different.

Fits nicely!

Folded for Storage