Thursday, October 27, 2016

Observations Based on Online Encounters with Some RV Owners

It is important - in my opinion - that if one is looking at making an investment in an RV or Travel Trailer whether new or pre-owned, that one do a good deal of research on RVs/Travel Trailers in general and then when shopping and purchasing learn as much as possible about that RV/TT about that particular RV/TT. And then when making the purchase, don't leave the seller - whether it is a private owner or a dealer - without being given a detailed tour and orientation about everything inside and outside what they are buying.

I am online a lot and spend a great deal of that time either in RV forums or RV Facebook Groups (discussion groups) - and not just those specific to Roadtrek. You can learn a lot about RVs in general that apply to all RVs on some of these groups and forums. Those relating just to Roadtreks are a wealth of information and understanding about Roadtreks - both new and old. But this is not an article about forums.

Last night I was on an RV Facebook Group for new RV owners. There was a member of the group asking for help, and since it was late at night there was no one responding to her. I decided to try to help her. She has a "Camper Van" (in her words) and has had no power for the past four days. She was asking if there are circuit breakers in camper vans. She also said that she was not plugged in and was on batteries when things went off. A Camper Van is another term for Class B RV - whether professionally manufactured or home-built. I started with a response to her to explain that the 110 volt electric system in a Class B (camper van) is generally on circuit breakers and that the 12 volt electric system is on fuses. She came back in a couple of minutes asking where to find the fuse box. I told her where mine is - which certainly would be no help to her if she did not have the same RV - but offered this as an example of places to look including other likely spots around the inside of her van. I also told her that it really depended on the make, model, and year of her Class B - and could she share that with us in a response. What she answered was a 26 year old make and model of a GMC van - she gave the specific make and model of this van, but it was only the name of the van - not any company name of who manufactured the camper van - and this told me that likely this was a camper van that someone put together themselves - which is fine - but my next response was asking her if that was so - and if so, it was anyone's guess where the builder put the fuse/circuit breaker panel/box. In the course of the discussion, I asked her if the Battery Switch was ON. Her answer - "do I have a battery switch?" I then proceeded to explain what a battery switch is - and was not certain that an RV conversion would not have a battery switch. She had been out several days when the power went out and I said to her that my guess is that her batteries need to be charged and using them drained them out. She told me that she had run the engine for a "little while" and that did not help. Well, as I explained, running the engine for a little while is not going to anything - and the van would need to be driven at highway speeds for several hours to bring the batteries up to full charge.

So what is the point of this story? Here is a new RV owner who has purchased a "camper van" that is 26 years old that she knows nothing about. It is very evident that whoever she bought it from did not show her where everything is - nor, likely, did she know to ask to be shown that. She does not understand how the systems in her RV work and while she gets a big plus for trying to get help from fellow RVers on this group, she does not know enough detail about her RV to provide information to get a good response.

This is just one example of many instances where new owners of RVs have no idea about what they own, what it can do, what it can't do, and how it does anything that it does.  If any of you are buying an RV or Travel Trailer do not leave the seller without the seller completely detailing everything to you. RV dealers will do this. Some better than others. They will take you through your new or new to you RV and show you where everything is and how everything works. Hopefully, they will know what they are talking about. When we took delivery of our Roadtrek - and I have told this story in an article here before - we met the new salesman who took over for our salesman who had left the dealership for the first time. He was the one who gave us our "demonstration" of our new Roadtrek. He was very enthusiastic and friendly, but he did not know a thing about our Roadtrek. I prepared for the delivery of our Roadtrek for weeks in advance. I learned everything that I could on a Class B forum - I don't think that the Roadtrek groups on Facebook existed then. I asked on the forum about where things were and what to ask about at delivery. I was ready to be shown it all on the day of delivery and knew what I needed to ask about and to ask how to do everything. The only problem was that the salesman knew less than I did. I have since referred to him as the "plumb dumb salesman" and when we got home - after a night in the Roadtrek trying to make sense out of some of the nonsense that he told us, I let the dealership owner know about his new salesman and our delivery. During this "walk through" or "demo", he was telling us where things are and at one point a service tech walked by shaking his head "no". I stopped him and asked and he came over and corrected what the salesman was telling us at that moment. But the salesman ventured on. He turned on a switch in the back of the cargo area of our 190 near the floor - looking in with the cargo doors open. He told me it controlled something with a name so far out that I can't even remember now what he said. He left that switch on. That night when we were at the campground - always stay near the dealership if the dealer is any distance from your home at a campground that first night after delivery in case you need to go back after finding something wrong - we got into bed and turned off the lights. We were both nervous about this very new to both of us experience. A few minutes later, , Meryl said to me, "Something is glowing back here. There is a light on." I asked where - she said "Under the bed." Yes, there was. There was light coming up from behind the bed - which is right up against the cargo doors. No one ever said that there were lights under the bed back there. Well, that was the switch the guy pushed that afternoon - and they had been on ever since. And confounded by this strange glow coming up from under the back of the bed, I realized this. I was not going to get dressed to go outside to open the back doors to get to that switch and I have to say, that it took quite a contortionist act to reach over the back of the bed's rear board and work my hand down to where that switch was and turn it off. So - more reason to know as much about your new RV as you can before you take delivery. Some RV manufacturers have their manual's for download for their RVs. Roadtrek has these going back a number of years. You can get the manual this way before you get the RV. Bottom line be prepared and get the seller to show you where everything is and how it all works.

Let's meander a little more. I come across so many people who are shopping for RVs and don't know anything about RVs in general. Someone recently was asking about what Class B to buy to go to Alaska in the winter. That question was met with a lot of similar answers about the limitations of many Class Bs - and RVs that are not designed specifically for four season cold weather travel - and those are mostly large Class A bus type RVs that have special heating units that will warm any plumbing or tanks exposed outside under the RV. And even with those systems the need to have 110 volt power generated or plugged in 24/7 to keep the heating systems working. At least this person asked before they went ahead and purchased. Some don't - some plan to live full time in their RV with no idea that there might be a problem in the winter months with freezing weather. I have read many posts from those who learned this the hard way when their first full freeze weather hit and froze their pipes.

Then there are the people who buy an RV or Travel Trailer over the Internet sight unseen - not inspected - and have it delivered to them across the country - after money has been paid. And, of course, when they get it, it is nothing as described, what was supposedly working is not working, and it in no way suits their needs - because in the photos it looked bigger and better than it really was. Photos can be taken in a way to make something small look very spacious and large. What can they do then? Some have discovered that there is little that they were able to do - but have to fix what needed to be fixed or sell with as little loss as possible. Never buy an RV sight unseen - even if buying new, if that year is not on the lot, you want to see a year model that will be the same or as close to the same as you are buying. We saw and test drove a 2010 and we got a 2011 - there was no  difference from our 2011 OTHER than the switch to AGM batteries in 2011 but later learned that we also did not get a slide out battery compartment which had been standard on Roadtreks before our year. These were OK changes - the battery change, great, the no slide out battery compartment - not so great.

No matter if buying new or pre-owned always test drive. Oh, that was a good story. The older woman who bought sight unseen from a relative's friend, had the Class B delivered to her from several states away and found out when she finally got it that she could not drive it. It was too much for her to handle - and then had to sell it - at a loss.

And please, if buying pre-owned, have the RV inspected by both a vehicle mechanic of your choosing and also by an RV technician of your choosing. There are RV techs who just do this or you pay an RV service center to do a full inspection of all systems. So many stories about how good a deal the RV was until they bought it - not inspected - and found out that it needs thousands of dollars in repairs, often to the point that they could have paid much more originally for one in good working order and saved a great deal over what they paid plus the cost of repairs and replacements. I don't know - maybe I value my money more than others? If I am buying something, I want to be absolutely sure it is going to work before I spend a dollar. A small investment in these inspections - even though they will come out of your pocket - is better than finding out you have a money pit after the sale is done.

A good book for first time RV owners or shoppers - The Complete Idiot's Guide To RVing by Brent Peterson. I bought this book in Borders, when there was still a Borders,  when we were first shopping for an RV. I wanted a book that explained all of the systems clearly. This one was the clearest. It also goes into picking and shopping for an RV - and tells you about the different types. Good book. Others have recommended this book also.  The book is still around and certainly can be found on line.

One last story - a couple bought an RV from a very nice couple not a far distance away. They did everything that they should do - just as described here. It seemed like the perfect sale. At the time the money changed hands, the very nice people selling the RV told them that they could not get to the bank vault to get the Title certificate for the RV so they will be certain to mail it to the new owners.  In most states, if not all, one cannot register a vehicle including an RV without a Title certificate. Since these were such lovely people, the new owners did not think anything of it - and the gentleman selling even drove the RV to their home. A week went by and no Title certificate. Attempts were made to contact the seller. No response. They went back to the seller's home only to find that they had moved away. Was this a scam? Maybe, maybe not, but this couple was stuck. They could not register the RV and they could not sell it with the Title certificate. I never did hear how that all turned out but I am sure it did not turn out well. These are not Internet myths - these are people reporting what has happened and are asking for help from other RVers about what to do.

So, if you have followed my wandering here, you have come away with a lot of dos and don'ts. Do the dos - don't do the don'ts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Winterthur in Delaware is the mansion and property owned by the du Pont Family and is now an extensive museum of the collections that Henry Francis du Pont acquired through his lifetime. They decorated his home and were put on display in a museum when he opened his childhood home to the public over 60 years ago. He was also a horticulturist and property has extensive gardens. A visit to Winterthur can be quite extensive with walking tours through the trails in his gardens or a guided tram tour through them, a visit to the du Pont home, and a visit through the extensive museum with changing and static exhibitions.

Our plan to visit Winterthur started over a year ago when Meryl learned of a special exhibition of antique samplers and embroidery. Things just did not work out for us to visit that exhibition, but this past summer another exhibition of samplers opened and we had planned several times to go to Delaware and see this exhibit. It looked again like things were not working out but during our vacation trip we decided that we would spend a day in Winterthur and not only see this exhibition but also tour the house and see the musuem.

Many of the places that we travel to involve being outdoors. One of the problems of planning trips when the weather seems never to be cooperating is finding indoor museums and attractions that we can easily get the Roadtrek to. Cities pose a problem, as I have said before. Many cities have gone to all indoor garage parking and with the height of the Roadtrek this is just not possible. The trip we planned this past summer was one in which we had a few places to stop where the weather would not matter - and we saved the good days for the outdoor places we were going to and the raining days for indoors - and this is when we went to Winterthur.

Winterthur is not far into Delaware across the Pennsylvania border and the drive there was a pleasant mix of country roads, Route 1 and more country roads. We arrived after an early fast food lunch and parked in a large parking lot that would not be a problem for even the largest RV or Travel Trailer. We walked down a short trail to the Visitors Center and purchased tickets. Tickets are $20 adults or $18 senior (love those senior discounts) plus they were having a limited time adult discount of $3.00. Tickets entitle you to the whole thing - house tour, museum, special exhibitions, and all that is in the gardens. Our main interest was the special exhibition on Samplers and this was where we were heading first. You reach the house and museum by shuttle bus. The museum is also the entrance to the house tour and your ticket puts you to be on a specified time tour of the du Pont family home - home should read  Mansion. The Sampler exhibition was on the second floor of the musuem and we had some time to go their first before our tour would start.

Meryl is a student of 18th and 19th Century embroidery as well as being an accomplished hand embroider, herself. We have been to many exhibitions on 18th and 19th Century embroidery and Samplers and Meryl is becoming quite in the "know" between what she has seen on exhibit and what she has read, along with stitching reproductions. This was one of the smaller exhibitions that we have been to and we decided that we would go through it quickly before our tour of the house would start and then come back to it later after the tour to spend time with each piece of embroidery in the exhibit. To give you and idea, the following photo is just one element in an embroidered picture created by an 18 year old girl in Boston in the year, 1748. What has fascinated me about all of the Samplers that we have seen here and in other museums is that these are all art created by children. Age 18 is old for some of the exceptional work we have seen. We have seen exceptional pieces worked by girls of 8 to 12 years old. Anyway -

The tour through the home starts with gathering the tour group in a meeting room and showing a brief video about Henry Francis du Pont and the family. You are then escorted through doors and past - and not stopping at - a display room of 17th (1600s) furniture - which we would have loved to spend some time looking at but the guide was determined to stick to her schedule - which in the end she did not do as she got carried away with anecdotes about the family. We were then all loaded into an elevator adn taken up to the first floor of the home which was the second floor of the building. From the elevator we were taken out to an outdoor balcony with a view of the house and the Library that is housed in one of the building of the estate. First photo - side view of the house from the porch. Second photo - view of the library building from the balcony. (The library is open to the public for research.)

   I will not go into details of the tour. Here are some photos that I took as we went along. The rooms are decorated in antiques - many from the Federal period - late 18th Century into the early 19th Century. As the family came originally from France there are a number of antiques of French heritage.

The upper floors of the house are the family and guest bedrooms. The du Pont's liked to entertain and would have guests stay with them. Their guests included dignitaries and U.S. Presidents.

The house was not our favorite part of the visit and we both felt that were we to return to Winterthur we would skip the house tour and spend a lot more time in the museum. The museum is extensive. We returned to the special exhibition of Samplers that we had specifically come to and spent a great deal of time there looking closing at details. I photographed everything for Meryl and she also took notes. She was able to find a catalog of the exhibition in the gift shop/bookstore and that was a must have.

The museum had another special exhibition of South American embroideries and we spent a lot of time there as well. There were also the regular exhibit galleries which also had textiles, needlework, and Samplers, along with furniture, every day items, and home decor. There was also a room with an entire building displayed that was a 1700's Clock Makers Shop with all of the equipment and tools set out in the two rooms as they were when the shop was in business.

18th Century Woman's Gown (Sack Back Gown)

 We really did not have enough time to do that museum justice and we stayed until the announcement that the musuem was closing and the guards came through to make sure everyone was moving to the exit back on the first floor. When we got out side we had missed the last shuttle bus back to the Visitors Center so we walked back.  The gift shop/bookstore is open past the museum and we spent some time in this shop at the Visitors Center. There is a larger gift shop with reproduction pieces in a building near the museum.

We never made it to any of the gardens - though we were not much interested in touring those. I am certain that anyone who loves gardens will find these exceptional and there is a children's fantasy garden in the gardens as well.

We had a very nice time. If you like the material and cultural side of history you will enjoy Winterthur. Since we are writing about this in relation to a visit in the Roadtrek - or any RV, it is easiest to stay in a campground in Pennsylvania. The one thing you don't want to have to do is cross the Delaware River as the tolls on the various bridges are expensive. There is a new toll being charged as you cross the Delaware River Bridge from the New Jersey Turnpike into the Pennsylvania Turnpike that used to be included in the turnpike toll but is not a separate toll of $5.00. Of course, the turnpike tolls have remained the same. If you are in Pennsylvania you can go into Delaware without crossing the river again. There is a campground, a KOA (we have not stayed there) in West Chester, PA. Winterthur is about an hour's drive from several of the Lancaster, PA campgrounds.

Winterthur is located at 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807. This address in your GPS will get you right there. Their actual address is 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Winterthur, DE 19735. Winterthur is CLOSED on Mondays so plan accordingly. They are open until 5:00 pm. The last house tour tickets are sold at 3:15 pm. They have a website - .