Sabrina and I go to Walt Disney World once a year and we usually borrow a niece or nephew to take on the trip with us. This year, we invited our 19-year-old niece Amira and were also meeting up with our GoLifer friends Jon and Nadia. Since we’d be having guests, we thought “Wouldn’t it be great to have a larger RV than our 28-foot Vista LX for the trip?” Luckily, when we told Winnebago about our trip, they happened to be looking for some contributors to test out the brand-new 2019 Adventurer 36Z.
I had already seen the Adventurer 36Z at the RV Open House in Indiana and knew it would be perfect for this trip! And I couldn’t wait for Sabrina to get an in-person look at it as well.
(Special thanks to Jon Bajuelo of Roaming Remodelers for taking many of the photos included in this article).
The Big Switch: From 28 to 37 Feet!
Storage to Spare
When we arrived to drop off our Vista and pick up the Adventurer, we soon realized we could bring everything we owned with plenty of room to spare. The Adventurer 36Z not only has a massive amount of storage space on the exterior, but inside as well. When we finished transferring all of our belongings, it looked like we barely made a dent in the storage capacity of the 36Z.
Driving the Adventurer
Then it was time to get behind the wheel and drive our short-term rolling home to Disney. This was one aspect of the trip that I was concerned about. Our Vista is just slightly over 28-ft long and very easy to drive and I thought the 37-ft long 36Z would be a challenge to drive.
I was so wrong. When I started the engine up and began our departure, we noticed the improved ride right away. I’m not sure if the Adventurer was smoother and steadier to drive because of the longer wheel base or the fact that the 36Z sits on 22.5-in. aluminum wheels compared to our 19.5-in. steel wheel. Or maybe it is the combination of both. Regardless, it is a very nice ride and something that everyone in the coach can experience – not just the driver.
We were also able to pull into a Walmart and pick up some supplies for the trip. Again, with the overall size, I was afraid this would be difficult, but it made the turns in the parking lot easily. I was, again, worried for no reason. The 10-in. monitor screen made it easy to keep an eye on our tow car and also check traffic next to us, when using the turn signal cameras.
We arrived at the campsite at Fort Wilderness Resort, parked in our site and activated our auto leveler with a push of a button on the dash. Now it was time for the big reveal!
I went to the main control area of the coach and pressed the slide control switches to bring each of the three slides out. Sabrina exclaimed “WOW!” I had sent her pictures from the show, but they really did not do it justice. You really cannot fully appreciate the space and comfort of this floorplan until you are right there in it. Sabrina sat on the sofa, took it all in, and quickly decided she loved it!
The 36Z feels like a condo and you soon forget that you are in something that has wheels under it. There is room to walk around and going from the front of the cab area to the bedroom feels far – who knew that was possible in an RV? We had more comforts and features in the 36Z than we did in our apartment before going full time.
One of the first things we noticed is the Adventurer’s wonderful kitchen. The L-shaped counter tops with dual deep, stainless-steel sinks are beautiful. Plus, there was plenty of counter-top space to prep a meal. The cabinets under the sink were perfect for Belle’s dog food and a trash can. There were also plenty of drawers for pots, pans and all of our dinnerware.
The large convection oven/microwave was great, too. Since we were at Disney for the Food and Wine festival, we were coming back with a lot of leftovers and we could reheat everything later in the convection oven quickly.
But I would have to say, our favorite feature in the kitchen was the residential refrigerator. It was the perfect size and really made the RV kitchen feel like a sticks-and-bricks kitchen. It even had an ice maker in it! We laughed at the thought that ice had become such a luxury item to us.
Another new-to-us feature of the 36Z was a washer/dryer combo. We always wondered if we would use one if we had one. Well, we used it every single day. So, I guess the answer is a big yes on that one.
The combo washer/dryer was pretty cool because you don’t have to pull the clothes out of the wash to transfer them to a dryer, it just drains all of the water out after the wash cycle and changes over to a dryer and continues on. It was so convenient and has now made our must-haves list for our second RV.
Easy Transition of Captain’s Chairs
The driver’s chair easily becomes part of the living area now. Thanks to a collaboration Winnebago did with Ford, you no longer need to do what I call the captain-chair tango – where you fold the chair down, lift the steering wheel, spin the chair, fold it back and finally put the steering wheel back down again.
The chair in the Adventurer now just spins and moves away from the steering wheel without needing the extra steps. It makes it so much easier and you get to enjoy your living space faster! There is also a coffee table that can be placed between the two captain’s chairs, which became the spot for me to work on my writing and enjoy my coffee in the morning.
The fireplace across from the sofa was another stand-out feature. We loved coming back to the 36Z after a long day at the parks, pushing a button and having the warm glow light up as we sat down to rest our feet. And it’s not just for show, it has a thermostat and you can easily get it to put out some real heat. It gets very comfy quickly.
Above the fireplace was my favorite window to look out of – very large and perfectly positioned across from the sofa. However, if looking out your window into nature is not your thing, this is also where the 50-in. TV appears with another cool feature, called a televator.
The TV just rises up out of the fireplace mantel. To be honest, I initially thought this was a bit gimmicky. But whenever the TV was not in use, I would retract it back into its home, so I could look out that window.
Comfortable & Smart Bedroom
The bedroom is a very important part of any RV to us, because if you cannot lay down at night and get quality sleep in your own bed, then what good is your home? I am glad to say we slept like babies in the Adventurer.
Plus, there are some really nice features in the bedroom as well. There were his and hers wardrobe closets, plenty of drawers, a 32-in. TV, a second thermostat to get just the right sleeping climate, outlets on both sides of the bed to charge all our devices, and a full-length mirror to make sure you are looking good for the day ahead.
Comfortable Co-Living with Family/Guests
Multiple Sleeping Spaces
Our niece flew in the same day we arrived at Disney and she was impressed by the space in the RV as well. The drop-down bunk was used as her sleeping quarters and this turned out to be perfect, since she like to sleep in late. By having her use the bunk, it kept the sofa and dinette free to use.
The sofa, if needed, can also be turned into a queen-sized bed and had plenty of space to spread out for a good-night’s sleep, as did the dream dinette. This makes the Adventurer 36Z able to easily sleep seven.
Bonus Getting-Ready Room
While at Disney, we attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and went in costume. Normally, having three people trying to dress up and put on makeup would be a big challenge in our RV. But in the Adventurer, it was a breeze because it has one-and-a-half baths. Crazy, I know!
Having two bathrooms was not just convenient for Halloween, but for the entire trip. In our usual RV, if one of us is in the bathroom and the other person needs it as well, we either have to wait or go out in the cold to use the campground’s (if we happen to be at one).
There is something else that really makes this RV stand apart from most others, and that’s privacy. It is something you rarely have in an RV, not only because of a lack of space, but because of layout as well.
But in the Adventurer, we actually felt like we had privacy from our guests. There is a solid sliding door that separates the bedroom from the rest of the RV, then there is another solid sliding door in the rear of the RV where the full bathroom is located. When in the shower, you cannot hear anything going on in the rest of the RV and vice versa.
Clearly, we thought the Adventurer 36Z was amazing to have for this trip and allowed for a more comfortable visit for our guests and us. When we were in it, it truly did not feel like we were living in a motorhome – we just felt like we were living at home. (We describe the entire experience more in this video).
In our GoGear segment, contributors share one of their favorite products for life on the road and tips for using it. These are items they have tested out during their own travels and enjoyed enough to recommend to others.
Sabrina and I love the RV lifestyle and part of that is being outside at campgrounds or boondocking in remote areas. But the one thing we both dislike are the bugs. We don’t like them flying around us, landing on our food or in our drinks. They are not part of the great outdoor experience for us.
Our Bug-Free Escape
That’s why we purchased a Clam Quick-Set Escape. It is a gazebo that folds up small enough to fit in the cargo bay of our RV. When we are ready to use it, it unpacks and sets up in less than two minutes. It’s so easy to setup it only takes one of us to do so – this is kind of amazing since it is large enough to cover an entire picnic table with room to spare. It’s also tall enough for us to stand straight up inside. There is no assembly required, everything is in one piece and you just simply pop out all the sides to make it a six-sided structure.
Likes & Dislikes
The six sides are made from a fine woven mesh that are able to keep out even no-see-ums. But of course you can still see through the mesh and enjoy the surrounding scenery – how they do it I don’t know, but it’s pretty great. The roof of the gazebo has extended flaps to help wick water away from the sides while it’s raining. We were surprised by how well it has kept us dry even in heavy downpours. The gazebo also has six stake-down locations inside and is incredibly stable, even in wind.
There is really only one thing we do not like about this gazebo, and that is the mesh is woven so tightly that it is able to block a cool breeze from entering the gazebo on hot days. To combat this, we plug a fan in to stay cool on days that reach into the 90s.
How to Get Your Own
The Clam Quick-Set Escape has been a great addition to our RV gear and allows us to enjoy all the best parts of the great outdoors without the downsides. You can buy one directly from their site, or on Amazon for around $300. Local outdoor stores, like Cabela’s or Scheels may also have them in stock.
As a regular contributor to GoLife, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received an email from the Winnebago Marketing Department asking if I had time to talk. But it turned out, they wanted to know if I would be interested in going to Elkhart, IN, for the annual RV Open House to help present some new RVs for a Facebook live event. Of course, I had to accept!
What is the RV Open House?
I have to admit, I was extremely excited and very confused all at the same time. I had never heard of the RV Open House. This is because it is an exclusive event held for dealers, suppliers and manufacturers only. Once a year, about 4,000 people who are in the RV industry gather to see the new products coming out before they are released to the public. The hope is that the dealers will like what they see, order the new products to fill their lots, and start selling them.
Why do a Live Product Launch?
Last year, Winnebago had a great idea: Why not share these new products with customers at the same time? Now, of course, they could not invite non-industry guests to the show. So, they came up with the idea of a Facebook live event (see more from last year’s event here).
For this year’s event, I was asked to be a presenter for the live product walk throughs, along with fellow GoLife contributors, Jon and Nadia Bajuelo. The three of us would team up with the product managers of each RV and showcase it to everyone at home through Facebook Live.
Winnebago is very proud of their products and couldn’t wait to share the return of the Class A Adventurer and New Class C Vita, as well as the new Spyder toy hauler. If that is not enough, they also showed off some really cool features that were getting a lot of attention at the show as well. These included a dedicated work station concept, and a fresh, brighter design in the Intent.
Winnebago could have easily hired professional spokespeople or had their internal team show off their new lineup and features, but they chose GoLifers for a reason. We are people who live, work and play out of our RVs. Winnebago wanted our real-life impressions and they wanted us to be the ones to share in the excitement of seeing these products for the first time.
The Excitement Begins
I flew in on a Sunday afternoon, met up with Jon and Nadia at the hotel and the three of us jumped in my tiny rental car to head over to the show to see what Winnebago had in store for us. Our excitement was over the top – so much so, we missed a few turns on the way and got lost. The three of us, who live in RVs and travel tens of thousands of miles a year, got lost on a 25-minute drive down the road, but that’s how excited we were to see the new products and be the ones to get to introduce them!
We arrived at the Winnebago display and realized this was on a much larger scale than we first realized. There were at least 75 RVs on display outdoors. Everything was there, travel trailers and Class B vans all the way up to the massive and impressive diesel pushers, like the Horizon.
I felt like a kid in a candy store and I wanted to jump in each RV and take a look, but we knew there was work to be done first. So, we went inside where we were greeted with even more displays and the top-secret new products.
The marketing team saw us enter and came over to say hello and thank us for coming to Elkhart to do the event. We then met the Armosa Studios crew, who would not only be doing all of the filming, but they would also be the ones helping us stay focused and on point during the live shows.
I had never done anything like this before and I was anxious to get started. We first did some practice runs with the film crew, where they directed us as to where we should stand and how to keep out of each other’s way while navigating through the RVs.
This was the first time we were allowed in the new products and, I have to admit, it was tough to stay focused while seeing the new RVs with all of their cool features. We wrapped up for the night feeling pretty confident that we were all on the same page. But, I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep and instead wrote notes about everything I saw that impressed me, in preparation for the event. It was a long list!
New Intent interior – light and bright!
Even though I did not go on live until 1 p.m., I woke up early the next day to watch Jon and Nadia go on at 9 a.m. I remember thinking to myself during their presentation that they were so smooth, and I hoped that I would be able to deliver the information to the audience as well as they did. They wrapped up the first live event without a hitch and we were on our way.
The next few hours went by quickly and it was soon my turn to go live. I met Niles Whitehouse, the Class A product manager, and we exchanged a few notes of what we thought were important to showcase. The film crew yelled out “going live in sixty seconds” and my nerves started to get the best of me. I even thought I was going to pass out.
Luckily, I didn’t and after a quick stumble on my first couple of words, we were chatting comfortably. I think Niles and I both really enjoyed showing off the new Adventurer. With so many cool features, the time flew by and we suddenly found ourselves needing to wrap up the segment.
We did several more live events the following day, and one thing was certain through the entire event – everyone was extremely professional and level-headed, especially the Armosa Studios film crew. Big hats off to them for being able to adjust and think quickly on their feet.
The entire week went by fast. When we were not on camera, we were preparing for our next live event. Jon, Nadia and myself would also walk around and check out all of the RVs. I was finally able to be that kid in a candy store!
The overall experience of the week was amazing and one I will never forget. I met so many fantastic people, and one thing that really stood out to me across the board was how passionate everyone was about Winnebago, from the product managers to interior designers to the marketing teams. They enjoy creating and sharing these products. They want people to not only love the RV, but also the lifestyle. The Winnebago team didn’t feel like co-workers to me that week, they felt like family and I think that shines through in what they create and how they share it.
I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look from my experience as a presenter at the open house launch.
If you would like to see the Facebook live events from the show, check out Winnebago’s YouTube channel. And for more information on Winnebago’s new product line, be sure to check out WinnebagoInd.com.
In our GoGear segment, contributors share one of their favorite products for life on the road and tips for using it. These are items they have tested out during their own travels and enjoyed enough to recommend to others.
When it comes to RVing space can be challenging. That’s why Sabrina and I really appreciate when there are items that take up less space without losing function. That’s what we love about our “Sea to Summit” kitchen gear. These include collapsible items such as plates, cups, bowls, pots and more. This saves a great deal of space when the items are not in use.
Putting Sea to Summit to the RVer Test
We purchased our kitchenware before we moved into the RV and they have taken a lot of abuse in that time, yet some of the items still look as if they are brand new. Everything is made out of food-grade silicone with a nylon base, with the exception of our X-Pot which is silicon with a hard anodized aluminum bottom for use on the stove top.
We own a set of cups, plates, bowls and a single pot. We love that they not only save space, but are light weight, durable and quiet when stacked on top of each other in the cabinets while we travel.
The plates can double as cutting boards and since the edges fold up, they are great at keeping food on my plate and not on the floor. The cups and bowls have measurement markers inside them, so you can use them as measuring cups, although the markers are not as visible as I would like them to be.
Our One Change
We love everything about our kitchenware except for the lid that came with the X-Pot, I liked that it had holes in it to be used as a strainer, but it was plastic and did not take long for me to break it. Sea to Summit did send me another one free of charge, but I broke that one just as easily. I decided to replace the lid with one that I found online that is made of glass, but still had the holes for straining. However, we have owned this set for two years now, so maybe by now the lid is hopefully designed a bit different and able to stand up to more abuse.
How to Get Your Own Set
Due to their space saving and light weight design the Sea to Summit kitchen gear appears to be marketed more towards backpackers and hikers, but we feel they are perfectly suited for RVers for the same reasons. You can find these kitchen items on the Sea to Summit website, Amazon, and outdoor stores like REI. They have sets as well as individual pieces available.
This is Part 2 of our two-part preventative maintenance and care article series. In Part 1, we looked at outdoor checks to keep you RV in good shape and in this part of the series, we are going to move onto the inside of the RV, and also talk about the electrical and plumbing systems.
It is important to note that we are full-time RVers, so some of the timelines mentioned may need to be adjusted for your travel style. We also want to remind everyone to take the necessary safety precautions before doing these checks and if you aren’t comfortable doing any of these, seek a professional for help instead.
Let’s start with as we enter our RV, our steps double as a housing compartment for our chassis battery and our two house batteries. They are easy to forget about, but they are incredibly important. Our house batteries operate all of our 12-volt systems in the RV and when we turn on our inverter, the power that it creates is drawn from those same house batteries. So, we want to keep them up and running in the best condition possible.
We do a monthly check on the water levels of our batteries and add distilled water as needed to bring the levels back to above the charging plates. It is also important to keep your batteries clean. I have read that dirt that sits on top of your batteries can actually cause your batteries to slowly discharge over time.
However, keep in mind that if your batteries say “maintenance free” you will not need or be able to add distilled water to them, as they are sealed. Maintenance free only means that you cannot add water, you should still periodically clean and check your cable connections.
Next let’s talk about the 120-volt system. But before you do anything, turn off your main breaker and shore power breaker, unplug from shore power, and make sure your generator is not running.
With all power disconnected, I like to check as many of the wire connections as possible. I do this every 10,000 miles because our RVs get bounced around a lot on the road and it is easy for things to work themselves loose. I just started doing this recently due to an issue we had with our automatic transfer switch. If I would have been doing these checks sooner, I would have caught this issue before we lost power one night.
The two main areas I check are the connections in the main breaker panel (ours is located under our bed) and our automatic transfer switch. If any of these wires would become loose, they can begin to arc and cause serious damage.
While checking these connections to make sure they are tight, take a look at the wiring as well and look for any discoloration, such as white wires turning brown. This is an indication that there is something causing resistance, such as a loose wire. Resistance will cause excessive heat and damage those wires.
While you have your screw drivers out checking the connections of the wires, now would also be a good time to go around and tighten cabinets, light fixtures, door handles and anything else that may be vibrating loose. We once had our dinette lamp fall down from so much road vibration. Luckily it did not break, but a simple turning of the screws once in a while prevents things like this ever happening again.
For the plumbing system, I like to look under the cabinets of our sinks on a quarterly basis for any signs of leaking – especially at any connections or signs of water damage at the bottom of the cabinet floor. I remove and dismantle our water pump every six months to clean out not only the strainer, but the diaphragm as well.
I also sanitize our fresh water tanks with bleach on a quarterly basis, this is not only for our safety to drink the water, but it also helps prevent bacteria from growing inside your water pump which will eventually cause it to clog up.
Onto the maintenance of our appliances, starting with our refrigerator. There is not much to do other than to defrost it every so often. Keep an eye on the metal fins in the back of the fridge for frost and ice buildup. A small amount of ice and frost on the fins is ok, but you don’t want it looking like a glacier back there. Excess ice buildup will make your refrigerator run less efficiently and no one wants their ice cream to melt or freeze up.
Our stovetop is another appliance I keep an eye on by performing a propane leak test. This test may not be for everyone, since you need a gas pressure kit and not everyone has one on board with them. But, I use one made by Yellow Jacket and it works great. This test is not only checking the stove top for leaks, but the entire RV. The test takes about twenty minutes to set up and get the readings. If it shows any drop in pressure, then you have a propane leak somewhere in your RV and it’s time to start looking or smelling around to find out where the leak is located. I perform this test every six months.
However, working with LP gas is not for everyone. If you do not feel you have the knowledge or desire to safely perform an LP pressure test, please contact a professional.
Daily Visual Inspection
Finally, I like to do an overall visual inspection of everything in the RV, this can be done every day just as you walk through your RV. As you use your RV, try to be mindful of the condition of your equipment and how everything is working.
During heavy rain storms, I also like to open all of our cabinets to look for any signs of water coming in through the ceiling. A lot of times, cabinets can hide any evidence of water damage, so I open all of our cabinets and search the corners with a flashlight.
As I’ve shared in these blog posts, I am always trying to catch an issue as it is beginning rather than waiting for it to fail completely. I hope you found this two-part maintenance series to be very helpful and I wish everyone safe travels as they continue to enjoy the RV life.
For more tips, check out the “Self-Help Tools” section on the Winnebago Service page: https://winnebagoind.com/service
No matter how you use your RV, maintenance is very important. But, for full-timers like us, using your RV more often means you will need to be even more diligent about preventative and scheduled maintenance. However, these are tips every RV owner can benefit from, you may just need to adjust the timetables to suit your travel style.
We consider two big components to our RV maintenance: the powertrain/chassis and the home that sits on top of it. Our RV is not only our home, but often our commuter vehicle as well. It is what we rely on to take us from one work assignment to the next. And because of this, our RV needs to be kept in top condition.
We move every seven to nine days and have put over 30,000 miles on our RV in the last year, so maintenance has become just part of the routine to keep not only the chassis and powertrain running great, but the home half as well.
Maintaining a Rolling Home
In this article, I am going to concentrate mostly on the home portion of the RV, because I believe most people know how important it is to keep their vehicles running with routine oil changes, as well as tire, brake and fluid level checks.
I will add though, that our chassis does need to be greased with every oil change and we also recently did a fluid analysis from JG Lubricants on our engine oil, transmission fluid and generator oil to be sure everything was not only clean, but also that there are no problems starting to develop in our engine and transmission.
We cannot stress this enough: catching small problems or issues early before they become full-blown issues can not only save time by keeping the RV out of the shop, but also money.
Every time we take the RV down the road we are basically subjecting our home to mini earthquakes. There are so many systems in the RV and they all work together to keep us safe and comfortable. It is important to check each major component regularly to avoid future issues. In this first part of my two-part series, I’ll focus on what you should be checking for and doing outside your RV. So, let’s start at the top and work our way down.
I try to get up on our roof as much as possible and check over caulk, seals and the overall condition of the roof. (Just be very careful while you are up there!)
Caulk: I am usually looking for peeling, cracking or separation of caulk, not only around items such as vents and antennas, but along the perimeter of the roof line as well. As I mention in this RV wash tutorial video, I often do most of these checks while cleaning the roof. Inspecting a clean roof will help you better identify small problems before they become big issues. No one enjoys rain inside their RV!
Air conditioning: While I am up on the roof with our RV unplugged from shore power, I also remove our air conditioner cover and inspect our A/C unit to make sure the fins are clear of any debris. I also inspect to make sure the fins are straight and in good condition. I do the A/C inspection twice a year and clean the filters that are located inside the RV weekly.
Slide toppers & awning: Next, I take a look at the condition of all our slide toppers and awning fabric, making sure there are no signs of stress or tearing.
Window seals: Moving down from the roof, I inspect our window seals, again looking for peeling, cracking or separation in the caulk.
Fridge & furnace: I remove vent covers for our fridge and inspect them for bugs and nests. It is also important to check that the drain tube is clean and clear, however, this is not applicable for a residential-style refrigerator. Speaking of clean and clear, I also do a visual inspection of our furnace exhaust to make sure we do not have any hitch hikers in there.
Awning & slides: I inspect our awning arms and use three-in-one brand silicone spray to keep all of the joints lubed. This is also a great time to inspect the condition of your slides. I try to keep our slide tracks dry and clean, I will wipe them down with a terry cloth, then spray them with the same three-in-one silicone spray to keep them running smooth.
Steps: I clean and lube our retractable steps every three months using the same silicon spray, I also check and tighten any bolts on the steps as we have noticed they tend to work themselves loose over time with all of the bouncing around we do going down the road. One thing you can do to prevent this is swap out some of the hardware with Nyloc nuts, they have a nylon inert that will help stand up to vibration from all of the traveling we do as full-timers.
The Feet of the RV
The tires and jacks are inspected weekly. We recently purchased snap pads for our jacks, we think of them as shoes that not only protect the surfaces of parks and campgrounds we visit, but they are protecting our jack pad as well.
Jacks: What I am looking for the most while inspecting our jacks are any signs of rust or discoloring on the arms of the jacks. I am also looking for any hydraulic fluid leaks.
Tires: For the tires, I am also visually inspecting them for any signs of abnormal wear, drying or cracking. I try my best to inspect the tread for any nails or screws that we may pick up going through parking lots or gas stations. Sometimes you can have a screw in a tire and not have it affect its performance till down the road somewhere.
Our generator is a gas Onan 4,000 and I change the oil in our generator every one hundred hours. If you are using your RV in a seasonal manner, and not reaching one hundred hours often, then it is suggested you change it at least yearly and use your generator at least monthly. You can do this by starting up the generator and letting it run thirty minutes or so with an electrical load such as running the A/C unit or hot water heater.
I also inspect our air filter along with our spark plug every six months, and change if needed.
This wraps up the first half of our routine care and preventative maintenance of our RV. Our next blog post will continue on to the inside of the RV and will include electrical and plumbing.
For more tips, check out the “Self-Help Tools” section on the Winnebago Service page: https://winnebagoind.com/service
When you consider traveling, one thing that always comes to mind when planning is if you are able to bring your pets with you along for the ride. When Sabrina and I decided that we needed to make changes in our lives to spend more time together, we came across several options. One of those ideas was to live out of hotels across the country while Sabrina was working on assignments. We thought we could save money on housing and living expenses since the hospitals she would be working at would pick up the cost of the hotels while she was working.
This sounded great except for one little 25-pound issue, our furry friend Belle. Belle is our small dog, and she is not welcome everywhere in the hotel industry. Even when she is, there is usually a non-refundable pet fee that can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 to welcome her. Hotels also lack large green spaces nearby. Sure, the hotels usually have grass patches here and there, but nothing like a campground where you can step right out your door and go for shaded walks or go to a dog park where she can run off leash.
So, with Belle’s help the decision was made to live out of an RV and it has turned out to be a great option for us. Belle now gets to tag along with us everywhere we go and recently we found an RV park that is designed just for her. When we heard of this place and looked it up, we knew Belle would love it. What we didn’t know is how much we would too! Sabrina had some free time off from work, so we packed up the RV and tagged along with Belle for our first trip that was all about her.
First impressions of the campground
When we arrived at 4 Paws Kingdom Campground & Dog Retreat in North Carolina, we were greeted by an extremely friendly staff and escorted to our site. They have very large sites with some pull throughs as long as 110 feet, making it very big-rig friendly. (Prices start at about $40 per night).
We had a great shaded, full-hookup, pull-through site that included a fire pit, picnic table, 30/50 amp service and the best part of all … a private fenced in area for Belle to hang out off leash. Belle has never had her own yard and she loved it! This was her own space she could roam around in or just sit and wait to bark at the golf carts passing by.
The yard was a treat for us too. Now when we wanted to let Belle out, all we had to do was open the gate and then open our RV door and she would run right into her yard.
Another wonderful thing we immediately noticed when we arrived was how quiet the campground was. It was so calm and completely peaceful, we suspect this was due to the fact that you must be 18 years of age to be allowed on the property. This meant it was going to be not only a great trip for Belle, but it was going to be a retreat from the standard campground for us, too. Just Belle having her own play area would have made this a wonderful experience, but we quickly found out there was so much more to this campground.
For the dogs
We will start with the group play areas they have for all of our furry friends, there are eight dog parks in all. There is the main dog park which is very large, well shaded, and includes an area for us to sit and relax while the dogs play and chase each other. This was probably Belle’s favorite park since she loved that occasionally there were brave squirrels that would try to run through the park. If it was not for them being able to run up the trees, they would have been goners.
They also have a large pond park. This is probably the largest of the parks and I would say it is at least the size of two football fields. In the center of the park is a large pond where the pups can go swimming or if they are like Belle just put their paws in. There is a decent amount of shade in this park as well as a large gazebo.
Four Paws Kingdom also has a small dog park for dogs under 30lbs, a tiny dog park for dogs under 15 pounds, an agility park with plenty of obstacles, as well as a private dog park where only one dog is allowed in the park at a time. Now is probably a good time to point out that the RV park is all dog breed friendly, too! There are no restrictions at all. As long as your pup can behave and not cause trouble, they are welcome.
The last two parks are game parks, one is the ball park where they have two kiddie pools filled with balls. Belle loves to play catch, even though she is not all that great about bringing the ball back.
The final park we want to mention is the lure park. This is where the staff can tie a bag on a cable that runs in a loop around the park. They are able to operate how fast the bag travels and are even able to change its direction while the dog chases it, to say this is a big hit with the pups would be an understatement.
Some of the other great features to this park are the amenities they have set up for our furry friends. There is an outdoor grooming station as well as climate-controlled indoor bathing stations. This was especially nice for us, since it made cleaning Belle a breeze on the elevated station.
We would also like to add if you know someone who has dogs but no RV, the campground has cabins, yurts and even travel trailers that can be rented out for a truly one of a kind camping experience.
This was a fantastic experience for us, with scheduled social activities for the humans, as well as so much to do for the dogs. We were able to play all day and then retreat back to our campsite to unwind for the night.
We will be back for sure, in fact this will now be our go-to place for when we are in North Carolina. If you’d like to see Belle enjoying the park, Sabrina and I have a short overview video of the campground here.
Take care everyone and safe travels!
Windrock Park will always be very special to Sabrina and me. When we were thinking about purchasing an RV, we first rented a Class A motorhome and took it to Windrock Park campground to see how we would like the RV lifestyle. We also rented off-highway vehicles, also known as ATVs, for a weekend while we were there. The RV rental itself was in horrible condition, but the experience was amazing and locked in our decision to hit the road.
We now have been living in our RV for a full year and we wanted to do a trip to celebrate our nomadiversary. What better way than going back to Windrock Park where it all began? We wanted to make this trip extra special, so we invited our friends Dave and Katie from RN-RV Chronicles to meet up with us at Windrock for the week and our friend Mark came along with us and stayed in our RV. To say we had a blast would be an understatement.
Windrock Park campground in Oliver Springs, TN, is a unique camping experience where you can rent side-by-side ATVs and drive them like you own them. You can even park them overnight at your campsite if you rent for multiple days, which you just may want to do if you plan to see all 300 miles of trails.
The trails come in three different levels: easy, moderate and difficult. We never stepped up to a difficult trail, but some of the moderate ones felt difficult to us novice riders.
Getting the ATVs
It all starts at the camp store and the experience is very similar to renting a car, except they walk you through the operation of the vehicles before you drive away with it. The instructor showed us all the features of how to engage the four-wheel drive, how to change it from high to low, as well as how to lock all the wheels in case we would really get stuck.
He then showed us any damage that he noted on the vehicle and asked us to look it over as well. While inspecting the roof he pointed out the damage on the roll bar and said it was from the previous group who rolled the vehicle completely over. This was a nice reminder to us that these can roll, and we should be cautious out there.
Going off road
With our helmets strapped on, we took off into the mountains. It had rained pretty hard that week and the trails were extra muddy. This really added to the fun for most of us, although Sabrina asked if I could strategically hit the puddles, so the mud would only splash on me and avoid her. Sometimes we were crawling up hills being careful not to let our tires lose grip and slip back down the hill. Other times, we were slowly going downhill, being careful not to tip over. But there were also moments where we could really pick up the pace and slide around corners letting our rear tires dance around on top of the dirt.
Most of the trails were very scenic, and as a passenger it was fun just to take in the sights – especially at the top of the mountains that let you see for miles. My favorite parts of the trails were the thick green areas that looked like the jungle. The small waterfalls would cross over the trails and at times it looked like we were driving through Jurassic Park. I kept a sharp eye out for any raptors that might be lurking in the woods. We really felt like we were on an adventure and loved it!
We did have a few close calls where we felt like we were going to tip over or get stuck in some of the deep mud, but for the most part I think we all handled ourselves very well. Our toughest challenge turned out to be trying to read the map, so we did not get lost. Since we had trouble navigating during the day, we were always sure to start making our way back to camp before dark, so we wouldn’t get lost for good.
Back at the campground
The fun did not end on the trail. Back at our campsite, we had plenty of room for our RV, car, two ATVs and all of our friends. We did cookouts and swapped stories about our adventures on the trails while sitting around our campfire. We laughed at being more lost than found on the trails and how every small hill climb was a huge victory. We hope to make this a yearly tradition and continue to invite more people out with us to enjoy this adventurous experience. One day we might even learn how to read a map.
If you are looking for more than the standard campground experience and want a bit of adventure in your next RV getaway, then we think you will love Windrock Park and all it has to offer. We also have a six-minute video about our experience, if you’d like to see a little more from our trip.
When Sabrina and I were shopping around for our RV it was easy to find dealers and RV shows where we could walk through various RVs and get a good feel of what it would be like to spend our days in the space. When walking through the RVs, we could tell which brands were using materials of high quality and which ones were not. We were quite impressed by Winnebago and the impeccable fit and finish of the things we could see.
But what about things we couldn’t see? I worked in construction for over a decade and knew the materials we could not see were just as – if not more – important than what we could see. We wanted to know how the wiring and plumbing were installed and we wanted to see the steps taken from a bare bones frame to a finished product.
After a quick search online, we found that Winnebago offered a factory tour in Forest City, Iowa. At this point, we were serious about buying and thought it was a must to find out what went into the construction of the space we would be calling home.
[Note: Photos are not allowed during the Winnebago Factory Tour. All photos of the tour included in this article were provided by Winnebago Industries.]
Factory tour experience
The tour started at the Winnebago Visitor Center where there was plenty of car parking and even RV parking available. You can even stay in one of the complimentary campsites nearby for up to three nights. There is electric at each site and there is a sani station and potable water down the street at Pammel Park if needed.
Free tours are offered twice daily (Monday through Friday) April through October at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – except for holidays and the week of July 4th. Reservations are recommended for groups larger than six people, and they ask that you do not wear open-toed shoes. (For contact information and other details, check here: https://winnebagoind.com/company/visit).
When we entered the visitor center to sign up for the tour, we were not expecting a free museum about Winnebago’s fascinating history. We arrived early for the tour and spent an hour and a half in the museum before the tour even began. When the tour was ready to begin, a bus picked us up at the visitor center. Our driver/tour guide greeted us, and we were on our way.
The factory sits on 60 acres, so it’s nice to be shuttled around for the two hours. We were impressed right away with what we saw. We had no idea that so much of the RVs were built in house and by hand. We were also impressed by the attention to detail the employees were putting into their work.
We enjoyed going up onto the catwalks and looking down onto the assembly lines, it really gave us a nice aerial view of the raw chassis coming into the building all the way to the finished ones going out the door. You really have to watch carefully to see them even move as it goes so slow. This tour is exactly what we were looking for!
From up high we could watch the tile installers laying all the flooring down and the cabinets coming into place. We watched them carefully install the windows, add furniture, and we were able to see that the appliances were bolted into steel and the steel studding going into the framework and walls. It really looked like they were building a home that just happened to sit on wheels.
We were glad to learn that our captain’s chairs are bolted to a steel frame rather than a wooden one. Surprisingly, this is not standard with all manufactures. Another thing we liked was that the fresh water and holding tanks were custom made in house and in all different shapes and sizes. Instead of just having a stock rectangle, they are able to make them fit perfectly around obstructions in the build – such as plumbing and support structures – this allows for larger tank capacities than most other RVs.
One of our favorite areas was the Stitchcraft building, we really enjoyed walking through it and being able to touch and see all of the fabrics in their raw form before the seamstresses began turning them into finish products. Prior to this, we thought for sure that pillows, blankets and cushions were something that would have been outsourced.
While on the tour we met a retired couple on the bus who worked in the Winnebago Factory for 30 years and came back to see the tour. They were telling us how wonderful their time was with Winnebago and how much they enjoyed working for the company. I know that does not improve the build quality directly, but I’d like to think that happy employees take more pride in their work than disgruntled ones.
The deciding factor
Sabrina and I really enjoyed our time on the tour and after seeing how the RVs were made, we knew that Winnebago was the right choice for us. We have put over 30,000 miles on our Vista and have traveled all over the country this past year and our coach has been the key to us having safe and fun travels.
If you are considering purchasing a Winnebago, we highly suggest taking this tour to get more insight into what you are buying. And if you already own a Winnebago and have been thinking about taking the factory tour, now is a great time to start planning your trip!
During this year’s Grand National Rally (which begins July 23rd), Winnebago will be offering special building tours including tours of the Cabinet Shop, Chassis Prep & Metal Stamping, Motor Home Assembly, Stitchcraft and Rotocast-Plastics.
Sabrina and I will also be doing a live presentation at this year’s GNR at 9 a.m. on July 24th. We would love for you to come out and say hi and let us know what you thought of the tour.
Also, if you are wondering what else there is to do in Forest City while you are there, we did a short video of where we went after our tour of the Winnebago factory.
We hope to see you this July and wish you all safe travels!
Let’s start with why you would want to sleep at a rest area when there are so many nice campgrounds out there to choose from. Sabrina and I move around a lot, we have put over 30,000 miles on our RV since last May. And when we are traveling for her work, we cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.
This means most of our days are spent in our cushy captain’s chairs rolling down the road. When it is time to stop for the day, we are usually going right to bed, waking up early the next morning and getting back on the road again. It just makes more sense for us to pull over for the night, rather than pay for a campground we will never see. The rest areas are easy for us to pull into and get back out again and most of them have clean bathrooms, as well as picnic areas where we can have dinner before turning in for the night.
How to have a more comfortable stay at a rest area:
So now that we have the why, let’s get to the how. We have stayed at many rest areas in the last 30K miles and have come up with a few helpful tips on how to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Prep your RV
Before we even arrive at our stop for the night we always stop to fill our gas tank and make sure we have plenty of propane. Depending on the weather conditions, you may be running your generator for A/C or propane for heat. We travel in a Class A motorhome and when our fuel gauge reaches a quarter tank, it shuts down our generator to prevent us from running out of gas and being stranded. Those of you who do not have a hardwired generator, making sure it is plugged into your coach and ready to go before you arrive at the rest area can help you avoid any late-night trips outside the rig.
Arrive before dark
Once the RV is ready, we do our best to arrive at the rest area before dark. This usually gives us a better selection of spaces and ensures we will be able to find at least one spot open. There have been times when we have arrived after dark and the rest areas are usually filled up and we have had to keep driving down the road until we found one with open spaces.
Picking the right location at the rest stop can really make a difference. If traveling with a dog, we recommend choosing a spot near the grass, so you have easy access for potty breaks. And when you pull into the space, stay as far back in the lane as possible without sticking out. This will keep your RV as far away as possible from the noise of the diesel trucks starting up and shutting down when they park next to you. This also helps other RVers easily see that the lane is already taken while they are searching for their space.
Setup for the night
With a spot chosen, it is time to setup for the night. We personally do not put our jacks down. We do not want to give the appearance that we are camping at the rest area and also our jacks can damage the tarmac by leaving imprints or even possibly cracking it.
One of the things we do inside the RV to block noise from trucks and other RVs is turn on a white noise app on our phone. The app we use is called Relaxio, and if we place our phones on airplane mode it does not use any data. Running your phone all night will drain the battery though, so we also use a portable charger called an Anker. This allows us to run the app all night and still wake up in the morning with a full charge on our phones. The Anker is capable of charging both of our phones at the same time.
One other thing we did shortly after we bought our RV was spray paint the vent cover in our bedroom black to help make our bedroom darker. This helps block the parking lot lights from bothering us and has helped Sabrina sleep during the day while working night shifts.
Our last tip is a bit controversial and will not be for everyone. Sabrina likes to sleep with earplugs. I do not care for them, but then again, I am a much heavier sleeper and almost nothing wakes me up. The controversy with earplugs is the fact that some people say they block out too much noise and you will not hear an intruder or smoke alarm going off. I know for a fact that Sabrina still hears everything with them in and it just tones things down for her. We also travel with our dog Belle who will not even let anyone walk around the outside of our RV without letting us know, let alone have someone trying to enter it. We have heard from many other RVers that they will not travel without their earplugs. But, this is a personal decision.
The most important tip
Our final tip is to trust your instincts. Sabrina and I have a rule that if either of us has a bad feeling about a place we will leave and look for another spot. This rule has not failed us yet.
Keeping our RV clean and well maintained is important to us. When we started to travel full time we were surprised by how many campgrounds would not let us use their water to wash our RV, so we had to come up with another way to keep it looking good.
Initially, we tried to take it to a truck wash where they used pressure washers. After watching them spray pressurized water into various exhaust vents, I decided to start washing it by hand with FW1 waterless cleaner/wax. I have been using this product for the last five years on our cars and it performs very well.
I also use washing the RV by hand as an opportunity to inspect the overall condition of the exterior of our RV. Looking for any signs of wear and tear along caulk joints, slide toppers, window frames and more.
We hope you find the above video helpful and we wish you safe travels!
Products used in this video:
[Note: All products mentioned here and used in the video are being recommended by this GoLife contributor. Winnebago is not associated with any of the products listed.]
When Sabrina and I decided to start living out of our RV, it was a big decision and one that we did not take lightly. There were a lot of things to consider and it took us almost a year to get everything in place before we could make the transition. We used that time not only to shop for our RV, but also to question “Is it right for us?” In this article we are going to share some of the questions we asked ourselves in hopes that it helps you decide if this is something you would like to pursue.
Before we start, let me say that if you are planning on keeping your RV in one spot for long periods of time with full hookups, then we really do not feel there is much difference between living in an RV versus an apartment or condo and you will be just fine. We change locations a lot in our RV, usually as often as every eight days and this is where we think some lifestyle adjustments will come into play.
Do you bend, or do you break?
I think it is important to know your tolerance level for when things go wrong. Sabrina and I are exact opposites when it comes to RVing. The whole world needs to be crashing down around us before I even sit up to pay attention, Sabrina not so much. The better you are at going with the flow, the easier it will be to enjoy and even laugh when there are things going wrong with your RV, campsites, road, traffic or even the weather. Not every day will go as planned, and we feel its important to be able to make small adjustments quickly to stay on track.
How are you with downsizing and living small?
This can be a big hurdle. Some people go “all in” by selling or donating most of their belongings and some put stuff in storage just in case. Either way, you will have to get accustomed to living with less. Sabrina and I decided to let go of nearly all of our possessions, meaning everything we now own fits in our RV and tow car. When we first started downsizing it seemed easy, but as time went on and we had fewer items to choose from it became more difficult to figure out what stayed and what had to go. Our best advice on this subject is to give yourself plenty of time to downsize. Even now, we look around and say we have too much stuff!
How will you support your new lifestyle financially?
Sabrina had already started traveling full time for her work, so adding the RV to our life actually made things easier. This may not always be the case, and you may need to come up with a solid plan for making income on the road. Maybe even a backup plan in case your first idea does not work out.
Can you say goodbye to friends and family?
When you pack up and hit the road you will most likely be leaving many people behind. This will not only affect you, but them as well. You will no longer be able to text your best friend and say, “Hey let’s meetup!” or tell a family member, “Stop by Sunday for the game!” Luckily, with today’s technology and social media you will be able to do video chats with loved ones and keep in touch daily. They will even be able to follow your adventures and live vicariously through you. When it comes to a holiday or big family event, you’ll be able to pick everything up and roll on over to them. Additionally, you will now be meeting and making new friends with every new place you go.
How will you handle maintenance and day-to-day upkeep?
It does not matter if you purchase a new RV or a used one, there is always maintenance that needs to be done. If your RV is new, you may need warranty work. Or if it is used and you do not feel comfortable doing work yourself, you will have to bring your RV to a dealer to have work done. This will involve scheduling appointments and bringing the RV to a shop where they could have it for hours or even days and you will have to find alternative living arrangements during those time periods. If you are a little handy, you may be able to save money and continue to work on your RV yourself while you live in it, but this still means you might have to change your plans to allow for the extra time to make repairs. Which brings me back to, do you bend or do you break?
Living in an RV can be a very rewarding experience. But, answering these questions will help you be realistic about what to expect and prepare for any potential challenges – which makes it much more enjoyable. What other questions would you ask while thinking of going full time in an RV?