James and I just got back from a month-long road trip. It even had a theme … “VOLCANO.”
Running with our volcano theme made choosing stops SO much easier, we plan to set themes more often. I suppose it’s sort of like being a vegetarian perusing a menu at a restaurant. The vegetarian thing limits your choices, and the trip-theme thing does, too.
For me, less choices is a very good thing.
It did, however, put us in a position where we had some very long driving days.
We don’t particularly LIKE long drives, but it seems no matter how we try to avoid them, they’re inevitable. While my work as a wellness coach and upkeeping the FitRV website keeps me more flexible, James still holds a PDJ (my term of unendearment for his “pesky day job”). His PDJ makes our travels less flexible, hence, the reason for most of our long drives.
The picture above is James in a PDJ work meeting on the side of a volcano (so, don’t feel too sorry for him).
The trouble is, long drives are in direct conflict with the entire FitRV message. There’s just nothing healthy about them. Being sedentary for long stretches wreaks havoc on the body in a million different ways. I get into that often over on the FitRV website, so I’ll spare you the depressing details, and instead let’s focus on what we can do once the drive is over.
The FitRV’s Post Long-Drive Game Plan
See if this sounds familiar: You’ve been driving for what felt like your whole life, and you’ve finally landed at your destination … sweet relief! First thing you notice? How TIRED you are.
That’s totally normal and an actual physiological response to being idle for so long. Your body’s systems have all slowed, your brain has fogged over, and all you probably feel like doing is absolutely nothing. Those feelings, however, are a terrible ruse! Resist! I’m a big fan of “listening to your body,” but a big exception to this is after a long drive. In that case, your body’s messages are not to be trusted.
Step One: Move
Even though it may feel like the last thing in the world you want to do, lace up your athletic shoes and force yourself out for a 10 minute (or more!) power-walk. You’ve got to get your engine back up to its optimal running capacity and the only way to do that is movement. I’m not talking comfortable lolly-gagging movement, I mean the sort of movement where you’re breathing heavy and you’re mildly uncomfortable.
Step Two: Stretch
After your walk, spend another 10 minutes stretching. Stretching will continue to wake up your body and get your musculoskeletal system back on track. Any sort of stretches will work, or use these:
Gentle Camel Stretch:
Camel pose is a favorite of mine, especially after sitting or driving a long time. It opens up the hips nicely, and also counteracts the rounded and closed posture from sitting. If you have poor posture, camel pose will help that, too. Kneel with your knees directly under your hips and the tops of your feet down on the ground (can do this on a pillow or on your bed, too). Place the heels of your hands on the top of your glutes, with your fingertips pointed up. Drive your elbows together to open your chest more. Gently arch your back while trying to keep your hips forward. It should feel like you’re sticking out your stomach. Keep your neck long and aligned with your spine (don’t hyperextend it). Hold for around a minute if you can, breathing mindfully and slowly.
Bharadvaja’s Twist Variation:
This stretch rejuvenates the spine and is gentle for all levels. The trunk rotation massages and stimulates the organs in your torso, which will get your digestion and metabolic systems functioning again while also aiding the organs in detoxification. It also helps to relieve lower back pain, neck pain, and sciatica … all of which can flare up after sitting too long. To perform, side-sit with both feet to your right. Try to pull your right heel in as close as you can. Take your right hand and place it outside your left knee. Reach your left arm behind you and place it on the ground, opening your chest as you twist your shoulders gently to the left. Try to keep your spine straight up or arched slightly … anything but rounded. Look over your right shoulder with a slight tilt to the back, as shown. Hold the pose for around a minute, breathing mindfully and controlled. Repeat on the other side. NOTE: If sitting on the floor is too hard, you can modify and do this from a chair or on a floor cushion.
Thread the Needle:
This yoga posture will give you a nice stretch through the chest, shoulders, and back. It requires a gentle twisting motion through the spine to help with spinal mobility … which gets less efficient with age. If you are dealing with shoulder or back pain after your drive, this stretch may relieve tension. To perform, get on all fours. Reach your left arm through the space between your right arm and leg; keep the arm straight and turn your palm up. Place your left ear on the floor. Reach your right arm forward in front of you until it is straight. Hold for a minute and then repeat on the other side.
This move opens up your entire anterior chain, which had been closed all day as you sat. It’s also a great way to strengthen your posterior chain muscles. So, it’s a double bonus: effective stretch AND challenging strengthening exercise. To do it, lie on your stomach. As you inhale, lift your opposite arm and leg off the floor, keeping them straight. Palms face inward. Don’t hyperextend your neck, try to keep it long and look slightly up. As you exhale, slowly lower your forehead, arm and leg back down to rest. Continue to lift on the inhale, and lower on the exhale for about eight breaths. Repeat on the other side.
AND THAT’S IT!
A quick power-walk and some stretching are all it takes to get your groove back. Your brain will be clearer, your energy restored, and just like that you’ll be ready to let the adventures begin!
If you’ve been a long-time GNR attendee, you might have noticed a curious development over the past few years… the rise in the number of camper vans attending Winnebago’s annual rally. I can tell you I’ve certainly noticed it, being that I’m one of them!
The Start of the WinnieBs
The Winnebago camper vans have their own WIT club called the WinnieBs. It’s an interesting history how that club came to be; at least if you’re me it is. You see, four GNR’s ago, my husband James and I attended our first GNR. We had just picked up our brand new screaming yellow Travato, and were excited to connect with other van owners at the 2015 rally.
Problem was, there wasn’t a single other Travato that we could find at the rally. We did find an Era or two hidden in between some larger Class As, but that was it. We felt like a couple cats hanging out at a dog park. It was fun, but we were lonely.
Long story short, I reached out to the WIT staff to see what could be done. They suggested I consider throwing together a club. That way, we could start building a social community for camper van owners AND we’d have a place to park together at GNR. Sounded like a good idea to me, so I ran with it. With the help of fellow camper van owners Linda Calabrese, Linda McSweeney, Kate Mullen, Ron Merritt, and Bob Jeselnik, the WinnieBs club was born.
By the summer of 2016 our group was a few months old, and we had over 50 vans in the WinnieBs. Around half of those showed up at our first official GNR together. Just like that, James and I were no longer without a family at GNR.
Last summer (2017) we had over 110 vans in the WinnieBs! This year, we’ve grown to a whopping 150 vans, and there were over 50 of those at GNR 2018. So our growth continues… and the meetups aren’t just at GNR anymore either; the WinnieBs are gathering together all over the country.
Buzzing Around GNR
However, one of the unique things about the GNR experience for the WinnieBs is that we meet a few days before GNR begins for our own pre-rally festivities. We kicked off our pre-rally fun with a tour of the Lake Mills factory, where the Travatos and Revels are made (Eras are now made elsewhere). After the tour, we stayed during the factory workers’ lunch hour and ate lunch with them. It’s such a neat experience getting to share stories with the people who actually built our rigs about the adventures those rigs have had.
One of the more off-the wall things the WinnieBs did was entering a “float” in the local Puckerbrush Days parade (the float was a Travato). Many of us dressed up in bee attire (our club’s mascot) and buzzed around our float, passing out candy and high-fives as we went. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to don a goofy costume and participate in a parade you know what a riot this is… and a testament to the fun-loving nature of the WinnieBs in general.
And when GNR actually started, we made sure we had a large tented home-base for the WinnieBs. It’s extra important for camper van people to have an outside space because we don’t really have much for inside space. We called that communal tented area “Van Village”, and there we had parties, educational sessions, card games, potlucks, happy hours, and lots and lots of lawn chair hang-out bonding time.
When it came time for the infamous GNR row party night, the WinnieBs served up Bee Stinger Cocktails. Row parties are an annual tradition at GNR, and it is where each club hosts a party at their row. It is open for the entire rally, so attendees hop (or in our case buzz!) from row to row sampling food or drinks that are provided by each of the rows. Hopefully, if you were at GNR you swung by our WinnieBs row and sampled our bee stinger cocktails AND danced a jig with our King Bee (I did both!).
So, with another successful GNR under the WinnieBs belt and a camper van community more bonded and tight-knit than ever, I’m sure you can imagine how pleased this makes me. I look back to our first GNR and marvel at what a difference the GNR experience is for James and me now. There’s a ton of fresh history here, and I suppose I’m watching it all a bit like a proud mom watching her child’s first soccer game. Though really, this “child” has many parents. Big thanks to all the WinnieBs past and present who’ve had a hand in growing this incredible community! I may have planted the seed, but there were so many others who have helped me nurture and grow it.
And for those of you camper van owners not in our club yet, hope you’ll swing by the WinnieBs website, check us out and consider joining. See y’all at next year’s GNR! You certainly won’t have any trouble spotting the WinnieBs. Buzz buzz buzz!
Since we’re “The Fit RV,” Stef and I are known for focusing on fitness on our RV trips. And of all the various fitness options out there, our favorite way to stay fit on the road is cycling. We’re “all-in” on the biking – to the extent that our RV, Lance, has numerous customizations and additions to make cycling from the RV easier and safer. It’s our thing.
We recommend that everyone bring their bikes along on RV trips. It’s a great way to get low-impact exercise since you can make it as hard or as easy as you like, and it’s a fantastic alternative to a tow vehicle for shorter trips. But all of these benefits won’t mean anything to you if you can’t find anywhere to ride!
So, that’s what I want to focus on in this piece. I want to see you out there riding. I don’t want to see your bike gathering dust on a rack at the camp site, and you fearing that you’ll get flattened if you head out. (Believe me, we’ve had days like that, and they’re no fun.) So I’m going to share our personal ride-finding strategies here. This is how we go about finding rides when we’re out and about in the RV. Hopefully, these tips will get you out there on your bike – safely.
Local Bike Shops
This is by far my preferred way to find an awesome ride. Nobody will know the bike routes in the area better than the people who ride them every day, and those people tend to congregate at bike shops. So, I always start my searches this way hoping for that “ride with a local” experience.
What you’ll find depends on the particular bike shop and location. We’ve encountered variations on each of these in our travels:
- An awesome bike shop website complete with a section for rides and maps of each of them. A great example is this one for Red Rock Bicycle in St. George, Utah.
- A bike shop with little information on-line, but a phone number that gets you a helpful bike-store employee that rides themselves.
- A bike shop with a really impressive “wall of rides” with printed out maps and cue sheets, like this one we found at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin, TX.
So – step 1 – when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, Google yourself up a local bike shop. Chances are you probably need something anyway, right?
Official City Cycling Information
This one might only work if you’re cycling in or near an urban area that has the resources to devote to bicycle infrastructure, but when it does work, you can feel like you hit the jackpot.
Say, for example, we are going to be visiting Tucson, Arizona. A quick Google search for “Tucson Bicycle Paths” will get you almost immediately to “Bike Maps | Official website of the City of Tucson.” This is exactly what Stef and I did last winter, and it netted us a bike ride of over 50 miles where we didn’t encounter a single car. There was even an interactive map that we could use while we were out on the trail itself. Absolutely fantastic!
Tucson, of course, isn’t the only city with an official bike path system. You can do the same thing for a lot of major cities. Salt Lake City has one, as do Minneapolis, Boulder, and Kansas City. And you don’t have to be visiting a major city for this to work either, we once used a similar tactic to find bike rides in Sonoma County.
Ride with GPS
If you’re looking for a serious road ride, the website Ride With GPS has become my new go-to resource for finding rides. (It’s replaced Map My Ride, which I could never get to work properly). As a bonus, if you have a modern GPS head unit on your bike, you can use the maps on Ride With GPS to download turn-by-turn directions right onto your handlebars.
There are premium features to Ride With GPS, but you absolutely don’t need a paid subscription for this site to be a great resource. I don’t have a subscription myself, and I used Ride With GPS to plan all of the rides that we did on our recent trip to Buellton, California.
You can easily search this site by city, maximum and minimum lengths, and distance from a starting point. And the best thing about this site is that – for the most part – the rides you find are probably uploaded from someone’s GPS unit directly. That means someone actually rode the route and lived to tell about it.
As a quick example, here’s a list of rides that start within 10 miles of Forest City, Iowa. (Hint hint, rally goers …)
Brought mountain bikes instead? Let’s put aside for a minute that you can ride a mountain bike pretty much anywhere … and say you’re looking for an established and maintained trail to ride. I’ve found no better resource for this than the MTB Project Website.
This site has been taken over by REI in the last few years. Often times, a corporate takeover can be a bad thing, but that hasn’t happened to this site. MTB Project is just as useful and awesome as ever. You can search trails by geography, distance, and (very importantly) skill level.
The absolute best part about this site, in my opinion, is the companion smartphone app they have. You get all of the features of the website right in the palm of your hand, and right on the trail. I’ve used this more than once when faced with a fork in the trail and wondering “which path is least likely to result in my getting seriously injured?”
Say you’ve found a ride that you’d like to try, using one of the resources above. The only problem is that it doesn’t come anywhere near where your RV is camped. This is often one of the hardest final bits to figure out. There’s always the option of taking your vehicle to the trailhead or start of the ride, but if you roll in a Class B like we do, that means breaking camp.
In cases like this, I turn to good old Google Maps. At this point, I’m typically only trying to navigate a couple miles, and by using Google Maps’ cycling overlay, I can get a pretty good idea of what routes might be safe to get there. You simply put in the starting point (your RV campground), and the destination (the start of your chosen ride), and let Google figure it out for you by selecting the set of directions for cycling. (Or walking. That sometimes works too).
But here’s the thing. DON’T TAKE THESE DIRECTIONS AT FACE VALUE! We found this out the hard way when we were in the Tampa, FL, area recently. We thought it would be fun to bike to the Truma Sales and Service Center, but the biking directions Google gave us almost got us flattened. Lesson learned. Even when you get “cycling” directions from Google, always use the “Street View” and virtually cycle the route ahead of time. This will let you verify things like shoulder widths, and even get a feel for the traffic in the area.
So, there you have it. This is honestly how we plan our own cycling routes when we’re out on the road in our RV. Hopefully these resources will help get you on your bike and out on the road the next time you’re out in your own rig. It’s definitely how we’ll plan the routes for the group rides we’ll be leading at this year’s Grand National Rally in Forest City. Speaking of … we hope to see you there!
If you follow our shenanigans over on The Fit RV blog, you already know that James and I are cycling enthusiasts.
In fact, as I type we’re on a cross-country cycling adventure, riding our bikes out from every campsite we visit. Or, sometimes even just riding right there at the campground.
So, it probably doesn’t surprise you one bit that an upcoming event has us incredibly excited:
The Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA: April 19-22, 2018.
Regarded as the world’s greatest “Celebration of Cycling,” Sea Otter is a 4-day action-packed festival that combines bike races, bike vendors, bike celebrities, and of course … CAMPING!
The Sea Otter festival is held at the beautiful Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in the rolling hill country of Monterey, California. It is adjacent to Ford Ord National Monument, a breathtaking valley with scenic hiking and biking trails … a perfect venue to bring together lovers of cycling and camping.
And here’s the best part:
We’d love for you fellow cycling enthusiasts to join us!
Winnebago Outdoor Adventures has secured a section of premium campsites at the festival that are so highly sought-after they sell out immediately, even at their festival rate of $120 per night!
James and I, with help from our Travato-driving friend Staci James, will be hosting your experience there. Besides watching bike races or touring through vendor booths, you can look forward to campground socials, Team Trivia night, campsite workouts (led by yours truly), a Friday evening dinner event in the lovely and famous wine-tasting village of Carmel Valley, group rides, and much more.
AND EVEN MORE NEWS!
Trek will be taking part in our opening night happy hour event, and many of their product managers will be hanging with us (an athlete or two as well). Here’s the exciting part. Trek will be releasing some super cool new bikes at Sea Otter, but will not be demoing them to the general public. However! They are giving our camping group an exclusive demo of those bikes. We will be the only Sea Otter attendees who get to ride them!!!!!!!! (I’m ridiculously excited about this, as noted by my overly excessive use of exclamation points.)
Since Winnebago has a booth on the festival grounds, our camping group also gets VIP status at the booth… which means unlimited snacks and drinks (and VIP booth silliness) all day long! Plus, there are tons of different types of bike races happening all week.
Here are my three favorite races to watch at Sea Otter:
1. Brompton World Championships. Ever seen a bike race where the participants are dressed in a suit and tie? At the Brompton race, you certainly will! The race starts with sharp-dressed racers sprinting to their folding bikes, quickly assembling them, and then taking off for five laps around the track.
2. Cyclocross Racing. Cyclocross is a blast to watch. On the short off-road course, cyclists tackle obstacles, get covered in mud, and even hop off their bikes and run … whatever it takes to get to the finish the fastest.
3. Dual Slalom Racing: One of the most exciting races to witness at Sea Otter! Dual Slalom is when two mountain bike racers go head to head full speed down a hillside.
And then on Saturday morning, it’s our turn! Saturday is when Sea Otter hosts its Gran Fondos and non-competitive tours. James plans to sign up for a 93-mile Gran Fondo … that’s a long way, so I’m not sure that’s the tour I’ll join. Plus, our group’s evening out on the town is the night before! I’m thinking I’d prefer to do the 50-mile Gran Fondo like I did last year. Though, I’m a social rider and will wait to see which tours others in our group sign up for. The tours aren’t included in the Winnebago camping package, so there’s no pressure here to do any of the rides.
Want to Learn More?
We’ve written here before about locking your bikes up as an RVer. Since we usually travel with bikes, it’s an important topic for us. We’re always on the lookout for anything that can make securing our bikes easier, and we came across one recently that we wanted to share: the NuLock Bluetooth Bike Lock.
There are a few good ideas at work behind this lock. The first bright idea is to enable you to lock and unlock your bike without bringing a key or remembering a combination. You’ll be locking and unlocking your bike with the smartphone that’s probably in your pocket anyway. Nothing extra to bring or remember … excellent!
The other cool idea is that this is not just a lock. It’s also an alarm. If the cable is cut: an alarm sounds. If the battery cover is removed: an alarm sounds. If the lock is vibrated or treated harshly: an alarm sounds. You get the idea. The alarm is sure to attract attention, and that’s the last thing a bike thief wants.
Everything that comes in the box.
Using the Lock
The NuLock comes with everything you need except a smartphone. And I do mean everything, because it even comes with a little screwdriver to install the included batteries.
Speaking of batteries, let’s address one of the big fears I had about this lock – running out of battery power when it’s locked. Think about it: it’s an electronic lock. If there’s no power, it can’t unlock. The NuLock addresses this by warning you at 20% battery (with lights and an in-app message). At 5%, you won’t even be able to lock the lock. So, remember to check your lock battery power before heading out on a trip.
After installing the batteries, you pair it with your smartphone. You’ll need the NuLock app, which is free for both iPhone and Android. You have to lock the lock to enable the Bluetooth connection, and then you can pair it. That is pretty simple, but you do have to enter a passcode (which you should change once you’re paired up). Once you’re paired, you can check out the options (both screens shown below).
Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll give a couple of points of clarification. First – the AutoUnlock option will have the NuLock opening up whenever you approach the lock with your phone. I chose to leave this one off, because one of my frequent uses for the lock would be locking the bike to something while I sat on the patio at a coffee shop or something. In that case, I don’t know if I would be far enough away from the lock for it to remain secure. Hitting one button in the app isn’t too difficult for me, so I’m fine to leave this off.
You can also turn off the vibration alarm. I suppose if you were locking your bike up on a train or bus, you would want to keep this turned off to avoid nuisance alarms.
I have tried the alarm out. (Of course I did!) At first, I thought my lock was broken because I couldn’t get the alarm to go off. But then I realized that the alarms don’t sound if your phone is right there, and mine was in my pocket. Once I put my phone at the other end of the house, the alarms worked just fine. The NuLock claims an alarm level of “up to 110dB”. In my rather unscientific test, the alarm produced 118 dB! It should be plenty loud enough to attract attention.
And attracting attention is important, because this is a simple cable lock. It’s not the most impenetrable bike lock I’ve got, but the addition of attention grabbing alarms ups the security factor. The cable is also only about a yard long, so it’s really only good for one bike. But the flexible cable makes it easy to take up slack, which is important and will make it more difficult for thieves.
I’m a firm believer in matching the bike lock to the situation. I would not, for example, use the NuLock to leave my racing bike locked up outside my RV while I went hiking for several hours. But where I would use the NuLock would be running to get a few groceries on my bike. Outside a grocery store, outside a coffee shop, at an RV rally – these are places where the convenience would be appreciated, and the alarm would certainly get noticed.
You can get the NuLock on Amazon.com. If you are (or know of) an RVing cyclist who’s into convenient tech, this thing just might be the ticket.
Stay secure, all!
I know it seems like summer just ended last week (because it did), but the weather in our neck of the woods has gotten suddenly cold. That’s turned my mind to winterizing the RV. And even though you may be enjoying a fall warm spell where you are … eventually you’ll be thinking of this too. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to go over a few basic supplies you might need.
These aren’t going to be winterization “instructions.” Every rig will have somewhat different instructions for how you should winterize it. So regardless of what you read here or elsewhere on the internet, the instructions in your owner’s manual should be the final word on what you do. But across the board, some supplies are common, and that’s what we’ll cover here.
There are two basic ways to winterize your RV, and the idea behind both of them is the same: you want to get the water out of your plumbing system. The first method uses compressed air to expel the water (the blow-out method), while the second method relies on RV antifreeze to replace the water (the “pink stuff” method). And actually, there’s a third method; the drive-it-to-Florida-and-don’t-worry-about-it method. But that one’s pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t require any special equipment. ;-)
Equipment for the “Blow Out” Method
The most obvious thing you’ll need for this is an air compressor. In my shop, I have a 60 gallon 10 cubic-foot-per-minute compressor that I use. You don’t need anything that large, as you won’t be trying to force all the water out of your plumbing system. Your rig should have low-point drains on all the water lines – when you open them, gravity will remove most of the water for you.
Now, if you believe everything you read on the internet, some people claim to successfully winterize their RV with nothing more than an emergency flat-repair compressor like this:
But when winterizing an RV, what you really need is air volume, not air pressure. You’ll only be blowing out your lines at 35-50 psi – any higher may damage your plumbing. While those little pumps can put out a good bit of pressure, they’re lacking in air volume. As an example, the owner’s manual for our Winnebago Travato says to leave the air compressor connected and blowing for 5 minutes. There’s no way this little pump can supply a constant flow of air at any reasonable pressure for 5 minutes.
I won’t try to tell you exactly how big of a compressor you need, but it’s something more than a tire pump. A good-sized pancake compressor like this might be a good compromise, but you’d probably need to let the tank recharge several times to get the job done.
The Pressure Regulator
I touched on this earlier, but if your compressor doesn’t come equipped with one, you’ll want to get a pressure regulator to keep the air at a safe pressure. Your RV’s plumbing system isn’t designed for 90 psi. They’re typically designed for half that. Check your owner’s manual for the maximum pressure recommended by your RV’s manufacturer, and get a regulator that can match the pressure from your compressor to the pressure required by your RV. Most will be able to get by with something like this:
An Air Filter
The inside of an air compressor can be a dirty place. Think about it: you’re going to be putting that air into your water lines and letting it sit over the winter. You don’t want to blow rust, oil, 3-month-old condensate, or any other funk into your fresh water system. For this reason, I always use an air filter when blowing out our RV’s water lines. Luckily, these aren’t expensive. Something like this should get the job done:
The Blowout Plug
This is probably the most obvious piece of equipment you’ll need. It’s what adapts the air compressor fittings to the garden hose fitting at your RV’s city water input. You can buy these online from any RV accessory store, and they aren’t expensive. I’ve had this one for years now.
Even though this is the blowout method, you’ll still want a small bit of RV antifreeze to put in the traps underneath your sinks and showers to keep those from freezing. I’ll go into the different types in the next section.
Equipment for the RV Antifreeze Method
Well, most obviously you’ll need this. The big difference between RV antifreeze and “regular” antifreeze is that RV antifreeze is safe to consume. Sort of. Don’t consume it in mass quantities or anything, but if a little RV antifreeze is left over in your pipes in the spring, it won’t kill you. (But you won’t like it.)
In the world of RV antifreeze, there are two main types. Some made with ethanol and some made with propolyne glycol. Without going into too much chemistry, I’ll say that both kinds will work. But ethanol-based RV antifreeze is reported to have more negative side effects than propolyne glycol (bad taste, drying out seals, etc.). So in my shop, I only use the Propolyne Glycol kind.
The other thing to know about RV antifreeze products is that they’re rated for different low temperatures. In other words, different products can protect you to different depths of cold. We use a “-50” product from Camco that’s readily available at camping stores.
Side note: Camco also makes a “-100” product. Really! -100 degrees! Considering that the coldest temperature ever recorded in North America is -81.4, you should be pretty safe with that stuff.
RV Water Heater Bypass
Better RVs, like our own Winnebago Travato, come equipped with this from the factory. The purpose of the bypass is to, well, bypass your rigs water heater. This is important because then you don’t have to buy extra gallons of RV antifreeze to fill up your water heater. This just makes good sense. If you find a sticker that looks like this near a valve in your RV, you’ve probably got the bypass already installed.
But if your RV didn’t come with a water heater bypass kit, don’t despair! There are conversion kits readily available in the aftermarket. They’re not expensive, and they’re not terribly difficult to install. But if you don’t know how to install it – or don’t trust yourself not to cause a leak – any RV service center should be able to install one for you.
Beyond that, for either method, you’ll need a few basic hand tools to remove drain plugs and such. You’ll also want to have some rags on hand to clean up any water or antifreeze that gets out of control.
The procedure for winterizing your exact rig should be spelled out in your owner’s manual. But whichever method you choose, with the supplies listed above, you should be ready to complete the task and protect your rig’s plumbing system from winter temperatures.
Summer is here, RV season is in full swing, and the campgrounds are full. Depending on where you point your rig, it can seem like half the country has busted out for some R&R.
But for the thousands of RV trips that end well, there are always a few of them that don’t. Each year, some RVers fall victim to accidents and injuries, many of which could be prevented. In the interest of keeping you from becoming a statistic, I’ve prepared a short RV safety quiz. You’ll find the answers at the end.
1. In an RV, “Hot Skin” refers to:
a. Heat induced and potentially dangerous delamination of RV exterior walls.
b. When the outside of an RV becomes electrically charged.
c. A scalding hazard presented by a malfunctioning water heater.
d. Excess heat build-up on the controls (steering wheel, knobs, etc) of an RV.
2. If you experience a blowout in one of your motorhome’s front tires, you should:
a. Brake firmly and quickly to bring the rig to a stop as rapidly as possible.
b. Take your foot off the gas and coast into a stop slowly.
c. Step on the gas to maintain control and stop when safe.
d. Have your co-pilot move to the other side of the coach to keep the flat tire off the ground.
3. Before hooking up a grill to your RV’s propane connection, it’s most important to:
a. Apply Teflon tape to the quick connect.
b. Assemble a combination of elbows, plugs, adapters and fittings that will work.
c. Verify if the pressure of the connection and the pressure of the grill are compatible.
d. Marinate what you plan to grill. (Because hey, nobody likes dry food.)
4. You should never load your vehicle over its GVWR. The GVWR includes (but is not limited to):
a. The weight of any liquids in holding tanks.
b. The weight of a towed vehicle.
c. Passengers and Cargo.
d. All of the above.
e. A and C
5. A carbon monoxide (CO) detector should be installed in your RV:
a. High – because carbon monoxide is lighter than air.
b. Low – because carbon monoxide is heavier than air.
c. Co-located with the propane detector.
d. Not at all, as carbon monoxide risk is extremely low in an RV.
1. In an RV, “Hot Skin” refers to:
b. When the outside of an RV becomes electrically charged.
I actually experienced this condition myself once. In an older RV, I was hooking up the cable connection to the RV parks cable input. When I touched the park pedestal, I got a definite “ZING.” This was an older class B motorhome with a metal body, and I eventually traced the problem to a short in the shore power input. But you don’t have to have a full metal-bodied RV to experience Hot Skin. Metal steps, screen doors, and other parts of your RV can become energized and potentially dangerous.
Basically, if the electrical potential of your rig is greater than ground, you’ve got a problem. Often times, this is caused by a mis-wiring job, which crosses the neutral and hot wires. The best way to test for Hot Skin is with a multimeter, if you travel with one. You can read more about Hot Skin here.
2. If you experience a blowout in one of your motorhome’s front tires, you should:
c. Step on the gas to maintain control and stop when safe.
This one is tough to grasp because your intuition and instinct would be to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible. But it turns out, stabbing at the brake pedal is just about the worst thing you can do. I won’t bore you with the physics. But in the end, it comes down to counteracting the forces that are trying to pull your motorhome to the side. The best way to do that is by exerting an even greater force that’s under your control.
The idea here is not that you start accelerating wildly, but that you accelerate long enough to regain control of the vehicle, after which you can make a slow and controlled stop on your own terms. You can see an excellent, if somewhat dated, video on the topic here.
Fortunately, physics doesn’t change much, and the information is just as valid as ever.
Also interesting is that the procedures for both FRONT and BACK wheel blowouts are exactly the same!
3. Before hooking up a grill to your RV’s propane connection, it’s most important to:
c. Verify if the pressure of the connection and the pressure of the grill are compatible.
If your RV has an exterior propane connection for hooking up a grill, that can be an awesome never-have-to-carry-those-little-green-bottles-of-propane-again accessory. But it can also be a source of potential problems if you don’t get the connections just right.
Besides the mechanical part of the connection (which is important and should be leak-free) there’s the matter of propane pressures. You see, the propane in your RV’s tank is likely held at pressures of 250 psi or greater. Your rig will have a propane regulator to bring the pressure of the vapor down from this high number to the 11 inches of water (about 0.4 psi) required by your appliances. That’s a good thing, and you want that regulator working for you. I can’t say for certain because I don’t know your rig, but I’d bet that most rigs with an external propane connector have that connector on the low pressure side of the regulator.
The trouble is, most portable propane grills ALSO come with a regulator, and you don’t want the output of one regulator feeding the input of another. If you “double regulate” your propane, you could wind up with an insufficient gas supply to your grill, incomplete combustion, or a grill that goes out when you close the cover and fills the grill with propane.
None of those are things you want. So, before you buy a grill, verify what pressure your propane connection is running, and get a grill that will accept that input.
4. You should never load your vehicle over its GVWR. The GVWR includes (but is not limited to):
e. A and C (The weight of any liquids in holding tanks, as well as passengers and cargo).
Overloading a motorhome is not something you want to mess with. To make sure you don’t do that, the manufacturer will put a plate on your vehicle (usually inside the driver’s door) that lists the weight capacities of the vehicle. This one is important, so to make sure I get it right, I’m going to quote the definition from the RV Safety Education Foundation:
“GVWR: The maximum allowable weight of a fully loaded vehicle, including liquids, passengers, cargo, and the tongue weight of any towed vehicle.”
This means that ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING you put in your vehicle – combined with the weight of the vehicle itself, can’t exceed that number. And I do mean everything: The fresh water you’re carrying; the black tank you forgot to dump; the food in your fridge; your pet; the fuel in your tank; and the burrito you just picked up at the gas station. It all counts.
The best and most accurate method to determine how close you are to your GVWR is to weigh your vehicle after you’ve got everything loaded up for a trip. That’s the only method I trust. You’ll typically do this at a truck stop. And while that’s not always terribly convenient, and it adds a few minutes to your trip, staying under that GVWR number could really save your bacon in an emergency.
The other interesting point here is that if you tow, the tongue weight of your towed vehicle counts as cargo!
5. A carbon monoxide (CO) detector should be installed in your RV:
a. High – because carbon monoxide is lighter than air.
Fact: Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air. This is the opposite of propane, which is heavier than air. So, while we’ve all seen the propane leak detectors lurking near the floors of our rigs, you shouldn’t be looking in that same space for a carbon monoxide detector.
Also unlike propane, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless. You won’t detect it on your own, so you need a detector. Our last RV didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector, so I installed one, and mounted it on the ceiling. Our current Travato came with one.
You need a CO detector in your rig if you have any combustion appliances. Stovetops, heaters, water heaters, absorption refrigerators … basically anything with a flame that can generate carbon monoxide.
And if you’re going to use alternative heaters, such as a catalytic heater, inside your rig then you really need to make sure your CO detector is working properly. Personally, I don’t recommend using fuel-burning (and CO-producing) appliances in an enclosed space while you’re sleeping, but some folks insist they’re safe. If you’re going to use one, then please make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector as a safety measure.
And there you have it. How did you do? If you got a perfect score, why not add a safety question (and answer) of your own down in the comments?
And if you didn’t get a perfect score, don’t worry. The intent here wasn’t to scare anyone, but just to inform. If you missed a question, or were just curious to know more, now you have some late-night Googling to do! RVing, like most anything else in life, comes with a few risks to balance out the rewards. But with a little knowledge, you can mitigate those risks. And when you’ve done that, all that’s left are the rewards. Happy (and safe) RVing, all!
James and I just rolled out of the 2017 Grand National Rally, and as it always goes right as we leave, I’ve got “rally brain.” You’ve caught me still feeling a bit soft and mushy, missing my rally buddies.
It’s a strange feeling whenever we leave this annual rally, which always amuses me. Sort of like when a family reunion comes to an end. Except maybe without the part where crazy Uncle Bob stands waaayyyyy too close when he talks…
If you’ve never attended the rally, think of it like summer camp for adults. A time where we otherwise very serious and mature grown-ups can cut loose, get silly, make new friends, and do things we don’t normally do… Like enter parades dressed in costumes:
Photo Credit: Tom Calabrese
If you were at the rally and saw the bright yellow campervan in the middle of the van row, that was us. We camped with a group called the Winnie Bs… named that way since we’re a group of Class B campervans.
Winnebago’s Class B vans actually aren’t manufactured in Forest City, but rather down the road in a town called Lake Mills, so we van people have a warm spot for the Lake Mills factory. They celebrated their 3000th campervan built in the facility while we were there!
Photo Credit: Tom Calabrese
Probably the most significant rally events for James and me were the fitness activities we led each day.
This year, I had the best turnouts EVER on my morning workout sessions. RVers are paying attention to their fitness, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to see this health-focused shift.
The rally grounds are adjacent to the beautiful Winnebago River.
We joined a group of rally friends and spent a morning canoeing and kayaking our way down it… a definite highlight of the week.
We did have one little hiccup during the rally… a damaging storm rolled through one evening. Straight-line winds going a bazillion miles an hour (they clocked the gusts at 66 MPH at the nearby airport) knocked down our Van Village tent area.
Luckily, the little beast of a storm (which I’ve since named “Hurricane Iowa 2017”) was there and gone in about 15 minutes.
And how fortuitous is this?! That very night another fellow van owner rolled in who happened to have her own 10×20’ tent in tow! One Van Village destroyed, another in its place 30 minutes later. Life has a weird way of working itself out.
Once Van Village was restored, Truma, a German manufacturer of high-tech heaters and water heaters, hosted a German-style customer appreciation party complete with grilled brats, pretzels, and of course… beer. It was just what we needed after the drama of the storm.
Photo Credit: Kate Mullen
And as the sun began to set on the eve of Hurricane Iowa 2017, Mother Nature wasn’t done with us yet. This time, she put on a different kind of show:
Just like that, all was forgiven.
So, there you go… a little taste of our rally experience. Though really, I just skimmed the surface of what it’s like there. Attending GNR completely revolves around the social experience, and all the activities packed into the rally schedule are a testament to that. You can paint with a group, compete in team trivia, attend a music concert, learn some things in an RV class, or even just hang out and have an impromptu social hour:
It’s hard to explain the draw of GNR to those who haven’t attended. Parking for a week in a giant field in Iowa sounds strange, I’m sure. But once you attend, something indescribable happens. You end up bonding with some of those around you, right there in an unremarkable field in Iowa…all because of your common love of the RV lifestyle. I’d say it’s close to magical.
One obvious commonality RVers everywhere seem to share is our urge to explore. We all have that “itch” to get out and be adventurous and see the world, which is most likely what drew us toward RVing in the first place. But there’s only so much exploring we can do from inside our rigs. So, it isn’t surprising that hiking is a popular pastime for RVers. James and I are no exception to this, and we try to plan a little hiking whenever we hit the road.
Hiking’s a terrific excuse to get ourselves out of the RV, connect with nature, and (the best part) get exercise that’s actually fun. Unlike our other favorite pastime bicycling, hiking is a cheaper, low-maintenance hobby, and doesn’t require lots of equipment to lug around. You can almost just open up the RV doors and go. Almost.
Hiking, like any outdoor activity, comes with its share of dangers: wild animals, weather, poisonous plants, etc. So being safe on your hikes is a big deal, and not to be taken for granted. But that’s not all. You also want to be comfortable and make any hiking adventure as pleasant as possible. Here are a few tips to make your next hike not only safer, but much more enjoyable.
The most important hiking supply you’ll ever need is water. How much you’ll need gets tricky depending on your distance, the trail’s intensity, the weather, etc. For an 8-12-mile day hike, you’ll want to carry at least two liters of water per person, maybe even more if it’s hot out and the trail’s a tough one.
While drinking water on hikes is important, maintaining a mineral balance in your body is the real key to hydration. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, especially sodium. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphate and magnesium, all help stimulate our nerves and balance fluid levels in our bodies. When there’s an imbalance, it can cause a variety of serious negative symptoms, and can even become potentially deadly.
In an attempt to replace the minerals we lose through sweating and exertion, many people turn to bottled sports drinks like Gatorade. That’s one idea, but the trouble with many commercial sports drinks is that they’re high in sugar and have unhealthy food additives and colorings. A healthier idea is to use a supplement that contains the essential electrolytes without all the sugar and chemicals.
There are several products out there and we use a variety ourselves. Bioplasma Sport, made by Hyland’s Homeopathic, comes in individual packets which makes it convenient for hiking. Another one worth checking out is made by Hi-Lyte, and it’s made up of all-natural sea minerals including sea salt from Utah’s Great Salt Lake … right where we live!
If your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t going to be happy. Never underestimate the importance of good socks and hiking shoes. Hiking footwear comes in a range of styles, from day hiking shoes all the way to bullet-proof mountaineering boots.
James and I like to travel with a hiking shoe as opposed to a boot. (They take up a lot less room in a small RV!) I’ve got two pairs I alternate between, a pair of lighter Keen’s (for easier hikes) and a pair of Vasque’s (for hard-core hikes). I especially love a grippy sole on my hiking shoes, and my Vasque’s make me feel like my feet will stick to anything. They give me a little extra confidence when the terrain gets challenging. I’ve got a little problem with heights, so any extra advantage I can get out there helps.
But while my Keen’s and Vasque’s work great for me, you’ve got to do your own matchmaking. Hit a store like REI, try a bunch on, talk to the helpful sales associates, and find a shoe that matches your hiking ambitions. There’s no underestimating the importance of a good fit, so once you’ve settled on a style of shoe or boot, start trying them on. Allow yourself plenty of time here – don’t rush the process. You’re going to be spending a lot more time in the shoes than you ever will in the store, so make sure you get this right.
Socks are just as important. If you do that stick-hand-in-sock-drawer-and-pull-out-the-top-pair thing, you could be setting yourself up for a miserable hike. Cotton socks aren’t ideal for long hikes, since they retain moisture, aren’t as smooth as other materials, and could lead to blisters. Look for hiking-specific socks. A good pair of hiking socks will regulate temperature, wick moisture, absorb shock, and help prevent blisters. There’s nothing worse than soaking wet feet miles away from the trailhead.
Smart Safety Accessories:
Besides plenty of water, you’ll need a few other things in your daypack. Here’s what we carry, and what we recommend you should consider carrying, too.
- Pocket knife
- Protein bars and/or trail mix (one serving for every hour of hiking you’ll do)
- Compass & Map (make sure you know how to use them!)
- Small first-aid kit
- Waterproof matches
- Small flashlight
- Small Headlamp
- Water purification tablets and/or water bottle integrated with filter
- Electrolyte Replenishment
- Emergency foil blanket
Yes, I know, that’s a pretty extensive list. Luckily, all the items are pretty small and pack down nicely.
Here’s James with 3 liters of water on his back, and all the items from our checklist above. Not bad!
While 99% of the time hiking goes off without a hitch, it’s always smart to plan for that 1%. But don’t let the fear of the unknown deter you. Hiking is energizing, simple, cheap, exciting, and challenging. It delivers such immense rewards. And besides, it’s a great way to keep fit on the road!
This is what our RV “Lance” looks like at the moment.
Lance is just outside my office, so as I sit here I can’t help but see James carrying mystery parts in and out of the rig.
To be clear, there was nothing wrong with Lance. You see, James is a project lover. A born tinkerer. So, when we bought Lance and I was dreaming of all the adventures we’d have, James was dreaming about all the mods he could do. The RV became an excuse for James to get to tear things apart on the regular. I’ll probably not see him inside for days.
I’ve come to learn James isn’t unique in this way. There are actually entire websites devoted to RV mods. Even on our Travato Owners Facebook group, there are other RV owners posting photos of their innovations. But not all the projects are at the extreme levels of the ones James tackles. In fact, I’ve been able to make out several different RV modder styles simply from observing mods people are sharing on our Facebook group. I had a little fun with it and put them in list form below. See if any of these sound like you:
The Timid RV Modder: If you get nervous at the thought of installing a Command Hook in your RV, then you might just be a Timid Modder. Typical mods for the Timid Modder might include putting a piece of tape on a door to remind you where to grab; or installing the aforementioned command hook to hold your washcloth by the sink. Eventually, some Timid RV Modders work themselves all the way up to the ultimate (and stressful)… Paper Towel Holder Install!
The Decorator: Sure, RV Manufacturers have teams of designers who determine floor, wall, and fabric colors to make sure the interior is harmonious. But if that’s not good enough for you, then you could be a “Decorator”. The decorator spends their RV remodel time on projects like tile backsplashes, curtains, wall hangings, and adding (or changing) wallpaper. In their spare time, you can find the decorator binge-watching reruns of “Trading Spaces”.
The Techie: If you refer to the TVs in your RV as “monitors”, you’re probably a Techie Modder. Typical mods for this crowd would include adding wi-fi routers, cell boosters, and media hubs. Also, in the time it’s taken you to read this, the Techie modder has reprogrammed their vehicle’s navigation system with a new route optimization algorithm, and added data logging and SAN storage to their OnePlace control panel.
The Overexcited Newbie: The social media calling card of the Overexcited Newbie reads something like this: “I just bought my first RV, and picked it up today. I also bought 1600 watts of solar panels to add so I can run my air conditioner!” You’ll find this type of RV modder rushing headlong into projects with more exuberance than planning. They provide great amusement for all the other RV modders; rivaling reality shows like “Flip or Flop” for entertainment value.
The Anti-Modder: This modder lives by the creed that if Winnebago saw fit to make the RV the way it is, then you had better have a darn good reason for changing it. By their nature, anti-modders don’t really do any DIY projects, and would rather spend their time on the road instead of at Home Depot.
The Dreamer: Unique among the RV modders, the dreamer doesn’t even need an RV! Dreamers are in the planning phases of RV ownership and follow owners’ groups to get ideas for when the day comes that they have their own rig. If they did have an RV, they already know which mods they would like to do. Or will do. Next year. When they have that RV…
The Over-The-Top DIYer: And then there are poor souls like James. If you really wanted to build your own RV but bought one instead, you’ll probably turn into an over-the-top modder. The sky is the limit for this type. No dinette in your RV? No problem – they’ll add one! Don’t like the noise from the generator? Tear it out and put in something else! Want to move the entire galley four inches to the left? Bring it on! I’d like to say there’s a correlation between the success ratio of the over-the-top modder and the number of screws they have left over when they finish. When they’re not doing RV mods, you can find these characters thinking about doing RV mods.
So there you have it…the 7 styles of RV Modders based on my highly scientific research playing around on Facebook. To be clear, there isn’t one that’s right or wrong and there’s definitely not one style better than the other.
Because if you think about it, RVing is all about joy. We all bought our RVs to bring more joy to our lives…whether the rig is taking us to see the loves of our lives (the grandkids) or to see the jaw-dropping scenery. So it only makes sense that the mods we do bring joy to us as well, no matter what they are. That’s the beauty of this beast, we can tailor the RV to reflect our own personalities and have a little fun with it along the way.
As they say, “enjoy the journey.” Whether that journey is on the road or in the driveway with tools spread out everywhere, it’s up to you.
Happy travels (and modding), all!
-Stef from TheFitRV
(Thanks to my Travato Owners family for inspiring this article…you’re the best!)
Hello from the FitRV headquarters, otherwise known as “home.”
James and I just got back to HQ from a trip to Phoenix, where we attended a Good Sam event…one of those half-rally and half-show things. There really should be a term for them as common as they’ve become. Showly? Ralshow? I got so sick of typing “rally and show” on every social media post I shared during the event, that I’m determined to start a new name movement. Feel free to join my cause…
The Phoenix Showly was fantastic. James and I both led seminars on various topics ranging from healthy RVing (my sessions) to RV education seminars (James’ sessions). Here’s some news worth celebrating. My healthy RVing sessions? They’re NEVER well attended, at any show. So at Phoenix I expected the same low turn-out. But guess what?!? I packed the house in pretty much all my healthy seminars!
I couldn’t believe it. I was so thrilled to see an interest in healthy RV living…it’s what I’ve always worked for! It was a super proud fit-mama-bear moment, and completely reaffirmed this “FitRV” thing we do.
But leading seminars wasn’t ALL we did at the show. We also met up with some of the “family”.
And by that I mean our Travato family.
We camped with a group of other Travato owners…all parked together in a big rectangle on the blacktop jungle that also doubles as the Phoenix International Raceway, with our Travato doors opening to the center courtyard we created. We called it “Travato Town.” And also “Van Village,” we never could seem to get consistent; but since they both sound pretty cool, I’m good with either. Over the course of the show, there were about 15 Travatos who swung by Travato Town, and even one non-Travato, which was quickly re-branded:
As for Travato Town festivities, they were plentiful starting right away on Day 1. Mother Nature put on a phenomenal sunset show:
It felt like she was saying, “Welcome to PIR! It’s going to be a great week. Party on!” Well, maybe not that “party on” bit, but such a beautiful first night sure did set a wonderful tone for the rest of the show.
James’ birthday happened to fall during the rallshow too, so guess how we celebrated it? With food, of course. RV Gangnam (potluck) Style:
Barring one sneaky bag of tortilla chips, it was one of the healthiest RV potlucks ever, I’m proud to say. I think attendees were a little intimidated with us being there, so they brought out their healthiest potluck dishes. That’s what I call “Productive Peer Pressure.” Hang out with any fitness pros and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
We also had a bouquet of balloons from the party festivities. Since we couldn’t have campfires, the balloon bouquet set in the middle of our nightly chair circle was a pretty close substitute. Well not really. It was kind of silly, actually.
But when you’ve been sitting in a parking lot for days, things like balloon campfires become weirdly amusing.
Though it wasn’t all sitting around, no sirree! Remember that Productive Peer Pressure I mentioned? I tapped into it many times during the week. Like when I got everybody up and Boot Camping.
We had to put one of the newbies’ outdoor sound system to the test. We put some upbeat music on nice and loud, attached a bunch of TRX straps and resistance bands to the Travato door hinges, and we had an awesome Boot Camping workout right there in Travato Town. Who says exercise isn’t fun?!
And what would a FitRV meetup be without a bike ride? Bike rides are my favorite part of any get-together:
We were so lucky to have a local Travato owning couple join us on this meet-up, they brought tables and supplies and were incredibly gracious hosts. Rex Anderson and his wife Valerie even went so far as scouting out biking routes in advance, and it made the riding so much easier. There were 3 rides people could choose from: 5 miles, 15 miles, and 25 miles. My group did the 15 miles. There MAY or MAY NOT have been a Starbucks stop involved at the halfway point of my group’s ride, but what happens in the 15-miler group stays in the 15-miler group.
And just like that, it was over, and we pointed Lance north towards FitRV HQ. I had a long drive home to Salt Lake City after the rallow (I think this one’s my fave!), which left me with a lot of reflection time. I spent some of that time thinking about the uniqueness of the social dynamics within the RV community. It’s actually pretty incredible, if you think about it, how otherwise complete strangers can become so quickly bonded over one commonality…RVing. Even in a setting as lame as a huge unending parking lot, when you plop a bunch of RVers in it together, something close to magical transpires.
You’ll see that at Winnebago’s own Grand National Rally (GNR), too. Let’s face it. We don’t go to Forest City, IA to immerse ourselves in nature. We go to immerse ourselves in the social experience and to hang with fellow RV nerds who get it…our indefinable love of the RVing culture. And as you roll out of GNR you aren’t thinking about the adventures you had or the mountains you just climbed, you’re thinking about the unique souls you met along the way…those who are gentle, others who are brilliant, some who are creative, and my favorites…the silly souls (and their bottle mustaches).
Sure, RV rallies and meet-ups are nothing new. But meet-ups based on a shared RV model, like the one we just had, seem to be a growing trend. We can probably attribute it to the explosion of social media groups geared around specific rigs. At least that’s been the case with our Travato group. I find these rig-specific meet-ups fascinating. It’s like adding another layer on to the RVers bond. RVers in general bond easily because of our shared RV lifestyles, but when it’s an owner of the exact same rig as yours, the bond grows even tighter.
On a whim, I started a Facebook group for Travato Owners (and WannaBes) two summers ago. James and I had just gotten our RV “Lance” home, and wanted to connect with other owners. I envisioned it being sort of like a cyber-campfire, where we all sit around and chat about trivial things as we would at the RV park. We’re almost at 1700 members now, and the group has exploded into so much more than a campfire chat! Each day there are friendships being formed, creative inspiration getting shared, and strong support given from the seasoned owners to the nervous newbies. The Facebook group has taken on a life of its own and well surpassed my original vision.
We aren’t unique, our Travato family. There are other owners’ groups even bigger and older than ours, like the View/Navion group on Yahoo. With a little research, you can quickly find out if your RV already has an owner’s group. And if you don’t see a group for your rig, well then maybe this time YOU can be the one who, on a whim, starts a new family. And who knows. Maybe we’ll be seeing you in your rig’s RV Town at our next showlly…
So, you bought a new RV! Fantastic! Now what…
At least that’s what we asked ourselves once we made our first big RV purchase. Between reading all the manuals and trying to learn the systems, purchasing a new rig can get overwhelming…we remember the excitement AND the sleepless nights very well. One thing we quickly learned is that the RV itself wasn’t to be our last purchase before hitting the road. There were a few things we needed to make our RVing experience run smoothly and efficiently. To save you some of the hassle of figuring it out yourselves, we put together this list. Here are 10 things you’ll want to pick up right away!
OK people, there’s no getting around this. At some point in your RVing life, you’re going to have to deal with the reality of dumping your black tank. If you do it correctly, it’s actually not a messy process. Even so, it just makes good, clean sense to do this while wearing some gloves. So get yourself a box of these and leave them with your RV sanitation accessories.
If you’ve ever seen a large rock at an RV dump station and wondered what it was for – here’s your answer. If your rig came with a basic sewer hose, it probably has connections on one end to secure it to your RV. The other end may be just… hose. “The Rock” is there to hold your hose in place when the nasty stuff starts gushing out. But there’s a better way: RV sewer hoses are available that lock in at both ends, and they come with adapters and fittings to secure them into any dump station you’re likely to roll across. Save the rock for your radio, and get yourself something like this.
Basically, you need a water pressure regulator because you never know what pressure the campground water is running. You don’t want to hook your rig up to that and risk blowing up part of your plumbing system. We’ve previously done some testing of water pressure regulators here on Winnebagolife.com. The “Best Value” option from that roundup is cheap – and easily packed – insurance against watery disasters.
The water that comes into your RV will be used for bathing, washing dishes, drinking, cooking, you name it. The fresh water hose is the under-appreciated lifeline that brings it in. It will be outside, in the sun and weather, and under pressure almost all of the time, so it makes sense to get a good one. You’ll want something that is long enough, drinking safe, and clearly color coded so that you’ll only ever use it in clean and fresh water hookups. In RV-land, they’re generally colored either white or blue, like this one.
Not everyone drinks the water from their RV’s plumbing system, but we do! At home, we installed a water filter, and our home on wheels deserves the same treatment. Fortunately, there are inexpensive alternatives that will provide basic filtration and won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth… or your wallet. This is the one we travel with; it’s just installed in line with the fresh water hose.
Just as you’ll want a dedicated hose for your fresh water, you’ll want to dedicate a hose for “less than fresh” water. You’ll use this hose for rinsing the sewer hose, for example. For RV use, these are generally colored green, brown, grey… anything EXCEPT white and blue!! If you’re looking for suggestions, this one fits the bill nicely.
Your RV’s electrical system is safe when it’s isolated. But just like a TV, it’s vulnerable to whatever it’s plugged into. You could be at risk if there’s an electrical storm nearby, or if the power pedestal is mis-wired. These kinds of things have the potential to damage your RV, so it makes sense to travel with some protection. Portable surge suppressors may seem expensive initially, but when you consider what they’re protecting, it’s just good insurance. Something like this will protect most rigs.
Eventually, you’ll roll up to an RV site that provides power in a different configuration than what your RV was designed for. Maybe your rig takes 50 amp service, but the campground only offers 30. Or the situation could be reversed. For us, it happened for the first time in the middle of the night with no stores open. Since then, we’ve learned our lesson, and we always travel with an assortment of RV electrical adapters. Be safe when using them, pay attention to the amp ratings, and these could one day keep you out of the dark.
Everybody is different, but most people don’t like to sleep with their feet higher than their heads. But even if you could deal with that, it’s no fun to have doors swinging open or closed on their own because you’re parked on a slope. Leveling your RV is about to become part of your life. Some rigs have built-in leveling jacks. And whether these are hand cranked, electrical, or hydraulic, putting a jack pad down under them not only keeps the jack from damaging the pavement, but it could help keep it from sinking into soft ground. So if your RV has leveling jacks, consider getting some jack pads, like these:
Now, if your rig doesn’t have leveling jacks, you’ll want to level your rig by rolling it up onto blocks of various heights. This is the adult version of giant Lego blocks for your RV. Most RVers at one time or another get themselves a set of something like these:
10: Head Lamp:
Pretty much anything you do with your RV, at some point in your RVing career, you’re going to wind up doing in the dark. That means you’re going to need a portable light source. And it just makes sense that you’ll want both hands free while you do whatever it is that needs being done. That’s why we roll with a couple of these – a quality LED headlamp. (They’re a little expensive, but once you have them, you’ll be surprised how many times you reach for them.)