Only Today Matters! (see Topics and Drivel for yesterday's views).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Our second RV trip, to Cape May, NJ last weekend, was a success. Not flawless, but relaxing and gratifying. But a little cold.

We started out Thursday morning (4/30/15) driving to NJ via I93/I495/I290/I90/I84/Newburgh Bridge/I87 and the Garden State Parkway.

We drove from around 11AM, stopped at the Ramopo service area, and then on to Cape May, arriving around 7PM. We did not realize that the GS Parkway prohibited trucks over 3.5 tons (at 9,700 lbs unloaded, we were over the limit), but we read that RVs are sorta winked at - they are looking to keep big trucks off the roadway, but do not ticket RVs unless there are other violations committed.

We hooked up to water and electricity, turned on the propane, and fired up the furnace, as it was getting below 50 F. That was when the first weirdness began. When we had used the furnace the prior weekend, only the black vents in the bedroom had blown hot air. This time, all the white vents and the ceiling AC also blew air, but it was not hot, or even warm. We got all the heat we needed in the bedroom, but the cabin and kitchen were 10 or more degrees colder. We are still not sure whether we have a problem, or we are just missing something as rookies. As usual, the manuals for the motorhome, furnace, and AC were of little help.

Nor did the furnace seem to turn off when the bedroom warmed up - we shut it off manually.

But we slept well that night, and were warm enough.  Before we went to sleep we watched a couple of episodes of Castle season 6 on DVD, but we were too sleepy to watch more than 2.

Friday morning we got up pretty early, made some breakfast, and puttered around. We then unhooked and drove around Cape May. City regulations do not allow RV parking in the local townships or at the beach - understandable because they would be overrun in the crowded summer. But we drove around just fine - the streets were pretty empty, it was cold and windy, and most of the tourist stores on the beach "strip" were not yet open.

We then drove to the Cape May Point State Park, which is free, beautiful, and RV friendly. We parked and walked the short nature walk, and pulled out the canvas chairs and sat at the beach for a couple of hours, bundled up against the wind.

We went back to the campsite and to the camp store and bought a 6x9 outdoor patio mat for the RV.
Another bunch of Castle episodes and we were ready to sleep. The night again was in the low 40s, but we were plenty warm.

Saturday we returned and my wife climbed the lighthouse tower (I wimped out because of the warnings for heart patients). We then took the long nature walk (1.3 miles), then walked the beach, photographed a pod of dolphins (poorly), explored the WW2 bunker, and pretty much exhausted ourselves.

When we got back to the campsite, we bought some firewood to make our first campfire. With some used paper plates and paper towels, plus some twigs for kindling, we got a good fire started quite easily.

I wrestled the Colman portable grill out of the outside storage and set it up for the first time, hooked up the propane cylinder, and hoped for the best. It worked!

I cooked some burgers and dogs, and we had a relaxing dinner around the campfire. We fiddled around with the exterior lighting of the RV, so that when we put out the campfire we wouldn't be night blind.

When it got very dark and the fire was spent out, we went into the RV and watched the rest of Castle season 6. So now we are caught up with the start of the new season, and can begin watching the DVRed episodes.

We got up Sunday morning and started unhitching the vehicle. We needed to be out of the campsite by 11AM, and we were all set to go by around 10AM. I hooked up the sewer pipe and dumped the black water and gray water tanks, and it worked very well - no leaks, no smelly stuff, and clean dry pipes at the end.

We had to hunt around for a diesel gas station, but once we filled up we were on our way.

We went a slightly different way back - we took the GS Parkway until the Atlantic City Expressway, then we drove west toward Philly to pick up I95 (New Jersey Turnpike). That seemed better than to fight the construction and local traffic we endured on the parkway. It seemed like forever to drive north to reach New York, but we then took the Newburgh bridge again, and I90 to Framingham to avoid the Worcester traffic, and we were home before 8pm, even with a stop for diessel and lunch on I87, and a final fill-up at home so we could calculate the mileage and fuel costs.

We got around 16 mpg on the drive down, then about 10.5 mpg on the local driving, and around 15 mpg on the drive home.

All told, it was a very successful trip and we had a blast. If the prior weekend was our shakedown cruise, this was really our maiden voyage, and we came away convinced that we made the right choices of vehicle and lifestyle, and that we really could enthusiastically look forward to more trips.

We found a few glitches, such as the furnace issues, and a silverware drawer latch that would not close, but overall we are still very pleased with the Citation Sprinter.

And we have settled on a name and license plate. We will be applying for an NH vanity plate with RAMBLN on it, and the vehicle will be named "Ramble on Rose", after a certain song. We thinking about having a custom decal done for the side or the back.

Monday, April 27, 2015

This weekend we entered a new phase of our lives. We took a first road trip in our new motorhome. My wife and I drove from home to our daughters house and stayed overnight in the driveway. It was just one night but it served as a good shakedown cruise in advance of our upcoming trip to Cape May New Jersey.

Back in September, we purchased a Thor Citation Sprinter class C motorhome. We delayed delivery until April so that we would not have to take delivery in the winter - which turned out to be an excellent precaution given the horrible winter we had.

We took delivery of the RV and had it de-winterized, and readied it for this weekend. We had a great drive on Saturday - the Mercedes chassis is smooth and the diesel engine is powerful. We figured out the audio system and we were able to play music from our ipod and mp3 player for the ride.

When we reached our destination, we started setting up connections. The electrical connection was simple - plug in to an external AC outlet on the house.

Testing the gas-fired coach furnace was a little more confusing. The exterior propane tank had a circular valve, but the on/off diagram sticker on it was confusing, and the owners manual had only a generic drawing with no details. We assumed righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, and we guessed correctly, but there was no indication. Check the furnace and the gas stove - nothing.

So we looked at the cabin control panel (which also was not detailed in the owner's manual) and found two rocker switches with a label over them - "Water Heater" - the left was Propane on/off and the right one was "Water Heater". We flipped the Propane switch on, and the stove burner lit correctly, and the furnace kicked on. One Right!

The water system. Not hard to figure out how to attach a water hose - only one place. So we turn the water on, and the tank begins to fill. But soon there is water pouring out of the bottom of the coach!

Called the dealer, and they were no help. We were getting worried that the RV would spend our next vacation in the repair shop. So my daughter-in-law crawled under the rear of the coach and realized the water was coming out of a blue tube and splashing on the spare tire.

So I lifted up the bed and opened up the panel for the water system. It turns out that the dealer had left the drain hose in the open position when they de-winterized the vehicle. Never told us, just put the two wood screws back into the platform that houses the water tubing. We closed the valve and the leaking stopped.

We also figured out how to put a DVD in the entertainment system and play it on the cabin TV - had to tune the TV connection to AV. I had read that some owners had units come with connecting cables either missing or misconnected, so we dodged a bullet there.

In fact, we found very few factory defects, though there is one set of cabling in the rear slide out that needs a replacement (the housing is broken). The dealer is ordering a part under warranty, and we are being careful when we extend the slide out.

So my wife and I relaxed and watched a Castle episode on DVD to end Saturday night, after a long day playing with our grandson.

When we went to use the water in the sink at midnight, we had no water flowing. Turns out they had also left the water heater bypass valve in the closed position, so no water was getting to the water pump or heater. We opened that up in the morning and the water worked fine.

So aside from some rookie mistakes, abetted by our dealer's service department, we had a great stay and slept fine despite a nighttime temperature in the high 30s. The drive back was smooth also, and we got about 15.6 miles per gallon, which is about par for a Mercedes Sprinter RV.

The owner's manual is interesting, if not that useful. It is the same for multiple models, so none of them are exactly covered in detail. The thing is so full of safety warnings and things to worry about that it is very hard to find basic operating instructions for the coach features. Some of the features are covered in separate manuals, and some of those are skimpy. The separate manual for the Mercedes chassis is far better in detail and simple step instructions.

So I have been thinking about putting together a rookie's guide to our motorhome, linking it to our experiences, which I intend to blog about here. We will see.