Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A weighty issue

I'm finding a lot out about how much LPG it takes to heat the trailer. Fortunately, I have figured out that we have a four-season trailer as I didn't winterize and its kept up just fine, even with the single digit temps we ran into with all that Canadian Air. I am finding that it is a little expensive, but my hope is to winterize at some point soon - I keep thinking next weekend we'll go out, next weekend we'll go out, next week.... so far - nothing.

Anyhow - one thing I learned, and wanted to share, is the formula for weight-scale filling the LPG tanks that aren't your usual Barbque tanks. I have tanks that are a little larger, and since I go to a place that has a limited knowledge of RV's, he shared this with me. The formula is WC x .42 + TW = scale setting. For my tanks, that equals 55 lbs, which is the max my tanks should weigh when full. I did not write the formula - I can spepll :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Launch Date in Five Months

Jill's Journal: Our preparation continues as we start wrapping up the year. We are a mere five months, give or take a few days, from launch date. There is still so much to do. It seems so far away in that we cannot wait to get on the road, but so close in what needs to be done before we can leave. I’m still purging like crazy – selling items on Craig’s List, eBay, etc. until I’m blue in the face. The more I get rid of, the more I want to get rid of – it’s kind of addicting!

Rob is completely moved out of his office now, which includes the massive storage room that held many truckloads worth of stuff. Our garage is packed to the gills as Rob sorts through the last of what was there. And we still have some farm equipment in outbuildings at Rob’s mother’s place that needs to be dealt with and sold. However, the inside of our house is truly down to pretty much what we use on a regular basis and that feels pretty awesome.

Obviously, much, much more will go when the house does. We plan to put the house on the market in February or March since spring is the supposedly the best time to sell out here. That date is speedily approaching!

Rob is in the midst of finishing up his massive fifth wheel projects – building bed rails and ladders for the girls’ bunks, modifying a closest to hold a washer/dryer, and building a permanent desk for his workspace.

I’m in the throes of my biggest project to date…I’ve always been the family photographer (for extended family too) and have literally thousands upon thousands of photographs from over the years. They’re extremely important to me and are my most precious possessions. I’m scanning each and every one of them in so I can eliminate the hard copy and have it all digitally instead. We must travel light, you know! It’s such a monumental task that I honestly don’t know if I can physically have it done before we leave, but I’m giving it my best shot and will possibly outsource some of it soon.

Whew! The beat goes on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

“House on Wheels”

Jill's Journal: On this Christmas Day, I’m struck by the fact that this is the last Christmas we might spend with extended family for a few years and certainly the last one we’ll have in our beloved little house. As sentimental as I am, I’m not sad about this. We have some beautiful memories and the anticipation of what the future holds. Can’t beat that.

Our girls have full knowledge of “the plan” and are excited. That’s a blessing in itself. Erika brought home the CUTEST thing ever from Kindergarten recently. For an assignment in her “writing workshop,” she drew a picture of an RV with the words, “I want to live in a house on wheels so I can see the world.”

Yes, I melted.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reservations Required

Jill's Journal: We just made the funnest reservation online!! My friends Heather and Eryn, along with their husbands and kids and us, are all going to go camping together in April! Three couples, nine kids…what a blast! Heather has a tent, Eryn has a pop-up trailer (I believe), and of course we have the fifth wheel. Both of them have been camping before (albeit separately) at Levi Jackson State Park near London, KY, and highly recommend it as a family-friendly, fun place.

They’re the pros at this camping thing. It may very well be our first official trip before we truly venture out into the camping world full-time, so what fun to do it with friends. We have camping sites reserved all practically right next to each other for the whole weekend. I invited my sister too, who is camper extraordinaire and loves kids, but we’ll see how interested she is in camping with that many kids!

Several months ago, I also made reservations for this coming July at Assateague State Park (with the wild ponies!!) in Maryland. And on New Year’s Day, reservations open at the place I want to stay on Chincoteague Island in Virginia for the annual pony swim (also in July). I’ve only been wanting to go to that since I was about eight years old and first read the wonderful Misty of Chincoteague. (I’m pretty certain I wore out my school library’s copy, as I checked it out repeatedly over the years and surely read it dozens of times). I’ll be reading that to my girls before we go. We’re living the dream!

Making all these reservations is making our upcoming adventure seem very real and very close! And we’re also piecing together a very loose itinerary. We’re going to follow the seasons, starting on the East Coast and gradually moving our way west over a three-year span. Spending our first fall on the road in New England with all the beautiful colors is a no-brainer. Next Christmas though? Who knows where we’ll be! I love that bold freedom.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pediatrician Visits on the Road?

Jill's Journal: Our sweet Madelyn had her 4-year-old well-child checkup today (along with four shots – poor thing!) and I took the opportunity (before the shots!) to discuss with our muy fantastico pediatrician how we would handle annual well-child doctor appointments while on the road. He knows us and knows our three kids and said very bluntly that we simply shouldn’t worry about it. The kids are in the best of health, are all far beyond the average developmental milestones, and are simply thriving. The good doctor simply recommended taking along each of their immunization histories, as well as staying on track with vaccines. We’ll do that by going to a clinic or a local pediatrician wherever we might be when they’re due. Sounds easy enough!

He also gave us a huge vote of affirmation, saying he thought this would be the best education any kid could ever experience. We heart Dr. I, the world’s greatest pediatrician. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A VERY busy day.

So overall today was quite successful in the RV mod world. I was up early which, if you know me, is quite an accomplishment in itself. But, I knew there was work to be done. On the schedule was the new cam locks I got, a desk to fabricate (the Steel Part anyhow) and battery wiring to do. The desk was the main focus, with other items filling in the cracks while I couldn't help.

Cam Locks

So I decided that the last thing I want is to need keys to get into the belly of beast, not to mention that there are really probably 2 key types in the RV world (CH751 and CR128 or something). So I'd wandered around the net (maybe I found them at the RV show?) and found combi-cam locks. I wasn't sure they'd fit (measure carefully) and the offset that my manufacturer used was different than I could buy - but go for it, right? Installation wasn't too bad (just take the old one's out and push the new ones into the same space) but like I said, the offset was a little short. I'd come this far, so I just thought I'd bend em a bit. I couldn't use the manufacturer offsets because the square on the back was too large - wouldn't turn. Anyway - the bending worked great. I don't need keys, the compartments are more secure and in my opinion actually easier to operate. I'm interested to see how they do when we're actually on the road, but I'm feeling pretty good about it...


Time to finish up the wiring for the batteries and put the tops on the boxes. Turns out this was much tougher than I thought. I ended up needing to go get 2 gauge cable at Lowe's because the auto cables I could get were too short to be run right. It amazes me how much cable was required for my battery setup. The bending and the placing also turned out to be a little difficult - that house 2 gauge copper is much bigger than the auto stuff (the wires inside the cable, not the nominal ID) I think the House that I had used 12 ga. and the auto stuff, along with having a more flexible casing, uses 18 or 20.

Building the Desk

What a task, but I was confident that Adam could get all that worked out. He seemed so happy to be welding, and since its something I know nothing about, I was happy for the help - very happy. I built the top of the desk out of foamboard so that we could measure and make it all work right. Turns out that may have been the most important thing I did in this project. Building the top allowed us to lay out the desk right on it, so that we were absolutely sure the structure would work.

The top was offset back from the sides and front 2 inches, with the top being cut very creatively. Pictures (right) tell a lot about the build. We had a little trouble with the measurements at one point (How did that extra 1/4 inch get in there?) but with the top we were able to figure out the problem.

The legs were a little more of a problem - how do you know what height is right? We put it at a couple of different levels, and finally came up with something that works pretty well. On the bottom we welded extra pieces under to support the legs a bit better - and it seems to work very well.

After Adam finished the frame (endcaps and all) came time to clean and paint. I hate underestimating what that takes, and had to run to the store in the middle of the paintjob. Adam painted wheels at the same time, and it had a whole paint-booth feel to it. After the primer (2 coats) I went with the textured paint that I so very much like (a brown speckle). I think the final result came out very nice.

Next Steps

I still need to install the desk and put a top on it. I know that it seems pretty easy and straight-forward, but my guess is that, as usual, it'll be much more work than I was expecting. I'm hopeful to finish it in the next week or so, and we'll see how those pictures look :)

I also need to put in the battery manager and double check the fluid levels in the batteries. All work still to be done. I need a couple of extra days a week :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sometimes its ok to be a dinghy..(well, not really dinghy..)

So sometimes it must feel good to be a dinghy... I jest, as its pretty clear with our setup we don't have a true dinghy, but I'll still call it that and treat it as such. Our van will really be a supplemental vehicle that will allow us to travel from the site to points of interest. That being said, I'm happy to report that we took care of our dinghy friend.

We knew for a little while now that new tires would be a need, and I tried to put off brakes as long as I could. Unfortunately, events and actions recently didn't let the 'put-off' happen, and screamed for attention.

One full set of Michelin Energy LX4 tires, a new right front rotor (warped - ugly) and a resurfaced left front (what a difference) makes all the difference. Glad to have the dinghy safe and sound, knowing I won't have to worry about those aspects for at least the first leg of the trip - hopefully for longer than that!