Triple Tow or Toy Hauler? How to RV Full-time with a RZR?

We have spent the last two years going back and forth about whether to move into a new fifth wheel trailer or a new toy hauler as we look forward to our second dozen years of non-stop travel and full-time RV living. We’ve been to tons of dealerships and did a bunch of toy hauler factory tours in the Elkhart area of Indiana as well as in Missouri and Oklahoma (there’s more about those tours is in the 2nd half of this article).

Triple tow Dodge Ram 3500 dually 36' fifth wheel and Polaris RZR on utility trailer-min

The Train

Right now we are in the testing phase of toting our Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on a 5′ x 10′ utility trailer in a triple-tow configuration (sometimes called a double-tow) behind our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck and 2007 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer.

Triple-tow fifth wheel RV with Polaris RZR side-by-side UTV-min

Another view of The Train

As I’ve mentioned a few times over the past few months since we started this experiment, triple towing is working out a whole lot better that we expected!

This may be in large part because the utility trailer is only 5′ wide compared to the 8′ width of our fifth wheel trailer, so even on a tight U-turn, the wheels on the fifth wheel carve a tighter turn than the wheels on the utility trailer. So, if there’s something we don’t want to roll over or hit, the vehicle at risk is the fifth wheel, just as it has always been!

The utility trailer just cruises along behind. It’s a little caboose!

When we’re triple towing we notice a lot more chucking action than when we don’t have out caboose connected. This is due to the accordion and jerking action of the three vehicles moving apart and back together as they rumble down the road. It’s not a violent sensation, but we can definitely feel it.

Gas station with RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

We’ve been to a few gas stations… yikes!

We have been to several gas stations fully hooked up as The Train. Even though The Train is quite long and winds up curved far behind us as we turn in to the pump, as long as the gas station is large enough and there aren’t too many customers, it all works out.

Gas station with RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

That RZR sure is a long ways from the pump!

We have also been to several RV dump stations with The Train, and again, as long as the approach and exit to the dump station aren’t too narrow or laid out in a tight turn, we can align the fifth wheel sewer hose and other goodies with the RV dump station while the truck and utility trailer sit in a curve ahead of and behind the dump station sewer.

RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

We’ve been to a few RV dump stations.

RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

We’re okay dumping our tanks as long as it’s fairly long!

We set up the utility trailer with a spare tire and tire cover just in case that trailer gets a blowout. At this point we don’t have a backup camera to watch the utility trailer while we’re towing. That may come in the future but will take some research as we figure out which model and where to place the monitor in the already full cockpit of the truck.

Unfortunately the utility trailer is too small to carry our bikes as well. A 12′ long trailer would be long enough, but our RZR came with this trailer so it’s a natural starting point. So, for the moment, we have left the bikes behind at a friend’s house.

Triple tow Polaris RZR 900 behind fifth wheel trailer-min

We’re leaving the bikes out of the equation for the moment.

When loading the RZR onto the utility trailer, Mark drives the RZR’s front wheels flush up against the front of the trailer which leaves enough room behind it for two 5 gallon gas tanks lashed down on the utility trailer.

Triple tow Polaris RZR 900 behind fifth wheel trailer-min

With the wheels flush against the front railing there’s room for two 5 gallon gas tanks in back.

Before hitching up The Train the very first time, we had to sort out the different heights between the tongue of the utility trailer and the hitch receiver on the back end of the fifth wheel.

Our fifth wheel trailer now sits some 6 to 8 inches higher than it did when we first bought it. After our fifth wheel got a desperately needed suspension overhaul when the suspension failed (blog post here), the fifth wheel sat higher than it had originally. Then, when we installed the MORryde SRE4000 equalizers, it sat even higher.

This is awesome for those pesky gas station ramps and other sharp dips in the road that are so steep they cause the back end of the fifth wheel trailer to drag on the asphalt. It’s also great for bumping over washes and other things on gnarly dirt roads.

However, all that good drag-avoidance stuff got thrown out the window with the decision to triple tow!

The utility trailer has 15″ tires and sits quite low, and in order to keep that trailer relatively flat instead of nose-up while towing, we had to put a 10″ drop hitch mount on the fifth wheel trailer’s hitch receiver to reach down to the utility trailer’s level.

Fifth wheel trailer triple tow 10 drop to bumper trailer-min

We needed a 10″ drop hitch mount to reach down to the utility trailer

We use a receiver hitch tightener to eliminate any possible rattling in the connection between the receiver hitch and the hitch mount, and an electric plug ensures the lights on the utility trailer are powered and light up at night as well as when Mark hits the brakes.

Trailer light connection and hitch receiver tightener for triple tow fifth wheel and bumper pull trailer-min

The hitch tightener keeps things from rattling and the electric plug lights up the lights on the utility trailer

If you stand behind The Train at night and have someone tap the brakes in the truck, it’s quite a light show because not only do the lights on the fifth wheel light up, but the ones on the utility trailer do too. We almost never tow at night but it’s good to know The Train is so visible on dark and stormy travel days.

RV in rainbow stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

It was a dark and stormy morning…

We’re really glad we decided to jump in with both feet and buy a RZR before we figured out how to transport it because there is nothing like hands-on experience to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

This is also why we always encourage new would-be full-time RVers who haven’t owned an RV before to get a cheap and small RV and go have some fun before investing big bucks in a full-time rolling home.

The biggest surprise we’d never thought of before is that it is super handy to have a utility trailer to tote the RZR behind our truck when we’re going to a trailhead that is a long distance from our campsite.

Dually truck Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition and utility trailer-min

There’s an advantage to being able to tow the RZR to a distant trailhead.

Although our RZR can go 70 mph and is licensed for the road, driving it on the highway is not what we got it for. We’d rather drive 25 or 50 miles to a trailhead in the comfort of our truck and then arrive with the RZR gas tank full of gas so we can enjoy our off-road adventures without worrying about carrying spare gas.

The RZR has a 10 gallon fuel tank and gets about 15 mpg. So far, none of our adventures has been more than about 40 miles, so we don’t foresee a need to carry gas with us on the RZR any time soon.

At the end of a day of off-road adventure, after the sun has set, we find it’s much safer to drive our truck on the highway than to be out there in a little open air buggy that sits a lot lower on the road than most cars and trucks.

Utility trailer ramp down to load Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

The RZR rolls on and off the trailer ramp.

Lastly, we’ve wanted to ensure that Buddy loves the RZR. For us and our lifestyle there’s no reason to own a RZR if our puppy doesn’t want to come along. We’ve integrated him into our lives so he doesn’t spend any time in our fifth wheel by himself. If we’re going to have RZR adventures, he’s going to be a part of them.

When we’re in the RZR, Buddy sits on my lap. I don’t want to go more than about 35 mph with him sitting in there. He’s not too keen on the loud noise of the RZR engine on the highway and of vehicles passing us, and I have to say, neither am I.

His favorite thing riding in the RZR is to sniff the air when we’re off-road, watch for rabbits, and to stare down at the dirt road going by just below RZR door. All that is lots of fun at 10-15 mph, our typical dirt road speed.

Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on utility trailer-min

Mark has mastered driving the 56″ wide RZR onto the 60″ wide trailer!

We have a B&W Stow & Go hitch on the back of our truck, and the utility trailer hitches up to the truck very easily. After one or two tries loading the RZR, Mark has figured out how to align it so it drives in without rubbing the wheels on the railings at all even though the railings are 60″ apart and the RZR is about 56″ wide.

Ready to tow Polaris RZR 900 on utility trailer behind Dodge dually Ram truck-min

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When we arrive at a trailhead, Mark drops the ramp door of the utility trailer, hops in the RZR, and backs it down the ramp. The driver’s door on the RZR swings out above the railing on the utility trailer, so he can get in and out of the RZR easily when it’s on its trailer.

Preparing to tow Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS edition towed on utility trailer behind dually truck-min

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Dodge Ram dually tows Polaris RZR on trailer-min

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Unloading Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS edition off of trailer-min

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The RZR came with a windshield, roof and a fancy stereo that the previous owner had installed, and this XC EPS edition of the RZR 900 includes upgraded wheels, wider fender flares, a hitch receiver and the Polaris Ride Command navigation system.

However, the trunk is just a shallow open area at the back, not the best place to store stuff if you don’t want it to get dirty.

We tossed around ideas and finally bought a Lifetime 55 quart cooler that sits very nicely on an old welcome mat in the back of the RZR. It is lashed down to keep it in place.

Lifetime cooler used as trunk for Polaris RZR 900-min

We use a Lifetime 55 quart cooler for easy flip-top trunk system.

What we love about this cooler is that we can keep all the little essentials we always want with us — emergency water, toolbag, flat repair & spare air kit, first aid kit — in the bottom of it at all times, and we can throw things like jackets, hats, cameras and snacks on top as we need them for each ride.

The flip top lid makes it super easy to access everything in the cooler, and it has an excellent seal when it is closed which keeps everything inside dust free. We’ve also put a long shank padlock on the cooler to keep the less determined thieves out. Of course, anyone that really wanted that cooler and its contents could simply carry it away.

Another great feature of the cooler is that the things in the bottom of it don’t get overly hot. The engine sits right below the RZR’s trunk area, but since this little “portable trunk” is actually a cooler, there’s lots of insulation between the contents of the cooler and the engine below.

You can see a hilarious video of a grizzly bear trying to get into one of these coolers here.

We’ve found that the multi-use trails that allow motorized vehicles are not only lots of fun for riding but are also great for running and hiking too. Sometimes Buddy and I hop out to run while Mark drives.

Unlike yours truly, Buddy can easily keep up with the RZR and loves chasing it at top speed. But after he’s done a 5 minute mile with some surges to 3 minute mile pace thrown in, he’s usually ready to ride again, and he happily jumps back in.

Dog and Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

Need a ride?

Dog approaches Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

Come on in!

Dog jumps in Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

Easy!

We’ve experimented with quite a few scenarios for arriving at a campsite and unhitching the bits and pieces of The Train.

The utility trailer has to be hitched up to something — either the truck or the fifth wheel trailer — in order to drive the RZR on or off of it. Otherwise, once the RZR wheels roll on or off the ramp the tongue of the utility trailer will fly up in the air.

So, at campsites where we want to use the utility trailer with the truck to take the RZR somewhere, we have to move the utility trailer from its caboose position at the end of The Train to a place where it can be hitched to the truck, and then we reverse its location before we leave.

We can move the utility trailer around small distances by pushing or pulling it ourselves. However, if the RZR is on the trailer, neither is going anywhere until the utility trailer gets hitched to either the truck or fifth wheel.

The RZR has a hitch receiver on it, and we purchased a ball mount for it, so the RZR can tow the utility trailer around if needed. This is handy in small campsites since the big long bed dually truck isn’t very maneuverable in tight spaces.

Tow Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on utility trailer-min

Luckily the RZR can also do the job of towing the utility trailer, if needed.

Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition towed on utility trailer-min

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Again, we learned a few things that we hadn’t thought of before.

First, although it seemed daunting to back the fifth wheel to the utility trailer to hitch it on when it’s already got the RZR loaded on it, it’s not all that bad. Using our two-way radios as Mark backs up the fifth wheel and I stand at the tongue of the utility trailer, and then using our feet to shove the tongue of the utility trailer the final inch or two, we can get it done quite easily.

Second, if the utility trailer is already hitched to the fifth wheel but is at an angle to the fiver and not aligned straight behind it, there is a lot of lateral force on the fifth wheel’s stabilizing jacks and the front landing legs when the RZR drives onto the trailer.

If the utility trailer is aligned with the fifth wheel, the fiver takes the impact much better (I’ve stood inside the fifth wheel and felt it both ways!).

Strap down Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on uility trailer-min

Mark has sorted out how best to tie down the RZR on the utility trailer.

Close trailer ramp door for Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

The ramp door folds up.

We are liking this triple towing thing and may stick with it. We’ll see. If we do, then our new home search will be focused on conventional fifth wheel trailers rather than fifth wheel toy haulers.

There are pros and cons to both conventional fifth wheels and toy hauler fifth wheels. Here are a few we’ve come up with:

Conventional 5th Wheel Toy Hauler 5th Wheel
More Living Space Less Living Space
More Closet Space Less Closet Space
More Cabinets Fewer Cabinets
Bigger Kitchen Smaller Kitchen
Recliners + Sofa + Dining Table Pick any two
Generally, bed in slide w/ windows each side Generally, bed not in slide & window on one side & small wardrobe on other
Modest fresh water (60-90 gal) Huge fresh water (100-150 gal)
No gas tanks (onboard generator propane) Two gas tanks for toy & onboard generator
Outside RZR Storage Enclosed RZR Storage
Outside Bikes Enclosed Bikes
Porta-bote or inflatable kayak possible Porta-bote AND tandem inflatable kayak possible
Workbench on truck tailgate Workbench/toolbox in the Garage
No Porch/deck (except KZ 382MBQ) Back Deck AND Possible Side Patio (always includes 2nd bath)
Tow RZR to trailhead behind truck Drive RZR on highways to trailhead
Triple tow not legal in some states Always a legal beagle
Can travel w/o caboose Full length toy hauler is always with you (47′ in some cases!)

TRAILER LIFE ARTICLE – SHORTCUT to TOY LAND!

The March issue of Trailer Life Magazine features an article I wrote surveying some of the 2019 offerings in the toy hauler market. I chose four different toy haulers to highlight in that article and included another dozen models in the lineup.

Our personal favorites for sheer innovation and cleverness and/or ruggedness are the Aluminum Toy Hauler fifth wheel and the Keystone Raptor 427.

Aluminum Toyhauler Company (ATC) has been making stackable car haulers for the high end racing car set for ages. They build an incredibly strong and durable toy hauler. Unfortunately, they don’t have any models with slide-outs yet, but their toy haulers are built like tanks and can haul 9,700 lbs. of stuff in a trailer that has a GVWR of 21,000 lbs. Unbelievable!

The Keystone Raptor 427 is a fabulous new entry into the garage-under-the-master-bed style of toy hauler. Montana and Grand Design have these floor plans too: the Montana High Country 380TH and Grand Design Momentum 376TH (and formerly the Grand Design Solitude 374TH which was discontinued a few months ago).

I included the Montana 380TH in my full-time fifth wheel article in Trailer Life Magazine that appeared in the October 2017 issue.

All of these manufacturers place the bedroom in the rear of the trailer and put a small garage big enough for bikes or a motorcycle under the bed itself. A workbench could fit in this garage. The bed above the garage raises and lowers if you need full standing height in the garage.

Montana and Grand Design place the kitchen in the middle of the rig. Montana has a beautiful open L-shaped kitchen with counters along two walls, a style that I like, and Grand Design has an island kitchen that is very popular. Both put the living room in the fifth wheel overhang.

The clever idea in the Raptor 427 is that the kitchen, which doesn’t need vaulted ceilings, is smartly placed in the part of the trailer where high ceilings can’t exist: the fifth wheel overhang. I don’t know what the headroom is there, probably around 6′ 4″ or higher, but it was more than sufficient for cooking, dining and even entertaining a cocktail party or buffet crowd! And there’s a window in the front cap so you can see out in all directions.

The kitchen is truly vast, and there is a side-by-side dinette for two that overlooks the living room. We just loved the design. For us, though, it’s too long a trailer since we’d have to tow our RZR behind (it’s 44′ long), and we’d prefer hydraulic slides to cable slides in the bigger slide-outs. Our two hydraulic slide mechanisms and single worm-gear electric slide mechanism on our current trailer have pushed our slides in or out an estimated 2,000 times so far.

Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 3-min

The Keystone Raptor 427 has an immense kitchen in the front of the trailer.

Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 6-min

The counter space is incredible (although I could do without the purple lights)

Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel view into Living Room from Kitchen-min

Seating for two overlooking the rest of the trailer – very cool!

Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 7-min

Opposing loveseats in the slides plus dual recliners facing the TV (not seen in this pic).

Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 4-min

Looking back up into the kitchen above the recliners

Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel ramp door-min

The bike or motorcycle sized garage is under the bed. The ceiling raises and lowers.

You can read my article discussing the various toy haulers on the Trailer Life website here: Shortcut to Toyland with 16 Great Fivers

The March issue of Trailer Life happens to include two other articles of mine with photos by both of us: a feature article about RVing in the Canadian Rockies and my back page column about lovely Maroon Bells in Colorado!

If you are new to RVing, Trailer Life is a good magazine to subscribe to. If you are a motorhome person, the sister publication Motorhome Magazine (which also features our work from time to time), is another excellent magazine.

Another outstanding RV magazine and RV advocacy group and discount camping membership club and mail forwarding service, among many other things, is Escapees RV Club which we highly recommend joining.

IMPRESSIONS from VISITING the TOY HAULER FACTORIES

When were in Elkhart, Indiana, last fall (2018), we visited several RV manufacturing plants. We hadn’t done a factory tour in Elkhart since the spring of 2009 when the industry was in the midst of collapse.

The consolidation in the RV industry since the beginning of the recession of 2008 has been staggering and has whittled the list of RV manufacturers down to three conglomerates: Thor, Forest River and Winnebago. It has also reduced the list of major component suppliers down to two, Lippert Components and Furrion. Mom-and-pop shops making fifth wheel trailers independently of these conglomerates like Aluminum Toy Hauler, New Horizons and Space Craft and smaller component suppliers like MORryde are exceedingly rare.

The fraternity of talent at the top of the RV industry is very close knit and goes back many decades. If you follow the mergers and acquisitions back to the 1960s and 70s, the same names appear over and over in the executive suites of each company. The brothers who founded Keystone together with another executive who oversaw its huge growth sold it to Thor which itself was the result of the acquisition of failing Airstream from Beatrice Foods. After the three held top executive positions at Thor, these three men went on to found Grand Design and oversee its growth and sale to Winnebago. One of the partners sat on the Board of Directors over at Lippert Components, and after the sale to Winnebago another of the partners left the RV industry to start a pontoon boat company in partnership with Lippert Components.

The advantage to the rise of the conglomerates is wonderful economies of scale, but the flip side for the brands under these corporate umbrellas is the loss of the wild frontier style innovation that made early RVs so fun and funky as well as the forced adoption of quality standards that may not match the standards these brands had back when they were independent companies.

A Dishwasher = “That True Residential Feel”

Perhaps the most shocking thing for us was to discover how few people in the RV industry actually own and use RVs. I asked the general manager of one brand and a national sales rep of another what kind of RVs they owned, and the answers were, “I’m too busy to vacation in an RV” and “My wife likes hotels.”

This lack of personal RV experience has caused a disconnect between the manufacturers and their customers’ needs.

A perfect example was when a top executive at one brand told me that full-timers want a true residential feel to their fifth wheels, so every unit in his line of full-timer fifth wheels would be shipped with a dishwasher in it starting in 2019.

Now, of course, lots of full-timers want a dishwasher in their RV, but a lot of full-timers don’t want one.

Another executive at a different company told me, “Well, the dishwasher is a great place to store your dishes in an RV.”

It is? I’m not keen on mixing my clean and dirty dishes in the same storage place!

A National Sales Rep proudly showed me the outdoor kitchen on his toy hauler. He was so excited about it when he pulled it out, “Emily, you’re going to love this!” But when he pulled it out, it came to shoulder level on me. I’m 5′ 4″. I raised my arm and made a stirring motion with my hand in front of my chin and said, “I can’t cook like this.” He was crestfallen.

I began asking the executives we were meeting how they get their feedback from customers, and it seemed that they rely on a combination of the orders placed by the dealership buyers and by talking to people at trade shows.

So, it turned out that because 95% of the units of the one brand had been ordered with dishwashers in 2018, it was obvious there was a massive demand for dishwashers. So that’s why all units will have dishwashers going forward.

Similarly, since the sales rep with the outdoor kitchen had seen only grins and enthusiasm when he showed it to folks dropping by the booth at trade shows, he thought his outdoor kitchen was something his customers loved.

Ironically, doesn’t it make sense for dealers to put predominantly fully decked out units on their lots to show customers what can be ordered? And when you’re gallivanting around at an RV trade show and having a ball dancing in and out of tons of brand new units, are you really going to tell that smiling and friendly sales guy that his outdoor kitchen would never work for you?

The takeaway we got from all this is not to be shy and to find out who the buyer is at your local dealership and to tell them what you like and don’t like about the units on their lot. It seems that the closest the residents of the RV manufacturers’ executive suites come to their customers is the contact they have with the folks ordering their units in their dealer network.

ESCAPEES RV CLUB and WINNEBAGO

Fortunately and fabulously, Escapees RV Club and Winnebago have begun working together to get real feedback from real RVers into the design process. This project is in its earliest phase right now, but the emails I’ve received from Escapees about it are very encouraging. It is because of this kind of innovative and forward thinking at Escapees that we keep recommending our readers join Escapees. (They give us a tip if you mention “Roads Less Traveled” when you sign up, but we’d recommend them anyway!).

Founded by Kay and Joe Peterson, Escapees RV Club has been led by three generations of family members who have spent years on the road living in their RVs. They are the real deal when it comes to understanding the RV lifestyle.

TRAILERS BUILT by the AMISH

On a completely different note, some folks feel that a trailer built by Amish hands is of better quality than one made by other hands. It certainly makes for great marketing, especially for the companies that are in the heart of Amish country and employ lots of Amish people. We saw Amish workers in some of the plants, both men and women, but we didn’t see how their work could be substantially different than the work done by anyone else on the same assembly line.

Amish buggy at Open Range RV factory-min

The Amish really do work at the RV factories. They do the same jobs as other assembly line workers.

The factory workers are given jobs to do and are told how to do them. The quality standards and aseembly techniques are determined by corporate goals in areas like profitability, target market share, and unit build time to completion.

While a conscientious individual might put tremendous thought and care into a backyard project at their own home, the work they do on the assembly line at their job for an employer will be done the way management demands and not necessarily in a way that they would choose for their own personal project at home.

Before I tell you, take a quick guess at how long it takes to build a 44′ toy hauler fifth wheel. A month? A week?

At the Raptor plant we were told it takes 3 days. At the KZ plant it is 2.5 days. They have a ton of hands working simultaneously, and they all get the job done as quickly as possible.

INDEPENDENT MANUFACTURERS – ATC, Sundowner, Luxe, Space Craft, New Horizons

Independent RV manufacturing plants like ATC and Sundowner (another new entrant into the toy hauler market coming frome the horse trailer industry) take a few days longer to build their units than the bigger mass market brands. This partly because fewer people work on each trailer at a time, and partly because they start from scratch and build their own frames, doors and ramps rather than buying a ready-made frame, door and ramp.

Both ATC and Sundowner looked appealing to us, and we toured each plant. ATC is near Elkhart in Nappannee and Sundowner is in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, without any slideouts we couldn’t fit our lives and belongings into an ATC fifth wheel toy hauler, and although the Sundowner toy haulers are an aerodynamic two feet shorter than standard fifth wheel toy haulers and are built with a fifth wheel gooseneck hitch which makes a fabulouos connection to the truck and completely frees up the truck bed when you’re not towing, they are also built with a very small bedroom because of the short gooseneck overhang.

However, for folks who have other lifestyle needs than ours, both the ATC and Sundowner deserve a good long look as they are sturdy, well built and rugged trailers that can be modestly customized on order and that have an intermediate price point between the mass market trailers and the high end custom units (New Horizons, Luxe and Space Craft). We visited Luxe and went to Space Craft a second time but will get into that in another post.

ALTERNATE SUPPLIERS – MORryde, Dexter

I mentioned the RV parts manufacturer MORryde, and as we studied toy haulers it seemed to us that there are two components in toy haulers these days where the MORryde version is superior to the competition: the ramp door and the stairs. Likewise, the Dexter brand of axles is considered to be superior to the competition (although the axle brand is a moot point if you plan to upgrade to the MORryde IS suspension which replaces the axles completely).

When our second factory-installed axle failed on our current trailer after our first axle failed and was replaced under our extended warranty, we replaced both axles with Dexter brand at our own expense (not under warranty) and have been very pleased.

So, in our evaluation of toy haulers during our own personal search for ourselves, the brands we focused on came with these MORryde and Dexter components. Generally, if a brand doesn’t specify in its marketing literature that it has a MORryde or Dexer branded component, then it doesn’t have it. There is marketing value in advertising that your trailer includes these brands, and the RV manufacturers call it out in their literature.

One of the side benefits (or disadvantages, depending on your point of view) of massive industry consolidation is that a hugely dominant parts supplier can strong arm its customers into buying its products by bundling them or offering other perks as part of the deal, something like: “If you buy our doors and windows we’ll throw in our stairs for free,” or “If you buy our stairs and ramp door we’ll warranty the frame for three years.”

MORryde Zero-G Ramp Door

Check out this video comparing the deployment of the MORryde Zero-G ramp door and the Lippert ramp door:

MORryde StepAbove

We like the old fashioned flip down front stairs on our fifth wheel, but that design is antiquated these days. The MORryde stairs called the “StepAbove” deploy easily.

FINAL TID-BITS

One of the interesting fallouts from the wholesale decimation of the RV industry that began in 2008 and went on until 2013 or so is that the smaller companies that survived the downturn did so because they engaged in some true soul searching and revised their self-image.

The folks at B&W Trailer Hitches began making farm fencing, and they had enough cash flow to pay their employees to work for the town where they are headquartered, providing groundskeeping and other municipal services. This not only kept everyone employed but it heightened their pride in their town and their loyalty to their company. Amazing and very smart. The folks at MORryde also branched out into non-RVing related products in a similar way.

The management at ATC took a long hard look at how to motivate their assembly line workers to make the best product possible. Rather than providing incentives based on the number of units produced, which is a common metric, they offered incentives that focused on quality control and reducing mistakes and system failures. ATC has the longest and deepest warranty of all the fifth wheel toy hauler manufacturers.

PHEW — THAT WAS LONG!

We’ve got more thoughts to share as we ponder this fork in our less traveled road. At the moment we’re leaning towards a new traditional fifth wheel trailer because the triple-towing seems okay, but who knows what the coming months will bring as we travel further afield and encounter a wider variety of situations with our rig.

Stay tuned!!

Triple tow Dodge Ram 3500 dually 36' fifth wheel and Polaris RZR on utility trailer-min

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Oops! How does this work?

I have a complete blog post prepared for you this week. It has 33 photos, some of which are very beautiful, and it has lots of fun commentary too.

However, a few days ago I upgraded WordPress to the latest version.  I thought nothing of it because they toss out upgrades every month or so and you just keep upgrading along.

Unfortunately, just now when I sat down to do my zip-zap lightning-fast-fingers stuff I’ve done in WordPress for the last 7 years to compile my text and photos into a blog post, I discovered that the interface is completely unrecognizable.  So the publication of this cool blog post about Castle Hot Springs and Lake Pleasant is going to be delayed.

Ironically, earlier today I was joking with Mark that a day may come where my blog fades into oblivion because the changes in technology leave it behind.

I made the joke in the context of thinking about ways to preserve our precious memories that have been so carefully written and presented online so that some curious descendant decades from now could get a whiff of what our lives were like.  I believed I’d come up with a way I could one day print out the thousands and thousands of 8.5 x 11 pages that it would consume and have those pages be nicely formatted so they could be archived in notebooks.

All I can say is be careful what you joke about!

I think I know what needs to be done and have found some good info here.  But I’d rather tackle this with fresh eyes and a clear mind over a cup of coffee in the morning!

Here’s the first photo I had planned to use, but it’s not sized or positioned right… sigh.

Yippeee!! I’ve got it figured out and finished the job!! The solution was the WordPress Classic Editor plugin (which has over 3 million active installations, LOL), and the Castle Hot Springs blog post is now live here: Castle Hot Springs and Other Arizona Treasures near Lake Pleasant

Coffee Kiosks of the West

February 2019 – One of our favorite sightings in our RV travels is the cute little coffee kiosks and coffee huts we find tucked into parking lots and standing on street corners all around the West. As America’s quest for the perfect cuppa joe has become more refined and exotic over the years, these adorable little coffee pit stops have been sprouting all over the place.

Coffee Kiosks of the West-min

Drive-up (and walk-up) coffee kiosks can be found all over the American West!

When we got to Oregon a few years back they were everywhere. And no wonder. Starbucks is headquartered in Washington, and it seems that America’s demand for fancy, fluffy coffee spreads out from there!

de la Bean Coffee Shack Bend Oregon-min

De La Bean Coffee in Bend, Oregon

Some of the little coffee kiosks serve more than just coffee too.

Hot shots and smoothies coffee kiosk Oregon-min

Hot Shots and Smoothies in Oregon

As we’ve taken our RV from one small town to another we’fve found that many of these cute coffee joints are marked by a big “Espresso” flag flying out front.

Java Rock coffee shop Terrebonne Oregon-min

Java Rock Coffee Shop, Terrebonne Oregon

Along with bearing whimsical names, many of these coffee kiosks have all kinds of amusing displays and props too.

Blue Banana Coffee Shop Lostine Oregon-min

Blue Banana Coffee Shop in Lostine, Oregon

These coffee shacks are usually simple little buildings, just big enough for a barista or two inside, and they often have an inviting porch or patio area decorated with flowers out front.

Coffee Corral Baker City Oregon-min

Coffee Corral in Baker City Oregon

Java Rock coffee shack Terrebonne Oregon-min

Java Rock in Terrebonne, Oregon

Besides being cute and serving great coffee, what I love about these little coffee kiosks is that they are all mom-and-pop shops.

Rather than being part of an impersonal international corporate behemoth, they are locally run and the owners have often put everything they own on the line to try to make their venture a success.

Bare Naked Beans now Cricket Flat Coffee Elgin Oregon-min

Bare Naked Beans (now called Cricket Flat Coffee) in Elgin, Oregon

When I visited one coffee kiosk a very little girl appeared at the window to take my order. Her mom was busy with another customer, and she was helping out.

I hung around a while afterwards to enjoy my coffee, and the mom told me this was the perfect enterprise for her. She could walk to work, she was with her two small children all day long, and she was building a business at the same time.

Longhorn Espresso coffee shack Enterprise Oregon-min

Longhorn Espresso in Enterprise, Oregon

Coffee Depot Redmond Oregon-min

Coffee Depot in Redmond, Oregon

One of the first coffee kiosks we ever encountered was Wicked Brew in Moab, Utah. We discovered it before we began RVing, and it was so neat to see it was still going strong years later when we returned to visit the area with our fifth wheel.

This classy little coffee hut serves each cup with a chocolate covered coffee bean perched on the lid!

Wicked Brew Espresso Moab Utah-min

Wicked Brew Espresso in Moab, Utah

This past summer we came across a lot of little coffee kiosks in Montana. From the Beartooth Highway to the Bitterroot Valley to the towns near Glacier National Park, we tasted lots of delicious brews from these fun little drive-up coffee shacks.

Beartooth Beanery Coffee Shop Columbus Montana-min

Beartooth Beanery in Columbus, Montana

Hungry Horse Espresso Columbia Falls Montana-min

Hungry Horse Espresso in Columbia Falls Montana

Espresso kiosk Bitterroot Valley Montana-min

Espresso kiosk in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana

Usually, these coffee kiosks are drive-thru shacks with windows on both sides of the building.

Coffee Kiosk in Douglas Wyoming-min

Drivers pulled up at both sides in Douglas, Wyoming

However, we often walk up to them instead. It only took two or three walk-ups for Buddy to realize that the smell of coffee, the sound of the milk being steamed, and a patient wait at a window might add up to a doggie treat!

Now he sits expectantly looking up at the window and licking his lips.

City Brew Coffee Red Lodge Montana-min

City Brew Coffee in Red Lodge Montana

Although the frequency of coffee kiosks diminishes as you go east and south from the Pacific Northwest, they are still plentiful in Wyoming.

Dry Bean Coffee Shed Ranchester Wyoming-min

Dry Bean Coffee Shed in Ranchester, Wyoming

The lively town of Cody, Wyoming, sports several!

Rocky Mountain Mudd Espresso Cody Wyoming coffee shop-min

Rocky Mountain Mudd Espresso in Cody, Wyoming

At Rawhide Coffee in Cody, Wyoming, Buddy decided to do the ordering for us.

Rawhide Coffee Cody Wyoming-min

Rawhide Coffee in Cody, Wyoming

He’s a smart little guy, and he knew this clever stunt could win him two doggie treats instead of just one!

Puppy orders coffee at Rawhide Coffee in Cody Wyoming-min

Buddy puts in his order.

On our first trip through Newcastle, Wyoming, we visited the Kaffee Klatsch several times, so we were looking forward to a return trip the next year. But the Kaffee Klatsch wasn’t there any more! After a brief hunt around town we found it in a new location.

The owner explained that they owned the building but leased the land it sat on. Happily, the new location has made their business grow exponentially. How cool is that?!

We don’t have a photo of that shop, but we do have a few others from South Dakota.

Pony Expresso Belle Fourche South Dakota-min

Pony Expresso in Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Coffee Kiosk Hot Springs South Dakota-min

Hot Springs Coffee Kiosk in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Of course some of our favorite coffee shops are in ordinary buildings. One is the Calamity Jane Coffee Shop in Custer, South Dakota, where we’ve spent many mornings sipping a latte, munching a muffin and chatting with the owners, Jim and Deb.

This enterprising couple had a camera shop in this location for many years. Deb is a photographer, and Custer is located in a popular tourist area surrounded by tons of gorgeous scenery and almost-tame wild animals to photograph.

Calamity Jane Coffee Shop Custer South Dakota-min

Mark and owner Jim ham it up at Calamity Jane Coffee Shop & Winery in Custer, South Dakota

But the rise of the internet and digital photography n eput and to film sales and retail camera sales at their shop. Rather than throw in the towel, they thought about what modern day tourists are looking for when they come to a small historic town, and they realized gourmet coffee would be the perfect thing.

The addition of a wine tasting room out back and a huge wine selection was another clever idea, and their store is as busy as can be.

Calamity Jane Coffee Shop Custer South Dakota-min

This former camera shop is now thriving as a coffee shop and winery in downtown Custer, South Dakota.

East of the Dakotas the little coffee huts disappear for the most part, but that doesn’t mean great coffee can’t be found. In the small town of St. Ignace in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula of Michigan we came across Harbor Hope Coffee.

Calamity Jane Coffee Shop Custer South Dakota-min

Harbor Hope Coffee Shop in St. Ignace, Michigan.

This unusual coffee shop is home to a church group that gathers to worship in the back of the shop each week, and the profits from the coffee sales go to charitable causes. We were astonished to hear the volunteer barista tell us the story behind this unique coffee shop, but what made Buddy’s ears really perk up was when she ased, “Does your puppy want a puppaccino?”

A what?

She grabbed a whipped cream dispenser from the fridge, filled a small bowl with homemade whipped cream and put it on the floor in front of Buddy.

He went crazy!! I have never seen him lap up a bowl of anything so quickly. He got it on his whiskers and all over his muzzle.

The next day, the moment we parked in front of Harbor Hope Coffee Buddy just about jumped through the window to get inside. I knew I was addicted to hazlenut lattes, but Buddy was absolutely bonkers over puppaccinos!

Puppy eats a puppaccino at Harbor Hope Coffee St. Ignace Michigan-min

Buddy tastes his first puppaccino. Yum!

Unfortunately, although dogs are warmly welcomed at most coffee kiosks and they are usually offered a treat to boot, some coffee shops with inside seating have strict rules for dogs relating to food service and unexpected visits from the Health Inspector.

So, Buddy has learned that not every “Open” sign at a coffee shop is actually an invitation for his four paws to head in.

Puppy waits outside coffee shop in Alamagordo New Mexico-min

Sometimes our four-legged friend has to wait outside.

In Wisconsin he had to wait outside several coffee shops. Fortunately, he is a patient pup.

Puppy waits for coffee Bayfield Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Buddy watches my every move through a crack in the front door.

At one coffee shop there was a bucket of chalk outside, so we marked his special waiting spot.

Puppy waits outside coffee shop Bayfield Wisconsin-min

This time he got a specially marked spot to wait on outside.

In Hot Springs, South Dakota, before Buddy joined us, we found another shop with a bucket of chalk outside, so we added a bit of sidewalk art there too!

Happy RV Travels-min

Have fun in your travels and thanks for reading!

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Dog’s Life – Buddy’s Got It Covered!

While I’ve been typing away during this past year to bring you a glimpse of our travels on America’s less traveled roads, roaming about with a little pup in tow, I had no idea that Buddy was working on his own pet project for his canine RVing friends.

Dog's RV Life Magazine - Buddy's Got It Covered

Buddy explains to Mark what it’s like to live a Dog’s Life!

I thought he was just licking his paws over there or maybe surfing the web for better dog treats. I had no idea that he’d created a popular dog magazine…!

Puppy publishes magazine on a laptop-min

K9 Publishing by Puppy Chow

It turns out that for the past year our friend Bob (a PhotoShop and photography expert) has been working with our little Buddy (whom he affectionately calls Puppy Chow), and together they have created quite a library of magazines for RVing pups and their owners.

I had seen the first issue last year and had shared it on the blog post where I introduced our new furry roommate:

Dogs RV Life Magazine Dec 2017-min

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Since then I’ve seen a few of these unusual magazine covers float by every once in a while, but I didn’t realize just how many there were until recently when I noticed there was quite a collection.

For a change of pace from our ordinary blogging fare, here are a few covers from these fun magazines. Hopefully they’ll put a smile on your face today!

Dog's RV Life Magazine Feb 2018-min

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Each issue reflected a bit of what was happening in our lives at the time, so when Camping World brought a camera crew out to make a video about our RV lifestyle, that special event was highlighted…

Dog's RV Life Magazine March 2018-min

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Dog's RV Life Magazine April 2018-min

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Dog's RV Life Magazine May 2018-min

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Dog's RV Life Magazine July 2018-min

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When we got out into the snow-capped mountains and had some wintry feeling spring mornings where we could see our breath in the air before we got out of bed, that unique tid-bit of RV life made it onto the cover…

Dog's RV Life Magazine October 2018-min

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Buddy’s mouth was too small to grasp a baseball at first, but when he grew a little bigger he could hang onto a baseball in his teeth just fine. This was just in time, too, because he’d found one under a tree near our campsite…

Dog's RV Life Magazine November 2018-min

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Dog's RV Life Magazine February 2019-min

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Despite spending a lot of months in very buggy places last year, we avoided getting too bitten until we got to Missouri where Buddy got four tick bites in a week and I got one too! Apparently, after that bout with those nasty little biters, Buddy came up with some tips for avoiding them…

Dog's RV Life Magazine March 2019-min

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Now, “Dog’s Life” isn’t the only publishing project that Buddy and Bob have been working on. They’ve put together a few other periodicals too, from “Trailer Dog” to “Gun Dog” to our very own Roads Less Traveled magazine.

The first “Trailer Dog” issue came out when Buddy was very young just shortly after he’d found a very old dead bird and made a meal of it…only to have the meal come right back up again a few minutes later…

Trailer Dog Magazine February 2018 -min

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Gun Dog Magazine October 2018-min

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Gun Dog Magazine September 2018-min

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The movie reviews were lots of fun, and we were especially tickled when Buddy reviewed the all time classic, “Old Yeller.”

Road Less Traveled February 2019-min

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Roads Less Traveled February 2019-min

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The arrival of our new RZR made the cover (yay!)…and Buddy solved a very important mystery that has been puzzling a lot of folks!

Road Less Traveled March 2019-min

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Road Less Traveled March 2019-min

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Road Less Traveled March 2019-min

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And that’s it for today from the Buddy-and-Bob K9 Publishing team. Hopefully they’ll keep ’em coming!

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Polaris RZR 900 XC – A New Ride and A New Chapter in our Travels!

January 2019 – For the last two years we’ve been pondering the idea of getting a side-by-side UTV. When we were visitng Custer, South Dakota, it seemed that everybody got around town in their UTV, and we had a blast at a SXS Jamboree in southern Utah where we test drove several models from a few different manufacturers.

Buzzing around in a little off-road buggy seemed like such a fun thing to do!

What luck that on Christmas this year Santa loaded a pretty one onto his sleigh for us and delivered it to our friend’s house where we were staying.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV with fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Wow! A fun new ride!

It is a 2017 Polaris 900 EPS XC edition, and it is as cute as a button.

Driving a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

Yippee!

Ever since we got inspired by the idea of exploring remote back country roads with a Polaris RZR (“razor”) 18 months ago, we’ve both been exhilarated by the idea of getting out into nature further and deeper than we can on foot or on our bikes.

At the same time, we’ve also been a bit daunted by the prospect of replacing our ordinary fifth wheel trailer with a toy hauler!

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition lakeside-min

The Polaris RZR 900 XC Edition is a small and sporty two-seater side-by-side.

For the last year and a half we have researched toy haulers endlessly, studying each and every brand in depth online, making spreadsheets comparing the features, and traipsing through dozens of units all across the country. (if you’re currently searching for a new rig, I know you are smiling and nodding at this. It’s quite a process!).

I even had the good fortune of being assigned the task of writing an article about toy haulers for Trailer Life Magazine in which I discussed some of the things to look for and reviewed a few of the current offerings in the market (this lengthy article will appear in the March issue of Trailer Life).

And when we were in the RV capital of the world around Elkhart, Indiana, last fall, we visited several toy hauler manufacturing plants.

Keystone Raptor manufacturing plant outdoor lot-min

Raptor and Carbon toy haulers lined up at the Keystone manufacturing plant in Goshen, Indiana.

But we hadn’t pulled the trigger to trade in our fiver for a toy hauler yet because, well, we didn’t have a RZR yet!

We kinda had a chicken-and-egg problem on our hands.

What do you get first, the toy hauler or the toy? If you live in an RV full-time, how can you haul a toy without a toy hauler? But if you go all in and get both at once, what happens if, after all that, you then find out you’re not really into the whole RZR thing?

What if — gasp — the DOG doesn’t like riding in an off-road buggy?

Cool Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition side by side UTV

All smiles now!

We were going through the familiar throes of simultaneously dreaming and doubting, an experience so many people go through as they plan a major change in their life — like taking the plunge to live and travel in an RV full-time.

There was a lot of expense involved in making such a change, and a lot of upheaval and a bit of risk too.

Off-road in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC-min

Mark looks pretty comfy and happy behind that wheel!

We dreamed of the fun times we’d have seeing scenery we just can’t reach any other way. Everywhere we’d traveled for the last 18 months we’d asked ourselves if we would have seen more with a side-by-side, and almost everywhere we went the answer was Yes.

In Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains we saw people driving off on dirt trails with their UTVs loaded down with gear, and they didn’t return for three days. Who knows what they saw out there, but the grins on their faces were ear to ear when they came back.

We dreamed that maybe a little backcountry buggy would take us to places in the hinterlands where we could pitch a tent and be set up in a fabulous spot to photograph the sunrise and sunset without having to trek in or out for a bunch of miles in the dark. It could be the gateway to little getaways!

Saguaro cacti in Arizona-min

The RZR takes us far into Arizona’s outback!

But we also worried about making the change to living in a toy hauler.

If we went to the trouble of setting up a new toy hauler the way we’d like it with solar power and vent-free propane heat and disc brakes, what would we do if after a year or so we we found we didn’t use the toy enough to warrant the big garage and smaller living space a toy hauler would squeeze us into?

On the other hand, a garage might open up some fabulous possibilities.

We might be able to get another porta-bote like we had with our sailboat and putt-putt across serene lakes and rivers. We’d be able to haul the bikes in the garage instead of hanging them precariously off the back of the trailer. And Mark might be able to have a small workbench rather than digging out his tools from the basement and laying them across the tailgate of the pickup for every project.

And we’d have a back porch and possibly a side patio deck too! How totally cool would that be?!

Road Warrior toy hauler with side patio deck-min

Some toy haulers, like this Road Warrior, have side patio decks. Cool!

And then the doubts would set in again.

What would it be like to tow a gargantuan 42′ or 44′ toy hauler like so many of them are these days? Gosh, we struggle at gas stations as it is with a 36′ fifth wheel. Would we ever be able to fuel the truck when we were hitched up if we were towing such a beast?

It certainly didn’t help that every time we went to an RV dealer to look at a particular brand of toy hauler, we’d eventually wander over to the luxury fifth wheels and fall in love with one of those instead!

Cactus in a cactus-min

Trying to see the woods for the trees…

Round and round our conversations would go, from optimism to pessimism and back again as we weighed the pros and cons of turning our lives upside down to accommodate a little off-road vehicle we weren’t sure about!

We contemplated renting a UTV to try it out, but few places rent out the Polaris models we were interested in, and most have been used and abused and aren’t outfitted beyond bare bones. The price of a rental was usually around $350 a day in the most scenic places, so it wouldn’t take many rental days to take a big chunk out of the price of buying one!

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV at the lake-min

Most of the rentals we found were pricey and not models we’d want to buy.

We felt immense empathy with our many readers who have contacted us over the years asking for input into their decisions related to going full-time.

I’ve always advised folks to tip-toe into the full-time RV lifestyle so they are confident and happy each step of the way: Get a cheap small rig, use it a lot, and talk to full-timers you meet while you’re out exploring in this little rig. And THEN take the plunge to commit to full-timing once you’ve gotten some real miles and adventures under your belt.

Truck Polaris RZR UTV and utility trailer-min

First trip to the trails.

And it was finally listening to this common sense advice that helped us begin to navigate our dilemma.

We realized that our first step was to figure out if a side-by-side would be fun or not and to find out how Buddy would react to it. He’d gone through a period of not wanting to get into the truck, and we didn’t want to make a huge investment of time, effort and money to move into a toy hauler if we couldn’t take him with us on our RZR outings.

So, with that in mind, we put the toy hauler decision on hold and focused on getting a RZR. We figured that even if we ended up selling it at a loss after a few months, it would be a far cheaper and better way to evaluate it than doing a series of rentals.

We found a barely used Polaris 900 XC on Craiglist that came with a small utility trailer, and we decided we’ll just triple tow it behind our current fifth wheel for a while and not travel long distances until we’ve made a final decision to get a toy hauler or stay with a regular fiver.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV being loaded onto a utility trailer-min

It’s a tight squeeze back onto the utility trailer but Mark handles it like a pro.

There’s a ton of fabulous sounding forest roads and trails to explore with a UTV in the southwest, and if we tow just a little and stay in each spot for a while, we can get some hands-on experience and make an informed long term decision about what our next rig will be.

Happy camper in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

What a cool ride!

Our first trips have been a total blast! We have run around in the Arizona desert out by Wickenburg and Lake Pleasant, and we have loved every minute of it. The scenery is classic, pristine Sonoran desert scenery, and with each bend in the road the views of saguaro cacti and mountains get better.

Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona-min

Desert scenery far from paved roads.

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Lake Pleasant Sonoran Desert scenery-min

Desert meets water at Lake Pleasant.

Perhaps best of all, it turns out our little Buddy is a RZR Dog.

Puppy and Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

Buddy has chased down the RZR a few times!

He seems to really enjoy being out on the trails despite the noise and the bumpiness of the ride. He has even chased the RZR at a full gallop a few times when Mark was driving it around, and then he hopped in for a ride.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV with puppy-min

He likes it!

Driving a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV

It’s a two-seater, but two in one seat is okay too.

So, with the start of 2019 we’re starting a new chapter in our travels. Who knows where it will lead, but it has been a thrill so far.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV

Adventure beckons

With any luck we’ll be brining you lots of beautiful images from remote spots down some special trails. And someday we’ll be trading our Hitchhiker for a new rig, possibly a toy hauler!

Happy campers in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV

A happy trio in our new ride.

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Other articles about various fun vehicles

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Merry Christmas and Thank You for a Great Year!

As the final mad-dash sprint for the holidays begins, we want to take a moment to wish you the most wonderful and Merry Christmas, from our home to yours.

Merry Christmas from Our House to Yours

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And we want to thank you for joining us in our travels and on our many scenic drives and quiet walks through the woods this past year.

Path through the woods-min

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When we were lucky enough to walk right into a gorgeous sunset, we took an extra moment to enjoy it, knowing you’d appreciate our pics and would savor the moment with us.

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We hope our journey has given you some pause for reflection.

Reflection of mountain and fall colors in a river-min

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Sometimes it’s only when you step back a bit that you discover you’re living right next to a pot of gold!

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Or that the spark of the Divine is just behind you.

Sun breaking through clouds with fifth wheel RV-min

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At those times it’s good to step outside the box for a closer look.

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We hope that when storm clouds have gathered we’ve helped you see the light within.

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And that you’ve soared to the peaks high above the clouds.

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Afterall, every cloud has a silver lining, and on closer inspection sometimes that lining turns out to be pink.

Pink cloud over an RV fifth wheel at sunset-min

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In our travels we’re often blessed with chance encounters.

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For those who have recognized us on the trail or in the campground or at the dump station, thank you for taking the time to stop and chat. We treasure making new friends in unexpected places.

Puppy and cows meet-min

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We hope we’ve helped bring out the vibrant colors radiating from even the most drab landscapes.

colorful barrel cactus in the desert-min

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And that we’ve shown that life’s sweetest beauty often lies right at our feet in the sand.

Beautiful wildflowers in Arizona desert sand-min

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We hope that your innermost desires and dreams have been able to take root this year, no matter how impossible they might have seemed at the start.

gnarled tree roots in a desert wash

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And we hope you have the tenacity to hang onto those precious dreams and believe in yourself and them, no matter what.

Tenacious tree clings to river-min

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There’s a lot of beauty out there waiting to be seen and experienced by eager travelers.

Stormy mountains at sunset-min

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Thank you for joining us on our journey, and have a special and memorable Christmas. We hope your life is touched by magic in 2019.

Rays of sunsine in the clouds-min

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Honda EU2200i Generator Review + Oil Change and Maintenance Tips

We have been loving the heck out of our Honda EU2200i generator for the last seven months and have already put about 150 hours on it. We live in our RV off the grid on solar power 24/7, and we rely on the sun for 98% of our power needs. However, in the last few months we have experienced an extraordinary amount of wildfire smoke and rain in our RV travels, and that trusty old orb in the sky was nowhere to be seen for weeks on end.

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping

Honda EU2200i generator

Why A Honda EU2200i generator?

In the past we have used a generator only for a few days in mid-winter when the days are really short and storms blow in for a week at a time, limiting the amount of power our solar panels could produce, or for just a few days in mid-summer when the interior temp of our trailer shoots into the 90s and we run our air conditioner to cool down.

Honda EU2200i Generator back side-min

The back side of the Honda EU2200i generator.

When we decided to get one of Honda’s new and easily carried 2200 watt generators in early May, we didn’t think we’d put it to use right away. We were headed to the cool mountains for a month or so, and we doubted we’d need our air conditioner.

But our longer range plans were to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and hang out along Lake Superior where we knew we’d be camping in shady spots under tall trees.

Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 1-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 2-min

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Honda EU2200i generator RV camping outlets side view-min

The “business end” of the Honda EU2200i generator

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping exhaust side view-min

The exhaust end

Ironically, within a few weeks of getting our new 2200 watt Honda generator, wildfire smoke filled the mountain air, obscuring the sun and preventing our solar panels from being as effective as usual.

The wildfire smoke was followed by weeks-long rain storms for the next few months as we traveled from the mountain states to Lake Superior. Oh my, were we happy it was so easy to set up our new little generator to keep our batteries nicely charged despite the dark skies.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer under stormy skies-min

Solar power is great until a storm like this sweeps in!

At one point we had to ask ourselves if we had inadvertently done a rain dance by getting this new generator!

Just like how one of us always get really sick whenever we put a new bottle of Nyquil in our medicine chest, we wondered if the deluge of smoke and rains came because we now had an easy access generator that could power our lives on a moment’s notice!

Fifth wheel RV camping with Honda EU2200i generator-min

When storms blew in we got the generator out — and it was easy!

The Honda EU2200i is light and easy to Carry!

The Honda EU2200i generator is a new and improved version of the much beloved Honda 2000i generator that has been powering the lives of RVers for many years. If you wander through the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona, in January, you’ll see the popular red generators outside of many RVs.

It weights just 46.5 lbs., holds just under a gallon of gas and delivers 2,200 watts of peak surge power and 1,800 watts of continuous power.

We have had a Yamaha 2400i generator with us since we started full-time RVing eleven years ago, and although it is a great generator, it is unwieldy to store, maneuver and set up. Too often we have looked at each other and said, “We really should get the generator out,” only to decide against it because neither of us felt like going through the hassle.

However, the light little Honda EU2200i generator has proven to be so darn easy to grab and set up that we often end up running it in circumstances where we wouldn’t have before.

For the moment, it is living in the back of our truck right next to the bigger generator. Either one of us can pick it up with one hand and lift it out of the truck, even while gingerly stepping around the fifth wheel hitch and the rest of the obstacle course in the bed of our truck. Not so with its big brother.

Starting the Honda EU2200i generator!

We like to start the Honda EU2200i generator without having it plugged into the RV so it can get a little warmed up before we put any loads on it. The shore power cord is plugged into the trailer, but we don’t plug the other end into the generator until the generator is actually humming along.

Since our trailer is a 50 amp trailer and the generator outlets are 15 amps, we use two adapters plus the shore power cord to get between the 15 amp female outlets on the generator and the male 50 amp outlet on our trailer:

We keep these two adapters on hand because it gives us the flexibility to connect the RV’s shorepower outlet to either a 15 amp power source or a 30 amp power source. However, you can also go directly from the 50 amp outlet on the RV to the 15 amp outlet on the generator and skip dragging out the heavy shore power cord by using a 15 amp Male to 50 amp Male adapter.

To start the Honda EU2200i generator there are three easy steps:

  • 1. Open the gas cap vent so a vacuum doesn’t build up inside the tank
  • 2. Close the choke (move the switch to the right)
  • 3. Set the generator switch to ON

Then pull the pull start cable and away you go.

Gas cap vent on Honda EU2200i generator-min

First point the gray dial to “On” to vent the gas cap.
Mark painted the “On” and “Off” labels to make them easier to see.

Honda EU2200i Generator front side-min

Then close the choke and set the generator switch to “On.” Now you’re ready to pull the start cord.

Starting the Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

Instant power!

Shortly after the generator roars to life, slowly open the choke (move the switch to the left).

We like to position the generator so the exhaust goes away from the trailer. If there are other people camped in the vicinity, we also like to place it somewhere in our campsite that it is as far from their campsite as possible so we don’t annoy them when we run it.

If it is raining out, we put it under one of the slide-outs so it doesn’t get wet.

Sometimes these locations are not optimal for pulling the start cord and getting the generator going (especially crawling under a slide-out!). But this little Honda generator is so light it is easy to maneuver it to wherever we want to place it, even after it is running.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer with Honda EU2200i generator-min

All set up and purring away.

RV camping with a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Buddy jumps for joy!

Using Eco Throttle for Greater Efficiency and Less Noise

One of the really nifty features on the Honda EU2200i generator is the Eco Throttle. This is located on the “business end” of the generator in the upper left corner.

Turning it on lowers the RPMs of the generator so it doesn’t use as much gas and runs more quietly.

If we are going to run the generator for a number of hours primarily to charge the batteries and do other things that put just a small load on the generator like using our laptops, running the lights at night, or watching a movie on TV, we keep the Eco throttle turned on.

We tested the generator to see how long it would run if we filled the 0.95 gallon gas tank before it ran out of gas. We had it in Eco mode and used our laptops and other small things while it was running.

It ran for 9.5 hours!

We don’t usually run the generator for nearly that long.

As I’ve described in our article about what happens when you run solar power and shore power simultaneously, the best time for solar powered RVs to run a generator is in the morning hours. This helps get the batteries sufficiently charged so they can easily reach their charging (Absorb) voltage under solar power alone once the generator is turned off. This gives them more daylight hours to complete the Absorb stage before the sun goes down.

Outlets and switches Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The Eco Throttle switch allows the generator to run more efficiently and quietly when loads are light.

Eco mode is our default with this generator, both to save gas and to hear the generator’s quiet purr instead of its louder roar. In Eco mode it is as quiet as our Yamaha 2400i generator, but when it is not in Eco mode it is a little louder.

If you suddenly place a big load on the generator when it is in Eco mode, it will temporarily go into higher RPMs to provide the required power.

If we turn on the toaster while in Eco mode (our toaster is an 800 watt model), we can hear the generator rev up while the toaster is making toast. As soon as the toast pops up, the generator idles back down. If we do the same thing in non-Eco mode, the generator is already humming along at a fast pace, and it doesn’t need much of a surge to operate the toaster.

Honda EU2200i Generator for RV battery charging-min

We camped under thick canopies of trees in the rain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

If the generator is in Eco mode and we use the microwave (ours is an 1100 watt model), the generator has a slight lag time as it first senses the heavy load and then revs up to provide the necessary power.

There is an audible drop in tone and dimming of the lights on the microwave for a second or two before the generator roars to meet the challenge. We’re not sure this momentary dip in power is good for the microwave, so if we plan to use it we prefer to have the generator running in non-Eco mode first.

Can it power an RV air conditioner?

We have a 15,000 BTU air conditioner on our 36′ fifth wheel trailer. With some coaxing (i.e., warming up the generator, then turning on the Coleman air conditioner’s fan and finally turning on the air conditioner itself), our Yamaha 2400i generator can handle the air conditioner’s initial power surge and run the it for hours on end without a hitch.

We were hoping the much lighter and smaller Honda EU2200i might be able to run it too. However, the generator’s 2200 watts max power is not quite enough to handle the surge when the air conditioner starts. It is likely it could power a 13,500 btu air conditioner (standard on smaller RVs) just fine.

The Honda EU2200i generator is designed to work in parallel with a twin generator and connector cables, giving you 4,400 watts of peak power, more than enough to run a 15k BTU air conditioner. You can probably run the microwave at the same time with that kind of juice! The wonderful thing about this setup is that the two generators are a lot smaller than one big 4.4kw generator would be.

Honda EU2200i and EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit-min

Honda EU2200i + EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit with covers for each.

Putting Gas in the Honda EU2200i Generator

The hardest part about putting gas in a generator is fiddling with the child-proof, spill-proof, idiot-proof gas can. Government regulators have obviously never used a gas can in their lives, and we’re quite sure a lot more gas has been spilled on our precious environment because of the newfangled user-unfriendly spouts than ever was spilled using the trusty old gas can spouts of days gone by.

Putting the spout on a plastic gas can-min

Good luck with the gas can spout!

Putting gas in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Easy access on the top of the generator for gassing it up.

We’ve been adding Seafoam Motor Treatment to the gas in the generator. This fuel stabilizer cleans the carburetor, keeps the engine clean, and we find it makes it easier to start.

When we cruised Mexico in our sailboat, we used it in the outboard motor for our dinghy and were very pleased with the results.

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Changing the Oil

Changing the oil on the Honda EU2200i generator is a snap. First find a pleasant place to do it. Mark likes to elevate the generator onto some kind of platform so it is easy to drain the old oil out of the bottom.

As always, Buddy likes to supervise.

Changing the oil in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Changing the oil doesn’t take long, but doing it in a pretty place makes it more fun.

You’ll need the following:

  • A flat head screwdriver
  • A sealable 14 oz. or larger container for the old oil
  • A quart of SAE 10W-30 oil
  • Rags to clean up drips and wipe your hands
  • Optional: Rubber gloves

The first step is to unscrew the single screw that holds the front panel on the front of the generator and remove the panel so you have full access to the heart of the machine.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Access the heart of the generator via the side panel on the front.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Once it’s unscrewed, the side panel lifts off easily.

To check or change the oil, simply unscrew the dipstick in the lower left corner.

If you are just checking the oil, make sure the oil level fills the spout and is clear. Honda recomments changing it every six months or 100 hours of use (keep track of the hours of use in a log book).

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The dipstick is in the lower left corner.

Check the oil with the dipstick on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Unscrew the dipstick to check the oil and/or to change it.

When changing the oil, hold a container of some kind below the spout.

Any container that can hold 14 ounces of liquid is fine. Or you can drain the oil into an oil drain pan and then, after the new oil has been put into the generator, pour the old oil into the container that held the new oil.

In the case pictured here, Mark used an old plastic peanut jar with a screw top lid.

Drain the oil from a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Drain the oil into an easily sealed container that holds at least 14 ounces.

To get all the oil out, tip the generator slightly towards you.

Drain all the oil from a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

Tip the generator towards you to get out every last drop.

The Honda EU2200i generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil.

Honda EU2200i Generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil-min

The generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil

Once the old oil is completely drained out, pour the new oil in.

Change the oil on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pour the new oil in

The oil reserve is properly filled when the oil comes right to the edge (with the generator sitting level). Once it’s full, screw the dipstick back in and tidy up any drips with the rags.

Oil change on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The oil is full when it is level with the spout

The generator takes 14 ounces of oil and, of course, oil is sold in 16 ounce bottles. You can save the last two ounces for other odd jobs around your RV in one of these classic oil cans. Grandpa will be proud!

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Cleaning / Replacing the Air Filters

Since the front panel of the generator is off, now is a good time to inspect the air filters. To access the air filters, unscrew the screw holding the access panel in place.

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The air filters are in the upper right area of the front of the generator

Open air filter compartment on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Remove the air filter cover

There are two small air filters inside. Each one is a small piece of foam. If they’re dusty and dirty you can clean and re-oil them. If they are brittle and have started to fall apart, you can replace them with Honda’s air filter replacement kit.

Air filter on a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

There are two air filters inside, one above and one below

Honda EU2200i Generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Inspecting / Replacing the Spark Plug

Once the front panel on the generator is buttoned up again, this is a good time to check the spark plug.

The Honda EU2200i generator’s spark plug is located in a small compartment on the top next to the handle. The cover slides off easily.

Open spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

The spark plug has its own compartment on the top of the generator

Inside, the spark plug is covered by a spark plug cap. Simply pull the cap off to reveal the spark plug underneath.

Spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pull off the spark plug cap to reveal the spark plug underneath

To remove the spark plub, use a 5/8″ spark plug socket and ratchet plus 3/8″ drive extension. The spark plug is quite close to the generator handle, so a 5//8″ spark plug socket with an integral 3/8″ drive on a swivel extension could be very handy.

Remove spark plug from Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Use a 5/8″ socket and extension to remove the spark plug

The spark plug is the NGK CR5HSB.

Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

NGK CR5HSB spark plug

Inspect it with a spark plug gap tool. The gap should be 0.24 to 0.28 inches which is equivalent to 0.6 to 0.7 mm.

Check spark plug gap with feeler guage on Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

The spark plug gap should be between 0.24 and 0.28 inches (0.6 to 0.7 mm)

Before placing the spark plug back in the generator, spread a thin layer of high temperature anti-seize lubricant on the spark plug threads.

Apply anti-seize lubricant to spark plug for Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Apply a thin layer of high temp anti-seize lubricant to the threads

Anti-seize lubricant applied to Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

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And that’s it!

Honda EU2200i Generator charges batteries while RV camping-min

Happy campers!

If you are looking for a lightweight generator that can run for many hours on end and power all of the appliances in your RV that require less than 2200 watts to operate (in our case, this is everything except our 15k BTU air conditioner), the new Honda EU2200i generator is a great choice.

Hopefully if you buy one, you won’t inadvertently inspire the rain gods to dump weeks of rain on you like we did!!

Where to buy the Honda EU2200i generator and accessories:

RV Power Adapters and Dogbones:

Generator Maintenance Goodies:

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RV Roof Repair – Rubber Roof Patch + Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement!

We recently repaired some rips and tears in our RV’s rubber roof, and we also replaced the roof vent cap for our trailer’s black wastewater holding tank. These are easy projects for anyone to do. This article shows the steps we followed to complete these repairs.

RV Roof Repair patching a rubber roof and replacing a black water tank vent cap

RV Roof Repairs — Patching a rubber roof and replacing a black water tank vent cap

We were in a hurry as we tackled these jobs because a days-long rain storm threatened to begin at any moment. Also, our “ten year” RV rubber roof is now nearly twelve years old, so it is overdue for replacement. With these things in mind, our goals were speed of installation and watertightness that would hold for a few months.

In this article we’ll point out the few shortcuts we took just in case you ripped your RV roof or knocked a holding tank vent cap off when your rig was years out from needing a new roof!

RV Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement

We boondock all the time, and this kind of travel takes our trailer into some gnarly situations where it gets scraped by tree branches on the exterior walls and roof. The sidewalls of our rig bear the tell-tale pin-stripe scars from tree branches, and our RV roof, well, the tallest items have taken the brunt of the damage.

The black wastewater holding tank vent pipe has a cap on it to keep rain and creatures out, but ours got sheared right off when we accidentally dragged on an unforgiving tree branch.

The first task in the repair was to remove the screws holding the cap onto the roof. These were easy to locate because there was a dollop of Dicor Lap Sealant covering each one.

RV black tank roof vent broken-min

The black tank vent cap was knocked off by low hanging tree branches.
In this photo Mark has already removed a few screws that attach the cap flange to the roof.

The next task was to lift the entire vent cap flange off of the black tank vent pipe.

Remove the old vent cap flange

Remove the old vent cap flange

This revealed the black tank vent pipe. A small piece of the top of the black tank vent pipe had broken off, but the damage was merely cosmetic. The new black tank vent cap would cover it.

The next step was to clear away the old Dicor Lap Sealant that formed a ring around the old black tank vent cap so the roof was smooth instead of having a crusty ring of old sealant.

RV black tank roof vent removed and waiting for new replacement-min

Scrape away old Dicor Lap Sealant

The key to this RV roof repair is making sure the new black tank vent cap has a watertight seal with the roof so there won’t be any leaks. A generous spread of Dicor Lap Sealant does the trick. It comes in a tube and is applied with a caulk gun. Before placing it in the caulk gun, Mark clipped off the tip so the Lap Sealant could flow out.

Remove tip of Dicor Lap Sealant tube-min

Prepare new tube of Dicor Lap Sealant and then lay a thick layer around the vent pipe.

Then he spread a thick bead of Dicor Lap Sealant around the vent where the screws would attach the cap, and then screwed in the screws.

Screwing an RV black tank roof vent onto a fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Screw the new vent cap onto the roof.

A final screw went into the top of the cap. The old black tank vent cap may not have had this screw right from the factory, and that may be why it was knocked off so easily. We don’t know because we never looked at the old cap that closely!

RV black tank roof vent-min

Be sure to screw the cap itself onto the base.

Then Mark spread generous bead of Dicor Lap Sealant around the outside of the vent cap, leaving a nice dollop on each screw head, including the one on the top of the cap.

Sealing the RV black tank roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Put a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant around the base with a dollop on each screw head.

Here’s how it looked a few months after the job was completed. If you’ve been wondering about the wire next to the vent, it is the cable that connects our four solar panels together in series on our roof.

RV roof black tank vent repair completed-min

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Down on the ground far below us, our little project supervisor wondered how it was all going.

Project supervisor for RV rubber roof repair-min

The project supervisor asks how the vent cap replacement is going.

RV Rubber Roof Repair Patch

Our other RV roof repair was to fix a tear in the thin rubber sheet that covers our RV’s roof.

This job is so quick to do that the first time Mark did it in a location on the roof of one of our slide-outs, I didn’t even know he had started the job when he bounded in the door announcing he had just finished it.

“But I wanted to take pics!” I said.

“Ya gotta be faster next time!” He joked.

So, this time around, when I heard him mumble something about fixing a tear in the roof, I jumped up and ran for my camera and made sure I followed him up the ladder right away so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Tear in RV rubber roof needs repair-min

As rubber roofs age, they become more and more susceptible to rips and tears from low lying branches and other obstacles dragging as you drive underneath.

All that is needed to patch an RV rubber roof is a cleanser that can clean the crud off the roof around the tear, some scissors and some repair tape.

The preferred repair tape is EternaBond Tape. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a roll with us and there were no RV supply stores within 100 miles or so. But the local hardware store carried Flex Tape, and that worked just fine.

Tools needed for RV rubber roof repair-min

Applying a patch requires just a cleanser, some patch tape and scissors.

Mark cleaned the area throughly so the tape would stick well. He used a glass cleaner to cut any grease.

Clean the RV roof tear area before repairing-min

Clean the area thoroughly so the new patch tape will adhere well.

Wipe down RV roof tear before repair-min

Wipe off the cleanser.

Then he felt under the torn area to see if there was any lumpy debris in there. Sure enough, he pulled out a twig!

Check for debris under rip in RV roof_-min

Check to be sure nothing is lodged under the rubber roofing material.

Twig found under RV rubber roof tear-min

A twig was hiding under there!

This was a serious tear, but once he got the wound cleaned up it was ready to for a field dressing.

Rubber RV roof tear ready for a patch-min

The thin rubber roofing sheet is all that protects the underlying plywood from the elements.

RV roof tear ready for a patch-min

All cleaned up and ready for the patch.

He cut a piece of Flex Tape big enough to cover the tear. Then he pressed it in place, first with his hands and then with the back of his scissors.

Place patch on RV roof tear-min

Cut a piece of tape that is generously wider than the tear.

Press patch on tear in rubber RV roof-min

Press the patch into place.

Seal the Patch repair of RV rubber roof tear-min

Seal it and make sure there are no air bubbles by pressing something flat on it.

As an aside, Mark really likes these heavy duty Fiskar shears. They have a wire cutting notch on the back and they come with a sheath and a clip for hanging them from a belt loop.

Patch repair of RV rubber roof tear completed-min

Done! If we weren’t hurrying, the corners would be rounded and the tape wouldn’t rest on the old Dicor.

So, the job was done in just a few minutes.

A better way to cut the patch is to round the corners so they aren’t inclined to peel up. Also, sizing the patch so it is attached only to the rubber roofing material and not the lap sealant on the front cap would have been a better technique. But, as I said, rain was on its way in a few moments and a new roof was on its way in a few months.

Here is a pic from the other roof patch he did on the roof of one of the slide-outs several months ago.

RV roof repair for torn RV rubber roof-min

Another patch about 6 months after completion on the roof of one of our slide-outs.

Not long afterwards, the wild rain storm rolled in. Fortunately, the RV roof repairs were good and we were snug and dry in our trailer.

Puppy looks at a stunning sunset-min

The project supervisor was satisfied with the work, and we were warm and dry when the rains came.

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    101 MORE Great RV Gift Ideas for RVers, Campers & Outdoor Lovers!

    The other day when we were at a hardware store we heard Christmas music playing. Yikes! The holidays are on their way and it’s time to start finding meaningful gifts for our loved ones.

    The fun thing about buying for RVers is that there are so many super cute RV themed goodies out there!

    Last year I wrote the blog post “50 RV Gifts” which was chock full of wonderful suggestions for gifts. This year I’ve done a little more digging and put together a lineup of 101 more great RV gift ideas for you. Click on any image or text link to see more detailed info about each one.

    Many of these items are things we use in our day-to-day RV lifestyle and others are things that look enticing and have received great reviews and might end up in our RV sometime soon!

    The first one is special to us because it is a 2019 Arizona wall calendar that features a gorgeous photo Mark took in Canyon de Chelly. His photo appears both on the cover of the calendar and on the January page.

    We often choose the places we want to visit based on photos we have seen, so what better way to get inspired for next year’s RV travels than to flip through a book of beautiful photos from the National Parks. National Geographic’s National Parks Illustrated History is a good one, as is the book Treasured Lands – An Odyssey Through the National Parks.

    If you are looking for travel tips for visiting the National Parks, the Fodor’s Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West is a excellent.

    One of our favorite things in our RV travels is enjoying the many stunning scenic drives that zig-zag all over the country. To find out where the best scenic roads are, check out National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways.

    There are 120 more spectacular road trips in the book The Most Scenic Drives in America.

    Gorgeous coffee table books are wonderful, but if you want to share the experience and get inspired over popcorn with your life partner, how about watching the Ken Burns video, “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea (download)” (DVD).

    As long as you and your sweetie are plopped down in front of the TV, you might get a kick out of some old westerns. After we’d been traveling the west for a while we began noticing that we recognized the locations where many westerns were filmed, and it’s great fun to guess and then check the credits or the internet after watching the movie to see if you got it right!

    We especially love the old John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns, and these two collections have many of our all-time favorites: the John Wayne Western Collection and the Clint Eastwood Collection and Double Feature combo.

    We love to have low lighting in the rig when we’re watching a movie at night or to give the rig a romantic and relaxing atmosphere. We’ve had a set of flameless LED wax candles for many years now, and we love them.

    A cute welcome mat at the door is a delightful way to welcome guests into your rolling home or to put a smile on your face when you come home from a day of errands.

    If you’re in your RV for the holidays, one lovely way to decorate for the season is with a small tabletop battery operated Christmas tree.

    If you don’t want to store a tree during the rest of the year, then a small vintage trailer that lights up and plays music might be a nice choice.

    For RVers who have a regular size tree, a sweet RV Christmas ornament will bring back memories of happy times on the road.

    A throw pillow or two on your couch or bed can make your rolling home even more homey. If you swap out just the pillowcase on a single pillow you can rotate the decorations so they don’t get old.

    Next time you take a shower, why not dry off with a Happy Camper towel??!!

    And when you’re ready for bed, you can slip into a soft set of “RV There Yet?” pajamas for women or camping PJs for men.

    As the winter nights get cold, how nice to snuggle up with a unique camper-under-the-moon throw blanket (comes in various sizes).

    Or wrap the fuzzy side of a throw blanket close around you as you drift into dreams of hitting the road in a cool retro RV.

    If you spend winters in your RV, no matter where you are in the country there will be some chilly nights. Nothing beats a down comforter for staying toasty warm under the covers!

    We’ve got lots of tips for staying warm in an RV over the winter (check them out here, here and here).

    One of the simplest tips for RVs that don’t have a winterizing option on the screen door is to cover the door’s screens with a shrink-wrap film. This transforms the door from delivering icy blasts of cold air to bringing in the warm sunshine without a frosty bite, and it takes just an hour to install (step-by-step instructions with photos here).

    A vent-free propane heater can heat your rig in minutes. If you’re intimidated by the process of installing one, a portable Mr. Buddy heater will deliver just as much heat as one that’s permanently installed without being connected to the RV’s gas lines.

    Tips for how to install a vent-free propane heater here.

    Fortunately, we have our own very special Mr. Buddy to cuddle with under the blankets. He’s a great little portable heater!

    Puppy cuddles up in a blanket-min

    Our own little portable Mr. Buddy heater 🙂

    If you’re outfitting a new-to-you RV, you can transform the interior on a cold blustery night with a blue flame fireplace. Rather than an industrial looking blue flame in a metal box, this fireplace comes complete with logs, yellow flames that deliver a lot of heat, and a pretty wooden mantel.

    Friends of ours installed the arched propane fireplace insert without the wooden mantel in their 2005 Alpenlite fifth wheel and then trimmed it out with ceramic tile. This created a wonderfully cozy and inviting addition to their living space!

    We will definitely do this if we ever get another rig. One tip: install the fireplace insert so it sticks out about 3″ or so from anything above it like cabinets or a TV. Heat rises straight up, so just a few inches is enough to keep the blue flame heater from heating anything above it, but if you install the insert so the front of it is flush with the cabinetry above, the cabinets will get warm.

    More about vent-free propane heaters here.

    And, of course, the simplest way to add the romance of a fireplace to your RV is to play the Fireplace DVD on your TV. Whenever we do this, we find that the person sitting closest to the TV gets warm on that side. There’s something about those pretty flames and crackling log noises…

    No matter how you heat your RV or house in the winter, you’ll be reaching for sweaters and sweatshirts when Jack Frost comes around. Here’s a fun sweatshirt for your sweetie.

    She might want to peel off the sweatshirt sitting around a toasty campfire. But, of course, what happens at the campfire stays at the campfire!

    And if you’re out and about in sunny places and need a good cover, there’s a Happy Camper ballcap for you!

    A wonderful stocking stuffer for your best gal might be a pair of RV earrings or here’s another style here.

    Or a cell phone ring holder (just as long she’s not married to her phone!).

    Now, when you’re out RVing with the family, you can prevent any unexpected rainy days from dampening the experience if you bring along the National Parks edition of Monopoly.

    If the rain persists and you’re stuck in the RV for a long time, another game, Trekking the National Parks, would also be a welcome diversion.

    For kids (and kids at heart) who love coloring, a National Parks Coloring Book is a nice way to get to know a little about all the different Parks (there are others here and here).

    And for anyone doing the National Parks Junior Ranger program (kids or adults!), the Junior Ranger Activity Book could be a nice complement to the National Parks program.

    Parents who read aloud to their little ones or that are helping young readers learn to read will love the book “A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee.

    While the kids are busy playing games, coloring and reading, the baker in the family might pop some freshly made cookies out of the oven. How nice to have an oven mitt and pot holder specially made for RVers.

    And whoever gets dish washing duty will enjoy the job a lot more if there’s a cute RV dish drying mat to lay the dishes on!

    One kitchen goodie we LOVE and have had ever since we cruised Mexico on our sailboat is a set of Magma Nesting Cookware. These pots and pans fit neatly inside of each other and are heavy and durable. They are ideal in any kitchen where shelf space is at a premium, from vans to Class C’s to truck campers to teardrop trailers to popup tent trailers.

    Another kitchen gadget we use every day is our Melitta pour-over filter cone and paper filters. I’ve been making coffee this way for 45 years. Simply place the filter cone on top of your coffee mug, boil water in a kettle and pour the water over the grounds in the filter and let it dribble into the cup below.

    It makes a gourmet cup in minutes, the cleanup is a cinch, it takes up minimal storage space, and it doesn’t require electricity to operate.

    Once you hit the road again after the holidays are over, the navigator in the family will appreciate the 2019 Rand McNally Road Atlas (we have several of these from various years!).

    If you will be taking your RV over any mountain passes, both the navigator AND the driver will appreciate the Mountain Directories for RV and Truck Drivers. There are two volumes (for East and West), and we have turned to these books dozens of times before tackling a mountain pass.

    Every pass is described in detail for traversing it in both directions, so you’ll know ahead of time what the grades will be and for how many miles and also how sharp the hairpin turns will be as well (i.e., 15 mph curves, 25 mph curves, etc.). Once you “know” what an 8% grade for 3 miles feels like or how your RV (and you) react to navigating a 10 mph uphill turn, these books will be immensely helpful in route planning.

    Here are some tips for driving an RV in the mountains too.

    Another trip planning tool we use a lot are the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer map books. Each one lists the highlights and hot spots in every state in an easy summary form, and the various public land borders are clearly marked.

    We have one of these atlas books for every state we’ve visited. Another similar atlas series is by Benchmark and we have a few of those too!

    A nice combination of travel destination ideas and RV maintenance tips and new RV reviews can be found in Trailer Life Magazine and Motorhome Magazine. I’ve been fortunate to have had many articles appear in both magazines, and a subscription can make a nice gift (we’ve given several over the years!).

    Most full-time and seasonal RVers belong to Escapees RV Club, and a one-year membership makes a great gift.

    Membership includes an excellent bi-monthly magazine that is written by RVers for RVers. There are also a myriad of other terrific offerings, from discounts on camping to Bootcamps for new RVers to webinars and an online RV University to elder care for RVers who have hung up their keys to a division dedicated to Gen-X and Millenial RVers to mail forwarding services and many RV campsite ownership possibilities.

    We’ve been members since 2008. If you decide to join (here), please let them know “Roads Less Traveled” sent you!

    If you love to write, as I do, as soon as you start adventuring you will want to begin recording all you’ve seen and done. And even though typing is faster than handwriting for a lot of us, taking a moment at the end of each day to make a few notes with pen on paper is very rewarding.

    There are several excellent Camper’s Journals, Camping Log Books and RVing Journals available:

    Even if you’re not a writer, it’s nice to have a visual display of the places you’ve visited, and an RV state sticker map is a fun thing to put on the RV door or wall.

    While it’s fun to tick off where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, the essence of RVing to many is simply living in the moment and enjoying the blessings of life without responsibility or even accountability. Where better way to do that than in a hammock strung between two trees in your campsite?!

    We met a fellow a few weeks ago who has a hammock in the garage of his toy hauler. He loves to open the ramp door to a beautiful view somewhere and swing quietly til he falls asleep.

    Swinging in a hammock is also a great way to enjoy the wildlife that wanders in and out of a campsite, and hanging up a bird feeder or putting out a shallow tray of water is a good way to lure the critters in.

    We love hanging a hummingbird feeder on the RV window vy our dining table. It attaches to the window with suction cups and we can sit inside and watch the antics of the hummers as they come and go at the feeder.

    A simple solution of 1 part regular table sugar (no the fancy stuff) to 4 parts water makes a perfect nectar for these little acrobats.

    If the antics of the hummers isn’t entertaining enough, then a game of Corn Hole will keep the folks at your campsite and even the folks at the neighbor’s occupied.

    If you want to dress up your campsite, an RV themed tablecloth is a nice way to add some class to the picnic table.

    And a pretty patio mat extends your outdoor space a lot. This 8 x 20 mat is a neat dimension that runs much of the length of the RV.

    An outdoor grill is an absolute must for every RV, and there are dozens to choose from.

    We still use the modest little “Sidekick” grill that came with our popup tent trailer. It is designed to be hung on an RV wall if you install the hanging bracket, or to stand up off the ground. Mark has barbecued many an outstanding meal on this grill and it’s still going strong after 13 years of very frequent use!

    If you hang around outside a lot at night, it’s nice to have a lantern to hang in a tree or on the RV awning brackets. A battery operated Coleman LED lantern or solar powered lantern is a great way to go.

    When we first started boondocking, we used kerosene lamps rather than burn precious electricity with our RV’s interior lighting. Hanging one or two of these lanterns inside at night would have been a whole lot brighter!

    Many gadgets like this lantern are battery operated. Have you tried rechargeable batteries yet? In the last year or so we’ve switched to rechargeable batteries rather than buying new batteries each time the old ones run down, and we like them a lot.

    Getting out in an RV is all about enjoying the outdoors, and a fun and romantic way to savor the fresh air and great views in some remote spot is with a picnic. There are lots of fancy picnic baskets on the market, but how about a picnic basket that is built into a backpack so you can hike with it comfortably, hands free?!

    We use 100 oz. hydration packs when we do longer hikes, and we’ve like packs that hold a big camera, a tripod hung on the outside, and a light jacket and snacks. The Camelbak Fourteener series are great packs for this purpose.

    Good quality hiking shoes are also important and we get new ones every year. We’ve both been wearing Oboz hiking shoes for the last few years and Mark loves his waterproof Oboz boots. He found them especially handy when we were trudging around in the rain and mud in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula recently to photograph the fall colors.

    One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is kayaking on a lake or river. The Hobie inflatable kayaks are FABULOUS and they can be rolled up and put away in an RV storage compartment.

    Our Hobie inflatable tandem was a blast in both our RV and sailing lifestyles.

    The beauty of these kayaks is that if you find yourself up a creek without a paddle it doesn’t matter: the kayak is driven by foot pedals and a rudder at the back.

    This means you cruise along about twice as fast as an ordinary kayak totally hands free, and you can use your binoculars or camera as you go. (Read my full review here).

    We also found that ours was as stable as a rock. I could stand up in it and wax the hull of our sailboat!

    If your sweetie is a kayaker who dreams of the ideal ride, this is a gift he or she will love.

    A while ago we bought a kit of cordless power tools by Rigid that included an impact driver and power drill.

    Mark uses the impact driver for removing and replacing a wheel’s lug nuts on a flat tire (and we’ve had lots), and we both use the cordless drill to raise and lower our stabilizing jacks every time we set up or break down camp.

    Rigid makes a lot of other tools that are all operated on the same lithium-ion battery packs as these two drills, and we recently got their little portable cordless vacuum cleaner. What a fantastic little vacuum! Because we now live with a puppy who hasn’t yet learned to wipe his paws when he comes in the door, I use this vacuum in the main living area almost every day.

    The vacuum takes a bit more power than the drills, so we also bought an upgraded battery pack that has 5 amp-hours of capacity rather than the standard 1.5 ah. Even vaccuming as frequently as as I do, this big battery pack requires charging just once a month or so.

    We highly recommend the Rigid kit even though it is considered a second tier brand. Dewalt has a similar kit too.

    Another little “around the house” gadget we rely on a lot is our two-way radio set.

    We use these to back up the trailer and also to find each other when we go on photo shoots. It also helps us stay in touch when one of us goes on a hike or walks the dog without the other.

    Obviously, cell phones do this too, but these radios work everywhere we go regardless of cell tower proximity. We have the “36 mile” GMRS two-way radios which usually have excellent reception up to about 3 miles.

    There are lots of great stocking stuffers for RVers, and one is a Leatherman tool that has a million tools neatly folded into a small pocket-sized package. Mark has the Leatherman Surge tool here:

    Mark always carries a pocket knife too, and he has a collection of Gerber knives in drawers throughout our trailer as well as in his pocket! These are two of his favorites: Gerber Freeman Guide Drop Point and the tiny Gerber Ultralight.

    He recently picked up another pocket knife made by Leatherman that is his latest favorite, the Leatherman Crater C33LX. It has a serrated edge and a caribiner that can attach the knife to a beltloop or keychain. The caribiner can also serve as an all important bottle opener come Beer Time!

    Mark’s pockets are always brimming with goodies, and besides a pocket knife he usually carries a flashlight too. He likes the Lumintop brand and now has five different Lumintop LED flashlights and loves them all.

    We’ve written detailed reviews of some of their models (the 4000 lumen tactical light here and two pocket flashlights here).

    Here are two more, the Lumintop ODF30C 3500 lumen flashlight and the Lumintop AA 2.0 pocket flashlight.

    Getting our heads out of the tool box and back out into nature, another outstanding gift that says “I love you” in a most heartfelt way is a brand new DSLR camera.

    Nikons are the best rated DLSRs these days and the Nikon D3500 is an outstanding camera to start with. The Nikon D3500 kit that comes with two lenses is a great value.

    If your sweetie already has a great camera, a fabulous gift that he or she will LOVE is the Hoodman Loupe.

    This little device shrouds the image on the back of the camera so you can see the picture well in any light, and the optics are adjustable so no matter how good or poor your vision is, you can adjust it so the image is tack sharp.

    We rely on our Hoodman Loupes to ensure that our images are in focus, our composition is what we want, and the exposure is correct.

    Another wonderful gift for someone who loves photography is a high quality tripod. The Benro Travel Angel II tripod is light and easy to set up and has worked well for me, especially hiking, for several years. An easy-to-use tripod makes it possible to blur waterfalls and to take photos of the Milky Way and is also a wonderful tool for taking selfies.

    The photographer in your life might also really enjoy some books that explain the nitty gritty about how to take beautiful photos.

    Three books that have taught us a lot are Brenda Tharpe’s Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography, Tim Fitzharris’ Landscape Photography and Steve Perry’s Secrets to Stunning Wildlife Photography.

    We’ve got loads more tips for learning how to take great photos here.

    Sometimes the best way to get really beautiful photos of nature is to camp right out in it for long periods of time.

    If your spouse has been pressing you to upgrade your RV with solar power so you can boondock for a while but you’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by the complexity or the cost of installing a system, a folding solar power suitcase can provide a lot of charging capacity and give you some excellent hands-on experience without requiring a scary big financial commitment or a search for an installer. And you can always sell the solar power suitcase at a later date. Other models are here and here.

    If you’re ready to invest in a “full-time” solar power solution, the major components will be these four things:

    This is essentially what has powered our lives every day for 11 years, and we have loads of articles on this website about solar power (here) and batteries (here)).

    Getting up on the roof to do things like install solar panels is fine with the built-in RV roof ladder. However, we also use a secondary lightweight telescoping aluminum ladder so we can reach the highest parts of the exterior walls and the front cap since those spots are all out of reach of the built-in ladder.

    This ladder can be set up in a jiffy, is stable, and can be folded up to fit in a small storage space!

    Our puppy Buddy just came over to see what I was up to on my laptop here, and he wanted me to add a few things for our furry readers. One is a Happy Camper dog shirt with a vintage RV on it. The RV window is a heart!

    Another is his favorite dog food. He loves the Orijen and Acana brands, and Regional Red is his all-time favorite.

    Put a paw over your eyes so you don’t see the price, but do read the ingredients. I honestly think this stuff should be served under glass on a linen tablecloth…

    Last is a set of rubber whistler balls. These rugged, flexible balls can withstand any amount of chewing and have small holes in the sides that make them whistle as they fly.

    We hope these pics and links have given you some fresh new ideas of special things to give your loved ones.

    Anything you put in your shopping cart right after clicking a link here (even if you end up doing some searching to find something else) results in a small commission to us at no cost to you, a win-win all around. Thank you!!

    If you’re still searching for that ideal gift for someone special, check out these 50 Great RV Gifts here!

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    RV Awning Installation and Repair

    Our RV awning is 11 years old now, and the canvas fabric recently tore at the top and bottom. RV awnings are a pain in every respect (except for the wonderful shade they offer), and we knew we were in for a challenging DIY repair if we tried to do it ourselves.

    Fixing an RV awning is a job for at least two people, preferably three or four for certain parts of the job, and it’s easiest if someone in the group has done it before because it can be a little tricky.

    Ripped RV awning torn before replacement-min

    Oh no! Time for new RV awning fabric!

    We were traveling through Rapid City, South Dakota, and recent hail storms had made a mess of many RVs and RV dealerships all around the area. Only one of the local RV dealerships and repair shops could get us in within the week, so we were thrilled when we backed into a bay at Jack’s Campers.

    Fortunately, they had the fabric for a 17′ Dometic Sunchaser awning in stock, an old manual model that is not installed on new RVs any more. Luckily, there must be enough oldies-but-goodies on the road these days that Jack’s Campers stocks them.

    We back our fifth wheel trailer into a bay at Jack's Campers in Rapid City South Dakota-min

    We got into position at Jack’s Campers in Rapid City, South Dakota.

    We called our RV Extended Warranty folks, Wholesale Warranties, to find out if this awning failure would qualify for reimbursement under our warranty plan.

    We have had so much good luck with our extended warranty on major repairs like our refrigerator, trailer axle, suspension, toilet and window leaks and plumbing, that we were hopeful this repair would be covered too. However, only the mechanical aspects of the awning were covered, not the fabric.

    In the end, the whole RV awning repair job ended up costing $444 out of pocket, most of that being for the new fabric, and it took the guys at Jack’s Campers just 45 minutes to do it.

    The first step was to remove the awning arms and roller from the sidewall of our fifth wheel. They unrolled the fabric about a foot and unscrewed the mounting brackets that attached the awning arms to the side of the trailer.

    Remove the bolts attaching RV awning to the side of the fifth wheel trailer-min

    First, remove the awning arms from the sidewalls of the trailer.

    There was putty in the awning fabric track where the mounting bracket had been, so this had to be removed with a flathead screwdriver.

    Use flathead screwdriver to remove putty from RV awning track on fifth wheel trailer-min

    There was some putty in the awning track, so it was removed with a flathead screwdriver.

    Next, two guys slid the awning fabric off of the awning track on the RV wall and marched the whole thing into the workshop and rested it on some saw horses.

    Two people slide the RV awning off the track on a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    Two mechanics walked the awning out of the track on the trailer.

    Rest the RV awning on saw horses to remove the fabric-min

    Once in the shop the awning was laid across some saw horses.

    Manually operated RV awnings have a spring inside the roller mechanism (a “torsion assembly“) for rolling up the fabric. At one end of the roller there is a locking mechanism to keep the spring inside the roller tight so the fabric doesn’t unroll. This locking mechanism became important when the new fabric was installed to get the spring tensioned correctly inside the roller.

    Locking end of RV awning-min

    The right arm of the awning has a locking mechanism which keeps the fabric from rolling off the roller.

    At the opposite end of the roller there was no locking mechanism. The bolt holding the awning arm to the roller at the non-locking end was removed and the arm was pulled off. The arm at the locking end of the roller remained attached throughout the job.

    Remove bolt holding RV awning arm to the roller-min

    Remove the awning arm from the non-locking end of the roller.

    RV awning endcap and spring-min

    Awning arm removed.

    Then the rivets on the endcap were drilled out and the torsion assembly was pulled out.

    Drill out rivets from endcap on RV awning-min

    Drill out the rivets on the endcap.

    Remove spring and endcap from RV awning to replace fabric-min

    The endcap and spring (torsion assembly) are removed from the roller.

    RV awning spring and endcap-min

    The torsion assembly is out of the roller.
    Spraying it with silicone spray will help the awning roll more easily.

    Then the awning fabric was slid our of the roller.

    Two mechanics hold the RV awning to slide the torn fabric off the track-min

    Two mechanics slid the old awning fabric out of the track.

    The new fabric was unfolded and laid out in the workshop, and then it was slid into the track on the roller until the fabric stretched the whole length of the roller.

    Open up and spread out the new RV awning fabric-min

    The new awning fabric was unfolded and laid out.

    Opened up RV awning endcap-min

    The new awning fabric will be slid into the track on the roller.

    Install new RV awning fabric by sliding it along the track-min

    The new awning fabric was started in the track on the roller.

    Spraying the track with a heavy duty silicone spray helped the fabric slide along the track smoothly.

    Spray heavy duty silicone on the RV awning track before sliding the fabric onto it-min

    Spraying the track with silicone helps the fabric slide more smoothly.

    Slide new RV awning fabric onto the roller along the track-min

    Two mechanics slid the new awning fabric along the roller track.

    Then the torsion assembly was placed inside the roller and new endcap rivets were installed.

    Reinstall RV awning endcap and spring-min

    The endcap and spring were reinserted inside the roller.

    Install new rivets on RV awning cap-min

    Put new rivets on the endcap.

    New rivet installed on RV awning endcap-min

    New rivet in place.

    The fabric was positioned so it went all the way to the locking end of the awning. At the opposite end a set screw was screwed in to prevent the fabric from sliding off the track.

    New RV awning fabric at endcap on locking end of roller-min

    Make sure the awning fabric has been slid all the way to the locking end of the roller.

    Screw in set screw to keep RV awning fabric from falling off the track-min

    Put a set screw at the non-locking end of the fabric so it doesn’t slide off the track.

    The new fabric was laid out so it could be rolled onto the roller. Then a vice grip was used to turn the spring between 15 and 18 times to get the right spring tension.

    New RV awning fabric installed-min

    New awning fabric is in place.

    Use vice grips to wind up the new RV awning fabric-min

    Use vice grips to rotate the spring 15 to 18 times to ge the right spring tension.

    Then the awning arm was reattached to the roller with a bolt.

    Bolt on the RV awning arms to the roller-min

    Bolt on the awning arm.

    New RV awning fabric with set screw and awning arm attached-min

    Awning arm (non-locking end) is reattached.

    Back at the trailer, the awning track was sprayed with heavy duty silicone.

    Use heavy duty silicone spray to lubricate the RV awning track-min

    Out at the trailer spray the awning track with silicone.

    Then the new awning fabric was loosely wrapped around the roller and the whole thing was marched outside to the trailer.

    Wrap the new RV awning fabric around the roller-min

    Four guys assisted in wrapping the new awning fabric around the roller a few times.

    Carry the RV awning out to the fifth wheel trailer-min

    The awning is taken out to the trailer.

    Our little project supervisor, Buddy, had been watching all the goings on through open big shop door from a safe distance out by the trailer. When the awning and its new fabric were brought out to the trailer, he backed up as far as he could into the parking lot to give the guys room to work!

    Supervising puppy keeps his distance from the RV awning project-min

    Stand back!

    Using ladders and reaching overhead, four guys maneuvered the awning fabric into the track on the trailer and slid it all the way to the front end of the track. This is where having lots of hands can help.

    Slide the RV awning fabric along the track on the wall of the fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    The awning fabric is slid along the track on the side of the trailer.

    After installing the awning on the trailer, the mechanics noticed that the two feet that held the bottoms of the two awning arms had each developed hairline cracks. So, they replaced each foot.

    Replace the cracked RV awning foot-min

    The feet of both awning arms had developed small cracks, so they were replaced.

    The last step was to test the awning by rolling it all the way out and then all the way in again.

    New RV awning installed on our fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    Test the awning to make sure it rolls all the way out and all the way in again.

    Completed installation of the new RV awning fabric on a fifth wheel trailer-min

    Done!

    Ta Da!! A job well done. The whole project took 45 minutes from start to finish.

    Now that we’ve seen how a manual RV awning gets installed, Mark is confident he could do it without going to an RV repair shop as long as he had some extra hands for sliding the awning fabric on/off the trailer awning track and on/off the roller track.

    Side note: If you have a manual awning, it is really important that you use some kind of velcro straps or bungee cords wrapped around the awning arms as extra security to keep the awning from accidentally opening while you are traveling.

    Our photo above doesn’t show them, but we have used these awning straps ever since we bought the trailer.

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