Christmas Traditions Past and Present – Lebkuchen!

Christmas is such a special time. it is my favorite holiday — a time of full of wonder and love on many levels. Family traditions are the cozy essence of Christmas for many people, and activities in the kitchen are especially beloved.

Merry Christmas

We’re not thinking about Christmas too much in this photo from Crested Butte, Colorado, but what fun it has been to relive an old Christmas tradition this year.

I love Christmas cooking. However, having chosen to live unusual lifestyles most of my life — living on a sailboat in Boston Harbor in the 1990s, living in our office when my former husband I and founded and ran an IT consulting firm, and then cruising around North America via RV and sailboat for 13 years, I haven’t had the kind of kitchen that was conducive to Christmas fun.

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories, however, is of baking and eating a special kind of German Christmas cookie called Lebkuchen from a recipe that had been in my family since my ancestors lived in Germany in the early 1800s.

It is a honey-based cookie that tastes like no other, and I remember fondly dipping the cookies in milk and later in dipping them in coffee all day long on Christmas Day and for many days afterwards.

My great-grandmother, Emily Riesenberg, learned the recipe (along with many other recipes) from her immigrant mother growing up in a log cabin in Wisconsin, and she became very skilled in the kitchen.

Emily Riesenberg

My great-grandmother and her son Sidney Riesenberg (my great-uncle) in New York’s Yonkers Statesman, June 1, 1928

Although I was blessed with her name, her outstanding culinary skills didn’t make it across the generation gap to me!

She raised four children, one of whom was my great-uncle, Sidney Riesenberg, that I wrote about when we saw the mules at the Grand Canyon last June. He became a well known illustrator in New York. His older brother, Felix Riesenberg, became a well known explorer, tall ship captain and bestselling author.

When Emily had finished raising her family around the turn of the last century, she began submitting her recipes to newspapers and magazines. She was 50 at the time — in 1906 — and as she later told an interviewer with a New York newspaper, “Now it was time for my career!”

Her recipes were published in many publications, including Ladies Home Journal, and she had a weekly column in a Chicago newspaper. Her column, recipes and tips were very popular, and in 1931, at age 76, she published a cookbook called “Easy Baking” that included all her favorite baking recipes.

Renogy 200 watt solar panel

When I was a child, my mother had a cherished copy of this cookbook. It was well worn and stained from being used every year for Christmas baking. My mother would carefully open the book to the Lebkuchen recipe some time in early December and cover the open book with Saran Wrap to prevent us from making any new stains on those precious pages!

A few years ago, my sister found some copies of the cookbook and gave one to me. It had a treasured home in our RV and then in our house. However, each Christmas came and went without me trying my hand at making Lebkuchen.

Easy Baking cookbook by Emily Riesenberg

“Easy Baking” by my namesake!

This year, however, I dove in with gusto. It is an interesting recipe that calls for boiling honey and butter for 5 minutes over a “low fire.” This becomes a very frothy thing! “Soda” is added to water in another step and then the whole thing becomes an extremely sticky batter that has to remain in a covered bowl for 4 days as it “ripens”

Lebkuchen dough ripening for 4 days

The dough has to “ripen” for 4 days. It’s impossible not to peek!

I loved the mystery of all these steps as a child. As I made my way through the recipe this year, I wondered what my great-grandmother would think if she saw me in my kitchen today. It was over 50 years ago that I made these cookies with my mother. 100 years before that, my great-grandmother made these cookies with her mother in a log cabin!

The recipe calls for “citron” or candied citrus fruit peels, and I remember being fascinated by this odd, sticky food that had to be diced very finely. It is a key ingredient in these cookies. Unfortunately, there was none to be found in any of the stores within a half hour drive of our house and none at a reasonable price online either. I imagine that all the true Christmas bakers out there who plan ahead bought it all up before I even got the idea to make these cookies!

I’m sure my great-grandmother would have been quite distressed that I wouldn’t be including any citron in these cookies, but I learned my lesson to start thinking and planning ahead at Thanksgiving. Next time!

After four days of ripening, the dough is extremely dense and requires a huge amount of manipulation to get it to a point where you can roll it out. This was a job my mother always did, and as I wrestled with the dough this afternoon, I remembered watching her putting her whole body weight into getting that dough to comply. I had to do that too!

I didn’t have a rolling pin, but I was able to order one with my Instacart grocery order a few days ago. What would my great-grandmother have thought about my fast flying fingers typing on a keypad so a week’s worth of groceries plus a rolling pin would be delivered at my house the next day?!

Lebkuchen dough ready to be rolled out

The dough is a beast to deal with at first – dense and totally unpliable!

When I was little, we had a huge paper bag full of cookie cutters in all kinds of shapes. There were santas, stars, snowmen and other things. My great-uncle’s favorite cookie cutter was the pig, so we always used that one a lot so there would be plenty of cookies for him.

I don’t have any cookie cutters in my very simple kitchen, but I found that the rim of a mason jar top worked just fine. I could feel my great-grandmother shaking her head at my unpreparedness, but I knew she was smiling too because I was trying, and I had her book open with plastic wrap protecting the pages from flying flour.

Using a mason jar cap to cut Lebkuchen cookies

No cookie cutters? A Mason Jar cap rim did the job very well! I’ll get the ones below next year!

Christmas Cookie Cutters

Back in the early 1900s, ovens didn’t have thermometers, so the Lebkuchen baking instructions were to use a “very moderate” oven (as opposed to a “fast oven” or “slow oven” that were required for her other recipes). No time was given for when they’d be done either — just test them with a toothpick!

I remember my mother being perplexed about what temperature “very moderate” might be and how long to leave the cookies in the oven. And so it was for me today. Would that be 325 degrees or perhaps 350? And for how long? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? 30??

I found other Lebkuchen recipes online (what would my great-grandmother have thought of that?), and the recipes were totally different than this one. None of them let the dough ripen for 4 magical days (and oh yes, we kids often snuck lumps of uncooked dough to snack on secretly when no one was looking — and then we’d be reprimanded when the dough had shrunk by the time baking day rolled around!). The other Lebkuchen recipes online used temperatures anywhere from 300 to 400 degrees, so that didn’t help much!

When I was a little girl, the cookies always got baked somehow. I remember fondly, however, that we always had a batch or two that was quite dark or even burnt on the bottom and a few batches that were too light. Eventually, we’d get our rhythm and they’d all turn out perfectly.

Baking Lebkuchen Christmas cookies

Oh, for my great-grandmother’s skill in the kitchen!

We always made a double batch so we’d have plenty to give away. This involved sifting over 14 cups of flour! On baking day, the cookie sheets went in and out of the oven in a magical, sweet smelling dance all afternoon.

I got a soul enriching whiff of all those memories this afternoon as I listened to Christmas carols and cut little mason jar cap circles out of the dough. I’d made just a half batch of dough, and the smell and taste were right on. They turned out a little hard, however. In fact, they are very very hard! We’ll have to dip them in milk or coffee and tea for a long time!

But that’s part of the fun, and it is exactly how we always dealt with the dark and burnt ones way back when.

German Christmas Lebkuchen cookies

My humble first try. Now I have lots of notes for next year!

My great-grandmother’s recipe (and all the online Lebkuchen recipes) call for icing the cookies, but in our house they never made it that far…eager hands pulled them out of the cookie jar too fast and they disappeared into happy bellies! And so it is at our house this year.

Reese Goosebox

Here is the recipe:

Lebkuchen Recipe by Emily Riesenberg in her cookbook Easy Baking

The ingredient list for making Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen recipe by Emily Risenberg in her cookbook Easy Baking-2

Instructions. Quite different than modern recipe instructions!

For comparison, here is the recipe given by King Arthur Flour. They recommend refrigerating the dough for a day and baking at 350 for 20 to 22 minutes. A commenter suggested wrapping the dough in plastic wrap before refrigerating to keep it moist.

Also, here is the introduction to Emily Riesenberg’s cookbook — an essay by her son, Felix Riesenberg, about the importance of baking homemade bread for the health and happiness of your children!

The importance of baking bread for your children from the cookbook Easy Baking by Emily Riesenberg_

Written by her son, Felix, this little intro speaks volumes about a world of simpler and more wholesome times in America in the 1800s.

Here’s a little about my great-grandmother from the front of the cookbook:

About the author of Easy Baking Emily Riesenberg

About my great-grandmother, Emily Riesenberg

Also, here are the opening paragraphs of the first chapter: key tips every “up to date cook” needs to know about flour!

What Every Cook Should Know introduction to Easy Baking cookbook by Emily Riesenberg

What a different and special world my great-grandmother lived in!

Note added Christmas morning:

Mark and I surprised each other when we opened our gifts and saw we’d gotten each other the same thing! A neighbor who has an artisan woodworking shop invited all the neighbors to come check out his work and buy gifts, and we both snuck out with a gift for the other of a boy (or girl) with a dog. What a sweet coincidence!

Boy and girl with dog made by Rust Art

Mark and I gave each other almost identical gifts this year…with Buddy close to our hearts!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that you take a moment to reminisce about your fondest traditions, even if they aren’t a part of your festivities now. We’d love to hear your stories too!

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50 RV Gift Ideas for Your Beloved RVer (or RV!)

Is there a special RVer in your life who’d appreciate a tool or an appliance or other RV gift for your life on the road — perhaps a memento of your RVing adventures together? Or do you have an RV you love that deserves a little holiday gift wrapped with a bow?

We have our own list of “must have” RV goodies, and we’ve seen some super cute RV related gifts in our travels, and this inspired me to do a little digging online to see if there might be more. Oh my, if you look hard enough there’s a treasure trove out there!

I had a blast “window shopping” — here’s a list of a few things I found.

If something appeals to you, click on the image or the link in the text above it to find out all the details.

For starters, does your beloved RV welcome you home with a cute little mat by the door? Here’s a wonderful RV welcome mat:

Home is where the RV welcome mat is-min

Yes, indeed!

And another fun one:

Just Another Day in Paradise RV Welcome Mat

Welcome home!!

If you’d rather wipe your feet on a super absorbent doormat instead of a decorative welcome mat (we have one), then maybe a little welcome sign would be a gracious way to invite your friends in:

RV Welcome Sign

A warm welcome for your RV guests.

Ya gotta hang your keys up somewhere, and what better place for the RV and car keys than on a fun set of keyhooks?

RV key hooks - The adventure begins

.

And now that you’ve got a great place to hang your keys, how about putting your most important keys on a special keyring?!

RV keyring

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If you want to introduce yourself to your neighbors and give your RV patio a little flair, how about a personalized sign for your campsite?

Personalized RV campsite sign

A personalized sign makes introductions easy.

If you’re a bit shy about putting your name out in front of your rig, maybe just let the neighbors know where the party is with a flag that says “It’s 5:00 Somewhere”!

It's 5 o'clock somewhere garden flag-min

Let the neighbors know where the party is!

Speaking of parties, if yours tend to involve a little wine, then you might find a set of picnic wine glass and bottle holders to be just the thing. Simply shove them in the ground near your camp chairs and your wine will be safe from tipping over.

picnic stix wine glass and bottle holders-min

No spills by the campfire!

For some folks, the stems on wine glasses are a little cumbersome in the RVing life. If you want to go stemless, there are some very cute etched wine glasses made especially for those RVers who are wine drinkers with a camping problem or who are just happy campers:

stemless camping wine glass-min

Is this you — or someone you know??

Happy Camper stemless wine glass-min

Describes every RVer, for sure!

If you’re serving munchies too, then you’ll definitely want to bring out some RV cocktail napkins!

RV cocktail napkins

These will make your guests smile!

There’s nothing like waking up to the perfect cup of coffee, especially after an evening partying with friends, and IMHO the BEST way to make it is pour-over style. This is especially true if you like to boondock. It doesn’t require any electricity and delivers a delicious cup in no time.

Simply place the filter holder on the top of your coffee mug, put a paper filter inside, dump in a scoop of finely ground coffee beans and pour boiling water over the grounds. In a minute or two you have the perfect cup.

Pour over coffee filter holder

The EASIEST way to make coffee in an RV!
Especially for boondockers. No electricity needed!.

If you want to make more than one cuppa joe at a time, get a pour-over coffee carafe. They come in smaller and larger sizes. My family made coffee this way from the time I was 12, and the care we took in making, sharing and drinking it is one of my fondest childhood memories.

The pour-over carafes we suggest come in 36 ounce and 52 ounce sizes.

Pour over coffee carafe

The pour over coffee carafes made by Melitta
come in 36 ounce and 52 ounce sizes.

The reason we recommend disposable paper filters is because you don’t have to deal with the mess of wet coffee grounds. The permanent filters are great in a house where you have endless dishwashing water and no concerns about what goes down the drain. But in an RV, especially when boondocking, cleaning a permanent coffee filter is difficult. That’s also why we don’t use a French Press!

If you want to get really fancy, buy whole beans and grind them yourself so they’re as fresh as can be. We like this coffee grinder:

Coffee grinder

Mark always jokes that morning coffee in our RV is a science project!

You can’t travel in an RV without camping chairs, and of course they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. But how about a camp chair with your RV’s name printed on the back rest or with your name there?! This isn’t a bad idea if you’re headed to a big gathering of RVers in the desert in Quartzsite where lots of folks have nearly identical chairs and the chairs often stay in a ring around the campfire for days on end!

personalized camping chair-min

Personalized camping chair — Will you put your name or the rig’s name on it??

This past summer we swapped out the recliners that came with our Genesis Supreme Toy Hauler with these zero gravity chairs from Best Choice. It was a great upgrade!

Zero Gravity Chairs for an RV

We like these better than the chairs that came with our toy hauler.
We use them inside and outside!

We topped them with these cushions which are very comfortable.

Zero Gravity Chair Cushions

Soft and comfy.

RVers frequently camp in places where you can’t have a campfire. So what could be better than bringing a portable campfire with you? This little guy runs on propane and has a nice flame.

Portable RV campfire

Now you can have a campfire anywhere you take your RV!

50 States 5,000 Ideas Travel Book

No shortage of possibilities!

So far, we’ve been coming up with all kinds of great ideas for making that beloved RV a cozy home for living in and sharing with friends. But how about some travel ideas?

If your loved one needs some travel inspiration, here’s a book that offers 5,000 ideas for where to go with your RV and what to see and do once you get there!

For nature lovers, hikers, photographers and anyone dreaming of seeing America’s stunning National Parks, check out this top rated Guide to the National Parks.

Your Guide to the National Parks

Dreaming of a big RV adventure? Here’s a Guide to the National Parks!

Rand McNally Road Atlas

“Let’s hit the road!”

Are you in the special category of “Wanting to Be an RVer?” and, perhaps, the Love of Your Life is a little hesitant about this crazy new dream of yours?

One way to win him/her over might be the trick that pioneering RVer Kay Peterson used on her husband to inspire him to go RVing full-time.

One day, when she put the sandwich she made him in his lunch box, she wrapped it in a US road map!

The gift of a good quality road atlas can drop a broad hint and comes in very handy for planning your itinerary.

Once you’ve been out having fun in your RV for a while, whether you’ve been traveling for a week, a year, or more, you’ll want to keep a record of all your adventures.

I still cherish the journal I hand wrote (and hand decorated with glued-in photos) of our travels in our popup tent trailer.

Here’s a specially made camping journal with categories and prompts to remind you of all the things you’ll want to remember later:

Camping and RV journal-min

A Camping and RV Travel Journal.

Lots of people wear their hearts on their sleeve, and some go so far as to wear their passions on the fronts of their shirts! Here are a few fun t-shirts (available in men’s and women’s sizes and a rainbow of colors).

If telling the world you love the RVing lifestyle on the front of your shirt isn’t really your style, maybe curling up with some lounge pants decorated with vintage trailers would be more like it!!

Happy camper lounge pants-min

Happy camper vintage trailer lounge pants.

Although it’s nice to lounge around in t-shirts and PJ’s, it’s nice to dress up too. An adorable pair of earrings might be just the thing for your sweetie.

RV earrings

She’ll love them!
Check out these many other styles too!

Guys always love flashlights, and Mark owns quite a few. At least four of his are the Lumintop brand (they make many different types), and he says they’re better quality than his others. One of his favorites is the Lumintop SD26 pocket flashlight. It isn’t made any more, but it’s very similar to the newer Lumintop D2 pocket flashlight which is very bright, rechargeable and has four modes.

Lumintop D2 Flashlight

He’ll be all smiles when he sees this super bright Lumintop D2!

Mark was a Boy Scout, so he likes to be prepared, and his pockets are always full of survival goodies. He actually carries TWO pocket knives, if you can imagine, and he uses them both all the time! One is the tiny Gerber 2 inch folding pocket knife. It has a locking blade and he loves it because the blade is always super sharp. The other is a Victorinox Swiss Army pocket knife. He loves it because of all the tools: scissors, tweezers, toothpick and a file!

Both are tiny — about 2 inches long when folded up!

Gerber LST Pocket Knife

The locking blade on this Gerber LST pocket knife is really sharp and holds its edge.

Victorinox Pocket Swiss Army Knife

Just over 2 inches long, this tiny Swiss Army Knife is full of useful tools!

One more goodie that Mark discovered in the last two years that he asbolutely loves is the Ryobi electric screwdriver. Talk about saving your wrists when you have a lot of screws to deal with!!! I love it to and used it all the time when I was mounting shelves and various things in our new rig. The man in your life — that guy who has everything and is so hard to shop for — will totally love this!

Ryobi electric screwdriver

This little electric screwdriver is the bomb!

Getting back to those special memories that we all create on the road, one fun way to memorialize a particularly special travel moment is to frame a photo of it in a picture frame shaped like an RV. Whether your rolling home requires a motorhome picture frame or a trailer picture frame, there’s a cool one for you:

RV picture frame class C Motorhome-min

A picture frame for that memorable moment from your RV adventures.

RV travel trailer picture frame-min

The trailer version.

Okay, okay, enough of the cutesy RV decorated stuff. How about some practical things that will give your life on the road a little zing and isn’t something you’re likely to find at the local camping store?

First on our list of “must haves” in our RV lifestyle is a set of two-way radios. We use these radios to help us back up and park the trailer, to communicate when hiking in glorious remote locations, and when we get separated in Walmart too. No cell phone reception needed!

Midland 36-mile 50-channel two-way radios-min

We have had Midland 36-mile radios since we started in 2007 and wouldn’t RV without them.

For anyone with a small RV, a top quality set of nesting pots and pans is a joy. We bought a set of Magma nesting pots and pans when we moved onto our sailboat in 2010, and we still use them now in our trailer.

magma nesting cookware for RV travel-min

We bought these pots and pans for our boat and still use them every day.

magma nesting cookware for RV camping-min

The whole set fits into one pot!

Another kitchen item I really loved having with us in our toy hauler’s dollhouse sized kitchen this past summer is my tiny Cuisinart food processor. If you like chopped salads, salsa and guacamole, and your storage space is minimal, this little gadget is a must have.

Cuisinart Elemental 4-Cup Food Processor

Makes guac & salsa in a minute flat and takes up very little space.

There are so many cute things out there to dress up the RV galley. One fun way to give it some color is to hang up pretty hand towels. We saw these hand towels when we visited the La Posada Hotel gift shop in Winslow Arizona and just loved them.

RV and retro travel trailer hand towels-min

Decorative hand towels.

How about a set of RV decorated dishes, each with a unique (and inviting) camping scene?!

Camping dishes with travel trailer RV designs-min

What a great dishware set for your travels!

There’s also a very cool serving bowl (with serving spoons)!

RV bowl and serving set with travel trailer design-min

A serving bowl (and serving spoons) to go with the dishes

Okay, let’s get back to the practical stuff that isn’t decorated with adorable vintage RVs.

Nothing says “love” like power tools, and the two we use most are our cordless drill and cordless impact driver. We use the drill to raise and lower the stabilizer jacks on the back of our trailer (explained in this article), and Mark uses the impact drill every time he changes a tire on either the trailer or the truck (check out how he changes that inner rear wheel on the dually!). I’d like to say that doesn’t happen too often…but unfortunately he’s changed a lot of tires since we started RVing full-time!!

Ryobi Cordless Drill Combo Set

Cordless drill and impact driver set. Mark loves these!

Of course, the way to measure the difficulty of any RV repair job is by how many beers it takes to complete. Whether it’s a one beer job or a two beer job, it goes much better if the beer is cold right to the last drop. Mark LOVES his Yeti koozie.

Yeti beer koozie-min

For the beer drinker with a camping problem!
Cold to the last drop…

If you don’t need your stainless steel beer koozie to say “Yeti” on it, there are other brands that are much cheaper.

Yeti is known for its coolers, but we found that the much cheaper Lifetime coolers are excellent too. We keep one in the back of our Polaris RZR. Lifetime is the right name for that company too. One of the latches on our original Lifetime cooler failed after a few years, and when we contacted the company about it, they swapped out our cooler for a brand new one!

Lifetime Cooler

We love our Lifetime cooler!

One of my favorite parts of the RV lifestyle is kicking back with a leisurely morning cup of tea. My mug (a birthday gift from Mark) says “I love you,” but a pair of “Life is better in a camper” mugs would be pretty cool too!

RV coffee mugs with travel trailer-min

“Life is Better in a Camper” coffee mugs!

Retro trailers are all the rage, but there’s a coffee mug for motorhome lovers too.

RV coffee mug motorhome at night in woods-min

Motorhome camping scene on a coffee mug.

If you’ve got kids or friends over at your campsite, and you’re looking for fun things to do, a party game might fill the bill. Corn Hole and Ring Toss are portable and easy to set up.

Corn Hole Game for RV camping-min

Something fun to do at the campsite besides sit around the campfire!

Ring Toss Camping Game-min

Ring toss game.

For families that get stuck indoors on a rainy day, a fun way for the kids to get some laughs and learn a little at the same time is to play the game Mad Libs. I saw this in a gift shop and remembered loving it as a kid, and I couldn’t resist buying it for my grandkids.

If the kids haven’t learned the difference between a noun and a verb at school yet (and lord knows if the schools are even teaching that these days), this game makes it fun and easy to learn!

RV gift Mad Libs game-min

This is a fun (and funny) indoor rainy day word game.

For RVers who love birds (like me), we’ve seen some beautiful little wooden bird houses shaped like trailers.

We love to hang a hummingbird feeder from our RV, and we have a special one that mounts on our window with a suction cup mount. It’s a blast to sit inside and watch the crazy antics of these tiny birds as they duke it out with each other at the feeder. For anyone who enjoys photography, this kind of feeder is a hoot (blog posts about our humming bird experiences here and here).

Hummingbird Feeder window suction cup mount-min

We hang a hummingbird feeder on our RV window with a suction cup mount.

Window hummingbird feeder

We’ve enjoyed this feeder on our trailer so much we got one for our house too!

Speaking of photography, November and December are the best time of the year to buy a camera. The deals get sweeter and sweeter! If a fancy new camera is on your wish list, now is the time to get one. For us (and many others), Nikon is the brand to buy.

The photography world is a bit split right now between folks on the cutting edge who have new technology mirrorless cameras and those who have a big investment in older technology DSLR lenses that are sticking with DSLR cameras. The mirrorless cameras cost a premium because they are the new technology while the DSLR cameras are a true bargain right now.

At the high end, the camera that has taken the photography world by storm is the mirrorless Nikon Z8 camera. Nikon’s entry level mirrorless camera is the Nikon Z30. Their mid-range full-frame mirrorless camera is the Nikon Z5. If you have an unlimited budget, get the Nikon Z9!

In the older technology DSLR world, at the high end the Nikon D850 rivals the new mirrorless Nikon Z8 in many respects (it has the same sensor) yet it can be purchased for two-thirds or half the price. In the mid-range, the Nikon D780 is an excellent full-frame choice. The entry level Nikon D5600 is a fine camera. We use ours when we’re out on the RZR or driving the truck!

Nikon Z8 camera

November / December is the best time to buy a new camera.

And last of all, whether you’re going to celebrate Christmas in your RV living room or in the living room of a stickbuilt home, why not decorate your Christmas tree with a little RV love?! There are lots of RV Christmas ornaments available including these two:

Airstream RV Christmas ornament

Why not hang a little Airstream on your Christmas tree?!

RV Christmas tree ornament

There are lots of RV Christmas ornaments out there!

On a totally different topic, Mark just came in and suggested I add a note to remind you that now is a great time to exercise your onboard generator, if you have one, and if your rig is not going to be used for a while. He’s got ours going with two electric heaters running full blast so it’s got a good load on it…!

Also, if you are in a warmer climate, like we are, where you can avoid fully winterizing your rig but still experience temps below freezing for a few hours every night, make sure the holding tanks are empty and the fresh water tank is either empty or has lots of water in it, and open all the faucets.

For MORE RV gift ideas, see our post: 101 Great RV Gift Ideas for RVers, Campers and Outdoor Lovers!

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More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Lost & Found – An Unexpected Guest Visits Us in our RV!

Spring 2020 – We were walking across a huge, empty gravel parking lot in Camp Verde, Arizona, one day when we noticed something white fluttering around on the ground. It was midday and incredibly hot out, probably 95 degrees or more.

At first we thought it was a piece of tissue paper and paid little attention. As we got closer, though, we saw it was some kind of animal. When we were a few steps away, we realized it was a white parakeet!

What the heck?!

Lost & Found Parakeet - An unexpected guest in our RV

An unexpected guest came to visit!

The bird was struggling to stand and trying desperately to fly. It kept flopping away from us as best it could. But it could barely hold itself up and kept falling over.

In a different life, long ago, I used to raise budgies and I had several breeding pairs. So, I instinctively scooped up this poor bedraggled little thing in my hands to comfort it and have a better look.

It had a brown “cere” — the little nose area with nostrils that’s just above the beak, so it was a female (males have a blue cere). I looked at Mark as I held this dear but pathetic little creature to my cheek and shrugged — what do we do now??!!

A lost budgie is found and we entertain her in our RV

Our new little friend was a female.

The whole area around us was industrial, dusty, dry, and baking in the sun. There was one house a ways off. We knocked on the door but they said they weren’t missing a parakeet.

We noticed a Veterinary Supply store down the street and poked our heads in the door. They shook their heads and said there were no escaped parakeets that they knew of.

We realized we could walk all the streets of town for days and still not find the owner. People were at work, and even though our little friend was exhausted right now, she could have flown a long distance before she got here.

We decided to take her back to our trailer where it was cool and we could give her some much needed food and water. We put her in a bucket (with a top!) in the back seat of the truck. On our way home, we passed a veterinarian’s office and asked if they’d heard any reports of a missing white budgie. No, but they suggested we call Bill Harvey of Wild Birds.

We left a message with Bill and then made a stop at the Feed Store to get some bird seed. Even better, they had millet spray! This is a “finger” of dried millet seeds that are still clustered on the stalk. Budgies love it!

Once home, we put her on the table. She promptly flew up to a shelf high up on the wall. Mark found a nice twig and secured it on the edge of the shelf. She liked the looks of this new perch, so she slowly sidled out onto it, contentedly fluffed up her feathers and closed her eyes.

Ahh…rest at last!

Lost parakeet is found and cared for in an RV

She was so exhausted she started dozing as soon as she was comfortable on her new perch.

After a few minutes she put her head under her wing for a good long snooze. She was down for the count for the next 12 hours!

Tired lost & found parakeet

Goodnight!

We were pleased that although Buddy was curious about her, he was very polite. He seemed to know not to frighten her. So, he left her alone and took a nap too.

Napping puppy in an RV

Buddy likes naps too!

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The next morning we were thrilled to find that she was still alive. She hadn’t moved from her perch, but her eyes were open.

Lost parakeet still alive in the morning

She was still alive the next morning!

Mark tied the millet spray onto her perch, and boy, did her face light up! She dove right in and had a feast.

Happy parakeet with millet spray

Yum…

Parakeet eats millet spray after being lost & found

Don’t mind if I do!

Then she went over to the corner and took another nap. Her little “crop” was bulging. The “crop” is a small pouch below a bird’s neck and above their breast bone where the food they swallow is stored for later digestion. That way they can quickly bolt their food while they’re on the ground and then fly up to the safety of a tree.

Lost & found parakeet in an RV

Crop full and perched high up out of harms way — this was a very happy little bird.

A little while later she began grooming herself. She was coming around quickly!

Lost & found parakeet in an RV grooming

She began getting her feathers back in place.

Over the next two days she got stronger and stronger. She loved her little perch and the shelf Mark had attached it to. That was now her corner of the trailer.

Lost & found parakeet in an RV

Peek-a-boo!

We were all getting used to being together. But then we got a call back from Bill at Wild Bird. He hadn’t heard about an escaped budgie, but he suggested we call Roxanne at the pet store “Feathers and Friends” in the Village of Oak Creek near Sedona.

So, we called, and Roxanne said she’d be more than happy to take care of our little friend until she could find a good home for her.

The timing was perfect. Our sweet guest had gotten all her energy back and she was starting to go exploring around our trailer!

A lost & found parakeet was an unexpected guest in our RV

“Hmmmm…I wonder what’s over here?!”

When we arrived at the pet shop, Roxanne had already set up a cage for her, complete with food, water, some natural branch perches, a swing, a bell and a mirror! We put the little bird in her new cage and she settled right in.

We were sad to leave her behind, but we’ll remember our few days with our little house guest forever. As I turned to say goodbye, she didn’t even notice. She was busy playing with her bell, and she was surrounded by happy birds of all different kinds in nearby cages.

A few days later, we called to see how our feathered friend was doing. She’d already been adopted and taken to her new home!

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Winged Migration

Info about the pet store that found our friend a new home:

For bird and animal lovers

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News & Tidbits from the Roads Less Traveled

Even when we’re not out traveling, our photos and memories swirl around us all the time. We have 100 framed 8×10 glossy photos from our travels hanging on our walls at home.

Travel photos from a life of RVing and Sailing

Our memories come alive for us in our photos.
A friend once joked that a walk down our hallway is like a walk down Memory Lane!

Even better, every so often we’re able to share our experiences and the beauty of what we’ve seen with the rest of the world in formats beyond this blog! Happily, that has happened a few times in recent weeks.

Wholesale Warranties Interviews RLT!

This past week we were interviewed by Jim Hoffman, VP of Wholesale Warranties. Not far into the interview, we learned that the owner of the company, Jeff Shelton, founded Wholesale Warranties after he was unhappily stranded in broken down RV, dealing with the stress of a huge and unexpected repair bill! Oh my, that sounds familiar!

So, he started a company to broker RV warranties to help other RVers minimize the stress that comes with a disaster like that. They helped us immensely with a series of calamitous breakdowns on our fifth wheel trailer a few years back.

Jim wanted to hear what we thought of both the truck camper and the toy hauler we’ve purchased since we moved out of our full-timing fifth wheel. And he was eager to hear about our latest adventures in Colorado.

Wholesale Warranties interviews Mark & Emily of Roads Less Traveled

We had a lot of fun with this interview! Watch it here on Facebook or here on YouTube

We also described some of the mishaps and breakdowns we had this year. (It was ugly out there for a while!)

When we faced our massive truck repair bill, we sure wished we had an extended warranty for it. One of the things that was most reassuring with the trailer warranty we’d had was that we could call Wholesale Warranties and talk to a friendly person that was on our side and wanted to help us get the repair done under warranty. However, we’d assumed that a new diesel truck would make it to at least 100,000 miles before having a major malfunction, so we never considered an extended warranty for it… Sigh.

You can watch the interview here on Facebook (higher res) or here on YouTube (lower res).

Turbo Diesel Register Calendar

During our intensive research into our diesel truck problems, Mark spent a lot of time perusing the Turbo Diesel Register Forum.

While he was hanging there, he noticed they were having a photo contest, so he entered it. Lo and behold, his photo is going to appear in the 2024 Turbo Diesel Register wall calendar! It will be the month of October.

Dodge Ram diesel pickup with a fifth wheel trailer

Turbo Diesel Register Wall Calendar – Month of October – Mark Fagan

Reese Goosebox

Souvenir Wall Calendars

Quite a few of our photos have appeared on souvenir wall calendars over the years. Last year, four of our photos were selected for 2024. Then, a few weeks ago, we learned that six more of our photos will appear on decorative wall calendars in 2025!

These calendars can be found for sale at gift shops, boutique stores and even supermarkets in tourist towns. When I know more about how to obtain them online, I’ll let you know!

In the meantime, here are the pics that were chosen. We’re thrilled!

2024 Wall Calendar Photos

EmilyFagan15 Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park in the snow
2024 Utah Mighty 5 National Parks Calendar – Month of February – Emily Fagan

MarkFagan30 for 2024 Northern Arizona

Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly National Park Arizona
2024 Arizona Calendar Cover and Month of July – Mark Fagan

EmilyFagan10 Sedona

West Fork Trail, Sedona Arizona
2024 Sedona Calendar – Month of August – Emily Fagan

MarkFagan10 for 2024 Sedona

Bell Rock Pathway in Sedona Arizona in the snow
2024 Sedona Arizona Calendar – Month of December – Mark Fagan

2025 Wall Calendar Photos

The specific months have not been assigned to our photos yet, but they will be!

Sedona Arizona Winter Scene

Sedona Arizona Winter Scene – 2025 Sedona Arizona Calendar – Emily Fagan

Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona Calendar – Mark Fagan

Idaho Bow Bridge at Draper Wood Preserve

Bow Bridge – 2025 Idaho Calendar – Emily Fagan

Granite Dells Prescott Arizona

Granite Dells – 2025 Northern Arizona Calendar – Mark Fagan

Selway River Idaho at sunset

Selway River – 2025 Idaho Calendar – Emily Fagan

Mormon Temple in Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls Mormon Temple – 2025 Idaho Calendar – Mark Fagan

RV hose Water Bandit

Escapees Magazine Covers

We’ve been members of Escapees RV Club almost as long as we’ve been RVing. In our first winter of full-time RVing, new friends we met in the desert around Quartzsite Arizona recommended the club highly. We were skeptical at first — why join a club when you’ve just left the conventional world to go live an exotic life? But we have really enjoyed our membership over the years and highly recommend it to you too if you’re an RVer.

It is an unusual club founded by full-time RVers Kay and Joe Peterson back in 1978. It has a top notch bi-monthly magazine, an excellent online forum, a variety of RV parks with reasonable rates (and cheaper rates for dry camping…a rarity in any RV park), a mail forwarding facility that is so big it has its own Zip code, and an incredible headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, that even includes an assisted living home base for RVers. Plus webinars, rallies, bootcamps and more.

A few months ago, and then again a month from now, our photos were featured on the cover of Escapees Magazine. These are our 43rd and 44th magazine covers (see more here). It is always a magical feeling when we see one of our photos on a cover!

Escapees Magazine Cover

A cover with Buddy in it! – March/April 2023 – Mark Fagan

RV in the Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies – Upcoming issue – Emily Fagan

That’s it for our extra-curricular news for now. Thanks for reading and happy trails!

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Further reading:

Our RV warranty experiences:

  • Our photography gear – This page needs to be updated, but if you want to get into photography, you can buy any of the cameras/lenses described there used for pennies on the dollar via Craigslist or MPB.

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What’s not to love about RV life? Breakdowns & Repairs!

We love RV life. There’s something so intimate and rustic about living in a crazy, small rolling box, and there’s something so exciting about discovering new places and meeting new people. Those things just don’t happen in the same way or with the same frequency when we stay home!

But there’s another side to RV life that eventually hits every RVer: unexpected breakdowns and repairs. Ugh!

What's not to love about RV life? Breakdowns and Repairs!

Ahem… Breakdowns and repairs!

Of course, conventional sticks-and-bricks lifestyles often involve unexpected breakdowns and repairs too. But in an RV these things usually happen in a place where you don’t know anyone and somtimes happen in a place where there’s no one around!

When your sole means of transportation (and housing) isn’t functioning, your travel plans get totally upended, and it’s easy to feel vulnerable.

2015 – The Year of The Breakdown!

For most of our years of full-time RV travel, our equipment failures were spaced out enough so we could tackle each one without being overwhelmed. Back in 2015, however, we had a series of major RV breakdowns on a two month trip from Nova Scotia to Arizona.

Our fifth wheel’s roof sprang a leak during the endless torrential rains in Nova Scotia. Our living room rug was completely soaked! We bent an axle on a potholed back road in Nova Scotia. Our RV refrigerator died in Kentucky. Then our fresh water tank cracked and our RV toilet quit working. And the trailer suspension failed completely as we arrived Arizona.

What an insane cross-country trip that was!

Reese Goosebox

Yet, as with all of life’s ups and downs, what’s most important is never the problems themselves. What matters is how you react to them.

The things that stand out in our memories from that trip in 2015 aren’t the breakdowns. Actually, I had to re-read my logs to remember all the things that went wrong because those memories have faded. Instead, what we remember most from that span of time were our great travel adventures.

We loved the quaint charm of Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia, and we were smitten by the coastal beauty of far Downeast Maine. We’ll always remember the incredible kindness of the RV service shop manager in Bangor where our trailer axle was replaced and our ride on the Cog Railway in New Hampshire. We were heartened by the incredibly warm community in Maysville, Kentucky, where we were treated like long lost family for our entire three week stay. When our RV refrigerator died shortly after leaving Kentucky, we had a blast barbecuing all our frozen meat in a Camping World parking lot and sharing it with the mechanics who’d replaced our fridge.

Those kinds of experiences are why we get such a kick out of RV travel, and if we can get through the breakdowns and repairs unscathed, all the better.

Our Downeast Maine RV trip involved many breakdowns and repairs

Downeast Maine – Despite all the breakdowns, 2015 was one of our best RV travel years!!

Fast forward to 2023

This summer we were on a Rocky Mountain high for over 10 weeks. But in between our sunset strolls on the beach, hikes alongside gurgling streams and gorgeous wildflowers in the snowcapped mountains, we had one breakdown after another. Mark’s To Do list of repairs grew longer with time, not shorter, as he struggled to keep up.

It was a real challenge at times to keep our spirits up. But then we’d see a stunning sunset or the play of light and shadow on the mountains, and we’d remember why we were out roaming around in our RV, even if our equipment was falling apart.

In the end, though, we cut our summer season short by about 3-4 weeks when our bathroom skylight sprang a leak on a bitterly cold and sopping wet night on a mountaintop. By then, our furnace was broken, the roof was leaking and we could no longer unhitch the truck (details below).

Honda EU2200i portable gas generator

In our full-time RV lifestyle, we would have sought out a comfortable location where we could tackle these repairs one by one. We would have stopped sightseeing and kicked back until we were caught up! In that lifestyle, losing a month or two of sightseeing is no big deal because there are always unlimited sightseeing opportunities ahead.

However, in our seasonal RV travels, we not only have the option to go home at any time, but we know that home is the final destination. Each day of travel is more precious than if we were full-timing because the number of days is finite, and we hate to waste any time with a breakdown.

Dog relaxes at sunset near his RV

Buddy was loving every minute of our travels and was oblivious to our equipment failures.

Likewise, if an RV breakdown grounds us in one spot for a long time until it’s fixed, we’d much rather be living in the comfort of our own home and dealing with the repair there than be out in some remote location with few resources.

Those are some of the subtle differences between seasonal RVing and full-time RVing: The ability to run home vs. making the best of being “home” already; the pressure to make the most of each day in the trip vs. letting life’s storms blow over and resuming our travels afterwards.

So, we had an interesting pairing of truly beautiful destinations and travel adventures this summer alongside some very frustrating breakdowns and repairs.

Here’s a recap:

RV breakdowns and repairs in the RV life - checking under the hood of the truck

Mark checks the engine once again…

TRUCK BREAKDOWN

Our big beautiful 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck began throwing error codes towing our trailer up Monarch Pass. This is a beast of a mountain pass that our truck would ordinarily shrug off as no big deal.

However, as we climbed this pass, the Check Engine light came on three times accompanied by several error codes related to the throttle position sensor and the turbo actuator. The truck went into Limp Mode each time, unable to maintain the speed of traffic.

Sign at the Monarch Pass summit

.

We had to pull over and turn the truck off to clear the codes so we could drive at the normal speed of traffic for a few more miles. Then the Check Engine light would come on again and we’d repeated the whole process. Fortunately, there are lots of pullouts on the Monarch pass ascent where disabled vehicles like ours can seek refuge!

Once over the pass, we continued on to Buena Vista and found a safe place to park about 200 yards off the highway outside of town. The truck didn’t throw any codes until we pulled off the highway. Luckily, our jaunt down a lumpy US Forest Service road was short. Although we didn’t know it when set up camp, that spot would become our home for the next three weeks!

RV parked under a dark cloud

As we set up camp, a storm was brewing…in more ways than one.

It turned out the truck had three separate problems. Why they all hit at once, we’ll never know.

Throttle Position Sensor

The first failure was the Throttle Position Sensor which is part of the accelerator pedal. We found a local diesel mechanic who replaced it within a week (we had to wait for the part to arrive) and the error code never came back.

Exhaust Manifold and Turbo Failures

The other two problems were inextricably linked: the exhaust manifold and the turbocharger. We spent a lot of time learning about these parts, why they tend to fail, and what it takes to replace them. Yikes! If one or both of these fail, you’ve got a huge and expensive repair on your hands.

Two of the bolt studs at either end of the exhaust manifold had completely sheered off! Why? The exhaust manifold repeatedly expands and contracts from heating and cooling. Ultimately, this expansion/contraction caused the exhaust manifold to warp, and that bent and eventually broke the studs.

RV breakdowns and repairs: We replaced the exhaust manifold in our Dodge Ram dually 3500

We discovered this is actually a fairly common problem! It can happen at any time. Sometimes it occurs in the first few thousand miles under warranty, sometimes at 85,000 miles like our truck was, and sometimes at 150 thousand miles or more.

The Ram exhaust manifold is a single piece of steel, and the heat in that area is extremely high. To avoid warping, several after market exhaust manifolds are made in two pieces that fit into one another like a sleeve. This allows for expansion and contraction without stress as the surrounding temperature changes, and prevents the bolt studs from breaking.

RV breakdowns and repairs: we replaced the exhaust manifold in our Ram truck

The signature symptom of a failing exhaust manifold is both the smell of diesel fumes in the cab of the truck and a high pitched whine caused by air leaks when the engine is running.

As we learned all this, we realized that our old 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 probably had loose or broken bolts on the exhaust manifold as well. We had thought the occasional smell of diesel exhaust in that truck cab was due to the engine going into a Regen, but it was probably exhaust leaking from the exhaust manifold.

Exhaust gas blowing through the engine is not good for it. So, our companion gear failure was the engine turbocharger which had become totally gunked up from filthy exhaust air blowing through it. There was black, sticky, gooey stuff all over the turbo fins. Unfortunately, we had to replace turbocharger.

RV breakdowns and repairs: we installed a new Fleece Performance Cheetah turbocharger

Ironically, one afternoon a Ford diesel truck towing a large utility trailer came flying into the area we were camping. White smoke billowed out the tailpipe. We chatted with the driver and his companions as they waited for a tow truck from their shop in Kansas to come and tow them home. They were certain their truck’s turbocharger had failed too.

The stringent emissions requirements on diesel engines make the turbochargers on all pickup brands susceptible to failure because exhaust fumes flow through them rather than fresh air.

Our biggest dilemma was deciding where to have the work done. We were in the heart of the Rockies which is full of small mountain towns and high elevation mountain passes. We spent several days talking to diesel mechanics with top Google and Yelp ratings from as far away as Grand Junction, Denver, Colorado Springs and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Labor prices ranged from $120/hour to $200/hour. Mandatory diagnostic fees ranged from $85 to $450. Prices of parts ranged from the prices we saw advertised online to twice the prices found online. Getting scheduled for the repair ranged from next week to two months from now. Solutions ranged from “We use only Dodge (Mopar) OEM parts” to “We prefer the after market brands BD Diesel, Cheetah and ATF.”

Needless to say, it was dizzying interviewing these mechanics and narrowing down which one would be a good fit.

Gondolas on the ski lift at Monarch Pass

There are gondola rides at Monarch Pass. Next time!

The trickiest thing was that in order to drive our truck to a mechanic, we faced a towering mountain pass in every direction: Monarch Pass, Hoosier Pass, Cottonwood Pass and Kenosha Pass all lay between us and the diesel mechanics we talked to. We were concerned the truck wouldn’t make it towing the trailer. If the truck died en route, we’d have a huge towing bill on top of the repair bill!

In the end, we hired the local diesel mechanic who had replaced the throttle position sensor. He was a highly rated one man operation and was good hearted and knowledgeable but swamped. He stopped answering his phone or responding to messages during the weeks we worked with him. It was a dark time for us as we wondered what was going on and whether he could do the job. However, he got it done.

In the end, the parts and labor for all the truck repairs came to $6,000. Ouch!!

Time for a Vacation!

In the interim, the truck was okay to drive if it wasn’t towing the trailer. So, to improve our spirits and put our minds back on the right track after 10 days of waiting for the throttle position sensor repair and doing a deep dive into exhaust manifolds and turbos, we left the trailer in its boondocking spot and went on a two night mini vacation to the town of Frisco!

Upon arrival in town the first morning, we treated ourselves to a delightful breakfast out. Eggs Benedict and pancakes served at a sunny outdoor cafe under bright yellow umbrellas on the edge of a quaint street was just what the doctor ordered. Our good spirits were instantly restored.

A vacation from RV life when there are breakdowns and repairs

A tasty breakfast on a flower-filled patio far from our RV troubles put us in great spirits.

We strolled the town, checked out the campgrounds, walked the shores of pretty Dillon Reservoir and took part in Frisco’s weekly outdoor music festival one evening. What fun!

By the time we got back to the trailer, the parts had arrived and we were totally refreshed and ready to deal with the awkward logistics of the truck, trailer and repair. Luckily, the repair took just one very long day that kept the mechanic in his shop until well after dark.

TRAILER EQUIPMENT FAILURES

Furnace

We’ve used our RV furnace many times since we bought the trailer in 2022, but it suddenly quit working after a few weeks in Colorado. Of course, this was on a very cold morning when we really needed it!

The gas flame would light and the blower would blow, but then the flame would go out. Sometimes it would stay lit for 3 seconds before going out. Sometimes it would last for a few minutes. But it never stayed on long enough to warm up the trailer. It just cycled on and off repeatedly.

Suburban furnace in a fifth wheel toy hauler

Hmmm….so what part of this RV furnace is broken??

Mark troubleshot it in depth, tearing the whole furnace apart. The orifice that might have been clogged was totally clear. The sail switch was also working perfectly. We concluded that it needed a new motherboard (a few hundred dollars). We just lived without the furnace for the rest of the summer even though we wished we could use it on many cold mornings.

Ironically, now that we’re home and it’s 95 degrees in the afternoons, the furnace is working like a charm. It might have been the altitude. We’ll see how it goes during our upcoming winter camping trips.

Landing Legs

When we arrived in Lake Granby and started to unhitch, the clutch on the trailer’s landing legs started slipping as we extended them to raise the front of the trailer. We were barely able to raise it enough to get the truck out. So, after we hitched up to leave, we decided not to unhitch again until we got home. Fortunately, the RZR was able to get us where we needed to go in the interim.

Mark had to replace the landing legs on our Hitchhiker fifth wheel many years ago, and he did it while boondocking in the Arizona desert. He was prepared to do it again, but now that we’re home, just like the finicky furnace, the landing legs seem okay!

So we’re waiting to see if it happens again. Replacement landing legs are about $700-$800.

Skylight Leak

On one of the last nights of our trip, we were camping at about 9,500’ in a remote part of northern Colorado when a massive rain storm blew in. After a few hours, we heard “drip-drip-drip” in the shower and discovered the bathroom skylight had sprung a leak. Fortunately, it was dripping into the shower, so the puddle of water was contained! However, that equipment failure was the final straw that sent us packing for home.

Quitting early didn’t end our fun summer travel adventures, though. On our way home, we had lots of good times in Utah that we’ll share with you.

After we got home, Mark was able to fix the leak using Flex Seal Liquid. 24 hours later, a huge overnight rainstorm came through and proved to us that his repair is good! Yay!

RV breakdowns & repairs: Flex Seal liquid fixed a leak

POLARIS RZR SIDE-BY-SIDE BREAKDOWN & FAILURES

Our Polaris RZR had always been very reliable but this year it had several failures.

Overheating

First, it overheated at the top of a mountain near Rico near the beginning of our trip. We were several miles from our campsite! Mark is a quick thinker, though, and he put it in neutral and we coasted for 3 miles all the way down the mountain!

Polaris 900 RZR side by side breakdown and repair

Even our trusty RZR acted up on this trip!

At the bottom, the engine had cooled enough for him to start it up again and drive us the final mile back to our campsite. He topped off the anti-freeze that had steamed off, and the engine temps have been fine ever since. We think it was caused either by the high altitude (10,500’) and/or by inadvertently climbing the mountain at slower speeds in high gear.

Ignition Switch

One day, Mark tried to start the RZR and it wouldn’t start. When he turned the ignition switch off, the start motor kept running! He had to disconnect the battery cable to get it to turn it off. He removed the ignition switch and lubed it with WD-40. Then he put the key in the ignition (with the battery disconnected) and worked it back and forth in the On and Off positions repeatedly. This fixed it. However, just to be on the safe side, he then installed a new ignition switch.

Battery corrosion

When we were having our problems with the ignition switch, the RZR started having trouble with cold starts. The engine would turn over but it wouldn’t stay running when it was cold in the morning. Checking things out, Mark discovered the terminals on the brand new battery he’d just installed were extremely corroded. That might have explained why it wouldn’t stay running. The corrosion was odd, however, because the old original factory installed battery he’d replaced after five years had had clean terminals!

We talked to several Polaris service shops in our travels and they said it was either inferior lead in the battery (an AGM battery from O’Reilly’s) or a loose battery connection.

Mark cleaned the connections with a battery terminal wire brush. The connections seemed tight. However, they were so corroded he decided to cut the terminals off the battery cables and replace them. He protected the new terminals from future corrosion with CRC spray. He has checked the battery frequently since then, and there is no corrosion.

RV breakdowns and repairs: we replaced the Polaris RZR ignition switch

MAIL FORWARDING => LOST POSTAL MAIL

When we set up our mail forwarding for the summer, USPS left off the mailbox number (PMB) when they entered our forwarding address on their computers! This meant the company receiving our forwarded mail, Americas Mailbox, had to look up our mailbox number manually for each piece of mail that arrived.

We discovered that Americas Mailbox doesn’t look up PMB numbers during the busy summer season, though. Instead, they return those pieces of mail to the sender.

Our local postmaster tried to enter our PMB number on our mail forwarding address on the USPS computers, but to no avail. Only two pieces of mail came through with a USPS mail forwarding sticker that included our PMB number.

A few pieces of mail came through with a hand written PMB number because some kind soul at Americas Mailbox took the time to look it up.

We never received at least 80% our mail. Many companies who got the returned mail then assumed our home address was invalid. So, we’ve had to reassure them that our home address is still correct. What a mess!

How did this screw-up happen? On the USPS mail forwarding form, there is a box where you enter your PMB or Apartment number. In the future, we will put the PMB number on the same line as the street address rather than putting it in that box!

On the bright side, we found out that the website Americas Mailbox uses for customers to see their mail and request it to be forwarded to them, ipostal.com, actually offers a mail forwarding service directly.

This is great for seasonal RVers because you can choose an address that is near your home. That way, your mail doesn’t have to travel cross-country to a far distant mail forwarding company. Also, you’ll see your incoming mail within a day or two rather than a week later.

You can buy just a single month or two months of mail forwarding. Even better, because they don’t offer vehicle registration and other services, iPostal’s fees are much cheaper than full service companies like Americas Mailbox. However, iPostal is not an ideal option for full-timers who need those additional services.

Renogy 200 watt solar panel

INTERNET ACCESS PROBLEMS

For most of our full-time RVing lives and for last summer’s RV adventure we used a Verizon MiFi Jetpack 8800 hotspot for internet access. Before we left this year, we used it for a few months at home and all was well.

However, when we got to Colorado it didn’t work in the small mountain towns between Cortez and Gunnison, including Rico, the outskirts of Telluride, the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Silver Thread Scenic Byway to Creede and South Fork. We went for 17 days without internet access in the rig.

Talking with the locals, we discovered most Coloradans in that area use AT&T. Interestingly, when we’d camped near Dubois, Wyoming, last summer, a fellow RVer with an AT&T hotspot was getting an adequate signal while our Verizon hotspot had no service at all.

Dealing with RV breakdowns and repairs in the RV life

Up the creek…but at least he’s got a paddle!

So, when we got to Gunnison, we picked up an AT&T 5G hotspot. We had internet access for the rest of our trip. The AT&T 5G hotspot was generally faster than the Verizon 4G hotspot. In many places we had good service via AT&T and nothing via Verizon.

However, the AT&T hotspot is a Franklin A50 model, and it has a very flaky battery and even flakier charger. We’ve had trouble turning the hotspot on and off, and the charger failed completely. Luckily, the Verizon charger works on the AT&T hotspot. However, it was frustrating to buy a hotspot that had so many problems.

More distressing, though, was when AT&T charged us a day ahead of time for our prepaid month of service and promptly shut down our service because “we had no data left!” WTH??!!

This happened first thing on a Saturday morning. I called AT&T and discovered — to my horrified astonishment — that they provide support only on weekdays!!

We’ve thought about Starlink and have friends who have it and love it in the places where they’ve traveled so far in Arizona. However, at $600 for the equipment, it’s a pricey piece of gear. It’s big and ungainly for quickie overnights in pullouts and rest areas, and it doesn’t work while you’re moving. Their service continues to evolve, though, so we’ll keep an eye on their offerings.

We’ve never had multiple hotspots before, but we liked the ability to choose one or the other. Now that we’re home, we’ve been surprised that the Verizon 4G hotspot is consistently far faster than the AT&T 5G hotspot, even with 5 bars of 5G.

Hotspot speed depends entirely on where the tower is in relation to where you are, whether it is equipped for 4G or 5G, whether your hotspot can receive 4G or 5G, and how busy the tower is for that provider.

Bottom line, we could have avoided those 17 days of being incommunicado if we’d had an AT&T hotspot at the time. But we were many miles from an AT&T retailer. Fortunately, the store in Gunnison was able to order one for us when we got there.

The Verizon store in the same strip mall told us they didn’t sell hotspots and couldn’t order one. We’d been mildly interested in upgrading to a Verizon 5G hotspot because there were rumors a tower near where we’d been camping had Verizon 5G but not 4G. If 4G equipment is being removed when 5G gear is installed, it would explain why our 4G hotspot has been increasingly unable to connect in places were we used get one bar of usable service.

FINAL THOUGHTS

All in all, despite that very long list of equipment failures and unexpected expenses, we had a truly blissful summer. We got to see many parts of Colorado we’ve never visited before, and they were all beautiful. We also got into Utah’s red rocks a little bit at the end.

Traveling in any form always involves risks, hiccups and unexpected frustrations. But in reality, all of life is that way. It’s just that when you’re on the road, you feel more vulnerable.

RV life under a huge cloud- breakdowns and repairs

When storms gather in the RV life, it’s only natural to feel vulnerable.

For every moment of emotional (and physical) discomfort when things go wrong in the RV life, there’s another moment of sheer joy when you witness something extraordinarily gorgeous that you would never see in your own backyard. Or you meet a new friend you would never have met otherwise. Or you visit a destination you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

Hotel or AirBnB travel is another way to go, of course, and we often joke that we’ll sell it all, buy a sports car, pack a few bags and go traveling that way. But we like having the comforts of our own rolling home with us. So, we have to accept that unexpected breakdowns and repairs are an integral a part of RV life. And in reality, that snazzy sports car could leave us stranded too!

Now that we’re home, we’ve cleaned the rig thoroughly and Mark has completed the repair list, leaving a few items under watch for the time being. The travel bug is biting us again, and we’ll be hitting the road for a short jaunt soon!!

RV life - Making music with a dog!

All our equipment may be falling apart, but we can still make music and have fun!

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Reese Goose Box – How to Hitch and Unhitch (20K Gen 3)

Before our summer RV travels this year, we decided to upgrade our fifth wheel trailer’s hitch to a Reese Goose Box (20K Gen 3 model).

This hitch is essentially a replacement for the original kingpin that came with the trailer. The Reese Goose Box hitches to a gooseneck ball in the truck bed, eliminating the need for a fifth wheel hitch all together!

We paired the Reese Goose Box with a B&W gooseneck ball that is designed for the Dodge Ram OEM puck system (we have a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 long bed dually truck).

After towing our 15,000 lb. Genesis Supreme toy hauler for 1,100 miles to 12 different campsites, our overall impression of this hitch is…

We absolutely love it!

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box (20K Gen 3)

The Reese Goose Box has been a game changer for us.
AND…with a few tips given below…it’s as easy to hitch and unhitch as a conventional fifth wheel hitch!

For over two months now, we’ve towed our trailer every few days on all kinds of roads, including interstates, back country roads, around tight winding switchbacks and on very lumpy, bumpy, potholed dirt roads on our way to remote boondocking locations. We’ve also climbed up and over several towering Colorado mountain passes, including Monarch Pass, Hoosier Pass and Slumgullion Pass (twice!), each of which is more than 11,300’ in elevation.

The Reese Goose Box has performed flawlessly everywhere. The ride is much smoother than any fifth wheel hitch we’ve ever used, and it’s easy to hitch and unhitch.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch - How to hitch and unhitch

The Reese Goose Box replaced the original kingpin that came with our trailer.

We installed Reese Goose Box on our trailer ourselves, just the two of us. It was intimidating but it wasn’t difficult, despite the heavy weight of the original king pin and the even heavier weight of the Reese Goose Box. (There’s a trick to it!)

However, before we describe that process and present our step-by-step installation method (in a future post), we wanted to explain why the Reese Goose Box is so unique and also show you how to hitch and unhitch a trailer so you can see exactly how it works.

How to Hitch and Unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch

The 20K Reese Goose Box is rated to tow up to 20,000 lbs.

Here are some shortcuts for this article:

 

WHY A REESE GOOSE BOX?

We’ve been towing fifth wheel trailers around for 15 years now, and we’ve used a variety of fifth wheel hitches made by Pullrite, B&W and Demco.

While each one was a fine hitch with certain great advantages, the drawback with any fifth wheel hitch is that when you aren’t towing a trailer, the bed of the truck is occupied by a large and heavy fifth wheel hitch.

It is awkward to remove the hitch, even a lighter weight one (as we discovered with our Demco hitch), and it’s all too easy to avoid this chore and simply leave the hitch in the truck bed indefinitely. Unfortunately, with the hitch in there, you lose the use of the truck bed except for hauling smaller items that fit around the hitch!

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 - how to hitch and unhitch

With the Reese Goose Box there is no need to have a fifth wheel hitch in the bed of the truck.

When we were full-time RVers, we didn’t need the truck bed except for carrying whatever we used in that lifestyle: spare water jugs, patio mat and chairs, portable generator, bbq, etc.

However, now that we RV seasonally, we wanted to have the full use of our truck bed during the off-season when we’re at home. It’s no fun hauling plants, soil, mulch and lumber in the trunk of a passenger car or trying to fit those things around a fifth wheel hitch.

How to Hitch and Unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3

The “business side” of the Reese Goose Box is the driver’s side with the locking lever and air bag status window clearly visible (more on those important items below!).

By using a gooseneck style hitch instead of a fifth wheel hitch, all you need in the truck bed is a gooseneck ball and gooseneck receiver. The gooseneck receiver can be a factory installed OEM puck system or can be an after-market installation. What an easy way to free up the truck bed!

For this reason, some people switch out their fifth wheel kingpin for a gooseneck hitch. However, that puts a lot of strain on the fifth wheel trailer frame (fifth wheels are a lot taller than horse trailers…), and fifth wheel manufacturers advise against it.

Unlike a gooseneck hitch which has a long vertical lever arm that creates strain on the frame as it sways back and forth, the profile of the Reese Goose Box is angled and shaped like an ordinary fifth wheel kingpin. That reduces the strain on the frame significantly.

We were surprised to learn that the Reese Goose Box is the only gooseneck style hitch that Lippert Components Inc. has approved for use with their fifth wheel frames. I spoke to a Lippert sales rep to verify this, and he stated that, unlike other gooseneck style hitches, the use of a Reese Goose Box does not void the warranty on a Lippert fifth wheel frame. Like most fifth wheel trailers, our Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler is built on a Lippert frame.

Obviously, many things can ultimately contribute to the failure of a fifth wheel frame, so I have no idea how that would play out in the event of the frame developing a crack. But it’s an impressive endorsement.

In our research, we came across some comments on the internet asserting that of course Lippert Components endorses the Reese Goose Box because they own Reese Products! However I looked into it, and that’s not true. Reese’s parent company, Horizon Global, was purchased by First Brands in early 2023, and neither Horizon Global nor First Brands is related to Lippert Components.

We have the 3rd generation of the Reese Goose Box that is rated to tow a 20,000 lb. Trailer. The Gen 3 version of the Goose Box was released in the Fall of 2022.

Reese Goosebox
Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 hitch as seen from behind the truck

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We decided to pair it with the B&W gooseneck ball designed for the Ram truck OEM puck system on our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 long bed dually. This gooseneck ball is a very nifty piece of gear with a huge handle. You can easily latch the gooseneck ball into the gooseneck receiver in the truck bed and also pull it back out using that handle rather than grabbing the ball itself with your hands.

B&W Gooseneck Ball and Safety Chain Kit

The B&W Gooseneck Ball and Safety Chain Kit fits in a cool suitcase.
The actual chains themselves are sold separately.

That may seem unimportant until you’ve actually lubed up the gooseneck ball and used it a few times! It’s much nicer to use a big handle to pull the gooseneck ball out of the truck bed rather than grab the greasy ball itself! We would have used this gooseneck ball with our Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch, but the handle got in the way of the hitch.

B&W Gooseneck Ball for Ram Trucks

The B&W OEM gooseneck ball kit also comes with two safety chain anchors that get inserted into the OEM puck system on a pickup. These are used to secure the safety chains (which are not part of the kit — we got the safety chains separately here).

Reese Goosebox Safety Chains

 

HOW TO HITCH UP A TRAILER USING A REESE GOOSE BOX

REESE GOOSE BOX vs. FIFTH WHEEL HITCHING PROCEDURES

Hitching up a trailer using a fifth wheel hitch involves backing the truck (and its fifth wheel hitch) into the trailer’s king pin. It is a horizontal movement of the truck, and the connection locks in place once the truck has backed the hitch into the kingpin.

Hitching up a trailer using the Reese Goose Box involves lowering the trailer’s kingpin (the Goose Box) onto a gooseneck ball in the bed of the truck. It is a vertical movement of the trailer’s kingpin that is controled by the trailer’s landing jack leveling system. The connection locks in place once the Reese Goose Box is completely lowered onto the ball.

So, the hitching technique is quite different for each type of hitch.

ALIGNMENT: LEFT to RIGHT (DRIVER’S SIDE/PASSENGER’S SIDE)

With a fifth wheel hitch, we always found we had some room for error in aligning everything from right to left (driver’s side / passenger’s side) due to the shape of the fifth wheel hitch jaws.

If we backed the truck up so the fifth wheel hitch was slightly misaligned with the kingpin, the jaws of the hitch would catch the kingpin anyway and still make the connection and lock the two together.

However, with the Reese Goose Box, if the truck is slightly off, the kingpin will lower down and hit the top of the gooseneck ball and stop right there rather than slipping over the gooseneck ball as it is lowered into the locked position.

Where we could always “eyeball” the left/right alignment when backing up the truck with a fifth wheel hitch, we now use a small telescoping magnetic pole with a bright yellow ball on top to get a perfect alignment between the Reese Goose Box and the gooseneck ball.

Amazingly, that little pole makes this process a cinch!

I place the magnetic pole directly in front of the gooseneck ball and then Mark uses the pole to align the truck and Reese Goose Box side to side as he backs up.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box with a magnetic telescoping alignment pole

Put the magnetic telescoping pole directly in front of the gooseneck ball

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch - How to hitch and unhitch

This simple little device makes it possible to be precise when backing up the truck.

We have the two Ram OEM backup cameras in the truck, but Mark finds them inadequate for this job and he prefers to use the magnetic telescoping pole with the ball on top.

He then backs up the truck until the kingpin hits the magnetic telescoping pole and tilts it forward.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box Gen 3

The magnetic pole helps the driver align the gooseneck ball and the Reese Goose Box left to right.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box Gen 3 Hitch

When the magnetic pole tips forward, Mark stops the truck for a moment so we can adjust the alignment from front to back by an inch or two.

Magnetic Trailer Hitch Alignment Kit

ALIGNMENT: FRONT to BACK

The Reese Goose Box has to be aligned accurately from front to back as well as left to right. For this, Mark relies on me peering into the bed of the truck and guiding him verbally until the alignment is correct. For folks who hitch up solo, you’ll probably have to get in and out of the driver’s seat a few times to get the truck positioned correctly. If you have some tips and tricks for solo drivers, let us know in the comments!

At 5’4” I am just tall enough to see into the bed of our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually if I stand on my tiptoes.

When we were researching the Reese Goose Box, we saw reports that it is hard to hitch up. After learning how to do it ourselves, we suspect that those comment might have come from people who were either trying to eyeball the left/right alignment or were hitching up solo and struggling with the front to back alignment.

If you have a driver and a spotter, it’s a piece of cake.

LOWERING & LOCKING THE REESE GOOSE BOX – TRUCK IN NEUTRAL

Once the truck is positioned correctly, I use the landing jack leveling buttons to lower the Reese Goose Box onto the gooseneck ball. We’ve found it helps to put the truck in neutral at this point. That way, if the positioning isn’t 100%, the truck can shift a little bit as the Goose Box is lowered.

Our truck has an auto leveling option, so as soon as the truck senses the weight of the trailer in the truck bed, it inflates its airbags and raises the truck bed up. This effectively pushes the gooseneck ball up into the Reese Goose Box. At that point I generally don’t need to lower the trailer much further to complete the connection.

Just like a fifth wheel hitch, the Reese Goose Box automatically locks its connection to the gooseneck ball.

It’s easy to know when the Goose Box/gooseneck ball connection has locked. First, as the Goose Box slides over the gooseneck ball, the locking lever on the driver’s side of the Reese Goose Box moves slowly from the Locked position (green label) to the Unlocked Position (red label). Then, once it has locked in place, it snaps back to the Locked position (green label).

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box Gen 3 and locking the gooseball

Before the Reese Goose Box slides over the gooseneck ball, the locking lever (blue arrow) is in the Locked position (green label)

The Reese Goose Box Gen 3 hitch unlocks autoamtically

As the Reese Goose Box slides down onto the gooseneck ball, the locking lever (blue arrow) slowly moves into the Unlocked position (red label)

The Reese Goose Box locks onto the gooseneck ball automatically

As soon as the Reese Goose Box locks onto the gooseneck ball, the locking lever (blue arrow) snaps back into the Locked position (green label)

At this point I can finish raising the landing jacks up all the way into their fully raised position for towing.

SAFETY CHAINS and POWER CORD

The final steps to hitch up with the Reese Goose Box are to latch the two safety chains to the B&W safety chain anchors in the truck bed and plug in the power cord.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch safety chains

Next step is to connect the safety chains to the B&W safety chain anchors in the truck bed.

Connecting the safety chains to the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch

Connecting the safety chains.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch: connecting the power cord

Last of all, connect the power cord.

Like all kingpins, the Reese Goose Box has a trailer breakaway cable that engages the trailer’s brakes if the trailer accidentally disconnects from the truck. With our fifth wheel hitches, we always looped this cable around the hitch handle. With the Reese Goose Box, we loop it through the hook on one of the safety chains.

Reese Goose Box Gen 3 hitched up with safety chains attached

Ready to tow.
Note that the trailer breakaway cable is connected to the safety chain hook on the left side.

The trailer breakaway cable is shorter than the safety chains. So, if the trailer were to become detached from the truck, the breakaway cable would snap and engage the trailer brakes before the safety chains were fully extended. At that point, the drag of the trailer brakes would keep the safety chains taut, and the driver would slow the truck and trailer to a stop.

 

AIR BAGS

The Reese Goose Box is equipped with internal air bags that use the same technology as the Trail Air fifth wheel hitches. They are inflated using the Schrader valve on the top of the Goose Box. We used a pancake air compressor to inflate them.

That pancake compressor is too big to bring with with us in our RV travels, so we bought a Ryobi cordless power inflator to use on the road if needed.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room in the Goose Box’s Schrader valve compartment to attach the cordless power inflator’s locking valve to it. So, we purchased a 135 degree valve extender to use with it. Luckily, we haven’t needed to use that setup at all yet.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 has the air bag inflator on the top of the kingpin

The Gen 3 Reese Goose Box has the Schrader valve for inflating the air bags on top in the center. Previous generation Reese Goose Boxes had this valve on the underside and it was hard to reach.

Ryobi Portabe compressor 135 Degree Valve Extension

The Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 has a gauge on the driver’s side that allows you to see the level of inflation of the air bags. This is another new feature with the Gen 3 that wasn’t on the previous generation Reese Goose Boxes.

When the air bags have no air in them, the viewing window is a black circle. Once they begin to fill with air, a silver bar appears in the top left part of the window.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch inspection window shows the air bags are not inflated

The air bag inflation window lets you see the status of the air bags. Here the bags are barely inflated.

As the air bags become more and more inflated, this bar moves lower and lower in the window.

When the air bags are inflated to the ideal amount (somewhere between 40 and 50 lbs. of pressure), the bar crosses the middle of the window at a slight angle.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch inspection window shows the airbags are properly inflated

As the air bags inflate, the silver bar moves down from the top.
When the bar is in the middle, as it is here, the air bags are properly inflated.

We have not had to change the inflation of the air bags at all in the two months we’ve been traveling with our trailer, despite being in altitudes ranging from 3,000’ to over 11,000’ and being in temperatures ranging from 30 degrees to 95 degrees.

 

HOW TO UNHITCH A TRAILER WITH A REESE GOOSE BOX

UNHITCHING CAN BE DONE SOLO (WITH AN EASY-TO-MAKE MODIFICATION!)

Unhitching a trailer with a Reese Goose Box is as easy as pulling on a cord and extending the landing jack legs! I love it because one person can easily do it solo.

Unhitching with a Reese Goose Box (as opposed to a fifth wheel) is particularly handy in situations where you won’t be driving the truck by itself but still want to raise the nose of the trailer to make it level.

For instance, when you stop for a quickie overnight in a rest area on unlevel ground, you might want to level the trailer from front to back by raising up the front end.

All you need to do is raise the trailer off the gooseneck ball to the point where the trailer is level from front to back and leave it there. When you are ready to continue driving, simply lower the trailer back down onto the gooseneck ball and away you go!

With a traditional fifth wheel hitch, the truck and trailer must be completely unhitched, i.e., the truck must be driven out from the hitch in order to level the trailer from front to back.

All this is truly awesome, but we did have to make one minor modification to the Reese Goose Box to make it possible to unhitch so easily, as explained below.

 

RELEASING the GOOSENECK BALL EASILY — With a SIMPLE MODIFICATION!

The Reese Goose Box is locked onto the gooseneck ball by a lever, as shown in the three hitching up photos above. While hitching up, the lever moves from the Locked position to the Unlocked position and back to the Locked position automatically as the socket on the Reese Goose Box slides onto the gooseneck ball.

For unhitching, however, this lever must be held open in the Unlocked position to allow the Reese Goose Box to slide up off the gooseneck ball. You do that manually by pulling back on a long cable that connects to the locking lever.

The cable rests on a hook on the side of the Reese Goose Box. It has a nub on it that can be secured in front of the hook, forcing the lock to remain open while you extend the landing jack legs.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box lock release handle

The hitch locking mechanism is automatic when hitching up. When unhitching, a long cable (above the arrows) must be pulled back to unlock the hitch and allow the Reese Goose Box to rise off the gooseneck ball. The white arrow shows the nub that can be secured in front of the hook (blue arrow) to keep the Goose Box unlocked.

We’ve found it very difficult to reach the cable’s handle from the back of the truck when the truck’s tailgate is open.

Ironically, the truck’s tailgate is always open at this stage of the unhitching process because you are disconnecting the safety chains and power cord. Also, you can’t drive the truck out with the tailgate closed.

When we did successfully maneuver ourselves to reach the handle, we found it extremely difficult to pull the cable back far enough to place the nub in front of the hook!

I’m sure Reese will address this issue since it has been raised by many people. However, in the interim, we found a super easy solution.

We tied a strong cord onto the latch cable’s handle and then used a short dowel to create a mini handle at the other end of the cord.

Reese Goose Box Gen 3 lock release handle modification

We tied a strong cord onto the handle of the hitch latching cable. Again, the white arrow is the nub that can be secured in front of the hook (blue arrow) to force the lock to stay open, but we found it tricky to do.

Reese Goose Box lock release handle modification

We made a handle at the other end of the cord with a short dowel.

Now, all we have to do to get the Reese Goose Box off the gooseneck ball is to pull this cord to open the lock and extend the trailer’s landing jacks. Then the Goose Box rises off the gooseneck ball very easily.

Reese Goose Box lock release handle modification

One person can simultaneously pull the hitch lock open and extend the trailer’s landing jacks!

The beauty is that one person can do this job alone by holding the Goose Box’s locking cord in their left hand and pressing the trailer’s landing jack control buttons with their right hand.

Once the Reese Goose Box is clear of the gooseneck ball, the Goose Box’s locking cord can be released and the truck can be driven out from under the trailer and parked elsewhere.

To tidy things up, just snap the safety chains onto the back of the Reese Goose Box and stow the power cord inside. Be careful, though, because there’s 12 volts coming from the trailer batteries on one of the pins.

How to hitch and unhitch a Reese Goose Box 20K Gen 3

There are two holes in the back of the Reese Goose Box to hold the hooks for the safety chains.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20K Gen 3

Chains and power cord are out of the way.

 

TOWING WITH THE REESE GOOSE BOX

As I mentioned, we have used the Reese Goose Box to tow our 15,000 lb. trailer all over Arizona and Colorado for two months on all kinds of crazy roads. Not only has the towing been smooth but we’ve been super happy with how easy it is to hitch and unhitch.

The airbags inside the Reese Goose Box make the ride super smooth. There is no chucking and no bouncing, and best of all, no noise! The trailer kind of floats along behind us.

We’ve taken some very sharp turns and haven’t had a problem with the Reese Goose Box touching the bed rails of the truck, and we’ve gone over some serious bumps and sharp inclines and declines and haven’t had the overhang of the fifth wheel come too close to the top of the bed rails either.

We are delighted with the Reese Goose Box and the B&W gooseneck ball. Best of all, when we get home in the Fall, we’ll be able to haul anything we want in the truck bed. All we’ll have to do is remove the B&W gooseneck ball, clean it up and put it away in its little suitcase. Then the whole bed of the truck will be available to use!

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Here are all the parts listed in this post and where to get them:

The Goose Box:

The Gooseneck Ball:

Magnetic Pole for Hitching Up:

Compressors:

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How to Fix a Car or Truck Key Fob in Minutes!

Vehicle key fobs are insanely expensive, but when ours died, we found out how to fix a car or truck key fob in just a few minutes…for next to nothing! What a relief (and surprise) it was to get our key fob working again rather than buying a new one!

How to fix a car or truck key fob in minutes!

Our car key fob died a slow death. First it couldn’t open the doors while standing or approaching the car on the passenger’s side. Then the problem migrated to the driver’s side too. Ugh!

We tried standing closer to the car and further away. We tried holding the key fob higher in the air, holding it lower, and aiming it in different directions. We opened the car key fob up and cleaned all the electrical contacts and changed the battery. But it was all to no avail. Nothing we tried would make the car key fob work reliably, and eventually the key fob stopped working all together.

The only way to unlock the car was to use the key, and the only key lock on the whole car was located on the driver’s door.

Oh my! Talk about inconvenience! Now we had to walk up to the driver’s side door to unlock all the doors and then walk all the way around the car to the other side if we wanted to access the seats on the passenger’s side! How on earth did our moms live without remote car key fobs in their day, what with bunches of kids running around, carrying groceries and all?

We didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to get a new key fob, so we dug around on the internet and found a really easy fix!

All that was required was an ordinary paper hole punch, a strip of aluminum foil, some tweezers and some glue! And we had these things already!

What happens with some key fobs as they age is that the electrical contacts under the buttons on the shell of the fob wear away. The idea with this fix is to replace that conductive material with a tiny piece of aluminum foil.

Our key fob has three buttons: Lock, Unlock and Trunk. So, we punched out 3 holes in the aluminum foil and set the small round pieces aside.

How to fix a car or truck key fob using aper hole punch and aluminum foil

Using an ordinary paper hole punch, punch 3 holes in a piece of aluminum foil and keep the tiny round pieces.

Then we removed the little electronic board from the key fob and, using a toothpick, put a tiny dab of glue on the rubber at each of the three contact points under the key fob buttons. Then, delicately holding each piece of aluminum foil with tweezers, we placed the foil on the three contact points in the key fob. We made sure to use just enough glue to hold each piece in place without affecting the connectivity between the electrical contact and the aluminum foil.

Car key fob opened up with the electrical contacts exposed

Glue the pieces of aluminum foil onto the electrical contact points in the key fob.

How to fix a car or truck key fob using a hole punch and aluminum foil

Closer view: aluminum foil pieces glued on contact points in the key fob.

We put the car key fob back together again, and BINGO!! The key fob worked perfectly locking and unlocking the doors and unlocking the trunk every single time, no matter where we stood or how high or low we held the darn thing!!

Paper Hole PunchAluminum foil

So…if you have a car or truck key fob that isn’t working right, even after changing the battery and cleaning the electrical contacts, grab a hole punch, some aluminum foil and some tweezers and try glueing the foil onto the contact points under the key fob buttons!

Not every vehicle key fob can be opened and repaired in this way, but you may be in luck just like we were!

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RV Keyless Entry Door Lock Problems? Try this quick fix!

Do you have one of those groovy RV keyless entry door locks on your rig? Our Genesis Supreme toy hauler came with one, and we weren’t sure we’d like it until we started using it. Then we loved it! But after a while it started having problems and acting up.

RV Keyless Entry Door Lock Repair & Quick Fix

The way these keyless entry door locks work is you punch in a secret code on the keypad and then it sings a little jingle. When you are unlocking the door, the notes in the tune ascend to a higher pitch. When you are locking it, the notes descend to a lower pitch. Kinda makes sense for opening and locking the door. Sing up and it opens, sing down and it locks.

One day when we went to unlock the door, the tune wasn’t so friendly — it made a nasty noise with two notes. Right after the nasty tune it made the sound of locking the door…but we were unlocking it!

RV keyless entry door lock

An RV keyless entry door lock is awesome — until it starts acting up!

For the next few months, every time we locked or unlocked the door we heard the nasty error message tune followed by the opposite sound for what we were doing. Unlocking the door gave the sound of locking the door, and locking it gave the sound of unlocking the door.

Every time we locked and unlocked the rig, we each thought, “We’ve gotta look up these weird sounds in the manual!” But we never did. The door still locked and unlocked, it just made weird noises. We lived with it.

RV keyless entry door lock

You enter the code and then press the “lock” or “unlock” button. It’s magic!

RV Keyless entry door lock

Finally, the other day, Mark decided enough was enough, and he opened up the battery compartment on the back side of the keyless entry keypad (on the inside of the entry door).

Back of RV keyless entry door lock

The battery compartment is accessed by removing these two screws.

The problem was immediately obvious: the batteries had leaked battery juice all over the place and they were dying a slow death.

Insides of an RV keyless entry door lock

Mark removed the cover and saw dried white fluid from the batteries.

Leaky Duracell AA batteries from an RV keyless entry door lock

The batteries were covered with yuck.

He cleaned out the little compartment that holds the batteries, put in a new set of four AA batteries, and POOF! The RV keyless entry door lock worked like a charm. No error code tune, and the locking and unlocking sounds matched what we were doing.

Duracell AA Batteries

So, if you have an RV keyless entry door lock on your rig, and it starts making unexpected sounds when you lock and unlock the door, you might need new batteries. Take the cover off the keypad and check them out. And keep some spare AA batteries on hand!

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Toy Hauler Life – What’s It Like Living in a Toy Hauler?

After living in our new Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler for about 5 months, we are absolutely loving this rig. Huray for toy hauler life!

When we first purchased this 5th wheel toy hauler, we wrote an overview with photos of a walk-through which you can see here — Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler – Why We Chose It! Now, with a little more experience under our belts, we wanted to show you what it’s like living in a toy hauler, especially an open box floor plan like ours.

Toy hauler life - what's it like to live in a toy hauler RV?

What’s it like to live in a toy hauler?

Living in a toy hauler is different than other RV lifestyles, not only because of the big open garage space, ramp door and the ability to bring additional motorized vehicles along for the ride, but because of the back patio — a game changer! If you are considering getting one or are just curious about what it’s like living in a toy hauler, this page will give you a few things to think about and explain why we like ours so much.

A Toy hauler patio transforms RV life

Nevermind the garage and all the things it offers…
We’ve found the patio on our toy hauler totally transforms the interior of our RV!

Toy Hauler Pros and Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a toy hauler, like there are with every type of RV. Here are some of the biggest advantages of toy hauler life:

Toy Hauler Pros:

Water: The fresh water tank is usually very big. 100 gallons is typical but 160 gallons isn’t unusual.

Gas: Because toy haulers are built to haul gas powered toys, there’s usually a gas station onboard complete with a gas tank beneath the floor of the rig and a gas nozzle on the side to fill the toys. This makes it easy (and typical) for toy haulers to sport onboard gas generators that seamlessly tie into the gas tank. Our gas tank is 40 gallons, and I believe most toy haulers have a 30-50 gallon tank. However, some of the major brands don’t list the gas tank sizes on their websites.

Patio: The ramp door on most modern toy haulers converts into a rear 8′ x 8′ patio. Some toy haulers have a side patio too.

Beds: The powered Happijac bunks that come on most toy haulers in the rear of the garage have a queen mattress on the top bunk and a queen or full size “mattress” on the bottom bunk, plenty of room for kids or guests. The “mattress” on the bottom bunk is actually two loveseats laid flat that can be raised up to face each other.

Happijac bunk beds in the rear of a toy hauler RV

The top bunk is a queen size and the bottom bunk is a full size. The bottom bunk also becomes two loveseats that face each other.

Toy Hauler Cons:

Decor: Many toy haulers make me feel like I’m in a sports bar. All we’d need to top it off would be a keg, some munchies and the big game on TV!

Furniture: You may not want or need the lower Happijac bunk convertible sofas or the factory supplied heavy moveable table(s) that go between the recliners and between the rear sofas. However, they generally come standard with every toy hauler.

Kitchen: To fit everything into a modest length rig, the kitchen often takes a big hit. Pantries and counter space are reduced or virtually eliminated.

Storage: A toy hauler has less storage per linear foot than a traditional fifth wheel because you can’t have cabinetry on the lower part of the garage walls.

Setup/Breakdown: If you use a toy hauler to haul a toy, loading and unloading it plus dealing with the tie-downs takes time during setup and breakdown.

Rear Wall: Because the ramp door can’t have a window, the back of the garage is a big black wall when the ramp door is closed. If the trailer has a side patio, that creates another big dark wall when it’s closed.

Dirt: If you haul an ATV or UTV, dirt and/or mud will be tracked into the garage.

Gas Fill: Maneuvering a long toy hauler at a gas station to fill the gas tank can be a challenge, especially if the gas fill intake is at the rear end of the rig.

Putting gas in the tank of a toy hauler (Genesis Supreme)

“Fill ‘er up!”
The far back end of our toy hauler is at the gas pump here. There must be room ahead of the gas pump for the whole truck and trailer…

Enclosed Garage vs. Open Box Toy Haulers

There are two basic layouts for toy haulers: a “separate enclosed garage” where the garage is separated from the living space by a wall with a door, and an “open box” floor plan where the garage space converts into living space using moveable furniture. There are big trade-offs when you choose one layout over the other.

Enclosed garages are much more common in fifth wheel toy haulers and open box floor plans are much more common in travel trailer toy haulers.

Here is the floor plan for our 33′ long open box fifth wheel toy hauler with its 16′ garage compared to a 44′ long separate enclosed garage floor plan (a 2023 Keystone Raptor 415) that has a 15′ garage.

When you unload the toys from our open box toy hauler, the whole trailer becomes 33′ of 100% living space. In contrast, you don’t need to unload anything from the 44′ enclosed garage toy hauler to get 29′ of dedicated living space.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT 5th wheel toy hauler floor plan only

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT 5th wheel toy hauler floor plan
33′ long trailer with a 16′ garage.

2023 Keystone Raptor 415 Toy Hauler 44' long with 15' garage

Keystone Raptor 415 5th wheel toy hauler floor plan
44′ long trailer with a 15′ garage

Here are some of the tradeoffs between open box and enclosed garage toy haulers:

Dirt: A separate enclosed garage keeps all the dirt related to the toy(s) in the garage. An “open box” style layout brings the dirty muddy toy right into your living room!

Overall Length: A separate enclosed garage adds 10-15 feet to the length of an ordinary fifth wheel. At the back end of most toy hauler garages the last 18 inches of the floor is ramped. So, if you want your vehicle to ride level and not have two wheels heading downhill, you must add 18 inches to the overall garage length you need. Designers reduce the living area to keep their rigs under 50′ long, but almost all fifth wheel toy haulers with separate garages are over 40′ in length, nose to tail. An open box design allows for the overall length to be as little as 33′. When towing, a 33′ trailer is much easier to maneuver than one that’s well over 40′.

Garage Length: An open box trailer can offer a longer garage in a shorter overall trailer length. Whereas most enclosed garages top out at 13-15 feet in a trailer that is 38-46′ long, a shorter 33-34′ open box trailer can have a 16′ garage. At the long end of open box floor plans, one 44′ open box design has a 26′ long garage! That’s a heckuva lot of room for toys or for indoor party space with friends on rainy days or late at night.

Comfort and Storage: Separating the garage and living area means that both spaces are dedicated to their individual purposes. This allows the living space to have lots of built-ins and be more comfortable and attractive. For a given garage length, an enclosed garage rig has a lot more storage space than an open box design because the garages can’t have any lower cabinetry and in an open box design half of the rig’s length is the garage.

Single Overnights: An enclosed garage can be filled to the brim without impacting the usability of the rest of the rig. If you pull over at a rest area or stay just one night in an RV park and don’t feel like unloading the toys, you can still be comfortable in the rig. With an open box design your living space is gone once the toy(s) are loaded inside. The only way to get your living room back is to unload the toy(s). That isn’t possible or desireable in a rest area and it’s unnecessary extra work if you’re in transit to a distant destination and aren’t planning to use the toy(s) during a one or two night stay in an RV park or campground on the way there.

Tie-down Rings: The garage has tie-down rings and table pedestal supports built into the floor. With a separate garage, these toe-stubbers aren’t in your living room. However, in an open box design, they are. You can cover them with a carpet, but that is yet another thing that needs to be set up or put away each time you travel.

Bottom line: How do you plan to use the rig and the garage? A separate garage room can be used for anything — kids’ room, office, workshop, yoga room, art studio, storage, party room — but it will be a smaller space requiring a longer trailer. An open box offers an open floor plan with a cavernous living area that has a kitchen at one end, a patio at the other, and portable furniture throughout. However, if you’re hauling a toy, the living room will need to be set up and broken down every time you travel, and your toy(s) will bring dirt in with them.

An Open Box Flexible Floor Plan is Fun!

We love our 33′ long open box Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler because our 9′ long Polaris RZR 900 (the reason for getting a toy hauler) fits in it well and the trailer is very maneuverable to tow and park.

Even though this trailer isn’t cushy in the way that our Hitchhiker fifth wheel was, we have found the flexible floor plan is a lot of fun. We set it up differently depending on where we are, where the views are and how long we’ll stay.

Factory Provided Furniture We Don’t Use

Like many toy hauler owners, we removed all the moveable pedestal tables that came with the rig (ours had three). The tabletops for these tables are very heavy, and stowing the tabletops and the poles for traveling was awkward.

Also like many other toy hauler owners, we don’t use the opposing sofas that make up the bottom bunk in the Happijac bunk bed and we haven’t used the lower bunk for anyone to sleep on either.

We do use the lower bunk for storage, however. There is a 6 inch gap between the two bunks when they are flush against each other, just enough to slide in a folding table onto the lower bunk. However, if the items stored there are not secured and you go down a steep descent, things can slide off. We live in a hilly area and face a 150 yard long 25% descent every time we leave home, and we’ve had a folding table slide off the lower bunk in its raised position and land on the roof of the RZR side-by-side.

When we are set up for camping, we keep the bunk beds raised up to the ceiling so we have unencumbered floor space underneath. The upper bunk can make a fantastic napping spot, though, especially when the ramp door is open. It’s like being in a big wide comfy hammock!

Toy hauler upper bunk is good for napping

Mark and Buddy snuggle in for an afternoon nap.

 

Toy Hauler Fun – Bring Your Own Furniture!

So, with all that furniture not being used and the powered bunk beds raised to their Up position (allowing us to move around freely underneath), here is what the floor plan looks like:

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT 5th wheel toy hauler floor plan with moveable furniture and Happijac bunk beds removed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT 5th wheel toy hauler actual floor layout
(i.e., it doesn’t show the raised bunk beds or the moveable furniture).

We replaced the factory-provided pedestal tables with two small folding tables that can be set to dining table height or coffee table height.

This gives each of us a “desk” or we can place them side by side to make a larger table. We can also put one or both at coffee table height if we have company. Sometimes we leave one stowed on the lower bunk and bring out just one folding table if we’re not staying very long.

We also got two small ottomans that have a drawer and a tray flip top. This gives us each a personal “junk drawer” and storage space for small items.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler alternative chair layout ramp door closed

This is a typical layout we use if we’re not staying long. We share a table between us and use the small ottomans (trays up) to set drinks and snacks on.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler living room

Here we have both “desks” set up and the ottomans become footstools
(the Eurochair foot rests aren’t very comfortable).

When we travel, we spend a lot of time on our laptops processing our photos, and having desks is fantastic.

Our Hitchhiker fifth wheel had a tiny built-in desk, but it was so small we never used it. Instead, we always had the laptops in our laps. How nice it is to have our laptops on a table along with a pen and paper, if needed, and a snack or a drink!

Buddy likes to hang out on the sofa. He loves to watch the Outdoor Channel!

Dog looks out the window of an RV toy hauler

Buddy keeps an eye on things from the sofa.

Last summer we made a foldable perch for Buddy’s dog bed so he could look out the rear window comfortably and not have to stand on the sofa to see out.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler ramp door closed

We built an experimental perch for Buddy’s dog bed by the rear window last summer (back left corner).

Once we got home, we ordered a large storage ottoman bench that is the perfect size and height for Buddy to sit or lie on and look out a rear window. The fabric even has a travel motif! We didn’t install the legs that come with it because that would make it too high for the window. As a bonus, this storage ottoman has a flip up lid and a large interior which gives us a huge storage locker!

Storage ottoman bench for dog window seat

A window seat for Buddy with storage for us!

A window seat with storage for a dog in a toy hauler RV

On watch…

You may think we went a little crazy with the storage ottomans, but we had two in our fifth wheel trailer that we loved. We used them to replace the chairs that came with the dinette (blog post about that here). They are very handy because you can sit on them, put things on them and put things inside them!

Our most common layout is to place one chair and table opposite the sofa and the other one towards the back of the rig. This gives each of us plenty of space.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler ramp door closed

Our typical setup.
A slipcover on the black loveseat lightened and softened the decor a little bit
(it’s available here — I think that’s Buddy’s cousin in their ad photo!)

If the views are spectacular, we like to face them.

Room with a view in Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler

Room with a View.

Unfortunately, there are huge divets with raised rims in the floor where the factory-provided table pedestals attach, and those big bumps as well as the D-ring tie-down attachment points in the floor get in the way when we move our furniture around. The D-rings are necessary equipment, but hopefully we can find a way to remove the five metal supports in the floor that hold the table pedestals we aren’t using. We have some ideas…

Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler patio open no screen

Bright and airy with the patio open.

The Patio is a Game Changer!

The biggest surprise for us was how totally awesome it is to have a patio. It has been a game changer for us. We would have LOVED having a patio during all those years we spent living in an RV!

Toy hauler patio overlooking a stream in the woods

For us, the toy hauler patio has completely changed the way we live our RV life.

 

Ramp Door = Patio Floor!

We have a ramp door made by Lippert that is not too heavy. I can open and close it myself although it takes some effort. Mark can do it alone quite easily, and for the two of us together it’s a breeze.

MorRyde makes a ramp door that is so lightweight it takes just one finger to raise or lower it and it can hold its position partway open as well. Quite a few toy hauler brands have these cool ramp doors but Genesis Supreme trailers do not.

Genesis Supreme toy hauler ramp door and RLT mascot

Our ramp door is heavy but not unmanageable, even for one moderately strong person like me.

At first we weren’t sure exactly how and when we would use the patio, and after our first afternoon of totally loving it, we had a bad experience with it overnight.

Most toy haulers have an accordion door system that can close out the elements out of the rig’s interior when the patio is open. There are windows in those doors so you can choose to block out the hot or cold temps with glass or allow the breezes to flow through the doors with the screens.

Vinyl Patio Screen

Our trailer is a lower end model, so instead of accordion doors, it came with a vinyl screen that has mesh “windows” for bug-free fresh air flow. The screen rolls down from the ceiling.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler Vinyl screen and patio open

A vinyl screen rolls down from the ceiling. It has mesh windows in the upper half that allow fresh breezes to flow through the rig. There are vinyl flaps that close these windows if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

On our first night we left the patio open. The vinyl screen was in place, fully zipped closed with the bottom resting on the floor. By midnight the entire rig was filled with huge ugly moths that had crawled in on the floor underneath the vinyl screen because there is no seal there.

Talk about a rude awakening. It was like a scene out of a horror movie as we jumped around the rig swatting the walls like mad and shrieking (me)!

After that, we never left the patio open at night again, and we soon stopped using the vinyl screen all together because it is cumbersome and time consuming to set up.

Toy hauler RV ramp door closed and vinyl screen lowered

The vinyl screen is lowered and zipped closed (the ramp door is also closed).
Here you can see 4 of the 5 the toe-stubbing table pedestal attachment points for the factory supplied tables that came with the rig (and that we don’t use).

Toy hauler patio screen rolled up

Vinyl screen rolled up.

Not only does the vinyl screen require rolling/unrolling two large 8′ x 4′ panels (which are held against the ceiling with snap ties) but three zippers (two sides and the middle) must be zipped or unzipped from ceiling to floor.

Once the screen is in place, you are either inside or outside and you have to unzip the middle zipper to get from one area to the other. Most important, even with the mesh screen “windows,” air flow is restricted and the see-through mesh only goes from the ceiling to waist height. From waist height to the floor it’s black vinyl. In contrast, the more upscale accordion doors on higher end units have glass windows on both top and bottom, bringing lots of light in.

Let the Breezes Flow!

However, if we simply open the patio door and leave the vinyl screen rolled up against the ceiling, the interior of the rig is completely transformed. We open both the front door and the patio door, and any stray bugs that wander by fly in one door and out the other. This wouldn’t work in a buggy area, but the areas where we travel in the West have few bugs during the day.

The patio extends the floor space of the rig by another 8′ and you can wander freely from inside to outside. We tend not to sit out on the patio, but we love being inside and having all that fresh air and nature right there.

Toy hauler living with the patio open

Out on the patio it can be hot in the sun and blowy in the wind and impossible to see a laptop screen.
Sitting inside with the patio open, however, it feels like we’re sitting on a covered deck.

Genesis Supreme 28CRT open box toy hauler

It took us a while to figure out how to make the best use of the patio, but after missing out on a few campsites where it would have been fabulous, we realized just how transformative the patio can be!

Patio Rails

Most toy haulers come with a complete patio kit that includes the accordion doors and railings that go around the patio so you don’t fall off. Our patio rails were an option that the first buyer sprang for, but in hindsight they aren’t entirely necessary for the way we use the patio.

Our patio rails are hinged on the outer walls and roll open like two large doors. Once completely open to the outer edges, they get extended to reach the far corners of the patio and then they unfold again, creating a 3-sided rail system around the perimeter of the patio.

Patio rails closed on a toy hauler

In the stowed position, the folded patio rails rest against each other in the back of the trailer.

Toy hauler patio deployed on an open box floor plan

The patio rails roll open until they are aligned with the outer edges of the patio floor.

The railings are easily clamped to the patio floor along the outer edges, and the overall effect is an attractive and sturdy fence system. There’s a gate at the far end so you can step (or jump) down to the ground.

Trailer manufacturers provide big heavy stair systems for patios, but we didn’t want to deal with storing something like that. So, we bought a 16 inch tall lightweight plastic folding step stool to help get up and down. Of course, depending on how level or unlevel the ground is, the patio floor may be very high off the ground or quite close to it. We haven’t used that step stool all that often, but it’s nice to have along just in case.

Over time, we realized that we just weren’t sitting out on the patio the way we anticipated. We were happy to stay inside but feel the cool air or warm sun coming in the back end of the trailer. So, we began simply rolling the patio rails out along the two outer edges of the patio and leaving it at that. Since we weren’t hanging around on the patio itself, we didn’t risk falling off!

Toy hauler RV patio with rails partially set up

The patio rails can be extended to the far corners of the floor and then unfolded further to fence in the end of the patio, but we often leave them just like this so the views from the interior are unobstructed.

Toy hauler patio without the patio rails

The patio rails don’t need to be extended and set up all the way.

Some folks like the patio rails because their furry friends can sit outside on the patio while still being contained without being tied up. One caveat: the floor of the patio gets very hot in the summer sun — too hot for bare feet or puppy paws. We throw a mat down so Buddy can enjoy the patio too.

Many toy haulers have an awning over the patio but ours doesn’t. We’ve found that in the summer months it’s best to orient the rig so the patio gets the cooler morning sun but is shaded by the rig itself in the afternoon. Likewise, when we’ve taken it on winter trips, we’ve placed the rig so the patio gets the afternoon sun, making it possible to open it up for a few hours.

Enjoying the view from a toy hauler RV patio

Buddy enjoys the morning sun…

A toy hauler patio is great for dogs!

…and a little shade too!

Although it’s really tempting to buy a set of folding chairs and a folding table just for the patio, we haven’t done that yet. When we want to sit outside, we’ve found it’s just as easy to drag the Euro chair recliners onto the patio as it is to set up camp chairs. We’ve been putting our old camping chairs out on the ground for sitting outside down there.

For us, the jury is still out on the chairs in general. I’ve thought replacing the Euro chairs with good quality zero gravity chairs with some really cushy cushions. We’ll see!

Loading and Unloading the Side-by-side

Driving a Polaris RZR UTV into a fifth wheel toy hauler (Genesis Supreme 28CRT)

In she goes!.

Although it was super intimidating at first, loading the RZR is not hard. We put down rubber mats under each wheel and that’s what Mark aims for as he drives in.

We use Cargo Buckle retractable ratchet straps to hold the RZR in place, and those are worth their weight in gold.

Back in our fifth wheel days when we towed the side-by-side behind the fiver on a flatbed trailer, we used to mess with traditional ratchet straps but they never held the RZR totally securely. We’d have to stop driving to check and tighten them and they chafed through quite often. Then Mark found the Cargo Buckles, and tying down the RZR became a breeze. (I’ll be writing more about those soon).

The Cargo Buckle retractable ratchet straps worked so well on our flatbed trailer that we got another set for the toy hauler. These have made it incredibly easy to load and unload the RZR.

Driving a side-by-side UTV into a toy hauler RV

Mark aims for the rubber mats on the floor (they are there to protect the flooring)
Notice the table pedestal support holes in the floor (one rubber mat can’t even be flush to the floor), and notice the small storage ottomans and other gear has been stowed against the wall.

 

What’s It Like When There’s a Toy in the Garage?

For us, one of the most important features in an RV is that when it is fully loaded for traveling and the slides are in, you can still make and eat a meal as well as use the bathroom and sleep. That way, if we end up at a rest area or truck stop overnight, we can still be somewhat comfortable.

This is not possible in every toy hauler, and it is not possible in every other kind of RV either. However, the Genesis Supreme 28CRT floor plan works well this way as long as the toy is around 10′ or less in length.

We place the Euro recliner chairs side by side in front of the side-by-side facing into the kitchen. This gives us a place to sit while also leaving enough open area to move around the kitchen and use the sink and stove.

Genesis Supreme toy hauler with the side-by-side UTV RZR loaded

Looking towards the back of the trailer, everything fits, even the bike.

toy hauler with the side-by-side UTV RZR loaded

It’s a tight squeeze but it works. Note that the flip-up sofa is flipped up against the slideout wall with the window, and two folding step stools are tucked in behind a metal bar on the underside of the sofa.

If our side-by-side were longer it would still work, but the Euro chairs might have to be stowed in the hallway that goes to the bedroom instead. This would be fine as long as you didn’t plan to sit in them at all.

Obviously, lots of people travel with their RVs and never overnight in places where they can’t open their slideouts or unload their toys, but it’s something to consider if you travel by the seat of your pants the way we do.

Toy hauler kitchen with the side-by-side UTV RZR loaded

Full access to everything in the kitchen.

Room to maneuver in Toy hauler kitchen with the side-by-side UTV RZR loaded

Sometimes we have to turn the bike wheel a little to get into the lower drawers.

What Toys to Bring?

Last summer we traveled with one mountain bike and the RZR. Before we bought the trailer, I thought there would be enough space for two bikes and the RZR, but once we started working out exactly how we would load the garage, I discovered two bikes would be too tight. So, we took just one bike and loaded it in and out of the trailer at every campsite.

Buddy loves running with our bikes on forest roads and trails, but it wasn’t the same going out without both of us together. So, the bike never really got used.

Now that we’ve lived in the toy hauler for a few months, I’m not so sure I’d want to load and unload two bikes and a side-by-side every time we set up camp anyway. Perhaps a longer trailer would make it possible to stow two bikes until they were wanted.

A bike rack on the back of the trailer wouldn’t work because of the ramp door. So, for all those reasons we won’t have any bikes with us this summer, and I think life will be simpler.

There’s a fine line between taking everything you could ever want along with you in an RV versus being comfortable day to day because you are willing to live without a few things and you’re not crowded out of house and home by all your stuff.

I devised a way to tie the bike to the sofa when it was in its flipped up stowed position against the wall and also clamp it to two D-rings in the floor using rope and two caribiners. The bike was rock solid when we traveled but it was a tight squeeze to get to the back of the trailer if we needed to.

Because of that, we learned to stow the most important daily items in the forward cabinets so they were easy to reach when we were in transit and all loaded up!

What About the Dirt?

Having a RZR in our living space is definitely dirtier than not having one. However, it’s more manageable than I expected. We sweep out the garage before loading the side-by-side and after unloading it. We don’t have a carpet so it’s easy to sweep the vinyl floor. On our next adventure we’re bringing a portable vacuum too.

In reality, when it’s muddy, Buddy brings about as much mud in on his paws as he runs in and out all day long as the RZR brings in on its wheels when we travel from place to place, and the RZR doesn’t bring any dirt into our bed!

So, if dirt is something that would keep you from considering an open box toy hauler yet you have a dog(s) that loves to run around outside, perhaps reconsider. You’ll be cleaning up mud and dirt regardless.

The toy hauler has a fresh water spigot on the outside and 100 gallons of fresh water, so we can rinse off the RZR or at least wipe it down before loading it inside.

Also, if the RZR gets really filthy, we can always drive it to a car wash. We haven’t done that yet, but there have been times when we’ve thought about it!

Overall Impressions

We love this rig. It is just right for part-time travels, and the flexibility of the floor plan and ability to bring the RZR on our adventures is everything we wanted.

In my first post about this toy hauler, before we’d taken it out on a four month journey, I was quite certain I’d never consider an open box floor plan for full-time living. In hindsight, though, we’ve found it actually makes for a very cool home on wheels and could work quite well for full-timing.

In that case, I’d look at a longer rig, perhaps 36′ to 38′ end to end. That would give us a bigger kitchen and/or bigger bedroom. I’d also hunt around for super comfortable and lightweight recliners, and I’d make sure I bought a rig with a light colored decor!

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Genesis Supreme 5th Wheel Toy Haulers – Ours is the 28CRT

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Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Review and Installation

When we sold our Hitchhiker fifth wheel, which had been home-sweet-home for twelve of the thirteen years of our full-time RV adventure, we thought we’d never own a fifth wheel trailer again. So, we let our fifth wheel hitch go with the trailer as part of the sale.

Oops! Never say “Never!”

After trying Truck Camper Vacation Life for a year, we realized we wanted a bigger RV, and we purchased a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT fifth wheel toy hauler for extended travels and shorter getaways.

Suddenly, we needed a hitch so we could tow our new trailer home from the seller’s storage lot! Enter the Demco Recon 21k Fifth Wheel Hitch!

Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Review and Installation

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This is a detailed article. Here are shortcut links to each section:

Demco Recon 21k Hitch

We’ve owned two fifth wheel hitches over the years. The first was a Pullrite traditional fifth wheel hitch that was installed permanently on rails mounted under the bed of our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck. This rail-mounted hitch design had been an industry standard for fifth wheel hitches for many years. We used it for 7 years.

Our second hitch was a B&W Ram OEM fifth wheel hitch. This new style hitch used the Dodge Ram OEM factory installed pucks that came with our 2016 Ram 3500 dually to mount the hitch to the truck bed. The four corners of the hitch base were secured into the four pucks by turning each puck handle a quarter turn. The hitch could be removed from the truck just as easily simply by turning the four puck handles, a game changer! We used that hitch for 5 years.

We loved being able to install and remove the B&W hitch at a moment’s notice, even though it had a big, beefy base that was a little bit of a challenge for one person to manage alone. So, when we went hitch shopping, we wanted our new hitch to be equally mobile but a bit lighter, if at all possible.

01 771 Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler towed by Ram 3500 dually truck with Demco 21K Recon fifth wheel hitch

Our first stop on our 16 week maiden voyage!

One of the shortcomings of any OEM puck system fifth wheel hitch is that the three diesel pickup manufacturers, Ford, GM and Dodge, have all designed their own unique footprints for the placement of their pucks in their pickup beds. This means that an OEM hitch designed for a Ram truck will not work in a Chevy or Ford and vice versa.

As we contemplated which hitch to get for our new toy hauler, we knew that there might come a day fairly soon when we would want to replace our current truck. Of course, that may never happen, especially given the weird state of the car and truck market today, but it has been on our minds for a while.

So, our hitch requirements boiled down to these two:

  1. Could be easily installed in or removed from the bed of any brand or age of truck
  2. Would be comprised of components light and small enough for one person to maneuver alone

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch – A Gooseneck Ball Mounted Hitch!

We discovered that the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch is mounted on a gooseneck ball in a gooseneck receiver in the truck bed. Gooseneck receivers come standard with all OEM puck systems and can also be installed as an after-market addition in any truck that doesn’t have an OEM puck system.

The beauty of this hitch design is that the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch can be used in any brand or age of truck. This took care of Requirement #1 in our new hitch wish list!

Like the OEM puck system fifth wheel hitches, the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch is installed in two basic parts: a base that installs onto a gooseneck ball mounted in the gooseneck receiver in the pickup bed, and a hitch head which mounts onto the base and latches onto the kingpin of the fifth wheel trailer.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Base

The Base unit for the Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch

The hitch head can be further broken down into two parts: the actual hitch head itself and a center column that inserts into the base. These two parts can be installed and removed separately, which adds a step to the process but keeps each individual part quite lightweight. Or they can be handled as a single and slightly heavier unit.

Upright Centerl Column Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch

The Center Column (or “Upright”) that supports the hitch head.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Head

The hitch head for the Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel

I called Demco to talk to a salesperson about the hitch and get some details about the sizes and weights of the individual components.

And I was absolutely floored when an operator answered the phone on the second ring and immediately transferred me to a salesman who picked right up and greeted me warmly.

How often does THAT happen nowadays?

We were delighted to find that the total weight of the hitch and the weights and physical dimensions of the individual components were slightly less than other manufacturers’ OEM puck based hitches. That took care of Requirement #2 in our hitch wish list!

But back to that phone call… In a fifth wheel towing setup, the fifth wheel hitch is one of the most important pieces of equipment to ensure you get down the road safely. For us, it is reassuring to have the company behind the product be easy to reach by phone without having to listen to endless lists of menu selections, punch in endless numbers and wind up leaving a voicemail in some unmonitored voicemail box anyway. In the RV industry today, most brands are owned by massive umbrella corporations. It is rare to find an independent manufacturer that is not a subsidiary of a massive corporation.

Demco Recon 21k Fifth Wheel Hitch Specifications:

  • Rated to tow a 21,000 lb. trailer. Our toy hauler has a GVWR of 15,000 lbs which is well within the limit.
  • Mounts onto a standard 4″ tall 2 5/16 gooseneck ball.
  • Total Hitch Weight: 134 lbs.

The component weights are:

  • Head Weight: 35.75 lbs.
  • Center Column Weight: 20 lbs.
  • Base Weight: 78.25 lbs.

If the Center Column and Base remain connected as a single unit, the weights of the two components are:

  • Head Weight: 35.75 lbs.
  • Center Column + Base Weight: 98.25 lbs

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Installation

The installation proved to be straight forward. As mentioned above, the hitch has three main components:

  1. The Base which is installed on a gooseneck ball in the truck bed
  2. The Center Column which slides into the Base and sets the overall height of the hitch
  3. The Head which mounts on the Center Column and whose jaw latches onto the trailer’s kingpin.

The parts included the following:

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Base and Base Parts

The Base, the Center Column Upright and some pins.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Head Handle and Parts

The Head, hitch handle and bolt, and a blue urethane pivot bumper.


Tools Required for Installation

Installing the Base

The gooseneck coupler (or socket) on the underside of the Base slips over the gooseneck ball in the bed of the truck.

If you flip over the Base, you can see that the coupler is slilghtly offest from the center of the Base. The coupler location is offset to accommodate the Center Column which stands directly in the center of the Base (for balanced support) and holds the Hitch Head.

Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch underside of the Base

On the underside of the Base you can see the gooseneck ball socket is offset from center.

When the hitch is installed in the truck bed, the gooseneck ball coupler is positioned towards the cab of the truck.

The Base is secured to the gooseneck ball in the truck bed by sliding the Coupler Pin through the hole in the square column at the bottom of the Base. By tightening the Top Coupler Bolt nut on the top of the Base to 30 ft-lbs, the Coupler Pin is cinched up against the Base, clamping the Base and gooseneck ball together into the bed of the truck. A very clever design!

Before getting to that step, however, the Top Coupler Bolt on the Base was loosened so the gooseneck ball coupler would slide over the gooseneck ball easily. We did this before placing the hitch in the truck bed.

Unbolt collar Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Bolt Retainer Assembly was removed and the Top Coupler Bolt was loosened so the hitch Base could slip over the gooseneck ball in the truck bed.

Remove bolt retainer assembly Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Bolt Lock Plate was removed.

The Top Coupler Bolt was loosened.

Then the Base was placed in the bed of the truck with the Gooseneck Ball Coupler sliding over the Gooseneck ball. As you can see, when the hitch is removed from the truck, the entire bed of the truck is open except for the small bump of the gooseneck ball. You can haul things in the truck or just drive around peacefully without a fifth wheel hitch clanking around in the back (especially helpful when driving on rutted dirt roads)!

Pickup truck bed with gooseneck ball

The gooseneck ball was ready and waiting in the pickup bed.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Base in Truck Bed

The hitch Base was mounted onto the gooseneck ball. The footprint of the Base is contained well inside the four OEM pucks which makes it both lighter and less awkward to maneuver than a larger OEM fifth wheel hitch base.

In order to secure the Base into the bed of the truck, the Coupler Pin was inserted into the Coupler Hole on the Base below the round head of the gooseneck ball. Then the nut on the Top Coupler Bolt was tightened to 30 ft-lbs using a torque wrench and 15/16 socket.

Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch Ready for torque

The Top Coupler Bolt cinches the Coupler Pin under the Gooseneck Ball up against the Base frame, securing the hitch Base onto the ball.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Top bolt

The Top Coupler Bolt is tightened to 30 ft-lbs.

The Bolt Lock Plate was placed over the Top Coupler Bolt head and then tightened the adjacent 1/4″ bolt with a 7/16 socket. The Bolt Retainer assembly blocks the Top Coupler Bolt from turning.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Notched Bolt Lock Plate

The Bolt Lock Plate slides over the Top Coupler Bolt and is held in place with a 1/4 inch bolt to prevent the Top Coupler Bolt from unscrewing.

Notched bolt lock plate aligns correctly flipped over

The Bolt Lock Plate goes over the Top Coupler Bolt.

Notched bolt lock plate with two bolts

The Bolt Retainer Assembly was secured using a 7/16 socket on the 1/4 inch bolt.

Installing the Center Column

Next, the Center Column was placed into the square opening in the Base.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Inserting Center Column in the Base

The Center Column was placed in the square opening in the Base.

The Center Column can be positioned at one of three different heights that are 1 1/4 inches apart. The height of the Center Column determines the vertical distance between the bottom of the fifth wheel overhang and the top of the truck box. Demco recommends that this distance should be about 6 inches.

The middle height looked like it would be the best choice, so we placed the Cross Pin through the center hole in the Center Column. The Cross Pin was secured with an R-clip.

Hitch head height Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Cross Pin is inserted in the middle hole in the Center Column

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Cotter Pin

An R-clip secures the other end of the Cross Pin.

Two set screws hold the Center Column in place in the Base. Using a 3/4 inch 12 point socket, the set screws were tightened to Demco’s recommended spec of 100 ft-lbs of torque. Then the jam nuts were tightened using a 15/16 inch deep well socket.

12 point socket Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The two set screws holding the Center Column in place were tightened to 100 ft-lbs with a 3/4 inch 12 point socket. The jam nuts were tightened with a 15/16/ deep well socket.

721 Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Torque to 100 ft-lbs

The Set Screws were tightened to 100 ft-lbs with a torque wrench.

Installing the Head

Flipping the head over, the blue Urethane Pivot Bumper was placed on the bottom of the Head. This quiets the hitch when you aren’t towing.

Dampening bumper for hitch head 27 721 Hitch head pin Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

To minimize noise when not towing, a urethane pivot bumper dampens the movement of the hitch head.

Dampening bumper for hitch head Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

.

Then the Head was placed onto the Base, and a 1 inch Pin was slid through it to hold it in place. The 1″ Pin was secured with a Lynch Pin.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch Installing the Center Column

The hitch Head was set onto the Base.

Hitch head pin Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

A 1″ pin held it in place.

Demco 21k Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch D-Ring on Center Column

The 1″ pin was secured by a Lynch Pin.

Then the Hitch Handle was assembled. A Safety Lock Pin held the handle in place while the bolt was tightened. A light coat of White Lithium Grease was applied between the Safety Lock Pin hole and the handle housing.

Hitch handle Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

The Safety Lock Pin held the handle open so the bolt on the handle could be tightened.

Lube hitch handle Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch

A light coat of White Lithium Grease lubricated the hitch handle.

That was it!

Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Fifth Wheel towed using a Demco 21K Recon Fifth Wheel Hitch

Ready for new travel adventures!

Hitching and Unhitching

There are many different mechanisms used for locking a fifth wheel hitch’s jaws around a kingpin. The jaws of the Demco Recon hitch wrap completely around the kingpin. This 360 degree wrap makes a very tight seal around the kingpin and helps reduce chucking when towing, which we loved.

Demco 21K 5th Wheel Hitch has a wraparound locking jaw

The Demco 21K Recon fifth wheel hitch has a very tight wrap-around jaw that minimizes chucking.

However, the hitch’s tight wrap-around jaw also makes the process of hitching and unhitching a little bit more finicky.

Demco provides two brief videos that show the process of hitching up and unhitching (“coupling and uncoupling”) in action (click here and here).

These are well worth watching to get a feeling for the relative positions of the hitch head and the king pin. The videos are for Demco’s rail mounted fifth wheel hitch, but the positioning of the components is identical to the Demco 21k Recon gooseneck ball hitch.

Demco also recommends using wheel chocks for both hitching and unhitching operations. We weren’t accustomed to using wheel chocks, but we found they made a huge difference in easing the fifth wheel’s king pin into and out of the Demco hitch while preventing the trailer from rolling slightly.

RV wheel chocks

Wheel chocks are recommended when hitching and unhitching with this hitch.

The Demco 21K Recon hitch also requires that the fifth wheel’s landing jacks be lowered slightly below where they would be with other hitches.

We found that as we were hitching up, the trailer king pin’s lube plate needed to be positioned slightly lower than the hitch plate. The truck would squat a bit once the trailer was hitched up. Eyeballing across the lube plate and hitch head, the lube plate needed to be coming at the hitch about halfway up the little lip on the edge of the hitch head.

When unhitching, there needed to be just a slight hairline crack of light showing between the king pin’s lube plate and the hitch plate. Since our truck has a factory installed auto-leveling system, we’ve found we need to wait until the truck bed has completely stopped raising or lowering and then see if a hairline crack of light is visible betwen the lube plate and the hitch plate.

For unhitching, Demco provides a Safety Lock Pin to hold the hitch handle open until the truck has pulled out completely. We found we needed to use this Lock Pin whenever we unhitched or the handle would close on its own before the truck had pulled out completely.

Demco 21K 5th wheel hitch with handle open for unhitching

The Safety Lock Pin holds the hitch handle open while unhitching.

We also stabilized our Rota-Flex pin box with an Andersen Rota-Flex lockout kit as Demco recommended. Because both the Rota-Flex pin box and the Demco hitch are mobile in multiple directions, the two can end up working against each other. One will move in one direction and then the other will compensate for that motion in a counterproductive way. The Anderson Rota-Flex lockout kit prevents the pin box from moving at all, allowing the Demco hitch to make all the movements necessary to hitch up or unhitch.

After using the Anderson Rota-Flex lockout kit for a few thousands miles during our trip, we removed it and found that we didn’t really need it. So, if your trailer has a Rota-Flex king pin, you might try using the Demco hitch without the lockout kit first and purchase the lockout kit only if you are having trouble hitch and unhitching.

Towing

Underway, we have found that when suddenly accelerating or braking hard, or turning a sharp corner or starting a steep climb or descent, the hitch sometimes clunks loudly as it adjusts to the change in motion.

However, although we’ve taken the trailer over some very rough terrain and deeply pot-holed dirt roads, we’ve found the motion of the trailer has been surprisingly smooth. This absence of chucking is due to the very tight fit of the wraparound jaws encircling the king pin and is a wonderful feature.

After about 1,000 miles of towing, the shaft of the Center Column began to wobblie slightly. Interestingly, the set screws hadn’t come loose by unscrewing themselves because the two jam nuts were still tight. Probably the set screws had worn away a little metal on the shaft from all the jiggling as we went down the road. We didn’t have our torque wrench with us, so Mark tightened the two set screws as hard as he could and they never loosened again.

After 4,000 miles of towing, we noticed that the hitch base had twisted very slightly in the truck bed, about 5 degrees of rotation. This was due to the hitch being secured to the truck in just one location in the center, by compression on the gooseneck ball, rather than being connected in four corners like an OEM or traditional hitch. With the hitch slightly twisted in the truck bed, it was harder to slide the king pin in and out of the jaws while hitching and unhitching. We straightened the hitch and tightened it down again and it hasn’t twisted since.

One of our readers left a comment below suggesting that we try putting a rubber horse mat (sold at farm and feed stores) in the bed of the truck under the hitch with a hole in it for the gooseneck ball. This would provide some friction that might prevent rotation and would also protect the bed of the truck.

Demco 21K Recon 5th Wheel Hitch rotated in the bed of the truck

After 4,000 miles of towing we noticed the hitch had rotated slightly in the truck bed. We realigned and retightened the hitch and it hasn’t rotated again.

Portability

The three components of this hitch are slightly lighter than some of the OEM puck system hitch counterparts, and the Base has a smaller footprint too, so it is less awkward to load into and unload from the truck bed than other hitch bases.

Mark can lift the Base in and out of the truck easily by himself. Of course, it is even easier with a second pair of hands and I happily jump in to help! The other two components, the Center Column and Head, are easily lifted and maneuvered by one person, even me.

That said, if you choose to keep the Center Column attached to the Base after the initial installation, which saves you from loosening and re-tightening the two set screw bolts on the Base to torque spec, then two people may be required to lift that Base/Center Column combined unit in and out of the truck.

Overall Impressions

The three great benefits of the Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch are that it is:

  • Compatible with any pickup truck
  • Easily installed and removed by one person
  • Almost free of chucking when towing

The process of hitching and unhitching is a little different than with other fifth wheel hitches but is easily mastered (it took us a while to realize we had been doing it wrong!). The hitch also required two small adjustments after we had used it for a few thousand miles, but our adjustments have held since we made them.

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