RV Living

So we have been living in our Excel Winslow Fifth Wheel Trailer since leaving Morgantown, West Virginia on April 6th, two and a half months. I think it is time for some real world RV living information.

Natasha and I have learned a lot over the past two months, some things the hard way but most lessons have come easily. Going in, we were nervous about certain aspects of living in an RV and some of these have proven to be real, though most not. Really, living in our RV home doesn’t feel a lot different than our old home in Morgantown – “Where Thou art—that—is Home . . .” – Emily Dickinson.

When we first arrived at Natasha’s Mom’s House, well actually her driveway, back on April 6th we both were surprised how normal being there felt, as far as being home – our home. We felt like neighbors to her, just like neighbors feel anywhere. We visited her in her house (she in ours), enjoyed her yard, lands near by and the lovely river just down the hill. At the end of the day, in our RV, it was just us at home, normal as can be. Both Natasha and I have trouble putting this into words but maybe that’s because there is little need, we all know what home feels like and their are infinite examples of what a home is. The astonishing thing is how quickly one becomes comfortable in a new home.

Our home is rather complicated compared to most, I think.  You have to keep up on systems: electrical, hydraulic, plumbing, propane, they all must be monitored and maintained. Our old home in Morgantown was easier in this respect, just pay your utility bills, simple. But as we move from place to place we have to insure we have water, electricity, propane and the plumbing is being cared for. Each place is different, it can be challenging. While in the Florida Keys we had a spot with 50 amp electrical service, water and sewage hookup. As a result we did not have to deal with many chores day to day. We used propane for cooking, but with two 40 pound propane tanks there was little worry of running out. Note: Our refrigerator and hot water heater work either on propane or electricity, when “plugged in” (what they call shore power) they run on electricity, saving propane.

Someone told me that unlike automobiles, RV’s are not exactly ready after they are manufactured, they require a good bit of “dealer prep” before they can be sold. Makes sense, RV manufacturers don’t have the financial resources for quality control as do auto companies. Holland Motor Homes did a nice job preparing our Excel Winslow but we have had a few problems, specifically with the hydraulics, and it is a good thing I am rather handy because so far, with their assistance, I am the one fixing things. So rule one, RV owners should be handy with tools. If you are able to fix things around your house you will do fine in an RV. We are learning that at any one time there is at least one thing that needs fixed in an RV, and maybe more. Think about it though, isn’t this true for a conventional house?

The warranty on our Excel Winslow (built by Peterson Industries) is two years, unprecedented in the RV industry (Most don’t even have a one year warranty, some just 90 days and few are warranted at all for full-time living, ours is.). The Excel Winslow warranty covers only what Peterson Industries (http://www.excelrvs.com) built, the structural portion: steel frame, wood structure, laminated sidewalls, roof, and all other parts and assemblies manufactured in whole or in part. What Peterson Industries does not cover is everything else! – refrigerator, stove, faucets, air conditioner, blinds, furniture, audio system, exhaust fans, the list is extensive. However, these items all come covered with their own manufacturer warranties. So for instance, our refrigerator is built by Norcold and comes with a one year warranty, our Suburban cooktop and oven a two year warranty; We have a stack of operating manuals inches high, each with its own warranty and contact information. This is the case with items in any home though, isn’t it?

Besides our Excel Winslow being rather complicated it also can be dangerous, and not just when towing it down the road. I don’t know how many times I have hit my head on it! (I think I am getting better though, haven’t done it lately, but then my memory is not what it used to be due to traumatic head injuries, so maybe I just don’t remember when I walk into it anymore!) There is one edge, that if walked into would require a life-flight to a trauma center! It is the edge of the bedroom slide, and at times (depending on the spot we are parked) is the perfect height to cut someones head open! Somehow Natasha and I have not hit it (and neither has anyone else) and we finally got smart and fashioned some protection with swimming noodles.

Bedroom slide and sharp edges, scary!

Noodle protection! That’s the kingpin on the right, very heavy and non forgiving, a real threat for smaller people like our kids. Noodles seem to have solved the problems.

Our entrance door is another big threat and our kids hated it more than anything early on, with outright hostility towards it! And who could blame them after getting their fingers slammed in it almost daily! There has been a truce of sorts on the vitriol they spew at that door; they have learned from the toughest negative-reinforced-learning to avoid the several traps it sets for small fingers. The problem now is when their friends come to visit; I have gotten in the habit of acting as door-man to avoid injuries.

Our door. Finger slamming zone indicated with arrows. I am thinking of adhering a plexiglass strip to help keep small fingers out of danger.

Entrance steps in all RVs have much to be desired. Obviously designing steps for them presents difficulties because of the mobile part of RVs. There are all kinds of add-ons for purchase or for building yourself. We have not attempted to modify ours except for solving a problem we had in the Florida Keys. Since the sun was incessant the steps would become blazing hot which resulted in a quick-step into the RV to save our bare feet. If one was delayed at the door your feet would literally be burned. So Natasha fashioned some indoor-outdoor carpet, problem solved.  Total cost was about $3.

One last RV living item (expect more to come though): even when set up at a spot the unit does not stop rocking and rolling completely. We do our best leveling and utilizing the hydraulic stabilizers (four of them) but the RV still sits on four tires and a suspension, not a firm foundation like a conventional home has. And like a boat, the rocking and rolling is more evident at the stern and bow (front and back). Our bedroom is in the front and we can detect when Indy, our dog, rolls over in her sleep at night as she lays by the couch in the back! There are all kinds of ways to alleviate the problem, any number of gizmos and devices to purchase in this effort. I did decide to build my own device to stop the front to back movement, home-made wheel chocks (http://www.rverscorner.com/chocks.html). They really do work and stopped that front-to-back movement, but we still have the side-to-side, I think we can live with it for now though.

Home-made wheel chocks. Thank you Curry Hammock State Park Rangers for the use of your excellent Workshop!




Filed under Family, Jeff, RV Living

4 responses to “RV Living

  1. Patricia

    A+ for adaptability…sounds like you are managing well! Have you been able to enjoy some local farmer’s markets? That was something we really enjoyed on our x-country trip. Cheers!

    • Hi Patricia! In the Florida Keys, there are no farmer’s markets because there are no farmers! Selection of organic produce, along with just about everything else, is limited. Island living is definitely different. Additionally, it is extremely challenging when towing 34′ of house behind you, to take advantage of random roadside markets or farms selling eggs and such that you might encounter while driving on backroads. Now that we are back in the mid-atlantic region, we are looking forward to more local, organic goods. Hoping to see you guys back in Morgantown sometime in July!

  2. Jeff

    Hi Patricia, We have not been able to visit a single farmers market so far, not so good on our part. In the Keys farmer markets were not available since it appeared to us there were no farms, limited land and water and poor soils probably the reasons. They had a market in Marathon once a week but it was simply trucked in produce from Homestead, no different from what could be purchased in the local Publix grocery store. We promise to do better in the future. I Hope you and your family are enjoying the summer!

  3. Interesting and I am sure useful write up to current and future RVers.
    “If the Women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” 😉

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