We’ve been daydreaming of a not too distant future where we’d be able to take longer trips. 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 10 weeks. But we’ve had one primary consideration we’ve been worried about.
We have two kitties, Twinkle and Skittle. Skittle we assume will be a fine adventure kitty and traveling companion. Sure, she runs and hides under the blanket for security but she quickly adapts.
Twinkle is a bit different in many ways. In late 2015, soon after we got Qubie actually, Twinkle had an episode of some kind that led to her not eating. The only way we were able to save her was having a feeding tube inserted. Our first trip to Ocean Lakes over Thanksgiving was during this time, with late night feedings. The chances were slim but it worked and she recovered and is still kicking 5 years later.
Since then, though, we know that she is very susceptible to the underlying condition that occurred as a result of her not eating. We’ve been told that it snowballs quickly if she stops eating so we are very cautious. The issue is that we’ve tried bringing her on trips since then and she hides and simply won’t come out for anything… including food. We’ve had to bring her home early to ensure she didn’t spiral.
This weekend at our favorite lake camping spot we tried again. She hid again all the first evening… but did come out a bit on occasion to sniff around. No eating though. The next day she mostly slept in the hiding place next to the bed. Late in the day I brought food and water near her shelter. She stood up, sniffed, walked out… and ate a bit.
I can’t express the relief we felt. She’s ventured around, she’s purred, she’s used her litterbox. She’s doing it!
We’ll be doing more little trips out to the lake to desensitize her more before we tackle a moving Qubie. So far we’re transporting them in their carriers in the car and let them out in Qubie once we have her set up. Someday they’ll ride with us as Qubie passengers!
I’ve not mentioned Skittle because she’s just not having trouble. She gets nervous when we open the entry door but she’ll get better over time.
Extended traveling seems back on the menu! Now we just have to figure out the turtle. 😐
One of the things I’d long wanted to do was get some video content going. We enjoy many traveling vlogs and figured it might be a fun diversion to try to do similar.
Turns out if you want to make something that maybe people will actually watch it ain’t so easy! So please do bear with us as we make our way into this new venture. For your enjoyment, here’s some bloopers from last night’s session. The bloopers will see the light of day, the rest likely not.
Last year we waited until May to dewinterize Qubie. Our first trip was planned for late March, but the covid-19 pandemic was crushing everything in its path and our state park was doing rolling cancellations. Times are a bit better this year as we climb slowly out of the pandemic hole and our first trip to Jordan Lake arrived and was greeted with open arms. Qubie! Our lake!
It started with a bit of drama as many good things do. I couldn’t get out of my spot at our storage facility! This is a problem I’ve run into on more than one occasion but never quite to this extent. There’s a steel beam at my driver’s side front corner that I have to get around so I can’t cut too early so when one of my lot neighbors pokes their vehicles out of the spot too much I get a bit stuck. This was the worst I’d ever seen… he was fully 6 feet out past the end of his spot. I literally could not go that direction and was forced to go “against the grain” and go the wrong direction out the parking lot. I’ve had the guy next to him poking out by about 3 feet and could just squeeze past… but not this time. The lot manager was apologetic and called the person who was also apologetic and moved it by the time I returned Sunday.
But then all was dandy. I brought her home for a quick dewinterization. I figure there’s enough description of that process on the internet so no one particularly needs my input. I’m personally just always nervous and very glad when I complete it and the fresh water system doesn’t spray from somewhere it isn’t supposed to. Well, I escaped catastrophe again this season and have a fresh water system that holds pressure. Phew!
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is an easy 20-minute ride from our house or storage facility. Given that, it has definitely become our “home away from home” for the last 5 years. We’ve probably had about 50 trips to the lake since we bought Qubie in 2015 and it never fails to deliver a measure of peace and tranquility.
We’ve honed our site selections carefully and I keep an eye on the reservation window to ensure I get us booked at our favorite sites throughout the year. It was a bit early in the spring for swimming or paddleboarding and I only cast a few times for fish. But it’s never a bad time for a campfire or soaking in the natural ambience.
We feel fortunate that Qubie has been mostly trouble-free for us recently. I try very hard to notice and appreciate these problem-free times… not because they’re necessarily rare but because of the common perception that RVs are problematic money-pits. So, chalk one up for Qubie as I had to do absolutely nothing this trip outside the ordinary.
That said, I did take the passenger captain’s chair out while Qubie was in the driveway so I could reupholster it. Last year we noticed that the driver’s seat was rapidly flaking and cracking. This is a very common complaint with these Flexsteel seats, and Tiffin knows all about it. I decided to contact them about 1 month after our 5 year anniversary with Qubie, mostly about how to source replacement fabric. Tiffin asked for photos documenting my damage and then authorized free replacement upholstery for both chairs. Within the month I had a big box on my front porch with complete skins. Tiffin does a lot right… a large part of why we chose to buy one.
I decided to wait until the off season to actually do the replacement and, as things sometimes happen, I pushed it off a bit too long to the brink of the actual season. I got the driver’s side done — and I’ll give a big shout-out to Tony Ragusa for his video showing the process — before the season started, but waited a bit too long for the passenger seat. I’ll likely get it done in the evenings this week so we can have a full complement of seating on our next trip.
Our spring and summer are becoming a bit clearer now and we’re very much looking forward to making plans for once we’re vaccinated and can get around a bit more. Julia is working full-time over the summer so I don’t think we’ll be able to have any grand trips as we’d long hoped, but her work is worth it. She’s due to start college in the fall and Cat and I definitely plan to drown our sorrows in some exploration. We have a few BIG changes coming for Qubie to help us get her ready for our expanded traveling itinerary and we’re also looking to start getting some videos going as we do so… if for no other reason than to start documenting what we do for our own amusement.
Join us next time!
It was a lovely, if warm, weekend in central North Carolina which made it perfect to finally get the mothballs out of Qubie. With the covid-19 situation we have yet to take her out anywhere. Our reservations out at Jordan Lake beginning in March have just kept being cancelled as the park remained closed. I can’t really blame them as it matches the letter of the law, but it irked since our brand of camping meshes quite nicely with social distancing strictures. But I get it.
Jordan Lake in particular is tentatively scheduled to begin allowing camping again on May 22nd, and our first stay is scheduled on the weekend of the 29th. That means I better get Qubie ready to go!
I had a few maintenance things to do aside from dewinterizing — a had to replace the black lexan fascia in the step well that I broke trying to get the house batteries replaced. I’d ordered the replacement piece from Tiffin and it was exactly what I needed. That went fairly easily. Had to scrape the excess adhesive off, then it was a simple process to remount it. I opted to just use double-sided foam sticky tape rather than the beefy adhesive they used. It doesn’t need to be mounted so strongly, it just needs to mostly stay in place. Between the screws through it at the top, the step cover mounted against it below, and a couple of pieces of the aforementioned sticky tape it was just fine.
With that same order I got replacement vent covers for the dash windshield vents that had cracked at the screw locations. They were just unsightly but why not? That was super easy.
Dewinterizing was time consuming but mostly painless. About the only tricky thing was getting the water heater drainplug mounted. Whatever person at Suburban or Tiffin who decided on the placement of that thing, I can only hope your personal hell is uninstalling and reinstalling those things over and over for eternity. What a ludicrous location! Can’t get a socket on it, and it’s so tight I have to replace the plug every because I practically destroy it getting it in and out. Oh well, I won’t have to see it until December.
Once everything was complete I decided to wash her up. She still had a spring coat of pollen over everything. The roof was a delightful sick shade of yellow green. Now she’s spick and span and ready for another season of enjoyment.
Perhaps the best news was discovered on my way back taking her to her storage space. I was thinking on the way home and back that she felt a bit more serene and peaceful. Then it dawned on me: she’s noticeably quieter! My soundproofing job appears to have had a benefit! I mean, she’s not quiet, don’t get me wrong, especially at 4,000 RPM. But she’s definitely quieter than in the past. I can definitely tell that the remaining sound is not coming through the doghouse but from a bit forward. While cruising at low RPM the tire noise feels louder than the engine at this point. I’m eager for Cat to take a ride to verify my impressions. That’s exciting!
It’s been a short off-season — our first dewinterizing trip is less than a month away! — and I’m really looking forward to taking her out again. I’m hoping we get to use most of our scheduled trips this year, but I’m a bit dubious… Julia’s schedule certainly hasn’t gotten any less challenging. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
Part of the off-season maintenance is monthly generator exercise. I usually “work from RV”, bringing the Wifi hotspot and laptop and hang out for a couple of hours and have the front heat pump and rear air conditioner battle for supremacy. I drove out earlier this week to storage to put her through her paces. Arrived at storage, unplugged her from the electrical outlet and opened the door.
Nothing. No steps.
No lights anywhere, no power, batteries drained. Well phooey. I went to check the outlet and the GFCI had kicked sometime within the preceding week or so. I popped it back in and got the charger going again. I pulled the step cover off and knew things were a bit worse: sulfur stink. Checking the cells showed one of the batteries was really dry in all cells. Double crap. I drove to a nearby store and got some distilled water to refill it in the hopes that I could revive it. Getting the charger going again and got a little gasp of electricity so I figure I had a shot. However, when I returned the following day they wouldn’t hold a charge. Triple crap.
Tiffin does many things well. One thing they did horribly in our model year was place the house batteries under the coach steps. It ain’t the worst thing in the world for maintenance but when it’s time to replace batteries it is a chore. The batteries fit quite nicely under there, but there is very little room to maneuver them. There isn’t enough space to, for instance, rotate them so they’d lift out of the compartment. Nor can you lift them straight out without removing the step support frame. And you can only remove the step support frame by feverishly manhandling the black lexan fascia mounted to the upper step facing.
Once you finally get the step frame out you might think you’re sailing clear. Hah! There are wires and fixtures encroaching that space from every angle and even two screw tips jutting out from behind the lexan on the lower step fascia that almost feel malevolently installed to keep you from removing the batteries. Eventually I was able to find a path by pushing the left-most ground wire almost all the way back into its hole, slide the batteries to the left and squeeze past the aforementioned screw tip to extricate them. Phew. Phase one complete.
$212 later from Costco I had replacement Interstate batteries that I’ve heard reasonably good things about and I was back on the road to Qubie (Costco also takes the old batteries to recycle). I got the batteries in with almost zero fanfare, right back the way I pulled the old ones out. Reconnecting all but the final ground wire went quickly and then I made sure to get my legs situated for the steps to come down and quickly made the final connection… the steps immediately started swinging down and I knew I was back in business. Enabling the 12V system brought the Spider controls back to life and there was light once again!
Now I just had to get the step frame reinstalled. Yeah. Sure. Getting it manhandled out was one thing, getting it back quite another. I’d read on the forum that this task was made easier by prying off the black lexan fascia, and that seems to make sense. So, I started prying it off and making good progress… until I didn’t. It snapped like a dry branch. Lovely. The adhesive was just a little too strong in the upper left I think.
Ah well, not the end of the world.
So, I decided to exercise the generator a bit and then had some time to kill. What to do?
Oh yeah, let’s remove the doghouse!
That’s the “featured” picture above, doghouse removed and engine exposed. Kind of crazy to think that howling V10 engine is right there. And noisy. I’d heard fellow Tiffin owners who’ve installed some Dynamat hood liner to the underside of the doghouse cover to reduce the radiated noise from the engine. You know me, if it’s an improvement I’ll give it a shot. I’d had it for a few weeks waiting for an opportunity to remove the doghouse and get it installed. What better time than waiting for the generator to work up a sweat?
Step one is getting it off, which was not as bad as it could have been. Actually super easy… once I found the final screw that was holding it down. (Note for 2016 Open Roaders: there are 7 screws… 3 across the front, 3 across the back, and 1 on the passenger side. I say 2016 because it’s different from both the 2014 and 2018 from the images I’ve seen.) Once the screws were all out a little prying got the seal released and I was staring at the top of the V10. That’s moderately disconcerting but also really cool.
I took the cover home and did some surgery with a blade to cut the Dynamat to try to fit it well. I used some aluminum Reflectix tape to connect the seams and it ended up really nice! Here’s the before and after shots.
It didn’t take too long to get it reinstalled, but it was a wee bit finicky to get it to fit again. That figures, I’d added material that would need to be compressed to allow reinstallation, so I had to stand on it, shove it, apply pressure and weight and push. But finally I got the first screw set and the rest followed in short order.
I admit, I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference with a quick check of the engine. As a rule, I try to keep myself from being overly susceptible to placebo. “I did something, things must be better!” But we’ll see in more typical use and I’ll also get Cat’s take on it. It wasn’t an expensive “improvement” at about $55, so not much lost if it’s not a huge improvement.
Now we wait for a few weeks… then back for our first stay of 2020! Where? Where else, Jordan Lake :).