* Our Retirement Home *

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After looking at recreational vehicles of one type of another for over 30 years ... all the way from small and simple pop-up trailers to very large motorhomes ... we decided somewhere along the line that we wanted to live in a motorhome full-time following retirement. Well, with retirement just around the corner in late September 2005, we bought the retirement-home-on-wheels! While vacationing in Dallas in July 2003, the lady of the house found our dream home-on-wheels at McClain's RV in Denton. A week later we drove a 40' Winnebago Ultimate Advantage on a shake-down cruise from Dallas back to Virginia.

During 2005 we were counting down the days to retirement while we cleaned out, downsized, gave away, threw away, sold, and/or prepared to store our "stuff." All the while, we enjoyed using the motorhome for short get-aways as we got more acquainted with it's many features.

Below is "Rosie" the motorhome in the Ft Gordon Recreation Area near Augusta, Georgia in 2003. And on the right, "Rosie" passes the grandkid test!

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Most motorhome travelers tow a smaller vehicle behind them to provide transportation while staying in a campground. We began by towing our front-wheel drive Nissan Maxima on a tow dolly. This works well for fwd vehicles, and for some older rear wheel drive vehicles. While the initial set-up is a bit more simple, and might be less expensive than some other options, you do have another vehicle (the tow dolly) to maintain and to park wherever you go. But if you want to be able to easily tow a different vehicle from time to time, a dolly is likely the way to go.

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Our first "toad" was a 2000 Honda Odyssey, and our currennt "toad" is a 2005 Odyssey. With rear seat that folds flat into the floor, it serves well as a rolling garage to carry the recumbent bicycles as we travel. As with most Hondas prior to 2010 or so, the Odyssey can be towed "four-down" with minimal preparation.

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A 40' diesel motorhome is a complicated creation, encompasing not only all the features of a very comfortable home, but also a highly technical motor vehicle. Motorhomes are designed to be self-contained and self-supporting. As with any home ... and as with any vehicle ... regular maintenance is required. Some handy-man skills will come in handy, just as they would around any "brick & stick" house. And while quality motorhomes come outfitted with many nice features, each owner will want to make their own additions. Below are pictures which show some of our additions. Other pictures and descriptions can be found at the various links under "Lessons Learned, Projects & Tip Sheets" on the RV Travels page.

After Market additions include: 3M Front Shield; Motosat MD500 dual LNB auto seeking self-skew roof top satellite dish & Nomad 2 control box; wireless thermometer w/3 remote sensors (fridge, water svc bay, water pump bay); Cobra 75WXST remote mount 40 channel CB, all controls in handset w/ LCD display, 10 Weather Channels (7 NOAA & 3 Intl), Instant Channel 19, 4 memory channels, Dual Watch (Monitor pre-selected channels), Full Watch (scan all channels), Sound Tracker improves transmission & reception, Key Lock; Halogen Infrared lowbeam bulbs (HIR-2); 3 high-volume vent covers; FanTastic Fan "Create-a-breeze" (upgraded to power open/close) in bathroom (replaced bad original Elixer vent/fan); Colorado Carefree Door Shade on entry door; MCD ShadeMan Duo day/night shades (replaced oem day/night shades AND oem power sun-visors); Extreme Holding Tank Vent; Digital Electrical Line Monitor; hard-wired SurgeGard; SHURflo Smart SensorT 5.7gpm Water Pump & Extreme Strainer, Horst Miracle Probe tank monitors for the black and grey water tanks, Blue Ox Aventa II tow bar, Blue Ox KarGard shield for towed vehicle (with hand-made bracket for storage on the hitch draw-bar), Roadmaster Brakemaster 9160 supplemental braking system and breakaway for the towed vehicle, and TireTraker TPMS (Tire Pressure Management System) for both the motorhome and towed vehicle. Also, we replaced the door glass in the front overhead entertainment cabinets with wire mesh (disposable grill toppers from Camping World, cut to fit and painted black) to improve circulation/reduce heat, we added mini-neon "pilot lights" to the water heater and engine heater switches, and we added a shelf in the upper portion of the narrow basement pass-through compartment to hold the collapsible ladder & other long items.

Below are two pictures of the Blue Ox Aventa II tow bar. The Aventa II is a steel tow bar, is rated to tow 10,000 lb, and is very easy to hook up for towing. In both pictures, you can also see the Blue Ox KarGard shield in place to protect the towed vehicle from rocks and debris that might be thrown up from the motorhome. The KarGard attaches to the towbar quickly and easily, and folds in half for storage when not in use. Since it is still somewhat bulky when folded, I built a simple rack attached to the hitch draw-bar to store the KarGard on the hitch when not using it for towing. Cables running between the motorhome and "toad" include air brake connection, lights connection, safety cables, and break-away brake cable.

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After using the KarGard for five years and over 40,000 miles, we concluded it could be improved by angling the shield. With the shield in a vertical position, we have found that rocks kicked up by the motorhome can be deflected off the shield and into the rear of the motorhome. There simply is no other explanation for gravel dings on the rear!! We believe than angling the shield out at the top will result in more rocks being deflected back toward the road rather than into the rear of the motorhome. Pictured here is the result of the first effort at an angled shield. The steel "towers" were replaced with 3/4" schedule 40 PVC. The PVC was heated just enough to make it pliable, then bent to a slight angle, estimated at 15-20 degrees. If this appears to work well, and if we can find a pipe bender!!, we will bend the original steel towers to replace the experimental PVC towers.

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One item rarely included on an RV from the factory, but very important to have, is some kind of electrical system protection. The Surge Guard pictured below on the left is hard-wired into the electrical system. It checks for proper ground and polarity, and will shut down power if it detects over or under voltage situations. Another safety necessity (required by law in many states) is a supplemental braking system in the towed vehicle. Our system is the Roadmaster Brakemaster 9160 system which easily hooks into the air brake system on the motorhome. The cylinder pictured attaches to a braket under the driver's seat and presses the brake pedal in the towed vehicle proportionally to how hard the brakes are being applied in the motorhome. The system includes a monitor light on the motorhome dash so the driver will know when the Toad brakes have been applied, and a break-away cable that will trigger emergency braking in the event that the towed vehicle breaks loose from the motorhome.

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And of course, Xena thinks she is the Queen of the Road!


* RV interest links *
Escapees RV Club (Escapees)
Family Campers & RVers (FCRV)
Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA)
Go RVing!
SMARTFMCA Military Campground Directory (privately operated, very up to date)
MilWit .. Military Group in WIT
NOMADS United Methodist RVer ministry
RV Consumer Group
RV Park customer reviews
RV Service location customer reviews
RV Traveler Online Newsletter
SMART ... Special Military Active and Retired Travelers Club
WIT .. Winnebago Itasca Travelers Club
Escapees RV ClubMilWIT

* RV mfgs, equip & dealers *
Our selling dealer: McClain's RV Superstore
Spartan Motorhome Chassis
Winnebago Industries

our RV Checklists
Travelogue 2003 ...... Travelogue 2004 ...... Travelogue 2005 ...... Travelogue 2006 ...... Travelogue 2007
Travelogue 2008 ...... Travelogue 2009 ...... Travelogue 2010 ...... Travelogue 2011 ...... Travelogue 2012
Travelogue 2013 ...... Travelogue 2014 ...... Travelogue 2015 ...... Travelogue 2016 ...... Travelogue 2017
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