The Final Shake-Down

by jdroth on 12 March 2015 · 1 comment

Kim and I spent last weekend taking our RV for a final shake-down before we launch on our year long adventure. We drove three hours to the central Oregon Coast, where we stayed four days in an RV park just south of Newport.

On our maiden voyage, we were surrounded by friendly folks who were willing to show us how things worked — or just chat about life on the road. This time, with the exception of a friendly family we met in the hot tub, we were on our own. Part of that was by design: We wanted to spend most of the weekend on our own. But it was also because the employees and guests at Whalers Rest RV Resort kept to themselves. (To be honest, the employees were mostly sour.)

A perfect day for a stroll on the beach
Watch out! Kim can see what you’re doing!

We learned tons during our weekend excursion.

  • For one, we towed the Mini on this trip, which added a layer of complexity. Hitching up for the first time took much longer than expected. In fact, it took us forty minutes to get everything connected. (By the end of the trip, we could do it all in less than five.) After about an hour, I was comfortable with the added length and weight, but I was nervous at first!
  • For another, we arrived in the dark. Not only did we have to figure out how to hook up ourselves, but we had to do so without light. All went well. (In fact, I think we made more mistakes disconnecting in broad daylight!)
  • And for third, I got sick. I thought I was simply being bombarded by my annual allergies. (My tree allergy always hits in early March.) But no, I was laid low by a nasty bug, which just made things a bit more difficult — not the least of which because I snored like a freight train from the congestion.

We coped with all of these things and more. But every little thing that came up was just that: a little thing. We didn’t fret any of the speedbumps we encountered. We simply solved the problem and moved on. Meantime, we continued to outfit the Bigfoot to be our home on the road for the next year.

Note: We weren’t all about work on this trip. We had fun too, exploring Newport’s small commercial areas (Nye Beach and the Old Bayfront), embarking upon a strangely difficult quest to find a margarita, and (of course) walking on the beach. It was a good balance!

As a special surprise, my brother Jeff and his family were in Newport for the weekend to celebrate his wife’s birthday. We met up with them on Sunday afternoon to share fish tacos at the Chowder Bowl. Our waiter overheard that it was Steph’s birthday and brought her some berry cobbler to celebrate:

Happy birthday to a fine sister-in-law
Happy birthday to a fine sister-in-law

After lunch, Jeff and his family stopped by the RV for a grand tour. Our first guests! In all, it was a fine weekend. The final shakedown shook out well.

A Weighty Matter

That said, there’s plenty to do before we leave. Kim and I each have long to-do lists, and we spend all of our spare time tackling whatever is highest priority.

One particular thorn in our side right now is the weight of our motorhome.

All vehicles are rated for a maximum carrying capacity. This gross vehicle weight rating (or GRWR) is generally invisible to drivers of passenger cars. It’s listed in your manual but it’s not something you’d ever know (or need to know) except in unusual circumstances.

GVWR is used most often by commercial trucks to ensure vehicles aren’t overloaded to unsafe limits. That’s why you see weigh stations by the side of major highways: They’re there to verify trucks aren’t too heavy to be safe.

Well, a motorhome is a closer cousin to a delivery truck than to a passenger car. Prudent RVers do their best to stay within the specified GVWR. That’s the only way to be sure you’re safe when braking, going around corners, and so on.

Our class C RV carries a six-ton tiny home attached to the chassis of a Ford Econoline van. This vehicle is very explicit about its GVWR: 14,050 pounds. Its “dry weight” from the factory is listed as 12,425 pounds, which means we have a theoretical 1625 pounds to work with. That includes our mass (about 340 pounds total?) and the mass of all fuel, water, and waste. In other words, we can’t carry anything extraneous on this trip!

We had no idea how much our motor home actually weighed, so on our drive home Monday, I stopped at a vacant weigh station. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing, I paused on the scales to weigh each axled. If I did everything right (and I’m not sure that I did), then these were the results:

  • Front axle: 4250 pounds
  • Rear axle: 10,200 pounds
  • Towed vehicle: 2850 pounds

In other words, our motorhome is currently at 14,450 pounds. We’re 400 pounds overweight — and we’re barely half packed!

On the plus side, we can shift a little bit of weight to the Mini Cooper. I can’t remember what the Combined Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is for the Bigfoot (meaning, how much it can handle when towing), but I know it’s more than what we have. Still, we can’t go too crazy in overloading the Mini. For one, it’d be a hassle. But another concern is that some states have weight limits for flat-towed vehicles. I think we need to keep things under 3000 pounds to tow legally across the U.S. (But I could be making that up…)

So, weight is an issue we need to address.

The Final Countdown

There’s plenty more that needs to be done before we leave. With less than two weeks before our target departure date, Kim and I are both focused full-time on the RV. We’re packing the condo and moving stuff downstairs to our new tiny home. We’re canceling and consolidating accounts. We’re meeting with family and friends to say farewell.

Kim is spending most of her time managing the inside of the RV, sorting and organizing things for efficiency. I’m spending a lot of my time fixing the things that are missing or broken. Over the past week, I’ve:

  • Replaced the windshield wipers.
  • Repaired the leaky pipes under the bathroom sink.
  • Replaced the missing screen on the side entry.
  • Repaired the weather stripping that had pulled away from the side entry.
  • Set up the A/V system so that we can stream our media library.
  • And more…

It seems like each time we cross something off a to-do list, two more action items take its place!

No worries, though. We’re having fun. And as somebody told us on Facebook: We could spend days planning and preparing and getting the RV ready for the road. Eventually, we just have to go. And that’s what we’ll do. Right now, our target departure date is March 25th, my 46th birthday. Unless something catastrophic happens, I’ll spend my entire forty-seventh year traveling the United States in a motorhome. Sounds frickin’ awesome, my friends!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 The Scottster 17 March 2015 at 04:21

Most people younger than about 60 or so I’ve known who’ve done cross country trips have done so on bicycle, on foot, or motorcycle. Aren’t RV’s for older people who lack physical fitness to make trip using more adventurous means where they really can get to know the land. How are you planning to get back in shape after being holed up inside an RV for a year?


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