Sunset - Warren Dunes

Sunset - Warren Dunes
Sunset - Warren Dunes -

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park
Quetico Provincial Park

Skimming the surface for dinner

Skimming the surface for dinner
Skimming the surface for dinner

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Winter approaches and it is time to close down the summer RV

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We have shifted from near drought conditions to daily rain. At the travel trailer which we call "our cabin in Michigan" the high recently was 49F and the low that night was 41F. Meanwhile, to the west in Illinois the low was 34F.

The MI campground closes for the season as of November 1 and so we are planning and preparing for our winter escape to the southwest.

I winterized the Roadtrek so if temperatures should drop below freezing, or if our delay southward is delayed, we'll be fine.

We'll spend a few more days in MI, will then winterize and vacate the TT for the season. I expect at least one more good campfire before we move on.

A cool night campfire

We had a wonderful summer.

Resting at sunset

Sharing the beach

A piney squirrel neighbor

Cormorants headed south for the winter

Tossing stones at sunset

A rescued snail

a sunset, one of many 

Dogs at the Beach bucket. Yum!

The travel trailer, our "cabin" in Michigan

A glorious sunset, Chicago skyscrapers on the horizon 

G after a bike ride to the Dunes

A "simple" lunch in Bridgman MI at the Lake Street Eats

Another day in Bridgman, in our "life at the beach"

Preparing an association newsletter article in the Roadtrek

Class B meets Travel Trailer

Our green heron neighbor, at the pond

Just a typical beach day

Wine, anyone?

The snail we retrived

a sunny afternoon

Our blue heron neighbor at the pond

Our Roadtrek 210P at the Warren Dunes

Here's to living a full life, and making a difference, discovering new horizons and enjoying our limitless life.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Trekking in the Fall with Winter coming

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Update October 21, 2017:
Over at FB I commented "My 2013 210P has two fresh water tanks and 2 gallons of RV antifreeze is enough. I rinse and drain the gray and black tanks multiple times, until clear. Then I drain the fresh water system as well as I can. I completely drain and rinse the hot water heater, then reinstall the anode. I then bypass the water heater. Then I add antifreeze to both fresh water tanks as recommended by Roadtrek in their 2015 210P "How To" manual section. I then follow the recommendations per the manual to pump the antifreeze throughout the fresh water system. However, once water no longer exits the spigots I catch the antifreeze in a bucket. That I save to add to the P-traps including the gray tank and also to the toilet. Works well for me."  One thing I do sometimes forget to do is to run the macerator after I've put antifreeze in the gray tank. That pushes the water out of the macerator and hose. However, I've never had a problem with the macerator. That may be because I carry a spare with me.

I have found the "How To" section in the 2015 210P manual to be very helpful. This is an updated manual which is available at the Roadtrek website. It can be found in the "Support" section.

For that reason, I suggest going to the Roadtrek source for information.

Original Posted September 23, 2017:
Over at Facebook some of the groups are now going back and forth about the necessity or not of winterizing a Class B, etc. in anticipation of below freezing travel.  Some seem to think that they can trek and beat the weather if it turns. Is winterizing necessary? I've included some additional info from the Roadtrek manual for a 210P at the end of this post. However, Roadtrek's online 210P 2016 manual states:

"Do you really need to winterize? If your Roadtrek is going to remain heated to comfortable temperatures, and the temperatures during the day are well above freezing (above 40 deg. F or above 4 deg. C) and the forecast is for temperatures just below freezing for a few hours at night with calm winds, then you don`t need to winterize. The heat in your Roadtrek is enough to keep the lines from freezing.

If the forecast is for extended cold periods, with daytime temperatures at or below freezing, if you`re not heating your Roadtrek, or if you expect sustained winds and the roads and ground is already frozen, you need to winterize.

As always, you are final judge and you need to do what is comfortable and makes you feel good. If you are not comfortable with leaving water in your lines when it gets cold, and you will sleep better, go ahead and winterize."

Here's a couple of our experiences.

The current chatter at FB could have been triggered by the reality of snow in Montana last week. Or perhaps just cooler weather in places like Bryce Canyon National Park, where the weather tonight will dip to 22F.

I chuckle when some say "I'll be travelling on I-10 and no one that far south needs to be concerned about freezing weather". Here's a photo taken by a work associate in New Orleans a few years ago, on December 10. Yes, that's a small snowman photographed in a mini-blizzard:
Making a snowman in New Orleans

Back in Northern IL it hit 98F at home today, where the heat index was 101F. In Tucson, AZ it is 84F! Where we are today it is currently 85F, with a breeze coming in from the lake. There is a big bike race tomorrow.

At the beach 11:00am
The weather will soon change. When it does there will a lot of discussion about "winterizing."

This is the time to figure it out. When the temperature drops below 25F it will be too late. You don't want to be in that predicament, do you?

Trekking through southern Indiana a few years ago on December 7 we encountered bad weather, as shown in the next photo. Yes, that is snow and ice. We did camp overnight, but with winterized tanks. We ran the propane furnace then switched to electric ceramic heater and the generator. We carry several jugs of water, 1.5 gallons or 2 gallons each. We also carry three gallons of pink RV antifreeze, even if we are already winterized. Here was the situation in Indiana on the morning of  December 8:

The following year we left Illinois in January during a warm trend. In Missouri it was about 50F and we spent the night in a RV park in Tulsa, OK. It was mild and we had water in the fresh water tanks. But there was a fast moving storm coming out of the west. We left early in the morning with temperature expected to reach 55F but by the time we got to Texas the temperature had dropped to a high for the day of 44F. As the winter storm approached the temperature continued to fall. We were headed toward Roswell NM and the weather updates changed the low to a much lower nighttime temperature. How low? The temperatures were predicted to go below 20F that night. On that trek, because it had been predicted that temperatures would be well above freezing during the day, but not below about 30F at night, we decided we didn't need to winterize. The weather did not cooperate. Now we were faced with a dilemma.

Well, en route and in the middle of the day we stopped to dump both fresh water tanks which were about 1/3 full. I left the outside tank drain valve open and allowed any water in the lines to trickle from the inside tank to the outside one and then onto the road. We stopped at a gas station as dusk approached. At that station we winterized right then and there, using the pink RV antifreeze I brought with me, and the funnel. There was blowing snow as we continued our journey.

By the time we got to Roswell it was dark and snowing with a lot of standing water in the town, from a downpour earlier in the day, when it was 50F. I drove into the RV park where we had a reservation (don't travel without it!); there were no sites available. Our reservation was the only thing that got us in, as RVers scrambled to find places with electric hook-ups to ride out the storm. I parked and hooked up the electrical. I didn't bother to hook up fresh water or the macerator hose. We powered everything up and had a good dinner. Afterwards we settled down for the night, using the electric ceramic heater we bring with us (750/1500 watt) and if necessary we run the propane furnace. Yes, I do fill the propane tank before any of these treks. Because of our winter seasonal experiences we have since added a dual control electric blanket. Now that's toasty warm!

We got up before dawn so we could have a nice breakfast before continuing on our journey.  The storm had blown out and the really cold front had blown in. Sunrise was at 6:59am.

Dawn at 9F
While cooking breakfast I checked the weather and our inside/outside temperature display.  The temperature inside an outside storage compartment was about 6F warmer than outside ambient.

Inside temperature and in one of the rear outside compartments (clock on CST)

The 30 ampere power cord was stiff with cold, making coiling difficult. As we left the town we encountered a winter wonderland. The standing water had frozen solid with a layer of snow on top:

With the sun rising, we left Roswell, NM and headed west, southwest:

Three hours later we were still driving through a frozen countryside, en route to Las Cruces, NM:

When we approached Las Cruces, we finally reached the end of snowfall, but the temperature outside was below freezing:

Continuing on, we encountered snow on the ground at noon, and it wasn't until 2:00pm that we had finally left the snow behind us:

At 4:00PM we pulled into our destination. Temperatures were mild, in the 50s and with a low expected of 38F that night:

What does Roadtrek say about this?
I think it is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines. If one fails to do so, then one can void warranties.

Roadtrek has manuals that are good. They even include "How To" sections.  My 210P is a bit more complex than some class Bs because it has two fresh water tanks. One is inside and the other is outside. Because of this arrangement, there are valves to select which tank is to be filled via city water and which is to be used. Roadtrek includes "summer" instructions which use the outside and inside tank, and also includes "winter" instructions in which the exterior tank is drained and isolated via valves. During "winter" operation only the interior fresh water tank is used.

Anyone can go to Roadtrek's website and download the manuals they are interested in, as well as the "How To" guides and run videos.

So what does Roadtrek say about winterizing a 210P?

The 2016 210P manual states that "In winter mode, remember that you need to keep the interior temperature at least 60 degrees F (15 C) by running the propane furnace or heat pump, and keep the water heater running. Also remember that the waste water tanks are not protected from freezing. If you use them, mix pink RV antifreeze with whatever you put down the drain 50/50. If you do not use them, drain and winterize the waste water system."

In HOWTO: Summer and Winter Mode the manual states:

"The 190 and 210 Popular models have the capability to operate in mildly sub-freezing conditions, provided the water system is properly configured. To better understand this it is best to know how the plumbing is configured. The diagrams below show how water is supplied in each mode. Solid triangles are closed valves; hollow triangles are open valves. [see diagrams in manual].

In summer mode, both fresh water tanks are in use. The interior tank is inside the vehicle and is filled via the gravity fill in the back door frame, and the exterior tank is below the vehicle, and filled via the gravity fill in the driver's door post. The water line between the two is open, so water flows from the higher interior tank to the lower exterior tank as the water pump draws water from the exterior tank. In winter mode, the line between the two tanks is closed, and the exterior tank is drained to prevent it from freezing. The outside shower water lines are closed and drained to prevent them from freezing, and the water pump draws water from the interior tank, which is protected from freezing by cabin heat. The hot water heater will also not freeze if left running. In this way, hot and cold running water continues to be supplied to the galley sink, toilet, and shower.

"Winter mode" and "winterized" are two different things. Winter mode protects the water in the system from mildly sub-freezing conditions as long as the Roadtrek is adequately heated and in use. If you plan extended stays in sub-freezing conditions or if you store your vehicle in freezing conditions, you must winterize to avoid damage to the water system. To prepare your vehicle for really cold weather, see HOW TO: Water System Winterizing • "

The 2016 210P manual includes photos, diagrams and detailed instructions. Of course, it makes sense to check the manual for your specific model and year. However, in 2014 Roadtrek made major improvements to their manuals. I have  combined the improved online manual with the one that came with my Roadtrek. That is because the manuals after 2013 provide more photos and expanded "How To" instructions. Of course, one does have to check the plumbing in their RT to determine if it matches a manual for a later model year.

The "How To" sections about the fresh plumbing include:
  • Summer and Winter Mode
  • Switching from Summer to Winter Mode
  • Switching from Winter to Summer Mode
  •  Water System Winterizing 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Adding heat to the RV

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With cool and cold weather trekking in mind we've added some additional sources of heat to our rigs. This has worked well for us.  Our 210P includes a heat pump and a propane furnace. These work very well, but we wanted to add things to work below the 40F lower limit of the heat pump and supplement the propane furnace. We do conserve propane.

Here's the stuff to supplement the built in heat:

  • Ceramic hot air heater 750/1500 watt, electric.
  • Circulating fan, 12V.
  • Electric blanket, dual control.
  • Electric wall mount heater, 250 watt and Digital Thermostat (evaluated)
  • Floor heat - considered but not installed

The Ceramic heater. Has a built in non-digital thermostat. Works well in the small space of the Roadtrek and we also use this to load the Onan generator in cool weather for the monthly 2-hour run. There is also a version available with a rotating, motorized base. That's the one we have, but we usually point it in one direction.

Circulating fan, 12V. This doesn't add heat, but it does help to mix the air in the Roadtrek. Generally the very front of the RV is cooler than the rear because of that large expanse of windshield glass. We do cover the windows with Reflectix.  The fan fits well in the tray above the side entry door. It has side air inlets.

Electric Blanket. We purchases a king size "plush" dual control with 10 heat settings (including prewarm and low). G loves it. Got ours at Sam's Club on a special price. We like the illuminated settings, makes it easy to find the controllers in the dark.  Ours is a beige Homes Sunbeam, similar to the photo.
Holmes Sunbeam dual control King blanket

Electric wall mount heater with digital thermostat. This was evaluated last year in our larger rig. The bedroom in the 5th wheel is about the same volume as the Roadtrek. I suspended a 400 watt radiant panel in the bedroom last winter and controlled it via a digital thermostat. It actually provided too much heat. I was also concerned by the high surface temperature. I have since found a similar unit which uses about half the power and therefore puts out less heat. It is a 250 watt unit. That seems about right for the Roadtrek

We used the 250 watt in our 3rd rig this spring. Works very well and with lower surface temperature.

I'm thinking of suspending (hanging) it in the front of the Roadtrek at night. Because it radiates heat both front and rear, that should dramatically improve the front temperature. At 250 watts, it is 1/3 the heat output of the ceramic heater, and would reduce energy requirements. I'd stage these so the panel thermostat comes on first. If the interior temperature of the Roadtrek continues to fall, then the ceramic 750 watt heater would come on (low setting). If even lower, the propane furnace would run.

Floor Heat Pad. This is something I've considered, but not yet done. We currently have a heavy duty carpet on the floor of the RT, which is about 78 inches long x 34 inches wide. This covers the entire galley floor area. One option is to add a foot warmer. Cozy products has a 135 watt electric floor mat. It is about 17 x 38 inches.

Cozy Products FWB Super Foot Warmer

So there are our current approaches and a floor heat possibility we are considering. 

Hope you have pleasant cool and cold weather trekking experiences. My next post will look more closely at comfort factors for cool and cold weather trekking.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cormorant Migration

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It's the time of year that the annual migration south is underway. Monarch butterflies, cranes, canada geese and even cormorants are flying southward.

Fall, Monarchs and Nature

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We're currently on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The great annual Monarch butterfly migration continues. We enjoy watching the flutter by as we walk the shoreline. Some get perilously close to the water. Nature prevails. As I write this a nuthatch is working its way down the pine, about 5 feet away. With fall, there is some urgency as temperatures cool.

Some Monarchs don't make it