We’ve been asking you guys to share with us your most embarrassing RV mistakes, the things you wish you hadn’t done, those “learning opportunities” about problems and setbacks we have no one else to blame but ourselves. And, wow, have you guys come through for us, baring all, telling all and thereby offering great advice that can help someone else from “learning the hard way.” We’ll feature a whole bunch of audience stories…coming up.

Also this week, lots of RV news, comments, questions, tips and another fascinating off the beaten path report…. But first, I’m joined by my lifelong traveling companion and my bride…Jennifer, so we can bring you up to speed on what we’ve been doing this past week.

Show Notes for Episode #228 Feb 6, 2019 of The RV Podcast:

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK

JENNIFER
It has been another busy week with lots of traveling as we continued our series of visits to RV manufacturing facilities around North America, learning about the build processes and technology going in to today’s RVs. We’re concentrating pretty much exclusively on small RVs, Class B, B+, maybe even Class C motorhomes and vans, as that’s the size that best fits us personally.

MIKE
And while our factory videos are helpful for us as we look for our next RV, they are something we hope to do all year around, visiting as many as we can as we travel through North America over the next year. We want to tour not just RV makers, but also places where RV parts and accessories are made. You guys have been giving us great feedback so far and are telling us that you really like seeing how they are built and learning a little about the different companies.

JENNIFER
As to our choice, we haven’t made a final choice yet. We have a checklist of the things we want in our next RV. We’ve easily looked at more than 20 different models so far and we’re winnowing our list down. I think we’re getting close. We have learned so much.

MIKE
And we are still deciding how we’ll get one. Whether we purchase one outright or rent one for a while or become brand ambassadors for another company, or some combination of all of those options. We also like changing models frequently so we have experience with the different innovations and trends shaping the industry today. This all started out for us as a hobby back in 2012, then a blog, then a podcast, then a YouTube Channel and then a weekly newsletter and lately a regular series of guides and eBooks as well. It’s become a business. We have four other people now working for us. We need that help so we can spend as much time as possible traveling and producing RV Lifestyle related content. To pay for all that requires sponsors. So choosing the next RV we will be traveling in and developing sponsors and partners we are important decisions not to be hastily made.

JENNIFER
We’ll have another factory tour coming this Thursday. And as this podcast is released, we’ll be visiting yet another RV maker learning about another brand. It is really enlightening seeing all these places and we want to invite you guys to recommend other factories or RV parts makers we should visit. Like we said, no matter what RV we end up choosing for our personal travel, we want to continue visiting those factories and RV shows.

MIKE
But I can’t wait to hit the road for ourselves. When always do a “Search for Spring” trip that has us driving south from Michigan to the first place we find flowers or shrubs in bloom. That’s where we officially designate spring. It’s also where we dewinterize! Then we continue south till Florida.

JENNIFER
We’ve got a fun report planned around Florida involving baseball and spring training, another RV factory tour we want to do, a meet and greet along the Gulf Islands National Seashore for a Sunday afternoon in late February or early March and then a trip west with stops in New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico and Utah. I can almost smell the spring flowers!

RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK

MIKE
National Parks staff busy cleaning waste, hiring for spring, assessing damage after shutdown 
National Parks officials spent the week trying to access damage and catch up on things like spring hiring after reopening from the federal government shutdown, which lasted a record 35 days. Damage in each location varied, but common issues were wildlife becoming accustomed to eating human trash, damage from people driving and camping in illegal spots, and human waste left everywhere. Officials at Death Valley National Park estimated half a ton of human waste, including 1,665 clumps of toilet paper and 429 piles of human feces needed to be cleaned. And a coyote there had to be put down after the animal became adapted to begging for human food. To read more, click here.  JENNIFER
Elephant seals take over popular California beach during federal government shutdown 
Speaking of national parks and the effect of the federal closure, one story I saw last week made me smile. Drakes Beach, part of the Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California, was apparently taken over by elephant seals during the federal shutdown. When people weren’t around to keep them away, a band of elephant seals decided lay claim to a stretch of beach after their usual home was hard hit during a storm. Now that the shutdown is over and the oark open, the popular beach is filled with pregnant female seals and nursing babies. Park officials are keeping human visitors away. Click here for more information.
MIKE
Thor Industries finalizes purchase of Erwin Hymer Group – without North American division 
Thor Industries, Inc. announced last Friday that it had completed its purchase of the Erwin Hymer Group, making it the world’s largest RV manufacturer. Thor Industries, which makes Airstream, Jayco and Dutchman brands among others, stated in a press release that it wanted to purchase Erwin Hymer to give it a large presence in the European market. (see release here.) The sale was originally supposed to include Erwin Hymer’s North American businesses, which includes the Roadtrek brand, but that plan changed after financial irregularities were discovered. A report out of Ontario last week noted that Erwin Hymer employees are taking inventory of existing stock and not currently building new vehicles. (Click here for more info.) 
JENNIFER
Manatee invasion reported at Florida’s Blue Springs State Park
Okay, a minute ago it was elephant seals in California. Here’s a report about Manatees in Florida. If you’re anywhere new Florida’s Blue Springs State Park this week, this would be a great time stop by. The park reported more than 500 manatees crowded into natural hot springs last week when Florida git hit with a cold spell. Manatees are kind of lazy so if you get there this week, even though the weather is warming agan, chances are there will still be a lot of them around. To see some video from a Florida news station, click here. To see a report Mike and I did from our visit there a few years back, click here.

 This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping 

RV QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

  • Caller Dan offers some suggestions about visit we are planning to visit Big Bend National Park
  • Caller Bill says we should look at the Winnebago Travato
  • Caller Daryl and Chris give a recommendation for us to check out the Phoenix Cruiser
  • And Sandy and Mike encourage us over our new RV Lifestyle branding moves

RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK 

JENNIFER
This week, we’re combining our regular audience questions and comments with our interview if the week segment to feature a whole bunch if different voices from you, the audience.

MIKE
We asked our listeners to share the newbie mistakes they have made, the embarrassing things we’ve all done, those things that taught us a lesson the hard way.

JENNIFER
So, unedited and raw, here are the things you DON’T want to do with your RV!  

Tom:                Hey, Mike and Jennifer, it’s Tom and Kathy McAllister from North Carolina. You were requesting information about newbie things that happen. I don’t have to tell you a story about our first adventure with our 2006 CS Adventurous. We were at a campground in Boone, excuse me, Blowing Rock, North Carolina. And left the awning out and this nice little rain shower came through, sounded really nice util it started pouring down the rain and all of a sudden, we hear this “Pow!” thinking that a branch broke off a tree and fell onto the motor home. That was not it. We left the awning out and one of the aluminum billet knuckles on the awning fixture broke due to the heavy weight of the rain on the awning. The awning had not been titled correctly. Well the next day we discovered that and were able to get it back up and were able to drive home. Fortunately we were able to contact Fiomi in Florida and they were able to send us the replacement part. We got it all back together and continued on from there.

                        The lesson learned was don’t leave your awning out at night, no matter what you think the weather is going to be. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth the trouble.

Angelique:        Hi Mike and Jennifer, this is Angelique with a newbie mistake. Fifteen years ago I was pulling a well loved, 24 foot mobile scout travel trailer from Austin, Texas to Miami, Florida. As I was making the turn on I-75, just past Tallahassee, cars kept honking at me and waving and I kept honking and waving back. Finally someone pulled up besides me and pointed and pointed until I finally looked in the rear view mirror and my side mirror and I saw that on the travel trailer, my awning had unfurled about halfway. And I was going down the road and as I looked to the left, my car veered to the right and I side swiped a sign on the side of the highway. So now I had a mangled unrolled awning on my 24 foot mobile scout. My friend was aghast that was traveling with me. We pulled into a roadside park. I spent about 2 hours with the limited tools I had trying to get it disconnected from the trailer because it would no longer roll up.

                        And finally, I just sat down in the trailer and had a gin and tonic. So the moral of that story is, oh and I left the damaged awning by the side of the road. The moral of that story is you can get through any newbie mistake if someone remembers to bring the cocktails.

                        Thanks for all y’all do. Bye bye.

Jim:                  Hi Mike and Jennifer, this is Jim from Colorado Springs and I have one of many newbie mistakes that I’d like to share with you. We bought our 2017 Pleasure way Class B a couple years ago down in Florida. And as we were driving North with it, we had plenty of people complimenting us on our camper van and asking questions and that kind of thing. Our first real stop was Stone Mountain, Georgia. We had a nice little lunch there and as we were leaving the parking lot, I had a guy that was kind of waving at me and I waved back at him and he waved at me again and I waved back at him. And then he rolled down his window so I rolled down my window and I expected him to compliment us on our camper van again. And he said “Hey buddy, you’re driving with your awning down.” So that, again was one of many newbie mistakes but we’ve had a great time. Love your podcast. Thanks. Bye

Eric:                  Hello this is Eric. I had a rookie mistake that I made that I was a little embarrassed about. I bought a travel trailer, 29 foot and I got an equalizing hitch with removable bars. When you unhook the trailer you have to lift the trailer up and down with the hitch a few times to get it on or off the ball and to assemble the bars property for equalizing the weight. And during part of that process, I leaned the bars up against the trailer. Apparently when the trailer wasn’t in the up position and then I brought the hitch down and the bars punctured through the diamond plate that was in the front of the trailer. Fortunately it was diamond plate and not a big fiberglass section and the dealer was able to just put a patch over it. But that was pretty embarrassing. I learned not to lean the bars up against the trailer. Now I just lay them on the ground.

Joe:                  Hi Mike and Jennifer. My name is Joe. I’m too embarrassed to tell you where I live not because of where I live is embarrassing but what I did sure is. I stopped after my maiden voyage with my new travel trailer and went to the dump station. I’d seen it on YouTube so I figured I knew exactly what to do. I just lifted the lid and put my hose in there and went and pulled the black handle first and then I was gonna pull the gray but the tank filled up and started overflowing right away. So I shut the valve off, looked around for a little bit and I saw another hatch where you’re really supposed to put your sewage. So I pulled up and dumped mt sewage in there and yes I did go back and bail out their water meter or water valve hole. Take care. Bye.

Speaker 6:        Hi Mike and Jennifer. I absolutely love your podcast and am a very faithful listener. I’ve got an RV newbie story for you. I’ve been RV’ing for years, but I just recently purchased a 21 foot travel trailer and since I do this solo, I’m always looking for ways to make things easier especially with backing up or hitching up the truck to the trailer. So to make it easier I decided to put a little strip of reflective tape on the hitch ball and another little piece of reflective tape on the hitch. So that in my backup camera, I can line up the two pieces of tape and know that the ball is directly under the hitch. So I did this on my recent trip and backed it in, got the hitch lined up exactly where I wanted it to be, hooked up the truck without any problem and went on a day outing, it was only a day, and when I came back that afternoon, I couldn’t get the hitch ball off of the trailer. It was stuck.

                        And apparently what happened is it looks like that residue from the reflective tape made this sticky goo kind of residue that was ground in by the motion of the hitch and made the hitch ball actually stick. So my nextdoor neighbor helped me out and actually got up on the hitch, on the tailgate of the truck and had to jump up and down to get the hitch ball released out of the hitch and let me just say don’t ever out anything up inside the hitch or on the ball. I’ve cleaned it off since then and made sure that there’s absolutely nothing on those surfaces to interfere with the coupling and uncoupling. So anyway, hopefully that information will help some other people out there trying to hitch up and do things on their own. Thanks again so much for your podcast. You guys are wonderful. Thanks

Mary Jane:        Hi Mike and Jennifer. Its Mary Jane and Jeff Curry calling for the Wednesday podcast. Passing on a few mistakes we made early on when we got our class B unit. Hopefully it will help others from making some similar mistakes. The first mistake we made was being tired and fueling up in Wisconsin and making an assumption that the green handles on the pumps there were diesel. And low and behold, no, they’re on gas there. And they actually have separate bays for the diesel. So we got towed and they examined it with the scope and we were able to get away with a flush, but you know a little bit on the pocketbook. Little bit over $1000 for that kind of mistake. If that happens to you as a newbie, turn off your engine right away and call for tow service. With Mercedes, if you have your unit service there at any Mercedes dealer, you can get free towing if they’re available in the area.

                        The second mistake we made, we were all set up with a beautiful view in the central coast and we had def that Jeff wanted to do ahead and add to the rig. He had everything set up and low and behold, he poured it into the oil opening instead of the def opening. Didn’t turn the car on, got help from a fellow RV’er, that was really nice. They went to Walmart, got lots of oil and emptied everything and there was no damage at all.

                        Our third one, Jeff does try to ne handy. He was doing the oil change on our Sprinter right before a big trip and did everything correctly, he thought and tightened down the screw cap, but it has a special area that it fits into that’s different than most rigs so the mechanic actually showed him how to do it after the fact. And so we were eligible for another free tow there. And the service department at the Mercedes dealer didn’t charge us anything except for the oil that they put in.

                        So live and learn and newbies welcome. And you will make some mistakes but there’s lots of help on the board.

The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT  

Patti and Tom Burkett

By Tom & Patti Burkett

Would you recognize a New England saltbox house if you saw one? Two stories in the front, and one in the rear, they have steeply pitched roofs to shed lots of snow, and originated when lean-to sheds were added to the backs of two-story homes to create more space or summer kitchens. Southwestern adobe homes are equally recognizable, built with thick walls to help keep temperatures stable in an unforgiving climate. Frontier log homes, sod-roofed dugouts, and columned plantation mansions all tell a story about people and the times in which they were built.

Because we live in one, we became interested early on in Sears houses. These kit homes, sold from 1908 until 1940, can be found all across the country. Their distinctive style is recognizable after some practice, and gives a good estimate of the time in which a neighborhood or town was growing. Sears offered more than 370 designs. Some were built by thousands of homeowners, and some by only a few. And Sears was not the only maker of kit homes.

The front of a Sears House

E.F. Hodgson of Dover, Massachusetts manufactured a series of homes that could be erected in a day. More than fifty of these were built in Arthurdale, West Virginia as part of a Roosevelt era project to assist out of work coal miners. A year later seventy-five Wagner homes were erected there too, all with indoor plumbing and electricity. Examples of these can be seen today in the town. Despite these government funded projects, both Wagner and Hodgson sold many more homes abroad than they did here in the USA.

One of the more interesting kit home projects was the flat-top houses of Oak Ridge Tennessee. First envisioned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, more than 3500 of these prefab units went up to house the residents of the secret city. They were designed by architects at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (think Sears Tower and Burj Khalifa) and made of cemestos, a fashionable combination of cement and asbestos, popular in the 1940s. A few B-1 flat-top houses can still be seen around TVA country. One is on display at the Oak Ridge National Lab, close to a modern home produced entirely by a 3D printer

In the late 1940s, the National Homes company began cranking out their own version of the American Dream for families starting up after World War 2. These spacious (at the time) structures were assembled on site by National workers from a set of parts that was produced in just over seven minutes at the Lafayette, Indiana factory. Each one has a steel plaque in the laundry room with instructions for home maintenance. Even though they’ve been heavily modified, you’ll recognize entire neighborhoods and subdivisions of them spread around nearly every small city in the Midwest. 

Three Sears houses in a row

A TVA B-1 “Cemestos” house

Traveling off the beaten path isn’t always about where you are. Sometimes it’s about what you see. You probably know that understanding more about geology, natural history, and anthropology opens up the landscape of a national park to new ways of seeing. The same is true of settled environments. Look down at the stampings on manhole covers, at the shape of fire hydrants, at the neon signs, and at the houses making up the residential neighborhoods of a place. Wander down alleys and notice where they go and where they don’t go. With a bit of esoteric knowledge, whole new layers of understanding about a built place emerge, with new questions to ask and new things to discover. 

Now we want to learn about Lustron houses. And we’re beginning to notice the markings on bricks. Come along with your questions, or something you just learned, and join us, looking at some old thing in a new way, out here off the beaten path.