advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, VanLife

Importance & Guidance for Your RV Shake Down Tour

leavingtrip1Hi folks, so we have been on the road now for over 4 months.  During this time the COVID-19 has struck and the world as we know it has become topsy turvy!  Some may think it’s crazy to be on the road, while others think that is the best way to do social distancing and still live your life.  As of April 16th, our beach vacation rental was required to shut down so we drove to Newport, Oregon and are sheltering in place until more of the country opens back up.

I am going back four months to our first shake down tour we did right after purchasing our Winnebago Boldt, we highly recommend all new CamperVanners and RVers do this!  For those who like to watch videos instead of reading- you can check out the video on our YouTube Channel here.

We’d suggest to give yourselves more days near your dealer.  We had a dog sitter so we only had 2 weeks to go over 4,500 miles since it was Winter we decided to take the longer Southern route from Iowa to Oregon.  It is good to experience all weather conditions but having high wind, snow, freezing rain and tornado watch was a bit much!  If we could do it over, we would have waited for better weather and had a dog sitter for longer.  We would have driven a few hundred miles near the dealer so we could return and get items fixed.  When items started breaking down we were already 1500 miles into our adventure and did not feel like going all the way back to Iowa to get them fixed.  So we began keeping a list with detailed pictures.  Warranty will require pictures of everything you are asking to be fixed!

In our first four days, we found 16 items that needed to be fixed that we did not find in our Delivery Orientation and Winnebago missed in their inspection and our dealer Lichtsinn missed in their pre-delivery inspection!  When you are in a four-hour orientation by the end your brain is dead and all the information is running together and you just want to get away and drive your rig into the great outdoors. We have created a list for you below to help you through the walk through.  In our previous videos and blogs we described everything that went wrong and you can find in our Facebook review, I won’t restate them all here.  Winnebago also made it right after we posted a Facebook review and fixed all the items after a lot of back and forth so we are now mostly satisfied with our Boldt BL now.  What we will highlight is how to prepare picking up your rig, the weather conditions, route and cool stops/boondocks we did along our trip from Forest City, Iowa back to Bend, Oregon via a Southern Route, since it was Winter.

Prior to arriving to Forest City, Iowa, we read all the manuals for the Boldt, Mercedes and appliances/systems in our van.  We watched a number of YouTube videos on what to do when you pick up your new RV.  We made a list of questions for things we did not understand and weren’t clear in the manuals.  I then visited Campendium, freecampsites.net, BLM and National Parks websites to build out an excel trip of possible places we would stay.  I tried to keep our miles travel daily to less than 250 miles, put where we could stay for free, what campsite pricing and places, where there were RV hookups if we needed to plug in because of super cold weather (as we had snow and freezing rain conditions along our route).  I downloaded Gas Buddy and Pacific Pride fueling apps to make sure we knew where to get gas and where to get the best deals for Diesel. I downloaded a bunch of audiobooks, ebooks and music for the trip.  I also purchased from Amazon these two products that turn your iPhone into a semi-professional camera to document our trip with lenses, microphone and tripods.  (add link) We also boughtthis dongle that enables your ipad or iphone to project onto the Boldt TV, we have had challenges watching some shows that block airplay.  Fun for watching Netflix . PrimeVideo and AppleTV and other content.  (If you know how to download non HEC quality video on AppleTV, please tell me on comments-then we could watch more shows).

We left at 3am on January 7th, thanks to my amazing mentee Rebekah who drove us at that ungodly hour and watched Bode for the next two weeks as we did our initial van tour.  We landed in Minneapolis, MN where we were picked up at the airport and taken to Lichtsinn for a 1.5 hour drive.   Just our luck we arrived before a huge Winter storm that was traveling though the Midwest and along our trip route.  The temperature was dropping to 5 degrees Fahrenheit with crazy wind at 20 mph with 30 mph gusts.  We would be spending the first night in our new RV.  Note to new RVers, even if your rig is 4 season when it is 5 degrees it isn’t the time to fill it with water.  We were frustrated as we were new to RVing and did not know whether we should have our tanks filled or not and Lichtsinn kept asking us do we want it filled or not. We kept asking them well you have been doing this for years and selling Boldts would you or not?  Finally, the service guy said don’t and wait till the morning where the temperature will rise to 40 degrees.  We flew business class so we could bring 4 large duffel bags for ‘free’ full of the items we would need for the next two weeks.  Here is what I brought to help you when planning to pick up your rig and how to do the minimum of shopping on the road, we ended up using almost all these items (I have hyperlinked as many of the items I think are harder to find, we are Amazon Associates so we may receive fees for qualifying purchases you purchase):

Gear: Foldable steel shovel (came in handy as we had to dig ourselves out of soft sand at White Sands National Park boondocking spot), hatchet, 2 backpacks with Platypus water reservoirs, snow tire chains,headlamps, bandannas, ski buffs (for COVID-19 this became our face masks), sun hats, baseball hats, stocking caps, gloves, headlamps, bandannas, ski buffs (for COVID-19 this became our face masks), sun hats, baseball hats, Pendleton wool shirts, puffy jackets, rain jackets, fleece jackets, flip-flops, running shoes, hiking boots, use compression bags for storing your clothes, minimum clothes for two weeks, two sets of walking sticks, a dry bag, a rope clothes line, bear spray, mosquito repellant, two REI small foldable outdoor chairs, and a small racket set with pliers, wrench, screw driver, electrical tape, plumbers’ tape, a Leatherman’s and gear to turn iphone into a vlogging camera.

Food and eating ware: knives, silverware, two bowls, two plates, beer cozies, spatula, wooden spoon, ladle, electric water kettle, induction espresso stove top, salt, pepper (the costsco set that you can refill are nice size & affordable) and bulk spices (I get bulk spices at Food for Less or Winco and keep them in reusable resealable bags), tea bags, coffee beans, lentils, split peas, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, packets of miso soup, buckwheat udon noodles, rice noodles, dried mushrooms, orzo, brown rice, spaghetti, oatmeal (my special mix of pumpkin seeds, chia feeds, flax seeds, cashews and almonds), olive oil, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, instant pot, set of collapsible Tupperware bowls, collapsible colander, collapsible steamer, and suction lid. Yes, I even packed 2 bottles of wine (wrapped well with sheets and blankets) to celebrate when we arrive if we were too tired to head to the grocery store.

Living items: 2 rags, 2 wash clothes, two body towels, two kitchen hand towels (we recommend for all these towels to use camp quick dry towels they are easier to store and hand wash), 2 sets of flannel XL twin sheets (if you have a Winnebago Boldt or Travato these fit well), 2 twin Pendleton blankets (warm durable and you don’t have to wash often), four Hydroflasks (32oz and 24 oz and travel mug) water bottles, two silicone pints for hot and cold beverages and the dollar store has great storage bins that are 9X9X9 and 10X2X6 that fit in your cupboards and can organize your food and stack well to get the most of your cupboard space.  Really helpful were a small hand dustpan and sweeper, lighter, razor to cut hair and men’s electric razor, facial wipes, Costco disinfectant wipes (these came really handed during COVID-19), Dr. Bronner’s Lavender soap (can be used for shampoo, body wash, clothes washing detergent, and washing dishes or as a mouthwash and it won’t make you sick if you eat it), hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, (with COVID-19 we have ended up using this daily to clean our phones and car handles), zinc spray (I spray this on an onset of a cold and its gone by morning), cold medicine, allergy medication, eye drops, Band-Aids, first aid kit, little foldable trashcan, holder hangers, small plastic bags from vegetables you get at the store for the trash can (reuse all  that plastic we get) or use these reusable veggie bags (we do both) and of course travel scrabble, Farkle, cards, kindle, Atlas, Journal, laptop, and cell phones with chargers.  We had delivered to the dealer from Amazon: induction sauté pan and 2-quart pot, drying rack, straw outdoor rug, weboost cell phone booster and Scrubba clothes washer bag.  We used all these items except the hatchet and snow chains but good to have just in case! Yes, all this fit in four large rolling duffel bags (we got two from Costco and previously had two)!

Couple items we did not have but now being on the road we wish we would have had:  sponge holder trasharoo to put your trash outside the vehicle on your spare tire,  Berkey water filter system, gloves for sewer dumping, sewer 10 foot hose and elbow, sewer trash can to hold elbow and tank flush hose.

We headed to the grocery store to grab some sparkling water, beer, fruit and vegetables to add to our meals.  I then unpacked everything, loaded up our van, made our beds, made us vegetarian lentil soup for dinner (instant pot makes life easier), played a game of scrabble and then hunkered down for a cold windy night (we were toasty warm).  We were a little disappointed that Lichtsinn knew we were going to stay the night in our vehicle and they knew it was going to be 5 degrees and our rig wasn’t fully charged when we would need to have the tank warmers on.  By the morning, we were down to 12% charge and since the Volta system batteries were below 40 degrees the system didn’t even allow them to charge!  It took about 2 days of living in the van before the batteries were able to accept a charge.  Sub-optimal customer service, especially when it appeared, they had plenty of room in the heated garage to pre-heat our van.  So specifically tell your dealer you want your vehicle fully charged before you arrive.  We thought we had made that clear but apparently we did not or they couldn’t be bothered.  At 8am we headed into our 4-hour Orientation.  By the end your brain is dead and you are not going to remember all the questions you needed to ask.  After the fact, here is a checklist we wish we had during our walkthrough that could have resolved a bunch of issues before we hit the road.  The first three items we did and were so glad we did and were surprised many owners don’t do this from what our service guy told us.

  1. Read all the manuals and have questions written down on anything that is unclear or you don’t understand. Ask these before you jump into your orientation.  Save all the manuals electronically on your laptop and phones so you can access when you need on the road a Google or Sky Drive won’t work as you will be in areas where there is no cell coverage and won’t be able to open them up or download.
  2. Download and bring along with you a RV inspection checklist, we should have used this one from Changing Gears that is very detailed.
  3. Record videos on your phone on how to use everything, that way when you forget you can play it back later. Save these both on your phone and a virtual drive.
  4. Check to ensure that your indoor and outdoor showers are hot when hot indicator is selected. (our hot and cold were switched, brrrr) Don’t forget to make sure your shower head is located in the right spot (ours was 1.5 inches lower than specification)
  5. Make a detailed inspection of the outdoor and indoor of your rig and look for scratches and dings this is the only time you can get these fixed and not get blamed as typical wear and tear on the outside of your van, inside cabinets, floor, in bathroom (we found a few)! Get on your ladder and check out the roof did they seal in leaves when they sealed your roof, is your roof box to help you access the inside to install antennas damaged? (ours had leaves and damage) Have them give you some touch up paint for the outside of your rig.

These next items are specific to campervans and the Winnebago Boldt:

  1. Check to make sure that all your drains and pumps work and are installed properly. (Our shower drain was installed backwards).
  2. Check your toolbox in your Sprinter, that is under the floor of the passenger seat, has all the tools it is supposed to have we thought an item was missing but they make a spot for pliers but don’t give you any.
  3. Make sure your Rolef screens (if you have them) are installed properly (ours had a big hole that insects could fly through defeating the purpose of the screen, we didn’t notice this until we got to Texas and had it open by the lake and had bugs fly into our vehicle when it was down)
  4. Check all your drawers and cabinets to ensure they lock and pull in and out properly
  5. Make sure your Truma dial has the right flat head screw installed (pull the dial off and check) If not, have them install the right one or it won’t work properly (it won’t properly ‘click’ when setting temp)
  6. Check the Nova Kool Refrigerator and ensure the screw in the top right corner is screwed all the way, so it won’t fall off and it is positioned correctly on the refrigerator (ours fell off after 3 days of driving, we had LaMesa RV Tucson install new hinges supplied by Nova Kool and it fell off again)
  7. Check the slats under your bed mattress to make sure they are all functional (we had two plastic slats that were faulty and did not keep the wood slats in place after doing down a bumpy dirt road), your bed leg holder that keeps the bed up while you are accessing storage is soldered properly and won’t break later on in your trip (ours has), and the levelers on your bed legs are installed properly and won’t fall off once you are on a bumpy road (ours did)
  8. Make sure your Sprinter Ladder has the lock installed and you have the key (in forums we heard some owners did not get theirs)

I can see this blog is already too long, so I am going postpone information on our route and great boondocking spots from Iowa to Oregon for my next blog to not overwhelm you with too much information!  We already made a Carlsbad Caverns National Monument video and blog, check back on past posts.  After the route I will also do White Sands National Park as its own blog and video! They are both awesome stops near each other in New Mexico that you must visit!  After those we will then highlight the rest of our California Coast Trip and our trip before we had to head back to Newport, Oregon. We hope these lists are helpful in preparing you when you get your new rig!  Enjoy the Vanlife or RVing! Many of you have asked for more Bode pictures so until next week enjoy Bode relaxing enjoying the sunset on our new grass mat and checking out the climbers at Joshua Tree. Cheers!