Now that we're officially down to less than 2 months before we order our 36LA, it's time to separate the "nice to haves" from the "need to haves". On my previous post, I posted in a comment to another reader a list of things we'd have to pack in our Mini Cooper convertible to take with us to our Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) and 3 day shakeout cruise to a campground near our dealership in order to test out systems and live for a few days in the RV.
Today is a list of things we specifically NEED to have ordered or purchased to either bring with us or delivered to the dealership that are RV-related, and our rationale for these particular products. So in no particular order, here is - The Need To Have List!
Super Slider Adjustable tube for stinky slinky storage - Sure, I could stuff our sewer hose in a heavy duty plastic bag for the short term, but I'm getting this tube to install once we get back from our first trip, so why not just bring it from the beginning and store it in the double basement bay next to the wet bay? This product keeps the messy stuff away from the wet bay, which needs to stay clean as a whistle.
Pro-fill battery watering system - Probably could get away with waiting on this one, but since we'll have some free time on our hands the first few days exercising the systems in the 36LA, I might as well take the time to install this at the campground. This makes it easy to keep your house batteries full without having to pop tops and pour water by using a single fill point for all four batteries. Since house batteries are so important in an RV, this is something that needs to be taken care of each and every month.
American Car Dolly - can't take the Mini anywhere without towing it behind the motor home, and based on our research, this is the best car dolly for price, performance and weight. Comes in at 455 lbs, which is right in between it's two major competitors, and gets delivered and setup right to your site. Can't ask for anything better than that! Removable ramps which store under the front of your car, protecting it from rocks being kicked up while going down the road, and has a swivel pan which makes tracking behind the 36LA much easier.
Hughes Autoformer and Surge Protector - There is a built in surge protector already in the Tiffin 36LA, but it only protects the coach from power surges, not low power situations which can frankly harm electronics in the coach more than surges will. There are two third-party surge protectors that are widely used in the industry - Surge-Guard and Progressive - both of which protect in low power situations, but we want something a bit different, even if it is more expensive. The Hughes Autoformer takes those low power situations and actually increases the voltage to the RV, allowing us to run on 30 amp circuits as if we were on a 50 amp circuit, so actual low power situations don't need to be protected, because power is being boosted by the Autoformer. It also allows us to camp in 30 amp spots and still run all our electronics, which will come in handy when 50 amp spots are not available. The latest version has a removable surge protector in addition to the voltage booster.
Awning Lock - might not be the first thing I install, but it will be close. Awnings can and do pull away from the RV depending on mechanical failure and high wind situations. A $100 investment to keep a $2000 awning safe strikes me as being money well spent.
Camco Rhino Extreme Flex Sewer Kit - this is one of the best sewer hoses on the market. Tough, with clear swivel elbows and three different size attachments to handle most every campground. Add in the "Rattlesnake" graduated support structure to keep things flowing and off the ground, and you have a real winner when it comes to waste.
Pressure-Pro Tire pressure monitoring system - I like this system because it's made in the USA. Anyone who full-time RV's without a TPMS is going to find themselves in trouble eventually when it comes to pressure and temperature, and it's crazy not to invest a few hundred $$ for this kind of peace of mind when going down the road.
Genturi Exhaust system - nothing says irritation when camping in close quarters like sending your generator noise and exhaust into your neighbors camp site. This product sends a lot of the noise and all of the exhaust up and over your rig, making for good neighbors and peace and quiet.
Snap Pads 8” (4) - These are literally what they say they are. Pads which snap onto the feet of your hydraulic levelers. They provide better stability, disperse weight, reduce the extension length of your levelers, and keep you from getting under your coach to put pads down when you get to your site or take them away before leaving. One less thing to worry about when setting up and breaking down camp.
Used Apple Mac Book Pro - How else am I going to edit videos?
Refrigerator lock - Don't want even the meager contents of our refrigerator to spill out on our first trip, so this $10 addition is a no-brainer.
Safe-T-Plus - This is installed on the front end of a Class A RV to help with ease of steering, especially during high wind conditions, but more importantly, this helps to keep the RV tracking straighter in case of a front tire blowout. A $650 addition which could keep the RV out of a ditch, or prevent a rollover situation.
Drop tow ball - Gotta attach the American Car Dolly to the 36LA in order to tow the Mini, and in order to have some stability and safety, the standard hitch height needs to be lowered between 4" and 6" from the back of the motorhome.
Little Giant 17' ladder - Might need to get up on the roof or work on the side of the 36LA in the first couple of days. Better have the best ladder in the business to help me.
So there it is - The List. If any of you RV-ers reading this see any glaring omissions or think there are better products we could, or should, use - sing out! It's not as if we've done thing kind of thing before . . .
We're now 6 months and 17 days away (thanks for asking!) from officially beginning our retirement journey, and it's beginning to get very, very real. Partly because we are just 2 months and 17 days away from having to order our Tiffin Open Road 36LA to be built (when crunch time really begins), and partially because I have now realized that there is an intricate ballet that I, and others, are now producing, directing, choreographing, and starring in.
Little things, big things and everything in between.
Was speaking with our sales rep at Marlin Ingram the other day on an unrelated matter, and find out that if you're going to do a custom color scheme (which we are), you must officially request it from Tiffin (which we knew), and Tiffin has to send you a rendering of it on paper and electronically and then you have to approve it before things get started (sorta knew that), but that it takes about a month to get everything finalized on custom colors (did NOT know that). Good thing we talked, because if we didn't get the ball rolling on that this month, we'd be behind the 8-ball on something that would have delayed the delivery date for our coach. Here's a photo-shopped look at what our color scheme should look like on a 36LA:
Which fast forwards us to the delivery date. We are set to retire on September 2, 2019. That's our last day of work. Our lease for this apartment ends on or around August 25th. The Open Road models at Tiffin are taking about 14 weeks to order, build and deliver to the dealer, and since you don't just walk onto a lot and pick up your motor home (although some people actually do this, and regret it later), we have to have our order ready and PERFECT for submission to Tiffin by May 1st. And hope that no delays occur in the build or delivery process of more than a week. We'll spend a day and night at the dealer getting acquainted with our new home, then a couple of days nearby in a local RV park to work out any kinks we didn't find at the dealer, and then it's back to Georgia for our last week or so of work.
But how do we get the Mini Cooper back to Georgia? Not like I'm going to be driving our new home around without Barbara sitting next to me, now is it? We'll be dolly towing the Mini across America in retirement, and the tow dolly we'll be using is the American Car Dolly – made here in the good ol' USA. There are many reasons why we will be using their product, but one of them is that they deliver their product to you, and set it up and train you on it's use! This is key for a towing newbie like me. It also means they have to be at the dealer with you when you're picking up the 36LA, or otherwise Barbara will be following me like a little puppy in the Mini as we leave to head back to Georgia. So six weeks before picking up the motor home, we have to order and schedule delivery of the tow dolly for the PRECISE DAY we'll be there.
And hope that all this happens without a hitch.
Did I say hitch? We need to get a drop hitch for the RV that is low enough to ensure that the dolly is level to the ground for towing, and bring that with us to our dealer.
Other need-to-haves that will be packed in that seriously undersized Mini will be an electrical surge guard type product to protect the coach from bad power, water pressure regulator, fresh water hose, a black tank sprayer hose, sewer hose and protective gloves. And that's just for the wet bay and electrical bay. Don't forget a cable and lock for the surge protector. Oh, and the tool bag and emergency kit – just in case. Check, check and check!
In between the ordering date and delivery date is not just sitting back and waiting, either.
We have to head out South Dakota for a few days in early May to establish residency there before the coach is delivered, then schedule 3 or 4 days in Red Bay, Alabama in early to mid-July to take the Tiffin tour so that we can catch a glimpse of our 36LA being built each day (since they no longer allow you to watch your build from the factory floor), and then be back in Red Bay in early August to be able to walk through our completed coach during the final QC process, where we'll be able to catch the (hopefully) few items needed to be fixed before it is sent off to our dealer for delivery. And we won't get any of these dates until the build schedule is set by Tiffin around June 1st. I'm reminded of those early Apollo astronauts who, after traveling a quarter million miles to the moon and another quarter million miles back, had to hit a tiny re-entry window just a few feet wide at a precise speed and angle or they would never see Earth again. I now have an appreciation of what they had to do to make that happen.
I figure our respective employers will be happy to see us leave once we start taking all this time off in such a short timeframe.
And did I mention that we'll be retiring? Barbara will need to apply for Social Security in early May, and I'll need to apply in mid-July for mine.
There are many nice-to-haves that we've been collecting and storing that will be transferred into our new home once we get back to Georgia, and many more we'll be buying before we start traveling in earnest beginning in January of 2020, but since we'll be retired, we can take our time doing some of these things.
All this to say that I'll be developing our own rather lengthy production schedule in the next week or two, in hopes that nothing falls through the cracks or gets missed during this very crucial time in our lives. Stay tuned, because I'll probably share it on this site.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.