- The Bus
- Equipment and Modifications
OK, it’s not quite a bus, but it sure feels like it. I’ve driven mostly small and sport cars until my F-250 Ford truck and that was the biggest ever.
RV = Recreational Vehicle. Sometimes you recreate in it, sometimes you wash and clean it, sometimes you maintain it, and you always make the monthly payment! So 1 of 4 events is recreation. Does that make sense? Of course it does. The goal for Joneses RV Journey is to see much of the USA as soon as Jen and I get a few things squared away, including her work tenure.
That’s the front of the 2016 Forest River Georgetown 378XL motorhome and my smilin’ face in West Virginia on the way to pick up my sister in December 2016 for a trek to Washington D.C.
This page will have the permanent info including modifications and equipment additions. Other pages will have trips and other more organized info. Then there is the blog section where we will talk about short trips and adventures.
As most people do, we started in a pop-up, then a Jayco 20′ hybrid, then a Rockwood Windjammer 34′ in length. That was a nice travel trailer and we had enjoyed RV travel in the past in all of our rigs, but had been curious about the “Class A” motorhome. So on a Saturday we went to an RV show simply to look and to kick some tires. One thing led to another. We kept coming back to this one, a Forest River 378XL. 37′ long, three slide-outs, two AC units. Gasoline powered as opposed to diesel. It’s on the Ford F53 chassis with the Triton V-10 motor. The rest is history.
One of the first outings was to Jones Valley. Here she is nestled on the RV pad that we built long ago, originally for our Jayco Hybrid 20′ trailer. A 34′ Rockwood Windjammer came after that and now we have Jennifer’s rolling coffee bar all set up.
My beloved Ford F-250 diesel pickup turned into a 2012 Honda CR-V. We couldn’t see pulling the big pickup, nor using it as a daily driver when it was designed to be hauling and pulling. The Honda works just fine as my daily driver as well as the TOAD.
Equipment and Modifications
You would think they would come with everything you need for RV travel. Well, if you spend a half-million maybe they do. But we didn’t so it doesn’t and besides, I like to tinker.
Yes, software is involved. Mainly in the GPS system. I added a Garmin DriveSmart 6″ system. There is a module that available for the Georgetown’s in-dash monitor but it would be dangerous to use because it is mounted low and way to the right of the driver. I added a couple of things to the Garmin.
I’m 12′ 8″ in height so low clearances are a potential issue. The solution: LowClearances.com. The way it works is to add waypoints to your GPS. There is a bit of manipulation involved to do that, but worth it. You can choose the height below which you want warnings — I chose 13′ 2″ for margin — and the result is an audible alert if you are near a low bridge. The only “issue” with that is that the system does not plot that bridge on your route and it might in fact be adjacent to you on another road, but inside of the distance warning you have set. LowClearances.com advertises having more data than other systems such as those built into the RV-specific GPS units. Disclosure: If you click the link and buy a subscription you will help my gas fund.
I subscribe to RV Trip Wizard. It is an online system for planning your trips (and recording actual data afterwards), from which you can then download your trip to your GPS. Again, there is some manipulation required to accomplish that but it is worth it to get your custom-designed route into the GPS instead of just letting it automatically point you. I need to do a detailed write-up on how to do that — but later.
Camping, Driver info, Walmarts and more
Allstays is a very useful system, available both online and by mobile app. I have the “Pro” subscription and also use the mobile app. It appears to me to be the most comprehensive single site for a wealth of information to the RV traveler’s benefit. Click on the link to see.
Auxiliary Braking System
This is the M&G Engineering braking system. In a nutshell, it taps off of the hydraulic brake system of the coach, goes to a compressed air tank that connects to the TOAD and actuates the brakes on it in a fully proportional manner. I can actually stop better with the TOAD connected than just the coach alone.
A tether connects coach to TOAD and if everything fails, a switch is pulled and this reserve air tank applies the brakes to the Honda and keeps them applied. I had all of this installed in Athens, TX where the system is manufactured.
Electrical Management System
This is the Progressive Industries EMS (EMS0LCHW50) installed permanently in the power bay. It is installed coming out of the transfer switch so that power coming from either shore power or the generator is monitored. It checks for good power and lets it through to the coach only if polarity is correct and voltage is good. It then constantly monitors the power and shuts down if needed to protect the coach electrical systems. Here is a complete video explanation of what it does.
Battery Monitoring System
Here is my installation of it in the “entry way” below the thermostat. The house batteries are just below that area so access down the wall and below was very simple.
Battery Watering System
Now this is the real berries. My “house battery” compartment is a mess of wires. It is obvious that the guys who build these things don’t have to later work on them. As you can see, it was going to be almost impossible for me to even remove the rear-most battery caps for checking water levels — which would have led to me not doing it as I should which would lead to premature, and very expensive, battery failure. The caps are all interconnected with tubing and are all filled by dipping a tube in the distilled water jug and pumping the hand-bulb. To remove the caps and install these, I had to use my socket set cheater bar and pry the cable bundle upward. But, one and done!
Battery de-Sulfating System
This box emits a square wave frequency that breaks up the sulfate crystals formed during discharge. It is said to increase battery life considerably. I bought it at Rawhide from the mobile mechanic working on the coach next to me. Battery Life Saver is the manufacturer. Opinions vary greatly about whether this type of device, or this specific version, work at all or how well.
Steer Safe Stabilization
Steer Safe is a very simple system to add stability to the steering system. Their blurb is “Steer Safe helps protect you against front tire blowouts, potholes, soft shoulders, high winds, wandering, accidental encounters with curbs, and highway medians. It also helps reduce driver fatigue. Steer Safe is the best safety insurance for your vehicle, driver, and passengers.” I had it installed while at Chandler and it added much pleasure to the return trip home. The installation is quite simple, but since their installation was free at the rally, that was a no-brainer.
Jennifer’s Favorite — Dish TV
Here is a great YouTube video of how the dish deploys on the top of the RV. Ours is a Dish HD (multi-satellite) but the antenna mechanics are the same. We used two “Wallys” to get the feed to all TVs since they were wired with coax and not HDMI cabling. Ugh on Forest River for that. It’s sorta fun to watch it unfold and look for the satellites. All automatic.