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Bill&Anneli

Advice for newbies from a couple of newbies....

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Before taking off in your new RV on your new adventure....here is some advice for newbies from a couple of newbies, 4 days into our first time, brand new coach, AND at the end a question for you experienced RVers. Here goes....

Before you take off in your new RV - make sure you have someone who has the same brand/make/model of your coach that can give you advice. We just bought a very nice class A -and we have been on the road for 4 days. Our walk thru was VERY thorough, many hours, we took notes, video etc. Our dealer has been awesome, they took all the time we needed, and even came with us to the first camp ground to set up the first time, sent their techs etc over the next 2 days to answer questions etc etc. 

STILL we wake up feeling like we are on a space ship- and we don't know how anything works.... the manual either does not say or is in 'greek' - when it says AC it is not referring to Air Conditioning, it is referring to Alternating Current.... 

Questions are endless:

 Slides out before or after jacks down (dependes on manufacturer it turns out)

Turn generator off before or after hooking up to shore power upon arrival?

When do you turn the inverter on ?

When do you turn the ignition off upon arrival ? before you turn off the generator ? after hooking up to shore power ? you do need the ignition on for extending the jacks... 

Do you leave your water pump on all the time ? when do you turn it off ?

How low can you run your fresh water tank ? to 0%? or is it like the diesel tank, you can't go below 1/4 tank before generator shuts off  (this one we actaully remembered from the walk thru).

They told us 4 times to not start the generator with both A/C units running - what do we do ? forget the first time of course....

When you are at a rest stop 3 hours into your maiden voyage and have no power and generantor won't start - don't panic and think you somehow shorted the whole coach out... 

Our advice: make sure you have a phone number to call - someone who cares about you and will take your call on a Sunday afternoon... the manufacturer number may only give you VM - even the 24 hour hotline and they don't call you back til maybe Monday or Tuesday. We did not know enough to ask any of this stuff before taking off, and plenty of it we were told, but after a several hour walk-thru it is all a blur... and you don't actually grasp it all. And clearly we were not paying close enough attention when the dealer helped us set up that first camp....

We were so lucky that our sales person cared enough about us to give us the phone number of the service shop foreman - and he even answers his phone while on a cook-out with his family on Labor day. What a guy ! Did I menton that we came from Oregon to buy a coach in Florida -so we are VERY far from home, far from family and friends...

All you experienced RV-ers are soooooo kind, but you all have your ideas of how to do things- and you all have different types of RV's - so while you are awesome and always ready to help, it is overwhelming to get conflicting advice, and sometimes advice that is not right for your RV. For instance, we were told no wheels off the ground when jacks are down, need blocks, when jacks are extended. Well...turns out, it depends on whether you have a gas or diesel coach... So its hlepful if that trusted phone number is someone who knows what you bought and what that manufacturer recommends... 

We are feeling a little "shell shocked" at this point - AND in awe of all the kind people out here willing to help us.

My  question for you experienced RVers - did you ever want to just return the coach to the dealer when the learning curve felt too steep ? and just forget about the whole thing;  or did you love it from the first day ? This kind of feels a bit like parenting.... very overwhelming and very steep learning curve and no instruction manual that tells you every little step and the right order to do things...

Now that our son is an adult I hear myself congratulating new moms and saying things like "you will love it... enjoy, time goes so fast....." Maybe I should instead tell them the truth I learned along the way - it does not really matter if the baby has low ankle or high ankle shoes when learning to walk - he will walk and his ankles will be fine. All that matters is that you care enough and love that baby enough to worry about it. I should next time I run into a brand new mother.... 

I wonder if this RV is the same way... maybe it does not matter in which order you do some things, maybe the little things will take care of themselves if you only care, keep trying and stay calm and carry on? 

When does the fun start ?

 

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Just think, you now have the internet to ask questions. Think about many of us 45 years ago............Welcome to the RV world.

You, you are overwhelmed right now. You should/should have considered going to RV Boot Camp. Maybe you should still go. It is offered several times a year across the country. Another good place to learn is at a rally, the end of June in MT Escapees will have their annual rally and there will be a boot camp prior to the rally. You always learn something new at the rally and at boot camp you will meet people learning like you are.

I hope you are just parked someplace for a few weeks learning your systems, that would be best. You suggested finding someone with the same rig. That is pretty much pie in the sky thinking. The best you can do is put as much information in an notes to the forum. Not only that you have brand x, model y(this is helpful) but also the mfg. of component you are asking about(Lippert,MorRyde etc.)

4 days in is not enough time one way or another. Did you rent before buying to see what the lifestyle as like? In 6 months you will be fine, laughing at yourselves.

We all learn, slowly. We have been into RVing for 45 years and still do some bonehead things. Like today, DH was backing me in, gave me the signal that we were in place. I went to open a slide and it didn't feel right so I stopped. He forget to check for clearance for the slides and it hit a tree. No damage.

I also recommend numerous checklists, make them and use them. Indoor, Outdoor, hook up, , toad etc. If you get interrupted when doing a check list start again. Both of you need to learn each others job, including driving!!!

Both of you carry small notebooks to right things down as you learn.

Good luck,we are all here to support you.

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Thank you for the reasuring words... so to answer your question about Boot camp... yes we signed up 6 months in advance - all set to go in August in our own back-yard in Coos Bay, Oregon where we know the roads, know the places to go... we thought we were on top of it.

Make plans and God laughs....

We left Oregon August 2nd in our Jeep that we planned to tow behind that Dutch Star we had arranged to buy down in California  about 800 miles away. Packed for a short trip, just down to pick up, then back home to Oregon and straight to boot camp....

We were about 400 miles into the trip to pick up the motorhome in Callifornia when the private seller went squirly and the deal fell thru (yes, we had inspections done in advance, had agreed upon a price etc etc).

So now what ??? We hunkered down in a hotel in California and scoured the internet for the type of coach we wanted for a few days... talked with Newmar dealers in Colorado, Minnesota, Texas, Florida - all over. Because we knew exactly what we wanted... nobody had the right fit for us. We put the right word out - if anything comes in on trade call us...

We spent a week on the sunny beaches of California near LAX - ready to fly out at a moments notice for the right coach.... One day this nice lady from Florida calls and says one of her clients has ordered a larger coach and is brining in the model we were looking for.... but it would be a couple of weeks before his new coach arrives, so they can't actually sell it to us for 2-3 weeks....

We said sounds great, put our name on it at paid a deposit. We waited for a few more days in Los Angeles trying to decide how to spend the next 3 weeks... after a few more days we decided we don't like LA and decided to start driving east... we could always fly from Phoenix. Got there and it was 116 degrees so we kept driving.. decided we can fly from Dallas... too busy and besides there was this Margaritaville in Shereveport Lousiana that looked fun, so we kept driving....

Someone in Louisiana said we absolutely had to go to Orange Beach in Alabama - whitest sand  beaches in the country she said... so we kept driving...

Two weeks later we roll into Tampa Florida, and our coach is ready next day for pick up , and it came with the blue ox for the Jeep - how perfect :-) ..... Well.... the Jeep has a custom front bumper and a special order knuckle part is needed to connect the jeep....

Everyone so nice, we can just stay here for a week or so and learn the coach, get the jeep hooked up - right ? Then there was this thing called Hurrican Dorian..... so after two days in Tampa we decide to get out of dodge of the Hurricane. Jeep is not hooked up so one drives the jeep the other the coach.... we drive north... guess what - all the people in florida are evacuating - and all campgrounds in this part of Georgia are full !! so first night we slept with slies in parked at a Pilot Truck stop.... next night 200 miiles further north the Camping World Manager was kind enogh to let us stay in their parking lot and hook up to their 50 amp... people have been soooo kind to us.

So here we are, our 4th night finally in a camp ground ... with full hookups.... and yes we missed Boocamp on 8/22 back in Oregon. Now we are signed up for the next one in Livingston Texas in November - hope to see you all there :-)

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Part of the "fun" is the challenge...not unlike learning to play golf or ride a bicycle. Certainly don't give up! 

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You are handling your rough start fine. Just roll with the punches and keep up the good attitude. For now keep things simple and within the realm of your comfort index. Enough things will happen to give you a lot of random experience.

A few years ago we had a 2 month encounter with 4 hurricanes. Kept changing our plans, we gave up on our plans when we had a mandatory evacuation of the Outer Banks.(4th hurricane). We heard from friends that the road(the only road) in OBX was flooded and people were kayaking on it.

We spent the last 4 months in AK and BC, except for forest fires it was "our" trip. We are now heading toward winter camp in Phoenix, grandkids. another month or 2 and we will be there. You will meet a lot of nice people in Livingston. If you are an Escapee they have campgrounds across the southern US and up the west coast. Whenever we stop by one we feel like we are coming home.

There is an Escapee Camp near you in Summerdale, AL. If you go there see if the Blue Angels are in Pensacola, you can go see a training session up close and personal. Awesome!!!

Are you going to be full timers?

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One of the first things you need to do is put your coach make, model, and year in your signature line.  That way people can give you information that will help you.   Your inverter/charger should come on automatically when you plug in or start the generator and go into 'charge' mode.   I don't turn on the inverter function unless we will not have 120 power.    We turn on our water pump, if not on park water, only when we need it.  Otherwise it is off.   Other people will leave their's on all of the time - - you just sort of learn what works for you.    

As for generator running while traveling, I'm going to assume you are using it for air conditioning.   We spend most of the summer in the PNW so rarely need to run the generator and a/c (which is how air conditioning is usually abbreviated to distinguish it from AC power) and if warm, we just turn on the dash air.   But then, we are always in a park by 2:00 pm in the afternoon, so only run the roof a/c when coming across the desert at temperatures over 95 or so.

When we pull into a park, if the a/c is running, I shut it down, then shut down the generator (in that order) then Dave will usually turn off the diesel engine while I go in and register.   We don't turn generator back on while going to our site.   Once we are in the site and have the coach positioned as we want it (I do the backing in because Dave gives better directions) we shut off the engine and then proceed to hook up utilities and settle in:

  1. Power first, and if really  hot, I immediately go inside and turn on the a/c to maintain the temperature in the coach.  
  2. While waiting for the coach to go into float mode, we get the water hooked up and sewer if we will be there for several days (or if overnight and it has been a while we will dump the tanks).  
  3. Then we cover the tires before I dump the air and go around and place pads under the jacks if we are not on a very hard surface.   We NEVER have the back tires off of the ground, but once in a while may have the first tires up just a smidgen.  However, this is very seldom because once we dump air we are much closer to the ground.    
  4. Once we have gone to float  I'll level the coach (monitor the level in the fridge and the shower door) and then the slides go out.  This is specific for our coach, as you noted different manufacturers do it differently.   We can also level just on battery power (if boon docking) but I prefer to do it after we've gone to float.   We can not have the engine on and level because of the design of how air fills the airbags on our coach.  Different manufacturers have it set up different.  
  5. Then we reverse the order when getting ready to leave, slides in, everything secured for travel, utilities unhooked and stowed away, then we start the engine and hit the store button for the jacks as the air bags fill.  
  6. I have an awning hook that I use to snag and pull the pads out from underneath, and then we move the motorhome to the area for hooking up the car - - if near people we will shut down while hooking up, if not we will leave the engine idling for the few minutes to hook up, then a slow trip out to the highway to allow the temperature come up to travel level.   Again, you will develop your rhythm as you go along.

We had a Class C for weekend trips, summer vacation trips before we retired and my parents had full timed in an RV (after the sailboat) for 5 years, so we had a LOT of experience before we went fulltime.   But it was a learning curve with the Class A, just like it was for the Class C.   Of course, we had been planning on this for years so had read everything we could get our hands on.   We purchased our Class A about 9 months before we went fulltime, so we got a lot of weekend trips in to check all of the systems, etc.   And I had started on this forum months before we went fulltime, learning as much as we could before we started.   

6 months from now, this will be a series of great stories for evening get togethers.  At the end of the day, if no one has died, you will be able to face the challenges of the next day - - you might not think so, but you will and it will get better.

 

 

Edited by Barbaraok

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Barb answered good questions... and more.  I would guess we all learned somewhat 'on the go'.  Yes, mistakes will be made. Just keep pluggin'.  You've had a wild start so surely it will get better.  You might consider go to a manufacturer's owner's site such as for you, the Newmar site over on irv2.com forum but please don't leave us.  I would also suggest you create a signature line for any forum you're on so folks can tell what you're driving and answer accordingly.

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12 hours ago, Bill&Anneli said:

My  question for you experienced RVers - did you ever want to just return the coach to the dealer when the learning curve felt too steep ? and just forget about the whole thing;  or did you love it from the first day ?

I am guessing that you are in your first RV and have no previous RV experience? While there are thouse who have done as you are, many of us began years ago with a small, much less complex RV and then worked our way upward over a period of years. There are several advantages to doing thins that way. When you start very small as we did, the first RV is much less complex, as we began with a very basic tent-top trailer that was little more than a tent on wheels, then a nicer pop-up trailer that had a stove, furnace, refrigerator, a hand operated water pump, and nothing more. By the time that we bought our motorhome that we lived in fulltime we had worked our way through 5 different RVs, each one a bit more complete & complex. That gave us two big advantages in the youger people grasp new things more quickly and with more confidence and it also ment that we had much less to learn with each new RV than you are dealiing with. The point is that you need not be all that impressed by our knowledge as most of us didn't have to learn so much so quickly, but you are getting there and very rapidly!

One thing to keep in mind is that you only live through that first week one time! There may be days that it is difficult to believe, but one day you will look back on this first few weeks as one of the best experiences of life. Do not be afraid that you will make a mistake because you are very unlikely to make one that has not been made numerous times before by many of us. There are very few mistakes that you can make which can't be corrected without serious consequences. Just take your time and if things begin to overwhelm you, stop & relax as nothing has to be done immediately. One of the advantages of living in an RV is that you have everything right there and all day to do things so there is no rush. 

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We started our adventure 8 years ago this month after losing our home to a wildfire. No real experience, dealer walkthrough was about 1/2 hour so our learning experience was steep. You learn as you go many systems are the same from brand to brand so other campers can help but by far the best source is to find a forum or FB group for your particular brand. Some even have informal get togethers. 

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12 hours ago, Barbaraok said:

One of the first things you need to do is put your coach make, model, and year in your signature line.  That way people can give you information that will help you.   Your inverter/charger should come on automatically when you plug in or start the generator and go into 'charge' mode.   I don't turn on the inverter function unless we will not have 120 power.    We turn on our water pump, if not on park water, only when we need it.  Otherwise it is off.   Other people will leave their's on all of the time - - you just sort of learn what works for you.    

As for generator running while traveling, I'm going to assume you are using it for air conditioning.   We spend most of the summer in the PNW so rarely need to run the generator and a/c (which is how air conditioning is usually abbreviated to distinguish it from AC power) and if warm, we just turn on the dash air.   But then, we are always in a park by 2:00 pm in the afternoon, so only run the roof a/c when coming across the desert at temperatures over 95 or so.

When we pull into a park, if the a/c is running, I shut it down, then shut down the generator (in that order) then Dave will usually turn off the diesel engine while I go in and register.   We don't turn generator back on while going to our site.   Once we are in the site and have the coach positioned as we want it (I do the backing in because Dave gives better directions) we shut off the engine and then proceed to hook up utilities and settle in:

  1. Power first, and if really  hot, I immediately go inside and turn on the a/c to maintain the temperature in the coach.  
  2. While waiting for the coach to go into float mode, we get the water hooked up and sewer if we will be there for several days (or if overnight and it has been a while we will dump the tanks).  
  3. Then we cover the tires before I dump the air and go around and place pads under the jacks if we are not on a very hard surface.   We NEVER have the back tires off of the ground, but once in a while may have the first tires up just a smidgen.  However, this is very seldom because once we dump air we are much closer to the ground.    
  4. Once we have gone to float  I'll level the coach (monitor the level in the fridge and the shower door) and then the slides go out.  This is specific for our coach, as you noted different manufacturers do it differently.   We can also level just on battery power (if boon docking) but I prefer to do it after we've gone to float.   We can not have the engine on and level because of the design of how air fills the airbags on our coach.  Different manufacturers have it set up different.  
  5. Then we reverse the order when getting ready to leave, slides in, everything secured for travel, utilities unhooked and stowed away, then we start the engine and hit the store button for the jacks as the air bags fill.  
  6. I have an awning hook that I use to snag and pull the pads out from underneath, and then we move the motorhome to the area for hooking up the car - - if near people we will shut down while hooking up, if not we will leave the engine idling for the few minutes to hook up, then a slow trip out to the highway to allow the temperature come up to travel level.   Again, you will develop your rhythm as you go along.

We had a Class C for weekend trips, summer vacation trips before we retired and my parents had full timed in an RV (after the sailboat) for 5 years, so we had a LOT of experience before we went fulltime.   But it was a learning curve with the Class A, just like it was for the Class C.   Of course, we had been planning on this for years so had read everything we could get our hands on.   We purchased our Class A about 9 months before we went fulltime, so we got a lot of weekend trips in to check all of the systems, etc.   And I had started on this forum months before we went fulltime, learning as much as we could before we started.   

6 months from now, this will be a series of great stories for evening get togethers.  At the end of the day, if no one has died, you will be able to face the challenges of the next day - - you might not think so, but you will and it will get better.

 

 

Everything Barb said that I made BOLD is excellent advise.  Everything else may apply is you have a 2002 36' diesel coach, or it may not.  My point here is anything that has to do with the systems on your coach, including the engine/chassis, find a brand specific forum and post your questions there.  

When it comes to traveling/camping advise then you are on one of many forums where you can get good advise.

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Does it get better?  Absolutely!

Yes, there's a huge learning curve.  I'm on my first RV, it's over 3 years old and is a travel trailer, so many of your questions (order of things with generator/inverter/ignition) don't apply.  I had ordered mine and had a couple of months to watch YouTube videos on the basics (how to back a trailer, how to empty holding tanks, etc.) plus I got involved with a manufacturer specific forum and learned a whole lot from them.

But even then, I immediately had an unexpected camping trip thrust on me.  I was scared stiff, but now I'm grateful that I did go camping immediately because I got to put into practice all that theoretical knowledge.  The folks at the manufacturer specific forum were most helpful as were the folks at the manufacturer's service department who fixed the issue that led me to that unexpected camping trip and who also answered a lot of questions I had that came up on that trip (I didn't remember or wasn't briefed on how to work the television/audio system).  I also learned a few things I hadn't read before like don't leave the water hose hooked up if the overnight temp is going to be 22F.

Before I even ordered my trailer I thought a lot about whether I would be one of those people who get an RV, go out on the first trip and hate it (I have a friend who did exactly that).  Once I got the trailer, I never let the idea of failure to enter my mind, I was too busy trying to figure it all out.  I didn't want to make a decision about it all until I had figured it out, I was so concerned that I would be like my friend and really wanted to give the whole RV thing a fair trial.

It only took a couple of trips before I came to the conclusion that I really liked the whole RV community, people I met in campgrounds and that once I learned how things worked, it was actually pretty easy (though there's a lot to it - make lists and use them!!!).  I don't know it all, I'm constantly learning new things and re-learning things I've forgotten, but that's half the fun.  I still make mistakes and I'm constantly learning from other people's mistakes and issues when they are willing to share about them.

If you can, take a break from traveling, sit for a while if you can, take a deep breath and let all that info you've been trying to absorb sink in.  Take your time going home, enjoy the drive and take days off.

Good luck and enjoy.

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18 hours ago, Bill&Anneli said:

When do you turn the inverter on ?

 you leave your water pump on all the time ? when do you turn it off ?

How low can you run your fresh water tank ? to 0%? or is it like the diesel tank, you can't go below 1/4 tank before generator shuts off  (this one we actaully remembered from the walk thru).

My inverter is always on.  When your water pump isn't running, it's drawing zero power.  I turn mine off at night in case it leaks, also when leaving the coach.  You can pump your water tank dry. 

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Great questions and great backstory.  Barb and others have provided excellent responses.

Like you, albeit 9 years ago, we started out with zero RV experience, but were fortunate enough to have already discovered Escapees and this forum.  With everyone’s help and advice, we attended a Boot Camp before ever buying our TV and fiver.  Thank goodness we did or we would have been very unhappy with our first unit.  That being said, we still managed to “forget” some things and had to learn them from the school of hard knocks.  Thus, we now have inside and outside checklists for departure and arrival. When we hear newbie stories today, we can say:  yep, been there; done that.  

Hang in there and enjoy the journey, it will get easier.  

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Thanks to all - this is a very kind and reassuring community - I did add the signature line - hope it worked. Today we are celebrating surviving week one - nodbody died and the coach is still in one piece so we call that success.

And - I will the advice for the newbies from these newbies:

Even though you do all the things they advise, start scouring the various forums, watch u tube videos, learn and read all you can for for months and months before that first class A - there is probably no way around being overwheled by your first one so just hang in there.

Thanks again and we will continue to read these forums. They are very helpful even if they can not completetly prepare you for what it feels like to wake up on a space ship.

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Wow, we are so jealous, it's about 2.5 years before we can start full timing. You adventure sounds so fun we can hardly wait to start ours!

IT might help to focus an system and learn it then move on to the next.

they way I think of it is:

  • Vehicle System
    • motor
    • trans
    • suspension
    • brakes
  • Water system
    • Fresh water holding tank and its water pump
    • City water
    • Gray water holding
    • black water holding
  • electric
    • Inputs: batteries, generator, park power, maybe solar
    • 12 volt subsystem
    • 120 volt subsystem
  • RV systems
    • Leveling
    • slides
    • awnings
    • stairs
    • antennas, dish
Edited by filthy-beast

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2 hours ago, filthy-beast said:

Wow, we are so jealous, it's about 2.5 years before we can start full timing. You adventure sounds so fun we can hardly wait to start ours!

We bought a used Class C and about 2 years before we got our Class A, with the express purpose of using it for learning, weekends and summer vacation time.  Traded it in on Class A and are so thankful we did that.  The Class C was easy to handle, affirmed to us that we really did want a motorhome not a 5th wheel, gave us practice towing (hitching, etc.) and let the cats get use to the idea of being in a vehicle and still being 'home'.    

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11 minutes ago, SWharton said:

We keep both closed since we use the gray to flush the residue from the black tank.

We do the same.  I also use a dishwashing pan (12L) in the sink and every once in a while pour a full pan of dishwater down the toilet - helps to keep things working.;)

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3 hours ago, Bill&Anneli said:

 I did add the signature line - hope it worked.

Glad you added it as it really does help when answering questions.  Now.... if you could..... please add the MH length for when you ask if you'll fit in a certain campground. 😁

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5 hours ago, Barbaraok said:

We bought a used Class C and about 2 years before we got our Class A, with the express purpose of using it for learning, weekends and summer vacation time.  Traded it in on Class A and are so thankful we did that.  The Class C was easy to handle, affirmed to us that we really did want a motorhome not a 5th wheel, gave us practice towing (hitching, etc.) and let the cats get use to the idea of being in a vehicle and still being 'home'.   

We have taken the long road from tents to two popups, two travel travelers. We have rented a C-class a few times. Having an F250 and doing TT for years helped us decided we did not want to be cruising and then site seeing in a truck. We are now in a park model and spend about 5 months straight there during the summer.  Tight space and always on top of each other wont bother us. Plan is get a used Dutch Star, that is why this thread and their adventure got us so excited.

OP,  Please keep posting updates on how the space ship adventure is going.

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, SWharton said:

We keep both closed since we use the gray to flush the residue from the black tank.

If I am only going to be parked a few days I keep both closed. If I will be there a while then I open the gray tank closing it the day befor I dump the black tank for the reson you stated. We tend to use a lot more water with hookups than when boondocking so this is easyer for us.

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When we are at a FHU site for several days I leave my gray open and of course the black closed.  I always build a "trap" in the end of my stinky-slinky and I don't like screwing it securely into the campgrounds sewer connection.  The reason for leaving the gray open is because at some point within a several day period we will do a few loads of laundry, which dumps into the gray.  The evening prior to dumping my black I will close the gray before our showers.

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After reading about a "bad sewer" incident on another forum awhile back, I stopped screwing in my sewer elbow to the CG's ground connection.  Now I just set it on there and maybe weight it down with a bag of sand.

The CGs system got blocked and several folks with an open gray valve received some unwelcome black water up into their shower floors.  The RVer posting about the incident apparently either didn't have his gray open or didn't have his sewer connection screwed into the CGs dump opening because it just blew his connection out of the hole and got some black water next to his coach.  Not a good situation.

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