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Question for the Snowbirds


SpaceNorman

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My wife and I - two life long Michigan residents - are excitedly making plans for our first winter escape in our new (to us) motor home. Our plans have us heading for Florida - leaving Michigan sometime in early January and returning sometime around the middle of February.

 

Our itinerary has us leaving and returning to Michigan in the dead of winter - and planning to make it a two day drive in each direction- with an overnight stop somewhere in Tennessee while we're driving down and again on the way home. Obviously, it would be nice to have running water while on the road down and back.

 

I'm curious about how others handle the logistics of un-winterizing and re-winterizing their coaches for trips like this. Any suggestions?

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When we were snowbirds we did this quite often. It was a bit of a hassle but we would actually drain the anti freeze (from the tank, not the faucets) at home a day or two before leaving home. We would then hook up a couple hoses to an exterior faucet--we had the anti freeze type--and rinse out the water tank. Then on the first night out, flush out the faucets, put some in the tank, and be fine on the rest of the trip. We never came back home in the freezing weather so the return was no problems. But I'm sure it wouldn't freeze in the time before you got home in less than a day so you could re-winterize it once home. If you don't put antifreeze in the water tank then it would be easy to do your first night that you are in warm weather. Just hook up the hose and flush everything out.

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Well, when we did,(VT to FL and back in January), this trip a few times. We did as suggested by 2gypsies, except we had a porta potty left from tent camping days, it just fit in the space next to permanent rv toilet. We were de winterizing only upon our arrival in FL. Also, we always re winterized before leaving FL..

We viewed this trip as a means to an end, done in the least amount of time to be safe while sacrificing some amenities for sure.

 

Carl

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There are kits to make winterizing very easy and what you wish to do is much of the reason they exist. There is a good chance that you already have what is needed, but if not, it isn't difficult to install them. Two kits are needed, a bypass for the water heater so that you can drain it and bypass it with the antifreeze to leave the water heater tank empty. The second is an injection kit to allow you to pump antifreeze into the system with the fresh water tank drained.

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Bypass Kit Antifreeze injection kit

Each of these should come with instructions, if you don't know how but basically the first goes behind the water heater to connect the inlet and outlet lines with valves and the second goes between the fresh water pump and the water tank, allowing you to take the pump suction from a gallon jug of RV antifreeze in place of the tank. By using these you can winterize in a few minutes time and use less than 1 gallon of RV antifreeze. What will take the most time will be the draining of the water tank and water heater. If you don't have a heated place to work, then I would plan to de-winterize at your first stop ore even when you arrive, then put it back before you return to MI. If you have a reasonably warm place to work, I'd do so in MI so that you can use your RV as you travel. As long as you keep the RV at a comfortable temperature inside the plumbing should be just fine.

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I always left just before the first deep freeze but I sometimes came back early enough to need to winterize before reaching home. We usually picked a place like Cabela's where we could dump and drain everything before adding the RV anti freeze. If I had been waiting until January to depart I would have run south with just bottled water until it was warm enough to stop at Cabela's and dewinterize. We did winterize once at Flying J but you are more likely to have people urging you to move on there than at Cabela's.

 

Linda Sand

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Keep in mind your return trip may take several days. We were returning to IN from Key West 2 years ago in late Feb. The weather in AL and TN was too bad for us to head North from Dalton, AL, where we stayed 2 weeks waiting for a window of descent driving weather. I wouldn't jump to winterize while South of TN/AL line.

I know you didn't ask, and this is off-topic, however I'll add this. Consider driving I 65 S to US 231 in AL to I 10, instead of I 75, you'll miss the mountain grades entirely and this route is only 80 miles more between Indianapolis and Ft. Myers.

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Keep in mind that if you drain and bypass your hot water tank and drain your fresh water tank you should never have to put antifreeze into your fresh water tank. Simply use the pump to suck the antifreeze out of its container and pump it through your water lines using an adapter and a short hose.

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Keep in mind your return trip may take several days. We were returning to IN from Key West 2 years ago in late Feb. The weather in AL and TN was too bad for us to head North from Dalton, AL, where we stayed 2 weeks waiting for a window of descent driving weather. I wouldn't jump to winterize while South of TN/AL line.

I know you didn't ask, and this is off-topic, however I'll add this. Consider driving I 65 S to US 231 in AL to I 10, instead of I 75, you'll miss the mountain grades entirely and this route is only 80 miles more between Indianapolis and Ft. Myers.

Why would anyone drive 80 miles out of the way just to dodge 1 small "mountain" (Jellico) ?! Only takes <5 minutes to go up and <3 minutes to go down it. That is the only "mountain grade" that I can recall all the way from Mackinaw City to Miami and I logged MANY miles on I-75 as a professional trucker for 20 years. Was it Dalton, AL or was it Dalton, GA or was it Dothan, AL?

BTW, I would stay winterized and use the water jugs until I got below the frost line.

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Why don't you just cut to the chase. Once you return to Michigan in February you will be asking yourselves "what were we thinking". Wait until at least May to return, you will do it next year anyway. Been there done that.

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Why don't you just cut to the chase. Once you return to Michigan in February you will be asking yourselves "what were we thinking". Wait until at least May to return, you will do it next year anyway. Been there done that.

 

In another year or two - I plan on taking your advice, however at the moment I'm still working full time. The trip we're currently planning is only possible because I've obtained permission to work remotely from my coach while on this trip as a "pilot" program to see how well it works for me and my employer.

 

Although we'll be gone for nearly 6 weeks - I'm planning to take only 8 actual "vacation days". Depending on how the exact dates line up - I'm hoping that the trip up and back (2-3 days in each direction) can be timed so that we're traveling over a weekend - such that I burn only 1-2 days of vacation during the travelling part of the trip. Once we're in Florida, I'm planning to take one vacation day per week - and work the other 4 as a normal work day.

 

Depending on how things go - there's a very good possibility that I'll be able to dive into full time RVing at age 60 - while continuing to work part time for my current employer - working 100% remote via VPN connection from the coach. I'm thanking my lucky stars that I've finally managed to position myself in terms of job responsibilities and employers such that this sort of extended "work from home" arrangement is possible. It's been a long, long time since I've been able to honestly say that work life don't suck! :D

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Why would anyone drive 80 miles out of the way just to dodge 1 small "mountain" (Jellico) ?! Only takes <5 minutes to go up and <3 minutes to go down it. That is the only "mountain grade" that I can recall all the way from Mackinaw City to Miami and I logged MANY miles on I-75 as a professional trucker for 20 years. Was it Dalton, AL or was it Dalton, GA or was it Dothan, AL?

BTW, I would stay winterized and use the water jugs until I got below the frost line.

Winter can be iffy for driving in "hills", one mountain. I also completely miss Atlanta, Georgia. Good catch, I mis-spoke-er mis-typed, Dothan, AL. not Dalton.

You need to remember Norman is asking for advice, I offered mine, yours differs, that's life. That 80 miles is easy driving, as you, a former professional driver know. You were on the clock, I don't care about the clock. Perhaps because I really don't like to drive through Atlanta is my true reason, either way, I do know I arrive in Ft. Myers about 1.5 hours later than the one time I drove the heavily-congested bypass around Atlanta. The extra fuel is not a concern for me either.

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We've run south from MN to TX in January the last couple of winter's, and returned in February/March. Both times we've opted to stay winterized until KS where we've stopped and filled with water. On the way back we've re-winterized in KS again. With the equipment Kirk mentioned (you may well already have) it does only take a few minutes, and two gallons of pink stuff (which I carry with me when traveling in the winter). We're de-winterizing/re-winterizing in ~30deg temps so we make sure we keep heat on in 5er, in fact I've left the heat around 50deg when traveling winterized just so it's not 0deg inside when we stop. I like dzwiss approach of just staying south until May, but we haven't been able to yet either...this coming year it will probably be mid-Apr, the next year hopefully it will be May :)

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Winter can be iffy for driving in "hills", one mountain. I also completely miss Atlanta, Georgia. Good catch, I mis-spoke-er mis-typed, Dothan, AL. not Dalton.

You need to remember Norman is asking for advice, I offered mine, yours differs, that's life. That 80 miles is easy driving, as you, a former professional driver know. You were on the clock, I don't care about the clock. Perhaps because I really don't like to drive through Atlanta is my true reason, either way, I do know I arrive in Ft. Myers about 1.5 hours later than the one time I drove the heavily-congested bypass around Atlanta. The extra fuel is not a concern for me either.

X2 with taking the easy route, even if a little longer. I look at it as saving wear and tear on the RV to stay on flat ground rather than working the engine up & down the inclines. - We got all kinds of time, we're retired.

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Blowing water out of the lines has proven to be easy and effective. After turning off the water and draining the water tank I unscrew the show head and connect an adapter and hook my air hose there (water systems high point) and then bring my little compressor up to 30 psig. Once up to pressure I commence opening each faucet or valve until the water is blown out and turns to air. This method even gets the water out of the water pump and small line to the ice maker, and also assists in draining the hot water tank. The only place I use antifreeze is in the sink and washer pee traps.

Later,

J

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Thanks for all the input folks!

 

Being that we're planning to make the trips down and back to Florida as quickly as practical (2-3 days in each direction), I suspect that we'll likely unwinterize once we arrive in Florida ... and re-winterize prior to heading back north. I can't justify taking the risking the potential headache and expense of freeze damage that could easily occur if travelling in real winter weather - for having a couple of extra days running water on the way up and back. Unwinterizing prior to leaving and trying to keep the coach warm for a day or two on the way down maybe - but driving back north into what could be sub-zero temps - not so much.

 

Now all I gotta do is really pay attention to exactly how to go about winterizing my coach this fall so I'm comfortable with the process. (We took possession in March of this year ... so I've got experience un-winterizing it. This coming fall will be my first with actually winterizing it.) Perhaps, I'll tweak my plans once I've gone thru the process once.

 

Thanks again!

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We typically stay parked at our upstate NY cottage until after the winter holidays to spend time with our kids that live nearby. We always head south in January with a full fresh tank and the coach in full operation. Only once a couple of years ago did we have a minor pipe freeze before we reached warmer weather. At 4 below zero in VA, the short pipe from the accumulator tank to the coach feed froze. Since the only symptom was that the pump reverted to quick cycles when a faucet was opened and closed, there was no functional problem. About 5 minutes work with a hair dryer correct the situation. We don't have electric tank heaters as some coaches do, but some of the heat from the coach furnace main duct is fed to the wet bay to keep things warmer. Back when I did winterize our RV's in the winter, I found the blow out method worked well with little fuss. Only the traps got RV antifreeze.

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