Less than a year ago, we bit the bullet and added a scooter to our arsenal of mobile vehicles. We came across a small shop in the middle of Indiana that had an incredible deal on scooters, and even told us they would throw in a hitch with our purchase. It was a deal too good to pass up. Vanessa and I were thinking about scooter-life for a while, especially because navigating new streets and cities with Maude was a huge nuisance. I'm talking HUGE. We lost hubcaps in city potholes, knocked off a backlight because of a lamppost, and are pretty sure someone tried to get into our front cab in St. Louis while we were out, and thankfully Spike scared them off.
So, needless to say, we were in dire need of another vehicle to get us more mobile and less stressed about lugging around Maude. The good news was, we found Scooter. (That's his name, by the way).
Maude and Scooter. Scooter and Maude. A match made in RV life heaven. The only thing that stressed me (Marisa) out after acquiring Scooter, was the maintenance that came along with a scooter. I know that scooters, motorcycles, and any other small engine cycling machinery require work, and most-of-all, upkeep. I thought about how I would need to spend money on maintenance, parts, and just making sure Scooter was up to par. Surprisingly though, Scooter doesn't take much upkeep. When you have a good motorcycle parts store that you can trust, anything is possible. You can find any part you need, not to mention guidance along the way. Plus, YouTube rules. So there's that.
Thankfully, the only regular maintenance that Scooter needs involves air in the tires, oil every few hundred to a thousand miles, replacing or cleaning the air filter, a good wash behind the ears, and a new spark plug. That's regular stuff, the type of stuff that we learned to do every few months, just to keep Scooter sharp.
Then you have the bi-annual or annual scooter maintenance (depending on your use, of course) which involves battery tending or replacement, new tires, chain or belt replacement, and brake replacements. These are all things that you might want to have a professional take a look at if you aren't familiar. Also note it is important to get the absolute best motorcycle tires in the game if you're looking to improve mpg, keep wear-and-tear to a minimum, and have stability on the road.
We change the oil on Scooter ourselves, which ends up costing less than $6 each time. We also replace the spark plug (maybe $4 at most), and clean the air filter, too. This regular maintenance is fairly simple and also much cheaper than going to a professional. We were quoted almost $100 to change the oil in Scooter, which is highway robbery in my eyes. It cost us $6 and a cut open grapefruit juice container. And maybe a good hand washing.
Scooter is a blessing to our mobility and lifestyle. We can hop him on and off the RV as much as we'd like, plus to fill up it's only about $2.50 for 100-150 miles. Maintenance is easy, as long as you find yourself a reliable motorcycle parts store, which will give you peace of mind in the long run.
Until next time friends...
It wasn't too long ago that our cats received a special gift for Christmas. This gift was aimed to take away a lot of the lap snuggling, seat-rotating, in-your-face lovin' that the cats seemed to enjoy most when we were doing things like say, driving. We were looking for a way to give them a safe, cozy place to curl up and enjoy our longer stretches of road travel. Thus, introducing the coolest cat window perch ever, the K&H Manufacturing EZ Mount Window Bed Kitty Sill.
Lets just say...this cat perch is a lifesaver. We mounted it to the passenger side window, which while a bit annoying due to the inability to roll down your window more than an inch or two, it was also the most feasible for the cats. As soon as one (OR ALL) came up to snuggle on the drive, we just plopped them into the perch and voila--instant snoozing. Our one cat Bruce (who was once called Ike before Vanessa let me rename all her cats) loves the perch. He will stretch out and fit himself inside, only to pop his head up when we start slowing down the RV or someone whips out a bag of catnip.
Our most skittish one named Keeks (formerly known as Malahaki) has to be put in manually and coaxed to stay inside. I don't think he likes heights very much...or RVs, or roads, or streets, or humans, or air, or life....
The final cat Waterpaw (Moak) is very fond of the perch. He's usually the one on the dash anyway, so any place that's warm with a window view and zero chance of being bounced around, he's game.
The perch itself suctions to the window and is super strong. Honestly, I doubted the durability at first because two out of the three cats are a bit full-figured, so I thought for sure it would come down crashing. Especially when you look at the bottom-right photo above, Bruce is stretched the heck out.
But nope! No matter who climbs in or out, it stays in place.
If you want to pick up a window cat perch of your own, click on the photo or link below. It fits perfectly on our RV dinette windows, too.
By the way, it should be noted that nobody paid us for this post nor did we receive anything for free. We just love the thing so damn much, it was worth writing about and sharing. If they could make a human perch as cool as this, then we would totally be down.
Attention all RV lovers! There is a new travel magazine that hit the streets this past month, and guess who has an article inside? THE ROAMANS!!!
(applause, fan fare, screaming, bras being thrown on stage)
The travel mag is called Rova Magazine, and it rules. We are not just saying that because we are in it and because the editor Gemma Peckham rules, but we really genuinely love this magazine. It not only provides unique, more modern knowledge and information about being nomads in today's culture, but it also showcases an incredible pictorial, too. Truly, there isn't another magazine like this out there. It doesn't even necessarily cater to only RV travelers, or full-time nomads. But instead, it highlights epic road trips and fosters a sense of wanderlust and creativity for all those who seek to find it.
The concept behind the magazine is as such :
Rova is a magazine about traveling the roads of North America: the insightful stories, the spectacular images, and the best of what this magnificent continent has to offer.
And in case you are wondering what the name stands for, then here ya go:
Not only is the magazine a great resource for those who are traveling full-time, part-time, or just in their imagination, but the online presence too, is strong. You can find interviews with travelers, nuggets of important information about life on the road, and updates on innovations for the nomadic lifestyle. Take a look at the website in entirety here: http://rovamag.com.
The article we contributed to the premiere issue involves making friends on the road and forging friendships without living too long in one place. (Hint: It is totally possible). This was such a great opportunity for us to share what we have learned by living on the road, and hopefully inspiring more people to seek out other options for living if they aren't satisfied with the societal "norm".
If you think this magazine is right up your alley, then you should absolutely subscribe. You can find more information about subscribing here: http://rovamag.com/subscription/.
Who knows, you may just find another article from your favorite small-RV-traveling-gals in there.
Hello, friends. It's been a while. Vanessa and I have been laying low in Austin, Texas for a few weeks, enjoying the temperamental weather. It's been nice to stand still in one of our favorite cities and pretend we're residents.
We are able to just chill for a bit because this past winter we did some pretty huge renovations to Maude, our small RV. As of right now, we don't have anything glaringly outstanding that needs fixing or upgrades or anything of the sort, so we can kinda just kick back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
One of the bigger projects we aimed to tackle was to reupholster the RV cushions. As you've probably heard us complain in prior posts, we couldn't stand the RV upholestry that came with the RV. If you need me to jog your memory...here goes.
Pretty, huh? We've been trying to get rid of this upholstery for a while, but it just seemed like such a huge undertaking. Until finally we had the time a resources to do it.
We posted an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to help see these suckers. We had the four dinette cushions and a big banquette cushion for what was built in the slide. Five cushions total, meant about 10-11 yards of fabric. We chose a faux ostrich leather that we loved for both aesthetic and pet-friendly reasons. This fabric is dur-a-ble. Cats have been on it, dogs have been on it, no scratches or tears. It's easy to wipe up and clean, no more old fabric. This is what these cushions look like now:
Now, in all honesty, we wished the cushions to have come out a bit more sleek and smooth around the edges. It also doesn't help that our cushion inserts are ten years old and have been a bit warped over time. Sigh, that's another project for another day. Overall, we're pleased with how the cushions came out, because ultimately it has brightened up the space like you wouldn't believe. That's really what we wanted, after all: a more modern space that is bright and beautiful.
On a side note, you can see below our dinette seat we took off our storage door completely and instead screwed in a hinged gate door. We turned that storage area into a little dog cave for Penny, fit with water, a few toys, and a nice slipper bed. She is only in there at night when we are sleeping to avoid her stumbling around in the dark (she is an old lady, after all) and she just loves it. More on that to come, but in the meantime, here she is enjoying the views from the other side...
Remember back when we decided to rip out our RV refrigerator because it kicked the bucket and lived out of a cooler for a year? Well folks, those days are long behind us. Currently, as we speak, our self-installed RV solar panels are completely running our new refrigerator. 24 hours a day, we have refrigerated food and it is damn glorious.
But here is the kicker...we did not install an RV-specific refrigerator. For a variety of reasons, which we explained in a previous post, we didn't see the need to spend an arm-and-a-torso on a propane guzzling, only-runs-when-plugged-in, temperamental-if-you're-on-an-incline Norcold RV fridge. Besides the fact Vanessa and I were very disenchanted with the Norcold products in general, the customer service wasn't too helpful and the price tag was less than stellar. So we decided instead to buy a glass for beverage cooler, and keep things simple. This is what that puppy looks like:
Feel free to click for more product info.
Now, in reality, if you're a family of four who likes to stock up on a lot of fridge products at any given moment, then this probably isn't the fridge for you. But, if you want something inexpensive, easy on the eyes, and able to be completely run off solar power, then YES, by all means.
Here's the thing...we bought a specific solar setup, and spent a looooong time learning and figuring out and factoring in all these equations and details to make sure our fridge would run solely off solar power. Truthfully, not many RV refrigerators can. That's why we went small. And the good news is, it works.
To get an idea about all the scribbles and thoughts and notes we came up with, this was only a snippet.
Honestly, we didn't know the first thing about solar power. We didn't know about wattage and amp draw and amp hours and voltage. But where there is the will to learn, you can teach yourself anything. So, we used a whole bunch of confusing math and figured everything out. Roughly, our fridge draws 1.3 amps per hour. Which when you consider the solar setup draws about 5 amps per hour total, we have a decent amount of amps per hour leftover to do with what we please.
We set up the solar panels, which we procured from Windy Nation. The thing about Windy Nation that I can say is that they provide a great basic startup kit. I have the word basic in bold because you do not get everything you need from the kit. Some extra things we purchased that were necessary that Windy Nation didn't supply includes but is not limited to:
(2) 12V 100ah deep cell rechargeable batteries
copper lug sleeves/electrical tape
3M VHB tape for panels
another set of red/black 2 gauge wires
fuses in order to safety guard your equipment
Here is the thing about Windy Nation that I want to stress: their starter kit is great. It does the job for what you need, despite the fact you have to buy a bunch more stuff. Like nearly $400 worth more stuff. We relied heavily on their customer service phone line to get tips and information from their serviceman. This guy ruled. SO unbelievably helpful in many ways, he really made the experience much less stressful then we were expecting. I cannot however, say the same about their Amazon customer support, who happened to be insanely rude and condescending, I have never had such a bad experience with customer support like that before. And if their Amazon guy and their phone guy happen to be the same person....well then what the f*$%, guys.
Okay, so all in all after research and setup and products arriving and being purchased to complete the kit, we were ready to roll. We chose to use 3M VHB tape, which was INCREDIBLE. We specifically decided NOT to drill into our roof to adhere solar panels. Not only does that seem very messy, but we also just simply don't feel comfortable putting holes in out fiberglass roof. The potential for disaster is quite large.
So we choose 3M VHB tape instead. Which, VHB stands for something--something really simple and fitting: Very High Bond. Turns out, that's pretty damn true. Vanessa and I recently went through two days of road travel with gusts of wind that rivaled Wizard of Oz and those bad boys stayed put. Here's the tape we purchased, which you can click for more product info:
Easy enough, right? So from there, we started adhering the panels. We used the brackets Windy Nation provides and screwed them onto the panels, then we took the 3M VHB tape and stuck that to the brackets then to the roof. By following the instructions from Windy Nation, we secured the wiring in parallel format and used the connectors they sent, too.
It really worked like gangbusters, and we couldn't be more thrilled.
Now for the inside, we have two 12V 100ah batteries daisy chained to each other, and then connected to the inverter and charge control. This is what our setup looks like:
We decided on the kitchen pantry for a few reasons:
1) Everything fit nicely
2) We already vented the back thanks to our new refrigerator and wooden box we built, so there is easy air flow
3) We could easily slide the solar wires down through the fridge vent on the roof and inside the space we cut through the thin walls (VERY important and extremely simple)
We had a couple of basic snafus with the wiring that needed some attention, but other than that, we got everything set up in just a few short hours. Seeing that full reading coming through for the very first time was nothing short of spectacular.
Finally, we were able to fully test the system with solar while on the road for three days. This is what we found...
We were completely able to run our fridge 24 hours a day at a very cold setting.
The inverter dipped from 13.8 (normal full battery charge) to only 12.6 while the fridge it on.
We were able to turn off the fridge with the click of a button to use other things:
Nutri Bullet (900 watts)
Charge a laptop
Charge a phone
Bissel Zing Vacuum
Now the inverter actually stayed hovering around 12.3 when the vacuum was on, and around 12.6 when the laptop and fridge were on together. The reason we turned the fridge off when using the Nurti Bullet, is that there is an initial surge in power that we just want to avoid. Also, you want to check the watts for each item you plug in to your inverter. Hair dryers, for example, sometimes run over 1500 watts, which means that would completely max out your inverter.
Beyond all the technical stuff, the most important part of the whole process was that we could keep food and beverages cold in our RV with simply the power of the sun. HOW COOL IS THAT?!
In case you're wondering some of the other products we used during the solar setup, click on the photos below. Also, if you have any questions, I can't say that we're solar experts whatsoever, but we can help you along the way with the knowledge we've gained from this project.
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