After four restful months in the Phoenix area, downtime together gave way to busy-ness. We crossed a number of things off our to-do list and hit the road, thankful for the time we had with family and with our friends at the Commemorative Air Force — and appreciative of the many beautiful sunsets we got to see.
While stationary, we took advantage of having the same address for more than a few weeks and ordered additional supplies from Amazon, as well as picking some up from local stores. As a result, we faced the challenge of finding homes for all of our new additions, lengthening the process of packing and getting everything ready for travel. We somehow managed to squeeze everything in.
Last year, we did a lot of moochdocking. This year, we plan to do more boondocking. In preparation, we bought and installed two more Renogy 160-watt solar panels to increase our power supply. To support the added intake, we swapped our two Renogy 12-volt, 100-amp lithium iron batteries for three BigBattery 12-volt, 170-amp lithium iron phosphate batteries. The advantage of our new ones is more amp hours, and they won’t charge if the temperature is below freezing.
The compressor on the dorm fridge in our outdoor kitchen died, and we decided not to replace it. Instead, we chose to use the space differently. We ordered some plastic drawers to organize our paper plates and plastic utensils, and we bought an AC/DC cooler to use in place of a refrigerator. This gives us more flexibility for keeping food and drinks cold during travel and excursions.
Addressing Maintenance Issues
We also took care of a number of things that needed attention inside and outside our coach. We resealed a mirror on our closet door, cleaned our windows and screens, touched up blemishes in our wooden furniture, and resealed holes under our rig, replacing temporary duct tape fixes with long-lasting, waterproof Gorilla Glue tape.
Gulliver enjoyed some spa treatment: a fuel filter replacement and some grease added to the trailer hitch. He’s still in need of a wash before our big journey begins.
Tying Up Loose Ends
One of my goals before leaving the Valley of the Sun was to secure a job. God provided me with six freelance clients, all of which have been keeping me quite busy and contributing much-needed income to replenish our depleted savings.
In addition, I accepted an offer to become the full-time blog managing editor for a California-based tech company and am looking forward to that. Bob is taking good care of me to make sure I can keep up with all of my jobs. And, to make it easier to do my work, my dad helped create a makeshift keyboard tray on top of my desk drawer to reduce strain on my shoulders and neck.
We’ve traded views of the Superstition Mountains for looks at the Gila Mountains in Yuma, Arizona, as we gear up for this year’s cross-country trek. We’re enjoying spending time with my parents, who moved back to Arizona after we visited them in South Dakota last year.
While I work, Bob has ample opportunity to address other things on Tagalong. For example, he’s rigging up piping for a new propane heater we picked up that won’t need to draw electricity while we’re boondocking.
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It’s typical when you start anything new to make some mistakes as you get the hang of it. Although we had been camping with our family for years with a pop-up trailer and then a travel trailer, we still had a lot to learn about camping with a fifth wheel and a dually truck. Here are some of the biggest mistakes we’ve made thus far.
You may have seen those truck tailgates that dip down in the center to allow a fifth wheel hitch to slide right over without contact. We don’t have one of those. We stuck with a traditional tailgate to keep anything in our truck bed secure under our Tonneau cover.
The very first time we took our fifth wheel out for a test run, we got set up and disconnected from the truck just fine. But, we kept the truck bed underneath the hitch while Bob worked on the electrical connection. With his job complete, he closed the tailgate and went to drive the truck away from the trailer.
BAM! The whole trailer shook. I emerged from inside it to see what had happened … and discovered our dented tailgate. Closing the tailgate before driving away from the trailer put the tailgate in the direct line of the kingpin. A crash was inevitable — and expensive to fix.
We ordered a new tailgate from Amazon, painted to match the color of our truck. The first one we received arrived dented. So, we ordered another one. As you can imagine, our Amazon driver wasn’t too happy with us. The second one arrived intact, and Bob replaced it on Gulliver. Now we always follow a checklist when hooking up to and unhooking from Tagalong.
Although the control panel in our trailer shows gauges for two gray tanks, we thought one valve controlled emptying both of them. And every time we opened the cap to drain our sewer, meaning both black and gray tanks, we’d get some leakage.
We had a mobile RV repair tech come out to our rig for an evaluation, and he suggested we get a see-through attachment with a built-in valve that we could connect to our sewer pipe to help us see if leakage continued. We tried that for about a week and, sure enough, leakage continued.
So, we had the mobile RV tech come back out to replace the leaky gray valve. He and a partner showed up and completed the job and gave us the $350 bill. Before they left, he informed us we have two gray tanks and showed us the location of the valve for the second one.
Most likely, we threw $350 down the toilet (pun intended) because the second gray valve had been open the whole time. And that was the real cause of the leakage.
While en route to a beautiful campground on the Mississippi River on the Minnesota/Wisconsin line, we encountered quite a few low-hanging branches. Bob did a great job slowing down and maneuvering to one side of the road or the other to avoid as many of them as possible, and we successfully made it to our campsite.
Upon examination of the roof after arrival, Bob noticed a ruffle in the rubber membrane of our roof covering. Upon closer examination, he discovered our TV antenna had been pulled up from the roof, a screw in the corner protruding. And this snag on the TV antenna had pulled the rubber membrane partially out from under the nose cap of the trailer.
When we had packed up at our previous site to head to this one, I checked the TV antenna from inside but, unfortunately, didn’t turn it all the way to the proper direction so that it wouldn’t catch on tree branches. The way it was positioned left it prime for snagging any low-hanging branches we encountered.
With rain in the forecast, we had to scramble to fix the issue to avoid leakage inside the trailer. So, we bought some specialized roofing tape and self-leveling roofing sealant, and Bob pulled the membrane back into place as best as possible and resealed the popped-up screw on the antenna enclosure. This turned out to be a cheaper fix, and we’ve had no trouble since.
Now, we always make sure we follow our checklist, and I double-check that the antenna is facing the right direction for travel before we go anywhere.
If you’d like to learn about more of our mistakes, you might enjoy:
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This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.