We made a reservation at Trailer Village RV Park at the Grand Canyon in August and it’s almost time to leave for our cross country trip we start on May 11th. Since we made that reservation we have been planning our route and making reservations at various campgrounds. We had planned to come right home after staying at the Grand Canyon, but we will be continuing on to California so I can attend the Apple World Wide Developer Conference in June.
It is our first cross country trip, so we a combination of excited and nervous, but one things is certain. We dreamed of buying an RV and seeing the country and that dream is coming true. This is the beginning of our long journey of seeing as many places as we can with our amazing motorhome.
I will be posting each day of our journey with pictures and mini reviews of where we are staying each night, so stay tuned!
When Amber suggested a Honda HR-V as a tow vehicle, I started searching the web for information on whether it was possible to tow four-down behind a motorhome. I couldn’t find any definitive information on whether an automatic or manual transmission could be towed this way, but, from other make and model owners manuals I had read, towing a manual was pretty much a given.
We found a manual at a dealership in Tampa and made arrangements to test drive and talk numbers. I was a bit rusty, but I was able to do a test drive and it was just like riding a bike again, you never forget. Once we hashed out numbers, we asked them to provide us definitive documentation that the vehicle we were about to purchase could be towed four-down. After a bit of time, they provided us with a salesperson training brochure that mentioned being able to do it. They also said that in the HR-V owners CD, it has a section on what needs to be done to accomplish this.
Since I could not find any definitive documentation on the web, I figured I would provide the actual page from the owners CD that outlines how to tow a 2016 Honda HR-V with a manual transmission four-down.
September of last year we spent 4 days in St. Augustine, FL. We used Uber and the Old Town Trolley to get from the campground to where we wanted to go. Uber was great since we could go directly from the campground to a destination. The Old Town Trolley was great because they had a shuttle to pick us up and bring us to the main trolley stop. However, even though we could get on the trolley nearly anywhere, there are times we had to ride the trolley for long periods of time to get back to the main trolley station. We began to see the value of towing a vehicle.
Like I mentioned in my last post, we were not able to tow our 2016 Honda CR-V unless we put it on a trailer, which would exceed the 5,000 lb. towing capacity our our gas coach. If we wanted to bring a vehicle with us, we’d have to buy a vehicle that could be towed. But where to start?
Do a search for ‘towable vehicle guide’ and you will find lots of articles that will mention some of the makes and models of cars that can be towed four down. This is where I started and after many hours looking, giving up, and looking some more, found some discrepancies in what these guides stated and the actual owner manuals of the vehicles. That’s why I strongly suggest you check the owner manual of any vehicle you are interested in towing. The great part is that I found them online at the manufacturer’s web sites in PDF format.
I continued to look at information and went to look at a few vehicles. Nothing was going to replace our 2016 Honda CR-V, it seemed. Then Amber found a manual transmission 2016 Honda HR-V that would be a great tow vehicle and we wouldn’t have to give up too much. We wanted documentation that the vehicle could be towed, to be certain we wouldn’t be buying something that we found out later could not be towed four down. After much looking, the salesperson dug up the owner CD and on that was the guide to towing the HR-V. Mission accomplished!
Now came the fun part. Amber had never driven a manual transmission before and I had 2 days to teach her before she needed to solo with our new vehicle. With much practice, she not only can drive a 36 1/2 ft. RV, but she can drive a manual transmission car also.
It’s never too late to improve yourself by learning new things. Fear holds us back. When we don’t let it, our lives are changed forever.
When we first thought about buying a RV, our original thought was to buy a fifth wheel because we would always have a vehicle with us to drive to the places we needed and leave the RV behind. As I started thinking more about a fifth wheel, the less appealing it became. We didn’t have a truck for towing, so we’d have to buy one in addition to the RV itself. That would have put the cost in the class A price range, so I started comparing pros and cons. To cut a long stay short, the biggest con I saw was that we’d be in a confined space for long periods of time with no access to the refrigerator or bathrooms while moving down the road. Also, since I would be working at least part of the time while Amber drove, I would have to work in a truck, which was not even close to ideal. A booth dinette would be great for working in a class A. As you probably know, we went with a class A RV and believe it was the best decision for us.
Once made our choice of RV, we started thinking about how we’d get around once we got to our destination. Our vehicle at the time was a 2016 Honda CR-V Touring, which could not be towed flat or on a dolly because of its CVT transmission. So we decided that we could get around with ride sharing services, cabs, or renting a car while on the road.
Since then we have rethought our decision to not tow a vehicle. More on this later.
I have been itching to drive Irving again ever since we got him to the storage lot about a month ago. Yeah, I know, we bought an expensive motorhome and we haven’t driven it since we took delivery. We had Christopher’s birthday vacation to Animal Kingdom Lodge and Amber and Christopher spent time at the beach with friends in June. These things were planned long before we bought our coach, so there was no avoiding them.
In a previous post, I mentioned that the bed in our coach was way too hard for us, so I ended up ordering a memory foam mattress with a foam base. It came yesterday, so we decided to take the RV for spin to get gas and then back home to install the new mattress. We didn’t need gas, I wanted the practice of getting gas before we had to do it. I noticed that the Sam’s Club near our house had very high clearance, so we decided to go there.
I got very lucky pulling out of the storage lot, traffic lights going in both directions we red and I was easily able to cross to the other side of the road. Heading home from Sam’s Club meant that I would have to go into our residential neighborhood of narrow streets. I decided to take the long way around because the usual entrance to our neighborhood has a median that I would have never been able to turn into. These are things that need to be thought out ahead of time and I’m glad I did. We did encounter some tree branches that made that screeching sound as they ran down the side of the coach. I cringed.
After getting Irving home and into the driveway, our across the street neighbor came over to see Irving. He’s been wanting to do what we are doing for a long time and all he could say is that we had a gorgeous coach. We got the mattress installed and headed back to the storage lot. I made the mistake of taking back roads in our neighborhood and it was pretty stressful. Our coach barely fit in the lane and Amber was very jumpy, making me anxious. We made it back to the storage lot unharmed and I had more driving experience under my belt.
It’s been a busy few weeks since we brought Irving home to the storage lot. We have visited him a few times, but with a vacation that was planned and Amber and Christopher going to spend time at the beach with friends, we have not camped since we took delivery.
I have been looking at maps of the US to find campgrounds in places we want to go and have started making a list. It’s been frustrating for me not to be able to make a real trip yet. I know it’s coming, but I am anxious to get going on our adventure.
We have already made a reservation for Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground in late August. We will be doing a trip to the KOA about 5 miles from our house, most likely at the end of July. We wanted to go close by to get more practice with setting up and if we forgot anything, we can go home and add it to our list. We can also practice cooking, etc.
Sometimes things take time, but they happen eventually.
After we spent the weekend in the RV we were happy to be home, in our comfortable space. It made me think about how this RV experience feels a lot like when you bring your new baby home for the first time. You go through your pregnancy and you can’t wait for that new baby to get here. That day finally arrives and you are excited and totally in love, but then you go home. Everything is new, you have no idea what you are supposed to do. And then there is the poop! You know that eventually you’ll figure it out and it will be awesome, but right now you are thinking what did we do. No turning back now.
We were definitely outside of our comfort zone this weekend, trying to figure everything out. The weekend was stressful but I think we handled it in stride. We made it through, but Sunday night when we were sitting in our comfortable bed we were both questioning this whole RV thing. The idea of it was very exciting, we couldn’t wait for the day to get here so we could try out our new “baby”.
Much like having a baby, this is a totally life changing experience. No turning back. I think that is kind of the point, though. You grow when you are challenged and get out of your comfort zone.
The first day in Irving was a hot summer day in Florida. When we got to him, the dealership only had the back A/C on and the front shades were open to the sun all day. Needless to say, it was very hot in there. It took quite a long time to cool down, but once the sun went down, we were OK.
As Amber usually does, she set out to find a solution. She first started looking for pre-made sun shades, but none of them matched the one we have for our car, a silver, reflective sheet that cover the whole windshield. Her next search was Lowe’s web site to find insulation and that’s where she found pretty much the same material our car shade is made out of. She went to measuring and made her cuts, strengthening the edges with duct tape. She got command velcro, you know, the one that doesn’t damage what it’s stuck to. We hung the panels using the velcro and attached each panel together with the same. In the above picture, you can see that it looks fantastic!
The dealership was great about addressing the issues with our coach, so we got to spend the night at their campground last night.
We got some good practice getting hooked up to electric, water and cable TV. We were disappointed that the TVs in our coach (one in the bedroom and one in the living room) were not showing cable channels. We called our dealer’s 24 hour help line and they suggested scanning the cable signal for channels. That worked just fine. We held off hooking up the sewer line, more on this later. We were hungry and tired after a long day, so we went to dinner.
While at dinner, a pretty significant thunderstorm blew in and dumped heavy rain on us. We didn’t feel like hooking up the sewer line in the rain, so we went inside to get ready for bed. Christopher and I finished our shower and Amber wanted to get in next. I checked the level of the gray tank and it showed full. Oops. If we had hooked up before dinner, we could have, at least, dumped enough water out to allow Amber to take her shower. To make things worse, this morning when I went to hook up the sewer line, I discovered that the previous occupant had screwed the lid on way too tight and I couldn’t take it off. We didn’t have any tools, so we had to wait until 9:00am to call the office and have someone help us take it off. This really cut into the time we had to get our tanks dumped so we could check out of the park at 11:00am. Fortunately, it all worked out and we were able to dump all of our tanks before heading out right at 11:00am.
Lesson #1: Set up all connections as soon as your arrive at the campsite to address issues right away.