It was great to be back in VA/MD to visit with friends and family; however a blog post filled with “we visited friends and family, ate and laughed a lot, and caught up on gossip” is 1) boring and 2) really short, I decided instead to focus on some modifications we’ve made to R2 in the last couple of months. Since there is a lot of information in this post, I broke it into a few different sections: factory, small/easy fixes, after-market, and organization.
At the Factory
After living in Rover for three years, we were very happy with his storage and functionality. The nice thing about living full-time in an RV, you know what you like and what you don’t like. While watching Tiffin build R2, we noticed a few things we really wanted to have changed. Customer service is a top priority for Tiffin so they happily obliged making some modifications for us right at the factory.
Our first major ask invovled the pop-up “power tower” in the dining area. The tower contains power and usb outlets and pops up in the middle of the countertop to allow easy access the ports. It’s a good idea in theory, unfortunately the implementation leaves much to be desired. When the tower is closed, you can’t use the outlets so you have to be willing to plug and unplug your equipment as needed (we leave our laptops connected 24/7). Worse, when closed it does not sit flush with the countertop, making that space (where my laptop usually sits) unusable.
We asked Tiffin if they could just pull out the tower and cover the hole, figuring my laptop would hide the patch. They far exceeded our expectations and the patch they placed was virtually invisible! They also added two small holes & grommets to the sides of the countertops so we can permanently run our own cables down to the outlets and keep them out of the way.
Another 40IH customer a few days behind us on the line had asked to lower the clothes rod in the back closet as she found it difficult to reach. Since the reinforcements to hold the rod can’t be moved, Tiffin instead added a shelf where the rod was, and attached the rod under the shelf. It worked out so well that we asked for the same modification. While the plant manager playfully stated, “You customers have to stop talking to each other!”, they made the change for us and it sounds like they are considering making that modification to all new 40IH coaches. We find that upper shelf is perfect for keeping our shoes out of the way. The lower rod means clothes in the back of the closet above the electrical cabinet have less space, but we bought some “Higher Hangers” which helps in that area.
Last, our new wet bay is much smaller than our old one, and its cover extends almost all the way to the bottom of the bay, making it near impossible to get to the plumbing if there is a leak. I understand Tiffin does that to keep the wet bay looking neat but as we prefer it to be functional we asked them to cut off the bottom section of the metal cover. It’s now much easier to get to the pipes and connections, we can see our tanks to get a visual on our fresh water level, and it makes it much easier to install our See-Level tank sensors (see below). The guy who did the modification liked it so much he kept bringing his co-workers over to our rig to show them!
The Little Things:
After we moved into R2, I spent a fair bit of time grumbling about the weird storage spaces, towel rack/bar placements, and lack of time to organize the basement storage to my specifications (ya, I’m a little rigid about storage). Poor Mike had to listen to me mutter a lot until we had finally had time to make the changes.
Our back bathroom has two sinks (yay!) and the bathroom cabinet extends across the entire sink area (yay again!). Unfortunately the placement of the towel holders meant the cabinet doors opened only halfway (to a 45º angle) and stopped at the most inconvenient spot (i.e. right where I would knock my head into them EVERY.TIME). We removed and repositioned the holders to allow full access to the cabinet. We also raised the towel rack by the shower so our towels would actually hang from the bars instead of resting on the back of the toilet. Lastly, we added a towel ring in the mid-bathroom and moved the toilet paper holder since you had to be a contortionist to reach it.
While the majority of the coach has ceramic tile floors, the front slides are covered by carpet (including the cabinet under the sink). I’m not a clean cook, I drop things everywhere. That means the little strip of carpet in front of the kitchen would get gross quick and since we put our trash can and dog food into the sink cabinet, that carpet would get gross too. I bought some plastic carpet runner, cut it down to size and covered those areas, so now I can mess to my heart’s content. We also have carpeting under our dining area. Opie loves to lay under the dining area and since we also use it as our main area when working, that carpet becomes matted and dirty fast. In Rover, even with regular shampooing, it looked terrible after a couple of years. I didn’t want to carry the shampooer around for that little spot, plus I hated the way the carpet wore down so quickly, so I added more plastic runner in that area. Now it’s easy to broom away the mess and I no longer need the shampooer.
Tiffin adds rear and side cameras for increased visibility when driving and changing lanes. When using our turn signals, the screen switches to the side view, but we’ve found that the side cameras provide very little benefit over our side convex mirrors. More importantly, the rear view is far more helpful to check whether there’s clearance behind our tow car when merging or changing lanes. In Rover, Mike modified the wiring and added a switch so we could turn the side views off. In R2, the camera monitor is configurable and has a setting to allow us to disable the turn signal triggers without cutting into any wires!
Our first week in Rover we had Ultrabreeze vent covers installed by Camping World over two of our three Fantastic Fan vents. Now that we are more comfortable with working on our RV, we just bought the covers (on sale!) and installed them ourselves. It allows us to keep the vents open and fans running running even if it’s raining and it greatly reduces the chance of bugs being splattered by the spinning fan (a super-plus for me).
In the Open Road and Phaetons, the water, gray, and black tanks are monitored with three sensors so the tank readings are either 0, 33, 66, 100% which often makes it a (not so fun) guessing game when we’re close to the limit for our gray or black tank. Since we’re keeping R2 for a long time, I really really wanted the See-Level monitor. It allows much more granularity, reading in increments of 3% which means better visibility into the real level of each tank. The monitor is in the wet bay so we can see the levels when filling fresh, dumping, and flushing tanks. Inside the coach, our Spyder control panel shows the tank levels. Now I can see exactly how much one load of laundry takes and know our tank limits when we don’t have sewer connections (which is often).
For Rover, we installed a hardwired Progressive surge protector but we heard that Progressive recently changed their policy so that hardwired units must be installed by a professional to qualify for their lifetime warranty. So instead, we opted to buy a portable Progressive protector that plugs into the campground pedestal. Our future plan will be to cut the power line inside of the coach, add outlets on the ends, and plug the portable unit in inside R2. That way we still have the warranty but don’t have to worry about portable unit growing legs and walking away.
Tiffin coaches come with one built-in water filter. In Rover we added a water softener as well as a second stage water filter. The first filter caught sediment, then the water passed through the water softener. The second filter was a finer carbon filter but only cold water passed through that filter (per Tiffin’s design). We wanted the same setup in our new coach but the wet bay is tiny in R2. There is no space for a second water filter or water softener. We’re holding off on the water softener for now, but we really wanted a second filter. The sediment filters are a lot cheaper than the carbon so we can change those out every 2 months and change the carbon every 6 months. Since we can’t install the second filter in any good spot, this one is just an ugly hack. We simply attached the filter to a hose outside of the coach. It does need to be removed, drained, and stored before every move but at least it does the job.
Lastly (and this is probably Mike’s favorite change), we bought CoachProxy for R2. This little box plugs into the RV’s network and lets us control our lights, thermostats, floor heat, fans, and monitor our tanks and batteries from our laptops and phones, from anywhere! If we’re out, we can monitor the interior temperature and turn on fans or AC/Heat to keep Opie comfortable. If the coach loses power, we can remotely start the generator as needed. CoachProxy also sends email notifications regarding tank levels and various other alerts. It’s pretty awesome and Mike will be posting more soon about the whole system regarding technical details, blah blah blah.
Organization is good for the soul:
R2 has some HUGE cabinets but we ended up with a lot of wasted (and very disorganized) space. While others have used pull outs and wire shelving to organize their space, we wanted the ability to adjust our shelving as needed. So I found metal shelving hardware online, bought some 3/4” plywood, and stain. Did lots of measuring, made Mike cut the plywood (saws and I do not get along well), stained, installed the hardware, and appeased my organization demon. I could finally take advantage of my mad Tetris skills to pack the cabinets full of stuff.
When the shelves were finally installed and I was happy with the inside of R2, I focused my attention on the mess we called the basement. Since we moved into R2 rather quickly, there wasn’t time for any semblance of order. With some time, I finally removed everything out of the basement and organized it to my satisfaction.
Yes, we are probably the only ones who did not get the sliding trays added to our storage bays. While the trays make it more convenient to get to items, I did not want them for two reasons. The chassis rail passes right down the middle of the coach from front to back which lowers the usable storage quite a bit in the center. Since the sliding tray pulls out completely on either the DS or PS, you cannot place any items higher than the chassis rail or the tray won’t be able to slide out (see photo below). Without the tray, we can stack cargo much higher along both sides of the coach since we can stack higher than the rail. The sliding trays also (obviously) can only be as wide as the compartment opening, so with trays we’d lose some useful storage space in between the two trays (and under the trays). Since I need to use every square inch for my crafts… *cough cough* I mean our stuff…, I felt the sliding trays weren’t the right answer for me. Plus if we ever decide we want the trays, we can always install them at another time.
With all the changes we’ve made to R2, I’m really happy with how he’s been doing so far. With the organization complete, there is a lot more storage space than I originally realized, plus the spyder/coachproxy systems makes it easier for me to be lazy (eg don’t have to get off the couch to turn on lights or ac/heat). I have come to the realization that we were glamping in Rover. In R2, we’ve far surpassed glamping and gone straight to ludicrous….I love it.