What do you do when you have lofty goals for the used RV you just bought? Our answer was to test her out, put her through the paces you might say. We plan to be living in this beauty Full Time, and we want to be sure she’s ready for us AND the baby. (Coming very soon woohoo!) Sure we could be practical and make smart choices like having an experienced RV technician perform a thorough top to bottom inspection. But where’s the fun in that!? Plus, whatever that would’ve cost is surely worth enough fuel to go somewhere fun. So we fired the technician and headed due south for San Onofre, California.
3 Goals on our First RV Trip
1 – Learn all the parts and pieces of the RV
We need to learn how everything works on our new rig, and more importantly learn what doesn’t work. That way before it becomes home, we can fix things without worrying about a mess or we can simply take it somewhere. Once we start calling it home, I’m not sure many repair places would be OK with us walking around in pajamas at their shop. Jesse had 11 days off work, and luck was on our side as we successfully drove 1100 miles in 2 long days to San Onofre, California. Our big rig has cushy’ airbags, so the window time wasn’t too awful. With 9 days remaining after the drive south, we had enough wiggle room to feel comfortable if our new RV threw any surprises at us. (We still need to give her a name…) Also, we towed Ramona along for the trip, our trusty Dodge Ram pickup. So while plan B was to fix the RV wherever she broke down plan Z was to abandon the RV somewhere safe, repair facility preferably, then drive the truck home.
2 – Functional check of all the RV systems
Some things you can’t simulate before buying, so living in the RV for the full 11 days was pretty invaluable. We’d have 4 travel days (with 2 road camping nights) and 7 days/nights at an RV park. If you’ve seen the videos from our RV buying experience, then you know a guy (Jim) give us a thorough walk through of the RV. Jim did a great job answering many of our questions, however RV’s are complex and there were many things he couldn’t answer; hot water for example. We have a hefty 10 gallon hot water tank and it has the option to use propane or electricity for heat. We found ourselves wondering if it automatically switches between sources if one or the other isn’t available? To further complicate this, we have a battery bank (12volt) and an inverter which produces 120 volt AC power, almost the same as “shore power”. Is the inverter big enough to handle the load from the water heater? We’re still working on this question and a few others, we’ll let you know what we find out.
Systems we’re currently learning to operate
There are so many systems in the RV. Here’s a short list of a few we’re checking out and learning functionality:
- 50 Amp service cord for shore power – Voltage booster installed, does it require maintenance?
- 2000 watt inverter – It’s an older style and does NOT produce a pure sign wave and could be a problem with new electronics.
- 12 Volt battery bank (4x Trojan 105’s) and what can be powered on 12V.
- Generator (7500 watt remote start). What high energy devices require the genset (if the inverter is too weak or battery bank is too low) when we’re dry camping?
- Cooking/Heating – Learning about our 44gallon propane tank, shut off valve locations, and what it supplies.
- How to transfer between 120Volt, 12 Volt, and propane power.
- Is it reliable enough for medication that has to stay cold?
Lastly, we already knew there was a good potential for our 400 horsepower Cummins diesel engine’s fuel pump to give up. Check out RV purchase part 3 for that video. We hired a mechanic before buying the RV and that was his biggest worry, in part because of how much they cost and because it’s a common failure on our engine model. We opted for an MBI (mechanical breakdown insurance) plan, but nonetheless Jesse made sure to have a complete tool set and several power tools, just in case. With the spacious storage below the RV, it wasn’t hard to find space for all the tools AND our toys.
3 – Have some fun and enjoy our “Babymoon”
Enough work already, let’s have some fun! We typically take a week or three to escape the bleak winters but instead focused our time working on the house this winter. Remodeling has sucked the lives right from our souls and we were overdue for sunshine and a battery recharge. We made sure to bring some toys along and we had a blast. Even Jenny with the big belly baby slipped on her wetsuit and caught some waves.
We stayed at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base’s “San Onofre Beach Resort“. Typically the words “Marine Base” and “Resort” don’t go together. While the resort does a good job of maintaining the typical no-frills, strictly business, military installation format, they can’t hide that million dollar view. Heck, they even got fancy and made an impressive surf museum in their lobby. For anyone wanting a beachside campsite in Southern California, this is a pretty sweet choice. BUT, you will need someone in your party with a military ID to stay here. It’s flexible, so even if you’re just a lowly DOD civilian employee like me, as long as you have proper ID you’re good to go. Otherwise, a nearby option (and cheaper) is the San Onofre Bluffs campground at the state park.
Check out the video and let us know what you think.