New A124 and 3200 Mile, Two Week Road Trip (Long Post)
I took delivery of the A124 on August 27th. The first problem was the tongue weight. For some reason it caused my tow vehicle (Ford Crown Victoria 4.6 liter V8) to squat so much that it was not usable. I ended up changing the rear shocks but it didn't make any difference so I bought some el cheapo spacers for the rear coil springs which got me about 150 miles down the road before they came apart. I then had some heavy duty springs put on the back along with some coil over shocks. This made a huge difference but I still had to watch driveways, speed bumps etc. I got the trailer home with only two minor problems after that. A broken battery box strap and loose piece of trim. I got out my trusty bathroom scale and checked the tongue weight when I got home. The scale stopped at it's highest reading of 340 pounds and I believe that the actual tongue weight is closer to 420 pounds. This is way higher than the recommended 10-15% rule. No wonder I had problems. The dry hitch weight is listed as 253 pounds in the Rockwood brochure. Throw in two full propane cylinders, a battery, 31 gallons of water and 253 pounds is just wishful thinking. Glad I went with the extra heavy duty hitch. It towed well behind the Crown Vic after I replaced the springs and shocks but it still sits down in the back a bit. I towed from 50 mph all the way up to 70 mph. At 70, my fuel mileage dropped to about 17 mpg. I'm sure I can get 18 or 19 at 55 mph. The lowest mileage was about 15 mpg pulling 6-7% grades miles at a time. This was done at 45 mph in second gear. The engine temperature never budged going up the steep grades. I was worried about the transmission temps but the transmission seemed to do ok as well. The car has a factory equipped transmission and oil cooler on it. I kept checking the transmission fluid when I stopped and it never changed color or had a burnt smell to it. Glad I had the transmission and radiator flushed and filled before I left.
After getting past the tow problem, the wife and I started to relax a little bit and ended up staying in an RV park on the Ohio river. Fortunately the rain from the hurricane had people cancelling their Labor Day reservations so I was easily able to find a spot. By the way it never did rain there. Since I am new at this, I had to have the RV Park Manager show me how to plug up the electricity. He probably got a kick out of that. I turned the A/C down to about 65 degrees hoping it would be somewhat cool when I got back from dinner. Guess what? It was 65 degrees in the trailer when I got back. The digital thermostat worked like a charm but it would be easier to read up higher maybe next to the sink faucet or somewhere similar.
My trailer was also the cheapest camper in the park. One fellow had a Class A that I was told cost $260,000. It was very nice but even with automatic leveling jacks, it took him over an hour to get the thing set up. If you don't like attention and conversation, don't even think about buying an a-frame popup. People would drive or walk by and start asking me questions about it and wanting to see inside. At any rate, the electricity was nice. My wife was able to use her blow dryer and the A/C was really nice. We even stopped by a Goodwill store where I bought her a used $4.00 iron so she could do some ironing. Hope she doesn't want anything for Christmas after me buying her something so nice. <wink>
We also used the park showers (unlimited water) which was an added bonus. When not staying at an RV park we showered in the camper. My camper is the one with the shower and the toilet. Let me tell you that this is the epitome of luxury. Need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and don't want to worry about getting snake bit, robbed, rained on etc? No problem when you have the bathroom. Being able to take a shower also helps to make you feel better and can actually change a bad mood to a good one. I didn't get a chance to use the hot water heater. My wife's showers are shorter and water lasts longer when the water is a little cold. <snicker> I will try the hot water heater the next time we go out. By the way, with two people using the shower twice a day with minimal sink usage, our 20 gallon water tank took us through about a week. The toilet lasted about a week but we would use public toilets when available and convenient. Maybe we were not using enough water in the toilet. We used two pushes of the button to flush liquid waste down. We never used the toilet for solid waste disposal. One observation though... I used some of the environmentally friendly toilet chemical guaranteed not to hurt you or a baby squirrel if it's swallowed, but it didn't seem to work too well. We switched to the blue formaldehyde formulation and all was well. Sorry baby squirrels.... :-( The toilet and shower are a MUST HAVE in my opinion.
The refrigerator worked like a dream. Cranked it to max (5) and let it run almost two weeks nonstop. It kept food cold and my wife said it started to freeze water. There are some cooling fins behind a panel on the outside of the trailer which get very hot. I have seen some guys put a small computer fan on there and I think this could only help the refrigerator. The flame that runs the refrigerator is about the same size as a candle flame so I'm guessing two 20 pound propane bottles would run the fridge a month or two.
The microwave worked like any microwave I've ever used. We bought some microwaveable dinners and even though they weren't too tasty, they were hot and easy to prepare one night when we were tired and worn out.
The sink works well although it would be nice if it were a little deeper and had a different faucet. We only turned the water pump on when we needed water, otherwise it was kept turned off.
The radio worked well enough although the sound quality is no match for a good home system. The radio did seem to pick up stations very well. I was surprised as the antenna is quite low to the ground and somewhat shielded. I hooked my IPOD device to it and it worked flawlessly. It seems like the unit also had a USB hookup and a slot for an SD card.
The lights worked well inside the camper. I had purchased LED's and replaced them almost immediately. They were plenty bright and produced about 95% less heat than the bulbs that came with the camper. I want to change the outside door light and the light by the propane tanks to LED's. I have the bulbs but not the adapters and don't want to cut the original wires. LED's are definitely the way to go. I was able to purchase good sized assortment of LED bulbs off of Fleabay for less than $20 if memory serves me.
The fantastic fan is... well let's just say fantastic. I ran it all night long on low a couple of times and it will really bring in the fresh air when you have a window open. On high it moves a tremendous amount of air. Be sure to wipe the dust from the fan screen as it will start to accumulate dust like an a/c air filter will. I just wiped the underside off with a damp paper towel and it seemed to do the trick.
I didn't get a chance to use the stove but the dealer demonstrated the operation. Turn the gas switch with a match in hand and it lights.
One other problem I had was the seat cushions. I have just the one table that makes into a bed. Sleeping on just the cushions (230 pound man) causes them to compress to about a quarter of an inch so basically you're sleeping on wood at this point. A stop at Walmart and $20 later, I had a full size inflatable air mattress. This was pure luxury compared to what the camper came with. Ultimately my wife and I found that having the bed made up and ready to climb into was the way to go instead of using the table. I've since decided to buy a real mattress to put in the camper. The mattress size needed is a 54" x 80". This is called a "Full XL". A regular full mattress is 54" x 75". A full will work but you will have big gaps between the mattress and wall. My pillow had a tendency to work itself into the gap disturbing my beauty rest. My wife and I surmised that we spend 8-10 hours sleeping in the camper each night and only a few minutes eating, showering etc. so we have decided to buy a very comfortable home mattress to put in the camper and leave the bed made at all times. I think I will also use a piece of plywood or boards for the bed base instead of the table. The only drawback will be that it will be some what difficult to access one of the storage bays underneath the bed. But like one guy told me at the RV Park... There's no such thing as the perfect rv.
Wive's are happiest when they are clean, rested, well fed and can blow dry their hair.
Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Buy the longest fresh water hose and electrical cord you can. One foot too short is the same thing as 20 feet too short.
Your old eyes can see a hundred times better in the daytime than at night.
It's easier to set up during the day than the night.
Never be in between two semi trucks. Two pressure waves hitting you at different times and no margin for error is BAD.
Don't disconnect the trailer from the car if you're only sleeping overnight and plan to leave the next day.
GPS and Walmart are your friends.