Sunday, August 12, 2018

Made in the Shade

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

After much back and forth with Heartland regarding the AC system and lack of cooling the ductwork produces, Heartland agreed to help us with a possible solution.

I did some research on the Heartland Owners Forum and elsewhere about how window -tinting could help reduce the heat transfer through the windows. I felt this might be a possible solution to the lack of efficient cooling. I had decided on a certain brand of tint, based on the success of others. So I contacted installers nearby to get quotes. I only got one quote response, but it was from the owner of Abilene Window Tinting, Chris Evenson, and Chris was great! He answered a variety of questions and concerns over the course of a week or so. He explained they have done RVs before, and that they had a facility to easily work on our rig. He also gave us 2 additional options that would increase the heat resistance.

After conversations with Heartland for almost a month, we both agreed the best option was to get the window tinting done.  After more research, Tony and I opted for the "upgrade" Chris recommended, to a better, ceramic-based film, that had better ratings.

Saturday morning we got up extra-early and took the cats to a location they could stay during the day. We then towed our rig to their shop on the south side of Abilene for a 9am appointment, and sure enough, he had a large bay for us to pull into.

Photo from their website.

The entire rig and truck fit inside, no problem! However, to open the slides fully, we had to pull the coach up a little father. We unhitched so we could use the truck to leave if we needed, and they could close the bay doors while they worked. The space was air-conditioned, so it was a great space for getting the job done, especially when the temps were already getting into the 100s regularly!

Chris and his wife Megan were there to take on the job, and they were very nice and detailed about everything. They helped us confirm the film choice and even let us add the tint to the front window, as well, with a lighter tint.

They hooked us up with electricity as well (120v plug) so our fridge and electric outlets could work during the process. We decided to hang out in the lounge area for a bit, just in case they had any questions or concerns.

When it was getting about lunchtime, we headed out to find some food and run a few errands. When we returned, they were about 2/3 finished, so we settled into the lounge again. (I had some work to do, but they also had a TV on, and free wifi!) Normally they aren't open on Saturdays, so we were the only customer and they could focus exclusively on us. They had estimated about 4pm for a completion time.

Here's the film we went with, XPEL PRIME XR BLACK 5, the bottom sample.

Here's some pics of the process, that they took:

We fit with room to spare!

43' RV fits! Seen from above.

Here's Chris getting started with the first window.

Tinted dining room windows.

Tinted living room windows.

More living room windows (brighter lights outside, so they don't look as dark.)
Getting ready to hitch up.

RV pulled-through the bay, ready to go.

Chris and Megan finished up around 3:30. They did a phenomenal job! We then put things back for travel, closed up the slides, paid, and hitched up. By 4:30 we were out the door! Luckily a little rain shower had cooled the temps outside. We then picked up the cats and headed home, set up and enjoyed the rain-cooled temps.

Over the next few weeks, we got to experience some pretty hot temps! We were worried the tint would be too dark, but it really isn't noticeable as darker except in the early morning and later evening, where it may seem a little darker than expected. During the sunny day, it's just like wearing sunglasses.

Here's a pic looking out the window. You can see Tony's maroon truck and an orange traffic cone, for color reference. (sorry the window is dirty on the outside!)

We have experienced some cooling change with the tint, especially in the 95-100 degree range. Before, the rig would start to get uncomfortably warm at these temps, now it really has to be over 102 before we notice.

We did add some exterior window shade screen to our living room window and dining room window... I bought this before the tinting... to aid in the 100+ temps, and that has helped as well. However, it will have to be removed each time we travel. This window screen is called Suntex 80/90. We went with "Stucco" color, which has a variegated texture with lighter tones the same color as our rig.

Overall, I think the window-tinting was worth the money. It's a passive solution that didn't add significant weight, doesn't cost anything to use, doesn't have to be stored when not in use, and doesn't require any modification to the rig to operate. It changed the view very little. I did notice it's a little darker inside when there's a cloudy day, but that is OK for us.

If I had more money to spend, I could see going up to their next tint product, XPEL PRIME XR PLUS, which supposedly reduces the heat transfer even more.

I highly recommend Abilene Window Tint, if you're interested in this option! Give them a call or email, and Chris will take good care of you!

Going back in time....

July 1, 2018

I failed to put this on the blog eariler! Today we decided to entirely remove all four shocks, based on a recommendation from MorRyde. Since Tony had such issues with the suspension (see A trip to the Factory), we discussed with MorRyde again why we were having problems. They seem to think it's the shocks inhibiting the travel of the suspension, so we removed them. Two were shot, and two were OK, but the bushings were badly damaged. Hope this works!

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

We decided to help our coach with a little bit more stability, adding a BAL 30" Telescopic Stabilizer Jack to the rear of the coach. This is very well made stabilizer, much more heavy duty than the Lippert stabilizer we had on our previous coach.

So since I had July 4th off, Tony and I worked to install them.

Here's the jack system, prior to install. They are manually raised and lowered.  They are "telescopic" to fit a variety of trailer widths. To install, you simply position, cut the coroplast to expose the frame, drill holes and screw through the frame, then add screws that secure the cross-bracing's overlap in place.

The jacks did not come with these rounded feet, we had to buy them separately and add them, also made by BAL.

Tony drilling holes into the frame.

As with nearly every RV project, we found that the job wasn't as easy as it seemed.  After drilling into the frame with the recommended bit size, the first screw didn't want to go in easily, and took a long time. The second one ended up at a slight angle, and got stuck -- which then caused it to break the head off the screw. When trying to remove the first screw, it too snapped off. So we had to make a trip to the hardware store, for something to drill out the broken screws, make the holes bigger, and add new bolts with locking nuts. When Tony returned, he managed to drill out the old screws, and get that side secured properly. But the other side, he had to drill into the frame again, and by then, we had used up all the battery power on the heavy duty drill, so we couldn't complete the install. Tony ended up finishing the job the next morning.

I think they help!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Texas Heart, German Soul

Friday, July 6th, 2018

A few weeks ago, we decided to take advantage of one of the last free weekends Tony had before band camp starts, and go see an area of Texas we've never been to. One fairly close to us, but never convenient before, when we lived east of Dallas. 

We booked reservations at The Vinyards of Fredricksburg RV Park, formerly known as Quiet Creek. We had the rig ready to go the night before, and Tony finished up the last minute things prior to me getting home. We decided to eat before we left, so he had dinner ready when I walked in. I left work at 5 and we were on the road by 5:45!

We stopped in Brownwood for a quick rest stop, and then continued on. Showers were predicted all along our travel route, but we managed to dodge them. They seemed to be moving east to west and quicker than we were moving North to South. We drove through a few areas that had lots of rain recently, and that made the temperatures much more bearable. 

Brief stop

Storms nearby

Storm ahead!

We drove through some brief showers, but nothing too bad. The terrain was hilly, and interesting to look at. Not a lot of civilization along the route from Brady to Mason to Fredericksburg along Hwy 87, but we did see deer along the highway! at least 4 different places I saw a deer. Luckily they were busy eating, not deciding to run!

We arrived at the RV park about 8:45, and found our site fairly easily. As we were setting up, it began to rain lightly, so we did the best we could and went inside.

Our site 71

After we had the inside set up, we collapsed and surfed our phones, because we knew we'd be heading to bed soon. We collaborated on plans for the next too days, and then hit the hay!

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Today, we got up and had breakfast, and then after getting a little bit of a late start, decided to do some driving around town. We explored (in the truck) down Main Street, where the historic district is located. Then we decided to find Opa's Smoked Meats, as we really liked their sausage and it had been recommended to eat there in their deli.  

We found Opa's and went inside. We were surprised that it really was more like a deli counter, not a restaurant, but you could order sandwiches and such, so we did and took it to eat in the truck. It was good food! Just not what we were expecting.

After Opa's we decided to find some parking and walk up and down Main Street for a while. I took my umbrella, because a little storm was threatening... I am glad, we had to park a block away, and it started raining on us!

We ducked into a store and shopped a bit while the little shower dumped for about 10 minutes. The really good thing is that the cloudcover really helped keep the temperatures down until later in the afternoon, perfect for walking around outside!

Rain helped cool things off!

We stopped in numerous shops and wineries, oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over this and that. We didn't sample any wines, but we did sample some salsas and other dips and sauces at Rustlin' Robs Texas Gourmet Foods! We found quite a few we would like if we were not watching our carbs and sugars! We also enjoyed looking in the Amish Furniture & Market,  and Der Kuchen Laden, in a former hospital building, full of everything related to the kitchen; small, cozy rooms packed floor to ceiling with everything from cookie cutters to small appliances. We even saw some Polish pottery, that my Mom would love!

Polish pottery, my mom's favorite

About 2:45pm, we were getting tired, the crowds were getting too much, and the heat and humidity was rising, so we headed back to the rig for a bit. 

From the office, you can see the many sites here, and the vineyard they are starting!

After taking it easy for a little while, we opted to hit the road up to Llano, Tx to go to Cooper's BBQ. They are ranked one of the top in the State, and our favorite! So we headed up TX16 to get some. It was a beautiful Hill Country drive.

We were hoping they had some of their delicious Prime Rib, but they didn't. So we opted for the Ribeye, instead. WOW! It was great! We decided to pick up some of their meat rub, so maybe we can bring some of Cooper's home with us.

Tony's ribeye

We had a great meal, then headed back to Fredericksburg. We ended up going to WalMart for something, and doing a little more exploring, before heading home again, where we collapsed. A fun day, but still lots that we can see and do here!

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Today we had grand plans to go and see some more things around town, but we were too slow getting started and check out was 11am here, so we ended up taking our time getting ready to go and pulled out about 11:15.

We headed down the road, and enjoyed the easy drive. We planned to stop somewhere in Brady for lunch, but could not find a good place to stop with the rig. 

Instead, we stopped in Brownwood for a quick meal at the Taco Laredo, and pulled in at our home RV Park about 2:30pm.

We really enjoyed Fredericksburg, and have already planned another trip over Labor Day!