Friday, April 12, 2013

Our Home Away from Home

After a few short trips in our Rialta, and perusing the online Rialta Users Group, we started making little changes to personalize our rig. The following probably won't mean much to anyone beyond other Rialta owners or RVers.

Modified the overhead fan for bi-directional air flow. The idea here is that when cooking or heating with propane there is an increase in moisture in the rig, which is not so much an issue in warm weather when the rig has fresh air flow. But when we're buttoned up in the cold this can cause mildew problems and that clammy feeling. With the overhead fan being able to reverse direction, we can now pressurize the rig and open just the window adjacent to the stove so that moisture is blown quickly outside.

Replaced the original microwave with a convection microwave oven (Sharp Carousel 0.9 cu ft Grill 2 Convection). The "HD" version Rialta we have did not come with an oven, only a microwave. We do appreciate the storage space in having extra drawers, but now we also have the advantage of a fast cooking convection oven. Cookies, cakes, cornbread..., mmmmm!

Installed a WAVE8 catalytic heater. MUCH more efficient with propane than the stock heater and doesn't need electricity – so no battery drain. We should be able to heat the rig for weeks on a single propane fill.

Rebuilt the drawers. The stock drawers weren't very robust. Only after we rebuilt them did we consider combining two shallow drawers as a single more accommodating larger drawer, but that can be a future project. We're still learning.

Pulled out the carpet and installed laminate faux wood flooring. This has been the biggest project but given us the greatest satisfaction. The original carpet collected dirt, and I had initially christened it by spilling a large glass of milk during the drive back from Florida. Talk about stink! The new floor looks great, wasn't really so hard to install and makes cleaning effortless. We also rebuilt the floor to include a shoe storage area at the entry which, thinking about it now, seems only obvious.

Designed, built and installed a two shelf book case. A great little addition that gets lots of use.

Installed additional 12V outlets in the rear of the rig. Convenient and we use them a lot.

Built new rear side panels under the bench seats. More robust and (we think) look nicer than the originals.

Rewired the radio to be independent of the ignition key. The previous owner had installed a very nice Kenwood KDC-X994 receiver that, among it's many features, allows us to pipe music directly from our laptops into the main speakers. We can control our entire music library from up front while driving, or anywhere around a 150 foot radius or more when parked, and now it won't lose connection when the ignition is turned off.

Built a little hat & glove shelf into the closet. Not much to this, but it was easy and is very handy to help maximize storage. This also seems apparent now that we have it.

Installed 120v LED "Christmas lights" around the ceiling. These have been a GREAT addition and we rarely use the standard lights at all as these provide a soft, even lighting throughout the living area. The string is just the regular little lights you can buy around Christmas time and uses power efficient LEDs. I honestly don't know how long we could run these lights off the house batteries as I've never detected any noticeable battery drain, and turning them on or off doesn't even register on the inverter amperage draw display.

Installed LED bulbs in the regular light outlets, just to be more efficient with our power.

Rebuilt the upper and lower kitchen cupboards / cabinets. This was a great modification that vastly increases our food storage space and also makes access to the piping under the kitchen counter very accessible. The photos should illustrate.

Purchased an OBDII reader/transmitter and DashCommand App to complement/replace the Scangauge. This interfaces through our iPods and gives a greater amount of realtime information, fuel economy, and allows us to check and clear engine error codes.

Purchased a Ubiquiti Bullet M2HP Titanium WiFi transceiver. We currently use it with an 8db EnGenius EAG-2408 omnidirectional antenna for a much increased range over our laptop antennas, and will additionally build or purchase a directional antenna for distances reaching the 5-12  mile range. The (expected) disadvantage with the omni antenna in towns and cities is that it picks up EVERYTHING. Our initial intent was to hard mount the antenna to the rig on a pole that could be raised or lowered when underway. However, we're finding that having the flexibility of not having it mounting it is advantageous also, as it is easy to throw a light line over a tree branch and hoist it 50' up, much higher than we could practically do with a pole. We'll have to use it more to see what evolves. 

Replaced the ailing stock power converter (battery charger) with a Progressive Dynamics Inteli-power 60 amp Converter RV (model PD9260 with charge wizard). This should increase the health and lifespan of our house batteries.

Purchased a Viair 00088 88P Portable air compressor and tire repair kit to carry along for the inevitable flat tire. In my experience it is often easier and faster to simply fix a flat without having to change the tire at all.

Built a spice rack. Jill found some 2" square metal containers with little windows and we built a 5x5 wooden rack that uses a flat magnet fixed into each space to securely retain each spice box.

Replaced and relocated the (stupid) water drain valves. I was dumbfounded to discover the nearly inaccessible location chosen to place the valves used to drain the water lines. They also dripped; causing us to lose some of our stored water. Now they are easy to reach and no leaks.

Built some bug screens for the front windows. Another great addition for those hot and buggy evenings.

Made a new wooden cutting board / sink cover. Simple, functional and looks nicer.

Added a bike rack to the tail hitch. As small as our Rialta is, we really enjoy parking it somewhere and then touring the areas that we visit with our bicycles.  

Installed a few spring clips on the overhead just behind the front seats. These hold up a light blanket that we have to serve a few purposes:   
  a) It allows us more privacy from the front windows when "camping" in a public area;  
  b) Allows us to heat or cool a smaller area in the rear;  or 
  c) Allows us to isolate the entire living area behind the front driver/passenger seats so that we only have to use the air conditioning up front when we are driving. This works REALLY well and we typically run the AC on the lowest setting in the hottest weather and still freeze ourselves while the back area can be stiflingly hot! 

We also picked up a pack of cheap suction cups from the Dollar Store along with some springy wire clothes pin type clips. The wire slips nicely through the holes already in the suction cups and so we have these handy relocatable clothes pins that we can stick where ever there's a smooth surface. Perfect for a damp swimsuit, wash cloth or drying light clothing. They are also perfect to position a hanky onto the sunny side of the front side windows (not windshield) to act as sunshields on those long, straight runs.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Dream Being Realized

Looking back from this point it doesn't feel like such a hard thing all to do. Just a bunch of little steps in the direction we wanted to go. Really, the biggest and most difficult step was actually the easiest... just deciding to really do it! The rest just fell into place (with some reasonable effort, of course).