We’ve hit the two month mark of motorhome ownership, and I’ve been thinking about things that have exceeded our expectations as well as things that have been disappointments. I’ve already reviewed the Free Spirit SS driving experience in an earlier blog post, so perhaps it’s time to assemble some “hits and misses” lists for our motorhome living experience:
Better than expected:
• Storage capacity. We were very surprised at how much we could fit into all of the drawers, cabinets, and compartments, and we did not reach capacity even when packing for our 11-day trip with bicycle gear.
• Shower. The tankless water heater requires a little experimentation to get the hot water temperature right, but the pump provided surprisingly good water pressure from our fresh water storage tank.
• Audio/video. As long as audio is routed through the coach’s sound system, the TV works well for movies and streamed programming.
• Navigation system. Updates routing based on real-time traffic information and can selectively display the gas stations that have diesel.
• Black/grey tank maintenance. I’m a motorhome novice and also a microbiologist, so I admit to being a little anxious about properly managing sewage disposal. That turned out to be a surprisingly simple job, at least with the right equipment (see below).
• Living in a small space. This took a little time to adjust and synchronize our traffic inside the coach, especially when both of us were trying to help with food preparation, but we adapted rather quickly to the interior space and never felt claustrophobic.
Not as good as expected:
• Air conditioner. It works, but the blower is LOUD even at the lowest speed setting. Our workaround has been to pre-cool the coach with A/C while we're outside, then later switch to the much quieter exhaust fan to pull in cooler night air through the windows.
• Furnace. It also works but is almost as noisy as the air conditioner. At least I was able to sleep with the furnace cycling on and off, which was not true for the A/C.
• Navigation system. (Yes, I know this was on my “better than expected” list too.) The installed system works fine if you’ve entered your destination in advance, but while the van is moving, even the passenger is blocked from keying in a different destination. There’s a voice recognition system that is supposed to allow this, but it fails every time. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
• Sewer hose. The hose supplied by the manufacturer is flimsy and lacks a connector on the exit end. I’ve replaced this with a sewer hose kit that has secure connectors on both ends, including a multi-stage adapter that screws tightly into any dump station drain. This inexpensive upgrade has worked very well.
• WiFi at campgrounds. When available, it's usually slow and only adequate for email and simple web browsing; definitely not for streaming video.
• Fuel economy. The fully loaded van averaged an unimpressive 16 mpg at freeway speeds (70 mph). But of course there was noticeable improvement at slower speeds – as high as 21 mpg when traveling at 45 mph.
• Apple TV. I placed this little media player in the cabinet above the cab, connected to the built-in HDMI switcher so that video is routed to the TV and the audio is routed to the stereo system. Using my iPhone as a personal WiFi hotspot, the Apple TV serves as our portal for streaming videos or mirroring a computer/iPad screen with AirPlay.
• Vent mount for my mobile phone. This strong magnetic mount places my iPhone within easy reach to select music for Bluetooth streaming through the audio system. Also good when I want to use the Apple Maps app for GPS navigation rather than use the Mercedes navigation system.
• Windshield shade. Folds flat, stores easily behind the driver’s seat, and is reflective and well-insulated to keep the cab cool on a sunny day.
• Portable electrical management system. Not just a surge protector, this also automatically protects the motorhome electronics from damage due to voltage fluctuations, which we’ve encountered at older campsites.
• Leveling wedge. Very easy to use, and used often.
• Bike rack (see this blog post)
[Follow-up in this blog post]