May 102011

Everybody is different and every RVer is different. That’s why they make so many different types and models of motorhomes, fifth wheel trailers, travel trailers, Class B vans and other specialty vehicles for fulltime RV travel. When it comes to selecting an RV, you have the opportunity to choose a home on wheels that closely meets your needs, and then customize it to fit your own lifestyle.

Some RVers, especially fulltimers, want lots of storage space, to be able to carry everything they want or think they will need.Others want smaller rigs that will fit in state and national park campsites that would prove a challenge for larger RVs. Some just want raw power to be able to pass semi-trucks on steep hills, or big slide rooms to move around in when set up in their favorite RV parks.

I think it is important to adapt your RV to meet your needs and interests, and we have seen a lot of them whose owners have done just that. We removed the original dinette and recliner from our Winnebago Ultimate Advantage and replaced them with a two custom built desks units, a bookcase, and table that better accommodates operating our business on the road. Installing a custom desk unit seems to be one of the most popular interior upgrades we see in RVs.

But that is just one of the many modifications we have seen. Often, RVers make changes to better suit their hobbies or special activities. We have seen a lot of RVs with ham radio antennas, a couple of RVs that had large weaving looms, some with custom built craft or sewing tables, and at least one with a quilting frame built in. A lady we saw at Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana had a potters wheel and kiln mounted on pull out trays in her motorhome. We even saw a motorhome with a large built-in aquarium!

RVers with physical challenges can customize their units to meet their special needs. This may include roll-in shower stalls for wheelchairs, widening doorways, or having lifts or ramps installed. One lady who attended our rally in Yuma has some physical challenges that require regular special exercises, so she had the sofa removed to accommodate a treadmill and exercise machine.

Bus converters can have a lot of fun, building their custom coaches to fit their lifestyle. When we had our MCI bus conversion, we did a lot of dry camping, so we installed extra large fresh water and waste tanks, a very large battery bank, and we covered the roof with solar panels. One couple we met had a hatch built into the floor of their bus, and the bay below was a dedicated playroom for their grandkids. We even met a fellow who carried a shortened, cut down (but still street legal) Honda automobile in one of the bays of his Eagle bus conversion!

On the other hand, we have met some RVers who are afraid to do anything at all to their rolling homes, because they are terrified of lessening the resale value. Some won’t even hang a picture on the wall! I’ve told many of them that their fears are unfounded because they already lost a fortune the day they drove or towed it off the dealer’s lot!

Nonsense. If you lived in a sticks and bricks house, would you be afraid to hang a picture, or install a custom countertop, because whoever buys it from you, years in the future may not like it? 

Make your RV fit you! It’s your home on wheels, make it comfortable and convenient for your needs, not the next owner’s!

So what trips your trigger? What modifications have you made to your RV to meet your special interests or needs?

Getting people thinking and talking are what trips Bad Nick’s trigger. Check out his latest Bad Nick Blog post, titled Where’s Our Foreign Aid?

Thought For The Day – Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  15 Responses to “What Trips Your Trigger?”

  1. We took out our free-standing dining table and installed a custom 76″ buffet/desk built by Carlyle Leyman at Focal Wood Products in Nappanee, IN. We now have two laptop stations on either side of our Corian topped buffet/table which seats two and has a leaf stored within the table to pull out for seating four. He did a great job of matching our wood and countertops. We have storage below for a file and desk drawers, printer and supplies, books, and the extra pots and pans. Our router and all the power cords are stored on the top shelf of our under-buffet center cabinet, hidden from sight. Existing table lighting and airline-style LED lights make for very useful work and eating spaces. We call our 2007 Itasca Horizon 40TD our “rolling condo”. (We’ve come up through the sizes: 21′, 22′, & 24′ Class Cs and a 34′ gas Class A. No plans to downsize for a while.)

  2. Nick.. I am fairly sure sure the cut-down Honda you mentioned belonged to some great friends of ours, Jack and Lou Allen, from Lufkin, Texas. I never saw the little jewel, but did see pictures that Jack showed me. Jack and Lou are in their 80’s now, and although they no longer own a motorhome, they still travel extensively, and are both in good health. They have a web site ..
    If its the same couple, I just thought you would like to know. Safe Travels

    Keith & Donna Green

  3. We didn’t modify a lot, but to fit our different lifestyles, we have both a fifth wheel and a slide-in truck camper. We have a large storage building near our cottage in Vermont. That means taking the hitch and tool box out of the truck bed to switch back and forth which is a bit of a pain. This season when we were staying in one place for four weeks at a time, we used the fifth wheel. When we are moving around almost every day like we did in Alaska, Newfoundland, and Florida and want to totally boondock (we have two solar panels on the truck camper) we use the truck camper. It gives us much more freedom and flexibility.

  4. On our Class A, no slides, 1993 coach we have done the following: replaced all window cloth boxes with wood, replaced flimsy blinds with wood blinds in the front (we only have single pane windows, thank heavens), in the bedroom we now have day night shades with foil in between (great for sleeping in Alaska), took out the dining table & 2 chairs, couch, 2 chairs & small table and had different furniture built in in the living area and dining area, bought Euro-loungers for our seating, had the coach repainted, had the driver & passenger seat recovered in leather, replaced the curtains in the front with new curtains, recarpeted the front and back areas, had the tile in the bathroom replaced with new tile, replaced the bedroom mattress with a special order properly built mattress. This all doesn’t include the replacement of things like refrig, toilet, hot water heater, ice maker, or the maintenance of engine, frame, Allison transmission, etc.

    If you look at the NADA value of our coach, it’s worth about $30,000 and that’s only if we could get a buyer. We just put $25,000 into the coach. People say, “Why did you do that? You will never get your money back?” Well our answer is: Where could you get a coach we like so much and is custom fitted for us for $50,000 or $60,000? It would cost us a minimum of $200,000 to replace our coach and get it like we want it. And we don’t expect to get our money back. An RV is a depreciating asset. We are using the RV and we feel we are getting our money’s worth out of the coach by using it year after year.

    After all, when you RV you are buying into a lifestyle. The RV is an investment in our happiness. There is no price we can put on our comfort and useability of our RV. We really don’t care if we get anything out of the coach when we sell her. We have gotten our money’s worth each day of our lives in enjoyment of the RV lifestyle.

  5. We did just a minor change. Our dining table seemed too crowded in the space for it. Since only the wife and I use the rv, we took out two of the four chairs and left them at our house.[we’re snowbirds gone 6 mos. each winter] Then I unbolted the table from the floor and turned it 90 degrees. Now instead of squeezing in, we have the two chairs along the aisle side of the table, facing the window. It’s a lot more room and really opens up that space. Also it can be easily changed back at any time.

  6. We did a couple of mods to our Newmar fifth wheel: had Focal Wood Products replace the bedroom TV shelf with matching cabinets and replace the main TV space and the drop down desk with cabinets. I then built a stand for a flat screen TV in the desk area using the original pull-out turntable, which put the TV down at a watchable level. It also gave us an additional cabinet for food storage.

    We replaced the big, heavy rocker recliners with smaller recliners from Bradd and Hall in Elkhart and added a small table between them.

    We also added Bigfoot levelers and a Winegard Trav’ler automatic dish.

  7. We took advantage of the fact that Winnebago studies what people modify then builds new units with what people really want so we didn’t have to modify much. We changed the day/night blinds to MDC shades and upgraded our inverter and batteries including adding two more batteries in the space Winnebago had ready to receive them. And we hung a picture my Mom painted, the clock that used to be Dave’s Dad’s, and added lots of throw pillows and a lap rug. It feels like home to me.

  8. We have made two minor modifications that have made our relatively small 29 foot Winnie Class C more enjoyable for extended travel.

    First was a dashboard addition that allowed Keith to mount all his electronic toys within reach of the driver. This modification involved the construction of a flat plywood platform that mounts on top of the curved horizontal Ford Van dashboard surface. Toys mounted on this panel include a Brake Buddy tell-tale, a digital clock, a GPS, a stereo and speakers, two CB radios (one to chatter on ch. 13 when on caravan, the other to monitor ch. 19 for traffic issues), a weather radio, a Sirius satellite radio receiver that plays through the stereo, an inside/outside thermometer, a voltmeter to monitor chassis and coach system voltages while under weigh, and a switch panel to control various functions, including the capability to switch power for this panel between chassis and coach batteries. How’s that for obsessive compulsive behavior! The Canadian border guards tend to be very suspicious of this array, believing, I think, that there must be a radar detector buried in there somewhere. Not so.

    Second is the addition of a 32 inch flat panel TV in the bedroom. No big deal, except that it was tricky to hang the relatively heavy TV on the flimsy RV wall. This problem was solved by mounting the TV to a floor-to-ceiling oak board that carries the weight, then attaching the board to the wall with through-bolts. This mount is still in sound condition after 3 years and thirty thousand miles, including a trip over the unpaved Top-Of-The-World Highway.

    Neither are major modifications, but both involved substantial effort on my part, and both have added significantly to our enjoyment of extended RV travel. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about them.

  9. When we purchased our Dutch Star MH new we added two more coach batteries (total 6 6v), solar panels, to give us more flexibility in where we could go. Now 10 years later we are remodeling as we go along. Last summer Davis Cabinet in Junction City, OR built all new cabinets up front so we now have a 40″ HD TV, added a new couch, new bed (sleep number), and an automatic dish for our DirecTV system, and MCD shades. A refer entered the picture; but, not by our choice! Next will be the flooring and new decals (or something) outside. We have always had pictures hanging on the walls to give it a better “homey” feel. After all we full-timers and want to be comfortable! Did not fully appreciate HD TV until now when I am finding myself (and of course Kay my wife too) on “travel hold” while I undergo 8 weeks of radiation treatments in Sierra Vista, AZ.

  10. Let’s see…solar system revamped 3 times professionally and finally done by Bob & we are satisfied now. Internet dish, new tv antenae (the round one) and Wilson Antenae mounted on the revamped batwing antenae mount. 2 flat screen Tv’s installed & storage racks behind them. Replaced soap dispenser with a drinking water spigot. Mac’s automatic fire extinguisher’s for engine, refrig & gen compartments. Storage baskets added to bays and a macerator pump. Awnings added to all the windows. And now we also tow a 26′ utility trailer with the car, kayaks, bikes, lawn furniture & work shop inside & a canoe on the roof. We have our house & garage on wheels.

  11. Great blog Nick. So many great ideas. We have definitly gone for the homey feel to, I love coming home to our rig after a day of sightseeing.

  12. We are in the process up upgrading some of the original things in our 03 Winnie, we have replaced the mattress with a sleep number, took out the old day/night shades and had custom drapes made, replaced the old TV system with a built in 32″ flat screen for the main lounge. We have scheduled for a full body paint with Michelle in August. Last but not least we will be replacing the carpet with wood. We also have two 100wt solar panel, internet satellite if we boon dock.. So we are set with the way we want things. We do not plan on trading in for a new one and going so far into debt especially at our age. We are happy with what we have.

  13. We’ve only had our new home on wheels for a few months so we’re still tweaking it to make it more liveable for us. Favorite pictures got hung on the walls and the factory-provided bed covering has been replaced with a gorgeous quilt made by a relative.

    And as soon as we could, we replaced the pleated windshield shade with a custom-made drape that not only is easier to use, it better insulates from the heat or cold. We met Michele of Functional Art at a craft sale last summer and were impressed with the quality and functionality of her drapes. Making one for a friend’s Winnebago was her first RV-style – it came out so nice I couldn’t wait to get our own. We sent her pictures and measurements and described the existing fasteners, picked out the material (which is lined) and within a couple of weeks, we had a finished product that we love. Her prices are competitive, if not lower, than the RV manufacturers – I feel the quality is far superior. Here is the link if anyone is interested:

    Next up is getting Focal Wood Products to design and build a dash laptop desk, a bedroom cabinet where the TV was, and possibly some type of desk for a stand-alone computer.

    I’ve enjoyed reading what others have done – it gets you thinking about what you can do w/your own rig. Might as well be comfortable while we live in the MH full-time.


  14. We have a 40ft Toyhauler. We had the rig built, so we had alot of things deleted before the rig was built. No sofabed, no bed in the loft, none of the fru-fru little bed covers and pillows. 4 years later, we had Focal Wood Products put in a buffet with a table and hide-away leaf. We have soooooo much more room for practical things. We also modified our cabinets to have room to hang our wine glasses, put in new carpeting, Hubby built a built-in ladder for our loft….got rid of that metal piece of crap. Not to mention my slide tops are covered with all of our family pictures. I also have family pictures hanging on the spindles of the loft…..just alot of little things. We also just this past year got rid of all of the day/night shades and ugly curtains. We went with Bali one touch cellular shades. One of the best things we have ever done…..Bali has wonderful shades that are as good as day/night shades but are so much prettier….and the colors will match anything. I could go on and on, but basically, this is my home… and I want my home to be a retreat….a place to come home and relax in.
    Thanks Nick!!!

  15. We made a number of modifications when we ordered our 37′ 2009 Newmar Dutch Star – Pergo floors instead of tile, free-standing dining table that inserts into the computer desk knee-hole when it’s just the 2 of us, but has a leaf that expands to seat 4 when we have guests, storage cabinet instead of the bedroom TV, a floor to ceiling 12″ deep linen closet instead of a second sink in the commode room, and upper cabinets that go clear to the wall instead of valances up behind. We had the dealer install the Tyron Blowout protection system in our front tires. Last summer we had Dave & LJ’s RV Interior Design in Woodland, WA replace all the day/night shades with MCD shades which are so much easier and better looking. This week we’re are replacing our sofa with two compact recliners from Bradd and Hall in Elkhart – we are still searching for a compact adjustable-height computer table to go between the recliners – if anyone has any suggestions we’d love to hear! The space is only about 12″ wide between chairs, so we need something really compact. The tailored bedspread and decorative pillows are back in WA in storage, as they are just a pain on the road. We are full timers, and as others have said, the changes we make are things that make our home more comfortable and efficient.

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