Can you believe a year ago this week, we were pulling out of Master Tech RV in Elkhart, Indiana – after having spent over 3 months in the shop being repainted and upgraded?
What a saga that was. We reported in weekly towards the end as we moved on site to take charge of the situation and get back on the road.
And honestly, there were times we weren’t sure we’d ever get our bus back.
It was emotionally stressful, that left scars for months afterwards and put us waaaaay behind on other commitments.
Thankfully, by the end of 2015 the wounds had started to heal, we caught back up on life and we started to shift to thoroughly loving the upgrades!
To mark the 1-year anniversary of leaving the shop, we decided to turn on the camera and talk about the experience, the healing and share our top five upgrades that have had the biggest impact on our quality of life:
Or: Direct Video Link (Length: 12:53 m)
For those who like to skip the video, here’s the list of the top five:
Dometic 9500 Power Case Awning
Switching from an old style manual awning, to an automatic one without arms has not only added a sleeker look to our RV and safer side mirror views – it’s super easy to deploy and take in.
We’re loving it, and have had no problems with the Dometic 9500 16′ Power Case Awning thus far. We use our awning far more often than we did before just because of how easy it is.
We can fully deploy it for a shady patio, or we can put it out just enough to provide shade on our windows. It has a wind sensor to automatically bring the awning in (but we always close it before leaving the bus, or before bed – just in case.)
For the price point (around $1500-2000), we consider it worth considering over more expensive options on the market. And we did talk to all of the other options, and none of them wanted to touch a curved vintage bus roof. Master Tech RV excelled here, creating us a custom fabricated mounting bracket for the awning (that cost more than the gifted awning’s worth.)
Improvements for the Cat
What bus project would be complete if it wasn’t for the cat? To cover up the old awning arm scars in our aluminum, Master Tech RV had the idea to install folding steps which could be used for cat leash hooks.
We also regularly use them for locking up our bikes at night by securing our bike locks to them (shhh.. don’t tell Kiki).
Also, the private litter room has been a HUGE improvement for all three of us.
Kiki shared about these projects:
Precision Temp Jr. Propane Hydronics
To say that we love our hydronics system, would be an understatement. We’re so glad we bit the bullet and tackled this dream project last summer.
Not only did replacing our old 10-Gallon traditional hot water heater allow for the cat potty room in our hallway, having all our heating centralized into one unit has been so amazing.
The boiler in our hydronics system can provide us hot water for dishes & showers (almost instantly, and continuously), furnace throughout the bus, engine pre-warming and hot water for making tea & coffee. And because the engine heats the water while we’re underway, we always arrive to camp with ‘free’ hot water ready to go.
Going back to using some propane hasn’t been too huge of a deal. We carry enough on board to keep us going for several months at a time. We’re glad we made the choice, over spending considerably more for a diesel hydronic setup – and we have no ongoing maintenance to worry about.
While in ‘summer mode’ (the furnace loop not on), the propane usage is super low. However, we got a little too fancy trying to tap into the bus’ original heating system, and need to provide a shut off valve to prevent excess heat loss when we don’t need to use the front radiator (thus causing crazy amounts of propane use). Hopefully we can resolve that before the next time we need ‘winter mode’.
All and all, we could not be happier with our hydronics.
Tank Upgrades & Plumbing
We felt forced into the decision to replace our water tanks – it wasn’t on our original project list. But somehow we ended up with larger tanks and a completely redone plumbing system throughout the bus.
We were initially bitter over the un-expected $6000+ price tag for this upgrade that we hadn’t really authorized or budgeted for.
But ya know what? We absolutely love the flexibility this upgrade has given us. And bitterness can be washed away with our abundant water system.
We regularly go 3-4 weeks without dumping our tanks, which gives us a lot of park-hopping ability without needing to worry about dump stations or sewer. And we can go 2 solid weeks between fresh water refills. All without being conservative in our usage.
Our entire plumbing setup rocks actually – from the tanks, the SeeLevel tank monitoring, the whirly things that clean the tanks, the ‘cold water return’ on the shower and the ability to suck in fresh water from containers when needed.
Suffice it to say, even though we didn’t plan this upgrade – we’re kinda glad worked out this way. Because we’re certainly basking in the abundance.
We talked earlier this year about how the combination of our new jackknife coach, pull down movie screen, projector, book case and folding coffee table has felt like adding 5′ of usable space to our bus.
We still feel that way. Several nights a week we cuddle up on the front bed and watch a movie or TV show. And we love having space to host happy hour, meals or game night.
The couch is holding up great too, and is super easy to convert from bed to couch mode. Again, this is an upgrade we didn’t have on our radar, but it just worked out this way.
For more on this upgrade:
And for a thorough re-cap of all of the upgrades (updated with statuses on many of the items):
All and all, we’re thrilled with the outcome of the entire project and we long ago moved on from the stress of last summer. The experience truly has become a memory in the rear view mirror. *whew*