We stored our RV for nearly 1.5 years, and learned a lot.
In early 2018 we drove our bus to Texas to attend & speak at the RV Entrepreneur Summit.
We had tried and tried to get a spot at the co-op park in Benson by then so we could then just proceed to Arizona after the conference and leave our bus in storage there before returning to boat life.
But, we weren’t high enough up the hot list by then.
So instead, we found storage in south Austin near my brother’s place.
We figured we’d leave the bus in Texas for about 6 months, return, and then proceed to a winter in Arizona. We’d be high enough up the hot list by then to score any lot we’d like in Benson.
Oh…. the best laid plans.
We did end up scoring an awesome lot in Benson soon after, but didn’t return to the bus for 20 months.
In this video, we recap what it took to get Zephyr out of long term storage, what failed and the lessons we learned:
For those who are not video people, here’s a quick written re-cap:
Storage Spot & Costs
We selected Budget Storage & Parking in south Austin at 12001 Manchaca Rd (phone: 512-282-7867).
They don’t have a website it seems – so how did technomads like us end up there??
My brother used them to store his boat and he lives nearby. So we’d have family to check in on things if needed.
They have covered and indoor RV storage.
We selected a 40′ x 10′ private ‘barn’ to store Zephyr – figuring with all the crazy weather Texas can get (wind, hail, thunderstorms), it was worth it.
The cost was $270/month – kinda pricey (where’s the ‘budget’ in Budget??), but it included electric too. Since we wouldn’t have solar, that was important to keep our systems online.
And we figured, it was only for a few months – right?
Nope, it turned into 20 months in total we paid.
That’s $5400. Ouch.
Storage Gets Extended to 20 months
We fully had the intention to return to Florida, get our bus out of storage in Miami – and get the heck out of hurricane zone by summer. Possibly up to the Chesapeake area.
But exhaustion hit us. Between Hurricane Irma, hitting a submerged channel marker requiring 5 weeks ‘on the hard’ in Miami, the quick RV trip to Texas and then tackling MORE boat projects in spring – we hit a wall.
Instead, we decided to cruise the St. Johns River during hurricane season (AMAZING!) – reasonably more protected than the coastline.
And then we got to Sanford, fell in love and the rest is history.
Storing for a few months is different than storing for nearly 2 years. After the RVE Summit, we were both exhausted and terribly sick with ‘conference crud’ and allergies.
We weren’t in our best mind to pay attention to details.. or predict the future.
Ok, realistically – can any of us really predict the future??
We did well to do things like moderate cleaning, pack up our stuff, get our perishable foods gifted to fellow RVing friends, leave behind remote monitoring and fill up the fuel tank & add stabilizer.
But we didn’t forecast what could happen if we didn’t return in a few months.
And that was our mistake.
Power System – The Lithium Dies
After about a year – sometime in Spring 2019 – the storage facility experienced a prolonged (like.. days) power loss.
This led to our lithium battery’s EMS system shutting them down. And our installation wasn’t advanced enough to come back on line automatically. They need manual intervention.
My brother made a good effort to assist, but even with Chris’ remote assistance – we were unable to get our power system back online.
This meant our entire power system was off for nearly 6 months. And the batteries drained beyond repair.
We’ll be following up soon with an assessment of what happened and a re-cap of our 8.5 years with one of the first RV house system lithium battery installations.
And then, our coach standard issue lead acid starting batteries were nearly dead. They were set to trickle charge off the inverter.
Well, the inverter went offline during the house battery system shut down.
Thus, starting batteries were dead too.
They were older, and would need replacement soon anyway. So not a huge loss.
But, in a 10′ wide storage unit, that meant our bays couldn’t fully open. Which meant we had to finagle the battery exchange in very tight quarters to even start our bus. We did it however.
While we gifted on all our perishable food before storage, we figured that since we’d have power we’d keep a light load on the batteries by leaving the fridge running.
Our fridge is a Danfoss compressor style by Vitrofigo – running off 12v, 24v or 110 (no propane).
Because we anticipated a running fridge, we didn’t bother to clean it.
Wow, what a mistake.
We didn’t leave much behind but a few cans of beer – but egads, the fridge was covered in mildew/mold!
Thankfully, we learned a lot post-Irma – and it cleaned up in a jiffy with repeated treatments of white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and bleach.
During our 2015 bus renovations, Dometic gifted us their 320 porcelain toilet to try out. It’s a residential style commode, and is quite spiffy. We’ve been rather spoiled by our throne (with a 75g black tank underneath it).
Well, we were overdue to change out the valve seal (we tried in 2016 – but Dometic instead sent us an entire toilet instead of just the seal kit.. ummm).. and the water had completely drained out of the bowl.
This lead to crystallization around the valve and ball springs.
Which meant, the toilet was solidly sealed shut upon return and would not flush.
Chris managed to chisel the gunk out and get the ball open – which meant we could use the toilet as a pit toilet.
Which we did for over a month (fun) until Dometic determined the springs were not ‘user serviceable’ and had a new toilet meet us in December.
Thanks goodness the Happy Camper tank treatment works.. because we essentially had an open hole to our excrement stew for quite a while… and didn’t smell a thing!
And, we were able to find someone local willing to ‘user replace’ the spring valve and gift our older toilet to.
We received a lot of recommendations to next time fill the bowl with the pink RV antifreeze stuff – this will keep the seal lubricated. And to cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation. We’ll be doing both later this month when we prepare Zephyr for storage again.
Flexsteel Haloleather Fail
We also noticed upon return that our Flexsteel Captain’s Chairs that we installed at Bradd & Hall in May 2014 were massively cracked and peeling.
We initially posted to Instagram & Facebook about it – and many responded that they too had issues.
And that led to talking with Flexsteel and learning that there was a bad batch of this cheap imitation leather in 2013-2015 – and our ‘Haloleather’ was effected.
But because the RV manufacturer’s selected the material, Flexsteel was claiming no responsibility. And the fabric manufacturer had long ago gone out of business.
But many coach manufacturers were handling the issue for customers with new covers.
So we next contacted Bradd & Hall, and they immediately told us they were offering effected customers free new covers.
Or, upgrades to ‘Ultraleather’ for just the additional cost.
They sent us some fabric samples, and we honestly liked a standard fabric better.
They had a new set made and sent us – at no cost to us.
Now we just need to figure out how to take the old ones off and install them (future project!).. or get the bus back to Elkhart to take them up on their free install offer.
In our opinion, Bradd & Hall went above and beyond to address the issue (and we were super impressed with their RV furniture installation in 2014 that we paid full price for – they’re top notch), and Flexsteel too dismissive in their denial of responsibility.
All and all, we made a few mistakes. But nothing that dissuaded us from our fleet approach to nomadic living.
All manageable. Lessons learned, things we can improve.
We did have other routine maintenance to attend to upon getting Zephyr out of storage – like all new tires (they were now 8 years old), changing out the muffler that had cracked, general fluids & lubrication and water system sanitization.
And we are thankful that we had our van conversion to live in while all of this was being taken care of.
This having multiple mobile homes to split our time between is a bit to juggle.. and a huge asset.