The Big Day!

The Big Day!

Mr & Ms Ortlieb
Mr & Ms Ortlieb

Surrounded by friends and family, on Saturday August 3rd, we finally tied the knot! We had a windy but wonderful wedding on a boat in Lake Geneva in WI. This was a moment we have been anticipating for quite a while now. We are now ready to embark on life’s journey together as we move into our next chapter.

Solar and Battery Upgrades

Solar and Battery Upgrades

As we plan to do a fair amount of boondocking, we wanted to install a solar array and upgrade the battery bank. The rig came to us “Solar Ready” which simply means there are wires pre-run to an entry gland on the roof with MC-4 connectors for connecting a single 100W panel. In addition there is a small GoPower PWM solar charge controller preinstalled along side the step well. Thor provided 4 6V lead acid golf cart batteries that I believe were rated for 200Ah in their series+parallel 12V configuration. Being lead acid, we could only use 50% of that capacity without damaging the batteries. In the weeks leading up to this project we clocked nearly 24hrs of genset runtime just to maintain the batteries. Our plan is to remove the lead acid batteries and replace with 6 100Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO) batteries from Battleborn. That will give us a full 600Ah of useable capacity while also saving some weight and maintenance headaches. Here is what we are installing:

  • 6 100Ah 12V Battleborn batteries wired in parallel. (600AH Total useable)
  • 6 160W Renogy Solar Panels wired 3 pairs in parallel (960W total)
  • 1 Victron MPPT 150/85 Solar Charge Controller
  • 2 Victron Multiplus 12/3000/120-50 120V Inverter/Chargers wired in Split phase 180ยบ
  • 1 Victron BMV-712 Smart Battery Monitor
  • 1 Victron Color Control GX
  • 1 Precision Circuits LiFePO4 Battery Isolation Manager
  • 1 Precision Circuits Battery Guard

All of the above connected via Victron VE Direct bus and/or VE Net wireless bluetooth network.

I removed the stock lead acid golf cart batteries from the drivers side battery bay and cleaned up that compartment a bit. That space still holds the pump for our leveling jacks, the propane distribution manifold and the breakers for the house systems, generator and jacks. With the batteries removed, there is ample room for a tote with our septic hoses and accessories. This is a good place for such things as this bay is open to the outside air. Also installed here is the ventilation fan and filter for the new battery and electronics bay located behind the back panel of this bay on the camp side.

The new Battleborn battery bank is located above the frame rails in a space accessible from the forward camp side compartment. That space is ideal as it will center the battery weight and is the perfect size and shape to hold the batteries. I made up a plywood base covered it with some outdoor carpet and added some aluminum angle stock to keep the batteries positioned on the base.

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About our new rig

About our new rig

Our rig is a 2019 Thor Outlaw 37RB Class A Toyhauler Motorhome built onto of a Ford F53 chassis and powered by a Gas V10 10 Cylinder 3 Valve engine with a 6 speed automatic transmission. We purchased it new in April of 2019 at General RV in Huntley , IL. We has shopped around for a while and looked at a few used rigs but when we were ready to purchase none of the used ones were available. We ordered our rig through General RV and waited several months for it to reach the dealer. When it finally arrived, I made the journey from VT out to IL and Cathy and I went and to pick it up. We spent the better part of the afternoon at the dealer going through orientation and doing paperwork. During much of the orientation, I was explaining features to the dealers orientation guy as I knew far more about the specifics of the rig than they did. I have been studying the rig for months and even had Thor send me the mechanical drawings ahead of time.

Our 2019 Thor Outlaw 37RB – Delivery Day!

Repairs and overall quality.

After taking delivery and spending a few days getting to know our rig, we started to find many of the things that weren’t quite right with the rig. Overall there was nothing too serious, just lots of little things. Some of the basement compartment doors could be pulled open while locked, come of the cargo lights didn’t work. The deadbolt on the front door was misaligned and was VERY difficult to operate. The wiring for the powered steps was hanging loose beneath the rig. A few of the rear clearance lights were falling out of their holes. Several of the dash and ceiling vent louvers were falling out and needed to be snapped back together. The power to the water pump was connected using crimp on butt connecters and one wasn’t very well crimped leaving use without water after the first week. The most serious issue was the drivers seat swivel had a bent latch plate and didn’t lock into the facing forward position. I spent the next couple of weeks correcting these issues as I found them. After reading many horror stories about the problems with new rigs, I feel we made out very well with this Thor unit. After a week or two of getting to know the unit, you can tell that they do rush these through manufacturing but all in all, I’m pretty happy with the quality and I have been able to resolve all of the issues myself so far.

Our first trip with the new rig!

Our first trip with the new rig!

My daughter Olivia needed to get down to Georgia for an orientation at the University of Northern Georgia. Cathy and I decided that this would make a good trip for our first expedition with the new motorhome. Since I’m in Vermont and Cathy is still living out in Illinois until after our wedding this Aug, we needed to meet somewhere convenient before heading south. We chose Clarion PA, a spot where we have met before roughly halfway between VT and IL. We arrived right around midnight and spent the night in the Clarion Walmart parking lot. In the morning, we made some breakfast and then hit the road heading south for GA. Our second night together was spent at Deer Trail Park campground in Wytheville VA. We found this site via the Campendium app as we were driving along and it looked good for an overnight. We arrived around 9:40pm (Gates close at 10:00). The office was closed when we arrived but as we were walking away from the door, the light inside came on and we heard the door unlock. The owners were very nice and got us registered and on our way to a nice back in site within a few minutes. While we didn’t need it, the site was full hookups and 50A. We took advantage of that and emptied our holding tanks before we left even though the wasn’t much in them.

Bill & Cathy in front of the new rig at Deer Trail Park campground in Wytheville, VA
June 2019, Day 2 – Deer Trail Park Campground in Wytheville VA during our first camping trip with the new big rig.

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Our New Motorhome!

Our New Motorhome!

I just received these pictures of our new motorhome from our dealer. Our coach has been in production at the Thor factory in Indiana for the last few weeks. The dealer wasn’t expecting it to arrive on their lot for another week and a half. Unfortunately, I won’t get to see it till near the end of the month when I drive out to IL to pick it up. Cathy on the other hand, will get to take a tour of it this Saturday. Right now I’m waiting for the results of the dealers pre-delivery inspection and hoping they don’t find anything major wrong. At least they have a few weeks to deal with whatever they turn up before we take delivery.

I can’t wait till we can hit the road with this beast. Stay tuned, lots more to come. Next up will be a solar and LiFe battery bank install.

-Bill


Our new logo

Our new logo

Here is a picture of our new logo burned onto a wooden business card with a small laser engraver.

Photo of our logo burned onto a wooden business card.
Our new logo burned onto a wooden business card.
Welcome!

Welcome!

Welcome to our blog.  Join us as we move into the next chapter of our lives.

Photo of Cathy & Bill at Devil's Lake in Baraboo, WI.  S
Cathy & Bill at Devil’s Lake in Baraboo, WI. Sept 2018

Cathy and I are both divorced single parents of young adult children. With our children grown and setting out on their own, it’s time for us to start our lives together and set out on our adventures. Over the last few years, we have done some traveling and exploring around the midwest and northeastern US. Soon we plan to purchase a class A motorhome and travel all over the US. We have been engaged since last winter and will be getting married a few months from now. We plan to kick off our adventures with an Alaskan cruise before hitting the open road in our new motorhome to explore the United States.

We invite you to follow us here as we journey Into Our Next Chapter.