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Old 08-16-2014, 09:51 PM   #1
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Our first long trip together

My wife and I just pulled in after spending a week 8,500 feet up in the Southern Colorado mountains near South Fork, Colorado. That is the South Fork of the Rio Grande. While we had camped in the AI before this was our first extended trip together and we learned a lot about our AI and the best way for us to use it.

CAMP SITE RECOMMENDATION
We stayed at the South Fork RV Park about 4 miles east of the town of South Fork, Colorado. Our AI seemed a bit diminutive in the midst of all the fifth wheelers and and no few 40 foot + motor homes. Many, perhaps most of the campers there come back year after year and no few rent their space by the month or even by the season. So it behoves you to get your reservations in early. The ambiance is easy going, and comfortable and many of the sites are on the bank of the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Unlike almost every other RV park we saw in the area it is tree covered and shady. The laundry is first class, the bath house clean and neat, and just some of the nicest people you will ever meet. There was one other Airstream, there a 34 year old trailer that comes every year. They have free WiFi but the bandwidth is very limited. We ended up using the 4G network with our iPhones and iPads.
FURNACE
Our AI performed wonderfully with one exception. We bedded down the first night confident the furnace would keeps us comfortable in the expected 40 degree temperatures as it had for me on a previous solo expedition. Unfortunately because I made such a big thing out of how efficient and effective the furnace is — we were never ever able to get it to turn on. I checked and/or replaced all the fuzes, the hot water heater, and stove worked well. We were on shore power, but I even checked the generator and it and the air conditioner worked perfectly. Just no furnace. I guess it is off to the shop next week, but that did not help us all last week. Now 40 degree weather may not sound too bad for you folks from up North, but we left 105° temps in Texas, and 40 seemed downright chilly, albeit welcome, to us.

Any suggestions before we get in the too long service line at the Airstream dealer are welcome
TOAD
This trip was also our first experience with a toad and this was a real learning experience. We put my wife's VW GTI on a Demco Kar Kaddy SS and hauled it along with us. The Demco towed beautifully, to the point I kept looking in the rear view video to be sure it was still there. While I did not keep precise records on mileage the toad appeared to cost a bit over 1 mile per gallon for the entire trip. It was great having the toad so we could leave the AI in camp and explore all over the southern Colorado mountains in the zippy little GTI. Overall the toad and Kar Kaddy SS performed admirably — the Kar Kaddy SS even protected me from my own errors and failure to check the tie downs frequently enough.
TOAD SURPRISE
My wife has long complained about the ride in the AI rear lounge claiming she spends more time airborne than in the seat and coming home with bruises from the seat belts. Imagine our surprise when the toad completely tamed the "empty school bus ride" in the AI lounge and made the ride as good as the driver and co-driver seats in the front. Our question is how to get that same tamed ride without having to pull the toad everywhere we go. I don't think it is a matter of extra weight, the tongue weight of the loaded Kar Kaddy SS is less than 100 pounds but from the drivers seat it feels like the additional drag is at least a major part of the equation. Any and all suggestions are welcome before I once again take the AI to the Suspension Shop.
TOAD DISAPPOINTMENT
The engineering and construction of the Demco Kar Kaddy is all first rate with one glaring exception. Part of our trip took us South on US 287 through the Oklahoma Panhandle. US 287 in the Oklahoma is a notoriously bad bad road and even the very best riding vehicles will shake your kidneys loose, if not your eye teeth. The Kar Kaddy, which to that point had taken everything I had thrown at it including a couple of misjudged turns over a curb or through a roadside ditch could not take the punishment of this notoriously mean road. By the time we left Oklahoma and entered the Texas panhandle, the Kar Kaddy was trying to shed parts. The fenders and taillights of the Kar Kaddy appear to be well made, sturdy plastic castings connected to the surface of a moderately substantial aluminum or steel frame with plastic(?) bolts or fasteners of some description. By the time we got into Texas four of the six fasteners on the left fender were among the missing. The right fender has a large and rather substantial instruction sticker and three of six fasteners on that fender had also departed for parts unknown including one that blew a hole through the aforementioned instruction sticker. These are easily replaced with 10x20 ⅝ bolts and cap screws, but unless someone with smaller hands than mine is doing the work the wheels will probably have to be removed to replace the inner ones. Personally I am going to wait and see what the dealer and/or Demco have to say.
Don't misunderstand me, I love the Kar Kaddy SS and my wife does too, but the parts falling off is a real dissppointment
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Old 08-16-2014, 10:18 PM   #2
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Even though your loaded dolly only has a 100lb tonque weight, the extra vehicle you're towing, stops the rear from bouncing up which is what causes the bad ride in the rear.
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Old 08-16-2014, 11:01 PM   #3
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I have a Master Tow dolly, I think since they don't have a suspension of any sort they are very susceptible to damage on rough roads. The first trip with mine knocked out all the filaments in the bulbs I had to replace them with LED lights to fix the problem. You may want to make sure you are not running the tires over the recommended pressure as that will worsen the ride or vibration.
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Old 08-16-2014, 11:05 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by joemikeb View Post
While I did not keep precise records on mileage the toad appeared to cost a bit over 1 mile per gallon for the entire trip.
That pretty much is my experience towing my Honda Fit four-down as well, with over 5000 miles towing it so far.
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Old 08-16-2014, 11:15 PM   #5
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Regarding the AI suspension. I added the Shocks, sway bar and overload spring from the Sprinter store to mine. I believe it did stop it from bouncing like before, however it also made the ride very firm. It is possible that if you were to omit the overload spring kit the shocks may help with the bouncing. I think the real solution is an airbag suspension kit but so far the Sprinter store says they are still under development for the van. There may be other companies that have them available for the Sprinter, if anyone knows of a supplier for these or has had them installed it would be great to hear from you.

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Old 08-17-2014, 12:03 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jeff64 View Post
Regarding the AI suspension. I added the Shocks, sway bar and overload spring from the Sprinter store to mine. I believe it did stop it from bouncing like before, however it also made the ride very firm. It is possible that if you were to omit the overload spring kit the shocks may help with the bouncing. I think the real solution is an airbag suspension kit but so far the Sprinter store says they are still under development for the van. There may be other companies that have them available for the Sprinter, if anyone knows of a supplier for these or has had them installed it would be great to hear from you.

Jeff
Jeff, Advanced-RV offers the VB Air Suspension system as an option on their models. It's approved by Mercedes Benz. Expensive, unfortunately, but the ride in the rear is transformed. Here's a video from them:
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Old 08-17-2014, 04:56 AM   #7
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You might have a bad thermostat. Ours had to be replaced early on.

We have always carried a small space heater, for when hooked up to electricity.

Does your AC have the optional heat function? That does a pretty good job of taking the chill off the air.

We keep a set of silk long underwear in the Interstate, great with heavy socks as jammies when you get a cold snap, and they take up little space.

When you are in a WalMart or someplace that has inexpensive fleece throws, snag a couple of these to leave in your Interstate. Cover yourself with one of them, then your regular bedcovers. Toasty warm in no time.

We have dealt with temps down to 14 degrees, and lived to tell the tale. We like the mountains because of the cooler temps, but they come with some challenges.

Sounds like you had a great trip, otherwise!


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Old 08-17-2014, 07:11 AM   #8
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Unfortunately most Class B's do not offer the heat pump or heat strip in the AC. I believe its because the unit becomes a few inches taller.

Also we have carried a small 1000 watt ceramic elect heater. When on shore power we prefer that over the noisy Suburban gas heater.
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:16 AM   #9
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Our AC unit has the heat option.....this is something that has been discontinued??


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Old 08-17-2014, 11:24 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ron_CA View Post
Even though your loaded dolly only has a 100lb tonque weight, the extra vehicle you're towing, stops the rear from bouncing up which is what causes the bad ride in the rear.
That is what I am afraid of. Somehow the idea of dragging a 2 ton trailer to make the ride in the lounge tolerable does not seem to be a practical solution.
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Old 08-17-2014, 11:26 AM   #11
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Our AC unit has the heat option.....this is something that has been discontinued??


Maggie
As far as I know there is no electric heat strip on the A/C for a few years now, but that is definitely true on the 2013 models. The propane furnace has a distinct advantage of being very quiet as opposed to the roar of the A/C fan.
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Old 08-17-2014, 11:34 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by doug&maggie View Post
You might have a bad thermostat. Ours had to be replaced early on.

——

When you are in a WalMart or someplace that has inexpensive fleece throws, snag a couple of these to leave in your Interstate. Cover yourself with one of them, then your regular bedcovers. Toasty warm in no time.

Maggie
Previously the furnace has worked flawlessly and every other function of the thermostat was working up to specifications.

The Walmart idea would have been great had there been one within a 100 mile round trip of our camp site, and the weather was perfect during the day, so we only thought about the heat problem about 2:00 or 3:00 in the AM.
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Old 08-17-2014, 11:47 AM   #13
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Was the propane switch turned on? I ask because I forgot that detail once. It for rather chilly around 0300.
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Old 08-17-2014, 11:51 AM   #14
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Was the propane switch turned on? I ask because I forgot that detail once. It for rather chilly around 0300.
Yes that was my first thought since I had refilled the propane just before leaving home. I also thought perhaps the propane valve had been fried by a careless propane operator, but the generator, hot water heater, and stove top all worked perfectly.
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