A Bigger Tent -- on Wheels

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There is a saying in the RV world, especially true for those who intend to travel full-time:

Buy your third RV first.

Of course most people start with a small travel trailer and graduate to a larger fifth-wheel.  Others start with a little Class C motor home (built on a van chassis) and end up driving one of those monster buses.  I think it is safe to say that Dixie and I are one of the very few to even attempt to travel full-time in nothing but a car and a tent.  As you know, the car required a quick upgrade to an SUV due to sheer overload.  But the tent worked fine, except that it quickly became obvious that steering clear of bad weather put us in a motel room far too often.  So we started looking at an upgrade and eventually found a used Jayco 14SO popup tent camper in decent condition.

We have seen this unit referred to as ‘the palace’ and for good reason.  It might sound silly at first, but in the popup tent camper world, this Jayco unit is the king-sized luxury model.  The main box is 14 feet long, 19 if you include the hitch.  But when the beds are folded out the length is a crazy 26 feet.  The width also increases due to a large slide-out!  I wasn’t too sure about this one at first.  It seemed a bit large to haul with my mid-sized SUV.  But when I drove 20 miles on the Interstate from Camping World to the KOA Kampground I decided that it wasn’t so bad.  We need to do something to the awning to keep it from bouncing too high in crosswinds, and you can’t drive 70mph with this thing, but the Montero Sport didn’t seem to mind too badly.  It remains to be seen how it handles on steeper inclines, but it’s nice to be able to see over the top with the rear-view mirror!

The dealer gave it new tires/wheels and helped fix a few minor issues, but as we’ve been using it we’ve discovered a few more.  Nothing major, just handy-man stuff.  The setup isn’t bad, and one of the locals thought for sure we were seasoned travelers!  We have a fresh water tank, water pump, connection for city water, a water heater, and a small gas furnace.  We also have a toilet/shower combo.  The sink drains directly to the outside, the shower water drains to a grey water tank.  But the one thing that sets this unit apart from most others is the toilet.  The black water doesn’t go into a tank and you can’t connect this to a sewer connection in a full hook-up site.  This unit is equipped with a cassette toilet.  It holds around 5 gallons of black water.  When it is full, you simply open the outside hatch, slide the unit out and walk it over to the dump station and empty it out.

Which brings up one strange problem.  As great as this unit is, you can’t get to the toilet cartridge access door to empty the black water while you have the main screen door in place.  It seems as if it was designed assuming that you would never need to empty the black water until you were leaving the campground.  Only when the main door is removed can the small external half-door close, and only when that door closes can you get full access to the toilet cartridge.  Seems like the kind of thing they should use in camper design class under “things not to do.”

After we picked it up from the dealer we drove it straight back to the KOA where we had been staying and drove into a nice pull-through site.  It was our 7th day in a row, so it was a free night!  We have spent the last two days reorganizing and rearranging and fixing and setting up and cleaning.  It is finally ready for travel, and we’ve got six months worth of travel left for it.

A long time ago, back when we were planning on five year’s worth of RV travel, we had settled on a nickname for our trailer.  And even though we ended up with a popup, I think the nickname still fits.  See Dixie’s latest dispatch for more information on the TikiBaRV.

Copyright © by Glenn and Dixie Dixon