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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *M* is for Muffler and Front Porch Chairs

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes, we are up to the letter M now!


A while back (2009) our motorhome was getting a little louder and we realized that the salt on our Wisconsin roads is tough on vehicles.  Just look at where the muffler is all rusted out.  It was rusting around the holding straps where the salt gets trapped, even after we rinse things off from a snowy winter road drive.  Bummer, eh?    
muffler (3) (1280x960) (1280x960)
We called around to a few Cat truck and parts places for a new one, and they ran in the $350 range!   So then we called our local CarQuest auto parts in our tiny town.  He was able to order the exact same muffler for us for only $170!~
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Next he had to special order another part leading up to the muffler. It was the big snaky 4 inch diameter pipe and flange made up at a local exhaust muffler company.  That was more expensive than the muffler!
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 MUFFLER  for our 3126 Cat
DONALDSON M120598   5373160   $170


A fellow Safari owner just supplied me with this information:
 Donaldson p/n H000349
for the 2 muffler hangers/straps/bands

Once all of the parts were in, it was time to head out and do some work. Steve does the hard stuff, and I am the tool gopher and picture taker.  Some of the work was able to be done from up above through the bedroom, where we can access the engine compartment.
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Lucky that our king-sized bed lifts up for easy access to our engine compartment.

IMGA0541 (1280x960)

The old parts came out surprisingly well and in no time Steve had the big snake part bolted up into place.  We both crawled underneath so I could hold up the muffler while he bolted the straps tight to hold it.  It lined up really well, so Steve's measurements were correct on having East Side Exhaust make up the part from his drawing.
IMGA0537 (1280x960)
Here he is finishing up the job by hanging on the tailpipe. We were able to reuse the original tailpipe as it was still in good shape.

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This is what it looks like from up above looking down from the bed compartment. See why he had to make a special piece that needed someone flexibility to reach down to the muffler area?

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Whew… good job all done!    And now our Cat is purring along nice and quiet!


Steve noticed a couple rattan chairs the other day on Facebook Marketplace. (it's his hobby to sit and go through ads on Marketplace and Craigslist)   

They matched our couch and ottoman on the front porch!   We had bought the couch 2 years ago from Craigslist, and back then I painted the rattan frame and re-covered the cushions. 

We had always wanted a few more chairs out there....
 but just had the one rocker and the little kids set.

We contacted the sellers. They were wayyyy down in Madison, but would hold the chairs until we got there.  Steve said "Let's Go!" and we hooked our little trailer onto the Tracker and set out 100 miles one way to buy two chairs!  hahaha  They knocked $10 off the price because we were coming so far.  The chairs were only $20 each. 

Now instead of the single rocking chair on that other side of the porch, we will have 2 chairs with our little ottoman in between.  Sometimes the morning sunshine in the mid summer is quite hot over on the couch side...  but where these chairs will sit, it is shaded by the tall pine in the front yard. 

(the rocking chair was gifted to us from the people 
we bought the house from 5 years ago,
 so I just offered it back to them if they want it)

This morning I ran to the hardware store and got a can of primer and 2 cans of paint and got to work on the frames. 

Steve put the sawhorses out and propped up the chairs for me.  
He had to go and drive again for the handicapped folks,
but that is okay. He hates painting. 

We opened the windows and set up a fan, I wore my mask and got to work!  We have all the windows open upstairs too and turned off the furnace.  Good thing it's almost 40 degrees outside for fresh air. (otherwise I would have done this in the garage) 

I am about to go down after this and do a top coat.  I think it is coming out great. 

The fabric I had used on the couch, sadly, is discontinued at Joann's. I searched elsewhere online and it's from their own exclusive line of fabrics.  I did get a nice helpful suggestion from the clerk at the local Joann's to come and get some coordinating fabric in that same line, and make the cushions covers out of that. Then I can move 2 of the existing couch pillows over on the chairs as accents... and make 2 new pillows to add to the couch to tie it all together. 

I think I see a trip to Joann's this afternoon as soon as Steve gets done with driving????

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *M* is for My Campers Thru the Years

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes, we are up to the letter M now!


My Campers Thru the Years:
I love reading about the transitions that RVers go through to get to the RV they presently have.   Some folks work their way up, like we did, others jump in with both feet, never owning an RV before.

Between Steve and I,  we have had a lot of rv’s over the years.   I don’t have pics of his, but it included a few travel trailers and a popup when he was a kid.  To this day, his father and his brother both have a motorhome.  So he comes from an RV family for sure.

My grandfather, Harvey Kafehl, had wanderlust in his heart. 
He went cross country from Wisconsin to California 
with only a tent, 

so travelling and camping is in my GENES!!!


As for myself, when a kid, we had a converted school bus fondly called The Camper Bus.  My dad bought two old school buses and changed both of them into campers.   By selling one, he was able to cover the costs of both conversions.  I remember we had to change the appearance quickly of the bus, so we children got to dip sponges into black paint and dab them all over The Leopard Bus!  hahaha 

Later Dad painted it like a Winnebago paint job with a big W on the back… (actually a V, so he wouldn’t be infringing on copyright!) … the last paint job was like in this photo, as a log cabin, and he later added log stripes to the walls and a green roof.  How cute is that?

(myself on the left and brother Butch on the right)

I remember one trip where we took up to Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We stopped on the side of the road on Brockway Mountain Drive and camped right there on a pull off scenic outlook.  Boondocking!  Dad built a big bonfire and here we are roasting hot dogs.  Camping Kids!

(that is me on the left in the sweater) 

We chugged up and back from Cedarburg, Wi to the U.P. of Michigan many times in that bus.  We went to any and all points in between.  It made it up the Porcupine Mountains, and over to the Wildcat Mountains, and to winter hunting camps. Our parents with a meager budget, and with 6 kids and a dog.  What fun!  Wunderlust was born in my heart!


We also had a few travel trailers over the years when I was a child… this one came with our house we bought in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1970.   We used it for a lot of sleepovers in the backyard that next summer until dad bought a bigger camper.

He bought this 1960 Mayfair travel trailer in 1971.  It didn't have a bathroom or a fridge, but it was our "camper".  He added a bigger bunk and a propane heater.  We packed in there and had a blast! 

Even then, it was an old trailer when we had it.   We would camp in it during the summers at Pentoga park at Chicagon Lake all summer long, and then in the winter my folks would park it up in the woods on some leased land for the winters. It was used for deer hunting season, and then we would snowmobile into it during the winters for vacations!  LOL

That old Mayfair is STILL being used to this day, by the grandchildren of the people we sold it to wayyy back in the 70’s.


Right about when I was ready to move out of the house, my parents upgraded to a Holiday Rambler travel trailer. It was quite fancy for them and huge step up from the little old Mayfair. 


Once I was grown up, when my own kids were small, we had tents…  we camped often with friends, going out to the National Forest Campgrounds in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was rough camping and what we hauled in, we hauled back out again.  I took along my little babies, with playpens and potty chairs.  We knew how to have FUN!  (all of my kids now grown up love to go camping and have RV's and grandkids who love to camp too).

Yup, we roughed it until 1986 I finally got this old Apache pop-up,  my my my were we ever *happening* now!  

The Apache popup had two big side beds, a large fold-down table that seated 6, so it made a big bed, and a couch that folded down into a twin bed.  The little heater in there would just about cook ya out of the place.  It only had a cooler/ice box so we had to haul blocks of ice for it.  There was a single sink with a pump for cold water from a 5 gallon jug stored under in the cabinet.  The four burner stove got a workout for both cooking and heating water for washing up dirty kids~!   We had a portapotty for late night emergencies for the kids, but they preferred the nighttime walk to the outhouse, using their own flashlights bobbing all over the place.  It was a sojourn to walk the kids there, singing songs in the dark to ward off the bears and beasts of the night.  LOL   That pop up camper went on camping for many years after we sold it off … and finally the canvas gave out.

But the newest owners ripped off the canvas, removed the side beds and boxed it in with plywood. It lives on now as a hunting shack and it still used to this day!


In 1990 I bought my first motorhome, a 1972 Chieftain gasser,  27 ft.  Boy did we live it up in there!  I drove it all over, many times just me and my girls and the dogs.  

My soon-to-be ex husband hated camping, and he hated my motorhome, and would rather stay home alone than enjoy the woods with us.  (we got rid of the guy and kept the motorhome!)  At one point, the winter salt ate through the paint on the aluminum exterior.  It was looking kinda bedraggled.  So I brought it up to my brother’s rural yard, and taped it all off.  First I used etching compound and then sprayed on 2 coats of automotive paint, then 2 coats of clearcoat, all with a big old compressor.  What a job! 

Then I added some marine striping decals in 3 tones of blue.  My goodness, this rig was looking mighty fine indeed!   Now for an awning.. hmmmm?  I bought a nice blue tarp, ran one end in the channel, attached the other end to a long large 4” PVC pipe with end caps.  No recoiling spring, so I had just a little crank on the end of the tube and I could stand on a stepladder and crank it up into place.  A few rubber snubbers locked it into place against the roof.   I made telescoping conduit side poles, with little hitchpins for locking into place at the desired height.  I needed a drill press to drill the holes, the only thing I didn’t do myself.  The brackets to bolt to the side of the rig weren’t quite what I envisioned, and could not find enough support in the wall to anchor them to.  So I went through the wall, with big bolts and used big fender washers from the inside to mount the awning arms to.  It worked out fine, one set was hidden under a couch.. the other set near the passenger seat.  It worked, and we were happy!

Originally I named it the Ultimate Bohemoth, 
but later changed it to the "Motor Roam" 


Gosh how I loved that motorhome!  By the mid-90's, it was falling apart and needed lots of repairs. Kinda tough on a single mom with 2 young girls. 

But as it turns out, I met Steveio in 1995.  He convinced me (when we were dating yet) to sell the aging troublesome motorhome and he would buy me a brand new travel trailer … and put it in my own name!  So in 1996, along came this lovely 33ft brand new 1997 Sierra travel trailer. 

I never had anything so nice in my life!  I married him a year later, but we laughed that it was so he could get his name back on the title to the camper!   We spent our honeymoon in our trailer, 2 weeks of all alone camping!  No kids, no dogs.  We looped around Lake Superior through the Soo and around into Thunder Bay and Minnesota to home.

What a fine way to start a marriage, by camping!


I put the old Winnebago motorhome up for sale on a consignment lot... where it got stolen by a customer on the last night of the consignment contract.  The dirtball kept the keys from a test drive and came back to steal it.  It took a lot of detective work to track it down months later.  The guy was living in it, avoiding his wife, his ex fatherinlaw, his old boss and many bill collectors!   His elderly mother finally came through, by turning him in, and we made agreement for him to pay me cash in front of a police officer and I would turn over title and he would not be charged with grand theft.  I was sooo happy to NOT get the motorhome back after months of abusive treatment.

We used the Sierra travel trailer for 6 years, hauling it all over the U.P. of Michigan, into Canada, and around Wisconsin for many, many weekends. Our blended family of four teens meant bringing along friends, food and fun for sometimes 6, 7, or 8 teens at a time!

Many of  those kids had never gone camping in their lives, so it was a real treat for them to come along with us on weekends.  We camp a lot with my now grown siblings and their campers and the folks and friends up in the U.P. of Michigan. our camping group It took a lot of organizing and planning and work to have such fun, but it was worth it in the long run.  Our kids appreciated it, and the visiting kids still talk about the times they came with us "Up North".

That is what our camping experiences are made of.

Pudgy pies in the fire, Some-more’s for dessert, the kids catching fireflies and the grownups throwing another log on the fire.  It don’t get much better than that, I tell ya.


Ahhh then along comes 2002... the kids all are graduated and gone, and I got very very ill after a work industrial accident.  Steveio got it in his head that we needed a motorhome to travel and be more comfortable for me, rather than towing a travel trailer.  We looked around and made a great deal on a trade-in at a dealership in Fond Du Lac, where they had a motorhome on the lot on consignment.  So they literally bought our trailer from us so we could buy the motorhome from the folks on consignment.  Neato! 

It was a 1994 Coachmen Santara.   It was in immaculate condition and had low miles.

We moved our gear right in and made ourselves at home!   Later we realized too late that the tires were original to the rig… though they looked good with tread, they were really dated 1993 and we had two huge blowouts on our first big trip! We added 6 new tires, we headed out for Florida, more confident in our tires and learned a good lesson about replacing RV tires every 6 years or so.

We drove that motorhome into the back woods and all around, and I was pleased as punch with it.  It fit us well for weekends and vacations, and doubled as a huge utility prop transport, hauling our gear, costumes, stock, tables, and machines for doing fiber festivals.

I was totally happy with it and though it was suffering from some delamination, we kept it up nicely and used it most every weekend spring, summer and fall.  Toss in a few winter trips too, and I was happy.  We added a scooter rack to the back, and did a few renovations inside.  We spend four years enjoying that motorhome…..

Then it’s 2006…    In May, I was at a weaving seminar down near Beloit, WI and Steveio was zooming around on our Honda Helix just to explore the area while I was in classes.  We needed a new filter for the Onan generator, so he looked various places close by to get one.  Of course, he managed to drive to an RV dealership in Rockford, Ill just over the border.  There he saw *The Rig* !!!  He came back all bubbly and excited about this rig.  It made a big impression on him.  He kept asking me to look at it… NO NO NO I would say.. we owe more on our Coachmen than it’s worth and we are not going further in debt!  He kept looking at this rig on the website, and about every week he would mention how light, bright, well-laid out, well-made etc. this rig was.  And each week my reply was the same: NO NO NO!

In July of 2006 it was a life-changing time for us... our younger son, Mike, died,  and we started to question our own mortality, our goals, our lives.  It felt like life was closing in on us, and we were choking.  We wanted to run away.  We were hurting.

Although we always planned to full-time in an RV when Steve would retire, we felt like it was a long time off and life doesn’t last forever.  Steve deserved this. It was something he wanted and he never asks for much. 

So we called the bank, and took off to go look at this diesel motorhome.   The dealership was able to fanagle the figures to pay off our loan, and we got a bunch of stuff written into the deal like all new tires (we learned that lesson!) all new belts and hoses, all new fluid changes and filters, all new batteries – 2 chassis and 4 coach, and a full tank of propane and a full tank of diesel….. ready to roll.   So we went home, thought about it, faxed back our best offer and the deal was made! 

Three days later we picked up the rig and left behind the Coachmen.  The delamination was a bit worse than our photos could show, so we ponied up an extra $300 to help the deal go through.  All was done and we had the big rig that Steve wanted!!

We drove off and life has been an RVing adventure ever since.  With all of the modifications and changes we made, our Safari Serengeti it comfortable to us and the way we use it.  

We added the solar, changed the furniture around and made soooo many changes and modifications that I have been blogging about since I started this blog.  I enjoy learning and sharing and reading about other people's modifications as well. 

Now, over 1,000 blog posts later, I have over a million and a half views, all wanting to know about our "Camping Stuff"

We have gone a lot of places....

But we have a LOT more to go! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *M* Macerator (a.k.a. PoopEater!)

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes, we are up to the letter M now!


We all do it.


We sure do.

We use the toilet.

Well, most do.  Some prefer to do the natural thing in the woods. That's okay I guess.  But when you have a motorhome, it usually has a bathroom that contains a toilet.  And that stuff has to go SOMEWHERE~  Right?

When our black tank is just about full (the toilet stuff is called the black tank) then we need to find a place to dump it.  Also our shower and kitchen sink water (the grey tank). Our black and grey tanks each hold 50 gallons, and our freshwater tank holds 100 gallons.

Now, most folks have to pull up stakes, stow the gear, and look for the nearest dump station.  That usually involves a monetary fee to whatever campground is nearby.  It uses a  big hose, called a "Stinky Slinky" set into a big hole in the ground, and you pull the lever and dump. 

But... sometimes you aren't near a nice dump station.  Or you don't want to drive to one if you are parked for a while. What do you do? 

Steveio has this SUPER DOOPER POOPER TOY to play with.... called a Macerator! 

It's similar to a garbage disposal.  It grinds up the errrr ummmm tank waste, and pumps it out a narrow hose with pressure. Enough pressure to go uphill and over humps or even into a household toilet!

It pumps it out of a long skinny 3/4" hose, even uphill, to dump at far away locations like an inground septic tank, or a badly located dump station,  and then we follow up the process with the grey water from the sinks and shower to rinse out the dedicated hose.

It is great for many RVing situations, besides saving on dump station fees:

  • -Many RV sites with sewer provided are only designed if your RV is backed into the site.  But our motorhome has a solid back wall in the bedroom.  If there is a pretty view, we may pull in forward so the view is out our front windshield in the living area of the rig.  That puts the sewer opening on the wrong side for us.  The macerator can help with that.
  • -Or if sitting in someone's driveway it can dump tanks into a septic or even a toilet. (done that)
  • -Or if at a poorly designed dump station that is too slanted to dump properly by gravity. (seen that)
  • -Or if at a campsite with sewer available but the sewer pipe is a foot off the ground (seen that)
  • -Or if at a curved road leading to the dump station and no way to line up 40 foot rig at their hole (seen that)

We do not use the "blue" RV holding tank deodorizers anymore as they can introduce bacteria-killing products into our septic tank.  Septic tanks and sewer systems need certain bacteria to keep them running properly.  We pour in a few tablespoons of RidX liquid septic tank treatment into our RV tanks to keep them working properly until they are dumped. 

Steve spent a lot of time talking to our RV friend, Roger (a.k.a. Poopy Roger) learning about mascerators and how he adapted one to fit instead of the RV one on the market. I didn't take part in those Poopy Conversations while they were out walking in the desert together.  Ewwwwwww  But Steve figured out what he wanted and how to make it work. 

Here is a link to one like ours on Amazon that is for a marine use: Jabsco-18590-2092   Steve chose the marine type one over the ones available thru RV dealers because some of their rv specific ones have impellers that are only plastic.  

Here is what ours looks like:

Steveio took a standard drain cap that goes on the bayonet mount of any RV drain pipe.  He cut an inch and quarter hole in the middle of the cap with a holesaw bit on the drill.  That allowed the cap to fit right over the opening on the bottom end of the macerator in the pic above (he removed and discarded that grey elbow fitting in the photo)

He also drilled four small screw holes in the cap to line up with the four holes in the housing, using screws to hold it tight, along with a bead of silicone between the cap and the housing.

The discharge end on the left side of the machine has a 1 inch barbed fitting.  He attached a 1" piece of clear plastic hose (to be able to see the "progress of material" going through the hose)  At the end of the clear hose he attached a piece of threaded hose fitting to screw a black 3/4" hose that is 50ft long that goes into a septic, drain cleanout hole, outhouse, sewer system etc. That long black hose is dedicated to dumping only, never to be used for anything else. Coils up in a 5 gallon bucket for storage in the motorhome basement.

The electrical line of 12 volt power was wired up to a 12volt plug cigarette lighter type with an ON/OFF switch on the line.  He installed a 12 volt powered outlet in our compartment near the drain valves to power the macerator when in use.

Now the macerator can hook onto the bayonet mount of the RV drain pipe when in use. It can then be removed and stored in a tote in our basement compartment when not in use.

With the adapted cap, it just hooks onto the bayonet mount
of the drain outlet on the motorhome. 

We last used it when we were in Florida two years ago.  We were parked for 6 weeks in Mom's backyard. There isn't any septic cleanout or septic tank access close to the house. So Steve chose to run the black hose up and into the bathroom through the window and have it flush right into the toilet.

Once the black tank contents are done running through the machine, the motor changes sound in pitch and it's done. We then shut it off and close the black tank handle.  Next comes the grey tank (shower and sink water) valve is pulled and turn it back on and run through the machine.  This also helps to rinse the hose out before storing it away.  It is a good idea to screw the two ends of any hose together during storage to prevent leakage or intrusion by insects. 

My Mister Poopy Mascerator Man

We got the job done, and our tanks are now empty.  I did not take any pics of the ummm errrr process, as you can use your own imagination.  The clear section on the macerator hose is there to observe the situation, and once both of the tanks are emptied, then we run some fresh water to flush everything out. The machine and the black hose are dried off and stowed into a separate bin away from our other compartments.

That is the poopy way to handle your RV holding tanks!

On edit; A fellow Facebook reader, Steve Ferguson, reminded me that I should mention the fact that you shouldn't use this all of the time. You still need that big swooshy whoosh to help get any of the wastes that are settled on the bottom of your holding tank to come out the big hose. That is very true. Although, our black holding tank has a special device called a "turbo rinse".  It's a device that's mounted permanently into the inside surface of are black tank. We attach a garden hose to it with pressure . It swirls and sprays all around inside of the tank and helps knock loose anything that may be setting settling on the bottom. That works too. But really in all fairness, the best use of your holding tank is to drive around for a while sloshing and agitating the contents so nothing is stuck to the bottom. Then when you dump with the normal Stinky Slinky with a big whoosh of an almost full tank, you will get the best results.


We are going to have temps in the mid 40's today!!!  It will melt our side yard of some of the ice, but of course make it into a muddy mess. We will continue to bring the dogs out through the garage into the back section of the yard to do their thing, and avoid the mud.  I think if we take them for a walk today, we might need a bath for them afterwards as well.

The sunshine also woke up an INTRUDER!  

It's called a Western Conifer Seed Bug, and must have been sleeping all winter in my coleus plants that I dig up from the side yard.  The sunshine must have woken him up, and he was heading to the window, looking for a place to get out? 

It says they reside in Black Pine trees, of which we have right outside our house in the front/side yard.  They are not poisonous and do not bite,  We sent him on a quick demise down the toilet.  Ewwwww!  I am going to give my plants all a quick misting with some Bug Be Gone spray to be sure he doesn't have any buddies hanging around as well! 

Steve was supposed to drive at 9 am, but they called and said there was a cancellation.  So now he is home until noon before his next transport.  Wonder what kind of trouble we can get into before that?  Have to wait for the Fed Ex truck today, as I have to sign for my new phone that is coming.  The shipping notice they updated me with says it's already loaded on a truck in nearby Appleton and out for delivery today.  Pretty good from the guy at Verizon ordering it about 2 pm on Saturday, and it was in Fort Worth TX getting loaded on a truck at 5pm Saturday.