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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! 

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