Our Wonderful Followers who come back again and again to read about us...

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *T* is Toading, Towing with a Tow Bar and Our Old House Stuff

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 T now!


Toading or towing a vehicle:

For all my non-RVing readers---  a "TOAD" is an RV term for towing a vehicle behind your motorhome with a towbar setup.  Only certain vehicles can be flat towed or dolly towed (only 2 wheels down) behind a motorhome.  Best to check with your dealer or vehicle manual to be sure.  Motorhome Magazine publishes a yearly list with which new vehicles are towable as well if you are shopping for a new vehicle to tow. 

We of course are budget minded (read "cheap") and Steve scoured the Craigslist ads for used vehicles already set up for towing behind an RV. 

Ten years ago, he found this great little Geo Tracker soft top for only $2,000. It already had the base plate and wiring completed. We snapped it up and took it right home!

We had already gotten a Blue Ox tow bar for hitching it up behind the motorhome. You need to be sure to get the right size tow bar for the weight of the vehicle that you are towing, plus make sure that your motorhome has sufficient power to pull a vehicle.

Next project on the list was that Steveio noticed the base plate that came on our Tracker was a little rusty looking.... so he took it off, inspected it (good thing, because one of the mounting bolts was broken!)   He coated it with a rust-neutralizer coating, then a new coat of rustoleum paint.  He bolted it back on with all new grade 8 bolts.

This fun Geo Tracker is a nice little toad, lightweight and has a stick shift with manual dial out hubs to loosen up for towing (automatic hubs don't work).  Since it is under 2,000 pounds, we are not required in Wisconsin to have an auxiliary braking system. With our big diesel pusher, we have plenty of pulling power and braking power for it. But if you have either a larger toad or a smaller rig, I would suggest you get one.

Soooooo all the prep work has been done--- 
time to hitch it up! 

We lined up the motorhome and the
Tracker out on the road in front of our house.

Steve hooked up the tow bars, safety cables and wiring to the lights

I was in the inside of the toad,
 doing the parking brake, key position,
gear shifter and transfer case.

He tested the lights from inside the motorhome
 while I watched from outside behind the toad.

Next, I tied a white rag to the top center of the steering wheel, 
(I will tell you why in a little bit)

Then we double checked each other's tasks....
a very good habit to start! 

He pulled ahead slowly
while I watched for the two little levers to *pop* up --- 
meaning the tow arms are engaged and working properly.

We are nice and level with the tow bar
 from the Tracker to the motorhome,
 and do not need a drop down receiver.

The tow bar arms need to be as horizontal to the ground as possible
to not bind or kink if on an angle.

We were ready to roll!   

We can watch our toad on our back-up camera.  (Our motorhome does not have a rear window)  Here is the backup camera facing out from the top back end of our motorhome.  The pic is from when we replaced the glass inside the housing.

We can check on the Tracker with the monitor up on our dash.  It's also nice to look out when we are just taking off after fueling up or a grocery stop. You would not believe it, but ignorant people sometimes cut through and try to hop over the tow bar and hitch, rather than walk around!  It has happened to us three times now!!!

Oh, here is what I mentioned earlier about the white rag:  By clipping the white rag on the top dead center position of the steering wheel, we can see in the camera as the steering wheel turns as you go around corners and watch it return back to the upright position again.  If it does not return to the upright position, you know something is wrong and you should stop immediately to check it out. With the dark black interior of the Tracker, a white rag works well.

We went around our big country block, which is a couple miles around.  All went just fine! 

We came home, reversed our procedure to unhook the toad. And we made sure that we used the parking brake before unhooking. Then once was all unhooked, we released the parking brake as I drove the toad back into our garage. The tow bar can stay locked on the back of the motorhome and swivel up and out of the way to one side. 

And I had sewn a nice little vinyl cover for it when parked. 
 Blue Ox wanted $48 plus shipping for one!  

So there you have it---


Fast forward ahead to 6 years ago. Steve ran across a different Tracker to tow behind our motorhome. This one had four doors and a solid top. Although it wasn't as cute and fun and sporty looking as the white one, it did have air conditioning. The white one didn't. Some of those hot days in the desert, and humid times down in Florida really takes a toll on my damaged lungs. So we decided that we are old people in need of air conditioning.

My little brother snapped up our older white one in a moment. I gave him a phone call because he had always expressed an interest in owning it. Within 10 minutes he stopped at the bank and took money out of his savings account and was driving directly to our house to buy it. He didn't want anybody else to even have a chance to look at it! Hahaha

Now we had to set up this newer Tracker to tow behind our motorhome. It didn't come towable RV ready like our other one did. Of course, that means swapping over the baseplate and re-wiring the lights.

Plugging a line into a connector from the motorhome, this wire setup allows the Tracker's taillights, brakelights, and signal lights to operate along with the motorhome's own lights.  We also added an extra set of removable lights higher up that hang over the back of the door for added visibility to drivers behind us. 

Towing a vehicle behind a motorhome is a very serious endeavor.  One needs to carefully inspect and have all the proper equipment in working order, or risk having a loose vehicle flying down the highway, destroying everyone behind you!


while they, or you, 
are HOOKING-UP a toad!----

Interruptions can be a very costly or dangerous mistake to make while hooking up a toad.

As a couple, we doublecheck each other's "jobs" when toading our Tracker....  Here is our checklist:

Steve has 4 things to do while hooking up:
  1. attach the arms of the towbar
  2. attach the power cord plug
  3. attach the safety cables
  4. put on the padlocks on the pins
and I have 4 things to do inside the Tracker when hooking up
  1. shift Tracker into 2nd gear (or neutral)
  2. shift transaxle into neutral
  3. turn key to "on"
  4. tie a white rag to top center of steering wheel while checking that it is freely moving-- so we can see the white rag in our rear view camera.  Then with a glance in the camera, we know the tires are tracking correctly and not cocked sideways after turning a corner. 
-- then he goes inside and runs the motorhome signal lights through "left turn, right turn, tail, brake"  while I stand behind  the rig with the hand held CB telling him each one is okay

---- and then he pulls forward while I walk alongside for a short distance.  I am watching to the be sure all tires are rolling and the two little flip levers on the tow bars flip up.

Then, and finally then, he lets me inside... where I lock the door and make sure the steps are up on the motorhome as we take off on another adventure! 

After toading this vehicle for a number a of years, we had the horrible experience of having it jump into gear while going over a series of speed bumps while exiting a park in New Mexico. We didn't know it had popped into gear --- but only driving a short distance further we could feel something weird. We stopped and double checked but it was too late. Our engine had been destroyed!!  We were able to free wheel tow it to a place near the next campground we were staying at.  Ouch....  the mechanic we found tore it all down for us, and rebuilt it. He replaced bearings, new rings and we had him do a clutch at the same time. Luckily the transmission was not ruined. $1,600.00 later, we were able to get back on the road.

After having the engine redone, the mechanic advised us to NOT leave the shifting lever in second gear as our Tracker manual advises, but instead leave it in neutral, as well as the transaxle shifter. So now both are in neutral when we tow, and we have not had a problem since.

For the non-RVers reading this, you can now see all the steps that we go through to have that extra vehicle nonchalantly following us as we go by on the highway.


On Our Old House topic:

We have been playing with the idea of adding some trim around the windows or gables of our house.  Or adding some windowboxes and corbels. Or adding a new color or two to the plain looking tan and white that it is now.   When vinyl siding was put on the house years ago, much of the window trims were removed.  


 We are toying with ideas of adding some small corbels around the diningroom bump out window, and removing the vinyl front trim that has the green squares painted on it (I did that the first year we moved here).  We might add some strips of wood with color around the windows to dress them up and make them stand out. I am leaning towards a trim color in a federal blue and maybe a thin barn reddish brown to match the roof shingles. We might add some shutters with cutouts similar to the lattice work under the porch. Not sure if 1 or 2 cutouts per shutter.  Or we might add a pediment to the gable ends.  Hmmmm   we will see.....


While we have been fortunate to have gotten this old photo from in the 1930's or 1940's of the house,  we were always wondering if the front porch had been closed in with windows since the house was built.  There is a house in the next block with almost the exact same build and features and floor plan, but has an open front porch with the same columns. 

Other clues point to it having been open are the existing porch swing hooks in the porch ceiling. There is no way a swing could have worked with the finished walls and windows from the way they are positioned.  As well as the columns being fully intact and the window frames butted up to them, even around the woodwork.  That had to be done afterwards...

A while back, a local lady named Gail told me she was the great granddaughter of the Miller family who originally built our home in 1913.  Well well well, she dug up a photo that shows our front porch was indeed open!!!  

How exciting is that to see how our porch was originally built, probably dating to around 1921.  Someone else on facebook said that the baby on the right, Virginia, on the railing by her mom Ruby, was born in 1920.  

We are not sure if it was the Miller/Ortlieb families that closed it in, or John Sohn who only owned it for 9 months, or the Kopf family who bought it in 1929. From that point on, the Kopf families owned it until we bought it in 2012. 

We do love it being enclosed, and are not planning to open it up again.  We enjoy the ease of having windows to close off the chill, screens to hold off the bugs, and being able to keep nice furniture with cloth cushions, pillows and quilts out of the elements. 

 And very comfy to sit out in the evenings,
without any bugs! 

It's time to get a move on here, Steve is home from work for lunch and I better rustle up some grub.


  1. Our 2001 Tracker is automatic with regular hubs. We put the 4x4 transfer case in neutral and we are good to tow 4 down. Trackers are definitely the way to go.

  2. it is always fun looking up history of your house. i enjoy reading abstracts to see who owned it when

  3. What fun to find these old pictures, I like the closed in porch for more comfort and being bug free with nice furnishings that you have added. As for the colors I like the 3 tone myself adds so much to the house. Have fun with it


Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog! I moderate all comments so it may take a little while for your comment to appear.