After taking a break from blogging about our adventures (and misadventures) with our 2015 Roadtrek E-trek, I decided to reinvent my blog with a focus on my other interests, which include sewing, quilting, and scrapbooking, I have included the old blog posts, since RV travel remains very popular (although not for us) and people may still be looking for information about the E-trek. According to RV Lifestyle, there will be a huge demand for used RVs in 2021.
Although it has been four years since we sold our E-trek, we still keep up with the latest Class B Motorhome offerings. In 2020 we adopted a third dog, Bear, and we still have our “Etrek Dogs,” Topper and Daisy, who were featured in The Etrek Blog.
During the Pandemic I rediscovered my love of sewing and purchased a new Janome sewing machine. After making a supply of masks, I moved on to various custom items, such as a car seat organizer for my husband’s car. I modified the seat covers we had purchased for our E-trek with pockets on the front to hold cell phones, masks, and sunglasses, as well as a hanging organizer for the dogs’ accessories. Eventually I hope to offer some of my custom-made items for sale and add them to my Etsy store.
A Memory Quilt for Topper
On February 6th, Topper celebrated his 10th birthday. I had decided a while back that it would be fun to make him a quilt out of his many grooming bandanas. 10 years x 6 grooms per year meant I had plenty to choose from, especially with extras from Bear and Daisy.
I decided on a red, white, and blue theme, since I had leftover blue fabric from another quilt project. For the backing, I used his ”baby blanket,” that was packed with him in his pee-pee crate that he arrived in.
After researching patterns, I decided the pinwheel block would be the best, since it uses “half-square triangles.” For the complete details on this project, please visit the Instructable I posted in February. I was so proud of my quilt that I entered it in the “Scraps Speed Challenge” contest. I did not win, but my project was ”featured,” so that’s something!
Topper’s quilt was finished in time for his birthday party! We displayed it on the table with his gifts and bone-shaped cake. His grooming was actually a few days later, so I had to take more pictures with his fresh haircut. His groomer loved the quilt!
I recently completed a second pinwheel quilt, pictured in my The Blog is Back! post.
I have more pinwheel quilts planned for the future—with three dogs getting groomed every 6 or so weeks, there definitely no shortage of bandanas!
Last year I started making fisherman-style vests customized for tech, glasses, and other supplies. In 2021 I completed ten vests, six for my husband, three as gifts, and one currently for sale at my Etsy store (the Railroad Denim Vest pictured below).
Before selling the E-trek I had removed the custom covers I made to protect the leather from the dogs. They had just been sitting in a drawer and I thought there was enough fabric to make something else.
I had recently made a chair cover for my husband’s favorite leather chair, using the following instructions. I recommend downloading the PDF from post #14. This same post contains a link for instructions for binding a quilt, which will be used in a later step. I have referred to these instructions numerous times when making a quilt.
We had recently purchased a set of leather chairs for our family room, so I thought I could turn the cushion covers into chair covers. First I disassembled the cushion covers (e.g., ripped seems and removed zippers) to see if it would be enough.
I had to combine parts of the large cushion covers and the skinny cushion covers, but it worked!
Following the is original article from 2015:
I downloaded instructions from the Internet and found this link very helpful. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/make-zippered-cushion-covers-sides-75006.html
I recommend drawing the cushions on graph paper to calculate fabric needs. Remember, measure twice, cut once! I think I measured three or four times. If you are making more than one cushion, which you probably are, I recommend cutting fabric for only one cushion, make it to completion; then make sure it fits and see if you need to make any adjustments. I learned this the hard way…
I did have to make a modification. Since the leather cushions in the Etrek were so firm, I could not squeeze it in the zippered opening, and I ended up tearing the fabric trying to force it in. The zipper needed to extend beyond the width of the cushion. I realized this after making the first cushion, and although I had already cut the fabric for all four cushions, I fortunately had just enough fabric leftover to make the adjustment. So for side which the zippered edge, I needed to cut the fabric about 10 inches longer. Fortunately I had purchased zipper on a roll, which I had not cut yet, so I could make the zippers longer too. I simply folded the side pieces down and overlapped over the zipper which gives it a nice finished look. (see picture).
www.Fabric.com has a great selection and they ship promptly. I also ordered some of my dog-theme fabric from a website called www.HotDiggityDog.com. The total cost for the fabric and zippers was about $80.
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Although we were relieved to have sold our E-trek in February when there was still snow on the ground, we have definitely missed our E-trek over the past few months, especially now, since many of our most successful trips were in the fall: visiting our son at college in Boston, Hershey RV show, and Halloween (Antietam).
After our son left for Boston at the end of August, we found ourselves watching various walkthrough videos on YouTube and we focused on the new Hymer Aktiv, which had several items on our RV feature wish-list, most notably, the cassette toilet. Although the toilet got mixed reviews from various users, we were intrigued enough to drive out to a Pennsylvania RV dealer and take a look.
The Hymer Aktiv had some of the features we liked about the E-trek (e.g., largely electric (propane was only needed for the stove-top and furnace), sleek design. What we liked better about the Hymer was the sleeping accommodations: murphy-style bed (flip down) that allowed for a center aisle which offered an alternate storage area and was accessible from the rear doors. Furthermore, the center aisle would allow us to exit through the rear doors, so we could park our vehicle “legally” between the side of the house and retaining wall (about 8 feet, so no room to exit from the side of the vehicle).
We also liked the dining configuration–no requirement to store a heavy pedestal table and leg. The drop-leaf table had three positions: stored down, open halfway, and fully open to allow more surface space. It could be used by both the driver and those seated in the second-row bench seat. Daisy and I rode in the second row for the test drive and I liked the visibility since the bench seat was on a platform so I could see out the front and side windows. We also liked the number of USB ports found throughout the chassis and coach.
The Hymer Aktiv comes with a spare tire mounted on the rear; however, the heavy tire mount must be lowered to open the left-hand door. We noticed on other models the spare tire could easily be swung out of the way. Also, the spare tire would interfere with our bicycle rack so we would need to use a hitch extender to provide clearance. We prefer the shorter (20-foot) chassis, but with the extension and bicycle rack, we would be right back at the 24-foot length of the E-trek.
The Dodge Promaster chassis does not have many driver safety features, such as blind spot detection and parking assist. Considering that these vehicles are meant to be driven many miles on highways; we are amazed that they are equipped with few of the safety features available on most automobiles on the market today. We have already researched the price for aftermarket blind spot detection from a local retailer who added Bluetooth to our 10-year old Honda Ridgeline earlier this year.
We were also disappointed to learn the Aktiv does not come with Apple CarPlay–it comes with a Sony XAV-602BT system that apparently some Hymer owners have actually replaced it with the OEM system that usually comes on the Dodge Promaster chassis. It is possible to upgrade to Apple CarPlay according to CamperVanGuy on YouTube; however, it’s very disappointing that Hymer went through the trouble of replacing the audio system and chose one that was perhaps worse than the OEM and definitely not Apple CarPlay. RV manufacturers often seem to focus on cosmetic features (such as upgraded Alcoa wheels) rather than functionality and convenience.
The bathroom was very small, although we liked the sliding door better than the heavy wooden doors on the E-trek bathroom which were always in the way and difficult to close (i.e., lean on the door in order to lower pin). The gasoline engine did not seem to have as much pickup as the diesel on the E-trek, but it did provide a comfortable ride. Karl also missed the overhead storage in the chassis where he used to stow his phone, etc.
We have also learned that some newer Winnebago models allow for winter camping, with heated drainage systems and indoor fresh water tanks. However, these models rely on propane generators and we still lean towards the electric, despite all of the problems we had with the E-trek, we still believe in the technology. There is always a trade-off.
On the Fence
We agreed on a price and were close to a deal; however, after sleeping on it (or rather, not sleeping on it), we decided against the purchase at this time. We don’t want to repeat our mistake with the E-trek (i.e., something about the definition of insanity); however, we still can make a case that we would enjoy having an RV again, especially one that has some additional features we wanted. We may drive out to the Hershey RV show this weekend just to see all of the new offerings in person.
In my last post, more than six months ago, we had just returned from our Halloween weekend trip to Shepherdstown, WV. At the end of that post, I mentioned our grandiose plans to drive 1200 miles to Florida for a December wedding; however, we never made that trip. In all honesty, the idea of driving the E-trek 2-3 days straight, attending a wedding, and driving 2-3 days back home with two dogs just seemed crazy. Although our initial goal was to make these trips, the reality of traveling such a distance was not in the cards for us. We just don’t like to be away from our home. We hate flying even more since we would have to board the dogs, and the Amtrak auto train was sold out, so we skipped the wedding…
In the meantime, we had also learned that we were violating the township ordinance by parking our E-trek (i.e., motorhome) in front of our house, even though our house is not visible from the road and our E-trek hardly looks like a motorhome. I discovered this innocently when inquiring about permits for a storage structure for our E-trek (the huge snow storm of January 2016 had resulted in a broken antenna, so we wanted to protect our unit from the elements.) Our home is nestled on a hill, so we have little to no side yard, nor access to the backyard, so there is no way to park it “legally” on the side or back. We could apply for a variance, but that would take months and was subject to the approval of our neighbors. That was the last straw.
We contacted one of the dealers we had visited when purchasing our E-trek. Although they wouldn’t buy it outright, they offered to sell the E-trek on consignment. After removing Topper’s dog crate (which had been installed behind the driver’s seat) and replacing it with the captain’s chair, we were off on the 90-minute drive to Pennsylvania. I followed Karl down in our Volvo, and after about 30 minutes of paperwork, we were on our way home, minus our E-trek.
In late February, the weather was unseasonably warm, and we were just about starting to wish we could take a trip in our E-trek, when the dealer called with an offer. Several phone calls later, we had agreed on a number and that was that. Two weeks later our loan was paid off and we had a small check from the dealer.
We have no regrets—although we enjoyed many of our trips, we didn’t like traveling enough to justify the huge loan payment. In January, we drove our Volvo up to Boston for our son’s birthday. We were fine with it—the dogs road comfortably on the back seat and we found a hotel we like just outside of Boston. All for much less than the amount of the monthly loan payment.
We are also relieved that we no longer have to worry about “what could possibly go wrong.” Just this past week, we had our front lawn graded and reseeded. For nearly two years it was the parking area for our E-trek, and that is where we had planned to install a carport to protect the E-trek, had we obtained a permit. One day after the landscaping work was completed, a tree fell from the woods into the area–had our E-trek still been there it would have certainly sustained damage, so we once again feel we made the right choice!
Someday, if we live in a more RV-friendly neighborhood, we may try an RV again. We did like the comfort and convenience of having a home on wheels. We would probably like something a little larger, such as a Class B+. We would definitely need a larger fresh water tank and removable black/grey tanks such as the EarthRoamer provides. We would also like a smoother ride, so we would insist on upgraded shocks such as the VB Air Suspension. We may even give propane a try, since the all-electric model had limitations. These items are detailed in our RV Feature Wish List.
So for now, the adventures of the new RVers have come to an end. Probably the hardest part for me was the blog, which I temporarily shut down after the sale was final. However, I have decided to reactivate it, and eventually, I will incorporate relevant posts into a new blog. Ideally, I can somehow incorporate my various interests, which include fitness, scrapbooking, cross stitch, and dogs. I’m not sure what it will be called, so for now, it will remain TheEtrekBlog.
Long before we owned our E-trek, one of our favorite destinations through the years has been Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD. Located across the Potomac River is the town of Shepherdstown, WV, the location for the series “Ghosts of Shepherdstown,” which premiered earlier this year. Karl is a fan of the show, so when we were looking for something spooky to do for the unseasonably warm Halloween weekend, we thought Shepherdstown, described by some as the most haunted place in America, would be the perfect destination.
We departed Friday night and drove to our usual Walmart in Camp Hill, PA. Instead of using our MyJo Presto manual K-cup device to make our morning coffee, we brought along our beloved percolator, with pre-measured coffee packed in Ziploc bags. Before we had our battery balancer installed, we were unable to make coffee with our Keurig electric coffeemaker, which is why we bought the manual version, but really, we love using our percolator for the first cup of the morning. We had no trouble brewing a pot, and enjoyed our first cup of the day while the dogs had breakfast.
After coffee and feeding the dogs, we were on our way to the Cozy Canine, just south of Gettysburg in Fairfield, PA. Antietam is about another hour from Fairfield, so by 9:30 a.m., we were parked in the battlefield visitor center parking lot. The parking lot was considerably full, but fortunately, the three Bus/RV slots were available. There were a few tour groups already making their way around the monuments. Although it was a little brisk, the forecast for the 70s, and by the time we finished our 10-mile ride, it was quite warm.
As usual, I relaxed for a while in the E-trek while Karl continued his ride. When he got back, we had lunch in the E-trek and then walked around the cannons and monuments for a while. Our E-trek was still in view, and we noticed a man taking pictures; however, he was not photographing the E-trek, but Karl’s Elliptigo, which is always a topic of conversation. Many people noticed it as we road through the battlefield and asked about it.
After lunch, we decided to drive into Shepherdstown, WV, just a few miles from the battlefield. We wanted to see what the parking situation would be for the Boofest events we hoped to attend in the evening. We were planning dinner at the Bavarian Inn (also in Shepherdstown), so we did not know if we should just park there and walk to the Boofest, about a quarter mile. As it turned out, there was little parking in the town, especially a slot big enough to accommodate the E-trek, so we decided to park at the Bavarian Inn. I had brought along my old tavern dress costume, which I thought would be appropriate to dine at the Ratzkeller.
After an early dinner, we walked back over to the downtown area of Shepherdstown, where we met the cast of the “Ghosts of Shepherdstown.” Karl was even able to score a group picture before their official “meet the cast” event started at 5:30 p.m. There were a few haunted walks scheduled for later in the evening; however, the walk was a little more treacherous than we had hoped, since we had to cross a busy road, and the road leading back to the hotel was very steep and narrow. We decided to go back to the Bavarian Inn for coffee, dessert and a nightcap.
Sunday morning was very warm, and we arrived at the battlefield just at sunrise. We enjoyed a beautiful 10-mile ride and were on the road by 8:30 a.m. to pick-up the dogs. Karl was hoping to listen to the early game from London (Redskins v. Bengals) on the ride home: however, we were unable to use any of our various apps to stream the game, probably due to it’s popularity. When we arrived home at 1:00 p.m., the game was still in progress–in overtime, and eventually ending in a tie, so it was just as well that we did not have to listen to such a stressful game.
In my previous post I mentioned that we had a recurrence of the “Check Diesel Exhaust Fluid” message we had experienced during our May 2016 trip to Boston. Last week our E-trek was serviced by Mercedes-Benz, and both NOX sensors (upper/lower) were replaced; however, replacing the sensors required Mercedes-Benz to remove and reinstall the black and gray tanks to replace the sensors.
I had coincidentally just posted a link to my previous post to the Roadtrek Owner’s Facebook Group, and within minutes, I received a message from one of the group’s very helpful members that the NOX sensor replacement, including removal and replacement of the tanks, is fully covered by warranty. Good thing, because the first thing Mercedes-Benz said was that the removal of the tanks to replace the NOX sensors was not covered by warranty. We contacted Roadtrek, and within 30 minutes, we had an authorization number for Mercedes-Benz to bill Roadtrek for that portion of the work.
The work was completed on Friday, October 21st. We also learned that the sensor which was replaced in May was a temperature sensor, although it produced the same “Check Diesel Exhaust Fluid” plus check engine, followed by the 10-start countdown. We are planning several trips over the next month to see if everything is finally working. We hope to drive to Florida for a wedding in December; however, we won’t take a chance that we will have yet another occurrence of vehicle defects, and end up stranded somewhere in the Carolinas, hundreds of miles from the nearest Mercedes Sprinter dealer. We also need to test VoltStart before we embark on a major trip, since we will be relying on our batteries more than ever before.
In the meantime, we have few other issues to deal with. Earlier this year, we purchased a special bicycle rack to accommodate Karl’s Elliptigo. The first time we used it, we noticed it did not clear our steep (16 degree) driveway and part of the rack got damaged on the ride home. Karl tried attaching a wheel to the bottom of the rack, but it was not strong enough to support the rack and it snapped off on our trial run. On our recent trip to Saratoga, we stopped at the bottom of the driveway and Karl unloaded the Elliptigo, my electric bicycle, as well as the rack before driving up and parking the E-trek.
Over the weekend we purchased a dual hitch extender that we hope will solve the problem. We attached the rack to the upper hitch, and the bottom piece does not extend out as far as the bicycle rack. Although the bottom extender still scrapes the road a bit when as we ascend, the additional height of the second hitch allows bicycle rack to clear the driveway.
In addition to the bike rack challenge, we were growing weary of the iPad mount between our seats–it was always in the way of my feet and it was difficult for me to operate from my seat. I usually end up using my own iPhone anyway, so we decided to get a vent mount for my iPhone, which is easier for me to reach and is not in the way. We like to download shows from our DVR to our IOS devices (iPad, iPhone) to listen to while driving, so now it will be easier for me to fast forward through the commercials.
On Wednesday, September 14th we attended the Hershey RV Show. Last year we were unable to take our E-trek, since it was being serviced at the Roadtrek factory, so we were very excited to take it this time. We packed our lunch, filled up the fresh water tank, and dropped off the dogs at a nearby kennel for the day. There is on-site dog care at the show, but we were afraid to risk that the “barking lot” would be full, since you couldn’t make a reservation–it was on a first come, first service basis.
We were on the road by about 8:30 a.m.–Hershey is about two hours from our home. We stopped to fuel up and were making our way to the gates by 11:00 a.m. It was quite hot, so the first thing we did was try to locate the Roadtrek/Erwin Hymer display. Finding your way around the show is not easy–the tall Class A’s block your view and it is hard to find your perspective when you are surrounded by them. A number of people were looking just as perplexed, staring at their maps, but finally we found the Roadtrek fleet.
Once again, we confirmed that we chose the right floor plan (e.g., RS Adventurous), and there seemed to be little difference with the newer model, other than the Ecotrek (lithium) battery system. We are happy with our AGM batteries–they are performing great since we had the battery balancer installed and we have no trouble keeping them charged up, even when running the AC at full blast, as we confirmed over the summer.
We were just about to leave the area when we spotted a familiar couple: Mike and Jennifer Wendland were just arriving in preparation for Mike’s live Roadtreking podcast. Karl snapped a picture of Jennifer and me, and Jennifer was kind enough to corral Mike so someone could take a picture of the four of us. A crowd was forming, so we were glad we had a chance to introduce ourselves and tell them we are fans of the Roadtreking Podcast and Blog.
We were making our way towards the Giant Center to get out of the heat when we spotted some other Class Bs. The manufacturer was Chinook and they were introducing their stunning Countryside model. Also built on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, the Countryside has an impressive array of features, including massage chairs, built-in iPad Mini to control various electronics, two televisions, and a high-end camera security system. As you can imagine, it has a high-end price tag. Chinook does not produce an all-electric model; however, they did offer the upgraded suspension and they were suitable for year-round use. Although rich in features, we still feel we have the best of all worlds with our E-trek, so we won’t be upgrading any time soon.
We had spent about an hour at the Chinook display and at 1:00 p.m. it was the hottest part of the day, so we decided to make our way back to our E-trek. We couldn’t stay for the live Roadtreking Podcast, because we had to pick up the dogs by 4:00 p.m. We turned on the AC, ate lunch comfortably, and by 1:30 p.m. we were on the road. After a full day of play time, followed by bath-time, the dogs were exhausted–and so were we!