WOW - thanks for the great advice! I love the idea of different options. I'm picking up a new road atlas for Christmas and the boys are going to be navigators. We will have PS3 time onboard, but we will also have reading & daydreaming time & iPod time to break it up. I've also let them know that as first mates they'll need to help with cooking while I'm driving.
I love the idea of a vacation where we're all involved, and where we can see so many loved ones who are sadly getting older and not going to be around forever.
What is the app/site you used?
The tool I use for this is Microsoft Streets and Trips, which has been discontinued. The version I'm using is old, maybe 2005 or 2007. I bought newer versions but found the product less usable for me as it "improved."
An alternative is DeLorme Street Atlas. What I have is DeLorme Topo, for which Street Atlas provides the planning and routing functions, but I have not yet figured out how to make it work for me as smoothly as the old version of Streets and Trips.
I suspect there may be more than one online product that works as well, which would be the reason Microsoft left the consumer mapping market. I've used Mapquest and Google Maps for quick planning, know that GoodSam has an online product as well with a RV focus (e.g. camping places in the point-of-interest data). I've not checked any of these for the key features I used in Streets and Trips, that is the ability to put a "length of stop" for every stop, and quickly recalculate every thing forward after a change. I traveled with S&T on a laptop, so when a day's activities changed my overnight stop, I could re-plan the remainder of the trip in a few minutes. I would need a good Internet connection, together with a good online tool, to do this online.
Looking at other responses has me thinking about the RV. For a rental, you would probably find something on the order of 22-24 feet long adequate for the trip, if the boys would sleep together in the overhead bed. I don't know how that works today, when every child might expect a private room. I know it worked OK for travel 50-60 years ago, even though we were accustomed to having our own beds (but not own rooms) at home. Our family still makes these privacy compromises to make cruises and road trips more affordable, or to pack a large extended family into one house for a holiday gathering or a reunion.
However, if you are thinking of buying and selling to possibly save the rental fees, then make sure that what you choose could be suitable for long term use, because you just might decide that you want to keep it.
Budget $3000 to $3500 for gasoline, maybe more if prices go back up to $3 or more by the time of your trip.
One of the few things I found encouraging from my tour of Winnebago was that inspection for QC was independent of manufacturing. While a lot of the assembly work was rushed (it is essentially a moving assembly line operation) and had potential to get sloppy, the people doing the work were not the people who signed off on each operation being completed OK.
At some of the other plants I've visited, with more of a craftsman or staged assembly team operation, the craftsman or team leader signed off on the work stage being completed. While this lets management know who is responsible when something goes wrong, it is not the same as a third party inspection.
This difference in mass production and QC procedures helped me decide what brand to buy, when I finally decided that my budget allowed only for mass production, rather than custom-built luxury work. Without an independent QC inspection operation, it is too easy for something to get signed off as OK when it has in fact been overlooked or forgotten.
That's about two weeks worth of driving for a 5-6 week trip, which is pretty reasonable if you don't have plans for long stays at your stops, and allows for interesting stops you haven't planned.
I ran my planner with your "necessary" stops in order using an old Streets and Trips set for optimal travel time (favors Interstate highways even if they add distance) and came up with 6700 miles, 13 days + 6 hours moving. I routed through Billings to come into Yellowstone from the north. S&T took my through Las Vegas on the way from Zion to Grand Canyon (I didn't do that) and that is probably a good idea, since you've driven that far you should maybe see Las Vegas at least once in your life, plan at least one night there.
S&T wanted to take me back east through Tulsa and St Louis (the Old 66 Route) then across I-70 through Indianapolis. I tossed in Nashville to keep the return further south (and you should really let the kids see Nashville) so my routing went I-81 up through Virginia rather than across Indiana, Ohio and southern Pennsylvania and back down to Annapolis. This added only 60 miles or two hours to the whole trip.
There is a lot of stuff to see on the way, or coming back, that can involve 1-2 hours per stop, 1-2 stops per day, that could fit into your schedule if you aren't expecting to have several days at each of your major stops (e.g. for our family in 1961 Mt Rushmore was a two hour stop and Yellowstone a one day drive through, and in the 80's the Grand Canyon was a day trip from Phoenix). It is all a matter of how you approach the trip, because some people like 2-3 weeks at just Yellowstone, so from the East Coast it would be just Yellowstone plus the driving time. Your trip idea sounds more like the way my family did trips when I was a 7-16 years old, and I did the same with mine in that age range.
I suggest you work out some alternative loops to do this (particularly the coming back part you haven't planned with as much stop detail). Go over those alternatives with the boys, see if there are places to go through where there is something they want to see. When my the oldest of my younger brothers and I were in the 10-12 age range, we did most of the trip planning for our 2-3 week family road trips, then I navigated for my dad and mom driving. Your boys are old enough to be involved, and this can make them more enthusiastic about the trip, more tolerant of the driving time.
You would likely be surprised for cross country loops like this, just how little the size of the loop matters on time and distance. Taking your return trip through New Orleans, for example (and that comes back through Nashville) adds only 300 miles distance, 1/2 day driving time, compared to the shortest/fastest route.
Add San Antonio as a stop, along with Houston and New Orleans, and the trip becomes only 500 miles, and just one full driving day, longer than the shortest route (that went through Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania). But this adds Phoenix, Tuscon, Tombstone (as a side trip), El Paso as additional potential places of interest.
This more southern route can come back through the Smoky Mountains without back tracking, while any west to east Interstate north of I-20 hits the Appalachians well north of the park. Putting Gatlinburg on the Phoenix-San Antonio-Houston-New Orleans return makes the trip 15 driving days (instead of 14 1/2) and 7300 miles, goes through Birmingham and Huntsville (Space Center) instead of Nashville to Knoxville.
Going through the national park from Tennessee to North Carolina, then across North Carolina to go up I-85/95 through Virgina makes it 7400 miles, 15 1/2 driving days.
Then the question will be, including Houston and New Orleans stops, and all the interesting places along the way, will your three weeks (five weeks less the driving days) be enough for all the stops you want to make. The reason I've always liked the early version of Streets and Trips for planning is that I could put in durations for all the stops I wanted to make, for a really good estimate of total trip time, and for getting my overnight stops well located for what I wanted to see (e.g. the night before a tour/visit day, near the location, or at the end of a tour day, at the location or not far beyond).
The problem is most likely between the last outlet that works, and the one that doesn't. It can be a cable damaged between the two, or a lost connection coming out of the upstream outlet.
A lot depends on how the work was done. If the outlets were chained going through each outlet, that is a possible source of lost connection. If everything gets tied together in each box, and a pigtail run to each outlet, a lost connection is less likely (and in some places, that is what the code inspector wants to see). If the work was done in the era of aluminum wiring, you could have lost the connection due to corrosion.
FWIW, I have one circuit in an old house, two wires pulled through metallic conduit, the conduit used for ground. Everything is tied in the boxes and pigtailed to the outlets. It is 1930's construction, so I'm not dealing with aluminum. Conduit is anchored to concrete block walls, as are the boxes. The circuit gradually got shorter over the years and eventually shorted before the nearest box to the fuse box (it is that old). What has failed where, what wire has shorted to the conduit where, no way am I going to find out without ripping out all the wiring and starting over, and that probably means opening walls to re-wire to 80-years newer code.
If you don't understand the all the possible points of failure, it is probably better to hire a licensed electrician rather than trying to figure it out for yourself.
There are no standards for this, it is a marketing term that each manufacturer interprets as needed to sell into a particular market.
If you have need for four-seasons use, then you need to know just what conditions that term means for you, and look for the specific construction methods and features that support your use.
What I would look for would be adequate insulation and cooling capacity for hot desert and subtropical humid summer conditions, and for sub-zero winter conditions with all plumbing and water storage in an enclosed, insulated, heated space. Stretching fabric across a space to enclose it, without heating, doesn't work for me, but started to be the standard for "fully enclosed basement" around 2004. Heated waste tanks don't make it, I have those and understand their limits.
On the other hand, I have not much interest in a RV designed for weather extremes at both ends of the climate spectrum, because I'm going to be moving around to climates that are comfortable to me when I go outside. More often I'll be trying to deal with too much heat, rather than too little.
RUV is just a small class A. Not that long ago (at least relative to my life span) most of the gas engine class A's sold were smaller than what Thor is selling as RUV.
It is a marketing tactic to feel out whether there is now a market for RVs as small as they used to be.
To the question about area. Assuming current generation of E-Series cutaway, the cab length is 7 2/3 feet. So 8 feet wide x 31 - 7 2/3 long = 186 sq ft floor maximum floor space.
But you have cabinets, bathroom, shower, space under beds taking away from that. The kitchen may not be carpeted. In my 29 2/3 foot C (22 feet of house) only slightly more than half of the 176 sq ft is carpeted, and that would include the carpet installed under the sofa and dinette. So 100 sq ft probably.
Prices are a different issue. The last time I bought carpet (about 10 years ago) I paid about $4 per sq ft. You can get something sold as carpet for as little as $0.50, it can go up to $8 or higher, but $2.50 is an average for what people have lately been paying for recarpeting at home.
Installation for a home can run about $0.25 to $0.50 per square foot. But that usually involves areas on the order of 800 to 2000 sq ft, with some fairly large rooms and relatively less work around the edges. There can be a lot more labor in installing 100 sq ft in a RV than there is in 100 sq ft in a small room in a house, when you consider how much edge has to be worked around installed fixtures, or that those fixtures need to be removed and replaced to remove old and install new flooring.
If someone is quoting $250-300, get that as a firm price, before the guy figures out just how much work is involved to install in a motorhome.
Those ratings don't have much to do with "legal" unless the place where you are licensing the vehicles collects taxes on the basis of weight, in which case you might get a license violation for carrying more than you paid to carry.
Triker33 said "if it has registration plates on it." That varies also, since Oklahoma does not require registration of trailers for private use. I suspect New York, however, wants you to register it and pay an annual fee or tax. In that case, if the tax is based on registered weight, then it is not legal in New York to exceed that weight.
So is my tow limit 15,900 where I circled in this guide?
That's a theoretical maximum, for an empty truck with no optional equipment except what was necessary to get that rating (e.g. Camper Package).
Maximum tow capacity is usually a sales number, and for most tow vehicles this number is high because they are not used in the way the number configured. The whole issue is a lot more complex than a number in a sales brochure, thus most of us get confused.
What you need to know for your tow vehicle are:
First is GCWR, Gross Combined Weight Rating. This needs to cover the weight of your vehicle as it is loaded, plus weight of the trailer as it is loaded. For the truck you are looking at, the number is 23,000 pounds. If the truck was empty, that means a trailer somewhere between 15,500 and 16,500 pounds, depending on the options that determine the weight of an empty truck. But you wont be towing with an empty truck, so the real capacity is going to be something less than what is listed.
Second is GVWR, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the maximum for the truck and what it is carrying. That includes the weight on the hitch of the trailer. This is hard to get from a chart, because there are GVWR options, for a F-350 SRW the rating can range from 10,200 to 11,500 pounds with the 6.0 diesel installed. Actual numbers depend on options like wheels chosen and having the camper package. The actual numbers for each truck manufactured are posted in the doorjamb.
Something from 6500 to 7500 pounds will be empty truck, depending on cab size, bed length and optional accessories. A 2700 pound pin weight could leave you as much as 1400 pounds for people and other stuff, but with other options, you could be overloaded as soon as you hook up.
But there is another side of it. If your load, including that 2700 pin weight, takes that 7000 pound truck up to 10,000 pounds, just short of GVWR, then the towing capacity is now 23,000-10,000 or 13,000 pounds.
Third is RAWR, Rear Axle Weight Rating. Most of the pin weight is going onto this axle, while GVWR and advertised carrying capacities assume some distribution of loads to both front and rear axles. You need to know what is the load on that axle before you hook up, and put the additional 2700 pounds on it.
I think for a F-350 6.0 diesel SRW of that vintage, 15,000 pounds is going to be marginal, and having it loaded to 17,000 is going to be a problem. For that much trailer I would be looking for a dual rear wheel F-350 with the right options for a 26,000 pound GCWR (Tow Boss and Camper Packages, 4.30 axle), and that one could still be marginal for a 17,000 pound tow if your are not conservative about loading up the truck.
Ignore the "others" who say don't use the toilet. The reason I choose to travel in my RV for some trips is that the toilet is always there to use while traveling, I don't need to find one, just need to find a place to pull off the road for a few minutes.
If the person saying don't use is the person you are traveling with, you may have some issues to sort out.
If you can't resolve the don't use argument, you could buy a portable camping toilet, about $70-100 for a decent flushable model.
I've found more than 50, ranging from documentaries to zombie apocalypse; the RV vs zombie thing seems to be really popular with 21st century Hollywood. Most of them I've watched:
What's Buzzin Cousin (1943)
From Dusk 'til Dawn (1996)
About Schmidt (2002)
The Long, Long Trailer (1953)
My Girl (1991)
Love and Pain ... (1973)
Into the Wild (2007)
We're the Millers (2013)
Lost in America (1985)
What Alice Found (2003)
The Last Man (2000)
The Van (1977)
American Nomads (2011)
Beethoven's 3rd (2000)
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Borat: Cultural Learnings ... (2006)
Campfire Tales (1997)
Child of Grace (2014)
Crows Nest (2012)
Darius Goes West (2007)
Dead and Breakfast (2004)
Dear Mr President (2006)
The Devil's Ground (2009)
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
A Finished Life (2008)
Grandma's Blessings (2013)
Hollywood to Dollywood (2011)
The Houses October Built (2014)
How's Your News (1999)
The Incredibles (2004)
Independence Day (1996)
Jack Be Nimble (2008)
Judgement Night (1993)
Lake Dead (2007)
Meet the Fockers (2004)
Meet the Parents (2000)
Our Time (2009)
Race with the Devil (1975)
The Wild Thornberrys (TV series)
Winnebago Man (2009)
World War Z (2013)
Diary of the Dead (2007)
A Good Funeral (2009)
As I find more, I keep up a list on IMDB. This discussion added thirteen titles I had missed, or had not thought of as RV movies.
If one uses the RV.net portal, there is a "hide" button to the right of each thread. I find that adequate.
Ten years here, I've never seen anyone ask for someone else's thread to be closed down, but I know people have asked a moderator to close, or even delete, their own. Moderators will, on their own, close threads that violate forum rules, or draw too many responses that have to be edited or deleted for rules violations, particularly civility violations.
When a thread is closed, you can still read it, just cannot respond. When deleted, it is gone.
Things like this are more regularly discussed in the Forum Support forum.
Depends on what you mean by "great pictures," "decent" and "relative cheap" because you are buying a camera as well as an aircraft. The camera itself could be anything from a $40 webcam to $4000 production video camera, and that price might be before buying lenses.
Starting out, probably the best approach is a complete package: aircraft, camera, radio control system.
The BeBop at $500 is a good start for "let's go up and see what's out there." It holds cost down by skipping conventional radio control. It uses the smartphone you are presumed to already have as the controller, setting up peer to peer WiFi as a limited operating range 2-way radio. The camera this is not pointable (you point the aircraft) and has a 180-degree fisheye view. That may or may not mean "great pictures" for you.
$1300 Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon puts a decent 4K video camera on gimbals into a quad-copter chassis with a fairly high performance radio control system (for greater operating range). Q500+ Typhoon at $1050 has a HD video camera, fixed focus with 110 degree field of view. The camera is gimbal mounted pointability and some stability, but it is not like having a gyroscope. There are also Typhoon models to carry a GoPro, if you already have that ($250-400) action camera.
Next step up, minimum pro expectations on video quality, will be about $4500-8000. Yuneec's Tornado line is an example, aircraft with about 2000 meter operating range carrying a HD video cam with a focusing zoom lens. Still not gyro stabilized, that's in the 5-6 figure price range. At this level, the camera probably represents 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of a system, the bare aircraft with the capability to lift a lightweight semi-pro camera and gimbal costing around $2500, $3500 with a controller. Then it is a matter of do you install $500 worth of camera and mount, or $4000 camera, or whatever in between.
Many others out there, these have become respected in the photographic community.
FWIW, once you get up past the "carry my GoPro" class, the most frequently carried camera is Panasonic's Lumix GH4, for 4K video quality, weather resistance, and remote-controllability. A GH4 body costs about $1300, lenses start at about $180 and go up into the $1000 range, which isn't bad considering Nikon and Canon lenses can run as high as 10X that. Yuneec sells a gimbal specifically for this camera.
Some days I have to reboot my cable modem several times a day, as I am on a part of the cable company's network that supports the high school, and they reconfigure things bringing up additional equipment for that load in the morning, then shutting down as the load gets lighter. I suspect that the modem is still looking for a router no longer there, or has cached a routing table no longer valid.
Often a problem like this is in what the router has cached, or your PC has cached, but rebooting the router usually doesn't fix things for me, rebooting the modem does. Even so, it may be a few minutes to a hour before things get back in order.
Which default Windows program?
I haven't authored any DVD-Video since moving from XP to Windows 7, but on XP there was no software that came with Windows to do that job. MovieMaker would not even encode any of the formats needed for DVD-Video. Everything came out in Microsoft-proprietary video formats, rather than the video industry standards Microsoft would have had to license.
I used Pinnacle Studio for those recoding and DVD-Video authoring tasks, but there are several other packages for that.
Older DVD players had software to play only DVD-Video or some maybe also VCD, which preceded DVD-Video globally. This is not just a matter of audio and video encoding (done separately for DVD-Video) but also packaging.
Some newer DVD players, but more likely BluRay players, have software to look at data files on USB drives, DVD-ROMs or rewritable DVD data storage media, work through file systems, and find image, music, and/or video files in other formats, but even these might not know every format you might write. My BluRay, for example, can't play the videos I make for iOS devices.
If your player is capable of reading DVD-ROM, you'll have to make sure these are "finalized" (putting directory information in a specific place). The DVD writing software coming with most PCs usually leaves the media open on write, so that you can fill it up with with data before finalizing it. Some software tries to open every writable disc for write, which can destroy an unfinalized disk written on another machine, as the directory information is still sequestered on the machine that started writing the disk.
Lots of potential pitfalls, maybe because they are trying to make DVD and CD writing easier for people who don't know the disk technology.
Even the terminology is confusing. DVD means Digital Versatile Disk, meaning it is capable of different uses. DVD-ROM is a disk structured for data storage and delivery. DVD-Video is a disk structured for rights-controlled play in a DVD player. It is a matter of contract that computers do not ship with the capability to build DVD-Video unless somebody pays an license fee for that capability. Microsoft in the past has chosen not to do so, thus you buy a 3rd party package with that capability, the price including the license fee.
If your phone shows 4G, that is the connection technology being used at that moment.
If it shows 3G later, that is the connection technology being used. It may be the same tower, or it may be a different tower. It may even be a different provider, a roaming partner if your service permits data roaming. It is the connection your phone found. It might be a connection from a more distant tower that stayed connected as you moved, so you could maybe get a faster one by re-booting, or disconnecting and reconnecting data, if your phone allows that.
If your voice technology is GSM, the phone might also show E, for Edge, which is about 2.5G (actually 3G by global standards, except that someone made 3G a trademark in the U.S. for a specific data technology).
Some phones show the provider as well. Mine does.
Sometimes they lie about the provider part, i.e. if the connection is with an AT&T U.S. roaming partner my phone still says ATT rather than identifying the local provider. But when I am somewhere I must pay for roaming, the phone shows the actual carrier: e.g. Orange, O2, T-Mobile, Vodafone, and Telekom have all popped up on my phone the past couple of years.
Mine has storage under the bed. The folding chair for the bedroom desk/vanity goes there. That would be Winnebago/Itasca Minnie/Spirit/Outlook/Impulse 329B floorplan, I don't think it is still made, but it was around for at least five years even while the names of the model lines changed.
If the bed lifts up for storage, it will not be an option. It will be a feature of that particular model. There are models with under bed storage, under-sofa storage, under-dinette storage, and even some with outside access to under-bed storage.
Keep looking, you'll find it, it will then be a question whether you like the other features of the floorplan.
I ran through the calculations when van shopping. Built a spreadsheet to work out all the loading options.
Minivan with a 3500 pound "maximum tow rating," two people and their camping stuff, 3000 pound TT is just fine, plenty of the van's GVWR left to handle 300-400 pounds of tongue weight.
Figure for two of us, two adult children, three grandchildren, and about 50 pounds of "stuff" each, we've used up 1300-1450 pounds of the load capacity, and cut the usable tow rating down to 2000 pounds. We need 300 pounds for tongue weight, some minivans can do it, some are already over limits, and then there is the 50-60 sq ft frontal area restriction at full weight, so likely family trailer is one of the more simple pop-ups or tent trailers.
This is what pushed me toward a full-size van, with 13,000 GCWR, 8600 to 9600 GVWR, for "maximum tow rating" in the 6700-7000 pound range. This still doesn't mean that I can fill the van to max load and tow 6700-7000 pounds, thats just what it can tow if empty. GCWR gets used up by what I carry and what I pull; both loads fit into that 13000. Load the lighter van with 2400 pounds of people and stuff, I can tow 4400. Fully load the heavier van (about 3200 pounds) and my tow is down to 3400 pounds. There are an infinite number of load-tow combinations in between.
I could step up to a full size van with 18,000 to 18,500 GCWR, still 8600-9600 GVWR, and it will have a 10,000 pound maximum towing capacity, usually hitch-limited, because these run about 6200-6500 pounds empty. But I still can't load the van to max, because with the van at 9600 pounds there is only 8900 pounds left out of 18,500, or 8400 out of 18,000.
Even some of the heaviest-duty light trucks face similar limitations, because the are designed to carry a lot as well as tow a lot, but not both at the same time. That would be medium-duty truck territory.
For your family, I would recommend a Chevy Express 3500 van (12-seat version should be big enough, but you could get a 15-seater and take out the back seat). Make sure it has the 6.0 Vortec, and you'll be able to carry your family, pretty much everything they think they need with them, and still pull a 8000 pound travel trailer, which is about what you need to have enough living space.
Unless a tent trailer/popup works for you.
Mine are designed to be used when in. The floor of each slideout is supported by rollers. They do compress the carpet, however.
Other slideout designs may not be designed to crry loads with the slideouts closed. Manufacturers of towable RVs tend to assume that they will not be occupied when moving. If this is a requiremnt for you, then you need to check it out for each unit you consider buying, and make the lack of slideout usability a "no sale" point.
You could also look at TTs without slideouts. They might be just as usable, and for something as big as a dinette+sofa slide, not having the slide might make the trailer 500-800 pounds lighter. Or maybe less, if the TT manufacturer is using flimsy mechanisms that can't support weight when in.