By Janet Groene, F47166
Even the most avid motorhomers sometimes feel squeezed for space. Here are ways to make your coach hold more, let in more ambient light, and seem more expansive.
Add a second shower curtain rod parallel to the existing rod. The first holds the shower curtain. The second serves as a drying rack for bath towels. For those who have a standard 5-foot opening, a double rod is available from www.improvementscatalog.com; (800) 642-2112. The company also sells a curved shower curtain rod that gives you an extra 10 inches of elbowroom when you’re showering in the tub.
Lighten up on window treatments. You need privacy. However, dark, heavy, window coverings can add to a stuffy, closed-in feeling. So, too, do heavy bedspreads that look good in the showroom but take up bushels of space when removed at bedtime.
Frame it. Buy extra-deep, 14-inch-by-17-inch picture frames, also called display frames. Discard the glass. On each frame, mount two dowels horizontally, one near the bottom and one at the center. Screw the frame(s) to the wall, and you have created instant magazine racks. Magazines slip into the frame and the dowels hold them there. Depending on the frame’s depth, each one can hold three or four magazines. Put one bedside, one next to the commode, and another handy to the cockpit.
Extra hanging room can be created with hinge-mounted towel racks sold in home-improvement stores. These racks fold flat against the door. Suction-cup towel racks allow you to install, move, and remove racks as needed. If you’re ordering a new coach, consider ordering the towel racks and other bathroom fixtures “on the side,” and then install them where you want them. For example, the toilet paper holder might fit inside a bathroom cupboard door, leaving wall space clear.
Have you ever considered putting in a laundry or trash chute that empties into one of the motorhome’s basement storage compartments? If possible, such a design scheme is best worked out as your new coach is being manufactured. However, if you have advanced do-it-yourself skills, check to see whether there is clearance in your current coach for such a chute. Room sometimes exists in the corner of a galley counter or behind the bathroom drawers. Create the chute and access door, place a laundry basket or trash container in the basement, and voila!
Steel yourself. Walk around the coach interior with a small magnet to look for steel surfaces such as a refrigerator door, the washer-dryer, a file cabinet, the stove hood, or an entry door. Then shop for magnetic storage units. In addition to the familiar magnets many of us use to hold notes and family photos, options include magnetic curtain rods, single and double hooks, clips, and towel racks. In an office supply department I found a clear, plastic, compartmentalized, 9-inch-by-12-inch holder with a magnet strong enough to keep it in place when it’s filled with typing paper, pens, and a package of sticky notes. Keep strong magnets away from computers, software, and medical pacemakers.
Add a window. If your coach has a toilet enclosure that’s so small you hate to close the door when inside, consider having a carpenter replace part of the door with a frosted window. Many pretty designs are available in frosted glass, and the window can be cut to whatever size you need to let light in without sacrificing privacy. You might, for example, have a pair of 4-inch-by-12-inch frosted panels placed high and low in the door.
Raise the bed. With new high-tech mattresses you can have twice the comfort in half the thickness. Could you gain an extra set of drawers by raising the mattress 6 to 12 inches?
New flat-screen TVs are only a few inches thick and hang on the wall like artwork.
Add cupboard space by removing fixed dividers and partitions that were put in solely to separate large storage spaces into many small spaces. Instead, divide large storage places your own way by stowing supplies in plastic baskets, dishpans, or milk crates in the sizes best for the job.
Use vacuum-sealed storage bags that can be suctioned flat and stowed in the basement. After washing and thoroughly drying extra bedding and off-season clothing, put it in bags and evacuate the air. These items will stay clean and dry until the vacuum seal is broken. Two types of vacuum bags are available. Those sold for suitcase use are hand-rolled to force out air, which returns within a day or two. Bags that are evacuated using a vacuum cleaner take more time to draw down, but they’ll retain their flat shape longer.
Fool the eyes with a trompe l’oeil wall treatment that can be installed as easily as wallpaper. Find them in all designs and sizes in wallpaper departments. Shop, too, for lightweight mirrors and other reflective surfaces.
Add curtains to the inside of the windshield and side windows in the cab, eliminating the need for the privacy panel that many type C motorhomes have between the cab and living quarters. The cab then becomes part of your living area without the loss of privacy.
Add a room by purchasing an enclosure that attaches to the patio awning.
Pop-up tents, cabanas, and other inexpensive, stowable shelters can be found in camping supply stores and on Web sites. Supported by a light spring frame, they pop up to full size with a flick of the wrist, stow just as easily, and weigh very little. When set up in your campsite, an extra shelter allows you to off-load bulky items temporarily, among other uses. One source for these types of pop-ups is Shade USA, www.shadeusa.com, (480) 600-3126. Larger and more substantial sunshades are available from Van Raalte & Company, www.ezup4u.com, (800) 286-0030; or www.bettershelters.com, (800) 987-4337.
Collapsible storage containers for indoor use store flat under a seat cushion but pop open to hold large piles of laundry, toys, and other oddments you need to corral temporarily. Find a good selection at www.thestoragestore.com, (800) 600-9817.
Slideouts add living space but may subtract storage space. Some full-timers don’t like the trade-off. I heard from a well-traveled full-timing couple that they regret getting a slideout that eliminated the under-bed storage they had enjoyed in their previous coach. They also noted that as a result of poor insulation in the slideout, their bedroom is exposed to temperature extremes and unnecessary noise. “We also learned there is a difference between double-pane windows and dual-pane,” wrote these sadder, but-wiser, FMCA members.
This column previously warned full-timers to check their insurance policies, because some underwriters are denying liability coverage to owners of certain breeds of dogs. Now the province of Ontario has banned pit bulls entirely, the first Canadian province to do so. People who already own pit bulls there are permitted to keep them provided they are spayed/neutered, leashed, and muzzled in public. Violators face up to six months in jail. In the United States, pit bulls have been banned in some communities, including Miami, Cincinnati, and Denver. Laws are rapidly being passed and rescinded, so check ahead.
Child restraint laws
If you ever travel with children in your coach or towed vehicle, be aware that child restraint laws vary according to the state or province and may be strictly enforced. In Ontario, booster seats are required for children up to age 8 or until they reach a height of 4 feet 9 inches or a weight of 80 pounds. The fine is $110 for failure to comply. Know before you go.
The score on credit
At every turn we are being urged to check our credit reports as a security measure. It’s one way to see whether your identity has been stolen or whether any mistakes have occurred in your record (such as an incorrect Social Security number, address, or mother’s maiden name). However, there is another reason to know the score. The next time you want to finance a new coach or obtain a new credit card, your credit score may determine how much interest you pay. (One credit report per year is free. However, the cost for your credit score is $5 to $7.)
The formula is so complex you may not know why your score is low or how to improve it. The average score is about 720; the best, 850. Surprisingly, your score has little to do with your income. It’s determined by your credit history, and even that may be far different from what you think it is. For example, you may pay bills on time, but it lowers your score if you charge close to your limit every month. Maxing out a home equity loan or making minimum payments each month also can lower your score. If your line of credit is, say, $2,000, credit reporters are happier if you don’t charge more than 50 percent to 60 percent of that amount each month. If you’re paying higher interest rates than the next guy, it’s time to know your score.
Books for travelers
New in the Explorer’s Guide series from The Countryman Press is Montana & Wyoming ($19.95). A must for those who love Big Sky country, it is nearly 600 pages of invaluable travel background to refer to every mile of the way. One plus is that it does not emphasize lodgings that motorhome travelers do not need. Author Alli Rainey Wendling tells you where to eat, sightsee, shop, fish, tour historic sites, hike, climb, attend special events, and truly appreciate the wild beauty of these states. Ms. Wendling takes you to the most remote corners, but she also gives readers a whole new appreciation of the historic route that is now Interstate 80.
It’s easy to see why photographers love canyons and gorges. They are nature’s sculptures, constantly changing as the sun passes, highlighting new colors minute by minute. Master photographer John Annerino has authored a coffee table book, Canyon Country ($29.95, Countryman Press). This hardcover book with a handsome jacket is a lasting gift for any traveler who loves places such as Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon, and other beauty spots of the American West. While shooting breathtaking images, Mr. Annerino also noted the lore of each area, making this a book to read as well as a picture book to show your friends.