2014: A New RV!

Outfitting It



I'm reminded of that old saw about the dog chasing the car -- what's he gonna do when he catches it? Good question. We caught a BIG one. Yikes! NOW what?!?

Before we could even think about a trip, Mike had a number of outfitting and upgrading priorities, most of whose mysteries I preferred not to know. The big one, though, was all too familiar: the outdoor cat patio/potty.

RV Cat Privy, Version 1.0

In 2010, for our big trip to Zion and Bryce, Mike undertook the task of building a cage that could attach to the outside of our trailer, hold two litter boxes, and provide cat-access through an interior cat door and person-access from the outside for cleaning. He built the whole thing from scratch using window-screening for the cage and a plastic under-the-washing-machine liner for a floor. I was dubious, but our two cats adapted to it quite well, and our limited floor space was freed from an indoor litterbox for the five-week trip, and for the foreseeable future.

Of course, Version 2.0, like Behemoth itself, would be bigger and better for double the cat pleasure. In the old trailer, Mike had simply cut a cat-door hole into the side of a slide-out. But we were reluctant to violate the new, expensive toy in this way, not to mention the fact that we didn't know what kind of wiring or other hazard lurked within the walls. Instead, Mike wanted to use an already-existing side window as the cat hatch. This decision, plus the sheer height of Behemoth, would put the potty-O several feet higher in the air. So, naturally enough, the new version evolved into...a two-story condo!

This time Mike started with some ready-made folding pet cages. He engineered an L-bracket attachment method that required only a small drilled hole in the corner of the slide-out. The rest of the weight would be, as before, supported by a couple of pole jacks that could expand independently on uneven terrain. He cut custom-sized sections of window-screening to cover the tops and sides of the cages, to limit bug access and also provide some shade.

A custom-sized window insert from Tap Plastics, fitted with a standard cat-flap, would limit the cats' access to only the cage and not the entire outside world. The finishing touch was a custom-built shelf attached to the windowsill so the cats could jump up to it, complete with two support scratching-posts wrapped in sisal rope. Clever, clever Mikey. Happy, happy kitties.

..safe and pretty after. Rat's nest before...

While the outdoor catbox was something for the felines to get into, there were a few other cat-mods required to keep them OUT of things. The biggest problem was a tunnel underneath the bed just swarming with wires and a heater duct. It was tricky to block because the bed platform moves in and out with the slide-out. Mike came up with some nifty panels that attach to an unmoving base which surrounds the bed; the platform now slides easily in and out between the panels and the rat's nest is never exposed. Savvy, skillful Mikey. Safe and sound kitties.

There was more to do -- oh, so much more; but I won't bore you with the rest. Mike wrote a 35-page document on all his improvements to, and irritations with, Behemoth; so I'll just refer you to that. If you're a masochist.

A final problem with this new rig was getting a toad. No, not an amphibian. A car. A towed car. Toad. Get it?

For RV'ers, the most popular kind of toad is a car you can tow flat behind the coach, with all four wheels turning on the ground and no extra trailer or dolly required. Less hassle that way. So what's the big deal, you ask? Well, the big deal is the car's transmission. Any standard-shift car can be flat-towed with no modifications, but most automatics cannot. There are other choices, of course. You can tow any car on a full trailer, or if you have a front-wheel drive car it can be towed on a two-wheeled dolly with only the front wheels off the ground. But both solutions require lugging around another heavy piece of gear that must be stored somewhere, both at home and at RV parks.

We'd been chewing on this final problem since long before we bought the coach. We looked several times at a Honda CR/V, one of the few flat-towable automatics; but I didn't like the car. We also drove a Ford C-Max, a zippy little hybrid that seemed a better possibility. Finally we decided that perhaps we shouldn't dive right into committing to a new car just for towing until we took a break-in trip in the coach and knew for sure we were going to keep THAT. Since my Lexus sedan has front-wheel drive, Mike bought a two-wheel dolly to use for towing it on our first trip.

Of course, the dolly required its own modifications. I'm not even going THERE.