Wednesday, April 24 Through Wednesday May 1, 2019
Under the original plan (see blog post Blanco State Park), we would have been at South Llano River State Park outside Junction Texas this week. Because of Picasso’s congestive heart failure flareup, we changed plans. We spent the week at the San Antonio KOA to stay close to the veterinarian, also in San Antonio.
Wednesday’s morning storms made the normally straightforward drive from Blanco State Park into San Antonio a two hour white knuckle driving adventure. Dense traffic coupled with strong cross winds made staying in lane an exhausting chore for all drivers. Some drivers succeeded at staying in their lane more than others. At times, spray from intermittent heavy squalls hampered visibility. Fortunately, no hydroplaning accidents along the route.
Linda and I continued talking about what we would need to do with our Lance 850 to make extended travel more comfortable. That is, what can be done to avoid buying a $60,000 plus Lance 1172 replacement/upgrade. Important features the Lance 1172 Truck Camper could have that our 850 didn’t come with:
- Safe Entry Steps
- Microwave/Convection Oven With Gas Cook Top (replaces gas range)
- Square Deep Sink
- Backup Camera
- Recliner Couch
- More Kitchen Counter Space
- TV Visible From Dinette
- Full Size Dinette
- Dry Bath With More Toilet Use Room
- Rooftop Satellite TV
We believe the first five (bold) items represent the minimum changes needed to enable extended travel in our 850 camper. The bold items represent the minimum viable non-replacement solution.
We already got safe entry steps installed (see blog post San Antonio). Using the new steps for a month has shown the positive impact relatively simple changes can make. Camper happiness has dramatically improved as a result of the steps. We should have done the steps when we bought the camper. Duh!
We ordered our Lance 850 without a microwave oven so that we would have a cabinet above the range hood. With the added shelving, the cabinet space holds pots, pans and other kitchen items needed for food preparation. However, we didn’t realize how dependent we are on microwave cooking for healthy food preparation. An example, we can easily steam fresh vegetables in a microwave without adding fat. Depending on the packaging, some vegetables can be steamed in the package straight from the grocery store. Less cleanup.
Princess Craft had a complete list of options for the Lance 1172. The list showed a convection/microwave oven as a replacement for the microwave and the gas oven. More research.
In 2013, Truck Camper Magazine reviewed the Lance 1172. The gas range consisting of a gas cook top and oven is replaced by a gas cook top and a separate microwave/convection oven. Above the vent hood, where microwave ovens are normally installed, is a cabinet. This is exactly what we needed. A convection oven to bake and a microwave to nuke. All that in one device in the space a gas oven occupies. We put this on the list of items to ask Princess Craft about.
The Lance 1172 (see above picture) has a single rectangular sink that is also deep. The 850 has a double sink. Overall sink size isn’t the issue. Single sinks just work better than double sinks for the same amount of counter space. It is better to have a single sink that a pan barely fits in instead of two sinks that are simply too small. Another thing to ask Princess Craft about.
Generators are a pain. Portability, electric output, gasoline, weight and noise. A heavy 4,000 watt generator is needed to provide 30 Amp service. Portability requires the generator to be light enough to lift into a vehicle. Electric output and weight are trade offs. More power means more weight. How much power can 50 pounds of generator provide? Carrying gasoline tanks to fill generators on the inside of a vehicle doesn’t seem safe. The quietest portable generators in campgrounds are generally made by Honda.
We think the Honda EU2200i Companion is the best bet for us. Under 50 pounds makes it possible to load into truck or Jeep. Generates 2,200 watts of power, enough to power microwave/convection oven. Is relatively fuel efficient. Will run the heater all night on one tank of gas when needed. Super quiet. Can be wired up with another EU2200i to generate 4,400 watts of power. Will start with one of these. If more power is needed, wiring in another one provides a good solution.
The Lance 1172 has an optional propane powered generator. Powering generators with propane removes the need to carry gas cans. However, portable generators run on gasoline. An outside mounted gas can will need to be added to the Jeep, truck or camper.
Princess Craft offers a number of backup camera solutions with installation. The work just needs to be scheduled. We decided to drive up to Round Rock on Friday to visit with Princess Craft and talk about how they could help us work through our list of Lance 850 camper improvements.
Thursday’s weather turned nice. Warm and dry. It was a short drive from the KOA to Texas Hitch & Truck Center on the I-35 outer road. The Jeep needed a beefy roof rack to carry 300 pounds of cargo and a carrier to hold a gas can for the future portable gas generator. After some discussion Mark Ramos, General Manager, and I settled on a decent solution. We paid for half of the materials and scheduled installation for the following Tuesday.
Friday, in Round Rock, after some discussion, Princess Craft understood the needed changes. It turns out that converting the existing gas oven and stove top into a convection/microwave oven plus gas stove top was doable. Switching out the double sink into a single sink was also doable. From start to finish, the work would likely take three weeks for these two items. The work will be scheduled in the fall after the Alaska trip.
After meeting with Princess Craft, we had lunch at BJ’s in Round Rock. All we could talk about was how happy we were that we could make these changes to our camper. We are hopeful that these changes will further improve our sense of well being and enjoyment of our camper.
At REI on Saturday, we bought new hiking shoes to replace the ones we bought at the end of December. Both of us had literally worn the tread off the bottoms of the old shoes within four months of use. Before retirement, it used to take a year to wear the tread down on shoes.
Tuesday morning, the Jeep was dropped off at Texas Hitch & Truck Center to get a roof rack and outside gas can mount installed. Picasso went to the veterinarian for a follow up. Picasso’s blood test was good meaning he can tolerate the additional drug needed for his heart condition.
The veterinarian was very clear. “Picasso is an old dog. His heart can no longer support hikes longer than half a mile. Keep him quiet.” The other unwelcome news was the new drug, Lasix (Furosemide), the last in a series of available treatments for congestive heart failure in dogs, signals the final phase of Picasso’s life. He only goes downhill from here. Picasso isn’t the sort of dog that wants to sit at home and do nothing all day long. He wants to Go-See-Do. I am sad. At seven, Picasso is still young. His positive doggy attitude is still strong despite having been homeless (he is a rescue animal), mauled by a wild animal, afflicted with cancer and suffering from congestive heart failure. I’m hopeful he has the heart to last another few years.
The work at Texas Hitch & Truck Center finished early in the afternoon. The roof rack structure, made by SmittyBilt, is supporting a cargo basket made by Yakima. Next week, the Garvin 2-3 Gallon Rotopax Can Mount will be ready for installation. This mount should be capable of supporting a Rotopax 3 gallon gas tank.
Wednesday morning, we broke camp and headed northwest to Johnson Creek RV Park in Ingram Texas for the Princess Craft RV sponsored Texas Truck Camper Rally.