Reflections on Annabelle After Our Shakedown Trip

Five days isn’t enough to make definitive assessments about our truck camper replacement, but we definitely did learn and confirm some things. Some are obvious and inherent to the nature of the vehicle. Yes, Oma appreciates being able to use the bathroom without needing to find someplace to stop. And yes, you hear the motorhome and cargo creak and rattle as you drive down the road (especially if the road is bumpy). But I’ll focus on things that were more notable to us.

Noise

Besides the noises from inside the motorhome, wind noise is far louder than in the truck. On a positive note, the truck camper occasionally causes a very loud and annoying whistle on our truck. (It’s caused when there is a crosswind at just the right angle to resonate between the truck and camper.) It’s not a huge problem, as it usually doesn’t last too long nor happen that often, but it’s nice to not have that in the motorhome.

Driving

The motorhome gets pushed around a lot more than the truck does. I’m guessing the narrower stance and smaller tires are at least part of the reason. The motorhome is also a good 3,000 lbs. lighter than the truck+camper, which makes the motorhome a little easier to push around. On the positive side, the motorhome has a noticeably lower center of gravity and seems to handle better than the truck with the truck camper in turns and curves.

Animals

The cat really liked traveling in the motorhome and much prefers it to being stuck in the truck. If he had his way, we’d only travel in the motorhome. (To be honest, if he had his way, we would not travel at all, but that’s not an option for him.)

The dog prefers riding in the truck to riding in the motorhome (so far, at least), but is clearly more comfortable in the motorhome than the truck camper. We’re pretty sure that after he spends more time riding in the motorhome he’ll get more comfortable with it. It’s still new to him, and he has been perfectly happy in the truck. At 12 1/2, he doesn’t see any reason for a change now.

Storage

Although we didn’t try to load for a long trip, we were pleasantly surprised at how much empty space was still available after we packed for our shakedown trip. We had food and clothes for a week, along with most of the essentials required for any trip. I was especially happy to discover that we were (just) able to fit Oma’s zero-gravity chair into an external compartment — I had assumed we’d need to carry the chairs inside as we did in the truck camper.

On the other hand, this means we will have to watch our weight more than I had expected. Both nature and Oma seem to abhor a vacuum (or half-filled compartment), so with more useful storage than I realized, we’re also more likely to overload the motorhome.

Bedroom

We traded a bed located in the cabover of our truck camper for a bed tucked in a corner of our motorhome. The motorhome bed is better quality (in my opinion, at least), but was a bit firm as-is. We’ll try a foam topper (maybe the one in the truck camper) when we get home and see if that helps. It is possible to access about half of our compartment space over the bed (where we’ll store most of our clothes) by standing and reaching over the bed, but reaching the other half still does require kneeling on the bed. The bed itself is plenty long (even for me) but a bit narrower, which we noticed. Making the bed is perhaps a little easier, but you still need to crawl on the bed to finish the job. Overall, I think the motorhome’s corner bed is a small net improvement over the truck camper for us, but both have trade-offs.

Bathroom

I was pretty sure that the bathroom would feel much roomier than our truck camper. (It’s only a few inches larger, but a few inches can make a big difference.) Real-life use has borne that out, so I’m much happier in our new shower and toilet.

Squatting

The exterior compartments in the motorhome are all much lower than the truck camper (and fifth-wheel). Whether it’s hooking up electric and water, dumping, or just getting things in and out of the storage compartments, I need to either kneel on the ground or squat down (neither of which I’m graceful at these days). This is probably the most annoying thing I’ve discovered. I think a set of knee pads are going to come along with us in the future, as I’m not fond of kneeling on gravel, and Oma probably doesn’t want me getting my pants dirty every day if the ground is dusty or muddy.

Problems

At the risk of jinxing ourselves, the only quality problems that we found on our shakedown trip was one cabinet latch that’s not positioned quite right and therefore not latching securely, and one pull strap to raise the head of the bed is missing. (We did find a couple of issues in our walkthrough when we picked it up, but those were fixed before we left.) And the only thing I know of that we didn’t test was the city water connection.

One option that I’m not happy with is the Infotainment Center. (That handles the radio, satellite radio (if you pay for it), bluetooth connectivity, hardwire music, HDMI video and GPS.) It’s complicated, but so far I’m not clear that there is an easy way to shut the music off without also muting the GPS. The GPS portion locked up four times on us in three days of driving. And while I did get the GPS to talk to me a few times on our trip home from picking it up, we haven’t been able to get a peep out of the GPS since no matter what we’ve tried. I’ll see if there is a software update when we get home, and may try posting to a forum to see if other owners can help educate me, but so far this seems like a very expensive, poorly designed and unreliable waste of money.

So that’s our preliminary thoughts. After we get back home in spring, we’ll take at least one more short trip prior to leaving for Alaska to make sure we have packed most of what we need.

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