News & Articles from Sierra Teardrops

Our second trip in Giant Panda to Francis Beach

FunDirectorMitch Feb-10-2018 LGMax Experiences
Just to prepare you dear reader, I make an effort on my experience write-ups to include a critical look at the systems on the Little Guy Max so others can learn from them, and let you know (perhaps) that "you're not the only one"!   I'm also not afraid to mention my own screw-ups for the same reasons.
Trish and I noticed we had a window of several days of sunny winter weather where we could take a quick impulsive trip. We were itching to take Giant Panda out again to enjoy it and work out more kinks.  I found Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay (California) had one opening for our window of Monday->Thursday so I grabbed it.  As luck would have it, it was actually a decent site!


We launched mid morning on Monday and arrived at around 2:30pm to find a beautiful sunny coastline, albeit a bit windy but not abnormal for the coast.  California is having a very mild winter this year, so temps are low 70's here in the beginning of February!  
Upon checking in we found out "hookups" at Francis Beach means 50A/30A electric only, not water!  They had a fresh water fill station just past their RV dump station so we filled up the fresh water tank.  We are feeling lucky the LGM has a 20gal fresh water tank instead of the T@B's 11gal. We also wanted to see if 20gal gets us through 3 nights with showers and toilet or if the 400's 30gal would have been better.
After backing into our site and opening the LGM we found cookies on floor, apparently due to our not closing the pantry door fully before launching. Zoey our mini labradoodle pitched in to help clean up the crumb pile, what a team player! 
Disconnecting the LGM, I had a really hard time getting the trailer to release the ball.  I fully understand how the locking cuff works to capture the ball inside the hitch, and the locking mechanism shuttled backwards just fine but no matter how much I inched the Jeep forward, backward, turned the front wheels, rocked the trailer, etc it just wouldn't let go.  It was pretty embarrassing because if I saw somebody else going through all that I'd be sitting in my chair thinking "what a noob".  LOL.  Finally, after a careful application of muttering curse words and even more jockying around it popped off the ball.  I'll slather the inside cuff with lube when I get home with the added understanding that these things get looser over time.  Did I mention our view was amazing?
The Dometic furnace is nice, but unlike the Alde it seems to require propane always, whereas the Alde can run on 30A for cabin heat.  Since we paid for electricity I'd have preferred to use it instead of propane.
I've come to realize that the smart phone bubble level apps lie.  Or perhaps I should say the accuracy of the phone's accelerometer isn't awesome or needs to be recalibrated.  I used the app on two different phones to level the LGM but it was definitely nose low, so I'll have to re-level the trailer tomorrow.
I'm renaming the Furrion the Infurriatingion.  We watched part of movie last night, and the sound bar had a "deedling" noise in the background. The stereo control panel is ridiculously hard to read and operate, and it doesn't help that it's at knee level.  And apparently not back lit.  Did I mention the AC only TV screens suck?  DC monitors aren't any more expensive than the AC only TVs.  Since these TV's work beautifully as a second laptop monitor it would have been nice to have them available on DC mode for boondocking, as well as watching part of a movie!  Grrr.  Come on Little Guy, people dry camp a LOT in these, otherwise we'd buy big ugly rectangles with sofas and fireplaces and slide-outs (for the same price).
Back to happy land, the coat closet is stupid huge.  I had hung our coats in there, then was able to put my travel guitar in there which is cool to have enough room for (we're not used to that). I also loaded my large camera bag and zoom lens. And then added my big backpack with laptop, books, and sketching supplies...and that's just in the top area.  Loving the storage of the LGM!  In the T@Bs I'd have to shuffle all that stuff back in the tow vehicle every night.  Sweeeeet!
If you read my first article on the shakeout cruise, you'll remember the System monitor went out on our first trip to Kirk Creek.  A replacement hasn't arrived yet, so there is no way to keep an eye on the tank levels.  Which gets really annoying since we can't check out fresh water supply or gray tank level, one of the primary things we wanted to keep an eye on.
We slept very well on the queen bed again, and had window locked in the cracked open position with privacy screen up so we could hear the sounds of the surf which was surprisingly loud!
In much of the country the wind dies down at night (unless you've got a storm system coming in due to a low pressure system) but on the coastline that's just not the case.  We had to get up in middle of night to put the built-in awning back in since it was kind of thumping around with the wind that rose overnight.  Speaking of the awning, the legs don't appear to lock in the full open position, I need to check on that.


Woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Trish really likes having more counter space in the kitchen and having tons more storage so she could store a mini Keurig in the cabinet.  And a toaster oven. The microwave was great for reheating coffee too.

We spent the first hour having coffee and catching up on business and emails. Great that the front window is so stinking huge and opens up more than level so your entire view out the front is unobstructed. 

The Front Office

It makes an incredible office / observation deck!

View from the Front Office

Zoey enjoying the beach





Dogs are allowed on the beach just South of the Francis Beach check-in point, so we took Zoey for a hike and let her run back and forth between Trish and I a few times a good long stretch.











 A few surfers were out there, I'm guessing the waves were topping at 10' (hard to judge for me).

It was nice being able to use the outside shower to rinse off Zoey's feet and we sat in the sun as she dried out.

I played a little guitar, thought about short movie script ideas, and hung out while Trish did some laptopping.

For dinner we cooked a pork tenderloin with a Jamaican jerk dry rub (thanks Carson!) on the Volcano grill. Trish cooked twice baked potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts/onions/garlic/herbed butter in the toaster oven.

After a brutal Scrabble game, we read books for a bit and went to sleep early.  I blame the sound of the surf, it's too relaxing.


We woke to another sunny, beautiful morning that again got to the low 70's.  It's getting boring, right?  Ha.

The shower was wonderful, we both love the space in the new LGM bathroom! The temperature is a little erratic but sure felt good.  For some reason Little Guy is no longer using shower handles with an on-off switch which is really annoying.  Either they aren't camping in their own trailers, or really don't appreciate how some of these small things make a big difference.  Without an on/off switch on the handle, you have to keep resetting the temperature every time you turn the water back on (and the temperature is erratic anyway!), and if you don't keep turning the water on/off with both hot and cold water knobs you fill up the gray water tank fast and burn through your fresh water.  Just like using DC TV's wouldn't have cost more (face palm), using a shower wand without an on/off switch doesn't save any money and is just annoying. C'mon, Little Guy!

We had a good egg scramble using leftover twice baked potatoes, low sodium spam (hey, camping.) and southwestern eggbeaters.

Here's a photo that might help show how roomy the LGM is:


Okay, another quick rant: I cannot STAND how sensitive the smoke detector is! It's right behind the cooktop and between the fridge and shower, and this morning it went off like 15 seconds after I started the cooktop!  My cooking routine is now 1) crack the window behind the cooktop 2) turn on the fan in the shower 3) hang a washcloth on the smoke detector to cover it.  

This morning we followed our usual email catchup, followed by some more creative writing to get the brain working.

At lunch our new T@B owner friends Damon, Sylvia and Scout came by with wonderful sandwiches from a local Half Moon Bay hotspot and their friend Faz joined us. Damon and Sylvia are expecting another child (a newer T@B!) Friday. Congrats! Great to spend a couple hours with them.

Today was mildly marred by two inconsiderate RVers (relatives) that were parked in two sites behind us. Their three dogs were almost always off leash (even though the Ranger scolded them repeatedly) and pooped on every body else's campsite (including ours) instead of their own. The woman was also yelling at the dogs all the time (because they were off leash, duh), and then one tried to entertain the entire park with his loud acid rock music, erf. The icing on the cake was when she muttered something about all her erratic little rat dogs being "service dogs". Don't get me started on THAT! So, I iced down a little bucket of 805 ales and retired back to our outside "living room" with Zoey and enjoyed the rest of the day.  Here's our outside living room:

More guitar, hanging with Zoey, and watching the ocean from our great spot. I went on a quick photography jaunt, and then hung out a bit more. Later in the afternoon we went to the bluff with some cocktails and chair and joined some new RV friends camping at the next site (Hi Larry & Diane!) to watch the surfers and the sunset.

Since we were leaving the next day (and because of the wind that can come up at night) we quickly packed up the ez-up, rug, chairs, and volcano grill. LOVE that in the passenger side of the rear exterior storage area we have a *huge* (18'x12'?) plastic mat, two folding chairs, the BAL balancer (which is silly heavy and bulky, haven't used that yet), a folding cocktail table, the big 13'x13' Coleman Instant Canopy, and one of the zero gravity recliner chairs!

The kitchen I think needs an outlet just right of the stove, perhaps surface mounted on the back rear of the counter surface. While there is kitchen counter space for an appliance (Keurig, toaster oven), the only place to plug one in is to the left of the sink. And we're just not comfortbale running a power cord across the sink!  We ended up plugging them in outside on a folding table under the kitchen window.

After dinner and Yahtzee we streamed a movie over our Verizon Jetpack. The camp's wifi was of course basically unusable even for laptopping. Very slow and intermittent.  First World Problems, right?


We have to leave today. I'm going to have to borrow a sewer hose from the neighbor to dump on the way out. I bought a new Blueline sewer hose and elbow adapter (I call the Fudge Funnel) since the blueline is the only one that will fit in the hose holder on the LGM. I later realized I didn't have the adapter that hooks up to the LGM's sewer outlet with the 4 pin connector! Amazon Prime (love/hate) should have it on the doorstop tomorrow.

The kitchen sink stopped draining. I wondered if the gray water is full (can't tell because the control panel is broken),  but I doubt if that were true because it would come up the shower floor *much* sooner than backing up the kitchen sink! Likely food in the p-trap, I'll bail out as much as I can before we leave and pull the p-trap apart tomorrow. Systems monitor comes to life spastically once in a while, like it's shorted out and tries to boot up and flips through all it's screens as fast as it cans for about 20 seconds and then stops working again. 

NOTE: I disconnected the elbow and waterless trap under the sink when I got home and found it completely clean.  I have a question in to Little Guy asking if perhaps the shower has a waterless trap as well and it's possible the gray water tank was actually full.  We'll see!

We're officially out of fresh water, it's a good thing we're leaving today. So the 20 gallon fresh water tank got us through 3 days of cooking and washing dishes, using the toilet plenty, and both of us taking a quick shower yesterday. More research on my part would have helped. If I had known "hookups" didn't include water at our site I would have brought water cans!  And of course a larger fresh water tank would have helped.

I just read that SmartJacks that fall within a certain serial number range are getting recalled, so I need to figure out if I'm one of those.

ANOTHER NOTE: I emailed our serial number on the Smart Jack to Little Guy and our unit is not one of the recalled units.

On the drive home I looked in the passenger side mirror and HOLY CRAP, the trim on the front edge of the trailer was separating from the trailer! I pulled over a few miles up the road at a Love's truck stop and inspected it.  What I thought was just a rubber trim piece like the T@B's was actually the whole plastic trim piece!  It had pulled a couple screws out of the sidewall and rotated outward and pulled away from the trailer.  I can't understand how it had such a side force on it to pull it out like that.  I purchased some clear silicon RTV adhesive and gorilla tape to fix it and get home, but I'll still need to caulk/rescrew the stripped holes.  There is nothing supporting the plastic trim piece other than the little screws on the side which seems a little under task.

This trip was 381 miles round trip, 9.5 hours of driving all told.  Our tow vehicle is a EcoDiesel Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.  Normal gas mileage is 24-27mpg which drops to about 17-19mpg towing a T@B through the mountains.  We added a GOBI roof rack so those number will probably drop 1-2mpg, and with the new roof rack and towing the Giant Panda LGM we averaged 13.8mpg.

Thanks for reading this long tome!

- Mitch