Otto was our home for the entire three months; like a German turtle, he carried our world on his back. Kitchen, bedroom, living room, office -- Otto did it all. Well...almost all. Technically, Otto doesn't have a bathroom, which made for some rather innovative responses to nature's call. We'll save description of those responses for another day. Suffice it so say that we did not resort to urinating in the sink as do some of our other Volkscamping amigos.
Otto turned out to be a surprisingly gracious host. At the outset, we had some doubts. Having marveled at the design ingenuity of the engineers at Westfalia who did the bulk of the earlier VW Vanagon camper conversions, we were a mite skeptical of Winnebago's ability to measure up. After all, hadn't they cut their teeth on Mega-Maxi Super-Ultra Land Blimps for over 50 years? How would they be able to muster the felicity of mechanical expression required to make a small space livable? How would they overcome their innate American tendencies to live large, to make it big? How?
|Well, we're not really sure how, but do it they did. Otto included a surprising amount of amenities stuffed into his thin, white, walls. Cupboards, cabinets, and two tables. Stove, sink, and fridge. Wardrobe. Two bunks that can almost sleep two apiece comfortably. You can see how it all lays out over there to the right. Pretty groovy, eh? Note that when you're driving it's usually best to have the driver's seat facing forward. Not mandatory, but recommended.|
In general, we found Otto's living space to be designed pretty darn effectively. There were a few exceptions, of course.
You'll notice that, by the by, these are all the tiniest of tincan pisses. Overall, we were very impressed with Otto's abilities to satisfy our space requirements for all three months. Of course, happiness required systems. By week two, we pretty much had our systems down -- where everything went, how it was stored during camping versus during driving, and the limits of our abilities to accumulate additional materiel.
Systems for stuff is only half of it, of course. We also developed many systems for getting camped (who popped the top, who put out the awning, who turned on the propane, who lit the fridge, who got the stove and sink ready, who spun the captains' chairs around, etcetera) and getting uncamped (reversing everything I just listed), going to bed, and waking up. Not to boast, but damn are we ever good at camping in this baby! I may have to expand my role in the Sydney Olympics from just performing my toilet to Competition Camping. Now we're both pumped and ready!
To keep us hale, hearty, and happy, Otto needed some creature comforts. Like a sink. A stove. A refrigerator. And, yes -- a furnace. How did these work?
Aside from the water pump's aforementioned ruckus, the sink worked just fine. The water faucet itself is a good design. You can rotate the head to any direction you like, making it easy to hose off dirty dishes. It's small, of course, but it was definitely big enough to do the dishes we got dirty cooking for two. It's a little bit low, too, but I think making it higher would've made other things problematic (like being able to see out the window). One little bug -- to use the water faucet, you have to turn on the water pump, and then turn on the faucet itself. It would be much better if turning on the faucet automatically turned on the water pump. I'm not sure, but I believe this is how they did it on the '97 model. Ah, progress.
The only other glitch related to the sink was, umm, the smell. Sometimes, we'd get a little bit of a rotten food stench coming up from the drain. I'm pretty sure this is because the food that gets washed down the drain has nowhere to go but our gray-water tank. Because there's no real flushing mechanism for the gray-water tank other than gravity, that food doesn't get drained out with the liquid stuff when you pull the drain plug on the tank. It just sits there on the bottom, festering, turning into a smelly sludge. I suspect this strongly because after draining my gray-water tank, my level indicators show that it is still over half-full. This gradually became worse as the trip wore on, so I think I need to do something to break up that sludge and really get it empty. Maybe peeing in the sink? Noooooooo
Overall, the sink gets the Extreme Telecommuter's Salute (which, actually, we're still working on. We'll keep you posted.)
|And then there's the stove. As you can see, it rides shotgun with the sink, sporting two propane-powered burners and a handy splatter-guard to boot. The stove worked just great. Having cooked on electricity for far too long, it was surely nice to get back to cooking with the gas. I find I really need that extra bit of temperature control precision to give my Top Ramen that special something. Seriously, the stove worked wonderfully, boiling water faster than you can say, "I hate giardia."|
|Ah, the refrigerator. After our adventures with Bob, you're probably expecting me to dis the fridge big-time, huh? No way! All it had to do was give me one cold beer in that furshlugginer deep South heat and I would love it forever. That it did. It did it and did it well. Despite our much-ballyhooed fridge breakdown in Yellowstone, the fridge came through with flying colors in every other respect. Though it looks kinda small there with that handy diet-coke can provided for scale, it was actually surprisingly capacious, holding more than enough food for both of us. The fridge was a tri-source model, running off the coach battery (while under way to "hold the cold"), propane (while camped without a hookup), and 110V electricity (when plugged into a shoreline). That panel with the four buttons up there in the upper right corner of that picture is the source-selector. You just punch the button corresponding to whatever source you want to use, and ba-bing, there you go. Kristanne, of course, loves the refrigerator, often remarking on how much she misses it. Move on, Kristanne. Move on, and go ahead with your life.|
|Then, there's the furnace. We actually didn't use this that much given the iron-smelting temperatures that accompanied most of the Odyssey. However, on the few occasions we did use it, we were more than grateful for it. It's amazing how fast it could transform Otto's cabin from icy tundra to cozy corner. Propane fired, our only complaint about the furnace was that it sometimes proved difficult to light, requiring many tries. Maybe we should have had Bob take a look at it, too. That man had the touch -- dust buggers fled from him on sight.|
|Finally, there's probably the flat-out coolest part of Otto's RV package -- the Space Age Level Tester. Reminiscent
of the old Cylons from Battlestar Galactica with their flashing LEDs and cool glow, the Space Age Level Tester gave
us hours of enjoyment. Sometimes, when we were really missing television, we'd just turn on the water, hold down
the Level Test button, and watch
those LEDS flicker and go out. If you squinted your eyes just right, it was almost like watching
3d Rock From the Sun (except the Level Tester is a little bit funnier than John Lithgow).
As for funtionality, you can pretty much get it all from that there picture. The Level Tester told us how much water we had left in our fresh water tank, how close to full our gray-water tank was, how much LP gas (propane) we had left, and what kind of charge was left in our deep cycle coach battery. As an aside, "Hey, can I get a level test," turned into a sort of mantra for our trip. Just a little peek into the tawdry inner workings of the Odyssey there for you. Don't think about it too much, or you'll go blind.
So, yes -- Otto worked pretty darn well for our living purposes. You might also want to read about how Otto worked out as an office. There, you'll see action-packed glossies of all the office equipment we used to Extreme Telecommute our way across America. Hoooo-boy! Bring the roasted pigs-knuckles and beer!
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