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Why The Rialta is the Best RV on the Road

June 4, 2012


Hi!  Thanks20140224-090211.jpg for coming by to read about my Rialta, I’m so glad you did.  Before we get started, I thought I’d let you know a bit about me, just for context.  My name is Don Niemyer, and I have lived in the Rialta since April of 2012.  We camp out stealth style, and have never “plugged in”.  Ever.  (I’m not actually sure how to do that, to be honest). My wife, Carissa, and I are in a long process of relocating from Portland, OR, where we worked in coffee, to Fort Collins, CO.  We now run a traveling business called  PDX Coffee Consulting, and write about great coffee when we find it (tip us off if you know of any!) and minimalist living.  Some of my favorite articles are Thanksgiving Chicken Fiasco 2012, Moments, RV Minimalism, and Pigtails Flyin’ in the Wind.  I hope you’ll check those out when you’re done here!  And now, let’s get to it.  The reason your’e here: 

Why the Rialta is the Best RV on the Road!


My 2000 Volkswagen Rialta: The Finest RV on the Road!

People often ask “With all the RV’s out there, why did you choose the Rialta”? (Not really, but it was a better lead-in than “I’m gonna go all geek-talk on my RV now”).  Well, once we decided to make our epic coffee-journey across the nation and started researching RV’s it became a very clear choice.  Carissa’s main objective was to get an RV that was small enough to drive like a car and fit into a standard parking space.  My counter-objective was it had to have a shower.  That led immediately to the Winnebago Rialta.  From there it was a matter of checking off our other objectives, all of which were met by the self-same omnipotent vehicular being.  Let me elaborate.

First, it had to sleep four comfortably.  The children sleeping on a foam pad on the floor didn’t count.  With the QD floor plan (the Rialta has an HD and FD floor plan available as well) there is a dinette that folds into a bed to accommodate Carissa and me, and it has two captain’s chairs that fold down flat, after which you insert two bridge pieces that make another full size bed for the girls.  And the folding from chairs to beds happens in seconds.  Done.

Girls bed with captain’s chair turned around

Next, we wanted to have space for all of us to be together while we travel.  The QD has four captain’s chairs that keep our family together and comfortable on the road, not with someone buckled onto a bench in the back by the toilet.

Another objective was a place to eat.  If we were going to live in an RV, it would be vital to have a place for us to have meals together.  As mentioned, there is a dinette in the back which utilizes a table which is stored in the cabinet at the rear and pulls out in seconds to create a good sized place for us to all sit down and have a meal together.

Carissa setting up for a game of chess on the dinette

Did I mention the shower?  My girls can go weeks without showering.  Carissa has even been trying a method of hair management that precludes using shampoo.  But me?  I need to keep clean.  Luckily, the Rialta has a magic bathroom, the walls of which literally slide out into the RV to create a shower stall (or more room for using the toilet).  There is an additional magic piece in the form of a floor panel which pulls up to reveal a drain for the shower.  Now the tricky part is water usage and heat.  The Rialta has a water heater, but it relies on shore line power, which we never, ever use.  It also has another magic component whereby the water for the shower is heated simply by driving, but that takes an hour or two of driving, so isn’t really too practical.  So our plan is to install a tankless, gas powered water heater but we haven’t gotten there yet.  Rest assured, the day that happens will merit a special post thusly related.

From there, it’s just the standard stuff.  A two burner stovetop which works as well as the one in your house.  Running water for the kitchen and bathroom sinks, plus shower and toilet.  A very handy skylight which is the ONLY place in the entire RV I can actually stand completely straight up.  A HUGE window in the back which reduces that inevitable claustrophobic feeling.  Fridge, thermostat controlled gas powered heater (which keeps it PLENTY toasty), ample storage, LOTS of windows, and the bonus feature of both captain’s chairs in the front turning all the way around to create two more places to sit which means when we have guests (oh yes we do) the kids can be in one area and the adults can be in another with space for all of ‘em.  It’s a miracle!  Plus, the Rialta has the additional swagger of being built on a Volkswagen Eurovan Chassis.  As anybody with the slightest hint of Bohemian in them can attest, the VW reigns supreme for living on the road, so we get a bit of cool factor there that just doesn’t come with a Ford Econoline.  And we went with a 2000 model, which kept it in a better price range for us.  A newer Rialta might cost $45,000.  One that has been seasoned but is still in good condition will be closer to $20,000.

Once the basics are met, the next fun objective is to begin your modifications.  We’ve only had our Rialta for a couple months, and we definitely have more plans, but so far we have:

*  Removed the air conditioner and covered the hole with a sheet of plexiglass, creating a beautiful skylight above our bed so at night we’re looking up into trees, skies, and – when we don’t pay attention to where we park – the occasional street light.

*  Replaced the old roof fan with a MAXXFan 6200K. Digitally controlled, ten settings, works in the rain.  Highly recommend.

*  Removed the TV, VCR, and Microwave.  Best decision ever.  If we want to watch TV we use an iPad.  VCR is obviously defunct.  And the microwave only works off the generator or shore line power, neither of which we ever use.  So now those spaces have been repurposed, creating more shelf space or just room for living.  The microwave being gone has changed the interior dramatically, especially when using the sink which used to have about 12 inches of clearance between the faucet and the bottom of the microwave shelf.  Plus the hole where it was is plenty attractive (I was concerned it would be a big naked spot in the wall) and gave us space for a magnetic strip to hold knives and what-not.

Things on our to-do list include:

*  Removing carpet and replacing with high quality wood flooring (Update Oct 2012: This is done now)

*  Installing that tankless water heater

*  Installing a curtain BEHIND the captain’s chairs.  Putting the one up that goes in front of them looks more like we’ve moved in.  If the captain’s chairs are exposed it looks more like a big van is parked on the street, which is what we’re after.  By the way, removing the rooftop A/C helped with this as well.

*  Replacing the kitchen faucet with one that is higher (now that we have space where the microwave used to be) and that has an extendable nozzle for filling pots with water or what have you.

*  Replacing the heater with one that ONLY uses propane.  The existing one uses electricity to power the fan, which drains the batteries faster than we’d like.  (Update Jan 2014:  This is done now).

And who knows what else?  I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.  We’ll definitely keep you posted!

UPDATE 4.26.2013 – We put together a great video tour of the Rialta.  Check it out!

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  1. permalink

    Dude, love the blog. Quick idea for the shower–in the meantime before you get your gas hot water heater you should buy a solar backpacking shower from an outdoor store. They are basically a bag of water with a black side to absorb the sun’s heat and a nozzle. Set it out in the sun for half of the day during the summer and you should have some real nice hot water for your shower that evening.

  2. Rich permalink

    Nice Rialta. I’m thinking of getting one. You should check out The Tiniest Mansion on Amazon. It’s a Kindle book and has lots of info on making more Rialta mods.

  3. Awesome Rialta and thanks for all of the insights. We are considering one for a big road trip in a few years. Have you heard of anyone adding a pop-top w/ bed similar to the Eurovan Camper editions? I’d consider that for a bit more sleeping space for a family of 4 but have not been able to find anyone who has done that conversion yet….

    • I haven’t ever seen that CR, but our family of four sleeps with no problem. It’s when we’re NOT sleeping that we run into some issues!

  4. Karen Branson permalink

    You have not mentioned what you do about the holding tank capacity or lack of. How often do you have to dump your holding tanks and where do you do that?

    • Hi Karen! Our capacity is pretty small, which we mitigate by using it less. We use public park toilets, grocery store ones, etc. when we’re around them. But of course we do use our toilet and there are four of us, so we have to empty once every week or two. Fortunately for us, there is a Camping World RV Center in Portland which has a free dump station. When we’re out on the road, most any RV park will let you dump and refill for about 5 or 10 dollars.

  5. How do we make contact and get reply ? Id like to order the Leather handle Coffee Mug for wife’s BDay…Tried the Coffee Shop Site but unable to see the mug for sale ! ed hass

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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