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Poor Truck Stop Performance

So this summer I got underway from my Tennessee home and headed to parts high and west. It gets pretty muggy and warm in Tennessee in the summer as you might know!! In preparation for this, I made sure my Good Sam card and towing service were up to date and checked the FMCA and good Sam, Pilot / Flyin J & Love’s cards were connected up to these accounts for fuel discounts. All armed, off I went on my 6200 mile sojourn.   I drive a 1995 38 ft Beaver Emerald Marquis. I tow a 2016 GMC Canyon. The Beaver has a 365 HP Cat and likes diesel!! Here is what I found; All of the Love’s, Pilot/Flying J’s as well as most TA centers located on the interstates were charging up to $0.40 / gallon more that the surrounding areas! Additionally, they would often advertise a cash price of say $3.25 and a CC or Debit card price of $3.45!  or 6% more. (my Visa card charges the merchant 1.5%!) So not only are you gonna pay more than fueling stations located a bit off the freeway, but better carry large sums of greenbacks too!! So the fuel discounts are a come-on and gain you nothing.   Here is what I did. In my journey this summer, I purchased fuel only once from a Loves, not a red-cent to the others. When I’d get to about a half of a tank or so, I’d take the interstate alternate route into a city or town. As soon as you are out of site of the freeway – viola – diesel prices ranged from $2.94 to $3.19 / gal!! the highest I paid for fuel was the $3.25 once. So this is way better that the fuel “discounts” they purport.  My savings for this trip were about $360.00!   Other than that, and having to replace my generator starter during the trip, I had a great time.   R/ DH

Danheinemann

Danheinemann

 

Back to paradise...

It has been almost a year since we visited the Florida Keys.  We stayed at Bluewater RV resort in Saddlebunch key – about 14 miles to the north of Key West.  A truly epic vacation adventure.   Six weeks after we left, hurricane Irma hit.  We watched the updates from the park on Facebook as the hurricane moved in.  Then silence… I would check daily to see if there were any updates on the staff and the park we grew to love.  Finally, after what seemed forever, there were words and pictures.  My heart sank… The damage to the park and the Florida Keys was devastating.  No other way to describe it.  As we started planning our summer trip for ’18, the overwhelming destination vote was Bluewater Key… Checking on the park from time to time during the winter, I was amazed the staff had the facility up and running.  What better way to help the Keys recover than go down and spend some dollars.  On the trip down, the damage was still evident (especially on Big Pine Key), but we were all amazed at how far the recovery had come. Pulling in the park our hearts lifted – it was just how we remembered, even better.  I have to admit, I worried that going to the same spot it would somehow not live up to the expectation.  Thankfully, that was not the case.  Once again, we had a great time – different experiences and adventures all their own - connecting with some really good folks during our stay.

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

Cornice Board Upgrade

I have wanted to do this upgrade for some time now… Looking at the dated fabric on our cornice boards made our coach feel old, even though it is a 2011.  Pulling the old ones down was a breeze since they were barely attached with a couple of small screws… Let the fun begin… I have never seen SO many staples holding something on in my life!  As I started pulling them off (and killing my fingers in the process), I thought maybe there was a better way.  Since the fabric coverings can fade and go out of style (as ours did), I decided to take another tack.  How about wood cornice boards?  I could either stain them or paint them as desired… hmmm… off the Lowes for materials to build a prototype… Three prototypes later, I decided on a somewhat basic configuration with some extra trim pieces to make it look a bit more elegant.  Measure twice, cut once… A few hours later I had the first one complete.  We decided to paint ours to give a contrast against our light stained cabinets… I trusted the wife on this one and boy was she right!   The added bonus is that each one of these new cornice boards are only on average 2.1 pounds heavier than the original.  What a difference.  Four down, two to go…

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

I Should Have Bought a Squirrel

In the 2001 movie, Rat Race, Kathy Bates tries to sell a squirrel to Whoopi Goldberg and her daughter.  They defer but ask Kathy Bates for directions.  Being a race, they are traveling at breakneck speed down one road after another following the directions.  Finally at one point, hurtling down a gravel road with dust billowing behind they pass a sign:  "You Should Have Bought a Squirrel."  That is followed by a scene of them going over a cliff, landing on a pile of rusted and wrecked cars.  It is one of our favorite moments in a favorite movie.  It is also a quote we use frequently as we travel, not only on the road but through life.  One or the other of us will turn to the other and say, "We should have bought a squirrel."  Our travels this spring have brought back that saying frequently.  It starts with a problem that I've been trying to get fixed all winter.  Repeated visits to repair shops still yields no solution.  We have no taillights.  The turn signals and brake lights work.  The emergency flashers work.  We still have no taillights.  So we are restricting our travel to daylight only.  For the most part, that isn't a problem since I have avoided night travel for the last several years.  Given that condition, we departed early on the morning of April 18 to attend the Lone Star Chapter of FMCA rally in Johnson City, TX.  Arriving there just after noon, we parked.  I went to step out of the coach and found that the electric step hadn't opened fully.  After stepping out of the coach carefully, I examined the step to find that a link from the motor to the step was missing.  Not broken, it was gone!  I carry a separate step for those days when the front of the coach is raised well above the ground.  So we used that step for the rally.  I used zip ties to fasten the disabled step in the retracted position for travel to our next destination, Austin.  Monday I had an appointment to get two new Michelin tires mounted on the coach.  I have adopted the practice of replacing the front tires every two years and then moving the used front tires to the rear, both tires replace the oldest pair of rear dual tires.  In this case, the coach wasn't in a shop, the work was done outside the shop so I had complete access to the coach and could talk with the workers. An aside, I have yet to find a tire tech who knows how to properly torque a lug nut. As they were mounting the tires on the rims, I inspected the brake rotors and gave the underside of the front of the coach a good looking-over.  Peering into the area behind the drivers-side tire I noticed something strange.  There was a large object dangling there in the center of the coach.  I recognized this as the supplementary air compressor which is part of the HWH air leveling system.  It maintains our  level position when we are parked and it was still working. The pump and it's mounting plate weighed at least 30 pounds and they were hanging by the air hoses (2) and the electrical supply and control wires.  Had this dropped off en-route, who knows what would have been destroyed in the process.  After bouncing along under the coach, it would have encountered our GMC Acadia!  I considered myself very lucky, fortunate to have found this dangerous  condition.  I found a large C-clamp in my tools and was able to clamp the remaining mounting plate to the frame.  I've added a second clamp to help secure the assembly just to be sure.  I have an appointment at the factory service center to get this properly remounted but we will travel at least 1500 miles before that happens.  I'm not going to turn over welding on the frame to just anyone.  What had happened to the original mounting plate?  It had cracked, all the way across a 3/8" steel plate that was about 10" wide.  Apparently 170,000 miles of highway travel had vibrated it to the point that it broke!  The piece that was welded to the frame is still there and it matches the piece that broke off.  Metal fatigue had nearly done us in. I ordered a rebuild kit for the Kwikee Step, new motor, linkage, control center, it was all different since our step was new.  I was able to successfully install that at home before we left for the summer on May 5.  Our second day out we stopped at an RV park in eastern Louisiana.  The next morning, Louise cranked the engine to air up in preparation for bringing our slides in before departure.  She turned the key, the engine answered, "Uggg."  I stopped my disconnecting process to go inside and jump the engine battery with the house batteries.  Successful, I went back outside to finish getting us road ready.  Before leaving we decided to run the generator but the house batteries didn't have the umph to crank the generator!  So with the engine now running I jumped the house batteries with the engine battery.  The generator started. Now with everything running, I got on the computer and then the phone to call a RV shop along our route.  With luck, I called Billy Thibodeauxs Premier RV Inc. near Lafayette, Louisiana.  Finding the shop was an adventure, if you decide to follow in our footsteps, check their website for the best route to get there.  Ashley was very friendly and efficient.  By the time we arrived just before noon I was informed that the batteries would be delivered to the shop by 1:30 p.m. and they would install them as soon as they arrived.  Believe it or not, we were back on the road by 3:00 p.m., $1900 lighter but with good batteries. Leaving I-10 for I-59, we left the heavy traffic behind and pulled into a truck parking area just before sunset (remember our coach turns to a pumpkin after sunset).  Our final adventure for the initial trip occurred in Chattanooga, TN.  Passing through town on I-59/I-24 to get to I-75, we were in the center lane of rush hour traffic.  Coming down a hill I applied the brakes as traffic came to a stop.  The fuel in the fuel tank sloshed to the front and the engine stopped!  Yes, I knew we were low on fuel, a station was just up the road on I-75 and we planned to make that stop our night stay at Walmart.  I tried to restart the engine, no luck.  Whoever was behind us on the right side must have realized our situation because they stopped to allow us to coast down the hill through the right hand lane to the shoulder.  I came to a stop just before an overpass but on level ground.  Now on the level, the engine started.  I wondered how long that would last but pulled back onto the highway and we continued on.  Now I stayed in the right lane. Looking for the Walmart and the accompanying Murphy station, we came up empty.  It wasn't where the GPS led us.  I had established several years before that Murphy isn't a subsidiary of Walmart and there are stations that are located at separate locations.  It turned out the station was there but Walmart wasn't.  As we passed it later, I looked and it would have been a difficult in and out for us. Passing the location, we noticed a small station on the opposite side of the street.  They had  diesel and at the same price as Murphy.  We frequently patronize small stations but I do approach them with extreme caution.  The canopy has high enough, the in and out route was do-able so we looped through a large parking lot and returned to that station.  Louise got out to scout for the diesel pump as I idled on the road in position to pull up to the diesel pump wherever it was.  She signaled a location and I pulled in.  I put 109 gallons of diesel in a 127 gallon tank.  I had to laugh when I retrieved my credit card and got the fuel receipt from the clerk in the Citgo station.  We had refueled at the "Save a Ton #2" in Chattanooga!  I thought,  "That little station saved us a lot more than a ton!"  By the way, I think I made the foreign clerk's (owner?) day when he handed me my card and receipt for $291.34.  What a big smile.  And no, he didn't furnish his house with my credit card.  Good people are everywhere!  I love it when trust is rewarded. During the winter we had the coach in the shop several times.  The Aladdin system monitors our fuel very accurately but this time it was off by more than normally expected.  We had run the generator quite a bit, that might account for some of the difference.  So maybe I should have bought a squirrel. 

TBUTLER

TBUTLER

 

The Man Born Blind

I suppose that many people have a favorite Bible story.  I do.  It is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 9, It is the story of Jesus and The Man Born Blind.  This is a Bold Story, one that I can relate to, my whole family relates to it actually. The Man Born Blind

gramps

gramps

 

stabilizing open entry door

The entry door opens perpendicular to the body of the motorhome and can not bend back toward the motorhome. When the wind or breeze comes by, it moves the door back and forth. I am concerned the air will bend the hinges on the door. What can I use to keep any damage from the wind/breeze? The body of the motorhome is "smooth", nothing sticking out to attach a rod or bungee cord. How would I attach a rod to the body of the motorhome? Some kind of hook?

Pazahora

Pazahora

 

2019 Alaska trip, camping/travel buddies

We are planning a trip to Alaska for around June of 2019 for about 60 to 70 days round trip. I have a MilePost book, and was looking at the Suggested route #4 to go up and a different route coming back. Would like to see if a small group of 6 or less,  would like to travel together.  We will be newly retired. We live in Southern Illinois, and would like to meet this year. Would not mind going with a family. We are fairly new to the TT world. We have a 24 ft TT.  We are planning 3 or 4 short trips between now and then, could meet up. 
 

FMCA Convention in Perry Georgia

We figured out that this year was our 26th time presenting seminars at the FMCA national conventions. Back in 2004 we were there presenting seminars for Coach Connect, a company who installed WiFi in RV parks. After they went out of business we were invited back to FMCA on our own and Geeks on Tour was born in 2006. See this blog post for more history.
This year, the convention was held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia. Here was our seminar line up this year: Technology for Travelers Smartphones: What does this button do? Google Photos: What to do with all those photos? Smartphone Photography Create your online travelogue See descriptions of all our seminars on this web page. We got off to a bad start waking up at 6am to a freezing 29 degrees. We had always needed to be at our table by 7am on the first day to take registrations. We were there by 6:45 only to find the building wouldn't open till 8 ... grrrr, I mean brrrrr. We survived that and gave our first seminar to nearly 400 people. We had to squeeze our normal 90 minutes of material into a new 60 minute format ... I talked fast! But we got some great feedback. FMCA has always been limited to motorhomes, but they just recently opened up membership to trailers as well. I had a brilliant idea to convince my friend Alex, to join FMCA with her Casita trailer and come with us to the rally and help out at our table.
To my surprise, she said yes! And, she was  great help. We stayed at her place near Gainesville the night before and then followed each other up the road to Perry the next day. Alex with her Casita and our Roadtrek on the way to Perry.   Alex helping out at our table  It was a very busy week, and lots of fun seeing old friends and making new ones. Sometimes it's both old and new! One woman attended several of our classes and she came up to me more than once saying, "How do I know you?" "You look SO familiar." We couldn't come up with anything, but on the last day, she gave it another try and asked, did you go to high school at Nova?
OMG - Yes, I sure did. And so did she. Nancy was the captain of our drill team, the Titanaires, and I was co-captain - way back in 1970. Will wonders never cease? She now lives in Georgia and enjoys traveling by RV - and learning more about using her smartphone! FMCA makes it a small world!

GeeksOnTour

GeeksOnTour

 

Making A Comeback

Comebacks are not easy, quite the opposite, and for that reason they are sometimes celebrated. as my daughter says...Just Keep Swimmin' Making A Comeback!

gramps

gramps

 

Window Repair

I guess like all RV’s, ours started showing the dreaded window fog in the double panes.  Since we have decided to keep the current rig for the foreseeable future, need to address the issue.  Now the fun part.   Replace or repair?  A little research into window replacement left us in sticker shock.  Luckily, in my Google travels, I ran across a place in Hudson Florida that did repair.  All the reviews looked good so we scheduled an appointment. What a setup they have.  For those coming from out of state, the have areas and hookups that allow you to stay with your rig while they do your windows.  Luckily, it was only a three hour drive to Hudson so we dropped it off.  It was very comforting to see so many nice Class A rigs when we pulled in.  After checking in, we went over our requests with one of the technicians.  These folks are window pros so I was looking for recommendations for a couple of windows since it looked like they had been ‘repaired’ by the previous owner.  We decided to do all the windows – 8 in all with 4 needing glass replacement.  It took a bit longer than first thought due to glass replacement.  Moment of truth, Lisa an I set out on the 3 hour drive to Hudson FL.  I have to admit, I was apprehensive on the drive over.  Once we pulled up, my apprehension vanished.  The rig looked great.  It cost a bit more than quoted, but that was due to additional parts need to correct the previous ‘repair’.  It was totally worth it.  They got it done on time and the windows (all double pane and defogged) never have looked better.  SunCoast really are RV window pros.  I cannot say enough about SunCoast Designers in Hudson Florida.  Great people and quality work.  Oh yeah, by the way the - windows come with a lifetime warranty against any additional fogging.  I hope my next upgrade adventure (Tires/Shocks) turns out as well as the windows...  Update / Tip:  After getting a few trips on the rig, I noticed I was getting a lot more wind noise on the driver side window.  Turns out Suncoast Desginers also properly cleaned and  fixed the weep holes on all the windows when we did the repair.  Once I installed weep hole covers the noise was gone.  These covers block the wind noise put still allow the windows to drain water as needed.  What a difference. 

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

And Off We Go...

So now it's spring 2017 and we're set to go on our 1st real trip in our new coach.  Our first tour, we set sights on heading north from our domicile in Southwest Louisiana, beginning in May 2017 to some key waypoints we've always wanted to see & visit. These include travels northward up through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts before turning back southward through Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, the Virginias and Carolinas, through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi before returning home to Louisiana. What starts out as a 4-month trip spanning close to 8,000 miles. And we're off. Fully loaded and stocked up for our trip with both the Garia and our Jeep Grand Cherokee in tow we head out by traveling slightly west to Houston, TX where we overnight for a couple of days (May 27-28) to visit and dine out with some family members and friends who live there, then we're off to Lewisville, TX, (on May 29th, and home of our Newmar Dealer, NIRVC to get a few minor warranty items done for 2 days) before setting our sights (Nav System) through Arkansas onward to Tennessee. Shortly thereafter we arrive on June 4th in Nashville where via the KOA we've docked at, we get out about visiting various Music City venues, take in the Grand Ole Opry (which for us was somewhat a disappointment) and of course, try some of Nashville's fine dining establishments. Departing on the 9th, we then moved onto Anchor Down, a beautiful terraced RV resort located on Douglas Lake not far from the local attractions of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg as well as the Smokie Moutain National Park where we spent the next 7-nights taking in the sights, exploring the Park and simply relaxing. We also met some new neighboring RV friends from N. Carolina and spent a day out on the Lake with them in a rented pontoon boat (there are marinas close by Anchor Down that rent boats, jet skis, and the likes for enjoying beautiful Douglas Lake and its Dam). The Kentucky Horse Farms It's now day 20 of our tour and we're off from Dandridge to Lexington, KY and we arrive at the Kentucky Horse Park (RV park). A somewhat "simple" RV park which principally serves to cater to the needs of folks participating in events there, we found it to be mostly grassy sites and a bit challenging to back our big rig into but we made it successfully and spent the next 2 days visiting both the Horse Park itself as well as many of the surrounding farms. A nice and simple stop for us. The Indy 500 Next up on our schedule of stops was Indianapolis where we had set plans to visit the Indy 500 Race Park but due to what had become inclement weather conditions, we aborted (as we experienced severe heavy rain storms and high winds while traversing the roads to Indy and during the 2 days our our travel through Kentucky. We both agreeing that "getting out" in the weather that was forecasted for the present and oncoming days would not be the experience we wanted - agreeing the we'll be back in that part of the Country another day, another time and can return to Indy to see the park and possibly even take in a race or at least, some trials. Nappanee IN - Home of Newmar Corp. Having taken dealer delivery of our new Coach, we added Nappanee into our tour schedule in order to participate in their "factory tour" and arrived there on June 19th, now Day 24. We docked at Newmar's factory overfill lot as Camp Newmar was packed. The next day we signed up and took the tour which was interesting to say the least and somewhat amazing at how their production line works. As well, it might not have been foresight but we had developed a few issues that manifested themselves during the early phase of our trip and took being in Nappanee as an opportunity to have them addressed. (we actually had made a service appointment earlier on ahead of the start of our trip to include having our 1st house and chassis service performed). We ended up being in Nappanee for close to 3-days longer than we had planned but used the time (while Newmar was servicing our coach) to drive about and sight see the area known as the "Heritage Trail" which included visits to Elkhart, and the surrounding towns of Goshen, Shipshewana, Middlebury, Wakarusa and Bristol all the while driving through the Amish farming communities. This included a Jazz Concert event we attended on the streets of Elkhart which made for a wonderful Saturday afternoon outing. Rock & Roll Next up on our travel plans was a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Having previously made site reservations at a KOA nearby, our delay in Nappanee once again brought cause to abort the visit owning to other locations ahead where we could not alter other pre-existing reservations (no space available). This, Cleveland, became another one to be visited at a later date. Why Jackson, Ohio of all places? During the early onset of our tour we had (by chance, i.e. Facebook) learned that a dear old friend of both Lydia whom we'd not seen in close to 25 years had recently relocated to Jackson (for a new job) and so having our schedule kind of messed up at those moments, altered our trip by turning SE through Columbus to Jackson where we ended up spending 4 enjoyable days visiting with him and docked in a very small yet cozy state park. The visit was worth it as we had a great time just sitting outside the coach entertaining ourselves and our friend. Its' now day 37, July 1 and our plans have changed considerably. Niagara Falls has too fallen from our list and become another "future" venue for a later date but we're back on track with our earlier plans/reservations and heading to DC for the 4th of July. Cherry Hill Park  July 2nd, after "boon-docking overnight in a WalMart in Morgantown WV on the way, we arrive in College Park MD (close to DC) at Cherry Hill Park RV Resort. From here, we can easily get into DC to visit. We also get online and manage to scorer up some front row concert tickets for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Canned Tuna and the Wood Brother at Wolf Park and outdoor amphitheater in Vienna VA which turned out to be a great show. The next few days we primarily spent visiting DC and included being on the National Mall during the 4th of July fireworks event as well as taking in the monuments by means of a pedicab night tour which was very memorable. We highly recommend the night tours as seeing them under their special lighting is quite amazing in comparison to daytime visits. Lydia has to Go! After spending 10 nights at Cherry Hill and having already had a previously scheduled Dr.'s appointment in Houston to which she had to maintain, Lydia boarded a flight to Houston from Baltimore and left us (me and our miniature Schnauzer "Nike") to our own devices for a few days.  Next Stop; Williamsburg VA. With Lydia gone, Nike and I load up and drive out, onward to Williamsburg VA. Plans being to visit the Colonial Villages (towns) of Williamsburg and Jamestown. Arriving, Nike and I find ourselves destined to fit into a very small, simple RV part that we were likely too large to fit into but managed after the staff moved a few vehicles to assist with my backing into the spot they had for us. The next two days I spent time exploring the area (some places with Nike and others while leaving him in the coach) and found it to be a charming place but somewhat less than expected likely due to the absence of Lydia. She would have drug me through countless small shops and likely the huge outlet malls they have there. Overall, it was fun but not what i personally had expected. In any case, Nike and I made the best of it without here for a few days, then once again, pulled up 'stakes" and headed southward. Hilton Head Island  Next up on our tour list was HHI where Nike I and I arrived on July 15th we were reunited with Lydia who flew into nearby Savannah, GA. Docked at the Hilton Head Harbor Marina and RV report (vs. the HHI Motor-Coach Resort further into town), we used it as a platform for visiting both HH and Savannah over the course of the next 12 days. I will state here though beautiful, the daily traffic into and off the Island was horrendous and we spent a lot of time just sitting on the roads, waiting for traffic to move on way or the other. We're about to start heading home. Day 61, we depart HHI for Lawrenceville, GA which was just a stopover on our way to Foley, AL at NIRVC's newest location north of Atlanta to get the coach washed & detailed. We spent 2 nights there and departed on July 28th to Foley. Bella Terra RV Resort Foley, Al is approx. 6 miles north of Orange Beach, Al and the beachfront of the Gulf of Mexico. Pulling into Bella Terra, we quickly knew it was going to be a relaxing stay and once checked in and dock at our site, we were met with a spacious lot facing it's man made lake and fountain. Here we stayed for another 12 nights to include enjoying the company of another pair of great friends (one of which being my former work colleague) who reside in Mobile.  Too much food and fun, the margaritas were great as too the omelets at brunch.  The Big Easy Next up and the final stop ahead of our return home was to be the New Orleans French Quarter and Warehouse district but once again, leave it to "mother nature" to forego such plans. As it so happened, we soon learned (while still in Foley) that NOLA was once again experiencing flooding due to some dense and heavy rains that had been ongoing for a few days. So, needless to say, we cancelled our planned stay there and returned home, 8,400 miles later on day 76 of our first tour. All In. We had a meaningful and memorable experience on our first tour in our new motor coach and such that we were convinced of "finding the roads that await us" will continue to bring forth new adventures, fun and excitement. Next Up. Newmar's International Rally - Sedalia MO to be followed by the Albuquerque Intl. Balloon Fiesta.   Nashville KOA During a stopover in Mocksville, NC for factory installation of Magne Shades The Kentucky Horse Park - RV Park, Lexington. Local Art in Elkhart as well as the surrounding towns on the Heritage Trail Elkhart A fine little boutique style diner. Cherry Hill Park - College Park, Maryland On the National Mall, Washington, DC July 4th 2017 Hot Tuna, belting it out at Wolf Park in Vienna, VA Night Touring the Monuments via Non-Partisan Pedicab. Gettysburg Hilton Head Marina and RV Resort. Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, AL

Rewillia

Rewillia

 

The Garia 2+2

So in continuation,  here we are back again....1 month into new ownership of our 2017 Newmar Essex and we've yet to make a "real" trip yet. We've spent 2-weeks in our Dealer's on site camp ground going through the PDI and day to day orientation on using all the systems installed in our new home on wheels. ( that period included our having taken the RV Driving School's training mentioned previously as well as our shopping for a new vehicle we can tow behind the coach). Our existing two cars were not flat tow capable and we had no desire to use a dolly or trailer). Oh yeah, now we need a Tow Vehicle. So we began looking at popular flat-towable vehicles using various forms of information such as FMCA's towables guide and determined the Jeep was clearly most popular and one of the easiest to pull.  We'd also noted that many others pulling in and out of NIRVC during the course of our stay were equally pulling Jeeps so it became clear they are popular with motor home owners. So off to the dealers we went soon to find out that were by far "to proud" of their new inventories and not so willing to deal on pricing (Basically, we must have visited 5-6 separate Jeep dealers in the DFW metro area and all were asking full MSRP for their Jeeps so off to the pre-owned lots we went). At this point we're still flexible and open to consider both the Wrangler Jeep or the Cherokee (SUV). So we pull in a pre-owned dealer's lot and as Lydia sights, there sits a pretty, sharp looking Wrangler Rubicon that is all white sitting on oversized wheels and tires with a slight upward lift kit. Lydia likes it and is drawn to immediately upon stepping out of our car.  Of course, within seconds a salesman pulls up in his golf cart and is already engaging her even before I've been able to shut off our car and get out of it. I already know it's not the vehicle for us but I need to let Lydia make her own decisions, Anyway, 5-10 mins. later we're off on a test drive only to make it about a 1/2-block down the street where we quickly realize that it's not the vehicle for us. (she's driving). Heck, I couldn't even find the door window button while the jeep is beating the  smile out of both of us on what was a reasonably flat and good hard paved surface. She's looking at me and I'm looking at her, both of use laughing and saying NOT!. Just too hard a ride for us. We wanted something with more comfort and besides, we agreed at 62/66 we'd already passed our use by date to be driving something like that. We returned, got out of it and walked the pre-owned lot some more looking a few other vehicles we might want to consider but then left to head to the next lot. We couldn't stand the salesman tagging along with us trying to convince us we need to buy something from him right then and there. As I said we left and visited a number of other pre-owned dealers in the DFA area throughout the next few days which had turned to looking at brand new Grand Cherokees by that time. Wow, talk about sticker shock...In short, I'd told Lydia "I've never paid MSRP (full price) for a new vehicle in my life and I'm not going to start now". We can find a better deal in Houston than from these "stealers" in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was wrong, the new car pricing in Houston was the same, i.e. full sticker price, so soon afterwards we suspended our search telling ourselves there was no rush to get a new tow vehicle and that we'd eventually find something to our liking at an acceptable price. It came to be in the form of Autotrader.com. and 4 weeks later when we ended up once again back in Houston (actually Katy, TX) where we'd found a pre-owned 2016 Black Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 SUV with the prerequisite Quadra Trac/Quadra Steer II option (required to flat tow the SUV model Jeeps). It was a one owner with 4,300 miles on it that had been traded at a BMW dealer and we bought it for $44k which was then, approx. $16k less than a new '17 with the close to the same features. A Black car, We did not intend to buy a Black car but the price was worth sacrificing the color. It also has the Hemi while we'd wanted the V6 Diesel but again, it became a matter of value for money spent. We've since come to widely appreciate the JGC. This RV stuff. Wow, one can spend a helluva lotta money in a short period of time. The purchase of coach, or better our 40% cash downpayment by itself was by far the largest check we've ever written (it was actually a cashier's check but you get the picture). Since then, we've bought a car to tow behind it and as well need to get that sorted out in the form of towing gear. Now armed with a new Tow Vehicle we soon returned to NIRVC (our Coach dealer) in Lewisville, TX (as we had some, a few small warranty repair items already to be addressed) and had them install the towing gear. At their recommendation, We agreed and opted for the Roadmaster set-up (base plate/tow bar) including the Blackhawk II 10,000 tow bar, together with the SMI Air Force One braking system. All systems a go, we latched onto it and headed back home to SW Louisiana.  Enough? Well not quite (for me). Leave it to me to want something out of the ordinary and shame on both of us for dropping into a Golf Cart shop in Houston, TX (I'm thinking street legal golf cart at this point). I had been wanting one for use in our small neighborhood even before we purchased the motor coach but now..its something even more to consider. I may not have mentioned earlier, when returning to the US, we'd decided to downsize, get out of the big S&B houses in the form of a smaller 2-hr townhome which within it's Home Owners' Association (and the fee we pay) takes care of all the exterior including lawn care & maintenance - making it easy for us to come and go (in our new motor home) at our leisure without having to worry about the home. This was a good choice for us given that its just the three of us now (Us + our pet Miniature Schnauzer) Back to the cart, Oh I tell her (Lydia), having something like this to use at home as well as carry along with us when traveling in the coach would be so much fun. What is it we ask the sales persona, whereby he informs us It's a Garia 2+2  and it looks and smells just like a golf cart but isn't. Its a fully street legal US DOT compliant 4-passenger low speed vehicle (LSV) manufactured and imported from Denmark. We're sold, got to have it and it just so happens we learn that Garia's Americas & Mexico distribution center is also located in Houston, whereby a few days later we're back, visiting the distribution center with our sales person from the Golf Cart shop and choosing the color combinations (for both the LSVs exterior and interior) of our liking which of course were those which would match up as closely possible with the paint scheme of our new coach. Done. 4-weeks later the Garia is delivered to us at our home in SW Louisiana and a week later it's been legally titled, state inspected and registered (as a legal motor vehicle) in the State of LA to include being issued it's own license plates. We're legal! albeit per US DOT laws (and all states as well), our use of the Garia on public roads is restricted to roads where the published speed limits are 35-mph or less unless we're crossing an adjoining roadway to connect to another 35-mph road whereby we can traverse such roads with speed limits up to 50-mph including driving down them up to 1/2 mile if similarly connecting to another 35-mph road/street. All that's ok with us as our intention to use it will be when we're camping ("glamping" might be a better term here) at RV parks or resorts in populated areas where we can use it to drive around locally. This I can mention now has worked out very well and it's truly a lot of fun not to mention quite a conversation piece as well given its somewhat uncommon appearance. We have learned that some Valet's don't take to parking it for us but it's always fun to ask them to. Also (and as of the writing of this blog,) in 12-months of use we've yet to be stopped by a single police officer anywhere we've used it (likely owing to the fact it's clearly displays a state issued license plate on the rear).  I might add here, We also opted for the single high capacity SMI Samsung Lithium battery in the Garia (which replaces the 6 6-vlt conventional golf cart batteries). The Lithium battery gives the Garia something in the range of a 40-mile distance charge, is totally maintenance free, will hold a full charge for up to 6-months while being guaranteed for 10-years for the date of purchase.  I have to say, while the idea of it may not be to the liking of many, the Garia is a "load of fun" and actually has both "eco" and "sport" modes whereby the maximum speed obtainable (as built) is 25 MPH (but a slight re-programming of the onboard CPS enables it to achieve 40-mph, but please don't tell anyone). Oh and yes, Garia does make a "golf cart" version but those are not street legal. Pricey, yes. The Garia 2+2 is not a golf cart and is quite more expensive but to each his own as they say. We liked it, wanted it and now own one. How do we add this up - a Jeep SUV and the Garia + the Motor-Coach? Next up was to determine how best to transport the Garia on/with our coach. We looked at number of options including trailers, but finally made our decision of go with a special built Hydralift mounted on the rear of our coach (also available for ATVs, Trikes, and golf carts). NIRVC, again our Coach dealer helped us work with Hydralift and special order the lift which was specifically designed to handle transporting the Garia by means of its 50" x 96" platform which we purchased and had installed by their expert technicians. The lift is quite impressive, built using strengthen alloy steel components and nicely powder coated. Installation took the better part of 1-week and included special welding of its substructure to the tow/hitch receiver of our Spartan K3 chassis rated for 20,000 lbs towing capacity put us well within our capacity being only ~ 6,700 lbs. (Lift @ 650 lbs + [email protected] lbs + Jeep [email protected] 4,933 lbs + Tow Gear @200). Prior to the installation (as well as before purchasing it), we checked with both Newmar Corporation and Spartan Chassis to reconfirm our coach's capacity to handle both the Lift and its cargo (being the LSV) to which both agreed would easily be accommodated (and not influence our OEM warranties on either the coach or the chassis). What else? While having the Hydralift installed by NIRVC, I also opted to use the opportunity to to have an engine compartment fire suppression system installed. Purchased online from Fire Fighting Products Inc., it is a 40-lbs nitrogen and chemical fire suppression filled bottle with 2 separate nozzles which were mounted above and on both sides of our ISX15 Cummins power plant. Fully automated, the system will deploy in the event temps inside the compartment reach a pre-determined level (i.e. fire).  The system was relatively cheap, approx. $400.00. and can be seen in the photo of the rear engine compartment below (red bottle). Next Up - our inaugural 1st trip/tour. With plates on the shelves, and the pantry and fridge and freezer loaded up, the Garia on the lift and the Jeep latched to the rear, we're soon off on our first real RV adventure. It's going to a 5-month trip that will take us over 10,000 miles from SW Louisiana up to Niagara Falls, NY/Ontario then back down along the East coast to Florida before returning to our home base in LA. The subject of our next blog entry. Our Grand Cherokee with Roadmaster set-up. The Garia 2+2 visiting neighbors a few streets over. NIRVC Hydralift Installation along with the Fire Fighting Products Inc, Fire Suppression System. Set-up to Go. Garia's colors worked well and match up to the coach. Note; The rear passenger hand rail which host the State License plate is removable and stored in a basement compartment when loaded and being transported behind the coach (due to DOT width restrictions). On our way back home with the Hydralift installed. All in, 70' 3" OAL. Just another view of the Hydralift & Garia for those whom may be interested. The photo makes it appear that the Garia/Platform are wider than the coach but they are not. is the DOT maximum limit

Rewillia

Rewillia

 

Good Business Sydney Nebraska

As our RV aged and so did we, it got harder to hear each other as we traveled down the road. On this day’s end when we pulled in the engine was very loud.  Roger decided it was the manifold.  It was 4 o’clock on a Friday and we need a mechanic to access the problem.   We found Sauder’s  here in Sydney, Nebraska.  Chris Sauder, the owner’s son, came out and told us it was a blow gasket on the passenger side.  He could not get us in until Tuesday and then parts would need to be ordered.   Roger needed to get to Reno (1,100 miles) as his brother was dying.  Therefore, Roger went to Reno in the car and I stayed with the dog and cat to get the RV fixed.   On Monday Chris called for the vin. number and ordered parts, on Tuesday I was across the street at 8:30.  RV was tore down and ready to put back together  by 1:30. I spent the night behind the business plunged into their electric.  On Wednesday they ran into trouble do to a bolt being broken off.  The job was not completed until 4:30.  Both the shop and the machine donated time for part of the working on this bolt. During these 2 days Chris came often to the waiting room to bring me up to date on the job, offered me use of a car, and watch my dog while I walked next door for a sandwich. I can’t say enough good things about these people.  And if that wasn’t enough the place I stayed was Cabela’s campground at their corporate office.  They were so nice and ended up giving us 2 free nights. So if you are in the area these two business while treat you right.

Gloria13

Gloria13

 

Running up the coast

Our next excursion had us running up the coast to Hilton Head South Carolina.   Since it was the week before Christmas, we figured it would not be overly busy.  All packed up, so off we go.  We did not get far up the interstate when the TireMinder TPMS went off in it’s oh so subtle way…  Funny, when that particular alarm goes off, the dogs completely freak out.  Maybe the alarm broadcasts on the frequency only dogs can hear like a dog whistle?  Whatever the reason, good time to pull off and check it, calm down the pups, get fuel and a propane fill since it is going to be cold in SC (we hope…) The TireMinder alarm turned out to be ‘Nos’.  ‘Nos’?  What the heck is that?  While the diesel pump continued to drain my wallet, I grab the TireMinder manual… ‘Nos’… ‘No Signal’.  Ah… one turn on the valve stem and back in business.  At that point I gave them all a ‘twist’ just to make sure we did not get the ‘Nos smoke alarm’ again.  Back on the road. We arrive on time at the Motorcoach resort that is literally smack in the middle of town.  What a fantastic place!  It’s hard to describe since you are in the middle of town, but seems like you are in the woods.  We could walk or ride our bikes to anywhere we needed to go.  As an added plus, there are really good bike paths everywhere.  I highly recommend this resort if you are in the South Carolina. Jacks down, all hooked up – time to sit back and enjoy the area.  As Lisa and I walk through the park (daughter and pups in tow), we are again struck as to how many friendly people we run into from all over.  I have to say that Hilton Head generally has very nice / friendly people.  Maybe we hit at the right time and everyone was in the Christmas spirit.  Either way, the beach area is superb and dogs where allowed on the beach (which they enjoyed immensely).  The shopping seemed to meet the approval of both my wife and daughter which like the diesel pump, tends to drain my wallet.  Glad to do it as they are totally worth it! I have to give the park an A+.  The staff was very friendly and accommodating and the resort was spotless.  The spots were large and well cared for.  I would be curious to return in the summer to see how the experience would be different with a summer crowd - the pool at the resort looked amazing, but i was not brave enough to jump into the cold water.  Well, back home to map out our next outing….

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

Would you like a booth or table?

Our original booth dinette in the rig was showing its age.  Not that it had seen heavy use, but the original equipment furniture was definitely not what I would consider high quality.  Besides, the booth was the last remnant of the paisley originals that needed to go. So the question – replace the booth with another booth or put in a table / chair setup.  Lots of info out there and ways to go, but I guess it just boils down to personal preference.  In the end, we decide to go with another booth – one that matches the sofas that had been already been replaced.  Local shops wanted in excess of 3k to do the job.  DIY time.  Shop4seats.com had the match we were looking for and the price was reasonable.  Six weeks after ordering it show up ready to be installed.  Let the fun begin… Taking out the old unit proved easier than expected.  I guess demo is always the easier part of the process.  During demo, I was amazed at the lack of finish for an electrical outlet (120v) that was on the backside of the old unit.  I am no electrician, but this install (from the factory I assume) was terrible.  Mixed conduit that did not match, junction box not properly sealed, and the list went on.  The scariest part was when I disconnected the wiring coming up under the side – burnt wires.  Apparently, at some point water from an open window got into the junction box.  I am amazed the outlet even worked.  OK, time to install the new unit and wire the outlet properly.  I decided to relocate the outlet and junction box to provide better access and protection.  Despite best efforts to identify everything I would need, several return trips to Lowes and Ace hardware needed… as usual. The install went really well.  Needed longer lag bolts for the seat belts on the forward facing side.  The electrical went very well too.  Moment of truth – turn on the breaker and test the outlet with volt meter.  Everything works!  Time to move on to the next project…

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

Born Again Driver

I must admit, I use to be one of ‘those’ drivers.  I was very impatient with slower drivers and large vehicles.  It became like a chess game for me, plotting my next move to get me ahead of the perceived roadblock to my progress.  Then… we bought our RV over a year ago.  Thirty-eight feet plus our Jeep Wrangler in tow.  Suddenly, almost amazingly I am quite content to ride in the right lane at or slightly below the posted speed limit.   ‘Look at all these crazy drivers out here’ I say to my copilots (wife and pups).  ‘Wow! That one was close!’ I exclaim on a regular basis. I discovered something again during our RV adventure… there are good people out here in the right lane.  Slow lane?  I think not – more like careful, experienced drivers that see the big picture of arriving safe in one piece (not to mention saving on fuel).  So I take ranks now with my brothers and sisters in the right lane.  As the rest of the world speeds by – changing lanes rapidly, talking on their cell phone and yes TEXTING at 90 mph, I will be holding my own in the right lane, safe and steady. Strangely enough, I drive this way now even when I am not in RV.   Seems like the good habit of courteous / safe driving has rubbed off on my ‘civilian’ habits as well…. who knew….

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

Here we Go

In preparation for our Key West trip, we decided it might be a good idea to take the family and rig out for a weekend ‘shakedown’ prior to leaving.  All packed, frig loaded, tow car connected – ready to go… Well, no.  We had just made it to the end of the street and the dreaded “check engine light” comes on.  Abort!  Back at the house, I dig through the freightliner manuals I have and of course hit up good old ‘Google’.  Fault number found, it appears to be an EGR valve (did I mention you really have to not hate fixing things on an RV???).  Long story short, my local repair facility did not have the EGR valve in stock and we were scheduled to leave in 6 business days.  Thankfully, they overnighted the part and had it installed just in time to load up and hit the road… Not exactly the way I wanted to start off.  Leaving at 4:00am for the long drive, I thought we hit a bad omen with the interstate being closed at our exit.  Sign from above to abort? Nope – press on and let the chips fall where they may (Coach.net membership is current I hoped).  I never watched the dashboard as much as on that trip. All in all, a smooth trip down to Blue Water Key Resort.  Wow, the website really did not do it justice.  What an amazing place and staff.  The fishing, food and atmosphere of the Florida Keys were perfect.  Seven days flew by and we really hated to leave.  On the last day, my wife and I reflected on our RVing experiences up to that point.  What really amazed us is how many friendly people you meet.  Walking through RV parks with the pups, we really have met some nice folks.  It kind of renews my faith people, which honestly gets tested from time to time in our daily lives. The trip home from the keys was smooth and uneventful.  Once we got home, my wife and I discovered we were thinking the same thing.  In the past, we loved going on vacation, but we were all “glad to get home” when it ended.  This time, we did not have that feeling.  While it was nice to be home, we missed being out in the rig in a new place.  Even the kids felt that way.  Stress level at an all time low.  Well, back to work / school / normal lives to raise the cortisol levels again…

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

On our way...

Like so many others, our kids are growing up and moving on with their lives.  Happy to see them grow and become independent, but sad to see that part of life ending.  At this point, my wife and I kind of looked at each other and asked, “what’s next”?  Great question.  I grew up RVing and always enjoyed it and thought it would be cool to do in retirement, but my wife was a hard sell.  Strangely enough, it took hurricane Matthew hitting us in Florida to help my cause.  As the hurricane bore down on us, we (along with thousands of my fellow Floridians) had to decide to stay put or evacuate.  Having pets, it is difficult to find places to go besides an emergency shelter or hotel hundreds of miles away.  At that point, I told Lisa that if we had an RV, we could just pack up and go – kids, dogs, bird and rabbit.  We decided to hunker down… The hurricane passed – lots of damage – no power or water for a week.  Another opportunity to mention if we had an RV, we could at least have a cool place to sleep and take a shower.  We started the RV search the  month after the cleanup 😊. What to buy?  New or Used?  Class A or C or 5th wheel?  After many discussions, going to RV shows, wearing out my fingers on Google and looking at about everything for sale in 200 miles radius we decided on a used Class A diesel.  Growing up, my family had a Class A and it was a great way to travel so I think I certainly leaned that way.     During our first months of being “newbie” RVers, I discovered a few things. First, RVing was VASTLY different to what I remember as a kid.  In those days, we had an old 25-foot Banner RV on a Chrysler chassis that rode like a tractor.  The new RV rides like a town car and probably has as much square footage as the house I grew up in (not really...).  With all the advantages I assumed there were going to be some disadvantages.  I was right.  This new RV is a complex rig.  I quickly came to the determination that if you don’t like fixing things or understanding how they work your rig will spend a lot of time at a repair facility.  The first six months was us literally learning the systems, operation and monitoring of this new house on wheels.  Fortunately, we had the bonus of being able to park the rig at our home and plug it in to 50 amps – helps the learning process and gave me a ‘man cave’ to hide in from time to time and read the stack of manuals I had.  We would take the new member of the family out for short trips, hoping our two dogs would acclimate quickly.  One did… one did not… Oh well, time for the first vacation in the RV and test our plan.  Off to Key West…

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

Smart Wheel Problems

I own a 2013 Monaco Knight.  Sometimes the smart wheel works and sometimes it doesn't.  This is with all controls.  I will attempt to turn on the cruise control with no luck.  Same with the engine brake.  I will drive numerous miles and it will start working.  I have replaced the clock spring and smart wheel controller.  Anyone have the same problem.   Thank you

rtinnman

rtinnman

 

Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine Looks at the Rio Grande Valley

For sixteen years we have returned to the Rio Grande Valley, in the southern tip of Texas, each fall.  We enjoy the mild winters and the abundance of recreation, natural resources and wildlife in the area.  The December issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine is dedicated entirely to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV).  This publication from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is an excellent resource for those looking for a spot to visit in the winter, perhaps like us, you'll find it to be just what you are looking for in a winter residence.

In commemoration of their 75th year in publication they decided to focus on a single area of Texas and the staff decided that focus had to be on the RGV.  They sent the entire staff to the RGV, housing them at Estero Llano Grande State Park south of Weslaco.  Every article in this issue of the magazine is about the RGV; its people, nature, history and recreation.  A one year subscription (10 issues) costs just $18.00.  There are regular offers in the magazine for $12 per year and 2 years for $20.  You should be able to purchase this issue at any Texas State Park.  You can read any or all articles in this issue at:  https://tpwmagazine.com/

TBUTLER

TBUTLER

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