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SergeantMajor

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About SergeantMajor

  • Birthday 08/29/1960

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    http://ddwt.us
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  • Gender
    Male
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    Full-timer Class of 2011
  • Interests
    I enjoy RVing, cruising, traveling, sight seeing, computers, hunting, fishing, digital photography, movie collecting, movie watching, listening to music, fine dining, staying in 4 & 5 star condo resort timeshares, and financial investing. My wife Debbie enjoys all of the same hobbies as I do plus singing, reading and cooking.

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  1. If you are a Thousand Trails member, you can now add the Trails Collection for $199.00 per year. It will add 100 plus additional RV campgrounds to your current membership for this annual fee. You can make reservations 60 days out, stay in each park for 14 consecutive nights, and no nightly costs. https://members.thousandtrails.com/trailsCollection.aspx
  2. Dot and Mel; Adventure Caravan sounds good. We are going with a group of former/retired military and will be up there about the same time as you. Here is a link to our Alaska 2012 trip in the Lets Meet Up section of the FMCA Travel Forum. We are hoping the fuel prices do not go too crazy this summer. Can't wait to get up there, especially if it is as hot as last summer in the lower 48 last year. Hope to see you there!
  3. The 2012 issue of North to Alaska is now online. This is a great free online travel planner for anyone thinking about traveling to Alaska in an RV. You can also order a free North to Alaska book and Milepost map to be mailed to you.
  4. The 2012 issue of North to Alaska is now online. This is a great free online travel planner for anyone thinking about traveling to Alaska in an RV. You can also order a free North to Alaska book and Milepost map to be mailed to you.
  5. I am posting this info just in case any of you might be interested in going to AK by caravan. The group is the Special Military Active Retired Travel Club (SMART). They currently have 4 RVs signed up and are trying to get a minimum of 8 RVs, but should not cancel the trip if they only get less RVs. They have the lowest cost caravans since the Wagonmaster and Tailgunner work for free. Any military veteran can go on the caravan as either a regular member or if you are a friend of a member you can go as as an associate member. Here is the link for more information: 2012 SMART Alaska/Yukon Caravan. This is a 67 day caravan at a total cost of $5,384.09 for two adults in one coach. The cut-off date for signing up for this caravan is Feb. 1, 2012. SMART stands for Special Military Active Retired Travel Club. They require half the total cost paid by Feb. 1st and the second half paid by March 17th. I have posted the costs for the top seven Alaska/Yukon Caravans for 2012 with a cost comparison for each as well as links to each website for further information. The SMART caravan is the longest tour, spends the most days in Alaska, is the cheapest cost overall, and the cheapest cost per day. Each year several of the attendees are also FMCA members such as my DW and I. The DW and I are already signed up for this caravan, as well as three other RVs, as of Jan. 20, 2012. I am posting this info in hopes that others may be interested in joining the 2012 caravan. I have been to Alaska before (not by RV) and I am looking forward to going again in June of this year. I encourage any of you to take a look at the numbers below if you have ever thought about doing a caravan to Alaska. The camaraderie of fellow Vets would be a great bonus to a great Alaskan trip. Please feel free to forward this info along to other RV owning Vets; especially if you think they might be considering a trip to Alaska. The cost of the SMART Alaska trip includes 67 nights of camping in campgrounds, 10 Dinner meals, 5 Cruises, 6 tours and 3 shows. Also there is a Jacket for each person, 1 Mile post per RV and 1 tour saver coupon book.They also have a number of potluck meals planned to help save on meal costs and add to camaraderie. The entire trip consists of 6,238 miles of driving so you can budget accordingly for the amount of fuel that will be needed. Most "driving days" are between 100 to 300 miles with 200 miles as the average day of driving when out on the road. Company / # of Days / Total Cost / Cost per Day Discovery RV Tours / 34 / $6,973.00 / $206.00 Good Sam Caravan / 43 / $7,689.00 / $178.81 Fantasy RV Tours / 60 / $9,895.00 / $165.00 Adventure Caravans / 60 / $8,195.00 / $137.00 Camping World Pres. Club / 38 / $5,395.00 / $142.00 Newmar Kountry Klub / 42 / $5,495.00 / $130.00 SMART / 67 / $5,384.09 / $80.56
  6. I used the FMCA Michelin Tire Advantage Program while at the rally in Madison, WI. They provided me the fleet tire cost sheet and a local Michelin dealer did the install. The way it worked, I simply went online and found a Michelin dealer. I called the dealer and told them I was ordering a set of eight (08) 315/80R22.5 XZA1 tires using the program. Once the tires arrived, I drove to the dealer and had them mounted. The dealer charged his cost for removing old tires, mounting and balancing new tires; this went on one receipt. The dealer also made out a separate receipt to go to the FMCA for the actual tire purchase and it did not have a total cost on it. On this second receipt, I provided my FMCA membership number and an email address. About a week later the FMCA emailed me a copy of the completed invoice showing the amount charged for the tires along with the FET (also shown on the fleet tire cost sheet). The amount that came back on the second receipt was the exact amount quoted on the fleet tire cost sheet. NOTE 1: My old tires were Michelin 295/80R22.5 load range H. My new tires are Michelin 315/80R22.5 load range L. The reason I upgraded to a larger and better load range tire was that the fleet cost was about $80 per tire cheaper for the 315s over the fleet cost of the 295s. I first called both Newmar and Spartan to verify my coach and rims would handle the 315s before the purchase/install. I strongly suggest others also look carefully at prices to see if you might be able to save additional money by upgrading tires. I found this to be a strange phenomenon in pricing and others might find the same thing applies to their rig too. My new fleet priced tires are about $250 per tire cheaper than I could find on my own and that doesn't even count the upgrade in size/load range. I think this is the best FMCA benefit going right now and strongly recommend this program to all others. NOTE 2: If you want to get the absolute most bang for the buck, and you will be traveling through a "no sales tax state" such as MT, that would be the place to buy and install your tires. WI charged me a 5% sales tax and when you add that to a major purchase, it can add up quickly. Just something to consider!
  7. I have not been an FMCA member for a long time, but I keep reading in the newsletters, magazine, and websites how much financial difficulties the FMCA (as well as the rest of the RVing industry) is having due to the bad economy and low number of new paying memberships. I have read in the FMCA Full Timers Chapter newsletter about Full Life Memberships that FMCA use to offer. According to Jean S. Pryor, L12913 (an FMCA Full Timer Chapter member and Life Member), Full Lifetime Members are people who, in about 1977, contributed $500 to help save FMCA from bankruptcy and they no longer pay dues, get all benefits, and up to 2 conventions free per year. (Life members acquire an L before the member number.) I see in the past, that FMCA offered these Full Lifetime memberships as a way to generate some quick cash for the organization's financial chest. I also see other RV organizations offering Lifetime Membership such as Good Sam and Escapees RV Club. It seems by offering a lifetime membership for one large lump sum, that this is a good way to generate some quick cash and also to build up core amount of members for the long haul. The other RV clubs and organizations do not include lifetime rallies, but "DO" include their magazine. Perhaps the FMCA could re institute the lifetime memberships, but could perhaps include a mandatory digital subscription as a way to help defray mailing and printing costs of the magazine if a person opts for the lifetime membership; or offer two differing amounts for a lifetime membership - one with a paper magazine and snail mail delivery and one with a digital magazine only format with no mailing and printing costs. What do others think about this topic? Has this topic ever been brought up at the National level since the last time it was used back in about 1977? What would be a fair amount to pay for a lifetime FMCA membership (with or without a printed magazine subscription) and "NO" lifetime free rallies (as the other RV clubs do)? The club could then take this large lump sum membership fees and invest that money to help the long term stability of the club. I know we can all help the FMCA by trying to recruit more members by inviting our family and friends to join, but I truly do see this as another viable means to an end; which is to increase the number of long term members and to build up some finances for the organization.
  8. Roy Jameson, owner of Freedom Automotive of Hesperia, CA, did the homemade Ford Neutral Kit for my vehicle. Cost was $50 labor for 45 minutes of work and $5 for a 12 volt LED light. This is an extremely easy fix to allow my 2003 Ford Explorer 4x4 with V8 to be a Dinghy vehicle. The work consisted of cutting off the Green Plug (with two wires) under the right side of the steering column, completing the circuit with two short wires and an LED light, and then plugging in the computer and clicking on the option to allow Neutral Towing. Once the 12V LED was in place, I had the mechanic confirm that following the sequence of steps below that the transfer case was in neutral. Make sure the vehicle is secured (won't roll away) 1. have the engine running 2. put the shift level into neutral 3. turn the key back two positions (off but not locked) 4. indicator light will come on and then turn off 5. press the brake and the 4X4 auto button for about 5 seconds 6. the indicator light will flash 4 times and then stay on 7. release the brake and the 4X4 button 8. transfer case is in neutral I did not have to purchase the $350 Neutral Tow Kits plus $30 shipping costs from a Ford dealer in WA. Also, please note that REMCO puts out bad info on their website and by phone stating that the 2003 Ford Explorers with V8s and 4x4 can not be used as Dinghy vehicles. Even most Ford Service Centers put out bad info as well by stating my vehicle can not be towed four wheels down, even though their 2003 Ford Dinghy Guide states my vehicle can be used as a Dinghy. Once the work was completed, the vehicle was tested by towing it several miles and it tows just fine now. Once again, thanks to Nick Russell, of Gypsy Journal for telling me exactly how to make the homemade Ford Neutral Tow Kit for a total cost of $55 fully installed vs $380 parts/mailing plus $150 labor.
  9. Mike; Thanks, I will give Ford a call about P/N 1L2Z-7H332-AB. The Ford Service Department would not be so hesitant to flash the computer code if they were installing their own part. Since your Explorer is a V6 and mine a V8, that might make a difference. They are telling me that the part is still made for a V6 but not a V8.
  10. Mike; I appreciate any info you can come up with. The only thing I need a mechanic for is to plug into the computer and add the code. A simple LED light and a wire is the only other thing needed. Here is the code, but can't find a Ford dealer or independent mechanic that will program the code for me. USING NGS SERVICE (GREEN) CARD CONNECT TO VEHICLE VIA THE DIAGNOSTIC CONNECTOR SELECT “SERVICE BAY FUNCTIONS†SELECT “4X4 CONTROL MODULE†SELECT “NEUTRAL TOW FUNCTION†SELECT “EXPLORER†PRESS TRIGGER AND SCROLL TO ENABLE OR DISABLE PRESS TRIGGER AGAIN AFTER HIGHLIGHTING THE DESIRED STATE PRESS “DONE†USING NGS+ SELECT PROPER VEHICLE AND MODEL YEAR SELECT DIAGNOSTIC DATA LINK SELECT 4X4 MODULE SELECT FUNCTION TESTS SELECT NEUTRAL TOW ENABLE SCROLL TO ENABLE OR DISABLE NTF AND PRESS TRIGGER USING WDS CONNECT TO VEHICLE VIA THE DIAGNOSTIC CONNECTOR FOLLOW HOOK UP SCREEN AFTER WDS DISPLAYS VEHICLE INFO, SELECT TOOL BOX ON TOP OF SCREEN FROM ON SCREEN MENU SELECT “MODULE PROGRAMMING†SELECT “PROGRAMMABLE PARAMETTERS†SELECT “NEUTRAL TOW FUNCTION†FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS ON THE WDS TO COMPLETE OPERATION
  11. Finally we have found some luck with this one. Nick Russell of The Gypsy Journal is sending me the wiring diagram. The cost to make the truck towable is a $2 LED light/wire harness and about $25 labor to flash a particular code into the computer that can be done at any modern day mechanic's shop. Looking at a total cost of about $30 to $35. Before Nick called me, this is the info I had found on the subject: It appears the part is no longer made, but did find an out-of-state Ford dealer that has them available. They quit making the part in Nov. 2009. At the time the part was still being made, it cost $30, but now the part is no longer in production, so it costs $350. The kit consists of a wiring diagram, a diode, and a wire with an LED light on the end. Takes Ford less than one hour to download some info into the computer and make the install. Looking at about $400 to $500 total cost (parts and labor) plus travel expenses. I want to say thank you very much Nick Russell.
  12. I am trying to find a Neutral Tow Kit (part no. 1L2J7H332-AA) for a 2003 Ford Explorer 4x4 4Door V8. My local Ford dealer is telling me Ford does not make such a kit now nor have they ever made such a kit for any V8s, only have kits for V6s. I even showed him the 2003 Ford Towing Guide that specifically shows that my vehicle works with that install. I also did a check for this part on the Ford Parts website and no such part number is found there. Do any of you know anyone that has a new or used kit for sale or any mechanic that can do the install? I have seen messages on this board dated back in 2006 though 2008 that says this kit can be built yourself with about $12 worth of easy to find over-the-counter parts. Perhaps someone has this type of build plan that I can get a copy of? I also checked out the REMCO website. They do not build a Driveshaft Release Kit for my truck and that website states that the Ford Neutral Tow Kit will not work with my make/model of truck. I have read numerous posts on this website as well as several others that specifically do say the kit will work and are actually using it on their Ford Explorers. My 2003 Ford Explorer XLT is a 4 door with auto transmission and a V8. My 4x4 system has 3 buttons on the dash labeled 4x4 Auto, 4x4 High, and 4x4 Low. I have only used my 4x4 system a few times, but it was a lifesaver when I did need it. I am retired and currently live in So. CA, but am willing to drive just about anywhere at this point to have a Neutral Tow Kit system made and installed, rather than buy a trailer to tow my Ford Explorer on. Any additional info is greatly appreciated; especially a person or place that sells and installs these kits.
  13. JMonroe and jimsreyes; Thank you both for your honest answers and words of encouragement. We can't wait to start living the full-time lifestyle and love the fact we have gotten so many responses by posting and private message on this topic. We wish all of you and long and happy nomadic RV lifestyle!!! Sergeant Major
  14. Donald J. Potts Sergeant Major (E9) US Marines (active duty) 4 years plus 1979 to 1984 Infantryman (M-60 Machinegunner) and Primary Marksmanship Instructor US Army (reserve duty) 24 years plus 1984 to 2008 Combat Military Police, MP Instructor, and NCO Academy Instructor I am now retired from the military with a total of 28 years of service. I will be hitting the road as a full-timer sometime between Sep. 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011. It is great to be amongst friends here!!! Sergeant Major
  15. I want to thank all of the folks above that have already posted replies to my questions. Since nobody can have too many friends, I have added you all as my friends here on FMCA website forums. I appreciate your candor & honesty, the additional links for other RV clubs, and your tips on reminding me we will be living in a house on wheels that can simply drive away when the neighborhood isn't to our liking. Don't get me wrong, I too have felt prejudice from the black community when I am attending functions with my wife and I am the minority, but I am a much stronger person than my wife and I don't back down or shy away from negative situations. My wife on the other hand can easily get her feelings hurt by inconsiderate people that seem to harbor much hatred; especially anyone that throws the "N" word around. I think the hatred and prejudice that some people harbor inside is like a cancer that eats away at them, and it can't be good at any level. I think we have joined some great RV clubs and we intend to get involved with all of the fun activities that are available. We look forward to this upcoming phase in our lives and I hope to meet all of you guys someday during our travels. If you ever see us or our RV, please stop by and introduce yourself. My wife is a fantastic cook and she is the reason I can't fit in my old military uniforms anymore. All other comments on this subject are welcome and I will also keep responding to private messages as I receive them. I am really enjoying reading all of the FMCA posts on all different RV subjects and look forward to future FMCA rallies. Sergeant Major
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