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Everything posted by tbutler

  1. We spent Sunday and Monday nights, May 22 and 23, at Mareblu Camping in Fano. Tuesday morning we woke, tidied up the camper and headed out the gate about 10:00 a.m. Our intended destination was Isernia in south central Italy. The trip was mostly south before turning west into central Italy. We were driving on the A14. A is for Autostrada, the Italian version of the Interstate highways in the US except that they are toll roads. They are the only high-speed highways in Italy though you wouldn't know it the way some Italians drive. We stopped to fill up with diesel fuel so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a station along the way. The total distance was about 250 miles, 200 on the Autostrada and 50 a smaller mostly 2 lane road into the mountains. We never drove into the mountains, they made great scenery but the route we took kept us in the valleys. One of the most interesting things about Italian roads is the extraordinary number of tunnels. They have tunnels on the Autostrada, on major highways and even on small roads. There are just so many extreme hills and valleys that it makes tunneling the only option. We didn't count but I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't fifty tunnels in the last two days driving. On the Autostrada they had three lanes for the first 100 miles as we got further south the number of lanes dropped back to 2. There was frequent road work including some tunnels that were under repair so all of three lanes of traffic would squeeze into one lane. The roads are generally in good shape though we have encountered small patches on rural roads where the speed is reduced to 20 km/hr (12 MPH) for rough roads. Our goal for Wednesday was to get to Isernia and contact members of the Lombardi family. Louise’s younger sister married Louis Lombardi. He was born in Italy and brought to the US by his mother, Ida. Louie's father had been in the US for a while and had established a home for the rest of the family. The family home in Italy was near a small village just north of Isernia. Unfortunately, the phone and internet access failed us and we were unable to make contact with relatives in Isernia. We attempted to find a campground and there were none to be found anywhere near Isernia. We ended up spending the night in a parking area near an old, abandoned building. There were some local groups hanging out there, loud music, noisy motorcycles, etc. That quieted down about 11:00 but I wouldn't know. I fell asleep noise and all. The next morning we spotted a dump station on one end of the lot. Our camper is very much like our motor home. Both are happiest if they are plugged into a power source. Our motor home has enough battery power to get us by and of course we have a generator. The camper has one battery to start the engine and one battery to run everything else. In addition, there are some things that will not operate without an electrical hookup. Not plugged in, we have no way to charge our computers. We can charge our phones and i-pads from a USB outlet when the engine is running. There are other USB outlets that won't work unless we are plugged in. By Thursday morning, everything needed charging. With no family contact to guide us we set out with directions that Louise’s sister had provided. We left Isernia headed for Caravilli. We have seen any number of small communities draped across the tops of hills. They make quite a picturesque sight. Caravilli is one of them. Up the hill, around the curve and up the next hill. The view from the village is spectacular. We missed the turn and had to turn around and go back down a way before we took the next road on our quest to the town of Villa San Michelle. Another spectacular drive and we came to Villa San Michelle. People were parked along-side the road on what looked like sidewalks. We made like the natives and parked the van on the sidewalk. We explored the town from bottom to top. Along the way Louise struck up conversations with people who spoke no English. No matter she got her point across to most. One touching encounter happened when we talked with three women. One was able to work with Louise and develop an understanding. There was one very old woman who seemed to make a connection talking about Louie's parents. We had Ida's picture on the memorial card from her funeral. When we mentioned her name and Nickolo, Louie's father, she lit up. Then mentioning Ida's sons, Luigi (aka Louie) and Dominic seemed to really make a connection for her. We had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the experience of a small Italian village. Then it was off to the West Coast, Naples and Salerno. That was about a two-hour trip from Caravilli. We wandered along small roads for a while and then got on the A1 Autostrada. A look at the possible locations of campgrounds set us on our way to Camping Salerno which is where I write from now. Coming through the gate, the asked if we wanted a shaded site or seaside. We jumped at the seaside location. We were guided to our spot at the southeast end of a long line of RV's along the wall overlooking the beach and surf. I'm certain I'll sleep well tonight with the sound of the sea. From this base, we will stay here a week, we plan to explore Naples, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Capri Island and probably more... It took two tries to get our electric hooked up. The power box is located too far away for our cord, so the park brought an extension. Nothing worked so they brought another, plugged it in and viola! It worked and we once again are powered up. Louise has had her first swim in the Mediterranean and a shower. I need to do the same and then we are planning to have dinner in the restaurant here at Camping Salerno. We left Texas and the US on Wednesday and arrived here on Thursday so this marks day number 8 of our great Italian adventure.
  2. It is Saturday afternoon, May 21, 2022. We are in Chioggia, Italy. It is a beach town south of Venice. How we got here is a long story. I'll begin with our flight from the US. Our flight from McAllen was an early one, we left Sandpipiers Resort at 5:30 a.m. for a 30 minute drive to the airport. Check in was a mess. There was a line until things got stopped up, only two agents and both had customers with problems. Skipping details, they held the plane for Louise and I and one other customer. We got to Houston in time to get to our gate for our next flight to Newark, NJ. The airport at Newark is bizarre. We hadn't had breakfast or much more than a snack and were looking forward to food. Apparently they have an airport wide system for food service. Every restaurant or bar had an electronic menu. You scanned a square code for the menu but it wouldn't work well with our phones. They advised us to switch to Google for our browser. We didn't and managed finally to get help so we could get a couple slices of pizza. We boarded our plane, a Boeing 767-400 wide body at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Once in the air, sunset progressed very quickly and after an inflight "meal" everyone settled down for the night. They woke us at about 2:00 a.m., fed us breakfast and landed in Venice at 9:00 a.m. Venice time (all of Italy is the same time). We were processed through Italian customs in a mass of several hundred passengers from our flight and another tour group. They hustled us through as fast as they could. The Venice airport is a really small airport, one runway and one taxiway. There were two planes at gates. We had reserved a room at the Antony Palace Hotel just west of the airport. A short taxi ride and we were at our hotel about10:00 a.m. The room wasn't ready so we waited in the lobby until about 11. Once in our room, we showered and hit the sack. After about 6 hours of sleep, we got up, went to the lobby bar and had a light meal, a plate of assorted prescutto meats with mozzarella cheese balls and a glass of wine (or two). Now it was about 9:00 p.m. Venice time. We went back to the room and back to sleep. Up the next morning about 9:00, showered again and checked out of the hotel. From the hotel we took a taxi to the Indie Camper rental agency, a completely industrial facility. There was no waiting room, they stacked our gear and took us to nearby mall. We explored the mall, got food and drink and found a large well stocked grocery store. We filled a basket with food and supplies and exited the mall just in time to be picked up, our camper was ready. They helped us get our gear into the camper, a quick orientation and they were closed. We spent about a half hour getting things organized before we hit the road. I had the Italy chip for our Garmin GPS we use in the car so the GPS is familiar. We had identified a campground south of Venice but not too far away as our first stop. The camper had a 1/4 tank of diesel and 1/4 tank of DEF which is the added to the exhaust of diesel engines to clean up the exhaust. First stop was a gas station to fill up. Surprise number one, their gas pumps, completely self service, take credit cards but require a four digit PIN. I haven't seen a PIN needed for a credit card in I don't know how many years and had to look up the PIN in my computer. It was three digits and was not accepted. I figured we would find another station and try again. As we pulled out of the station, the engine which had been running normally now was speed restricted to 35 kilometers per hour. Pretty slow for a major thoroughfare. I was driving on the shoulder with flashers and finally when I couldn't get better performance from the engine decided to call for road service. There was a call box and I pulled up and stopped. Talking to someone on the other end who is struggling with his English as I am with Italian, we finally decided to call for a tow truck. It arrived shortly and the camper was loaded onto the back of a slant bed tow truck. It turns out that the 1/4 tank of DEF and Diesel were much less than that. We had gone about 10 kilometers when the tow truck picked us up. He added DEF at their service center, it didn't help. It wasn't until we left and found another fuel station that the problem was solved. So the Fiat diesel engine derates itself for DEF and/or diesel. We stayed on the slower roads and pulled aside for following traffic when possible. Using cash, I put in enough diesel to get it to 3/4 full. Now things were running fine. It was getting late, the sun was setting so we set out for the campground. An hour and a half later we were there. I missed two or three turns which the GPS corrected each time. I'm not sure how much that added to our travels. In at least one case it simply turned us around and put us back on the same road and I got the correct exit that time. We arrived in Chioggia about 10:00 p.m. The town is on the coast, marinas and beaches everywhere. The bars and restaurants were going full swing. There were people walking everywhere. We also had to contend with 100's of bicycles and heavy traffic on narrow roads. Louise was not happy. No matter how many times we tried we could not find the campground. Tom was not happy. We finally drove by a campground, not the intended one, and pulled in, it was now after 11:00 p.m. They had one space. We took it and are staying 2 nights. We explored the campground, found the restrooms and showers. Facilities at this campground were unisex, everything except sinks were in enclosed spaces. Showers are pay showers and require Euro coins. We had none. No showers. The toilets didn't have toilet paper so it was back to the camper. Fortunately we had purchased toilet paper at the above mentioned mall stop. All was good. It took us a while to get the bed made and enough of our gear stowed that we could get to sleep. We opened all the vents, covered the windshield and climbed into bed. After a good night's sleep, the day looked better. We got more groceries, stopped for a snack and drinks on the way back from the Aldi food store and are now relaxing for the afternoon. The beaches are all controlled entry and have huge full parking lots. We haven't been to the beach yet but may try that a little later as some of the beach goers head off to the restaurants and bars mentioned above. Louise is sleeping soundly as I write this. It takes some time to adjust to the overnight flight and a seven hour change in time. We are adjusting. I am pleased that the driving isn't as bad as I had feared. Despite difficulties we were able to get around without accident or incident. We went through some pretty hairy stuff dealing with crowds, narrow roads and oh yes, did I mention that I'm relearning the standard shift of my childhood. There have been a few missed gears but, hey, it's a rental! So that is installment number one of the great Italian adventure. Four days and counting...
  3. I was looking for the FMCA Member Code of Ethics which is referenced in the Governance section of the website but the only information I can find is about enforcement. Where can I find the actual document, "Member Code of Ethics" on the web site?
  4. Most tankless water heaters are made to retrofit regular tank type water heaters. We had no problem replacing our tank with a tankless and when we decided to give it up, converting back was easy. Changing to a regular water heater should be possible. Just raising this as one solution. Rather than try to deal with the dealership, you may want to contact the manufacturer. Girard is a major RV manufacturer, I have always found them to be responsive to customers needing help. Their contact information is: (949) 259-4000, 1361 Calle Avanzado, San Clemente, CA 92673. They can recommend a repair center to help with servicing or adjusting the system if that is what is needed. 1361
  5. Carl, We were staying at Longhorn RV Resort in Niederwald. We left on Monday about noon. We drove north as far as the good weather would hold out. We pulled into NIRVC on Tuesday, just ahead of a rain storm. They have already checked out our Smart Wheel problem. A loose spring was shorting the horn. We are now waiting for repair parts. We are hoping that they will arrive tomorrow and also that they will be the only parts needed to get us back on the road.
  6. Sam's Club has a credit card that gives you 5% cash back (that is 15 cents per gallon when fuel is $3.00 a gallon) fuel purchases at any station. I think Costco has the same deal. With a motor home it is easy to offset the club membership fee if you travel regularly. Sam's club won't return your cash back until after the end of the calendar year. I've gotten cash back for the year with this card in the $600 range. We use Gas Buddy to find the best price, not only where we are but looking ahead to the next stop or the next state, when traveling cross country. We also fuel up (diesel) at local retail stations. Check Gas Buddy and you will see that regular retailers are selling fuel at prices well below the truck stops. It is not unusual to find local stations selling diesel 40 cents below the per gallon price at truck stops just a few miles away. I've developed an eye for determining if a station is accessible or not for even our 45 foot coach. I can get Sam's Club fuel prices and their 5% rebate.
  7. Most tankless water heaters have a minimum flow requirement to start heating. It sounds as if your water pump won't reach that minimum flow unless you open two faucets. With the city water hooked up, the pressure is greater and thus the minimum flow is reached with one faucet. If you take a shower and mix too much cold water with the hot water to get a comfortable shower, that reduces the hot water flow. Next thing you know, you may be standing in a cold water shower. We installed a tankless water heater several years ago and encountered the same kind of problems. I had it changed back to a tank after about two months working with the manufacturer trying to get the minimum flow set as low as possible. Their last suggestion was to turn on the hot water faucet in the sink while taking a shower! Clearly the person I was talking with had never been in an RV. We now have a coach with an AquaHot which is a boiler type system. The 16 gallon tank is kept at about 180 degrees. the AquaHot runs on diesel or electric. It does hot water (mixing valve reduces the temperature to a safe hot water temperature), heat for the coach and can even be used to warm up the diesel engine in cold weather. True endless hot water!
  8. It is good to hear from everyone! I appreciate your confidence in my repair ability Herman. The root of the problem seems to be a short in the horn. They have attempted to shut off all power to the horn but it still sounds when the horn relay is replaced. I'd hate to replace a module if that isn't the problem or even worse, damage another module because of the short in the horn. I have several hooks in the water. I contacted VIP (e-mail) asking for a recommendation for service center with a certified tech. I have also contacted NIRVC to see when I might be able to get service. As it stands right now, the rain here in the Austin area has us pinned down. We would love to be on the road tomorrow morning but the forecast doesn't look favorable. Bill, send me those directions. If we can get an appointment there we'll use them.
  9. So glad to get the recommendation for National Indoor RV Center. Our Smart Wheel died leaving the Lone Star Rally in Rockport last week. As we were turning out of the entrance of Lagoons RV Park, a right turn, the horn started sounding. It quit when we straightened the wheel but then continued sounding at every turn and occasionally while on straight road. The windshield wipers were on, fortunately, we drove through an hour of driving rain. When we exited the rain, the wipers wouldn't shut off. Clear of the rain, I shut off the engine and the wipers stopped. They haven't worked since. I had to pull the horn relay to stop its sounding. I tried resetting the Smart Wheel, pulling the fuse and relay, no luck there. We have given Freightliner in Buda (Freightliner of Austin second location) three days to work on this and they have made little progress. I have a copy of their diagnosis up to this point. They pretty much told me to get lost Friday so it's off to Dallas, as soon as it stops raining!
  10. Despite COVID we hit the road June 11, 2020. We felt that we would be able to travel safely in our motor home. In fact, that proved to work well. We left Edinburg, TX headed north for Missouri. The first thing we noticed is that there was very little traffic of any kind. We drove through San Antonio on I-435 and I-35 at the posted speed limit during "rush hour." This continued as we drove through Austin and Waco. We stopped for the night at a Walmart in Georgetown, Texas. A brief visit to the store confirmed we were allowed to stay. There were no other RV's on the lot that night. In fact, we saw only a few trailers the previous day, not a single motor home traveling with us or on the southbound highway. This continued to be the case until we got to the Oklahoma Turnpike and I-55 in Missouri. Travel through Dallas was at or near the speed limit with the exception of one small delay for an accident. We stayed at an RV park in Oklahoma. Check-in was at a motel office. The office personnel were not masked, there were no barriers (plexiglass) so we stayed as distant as possible, wearing our masks. Fueling was pay at the pump so that required no contact. We made a brief stop at Walmart when the DEF indicator showed us getting low on DEF. The afternoon of the third day we pulled into our daughters home in Foristell, MO. We had them install a complete RV site, concrete with full hookups when they built their home. It is a rural area and there was plenty of space. We paid for the improvements as we have several family members in the area and normally spend a month or more there. With family now, we quarantined for a week, talking only at a distance and with masks on. Early on in the COVID outbreak I started using a infrared thermometer to monitor our temperatures and I also purchased an oximeter to monitor our oxygen levels. I did the same for our families we were visiting. Temperature monitoring was easily understood. The oximeter took some explanation. My doctor recommended it as a way to determine when to seek medical help if you were feeling ill. COVID attacks the lungs and when oxygen levels in the blood drop below 95%, the danger of damage to the brain increases. That would be time for help. I continue to monitor those conditions today. We left Missouri in mid-August, headed for Colorado to visit our family there. We were going to provide support for our daughter who had foot surgery scheduled in early September. We have been staying at a humble but affordable RV Park in Aurora, Denver Meadows. Office and maintenance staff at this park were always masked. Once surgery was completed and our daughter was able to fend for herself again, we left Denver. That was September 6. During the entire time in Denver we were never able to see the Rocky Mountains. Fires in the area had us in a smoky haze the entire time. At times it got somewhat better but then the wind would shift and we were back in heavier haze and smoke. We even had a small fire break out just across the creek from the RV park. That was extinguished without danger to us but there was a fire department vehicle parked on our side of the creek the whole time. The next leg of our trip was to Oregon where we had service scheduled on our coach. We traveled through Utah, staying a couple of days at Golden Spike RV Park in Brigham City, UT. Again we found staff masked and following COVID protocols. We had passed the area of the Golden Spike National Historical Park near Promontory Point, UT, numerous times. Each time we remarked we'd like to see that monument. We spent an afternoon at the site. The visitors center was closed except for the gift shop. The outdoor exhibits were well worth the stop. They had one of the two replica steam engines out for display. The engine (one of two replicas) is an exact replica of the original engine used by the Central Pacific Railroad during the building of the western part of the Trans Continental Railroad. The other engine is a replica of the engine used by the Union Pacific Railroad which built the eastern part of the railroad. While the engines are exact replicas, they were way to beautiful to look like the working engines that were actually used. The engine was under steam and we had a nice visit with one of the staff when they came out to release steam from the engine. We could have stayed to see them move the engine back into storage, something that is done each evening. As our journey continued into Idaho, we could see evidence of the fires on the west coast. We were once again in a cloud of smoke. We enjoy the trip across Oregon on US 20 and this was our plan on this trip. Our daughter who lives in California and has relatives in Oregon advised us to check on the fires as they were near our destination. We found that roads we normally travel were closed due to the fire. We made an overnight stop at a rest area near Brothers, OR. The next morning a quick check of road conditions indicated one route that would not take us too far out of our way to Coburg, OR. That route took us up and over mountainous terrain. One stretch had over 30 switchbacks, none too severe and traffic was light so our slow speed didn't back up a huge line of traffic. We reached I-5 about 30 miles north of Coburg. As we continued, the smoke became heavier and visibility dropped. When we parked at Cummins that afternoon, I got out to hook up the power and found that there was more than smoke. There was ash falling in fine flakes. I was leaving footprints in the ash. We stayed indoors until time to check in the next morning. A day later we were at the REV Group service center. There we could monitor air quality by how far we could see across a neighboring parking lot. There were four large light poles that served as markers of the air quality. For several days we could only see one of the four light poles, about 200 feet away. Things began to improve and a week later we could see all four light poles. Then the rain came and the air cleared. Several more rain showers had most of the fires under control. At both service centers there were waiting rooms and we used them. Distancing and masks were required. There were a few people who couldn't talk without removing their mask temporarily. One couple who refused to wear a mask were isolated in a separate room at the REV Group facility. Later we learned that COVID is rarely transmitted through contact with surfaces. It is almost always transmitted through the air. Still, we were conscious of touching surfaces and kept hand sanitizer with us in the waiting rooms. We had a week off from the service center while they were waiting for parts so we drove south to Sutherlin, OR. We stayed at the Umpqua Golf Club and RV. Again, everyone was following COVID protocols, masks and distancing. We played golf almost every day while there. We also got in a family visit and had lunch at a restaurant in Roseburg one afternoon. We found early on when restaurants were open that if we ate at off hours, we could be almost alone in the restaurant. In this case we also had an outdoor table. Once repairs were completed, we headed south for our Texas home. Traffic remained light to moderate and we made good time. We left Coburg on the 16th of October and were in Edinburg on the 22nd. We and our families remain COVID free and both Louise and I have completed the vaccine regimine. We made our first trip of 2021 to Tallahassee, FL for a Monaco International Pre-Rally before attending the FMCA Convention in Perry, GA. Our summer travels will begin in late May and we plan to be out over much of the same territory during the summer of 2021.
  11. I’m watching golf today. I recognize more of the players on the Senior Tour than in the Rocket Loans Championship. On the news recently they featured the New York Mets celebrating 50 years since their 1969 World Series Championship with a parade. The players who are still alive rode in vintage Ford Mustang convertibles. Fifty years ago the Apollo 11 Crew were in their final days of preparation for the first Moon landing. There are more anniversaries that are happening than I want to admit remembering. Bear with me, those of you who are younger. Your year will come. This year is exceptionally significant for me. I graduated in 1969 from the University of Missouri, Distinguished Military Graduate, on the way to Fort Sam Houston, TX. Fifty years ago, I was in Fayettville, North Carolina, a newly minted Second Lieutenant in the US Army. As the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the First Aid Range for the Basic Training Course at Fort Bragg, I was on my first assignment. My first wife was pregnant, we were expecting our first child. A month later, Apollo 11 would achieve the first Moon landing. The astronauts would emerge from isolation (to protect us from any Moon germs), on the birthday of my daughter. The recent TV review of the Moon landing was interesting to watch. Later that year I would receive my orders for Viet Nam. About that time my parents would adopt a young girl of American/Korean parentage as their fourth and final child. She was an aunt to my daughter but only a few years older. She helped raise my daughter and I think my daughter helped her learn English. The two are inseparable today. Louise had just completed her first year of teaching and was a newlywed living with her first husband. Richard Nixon was in the White-House, Spiro Agnew was Vice-President of the United States. Looking back, fifty years seems to have passed so quickly.
  12. I enjoyed your perspective on Yellowstone. It is an amazing place to visit.
  13. To the question of the OP, I'm late to this discussion but my answer is a big yes. Our 2004 Windsor failed just as you mentioned. When I examined the switch that failed, I found it had a washer and bolt on one side and was against plastic on the other side. Examining the chassis switch, I found it had a washer on both sides, giving it more surface contact than the switch that failed. This meant that drawing higher amps would lead to a higher temperature and this accounted for the melting of the switch. When this failure happened, we were ready to leave for our summer travels. We had slides out and couldn't move. Since the function of a switch is to open or close a circuit, I simply disconnected the two lines to the switch and bolted them together, problem solved, switch on. The only down side to this is that I would have to remove the bolt and isolate the wires to turn the circuit off. The long term solution was to put in a new, larger capacity switch. The fuse should be the over limit failure in any electrical system. If the switch rating isn't higher than the fuse then that is a flaw in the circuit design. I didn't try to replace the exact switch, went to an RV Dealer and found a 600 amp switch. Problem solved, this one won't fail. There is no harm in having a switch with a larger capacity than the circuit requires. Again, the fuse is supposed to be the failure point in any circuit. I eventually replaced the chassis switch with the same 600 amp switch. Cheap plastic switches are just that, cheap.
  14. This is an old post but it gives details for the replacement process we went through as well as information on the refrigerator we used Electrical considerations, and more are discussed in the following comments. We found a standard 4x6V battery set-up to work well for us over the years. We can go through the night without needing generator unless we're using the furnace heavily.
  15. I just finished reading an article in the New York Times travel section. Titled: To Reduce Travel Stress, Plan Less, the article by Geoffrey Morrison highlights the advantages of making travel decisions on the run, as you travel. While it is based on travel by plane or automobile, stays in hotels or hostels, and meals in restaurants, many of the concepts are applicable to RV travel. In fact, in our travels, this has been our normal mode of travel. I know that some people have to have every RV park reserved for an entire trip. Activities are planned before leaving home. We seldom plan more than a destination and that is in general terms. As we travel we make decisions on where to stay each evening based on our location and the possible places to stay that are ahead. This usually happens about 3 or 4:00 p.m. If we're looking for a rest area or Walmart, we start looking for possible places within our desired travel distance. If it is an RV park that we want for the night, we'll call ahead to ensure a space is available. Traveling this way allows us to consider things like traffic, weather and our endurance in each day's travel. Traffic delay? No problem, we will travel less distance that day and stay some place within range before sunset. Bad weather ahead, we may stop and stay near our current location. Even if the weather is unavoidable, I'd rather be parked than on the road during a dangerous storm. If continuing to travel longer than usual will keep us ahead of a storm, we can stretch our travel for the day. With no reservations, we can alter our travel to fit conditions without worry about having to be a certain place at a certain time. As we travel, we are always looking for places of interest. Without a set schedule, we are able to spend a spontaneous moment or a day exploring a park, festival, visitors center or museum. In Wyoming there are many roadside historical or cultural sites. Each one is an opportunity to learn more about the state, it's history and people. I mention specifically Wyoming because almost all of these sites we've seen are RV friendly, well marked large pull outs with easy exit and re-entry to the highway. They make excellent lunch stops as well. They are perfect for relaxed travel. In the spring of 2016, we made a stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We imagined spending two nights and once assured of our arrival we reserved a site for two nights. Once there we started exploring Hot Springs National Park. After the first day, we added two more nights to our stay. There were more things to see and do than we had anticipated. We ended up reserving the full spa treatment at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, the one remaining original bathhouse in the park. Louise and I both had the full treatment then went to The Pancake House for breakfast! Well worth staying an extra day or two. In 2004, we left Texas with plans to travel the Lewis and Clark Trail. It was the 200th anniversary of their trip going westward. We made our way north and east to Louisville, Kentucky traveling another of our favorite routes, the Natchez Trace. At one of our stops we happened on the grave marker for Meriwether Lewis. We hadn't planned on finding grave sites for Lewis or Clark but ended up making that part of the trip. Anyway, that delayed our trip by a few hours, no problem, no reservations. It turns Clark's grave was in a cemetery we passed frequently when we lived in the St. Louis, Missouri area. We made that entire trip with few if any reservations. Each day Louise read an entry from Lewis' journal so we would appreciate the travel challenges faced by the expedition. We found many of the visitors centers and historic sites had RV parking and when necessary we could spend a night in a park to tour a museum. The relaxed nature of our travel made the trip a delight, one of the highlights of our 18 years of RV travel. We did have one serious interruption in the trip. Louise's mother's health had taken a turn for the worst. Her doctor told her she could no longer drive. This was the end of her stay in Lake Havasu, Arizona. We left Missouri, spent three weeks helping sell many of her belongings, and drove her to Arvada, Colorado where she would take up occupancy with her youngest daughter and her family. Following that two week delay, we headed north to the nearest portion of the trail in Western South Dakota. We spent several days in an RV park in Custer, SD then picked up Lewis and Clark in Pierre, SD. On the return to the midwest we would visit several of the sites we had missed including The Sargent Floyd Monument in Sioux City, Iowa. Sargent Floyd was the only casualty of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. His death is thought to be a result of a ruptured appendix. We were able to take on the unplanned event without worrying about reservations or staying to a schedule. Today we are at my daughter's home with no set date for departure and we are discussing where we will go as we head east to visit relatives. We'll work it out as we go. Do we ever make reservations? Yes! Some events attract a crowd, some events are scheduled for only a certain time. The FMCA Conventions are reservation events for us. We attend a pre-rally before the convention and that also is a reservation situation. In 2003, we attended the celebration of 100 years of flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. We had reservations in an RV park as soon as we had secured tickets for the event. Many people made long range plans and reserved a location for viewing the total eclipse last year. We chose to locate in northeast Colorado, near but not on the path of totality. As day of the eclipse approached we changed our plans several times based on the weather forecast. Two days before the eclipse we left our campsite in Colorado headed for Idaho. The day before the eclipse we woke up in the parking lot of Little America on I-80 in western Wyoming. The weather looked as good or better in Wyoming so we picked the general location where we would be for the eclipse. On the way to Riverton, Wyoming Louise called the Wind River RV Park. They had a cancellation, we got a site with full hook-ups for the eclipse. It turned out perfect, we saw the complete eclipse. Que sera sera, what will be will be.
  16. A common cartoon has a child with a knapsack on a stick running away from home. It may be that cartoon that inspired my wanderlust. I love to travel and for ten years we lived in our motor home full time. In 2010 we put a mobile home on a lot in Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas. That transitioned us from full timers to part time RV'ers. It also created a challenge in classifying our status, we are no longer snowbirds or Winter Texans as they called us in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Now we are Texans who flee the heat of summer. I like the term summer chickens to explain our status. When we were full time, there were several occasions when we responded to family illness. The first occurred just a week after we purchased our second motor home. We were in Louisiana enjoying the bayou's and learning how to operate our new home. Louise's sister called. Their mother had experienced a sudden change in her health. Louise's sister was staying with mom but she needed to return home. Two days later we were in Lake Havasu, Arizona parked next to mom's house. Breaking camp was a simple matter of disconnecting utilities and stowing any loose objects in the coach. We were on our way almost immediately. Another time we performed this drill, we were located at Sandpipers Resort, on our RV lot. We had taken an annual lease on the lot and were settled in with a storage shed, some patio furniture and other supplies for enjoying the winter in Texas. We were just a few days from being ready to pack up for summer travel when we got word that Louise's mother was taken to the hospital with a heart attack. She was in Denver by this time, staying with Louise's youngest sister. Packing everything away and getting the coach ready to travel took us about 24 hours, we were on our way the next afternoon. Now we have a home, packing up for summer is an extended process. There is more stuff to be stowed, the coach has to be made travel ready, a few items have to be relocated from the house to the motor home. Now we start the real process about a week before our intended departure. There is a list of things that have to be done before leaving the house, a visit from the exterminator, the semi-annual check of the air conditioning system, arranging for mail and lawn care, renewal of the annual contract and taking care of any maintenance items, last minute doctor's visits. The list goes on and on. When we do finally pull out of the driveway and roll down the road, things get simpler, we are once again living our RV lifestyle. For the next six months we will travel, visit family and friends, wander around the country, ready to pick up and go anywhere, anytime. Once more we are like the child with the knapsack, a really big, comfortable knapsack!
  17. We spend our winters in south Texas at Sandpipers Resort. It is an independent resort and they ask for proof of insurance and do require that all vehicles in the park (including permanently parked trailers) have a current license. They don't require you show registration, the plate is good enough. They have never asked for a drivers license. I think that any park is allowed to ask for any information they want, and we are free to find another park if we don't like it. I can't think of any other park we've stayed at that requires that information for stays up to a month long.
  18. We made the loop around the National Park and National Forest in 2012 in a 40 foot motor home. I don't keep a record of campgrounds but found no problem with any we stayed at. We camped near Hoodsport on the SE side of the park. We spent a week there exploring the park, wineries in the area and a wonderful event in Olympic when the Salish tribes held a potlatch near there. More than 100 ceremonial canoes from as far away as Alaska arrived in the Olympic harbor and were welcomed at a drum ceremony. From there we moved to Sequim on the NE. We stayed there for a week and found plenty to see in the area. There is a great bicycle riding trail. We also made a trip to Port Townsend from Sequim, a most interesting port, boat building museum, old seaside town. Our next stop was a campground just west of Port Angeles. Another great bicycle trail in this area. We took the toad on a ferry trip to Vancouver Island (bring your passport) to visit friends there. We also explored the northern part of the park and enjoyed the Blackberry Festival in Joyce, WA. From there we moved on to Forks. There is a decent park in town. There is also a park in the Quileute Tribal land on the seashore in La Push. We attended a drum ceremony in La Push and were made to feel most welcome. Forks is a great place to learn about the forestry and logging industry. They have a logging museum and an excellent guided tour to a mill and a field site where logging is in progress (2012). The tour was conducted by a retired forester who worked with the industry in the area, very informative. Our final stop at the park was in Amanda Park on the southwest side of the park. There are some great hiking trails here, many trees that are recorded as the oldest or largest of their species in the world. One was in the park where we stayed. The entire Olympic National Park and National Forest was a great experience. We hiked so many great trails, saw so much great scenery and met wonderful people. It was on our to-do list for a long time, we really enjoyed it once we got there. By the way, the Olympic Peninsula is a rain forest and we came prepared for rain. We didn't have a single day of rain while we were there! The summers are generally pretty dry. This time of year it is another story. We continued our travels on south on Hwy 101 into Oregon and really enjoyed the journey along the coastal NW. It is a great extension of a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Use RV Park Reviews which is now Campground Reviews to locate parks in the areas we stayed. Pick the ones you like. You can also find information on parks at Allstays on the computer or use the app on your phone. We prefer the app and use it constantly for campgrounds and other resources including Walmart and other stops as well as locating groceries, repair shops, fuel, etc. Allstays is my primary resource for travel information.
  19. The same goes for the Sam's Club Mastercard. The cash back on fuel is 5%, at any fuel station, not just Sam's Club. By the way, 5% is15 cents per gallon if fuel is $3.00 a gallon. The cash back accumulates until the January statement, which has a check, arrives then you get real cash at Sam's Club. This year, my 2018 rebate check will be almost $500.00. As mentioned above, Gas Buddy is a must for finding that station with the lowest price for fuel in your area. It also allows me to "look ahead" to see if fuel is cheaper or more expensive in the direction I am headed. If cheaper, I'll wait to fuel until I get to the less expensive location. If that is beyond my fuel range, I'll add a minimal amount and then continue to the best price ahead. If the opposite occurs, the prices ahead are more expensive, I'll fill up before I reach the higher prices ahead. I was able to drive through California, from the north on I-5 to the south, leaving on I-8 purchasing only 10 gallons of diesel to get me to Arizona.
  20. Let me introduce our motor home, VGER. VGER is named for the villainous character in the first of the Star Trek movies. VGER has been in our family going on 15 years this summer. It (VGER was an it) was purchased at a Monaco Come Home Rally in Raine, LA. We traded in a 10 year old Monaco we had purchased as a used coach in the spring of 2001. We sold our home and moved into that used coach full time on July 7, 2001. VGER was purchased new, 1235.4 miles on the odometer when we took possession on November 14, 2003. Today it has 177,326.1 miles on the odometer. From November 2003 until October 2010, we lived in VGER full time. Starting in the fall of 2010, we move into a mobile home each fall and move back into VGER each spring. When in VGER, we travel. A long stay is on the order of 3 to 4 weeks. Those stays are when we are visiting our children and grandchildren. Once a year we move into our children's neighborhoods and become neighbors for a period of time. In between time we follow our noses. We've visited 49 states and 12 provinces in Canada. We have begun slowly remodeling VGER. Carpeting, lights, some furniture, plumbing and more. Some of the remodeling has been out of necessity some just to keep the coach looking modern. Our work continued this summer, right up to the time we found our next motor home. While at Gillette, first at the Monaco International pre-rally and finally at the FMCA Convention, we purchased a 2015 Monaco Dynasty. The Windsor is up for sale, look for the ad in the Family RV'ing Magazine (FMCA) January issue. We transferred the license from the Windsor to the Dynasty, VGER lives on. Since the purchase we have put 4500 miles on the Dynasty and are enjoying many of it's features. There is a trade-off when moving from a 40' coach to a 45' coach. The two are not directly comparable as they are of a different age. Right away we realized that the relative frugality of the Windsor was dramatically different from the Dynasty. Fuel mileage dropped from 8.3 with the Windsor to 6.5 with the Dynasty. That was no surprise, I figured it might even be lower. The Dynasty has an Aqua-Hot for hot water and heat. Both run off the fuel tank as does the generator. With the Windsor only the generator shared the fuel tank. With all these uses for the diesel fuel, I have lost the ability to get a true mileage performance figure. Due to the demand for electric, we have an induction cooktop, the Dynasty really needs to be plugged in regularly. The generator will run things but using the generator extensively is an expensive proposition. The water and waste tanks are roughly the same size as the Windsor but the water usage in the Dynasty is going to be greater. The toilets use significantly more water with each flush. The shower has a rain shower head which is a big water user. That means we will have to be hooked up every two or three days. With the Windsor we were able to go close to a week without hook-ups and longer if we really needed to stretch it. When we pulled up to our home at Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas we faced another challenge. Our parking space is adjacent to our mobile home. The driveway barely accommodated the length of the Windsor with our toad parked behind. I knew that and planned to park the toad cross-way in the driveway, that worked fine. We also had to maneuver a longer coach onto the driveway. The park road is fairly narrow and there is no way to run off on the opposite side. We always had to make three or four passes to jockey the Windsor into the driveway. I didn't even know if we could get the Dynasty into the driveway. As it turned out, we made it, a few more passes than the Windsor. With all the slides open we have about 6 inches between the Dynasty and the roof of the mobile home. Whew! That is close. Surprisingly, the space in the storage bays is less in the Dynasty than the Windsor. Some of our gear made the trip home in the toad rather than in the storage bays. We'll go through some winnowing of our gear before departing next spring. All in all we are quite happy with our new VGER and as we get to know it better I'm certain we'll continue to look back to the Windsor with many happy memories while enjoying the luxury of the Dynasty.
  21. 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.
  22. Thanks Rich, if I had that link last winter I'd have replaced my headlights. Tom
  23. Nice description of your travels. Great pictures. Lovely coach. I'll be looking forward to your next entry.
  24. I was a graduate assistant for a geology course at the University of Missouri, Rolla, for several summers. One summer we needed some wood blocks for an activity. I purchased a 2x4 but didn't have a saw so took it to the shop that supported the class needs at an engineering school. I asked for blocks which were square, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. The person I was talking to asked me what tolerance was allowed. In an engineering school, it wouldn't be uncommon to have a requirement for a tolerance of +/- 1/10,000 inch. For my needs, +/- an eighth inch was sufficient but it did make me think about accuracy and tolerance in making measurements. In that light, I offer the following comments... In talking about vehicle weight, don't overlook Brett's comment about fuel tanks. One of the things that makes knowing vehicle weight on a motor home so important and difficult is that the weight is constantly changing. Fuel, diesel or gas, and propane will change as a motor home travels down the road. On an extended road trip, waste tanks will fill and the fresh water tank will slowly empty. Point #4 implies a degree of accuracy that can't be achieved in a vehicle which is constantly changing weight and weight distribution. When you have your vehicle weighed by RVSEF, their form has a place to indicate tank levels and instructions for calculating what the full tanks would add to the weight of the vehicle at the time of weighing. While it would be unusual, you have to inflate your tires for full tanks which will result in slightly over--inflated tires most of the time. The likelihood that your tire inflation is perfectly on-the-dot correct for your current weight is very low and the expectation that it could be kept perfectly correct for your weight is something that would be impossible. +/- what? Thinking about tire inflation, one major consideration has been missed. What is the accuracy of your measuring instrument? Has your tire gauge been certified for accuracy? How old is it? How long has it been since it was tested for accuracy. I have had tire dealerships compare readings from my tire gauge with the main gauge for their shop. I don't know what the requirements for testing their gauges but comparing different tire gauges shows a 10 pound difference between two identical tire gauges is not uncommon. Your average tire gauge is not a precision instrument that you may think it is. The same is to be said for tire pressure monitoring systems. You will find that the sensors show differences from one to the next. Two tires which show exactly the same pressure on my tire gauge show different pressures on the TPMS. Taking a tire pressure reading itself will introduce small errors in the system. Apply the gauge, you hear a brief hiss, release the gauge from the tire valve, another hiss, losing air pressure each time. My TPMS sensors have to be screwed on, more hissing as I quickly screw them on the tire valve. How much pressure is lost? Is that the difference in the readings of the two TPMS sensors? Bleeding the pressure from tires will quickly let you know that a lot of hissing goes on to lower the pressure a pound so I suspect it is a very minor difference. +/- what? When getting a starting air pressure for the beginning of the day, it is important that the tires not be sitting in the sunlight. A tire sitting in sunlight will warm quickly and the pressure will read higher than a tire in the shade even if both were at the same pressure before sunrise. Adjusting the pressure on a tire which has the sun shining on it can result in wildly different pressures between tires on one axle where one tire is in sunlight and the other in shade. This is why I never sleep late on a day when we are driving. Unless you are parked in a very shady location or inside a garage, there is only one way to get an accurate before driving air pressure reading from your tires, get up before the sun hits them. +/- what?
  25. tbutler


    An inverter takes 12V DC power from the batteries and produces 110V AC power. If you want or need 110V AC (like the electric in your house) in your coach, then the inverter should be on. If you don't need 110V AC power, you can turn the inverter off. We leave ours on all the time. Just our preference, not a requirement. Louise doesn't like to reset the clocks on the microwave and alarm clocks, etc. Also, we may turn the TV on when we make a stop to check weather, news, etc. Our coach is just like home, we have 110 V AC all the time...
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