Monday, July 18, 2016

This Is Why We Make Reservations Over Holidays

Posted from near Bernardston, MA
(Click on Pics to Enlarge)

This post is a bit late, but we've been "on the move" lately.  One of the few things we've learned as fulltimers is to make reservations over holidays and to be "in place" somewhere during those times.

Well, we did just that for the recently passed Independence Holiday weekend, but things didn't turn out as planned. Oh well, we got to experience a bit more blacktop boondocking than we would have liked, but more on that to follow.

We are Thousand Trails members and as such we had booked a 14-day stay at Gettysburg Farms in PA to include June 27th thru July 7th.  Seems like a good idea.  Beat the weekend crowds both before and after the holiday.

....And here's where the L O N G weekend story begins.

We arrive at Gettysburg Farms about 1:00 PM. For those not familiar with the TT reservation system, it's a first come, first served situation once you arrive at the park.  We ideally would like to have a 50-amp FHU site because we are going to be here for 10 days.  We unhook the toad from the MH and begin the search for a site.  The first thing we notice is that there are absolutely NO 50-amp FHU sites left in the entire park.

It's supposed to be hot weather for the next few days, so our next level of searching is for a 30-amp FHU site.  Yay, we find and occupy the LAST FHU site in the entire park.  All other remaining sites are W/E only and many are down near the river in a somewhat "soft ground" area. I really don't want to take the chance of becoming stuck with the MH.

Ok, we've set everything up and turn on a single A/C (because of the 30-amp service) and everything seems to be going well.  How stupid of me to think that!  We have a Progressive Industries Surge Protector/EMS system installed in the MH to protect against several different types of electrical maladies. One of these is low voltage. If voltage below 104 is detected, the unit shuts off power to the MH to protect electrical components within. You guessed it, we were experiencing low voltage approximately every 10-15 minutes and the power to the MH would shut down.

To their credit, after contacting the office, an electrician was sent to our site in short order.  They replaced both the 30-amp plug and the circuit breaker at the pedestal, but still to no avail. I suspect we were near the end of the line for this electrical run and the electrical work (being old) was just not able to keep up with camper demand.

Ok, what to do?  Our choices were:  (1) Stay on the site and hope the power got better, (2) move to an W/E only site for the remainder, or (3)  leave and try somewhere else.  We did give Option #1 a try for a bit, but it just wasn't getting any better.  We finally decided to leave the park and headed to our next destination which was the TT Hershey park.

Here's where the real fun began.  Because it was an upcoming holiday weekend we were only able to book the rest of the day (June 27) and we had to leave on Friday (July 1).  At least we've got a few days covered at this point.  Now we begin our campground search for the holiday weekend.  We literally contacted every campground within 2 hours driving distance of Hershey.  After the laughter died down on the other end of the phone, ALL campgrounds advised that they were completely booked for the holiday.  Not to be unexpected, actually, as this is the first big holiday after school has left out for the weekend crowds.

Now what to do.  We finally decided upon testing out the "self containment" feature of our MH by asphalt boondocking for the next 4 nights. We filled the freshwater tank before leaving TT Hershey and set out to the Palmyra Walmart.  Got a nice spot out in the corner of the lot.

Attempting to be good "overnighters" we parked the passenger side to the curb and only put out our slides on that side of the MH which hung over the grass.  The view out this side was at least tranquil.

We really didn't want to overstay our welcome (as the manager said it was ok to stay for 1 or 2 nights), so on the 3rd day (July 3) we pulled in the slides and headed to our next spot, Cabela's in Hamburg, PA.

If you've never overnighted at a Cabela's store before, give it a try. They actually seem to like RVers staying in their lots. Plus, spending a few bucks in the store doesn't hurt either.  This Cabela's had several rows on the side of their lot designated for RVs.  The spaces were long.  They even had a dump station which was activated by use of a credit card kiosk at the facility.

They had several horse corrals and several kennels for dogs in case you wanted to exercise either.

Because we like to attend local Minor League Baseball games when in new areas, we searched and found that First Energy Stadium was located in Reading, PA only 30 minutes away.  On Sunday night (July 3) the hometown team Reading Fightin' Phils (AA team for the Philadelphia Phillies) were due to play the Harrisburg Senators (AA team for the Washington Nationals).

First Energy Stadium is a very cool older stadium. The type with lots of brick and a certain baseball "feel". It was probably one of the best attended games we've been to in some time.

This next paragraph is only for true  baseball followers (especially Washington Nationals fans).  Jonathan Pabelbon, currently re-habbing from an injury, was due to pitch an inning or two for the AA Harrisburg team. He pitched the final inning, although the Fightin' Phils were already ahead by that point and eventually went on to win the game 12-10.

We did get to see a fireworks display this weekend.  The post-game show featured a pretty nice display.

Only one more night to survive the weekend!  For the last overnight (July 4) we drove back to the Palmyra Walmart. We did this mainly because it made for a short drive (about 15 minutes) back to the TT Hershey campground on the following morning.  We stayed at TT Hershey for another six days before moving on.

So what did we learn from all of this.  Most importantly, we learned that we need to have reservations in place for holiday weekends. Even then, however, some things just are beyond your control. Roll with the punches.  We also learned that our MH does great in self-contained mode. We used the generator several hours each morning, and several hours each evening, while making dinner and watching TV and messing with the computers before bedtime. Fortunately, the weather wasn't too hot, but if it had been the generator could have run all day if needed.  So our Independence Day weekend wasn't ruined by any means, it was just different than we had anticipated. At least we know that we can asphalt dock for several days if needed.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look (and listen to my whine).

Monday, June 13, 2016

Spending Money in Red Bay, AL

Posted from near Gloucester, VA (Thousand Trails)
Click on Pics to Enlarge

About a week ago we made our annual pilgrimage to Red Bay, AL.  Red Bay is the home of Tiffin Motorhomes and we like to re-visit the service center from time to time (hey, it's not that bad here, really!)

On this trip we had several items which were pre-planned such as having our entrance steps replaced at the Tiffin Service Center and having our annual maintenance on the coach performed at Bay Diesel (a local shop in town).

After getting up on the ladder and taking a closer inspection, I decided it was time to replace all four of our slide toppers as well.

The largest expense was replacing all six of our tires on the rig, but it was also time to replace the four tires on the Honda Fit.

We arrived on a Saturday and dropped off our request for the entrance steps to be replaced over at the Tiffin Service Center.  Early on Monday morning, two techs arrived at our campground site (Downtown RV Park) in Red Bay to take a look. They advised that the steps could be replaced at our site without having to wait to get into a service bay.  Excellent!

A bit of background explanation is needed here as to why the steps are being replaced to begin with.  Our coach originally had Coach Steps by Lippert as OEMs.  It seems that the Coach Steps had a little problem with a main bolt breaking which allows the steps to drop and swing freely possibly causing serious injuries to someone who might be using them at the time. It turns out that this wasn't such a small problem as NHTSA got involved and forced a safety recall for certain model years of MHs (not just on Tiffins).  If you have this step on your MH, you might want to check with the NHTSA site (for Tiffin, the recall number is #15V-880), or with your coach manufacturer for the recall. 
The involved Tiffins are as follows:
2007-2010 Allegro Bays
2008-2015 Allegro Open Roads and REDs
2008-2015 Allegro Buses
2008-2015 Phaetons
Any of these rigs manufactured between May 25, 2007 and December 18, 2014 are involved in the recall.

The "fix" which Lippert was allowed by NHTSA was to install a bracket beneath the fan gear (beside the motor) which would catch the assembly WHEN the bolt broke.  I wasn't too thrilled by their solution, so when I heard that Lippert was giving a $200 credit if the end user wished to get rid of the old steps altogether and have the Kwikee brand of steps installed, this is the option I chose.

The new steps were quickly installed and thus far have operated MUCH smoother and QUIETER than the previous Coach Step brand ever did.  I'm pleased at this point.  Trust me, I'll make another post in the future if these too turn out to be less than stellar.

Our next pre-planned order of business was to have our routine chassis, engine, and generator annual service work performed at Bay Diesel. I've used this company every year since we purchased our coach when in Red Bay. I don't necessarily think that they do any jobs FAR better than another business could, but I like the idea of being able to be in the bay (and under the rig) while the maintenance work is actually being performed.  It gives me a chance to observe their work and ask questions at the same time.

Everything was going smoothly until one of the techs called me over to "take a look at this".  That's never a good thing to hear. It turns out that the exhaust pipe connecting the output side of the turbo to the muffler was broken.  I don't know if this occurred very recently or not as I had no warning that something had broken.  There was no audible exhaust leaking sound at this point. This is called a "flex" pipe because of the accordion style of construction in the pipe which allows for a bit of movement as the engine torques slightly from side to side.

In the above picture you can see just faint signs of exhaust escaping as evidenced by the black soot on the upper and lower portions of the flex pipe. Once removed and placed on the bench, the flex part of the pipe broke away easily.

We flipped the pipe over and a large crack was evident in the solid piece of the pipe.

I've already come to realize that anything on a MH chassis is expensive, but the replacement price for this pipe floored me.  Just the part itself was over $700.  WHAT!!
Chris Morrow is the owner of Bay Diesel and advised that he had seen similar breaks on Allegro Buses.

He contacted Tiffin on my behalf and was able to convince them to pick up all except $250 for the part and 1 hour of labor for installation. There appears to have been some known problems with this pipe as the new pipe uses an entirely different time of braiding in the flex area. This was an unexpected cost, but I was happy that the repair was made while we were here in the shop versus on the side of the road somewhere.

"low tech" bead breaking procedure
The next planned item on our list was to replace all six of the tires on the motorhome.  It truly hurt me to replace tires with plenty of tread remaining and absolutely no signs of sidewall cracking. Our rig's tires would have been seven years old in July of 2016, so I wasn't willing to gamble on riding out the old set a while longer.  The OEMs were Michelins, but after some research on the internet and consulting with many fellow Tiffin owners whose opinions I trust, I decided to switch to the Toyo brand.

I haven't had them long enough to make a fair comparison yet, but the ride is no different from the Michelins and the price was definitely better than the Michelin cost (even with the FMCA discount).  The best part of the entire re-mount was that I now have outward facing valve stems on the outer rear duallies and I installed one piece valve stems on the inner duallies sold by a company named Your Tire Supply.  I had always had a very slow leak on my right rear inner tire and I attribute it to the valve extension on that tire. Access to fill all of the tires is now quick and easy.

Not directly related to the motorhome, but a part of our cash outlay while in Red Bay was the replacement of all four tires on the Honda Fit.  We had these installed at the Costco at Barnes Crossing near Tupelo, MS.  The tires had over 62,000 miles combined driving and towing.

The last item that we wanted to get done while in Red Bay was to have Brannon Hutcheson of Custom RV, Inc. install new slideout toppers on all four of our slides.  The originals were made by Carefree of Colorado and were definitely showing their age. I had patched several small tears in the edges and the large DS slideout topper was beginning to show evidence of the fabric letting water thru.

Brannon and his assistant (John or Jason, sorry for my lack of memory) made quick work of the job as usual.  We've had several modifications done by Brannon and he always is efficient and does excellent work.

We decided to change the original topper color to a black this time around after looking at some of the new coaches.  I like the look as the topper seems to disappear over the slideout.

Well, that completes our list of planned, and unplanned, work done while we were in Red Bay. Here's a re-cap of the actual costs.

Replace Steps (after rebate credit):   $345.36
Flex Pipe Replacement                 :   $355.00
Routine Coach Service                 :   $323.63
New Coach Tires                          : $2958.25
New Honda Tires                         :   $496.53
New Slide Toppers                       : $1058.46
Misc. Tiffin Store Purchases        :   $  77.44

GRAND TOTAL                           $ 5614.67

Hopefully, a few of these larger ticket items will not need to be replaced for several years. I mainly wrote this post for folks new to the RVing lifestyle or those thinking of becoming fulltimers someday.  The purpose is to show the need to budget for items such as these (and more) because repairs and sometimes modifications need to be done.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!