Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shake Out "Cruise" OR Go East, Old Man!

With the winter weather and the difficulty getting our Roadtrek backed down the driveway and into the four lane avenue that runs in front of our house, the one thing that I should do during the winter is take the Roadtrek out for a drive. No vehicle should sit for a length of time without driving, but as much as think that I need to do it in the winter it never happens. The first time since November that the our 190 was actually driven - and not just started, pulled twenty feet down the driveway to run the generator so as to not put the generator exhaust into the side door of our house, was in early May when we took it to our mechanic for an oil change and the required State Inspection. It was driven all of two miles to do that.

The last few times that I have started it on the driveway to at least run the engine, it sounded like a motor boat running. I decided that no matter what the Roadtrek has to get onto the road and be driven.

We planned a two day trip out of state. I no longer travel on Memorial Day weekend because places to go are just too crowded. I figured that the week after Memorial Day might be good to take a trip for a few days. Unfortunately, it has been a wet Spring and that week was no different. Going to places that are outdoors when it is going to rain is just not my idea of a good time. There was going to be one decent day and I planned a one day excursion - drive there and back the same day with the Roadtrek and that day where we were heading were reports that storms would be in that area. So much for that, but the Roadtrek had to be taken for a ride so we decided we were heading out anyway - just to drive and we would head toward the end of Long Island to one of the points. I may have talked about where we live before. Long Island is shaped like a fish with the head of the fish toward the adjacent island of Manhattan and the end of tail of the fish - literally shaped like a fish tail with two extended points is the other eastern end of Long Island. We had nothing planned to do when we got there. We had no place in mind to go. When we would get to the spot where the points split we would decide if we were heading for the south fork of Montauk or the north fork of Orient.

We had prepared the Roadtrek for a trip for two days anyway so it was already to go. Getting out of the driveway and into the street has taken as long as a half hour waiting for a lull in the constant stream of cars and trucks so as to back out safely and not be crashed into. The morning of our shake out "cruise" - as we would be cruising and not much else - we were able to get out into the road in just ten minutes - a big surprise to both of us. While on the driveway with the motor running I could still hear that motor boat noise. I said to Meryl - after she stood in the street watching for on coming traffic with a walkie talkie - and her saying - "GO! NOW!!!" meaning get into the street now or wait longer - that maybe it was a good thing that we had not planned to go very far.

When we had de-winterized one of the things that I did was check the tire pressure for air. We filled the tires that day to 60 front and 80 rear, but it was in the low 50's that day in temperature. Trip day it was in the upper 70's and as we stopped at a red light on the corner near our house, I checked the tire pressure on the dash. The fronts were both over 65 and the rear were both in the upper 80s! Oh boy, I thought. But there was nothing that I was going to be able to do about this now. I did not want to stop to let air out of the tires. There was no place to stop where if I took too much out, it would not involve a long process of getting out the inflator and filling them back up. They would just have to stay this way until we were back home - and again I thought that it was a good thing we were not going out of state.  Looking at the gas gauge the tank was just over half full - it had been almost full when we got home from out last trip in November but running the generator every month for two hours exercise plus other runs of the generator during that time to now, the van needed gas. The gas had stabilizer put in back in November and that was still in the tank. My thought that maybe the gas was why I was hearing a motor boat when the engine was running was the cause. We decided to drive to BJ's to buy gas which is a twenty minute trip in itself but it was in the right direction and the more driving that we did on this day the better.

New gas and the same noise - and not a noise I have heard before in this van or any other car/van that we have owned. No time to think about that now - it is time to take the Roadtrek for a ride! And off we went. Route 495 is a limited access highway that travels the length of the North Shore of LI. We got on that and headed east. It is one of only a couple of limited access highway on Long Island that the Roadtrek is allowed to be on. All parkways on Long Island are posted at the entrance ramps, "NO vehicles over 7' 10" ". On Long Island in the Roadtrek - or any RV - one follows the trucks. If the trucks can go on the road, so can the Roadtrek.

We were driving along at a good pace. The road was fairly clear. The Roadtrek was driving just fine. And then we heard on the radio that there was an accident on 495 at exit 58. At that point we were at exit 51. Then we saw an hazard ahead sign that said accident between 58 and 59 - right and center lane closed. At this point the road was still moving but eventually it was going to slow down to a stop to merge everyone into the left lane. I asked Meryl if she knew of a way around this and she said that the service road that runs along side would take us past there. As we saw the traffic starting to slow at exit 56 we got off.  We drove about two miles when this narrow road which went down to a single lane each way was stopped with cars and trucks completely. We crawled along until we got to a point that we could see that a traffic light with a 30 second cycle was the cause of the backup. Once through that we were back to driving along and as we saw the cars on the 495 now moving we got back on.

The 495 ends at the Town of Riverhead - which is just before the split of the forks. The 495 ended and we were now on Rt. 25 a street route that also goes most of the island on the North Shore east to west. We keep heading east. At this point this is a very suburban area - even though it is a very long way from urban NYC. There are the usual stores that line the road - Walmart, Home Depot, fast food restaurants (which we should have stopped at for lunch at this point) and the like. As we drove the road and the surroundings became much more rural. Then we came to the point that if we went right we would head south to the South Shore - heading then for Montauk Point and in doing so driving through the Hamptons (where the rich and famous live) along the way. - or keep going toward the northeast toward the north piece of the tail of the fish, Orient Point It had been a long time since I was along the North Fork so we headed toward Orient.

What is along the road here then changed. No longer were we passing chain stores but local stores and shops - bait and tackle shops, small marine stores, shops selling marine themed antiques and decor and all that goes along in  combined marine and farm small communities, That is a bit of an odd combination and as one gets further east you see less farm and a lot more marine. And the road goes from two lanes each way to one lane each way.

And then in a small town, we come to a road block. Several police cars along each side of the road and police officers (I could not tell if they were county, state, or local police - I am guessing local because the uniforms did not fit the usual county or state look) standing in the middle of the road - looking at the front of each car, truck and my Roadtrek passing by and pulling some over to the side where we could see papers being handed out windows to an officer and the officer looking at them. This was no criminal investigation - it was a traffic stop to make some money and I would say they were checking State Inspection stickers on windshields to make sure they were up to date. I kept going very slowly as I past the officer who was looking at me and then my windshield as I was passing him. I had a feeling he might just pull us over because of what we were in, but he didn't and we cruised on past. Meryl said to me, "And we have to go back through that on the way back." My comment was that maybe there is a way around this part of the road.  At least we were rolling along - at the 30 mph speed limit and not bumper to bumper going through the police stop.

So we cruise along. Meryl is reading out the names of the local business as we drive past them. Lots of quaint names - lots of non-Long Island typical businesses unless you are in an area on the Island like this. In between towns there were stretches of woods. Every so often we would go though a point where the water on each side of us could be seen. At one point the water was just feet away from each side of the road, but at this point these were just parts of the fork that narrows before it widens again. We were both trying to figure out when we might have been in this area before. Years ago we were invited on a coworker's yacht. Yep, yacht! He worked because he liked to, not because he had to - and he had married extremely rich. We were both certain that the "yacht club" where the boat was tied up at was in this area in this direction. We eventually passed the town where the boat had been. We will never forget that day - I don't do well on boats and this one was no exception - and Meryl had never really been on a boat before other than a rowboat and she recalls that night when we got home and the room would not stop spinning. Yep, this was where that boat was, all right! We kept going. That town is a large town and at the east end of the town, it becomes very small town commercial - with a lot of cars and a lot of people on the streets that are one lane each way and then the road comes to an end and one must make a left to continue anywhere - as if one turns right one ends up in the Peconic River. They can call this a river all they want - it is part of the ocean! So we make a left and the street now that the Roadtrek is on is getting narrower with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other much less a Roadtrek and a car and not to help things but there are cars also parked on each side of the street along the curb - and then we are facing a small truck coming toward us on the other side of the road. Up ahead I see a long opening between the parked cars and hoping the truck gets the idea, I move forward so that I can pull the Roadtrek to the side of the road there so he can pass. He saw what I was doing and as I got out of the way, he squeaked past. It is said that a Roadtrek can go anywhere - well we have encountered some roads in our travels where a Roadtrek should not go. I said to Meryl, "We have to get this thing off this road, NOW!" As we keep going we are seeing intersecting streets coming up but each was narrower than what we were on. We kept going and come to another end of the road though this time turning right heading east - bring us back to Rt 25 and it opened to at least two full size lanes one each way.

We were now driving close to the water on each side of us. While we had not much noticed the time, my body clock alarm was going off telling me that if I did not want to get into any problems I better start thinking about turning back toward civilization and lunch. There was no place to park the Roadtrek in any of the small towns we had been through, so this meant heading back a distance. But I also had this urge to keep going east - and we had seen a sign that said five miles to Orient State Park which is the absolute end of the North Fork. I was looking at waves on one side - and a little further waves on the other and I decided that even though we had come this far it was time to head back - but where to make a U-Turn with a Roadtrek on a two lane road with nothing on each side but mostly water? I saw a lot up ahead which turned out to be the entrance of a residents' only beach. I pulled in to turn around and got stares from several in the parking lot who knew that none of the local residents that belonged at this beach owned such a vehicle as we were in. We were going to head back. As we were pulling out of the parking lot back onto now West Route 25 there was water in front of us and a sign that said it was State Oysterponds preservation. Lots has been going on to save the oysters in the waters along Long Island from being over-fished out along with the lobsters, both of which has brought a lot of controversy - mostly from those who earn their living taking these out of the water and supplying the many seafood restaurants.

Now that we were heading back I started thinking about two things - driving back down that very narrow street through that town again and going back through the police stop - why press our luck! As we are driving we come to a sign that had not been anywhere along the way east - "Truck Route 25" pointing one way and "Local Route 25" point at a cut off. We were taking the Roadtrek on Truck Route 25 West!

We were still passing water on one side but more land on the other. In a few spots one can see land across the water - which is Connecticut across the Long Island Sound. When you live on Long Island many location pages on websites to show where a store you need to go to is located, it will tell you a place in Connecticut is just 20 miles away. Well, absolutely it is just 20 miles away if you go by boat or fly. If you are going to drive, that 20 miles could take you three to four hours. We kept going.

I decided that if we were going to pass the places we had seen to eat at on the way along - that we actually could park at, we were going to have to head back south on the North Fork (yeah) to pass them on local 25 that we came east on. We did come to one sign that showed we could do that there - and back we were on a small road but at least this one was wide enough for two vehicles to pass as long as we did not meet another truck going the other way.  We did get to have lunch (I should add that we do always carry orange juice and crackers just in case).

Now in the parking lot of where we had lunch, I am hearing the noise that we started out with. It had never gone away but with our focus on other things were were not listening for it. We start looking at what is on. All along the dash board air vent was open and on and off the dash A/C had been on. I turned off the dash A/C and the noise was still there. Meryl reached over and shut off the dash air vent fan and the noise stopped. We sat and listened closely. No noise. I turned the fan on again - noise. I turned the fan up to high - and LOTS of LOUD noise. That actually was good to hear, because now I knew that there was nothing wrong with the engine. I was not happy that I would have to get the Roadtrek out of the driveway again to get this taken care of - and looking at the time I was hoping that the service station that my two mechanics own would still be open by the time we got back. They close at six so there should be time - unless we got caught in westbound rush hour traffic which was likely. I looked at the gas gauge and realized that I had used a quarter of a tank of gas on this cruise and we should stop back at BJs to fill up - just so the Roadtrek is ready for a real trip.

When we got to the service station it was almost 5:30 pm. One of the mechanics came out - the one who has done just about all of the maintenance on my 190 since it was new - and said there were two possibilities. There was something caught in the fan motor or the fan, or there is a problem with the fan motor and it will need to be replaced. He looked inside the front of the van toward under the dash on the passenger side and decided that in the Chevy Express van the dash fan motor is under the hood. Good! This meant they did not need to pull the dashboard out to work on it. He listened and then felt the sides of the motor housing which is on the engine wall in front of the passenger seat and said it was the fan or the motor and he would not be able to tell unless he pulled it out - and said make an appointment. The appointment is in a few days as I am writing this which will be before you are reading this. He told me the part is easy to get and he can have it that day and get it in - no problem - if it needs a new motor assembly.** I don't know what this is going to cost me but it could have been a lot worse.

Is there a moral to this tale? No, it was just another one of my taking you along for a ride. One thing we all should learn is not to let the Roadtrek sit from early November until the beginning of June without driving it.

Oh yes, and the tire pressure. Well I let the Roadtrek sit over night and most of the next afternoon and checked the psi in all of the tires. Front 60, 61, Rear 80, 81. Just about perfect. The temp outside was not near 80 as it had been during the drive but it was near 70. If it gets really hot before we leave on a real trip, I will check the tire pressure again.

** The Roadtrek spent the morning at the mechanic and $107 later we found out that the "heater box" had been stuffed with leaves. The fan assembly had to be taken out and when he looked at the fan there were a couple of small leaves there and knew that this would not cause what was happening. He then went further in and saw the path the air takes from the fan was tightly stuffed with leaves and when the fan motor had been running these were being pulled into the fan causing the noise. He cleared out all of the leaves and made sure there was a clean path, put it all back together again and no more noise. My Roadtrek is parked right in front of my garage door (garage is too low to bring the RT inside). My neighbor has a tree with thin leaves in the middle of his backyard not far from our property line. The leaves from his tree blow everywhere - and I will often find them on the hood of my Roadtrek. I clean them away when I see them but apparently they are getting into the air vents and being drawn in. Other than coming up with a tarp with magnets to hold it on over the vent area in front of the windshield, I don't see much of a way to avoid this. The tarp is a possibility and will have to start figuring this out. I do not want to put a cover on the entire Roadtrek.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Getting Ready, Always Another Surprise, Part II

Part II

See the previous article for Part I.

So we has two more surprises in getting the Roadtrek ready for the season! One involved the Roadtrek physically, and the other involved the Roadtrek's emergency roadside assistance coverage.

So - the Roadtrek's physical problem. During the process of dewinterizing and sanitizing we are in and out of the inside of the van. At one point I was outside the open driver's door and Meryl was inside standing between the driver's and passenger's seats and looked down at the driver's seat. She said look at the seat and pointed. There were three tiny tears in the upholstery of the driver's seat. One of the tears was along the edge of a seam and was larger than the other two - this one was a tear about a quarter of an inch long - basically a small flap. The other two were not much more than pin holes - one of them hardly that. But once there is a tear or hole, it is destined to get bigger if nothing is done about it.

I am not sure what the Roadtrek seats are made of. It has been implied that they are leather. They may just be a leather look vinyl. The seats are made by Roadtrek and installed - they are not stock seats. They swivel 360 degrees. They have the name Roadtrek across the front under the headrest. They also have an arm rest on each side. These are not stock seats.If you go to any site that sells custom seat covers they want to know what make, year, and model car or van you have. No choices on any of these sites is "Roadtrek". So we started on a quest to figure out how to fix or cover these seats - to stop the tears from becoming major tears.

I started researching fixing vehicle seat holes. The most common method uses a paste that is mixed to match the color of the upholstery and then set with heat or with some, left to dry after pressing a textured sheet over the paste to make it look like the upholstery. I have had some really poor experience with this stuff and I will not use it again. My first encounter with this was with one of my cars. I followed all of the directions and the resulting patch was a globby mess - that eventually peeled away.  My second experience was with a Chevy service using this to fix a tear in a passenger van arm rest. That peeled away within a year. I was not going to use this stuff to fix the Roadtrek seat.

I looked for other alternatives and the best I could find were vinyl/leather flexible glues specifically for upholstery. I have a lot of glues at home. None list vinyl. I have some good glues. As a long time leather worker, I have glues made for leather - but each of the really good glues all say to do the same thing which is not going to work tears this small - you need to coat both sides, put them together and then peel them apart, wait five minutes and push them together again. Peeling a quarter inch flap with glue on it apart would rip it apart. I went to Home Depot - they had no glue for vinyl and leather. Lowes did - a vinyl leather glue from Locktite. We bought that. With a toothpick I applied a little glue to hole in the seat under the flap and the flap and put them together - with the tip of a clean toothpick. Then I went around the edges with a very little more glue. I coated the tiny holes with a tiny dot of glue. The package says tape together to hold until dry. I used painter's removable tape which I place over the holes and to the sides and not on them to pull them, closed. This needed to dry for 24 hours. After that the flap was sealed but one small edge remained open. A small coating of glue on that edge and another 24 hours to dry. It looks like this will hold, but I really would like a seat cover to be sure - and that is another problem.

We went to the chain auto parts stores that are here. They pretty much all have the same seat covers and none are going to work as is on the Roadtrek seat. If they have a high back to go over the built in headrest then they have no slots for the arm rests. If they are sideless they cannot be used on a seat with a built in headrest. There are covers for just the seat part and not the back to be found on Amazon but there are no dimensions and the Roadtrek seat is unusually wide. I know this because I have looked at several seat pads - that just sit over the seat and are strapped on - and these are all too small to cover the Roadtrek seat.

So what to do? Right now we are working on an idea. To buy a truck full seat cover, cut off most of the back, create a section out of what remains of the back to push under the seat and anchor there in some way - and only use the seat part to cover the seat. We did find a cover for a truck size seat which we could buy and return if that it is too small. That is currently in consideration. It seems that we are not alone - and others have told me that they too are looking for a seat cover to fit a Roadtrek seat.

And so finally - the emergency roadside assistance plan. When we bought the Roadtrek - way back when - we received a free one year of Coach-Net Emergency Roadside Assistance Coverage. Coach-Net is an RV specific policy with technicians who know RVs and they will send out a truck to help with someone who also knows RVs - and not the kid from the corner gas station in a tow truck as plans like AAA or the policy thrown in with your vehicle insurance policy. For years they have had gotten good reviews from RVers. Before we found out that we were getting the plan for free for a year we had decided that this was the plan we would purchase. We have renewed the plan every year we have had the Roadtrek - until now.

Here is what happened. Last year we renewed the plan. We sent the check. Got an acknowledgement of the renewal and were all set to face any problem that might come up through the year - which hopefully we would not have - and didn't. Now comes April and it is time to renew. Meryl tells me that we should have received the renewal notice by now and didn't and that I should go to their website and see about renewing there - or getting an application to send with a check. I go to the site and try to log on with my user name and password and a message comes up across the screen that my policy has expired and it rejects my login. I could not get on the site. The next day Meryl called Coach-Net. She is told by the rep that our policy has been expired for more than six months. Since our renewal date was not until a week later from the date of this phone call, Meryl - who is a lot better with this type of thing than I am as she gets direct where I would just get mad and start yelling - let him know that we sent a check last year for coverage to X date and what is going on? She was told that yes he could find that we had paid, but the renewal was NEVER ACTIVATED. Essentially we had no coverage the entire year. Instead of his saying that he would activate the policy and extend it through the next year, he just said that he would activate the policy through the coming expiration date!  Totally unacceptable, but he would do nothing else. That was it for us with Coach-Net! The President of Coach-Net is getting a letter along with a complaint filed with the State Attorney General's Consumer Division. We have also learned that we were not the only ones that this happened to in 2016. But we then had to decide on a new company.

Again, I went to one of the better Roadtrek groups on Facebook to ask. About one or two years ago, Roadtrek stopped giving a year of Coach-Net but became involved in it's own ERS plan with one of the big ERS providers. This is what they now give free. This was recommended to me by a few who have it. They too will respond with a Roadtrek technician on the phone and also will send out someone who knows RVs - hopefully, the Roadtrek but that may be too much to expect in some areas. The price is a little more than Good Sam's ERS plan but that plan gets mixed reviews. One signs up by going to a special website or calling a number on the Roadtrek website. I wish I had called that number instead of going to the website - as my experience in applying was not the best - and I am hoping that this is not an indication of what the service will be. I want to say right here that I have since straightened everything out through a contact I was given directly to Roadtrek - who responded and resolved everything. There is only an enrollment website for this plan. There is no website that you can go to that will show you your account and expiration date, or the services that you are entitled to. All of the services need to be accessed by telephone through one number that has a menu of choices including one that goes to an emergency response operator to report that you need help. The other services that this plan entitles you to are all accessed on that menu. This was a surprise as with Coach-Net their website accessed mapping software and other services - in addition to the phone number that got help to you when needed. Perhaps a phone access solution is better as one generally has phone service but does not always have data service or a computer near by.  According to Roadtrek, they have trained all of the response technicians who will troubleshoot whatever problem you might have on the road in your Roadtrek. That seems like a good idea - and since they no longer have this relationship with Coach-Net, this seems to be the plan to have with a Roadtrek. I hope never to need this service. Like any insurance, a good day is when you don't need to use insurance.

Well, we are set and ready to travel. We just took the Roadtrek to our mechanic for its annual maintenance. He changed the oil, checked all of the fluids, and did the State Inspection. I also asked him to change the air filter in the engine - as I am not sure he has changed it in the past. I checked the air in the tires myself and found them low - though the temp her is just at 60 degrees F - and I filled them. Before we leave on a trip I will check them again - and likely if the temps go up, I will be letting some air out.  When de-winterizing take the opportunity to check the air in your tires - and don't forget the spare.

One more tip - When dewinterizing, check the battery in your Roadtrek's smoke detector. Unlike the CO and Propane Detectors, the smoke detector is just a house smoke detector that uses its own 9 volt battery. Push the test button if you hear nothing or you hear a dim beep, change the battery. The smoke detector should come off the wall with a twist and the entire unit comes off in your hand. The battery is on the back of the detector.

Now all we need is a place to go...