Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The title for this article came to me early this past summer. It was during one of our trips in the Roadtrek and things were not going as we had hoped for, more due to the weather than anything else, but there had been some problems since the we had dewinterized the Roadtrek with the Roadtrek, traveling in an RV, and the weather up to that point and now looking back they just did not stop for all of 2014 right up to today. As I write this, which is about a week before you will be reading it, we have cancelled another trip because the weather this year is just not cooperating. Since the title came to me, this article has been playing out in my head more and more while we have been on each trip that we took this Spring, Summer, and Fall. I will now attempt to put all of this on paper and perhaps at the same time this will be as much an exercise in self-exploration as it is a review of a year of RVing that at best can be described as a whole as fair. Overall, this may be a look on the dark side. Maybe in the end, not, but I am taking you along with me and we shall see. Oh, yes, this will never be able to be done in one article so I will just keep on going with it until it is done and it will be divided up into parts, and right now I don't know how many.

So why "It isn't all peaches and cream!"? Well it actually started as "It ain't all peaches and cream" but in my respect for the many teachers and professors who taught me how to write - some of which I purposely ignore at times - I decided that I would change that "ain't" to "isn't". The peaches and cream part comes from a game that I played most of the summer on my tablet. When several levels were completed a little voice would speak out and say - "It's all peaches and cream!". Well, I  completed a level sitting in the Roadtrek and I heard this and with the mood that I was in I said out loud answering the voice in the game - "No, it isn't!" and thought to myself, "It ain't all peaches and cream!"

OK - so we go now all the way back to the Spring and dewinterizing. Dewinterizing started out well until we got to the same point that we have problems with every year when dewinterizing the Roadtrek. We come to flushing the sanitizing bleach out of the tanks with clean water and when we go to fill the rear tank - remember, the 190 has two fresh tanks - as soon as we start the water flowing into the empty tank, it backs up the fill tube and comes rushing out the opening. This has been consistent - year after year. In past years, after a few tries and a few tricks the water would start flowing in normally. We tried all of the tricks that we have - all of which are written down to carry over to the next year to "remember to" when filling the rear tank - and this year nothing worked. What seems to happen is that there is a massive gas bubble in the tank, perhaps from the chlorine bleach and water mix used to sanitize. We stopped trying and I came in to start researching what the problem might be and what to do about it. Asking on the forums and groups was not leading to anything. I did find some discussions on general RV forums that talked about similar problems - not necessarily relating to sanitizing - but with tanks that would not fill from the top. I tried then using the city water with the valve turned to fill to fill the rear tank - but that also did not work. I had figured that the water would go in from the bottom of the tank - or wherever that connection is in the rear tank and push the air/gas? up out of the open fill hole and clear it. That did not work either. I went back to those discussions and someone had commented about using a small hose to reach the bottom of the tank and fill from the bottom up that way - slowly. By this point it was much to late to do anything until the next day. We went out the next day to buy fittings to be able to take 1/4" inner diameter plastic tubing and connect a water hose connection to it. We found the brass fittings in Home Depot and came home with them. Just in case, I tried filling the rear tank as I had the day before and the water came right back up at me. There was still a problem. Time had not corrected it. I assembled the gizmo, added a shut off valve between it and the water hose, turned on the water to run slow and pushed the tube down to the bottom of the rear tank. As a safety precaution - I did not want to have the tube come off the fitting and be lost forever in the tank - I made the tube longer than it needed to be and kept more than a foot of the tube outside the Roadtrek. The water flowed and I waited to see if anything was coming back up and out. It didn't. It took a lot longer to fill this way but it filled. The gas/air? bubble in the tank had plenty of room to come up and out of the fill while the water displaced it. That was the good part - it worked. Getting there was more effort than it should have been.

One crisis resolved just to be followed by another shortly after. With the dewinterizing done and the tanks full we started testing out that all was well - especially as we had an appointment at dealer service to change the oil in the Onan generator in a couple of weeks and should there be anything wrong we did not want to have to make two trips to Pennsylvania. As it was I had two things I wanted them to do in addition to the oil change, and one thing to check. Meryl is the one who can get down on the floor and deal with valves, etc. She has told me that one of the bypass valves on the hot water tank has always been hard to turn. She said now that when she turned it this time it was very hard to turn. With the water in the tank and all supposedly good to go, she went down to close the door of the cabinet with the hot water tank and said that there was water on the floor. I managed to get down there and looked and there was water coming out of the base of that valve. We shut the valve and put the hot water tank back in bypass. Luckily, the valve closed without leaking. I was not going to attempt any plumbing on the Roadtrek myself and this had to be brought to dealer/service to take care of. We called the service center and added one more thing to the list for them to take care of when we came. What happened to the valve? Perhaps it froze during the winter or perhaps it was never right as it was always hard to turn and just finally gave out. I don't know.

Our first trip of the season was that trip to the dealer for service on the Roadtrek.As I had written about in June, this was not an overnight trip and that trip in June was the first real trip, but never the less we were out on the road with the Roadtrek for the first time in 2014 in April when we went for service. By now there was a list of things to be taken care - the oil change on the Onan, I wanted the filter that I devised to keep the water valve on the toilet clear of debris installed, the hot water tank valve had to be replaced, the outside shower would leak whenever the hose was attached to it, and I wanted them to replace the back up camera with a new camera that I had received from Roadtrek as the original camera from the first never had a clear picture and that picture just got worse and worse until it was unusable. They had the whole list in advance and the service was scheduled with their Roadtrek trained technician. I have written about going for service before. We drive 125 miles which takes with traffic three hours. We arrive as close to noon as we can and then wait while the work is done - usually four to five hours which we spend in their shop, looking at RVs on the sales floor, and walking to a shopping plaza about a half mile away where there is a Home Depot, a Staples, a dollar store, and a supermarket. It is not an entertaining way to spend the time but tolerable - once a year. We went over the list and we went off. We got a call to come back at 4:30. Two things had not been done. One they wanted to show us as it was apparently not a problem. That was the outside shower. They said that there is a weep hole in the place where the hose is attached to release pressure when the shower hose is connected and it is turned on. This was what appeared to us to be a leak. Since water spurts everywhere when that hose is connected and the shower is on, it did not seem right to us. The inside shower is basically the same fixture and does not do this. I have to wonder why this is necessary on the outside shower but they showed us the tiny hole that is "supposed" to be there. OK.

The other thing that was not done was the camera. One day I will tell here the entire tale of the camera. It is not to be told yet. What I will tell you now is what transpired on this day. Here is the Roadtrek service technician at the dealer telling me that the removal of the old camera and installation of the new camera is a problem because he has to remove the vent section that sits on the rear of the roof over the back of the air conditioner. The camera wires go from the camera that is installed over the cargo doors in the middle of the van, with wires that go into that vent, are attached with a putty to hold them down on the base and then go into a putty filled hole in the driver's side of the roof and inside the roof where they connect, apparently right there with the wires that go all the way to the dash and radio. The connection he tells me is not the problem. The problem is that in his "experience", as he put it, when he has taken off these vents in Roadtreks he generally finds that the screws that hold it in place have rusted solid and they sometimes will and sometimes will not remove from the plastic grommet nuts that they are secured to. If he should find that the screws are as he anticipates, the job takes hours and he never does a job like this unless he has all day. He said that he would not even attempt it unless he had a day to do it. I said that I could not understand how in three years it could possibly be that bad - and I have seen other Roadtrek owners talking about removing this vent and working on the inside of it with no problems at all. But he was insistent. He also said that when I do come back for the job he needed it first thing when they opened and before I came I should make sure they had the grommet nuts that would need to be used should the ones there need to be drilled out to get the screws out. He had them right then while we were standing there, but they are not always available.  I asked if we came back the next morning - we could find a place to stay for the night even though we had not been prepared for it - and that means with all of the medications, etc. required each day. He said no as he was booked the next day. Now, I had never asked if this was warranty work or not,but assumed that it was likely not and that I would be paying to have the new camera installed. Until this moment, that was fine. Now I started realizing that if this was an all day job, the labor would cost me more than I was able to spend. This was another big disappointment in the tale of the back up camera. I have had no decent use of the camera since the first few months and have gotten by without it. Given the tale, yet untold, it was unbelievable.

By then it was near 6 pm and we paid the bill which was a lot more than I had figured it would be and we headed back the three hours toward home. We had no more leak from the hot water tank and that was a good thing. My filter was installed and that too was good. I still had no camera and that was more than not good in my mind. For that day it was not all peaches and cream.

There is the whole year yet to come.

End of Part 1.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kitchen Kettle Village, Lancaster PA

I get many questions asking about where to go and what to do in Lancaster, PA. One of our regular stops whenever we are in Lancaster is Kitchen Kettle Village in the town of Intercourse. Yes, that is really the name of the town and the origin of the name has various stories none of which involve what comes to most people's minds. Needless to say, had the original name of the town, Cross Keys, remained the town post office would not have done quite the business that it regularly does in letters and post cards sent from there just for the post mark. Kitchen Kettle Village has been around for many, many years and on my first trip to Lancaster, PA more than fifty years ago, we went to Kitchen Kettle.

Going in the Roadtrek, there is RV parking in the Kitchen Kettle parking lot - accessed from Route 340. If it is a crowded Saturday, and most Saturday's here are crowded along with any holiday that they are open, you really don't want to get in the mess of cars being directed by parking lot directors pointing you to the nearest space or chance that the few RV spaces that they have are available. It is easier to go turn into the parking lot on the opposite side of Route 340 behind those business and the entrance to that lot is right where Route 772 meets Route 340.  This is a big parking lot with often very few vehicles parked there even on busy days. You will often see other RVs parked there, all much bigger than a Roadtrek.

 Kitchen Kettle Village has grown over the years. It is a village of small specialty shops primarily geared to the tourist centered around a family business that creates homemade jams and jellies. All of the jams and jellies are made right there in the open kitchen at the Kitchen Kettle jelly shop and you can watch as Amish women make and can the jellies, jams, fruit butters, and preserves - and now much more. The jellies are wonderful and there are samples of everyone of them that they make out free for the tasting.  Many of the Pennsylvania Dutch specialties served in local restaurants are also made here and for sale such as chow chow, pepper relish, pepper cabbage, apple butter and more.

Now I can hear everyone thinking that they don't want to go anyplace just for shopping but there is also entertainment here along with carriage rides of the Pa Dutch farmlands. This is a very popular spot with visitors to Lancaster County. What are offered here are horse and carriage rides and not horse and buggy rides. You will get a very good view of Amish farms as the horse clip-clops along the roads and you will see why, first hand traveling by horse power, it is very important to yield when driving to the carriages and buggies all throughout Lancaster County.

On Saturdays you will be entertained by Banjo Jimmy and his band. Banjo Jimmy LaRue has been playing at Kitchen Kettle for as long as I can remember and he never fails to draw a crowd and get everyone's toes tapping - even those too young to know the classic songs that he plays. You will often find Banjo Jimmy here playing solo but on Saturday's and holidays he is here with the band. If you like what you hear, drop a little something into their milk can. You can also take home a CD.

There are places to eat at Kitchen Kettle in addition to the shops. There is a fancy restaurant called the Kling House Restaurant that is located on the street along the west side of Kitchen Kettle Village  which is Route 772. This is open for breakfast and lunch and offers a variety of American foods, though not necessarily Pennsylvania Dutch. There is the Kettle Cafe that serves lunch with burgers and sandwiches along with homemade soups. There is the Smokehouse Shop which has smoked meats and cheeses. Go in and have them slice you some local specialties and then go into the Bake Shop located in the building with the Jelly and Jam and buy a fresh loaf of bread and take that to the Roadtrek and fix your own lunch. While you are looking around the bake shop try a small, free sample of shoo fly pie. For some sweet treats there is a fudge shop and also Lapp Valley Farms Ice Cream. OK, now I have to tell you about Lapp Valley Farms ice cream. They are located in several locations around Lancaster at Farmers Markets. You can also go to the farm to their dairy and buy the ice cream right where the cows are. This ice cream is homemade. It is the best ice cream that I have ever had. You can taste the freshness of the cream in this ice cream and it comes in several flavors. If you get Chocolate Almond you are getting whole almonds throughout the ice cream. I have to say that you will pay more for Lapp Valley Farms ice cream at Kitchen Kettle thn you will at one of the Farmers Markets such as Green Dragon or Roots, but if this is your only chance to try it, don't miss that.  They are located near where the garden shop is.

And that brings me to the garden shop. There is really no room in the Roadtrek to buy and take home large plants but they have great prices here and some very unusual plants. It is always interesting to walk through and see what the season has brought and look at all of the pretty flowering plants.

The shops you will encounter are varied. There is a PA Dutch gift shop, a candle shop, a shop that sells things made from iron, a jewelery shop, a pottery shop - the lady who is selling makes it all herself, a toy shop, a doll shop, two shops with ladies accessories and handbags, a craft shop with locally made handcrafts, a wood sign shop where they will carve a sign for you while you wait and watch, a leather shop, and a shop just for pets. There is an entire building that was recently moved from a corner of the parking lot to a location more adjacent to the rest of the shops at Kitchen Kettle and this building was picked up and planted down as if it had always been there. Inside is country furniture and early American home furnishings. I have to comment that over the years the shops here have become more commercial than they once were, which is OK but I do miss some of some of the shops were things were made right there.

The most recent addition to Kitchen Kettle Village is lodging and while you would not be interested in staying there since you have your Roadtrek or RV, there are now hotel rooms that are quaintly decorated located above several of the shops.

While you are at Kitchen Kettle keep in mind that there are a number of shops on the street adjacent to Kitchen Kettle Village and while they are not part of Kitchen Kettle there are some interesting things to see. Walk out from Kitchen Kettle Village onto Route 340 and turn left and start walking. You will come to a small fabric shop. This shop is there primarily for the Amish to shop in. While they have many quilting fabrics to purchase, there is a large selection of fabrics that the Amish and Mennonites use to make their clothing. Go into the rear of that fabric shop and through a door and you will be in a store that caterers exclusively to the Amish - though you are welcome to come in and buy if you see something that you like. I don't know why I have to say this but be respectful when you are in a shop like this as these people are going about their lives and are not a tourist attraction to gawk at - and never take a photograph of the Amish. You will be violating a basic of their religious beliefs.

Come out of that shop and keep walking in the same direction and you will see two Hollywood movie locations where the film, "Witness" was shot - Harrison Ford featured in both of those scenes. As you walk back to Kitchen Kettle come to Route 772, cross the road and make a right and walk down to the Amish Buggy shop - one part of the shop there will be a sign that you can't go in - this part of the shop is for the Amish only. Next to that is where the tourists are allowed in.

I told you about the various places to eat in Kitchen Kettle Village but I must add where you should go to eat lunch. Across the Route 340 from the main entrance of Kitchen Kettle is a small road that goes into a small shopping center. On the right and up a short hill there is the Intercourse Post Office. Right next door to the post office is Stoltzfus Meats. This is a Pennsylvania Dutch family owned business and they have exceptional country sausage made at their farm. There is a small cafe on the side of the meat store and you order at the counter and when your food is ready, you are called to get it and bring it to one of the few tables that they have - or you can get it to go. Try the country sausage sandwich. On my most recent visit there I tried something new that they have added to the cafe menu that is available in their refrigerated cases. A new Amish farm family has started making and selling Zook's chicken pot pies - also beef and sausage. There are few places that you can get these other than going to the shop at their farm but Stoltzfus has them and they are serving a whole small size pie at the cafe. It is just right for one and it was as good as I have heard. This is not the usual Pennsylvania Dutch chicken pot pie which is actually "chicken bot bie" and is a chicken stew with thick dough noodle squares (which if you see in one of the many PA Dutch restaurants in Lancaster, you should try), but it is a traditional style chicken pot pie in a full pie crust. But try the country sausage for something different. One of the good things about the Roadtrek or any RV is that you have the refrigerator to bring home some of these treats. We fill the fridge with two dozen or more of these country sausages before we go home.

Kitchen Kettle Village is open from Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday) from 9:00 am to either 5:00 or 6:00 pm depending on the season. The only holiday it is closed on is Christmas. The address is 3529 Old Philadelphia Pike, Intercourse, PA 17534 and the phone number if you have questions for them is (800) 732-3538.  Kitchen Kettle Village is very close to Beacon Hill Campground. It is a long walk but one could walk to it from there. 

I will leave you now with some music from Banjo Jimmy and the band...


*The photographs in this article were taken with a cell phone camera and are not up to my usual standard for photographs I take to accompany my articles. The idea for this article came to me while walking around Kitchen Kettle and my camera was in the Roadtrek across the road.