Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Friday, May 10, 2019

A TRIP FOR REPAIRS AND THE MACERATOR'S TALE (DAY 2)

Our last article on April 26, 2019 has the first part of this two part article - DAY 1.  Here is the conclusion - DAY 2.

We had figured from the day before's test drive to the Roadtrek dealer/service center where the work would be done that while the GPS said 11 minutes and the actual trip took fifteen minutes, that we should plan for the trip to take 20 minutes from the RV Park considering the time - appointment at 9:00 am (or earlier if we could get there), that this was when people were driving to work, and this was a school day with one school we had to pass and school buses also on the roads. To that we had to add the time it takes for us to get up and get dressed, unhook the Roadtrek from the campsite electric box, and get the power cord put away. Then Meryl decided that she wanted to unmake the bed and move the bed mattress cushions to one side of the rear of the van just in case the service technician had to get to the plumbing cabinet that is under the front of one side of the bed. I was sure they did not need to - but she was set on doing this - and it "would not take any time to do". We set the time to get up and get started based on all of these estimates.  As it turned out the estimate was a bit off and we did not get to the dealership until about 9:10 am.

We went in the the service office and there was our long time friend, Rachel, behind her desk who has helped us get the service our Roadtrek has needed since we bought it - and returned for service about monthly for the first two and half to three years that we owned it. We got to be on a first name basis, got to know each other, and when we needed help with the Roadtrek we would call and ask for her by name - and she would help us get things done. "We have not seen you in awhile!", she said as I came in. We had not been back in about three years. The only work we had needed in that time was to have the oil changed in the Onan generator and was having it done at a local Cummins-Onan authorized service center - that was costing almost what it costs to travel to Pennsylvania to this service shop to have it done including gas and tolls. We went over the list of what needed to be done.  I was asked if the macerator under the Roadtrek is out in the open or under a cover. I had no idea. The reason for the question was that if it is out in the open the job estimate time is two hours, but if it is covered over, the job estimate time is four hours. Labor is charged at $133.00 an hour.  Once the service tech got under the van he would know immediately.  I had one more job for them to do - if they could do it.

The hose that Roadtrek installs on the macerator to dump the tanks is a very stiff plastic material that is very hard to get out of its small storage cubby that is a divided section of the outside cabinet on the side of the Roadtrek. If it is cool outside it gets even harder to pull out and then stuff back in. Over the years, Meryl has figured out a few tricks to get it to go in easier but it has still been a struggle.  I had the idea a couple of weeks before the appointment that we might replace this hose - since the macerator was being disconnected and the new one reconnected anyway - with a hose that is highly recommended to change to - a Thetford Sanicon macerator hose - made for Thetford's own macerator systems which are different from what Roadtrek uses which is a ShurFlo macerator.  I asked at the desk, if it was possible could they put in the Sanicon hose when they did this job. The answer was that if they had the hose in stock in their parts and accessories store they could and then would. I also asked that the nozzle from the original hose be moved to the new hose. The nozzle has a good downspout and also a turn off valve at the top.  And - that too would be done  - if it was possible.  To find out if the hose was available we would walk over together to the shop and look for it. I had the model number for us to look for.

The service tech then was called to let him know our Roadtrek was ready to start working on and we went across the road to the accessories shop. We went right over to where the dump system hoses are and found it - there were two.  Rachel picked up the carton of one of them and left to bring it to the service department for the installation.  We were left in the shop to wait in the small waiting area that is nothing more than a small table and four chairs around it or browse around the shop - or go out the the shopping near by to spend the time.

We know this accessories and parts shop well as we spent a lot of time waiting here at this dealer when we had brought the Roadtrek in so many times in the past for service. It is like a small RV accessories supermarket - with things you don't see most anywhere else other than RV accessories stores - of which we have only been to two others from this one - ever. We went up and down the aisles looking. One thing I was looking for were a few items that they have had in the past that are Roadtrek specific, Since Roadtrek is still out of business - and while a buyer for the company is being confirmed - parts specifically for the Roadtrek and not just RVs in general are not available and there is no guarantee what a new buyer - if that is finalized will put back out in the way of parts. Specifically I was looking for a cap for the low point fresh water tank drain - which is a screw cap which for some reason the caps sold in the plumbing sections of Home Depot and Lowes, just don't fit - even in what should be the same size. I do have a spare - but under the circumstances a small part like this is easy to loose - more than once.I was also looking for the plugs that go into the fresh water fill holes in the two door frames - again, of which I have two spares but wanted another pair. There was not much any longer left on the racks and shelves that were marked "ROADTREK" as they had been in the past. I did not find the drain cap but I did find the orange plugs for the door fill holes.  I decided that after the Roadtrek was out of the service shop, we would come back over there before we left to buy what I found - so as not to carry them all day. The shop really is fun to look around in, but there is just so much looking one can do in a small shop. We did go into the showroom and there was not a Roadtrek in sight - no surprise as it is hard to sell something new that has no company to back the warranty - at the prices these sell for. There were other Class Bs which all seemed smaller that the inside of our 190.

We left the shop, crossed back to the other side of the busy road and walked to the small shopping center that is nearby.  Souderton, PA is not a rural town - it is pretty much like most suburban towns but in this area there is one distinct difference from where we live - which is also a suburban area but one where rarely does anyone walk anywhere - we have side walks - and here there are few to none. To walk what is less than a 1/10 of a mile one must walk on grass, dirt, or in the road - which is a busy road. That is OK but once you get to a large route you must cross to get to the shopping center, you find that there are crosswalks at the two traffic lights that are about 1/10 mile apart BUT the post with the button to set the traffic signal to walk - with four lanes of traffic all around - is on a cement island beyond a turn lane you must cross to get to it.  We got to the post - I pushed the button - we waited through two cycles of the light - and nothing. The second crosswalk has its post with button in the middle of a flower garden on a small hill of dirt. I looked down to that one and watched the lights were we were at at just the right moment shouted "RUN NOW!" and we got across the road to no sidewalk but a grass lawn around the edge of the shopping center. OK. We were across the big road. We could make it somewhat of the way on the grass before we had to walk in the entrance lane into the parking lot to get to the stores. This has always amazed us here.  Meryl says people just must not walk there - and we certainly got stares as we walked along to get into the small shopping center.

The shopping center has an AutoZone store which we walked around inside for three minutes as it was that small. There is a Home Depot which we did spend a good amount of time in - just because we were not standing out walking around inside - and there were things we could waste time looking at including house refrigerators which we don't intend to buy. There is a supermarket which we did not get to.  There is another section of the shopping center with a few other stores. Again, there is no sidewalk so one must walk on uneven grass - uphill or in the road - with cars surprised anyone is walking on the side of the road.

In this other section is one of the best dollar stores we have been in over the years - and we found this on our first service visit back in 2011. I don't know why but they seem to have things that are not in other dollar stores. We always find things to buy and we spent time in the dollar store.  There is also a Staples and we had not heard anything from the service shop so we went in - hoping we would get a call to come back. I looked at my watch and saw it was about 1 pm - and I started calculating in my head $133 an hour labor up to that point and I said out loud to myself "OH BOY!". Meryl said what?  I smiled and said just calculating hours.  I had figured that we would be out of the service shop by 11:00 am. Maybe Noon at the latest. We had heard nothing and it was 1 pm.

It was time for lunch and there is a Wendy's on the edge of the other part of the parking lot and we walked over there - again, in the road and on the grass. We got lunch and just took our time eating. Through the window from our table Meryl was facing in the direction of the service shop and she saw a silver van pull around the lot across the back. We got no call but decided to head back. This time we crossed at the light that goes into the flower garden. Going for service down here  is always an adventure!

We got to the shop and our Roadtrek was parked out front. We went in and asked if it was ready. Yes - but we are still figuring the bill from the service tech's report. OK... Then a phone call was made to the service tech to clarify something in his notes. A discussion lead to more keystrokes. OK...

We finally get to what was done and what we must pay. The invoice is gone over line by line. The macerator is inside a metal box. The metal box at some time in the last 8 years was smashed by road debris, hitting something on the road, or some other undetermined cause of a metal box attached to the bottom of a van that only has 6 to 7" of clearance under it becoming smashed. The smashed box prevented the service tech from being able to remove the broken macerator until he was able to deal with the smashed box - which involved removing the box, then getting the macerator out, straightening and bending back the metal that comprises the box "as best he could" (understandable) and then installing the new macerator - labor four hours.  The new Sani-con hose was installed. A valve down spigot was assembled from parts and installed on the end of the hose - the original Roadtrek spigot downspout had been glued to the old hose - and that could not be used. What they put together is a close approximation and will work just fine. To test the new macerator and hose the two waste tanks were dumped - which is not allowed to be done on site so the Roadtrek was taken to a local dump. Labor one hour.  The Onan generator oil was changed with Onan oil 15w-40 (recommended by Onan - and this is what I have always had put in). Labor 3/4 hour. The total for the job was $1100.00.  This includes sales tax and also a discount on all parts which I am entitled to for buying my RV at this dealer. The labor was $780. of the total. I could not have done any of this myself. I got a discount on the parts - and I am pleased with the job.

We left the service shop and once again headed north at what was then almost 4:00 to get to a Farmer's Market that is only open on Wednesdays in Leesport, PA with hopes to just buy a certain pie that we both have fallen in love with from an Amish pastry shop that attends two farmer's markets and also sells out of their own shop. It was too late to get to the shop but we could get to the market. The pie we were after - Chocolate Shoo Fly Pie! An Amish variation on the Amish Shoo Fly Pie that is a molasses base but this one is a chocolate base - with a layer on the bottom of the pie shell of thick chocolate, topped with chocolate cake with a hint if molasses added, topped with a light chocolate frosting. Oh my! We have had this pie for years from other bakers and we then found this baker and it is the best we have ever had.  If they had them when we got there I would bring home more than one. Unfortunately, there were none left when we got there. Just to make the trip there worthwhile we bought the last Lemon Sponge Pie that they had - which is a good second choice.  These are all pies one only finds in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. I have never seen one of these anywhere else. This is an area of rare taste delights - one region and only one region bakes a pie called a Funny Cake - a yellow cake in a pie shell with a heavy chocolate layer on the bottom with more of that chocolate swirled through the cake.  We attend a festival in that region once a year and always bring home one or two of those pies.

We headed to Lancaster for dinner and more PA Dutch food delights - at least to me. After dinner we headed home - and for some reason which we are not certain what - it took us to 2:30 am to get home.  Traffic had not been bad. What was bad the entire trip - from NY to NJ to PA and back was the conditions of the roads. We hit potholes, we went over van rattling bumps and lumps in the roads. We were shaken most of the way on this trip - both ways. More so than usual - so the weather had really taken its tolls on the roads this past winter, Twice we hit a hole in the road the caused the Tire Pressure Monitor light to come on on the dashboard. We have had trouble with this coming on before but usually when it does, checking the tire pressure with the button on the dash for the tires shows one tire not reading - usually the front pass tire - which we had our mechanic look at and he reset it and and it has been fine for a year. This time all tire pressures were showing - not too low, not too high - and as soon as I shut off the engine and restarted the light did not come back on - until the second bump a day later.

This was not a pleasure trip but it was our first overnight trip in the Roadtrek since August 2018 - and while exhausting - from walking while waiting for the repair to be done - and an early morning appointment, and driving for two days we were both knocked out, but we did get to a little bit of what we travel to PA for - and I am not referring to service on the Roadtrek.

As always thanks for taking this journey with us. I am known for long and detailed adventure reports and this is what come out when I have something more than how to do this or how to do that articles. And if it can be said in one sentence I will use twenty and make things real.














Friday, April 26, 2019

A TRIP FOR REPAIRS AND THE MACERATOR'S TALE (DAY 1)

Back when we winterized in November, we discovered that the macerator was not pumping. It ran but nothing came out. At first when we tried its usual easily heard sound when it runs was barely audible. While we have run the macerator and dumped the tanks on the driveway before (one bucket at a time) and it has never been a problem, my overly, at times, over analytical mind started coming up with reasons why it was not pumping other than the obvious one - it was broken.  We put it lower down on the incline of the driveway - no difference. We got out the Andersen Levelers and made the Roadtrek level - no difference. On the last attempt I could smell a burning smell coming from the location of the macerator under the van - and then we stopped.

Since we have some readers who I know are not RVers or who are prospective but not yet RV owners, I will explain what a macerator is. It is a water pump installed in the RV - in the case of Roadtreks since the early 2000's permanently installed under the van in the front connected to the waste tank system. There are two waste tanks in most RVs - one is connected to the water drain in the toilet - called the "Black Tank", and one connected to the water drains in the sink and shower -called the "Grey Tank". There are two gate valves that connect the tanks by pulling a handle to the waste removal system - which can be as simple as a hose that uses gravity to take the waste out of each tank, through the hose, and into a sewer hole in the ground - at a campground or other "dump" site. The other system uses a pump - which is what the Roadtrek has - and this pump has sharp, stainless steel blades that spin at high speed and macerate - chop up really fine - any waste that comes out of the waste tanks and then pumps that through a small hose out to the sewer hole in the ground. The advantage of a macerator is that if for some reason the sewer hole was higher than gravity would work to get the waste to it - the macerator is an electric pump and can pump uphill. It is also a fast way to empty (dump) each tank.  The downside of a macerator is that if it breaks then you cannot get the waste out of the tanks and also - you must never put into the waste tanks anything that the macerator will not be able to chop up - so what comes out of you is fine, quick dissolving toilet paper - such as Scott's regular house one-ply is good, but never anything really solid, no drop in bags of chemical as those bags despite what they say don't dissolve, no cleaning wipes, no hair - wraps around the shaft - etc.  Well, ours - after almost 8 years broke.

Back in February I decided that I needed to contact the RV dealer/service center that we have gone for all of our repairs, and try to get an appointment when likely there would no longer be any snow or ice to make the trip to Pennsylvania. I emailed the service rep that we have come to know very well over the years and asked for an appointment in early April. The earliest appointment they had was April 24, 2019.  We had no choice but to accept it. I provided a list of problems which at the time included the macerator not working, a vent fan lid on the roof of the Roadtrek that was stuck and would not open, and that since we were making the trip, to change the oil in the electric generator that is installed under the Roadtrek chassis.  There was no problem - they could do it all when we came. BUT we had to get there early that day - no later than 8:00 am (which right before the date of the trip they agreed to could be 9:00 am when the shop opens to start working).  Since we bought the Roadtrek there, they have always been able to accommodate us to get there around 11:00 am - leaving that morning from NY to make the near 3 hour trip one way. Only once before had they said we had to be there early for the job that needed to be done. While it is possible to stay overnight right at the service center plugged into their 30 amp electrical outlet to run the RV overnight - we would have no toilet to use - as their dealer hours are to 8:00 pm to get into the restroom. This was not going to work out too well for us. I decided we had to find a nearby campground.

There were two campgrounds to consider - one was off in the woods not too far away - but on Google maps the roads in and out always seem to show a problem with road conditions on the map.  The other is a residential motorhome community - that also has RV sites that can be taken for one night or longer up to a month. What is nice about Google Maps is you can set it to satellite view and with this I could see the entire place from above - close up. It was all pavement and grass with paved spaces for the RVs which is always nice to have. They also had a restroom open 24 hours only for those staying who did not have toilet facilities in their RV - which at that moment would be us! I will write an article about this place on its own. We contacted them for a availability for the night of April 23, 2019 and found out - much to my surprise - that they had ONE site open on that night - and if we wanted it we had to confirm it quickly. We confirmed and sent them a check in advance - payment in full for one night. All set and done!

 From then it was wait anxiously to the date we would leave - and hope that everything would go smoothly getting there and having the work done without a glitch. We had not planned to dewinterize  before we went - and would just leave the antifreeze in the plumbing. As it turned out the temperatures started to rise and there were a few 70 degree days in early April. It seemed like there was no longer going to be any freezing nights - and we decided to dewinterize - but to expedite that we would dewinterize it all but sanitize only one of the two fresh water tanks and plumbing with bleach and water. We could easily sanitize the rest when we got back after the repair trip.

After dewinterizing, I took advantage of the several nice days - when it was not raining which it still was - and still is - doing regularly - and do a few things that are done before the traveling in the RV season starts. I pulled out the ladder - I don't like ladders - and went up to the Roadtrek roof to lubricate the crank up, directional antenna. While up there - and I am rarely up there, I decided to take a close look at the vent fan lid to see what was making it stick and not open. I moved the ladder to the other side of the van - had Meryl hold is securely on the inclined driveway while I went up - and reached over to the edge of the lid that I could barely reach in the middle of the roof. The side I got to was loose and seemed like it was not stuck at all. The opposite side is connected to a metal lift arm and that was solid.  Down the ladder, step by step, and I went inside the Roadtrek. I reached up for the manual knob that you turn to open the vent lid and I got to the point that it would stop turning and gave it a slightly stronger turn and it kept turning and the lid raised up on its hinge. I put it up and down several times and it seemed fine. Why had I not done this before (as it was stuck down since September)? I was concerned that if I could open it and then found it would no longer close we would have BIG trouble with a square foot hole in the roof and regular days of rain!  I was feeling brave - having been up on the roof anyway - and tried it. One less repair to have done at the dealer/service! Just for good measure, I used some silicone spray on a cloth to lubricate the lift arm. I could do this from inside the van.  I may write an article about that process soon.

The date to leave was coming up. I let the service shop know that the fan lid was no longer stuck and confirmed that all necessary parts would be there when we got there to start and finish the job that day. All was confirmed.

The weather for the trip down was going to be warm - much warmer than usual. We started out at 10:00 am and met up with the usual bumper to bumper traffic getting off Long Island and onto the mainland of the United States - which is New Jersey from our location heading to where we were heading. The trip generally takes about 45 minutes to one hour to get from home to Brooklyn, crossing a toll bridge and going to Staten Island where there is another toll bridge across to New Jersey. This particular morning it took more than TWO HOURS! We finally get on the highway in New Jersey and head for the New Jersey Turnpike entrance. The entrance ramp is moving - and we get halfway toward the toll booths along a winding entrance ramp - and then traffic stops. There is a cut off to a local industrial and business area along that ramp that all traffic was being directed into that. When we got up there we saw it - a large tractor trailer truck over completely on its side totally across and blocking the ramp that went to the turnpike tolls and actual entrance to the turnpike. There were four police cars and a their policemen all standing looking at the truck. Had just one of them been at the turn off to the exit from the highway that took us into the turnpike entrance - none of the cars and trucks - and us - even gotten off to get into this mess of where is this now taking us.  It is not an area that we have never been to before - though not in the Roadtrek and it is a labyrinth of roads around office buildings and factories - with no indications of which way to go and get out. And two GPS's that I had running - the one in the dash with no traffic routing - and the one in the CoPilot app with traffic kept trying to get us back to where the tractor trailer was blocking the useless entrance to the turnpike. We wasted a lot of time there. Meryl will tell you that she kept telling me to find a place to just park and we could figure it out - which I eventually did and she got out an old AAA real paper map of New Jersey and found that the next entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike was off Route 1 and she found the roads to get us there. All together we were just about past the time we should have ordinarily arrived at where we were headed in Pennsylvania.  Getting to US 1 was mostly streets and we finally got to the turnpike and we were then moving!  A call came to Meryl's phone - it was the campground. They wanted to make sure we were coming and if we did not get there before 4:00 pm they would leave a cone in our site so that we could find it on our own. It was after 2:30 pm when we arrived.

 We pulled into the  nice concrete and paved site but slightly uneven in the paving so it took a little moving the Roadtrek around in the site to find where it was most level -  more for comfort than anything else. We always mark where that level position is in relation to the tires (as I have written about in the past) and set the reflector markers down on the ground. We checked the power box to make sure the wiring for polarity was correct and the voltage was not too low or too high. All was fine. And with that we backed out of the pull in site and headed to the RV service shop just to check the route and the time it would take to get there the next morning. We timed that out and then headed for the fast food restaurant nearby for lunch.

While it was not as early as we had hoped it would be when we got there, we had figured to take a drive further north to spend some time in the Cabela's Store in Hamburg, PA and then after that have dinner in a restaurant that we know back to the east along Rt. 78 and Rt, 22.

On the way I looked at the gas tank which was below half and decided to stop for gas. I turned onto the street that the entrance of the gas station was on and as I went up the driveway cut into the station we heard a "ZING!" and could not figure out what it was. This was a new noise in the collection of noises we have heard while driving the Roadtrek. I looked at Meryl and said, "What was that!" She said she did not know - speculated that it might be one of the spring tension curtain rods we use to hold things in place - that sit on the floor and inside the fridge. I drove to the pump and went out to pump gas. Gas, in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was several cents and more higher than the prices in New York - just that morning.  Gas in and I got back into the van. Meryl had something in her hand and said - I found this on the floor back there.  It was a metal sleeve. I had no idea what it was - and then she showed me the rest of what she found - a black plastic knob with a screw coming through the middle. I knew exactly what it was then. It was the knob to turn to open the fan vent lid outside. And it was right below the fan where she found it all.  OK - no problem. I went to the middle of the inside under the fan and looked up -I set the sleeve over the screw and put the knob back into place and then realized that I needed a screw driver to put it in with - and while there are screwdrivers in my tool bag in the Roadtrek - this was not the time or the place to do this. So we put it all where it would be safe and headed back out on the road.

By the time we got to Cabela's it was closer to the time we had planned to have dinner but we were there and would spend a brief time at the store - always fun to see their local fish aquarium, their trophy animal displays, and look at things that relate to some of our interests. But before we went in, I got out the tool bag and a Phillips head screwdriver and put the fan knob back where it belonged. It was a good thing as without the knob in place nothing locked the fan lid closed to the roof and easily could have bounced or blown open. I realized then why this came off. The last time I had closed the fan I decided not to tighten the knob down very tightly to avoid it sticking again. It was just loose enough for the vibrations through the van driving to loosen the screw to the point that it would all fall out - as it did. Into the store -for an even briefer visit and then off to dinner.  After dinner we headed back to the RV Park to settle in for the night.

We had the advantage of the restrooms which were four lanes away from where our site was. After we would settle in for bed, we decided that we would put a camping "wag" bag into the RV toilet to use that during the night - as we would do for cold weather camping. We had running water in the RV from the fresh tank we sanitized for washing and drinking - but I did not want to put any waste down the toilet because the next morning the service tech did not need to have to encounter that when he removed the macerator.

This RV Park said it had wifi - but no cable television. We had the antenna and before we left I had an idea - which I wanted to try out. Recently I have been using a ROKU wifi device at home to use to get many free television channels on the TV.  Usually in a campground the wifi service is through a company that the campground brings in to connect your RV to - with a free account for the number of days you are staying - but the wifi from these companies is metered - use too much and they cut you back to barely usable speed. This wifi, I anticipated was from the campground directly - and long term residents arranged for local cable. We were in a site right at the office - and the wifi was strong. Just to see what would happen I brought the ROKU and set it up on the Roadtrek TV - it started up just as it does at home, asked me to connect to the wifi signal it found from the Park - and it worked beautifully. We used it for all of two and a half hours - but it was a nice diversion from the local over the air channels.  I am sure we can't do this at most other campgrounds we go to but it is a nice thing to have when it is possible.

THIS IS THE END OF DAY 1.

WE WILL CONTINUE WITH THIS TALE IN TWO WEEKS IN:

"TRIP FOR REPAIRS AND THE MACERATOR'S TALE (DAY 2)"


(When there is not a whole lot to write about any longer,  when you have something long that can work for two articles that is the way to go! 😀 )