Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I have titled this article the UFO because that is the closest analogy that I can make to when a automobile service center near me sees a Roadtrek. They maybe have heard about them - but they have never seen one - much less worked on one. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to call it a UDO - unidentified driving object...

I left off the last article with the new Roadtrek needing an alignment. When we picked it up it pulled to the right. We went back to the dealer the next day after delivery and told the dealer's service center about the problem. They looked (we think) at the van and they told us that arrangements would be made through them to Roadtrek corporate to get an authorization for us to take the van to an alignment shop local to us to have the alignment done. Great! We were to contact the service center in a few days about the authorization for reimbursement.

This all happened on a Thursday. We waited until the next Tuesday and sent an email to the dealer service center. The answer that we received was not as we expected. We were told that the alignment of the van was not a problem covered under the Roadtrek warranty but rather had to be done under the Chevy warranty. I really did not care who did the job or was responsible as long as it would be paid for.

A few days later we went to the Chevy dealer service department where we have purchased two cars over the years. Rather than bring the huge Roadtrek into their small service lot, I photocopied the brochure cover and the spec sheet to be able to explain to them exactly what type of vehicle we were talking about. I was sure that they had never seen one before and I was right.

We got to the service counter and explained what we needed to have done and to what it needed to be done to. I took out the photos. The counter man had a puzzled look on his face and he went right away for the service manager. The first thing that he told me was that they do not do wheel alignments in their service shop but rather send them out. We talked some more and established that any other service that the Roadtrek Chevy components would need would not be a problem. They do have a truck lift and they can lift the 8000 pounds and accommodate the almost nine feet in height - without hitting the ceiling. But the alignment was another story. Despite my asking several times he never really said that the alignment was covered under the Chevy warranty. Other owners had told me that it would be - at least for the first time and under 1200 miles. We had not driven the Roadtrek since getting it home as it already had over 900 miles on it. The service manager suggested that we go down the road to the alignment shop that he sends his alignment work out to and talk with them to see if they could accommodate the height and weight.

We went to the alignment shop and at least the manager there knew about RVs - not Roadtreks but he knew what we were talking about. He had no problem with the height of the Roadtrek in his shop but his alignment lift had a capacity of 7000 pounds and the Roadtrek weighs almost 8000 pounds. He suggested a local truck alignment shop that does alignments from a pit which would be the best way to do the Roadtrek alignment - but this left Chevy now out of the picture. He also suggested that we check the air pressure in all of the tires because that could also result in the van pulling one way or the other. Disappointed, we left.

So now we have a problem with no warranty coverage to resolve. Our next step was to call Chevrolet Corporate Customer Service to find out what dealer we could take the Roadtrek to that could do the alignment.

Outsourcing customer service telephone response is common today, but when the people that you are talking to have no idea about what is where in the United States you wind up with less than satisfactory results. I can only guess where the person we were talking to was located, but it was definitely not here. I must say that she was diligent and tried hard. In fact the contact went on back and forth for three days. In the process she recommended two local Chevy dealers who have been out of business for several years - and she did locate a Chevy dealer service center that could do the alignment - IN BOSTON - only eight hours away. It took a bit to explain the proximity of Boston. When she was ready to give up, we suggested that we speak to a supervisor and that we needed to get authorization to take the van to a truck shop that could do the job - and for Chevy to pay for that. With that suggestion we got the reply- "I am sorry, alignments are a maintenance issue and are not covered under Chevy warranty." So what had we spent the past three days talking about? They said that the conversion outfitter (Roadtrek) was responsible for the alignment.

An alignment is not a very expensive adjustment but after spending the amount of money that was just spent to purchase the Roadtrek one should not drive out of the lot and need to pay anything more for it to drive properly. I then contacted Roadtrek who insisted that the driver who delivered Roadtrek from Ontario to the dealer in Pennsylvania reports on any unusual driving phenomena of the vehicle and his report was clean. And - it is not a Roadtrek issue but one that needs to be dealt with by Chevy.

We had come full circle - buck passed from hand to hand. Looking like we were paying for this, I communicated the situation to the owner of the Roadtrek dealership. I was pleasantly surprised to find that while he did say that this really should be handled by Chevy and that he was stuck in the middle between Chevy and Roadtrek, just as we were, he did not want any customer to be less than satisfied and he would cover the reimbursement of the alignment. That is good customer service!

Things should be easier than this - but, of course, they never are.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Second Day

The second day of owning the Roadtrek- after a sleepless night (not to the fault of the Roadtrek).

A little after nine I gave up the idea of sleeping and got up. We needed to get unhooked and everything outside put away anyway and we had to get to the dealer to have him fix what had to be fixed including the TV which I tried for another hour that morning to get a signal to lock without success.

Dressed and outside I went in to pay the lady at the campground for our night- which normally would have been done when we arrived. I paid her and asked about the digital TV reception there. She told me that it is very strong. She gets strong signals in her home which is there at the campground and also that the RV a few spaces down from us gets 19 strong and clear channels without putting up an antenna. I told her that I could not get any. She got a little angered as if I was saying that what she was telling me was not true. I quickly told her that I did not doubt her but I wanted to know because I thought there was something wrong with the TV or antenna in my new RV. She suggested that I have it looked at because I should have at least gotten the Lancaster channel that is just eight miles away. I thanked her and went out to unhook.

I wanted to dump our sewerage tank and our "gray water" tank (that is the sink and shower water tank). I needed to make sure that worked. To do that I had to get those tanks full as they are not to be dumped without at least being 2/3s full. I started running the faucet and flushing the toilet. We were getting no where fast. I filled a gallon jug outside at another campsite's spigot and dumped that down the toilet and the sink. This took over an hour before we had filled the tanks to be able to dump it all right then and there. The black tank monitor panel went from a third full to full - we never saw the 2/3 light. And once full you should see all the lights on. The 2/3 led remained dark. There was something else to tell the dealer service.

We were ready to dump. With thoughts of Robin Williams and the movie RV in both of our comments we set that up. And it was the easiest thing that we did. The two tanks dumped. There was no terrible odor when we opened the CG sewer pipe and it was all fairly clean. Rubber gloves are worn at all times, of course! Now, our friend, the salesman, told us to close the blank tank before opening the gray tank and draining that. This went against all that I had read, but we did it his way - which is wrong (of course).

Meryl called the salesman to tell him that we were coming back and what was wrong. We had a list. He started to tell her to make an appointment and come back. I did not make the call as she can control herself much better than I can when I am angry. She told him again as I had before the sale and during the sale and during the delivery, that we were here on this day because we could not make the 400 mile round trip with 150 dollars in gas and tolls for two vehicles back again. OK- he said get here as fast as possible. As fast as possible is an hour and a half.

We left the campground with Meryl driving the Roadtrek following me in the SUV back to the dealer. Not only was the day unseasonably warm but it was forecast for severe storms and the sky showed it. I kept hoping that the rain would hold off - maybe to tomorrow. It was almost Noon when we got on the road heading northeast to the dealership service center. We made our way to the turnpike and moved along in convoy. I was pumping with adrenalin which was good because it would be later that afternoon before I would be able to eat lunch. We don't eat breakfast and I maintain a pretty close schedule of meals due to my Diabetes. As I drove, I watched behind me to make sure that Meryl and the Roadtrek were in sight. We were able to keep close together most of the trip which is good because the dealer is not located off a main road and the GPS in my car was taking us through back roads to get us there once we got off the parkway. Along the way, Meryl called the salesman again - as he had asked her to when we were close to arrival. We pulled into the service center lot at almost two that afternoon. The sky was thick with storm clouds but it had not rained.

Inside we told the service desk what was wrong. They were expecting us. She took the keys, filled out her forms, and asked where we would be waiting. She took the cell number and would call us. We had the SUV and told her that we had to go and have lunch. As soon as we were about to walk out the door, there was a downpour. The rain came down fast and heavy. We made a run for the car and the rain stopped shortly after as fast as it started.

There is a Wendy's very close by and we drove over and sat down to lunch at almost 2:45 pm. I was just holding on at that point. The thing about adrenalin effecting your blood sugar is that when the stress level starts to subside you suddenly drop in blood glucose level to where you normally should be and if there has been no food that drop can be harsh. The drop happened at the restaurant and if it has to happen that is one of the better places for it to.

There is not a great deal to do in this area without traveling further than we wanted to go from the dealer. We walked around a Home Depot. Then we walked around a dollar store. From there we went into a Staples Office store. I really did not pay much attention to anything that we walked past in these stores as my mind was on the Roadtrek. I was pretty sure that they were going to tell us that we had to leave it and come back another day to get it. That would mean 200 miles home and then 200 miles back with gas and tolls. I did notice, however, in the Home Depot how the wood was of so much better quality than the same wood sold at the Home Depot stores at home - but that is another story for another website. While we were aimlessly walking around Staples the phone rang. Come back and talk to us we were told. This did not sound good to me.

We rushed to the car and drove back. The Roadtrek was parked next to the service building. We went inside and were told that a service rep would come out and talk to us. He came out and took us outside to the Roadtrek. He told us that he filled the black tank and it showed 2/3 fill on the monitor lights, insisting that it lit for him. Why it did not light for us he could not explain - and we will not know if this is truly fixed until the next time we fill that tank. He told us that he replaced the light bulb that had burned out in the hose compartment which we reported was not working. He showed us that it now worked. He took us into the TV and showed me the channels that he could tune in. He showed me a switch box that I already had changed to each setting while I was trying to tune in channels. He insisted that it was set wrong and look - there is TV. And yes there was.

I will stop the story here and jump ahead a few days back at home. We went out to the Roadtrek on the driveway to try to tune in TV channels. After a half hour of trying there was nothing tuning in. I am not unfamiliar with wiring and I started to trace the visible wires from the TV to the switch box to a splitter to the cable that went up to the ceiling toward the antenna. It did not look right to me and it wasn't. The switch box has two inputs and an output and that output goes to the TV. One input is the antenna and the other is for cable service. The connector for the cable service was plugged into the OUTPUT to the TV and the cable that should have gone to the TV was plugged into one of the inputs on the two way switch. There was NO wire with a signal going to the TV. Digital TV channels can be pulled in and tuned with a wire alone acting as an antenna providing the signal to be decoded is strong enough. Apparently, near the dealer, the signals are strong and he was tuning them in on the wire alone. No antenna was connected. For that matter, no cable service could have made its way to the TV either. I reversed the two wires on the switch. I started to scan for channels and they came in quickly and in quantity. So why didn't the service guy look at the box and find the problem?

Back to our story... The service center acknowledged that the front tires were out of alignment but they could not do the alignment there. I would have to take it to be aligned at home and they would get authorization from Roadtrek to pay for it. I was not thrilled with this. I was hoping to take this home all set and done, but there was nothing that could be done. They bid us good bye and off we went.

It was almost dinner time - even though it seemed that we just had lunch. We decided to go to a restaurant that we know near Philadelphia that was easy to park at and we headed south. We had the walkie-talkies working so that we could communicate. Before we left the area we stopped for gas to fill up both vehicles. The Roadtrek has used a quarter tank of gas in the day we had it. For the four hours of driving that it did I suppose that is not bad. Just to be sure we were in good communication as we would be traveling now to the restaurant on unfamiliar roads, I changed the batteries in the walkie-talkies. Right after I did along the road they stopped working. Of course. We stopped to try to fix them and got them working again with another set of batteries and off we went.

We arrived at the restaurant, had dinner and started on our way home. The trip home was uneventful until we got to the Veranzano Bridge. A heavy fog came over the roadway and the wind was picking up a heavy mist from the ocean and tossing it on the road and the cars. It was very difficult to see out the windshield and everything was being covered with salt water. I have never really seen anything like that before. I have, of course, driven in fog, but never where it was like waves crashing over the side of a ship on the deck. We got over the bridge and move on. The next highway that we needed to take is under construction and the lanes have been narrowed. I watched the wide Roadtrek in my rearview mirror making its way through these tight lanes. Meryl told me later that it really was no problem. The Roadtrek has a very distinct light pattern on top and in the dark - and in the fog it looked like a large truck on this narrow-laned road. At one point I looked in my mirror and wondered what that mac truck was doing on this road and then I realized it was the Roadtrek. There is a point now that we had to get off the highway and take the streets because the continuation of the highway to our home has overpasses on the road that are too low for the 8'9" height of the Roadtrek. We both got off the road where we knew we had to. We have practiced taking this new route several times before and it would be no problem - unless there was an accident on the road almost to home and we both had to weave slowly around the police cars and tow trucks which did not leave very much room to drive through. I could see the RT making these really tight turns and thought to myself that we came all this way to have it damaged not four miles from home. It got through fine and we arrived home at almost 11. I was exhausted. Remember that I had not slept and the frenzy of the past two days was taking its toll on me. I had looked forward to what should have happened on this day. I had planned some sight seeing and some fun things that we like to do in Lancaster County. While we had a great dinner, I had planned dinner in our favorite restaurant. Well, we were home and the Roadtrek was now ours. And now, I would have to find someplace to have it aligned in an area where no one has ever seen such a vehicle...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our First Night

If you have been reading along in order you know that this is the day that we picked up our Roadtrek 190 Popular from the dealer. We had decided to spend that night in a campground not too far from the dealer (we live 200 miles one way from the dealer) so that if we discovered any problems we could drive back to him the next day with our car (used to drive to PA to pick up the RV) and the Roadtrek, and not have to make a two vehicle trip back to PA.

We arrived at the campground at 6:30 pm, one half hour after the campground office closed. It was a good thing that I had called along the way. When we arrived I found a note on the office door with my name on it that had a map and several spaces highlighted with a marker for us to choose from. We picked a space that was right across from the office and adjacent to restrooms (just in case). We had the ability to pick a space that had vacant spaces on both sides. There were other rvs parked further down from us and in another section of the campground. We pulled our car up into our space next to the Roadtrek.

Many of the restaurants in this area close at 8:00 pm, so we did not really have much time, but I wanted to test the 110v power in the hook up of the campsite that we choose. We got out the adapter for 15 amp to 30 amp, the voltage meter, and the polarity tester. I never thought to cut the adapter from the card and it was held on by plastic pull bands in three places. What I had not thought to bring was a set of tools - at least something strong enough to cut these bands. We had a small knife and a pocket knife - neither was strong enough to cut through the plastic. I finally just ripped the cardboard away and went off to the power box with the adapter. First I checked the polarity - good. I then plugged in the voltage meter and it looked good. Great. Put it all away and head off to the restaurant that I had planned on eating at.

I now drove the Roadtrek for the first time. My wife drove it following me from the dealer on the hour and a half trip to the campground. I headed off in the Roadtrek through the turning and slightly hilly Pennsylvania farm roads. It was easy to handle and drove nicely. The large V8 engine did seem to strain a bit when first starting - or perhaps we just thought so. Once it was rolling it had plenty of power. As we were driving Meryl said to me that she felt it pull to the right when she drove it. We got to a main road that was straight and I lessened my grip on the wheel in a straight-away and the van moved toward the right. Nothing that one could not compensate for but it definitely felt out of alignment. OK - we would have to head back to the dealer the next day to see what they could do about it.

We arrived at the restaurant and parked in the parking lot. It fit nicely in a standard parking space. It was still light outside when we went into the restaurant and we had dinner. When we came back out to the Roadtrek, it seemed as if there was light coming out from the inside. It was now dark out. I opened the drivers door and I could see two ceiling lights on and also the GPS. Well, I have since learned that when you open the door, the GPS screen comes on. But those two lights baffled us. We did not THINK that they were on before, BUT the salesman taking us through the van was turning things on and off and our heads were spinning such that it would have been possible for these lights to be left on and in the daylight we would not have noticed. I went in and clicked each of the light switches to off. They are rocker switches and were both on. We started to wonder how this could happen. Is there a dusk sensor for the cabin lights. There is for the vehicle headlights. Perhaps the two are connected? But the switches would not physically be moved. That seems impossible. I decided that the lights must have been left on and that was that. (More to come about this in my next article.) We buckled in and started back to the campground. Not it was fully dark outside and we would be setting up in the dark. I did bring a small but bright LED flashlight. I drove the Roadtrek back to the campground, now on the same turning farm roads through the Amish farm fields - but this time in the dark with no road lights. Meryl was quick to point out that I have done that before. It would have been nice to be driving at night on well lit roads, but fine. We got back to the campground at almost 9 pm.

I backed into the site and we got out to start hooking up. First I checked to see how level we were - we only need that for our comfort as the refrigerator is electric and does not need to be kept level as a "three-way" fridge does. We were slightly off level toward the rear driver's corner. I tried moving the Roadtrek in the parking place - no difference. It was not really noticeable walking around inside so I left it where it was.

All of what we both read in advance was to hook up the electric first - so you are not standing in a puddle of water when you plug in the 30 amp plug that sits next to the water hose faucet for your water supply. We got the large electric cord out of the compartment on the side and plugged it in. Make sure the power box breaker is OFF, plug in, and turn the breaker ON. Easy. Done.

What was odd was that the with the cord coming out the bottom of the compartment the door could no longer be closed. There was a hole in the compartment wall leading to a place that the cord would go out without interfering with the door, but the plastic star cap on that hole seemed too small to put the large plug on the cord through. We unhooked and tried it and Meryl said it was too tight a fit and we did not want to force anything. Someone would have told us about this when we were being shown the RV on delivery... Well, that someone did not know what he was telling us about. We left the cord coming out the compartment and decided that the door would just remain open enough to let the cord out.

It was now time to hook up the water. Both Meryl and I had read that water connections at campgrounds should be sanitized before using them. People touch them, a dog may have used it instead of a tree, etc. and germs grow. To sanitize it is simple - mix bleach and water in a spray bottle and squirt it outside and inside the faucet. Let it stand for a minute or so and then run the water to flush out the bleach. What we were not sure of was how much bleach to water - and everyone who had answered me on the internet forum about this a few days before had a different mixture from ten to one to 100% bleach. We decided to go with the directions on the bleach bottle for mixing it as a disinfectant. Several squirts later and that was done.

We got out the hoses that we bought. We were very close to the faucet so I chose the ten foot hose. I hooked that up and ran some water through the hose to clear it out. We got out the filter that we purchased for the hose line and also the pressure regulator. We quickly found that where the Roadtrek's water inlet for "city" water - yes, if you connect it to a hose - even in the country - you are connecting it to "city" water - anyway - the inlet is very low to the ground facing downward. It is necessary to get the hose up under the bottom of the van and to this connection and then screw them together - along with the pressure regulator and the filter which is about a foot long. No way. I unhooked the hose and started all over again. I also realized that I needed to test the on-board fresh water tanks - one is filled through the side of the back doors and the other is filled inside the drivers door. The ten foot those would would not reach the other side of the back doors. I got out the 25 foot hose. I hooked that up with the filter and filled both tanks. We went inside, turned on the water pump and started the sink. There was some sputtering - and then Water! We flushed the toilet - water! So far so good! I turned off the water pump. We then connected the hose to the "city" water inlet. Things dripped a bit which I know is a no-no at campgrounds but no matter how much I tightened there was still some dripping. It would have to do in the dark. That afternoon we were told by the salesman that we turn the valve on the city water inlet to the side to connect the city water. I turned that valve as he told us too and turned on the campground faucet. I could hear water rushing - this could not be right. I looked around and at the rear of the Roadtrek water was coming down from the overfill of the water tank. Quickly we turned off the water. We decided to turn the valve on the city water inlet straight up. I turned on the water again - and no more gushing. We went inside and started the sink. Water flowed out of the faucet with more force than before. Perfect. Again, the toilet filled with water when we stepped on the flusher - half-way down to let in water, all the way down to open the door and flush!

For all the RVers reading this, this is all second nature to you all. For us this was a monumental first. We had electricity and we had water.

I then turned on the propane and we went in to test things inside. I had been told by good people on the internet forums that I should light the stove first to get the gas flowing in the line before I light the water heater or the furnace. Meryl got out the long lighter that we had been given by the salesman in his box of "gifts". I tried to light it first. I moved the lighter's safety switch to off, pressed the red button on top, and pushed that button forward while pulling the trigger. No flame came out the end. I tried it again and again. Nothing. OK, we had brought one from home that I knew worked. I turned on one of the burners, waited a second and clicked the lighter's flame on. The burner caught and a blue flame circled the middle. I tested the second burner and it worked as well. Great. We don't particularly like gas. We took it out of our house for all appliances and only use it at home for hot water. We both feel that it is not all that safe, but we also grew up with it when we were small children and do understand how to use it. I turned off the burner and moved on to the water heater. We took out the instruction booklet and followed what it said. There is a six gallon hot water tank and it takes a little time to heat up. We could hear the water heater ignite - this uses an electronic ignition. We waited a few minutes and I was pretty sure that I could feel hot water. I asked Meryl for an opinion - "cold" she said. We waited a little more and it was definitely hot. Another test with success.

What I have not mentioned in this article yet or in the article on delivery was that this day was the hottest day of the year to date - and the hottest night. It was over 80 during the day and the night would be in the mid-70's. Inside the Roadtrek there needs to be some source of air coming in or - at least to me - it gets hard to feel comfortable and breath easily. I turned on the air conditioner. It roared loudly. It has two settings - auto or fan and two speeds - high and low. Being blown hard, I moved the switch to low. But it is noisy inside even on low. I played with the thermostat and it turned on and off with the temperature, but I soon felt that it was better with it on all of the time that the on and off of the auto setting.

With the A/C running, it was time to test the furnace. I turned that on and very quickly heat started to come from the vent in the floor - good. We turned that off quickly - it was very warm still outside. I tried the heat pump that is part of the air conditioner. Warm air came out the vents - that worked too. All of the important systems were working. Next on to the luxuries.

We are big TV people. My wife cannot fall asleep unless the TV is on. The campground we were at did not have a hook up for cable TV - many do and the RT has a cable connection outside. We would have to rely upon the digital antenna that is
built into the RT with a booster. There were at least ten channels advertised for this campground so we should be fine. I turned on the TV - the salesman had it working that afternoon. I scanned for channels - and - nothing! The antenna rotates with a handle inside. We turned the direction of the antenna - scanned - nothing. We spent two hours turning and scanning. I changed settings, pushed cable connection buttons. Nothing. At one point we got a sports channel that was running infomercials - better than nothing but the picture froze almost immediately and then broke up to nothing. I was now very frustrated. I had brought along some DVD's so we put one in the "home entertainment center" and that played nicely. I was tired and I wanted to relax. I swiveled the front driver's seat to the back and sat down. I moved the backrest down a little and comfortably settled in. Meryl shortly joined me. Poured us both some soda and as it was getting late asked if we should have late night snack. We have something to eat each night to keep our blood sugar from dropping during the night. We are both Diabetics. She had brought pre-measured servings of oat cereal and we each took a bag.

Before eating I needed to test my blood sugar. Things had been so involved during the day that I had not done that two hours after lunch or dinner as I am supposed to. I got a drop of blood up on my finger and put my meter to it. A high for me number appeared. Stress causes blood sugar to rise. I certainly had been and still was under stress. I put the meter aside and decided that I would still eat snack and try to relax. Meryl's number was fine.

We sat and watched the movie on the DVD. She made an observation that it was after 1:30 am. I said that maybe we should go to bed and watch the movie there. She made the twin beds up and put on the sheets and blanket - which with the A/C running was necessary - but turn the A/C off and the air would get stuffy again.

I should say to you now that we are both "late night people". We usually go to bed around 4 am and get up mid-morning. Trying to go to bed now at 2 am for ME was a mistake. I was too high strung, not tired, and still nervous. And obviously, my blood sugar high reading was attesting to the stress - which pumps adrenalin into my system. I got ready for bed and I took my insulin.

The bed cushions are comfortable. They are a bit narrower than I thought they would be. We can always make the bed up into a king size bed instead of two small twins (cots?), but with this arrangement we both could get in and get out easily rather than climb down from the top of the bed to the bottom to get out. I tried closing my eyes to fall asleep. Nope. I watched the movie. When it ended we started it again which was easier than getting up and going for another DVD. I had taken the side of the van that was most like the position that I am in in our bed at home, but this also put me on the opposite side of my wife who was across the 18 inch aisle in the other bed. I kept trying to fall asleep. Something that I know from my professional training - and my advice to my therapy clients - one should not do. If you can't fall asleep, don't force it. Just lie with your eyes closed and you will get most of the benefits of actually sleeping. I kept telling myself this over and over again. Meryl was in and out of sleep and could see that I was not. She turned off the movie and the TV and the inside of the RT got dark. She said that maybe that would help. A few minutes later she told me that there was light coming out of the back of the van from under the bed - not outside, inside. She told me to look at the floor and sure enough, there was light coming through an access door to the back under the back of the bed. I told her I had no idea why that would be or where it would be coming from. No one had told me about any lights down there. She got on the floor and opened the access door which is very small. She said that there was a row of lights on in the back. Until it got totally dark we could not see them. She told me that she could see a switch off to the side but that she could not reach it. I told her that the only way to get to that was from the outside through the rear doors. We decided to leave the lights on. I then asked her how many switches she saw. Only one. Aha! Our salesman (I refrain from how I would like to describe him) had turned on a switch that afternoon to show me the "Generator Inverter switch". I asked him at the time what was that - as I had never heard of such a thing but after all I have never been near one of these up close before - and he told me that was standard. The fool had turned on these lights. There is no such thing as a Generator Inverter switch! Was he making it up as he went along? I am sure of that now.

Meryl was asleep. I was still not and it was approaching 4 am. I thought that this was good because now it was my usual bedtime and I would fall asleep. Silly me. I watched 5 am come and go. A little before 6 am I could see the sun coming up through the corners of the curtains. Now, I was really in a panic. We had to drive 200 miles to get home and I we had to deal with the problems we were finding at the dealer. I tried to just close my eyes and sleep and my head was overflowing with thoughts. A bit later with the sheet twisted around my legs and the temperature going from warm to cold and back again, my legs started to cramp and my foot curled up in a cramp. I could not control it - and this has not happened to me before and I was in a great amount of pain. I woke Meryl up for help. I am not sure how she figured out what to do but she put one of her pillows under my knees and the spasms and cramps stopped. I still could not fall asleep but I was not in pain.

It seemed to me that I never slept. Meryl says that at several points I was snoring so I must have been sleeping.

Next article - the second day...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


It is the night before we are driving to Pennsylvania to pick up the Roadtrek. Earlier today I purchased RV Emergency Road Service. We spent the end of the afternoon loading everything that we purchased for the RV and our first night in it into our SUV. Let me tell you that the shopping trip that I wrote about a few weeks ago was not the end of our shopping. We have been thinking of things to add to that list since and made our last purchase (so far) this afternoon. The back of the SUV is filled to the brim. I am not certain how it all will fit into the Roadtrek. Of course, things like the four pillows, sheets, and blanket took up a bulk of the space. There are still several things that must get added in at the last minute before we leave. We plan to add two more things to our purchases at the time of pickup - an RV power protector - a type of surge protector for the RV- and a collapsible cone (don't ask). I must admit that I have been anxious all day. Someone asked me yesterday, what do I have to be nervous about? Well... I tend to over analyze everything and then worry about it. I get plagued with what if this and what if that. I am sure it all will be fine. But knowing that sometimes just does not help the worrying. Well, we are off in the morning and I will continue this when the Roadtrek is ours.

Off to the dealer -

With every thing seemingly planned for and prepared for the night before, we got into the car to head to PA. Immediately, I found that the self-made GPS stand had come apart in a way that was going to cause a problem on this trip - so I got out of the car and went into my workshop to fix it. Just what I needed, because this was THE day and I was still nervous - perhaps more so.

It seems that every major road in NY, NJ, and PA, and even some small roads, are under construction. We drove into a thirty minute traffic jam that was caused by a small crew, not working on a road, but doing landscaping on the side of the parkway. This was the first of several tie ups that we encountered on our way, and our estimated three hour trip was increasing in time of arrival as we went along.

I must say now - and I am writing this two days after it took place (though you are reading this about one week later) - that this all feels that it happened long ago and it seems to have happened in a bit of a fog. There is a distance to it all.

Anyway, we arrived at the dealer in Pennsylvania about an forty five minutes later than anticipated. We went in through the RV supplies store and up into the showroom. There did not seem to be anyone around. The showroom floor is full of large RVs so it is not possible to look across from one side to the other. We kept walking inside to where we knew the sales manager's desk is and as we approached it there was a salesman sitting at a desk on the left. If you recall - I never met the salesman face to face. (See my earlier articles to understand why.) He asked if he could help me and I asked for the salesman we were to meet. "That is me," he said and with that knew who we were. I expected to sit down and do the paperwork - give him the check - before anything else, but he said that we should go outside and see the RV. He handed us each a set of keys. We followed him out the door and there it was in the front of the lot. This is what we saw -

It looked great. It was just as we expected. In fact it was better than expected because there were fewer identification markings on it that I expected. We ordered the RV with the Roadtrek name not on it - yes, this is an option and it is free. Going along with this, to my surprise, the dealer did not put his large decal on the outside. That was great. While it is nice to show something like this off, it is better sometimes for it to remain "just another conversion van". On the model 170 that is parked to the left in the photo, you can see some of the standard markings. Ours has none of that.

He started the tour by showing us the battery draw on the side. It is in front of the rear wheel in the photo but it blends in so well that one cannot really see it. As he is talking and pointing, I am looking around the outside for scratches, dings, or marks. Happily, there were none. (I have picked up new cars that did have them.) We moved around to the back and he showed us the how to open the back doors. At this point I remembered that I had the checklist that I made up - the one that was published here last week. We got it out and my wife had a notebook to record everything that he was telling us how to do. As I will go into later in detail (and in perhaps the next two articles) she need not have bothered.

Now, the checklist. It is comprehensive and everything that you really need to find out about - but when it is all going down and happening then and there - you forget all about the checklist and just keep attentively watching - and hope that you find out what you need to know and look back before you leave at that checklist to ask what was left out. For this the checklist was good, but we were too much in a flurry to look down the list and even check off what he was covering. He was not going fast but he kept moving along. There I was with the checklist in hand and my wife quickly taking notes. He noticed the checklist and made a comment that it was good that I knew what I needed to learn about. Too bad he never had learned what he needed to teach us.

When we first started shopping for an RV, I started researching RVs and started communicating with RV owners on internet forums and email lists. There are several good ones and one specifically for Roadtrek owners. When I had a question I asked - and I kept reading what others asked about, and the answers they received. I gained a lot of theory. I knew what was supposed to be where and what to do with it. Now, up close and personal with the Roadtrek in front of me, I needed to know exactly where on this RV and how do you make it work. I would ask him something that I was pretty sure about and he would tell me either that had changed or that it did not matter - or the ever popular line - "You don't have to be concerned with that." I listened eagerly. My wife took notes and wrote down what he said, and I was happy - at least for the moment. After all he is the salesman and he knows what he is selling - and the basics have not changed on the Roadtrek from year to year, at least for the past several model years. I learned later that evening when we were at the campground- that he had no idea what he was talking about. Maybe he was making it up as he went along... But at the moment we had no idea of that and we went along pretty happy as he showed us outside and inside. I continued to ask questions. He continued to tell me answers - and I kept wondering how so much of this did not match what I had been researching all along. We finished the tour and we were heading back into the showroom. I quickly looked down the checklist and saw several things that we had not talked about. I asked. I was told we would go back to that later. OK. As we were finishing outside he mentioned the ever popular with vehicle salesmen Extended Service Warranty. I got suckered into that once with a car and have never again been persuaded. He made a very convincing argument why this was different for an RV and he told me the Finance Manger who would finish up with us would talk to us all about it.

We went inside and sat down with the Finance Manager who we had met before when we made he purchase and arranged for an RV loan. He was then and was now very knowledgeable. There were many forms to sign - just like when buying a house. There were much more forms than one signs when buying a car. Everything was signed and we handed over our check for the down payment. Photocopies and carbons were handed over and he shook our hands in congratulations. There was no mention of any Extended Service Warranty. I asked him.

The Extended Service Warranty being sold by the dealer is with an independent company that is supposed to be located all over the US and can be applied at non-participating service repair centers by reimbursement. It runs for seven years and covers everything inside and outside of the RV - the stove, the refrigerator, the microwave, the TV, the propane system, the sewage system, the tanks, and on and on. It also covers the vehicle engine. The problem is - and is with most plans like this - that it does not start when the manufacturers warranties end but rather runs at the same time and then on to the end of seven years. So with some parts under coverage you will get six years of extension and with some some you will get two. The cost - $2500.00! I had not expected such a high number. Meryl was not surprised at the amount. My question was - Do we have to buy this today? He said, no. We can purchase it at any time during the first year. Fine. We will wait and think about it. Unlike a car there are major cost things that can go wrong in the RV that you cannot just go to any service station to fix. So a warranty like this on an RV makes sense. It just costs so darn much!

We were done. The Roadtrek was ours. We went back to the salesman's desk and he had a cardboard carton full of RV supplies. "Here is my gift to you", he said. Inside the carton there was a drinking water hose, a pressure regulator, chemical to put in your tanks, a rubber donut seal, two butane, long lighters (for the stove), and a 15 amp to 30 amp converter plug. All very nice. (I have some returning to do of some of these things that I purchased on my own. I asked my last questions again. My head was spinning with the finalization of the purchase and all that he had told us before. He asked if we would go outside and he would take our photo in front of the Roadtrek - for something special that they will send us. We did that and while outside he answered my questions. That was it. It was time to go. We had spent over two and a half hours at the dealership.

Meryl was driving the Roadtrek to the campground that we made reservations at in Lancaster, PA to spend the night and test out everything on the Roadtrek. I was driving the SUV that we took to get there - gas is now over $4 a gallon and I have two cars that eat gas fast over two hundred miles from home. I thought that we would have to stop for gas to fill up the Roadtrek -another big surprise was the tank was full! So I get in my car. We need to get back down to the turnpike and drive an hour and a half to the campground. We both know the area well, but we do not know the area where the dealer is very well. She would follow me and communicate by cell phone along the way. I had the GPS. We were not going to stop and program the Roadtrek's in-dash GPS at this point.

I wanted to connect my cell phone with my GPS by bluetooth. I have done this a few times before just to see how it works. It has worked in the past. My attempts to get them to pair was just wasting more time so we set off.

As I am driving and Meryl is following, when I got to Valley Forge on the turnpike I thought that I should call the campground just as a courtesy to say we were on our way - as it was late. I got the very nice lady on the phone and she told me that they close the office in fifteen minutes. We were still forty five minutes away. She told me no problem - she would put a sign on the office door with a list of spaces that we can choose from - and we could pay her in the morning. Wonderful!

This was the day of delivery.

I will continue next week with our night and morning at the campground.