Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Off on Our First Trip of the Season

I always have a little apprehension before taking a trip - even before the Roadtrek, but with the Roadtrek I start wondering before a trip what will go wrong on this one. Last season we encountered some of the strangest weather - a snow storm in October, a hurricane, and an earthquake all on trips in our Roadtrek. Of course, the Roadtrek had nothing to do with the weather, but you do feel a little more vulnerable out in an RV when the weather starts to go bad than you do in a hotel room. Well, anyway, we planned a trip to Maryland at the end of April to attend a living history event at Fort Frederick in the town of Big Pool, Maryland. There will be an article all about the event in the near future.

When we ended our last trip of the season in 2011, we had a problem - or perhaps I should say - the nonoccurrence of a problem with our grey water tank valve. The grey water tank is the tank that holds sink and shower drain water. This is different from the black water tank which is the tank that holds waste and water from the toilet. The problem with the valve was that the pull handle that works the valve would not push in to close the valve. This resulted in the grey water mixing in with the black water when the black water tank was dumped. This is not a good thing and it had been fixed last Fall for the same problem at dealer/service. Not a month after the repaid the same problem reoccurred. I contacted them back at that time and we agreed that in the Spring we would be back to have this fixed - and this time I would like a new valve installed. There were no promises about a new valve, but they would repair the problem. Planning this trip in April, we would make a first day stop in Pennsylvania to take the Roadtrek to dealer service. While it was there, we would have them change the oil in the generator which needs to be changed after the first twenty hours of use. We would be heading after that to Maryland but decided that as we did not know how late it would be in the day before the Roadtrek would be ready - and if there was any problem that we needed to come back the next day - we better stay that night in Pennsylvania. We made a one night reservation at Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, PA. From there we would be going to Hagerstown, Maryland to the Yogi Bear Campground. Reservations were made weeks before, even though it is early in the season. We would stay two nights in Maryland and come back to Lancaster on the way home rather than drive through - which we could have done, but we were in no hurry.

Traffic, of course, is impossible and we were delayed getting off Long Island, in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. We arrived at dealer service in a little over three hours. They took the Roadtrek right in for service and we spent the next two and and a half hours walking around the small shopping center that is about a quarter mile away. When we got back to pick it up, we were told that the valve did not need replacing but that the long metal wire that attaches to the handle on one side and works the valve on the other needed to be shortened, stopped from slipping, and tightened down. I have to share that I have my doubts that this will be the last of the problem.

We then headed off to Lancaster. We stopped for dinner along the way, and eventually arrived and settled in at the campground. The space that we were assigned was told to us on a note left on the campground office mailbox. It was not a space that we have been in or near before and we followed the campground map to find the space. We got to where the space should be and Meryl got out to locate it, while I remained in the lane for directions as to where to back in. She came back perplexed saying that she could not find the space. I looked at the map and was pretty sure that we were sitting right in front of the space. At this campground the space numbers are marked on the electric hookup posts. I got out and walked over to what should be the space. There was the number on the back of the post. We pulled in and within a relatively short time found a spot on the gravel that was almost level. That was it for the night. We got out, hooked up the electric power cord and cable connection, and we were set for the night. We had filled our two fresh water tanks before we left so we had no need to connect to water.

One of the things that I got to play with on this trip is a new toy - a small Android tablet that has a five inch screen. It connects right up to the wifi signal at the campground and I can surf the web, read email, write articles, and so on. It worked great, though I did discover that writing anything of substance on a little screen keyboard is not ideal. The solution to that is a bluetooth keyboard that will connect wirelessly to the tablet and I quickly decided that one would be purchased when we got home.

Sleeping in the Roadtrek has become very comfortable. We got a good nights sleep. We slept late since we would only be traveling that day to Maryland. We stopped in Pennsylvania in a few of the places that we like to waste time at and we were off to Maryland. (If I detail those places, I will be telling you about these same places over and over again. If you look back at July 2011, you will see some of the places we went back to on this short trip.)

I wanted to arrive in Maryland in the daylight. We have been to Hagerstown many times in the past but never in an RV and never camping. The campground is actually located in Williamsport which is just outside of Hagerstown and is off on country roads. Even the GPS was having trouble locating the actual entrance and the route to get to it. The trip from Lancaster is about two hours and fifteen minutes. We arrived about 4:00 pm. I will write all about this Yogi Bear Campground in another article. Let's just say it was an experience!

The week before we left on this trip the weather had been wonderful. The temperatures were in the 70's! The second night in Maryland I started my little Android tablet, connected to the campground wifi, and got a weather alert on the screen for our location. There was a freeze warning over night. Temperatures would drop during the night to sub-freezing temperatures! How exciting! We had the heat pump on during the night and while it only works to about 40 degrees F, it kept us warm through the night. It did not start blowing cold - as it will when the temperature drops below 40 - so the actual temperatures where we were must have remained at around 40. All along the weather reports for that next day were that it would be "warmer". It was not.

I am going to skip over all of what we did in Maryland and bring us all back to Lancaster for the return trip heading home. Again, Maryland will be in two coming articles. We left Maryland on the late afternoon of Saturday, April 28th. We stopped for dinner along the way and did not arrive back in Lancaster until late Saturday night. Again, our space number was left for us in the mailbox of the office. This time it was easy to find the space, but once in the space I could not find a spot to get the Roadtrek level.

For us, being level on the site is only for comfort. For others whose RVs have propane refrigerators being level is very important. These refrigerators must be level to work properly. Almost all campgrounds claim to have level sites. We have wondered if what is level on a gravel site for a large bus size RV can also be level for our little Roadtrek. We have, so far, only been in one campground where the site was truly right on level - and that site was concrete pavement. On gravel sites, we get close, on a rare occasion get actually level, or don't even come near level. A big RV has levelers - mechanical legs that come down and adjust back to front, side to side until the RV is level. The Roadtrek is much too small and very much to close to the ground on the bottom to have any such device under the chassis. To level a Roadtrek you use large, square plastic blocks that look like giant "Lego" blocks. You put them against the front of back of the tires and drive up on them. We carry a set with us. We have used them once when we really could not get level at all. On this night, I was beginning to think that we were going to need to do this again.

What you do is drive around the space with the Roadtrek until you find a level spot. I have two bubble levels mounted inside the front of the Roadtrek - one on the dash and one on a straight part of the door. The dash shows level side to side. The door shows level front to back. I could just not find a spot and to get both level and in some spots both were way off. I drove all around that space - tried putting the Roadtrek diagonally in the space. Getting out I could see the slopes. I was getting angrier and more and more frustrated, but I was not going to give in. There had to be - or did there - a spot that was at least almost level. I got the front to back level and then keeping in that general spot moved a bit here and there to find an almost side to side level position. I gave up with the bubble just touching the level line. By then we were too tired to even bother pulling out the Lego blocks. Don't ask why we just did not pull them out to begin with. I announced an exasperated, "Good enough!", and shut off the engine. We went out to hook up and before we went in, Meryl asked if I wanted to turn on the propane. I asked her why as we don't usually turn on the propane - which has to be turned on from the outside. She said "in case there is another freeze warning". There is one thing that Meryl will tell you - Meryl is always right. I told her no, it would not be necessary to turn on the propane since the night before we were fine just with the heat pump.

Meryl is always right. There was another weather alert on the tablet - this one for Lancaster. It said over night freeze warning with temperatures dropping to sub-freezing temperatures possibly into the 20's. We went to sleep with the heat pump on. The heat pump by the way is a setting on the air conditioner. At about 6:00 am I was awakened by cold air blowing on my face. There are two directional vents for the air conditioner/heat pump that direct down onto the bed. My was pointing at my face. I reached up to feel the air blowing from the vent and it was COLD. This means that the temperature dropped below 40 degrees and with that the heat pump stops working - but it does not just shut down - that would make too much sense. No, it blows cold instead of hot. I reached over to the control panel - which is on the wall in the bed area and shut the unit off. I had the Android tablet at my side set as an alarm clock. I looked at the local weather reading - 34 degrees at the present time. I considered getting dressed and going outside to turn on the propane so that I could turn on the furnace inside and get warm, but decided that I would rather wrap up under the blanket and be a little cold than face the outside cold temperature. Yep, I should have listened to Meryl and turned on the propane last night!

Were the outside temperature the only thing that was unexpected, it would have been overall a great trip. As it was it was a very nice trip, but as has happened on so many other trips, there was a problem in the Roadtrek. This one, is not likely the fault of Roadtrek, but more likely has to do with the winterizing kit that I described was installed in the Roadtrek last November when we had the RV winterized. After flushing the toilet we could hear a hum in side the van. We were not sure where it was coming from but it was unlike any of the usual noises that one hears inside Roadtreks. We traced the sound to the cabinet where the water pump is located. This is where that winterizing kit was installed. I sounded like the water pump was running and it was not stopping - but it was a low hum and not the usual rumble that the water pump makes. I turned on the faucet to find little water coming out and then a burst of air and then more water, and more air and then water mixed with air. The water pump was sucking air. Where this air is coming from still remains to be determined and we are going back to the dealer service center sometime soon for this to be looked at and repaired. Basically, the pump is not priming because it is filling with air and not water - and there is more air than water. I won't go into further details. We shall wait to see what it is when it is repaired. Another unexpected trip to Pennsylvania is in our near future.

The morning that we were leaving the campground and would head home that night, we dumped the waste tanks at the campground. This should not have taken long but to dump partially full tanks you need to fill them up with water and this can take some time. All and all, with refilling one of the fresh water tanks so that we would have water on board for the trip home - just in case - it took about an hour and a half. With that all done, we left the campground to spend Sunday in Lancaster.

Sunday in Lancaster is not the best day to be in Lancaster. The Amish are a very religious community and there are a number of local businesses and restaurants that are closed on Sundays. There are a lot of places to shop and several outlet centers. There is also the farmlands to drive through. A Sunday for the Amish is either a "church" Sunday or a "visiting" Sunday. Either way the back roads in Lancaster are filled with buggies. We seemed to encounter them on the road always at almost the top of a hill or just before a blind turn. When driving in Lancaster and you come upon a buggy, always wait until the opposite lane of traffic is completely clear for some distance ahead - especially in a Roadtrek - and then pull into the opposite lane and pass the buggy. I have had long experience doing this with a car. It is a whole other thing with a Roadtrek where you are as wide as the lane.

Well, again, this trip proved to be one of our trips that something went wrong - the water pump. Sorry this article rambles a bit but the trip rambled and you get that experience reading this article. The coming articles about Fort Frederick 18th Century Market Fair and Hagerstown Yogi Bear Campground will be a bit more exciting - I hope.

Old Mill Stream Campground, mid-week at the end of April

Cows in the field on the farm across the stream at Mill Stream Campground. There was a bull and a cow "humping" but they did not wait for me to get the camera out to pose.


  1. Have you checked out the new Roadtrek Dealer on Long Island?

    1. I recently learned about them and have taken a look at their website - no mention of Roadtrek there, but there are two in their inventory. I would think that they would make a big deal on their site about being the only Roadtrek dealer in 200 miles.

      A friend told me that he once bought a trailer from them and would not recommend them for sales or service. We will wait and see...

  2. Ah the rites of spring. Here too drained I drained the antifreeze, sanitized the water tank system and was thrilled to add the first fresh water of the season. No trips planned at this time but we hope to get out once a month this summer. Now if I can just get my son to get his stuff out of it, he used it as a moving van when he came home from college this spring!