Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Roadtrek Takes a Ride Part 1

I knew about this trip when I wrote last week's article, but did not want to jinx, by talking about it, going on this particular trip. We have cancelled this trip over and over again since October. This was a trip to our dealer service center in Pennsylvania for work on our Roadtrek. We had two appointments in October - both cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy - one that hit the day of the first appointment and the second that next day - made in hope of - ha, ha - not so bad a storm. After that we rescheduled for the end of November - as part of a trip down to Virginia with an overnight in Pennsylvania to get this done. That did not happen as I got sick. After that I was hoping that when we could see good weather coming and just call to come down with just a few days notice.  That was not possible - they were that busy. What they did do was make us a two day "floating" appointment - come either day in mid-January, with the idea that if one day was bad, we could go the next day. It snowed both days. Both of those appointments were cancelled. At that point we gave up to wait until there was more likelihood of good weather. We would wait until March.

The work that was needed was only crucial by time. The main reason for going was because of a problem with our coach air conditioner/heat pump unit. When it would run there was a flapping noise inside. This noise actually started way back in June - but would come and go. It got steadier over the summer and then during our August trip there was no ignoring it any longer - but getting to Pennsylvania to have it looked at had to wait for October. There is a two year warranty on the air conditioner and that runs out at the end of this coming April. I had to get this taken care under warranty and not knowing what could be making this noise, I foresaw a need to remove the unit completely from the Roadtrek and the service center having to send it out or wait for parts for repair.

I looked at the unit as much as I could from the outside. I inspected the back of the unit through the vents in the rear of the roof. There was nothing there that was making any noise and the inside of the space behind the vent was relatively clean of any debris.I also recorded the sound so that if we did go for service - and it got quiet when we got there - I could let them hear what it had been doing.

 I looked at what was involved in taking the cover off and was uncertain of what I was not seeing under the cushioned wall covering that is around the front cover. The two screws are obvious - but were there others that I did not see - and the cushions did not push away from the edge. I asked Roadtrek what to do and the instructions were easy - just remove the screws and pull up and out. I did that and one side came up and out - but the other side was not budging - and it seemed that if I flexed the cover any further to free that other bottom corner I would break it. I stopped - with the urging of Meryl not to break anything - and got the cover back into place and screwed it back in. This was a job for the service center. Plus - once I got the cover off what was I going to see - the noise was coming from inside the unit in the vicinity of the rotary cage fan. There is a vent hole there to the front,  but it is not that large an opening. I would be feeling blind inside, if I could get my hand inside - which I would have tried if I could have gotten the cover off. One of our very friendly readers who had contacted me by email about his Roadtrek told me that he had gotten the cover off and explained how it is done, which did involve flexing the cover with assurances that it would not break. Meryl's suggestion - "let the dealer service do it!" As I have mentioned many times before - Meryl is always right. We would wait. The sound after that though did change. Now it was most evident only when the speed was on high. It still was there no matter if it was on cool or heat or just fan. Since the sound had been changing over time, I was not sure if my partially moving the cover was the reason for the newest change.

At the end of February with anticipation of warmer, nice March weather, we made another "floating" appointment with service. We had an appointment for each of two days, back to back in early mid-March. I watched the weather reports for a week before we were to go. I went back and forth from to National Weather Service - sometimes they were the same and, as usual, other times they varied for the forecasts for these two days. We started with sun, then went to clouds, then went to rain, and then back to clouds again. There was NO mention of snow. I had decided that rain, as long as there would be no ice, would be OK and we would make the trip. We would be traveling about 150 miles each way. As the days got close enough for the forecasts to be hopefully more accurate, the first day was to be cloudy and in the upper 40s and the second day had more chance of sun but in the mid-30s. Clouds and warmer temperatures sounded best to me - and I was eager to get this trip finally over with. The night before we were to leave the forecast started to include "scattered showers". Still OK - we were going. That day we had prepared the Roadtrek for travel.

We had not traveled in the Roadtrek since September and we had only driven it to a gas station for gas once since then to replace the gasoline used running the generator when we were in the Roadtrek during the blackout following the hurricane. While we were only planning on a one day trip down and back the same day, we decided that just in case we had to stay overnight, the Roadtrek should be prepared for that. Meryl moved the bedding back in. We secured down things that had been moved around while we have been in and out of it during the winter. We put back in a few things that we had taken out for the winter, non-use months. We are still winterized so there would be no water or toilet use, if needed, so we had the filtered water dispenser that we use for winter trips and the catch box for water to put in the sink if we needed to wash. A change of clothes for each of us also went inside. Meryl had to go to work in Manhattan in two days so if we did stay over it could not be for more than one night.

We got up to a cloudy morning - but no rain.  We watched the traffic report and maps on the local cable news channel and while the northern route was heavy with traffic, there was no mention of problems on the southern route. We got in and headed off. Since the cabinets were not as full as they usually are when we travel on a "real" trip, things rattled more than usual. Overall, this was a very noisy trip inside because of that. We made our way to the highway that would take us to the first of two bridges that would get us out of New York State. That road was full of new potholes - some having been attempted to be repaired, but many not. I watched the road surface ahead very carefully so as to not drive in to one and do damage to the Roadtrek. It was like driving an obstacle course. We finally made it to the highway, and shortly thereafter came to a standstill in traffic.

We drove at less than five miles an hour when we were not completely stopped for about three miles. We finally came to the problem. Two roadwork trucks with lights moving traffic from three lanes to one lane - with no one in sight doing any work - or any appearance that work had been being done. The road opened completely right after that for about ten miles until we stopped in traffic again. This time we were rolling but no more than five miles an hour with less frequent stops. When we came finally to this problem we found two more roadwork trucks with arrows moving traffic from two lanes to one lane but this time the trucks themselves were moving - and again, no sign of roadwork anywhere. The trip out of New York has been getting longer and longer over the years. It used to take 45 minutes to an hour to get to the New Jersey border. Now it can take an hour and a half to two hours. We crossed the first bridge to find Staten Island's expressway is under construction. There were no traffic stops but lanes were narrowed. The trucks could make it through, and so could the Roadtrek. Another bridge and finally we were into New Jersey. According to the GPS, two and a half more hours to go. The good part was that it was cloudy but other than that the weather was fine. The most recent reports had the showers starting in the afternoon both at home and in Pennsylvania where the Roadtrek dealer is.

The New Jersey Turnpike has been under construction for some several years now. They are expanding the car only lanes (which by the way you can drive on in your Roadtrek). The separate car and truck lanes when they are finished - if they ever do finish - will be the length of the turnpike. This involves knocking down current overpasses and roads and expanding their length to cover new lanes in both directions on the Turnpike. We have been able to get through without much, if any, delay. It was the same now. We made it through New Jersey and off onto a new exit ramp that leads eventually across another bridge and onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There is an alternate route to the dealer through New Jersey and Pennsylvania but it is longer and involves streets and a lot of traffic lights. There is actually another way to go that avoids a lot of the streets but it is a lot longer. With no real problems anticipated on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike we have found that this - despite the high tolls - is the easiest way to go - and the approach to all routes from home still involve the same problem roads in New York.

When got onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike it was after 12 Noon. We had told the service center to expect us around Noon or as close as we could be to it. They have been great about making us late in the day appointments. The traffic in New York really threw us off. We called and let them know we were on our way and gave them the ETA as shown on the GPS at this point. Nice clear roads got us there just about that time.

I have to tell you about the people at the Roadtrek dealer/service center. The people at the service center are wonderfully nice. The woman who makes the appointments and checks you in when you arrive - Rachel - knows us well by now and it is always a pleasure to talk with her. She was just so nice about the delay and all of the cancelled appointments. In fact, Meryl commented this to her and she said she always tries to be flexible. Meryl said that back home, for cancelling any appointment as many times as we cancelled and rescheduled this one, we would not have gotten such great understanding.

While we were making the long trip for the air conditioner, we had made the appointment to also include changing the oil in the generator for its annual oil change and for them to show me how to remove the outside hatch cover that is over where the refrigerator sits.  That hatch was another one of those things that when I tried to take it off (with a full explanation of how it comes off), it was not budging - and I was not taking any chances of breaking it. I don't really need to access that area for any reason other than making sure it is clean and that no bugs had built any nests in there as I don't have a propane refrigerator. Normally, this is the access to the propane connection for the fridge. I just wanted to know how to get it open to keep the inside behind the fridge clean. We left the Roadtrek in good hands and they would check out the air conditioner noise and change the oil. After that they would show me how to open the hatch.

END OF PART I (This was just too long to keep as one article.)

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