Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy, Merry, Blessed and Joy To All!

This is to wish all of our readers a very joyous, happy, merry and blessed holiday! We have Roadtrek friends who celebrate in many ways and we extend to all of you our most sincere wishes for the holidays!

Merry Christmas!
Happy Christmas!
Blessed Christmas!
Joyous Noel!
Happy Chanukah!
Happy Holidays!
Happy New Year!

and as we say in the 18th Century -
Good Christmastide!


Meryl and Me

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Holiday Gift from Roadtrek

I want to pass along to all of our readers an offer that I received by email today from Roadtrek. They are offering cash if you buy a Roadtrek before December 31, 2016. The details of the offer follow as presented in the email by Roadtrek -

  • $3,000 consumer cash back or apply as a discount on your negotiated purchase price on new in-stock E-Trek, RS Adventurous, and CS Adventurous models
  • $2,500 consumer cash back or apply as a discount on your negotiated purchase price on new in-stock 170 Versatile, 190 Popular, 210 Popular models
  • $2,000 consumer cash back or apply as a discount on your negotiated purchase price on new in-stock Zion, and Zion SRT models
Season's Savings ends at midnight December 31st, 2016
Roadtrek has made similar offers over the years during various holiday and general promotions. The best part is that you go into a dealer and make you best deal - don't even mention that you know about this offer. Get a great price from the dealer and you will get this cash back - or they say it can be applied as a discount off that purchase price from the dealer. 

A few things to note - this is only on IN-STOCK Roadtreks. That means it does not apply to ordering from the factory. Also, this does not apply to pre-owned Roadtreks being sold by a dealer or a Roadtrek that already has been discounted by the dealer.  (Sometimes a dealer will have a past year model that they deeply discount - so this does not apply to that.) There are other conditions that apply as well. 

Just to be clear about exactly what the email states, here is the rest of the email word for word - 

"Offer VALID on NEW Roadtreks purchased between December 1st - December 31, 2016 at midnight.
Applies to all current in stock dealer inventory of New Roadtreks. Pre-Owned Roadtrek models currently in dealer inventory do not qualify.
Cash Back incentive can be applied to the negotiated price with your participating dealer, or can be sent directly to you after taking possession of your new coach.

For more details about the offer, contact a member of our sales team"
After that link it goes on to give a link to a Dealer Locator. I did not include that here. My suggestion is to contact the email link in the sentence above and get all the details for yourself from Roadtrek directly. If you are about to make a purchase of a new Roadtrek, this is the time to save some money. Here is the entire offer on the Roadtrek website.
I am just passing this information along to our readers. I AM NOT encouraging anyone to buy a Roadtrek or any other RV NOR recommending buying a Roadtrek or any other RV. I AM NOT connected with Roadtrek in any way other than owning one that I paid for. I DO NOT represent Roadtrek in any way. THIS SITE AND MERYL AND ME HIT THE ROAD HAVE NO CONNECTION TO ROADTREK. THIS SITE AND MERYL AND ME HIT THE ROAD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS OFFER. ROADTREK HAS NOT ASKED ME, MERYL AND ME HIT THE ROAD, OR THIS SITE TO SHARE THIS OFFER WITH YOU OR ANYONE. This article is presented ONLY to be nice and share this information with our readers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I really did not want to winterize the Roadtrek this year until the very last minute. I don't know - maybe the chance of a late Fall trip, though we just got back from an early November trip a few weeks ago. Both of us felt this way, but we knew that we could not take a chance that the upper 30's nights might suddenly change for the worse, and we could always head out without water for a trip as we have done in the past. So we winterized.

There recently was a comment/question asked on one of our posts if winterizing is necessary if there is no water in the water system. When we ended the last trip I dumped the fresh tank and opened all of the faucets and flushed the toilet. One would think that there should be no water in the system with that, but coming to winterize just a couple of weeks later, turning on the faucet - no water pump on - water came out. Turning on the faucet with the water pump ON - a lot of water came out. And following that more water came out when the antifreeze went in pushing the rest of the water out. So yes, you still have to winterize even if you think that there is no water in the system - because there is. The antifreeze pushes remaining water out and replaces it in the pipes and valves. 

In case you think that I have all the steps right there in my head, before I do anything like winterizing on the Roadtrek that I have written about, I print out the entire article - with photos and use that to follow every step. I know that if I didn't I would miss something. While we did the winterizing this year, as every year, those instructions were with us and we read and did each one by one.

We had drained the tanks at the end of our last trip and dumped the black and grey tanks, then put some RV antifreeze down into the black tank so that it would not dry out until we did winterized. Draining the tanks can take the most time when winterizing. We had drained the hot water tank also. What we had to do when winterizing was get the antifreeze into the plumbing and the tanks. The job took about an hour. If we had to wait to drain the tanks or deal with the hot water tank, it would have taken longer. I bought four gallons of RV Antifreeze. I used two. I will keep the rest for next year.

While winterizing I realized a few things that while are not generally talked about in the winterizing process are a good thing to do and I have NOW added those to our step by step winterizing article. Here is what I have added.

When we first learned how to winterize at a paid private winterizing lesson given to the two of us by the Roadtrek dealer/service where we bought the Roadtrek, after he put the antifreeze into the pipes, he turned the hot water heater bypass valves quickly out of bypass and back again. He said that he does this and was not sure if anyone else did. My concern about following this in the past was that it would put some antifreeze into the hot water tank which I have been reluctant to do. Since over the years we have had a two hot water heater bypass valves freeze (or at least go bad) over the winter, I decided that perhaps this small step would be a good addition to the process. That step has now been added to our winterizing guide.

The other thing that I have changed and updated is the place in the process that winterizing the macerator pump comes at. Here is what happened. We followed the original steps in their order and when we went through the process of putting RV antifreeze into the macerator pump, a lot of water came out of the black tank into our "dump bucket" (also called the "doody bucket" 😉 ) before the pink antifreeze that we had put in the tank came out. I realized that we really should put some more antifreeze into the black tank. I thought - no problem - when we are done with the macerator we will just open the toilet flap and pour more antifreeze down the toilet into the black tank. Well, when I stepped on the toilet peddle the antifreeze that was in the toilet pipe and the toilet valve came out into the toilet. The water pump was off, but it still came out. What I figure is that this was in under pressure and flowed out when the valve was activated. So much for the idea of putting more antifreeze down into the black tank because I did not want to let all of the a/f in the toilet valve and pipe out - so my foot came quickly off the pedal and that was that. To replace the a/f I would have to reconnect the winterizing valve hose - which was off, cap tightened back on, etc. or get out the winterizing antifreeze hand pump again, connect it to the city water connection outside and pump a/f into the lines to the toilet. We both decided that what was in the lines now and the black tank was good enough - and stopped. BUT from now on and in our winterizing guide the winterizing valve and a/f hose will not be taken out until the macerator is done and all will be in place to put antifreeze back into the black tank and keep it in the toilet lines.

So our Roadtrek is winterized. More trips are not out of the question if we travel in no water conditions which is OK but not great. But now I look forward to the Spring. But there will still be articles until then, so come around every two weeks and we will keep you informed and entertained.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How to Use the Furnace

There are a lot of things that those who have had an RV for awhile just do automatically, but for a first time RV owner there are many things that a good step by step understanding of will help a great deal. I have had several readers email and ask about some of these things and I will try to do some more articles on some of the basics. Since we are now in November and there may still be some who are not ready to set their RV aside for the winter quite yet, I will start with the FURNACE. (If you have a new Roadtrek and don't have a furnace for heat, this does not apply to you.)

The furnace in the Roadtrek and most RVs runs on both PROPANE AND BATTERY. The propane is the fuel used to make the heat. The battery is needed to:

-  Ignite the propane
- Run the fan to move the heat out of the furnace and into the RV

I have an article already about propane and you can go there to learn from this two part article about how to turn on your propane and also what to do when you first turn it on to make sure there is propane gas in all of the gas pipes.

So to use your furnace -

TURN YOUR PROPANE ON - Get it into all pipes (see article link above).


The furnace switch is on a control panel. Mine is located at the rear of the cabin on the passenger side on the wall above the bed. I have a mechanical switch with slide switches. The newer Roadtreks have a digital switch with a digital thermostat display. Both do the same functions.

This is what mine looks like. If you have an older Roadtrek yours should look similar.

Here is what the digital switch looks like -






SLIDE THE SWITCH (or push buttons on the digital version) TO FURNACE

What should happen now is you will hear the blower fan inside the furnace turn on. It will be blowing cold air - that is what it is supposed to do right now. After a short time you will hear a CLICK. That CLICK is the battery run ignition lighting the propane.

IF THE FURNACE KEEPS CLICKING it means that the propane did not light. IT WILL ATTEMPT TO LIGHT SEVERAL MORE TIMES. If it does not light turn off the Furnace switch on the wall and check that all setting are as described above, that there is PROPANE in the tank, and it has been run through all the lines as that link above tells you how to do. Once checked, turn on the Furnace switch again.


There will be no more clicks and in a few minutes when you put your hand in front of the furnace vent inside there will be heat coming out and not cold air.

Your furnace is now in operation!

Set your thermostat lower if it gets too warm or higher if it is not warm enough. What will happen is with the settings on AUTO the furnace will turn off when it reaches the temperature set and turn back on when the temperature gets colder again. This cycling on and off is NORMAL.




The first time that a new furnace is turned on, the furnace flame will burn off any packing oil that the furnace parts were coated with. This will result in a lot of smoke and a sharp burning smell. This IS NORMAL!  Once the smoke that this results in clears and is out the window or the fan, you can push the button to stop the smoke detector and it will not go off again. If it does, there is still more to burn off and exhaust out.


THIS WILL OFTEN ALSO HAPPEN THE FIRST TIME THE FURNACE IS TURNED ON FOR A NEW SEASON. Dust, etc. collects inside the furnace and this too burns off when the furnace is ignited and will set off the smoke detector. IF it does, just do the same as above to stop it.


You would think that this is just as simple as moving the switch to OFF - and it IS, BUT...

When you turn the furnace off the flame will go out BUT the furnace fan will run for several minutes to cool off the inside of the furnace. THIS IS NORMAL! But it is very disconcerting. It troubles me when I first use the furnace after awhile and I never have gotten used to this. You hear it keep running. It will stop. Even though, if you are like me, you don't think it will stop - it will stop.

The furnace is VENTED outside. Here is a photo of the vent usually located on a Roadtrek just past the driver's door on the side of the van:

Always keep this vent CLEAR! If you are in the RV in the winter and it has snowed. Clear this off of snow if you are going to put on the furnace. If there has been an ice storm, clear all of the openings of this vent of ice. If you do not DO NOT TURN ON THE FURNACE. There are also special screens made and sold just for this vent to keep bugs out. Bugs can build nests or webs and cause all types of problems for the furnace.

That is it! You now are an expert in using your RV furnace!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Observations Based on Online Encounters with Some RV Owners

It is important - in my opinion - that if one is looking at making an investment in an RV or Travel Trailer whether new or pre-owned, that one do a good deal of research on RVs/Travel Trailers in general and then when shopping and purchasing learn as much as possible about that RV/TT about that particular RV/TT. And then when making the purchase, don't leave the seller - whether it is a private owner or a dealer - without being given a detailed tour and orientation about everything inside and outside what they are buying.

I am online a lot and spend a great deal of that time either in RV forums or RV Facebook Groups (discussion groups) - and not just those specific to Roadtrek. You can learn a lot about RVs in general that apply to all RVs on some of these groups and forums. Those relating just to Roadtreks are a wealth of information and understanding about Roadtreks - both new and old. But this is not an article about forums.

Last night I was on an RV Facebook Group for new RV owners. There was a member of the group asking for help, and since it was late at night there was no one responding to her. I decided to try to help her. She has a "Camper Van" (in her words) and has had no power for the past four days. She was asking if there are circuit breakers in camper vans. She also said that she was not plugged in and was on batteries when things went off. A Camper Van is another term for Class B RV - whether professionally manufactured or home-built. I started with a response to her to explain that the 110 volt electric system in a Class B (camper van) is generally on circuit breakers and that the 12 volt electric system is on fuses. She came back in a couple of minutes asking where to find the fuse box. I told her where mine is - which certainly would be no help to her if she did not have the same RV - but offered this as an example of places to look including other likely spots around the inside of her van. I also told her that it really depended on the make, model, and year of her Class B - and could she share that with us in a response. What she answered was a 26 year old make and model of a GMC van - she gave the specific make and model of this van, but it was only the name of the van - not any company name of who manufactured the camper van - and this told me that likely this was a camper van that someone put together themselves - which is fine - but my next response was asking her if that was so - and if so, it was anyone's guess where the builder put the fuse/circuit breaker panel/box. In the course of the discussion, I asked her if the Battery Switch was ON. Her answer - "do I have a battery switch?" I then proceeded to explain what a battery switch is - and was not certain that an RV conversion would not have a battery switch. She had been out several days when the power went out and I said to her that my guess is that her batteries need to be charged and using them drained them out. She told me that she had run the engine for a "little while" and that did not help. Well, as I explained, running the engine for a little while is not going to anything - and the van would need to be driven at highway speeds for several hours to bring the batteries up to full charge.

So what is the point of this story? Here is a new RV owner who has purchased a "camper van" that is 26 years old that she knows nothing about. It is very evident that whoever she bought it from did not show her where everything is - nor, likely, did she know to ask to be shown that. She does not understand how the systems in her RV work and while she gets a big plus for trying to get help from fellow RVers on this group, she does not know enough detail about her RV to provide information to get a good response.

This is just one example of many instances where new owners of RVs have no idea about what they own, what it can do, what it can't do, and how it does anything that it does.  If any of you are buying an RV or Travel Trailer do not leave the seller without the seller completely detailing everything to you. RV dealers will do this. Some better than others. They will take you through your new or new to you RV and show you where everything is and how everything works. Hopefully, they will know what they are talking about. When we took delivery of our Roadtrek - and I have told this story in an article here before - we met the new salesman who took over for our salesman who had left the dealership for the first time. He was the one who gave us our "demonstration" of our new Roadtrek. He was very enthusiastic and friendly, but he did not know a thing about our Roadtrek. I prepared for the delivery of our Roadtrek for weeks in advance. I learned everything that I could on a Class B forum - I don't think that the Roadtrek groups on Facebook existed then. I asked on the forum about where things were and what to ask about at delivery. I was ready to be shown it all on the day of delivery and knew what I needed to ask about and to ask how to do everything. The only problem was that the salesman knew less than I did. I have since referred to him as the "plumb dumb salesman" and when we got home - after a night in the Roadtrek trying to make sense out of some of the nonsense that he told us, I let the dealership owner know about his new salesman and our delivery. During this "walk through" or "demo", he was telling us where things are and at one point a service tech walked by shaking his head "no". I stopped him and asked and he came over and corrected what the salesman was telling us at that moment. But the salesman ventured on. He turned on a switch in the back of the cargo area of our 190 near the floor - looking in with the cargo doors open. He told me it controlled something with a name so far out that I can't even remember now what he said. He left that switch on. That night when we were at the campground - always stay near the dealership if the dealer is any distance from your home at a campground that first night after delivery in case you need to go back after finding something wrong - we got into bed and turned off the lights. We were both nervous about this very new to both of us experience. A few minutes later, , Meryl said to me, "Something is glowing back here. There is a light on." I asked where - she said "Under the bed." Yes, there was. There was light coming up from behind the bed - which is right up against the cargo doors. No one ever said that there were lights under the bed back there. Well, that was the switch the guy pushed that afternoon - and they had been on ever since. And confounded by this strange glow coming up from under the back of the bed, I realized this. I was not going to get dressed to go outside to open the back doors to get to that switch and I have to say, that it took quite a contortionist act to reach over the back of the bed's rear board and work my hand down to where that switch was and turn it off. So - more reason to know as much about your new RV as you can before you take delivery. Some RV manufacturers have their manual's for download for their RVs. Roadtrek has these going back a number of years. You can get the manual this way before you get the RV. Bottom line be prepared and get the seller to show you where everything is and how it all works.

Let's meander a little more. I come across so many people who are shopping for RVs and don't know anything about RVs in general. Someone recently was asking about what Class B to buy to go to Alaska in the winter. That question was met with a lot of similar answers about the limitations of many Class Bs - and RVs that are not designed specifically for four season cold weather travel - and those are mostly large Class A bus type RVs that have special heating units that will warm any plumbing or tanks exposed outside under the RV. And even with those systems the need to have 110 volt power generated or plugged in 24/7 to keep the heating systems working. At least this person asked before they went ahead and purchased. Some don't - some plan to live full time in their RV with no idea that there might be a problem in the winter months with freezing weather. I have read many posts from those who learned this the hard way when their first full freeze weather hit and froze their pipes.

Then there are the people who buy an RV or Travel Trailer over the Internet sight unseen - not inspected - and have it delivered to them across the country - after money has been paid. And, of course, when they get it, it is nothing as described, what was supposedly working is not working, and it in no way suits their needs - because in the photos it looked bigger and better than it really was. Photos can be taken in a way to make something small look very spacious and large. What can they do then? Some have discovered that there is little that they were able to do - but have to fix what needed to be fixed or sell with as little loss as possible. Never buy an RV sight unseen - even if buying new, if that year is not on the lot, you want to see a year model that will be the same or as close to the same as you are buying. We saw and test drove a 2010 and we got a 2011 - there was no  difference from our 2011 OTHER than the switch to AGM batteries in 2011 but later learned that we also did not get a slide out battery compartment which had been standard on Roadtreks before our year. These were OK changes - the battery change, great, the no slide out battery compartment - not so great.

No matter if buying new or pre-owned always test drive. Oh, that was a good story. The older woman who bought sight unseen from a relative's friend, had the Class B delivered to her from several states away and found out when she finally got it that she could not drive it. It was too much for her to handle - and then had to sell it - at a loss.

And please, if buying pre-owned, have the RV inspected by both a vehicle mechanic of your choosing and also by an RV technician of your choosing. There are RV techs who just do this or you pay an RV service center to do a full inspection of all systems. So many stories about how good a deal the RV was until they bought it - not inspected - and found out that it needs thousands of dollars in repairs, often to the point that they could have paid much more originally for one in good working order and saved a great deal over what they paid plus the cost of repairs and replacements. I don't know - maybe I value my money more than others? If I am buying something, I want to be absolutely sure it is going to work before I spend a dollar. A small investment in these inspections - even though they will come out of your pocket - is better than finding out you have a money pit after the sale is done.

A good book for first time RV owners or shoppers - The Complete Idiot's Guide To RVing by Brent Peterson. I bought this book in Borders, when there was still a Borders,  when we were first shopping for an RV. I wanted a book that explained all of the systems clearly. This one was the clearest. It also goes into picking and shopping for an RV - and tells you about the different types. Good book. Others have recommended this book also.  The book is still around and certainly can be found on line.

One last story - a couple bought an RV from a very nice couple not a far distance away. They did everything that they should do - just as described here. It seemed like the perfect sale. At the time the money changed hands, the very nice people selling the RV told them that they could not get to the bank vault to get the Title certificate for the RV so they will be certain to mail it to the new owners.  In most states, if not all, one cannot register a vehicle including an RV without a Title certificate. Since these were such lovely people, the new owners did not think anything of it - and the gentleman selling even drove the RV to their home. A week went by and no Title certificate. Attempts were made to contact the seller. No response. They went back to the seller's home only to find that they had moved away. Was this a scam? Maybe, maybe not, but this couple was stuck. They could not register the RV and they could not sell it with the Title certificate. I never did hear how that all turned out but I am sure it did not turn out well. These are not Internet myths - these are people reporting what has happened and are asking for help from other RVers about what to do.

So, if you have followed my wandering here, you have come away with a lot of dos and don'ts. Do the dos - don't do the don'ts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Winterthur in Delaware is the mansion and property owned by the du Pont Family and is now an extensive museum of the collections that Henry Francis du Pont acquired through his lifetime. They decorated his home and were put on display in a museum when he opened his childhood home to the public over 60 years ago. He was also a horticulturist and property has extensive gardens. A visit to Winterthur can be quite extensive with walking tours through the trails in his gardens or a guided tram tour through them, a visit to the du Pont home, and a visit through the extensive museum with changing and static exhibitions.

Our plan to visit Winterthur started over a year ago when Meryl learned of a special exhibition of antique samplers and embroidery. Things just did not work out for us to visit that exhibition, but this past summer another exhibition of samplers opened and we had planned several times to go to Delaware and see this exhibit. It looked again like things were not working out but during our vacation trip we decided that we would spend a day in Winterthur and not only see this exhibition but also tour the house and see the musuem.

Many of the places that we travel to involve being outdoors. One of the problems of planning trips when the weather seems never to be cooperating is finding indoor museums and attractions that we can easily get the Roadtrek to. Cities pose a problem, as I have said before. Many cities have gone to all indoor garage parking and with the height of the Roadtrek this is just not possible. The trip we planned this past summer was one in which we had a few places to stop where the weather would not matter - and we saved the good days for the outdoor places we were going to and the raining days for indoors - and this is when we went to Winterthur.

Winterthur is not far into Delaware across the Pennsylvania border and the drive there was a pleasant mix of country roads, Route 1 and more country roads. We arrived after an early fast food lunch and parked in a large parking lot that would not be a problem for even the largest RV or Travel Trailer. We walked down a short trail to the Visitors Center and purchased tickets. Tickets are $20 adults or $18 senior (love those senior discounts) plus they were having a limited time adult discount of $3.00. Tickets entitle you to the whole thing - house tour, museum, special exhibitions, and all that is in the gardens. Our main interest was the special exhibition on Samplers and this was where we were heading first. You reach the house and museum by shuttle bus. The museum is also the entrance to the house tour and your ticket puts you to be on a specified time tour of the du Pont family home - home should read  Mansion. The Sampler exhibition was on the second floor of the musuem and we had some time to go their first before our tour would start.

Meryl is a student of 18th and 19th Century embroidery as well as being an accomplished hand embroider, herself. We have been to many exhibitions on 18th and 19th Century embroidery and Samplers and Meryl is becoming quite in the "know" between what she has seen on exhibit and what she has read, along with stitching reproductions. This was one of the smaller exhibitions that we have been to and we decided that we would go through it quickly before our tour of the house would start and then come back to it later after the tour to spend time with each piece of embroidery in the exhibit. To give you and idea, the following photo is just one element in an embroidered picture created by an 18 year old girl in Boston in the year, 1748. What has fascinated me about all of the Samplers that we have seen here and in other museums is that these are all art created by children. Age 18 is old for some of the exceptional work we have seen. We have seen exceptional pieces worked by girls of 8 to 12 years old. Anyway -

The tour through the home starts with gathering the tour group in a meeting room and showing a brief video about Henry Francis du Pont and the family. You are then escorted through doors and past - and not stopping at - a display room of 17th (1600s) furniture - which we would have loved to spend some time looking at but the guide was determined to stick to her schedule - which in the end she did not do as she got carried away with anecdotes about the family. We were then all loaded into an elevator adn taken up to the first floor of the home which was the second floor of the building. From the elevator we were taken out to an outdoor balcony with a view of the house and the Library that is housed in one of the building of the estate. First photo - side view of the house from the porch. Second photo - view of the library building from the balcony. (The library is open to the public for research.)

   I will not go into details of the tour. Here are some photos that I took as we went along. The rooms are decorated in antiques - many from the Federal period - late 18th Century into the early 19th Century. As the family came originally from France there are a number of antiques of French heritage.

The upper floors of the house are the family and guest bedrooms. The du Pont's liked to entertain and would have guests stay with them. Their guests included dignitaries and U.S. Presidents.

The house was not our favorite part of the visit and we both felt that were we to return to Winterthur we would skip the house tour and spend a lot more time in the museum. The museum is extensive. We returned to the special exhibition of Samplers that we had specifically come to and spent a great deal of time there looking closing at details. I photographed everything for Meryl and she also took notes. She was able to find a catalog of the exhibition in the gift shop/bookstore and that was a must have.

The museum had another special exhibition of South American embroideries and we spent a lot of time there as well. There were also the regular exhibit galleries which also had textiles, needlework, and Samplers, along with furniture, every day items, and home decor. There was also a room with an entire building displayed that was a 1700's Clock Makers Shop with all of the equipment and tools set out in the two rooms as they were when the shop was in business.

18th Century Woman's Gown (Sack Back Gown)

 We really did not have enough time to do that museum justice and we stayed until the announcement that the musuem was closing and the guards came through to make sure everyone was moving to the exit back on the first floor. When we got out side we had missed the last shuttle bus back to the Visitors Center so we walked back.  The gift shop/bookstore is open past the museum and we spent some time in this shop at the Visitors Center. There is a larger gift shop with reproduction pieces in a building near the museum.

We never made it to any of the gardens - though we were not much interested in touring those. I am certain that anyone who loves gardens will find these exceptional and there is a children's fantasy garden in the gardens as well.

We had a very nice time. If you like the material and cultural side of history you will enjoy Winterthur. Since we are writing about this in relation to a visit in the Roadtrek - or any RV, it is easiest to stay in a campground in Pennsylvania. The one thing you don't want to have to do is cross the Delaware River as the tolls on the various bridges are expensive. There is a new toll being charged as you cross the Delaware River Bridge from the New Jersey Turnpike into the Pennsylvania Turnpike that used to be included in the turnpike toll but is not a separate toll of $5.00. Of course, the turnpike tolls have remained the same. If you are in Pennsylvania you can go into Delaware without crossing the river again. There is a campground, a KOA (we have not stayed there) in West Chester, PA. Winterthur is about an hour's drive from several of the Lancaster, PA campgrounds.

Winterthur is located at 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807. This address in your GPS will get you right there. Their actual address is 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Winterthur, DE 19735. Winterthur is CLOSED on Mondays so plan accordingly. They are open until 5:00 pm. The last house tour tickets are sold at 3:15 pm. They have a website - .

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An EMS Unit For Your RV

Very often on various RV discussion groups and forums someone will ask what "surge protector" should they buy for their RV.  When I see this question I have an answer all ready for them and that answer is "You do NOT want just a surge protector for your RV, you WANT an EMS unit got your RV." So what is an EMS unit?

An EMS unit is an Electrical Management System. What this does as both act as a surge spike protector but more importantly it also will shut down all AC power going through the unit and into the power cord for your RV when it senses that the voltage coming in is either too high or too low. Why is this important? AC 110/120 volt power needs to flow in a certain range of voltage with a minimum and a maximum not to do harm to an electrical system and electronics connected to it. The damage that can be done when power flows out of that range can cost a great deal to repair. This unit will shut down voltage below 104 volts and above 132 volts. This may seem like an unlikely situation to occur but at campgrounds it can be quite common. At a crowded campground with a lot of RVs pulling off the power lines of the campgrounds I have seen voltage go below 110 volts. And on the other end, at campgrounds where there are few RVs at the campground which means few RVs pulling off power at the same time, the voltage is up near 130 volts. It does not take much change to put that voltage above or below the limits.

With one of these units you also get surge spike protection so should there be a sudden spike or surge or a lightening strike to the power lines the EMS unit will clamp down and cut off that surge or strike and not allow any damage to your electronics.

Both of these functions work differently. If a spike or surge comes through, the circuit physically breaks - in fact - like any surge protector that you might use at home, the unit will become dysfunctional in all ways should it need to clamp down on a spike of surge. If that happens what you need to do next depends on which company's EMS unit you own - and I will go into that later. If there is a voltage variation high or low, the unit will shut off power only temporarily until the voltage returns to within the proper range. The unit is still fully functional and it will turn the power back on when it is safe.

These units also test the polarity of the outlet you are plugging into and will not turn on if the polarity is incorrect. This means that the campground box outlet has been wired incorrectly or a wire has come loose or is off. This has to do with the outlet being properly grounded. This is also a very important thing to be certain of when plugging into any campground. If the unit shows the polarity to be wrong, you then need to go to the campground office and tell them and you will either need to be moved to another site with a correctly working outlet or campground maintenance will need to come and repair their outlet so that it is safe for you to plug into.

These units are not inexpensive. They sell for between $250 and $350 for a 30 amp unit and more for a 50 amp unit. They also come in versions that are portable - you plug the unit into the campground box and then your RV power cable into the unit OR that are hardwired. You have the unit installed into your RV's power connection which generally means cutting your power cable inside the RV and wiring the EMS unit between the power connection and your power cord. Both work exactly the same and offer the same protection. There are two main companies that manufacture these units - a company named "Surge Guard" and a company named "Progressive Industries". It is important to know that these companies also make just surge units that sell for much less - around $100 but even though these are made for RVs you are wasting your money if you don't buy the EMS model. The added protection that it provides is worth the money you will have to pay for it. You must think of this as paying for insurance. If you never need to make a claim it was there to protect you anyway - but when you need to make a claim on your insurance it pays you back - just like the protection an EMS unit gives if or when it goes to work and does its job.

The two companies units provide the same protection and do it equally well. There is one difference between the two companies that did not exist when I bought my unit which is a Surge Guard. That difference is the warranty and that warranty is what makes the difference in my reference above. The Progressive Industries EMS unit has a lifetime warranty which apparently covers the unit if it is hit with a surge/spike. The unit can be repaired with a replacement circuit board which the company will provide. I cannot say if they will provide this without charge. With the Surge Guard unit if a spike happens the unit must be discarded and a new unit be obtained for use. This would make it seem that the Progressive Industries unit is the preferred unit to buy. Perhaps.

There are two other non-performance dissimilarities to consider if buying a portable unit. The Surge Guard has a power cable with plug coming from the top and a power cable with socket coming from the bottom. Both plug and socket have a pull handle that makes it easy to pull the unit both from the power box and off of your RV power cable. In this regard the Progressive Industries unit has a very short power cable on top with its plug and its power socket is in the middle of the unit. There is pull handle on the plug or the socket. With how hard it can sometimes be to pull RV power plugs and sockets apart those handles actually are a big benefit. The other thing to consider is that the Progressive unit has a small ring on its power cable to put a padlock through and then get that padlock somehow attached to the campground power box so that this $300 investment will not be stolen. Surge Guard has its own system which is a purchased option to prevent theft. It is a box that locks around the RV power plug and the EMS unit's socket preventing anyone from pulling the RV cord and unit apart and taking the EMS unit. I have that box and while it can be a pain in the a** to put together and lock, it does work.

These are the models to look for from each company -

Progressive Industries  - Model EMS-PT30C (This is the 30 amp portable.)
Surge Guard - Model 34830

When you plug in the EMS unit there will be a delay before it passes power through to your RV. The delay takes about two minutes and 15 seconds - and those can be the longest two minutes and 15 seconds to wait to see if all is well and you have power. The delay is there as a feature and more protection should the unit stop power because of a voltage variation and not just start back immediately which if an air conditioner had been on and is still turned on, the power restarting will not damage the air conditioner.

I will conclude with a recent experience we had at a campground recently. We were plugged in and in for the night. The Surge Guard was connected and working. We were inside watching television. All of the lights were on and the air conditioner was running. We had been in for about an hour and a half. Suddenly, the television went off, the air conditioner stopped and when I looked over to the microwave the display was dark. The lights were all on - and it took me a minute to realize that the AC power was out - the lights stay on because they are powered - even when plugged in - by the coach (RV) batteries. Why was the power out? My first thoughts were that there was something wrong with the Roadtrek. I went through what it could be inside and was not coming up with anything. I then decided to go outside and see if someone walked through our site and tripped over our power cable pulling it out of the box. We had no power about ten minutes when I got outside and saw that the Surge Guard had power coming into it but the connection light was flashing. One of two things had happened. There was a voltage variation and the Surge Guard shut off power to protect us or the campground lost power and the power had come back on and the Surge Guard had to go through its delay to put power back into our RV. Power came back and all worked again. Later, very early in the morning, power went out again - and then came back on. I went to the office that morning and told them and they were aware that the power had gone out all over the campground - and we were assured that it would be fixed. Did the EMS unit come into play in this incident? Maybe. Did it remind me that one must always plug in at a campground using an EMS unit? Absolutely!

Some feel that they don't want to pay what an EMS unit costs? Some say that they have never had a problem. I am reminded of what Dirty Harry said - "Feeling lucky?" I know RV owners who have had had the EMS unit do its job and saved them from expensive damage. I also know of RV owners who wish that they had one when they found out what the repair bill was to replace most of the electrical system in their RV after a voltage variation. You decide. Maybe you will be lucky. Maybe you will not.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Driving In New York State

Meryl suggested that I write an article about what it is like to drive in New York State. What I will share with you is based on years of actual observation and experience. When we are traveling every so often we encounter people who say that they are planning to visit New York - not necessarily New York City - and we share with them what I will share with you all in this article. What I will write may be humorous but I assure you it is all real.  I am sure some of you have started reading this and are thinking well I would never go there anyway - and I will say right up front, I can't blame you for that. I can't avoid driving in New York - I live here.

New York State has all of the traffic laws that most other states have. You can make a right on red - AFTER a full stop. There are stop signs. There are traffic lights. There are speed limits. In fact in much of the state the speed limit is a maximum of 55 mph and not the usual 65 mph that is found in other states - and in some of those states some interstate highways have been increasing that to 70 or more. There is a "handsfree" cell phone law - you can't drive with a cell phone in your hand. There is also a "no texting" law while driving - which one would figure is just common sense but no, that is not the case. So what makes driving in New York State a problem? Well, most New Yorkers look upon the traffic laws as ONLY A SUGGESTION.

Huh? What? Yes. Let's take an obvious law - stopping at a red light. Why do you stop at a red light? Because there are vehicles going across that intersection non-stop while that light is red. In New York, red lights are taken by so many drivers as just a suggestion to stop - and so often they don't. This has led to a number of red light cameras that are placed to stop this but apparently also paying the traffic ticket received in the mail is also just a suggestion.  The same thing happens with stop signs - and not just with "rolling stops" where a car comes slowly up to the stop sign, hesitates, and then keeps going. Here some feel that the stop sign really does not apply to them and they just keep on going - no hesitation, no looking - no stopping.

Speed limits are another suggestion. While few actually drive at 55 mph, driving within the 5 mph "allowance" over that is not enough and it is not uncommon for cars to be going at 70 or 80 or faster - and sometimes doing 70 on a residential avenue. (The four lane avenue that I live on is one example of that.) Not only do cars speed on the limited access highways but they also race - weaving in and out of traffic. Generally in groups of two or three cars - when one car speeds past you and weaves between the lanes, expect at least one and likely two more to follow. And it does not matter if this is during the day, during the evening, at night, or late night - during the week or on a weekend. "Accidents" are constantly in the news here about deadly collisions, cars flying off the road, etc. Some may be attributed to driving under the influence of alcohol but not all - and more often they are the result of driving way to fast on roads that were never intended for that type of speed. It continually surprises me when there needs to be an investigation about what caused these accidents. A quick look at the photo of the destruction immediately says someone was driving way too fast. Yes, these types of accidents happen everywhere - but in New York the attitude of - "these laws do not apply to me" and that the laws are only a "suggestion" result in so many.

Now, combine this with someone with a cell phone in their hand. Whenever you see a car driving radically in New York, if you come up close to see the driver, there is either a cell phone in the hand at the ear or the driver is looking down from the wheel at a phone with both hands on it with fingers running across the phone keyboard texting. It happens that we were in a serious accident a few years ago stopped at a corner in a left lane to make a left turn with traffic coming toward us in the opposite lane. A car came speeding up behind us - well over the 40 mph speed limit - and slammed us from behind. We were lucky to be able to walk out of the car. Our car was totaled with the rear of the car crushed into the backseat. Had anyone been sitting in the rear they would have been dead. I am still not sure - right to this moment - how we got out of that car alive. The young driver of the car that hit us was also able to get out of his car that was crushed in from the front. He said - "I didn't see you." Really?    A bystander who saw the whole thing came over from the sidewalk and asked him - "Were you on your cell phone?" Some hesitation and stumbling of words - "I have Bluetooth." The police came - and made no note of my suggestion that he was on his phone. A few days later speaking with someone in the neighborhood who knows the family of this driver, I was told that the guy was texting while he was driving when he hit us. We let the police know - but that did not seem to matter.

It all sounds crazy or maybe not. The other day we were on our way to go to the post office. Next to the post office there is a bank and there were police swarming all over the bank's parking lot, around the bank and in the bank. We went to the post office and when we came out we saw that the police were still at the bank - two police cars just in from the street exit (one way only out) from the bank's parking lot and they had put up Crime Scene yellow tape across the exit of the parking lot.  While we were getting ready to leave the post office parking lot - separate from the bank's lot - we watched not one, but two cars at different times try to pull into the bank's exit from the street and through the crime scene tape. We had to laugh because, you see, in New York crime scene tape is JUST A SUGGESTION.

It is also important to know that if you are going to come to New York - anyway - be aware that there are many limited access roads that you cannot drive on with an RV - even one as small as a Roadtrek or other Class B. In New York State - the description of motorhome fits the description of the interior of a Roadtrek or other Class B. The laws about these roads are very specific and if you are on one of these roads and come upon a "State Trooper" - the NYS police who cruise the state highways to enforce traffic laws - you will be stopped and likely go home with an unwanted, souvenir, NYS traffic ticket.  NY is not an RV friendly state - there are few RV dealers, few who even know what an RV is, and fewer who have actually seen one up close. There are also limited access roads designated "parkways" that have posted maximum heights on their entrances. Here on Long Island both the Southern Parkway, which runs along the South Shore of the Island, and the Northern Parkway, which runs along the North Shore of the Island, have signs posted at no entrance for vehicles over 7' 10" - which by the way stops even non-converted Sprinter vans from going on these parkways. The problem is on those two roads there are overpasses that are lower than 7' 10" including one posted at 6' 8". But you don't have to worry about this - unless you have the attitude that no motorhomes are permitted on parkways is just a suggestion, you won't be on either of these roads and risk ripping the roof off of your 8' 10" or taller Roadtrek or Class B. And please be aware that regular car GPS units will direct you on these roads - and in my brief experience with a Rand McNally RV GPS that will take you right on these restricted roads also. (I say brief experience because the first thing I did when I got one was have it route my on Long Island and it went right onto the Southern Parkway. The GPS was returned the next day.)

I have focused on motorhomes here - as for trailers - if it is not a truck limited access road you cannot go on it with any trailer or if you are towing anything.

What roads can you go on - local roads that are not posted with any height or weight restriction, roads, bridges, and tunnels that are not posted with propane or hazardous material restrictions, "Expressways" are OK, "The Thruway" is OK, a "Turnpike" is OK. a "Highway" is OK.

Unfortunately if you are in New England or are going to New England there is no way to completely avoid New York State - short of going west, going up to Canada and coming back down around NYS - but you are going to have to go back the same way. Just be careful. Just be alert. And expect the unexpected. I won't even go into the condition of the roads but I always know when we are traveling that we are either out of New York or back in New York because in New York you bump, bounce, shake and rattle as you roll in a Roadtrek (or I am sure other Class Bs or motorhomes). So if you come, welcome to New York!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An Onan Tale... In Two Part Harmony - Part 2

PART 2  - Part 1 two weeks ago in our last article...

We return to our tale where we left off - right after the oil in the generator was changed in June 2016 and the first run of the generator at home after that. (If you have not read Part 1 yet, please go to the article just preceding this one and read that first.)

So - we had a trip planned leading up to July Fourth. And during that trip we had a need to run the generator. We were at a large farmer's market and it was hot - July hot - outside and there were heavy storm warnings. We decided to buy sandwiches at a stand and go back to the RV to eat them, start the generator to run the A/C and cool off - and wait to see what was going to happen with the storm - which was coming very shortly. We were parked on grass between two gravel aisles and were on a slight incline - front of the van lower than the back. At this same farmer's market we have been parked in the RV in this very spot in the past as this is where one can find space to park an RV even as small as a Roadtrek on a crowded market day. We got into the van and I started the engine to give the RV batteries a little boost to provide the electricity needed to start the generator and then went right to the generator switch. I pushed the switch and it started - and a a minute or two later it stopped. Tried again - it cranked but did not start. I waited a few minutes and tried again. It cranked, then started - and then stopped. It had not done this since a year before when there was too much oil in the generator. I tried again - it cranked but would not start. Now the storm was coming up - not bad - but beginning. I wondered if the incline we were on was not helping getting the generator started. Looking down the field there were RVs parked on a much flatter area. I moved the RV to that area - but away from the other RVs. I tried to start the generator again - this time it cranked and started. I waited five minutes with it running and then started the A/C. While we ate the rain came down hard and wind gusted around us. At least the generator was running, it was cool inside with the air conditioner going, and we were dry. Not long after we finished the sandwiches - which were good, by the way - the storm passed. I shut down the air conditioner. Allowed the generator to keep running for several minutes to cool down - and we went out back to the market. A little unneeded excitement for what was otherwise a pleasant day.

We skip now to the last day of the trip - and another farmer's market. There we were parked on a very steep angle, this time with the back way down.  I just had a feeling that we should just not try to run the generator again - leaving well enough alone having finally gotten it to run several days before. Well, it was time for lunch - and it was again hot outside on July 5th - and Meryl suggested that we get sandwiches and go back to the RV to eat with the air conditioner running. I was not going to say anything - and we bought the sandwiches and went back to the RV. Same process to get the generator started - I pushed the start button and with relief the generator started right up. I let it run for five minutes and turned on the air conditioner switch. As soon as I pushed that switch the generator shut down. And this time, it was not starting again. It cranked and would not start. All my prior unspoken  feelings about not starting the generator again came to the surface with a few harsh words of frustration and anger - mostly at the generator. We took the sandwiches and found a picnic table under a net which did not give any real shade from the sun and ate - me, mostly silent. This was our last day of the trip and we would be heading home that night. I tried not to let this ruin the last day, but it was not easy.

Once home, I could not get the generator started. I went over to the service station with my friendly mechanics and told them what happened with the generator. The first reaction was why would you go there again to have the oil changed. I explained the rest of what I went to have done on the generator there and that I felt it was too much to ask them to do. They told me to bring it over the next week and he would check the oil level and the spark plug and see if he could see why it was not starting.  We made an appointment to bring it to him.

That weekend I decided to put some SeaFoam in the gasoline. SeaFoam is used to clean up deposits in engines - large and small, clear out the effects that ethanol in the gasoline have on the engine, and help carburetors run better. It is sold in a 16 ounce can and one ounce per gallon of gasoline is needed. There were about 26 gallons of gas in the van gas tank left and I bought two cans, a measuring cup and a funnel. Not cheap. This stuff is about $9 a can - at Walmart. It would be well worth the cost if it got the generator running - if I could get the generator running. I put it in. Drove the van up and down the driveway to mix it into the gasoline in the tank and then tried to start the generator. It started - I don't think because of the gas additive - not that fast - and I let it run on the driveway - with no load on it for two hours getting the additive into the generator's parts to do its thing.

The day before I was to bring the RV to the mechanic to check out the generator, the generator, once again, would not start. So much for the SeaFoam. I drove the RV to the service station that night so that he could have it to work on at the start of the day. When he had the generator the year before he had asked me for service manuals. I actually found them all on the Internet for free and printed them out - and it is a LOT of pages. I had all of that - plus several troubleshooting guides and the manual for the generator - for him to have when he worked on it.

I had not heard from him the next morning and went over there that afternoon. The generator was running. He told me it started right up. He said the spark plug was OK and the oil level was where it should be - BUT - he saw a drip of oil around the drain plug that was followed by several more. He told me he went under the van to see if the generator drain plug had not been screwed at the oil change securely - and then he said - "It just spins in the hole when I turned it with my fingers. It does not tighten. Either the plug or the threads in the hole are stripped." OH BOY! I looked under the van below the generator and could see the oil collecting under the generator on the cardboard that he had put down under it. It was running and he said that the oil level was fine for it to run - but there was an oil leak from the drain plug that needed to be fixed - and this was not something that he could do.

I really had no choice now. I had to call one of the two authorized Onan service centers here and have them fix this. I looked at the websites of both and the one that was closest had photos of a large service building with large RVs inside having their generators worked on. The other service center had no such photos and just mentioned that they work on RV generators. I choose the closest one - the one that I had called a year before that wanted $400 to diagnose the generator. I called for an appointment and explained the problem about the stripped drain plug or hole and that I needed that repaired. I was told it would cost $135 an hour plus parts. What was I going to do? I made the appointment.

When things are going wrong they always seem to double. We saw a sign while driving down the four lane avenue that we live on that Roadwork would be starting the week before we had our appointment for the generator. The large light up sign on a trailer said to "Expect Delays". Well, I now had something else to "expect". A few days later we received a notice in our mailbox from the County telling us personally that there would be road work in a few days - nice of them to give some notice - and to expect delays on the road, that the road would have lanes alternatively closed, BUT don't be concerned you will still be able to get out of your house and into the street - though you may have to ask one of the workmen to stop work to do this - and that it may take up to five minutes for that to happen. Wonderful!

I have written in articles before about what it takes to back the Roadtrek out of our driveway and into the avenue with traffic - which never seems to stop and around here, the speed limit is just a suggestion that no one seems to pay any attention to. The speed limit is 40 mph - the cars and trucks whiz by our house at 60, 90 (truly a blur as they zoom by). Try backing up a four ton van that is 22 feet long into that - with no clear vision to your rear side or behind you. We do this with Meryl in the street with a walkie talkie - telling me to "GO NOW! - NO! WAIT! A car is coming around the blind curve. STOP!" And we are going to do this now with road work and lanes closed. Less you think that the roadwork will slow the cars down - no, it has not.

So the work started a week before our appointment. We presume that the intent is to repave the road. But all they were doing is digging  two foot wide trenches through the asphalt for twenty feet with a crew following behind with hot asphalt filling the trenches back in and a steam roller (do they still call these "steam rollers" - well, that is what I was told they were when I was a kid) flattening it back out. They did nothing in the trenches that were dug. They did this up and down the road. Break, dig, and refill. Then they started breaking up curbs along various parts of the road - to just rebuild them with cement. By the end of the first week they had dug and refilled trenches and broke curbs - not replacing them. By the end of the second week - our appointment was not until the Monday of the third week which I had a fantasy in my head that it all would be finished by then - they continued as before - trenches, curbs - an then started breaking around all of the manhole covers to the sewer in the road and refilling around those - seemingly adding a ring to make the manhole cover higher. And they paved around those. Work would start on the road at 9 am and was to end each day at 5 pm - though every day they would be gone by 3:30 pm - not just stopping then to get the road ready to leave it for the night - but GONE. Our appointment was for 9 am. We would leave at least 45 minutes early for a trip that without traffic should take twenty minutes.

Meryl had the idea that we pull the Roadtrek out of the driveway at night - late at night when the traffic has mostly stopped - and turn it around, backing it into the driveway so that we could drive straight out into the street - at least not having to back out into traffic. Great idea!  We would do this the night before. Of course, that night there were "severe storms" coming. Of course, there were. I have not heard a weather report in the last two months when there would not just be rain or showers - but always "Severe Storms!" ("Expect damaging wind, possible hale, downed trees and power lines." - Oh yes - "Flood warnings".) The hourly weather report said the storm would arrive in our area after Midnight. I kept looking out the window at the cars going by and said to Meryl that we had to do this by 11 pm - before the "severe storm". I now had two concerns. Meryl in the street with the walkie talkie in the drenching rain and that when we backed the Roadtrek up the driveway we would now have the rear air conditioning vent pointing down - and if any rain when in, it could then find its way into the van - which I have been told will happen. I say this so often - with the RV there is never a dull moment! We went out - there seemed to be no cars. It had not started raining. I got into the RV and Meryl went out to the street. She was to direct me out and then in turning the back of the van toward the driveway, and then back in without hitting the curb with the back of the van. I slowly started to back down trying very hard not to hit our fence post which was just too close at the angle I was on. She kept telling me to move the back of the van to the passenger side and if I did that I would move right into the fence post. I got into a better position and started again down. She tells me that it is clear - go now. I do. And I get into the street and am not anywhere near where I need to be to get the back of the van lined up with the driveway. And then I see the cars coming. I got over to the side fast - and past our house. I will not go into the harrowing details of my fifteen minute drive to be able to get back to the house and to a position where I could get backed into the driveway - with cars that just did not stop - some of which would not move around me as I was stopped on the side of the street. I got it in. When we walked back into the house, the rain started.

I could stop here and make a Part 3 but I am just going to keep going. Stay with me, the best is yet to come. So, it is the next morning - the sun is shining and we head out. Pulling out forward into the street is not so bad. We took the Roadtrek and our car - I drove the car and Meryl drove the Roadtrek as she rarely gets the opportunity when we are traveling. We both had the directions to the service center - which we had driven to a week before to be sure we would know where to go. We also had a walkie talkie to communicate between vehicles if we had to. I got to the place first and as I was pulling in a big Class A RV (bus type) was pulling out. The service garage was not what I had expected. It was a large warehouse and they worked in the middle of the warehouse floor. There was a business RV inside being worked  on - a traveling dog groomer. Meryl arrived and waited in the RV outside in their lot. I went inside the warehouse and was directed to the office. It was about five to nine. I was told in the office that when they were ready for us they would call us in. OK. We waited outside.

Not long after the same Class A came back. A man got out - there was a boy in the front inside - and the man went in, talked to someone and came out waiting near us. The RV had California plates. At about 9:30 am - now I was supposed to be in there at 9:00 - and now he was here looking as if he was to go in also - he came over to me and asked when my appointment is. I told him. He told me that HIS was at 8:30 am and he had left because they told him that it would be awhile for him to get in because of the dog groomer - and he had left to get his kids breakfast. There was a family inside - two girls, the boy I saw (all with California blond hair) and his wife. His Class A was new. They were on a cross country trip and he had already been at this service center for his generator that past Wednesday - for six hours! He was not happy. We commiserated about the quality of RVs and both waited to be called. The dog groomer was finished and left - and he was called in. They told us to pull in right behind him. Yes, the shop was that big - much bigger as there were several trucks inside plus a lot of large generators scattered about. I went over to the service tech who would work on our generator and told him what the problem was with the drain plug. I also told him about all of the problems we had starting it. He told me he would check it all out. He was not happy that the generator is under the van requiring being on the floor to work on it. He told me to wait and he would first take a look at the oil drain - before he did anything else - "because if it has to come down off the van, I am going to work  on all of it standing over the work bench and not under the van."  He came and found me outside about twenty minutes later. "It has to come down. I have to order the parts for it - maybe we have them, I have to check." He told me that the oil drain hole is stripped and that a new oil pan with a new drain hole was needed along with a few other parts that went along with that. OK - dollar signs flashed in my head! It was an hour's labor to take it down off the van ($135) and another hour to put it back when it is finished ((+$135) plus the parts- plus whatever else he found that was preventing it from starting. He told me to leave, and when he had it down they would call me. We went home. Roadwork had begun - they were digging and refilling more trenches and the lane in front of our house was closed.

About an hour later we got a call to come back - we were to leave the generator and take the RV home. When I got there the service tech was on his computer looking up the parts. He said that they had no room there to keep the RV and when it was finished - in a couple of days - we would get a call to come back. I asked that while he had it to put a fuel filter in - the one the Roadtrek dealer/service could not put in. I told him that - he said, "Cowards!" and smiled. He said he would replace that and also the spark plug and that just looking he could see that the carburetor was way out of adjustment. Fine. We took the Roadtrek without the generator prepared to leave - hoping that he capped off the gas line really well. Inside the Roadtrek we found that to get to some connection he had to take apart one of the cabinets and the top of  the cabinet and the screws were on the floor. He had told us that he had not put somethings back together as he would need to get back into them when he put the generator back up. Left like this, they would fly around the inside as the RV was driven home. We picked everything up and put it all in the car. Meryl drove the RT home and I followed in the car. The road crew had closed two of the lanes in front of our house and we had to get into the driveway across the closed lanes. The worst part of returning home with the Roadtrek without having the job finished was having to get it out of the driveway again to bring it back to have the generator put back in.

The next day in the late afternoon we got a phone call. The generator was fixed and we needed to make an appointment to have it put back under the van. I took the soonest appointment which was Thursday (this was Tuesday) in the afternoon. Wednesday night we went outside at 1:00 am to back the Roadtrek out into the street, turn it around and back it into the driveway so that we could pull it out the next day in the early afternoon while the road construction was going on (which still had not progressed much). It was easier this time so late as the passing cars were fewer and more spread out - but there are always cars and trucks no matter time of the day or night.

Out Thursday for the ride back with the Roadtrek and the car following. The job would take at least an hour or more and we did not want to stand around waiting there in their shop. We arrived just before 1:30 - the time of the appointment and there was no one around in the shop. Obviously we arrived during lunch break. I could see our generator sitting on a work stand. About ten or fifteen minutes after one workers started to arrive. When the service tech arrived who was working on our generator I asked him if it was running good - and did it keep running when there was a load on it. Yes, he answered. He told me that it had been running all morning and did not shut down - and it ran with a load. Great! He told us to pull the Roadtrek into the shop but not straight in but in and around a corner to the side. This meant around all that was in there and it was close quarters. Meryl was behind the wheel and, with assurance that he would guide her in, she drove it in. She got out - and while I did not realize it, she handed me the keys and I put them in my pocket. We told the tech that we would go off in our car to have lunch and come back in about an hour. And we went off.

At the fast food restaurant I could not figure out why my pockets were so stuffed and I started emptying them onto the table - and then I saw that I had both sets of keys to the Roadtrek. If he needed to start it he was not going to be able to. We had an exchange about how did I end up with the keys and why they were not just left hanging in the ignition, resolved that - my absentminded fault - and Meryl volunteered to drive back to the place with the keys while I finished lunch. No, I told her that we will just finish and both go back together. We got back there. I pulled over and Meryl went in to hand the guy the keys. When she came back she said that the back of the Roadtrek was up in the air on the back of a forklift. I was not happy to hear that. We went off to waste some more time and came back about forty five minutes later.

When we got back the Roadtrek was up in the rear on jack stands. I watched from the garage door and did not go inside. I did not want to rush anyone. I wanted it all done right. I watched as the tech got into the fork lift and drove it behind the van, put the fork under the middle from the back and lifted it up off the jack stands. I really did not want to watch and walked away. There are somethings that you really don't want to see how they're done. When I went back to watch again, I could see the Roadtrek was off the stands and the tech was giving a check around the generator. He then went inside and I could hear it start. Brruummm. It was running! And then it stopped. It was started again and it ran! And then a few minutes later it stopped. I had it running longer at home before the work was done. He came out and got under the van. I could see him looking inside the generator access door, fiddling with something inside. He pushed the start switch on the unit and it started and died. He went back inside, started it, it started and shortly it died. I went out to talk to Meryl. I told her what was happening and that this was not good. We both decided that we should leave and not say anything. Let him work on it and let him fix it. We got in the car and drove off to the stores that were near by.

I had never asked when the generator shop closed for the day as I never figured we would be there that long into the day. It was almost 4:30 and we had not heard from anyone. Meryl called and spoke with the service manager who said that we could come back and get it but they had to speak with us. She did not ask why and we got back there quick. When we got there the Roadtrek was in the shop with the generator running. Good sign! We walked across the warehouse to the office door and went in to see the service manager. He told us what he needed to speak with us about. The reason that it was not starting earlier was that when the A/C was started the startup power for the A/C was too much and it overloaded the generator. The problem was the generator voltage regulator. The reason that it was running was that because they did not want to keep us without the RV any longer they put a new voltage regulator on the outside of the generator (it belongs inside) - as to install it where it belongs would require the generator to come back down off the van and then be put back up again - two hours were needed just for that plus the proper install of the voltage regulator. We could make an appointment to come back whenever to do this and use it as it was. No. That was not a good idea. With the construction going on and at some point it would get more complicated when they actually got around to putting asphalt down finally over the entire road, we needed to get this just finished and fixed and were not going to use the RV until it was fixed. We asked if they could just keep the Roadtrek in their shop overnight and do whatever was necessary to have it all correct and finished. They said yes and we went home without the Roadtrek in the car, hoping that the next day, Friday, it would be done and we would get a call to come and pick it up and be done with all of this.

It was around 2:30 the next day that we finally got the call. We had gone out with the car to do errands - all in the direction of the generator service shop. We finally were told that it was running and all was well. We got there in less than a half hour to find the Roadtrek in their lot running with the A/C going. We went inside and were handed the invoice. It was over $900. Thursday night I learned that a new generator - without installation - which is not much if it is replacing a current generator is only $2400. But the new model cannot just be put in the same place without some modifications as the old and new units are slightly different in shape and size. So while we could have just had a new Onan generator installed (they are the only company that makes these) it would have cost us considerably more. What is most important is that it is running. When we got home I started it and turned on the A/C. It sounds somewhat quieter now when it runs. The next day I did the same just to see that it still starts and runs and keeps running with the A/C on. It does.

Is there a moral to this drawn out tale? Not really. Just some of the frustrations of owning an RV - any RV. Some think that it is a dream come true. It is a dream with a price - sometimes a very steep price both out of pocket and in frustration and concern.  Is all well now? Well, I know that we need to replace the RV batteries very soon as they are five years old - and I am not so sure that all is well with the interconnection between the RV batteries and the engine batteries in the van. That may be another tale to be told.

Before we left the service shop I asked the service manager two questions? What would the price have been if it was just the oil pan that was stripped that needed to be repaired/replaced? About $500. And then I asked him what do they charge for an oil change of the one quart of oil in the generator as I don't really want to go back to Pennsylvania to have this done given the problems in the past two years. About $125 - and he can do it while we wait. That is a lot for an oil change, but considering the two bridge tolls, the two turnpike tolls and the gas - it is a plan for next year.

Thank you for going along on this journey and reading this Onan Tale!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Onan Tale... In Two Part Harmony - Part 1

This is the tale of my Onan generator - the generator built into my RV. Onan is the name of the company that makes it - known fully as Cummins Onan. I will tell you right now that this is a long and harrowing tale.

It is a small generator (2800 watts) but it has enough power to run just about all of the 110 volt needs inside the RV, including the air condition - which is the most important thing to run on some hot nights inside the RV. The generator is underneath the rear of the van - between the bottom of the chassis and the road and it hangs down there exposed which is fine and as it is supposed to be. I shall share its saga here that starts a little more than two years ago - well we have to go back longer than that.

The generator is an gasoline motor. It gets its gasoline from the gas tank of the van. It also has motor oil running through it as all gasoline motors do. There are a specific number of hours that the generator may be run before it needs to have its oil changed. If those hours are not reached within a year, then the oil should be changed anyway. This is what we do. The oil is changed every year. The generator also must be run regularly - and the minimum running is two hours continuously every month with what is called "half load" being run by the generator. In our RV that "half load" is the air conditioner. In the winter it is an electric heater. (I am telling you all this so that the Onan tale will make sense.) Changing the oil is just like oil is changed on a vehicle engine. There is a screw in plug at the bottom of the oil pan and when that is removed all the old oil pours out. Then the plug is secured back in place and the new oil is added - in the case of my year and model Onan generator that is just one quart of motor oil of a specific weight. Now, for reasons unnecessary to specify here, I cannot go under the van and do the oil change myself. Many do. And no it is not that I am too fat to fit under the van - I can fit under the van easily. That is not the reason. And while Meryl can fit under the van and has been willing to do the oil change, I don't want her to have to do it. So, who does the oil changes? Since the first oil change the year after we got the RV, we have been traveling to the dealer/service where we bought the RV to have them change the oil. In the beginning, there have been other things for them to do also so it was OK to make the 150 mile trip each way with two bridge tolls and turnpike tolls, two states away. And up through 2014 they have done a good job. Our tale now starts at that 2015 oil change.

I had wondered when we were at the service desk and paying the bill why I was being charged for two quarts of oil. As I say, this generator has a one quart capacity for oil. They have always been nice and have always been honest with me so I did not question it - and we paid the bill and took the RV and went off. When we got home and then on a few trips after that the generator started having trouble. It would not start or it would start and then shut down. Sometimes it would run for five minutes and then shut down. This was not good. This was a problem - and I did not want to make a trip back two states to have them look at it. I searched for the local authorized Onan repair shop and found two that service RV generators. The rest service boat generators - when you live on an island boats are common - RVs are not. I called one the one that was closest and they told me that to diagnose the problem it would cost $400! OK. No, not OK. Was I stuck or was there an alternative?

I was at the car mechanic that works on our cars and also has done oil changes and tire rotations on the RV for me - mostly as a favor since he does not work on RVs. I told him about the problems I was having and he told me that his partner - both are great mechanics - likes to work on small engines and he will take a look at it for me. Great. He spent most of an afternoon looking at it as much as he could from the bottom of the van - taking this off the van is a big deal - and part of the reason for the $400 that the service center wanted. He was not finding anything. I stopped over while he was working and asked if he checked the oil - maybe there was a problem there? The generator is designed to stop running if the oil is low to prevent damaging the generator. He opened the oil cap and pulled up the little dip stick. He asked me how much oil should be in there. I told him one quart and he told me that there was a LOT more than that in there. Too much oil can be just as bad as too little oil. He drained the oil out until he reached the proper fill line on the oil stick. We then pushed the generator start button and it started to run. I said, great but wait five minutes to see if it shuts down. It just kept running. I turned on the air conditioner and it still kept running! Perfect. I thanked the man and paid him for his trouble doing this for me - as he could easily have said no.

I had no more problems starting the generator from then until the end of June 2016. It would run rough sometimes. It might take a few tries to start it, but it ran - and the air conditioner ran and the electric space heater in the winter ran - while the generator kept running.

And then it was time for another oil change.

I decided to have not only the oil changed but also the air filter which was not due for enough more hours of run time that it could have waited until next year - and also the fuel filter which is not to be changed for a good amount of time to come but since there had been some rough starts, I felt that this would be best changed now. There is no oil filter. Of course, I did not even think about going anywhere else to have this done - I went back to the RV dealer/service. In advance of my going - when I made the appointment I gave them a list of what I wanted done - and said very directly that the year before too much oil was put in and that it caused problems and to make a note that ONLY ONE QUART IS TO BE USED.

Now, just an aside before we move on with this tale. Why would they put in too much oil? I know why. My Onan is a Microlite 2800 KV - KV being the specific model Microlite that it is. It was manufactured and then installed in my RV in 2011. In 2012, Onan came out with a new version of the Microlite 2800 - no longer KV. This new model takes over 20 ounces of oil. Whoever put the oil in my generator did not look to see what model it is - they should know - and put oil in for the new model. This is no excuse. And no one has offered me this explanation for why too much oil was put in - but I can see why it could have happened. It could have cost me $400 to find out about their mistake.  By the kindness of my mechanic, it cost a lot less. Now back to our tale...

We got down to the RV dealer/service for our appointment and the lady that we have come to know well who runs the service desk was off for the day. Everyone is nice there so it did not matter. They knew we were coming and they had the parts for the job I had asked them in advance to do. I said again - and told the whole story why - that the generator ONLY TAKES ONE QUART OF OIL. We went off and wasted several hours walking to a nearby supermarket and Home Depot shopping center - as we generally do when we go down there - while they worked on the RV. When we went back to pick it up, we learned that they did not do the fuel filter change saying that it is in the back of the generator and can not be reached without taking the generator down off the van - and they did not do that. Had they asked if I wanted them to I would have likely said yes. BUT - in the back of my head I was sure that the generator manual said that this routine maintenance item was right in front of the generator right at the access door to the inside of the case. It was too late then to say - do it - and we took the RV with a generator with an oil change and a new air filter - and no new fuel filter. They did make an emphatic point to let me know that they only put ONE quart of oil in.

When we were home I checked the manual for where the fuel filter is - and yes, it is right in front. I even crawled under the van to look to see it - much to my regret going under the van which I should not do - and there it was just like in the picture in the manual. I sent an email to the woman that we know in service asking why they did not do the fuel filter as it is NOT in the back of the generator and that the manual says it is a simple replacement right in the front. The answer I got back was that they were concerned that they would not properly reach the connecting clamp at the bottom and that if they tried and did the replacement it might dangerously leak gasoline inside. OK - but this could have been said while I was there.  She suggested that I take it to an authorized Onan service center to have it changed.

When we were home it was time to do the monthly running of the generator for June. I went out and started the generator, waited the several minutes for it to warm up and then went to turn on the air conditioner. Nothing. The generator kept running. It was then that I noticed that the display panel on the microwave was not lit - this lights up when there is 110 volts running inside the RV. It was dark. I went in the house and came out with an outlet tester, plugged it in and there was no power in the electric outlets. This should not be - the generator was running!

A lot of panicked and fast research both on the internet and in the Onan manual and I discovered that inside the generator there is a circuit breaker that controls if the electric current that it puts out. If the circuit breaker is off there will be no power in the outlets from the generator. This time I asked Meryl to go under the van, reach in and feel - you can't see it lying under the van - to find out if the circuit breaker as off.  I showed her a picture - thanks to one of the good people on one of the groups I am on - of exactly where the circuit breaker is. The generator had been shut down, of course. She went under, and could not reach with her hand to get to the circuit breaker. OK - I got down on the ground, crawled under, reached in and it was off. I managed to get my finger under the switch and clicked it on. Again, to my shortly after regret of having gone down to do this. My Adrenalin was pumping and that was keeping me going. I went into the RV and turned on the generator. Immediately the microwave panel lit up. There was power coming through! The A/C started when I turned it on. It ran for two hours as it should before I turned it off. For the moment I was relieved. BUT how did the circuit breaker get put off to begin with. The circuit breaker is on the side of the section that the air filter goes into and right behind the fuel filter that did not get changed. Ah ha! Someone in there had to hit it while moving around and clicked it off. Certainly, it did not trip. There was nothing to trip it. And it was not tripping now - it was running.

The tale has only begun. There is a lot more and we will take up right here in Part 2 which will be right here - same time, same place in two weeks...