Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Friday, August 30, 2019

Sometimes one writes TOO SOON - An Unanticipated PART 2

When I finished the last article, all was happy and hopeful.  Had I only waited to write that article, as a few days later I went out to turn on the batteries, start the engine, and watch the voltage on my plug in voltage meter rise up to charging voltage (around 13.8 to 14.5 volt) showing that the new batteries charging. This, after all, was what pushed me to buy the new batteries - as the old batteries were not doing this.  Well... The voltage meter stayed at 12.6 volts - a decent charge on the new batteries but not right when the engine is running. We took it for a ride. We are getting too used to late night drives in the Roadtrek toward the end of Long Island. Long Island is 100 miles long and the only roads there that the Roadtrek is allowed to drive on due to its height. So we get on the Long Island Expressway (495) and to get to that we used the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway - yes, it is referred to as the S.O.B. or more kindly the 135.  Long Island is shaped like a fish and we drive out when we do this drive we head east and turn around in the town of Riverhead which is located where the fish's tail starts - this is an hour's drive (when there is no traffic) and about a 65 mile drive for us.  The best way to charge the batteries in the Roadtrek while driving is two drive for two hours at highway speeds without stops. And that is what we did. When we got to the hour point I pulled over into a parking lot with the engine running and plugged in and looked at the voltage meter for the Roadtrek batteries and it read 12.6 volts - no charging took place. We turned around and headed home - and back at home - the same 12.6 volts and no indicator to show it was charging. Oh BOY!

As it happened the day before I decided to purchase a spare Sure Power bidirectional battery separator - the same model that I had in the Roadtrek - just in case I should ever need it. This is not an easy part to find and has to be ordered - I ordered it from a battery supply house in Washington State.  It would take three business days for it to arrive.

I stopped at the mechanic the next day and told him that I needed him to check out the engine battery, the alternator and to please test the battery separator which is not something he would usually do but he could do it.  He could take it the Tuesday of the next week. That weekend I printed out everything I have about the battery separator - and I also contacted an email Roadtrek friend who I met as a reader of this site. His name is Bruce.  The details about how the battery separator works is rather confusing as the wording seems to contradict how we know it works by experience. In fact, it turns out I was not the only one confused by this. 

Did you ever have what seems to be an unsolvable puzzle and become obsessed with solving it? Well that was me! I went back and forth with Bruce about how we each were interpreting Sure Power's description of how the separator worked. He had some good ideas about this but suggested I contact someone he has contacted before about his Roadtrek - Norm - who writes a blog site similar to ours but with its focus on the Roadtrek 210, which is a bigger version of our 190.  Bruce also sent a link to an article that Norm wrote on his site about the Sure Power Battery Separator. I read his article and he also seemed to find contradiction on how we know it works and how it is described as working.  I emailed Norm the details of what was going on and if he has any insights beyond his article. (Norm's site is linked to our LINKS section on the right column of the page - and has been for sometime - Roadtrek 210.) While waiting for Norm's response I sat down with Meryl who often looks at things purely logical - much more so than I do, explained the battery separator and gave her all of the documents I have about to read and come to her own opinion on how it works - and that did seem the most likely and logical. (This was no surprise to me - I knew she would see it differently than I was seeing it.) Norm did respond and we went back and forth with a few emails discussing what it might be - what it should be - etc.  We knew how it should work from shared experience in how it works - and that is what I needed to go by - despite the paperwork.

The new battery separator was delivered to the post office on Saturday and I had it in my hands on Monday. If it was needed, I had it ready.

We got the Roadtrek to the mechanic the night before.  And the next morning I eagerly awaited a phone call which by after 1:00 pm had not come. We were heading out of the house and I said to Meryl that we would stop there on the way.  She suggested that I bring the new battery separator and I put it in the car. When we got there, it seemed to be ready. The engine battery was bad - and not holding a charge. (I had thought that might be the problem.) He had tested the battery separator and it was connecting. He talked about the other things he did and handed me the keys.  I asked him if the RV batteries were charging when the engine was running. He said he was not sure how to turn on the battery switch inside and did not want not to push any buttons he was uncertain of. Understandable - he is not an RV mechanic.  We started the engine first, turned on the battery switch for the Roadtrek batteries, I put the meter in the socket and the batteries were not charging. He then decided that perhaps the alternator was not putting out enough current and went back into the shop to check on alternators.  He said we did not want a cheap import alternator and he only wants to put a good one in. He was finding the alternator he wanted to use but they were not available. We talked about the alternator some and then ... I just had a feeling that I needed to ask him if he did one more thing - when the engine was running - and the alternator showed 14 volts on the dash - did the Roadtrek side of the battery separator also show 14 volts. He told me he had not checked that and we all went back outside to the Roadtrek. He brought his meter - and he tested this. There was no current coming into the Roadtrek battery side of the separator.  He said we don't need an alternator. I told him that I had a new battery separator in the car and he might want to check that out.  He installed the new one in a few minutes - it is just three connections - a cable from each battery system - engine and Roadtrek - and a common ground - all there on the old separator. As soon as he had the new one in, the Roadtrek battery started to charge with the engine running, While the separator was connecting before the voltage was not going through it.  The new battery separator is what was needed all along. We were going to need the new batteries in the Roadtrek - both  RV and engine anyway - so while that might have been put off for a time - I was still playing Russian Roulette with RV batteries that were past due. 

As we were leaving he told me to drive the Roadtrek to charge both sets of batteries- the new engine battery and the Roadtrek batteries - or I could plug in the Roadtrek to charge both.  Since there were "strong storms" predicted that afternoon we decided not to plug in at the house and wait until that night for one of our late night Roadtrek excursions.  We did that and all was well. And since I have been checking and double checking and it is working.

My special thanks to Bruce and Norman! You both helped a great deal!!!










Tuesday, July 30, 2019

New Batteries for the Roadtrek - A Three Year Long Epic Adventure

Batteries do not last forever. The batteries that are the heart of the electrical system in my 2011 Roadtrek 190 Popular are two 6 volt AGM deep cycle batteries. And until now have been the original batteries installed by Roadtrek at the factory.  I have been told that these batteries last about 7 years - and the first time I started to question that the batteries were still good was three years ago.

At the time electrical things that should happen a certain way just were not happening. When the batteries should have been charging when driving - something that Roadtreks after around 2006 should do - was not always happening. It might take an hour or more of driving before the charging light was showing lit on the battery monitor panel in the Roadtrek.  There are a few reasons why this might happen - the RV batteries (often referred to as "coach batteries") are going bad, the engine battery is going bad, the vehicle alternating is going bad, OR a device put into the Chevy engine compartment by Roadtrek - called a Battery Separator - is going or has gone bad. The problem was not every time but often enough for concern. Let me explain the battery separator.  This is a device that has the engine battery connected to one side of it and the RV batteries connected to the other side of it. It is a "smart" switch - when the engine is running and the RV batteries need to be charged it connects the engine battery to the RV batteries and charges them through the van's alternator. It also will charge the engine battery when the RV is plugged into shore power - an outlet connected to the outside world of 110/120 volts of electricity or when the Roadtrek's electrical generator is being run which also provides 110/120 volts of AC electrical current. It is a nice little system - as long as it is working.  So - one of these things would have been the problem three years ago.

SO - I started checking things out as best that I could on my own. There are ways to test the Battery Separator - that I am not equipped to do but we go to a very friendly mechanic and for many, many years he has worked on our car so I spoke with him and if it came down to it he could test the separator for us.  When the separator is working and connects or disconnects there is an audible click. And I was hearing that click when plugging into shore power and I was pretty sure it was, therefore, working. But I was not fully convinced. So at the time I started researching buying a new battery separator of the same make and model that is there. This proved to not be quite so easy. I called two RV dealerships with repair shops on Long Island. Long Island is a wasteland for RVs - finding them here or service for them here is like - well, let's say not worth the effort. Basically they had not worked with RVs that had separators - they did know about battery isolators which are similar but work differently - but they could not get the one I had and were not really interested in working on my Class B RV - which they don't usually work on.  I started searching the internet for the part - as it is not hard to install - and my friendly mechanic could do that for me - and found that only a handful of retail websites around the US - none anywhere near here - sell this make and model. That was going to be what I would have to do if it came down to that. I also started asking on a group I was on what was the best - absolutely THE BEST - coach battery for my Roadtrek and without question from several more experienced than I when it comes to RV batteries the same answer came back - Lifeline batteries. One even said to me that they were "overkill" but they were the best - and they are expensive. And I need TWO.

The first thing I had the mechanic do is check the engine battery - the easiest of the things that needed to be tested and - hooray! He found that the engine battery - even though it started the van easily when started - had a bad cell and was only putting out less than ten volts - and he replaced it.  After that things started working - and with all of this in the back of my mind we continued to hear out int the great well known and kept traveling in the Roadtrek - for three more years.

Every so often things would hiccup but came back to working as it should be working - but the coach batteries were getting older - and this year at 8 years old I kept feeling that I was playing Russian Roulette with the batteries. I had figured that going into 2019 we would need to buy new batteries. And then the macerator problem happened - as I wrote about two articles back - and that took the money that we would have used for the batteries.  Before we left the dealer service when we bought and had installed the new macerator and macerator hose, I asked if they could get Lifeline batteries - and they said yes but they could not tell me a price - and would check. A week or so later they told me - $550 EACH battery plus labor to install! Oh BOY!  It was back to Battery Russian Roulette.

It seemed like maybe things would go the right way and with short day trips things were working as they should. Then we set out on a trip during Fourth of July week. Our procedure when we travel is just before pulling down the driveway and off, we start the engine of the van, turn on the battery switch - to turn on the coach batteries - and also turn on the RV refrigerator.   I get the van running and Meryl does the rest.  And I asked her to turn on the test button that shows battery level - which as the van is running should show the coach batteries charging - and that LED was NOT lit! OK - this has happened before and we drive a little and the light comes on, it is charging and all is well. That did not happen. And after a short time we pulled over to check again and it was still out and I could only figure that we either turn around and go home or we turn off the fridge - no meds in it this trip - as the main med for the fridge once started does not need to be refrigerated - and I sat there on the side of the road contemplating what to do - turn back or go on.  Meryl made the decision. We had paid in advance for one night of the three nights in the campground and we should go on and IF there were problems resulting for this all we could stay the night, the next day go to the Festival in PA that we go to every year that runs during Fourth of July week and just come home tomorrow night. Fine. And - have I mentioned this before - Meryl is ALWAYS RIGHT - truly!

We headed off.  We stopped at a rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike and I put the battery switch back on and with the engine running - after about two and a half hours of driving - there was a lot of traffic getting there - the charging LED lit. Wonderful! We left the fridge off to not push our luck and continued on the trip and stayed the three nights and four days - with the last two days with the fridge on to bring home some treats - but not too many because the week before our fridge at home died and we had to buy a new fridge which when delivered did not work correctly and a new, new fridge would not be delivered until we got home - unknowing if that one would work any better than the first. (Another unexpected, not affordable expense.)

We had reasons to start the Roadtrek when we got back from this trip - and the batteries did and then didn't show they were charging when the engine was running and it was three years back all over again. Only this time the research had been saved from three years past. While we were on the trip to PA I said to Meryl that we can't play Russian Roulette with the coach batteries any longer. That one day we are going to find ourselves off somewhere and these batteries - the ones I wanted - were not going to be found where ever we were stuck. She agreed. And the decision was made that we needed to find and buy and have installed the new Lifeline batteries.

I thought that this might be easy. Yes they were on a few websites. There are even dealers for these batteries on Long Island - all marinas. Long Island is "Boat Happy - RV Deprived". I started calling and emailing these marine shops. Yes they could get the batteries - each over $500 - no they could not install them. I went to the websites that sold these batteries and the price from at least two - across the country - was $329 each with free shipping.  I had thought that our friendly mechanic could install them - which he said he could - but he had been and was very busy at his shop with his usual business - including work on our small passenger van - and I felt that I should not impose on him - especially if I wanted the job done right away.  I also found on the battery manufacturer's website two dealers of the batteries in New Jersey. I contacted one - a dealer who is also a Roadtrek dealer who could get the batteries at just a little more than the $329 and he could install them - AS LONG AS  I waited for his next available service appointment at the end of September. I thanked him and said that was not going to work out for us.

The second shop in New Jersey was a little closer but not an RV dealership but rather an RV repaid and body work shop.  I contacted them and yes they could get the batteries - they would take about a week to arrive and they could take us to install them right after they arrived. The price was a little less than the $329 each - two hours of labor to install - and I told them order them and thank you very much!

The batteries - for those Roadtrek owners seeking new batteries - Lifeline GPL-4CT - 6 volt AGM deep cycle battery. Here is a link to its webpage at Lifeline . The shop we bought them from that installed them Risco RV in Farmingdale, New Jersey.

The batteries came in the time stated - one week on a Thursday. We set up an appointment for the installation on the coming Monday.  All was set! And then weather forecasts started saying that Monday and Tuesday in the coming week were going to have severe storms both in NY and NJ.  OK. I am never happy driving the Roadtrek in the rain and absolutely not in severe storms.  In that time when you would not like to wake up yet on that next day - Friday morning - this kept going through my head - Monday was not a good day to make this trip. And we called and postponed the appointment to Wednesday. The lady at Risco that we were working with was incredibly nice - extremely helpful and had no problem moving the appointment. As it turns out the storms did come Monday and Tuesday and were more than severe - and caused a lot of damage especially in New Jersey and right in the county that this shop is located in.

Wednesday morning came. The charging LED did not come on to show the old batteries were charging when we left that morning - and was still not on over two and a half hours later when we arrived at the shop. The trip there took a long time just to get out of New York State.  There are two bridges that most be crossed to do that - I just love living on an island connected to other islands before you get to mainland U.S.A. - and the first and main bridge was closed in both directions as we heard as we were on our way to it - because of a car fire.  We were stopped in traffic bumper to bumper along the way and that took so long that by the time we got to the bridge - despite the traffic reports still saying the bridge was closed - we drove right across it without a problem.  We called ahead to the shop to explain that we would be later than we even had expected to be.

There were various ways in New Jersey to get to this place and the fastest route takes the Garden State Parkway. It seems that while this part of the Garden State Parkway is closed to trucks, it allows RVs - and more than one website - and our asking the shop when we made the appointment about taking this parkway  - said we could drive on it. With fingers crossed we did. No other RVs were to be seen but highway patrol cars passing us - we were not stopped.  As we got off the parkway and were near the shop there were electric company repair trucks everywhere. Red lights were out on the roads. Large trees were down. The storm hit there HARD!

The night before we left I wrote out everything that I know specific to installing new batteries in a Roadtrek plus where all the switches were and what does what.  I will include that at the end of this article. They would know all this anyway but they may never have worked on a Roadtrek before. One of the things I told them in person was that I wanted to know once the new batteries were installed that the batteries were now charging on the engine running as they are supposed to do.

When we arrived I handed that to the woman who was expecting us and we sat down to wait in their waiting room.  There was one other person waiting and we started talking as we were waiting. He said that the shop we were at had no electricity and they were running on generators - still able to do the work. The big lobby was a little warm - but there were big ceiling fans that made it comfortable enough. There was a big screen TV and chairs and sofas. They had display and sales racks of RV accessories and parts.  We spent the time watching the TV and walking around looking at what was on the shelves. At one point there was a loud roar of a big engine and they were working outside an open garage door to the side of this big lobby on a big Class A engine.  It was interesting but the diesel fumes were getting overwhelming and were also coming into the lobby so I went outside to get some air and saw that my Roadtrek was parked in an lane outside in the parking lot on the other side of a Class A. I could not tell if they had worked on it or not. We were there for about three hours or so between waiting for the Roadtrek to be taken to be worked on to when we were told it was ready. I asked if it was charging and was told that it was all tested and was working as it should be. Skeptic as I am I went outside - started the engine and the charging LED came on when I pushed the test button. For the moment I was happy.

It was a hot day. We were in New Jersey near a restaurant we like to eat at and decided we would kill the time between lunch and dinner in a large mall and a Barnes and Nobles bookstore and a Walmart before waiting for dinner. And that is what we did.

Someone reading this I know is thinking why didn't he just install these batteries himself.  The 2011 Roadtrek does not have a sliding battery drawer. The two batteries are fixed in place inside an outside access cabinet. These batteries weigh 66 pounds each. There is no way that I could lift one of these batteries much less remove the old heavy batteries and get two of these up and into place - plus there is no access to wire the cables to the back of the batteries. I am not sure how the shop did this. 

When thing seem well my head starts poking me to think hmm, maybe things are not all as well as they should be. Was it the batteries that needed to be replaced - which they did anyway - or is that battery separator at the root of what has been going on. The engine battery is three years old and it is rated for five years - and that should be fine - but those early morning wake ups and your mind starts working in high gear...  So I start looking things up. I start trying things. I know the new batteries are good and fine. Are they charging when the engine is running is what is bothering me. I go outside and into the Roadtrek and without the engine running I turn on the battery switch and push the test button and no engine running - the charging LED comes on. This is not supposed to happen - I think - or is it?  I have a volt meter. I check the voltage on the batteries and they are fully charged - a reading of about 12.87 volts - 12.8 volts is fully charged. Is this because they are new or did the engine charge them up to that on the drive home from New Jersey. I start researching again.

This is what I learned - and should have learned reading these same documents before - the engine does not connect to charge the RV batteries if they are over 12.8 volts. They do not need to be charged and the engine does not charge them. Seems logical.  If the batteries are 12.8 volts or above the C charge indicator LED will remain lit - even though no charging is taking place. (This is new to me for some reason - as I have believed from other things I have read that if charged fully the C LED will go out and leave the third up from the bottom LED lit showing that the batteries are within charged range. THAT IS NOT SO. If the batteries are 12.8 of over the C LED will be lit.)  Good to know - good to pass along and I am thinking a detailed battery separator article is coming here soon.

I went out for the next several days checking the status of the battery level. Five days later - I turned the battery switch on - no engine running - and had my volt meter plugged in for actual voltage - and the C LED was no longer on. The yellow G LED was lit and this is what I had expected to see all along. The voltage in the batteries - five days later - was now 12.75 - below 12.8 - and the monitor panel indicated that. I started the engine and right away the C LED lit up as it should! Happy me!

In all of this I made a decision with Meryl to buy a spare battery separator and have it with us when we travel. This way if that ever does go bad - and they do go bad over time - we will have it with us - we can find a mechanic to put it in - and I - not we - have to worry about it any more. I am in the process of doing that now.  With that I will have three of the Roadtrek weak spots covered that are not easy to just get repaired or replaced anywhere - new batteries, new macerator - and with this - a new battery separator to use when necessary.

Here are my new batteries -




 Here is the list I wrote up for the install to give the shop:


ROADTREK BATTERY CHANGE


1.            Two 6 volt deep cycle AGM Batteries in my Roadtrek are original from Roadtrek when the Roadtrek was built at the factory in 2011.

2.            The batteries are wired in SERIES -  pos on one battery to neg lug on the other battery connected together and the battery cables from the Roadtrek to the batteries are then connected to a positive on one battery and a negative on the other battery.

3.            The battery compartment is on the outside passenger side in front of the rear passenger tire. The square key opens the lock on the compartment.  In 2011 when AGM batteries started to be used by Roadtrek the sliding battery tray was discontinued. The tray is fixed.

4.            The Roadtrek has a TRIPPLITE 750 INVERTER/CONVERTER/CHARGER. I have been told that the Tripplite must be turned OFF while batteries are being installed.  The Tripplite is located inside the Roadtrek right behind the passenger side cargo door on the floor- it can be seen as soon as you open the cargo door – I have removed the door that sits in front of it.

5.            The TRIPPLITE ON/OFF switch is a slide switch on the upper right front – OFF is the MIDDLE position.  Left is Auto/Remote the default position and right is Charge Only.  Now it is set to Auto/Remote – if you want me to put it off I will OR you can put it off.  After batteries are installed return the position to Auto/Remote.


6.            Dip switches on the TRIPPLITE were set by Roadtrek for AGM batteries.

7.            The Battery Disconnect switch is inside the Roadtrek – at the entry door just past the passenger front door – it is on the wall below the ceiling on the right side of the monitor panel. It is OFF at this time.  Just push and let go to turn it on.  The test switch on the other side of the monitor panel will show a column of LEDs for battery charge. Turn the battery on if needed.

8.            There is a 12 volt DC socket to the left of the monitor panel to plug in a 12 volt voltage plug in meter. Battery Switch must be on to use this.



































Friday, May 24, 2019

VILLAGE SCENE RV PARK, Hatfield, Pennsylvania

When we went to have the macerator replaced at the Roadtrek dealer/service center that we bought the Roadtrek at 8 years ago in April, we had to find a place to stay in the Roadtrek the night before. The appointment was for first thing in the morning when they opened and we could not do what we have almost always done in the past when we went there for service - leave our home in the morning of the appointment and drive the two and a half hours to get there at around 11 am for them to do and complete the work the rest of the day.  We could have stayed outside the service shop as they do have a 30 amp outlet to plug into and we would have had electricity overnight - but because the macerator was broken what we would not have was a toilet. The dealer's showroom closes at 8:00 pm and after that we would have a problem.  I started to look for campgrounds and there are a few in the area. One that I found was off in a wooded area and when I checked Google maps to see the route from there to the service shop, there was always a closed road - along the route. That was not going to work out at all - and I started wondering if I would ever find a campground for this excursion - even for just one night. Then I came across a most unlikely type of RV park - that is actually an age "55+ Manufactured Home Community and RV Park". I know that to some this brings up in their mind the image of a trailer park - but by the photos on their website and with Google Maps satellite view I was able to see the entire place - and it looked nice. The name is Village Scene (RV Park).

This is back now in February - and the appointment is not until almost the end of April.  I sent them an email and asked about availability for the night before our appointment. I got a very nice and prompt reply letting me know that they had one site available for us to stay in. If I wanted it to be held we would have to send a check for the one night stay and the site would be reserved for us.  While they have mostly permanently installed mobile homes and what I would say are called "Park Model" homes that are pre-fab homes, they also have some regular RV sites with 20, 30, and 50 amp electric service, water hook up, and sewer hook up. They do not have cable TV hook up - that is on site for permanent residents that arrange on their own for the service to be hooked up to their homes. They do have wifi across the park. The most important thing I had to confirm - though I know that I saw it on their website - was there a 24 hour access restroom - and I had hoped to have a site that was close to it. There is a 24 hour/7 days a week rest room building (that also has a laundry in it) and it is available to anyone who does not have those facilities on board their RV. Well, for this trip, that was us - and it was confirmed to me that it was indeed there and open - but the only site they had was not right next to it but four aisles away. That was no problem for us at all - as we have no issue with doing a little walking.

The RV park was very nice. The resident's trailers, mobile homes, RVs, whatever one would call them are all nice, well cared for, landscaping around them - flower beds, etc. While we were there we saw big Class A RVs and also large travel trailers. When we arrived (later than we expected as I explained in our recent Day 1 article about this trip we were greeted by a very nice woman in the office who was expecting us. She had put an orange cone in our space just in case we got there after the office closed at 4:00 pm. Our site was right across from the office. We were paid in full and she came outside to show us where our site was. We explained that we would be leaving for the rest of the afternoon and coming back that night after dinner - there was no problem at all with that. 

We only saw a few residents and no one took any notice of us. The site was a pull in, back out site - in other words the connections were on the drivers side and the opening of the site was such that puling in would put the connections where they needed to be. There was a mobile home next to the site so it was not a pull through - to get out of the space you just back out into the aisle. All sites are paved and the the aisles (or lanes) are asphalt.  As we always do when we get to a campground, we pull in and find where the Roadtrek will be level. This site was half paved with a concrete slab on one side and the other side the pavement was asphalt. This made the two slightly off in height from each other - but with the Roadtrek as it is smaller than most RVs that these sites are designed for, it was possible to drive around back and forth - adjusting this way or that - and on a slight diagonal I got the Roadtrek level. We marked where the tires were with our reflectors for this purpose and also checked voltage and polarity at the outlet box - all good! We backed out and were off for the day.

The restrooms were just where they were shown on the map. They were clean - though a bit old fashioned - toilet stalls, a shower stall, and a sink. You must bring your own paper towel and soap. It did take us a little bit - in each of our respective restrooms to figure out how the lights went on. I brought a flashlight with me and found that while the lights were not on any motion detector they had a switch box with buttons that were timers. Once you got the lights on with any of the buttons you could set it to how long the lights would stay on - a little different from what we have come across but just fine.  The walk to the building was no problem - even in the dark.

What I was very impressed with - and maybe it was because we were right across from the office was that the WIFI was exceptionally good! We were given a brochure when we arrived with the rules of the park and the wifi codes. There were two for two wifi units that cover the grounds. One was based in the office - and we had strong and good wifi in the site we were in.

We were only there one night. The location is straight off the exit ramp from the PA Turnpike north/south extension, a turn down a street with many businesses along it including stores, fast food, and supermarkets and knowing the street to turn down - and the help of the GPS we got right there in the day and had no problem finding our way back in the dark at night. The brochure we were given suggests where to park RVs in the city of Philadelphia and they are not that far and not at all like being in the city - to stay at to visit Philadelphia. This is located in the middle of a nice residential suburban neighborhood. There are no fences around the Park and no gate. The people living full time here have mailboxes in front of their mobile homes and the mailman comes directly to each to deliver mail.

While this park is for 55+ that is only for residents.  Children and families are welcome coming in to temporarily stay nightly, weekly, or monthly. There are no facilities in the way of a playground, swimming pool, or anything else like that. This is strictly stay in your RV or sit outside in your site - or leave the park and go exploring. This area is about an hour and a half from the PA Dutch Country in Lancaster County by way of the PA Turnpike.

We were both very pleased with this RV park. The electric service was good. The television using the over the air antenna was also very good and all of the major networks came in clearly as well as a number of other channels. We did not even put up the antenna but had good reception with the antenna flat on the roof. We both felt very welcome! Staff was nice from our first email contact through our stay. We would stay here again if we had to be in this area again. It was also very reasonably priced. I tend not to like to give prices because they always change from year to year but we only paid $40 for the night. That may be because we reserved the site early in the year - as the rate is now listed at $44 a night. Still a great price! This is the lowest we have paid for a campground in about five years.  And this is no "trailer park" - this is a nice place for a night or two.  Please note that they do not take any credit or debit cards. One must pay by cash or by check.

Village Scene RV Park is located at 2151 Koffel Road, Hatfield, PA  19440 and their phone number is 215-362-6030.  Click here for their RV Park webpage.





Friday, May 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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














Friday, April 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS IS THE END OF DAY 1.

WE WILL CONTINUE WITH THIS TALE IN TWO WEEKS IN:

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


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










Monday, April 8, 2019

We Actually Get a Day to Take the Roadtrek On At Least a One Day Trip

So - where I most have wanted to go - even for just a day and back is to a particular place we go to in Pennsylvania. The problem is that it is only open on one day a week and that day is Friday. Well recently there was an occasion that we were going to celebrate but it was not on a Friday and we had plans to just take the RT and go - to - PA but just go around some of our other haunts there - most of which are also outdoors. That was a Thursday and while the weather had said all would be good, the night before that report changed for the worse. Why does the weather mean so much? Well, if I am going to use the gas, spend the tolls - which just to get out of NY just went up again -and not be able to do what we want to do when we get there - it is just not worth making the trip. I was talking with a relative that lives in NY but works in PA and he confirmed that every Friday since January has rained in PA - which he was glad of as he comes home on Thursdays and goes back to work in PA on Mondays.  I looked ahead for a different day- and Friday, which is no surprise it was going to rain - and we had tickets to attend a function locally.  Saturday seemed good. Last minute check  and it still looked good. And that Saturday - we got in the Roadtrek and headed off.

As usual traffic getting off this island and then off the next island was its usual bumper to bumper (one car on the side of the road - not even in the road - can bring all lanes to a standstill, but as we entered New Jersey - despite its bumpy and rough interstate highways (bang, bang, bang inside the RT) the traffic was gone and it was full speed ahead. Once we got away from NY, the fog had lifted - in more ways than just the actual fog we had driven through along the ocean.

We had nothing special planned when we got there - though there is an Amish bakery that makes an exceptionally good chocolate shoofly pie and I had contacted them a few days before asking if we called as we were on our way to Pennsylvania would they have a couple of these pies baked and ready for us when we got there.  That was the first stop!  Meryl called once we got over the second bridge which I figured if we got that far we were clear to actually get to PA.  The young lady that answered the phone (even Amish businesses have telephones) said the pies would be wating for us when we arrived - which we estimated and the GPS estimated would be just after one o'clock.

Ah! The GPS. The Copilot RV GPS app was discontinued a few months ago. I got an email notice telling me that it was going to be replaced by the regular Copilot GPS app - which in the past did have an RV setting but did not route as extensively for RVs, plus cost only ten dollars - and not the $60 that the Copilot RV GPS app cost complete with all of its problems. So I downloaded the new app - no charge - and I have a feeling that there is no charge for this app any longer - though the traffic function in the app is and has always been by subscription at $10 for a year. The new app has a new look and far more confusing and not user friendly as the old app was. What it does have is the full RV profile setting that the Copilot RV GPS had. This will keep you off roads your RV is not supposed to drive on by height, restrictions, etc. That is does fairly well.  So now with one day trip in the car and this day trip in the Roadtrek and it did OK.  I am not going to say that I recommend it yet. If it actually is free you might want to try it. I have to get on the Google Play site not logged in to find out what is going on with the money for this app now.

What the GPS does do pretty well - as does the TomTom in the Eclipse II that is still in our RT dash - is estimate time of arrival very lose to the actual time arriving. They adjust every so often for sitting in traffic or a change in route of my choosing.  And the Copilot was routed directly to the bakery while the TomTom was routed further on - and the Copilot started showing us getting there earlier than we had seen when the call was made.  We did arrive early enough that it was too soon to get to the bakery - but there is another haunt nearby - and we stopped there.

(Now if this is the most boring trip - or article you have ever read - you are probably right. This was in no way an exciting trip. We were not out for excitement. I just wanted to be out and away and somewhere I enjoy - as simple a place as it is - that would just show me that any confidence I have been doubting in the Roadtrek or our just traveling in the Roadtrek was unfounded - and as boring as this trip may seem to most - it was just what I needed. And I am writing about it because I have heard from a number of readers asking if we are "OK".)

The weather was sunny and the temperature was in the upper 60's.  It was going to be the same at home - but at home we would be wondering what are we going to do today. Here - when our last trip to this area was at the end of September - also for a single day there and back - it was like coming back to our home away from home where there always seems to be a pleasant diversion.

We got to the bakery and there was a Mennonite young woman in the shop (who had been on the phone - Mennonites have phones in their homes). As soon as I said who we were she said she had the pies all ready for us. As she was putting the pies in boxes I commented on how long it has been since we have been able to get down there - especially on a Friday  to where this shop has a stand to sell their pastries and pies. She also confirmed that yes, it has rained, snowed or been frozen over on Fridays since the beginning of January. The pies in hand we set out - for lunch. (The pies were for home.)

Lunch was good as always in a little local spot we know. We spent the rest of the day at an outdoor popular tourist spot that was jammed (I rarely come to this area in PA on Saturdays to avoid the tourists) and  I lost track of time - which is a good thing - as when I looked at the time - expecting to keep going from there out to other regular stops of ours, it was 5:00 pm and things were starting to close down.  We decided to drive past the campground we stay at in this area - not to stay - but to see if there have been any changes. We heard that the company that owns the campground and the attraction next door had bought a hotel that had gone up for sale a year ago that was on the other side of the campground. And yes, there was construction being done on that hotel to turn it into something of a Nickelodeon themed hotel.  It is too soon to see how this is going to impact the campground.

Gas prices in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey have always been less than gas prices in New York but both states have put additional taxes on the gasoline and prices were higher than at home which has been around $2.65 a gallon.  On the Turnpike in New Jersey gas was $2.80 a gallon. On the roads in Pennsylvania gas was between $2.81 to above $2.85.  I could not put buying gas off any longer as the Roadtrek was below half a tank - which is not a big deal BUT seeing the total on the pump when buying gas for more than half a tank can result in severe shock.  $50 and the tank was once again full.  The price per gallon was $2.83. We saw the two lower prices later.  We usually fill the Roadtrek up at the last rest area in New Jersey, but with the prices what they are, I said as we were leaving this gas station that we would go directly to a local gas station at home before we went home that night and have a full tank for our next trip.

We headed out to dinner at a local restaurant that is out of the tourist area and is primarily locals, Mennonites, and Amish eating.  It is a favorite of ours - made up for take out dinner at home that we had for the occasion celebration at home - and really enjoyed it (as always). 

The ride home was smooth and without delays - unusual for a Saturday night.  We filled the gas tank near home - got upset with an Uber or Lyft driver who was driving haphazardly around the gas station and was backing into the front of the Roadtrek as I started the engine to pull away from the gas pump - and then we got home. Happy.

I purposely did not write names of where we went. They would all be seen a boring places to most - and some I just don't share to keep them from getting crowded. 😎

I, usually here, take everyone along for the ride - and this was another one of those articles. When something exciting happens I will write about it.

By the way Roadtrek, the company is out of business.  No joke.











Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Worst Summer Turns Into the Worst Year

It has been awhile since our last article and that pretty much has been the result of avoidance to just put all that has happened since September in writing. The last time we took the Roadtrek out of state was the last Saturday in September. We went to an event in Pennsylvania and took the Roadtrek to go there and back the same day.  That was fairly uneventful other a small thing at the location of the event which is something to share because when driving any van RV - not just a Roadtrek you need to be aware of what you are parking on if you have to park in a field or on the grass. This event was at a park and parking for the park was limited so the park opened up several grass fields to park on. The day was beautiful - sunny and pleasant but the days before it had rained hard and a lot - what else was new?!  We drove down the  entrance road in the park and was stopped by a gentleman who was directing where to park. He pointed into an open field and directed us to go into one of the spots toward the left. I looked ahead and saw that a good deal of the grass and dirt area was mud. I asked if the ground was solid - adding that if we go into the mud we will sink. That is not an exaggeration. With the weight and the ground clearance of the Roadtrek if get into the mud you will sink - and possibly not easily get out of the mud. He just shrugged his shoulders and said "Oh!" and pointed to the same area he pointed to before. I headed into that area and stopped where he had said to park. I could see as I pulled forward into the spot that I was going to be in trouble if we stayed there. The mud was deep and I did not even stop, I kept going through the open space in front and through onto the more solid ground of the area between the parked cars that served as a road. I drove around looking for a more solid place to park. I came across a grassy area that some cars had parked in and went there. I pulled through a soft spot forward onto solid ground. When we got out of the car I saw that the tires in the space just behind us that I just drove though made ruts about four inches deep. Where we stopped was solid and we hiked over to the location of the event - and while it was much smaller than we anticipated we spent about an hour going through it - twice.  We headed after that to our usual PA stomping grounds and had a pleasant day and a nice dinner before heading home that night.

Four days later I woke up with a pain in my shoulder that ran down my left arm. It was the worst pain I have ever felt - and since one hears that an unexplained pain in the left arm could indicate one is having a heart attack, Meryl said - we are going to the hospital - and we did. I spent 10 hours in the hospital - "being observed" and was told I was just fine  - no heart attack. I was told to go home and I said - "What about my shoulder?" which was still hurting A LOT.  To which they answered, we don't know, go see your doctor.  The doctor found a variety of minor things, gave me a couple of prescriptions and told me that for the pain, take Extra Strength Tylenol. I asked how long this would last and he said "6 to 8 weeks".  Great!  And, indeed, I was in pain of varying intensity for eight weeks. And during that time, I had a great deal of difficulty driving because of how the seat belt would pull on my shoulder no matter if I was the car, our passenger van, or when I tried sitting in the Roadtrek on the driveway. There was no way that I could drive on the few trips we had planned for October, much less be able to get by comfortably living inside even for a few days. That ended all plans for travel. And the worse part was we were not taking our usual end of RV season trip to get the Roadtrek ready by dumping the tanks at a campground sewer dump hole to be ready to winterize. Not good - but as it turned out in the end, maybe the best thing that could have happened.

Early in November it was bothering me that we had not driven the Roadtrek since the end of September and we really should take it out for a drive - whether far or near but it had to go out. I was even willing to try to go out of state with it - for a same day there and back trip, but still the weather was not cooperating. We settled for a trip out the the East End of Long Island - about 100 miles or so just to drive the Roadtrek - and that is what we did. Totally uneventful and just for the sake of driving.  At the end we filled the gas tank and I bought two bottles of Seafoam gasoline additive to put in the gas tank to run through the generator when I ran it two ours each month in the winter with an electric space heater running to put at least a half load on it. This is recommended by the generator company and I have been doing this monthly since the Roadtrek was new. Two cans is just a little more than is needed for the number of gallons in a full tank and I just put all of both cans in - a little more can't hurt.

Mid-November we had to winterize. I figured that the usual gallon of water that I put in the black waste tank to keep it wet when we last traveled in August (for couple of days) would get dumped into a bucket and carried into the house to flush down the toilet. (When we got the Roadtrek and were faced with the need to dump without having a place to dump the black tank, I bought a plastic pail and wrote on it "Doody Pail" so that it would not be used for anything else. 😉)  We were all set to winterize. We pulled the macerator hose out, I started the engine to put a little boost into the RV batteries, pulled the black tank handle, and with Meryl holding the nozzle over the pail, I pushed the red macerator button. I could hear it running but not as loud as usual. Nothing came out of the tank.  My first thought was that even though we had charged the batteries a few days before maybe the Roadtrek needed to be plugged in. There should be nothing in the grey tank as that was dumped completely and not filled back with any water on the last trip in August. We pulled out the power cord and plugged it into the 20 amp outlet outside the house as we always do. Again, we got set up to dump the tank, and again a running macerator - low volume - and nothing came out. We have dumped on the driveway before. We have never had a problem. The van is on an small incline front end up but that has never mattered. I thought that maybe the van had to be level this time for whatever reason. The Andersen Leveling ramps came out and I put the Roadtrek up on the ramps and level. Again - nothing came out of the macerator. Off the ramps, we tried again - and this time not only did nothing come out but I could smell a burning order from under the van - OH BOY!  Had we run the macerator dry to the point that we just burned out the motor. We stopped and put everything to do with dumping away.  We still had to winterize and if there was any water in the black tank I would overload the black tank with RV antifreeze and keep our fingers crossed that it would not freeze. We winterized the Roadtrek as we always do - following my own directions from this site - which I print out and keep with us while we do it just so we do it all and in the correct order. And we were doing this with my bad shoulder and arm which still hurt some.

Meryl is great! She is always willing - and able - to do what I cannot do. And she did a good deal of the winterizing - with my help as much as I could help.  If you know our winterizing process one of the things we have in our Roadtrek is the winterizing valve to connect the RV antifreeze bottle directly to the water pump. There is a large, brass cap nut on the connection for the hose that goes into the bottle on this winterizing valve and it requires a variable wrench that opens beyond an inch which means the usual 6" long wrench does not have jaws that open enough. An 8" wrench does, but is just slightly too long to work easily inside the cabinet that the water pump (and this nut) is located. She was struggling with it - and I got it to fit enough to get the nut loose enough to hand remove it. Meryl turned to me and asked why is there no wrench that fits this and I explained that we would need what is called a "stubby"wrench with jaws that open big enough for this nut which are not cheap. Meryl said - "That is what I want for Christmas!" And that is exactly what Meryl got for Christmas - her very own stubby wrench to use when winterizing the Roadtrek! She was actually very happy getting it.

So, I kept the idea of going even for one day that we would get the Roadtrek out of state for one day - out and back. By the beginning of December my arm and shoulder were better and I kept looking for a day that neither the weather or obligations would conflict with - and that never happened.

We decided that in the Spring we would make an appointment and take the Roadtrek to the dealer/service in Pennsylvania where we bought it and have them look at the macerator and if it is broken, burned out, whatever, have them fix it or repair it. We recalled that on our last trip in August the macerator worked but was a little odd - it seemed to empty the tanks too quickly - not as it usually does - but the grey tank read empty - and the black tank - which never reads empty was emptied first and the grey tank was dumped that day after it - so it was still dumping then.  During this period since August, we also discovered that the Fantastic Fan roof mounted exhaust fan lid was not opening. The mechanism looks fine. The knob to raise it would turn and then get tight - as if something was holding it down. The last time it was open and then closed was a very hot day in August - near 100 degrees F. My first thought was that when it was closed in that heat the seal and the lid stuck together. The easy way to try to fix this was to take off the fan screen inside so that I can reach up into the van and reach the bottom of the lid and while turning the knob before it gets tight to give the lid a push up - BUT I was not going to attempt this because if there is a mechanical problem I did not want an open vent in the roof until the Spring!  We just left it alone. When we go for the macerator we will ask the shop to take care of that too!

This is the way it has been - and unfortunately it was all of 2018 with the Roadtrek - not being able to travel - perhaps the short trips contributed to the problems with the macerator? I don't know. The topper on the cake was one day we went inside the Roadtrek to exercise the generator and I noticed that the molding that is on the edge of the wood panel that comes down along the end of the sink counter was coming off - but not just off at an end, but had come off forming a "U" off the edge, still connected at the ends of the "U" and down about four inches. Pushing up on it to get it back in place - it does not budge. It is cold and when the Spring comes hopefully the warmth will let it expand and will move and I will fix this myself. 

So other than a cold that came, went, and came back again and maybe is going away - again, we are looking toward 2019 to be much better than 2018!  I want to thank the kind reader who recently emailed us to ask if we are alright - since there has been no article since the beginning of September!  I did answer personally and said that I would get this article finally written. I am always happy to answer our readers questions - and we do get a lot of questions by email that I do answer as extensively as I can directly back to the reader.  Things are happening at Roadtrek but, until I have reliable details, I will not write about it as right now no one really knows what the outcome will be.