Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Friday, July 30, 2021

A RAMBLING: FIRST DAYTRIP OUT AFTER NOT QUITE POST COVID-19

 It has been a year and a half since we took a trip in the Roadtrek. We have taken it for two hour drives sporadically while we were on lockdown due to Covid-19 to keep it running and I have been running the engine for thirty minutes every week. It has been to the mechanic twice for inspection and maintenance, and recently had new tires put on. We had expected to be off on a week long trip the week before July 4th. We had reservations made a year ago at the campground we spend that week at every year and attend a festival that I have been attending annually since I was a boy. This year, again, like last year, that festival was cancelled. We were going to go anyway until we saw that the weather was to be high heat and high humidity with severe storms predicted almost daily where we were going. On top of that other places that we go to in the area were running on limited hours due to Covid and some were not open at all.   We decided to change the reservation and wound up changing it to next year.  But as I told Meryl, we must take the Roadtrek on a long trip even if it is only for one day and back that night.  It had to be driven and we had to see that all was working as it should be - as at some point, hopefully, this summer we are going somewhere for several days or longer.  We agreed that it would be a good idea to go to where we would have gone at the beginning of the month for the day to check things out down there for ourselves.  That daytrip took place this past week.

 Over the past year and a half with the Roadtrek on the driveway we had taken many things that we normally keep in it out. We had to start searching around the house for where they were and get it all back inside.  We filled the tanks with water. We went through every cabinet to see what was missing from a list we have of what to have in the Roadtrek. It took a couple of days to find almost all of it and move it back in. Almost all because we have a mystery disappearance.  We have three spring extension curtain rods that we put in the aisle under the bed from side to side against the cabinet doors to keep items we put under the bed when traveling. We are pretty sure that we took those out before we took the Roadtrek to have the generator serviced - along with all of the cushions so that should the generator service tech need to work inside to get to connections none of this would be in the way. It came into the house and was stacked on a large folding table.  The cushions went back into the Roadtrek at the end of June we assume - as we remember we did - took the curtain rods back into the Roadtrek and put them SOMEPLACE.  The curtain rods are not in the Roadtrek - ANYWHERE. They are not in the house - ANYWHERE.  We have looked multiple times - EVERYWHERE. Where are they? We do not know. This happens more than it should at our house. Things will disappear - really gone. I check, She checks. We both check, over and over again.  They reappear months later just where they should be and where we have both looked many times.  There is a folk tale about The Borrowers. The Borrowers come and borrow things - use them for a period of time - and then return them to where they took them from. Well, that implausible explanation is the only thing that could explain the disappearances. We are the only ones in the house - no one comes into the house but us.   So The Borrowers have the curtain rods. We have bought new ones -  silver color to distinguish them from the missing white ones. Some day we will find the white ones in the Roadtrek where they are not now.  We were ready. 

 We have been keeping stay at home hours for a year and a half. Up to early morning hours and asleep to mid-day. We started preparing for getting up early a few weeks ago so that when we got up to leave at an hour that would get us the 150 miles to where we were going we would arrive at an hour where we could do things and not be time to have dinner and then head back home.  We made it out of the house before 9 am and on our way after turning on the fridge. We thought we might avoid rush hour traffic heading toward New York City which we would loop around but had to cross two bridges to do so but wound up in bumper to bumper traffic - though we avoided the roadwork crews that start at 10:30 am to work on roads that they continually work on year after year - in the same places. Once on the New Jersey Turnpike heading south we were clear. 

Having not driven very much in a year and a half I have found in the past several months of driving more regularly locally that I tend to not drive as fast as I used to. I find myself just below the speed limit which does not make cars around us very happy. This was also my first trip in the Roadtrek that I have to wear eyeglasses to drive - and that has been a bit strange for me.  I had to focus on getting up to highway speeds with the Roadtrek as we started out and by the NJ Turnpike I was up there over 65 keeping pace with the rest of the vehicles. Once we got to Pennsylvania, the speed limit goes to 70. I have always found that with the 6L engine in the Roadtrek, it is very easy to let the speed get away from you. And with a speed limit of 70, 80 is just a small push of the gas pedal further.  Our Roadtrek holds the road and the speed very well.  Too well - and I backed down every time I glanced down at the speedometer. Of course at 75 we were being passed by some very small cars, but that was OK. We were passed by two Class Cs along the way. I told myself that we don't need to prove anything to them. 

We were heading to Lancaster County, PA. This has been my home away from home for many, many years and it always has been my go to place to relax with rolling farm fields and Amish buggies clip clopping along the road. We like to go to a particular farmers market which is a mix of locals, Amish, Mennonites and some tourists. That was were we were heading for the day - and we can easily spend a whole day there. We arrived about three and a half hours after we left - almost exactly what the ETA was from both the dash GPS and my phone's CoPilot RV GPS app. While we have been at home this was where I was missing the most. 

At the end of June, the Governor of Pennsylvania ended all Covid mask requirements.  We are both fully vaccinated, but we are both also in two high risk categories so we have maintained caution and we still wear masks when in public. With the Covid variants now on the rise and numbers going up instead of going down, we were surrounded by people of all ages not wearing masks. We were not the only ones wearing masks but where we live many are still wearing masks both inside and outside - perhaps because we live in one of the hardest hit counties in the country from Covid. It was strange to be out there with masks wearing in the minority. That was OK, though, as I was where I wanted to be. Meryl was a little more hesitant. 

The day had to be a Friday for this market to be open and this was a Friday with low humidity and a temperature that was not to go over 82. Finally, a day that was comfortable to be outside. There is little that is air conditioned at this market - some smaller buildings have A/C, most do not. There were some things we were looking for that we knew would most likely be there. Some were and some were not.  It was comfortable enough to have lunch outside at a picnic table and the hero sandwich (hoagie,sub, grinder - depending on where you are from)  that I bought from one of the stands was one of the things that I thought about all the time I was home and wanting to be here. When it is hot out, we would have gone back to the Roadtrek to eat the sandwiches with the generator powering the A/C.   We walked more than we have walked in a long time. It was a good tired.  We were there until about 5:00 pm and we headed back to the Roadtrek to go toward the restaurant I had planned to go to for dinner - with a couple of stop offs along the way. 

Dinner was another treat and something I have been looking forward to for what seems like a very long time. It did not disappoint. It is a restaurant that we have gone to many times in the past and one that I did miss not being in this area for so long do to Covid and lockdown. It serves a combination of local Pennsylvania Dutch foods and American together with plenty to eat. It is one that attracts the tourists more than most of the other restaurants that we dine in when in this area, but it reopened following being closed due to Covid - as were the other restaurants in the area closed - with dinner being served later than the other restaurants that we would have gone to that are much more local. 

After dinner we did not head right home. I stopped for gas - which was 20 cents a gallon more than it is at home and a half a tank that I filled cost $50. I like to put gas in the Roadtrek when it needs just half a tank as the total cost on the pump for a full tank is too shocking to see. Even the $50 was a bit of a shock.  We then headed to a Walmart that we knew would have things we were not finding at the Walmart at home - and they did. No special reason why other than the Walmarts at home have had empty shelves now for two years. And it delays leaving where I don't want to leave - but I have that feeling even if we have been in this area over a week. We started driving home after 10:30 pm.  

There was very little traffic heading home.  When we come home from a trip I go to a local 24 hour gas station to fill the tank of the Roadtrek back up. It is difficult getting the Roadtrek out of our driveway into the four lane, busy street in front of our house, so filling the Roadtrek at the end of a trip at home gives me a full tank of gas to have for our next trip. Miles per gallon for this trip came out to over 17 mpg - that has been better, but it was not bad. We put almost 500 miles on the Roadtrek in just the day, down, around, and back.  After the gas station it was almost 3:00 am that we got to the house and then shut the Roadtrek down. 

 One of the best things about traveling in an RV like the Roadtrek, even for just a day's outing, is that you have a bathroom with you, no matter where you are. I never really understand those who won't use the bathroom in their Roadtrek. There is not always a convenient place to stop when one is needed and too often if there is, it is not in a condition that one wants to even walk into.  Having the Roadtrek during this day trip, it came in very handy. 

Many of our readers have figured out that we don't take the types of trips that many others do. We don't much travel to be in nature - though most of the places we go to are outside. We use the Roadtrek as our traveling hotel room. We rarely cook in it  When we travel we eat out. It has always been this way when we travel. If you are on vacation, you eat out. If you are in an area where foods are different from what is common to you when you are home, you go out to try them. So to many, our trips are not that exciting, but they are to us.  We are out to relax. We would rather things not be too exciting, as given some of our "adventures" in the Roadtrek that I have written about over the past ten years now, exciting meant problems. We don't want any problems when we travel. It was good to take this trip even for a day. It has been too long since the last trip we took in the Roadtrek and it was an excellent re-introduction to packing the Roadtrek for a trip, getting in and heading off and putting some much needed miles on it after it has been sitting on the driveway with just a few two hour drives for so long. 

The title of this article starts with "A Rambling" and that is what this article has been. Just a rambling on about a great day in the Roadtrek to a place we love to go to.  There was no how to do this or that. No how to solve this problem or that. It was just a bit of pleasant rambling. There will be more articles about how to do, and there will be more ramblings.

Thanks for rambling with us! 

What's next? I wish I knew!







Saturday, June 19, 2021

Another Generator Tale and Some Basics to Know When the Generator is Not Working

 Our Roadtrek has been sitting on the driveway for over a year and a half because of Covid-19. We live in an area that was hard hit by the virus and we pretty much stayed indoors only going out once every several weeks for essentials. Trips that we had hoped to be able to take in 2020 were not possible. Places that we wanted to go to - if we could have gone away had canceled all of their events or just closed. I have been going out to the Roadtrek and starting the engine every week. We took it for a few local two hour drives - out and back to keep it running, charge the batteries, besides plugging in to charge the batteries. I also had to keep exercising the generator for its monthly two hour continuous run with a half load which is either the air conditioner running or in the cold weather an electric radiant home portable heater plugged into one of the Roadtrek outlets. I did this diligently until February 2021 when it snowed here every week and the snow piled up around the Roadtrek and we could not get into it. It ran fine when it was exercised in January and shut off fine as well.

The second week in March 2021, the weather was getting better. Most of the snow had melted and I went out to exercise the generator. I started the van engine to boost the batteries that are needed to start the generator, put the battery switch on, and pushed the generator start button on the wall inside the Roadtrek. What should have happened was the generator starting to crank, catch, and run. I should have seen the amber light on the switch come on. None of that happened. What did happen was the light did not come on with the switch held in, there was no noise at all - there was no cranking, and when I took my finger off the switch, the switch light did flash on and off once, and I could hear a noise toward the back of the van (where the generator is under the chassis) that went clunk - once. Oh boy!  I tried several times more. 

I went into the house to get Meryl as I was going to try to crawl under the back of the can to the generator - something I am not supposed to do because of a physical issue - and try to start the generator from the switch that is behind the access panel on the front of the generator.  She came out with me - basically to pull me out if I could not get out from under the van - and I crawled under. I opened the access panel - two push up tabs on the bottom of the panel releases it which is easy to do if you are not lying under the van on your side trying to reach up while still supporting yourself on your elbows. I looked inside and the start switch is right there. I pushed the switch and nothing. This switch has no light but when I released the switch I did here the single clunk.

There is a 5 amp fuse inside the generator. This fuse is there to protect the generator starting electronics.  If this fuse is blown, the generator will NOT start. If I could get to the fuse and see if it has blown, then replace it, the generator MIGHT start. The problem was the fuse is down and behind other components and I could not see it. I could not even feel it when I tried to get my finger down to where I thought it should be.  At that point, I could stay under the van any longer and I put the generator access panel back on and crawled backwards to get out - with Meryl's help. 

It was March. Covid-19 was still very much present and we had not been able to schedule appointments for the Covid vaccine. We decided to just leave it alone until we were fully vaccinated and it was warmer to deal with. And we knew it had to be brought into a Cummins/Onan authorized service center. 

By the end of May we were both fully vaccinated and we were trying to get the Roadtrek ready for hopefully being able to start to travel again. I called the generator shop which is in the next county about a 45 minute drive.  They gave me a morning appointment to bring the Roadtrek for them to work on the generator. 

We took the Roadtrek to the Onan shop the morning of the appointment. The appointment was for 10am. We arrived at 9:45. Since we were not sure how long they would need it to work on, Meryl drove the Roadtrek there and I followed in the car.  We parked in the back of the building where the entrance to the shop is and we walked around the building to the office entrance and let them know we were there. We were told just to wait with the Roadtrek in the back as the service tech was finishing a job offsite and would be back very soon. At about 10:20 or so, he arrived. I explained that it would not start and what it did when not starting. He asked where the generator is and I told him and he said, "I was afraid of that!".  He did not like working lying on the ground either.  I showed him the start button inside and turned on the battery switch.  I also told him that the last time they worked on it, it also did not start which was 2018 and the paperwork I have from that repair said the fuse had come loose. He went to the switch inside the Roadtrek and tried to start it - and it did exactly what I had been doing for me  - not start. We told him we would wait or if he thought it would be long we could go and come back. He said either way and we stayed but we had to leave the shop and watch through the open garage door. He went under the van with a work light and in about five minutes I hear the generator start. It has not done that in three months.  He shut it off and started it twice more. As he crawled out I shouted into the garage - "Was it the fuse?" He said it was - it was loose.  I asked why would it go loose and he told me that is what he would have to find out now.


If you have ever been concerned about the Roadtrek being put up on a lift - what he did next (and I knew this is what this shop does as they did it with my Roadtrek in the past) - would make you cringe as I do every time I see them do this.  He got into a forklift and drove it behind the Roadtrek. He centered the fork with the center of the bumper, lowered the fork down and drove under the back of the Roadtrek and raised the fork until it made contact with the bottom of the chassis and lifted the back up about two feet off the  ground.  Then he went back under.  I could not really see what he was doing from that point so I went to sit in the car with Meryl to read an ebook on my phone.

The car was parked on the other end of the parking lot and after awhile I moved the car and parked it facing the open garage door and the Roadtrek. About an hour went by and he looked like he was finishing and then he put the back of the Roadtrek down  with the  forklift.  I went over and asked him if it was done. It was. This all was just less than an hour including the regular maintenance that I asked be done on the generator. I asked him about the loose fuse and what did he do about it so that it would not go loose again. He told me then that it turned out not to be the fuse. He thought it was at first because when he put his fingers in around the fuse, he was pushing around and thought he felt the fuse seat back in, and  then then the generator was able to start. When he looked closer with the Roadtrek lifted up he found a plug and socket that are supposed to be tightly snapped together and not come apart and it is right behind the fuse. When he touched the fuse earlier he had actually pushed the plug and socket close enough together for the generator to be able to start. OK, but I had to ask why would this have come apart. What he told me I don't really accept,but it was working and there was no reason to question further. He told me that when it was all put together originally this was not snapped tightly together as it should have been. I said that was ten years ago and he just shrugged. BUT the Onan started.  

Now, back in 2016 when I first brought the Roadtrek to this same shop to work on the generator, they had to take it down to repair it and took it apart. It is possible that this plug and socket were not tightly snapped back together then and over time with all the vibrating the generator does when it runs, it is possible that finally in January 2021, this connection shook loose. I don't know. As long as it works now - I am fine with it.  

He also did as I had asked them to do, an oil change, a fuel filter change, and a spark plug change. That was all done.  I then asked him - and this is the important part of this story, if he tested it under load. He had not. What this means is did he test the generator running with a load - something running inside the Roadtrek powered at 110 volts by the generator - like the air conditioner. He said I could do that while he stood by but he wanted me to bring the Roadtrek outside the shop to do so as he did not want to fill the shop with exhaust. Fair enough, 

I baked the Roadtrek out of the garage, went to the switch and the generator started right up. Then I let it run for three minutes - I usually let it warm up for five minutes before putting on a load but I did not want to make him wait around too long for me to do that so I let it run for three minutes this time, then I turned on the A/C. NOTHING! I knew exactly what was wrong. We called him outside and let him know and he went under the van to the generator and clicked the circuit breaker back up. 

When there is no power coming from the Onan the circuit breaker is tripped - and any work done inside the small space in the generator, a hand will surely find the circuit breaker switch and accidentally knock it down to off. He was under and I thought he had already reset the breaker but had not. I tried the A/C and again nothing. The generator was still running. I plugged in the microwave which I keep unplugged over the winter (just to not overwhelm the Onan when I exercise it every month and in the cold it is harder starting it). The microwave had power. I slid the A/C switch to ON and it started. He had by then reset the circuit breaker. 

SO - the point here is  - if you have work done on the generator, even just an oil change, or you do work on the Onan - if there is no power inside with the Onan running -  the service tech or you hit the circuit breaker handle and turned it off. That is fairly simple to get to and flip it back up.

This Onan shop which is a sales and service center for all types of generators from big house and really large worksite generators to as small as the Onan Microlite 2800. We have been there when they were working on a large Class A's generator. They charge $166 an hour labor plus parts. Our job took just less than an hour and we were charged $170. total. This included the labor time, the oil, the fuel filter, and the spark plug.  This was a LOT less than we were anticipating.  

The Onan now runs with the push of the switch and we  know that if we need it, it is ready.  In the next few days I will exercise it for its usual two hours a month with the A/C running to get it back to its usual exercise routine.
 

A FEW THINGS TO TAKE AWAY ABOUT THE GENERATOR FROM THIS TALE:

How this service tech went under the Roadtrek - without it lifted up  - was interesting and maybe it is how others do it.  He went under with a creeper and went in from the side and not straight in under  the bumper (as I go under). This might give a little more ability to move under the low van and if I have to go under I will try it that way.  It seems a lot better than going head in from under the bumper and the hitch.

MORE IMPORTANT:

1)  If your generator does not start, the first thing to try to check is the fuse. The fuse if blown will prevent the generator from starting as no 12 volt power is getting to the generator's starter.

2) If your generator is running BUT there is NO POWER coming from it to the inside of the Roadtrek 110 volt appliances plugged in, the first thing to check is the circuit breaker INSIDE the Onan at the front looking in. Reset that breaker by flipping it UP and you should now have power inside the Roadtrek from the generator. 

Of course with both of these - IF NOTHING MORE IS WRONG!  

 

Here is a link to our general Onan Generator Article - for much more detail about how it works.