Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Anyway, we were off. No trip out of this area lately does not include stopping in traffic and it was almost an hour and a half to get to what should have been a forty five minute ride. Once we got on to the New Jersey Turnpike, despite the construction there, it was an open run. We were taking Interstate 95 almost all of the way. Many hate this route because of the traffic around Washington, D.C. on both sides of the city - especially if you get there between 4 and 7 for their three hour "rush hour". We were going to get into this no matter what and this was the most direct route to take.
We did have to diverge off of Route 95 when we approached Baltimore. No propane is permitted in the tunnel that travels under the city of Baltimore and that means getting off of I95. There are two ways to go - to the west of the city on I695, the Baltimore Beltway 0r around the east side of the city on the same I695. I asked on an RV travel and routes forum and everyone recommended taking the eastern route. We did and had no problems and we moved quickly through the Baltimore area taking one of the bridges to get to the south of Baltimore. If you are ever traveling this way, this is the route to take.
We approached Washington, D.C. without any traffic at all and went around the city on the Capital Beltway which is I495. It was approaching 4:00 pm. On the other side of Washington we were not so lucky and went directly into stop and go traffic. Our plan was to stop in Fredricksburg, Virginia for dinner which is about 40 miles south of D.C. and it took us more than two hours to get there. Of course, along the way between the two cities, Meryl needed to make a pit stop - and we were stuck in the middle lane with no way to move to the right lane in the bumper to bumper traffic. Let me explain, that the Roadtrek is a very long and large vehicle. It takes some planning to change lanes and the one thing that you never really want to do is make sudden changes - unless you wish to crash into the car that suddenly comes up out of nowhere in the lane next to you (and the way the mirrors work you will not always see a car along side in just the small blindspot that exists). In this case, there was just no way to get into the non-existent spaces between car bumpers along side of us. We did wind up passing the rest area, moving gradually over to the right when we could and then getting back on in the opposite direction to go back and try again.
We finally arrived in Fredricksburg and had dinner. This is where this great WaWa gas station is also. It always has the cheapest price for gas and this time I paid only $3.03 a gallon. This may not sound like a big deal to some but at home gas when we left was $3.57 and higher at most stations. And the Roadtrek takes A LOT of gas! (On the way home just a week later, the gas at this station had gone up six cents per gallon. Still good - but really, six cents in one week?!?)
Well, after dinner the road was finally clear and we headed south to the turn off that goes around Richmond and takes you to I64 which travels along the peninsula into the Tidewater that leads to Williamsburg. It was after 10 pm when we arrived at American Heritage Campground. The office closes much earlier and our space was posted on a bulletin board next to the front door. From the map I could see that the space was two down from the bathhouse. We traveled through the main road of the campground and counted rows to row 6. When we got to where the space was shown on the map we could not find a number for the space, but where we were was exactly where we should be. With a bit of maneuvering and guidance from Meryl I backed into the space.
When we were at this campground in the summer I found that the concrete pad spaces were perfectly level. I rolled back and forth on this pad to find the most level spot and found it - exactly level. This was important tonight because after we hooked up our electric and cable I wanted to install a pair of levels inside the front of the Roadtrek, one on the dash and the other on the inside of the door. Up to now we have been using a round level that we place on the only flat spot of the inside of the Roadtrek that we have found and that is between the seats and back on the enamel floor. It means leaning into the side door to see the bubble, move out again, and move the van until that bubble comes level. It has been a pain. To install levels inside, the Roadtrek must be on perfectly level ground - or made level. This spot, I knew, would be ideal for this and I came prepared with a pair of adhesive stick on levels. This would be an easier task if you are screwing the levels on and not using the adhesive, but I, at this point, was not into the idea of putting holes into my new Roadtrek. So with a great bit of maneuvering and adjusting I got the right left level on the middle of the dash (where you really cannot screw into anyway) and the other for front to back level - well, we tried a lot of spots for that and none were easily visible on the door. We wound up putting this on the cloth header above the driver's door. Perfect. I was so happy. For the rest of the trip - well, almost the rest of the trip - I could just glace up and on the dash and see that when I pulled in the Roadtrek was perfectly level. So you ask, why not the whole rest of the trip. Along the way, back north while still in Virginia, I glanced up at the level on the header and it was gone. The adhesive did not stick to the cloth very well. I figured it was lost out the door when we had opened it along somewhere that day - but when we stopped for dinner on the way, Meryl found it stuck to the back of my pants. No longer usable, but at least not lost. And, of course, I had to stop and buy another pair and get the RT level in the Pennsylvania campground, and put the front back level in some other spot where it would stick. We decided on the passenger door - where with a flashlight pointed at it, it would be visible from the driver's seat. And when we got home, I bought two stainless steel screws and screwed it place permanently.
A few tidbits about the trip. On the third day at the campground as we were about to leave in the morning, I realize why we could not find the number for the space that first night. It was on the back of the electric box. It was there because this was a pull through space. There was nothing but road in front of us or behind us. This discovery made it so easy to get into the space. No backing up - just pull straight in from the road behind. Now, we know to look for this type of thing.
About the toilet bags. First, they smell, even after use like vanilla sugar cookies - an odd, but interesting observation. They really worked well. We used the campground toilets before we settled in for the night and took care of all posterior business then. Once we closed ourselves in for the night, however, we did need to use the toilet for urination - several times (when you get older you will understand). We kept the same bag in the whole night -and I must admit that each morning it was quite full, but wearing gloves, I would remove it from the toilet and seal it up - get it outside immediately and add it to the garbage bag that we were leaving for the trash pick up. They had to wonder what was so heavy inside that garbage bag. It really was quite heavy when full - and it really never was completely full.
Before we left I had purchased - because of our unusual encounters with the weather this past season - an emergency broadcast weather radio that receives the NOAA forecasts and warnings. I had this with us and on just in case. The weather in Virginia was beautiful and just about every day went well over 60 degrees. Nights were warm enough that I did not need to turn on the heat most nights. We had been discussing whether we should stay on Tuesday in Williamsburg, as planned, and leave on Wednesday OR if we should leave on Tuesday. Before we left we learned that a commitment that we had with a local museum at home at which we do a holiday history program had changed dates and if we returned on Thursday night as planned, we would be out on Friday to do this program. We were thinking that perhaps this was pushing ourselves too much and it would be much more comfortable to be home on Wednesday night instead. When we paid for the nights at American Heritage, we told the woman at the desk that we might decide to leave on Tuesday and not Wednesday, but we wanted to keep it open. We paid for five nights instead of six and the space would be available to us if we wanted to add that sixth night. Nice! On Monday, I listened to the NOAH forecast - rain was expected on Tuesday night into Wednesday with flooding expected on the I95 corridor. That made our decision for us- we were leaving Tuesday. We would spend most of the day in Williamsburg and head off around 2 or 3 pm. This was a good decision because it was raining when we got to Pennsylvania (we had called ahead to change our reservation there). It was a better decision when I put on the NOAH radio in Pennsylvania and heard an emergency SNOW alert for Lancaster County to start on Wednesday evening at 7! Here we go again, in PA with snow on the way. OK - we were getting used to fast get away now. We spent part of the day in PA on Wednesday, had dinner for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and I was determined to be out of the snow zone before it started at 7:00 pm. It did snow - about four inches but we never saw a flake. We closed out our camping season true to form - with an unanticipated storm warning!
So how was Williamsburg? Come back next week to read all about Grand Illumination and Colonial Williamsburg in the Christmas Season!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
We would be traveling without water and no water hookup when we got to the campground. This meant a different way to start thinking about traveling and we started planning for this trip back in September with what we would do - to go waterless. There are three basic needs for water. Drinking - easily taken care of with bottled water. Washing - also possible with bottled water and a basin to wash in. Toilet needs - that was the question. The campground has a bathhouse with toilets, sinks, and showers, but in the cold you don't really want to get up in the middle of the night to get dressed, walk out to the restroom, and then come back to go back to bed. Some will say that you can just use the toilet in the winter substituting anti-freeze for water to flush, but this still means dumping the tank and if the temps fall to freezing this is not an easy task with a cold macerator hose that is coiled up into a small compartment that will not move as freely as it does when it is warm. This was not a difficult puzzle to solve, because there are things made just for this purpose. The easiest is to purchase a supply of "wag bags". These are sold under various names in camping stores. Walmart sells two brands of these - one brand in the stores and a different brand online. These are intended to be used with a frame that has a toilet seat on top and you hang these bags below the seat. As it turns out these bags fit perfectly in the Roadtrek toilet.
Let me explain what these bags are, because even I did not believe there was such a thing when I first learned about them. This is a large silver color zip lock bag that has inside an even larger black plastic bag attached at the bottom. Inside that inner bag is a chemical or "bio-gell" that gells all liquid and solid waste and deodorizes it. What you do, is open the ziplock bag and carefully pull the inner bag out. You place that outer bag down into the Roadtrek toilet and then follow that with the fully open large inner bag. You gather the edges of the black bag around the edge of the toilet and put the seat down on top trapping the edges into place. You then reach in (its clean at this point! but I did use gloves as I did not know if the chemical inside would be a problem to come into contact with) and open the bag as much as possible pushing the sides against the toilet bowl. The bag is now ready for use. You can do whatever you need to do in the bag. When you are finished, you simply lift the toilet seat, gather the clean edges of the bag up and fold them over to close the inner black bag, and then let that bag go back into the attached outer bag. Zip the ziplock and dispose. The companies that make these claim that it is legal and safe to dispose of them in any garbage receptacle. There is no odor and they do not leak.
I had read that others do this with no problem and we decided that this is what we would try for this trip. As I said, Walmart does sell them in their camping department. They are not cheap - almost $11.00 for six bags. During the day we would use public restrooms or the restroom at the campground but at night after bed, if nature called, we would use the bag - pre-placed in the toilet. I began to find out as I looked in Walmarts for these bags that they are popular items and often sell out. I started buying boxes of bags in September. This trip would be for nine days and I was not certain how many we would need. Ultimately, I bought six boxes at various Walmarts - that was 36 bags all together. We could always return full boxes that were not opened and it was better to have them with us than find out that the local Williamsburg Walmart did not have them. I will talk about using these later on.
For drinking and washing we could use bottled water, but Meryl had the idea to get a Brita Water Dispenser. This is a small rectangular dispenser with a valve spout that filters water for drinking. With this we could use water just as we would from the sink faucet and we could fill the dispenser every night at the restroom of the campground (or the hose connection at our hookup). With the grey water tank winterized, we did not want to allow any water go down the sink drain, so we began looking for a plastic box with a lid that would fit perfectly in the sink. Meryl saw one that would be perfect in Lowes early on, but did not buy it for some reason. Of course, Lowes no longer carried this once we went back to purchase it. We looked all over including several stores when we where traveling in September and October for this box. On a trip to a Kmart we found the box - it is the Snapware Smart Store box that says on the label that it fits a 14" shelf. It fits inside the Roadtrek sink perfectly. The handled lid snaps tightly on. Meryl decided that by cutting a hole in one of the corners of the lid, once out of the sink the lid could be snapped on and it would be easy to carry the box without spilling so that we could empty it through the hole that we added in the lid into a sink at the bathhouse. This worked perfectly. We set up the Brita Dispenser on the side of the sink, spout pointing into the sink, with the Snapware box (no lid of course) in the sink to catch all of the water. Not only was this easy to put water into a cup (paper, of course) but it was easy to turn on the spout and wash your hands under the running water, all caught by the box without a drop over the side. Each morning, I simply lifted the box of water out of the sink, snapped the lid on and carried it out to dump. When we would leave for the morning we would place this box under the sink in the cabinet, and put the Brita Dispenser into the sink on a large towel to keep it from moving around (and catch any stray drips). Again, this all worked perfectly!
We were all set. We were heading for Williamsburg, Virginia for the first full weekend of December. I made my campground reservations early in October to be sure we had a space and I also requested a space near the restroom building. We would go for 7 nights in Virginia and one night on the way back in Lancaster just to break up the almost nine hour (longer with stops and traffic) trip. On the way down to Virginia we would do the trip on one run. My only concern was the weather. Last year had we had the Roadtrek and making this trip there was a large snow storm at home at this same time. I am not ready yet to deal with the Roadtrek in snow, so if that was the case again this year, I would cancel the reservations, forfeit the $10 to the campground in Williamsburg for canceling, and hope for better weather in 2012. And if you have been reading along on this site you know that we do not have the best of luck with weather - a ten foot blizzard would not have surprised me.
We were leaving on a Thursday. The festivities in Williamsburg take place on Sunday and we decided to extend our little winter vacation to return on the next Thursday. Happily, as we were leaving the weather was fine - and predictions were for good weather all along - and good temperatures as well. We were off to the American Heritage Campground in Williamsburg, Virginia.
END OF PART 1.
Come back next week for PART 2.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED. DO NOT USE THIS ARTICLE TO WINTERIZE. USE THIS ARTICLE INSTEAD:
If you live in an area where the temperatures drop below freezing in the late Fall or Winter, you are going to need to winterize your Roadtrek. Essentially, this is removing all of the water from your Roadtrek's plumbing and keeping it from freezing. Most RVs have to have this done. Some of the large RVs have heating elements that will keep the plumbing warm in the coldest temperatures, but Roadtreks, for the most part are too small to install the equipment required to do this.
As the temperatures started to drop on us, here in the Northeast, in October we started to become concerned about when to do this - we had a few more trips before we planned to put the Roadtrek on the driveway for the winter. During our trip in late October we almost regretted not doing the winterizing by then as we had a few cold nights with the temps coming down near and at freezing. When we consulted the dealership and a few other RVers we were told that the temperatures would really have to be below 28 degrees F for three days and nights in a row before really needing to be concerned and as long as the days were coming back to well above freezing - in the mid to upper 40's - we should be fine. Just in case, I put a some antifreeze into our waste tanks and with our 190 Popular we have the option to shut off one of the two water tanks - the exterior water tank and we drained that, and turned the system over to just use the interior water tank - which Roadtrek claims can be used up to 14 degrees F outside. It is all a bit like shooting crap. Maybe the water in the pipes will freeze under these conditions and maybe they will not. If they freeze and the water inside of them expands and puts pressure on the interior of the pipe, the pipe bursts and then you have a very expensive repair that is not covered under warranty. We made it through that trip just fine - except for that freak snow storm that I wrote about - but made sure that we had an appointment with dealer service shortly after to winterize the Roadtrek.
Many winterize their RVs themselves, and we intend to do that in the future, but our dealer offers a "demo" winterizing during which the owners watch while the service tech winterizes the RV and you then are taught how to do it all yourself in the future. This cost just slightly more than the regular winterizing at this dealer service center, and it seemed to us to be well worth it to see it all and be taught by an "expert".
The day of the winterizing, we were having some other work done - and while we were waiting for that to be finished we walked around the dealer's RV parts and supplies store, and saw something called a Water Pump Bypass Kit. This kit is installed on the water pump and allows RV antifreeze to be pumped directly into the pipes from the bottle connected into the water lines using the RVs water pump. I had no idea if the Roadtrek had such a thing already built in so we passed it by. Later, we learned that the RT does not have such a bypass (though it does have a built in bypass for the hot water heater), and during the winterizing, we stopped and purchased this and the service tech doing the winterizing installed it for us. I will go into more detail about this as I describe the process of winterizing the Roadtrek.
The following is what we were taught. Please note that this service tech used a combination of accepted methods. He used both compressed air to clear the lines of all water and he put RV anti-freeze into the lines. Some do one or the other. Some do both. For the little additional time that it takes to do both, it is well worth the added protection. With both the whole process was less than an hour.
So - to winterize the Roadtrek - any Roadtrek - here is how it is done...
TO BEGIN YOU WILL NEED -
2-3 bottle of RV antifreeze - this is the PINK antifreeze specifically made for RVs and nothing other than that should be used. Never use engine anti-freeze! It is poison and you are putting this into your drinking water system.
Ratchet Socket Wrench with 1 -1/16" socket (For Roadtrek Water Heater)
Fitting for Air Compressor to Connect to City Water Inlet (standard garden hose faucet)
FOR FIRST TIME YOU MAY WISH TO INSTALL THE CAMCO PUMP CONVERTER WINTERIZING KIT
1 - Open all spigots & outdoor drain & drain fresh water tanks - let air out of faucets – hot and cold, shut spigots off. Make sure, if you have a 190, that the water system is set to "summer" mode and not with the exterior tank shut off in "winter" mode.
2 – Drain (dump) waste tanks (Flush Grey & Black Tanks- clean black tank with wand and dump again)
3 - Open hot water heater outside panel. First release pressure by pressing the pressure overflow release valve - STAND OUT OF THE WAY. Then using the 1-1/16" socket remove the anode tube (big nut) slowly, allow pressure to release before removing all the way - water will come out with force if there is any pressure remaining in the tank. Remove the anode bolt completely & allow water to pour out. Leave out. (Allow hot water tank to cool before draining.)
4 – Place the inside shower head on floor drain. Open all faucets, hot and cold, including sink/ toilet/shower/outside shower. Drain inside shower into floor drain. Recap all drains and close faucets.
5 - Bypass the water heater - 3 valves (in front of it) when pointing at the aisle they are open and this is “normal operation” position. Turn each of these three valves to winterize/bypass position. (After winter put back in position.) Never turn valve top left back behind big red valve. Never touch outside shower valves in cabinet.
6 - Replace anode tube(outside of water heater) get it started straight & carefully tighten by hand, once hand tight then use wrench. Close the pressure release valve. Replace hot water heater cover outside. (There is some disagreement between myself and Meryl as to if this was done before or after the next step. Some I have consulted with since, recommend doing this now.)
NOTE: I HAVE BEEN ADVISED BY ROADTREK THAT USING COMPRESSED AIR TO WINTERIZE THE WATER SYSTEM IN A ROADTREK CAN CAUSE DAMAGE IN MULTIPLE WAYS AND IT SHOULD NOT BE DONE. I AM TAKING THAT ADVICE AND I RECOMMEND THAT YOU SKIP THE COMPRESSED AIR SECTION THAT FOLLOWS AND INSTEAD RUN THE LINES DRY WITH THE WATER PUMP - IN OTHER WORDS RUN THE WATER PUMP AND OPEN AND CLOSE EACH FAUCET AND FLUSH THE TOILET UNTIL NO WATER COMES OUT AND THEN PROCEED WITH PUTTING IN THE ANTI-FREEZE.
SKIP - 7 - Set an air compressor to 25 to 40 psi (this tech used 40 psi - many use 25 psi or 30 psi at the most - NEVER GO BEYOND 40 PSI), attach compressor hose to city water intake valve using a nipple or device sold for this purpose at RV supply stores. Turn on compressor. (Faucets closed). With the air running open ALL hot & cold water faucets - ONE AT A TIME (including outside shower, inside shower, sink, and toilet flush) and let all remaining water out until only air comes out. Close each after a few seconds of just air. Let shower head drain into floor drain. SHUT OFF COMPRESSOR, REMOVE FROM ROADTREK BY DISCONNECTING FROM CITY WATER INTAKE. You are finished with the compressor.
NEW 7 - Turn on your water pump and open ALL hot and cold water faucets one at a time
(including outside shower, inside shower, sink, and toilet flush) and let all remaining water out until only the water stops. Let shower head drain into floor drain. You may find that water does not come out of all of the faucets as you have already emptied the line.
THIS IS THE POINT THAT THE WATERLINE BYPASS KIT WAS INSTALLED. YOU ONLY INSTALL THIS THE FIRST TIME AND LEAVE IT IN PLACE PERMANENTLY. WHEN THE TECH LOOKED AT THE PROXIMITY OF THE WATER LINE TO THE WATER PUMP IN THE ROADTREK HE DECIDED TO ADD A SMALL PVC ELBOW JOINT INTO THE LINE TO MOVE THE VALVE THAT HE WAS INSTALLING AWAY FROM THE PUMP TO ALLOW MORE ROOM TO USE IT. THIS IS A SMALL PIECE OF PIPE AVAILABLE AT ANY PLUMBING RETAILER.
8 - Inside - Use waterline bypass kit now to left side of opening under seat at water pump (remove the brass cap on the new brass valve just installed & screw hose in place where that cap set & turn valve). Valve pointing to pump is normal operating position. Point to intake hose to pump antifreeze. System is pressurized so open & close sink faucets to relieve pressure. Place the tank bypass kit hose into an open bottle of antifreeze as deep as it will go. Turn on water pump. Open sink faucet and when you the hear pump, shut off sink faucet. Pump stops - if doesn’t stop something is open. Turn cold sink valve on until pink antifreeze comes out of the sink faucet, shut off. Repeat with hot sink position, and shower hot & cold (into floor drain), outside shower hot & cold, and toilet flush. Watch for the pink antifreeze to come out of each. Make sure the anti-freeze is the same color of pink as in the bottle. If it is lighter there may be water mixed in at first, so just let more antifreeze flow through each faucet and the toilet until you see pure antifreeze coming through.
9 - Pull hose out of bottle. Run sink faucet into sink. Shut off pump. Turn water line bypass kit valve off. Remove hose, replace brass cap.
10- Pour antifreeze into sink drain and floor drain to fill both traps, & then some into toilet drain for macerator. Dump tank(s) until pink comes out of the macerator hose nozzle. (In this way you are protecting the macerator by getting antifreeze into it also. If you have no macerator then you don't need to dump antifreeze out of your waste tanks, but do be sure to have at least a half gallon of antifreeze in the black tank so that the tank does not dry out!
11 - Leave caps off clean ("fresh") water tanks for a couple of days to air dry them out.
12 - Pour ½ gallon antifreeze into black tank through the toilet and ½ gallon antifreeze into gray tank down the sink drain. Pour some antifreeze into the sink drain again into the trap just to be sure the antifreeze put in at Step 10 does not get pushed out when you put in the half gallon for the gray tank.
13- UPDATE - Pour some antifreeze into the toilet just enough to cover the flap, and leave it there on top of the flush flap. This will keep it moist all winter (as it would be with water on the flap when in summer use). The "cocolube" formerly recommended gets thick and pasty in the cold and is a mess. The antifreeze will keep the flap moist.
14- Leave shower drain loose.
THAT CONCLUDES THE WINTERIZING PROCESS.
What you have done is replace all of the water in the pipes and lines, first with air to dry them out and then with anti-freeze. Many have their own ways to do this process.This is how we were shown. I know that those who have done this will say, but we do it this way. That is fine. I will stick with what I was shown by a Roadtrek service technician.
Now, to start up in the Spring- (and I will get into this in more detail this coming Spring when we actually do this)
1 - Pressure in line - put hot water bypass valves to normal (open).
2 – Fill both fresh water tanks.
3 - Turn winter/summer valves to normal.
4 - Send water through system using the water pump including the hot water heater. Open each faucet and allow cleaning water to run through each – hot and cold positions. Do this twice.
5 - ½ cup Clorox in fresh water tank - fill & send through system using the water pump including the hot water heater. Open each faucet and allow cleaning water to run through each – hot and cold positions.
6 - Fill tanks and do #4 again. Make sure there is no pink in the water. If there is a chlorine taste to the water, do it again.
Again, I tell you all this to illustrate how it is done - not to recommend or instruct you to do any of this in this way - I take no responsibility if you do it and there is any problem or damage what so ever...
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Anyway, we are in Lancaster, PA. We went to bed last night with the heat pump on and the temperatures outside in the forties. The overnight forecast called for temperatures to pretty much remain there. Early in the morning, I awoke to cold air being blown down on me from the vents in the ceiling above the bed. I knew right away that this meant that the temperatures had dropped below forty degrees and at when that happens the heat pump does not able to put out heat. This happened on our last trip, but then, I had anticipated the cold night and had turned on the propane before coming into the Roadtrek for the night so that the furnace could be run if necessary. Again, the weatherman lied. The temps were to remain above 40 through the night and into the morning. I turned off the heat pump, bundled under the blanket, and went back to sleep.
When the alarm clock went off, I turned the heat pump back on and raised the thermostat. The heat started to fill the RV in a few minutes. It was time to get up and enjoy another boring day.
It was Tuesday. Tuesday in Lancaster County is the day the Roots Market if open. I wrote in July about our visit to Green Dragon Farmers Market. Roots is very similar. It is a little smaller than Green Dragon but a lot of fun. The plan was to spend the day at Roots!
Roots Market (pronounced by the locals as "Ruts") is located in the town of Mannheim, Pennsylvania, right off of Route 72. We have been going here for years - when we are in Pennsylvania on a Tuesday (which has not been often). Many years ago there used to be Christmas Sales Auctions at Roots on Saturday nights and we would make that an annual special trip just to attend the auction. That was always fun and I have a lot of great memories of those nights. Sadly, the auctions ended. I have never really been able to find out why, but the gentleman who ran the business that ran the auction was suddenly gone one year. Well, you won't find a Christmas auction at Roots any longer but there are still animal auctions and produce auctions. If you need a goat or five cases of potatoes, this is the place to go for a bargain.
I have written about Roots before and I will not bore you more telling you about our delightfully boring trip by repeating what you may have read before. We arrived at Roots and the parking lots were jammed. I was surprised as it was more crowded than it had been in July! There were parking spaces that a car could have parked in easily, but with a 20 foot long Roadtrek with a spacer tire sticking out the back bumper some spaces that a car can get into and not block the road are not always a good choice for the Roadtrek. We headed out of one parking lot - and let me also say that these are grass parking lots - no pavement - and we headed over to one of the several others. One lot looked like there were wide open spaces, but as we approached I could see that they were full of deep, wet mud. No way was I going to put the Roadtrek into one of those to sink. We kept driving and looking. The lot that I had found on that last trip here with the Roadtrek was full as well. We went back to the first lot and drove around. There was a spot open on the grass that we could fit in and the ground looked solid. We parked and it was fine. See - no excitement...
We spent the entire day at Roots. If you are waiting for me to say that we came back to find the Roadtrek tire deep in the mud... well, you are going to be disappointed. We got into the Roadtrek and drove right out.
The next day was our appointment at the service center for our demo winterizing and the repair of our black tank sensor monitor. I wanted to call the service center to let them know that we were actually in Pennsylvania already and that we could be there earlier than anticipated as they thought that we were driving down for just the day from New York. Meryl called and got the great woman that has been helping us all along. Meryl told her that we could be there earlier - great. And then when Meryl hung up she told me that she was just told that the part that was needed to repair the black tank had not come in. The little hairs on my neck stood and I said to myself - we made this trip mostly for this reason - and while we are having a great time I do not want to drive back to PA for another service visit. I made some nasty noises and asked Meryl to call back and say that we would be there but if the tank repair was not to be done we would not be there early. Why rush if all we will be doing is the winterize session? Meryl reluctantly called back. I saw her smile - good news. The part was there. It was a mistake that it had not come in and had been held aside. All was good again - we were back on track!
We finished the day with a not so great dinner at a restaurant that we had not been to for awhile. Of course, a stop at a different Walmart ended the night out and we headed back to the campground.
The pop up trailer was still there. It appeared that an older couple were in it. At one point Meryl met him outside and said hello. He ignored her. She came back to say, "So much for all those friendly people you told me about that we would encounter at RV parks..."
Before we closed up for the night and we inside, we had to fill the waste tanks with water so that we could dump the tanks the next morning before the service appointment. It is not nice to have service technicians work on your tank full of pooh. Tanks should be at least 2/3 full when you dump and we had a lot of water to add to get them to that point. And we did not have that much water in our fresh water tank. We carry an empty gallon water bottle with us. We would fill that as many times as necessary to dump into the toilet and then down the sink drain. We would fill it from the water spigot in our space and the temperatures were dropping into the forties again.
A hose faucet is not like a sink faucet. There is nothing to keep the water from just splashing as it comes out. It is not easy to hit a whole in a jug the size of a quarter. It got wet and it got cold. We needed about 20 gallons all together and like a bucket brigade, we filled the tanks. We finally went in to dry off and settle in. I noticed a light outside our rear windows as I was closing the curtains. I asked Meryl if she had brought in the lantern that she had placed on top of the electric box outside to give us light while we filled the jug. I guess not, she replied. She went back out to get it.
Another delightful and yet boring day! We had what we had been hoping for. This was what all of our trips in the Roadtrek so far should have been like!
When we got up the next morning we dumped the tanks and headed to the dealer service center to first have the tank repaired and then do the demo winterizing. We are getting to know the stores that are walking distance from the service center all too well. After about three hours at the stores, we got a call that the tank was repaired and we should come back to do the winterizing.
It turns out that the part that was to be replaced on the tank - the resistor that measures the resistance between sensors covered by water in the tank, did not fix the problem when replaced. The tank still read 2/3 full when empty. The service tech decided to replace the sensors on the tank - and do you know what? For the first time, ever, I saw the black tank monitor read empty and stay that way!
I am sorry if this all has been a dreary read - but for me it was a delight, because the trip was an uneventful wonder. Next article, I will write about the winterizing - and if you have never winterized an RV or you are someone thinking about an RV - especially a Roadtrek - I will give you the whole process start to finish.
Oh yes, we saw the result of the snow storm - remember the "historic storm" in October - in several places along the way in Pennsylvania. Here is a photo of the snow left almost two weeks after in a parking lot near the Roadtrek dealer. At least, we know that we may the right decision to leave...
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
When we left Pennsylvania suddenly Meryl suggested that we come back the two days before the service appointment to finish the trip that barely got started. I thought that was a great idea, but I must admit that in the back of my mind I wondered what would go wrong if we went. We decided to wait and see. We did not make any campground reservation. The likelihood of this campground booking to capacity in the beginning of November was slim. If all was well, we would call the morning that we were leaving and get a site reserved.
I watched the weather as far in advance as you can for a period of about ten days ahead. It looked good. Too good. It was to be warm - especially for November and it was to be nice and sunny. Day to day, I kept checking the updates. By Sunday of the week of the appointment we knew that the trip was on.
When we travel we take some things out of the Roadtrek that we bring back into the house that we don't want to leave inside for any extended period of time, so there were things - not many things - but things that had to be packed back inside. We also had to fill at least one water tank for the trip. We filled the tank on Saturday and put what we would need on the trip on Sunday. Everything was set to go.
And I went to bed Sunday night thinking about what could happen that had not yet happened while we were away. Meryl had joking said "tornado". Unlikely, but as we had learned this past year, anything is possible.
Monday morning came and we got up and called the campground. Of course, they had a space for us and we even requested and were given a particular one that we had been in before. We were off.
Of course, there is no such thing anymore as traveling off Long Island where we live without encountering traffic and we wound up in a long traffic jam that seemed to be the result of one car over on the side of the road with a tow truck. This was not even mentioned on the radio traffic reports, but we sat bumper to bumper for an hour. Things generally get better once you cross the state line into New Jersey and not only does the traffic improve (most of the time) but the gasoline prices drop about fifty cents per gallon.
Half-way through New Jersey and it is possible to pick up the Country station coming out of Philadelphia on the radio and with a mix of old and new country songs we cruised into Pennsylvania and headed southwest. The sun was out and the temperature was nicely comfortable. It looked like we would get what we have been hoping for - a nice, relaxing trip.
We arrived at the campground - Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster - and greeted the two ladies in the office who had been there when we had left suddenly ten days before. We told them that we hoped that another sudden weather disaster would not be trailing along with us again. All laughed, but as things have been going, it was a cautious laugh. We paid for two days and went out to the Roadtrek to get it into the space. Old Mill Stream Campground is one of the few in this area that is open all year and those that are not had closed at the end of October.
When we pull in to a space we always check the electricity and also see if we can find a level spot on the gravel. We had been in this same space before and liked it because it has easy access in and out to the main entrance/exit road in the campground. We noticed that in the space next to us there was a pop-up trailer. A pop-up trailer is basically a tent on wheels. I knew that the night would get a lot colder than the warm day temperatures and wondered just what it would be like to be in a trailer/tent with net sides. What I remembered about this space is that it is not quite level. It is close but it took a lot of moving around to find the spot. I figured that if I could find it now, we would know exactly where to place the van when we came back at night. We tried for some time and never did find level ground. It was close but off enough that we could have used a lego block under both front wheels to raise them up to level the whole van. We would decide on that when we got back at night. We were off to the places that we like to go.
When I wrote about our trip over July Fourth weekend I wrote about an attraction called Kitchen Kettle. There are some places in this area that we have been going to for years and years and we just like to go back to. For us they are relaxing and for me they bring back memories of relaxing times that I have had there in the past. That is usually one of the first places we head to when we have no special agenda to follow when we are here and that is where we went this day.
I will not go into the details. Check back in July's articles and you will see what this place is all about. Again, nothing very special, but nice. In fact, if someone said, tell me what is nice about it, I could not really say any one thing that would make any real sense. It is just one of those places that we like. We arrived, parked the Roadtrek in one of the several RV spaces - the little Roadtrek really lost in the large parking space meant for a bus-sized RV. We then just strolled around in and out of the little shops that make up Kitchen Kettle Village. Things were starting to be decorated for Christmas - even though the weather felt like early September. Pleasant and nice. And most importantly, relaxing.
By the time that we were ready to leave Kitchen Kettle it was almost 5 pm and tourist spots here close at 5 - especially out of the summer months.
We went over to one of the outlet centers to look for a few things - again, nothing exciting. We then went to dinner - which was pleasantly exciting - at a restaurant that we new to us that I had heard of and wanted to try. All in all, nothing exciting - and that is exactly what we wanted.
Now, you know that we can't end a day away without a stop at some point in a Walmart and that is exactly how we ended our evening out. We got back to the campground, found an almost level, but not quite spot on our site, did not put out the lego blocks because the level was close enough, and hooked up. No drama. And happily, all was well.
The temperature at night was supposed to stay in the forties. I did not put on the propane because I did not anticipate needing the furnace. We have found so far that the heat pump in the air conditioner provides more than enough heat inside the Roadtrek. In fact it blows heat so strongly at the front while we are sitting and watching television that I have run a fan to blow a stream of air to divert the heat off of us. We started the heat pump - and the fan - and settled in for the night. When it was time for bed, we turned off the fan, and left the heat pump on. There are directional louvers over the bed on the lower portion of the ceiling that you can direct the heat (or air conditioning) on or away from you in the bed. We had those set to keep us comfortable and we went to sleep.
Boring - that is good. That is exactly why were were there and that is exactly what we wanted. There is an ancient Chinese curse that goes "May you live in interesting times." Think about that one. We did not want any more interesting times.
The trip continued two more days. This first day was wonderful - boring but wonderful. We hoped the next day would be the same - and it promised to be. I shall save that day for next week. We are getting to the point that if I am going to keep writing weekly through the RV off season I have to stretch things out a bit or run out of things to write about with the Roadtrek on the driveway for the winter. So come on back for the next day of a pleasant trip - wonderfully boring as it may be.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
When we arrive at a new campground space we always check the polarity and voltage at the outlet that we will be hooking up to. This is necessary as the wrong polarity or the wrong voltage - too high or too low - will damage your RV electrical system. We carry meters to do both and the tests are very quick. We went through this ritual and were ready for the evening. It was really too late at this point to go anywhere as it was after 5 and it was too early to go yet for dinner. I suggested that we drain the exterior fresh water tank as we had time now that we did not know what to do with.
The proper way of draining the fresh water tanks is to remove a cap from a pipe that is under the Roadtrek under the area of the driver's door. This requires that one get on the ground and go under. It had rained there as much as everywhere else that day and the ground was soaking wet and muddy. This was not going to work. We had found at home that another way to empty the tank is to open the outside shower faucets with the water pump running. This runs all of the water out and with some force - faster than the slow moving drain plug. That is what we did. In about fifteen minutes the tank was empty. We had previously switched the water lines to cut the interior tank from the exterior tank and that tank was still full - and that was just what we wanted. Our fresh water was now safe from freezing.
We headed out then for the restaurant to have a very nice dinner. After dinner it was - as always - a stop at the 24 hour Walmart to buy RV antifreeze. Others must have been rushing the shelves as all of the Walmart brand, less expensive antifreeze was sold out. I purchased the name brand for a dollar more and we headed back to the campground to put it in the tanks. I was really exhausted now from my lack of sleep the night before and I knew that I would have no problem sleeping in the Roadtrek that night.
Before we had left, I went through a number of internet/Roadtrek sites to learn how much antifreeze to add to the waste tanks while they were still in use. The answer that kept coming up was about two quarts each - and one gallon bottle would do that exactly. Half the bottle went down the toilet and the other half of the bottle went down the sink drain. It was getting colder outside, but the temps while we were still up were around 40 degrees F. No problem. I put on the weather reports to check the local forecasts. It was almost 2 am and they were still reporting the same cold nights but warmer days with Saturdays rain showers mixed with snow showers. Still no problem, especailly now that our water tanks were set for the cold.
I turned on the furnace to make sure it would work, but preferred to go to sleep with the heat pump that is part of the air conditioner unit. We also had the hot water heater running for the first "real" usage. The heat pump kept us plenty warm. When we went to bed I left that running. I set the alarm for 10:30 am - this was now to be a relaxing vacation and there was no need to get up any earlier.
At 8:00 am I awoke, cold under the blanket. The vent over my head in the ceiling was pouring cold air on me. The heat pump was working but it was blowing cold. I looked at a thermometer that we brought with us, and the temperature inside was in the thirties. I remembered then reading that the heat pump is only good to 40 degrees and should not be used below that temperature. I turned it off, and turned on the furnace. It came on right away, and heat started to fill the Roadtrek in just a few minutes. I went back to sleep.
When we woke up and went out to unhook the Roadtrek from the electric and the cable connections, it was a bit cloudy but a really nice day. It was not cold. Fridays in Lancaster for me mean a trip to Green Dragon Farmers Market. I have written about the market before so I will not go into details again. We had a wonderful day at Green Dragon and spent the whole day there. While there we went into one of the stores and overheard the owner and his wife talking - about SNOW. He was telling her she was crazy and she was saying that the weather reports had changed and that there would be at least two to three inches of snow on the ground on Saturday. Later, when Meryl and I spoke about hearing this, she and I both felt that two to three inches of snow was manageable - but here we go - our relaxing weekend was about to have a new challenge. Walking around outside after that, we again heard another group discussing the snow that was coming. I, now, was getting concerned. We were ready to leave Green Dragon anyway and when we got into the Roadtrek I put on the local radio station.
The announcer on the radio said this, "IF you are hearing this broadcast you are in a winter storm warning zone. There will be seven to twelve inches of snow falling on this area on Saturday. Stay inside." Oh boy! I changed the station to another to hear the same warning but this time with a prediction of six to ten inches of snow falling locally on Saturday. Now, we had a real challenge.
The Roadtrek has a ground clearance of only about six inches. At the top of that there are pipes, plumping, tanks, a generator, and a lot of things that should not be scraped along the ground or through deep snow. There was no way that I wanted to be anywhere only with the Roadtrek in snow higher than its clearance. The snow would stop by Sunday - but it would remain on the ground. I looked at Meryl and said, "We have to leave and go home - tonight." We had paid for the campground for the whole weekend but it was worth losing the money than damaging the Roadtrek or being inside of it in a heavy snow storm. We could have just gotten on the road and headed home, but we decided to go back to the campground first - just to make sure the reports would remain the same.
Of course, the reports remained the same. It was hard to believe that less than 14 hours before there was no indication of this storm in any of the weather reports, but it was coming. Meryl suggested that we go into the office and let them know that we were leaving and maybe ask for a two day credit toward another stay. This is by no way expected and more than likely at most campgrounds would be laughed at. Meryl asked. I added that we would, of course, pay for that night even though we were leaving. The ladies at the counter completely understood. They offered to refund us not only the two remaining days but also that night. I could not believe it. Wonderful - despite my wish that the weather would magically just go away. They handed us a credit slip for a refund on our charge card for three nights. Now let me say this -
THE EMPLOYEES AT OLD MILL STREAM CAMPGROUND ARE THE BEST OF ANY CAMPGROUND!
We left the office still not believing that we had the money back, but very disappointed that our wonderful and relaxing weekend would end before it even had a real chance to get started. We left and stopped for dinner at a favorite restaurant - though even that did not make up for the disappointment that I felt.
By 1:00 am we were home. No snow fell where we live but in Pennsylvania where we were - and in New Jersey and north of us in Connecticut the storm hit hard, dropped a lot of wet and heavy snow, and did a lot of damage.
They are calling this an "Historic Storm". There has not been a storm even close to this since the Civil War - that is 150 years. How lucky we are that we got our Roadtrek just in time to experience this phenomenon.
This has been quite a season - an earthquake, a freak rain storm, a hurricane, and a historic snow storm. Luckily, there are no volcanoes anywhere around where we travel.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
PART 2: THE DAY OF SERVICE
We were leaving on Wednesday night for the service appointment Thursday. The weather reports were uncertain for the week. As it might rain on Tuesday, I filled the water tanks, both interior and exterior tanks, on Monday. The temperatures were no where near freezing on all reports and this is October so there should be no concern about the water in the tanks freezing. On Wednesday during the day, despite a report that there would be rain during the day, it was clear and we loaded the Roadtrek for our weekend trip. About the middle of Wednesday, I saw a weather report for Pennsylvania that temperatures for Saturday might go down to 31 or 32 and that there would be rain showers mixed with snow showers. Oh boy! I had both tanks filled. I know that interior tank is fine if the outside temps go down past freezing to about ten degrees, but the exterior fresh water tank is exposed to the outside air, as are the waste tanks. We had not left yet, and we had a challenge. What is more, the weather report for Thursday, when the Roadtrek would be at the service center all day and we would be on our own outside on foot, was to be heavy rain. Another challenge. There is a very small waiting area in the building between the RV accessories store and the dealer showroom. This is across the road from the service center. Spending eight hours sitting there would be a challenge all in itself.
We thought about emptying the exterior tank but this would take some time. We decided to leave things as is. It would be a few days before the temperature fall so we could ask at the service center what they thought we should do and if necessary, we could always drain the exterior tank at the campground.
We decided to leave Wednesday night after dinner. We finished eating and got the house in order to leave it for several days by about 7:30 pm. The trip would take about three hours and I did not really want to get there too early. Backing the Roadtrek out of our driveway and onto the busy, two lane each way avenue that we live on always takes time. I had hoped that traffic on our road would be less at that time at night, but it seemed just as busy as rush hour in the morning. It took a good fifteen minutes for the road to clear and our large van to get out into the road and out of the way so that Meryl could get in after directing me out. We use walkie-talkies to do this. (It would be good if Meryl did not keep holding down the talk button all of the time when we do this so that I did not continually hear the whoosh, whoosh of the cars and trucks passing by.) She was finally in and we were on our way.
Because of low overpass clearances we cannot leave our area in the usual way one would with a car. We have to take streets instead of a limited access road and I decided that at night it is best if we take the longer route rather than the route that takes us onto smaller roads that is a bit quicker. Eventually we get to a truck route that must be one of the worst paved roads in NY and I suspect that this and the rest of the NY roads must be the worst paved in the country. Even places that have been repaired cause a jolt and the Roadtrek is not made for jolts. You feel every bump and you and the interior shake with every minor hole in the road. We have no choice and must take this road on every trip. Eventually, we got to the limited access road that will take us to one of the two bridges that we must cross to leave New York State.
It was then that we hit traffic and it was at a stand-still. The route to the bridge should take no longer than 45 minutes to an hour. It took an hour and a half. While this road is under constant construction, it was not construction that brought all of the vehicles to a halt, but one car at the side of the road with a tow truck. The radio traffic reports had no knowledge - or they choose not to report - this delay. Eventually we were over the first bridge with its ridiculously high toll and then across Staten Island to the second bridge with its own ridiculously high toll. Finally we were in New Jersey where the road surfaces get better and hopefully we would not encounter any further traffic - which we didn't.
We have actually never headed in this direction at night before, and the trip was a bit different in the dark. We got into Pennsylvania and then off the turnpike heading up to the dealer service center. It was about ten thirty when we were nearing our destination and we saw a Walmart in a shopping center up ahead. We decided to stop there, use the rest room, and stroll through the store to kill time. The 24 hour Walmart in Hatfield, Pennsylvania is very nice. When we left we were just a about ten minutes from the service center.
The parking lot at the service center is very well lit. In fact, it is too well lit. We arrived and pulled in front of the building looking for the power outlet. We were told that there is one at the side and one in the front. Not certain, how close we could park, we brought a 30 amp, 30 foot extension cord just in case. We also have a 30 amp to 15 amp converter plug if we only found a house outlet when we arrived. The side outlet was blocked by a large, empty Class A parked there. The front outlet was between the entrance door and a garage door. As it was going to rain I wanted to make sure we were parked in a direction that the rain would not come into the open vents where the air conditioner is. The walkie-talkies came out again and I went back and forth to find a spot that was reasonably level and that we could hook up the power cable to the outlet box - which by the way, not only had 30 amps but also had 20 amp outlets. The extension cord was needed and we hooked up. Inside, I put up the tv antenna, directed it toward Philadelphia and scanned for channels. There were 48 digital channels found - not bad, but the selection despite the number was not the best. We were all set for the night.
After the first two nights ever in the Roadtrek, I have been able to sleep well inside it. This was one of those off nights. Perhaps it was the traffic constantly outside our windows or the rain or the outside flood lights peaking through the small openings in the window covers, but I could not fall asleep. I do believe it was about 5:30 am or 6 that I did fall asleep. We had to be up at 8:30 am to be ready for the service peoples arrival at 9. The alarm went off first at 8. Ugh. At 8:30 we were both up and getting ready for the day and the rain that was heavy outside.
At 9 we were finally unhooked up and we went inside the service center office. The wonderful lady that we always work with and make arrangements with was not in yet. The gentlemen at the counter had no idea why we were there. I went through the list of what needed to be done. He went to the computer and confirmed that we had an appointment. He was a bit surprised that we were waiting - really, what else would we do. To bring a car with us in addition to the Roadtrek would be double the gas and the tolls. And we do not own a car that can be towed behind - which is possible with some small cars. What I don't understand is that I have been emailing and talking to this service department for two months about this service visit, and when we finally walk through the door there is no detailed record in the computer about why we are there. When we walked out into the rain to go across the road (more like highway) to go wait in the little waiting area, I was hoping that I actually explained the problems as fully as I had before in my emails and discussions and that the jobs that needed to be done would actually be attended t0.
When we got inside and went up the few steps to the waiting area that divides the accessories store with the showroom there was a round plastic picnic table with four chairs, a magazine rack, a television that was off, a coffee service at the side, a candy machine, and a man sitting in one of the chairs reading a newspaper. He was there getting his recently purchased Class C worked on. We sat down. My wife had embroidery to do. I had planned on taking my little music player with an audiobook on it out of the RV but in the confusion and rush to get out and into the service office, I forgot all about it. I was so exhausted from not having slept very much the night before, that I just sat.
Eventually, the gentleman with the newspaper finished it and offered it to us. It was very nice of him. We got to talking and he was from about twenty minutes away. He told us that he has a winter residence in Florida and the RV would be used for the first time getting him and his wife there. He had not used it before and asked us questions about staying in campgrounds. Conversation moved the time along, but not enough.
About an hour and a half went by when a couple with a new 2012 Roadtrek 210 Simplicity joined the three of us at the table. They have been long time RV Fifth-wheel owners and had just traded that in for the new Roadtrek. They knew a lot about RVing but very little about Roadtreks. They, too, had questions about ours and our experiences, and we shared a lot with them. (I realized later that I should have told them to come and look here. I did suggest that they join the Roadtrek Yahoo Group which is very helpful.) It was getting to be like an RV party, and now the time moved a bit quicker. Of course, no one's RV service was soon to be finished.
About one o'clock, my lack of sleep coupled with a blood sugar drop was getting to me. I had to get lunch. By then the Roadtrek couple had gone off on their own to find lunch. We said goodbye to the Class C owner and we headed out into the pouring rain to the Wendy's restaurant that is about a quarter mile away. When we got to the restaurant our rain jackets were dripping large puddles. After lunch and feeling better, we looked at our choices there to kill time and opted for the Home Depot which was the closest dash in the rain.
I am not a big fan of Home Depot, but it was there and we went up and down the aisles like it was Disney World, hoping for a call that the Roadtrek was done. The call came at about two thirty. We headed back and by now the rain had all but stopped.
At the service center office the woman that has been so helpful to us since our first service visit. The service tech who worked on our RV came out and he and she explained what was done. The problem with the black tank sensors was not resolved, but they now knew what the problem is. There is a resistor in the circuits that measures the electrical resistance of the water in the tank showing how much water is present. That resistor tested faulty. I was told that this is not a common resistor and they did not have one in their parts department to make the replacement. Again, I have to wonder, since it is a Roadtrek authorized service facility, should not something small like a specifically Roadtrek required resistor be on hand? The resistor must be ordered and we would have to come back. The job would take several hours as a shield and the tank must be dropped down to access this resistor to replace it. We have an appointment in November for a demonstration winterizing - what this is, is that they winterize the Roadtrek but at the same time show us and teach us all of the steps that they are doing so that in future winters we will be able to do this ourselves. I asked if this could be done when we come for that. They said yes, so we have some more time to kill in this town two weeks from then and then we get to see the winterizing. At least they found an actual something that is wrong that can be fixed. Some told me that the tank sensors are just always unreliable and just live with it. I don't accept that so easily. I asked about the grey tank handle - the other big problem that we were there for. He said something about the handle rod getting caught up on something inside. He did not replace the valve but repaired it. For the $17 a new valve costs, I would have been happier if he had replaced it.
Before we left I asked about the temperatures falling and what we should do. Now the forecast in Pennsylvania was for several nights of temperatures around 32 or 31 degrees. He told me that we would be fine, and that the temperatures have to drop to around 20 degrees both day and night for three days in a row for the water in the RV to freeze. I was somewhat reassured, but still concerned and decided that we would empty the exterior tank and get some RV anti-freeze at Walmart to put into both waste tanks - just to be sure.
Finally, we left the service center in our Roadtrek and headed toward Lancaster County for what we thought then would be our relaxing weekend in the Roadtrek. Well, it was a good thought, anyway...
END OF PART 2
Next Week - PART 3: The Historic Storm
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I made reservations at Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, PA for that weekend. We would go for the service appointment on Thursday and after that drive over to Lancaster and start a nice and relaxing four night, five day mini-vacation. I was really looking forward to this trip and a chance to just enjoy the Roadtrek.
A few weeks before the trip we took the Roadtrek to the local dump station to empty the waste tanks that were still full from our interrupted trip in September to the RV show. The plan has been to dump the tanks the last day of that trip, but if we did that we would never have made it to the show so we just left them semi-full. At the dump station, when we opened the exterior door that covers the two dump valve handles, I found the grey handle sticking out about half way. I tried pushing it in all of the way to close it but it just sprung back out. Several tries resulted in the same thing. We went ahead and dumped the black tank and it seemed to take an unusually long time to empty. When done, I pushed that handle closed and pulled the grey handle out all of the way - almost nothing came out of the grey tank. The monitor panel showed it as empty. It had been 2/3 full before we started. Hmm. Evidently, with that handle out half way, the gate valve was open half way and the grey emptied with the black. I pushed the handle in the close it and this time it went in to about an inch sticking out. Again, when I tried pushing it in all of the way, it sprung back out. Great - another problem.
I contacted the service center and informed them that there was an additional problem that needed to be attended to when we came for our service appointment at the end of the month. Let me take a moment right here to say that the people at the service center are especailly nice and try to be as accommodating as they can. They are always pleasant and friendly.
There would be no problem dealing with the grey tank valve when we come, however, since when we travel from home to the service center it takes us about three hours or more to get there - depending upon traffic, there may be a time problem in being able to fix everything. We generally make appointments for one o'clock hoping to get there earlier. I was told that we may need to keep the Roadtrek there overnight so that it could be worked on again the next day. Now, we had a new problem. At best what we would have to do is have them put it all back together at the end of the first day so that we could travel the hour and a half down to Lancaster to stay at the campground with our reservation, and then travel back the hour and a half plus gas and tolls, to go back again late in the morning, for them to finish the work. Another new challenge. The question was, would the Roadtrek be able to be put back together to allow us to go ahead and back? And this meant spending two days at the dealer - with no way to go anywhere but on foot in a location with nothing to do but visit the Home Depot, the Giant Supermarket, and the Staples Office store, all of which are the only things within walking distance. So much for my idea of a relaxing weekend.
I had the idea that perhaps, if we could get there the night before, we could stay in the parking lot of the service center. They had mentioned to me once that they had electrical outlets to hookup outside. We contacted them back and suggested this. Good idea. In one day they could do all of the repairs - and there were two outlets outside if we wanted to hook up. Since we carry our own water, all that we needed was the electricity to power the Roadtrek for heat, light, and television to stay the night.
All was set, perhaps, the challenge that this trip was presenting so far was averted...
NEXT WEEK - PART 2: The Day of Service
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I have been asked by one of our readers about what it is life to actually live in our Roadtrek day to day. This is a great idea and this is the start of a series of articles about just that. These articles will be mixed in with other articles week to week. One request was how do we make the bed.
Meryl makes the bed in our Roadtrek and would rather that I do not help, as when I tried to I just got in the way. Lesson quickly understood and learned. Now, I stay in the front lounge seat and keep out of the way as much as possible as Meryl makes up the bed. Meryl wants me to make it clear that her method only works in a Roadtrek 190 Popular without the power bench seat/bed. Our Roadtrek has the optional twin bed configuration which consists of a wooden platform along each side in the back connected in the middle at the back in front of the rear van doors with another platform. It is also important to know that Roadtrek changed the shapes and sizes of the cushions that make up the bed in the 2011 model. When one looks in the manuals - right through 2010 the cushions for the non-power bench bed are completely different. In fact, Roadtrek does not have a manual for the 2011 190 Popular and we don't have an "official" diagram showing how the cushions are to be arranged to put the bed together. We were shown at the dealership and later this arrangement was confirmed to me by email from Roadtrek.
First, when the Roadtrek is not set for sleeping, the cushions are positioned so that the long wide cushion serves as a seat on the side platform - both sides the same, though one is shorter in length than the other side. On that cushion as a backrest sits the long, thin cushion which is weighted on the back with a wooden board. There is also a little z shaped cushion that fits in the back corner as a arm rest - one on each side of the van. There is also a square cushion that fills in the middle across the rear platform in front of the van doors. This cushion is not used for the bed and must be removed before you make the bed. We removed this cushion permanently and store it in our home, as it was always in the way inside the Roadtrek - it is only used if you use the back platform as a seat while driving and this is extremely uncomfortable to do and dangerous as there is no headrest and if in an accident one's head would go into the rear van window. The back platform has a wooden board that runs the width of the van - which is the backrest to the rear "seat" and serves as a headboard. Below that cushion there are two seat belts bolted through the wooden platform into a steel frame underneath. Under the side cushions on the platforms are two wood boards that will fill in the space between the two side platforms to support the middle of the bed.
You can sleep in the 190 Popular bed in one of two directions - across the van or back to front. This method putting the sheets on only works for sleeping back to front.
You get in and out of the bed from the foot. The sheets have been set so that you get in and out from the center. This way you are not crawling over anyone to get out or in.
Here is Meryl's method step by step to make the bed into a KING. You need two mattress covers with elastic corner anchors, four flat twin sheets, and two twin blankets.
1. Start with either of the two sides. Remove the two wooden boards under the cushions and put both aside in the aisle so that they are out of the way. You will use these later in the process.
2. Pull the wide cushion out to the middle open aisle so that you can push the long, thin cushion between the bed cushion and the wall with the wood side down.
3. Place the Z cushion into the back side corner so that it fills in the open space in the back corner. Think of this as a jig saw puzzle that you are going to sleep on.
4. Take a mattress cover - we purchased two at Ikea for twin beds and picked this one because it is only a top with elastic corner anchors rather than the more common fitted mattress covers that surround the mattress top and all sides.
a. Start at the end of the bed nearest the kitchen or bathroom and lift the thin cushion and clip one corner of the mattress cover around the end of the cushion's corner.
b. Next clip the other anchor at that side on the corner of the wide cushion sticking into the aisle.
c. Next put the anchor elastic at the top corner of the top of the wide cushion sticking in the aisle.
d. Next you are going to take the remaining corner of the mattress cover and SHOVE it in to the corner at the top of the bed over the Z cushion. Any extra mattress cover in length can be tucked in at the top (facing the rear doors). (If you tuck the excess at the foot of the bed it will keep the bathroom door or the refrigerator door from closing.) Now the mattress cover is on one side of the bed.
5. Bottom Sheet -
a. Take a flat twin sheet, open it and start again at the same corner where you started the mattress cover - the corner at the foot on the wall side, and tuck it in around the corner.
b. Work your way across the foot of the bed tucking the sheet between the cushion and the cabinet.The side of the sheet is going to hang loose into the aisle at the side of the cushion.
c. Work your way along the side wall tucking up to the top.
d. Tuck in the top of the sheet between the headboard and the cushion. SHOVE any excess up here - and be careful not to hit your head on the ceiling as it is lower back here.
e. Where the Z cushion is at the corner - again shove the sheet in around the cushion.
f. Go to the rear of the aisle and tuck the aisle side of the sheet under the cushion where it sits on the rear platform. The remainder of the side will be tucked in later.
6. Top Sheet
a. Repeat 5a. to 5 c. with the top sheet, except when tucking in along the wall stop where you want to be able to fold back the top sheet when in bed.
b. Smooth the top sheet down over the rest of the bed, as made so far.
a. Repeat same as top sheet.
b. Take the top sheet and the blanket along the aisle that is hanging down toward the floor and fold it up onto the top of the cushion so that it is out of the way of the aisle. Just leave the bottom sheet hanging at this point.
AT THIS POINT YOU HAVE ONLY MADE ONE SIDE OF THE BED, BELIEVE IT OR NOT. (Now you see why I stay out of the way!) NOW IT GETS COMPLICATED.8. Take the remaining wide cushion and put it on the finished bed in the same configuration as it was when it was in position as a seat.
9. Put the side thin cushion (wood side down) and the Z cushion against the side wall on the remaining platform into position.
10. Take the mattress cover, hook it again on the bottom corner in the aisle as in 4a. Lay it over the thin cushion at the wall toward the rear of the van and then tuck the other end into the corner over the Z cushion as in 4d. Smooth it out over the wooden platform - you have not put the remaining bed cushion into place yet.
11. Bottom Sheet
a. Lie the bottom sheet against the side wall, over the thin cushion. Tuck it in at the foot of the thin cushion and along the side wall and over the Z cushion at the top. Smooth it out onto the platform OVER the mattress pad. (Again, no wide cushion is in place yet on this side.)
12. Repeat 11a. with top sheet and blanket and stop where you want to be able to fold back the top sheet when in bed.
13. Lift up the mattress pad, the sheets, and the blanket on this side of the bed that you are making now, and place it ALL on top of the thin cushion along the wall. Fold as necessary to keep it out of your way.
14. Take the wood boards that were stored on the platforms and fit one across the aisle from cabinet top to cabinet top. It sits on a little ledge built into the cabinets in the bottom of the platforms. Push it to the rear to meet the back platform. It will go under the sheet that is hanging off the bed side that you have already completed. Tuck the bottom sheet of the finished side under cushion now sitting on this board.
15. Take the other board that you removed when you started and put that into place in front of this last board. You have now closed up the gap in the aisle between the two platforms. Again, tuck the bottom sheet from the finished side under the cushion. The two boards have created the middle platform supporting the bed. Some Roadtreks may only come with one board - in that case the rear table takes the place of the second board in the set up of the king bed.
16. Pick up the wide cushion that is sitting on top of the finished side and fit it into position between the finished side and the thin side cushion. This take a LOT OF SHOVING AND SMASHING to get it into place. It will be VERY TIGHT. It is necessary to lie down on it to fit the top into place. It helps to lie down on it while you are fitting it in along the side.
17. Lift the mattress pad that was on the thin cushion and spread it out now over the remainder of the bed. You need to roll back and forth between the beds to get this into place. Tuck the anchors under the back and front corners at the middle of the bed. Readjust the mattress pad as necessary.
18. Spread out the bottom sheet and tuck it around the large cushion edges.
19. Spread out the top sheet and over that the blanket. Tuck them in at the bottom only.
20. The longer cushion side of the bed - the bottom sheet is going to be hanging off the middle corner as the wood board is not long enough by design to reach the foot of that cushion. Sit on the floor in front of it in the aisle with a safety pin ready and tighten up the sheet by pulling it under the mattress and pinning it to itself around that corner.
THE BED IS MADE. Note that the top sheet and blanket have not been tucked in on the center of the bed between the two large cushions so that you have access in and out of the bed in the middle. You have actually made two separate beds side by side. Pull up the sheets where the two sides meet to get cozy and close.
Set your pillows in place at the top of the bed and you are ready to go to sleep.
Now, this is a long and complicated process but by trail and error Meryl figured this puzzle out. It takes about twenty minutes to a half hour to make the bed. We make the bed once and leave it made up for the entire trip. If you want to have use of the back of the Roadtrek and sit or use the rear table on your trip then you must make the bed up every night. Lots of luck.
You could also forget the thin cushions and use only the wide cushions set in the middle. This makes it a little easier to make but you have a smaller bed. The Roadtrek bed is 6 feet long by 6 feet wide.
The 190 Popular can also make up as twin beds. Leave the aisle open and make up the wide cushions with sheets on top of the platforms leaving the aisle open to get in and out like a regular bed. This is not a standard size twin and is a bit narrow. There is no room to move your feet toward the middle to clear the cabinet ends as you can with the King set up. This is a problem for some on the short side.
Again, if your Roadtrek has the power bench/bed in the back, making the bed is completely different and when using sheets on that bed, much more complicated. The cushions are not like mine at all. Any year before 2011, none of the cushions will be like mine either.
Some do not use sheets at all. You still need to put the cushions in place just as described, but instead of sheets some use a sleeping bag or something called a "sleep sack" which is basically a sleeping bag made up of sheets and a comforter attached on top. It is made in such a way as to keep you cool in the summer or warm in the winter depending upon which side of it you sleep on. This is the recommended way to sleep with the power bench/bed.
So there you have it. Meryl says that she will answer questions - just leave your question in the comment section and she will do her best to give you an answer in a follow up comment. Don't ask for photos of the steps in making the bed - there is no room to do this task and get into any position to take photos - there is just not enough room.
All of this just to go to sleep - but after all, that is what you have the Roadtrek for, sleeping at the end of a fun day of sightseeing or camping!
There will be more Living in the Roadtrek articles to come - heating and cooling, cooking, using the bathroom, and more.
Diagram of cushions in place for sleeping.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I have seen large industry shows on television and described in magazines. Shows like the Consumer Electronics Show, where new models are introduced, new products are presented for the first time to the public, and the excitement of people coming from all over with a common interest. This show was described as very much like that. In fact, it is like that in regard to most of the large RV manufacturers being represented and new models being shown for the first time. This was all very exciting.
As I mentioned in last week's article, the 2011 show almost did not happen - for everyone. Tropical Storm Lee ripped up the east coast and went through Pennsylvania, ripping up major roads and flooding towns. Main access roads in and around Hershey were not only flooded but some were damaged beyond quick repair. Watching the damage on television, huge sections of asphalt roadway buckled up and broke off leaving gaping holes across the lanes. The forums and the Facebook page for the show were full of speculation that there was no way that the area could recover in time to get the show set up and underway. The promoters, of course, remained positive, and continued to report that the show would be held. Alternate routes were found and reported and it was announced that the show would go on as planned.
RVers make reservations at campgrounds for this show months in advance. One of the largest campgrounds in the area close to the site of the arena that the show is held at was flooded by the storm. Many who had reservations now found themselves with none - and the other campgrounds local and in the surrounding areas were booked in advance. The show does have space for dry camping - camping in a parking lot without hook ups - but this was first come first serve. As the show was about to start, people were looking for campgrounds at a distance. When I had made my reservations a month in advance, I was given one of the last four sites in the campground in Lancaster which is about forty five minutes east of Hershey. Driving in the area this entire trip, we saw more RVs of all types on the road than we saw in the area during the height of the summer tourist season.
We drove from Lancaster using the recommended "storm" route to the show. When we got within about five miles of the show, the roads backed up to a stand still. We were online for the show. We slowly moved along and it took about thirty minutes for us to get to the entrance - which was rather confusing - as signage was there but not really there telling you your options. We ended up parking in a lot that served both Hershey Amusement park for overflow parking and the arena. The interesting thing is that Hershey Park parking has a fee - but the show parking was free. So we were asked where we were going - the park or the show. Had we said the park, we would have been charged to park in the same space. I wonder how may going to the park going through this same parking lot entrance realized that in time to say they were going to the show and not pay the parking fee for the amusement park. There was a bit of a walk to the show arena and admission was paid just outside the arena. Admission is for one day - but a multi-day ticket was available.
The show is broken up into two parts on the calendar. The first two days of the show are for "Industry Only" and the show hosts dealers and those in the RV industry to give them a first look at what the manufacturers are introducing. The last five days of the show are for the public. The show features acres and acres of RVs on display outside the Hershey arena. Inside the arena are products and gadgets, as well as campgrounds from all over showing what they have to offer. The Show has been featured on the Travel Channel each year - showing the highlights of the show. Seeing that and their feature of the top ten new products for RVs each year on the show, I was anticipating a lot to see, even for those who were not out shopping for an RV. And with so many people attending in their RVs, surely, there would be more than new RVs to tour... Well, maybe in past years, but I am sorry to say, after all of this buildup, that I was very disappointed in America's Largest RV Show 2011.
If you were there to look at RVs with the intent to purchase, either at the show or as an introduction to what is available, the show is wonderful. There is everything that you would hope to see. We walked in two other Class B RV manufacturers, one of which we did not even know about. We also went into huge Class A's, Class C's, and some trailers. We also got to spend time with one of the Roadtrek company representatives - which I will speak about later in this article.
I was there for the products - and the walk around the arena at ground level was lined with booths. The arena floor was full of booths, but there really was nothing to see. There were several vendors selling LED replacement lights for the fluorescent and halogen bulbs that are in the fixtures in the RV. This was interesting to see the assortment and how easy it is to replace what we have currently for LEDs that last longer and use less power from the 12 volt system. They were quite expensive for each bulb and some of our fixtures take two bulbs. There was a television cable company selling connectors for cable television connections and I did find something that I had not seen before - converters to make push on connectors from screw on connectors. We made our big purchase of the day there and bought two for a dollar each. Most of the arena floor was taken up by the Camping World stores and they had a number of their products for sale - at prices that were higher than the current sale prices in the catalog. A trip to Camping World would have been easier - and closer. One item at the outskirts of the Camping World display were the components for satellite TV in the RV. I went over the to man at the display and asked some basic questions - he had no answers as he had limited understanding himself of how it worked. So much for Camping World selling me a satellite antenna that day. Many of the booths were non-RV related. A house gutter company and a home bathroom contractor both wanted to do work on your non-mobile home. Where were the new and exciting products? I saw two - one was a pair of suction cups that hold open a supermarket plastic grocery bag that turns it into a garbage bag inside your RV. Interesting - I asked the inventor if the suction cups will stick to a wood cabinet door - his answer was a disappointed no. With all wood inside the Roadtrek (and I suspect most RVs) I am not sure where these hooks could hang in any RV. We moved on. There was another gentlemen selling a toilet cleaning device for an RV. It was not clear - even after listening to his sales pitch if this cleaned the black tank or it cleaned the toilet bowl. I suspect that it only cleaned the toilet bowl. We moved on. We did get to speak with the people from the Cherry Hill Campground which is the only campground near Washington, D.C. and they did answer some important to us questions that we had.
Food at the show is available both inside and outside the arena. There were long lines at each of the food vendor trucks outside. There was a wide variety of things at the trucks. Inside the arena snack stands were all open and the lines were not long. The variety was arena standards like hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and sandwiches, but the prices were not as outrageous as they could have been. My recommendation is to go inside and avoid the lines.
Outside of the arena at the edge of all of the new RVs there were some product manufacturer's booths. One was Onan-Cummings that makes the Roadtrek generator and the other was Winegard antennas who make satellite dish antennas for RVs. We went over to Winegard to see if they could explain what the guy at the Camping World display could not. I asked the Winegard rep how it worked and he did explain it all thoroughly - but he did so in such a condescending way that it was insulting and put us off from talking any further with him. We went over to the Onan booth and saw on display the generator that hangs below the Roadtrek. This was an opportunity to look at up close what we can only see by crawling under the Roadtrek. No one bothered us as I took off the access panel on the generator and looked inside - even opening up the oil fill to see the oil dip stick. This was actually time well spent, as we learned a lot seeing this up close, comfortably, and in the bright daylight.
We went over to the Roadtrek display. Roadtrek was represented by both the company and the dealer that we purchased our Roadtrek from in Pennsylvania. There were several RT reps there - and our plumb-dumb salesman was there from the dealer as well. He waved when he saw us. I waved back and did not acknowledge him further - lest I make a scene. One of the Roadtrek company people came over to us and I introduced myself and that I owned a new 2011 190 Popular. He asked about it and this was my opportunity to unload my list of issues to date and concern about the quality of the manufacturer of the Roadtrek. Coming face to face with him the day after we unexpectedly had to spend a day at the dealer service center to fix the toilet leak, was to his disadvantage - as I was polite but direct with my comments. And when I indicated that if they looked at the Roadtrek forums on the internet, he would see that my concerns were shared by others. His response was that the forums attract people who have something to complain about. Well, that is the wrong attitude to have from the company because many a sale can be lost by potential owners reading these concerns on these forums. Anyway, he was very nice to us and gave me his direct email to reach him with any problems that we have.
While I was with the Roadtrek rep I asked if they had on display the new spare tire brackets that are supposed to make the spare easier to bring down off the Roadtrek and to put back up again. The spare tire arrangement currently results in a very heavy unit that takes two people or one very strong person to take down and lift back up. Roadtrek has addressed this problem for 2012 by redesigning the tire bracket and adding a spring. It was demonstrated to me and then I tried it. It is still heavy - a little better, but not much. There is a third party add on that is reported to make this task much easier to take down and lift - so it looks like we will be looking to that option rather than the Roadtrek replacement. And I am sure that the third party option is a lot less expensive.
When we left, we both felt let down. Had we been looking to buy an RV we would have been thrilled and perhaps even going back again the next day. But the Travel Channel is going to have a hard time finding anything to show in regard to new products. We saw them filming as we walked around the RVs. I almost went over and asked...
If you are looking to buy an RV, definitely go. I do not plan on going again next year, and maybe not ever again. A trip to Camping World would have been a better choice to shop for our Roadtrek or any RV. I found others on the forums that felt that same way after the show. For us, America's Largest RV show was one of our RV largest disappointments.