Wednesday, November 30, 2011


My last articles were about a trip cut short - as our summer trip had also been. We were determined to get out in the Roadtrek and have a trip that we could relax on. If you have been reading along, you know that the service call on this last trip required a return to the dealer's service center to have the black tank's sensor resistor replaced so that it would actually work - we hoped. We also had an appointment to have what the service center calls a "demo winterizing". Winterizing is done on RVs in cold climates in the winter when the temperatures will fall below freezing. It is done to protect the plumbing from freezing. The "demo" part at this dealer is when the owners are shown step by step what is done when the winterizing is done, and watch and help with the first winterizing, so that in the future they will be able to do this on their own. It costs more than the dealer just winterizing for you, but after this, you can just do it yourself. We arranged to have both the tank repair and the demo winterizing done on the same day - a Wednesday, a week and a half later from the last service.

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

A Trip Without a Challenge? Part 3: The Historic Storm

When last I ended, we were on our way to the campground in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania after a day of service on the Roadtrek. We arrived at the campground knowing what space we had as I had been told when I made the reservation. This is Halloween weekend and Halloween is a big deal at campgrounds with campers decorating their spaces and RVs. I was not sure what we would find at this campground and was hoping not much of that as Halloween is my wife's birthday - and she hates that it is. When other kids were having pretty parties with pink and yellow balloons, her parties were decorated with black and orange balloons and decorated with witches and ghosts. This was her parents' idea and not hers. Anyway, we have been traveling to Lancaster County for years for her birthday because IN THE PAST in this predominantly religious community, Halloween was downplayed. In recent years, this has not been the case. Anyway - when I made the reservation I asked for "not a T-Space" (see my article about Old Mill Stream Campground to understand what a T-Space is) but I was told that all that were available were T-Spaces. The space assigned was not bad as it had entrances on two roads and if necessary we could come and go even if the main entrance was blocked. We went into the office and paid for the weekend - four nights. We drove over to the space and at that point we were the only RV in the T.

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 -


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

A Trip Without a Challenge? 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...


Next Week - PART 3: The Historic Storm

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Trip Without a Challenge? Part 1: The Service Appointment

We have not taken many trips in our Roadtrek since we got it in April and it seems that all but one trip - our trip during Fourth of July weekend has faced us with some type of challenge. In April, our first overnight trip, it was the various things that we found wrong after delivery - and this required an immediate trip back to the dealer for service to correct - or try to correct what was wrong from the factory. The second trip - Fourth of July - to my recollection was fine. The third trip was our long, summer vacation trip, and on that trip we discovered that the tank sensors on our black tank do not work, so we thought that we needed to empty that tank every two days when in actuality it was not even a third full. That trip also brought us into an earthquake, a freak storm on I95, and a hurricane that caused us to cut the trip two days short. We then took a trip to Pennsylvania for the Hershey RV show and before that trip a tropical storm came up the coast and flooded much of Pennsylvania - and during that trip we had a leak in our toilet valve that resulted in an immediate trip to the service center at the dealer to stop our own flood inside the Roadtrek. After our summer vacation trip I contacted dealer service to make an appointment to have the black tank sensors inspected and repaired. That service appointment was made to coincide with a trip to Pennsylvania that we used to do every year for my wife's birthday at the end of October.

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

Living in the Roadtrek - How We Make the Bed

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.

7. Blanket

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 a
nd 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.