Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another Trip to Dealer Service

We have spent more time at the dealer service center in the past year than we would like to have spent. This started with the second day of ownership and has continued along with something new discovered that has to be adjusted, fixed, or replaced on almost every trip we have taken. I am not saying that the Roadtrek is not good - and I have been told that with every new RV one needs to expect to get the "kinks" out. I just never expected so many surprises.

Well, as I had written in my tales of our recent trip to Maryland, we discovered that when the rear (interior) fresh water tank emptied and the front (exterior) fresh water tank had to take over, the water pump started sucking air. This was discovered following a flush of the toilet which resulted in little water and the sound of the water pump starting with a low hum and not shutting off until we turned on the sink and then there would be a rush of air, a little water, a lot of spurts, and then the water pump would come on strong and the water would flow again as it should. Had this fixed the problem for the rest of the trip, that would have been fine, but the same thing would happen if the water was not used for any amount of time down to twenty minutes. Then the same thing would happen all over again.

I ask a lot of questions on the Roadtrek and RV forums when something is wrong, to learn what is happening and what to do about it. (I highly recommend the Roadtrek forum on Yahoo Groups.) I asked there about this problem and several came back saying that they had experienced the same thing - and the explanation was that there is an air leak somewhere on the suction side of the water pump - the side that pulls water out of the fresh water tanks - and that because the rear water tank is above the level of the water pump and the front water tank, the force of gravity is enough to keep the water flowing past the air, but once the front tank which is below the floor has to supply the pump, the pump sucks air from the leak. Several suggested that the problem may be coming from the anti-freeze winterizing kit that was installed by dealer service when we winterized last Fall - and since this was the first trip since that was installed, it made sense to me. It was said to me that these kits are notorious for having leaks, and that this is where we should start to find the problem.

When we had dealer service show us how to winterize it was suggested to us that we buy this kit - I spoke about it in the article on winterizing - and they would install it for us. I can do a lot of things, but I do not like to do plumbing. I was glad to have them install it - as simple as it is to install - and I knew that if anything was wrong with it, I would not be the one to blame when it had to be corrected. Wise.

When we got back from the Maryland trip, I called dealer service and told them about what was wrong. They suggested that I try several things to fix the problem myself - and I tried all of the suggestions but the problem remained. The earliest appointment that they could give me was June - and that was weeks away - with a trip for Memorial Day planned in-between. As you already know, we made due with just the one, rear tank for water on that trip. But, of course, when something is wrong I just cannot let it sit so in the time waiting to return to dealer service for them to fix this, I went out and tried a variety of things.

One idea that I had was to wrap the intake and outflow of the anti-freeze valve with rubber pipe wrap - which will stop leaks. The space to access the pipes in my Roadtrek is cramped and difficult to reach into. This wrap requires that it be pull tightly around the pipe so that it will grip onto itself. I tried several times to do this - and it would just fall off. I could not get to the spot I needed to with two working hands. I gave up on that. While I was under there I discovered that before the water pump there is a filter to screen filter the water coming into the pump. There is a plastic dome on the filter that screws off. It was a bit loose. I tightened it and said - I found the leak! No, I hadn't. Same problem. At one point, about four days before we were to go to service, I was poking around again and the suddenly the water pump would not come on at all. Oh boy! After a little panic I went tapping and poking, and suddenly it came on full. We still had the same problem but at least the water pump was working. Did I mention that I don't like to do plumbing? (Funny - I can do most any electrical wiring - I know what to do and how to do it and I know how to keep the connections safe and when the switch is clicked it either works or not - and if not, I know how to trace back what is wrong. With plumbing, I can get all of the pipes together and make sure all is secure - and when I turn on the water there will be drip, drip, drip somewhere.)

Dealer service is two states away. The drive is three hours one way (on a good traffic day - a rare occurrence these days), about $40 in tolls and then there is the gas at almost $4 a gallon. (Gas prices are dropping everywhere - but you would not know that in NYS). We set out so that we would avoid the bulk of rush hour traffic towards New York City from Long Island, but every road off Long Island is under construction - at the same time - and what should take about 45 minutes to at most an hour to get to the New Jersey border took two hours. We always tell dealer service that we will be there as close as we can to 1:00 pm. We do not stop on the trip there and it is rare if we get there earlier.

On the trip down, I was apprehensive. You know when something is wrong with your car and you take it to be fixed and when the mechanic looks at the car, the problem or the noise is not there. I had been testing the water in the RV all week - and all week the problem was still there. I just had a feeling that when I got there, it would be working. I was also concerned - and this is just me - that they would do whatever they would do and not wait the 20 minutes time for the problem to reoccur and we would be back there again to fix this. We pulled into the driveway of the service center and I braced myself. Meryl moved the bed cushions that cover the cabinet that has the plumbing and the water pump inside so that the service technician could work. We went inside to the extremely nice lady that makes the appointments and works with us over the phone whenever we call. She deserves an award for Employee of the Year - year after year. We got a big hello and she told us that the technicians were just finishing lunch and if we could waste about twenty minutes, the Roadtrek Specialist would come out to fix our Roadtrek. I had known that this appointment was made specifically for the Roadtrek Service Specialist to be able to give us full attention. We had no problem with wasting time and we headed across the very large road to the RV supply store at the dealer to look around at all of the toys and gadgets for RVs that we only get to see up close on these trips. Twenty minutes went quickly and as we were heading back over, we got a call that they were ready for us.

We met the Roadtrek Specialist (who I am certain we have met before) and told him the problem. He was skeptical at first as to my reasoning about what may be wrong, but he was patient and went inside the Roadtrek with us to turn valves and see that as I had explained, I had all of the water valves in the correct positions. He then turned on the faucet and a burst of air came out - and no water - and then there were the spurts and more air and then the water came out - just as I described. Thank goodness - he saw the problem for himself. He started looking and tracing the pipes and the joints. The anti-freeze valve that they had put in (he was not the tech who put it in) was there and I showed him the exposed pipe threads that had concerned me as the source of the leak. He removed the whole valve and looked closely at it. He connected it back to the pipes and tightened it down as far as it can be tightened - the same threads were still exposed. He looked some more and then found that the pipe that connected into that valve was bent at an odd shape and he found a kink in that pipe.

Let me take a moment to explain Roadtrek plumbing. Roadtrek uses what is called PEX plumbing. This is something recent and can be found at most of the home center stores. PEX plumbing uses plastic flexible, but reinforced pipe tubing instead of rigid pipes for much of its plumbing. This pipe is connected in one of two ways - removable compression fittings or metal pressure bands that seal around the pipe to the fitting at the connections. These metal bands must be cut off and can only be applied with an expensive tool (also sold at home stores).

He was sure that because this pipe was bent at an odd angle and it was kinked, that air was collecting at the kink - and causing our problem. To fix this he had to cut the pipe, remove a section of it, and install a new fitting. It seems that when the anti-freeze kit was installed that valve took up room in the closely designed fit of the pipes. The extra length then caused the pipe behind - the one to the front water tank - to bend and kink. He looked at the layout and decided that things would fit much better if it was laid out differently. He took the water filter that I mentioned earlier and moved it from a vertical position to a horizontal position against the floor. (I questioned its function in this position - and he said that they have found that it will actually work much better in this position.) He changed some screw in elbow fittings around and moved the position of the anti-freeze valve and he installed a new straight screw on fitting from the pipe that was bent instead of the elbow fitting that was there from Roadtrek. He got it all back together again and turned on the sink - and it worked! BUT - it always works at first. He said to me - before I could say to him - now we wait and see.

We went off to have lunch - a walk down the road and across another large road - this one four lanes. We were gone for half an hour. More than enough time to see if it worked. When we got back, I must confess, that we went into the Roadtrek without him and flushed the toilet - the water pump came on loud immediately - something it had not done since last December - and as soon as the flush valve was released... silence. Just as it should be. We went inside, and he came out and tested everything. He rechecked all of the joints and we were done. The actual repair took just about an hour! By 3 o'clock we were done. It was early enough to travel down to Lancaster - despite the extra gas and have a nice dinner.

Now, don't think that I did not test this several times that night to make sure it worked. We actually were prepared to stay the night and come back the next morning to have it attended to again - if there was still a problem. While this would have been a big problem for us as we had errands that needed to be done that next day, that could not really be done any other - we were not leaving Pennsylvania without this fixed. But no need - it worked. And it worked the next day when I checked it again at home!

What was great was that we were right there inside the Roadtrek with the service tech the whole time of the repair. We got to talk a lot to him about the Roadtrek and not only about this problem. This turned out to be a great opportunity and we watched as he worked. I am not sure why but when we left, I felt a great pressure come off my shoulders and I felt good. If we have to make the trip to dealer service this was one of the good trips.

We had another problem that we brought with us that we spoke with them about - and it turned out that it was nothing - and that I had already done myself what was required to take care of it. I will talk about that in a future article.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Eclipse II Dashboard Radio

I recently wrote about the Eclipse radio that came in my Roadtrek and I thought that I would expand on this.

The one thing that I have not been happy with in the Roadtrek is the dashboard radio. It is not just a radio and when you hear what is in it, you will wonder why it is not simply wonderful. The Roadtrek does not come with a stock Chevy radio. Starting with the 2010 models, Roadtrek started installing the Eclipse II AVN 4430 radio in the Roadtrek Chevy models. I am not sure abut the Sprinter models, as I have heard that another radio may have been installed in those. With the 2010 models the Eclipse was what Roadtrek called a "forced option", meaning you could not order the Roadtrek without this radio and the price for this "option" that was not an option at all was over $800.00. That is a lot of money to pay for a dashboard radio. In 2011, this was no longer a "forced option". It was then standard equipment, with a Roadtrek price increase that included the $800 + cost of the radio.

The Eclipse II is not just a radio. It has built into it besides AM/FM reception, a GPS (Tom Tom), a CD player, SIRUS satellite radio, a DVD video player, an IPOD connection for both audio and video, a USB connection, and a rear view backup camera. Wow, you will exclaim! This unit was the top electronic pick at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2009! How can that be bad? Well...

For starters, Tom Tom is not the best of GPS companies. There is no way to purchase a subscription for "Lifetime" maps as there is with Garmin. You can purchase a one year subscription for new maps, though that will cost you what the Garmin lifetime map subscription costs at list price. I have owned a Tom Tom GPS in the past. I stopped using it when it routed me in one end of a parking lot and then back out the other end back onto the street that I was driving on to start with. That, and when it told me to turn right and make a U-turn to go to a location where it was legal and simple to make a left turn from that same corner. I replaced it with a Garmin. This Tom Tom unit is also no longer supported by Tom Tom for any firmware updates. There is supposed to be, according to the manual, FM traffic reception to show traffic along your route without paying for a subscription for traffic service. It does not work on the Tom Tom in the Eclipse and I have been told my Tom Tom that this feature is no longer supported - nor available. Since my Garmin receives these traffic alerts on the same radio band as built into the Tom Tom, this reply from Tom Tom does not make any sense. If the circuits are there in the GPS to receive the FM RDS signals, and the signals are being transmitted in the area, then the GPS - as detailed in its manual - should receive those signals. It does not. The Tom Tom in the Eclipse II will connect with a cell phone by Bluetooth and it does that well including allowing hands-free calling and transferring your contact list to the GPS from your phone, however, it is also supposed to connect with the cell phone by Bluetooth for data connections - getting traffic reports, updates, etc.. This requires a cellphone compatible with this model's firmware and the list of phones are all outdated, circa 2009 and are all on the AT&T network. Newer phones - as they are not on the list - and any phone not on the list will not connect. So much for the Tom Tom.

The display screen on the Eclipse displays all of the audio functions, is the GPS screen, and displays videos and DVDs. It is set toward the top middle of the dash. The display screen can be angled up or down until flat against the radio. It cannot be angled right or left so that the driver or the passenger can actually see the display. To look at the GPS display while driving requires taking your eyes off the road to glance down. In bright sunlight, if the display is flat, it can barely be seen at all. I have the screen angled up three stops so that it sits at about 70 degrees pointing up. This does help with sun glare.

The radio display is dimly lit on the controls and buttons and can be set to red or blue in color. It is barely visible. The controls are extremely confusing and hard to operate, even if you are certain you know what to press to get what you want the Eclipse to do. The controls require a short press to do one thing or a more than one second press to do something else. Lots of luck.

The rear-view camera is the best thing on the unit. The camera is located outside above the two rear doors in the middle. It can be manually directed up or down to get the best view that you want to see behind you. The camera and screen engage whenever you put the Roadtrek into reverse. The screen shows what is behind you and with the lack of a good view from the rear view mirror, you will rely on this camera display a lot when backing up. At night, the image is a little washed out, but still clear enough to see if there is something behind you.

AM/FM reception is fine, but finding a station just using the unit's own display is almost impossible. You need to push a button to turn off the GPS and this puts on the display for the radio/audio/video functions. You can set in favorite channels or try to find the right button while driving to change and scroll through local stations.

CD play is fine. You can select tracks, scroll through folders, and the selection playing will stop when the CD mode is changed to any other mode and resume when you come back to play the CD - even when shutting down the Roadtrek. If you eject the CD, you lose the track it was playing when you reinsert the CD. Controls, like everything else here, are terrible. If you are stopped and can find the buttons and select what you want to hear, you are OK, but don't try this while moving. And since the passenger can't easily see the screen, it is not easy to have your passenger do this for you.

You can watch DVD's on the display screen. Why would you want to? It will not play DVDs when the Roadtrek in in gear to drive, of course - this is not legal in most states, if not all. There is no rear display for the kids. Meryl asked me recently - would one sit there with the engine running or run the vehicle battery down sitting watching a DVD on this radio? There is a full size television and DVD player in the rear of the Roadtrek if you are stopped and want to watch a movie.

There is SIRIUS satellite radio reception. This requires an annual subscription to purchase to use this. Unlike some vehicles that come with SIRIUS, we got no free three month trial when we got the Roadtrek. It happened that I stumbled across a free week - and found this on the last night of the free week, so I got to try it. Nice, but certainly not something that I want to pay for. It happened that there was another free trial period of SIRIUS while we were on a recent trip. I was changing audio sources and pausing on SIRIUS while pushing the button, sound suddenly came through, and not the usual silence with a notice on the screen to call a telephone number and pay for a subscription. Hmm. OK - we decided to hear what we are missing. I went through the channels and found a channel with old Country music - "Willie's Roadhouse". The sound was no clearer than AM or FM radio but we left it on while we were driving. We were in Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. As we drove, the signal would drop and then a message would come up on the screen that said "Acquiring". The lock on the satellite was not very good. The Eclipse does have a special satellite radio antenna and I know that it is connected to the radio, as the SIRIUS box is visible under the dashboard (unlike the radio itself). Well, we got tired of hearing the music start and stop and start and stop. I tried a different channel and the same thing happened. If you were not moving it seemed fine. If you were driving, well, the signal would come and go - often more distracting than anything else. I tried again driving home on the PA Turnpike and the NJ Turnpike. Surely, there had to be a strong signal there - no, there wasn't. Again, we saw "Acquiring" more than we heard music. If this trial was to entice me to buy a subscription it did not work - it let me know that SIRIUS is not worth anything that one would be asked to pay for it. We had nice solid FM reception and there are two good country stations where we were and along the way home.

The USB connection is in the glove compartment with the Ipod dock connection. This works with a USB memory stick drive. Any audio file installed on that drive will play on the radio. Like a CD you can scroll through the folders and make your selection of where to start listening. When you plug the USB drive in, the system looks to recognize the drive. When it is ready, it displays USB as a selection and you can start to listen. If you shut off the Roadtrek engine - or unplug the USB drive, it has to re-recognize the drive and will not hold any place that you had been listening to. For music this is fine. For audiobooks it is inadequate unless you like to start listening to the book from the beginning each time.

The Ipod connection requires an Ipod and I am told will work with all versions of Ipod players or Iphone up to the most recent. I am told that it will play audio and video from any app on the Iphone or Ipod Touch. This could be a fine feature if you own an Ipod or an Iphone. I do not. As you read in my article on April 4, 2012, you can use a DockBoss to connect any audio source with a standard headphone jack (3.5mm) to the Ipod dock connector.

As I explained in that first article, the AUX setting will not work on the Eclipse II unless you can find one of the discontinued cables and then connect that to where the SIRIUS connection is in the back of the unit behind the dashboard. If you want SIRIUS, you cannot have AUX.

As you can tell - both of us - do not like the Eclipse II. There are other in-dash units from other companies that do all of this and much better. I can understand in 2009 why Roadtrek would pick what was the "best in-dash unit of 2009", but this unit was a flash in the pan. You cannot buy this unit in any car stereo shop. It is exclusively now Original Manufacturer's Equipment (OEM) from Roadtrek and Toyota. Yes, if you get the fancy in-dash radio from Toyota - at least at some point if not presently still, you get the Eclipse. The Eclipse is currently made by a company in Japan called Fujitsu Ten. It is sold only by a distribution company, Mito, Inc., which is where Roadtrek is getting it. There is no customer support at all from Fujitsu Ten. There is some customer support from Mito, Inc. though I had little success by phone, and better success by customer support email and the gentleman who responded to me was very knowledgeable, though the short comings of the Eclipse II could, of course, not be resolved. I was told this:

"As for the product life, the AVN4430 is a current model and scheduled to continue through the end of calendar year 2012 by Eclipse. Fujitsu Ten, the manufacture of Eclipse brand products, will continue to maintain a supply of parts and exchange units for warranty repairs through the end of calendar year 2016. Out of warranty repair will be available at least through 2019."
Not good. Of course, out of warranty repair means paying someone to pull the dashboard off, pull out the radio, you ship it back to whoever, and when repaired you pay someone to pull the dashboard off again, install the radio, and fill the big hole that has been there since the radio came out to go off for repairs. I suppose this would be true with any company's radio, but the options are a little broader with a radio that someone has actually heard of.

For those buying a new Roadtrek after 2012, hopefully, Roadtrek will have change the radio they install. It is those of us who bought from 2009 to 2012/13. That are stuck with the Eclipse.

Now, some quirks about the Eclipse or how it has been installed. It never really seems to be off. There is a long press of the power button to shut this radio's power down, but leave the Roadtrek, come back and open the door, and the Eclipse screen comes on and displays the GPS. There have been times when we have shut down for the night and we are inside the Roadtrek, watching TV or we open the side door for one of us to go out, and we hear the Eclipse screen suddenly come to life and move to its angled position. A minute or so later - it goes flat again. And this happens sometimes and not others. Gremlins? For those of you old enough, you will understand what I mean by that. Another problem with no real power off control is that when you turn off the ignition while the radio is playing, it continues to play and will continue to play until you open the driver's door. This is truly a pain. If there is any drain on the Roadtrek's engine battery it is this radio.

As I finish writing this, I am starting to wonder if I am doing a disservice to those considering a new Roadtrek. This radio is not a reason to not buy a Roadtrek, but it sure would have been nice if it had a different radio. I have yet to see a forum comment from anyone with this radio that is pleased. I have heard of some who have had it replaced with other units with similar features - any, what are called, Double DIN radios should fit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend - Part II

For the start of this article, please see Part I from one week ago.


When we drove into the campground that first night, every site was in use. We drove slowly down the lane to get to our lane and passed campfire after campfire, with large groups of people looking up as we slowly passed and watching us go by. Meryl told me that she was reminded of new people arriving at an "Okie" camp in the 1930's in California in the Depression. Now how would Meryl know what this would be like to be reminded of such - well, it is well depicted in the movie, The Grapes of Wrath. This is the story of a family from Oklahoma who lose everything and move to California to live in a migrant farm workers camp - called "Okie camps" - and try to get work day to day. The scene driving through was just like that - though, of course, there were no run down cars or tents that people were living in, but very nice trailers and RVs - but the people outside - well, the image came to my mind as well - and did so every night that we drove back in. "Look, Joe, there is another family coming in..."

When we got to our space in addition to finding the guy's wire still plugged into our electric box, our neighbor in the other half of the T space had arrived during the day. I had been apprehensive all day about what would be in that side of the site. The problems with these T spaces are that a large trailer or RV on one side does not allow much room to get in and out on the other side. The bigger problem is that if there is a car in addition to the trailer or RV they are often parked in the entrance to the site - the shared entrance - and this makes it very difficult to get in and out. There was a small Class A RV on that side and they did have a small car that they towed behind their RV. (This in the vernacular is called a "toad" - a car towed behind an RV.) They parked the car well within their space and I was relieved that there would be no problem for us to get in or out. I was concerned about what could happen when he was leaving with his RV at the end of the weekend, because his side of the T required that he pull in forward so that his hookups were on the side of the utilities - which means to leave he has to back up this large Class A (think bus). On our half of the T we had to back in to have the utilities on the correct side of the Roadtrek. As it turned out - to jump to the end - we left on Monday before he did, so there was no problem at all.

Our site in the campground was at one of the far ends of the campground. Wifi service was present there but it was intermittent, especially on my little wifi tablet. It did make a connection and held it for awhile but suddenly the signal would drop. This did cause a problem as I was writing while we were in the Roadtrek at night and I was finished with an article and needed to make sure it was saved on its website site - and suddenly - no signal. The article was still there on the screen but there was no connection. Now, like Robin Williams in the movie, RV, I went out looking for a signal so that I could send my article to save it. I walked around with the tablet looking for the signal strength to increase and was all the way to the campground office before I found a strong signal that I could trust. I clicked send and my article was saved. (After this I started writing off the website, so that I could save my work locally on the tablet - even with that I lost an entire article when it said it had saved it, and when I went looking for it later it was gone. That was an hour and a half of work gone. Wifi at Old Mill Stream Campground is usually good and we have been at the other end of the campground more than once and had good wifi. One thing about these tablets is that they do not pull in a wifi signal as strongly as a laptop does.

Our trips seem to bring unique weather, and this trip was no exception. There was record breaking heat in Pennsylvania over Memorial Day weekend - temperatures climbed into the 90's. We were comfortable inside our Roadtrek with the air conditioner running, but outside it was hot. I had not anticipated temperatures like this and had not brought light weight, short sleeve shirts. On Memorial Day, itself, the temperatures got even higher and I borrowed one of Meryl's T-shirts. It was better that than to pass out.

So what did we do on our weekend in Pennsylvania. For us it was the usual things that we like to do when we go to Lancaster. Fridays are spent at the Green Dragon Farmers Market which I have written about before.

Saturday with the Memorial Day weekend in full swing, the weather hot but beautiful, there were a lot of cars on the main roads of Lancaster County. I have not seen cars bumper to bumper here in a very long time and this Saturday we were sitting in traffic on Route 340 which is one of the main east west routes through the tourist areas. I took a photo out of the front window of the Roadtrek sitting in traffic.

Saturdays include a visit to Kitchen Kettle which I wrote about last July. The Bird in Hand Farmers Market is also open on Saturdays and we did go there. This is a one building farmers market and is made up of more souvenir stands than actual farm stands, but there are two meat/butcher counters and two bake shop counters inside. While there we decided to have our first real meal in the Roadtrek.

When we travel we eat our meals out. We have not really used the kitchen facilities in the Roadtrek for anything other than late night snacks. While we were walking around the stands inside the Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market I had the idea that we should stop at one of the meat counters, buy cold cuts and rolls and make lunch in the Roadtrek. we bought smoked ham and turkey and went out to the Roadtrek. I went inside right away and started the generator and turned on the air conditioner. It started to cool down inside quickly - thank goodness. We opened the fold out table in the front of the Roadtrek and and turned the front seats around. Meryl got out plates, cups, and napkins and opened the refrigerator and took out ice cold soda. We made sandwiches and sat down in our comfortable kitchenette and had lunch. Just one of the perks of owning a Roadtrek!

As I said, Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market is a small, one building farmers market nothing like the large farmers markets like Roots or Green Dragon but it is a fun stop in the middle of Lancaster County and it is open, depending on the season, on Saturdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays - some of these days are dropped off season. It is open until 5:30 pm.

On that same Saturday, while we were at Kitchen Kettle in Intercourse, PA. we walked a short way down Route 340 to a small fabric shop that at one time was an Amish owned business, but has since been sold - but remains run by Amish women. The name of the shop is Zook Fabrics. Now why would I recommend coming here - for one thing you will be in here with the Amish and in the back of the fabric shop is another shop in the same building that is a store run by the Amish for the Amish. This is one of the several shops that sell the things that the Amish use day to day - including some clothing. Where do Amish women get their caps - this is one place. Where do Amish men get their straw hats - that are not anything like the ones sold for tourists - this is one place. Of course, you do not go in here to gawk and you remain respectful and polite - these people are not here on exhibit for your entertainment. It is a chance though to see a private side of the Amish that is not in the tour books. And if you sew, Zook Fabrics has a nice assortment of fabrics. They also sell fabrics that the Amish use to make their clothing - but there are many, many bolts of regular fabrics - as the Amish would say - "for the English". You and me - we are the English - even if you have no family roots to England.

Not long ago - just a few years back, before this store was taken over by the new owner, the lighting in the store was done by skylights and gas lamps - no electricity. They did use an electrically run cash register which may have been run off a generator. It was surprisingly bright and you really had to look to see that what looked like fluorescent fixtures in the ceiling were actually sky lights. And you could hear the hiss of the gas with their mantle aflame as you walked under the gas lamps. The atmosphere inside the store now is the same - but the lighting has changed and is now electric.

Sundays in Lancaster - everything is closed! Yes, just about anything local is closed in respect for the deep religious beliefs of the Amish and Mennonites. The outlet malls are open. There are chain restaurants open along with a very few local restaurants that cater almost exclusively to the tourists - and that I tend to avoid. There are a few tourist attractions open such as the Strasburg Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad Musuem. I have spent many Sundays in Lancaster - but essentially this is a wasted day. What you can do is drive the countryside and you will see Amish in their buggies riding along the road and take in the beauty of this area and the land that has managed to remain preserved and in the hands of those who live a plain and simpler life. This is how we tend to spend Sundays in Lancaster - and it is doable with the Roadtrek - though more of a challenge as I have written about in the past - to pass these horse and buggies safely on the road.

Memorial Day Monday is a mix of people leaving for home and people traveling around the sites. We were headed for home that night. When we go up that morning we dumped the black and grey tanks and then flushed the black tank with water - a good practice each time you dump. I will write about the process of dumping the tanks in an article that will appear soon. We spent a leisurely day driving around the farms and going into shops. One thing to be aware of, about Memorial Day Monday is that in this area some stores and some restaurants close. Not all, but some. This is particular to Memorial Day and this does not happen July 4th or other non-religious holidays. If you are planning a meal in a restaurant in Lancaster on Memorial Day check in advance to be sure it will be open. Many are only open to the early afternoon and then close.

So - some of you who have been reading this site all along must be wondering what went wrong with the Roadtrek this trip. It is not every trip that something happens but it has happened - and this trip we discovered that some type of particles or grit is coming through the plumbing and into the toilet water - and in the sink - though what is in the sink are much smaller sand like particles. I have no idea where these are from. They could be sediment in the water tank, but there is a screen filter on the water lines and particles this size should be caught in that screen. (I checked the screen and they are not in there.) I do know that sediment collects in the hot water tank and when we got home I flushed that tank and did find a great deal of large flakes and pieces of sediment get washed out. BUT this is the hot water tank, and the toilet water is on the line of the cold water pipes. Another mystery that we are bringing to dealer-service. We collected pieces of the grit - yes, hand into the toilet bowl to fish it out - and they are coming to service for inspection.

We had a good time and that is what is important. So if you want to travel in your Roadtrek or any RV for Memorial Day weekend you will need reservations a year in advance - no matter where you are planning to go. When we checked in at the campground we were asked if we want to reserve for next year. Silly me said no, not yet. We may be calling and reserving a spot now for next year, if we have the option to cancel a few weeks or a month before - so maybe we can get a regular spot and not a T-space.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend - Part I

Memorial Day weekend is a major RVing holiday weekend. I started out trying to make reservations at a campground for Memorial Day weekend two months before the holiday. I started calling the campgrounds in Lancaster, PA. My first call was to Old Mill Stream Campground and when I asked if they had any sites available for that weekend, I was asked if I had made a reservation for one for this year on LAST Memorial Day. I said no and was told, well then there aren't any. Hmm. I asked if there are ever cancellations and was told that there could be and that I should try back every week. I called all of the other campgrounds in Lancaster and the story was the same. I started looking in Connecticut, upstate NY, and Massachusetts. I got the same story from campgrounds there to. This is THE camping weekend of the year - I suppose because it is the first starting off the camping season. Ah well, this was another RVing lesson learned. Memorial Day requires planning well in advance- a year in advance.

When we were at Old Mill Stream Campground on our way to Maryland at the end of April, I asked again at the office if there had been any cancellations for Memorial Day weekend. One of the nice ladies that works there looked at her computer and said... yes! One space opened up due to a cancellation and our Roadtrek was the perfect size for it. I was not sure what that meant so I asked. It was one of the "dreaded" T-spaces and I would be in the T with a long travel trailer. I was a little apprehensive about accepting it but this was truly a take it now or leave it offer. We took it. We were told the site number and on our way out we took a drive to the site to check it out. When we looked it was on the end of a row and that opened possibilities to get in and out easier.

OK - we were set for Memorial Day. Now, as I wrote about in my article about Maryland, we encountered a new problem with the Roadtrek while we were away. The water pump was sucking air and not pumping water from the outside water tank. While there was water in the inside water tank (the 190 has two fresh water tanks), the water worked fine, but once that emptied and the outside water tank had to take over gravity stopped pushing the water through and an air leak in the line was preventing the pump from priming and drawing water up from the tank below. We learned this after we made this Memorial Day reservation. When we got home we called dealer service with hopes that we could come right away to have this fixed. June was the answer for the next available appointment. June. After Memorial Day. Cancel the trip or make due. We decided we could make due. We could either just use the inside tank or we could hook up the water hose every day and use city water (campground water) which does not require the water pump. Fine.

We left on the trip with our inside fresh water tank full and we were off to Lancaster. Yes, we go there frequently. It has been a refuge for me from NY for many, many years. In fact, I recently calculated that it is now 50 years. (I have seen a lot of changes there!)

Of course, a trip off Long Island means a long drive through construction and traffic and a distance that used to take us no more than forty five minutes now takes almost an hour and a half. We got away from New York and into New Jersey. Getting on the NJ Turnpike we encountered a barricade on the Cars Only lanes and was directed onto the truck lanes which, of course, were backed up. The Roadtrek can drive in the Car Only lanes - it is a van and in NY is given passenger car plates. I am not sure why the barricade was down on those lanes as there were cars driving in them - having come on from further exits - and all the way to the merge of both sets of lanes - the car lanes were clear and moving. Unlike the truck lanes that were stop and go.

I wanted to get to the campground as the first stop and while it would have been easier to go to Green Dragon Farmers Market right off the PA Turnpike, we drove on to Old Mill Stream Campground. It was around 2:30 pm. The trip took four and a half hours but we did stop for lunch. We went into the office to check in and pay for the weekend. I don't know if I have ever said this before in an article, but when you go to a campground you pay in full when you arrive.

We were told our space number which we already knew and drove down and around the lanes to get to our space in a direction so that we could back in - we had the left arm of the T looking into the space. The campground was packed with every space full or about to be filled. As we drove through on this Friday afternoon, people were already out in front of their RVs and trailers sitting in groups. As we passed, groups of people either did not look up or they just stared. We got to what we thought we had seen as our space and realized that our space was not on the end of a row, but the next T down from that space. We had misread the space numbers that day when we looked. The motorhome that was to be in the next space was not there. There was a car parked in that space. I backed in - with Meryl's direction and we got out. A gentleman came over to tell us that this was his car and it was only parked there until the campground people were finished working around his site. Not a problem. We smiled and started to test the electricity at our site.

This is when we saw that the large Class A RV in the site above our site had a 120 volt extension cord running from his site into our electric box. We looked to see if we could see him to ask why this was there, but he was nowhere to be found. OK. We are still new to all of this and were not sure of the etiquette. Maybe this was common - or maybe he was just rude. We were not jumping to conclusions and hoped that when we returned that night from our day out, the electric cord would be gone. The 30 amp outlet in our box was there for us to use. I tested the voltage and the voltage was a bit low - 113 volts. This was the lowest voltage that I have tested. Usually it is just above 120 volts and sometimes higher. If there are a lot of campers plugged into the campgrounds electric system and they have appliances and air conditioners running then the overall voltage will drop. I was pretty certain that 113 volts would be fine but we took out our power protector and plugged it in because this also would test the circuit and if the voltage is too low it will not turn on. It clicked on as it should. We put all of the testing equipment away and got in the Roadtrek to go to Green Dragon Farmers Market for the afternoon.

When we returned late that night, the electric cord was still there plugged into our box. We both were annoyed. (At the end of the trip I asked on an RV forum if I was right to be annoyed and most responses said yes. It was suggested that it should be reported to the campground office. And while we had thought of that, we decided not to make waves. It has been our experience in life that the one who complains is the one that is looked down upon by the powers that be rather than the offender. Had it caused us a real problem we would have gone to the office and said something. It was also said to me on the forum that this guy should have come to us and asked. He didn't and we never did see him the whole weekend.)

End of PART I

Next week - Part II