Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It Isn't All Peaches and Cream Part 3

At the end of Part 2 we were able to actually get away on a trip in June. One of the trips we look forward to every year is our trip to Pennsylvania over Fourth of July. This is one of the weeks and weekends that requires a reservation a year in advance and we had made this reservation on this same trip the year before. When we are checking into the campground we make the reservation for the next year. We can cancel that reservation at this particular campground up to a couple of days before.When we arrived on this trip I told the very nice campground host at the desk when we checked in that I wanted to make our reservation for 2015 and she pulled out her reservation sheets that were already starting to fill. We have been doing this trip mid-week to include July 4th that was falling during the week and not on a weekend. In 2015, July 4th is a Saturday and I told her that I wanted to shift the dates to include July 4th again and perhaps a few days after as well. Well, this was not as easy as it sounded. We could come for the same days - not dates - as we had in 2014 but not the days that these same dates would fall out on in 2015. It is hard to understand - it was hard to understand then - but what she was saying was we would have to leave on Saturday, July 4th and this was not what I wanted. What we were left with was making a partial reservation and then having to call after we returned home at the end of the trip to find out if those dates that we wanted would be available. I suggested another site or a changing sites in mid-stay, but it did not matter. she had to wait until those that were coming for this year did not want to come back on those days next year. Now, this is a very accommodating campground and they have gone out of their way for us many times in the past including one year when an unanticipated hurricane during our stay and her refunding the balance of our stay mid-trip so that we could head for home to secure everything before the storm hit. I knew this time that they were not being difficult but understood as she said that she had to be fair. In the end we got the full reservation when we called the next week - and in the site that we prefer (a known to me to be a level site with a good location in the campground). 

A week ahead of this trip I started checking the ten day weather forecasts. What I was seeing was forecasts for rain during the time we would be on this trip. Much of what we do when we are on this trip is outdoors - pretty much all of it is outdoors other than driving through the farmlands and if it is raining there is not much to see doing that. I started to look for things that we can do that we don't usually do in Lancaster that is indoors. There are two places that we have been to in the long past that are indoors and I made sure to get the details if it turned out we needed to have rain day activities. As it turned out, we needed to arrange for one day at one of those attractions, but because of the weather we had to rearrange other things that we had planned to do. We did go to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg - and I did write about that here. As I say in that article we kept pushing the outdoor things off toward the end of our trip. That day that we went to the museum it turned out that it rained heavily in Lancaster and did not rain at all in Harrisburg so we never actually got to see the rain that day, but when we returned to the campground that night we saw that a very large tree diagonally across the lane from our campsite had been hit by heavy wind in the storm and broke sending a very large section of the tree down. The tree was not where anyone was camping and no damage was done other than to the tree. But the storm must have been severe. We realized that our choice to go to Harrisburg that day turned out to be the right one. We also came back to the site to find that the wind had blown away the markers that we put down on the ground to set the place to park where the Roadtrek will be level in the site. While this site is fairly level it does take some time to find that level spot which can change from visit to visit depending on how much one of the big rigs displaced the gravel.

We kept planning what we would do around the weather forecasts which don't always turn out to be accurate. We, ourselves, actually saw little rain though one evening before dinner we were hearing severe storm warnings over the radio that were coming to our area. We were about to head to dinner and decided to do that before the storm hit. As we were driving to dinner I saw message signs on the roads about the severe rain and winds that were approaching. Since at home message signs like this talk about traffic conditions and not "take shelter", I figured what is coming must be really serious. Just as we got to the restaurant, the rain and wind started. We parked the Roadtrek, pulled on our rain jackets, and made our way into the restaurant. As it turned out, the rain had stopped by the time we left the restaurant. The Roadtrek and the ground were wet but that was about it with the rain that day. Have I said yet that when I am traveling I am doing it to relax? This is not my idea of relaxing.

We can't just pick up and go off in the Roadtrek whenever we would like. Meryl has work responsibilities and we are both involved with organizations that require one or both of us to be at a meeting or an event. When we plan trips we are planning around dates that we can go without something else on the calendar. And we both like and enjoy what we like and we both like and enjoy certain places and areas and these were where we traveled when we used to stay in hotels and these are our places of choice when we go off in the Roadtrek for a weekend, a week, or longer.  I know many will think this as crazy, but to each his and her own. There were two places that this trip must include and those are Kutztown Folk Pennsylvania Dutch Festival and Green Dragon Farmers Market. We look forward to Kutztown and I have been attending that since I was a child. Green Dragon is only open on Fridays - which would be the Fourth of July and the trip was planned around this - we were to go to Kutztown on Thursday and Green Dragon on Friday. Well, Thursday was another day predicted for bad weather and that was the night of the severe storm coming that I just told about. So Kutztown would have to be Friday - and Green Dragon would be missed. 

We went to Kutztown and that was as enjoyable as it ever was. As usual it was hot and when we returned to the Roadtrek it was over 105 degrees inside. I keep saying that we have to put up the vent lid on days like this but this was a day that was still predicted for possible rain and I did not want to take the chance of rain coming into the open vent. The dash air conditioner does cool things down inside rather well, but I still have to be concerned about things that we have inside that should not be in such heat, particularly in the way of started insulin pens that cannot be put back into the refrigerator and diabetes meters and test strips that are not supposed to be put in the refrigerator or be allowed to go over 90 degrees F.  We have found a way to deal with this with something called a Frio pouch that has a chemical inside that when soaked in water will keep the temperature inside the pouch 20 degrees lower than the outside temperature. We have tried other things in the past - an insulated cooler box and a thermos but neither worked as what you put in has to be cold to stay cold - and cold was also what these items cannot be.

We had arrived at Kutztown early that day and when we were leaving I realized that we actually could make it to Green Dragon and be there for an hour and an hour is better than nothing. This is not close to where we were but in the direction we had to go anyway and I headed there. We arrived to a near empty parking lot and found out that they had just closed earlier than usual for the Fourth of July. OK. We left and headed for dinner.

There is one very significant part of this trip that I have not shared yet. This was the trip that went bang, bang, bang, rat-a-tat-tat, and knock, knock, knock. In our first year in the Roadtrek we did a good job of quieting the many noises that occur that you will hear when going over a bumpy road or driving on an uneven road surface, etc. There was always one noise that we could not find to quiet it and we have been trying since then to figure it out. Actually, there are two noises - the bang, rat-a-tat-tat, knock AND what I call the platter noise. The platter noise comes and goes. It happens sometimes on an uneven road or on a very even road. It happens sometimes when we start driving from a stop and it happens sometimes when you are just driving along. It starts and then stops and may or may not start again. I call it the "platter" noise because it sounds like a round platter being dropped on a flat surface and it wobbles around until it stops - that wobbling noise is the noise. Meryl and I cannot agree on the direction any of these noises are coming from. I will say it is one side of the van and she says the other. She has sat in the third seat to get closer and that has not helped to locate these noises. These noises have been happening since almost the beginning - the bang noises have been there from the start and the platter noise started about five months after getting the Roadtrek. Some have said that they have the platter noise and it is a loose heat shield under the van which would be possible if I had not had my mechanic who works on my cars go under the Roadtrek and look for a loose heat shield which he said all were secure. We still don't know.

Anyway, the bang, bang, bang, rat-a-tat-tat, knocking noise is inside the Roadtrek. Not an engine noise. More of a noise of wood against wood. The rat-a-tat-tat is a fast vibration. The bang, bang bang coincides with the road surface, and the knock, knock goes along with the bang, bang. Now, imagine you are in a big World War II bomber flying through enemy flak all around buffeting the airplane. The plane goes up and down buffeted by the shells exploding around it. The Roadtrek on a rough road goes up and down as well. And in that plane you hear BANG, BANG, BANG and with that RAT-A-TAT-TAT. And that is what we are experiencing driving my Roadtrek. As I say, it is not mechanical, it is inside. Something or some things are banging together, vibrating against each other, and knocking together and from the hollow sounds - it involves wood. We have secured everything in the drawers and cabinets. I will think it must be THIS or THAT and go and take those out and the noises are still there. On a nice smooth road they are not heard. I wish there were more nice smooth roads, but these seem few. Outside of NY, it is better - roads tend to be better. Cross into NY and the war starts."Pilot to Base, I am holder her steady. She feels like she is coming apart. We will do everything we can to make it back in!" For some reason on this trip all of this was almost constant. On the trip home, I was just on the side of going out of my mind with the noises. Meryl hears them too. It is not just me. And then to top it off the kitchen drawer would not stay closed. It was sliding open and that was adding more noises to the other noises.

We have had a way to keep the kitchen drawer closed. It has always slid open when there is a lot of vibration driving - and in NY that is the norm - at least in the Roadtrek. I took two suction cups and some rope. The rope is attached between the two suction cups and is wrapped around the drawer knob. Perhaps it was the extreme heat but the suction cups were not holding to the top of the granite counter top in the Roadtrek over the drawer. They have held there well always before. I cleaned the counter top and the suction cups and the drawer kept sliding open. For a very exciting experience drive on a turnpike at speed and when making a curve in the road, hear the drawer slide open with a bang - and then have it slide back and forth wondering if all that is inside will bounce out or worse the drawer will break as a result. This happened more than once and with few places or opportunities to stop to close it again and try to secure it - again.

To say the least, this trip ended with a bang. As was the saying for trips during 2014 (and several before) - It's not all peaches and cream!" We will talk more about the noises in the next part of this series as we head out on our next trip.

Part 4 next.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It Isn't All Peaches and Cream Part 2

We left the last article with our service call finished and our Roadtrek ready for its first really, real trip of the season. The plan was for what should be our annual trip to Maryland during the last weekend in April for the Fort Frederick Market Fair - an 18th Century market fair of the best sutlers (suppliers) of 18th Century reproductions for reenactors. I have written about this fair on this site before and you can find my article just about it on the Places To Visit page of this site. Anyway - before April I had been in a search for a campground to stay at. We will never go back to Jellystone Campground in Hagerstown again - see those articles on the Campgrounds page. Reports about the KOA that is in that area have very mixed reviews and there are too many comments about an entrance road that runs too close to the edge of a river - and since we come back late at night each day, that is something that I don't want to find out really is a problem when we get there.

Over the years this event has had very scattered weather - it can be freezing, it can be very hot, and it often rains a little on one of the days. For those hot nights - and there have been enough of those to be prepared - the A/C is essential and for that we want to be able to plug in to shore power. And aside from that the local Walmart is in an area that does not permit overnighting in their parking lot. There is RV parking at the event site which is a state park but for this event that parking requires driving through the actual event grounds which means coming in and going out at specific times of the day - which would not work for us at all. So I was on a quest - looking in every direction for a campground. In some areas finding campgrounds - at least campgrounds that are without problems - is not always easy. I finally came down to a small, privately owned campground in Winchester, West Virginia. The event we were going to is in Big Pool, Maryland which is on the Pennsylvania border on the western central side of the state. Winchester, West Virginia is not anywhere near there but with the right route it is a little over an hour away. While not ideal, that is tolerable. I looked closely at the campground rules and there was something that looked like they could be a problem - the time needed to come in to the campground (not after a certain hour) without a $50 fee. I contacted the owner and that was not a problem as long as we had a reservation as this was only for late arrivals without a reservation. Fine. I had a campground that was a strong possibility despite its location.

Now is when the weather - which has been a thorn all this past year - comes in for the first time of this season. Weather reports for Big Pool were dismal. Heavy rain storms were expected all throughout the event. While I have learned that long term weather forecasts are not to be relied on, I did not make reservations at the campground (because of the time of year they would not be a problem getting the day before needed) and I continued to watch the reports as the event got closer and closer. And the weather forecasts did not improve. This is an all outdoor event in large open grass and dirt fields. There is no cover from the rain other than under the canvas of the sutler's tents. You are walking through the mud or on whatever wood could be put down to prevent those attending from sliding into ditches and holes in the ground. For one day - OK. After a rain - OK. Not for the entire event. And it came down to when we would leave and it was decided that it would be better not to go. It turned out to be a good decision, as a friend who combines his trip to this event with a visit to his kids in Maryland did go and said that the rain was so bad that not only did the site flood but some sutlers were washed out. There was one day of fair weather in the  mud.

OK, it isn't all peaches and cream! Would it have matter if we were staying in a hotel? - not this time.


Memorial Day weekend was the next possible trip. We have local reenactments that we are involved with in May so travel is out. We had not planned on Memorial Day away for 2014 but now with the urge to get away, it was looking better and better. The problem is this is one of the BIG campground weekends of the year - and holiday weekends at campgrounds require non-refundable deposits and defined days to stay. For example - want to go Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - that is not possible. You have to be there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday or at least pay for those days. Some campgrounds will let you cancel and get your deposit or part of your deposit back if you inform them within a certain number of days of your intended stay - but that was past at this point. I called around to see if we could get someone's cancelled reservation - nothing. If you don't make a reservation as soon as reservations open for a holiday weekend - usually a full year in advance - don't plan on going.  No Memorial Day weekend in the Roadtrek.

I have come to think in terms of holiday weekends don't have to take place on the days everyone else says is a holiday weekend. As long as we can get away and Meryl can rearrange her work schedule, we can go just about any week before or after the holiday.  So, just because Memorial Day was last week we could go another week. Other than one weekend in June that we had a reenacting event, we were open - that is if the weather was cooperating. And it wasn't. Rain and storms weekend after weekend, mid-week after mid-week. When you are going to places where what you want to see and do is outside, the weather (at least to us) matters. So the Roadtrek sat on the driveway waiting.

We did get away for the First real trip in June. And that story has already been written and you can read that here - or perhaps re-read it if you read it in June. 

And by the way - the Roadtrek outside storage compartment support arm that I mention in that article - well, I thought that I had fixed it by a slight bend to the section of the top part of the arm that interlocks with the lower section of the arm to keep the arm from falling, but that fix was short lived. When it feel on Meryl again,  Meryl came up with the idea of a large office spring clip used to clamp the two sections of the arm together stopping them from slipping apart. So far that seems to be working. This arm is riveted together and to the body of the cabinet. There are no screws to tighten and no way to replace this without drilling it out. I guess it would have been too simple to screw the support arm brackets in originally so that the arm could be removed if needed. Nothing is that simple. Well - it isn't all peaches and cream!

End of Part 2
Part 3 Next...