Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shake Out "Cruise" OR Go East, Old Man!

With the winter weather and the difficulty getting our Roadtrek backed down the driveway and into the four lane avenue that runs in front of our house, the one thing that I should do during the winter is take the Roadtrek out for a drive. No vehicle should sit for a length of time without driving, but as much as think that I need to do it in the winter it never happens. The first time since November that the our 190 was actually driven - and not just started, pulled twenty feet down the driveway to run the generator so as to not put the generator exhaust into the side door of our house, was in early May when we took it to our mechanic for an oil change and the required State Inspection. It was driven all of two miles to do that.

The last few times that I have started it on the driveway to at least run the engine, it sounded like a motor boat running. I decided that no matter what the Roadtrek has to get onto the road and be driven.

We planned a two day trip out of state. I no longer travel on Memorial Day weekend because places to go are just too crowded. I figured that the week after Memorial Day might be good to take a trip for a few days. Unfortunately, it has been a wet Spring and that week was no different. Going to places that are outdoors when it is going to rain is just not my idea of a good time. There was going to be one decent day and I planned a one day excursion - drive there and back the same day with the Roadtrek and that day where we were heading were reports that storms would be in that area. So much for that, but the Roadtrek had to be taken for a ride so we decided we were heading out anyway - just to drive and we would head toward the end of Long Island to one of the points. I may have talked about where we live before. Long Island is shaped like a fish with the head of the fish toward the adjacent island of Manhattan and the end of tail of the fish - literally shaped like a fish tail with two extended points is the other eastern end of Long Island. We had nothing planned to do when we got there. We had no place in mind to go. When we would get to the spot where the points split we would decide if we were heading for the south fork of Montauk or the north fork of Orient.

We had prepared the Roadtrek for a trip for two days anyway so it was already to go. Getting out of the driveway and into the street has taken as long as a half hour waiting for a lull in the constant stream of cars and trucks so as to back out safely and not be crashed into. The morning of our shake out "cruise" - as we would be cruising and not much else - we were able to get out into the road in just ten minutes - a big surprise to both of us. While on the driveway with the motor running I could still hear that motor boat noise. I said to Meryl - after she stood in the street watching for on coming traffic with a walkie talkie - and her saying - "GO! NOW!!!" meaning get into the street now or wait longer - that maybe it was a good thing that we had not planned to go very far.

When we had de-winterized one of the things that I did was check the tire pressure for air. We filled the tires that day to 60 front and 80 rear, but it was in the low 50's that day in temperature. Trip day it was in the upper 70's and as we stopped at a red light on the corner near our house, I checked the tire pressure on the dash. The fronts were both over 65 and the rear were both in the upper 80s! Oh boy, I thought. But there was nothing that I was going to be able to do about this now. I did not want to stop to let air out of the tires. There was no place to stop where if I took too much out, it would not involve a long process of getting out the inflator and filling them back up. They would just have to stay this way until we were back home - and again I thought that it was a good thing we were not going out of state.  Looking at the gas gauge the tank was just over half full - it had been almost full when we got home from out last trip in November but running the generator every month for two hours exercise plus other runs of the generator during that time to now, the van needed gas. The gas had stabilizer put in back in November and that was still in the tank. My thought that maybe the gas was why I was hearing a motor boat when the engine was running was the cause. We decided to drive to BJ's to buy gas which is a twenty minute trip in itself but it was in the right direction and the more driving that we did on this day the better.

New gas and the same noise - and not a noise I have heard before in this van or any other car/van that we have owned. No time to think about that now - it is time to take the Roadtrek for a ride! And off we went. Route 495 is a limited access highway that travels the length of the North Shore of LI. We got on that and headed east. It is one of only a couple of limited access highway on Long Island that the Roadtrek is allowed to be on. All parkways on Long Island are posted at the entrance ramps, "NO vehicles over 7' 10" ". On Long Island in the Roadtrek - or any RV - one follows the trucks. If the trucks can go on the road, so can the Roadtrek.

We were driving along at a good pace. The road was fairly clear. The Roadtrek was driving just fine. And then we heard on the radio that there was an accident on 495 at exit 58. At that point we were at exit 51. Then we saw an hazard ahead sign that said accident between 58 and 59 - right and center lane closed. At this point the road was still moving but eventually it was going to slow down to a stop to merge everyone into the left lane. I asked Meryl if she knew of a way around this and she said that the service road that runs along side would take us past there. As we saw the traffic starting to slow at exit 56 we got off.  We drove about two miles when this narrow road which went down to a single lane each way was stopped with cars and trucks completely. We crawled along until we got to a point that we could see that a traffic light with a 30 second cycle was the cause of the backup. Once through that we were back to driving along and as we saw the cars on the 495 now moving we got back on.

The 495 ends at the Town of Riverhead - which is just before the split of the forks. The 495 ended and we were now on Rt. 25 a street route that also goes most of the island on the North Shore east to west. We keep heading east. At this point this is a very suburban area - even though it is a very long way from urban NYC. There are the usual stores that line the road - Walmart, Home Depot, fast food restaurants (which we should have stopped at for lunch at this point) and the like. As we drove the road and the surroundings became much more rural. Then we came to the point that if we went right we would head south to the South Shore - heading then for Montauk Point and in doing so driving through the Hamptons (where the rich and famous live) along the way. - or keep going toward the northeast toward the north piece of the tail of the fish, Orient Point It had been a long time since I was along the North Fork so we headed toward Orient.

What is along the road here then changed. No longer were we passing chain stores but local stores and shops - bait and tackle shops, small marine stores, shops selling marine themed antiques and decor and all that goes along in  combined marine and farm small communities, That is a bit of an odd combination and as one gets further east you see less farm and a lot more marine. And the road goes from two lanes each way to one lane each way.

And then in a small town, we come to a road block. Several police cars along each side of the road and police officers (I could not tell if they were county, state, or local police - I am guessing local because the uniforms did not fit the usual county or state look) standing in the middle of the road - looking at the front of each car, truck and my Roadtrek passing by and pulling some over to the side where we could see papers being handed out windows to an officer and the officer looking at them. This was no criminal investigation - it was a traffic stop to make some money and I would say they were checking State Inspection stickers on windshields to make sure they were up to date. I kept going very slowly as I past the officer who was looking at me and then my windshield as I was passing him. I had a feeling he might just pull us over because of what we were in, but he didn't and we cruised on past. Meryl said to me, "And we have to go back through that on the way back." My comment was that maybe there is a way around this part of the road.  At least we were rolling along - at the 30 mph speed limit and not bumper to bumper going through the police stop.

So we cruise along. Meryl is reading out the names of the local business as we drive past them. Lots of quaint names - lots of non-Long Island typical businesses unless you are in an area on the Island like this. In between towns there were stretches of woods. Every so often we would go though a point where the water on each side of us could be seen. At one point the water was just feet away from each side of the road, but at this point these were just parts of the fork that narrows before it widens again. We were both trying to figure out when we might have been in this area before. Years ago we were invited on a coworker's yacht. Yep, yacht! He worked because he liked to, not because he had to - and he had married extremely rich. We were both certain that the "yacht club" where the boat was tied up at was in this area in this direction. We eventually passed the town where the boat had been. We will never forget that day - I don't do well on boats and this one was no exception - and Meryl had never really been on a boat before other than a rowboat and she recalls that night when we got home and the room would not stop spinning. Yep, this was where that boat was, all right! We kept going. That town is a large town and at the east end of the town, it becomes very small town commercial - with a lot of cars and a lot of people on the streets that are one lane each way and then the road comes to an end and one must make a left to continue anywhere - as if one turns right one ends up in the Peconic River. They can call this a river all they want - it is part of the ocean! So we make a left and the street now that the Roadtrek is on is getting narrower with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other much less a Roadtrek and a car and not to help things but there are cars also parked on each side of the street along the curb - and then we are facing a small truck coming toward us on the other side of the road. Up ahead I see a long opening between the parked cars and hoping the truck gets the idea, I move forward so that I can pull the Roadtrek to the side of the road there so he can pass. He saw what I was doing and as I got out of the way, he squeaked past. It is said that a Roadtrek can go anywhere - well we have encountered some roads in our travels where a Roadtrek should not go. I said to Meryl, "We have to get this thing off this road, NOW!" As we keep going we are seeing intersecting streets coming up but each was narrower than what we were on. We kept going and come to another end of the road though this time turning right heading east - bring us back to Rt 25 and it opened to at least two full size lanes one each way.

We were now driving close to the water on each side of us. While we had not much noticed the time, my body clock alarm was going off telling me that if I did not want to get into any problems I better start thinking about turning back toward civilization and lunch. There was no place to park the Roadtrek in any of the small towns we had been through, so this meant heading back a distance. But I also had this urge to keep going east - and we had seen a sign that said five miles to Orient State Park which is the absolute end of the North Fork. I was looking at waves on one side - and a little further waves on the other and I decided that even though we had come this far it was time to head back - but where to make a U-Turn with a Roadtrek on a two lane road with nothing on each side but mostly water? I saw a lot up ahead which turned out to be the entrance of a residents' only beach. I pulled in to turn around and got stares from several in the parking lot who knew that none of the local residents that belonged at this beach owned such a vehicle as we were in. We were going to head back. As we were pulling out of the parking lot back onto now West Route 25 there was water in front of us and a sign that said it was State Oysterponds preservation. Lots has been going on to save the oysters in the waters along Long Island from being over-fished out along with the lobsters, both of which has brought a lot of controversy - mostly from those who earn their living taking these out of the water and supplying the many seafood restaurants.

Now that we were heading back I started thinking about two things - driving back down that very narrow street through that town again and going back through the police stop - why press our luck! As we are driving we come to a sign that had not been anywhere along the way east - "Truck Route 25" pointing one way and "Local Route 25" point at a cut off. We were taking the Roadtrek on Truck Route 25 West!

We were still passing water on one side but more land on the other. In a few spots one can see land across the water - which is Connecticut across the Long Island Sound. When you live on Long Island many location pages on websites to show where a store you need to go to is located, it will tell you a place in Connecticut is just 20 miles away. Well, absolutely it is just 20 miles away if you go by boat or fly. If you are going to drive, that 20 miles could take you three to four hours. We kept going.

I decided that if we were going to pass the places we had seen to eat at on the way along - that we actually could park at, we were going to have to head back south on the North Fork (yeah) to pass them on local 25 that we came east on. We did come to one sign that showed we could do that there - and back we were on a small road but at least this one was wide enough for two vehicles to pass as long as we did not meet another truck going the other way.  We did get to have lunch (I should add that we do always carry orange juice and crackers just in case).

Now in the parking lot of where we had lunch, I am hearing the noise that we started out with. It had never gone away but with our focus on other things were were not listening for it. We start looking at what is on. All along the dash board air vent was open and on and off the dash A/C had been on. I turned off the dash A/C and the noise was still there. Meryl reached over and shut off the dash air vent fan and the noise stopped. We sat and listened closely. No noise. I turned the fan on again - noise. I turned the fan up to high - and LOTS of LOUD noise. That actually was good to hear, because now I knew that there was nothing wrong with the engine. I was not happy that I would have to get the Roadtrek out of the driveway again to get this taken care of - and looking at the time I was hoping that the service station that my two mechanics own would still be open by the time we got back. They close at six so there should be time - unless we got caught in westbound rush hour traffic which was likely. I looked at the gas gauge and realized that I had used a quarter of a tank of gas on this cruise and we should stop back at BJs to fill up - just so the Roadtrek is ready for a real trip.

When we got to the service station it was almost 5:30 pm. One of the mechanics came out - the one who has done just about all of the maintenance on my 190 since it was new - and said there were two possibilities. There was something caught in the fan motor or the fan, or there is a problem with the fan motor and it will need to be replaced. He looked inside the front of the van toward under the dash on the passenger side and decided that in the Chevy Express van the dash fan motor is under the hood. Good! This meant they did not need to pull the dashboard out to work on it. He listened and then felt the sides of the motor housing which is on the engine wall in front of the passenger seat and said it was the fan or the motor and he would not be able to tell unless he pulled it out - and said make an appointment. The appointment is in a few days as I am writing this which will be before you are reading this. He told me the part is easy to get and he can have it that day and get it in - no problem - if it needs a new motor assembly.** I don't know what this is going to cost me but it could have been a lot worse.

Is there a moral to this tale? No, it was just another one of my taking you along for a ride. One thing we all should learn is not to let the Roadtrek sit from early November until the beginning of June without driving it.

Oh yes, and the tire pressure. Well I let the Roadtrek sit over night and most of the next afternoon and checked the psi in all of the tires. Front 60, 61, Rear 80, 81. Just about perfect. The temp outside was not near 80 as it had been during the drive but it was near 70. If it gets really hot before we leave on a real trip, I will check the tire pressure again.

** The Roadtrek spent the morning at the mechanic and $107 later we found out that the "heater box" had been stuffed with leaves. The fan assembly had to be taken out and when he looked at the fan there were a couple of small leaves there and knew that this would not cause what was happening. He then went further in and saw the path the air takes from the fan was tightly stuffed with leaves and when the fan motor had been running these were being pulled into the fan causing the noise. He cleared out all of the leaves and made sure there was a clean path, put it all back together again and no more noise. My Roadtrek is parked right in front of my garage door (garage is too low to bring the RT inside). My neighbor has a tree with thin leaves in the middle of his backyard not far from our property line. The leaves from his tree blow everywhere - and I will often find them on the hood of my Roadtrek. I clean them away when I see them but apparently they are getting into the air vents and being drawn in. Other than coming up with a tarp with magnets to hold it on over the vent area in front of the windshield, I don't see much of a way to avoid this. The tarp is a possibility and will have to start figuring this out. I do not want to put a cover on the entire Roadtrek.