Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Worst Summer Turns Into the Worst Year

It has been awhile since our last article and that pretty much has been the result of avoidance to just put all that has happened since September in writing. The last time we took the Roadtrek out of state was the last Saturday in September. We went to an event in Pennsylvania and took the Roadtrek to go there and back the same day.  That was fairly uneventful other a small thing at the location of the event which is something to share because when driving any van RV - not just a Roadtrek you need to be aware of what you are parking on if you have to park in a field or on the grass. This event was at a park and parking for the park was limited so the park opened up several grass fields to park on. The day was beautiful - sunny and pleasant but the days before it had rained hard and a lot - what else was new?!  We drove down the  entrance road in the park and was stopped by a gentleman who was directing where to park. He pointed into an open field and directed us to go into one of the spots toward the left. I looked ahead and saw that a good deal of the grass and dirt area was mud. I asked if the ground was solid - adding that if we go into the mud we will sink. That is not an exaggeration. With the weight and the ground clearance of the Roadtrek if get into the mud you will sink - and possibly not easily get out of the mud. He just shrugged his shoulders and said "Oh!" and pointed to the same area he pointed to before. I headed into that area and stopped where he had said to park. I could see as I pulled forward into the spot that I was going to be in trouble if we stayed there. The mud was deep and I did not even stop, I kept going through the open space in front and through onto the more solid ground of the area between the parked cars that served as a road. I drove around looking for a more solid place to park. I came across a grassy area that some cars had parked in and went there. I pulled through a soft spot forward onto solid ground. When we got out of the car I saw that the tires in the space just behind us that I just drove though made ruts about four inches deep. Where we stopped was solid and we hiked over to the location of the event - and while it was much smaller than we anticipated we spent about an hour going through it - twice.  We headed after that to our usual PA stomping grounds and had a pleasant day and a nice dinner before heading home that night.

Four days later I woke up with a pain in my shoulder that ran down my left arm. It was the worst pain I have ever felt - and since one hears that an unexplained pain in the left arm could indicate one is having a heart attack, Meryl said - we are going to the hospital - and we did. I spent 10 hours in the hospital - "being observed" and was told I was just fine  - no heart attack. I was told to go home and I said - "What about my shoulder?" which was still hurting A LOT.  To which they answered, we don't know, go see your doctor.  The doctor found a variety of minor things, gave me a couple of prescriptions and told me that for the pain, take Extra Strength Tylenol. I asked how long this would last and he said "6 to 8 weeks".  Great!  And, indeed, I was in pain of varying intensity for eight weeks. And during that time, I had a great deal of difficulty driving because of how the seat belt would pull on my shoulder no matter if I was the car, our passenger van, or when I tried sitting in the Roadtrek on the driveway. There was no way that I could drive on the few trips we had planned for October, much less be able to get by comfortably living inside even for a few days. That ended all plans for travel. And the worse part was we were not taking our usual end of RV season trip to get the Roadtrek ready by dumping the tanks at a campground sewer dump hole to be ready to winterize. Not good - but as it turned out in the end, maybe the best thing that could have happened.

Early in November it was bothering me that we had not driven the Roadtrek since the end of September and we really should take it out for a drive - whether far or near but it had to go out. I was even willing to try to go out of state with it - for a same day there and back trip, but still the weather was not cooperating. We settled for a trip out the the East End of Long Island - about 100 miles or so just to drive the Roadtrek - and that is what we did. Totally uneventful and just for the sake of driving.  At the end we filled the gas tank and I bought two bottles of Seafoam gasoline additive to put in the gas tank to run through the generator when I ran it two ours each month in the winter with an electric space heater running to put at least a half load on it. This is recommended by the generator company and I have been doing this monthly since the Roadtrek was new. Two cans is just a little more than is needed for the number of gallons in a full tank and I just put all of both cans in - a little more can't hurt.

Mid-November we had to winterize. I figured that the usual gallon of water that I put in the black waste tank to keep it wet when we last traveled in August (for couple of days) would get dumped into a bucket and carried into the house to flush down the toilet. (When we got the Roadtrek and were faced with the need to dump without having a place to dump the black tank, I bought a plastic pail and wrote on it "Doody Pail" so that it would not be used for anything else. 😉)  We were all set to winterize. We pulled the macerator hose out, I started the engine to put a little boost into the RV batteries, pulled the black tank handle, and with Meryl holding the nozzle over the pail, I pushed the red macerator button. I could hear it running but not as loud as usual. Nothing came out of the tank.  My first thought was that even though we had charged the batteries a few days before maybe the Roadtrek needed to be plugged in. There should be nothing in the grey tank as that was dumped completely and not filled back with any water on the last trip in August. We pulled out the power cord and plugged it into the 20 amp outlet outside the house as we always do. Again, we got set up to dump the tank, and again a running macerator - low volume - and nothing came out. We have dumped on the driveway before. We have never had a problem. The van is on an small incline front end up but that has never mattered. I thought that maybe the van had to be level this time for whatever reason. The Andersen Leveling ramps came out and I put the Roadtrek up on the ramps and level. Again - nothing came out of the macerator. Off the ramps, we tried again - and this time not only did nothing come out but I could smell a burning order from under the van - OH BOY!  Had we run the macerator dry to the point that we just burned out the motor. We stopped and put everything to do with dumping away.  We still had to winterize and if there was any water in the black tank I would overload the black tank with RV antifreeze and keep our fingers crossed that it would not freeze. We winterized the Roadtrek as we always do - following my own directions from this site - which I print out and keep with us while we do it just so we do it all and in the correct order. And we were doing this with my bad shoulder and arm which still hurt some.

Meryl is great! She is always willing - and able - to do what I cannot do. And she did a good deal of the winterizing - with my help as much as I could help.  If you know our winterizing process one of the things we have in our Roadtrek is the winterizing valve to connect the RV antifreeze bottle directly to the water pump. There is a large, brass cap nut on the connection for the hose that goes into the bottle on this winterizing valve and it requires a variable wrench that opens beyond an inch which means the usual 6" long wrench does not have jaws that open enough. An 8" wrench does, but is just slightly too long to work easily inside the cabinet that the water pump (and this nut) is located. She was struggling with it - and I got it to fit enough to get the nut loose enough to hand remove it. Meryl turned to me and asked why is there no wrench that fits this and I explained that we would need what is called a "stubby"wrench with jaws that open big enough for this nut which are not cheap. Meryl said - "That is what I want for Christmas!" And that is exactly what Meryl got for Christmas - her very own stubby wrench to use when winterizing the Roadtrek! She was actually very happy getting it.

So, I kept the idea of going even for one day that we would get the Roadtrek out of state for one day - out and back. By the beginning of December my arm and shoulder were better and I kept looking for a day that neither the weather or obligations would conflict with - and that never happened.

We decided that in the Spring we would make an appointment and take the Roadtrek to the dealer/service in Pennsylvania where we bought it and have them look at the macerator and if it is broken, burned out, whatever, have them fix it or repair it. We recalled that on our last trip in August the macerator worked but was a little odd - it seemed to empty the tanks too quickly - not as it usually does - but the grey tank read empty - and the black tank - which never reads empty was emptied first and the grey tank was dumped that day after it - so it was still dumping then.  During this period since August, we also discovered that the Fantastic Fan roof mounted exhaust fan lid was not opening. The mechanism looks fine. The knob to raise it would turn and then get tight - as if something was holding it down. The last time it was open and then closed was a very hot day in August - near 100 degrees F. My first thought was that when it was closed in that heat the seal and the lid stuck together. The easy way to try to fix this was to take off the fan screen inside so that I can reach up into the van and reach the bottom of the lid and while turning the knob before it gets tight to give the lid a push up - BUT I was not going to attempt this because if there is a mechanical problem I did not want an open vent in the roof until the Spring!  We just left it alone. When we go for the macerator we will ask the shop to take care of that too!

This is the way it has been - and unfortunately it was all of 2018 with the Roadtrek - not being able to travel - perhaps the short trips contributed to the problems with the macerator? I don't know. The topper on the cake was one day we went inside the Roadtrek to exercise the generator and I noticed that the molding that is on the edge of the wood panel that comes down along the end of the sink counter was coming off - but not just off at an end, but had come off forming a "U" off the edge, still connected at the ends of the "U" and down about four inches. Pushing up on it to get it back in place - it does not budge. It is cold and when the Spring comes hopefully the warmth will let it expand and will move and I will fix this myself. 

So other than a cold that came, went, and came back again and maybe is going away - again, we are looking toward 2019 to be much better than 2018!  I want to thank the kind reader who recently emailed us to ask if we are alright - since there has been no article since the beginning of September!  I did answer personally and said that I would get this article finally written. I am always happy to answer our readers questions - and we do get a lot of questions by email that I do answer as extensively as I can directly back to the reader.  Things are happening at Roadtrek but, until I have reliable details, I will not write about it as right now no one really knows what the outcome will be.