Friday, April 26, 2019


Back when we winterized in November, we discovered that the macerator was not pumping. It ran but nothing came out. At first when we tried its usual easily heard sound when it runs was barely audible. While we have run the macerator and dumped the tanks on the driveway before (one bucket at a time) and it has never been a problem, my overly, at times, over analytical mind started coming up with reasons why it was not pumping other than the obvious one - it was broken.  We put it lower down on the incline of the driveway - no difference. We got out the Andersen Levelers and made the Roadtrek level - no difference. On the last attempt I could smell a burning smell coming from the location of the macerator under the van - and then we stopped.

Since we have some readers who I know are not RVers or who are prospective but not yet RV owners, I will explain what a macerator is. It is a water pump installed in the RV - in the case of Roadtreks since the early 2000's permanently installed under the van in the front connected to the waste tank system. There are two waste tanks in most RVs - one is connected to the water drain in the toilet - called the "Black Tank", and one connected to the water drains in the sink and shower -called the "Grey Tank". There are two gate valves that connect the tanks by pulling a handle to the waste removal system - which can be as simple as a hose that uses gravity to take the waste out of each tank, through the hose, and into a sewer hole in the ground - at a campground or other "dump" site. The other system uses a pump - which is what the Roadtrek has - and this pump has sharp, stainless steel blades that spin at high speed and macerate - chop up really fine - any waste that comes out of the waste tanks and then pumps that through a small hose out to the sewer hole in the ground. The advantage of a macerator is that if for some reason the sewer hole was higher than gravity would work to get the waste to it - the macerator is an electric pump and can pump uphill. It is also a fast way to empty (dump) each tank.  The downside of a macerator is that if it breaks then you cannot get the waste out of the tanks and also - you must never put into the waste tanks anything that the macerator will not be able to chop up - so what comes out of you is fine, quick dissolving toilet paper - such as Scott's regular house one-ply is good, but never anything really solid, no drop in bags of chemical as those bags despite what they say don't dissolve, no cleaning wipes, no hair - wraps around the shaft - etc.  Well, ours - after almost 8 years broke.

Back in February I decided that I needed to contact the RV dealer/service center that we have gone for all of our repairs, and try to get an appointment when likely there would no longer be any snow or ice to make the trip to Pennsylvania. I emailed the service rep that we have come to know very well over the years and asked for an appointment in early April. The earliest appointment they had was April 24, 2019.  We had no choice but to accept it. I provided a list of problems which at the time included the macerator not working, a vent fan lid on the roof of the Roadtrek that was stuck and would not open, and that since we were making the trip, to change the oil in the electric generator that is installed under the Roadtrek chassis.  There was no problem - they could do it all when we came. BUT we had to get there early that day - no later than 8:00 am (which right before the date of the trip they agreed to could be 9:00 am when the shop opens to start working).  Since we bought the Roadtrek there, they have always been able to accommodate us to get there around 11:00 am - leaving that morning from NY to make the near 3 hour trip one way. Only once before had they said we had to be there early for the job that needed to be done. While it is possible to stay overnight right at the service center plugged into their 30 amp electrical outlet to run the RV overnight - we would have no toilet to use - as their dealer hours are to 8:00 pm to get into the restroom. This was not going to work out too well for us. I decided we had to find a nearby campground.

There were two campgrounds to consider - one was off in the woods not too far away - but on Google maps the roads in and out always seem to show a problem with road conditions on the map.  The other is a residential motorhome community - that also has RV sites that can be taken for one night or longer up to a month. What is nice about Google Maps is you can set it to satellite view and with this I could see the entire place from above - close up. It was all pavement and grass with paved spaces for the RVs which is always nice to have. They also had a restroom open 24 hours only for those staying who did not have toilet facilities in their RV - which at that moment would be us! I will write an article about this place on its own. We contacted them for a availability for the night of April 23, 2019 and found out - much to my surprise - that they had ONE site open on that night - and if we wanted it we had to confirm it quickly. We confirmed and sent them a check in advance - payment in full for one night. All set and done!

 From then it was wait anxiously to the date we would leave - and hope that everything would go smoothly getting there and having the work done without a glitch. We had not planned to dewinterize  before we went - and would just leave the antifreeze in the plumbing. As it turned out the temperatures started to rise and there were a few 70 degree days in early April. It seemed like there was no longer going to be any freezing nights - and we decided to dewinterize - but to expedite that we would dewinterize it all but sanitize only one of the two fresh water tanks and plumbing with bleach and water. We could easily sanitize the rest when we got back after the repair trip.

After dewinterizing, I took advantage of the several nice days - when it was not raining which it still was - and still is - doing regularly - and do a few things that are done before the traveling in the RV season starts. I pulled out the ladder - I don't like ladders - and went up to the Roadtrek roof to lubricate the crank up, directional antenna. While up there - and I am rarely up there, I decided to take a close look at the vent fan lid to see what was making it stick and not open. I moved the ladder to the other side of the van - had Meryl hold is securely on the inclined driveway while I went up - and reached over to the edge of the lid that I could barely reach in the middle of the roof. The side I got to was loose and seemed like it was not stuck at all. The opposite side is connected to a metal lift arm and that was solid.  Down the ladder, step by step, and I went inside the Roadtrek. I reached up for the manual knob that you turn to open the vent lid and I got to the point that it would stop turning and gave it a slightly stronger turn and it kept turning and the lid raised up on its hinge. I put it up and down several times and it seemed fine. Why had I not done this before (as it was stuck down since September)? I was concerned that if I could open it and then found it would no longer close we would have BIG trouble with a square foot hole in the roof and regular days of rain!  I was feeling brave - having been up on the roof anyway - and tried it. One less repair to have done at the dealer/service! Just for good measure, I used some silicone spray on a cloth to lubricate the lift arm. I could do this from inside the van.  I may write an article about that process soon.

The date to leave was coming up. I let the service shop know that the fan lid was no longer stuck and confirmed that all necessary parts would be there when we got there to start and finish the job that day. All was confirmed.

The weather for the trip down was going to be warm - much warmer than usual. We started out at 10:00 am and met up with the usual bumper to bumper traffic getting off Long Island and onto the mainland of the United States - which is New Jersey from our location heading to where we were heading. The trip generally takes about 45 minutes to one hour to get from home to Brooklyn, crossing a toll bridge and going to Staten Island where there is another toll bridge across to New Jersey. This particular morning it took more than TWO HOURS! We finally get on the highway in New Jersey and head for the New Jersey Turnpike entrance. The entrance ramp is moving - and we get halfway toward the toll booths along a winding entrance ramp - and then traffic stops. There is a cut off to a local industrial and business area along that ramp that all traffic was being directed into that. When we got up there we saw it - a large tractor trailer truck over completely on its side totally across and blocking the ramp that went to the turnpike tolls and actual entrance to the turnpike. There were four police cars and a their policemen all standing looking at the truck. Had just one of them been at the turn off to the exit from the highway that took us into the turnpike entrance - none of the cars and trucks - and us - even gotten off to get into this mess of where is this now taking us.  It is not an area that we have never been to before - though not in the Roadtrek and it is a labyrinth of roads around office buildings and factories - with no indications of which way to go and get out. And two GPS's that I had running - the one in the dash with no traffic routing - and the one in the CoPilot app with traffic kept trying to get us back to where the tractor trailer was blocking the useless entrance to the turnpike. We wasted a lot of time there. Meryl will tell you that she kept telling me to find a place to just park and we could figure it out - which I eventually did and she got out an old AAA real paper map of New Jersey and found that the next entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike was off Route 1 and she found the roads to get us there. All together we were just about past the time we should have ordinarily arrived at where we were headed in Pennsylvania.  Getting to US 1 was mostly streets and we finally got to the turnpike and we were then moving!  A call came to Meryl's phone - it was the campground. They wanted to make sure we were coming and if we did not get there before 4:00 pm they would leave a cone in our site so that we could find it on our own. It was after 2:30 pm when we arrived.

 We pulled into the  nice concrete and paved site but slightly uneven in the paving so it took a little moving the Roadtrek around in the site to find where it was most level -  more for comfort than anything else. We always mark where that level position is in relation to the tires (as I have written about in the past) and set the reflector markers down on the ground. We checked the power box to make sure the wiring for polarity was correct and the voltage was not too low or too high. All was fine. And with that we backed out of the pull in site and headed to the RV service shop just to check the route and the time it would take to get there the next morning. We timed that out and then headed for the fast food restaurant nearby for lunch.

While it was not as early as we had hoped it would be when we got there, we had figured to take a drive further north to spend some time in the Cabela's Store in Hamburg, PA and then after that have dinner in a restaurant that we know back to the east along Rt. 78 and Rt, 22.

On the way I looked at the gas tank which was below half and decided to stop for gas. I turned onto the street that the entrance of the gas station was on and as I went up the driveway cut into the station we heard a "ZING!" and could not figure out what it was. This was a new noise in the collection of noises we have heard while driving the Roadtrek. I looked at Meryl and said, "What was that!" She said she did not know - speculated that it might be one of the spring tension curtain rods we use to hold things in place - that sit on the floor and inside the fridge. I drove to the pump and went out to pump gas. Gas, in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was several cents and more higher than the prices in New York - just that morning.  Gas in and I got back into the van. Meryl had something in her hand and said - I found this on the floor back there.  It was a metal sleeve. I had no idea what it was - and then she showed me the rest of what she found - a black plastic knob with a screw coming through the middle. I knew exactly what it was then. It was the knob to turn to open the fan vent lid outside. And it was right below the fan where she found it all.  OK - no problem. I went to the middle of the inside under the fan and looked up -I set the sleeve over the screw and put the knob back into place and then realized that I needed a screw driver to put it in with - and while there are screwdrivers in my tool bag in the Roadtrek - this was not the time or the place to do this. So we put it all where it would be safe and headed back out on the road.

By the time we got to Cabela's it was closer to the time we had planned to have dinner but we were there and would spend a brief time at the store - always fun to see their local fish aquarium, their trophy animal displays, and look at things that relate to some of our interests. But before we went in, I got out the tool bag and a Phillips head screwdriver and put the fan knob back where it belonged. It was a good thing as without the knob in place nothing locked the fan lid closed to the roof and easily could have bounced or blown open. I realized then why this came off. The last time I had closed the fan I decided not to tighten the knob down very tightly to avoid it sticking again. It was just loose enough for the vibrations through the van driving to loosen the screw to the point that it would all fall out - as it did. Into the store -for an even briefer visit and then off to dinner.  After dinner we headed back to the RV Park to settle in for the night.

We had the advantage of the restrooms which were four lanes away from where our site was. After we would settle in for bed, we decided that we would put a camping "wag" bag into the RV toilet to use that during the night - as we would do for cold weather camping. We had running water in the RV from the fresh tank we sanitized for washing and drinking - but I did not want to put any waste down the toilet because the next morning the service tech did not need to have to encounter that when he removed the macerator.

This RV Park said it had wifi - but no cable television. We had the antenna and before we left I had an idea - which I wanted to try out. Recently I have been using a ROKU wifi device at home to use to get many free television channels on the TV.  Usually in a campground the wifi service is through a company that the campground brings in to connect your RV to - with a free account for the number of days you are staying - but the wifi from these companies is metered - use too much and they cut you back to barely usable speed. This wifi, I anticipated was from the campground directly - and long term residents arranged for local cable. We were in a site right at the office - and the wifi was strong. Just to see what would happen I brought the ROKU and set it up on the Roadtrek TV - it started up just as it does at home, asked me to connect to the wifi signal it found from the Park - and it worked beautifully. We used it for all of two and a half hours - but it was a nice diversion from the local over the air channels.  I am sure we can't do this at most other campgrounds we go to but it is a nice thing to have when it is possible.




(When there is not a whole lot to write about any longer,  when you have something long that can work for two articles that is the way to go! 😀 )

Monday, April 8, 2019

We Actually Get a Day to Take the Roadtrek On At Least a One Day Trip

So - where I most have wanted to go - even for just a day and back is to a particular place we go to in Pennsylvania. The problem is that it is only open on one day a week and that day is Friday. Well recently there was an occasion that we were going to celebrate but it was not on a Friday and we had plans to just take the RT and go - to - PA but just go around some of our other haunts there - most of which are also outdoors. That was a Thursday and while the weather had said all would be good, the night before that report changed for the worse. Why does the weather mean so much? Well, if I am going to use the gas, spend the tolls - which just to get out of NY just went up again -and not be able to do what we want to do when we get there - it is just not worth making the trip. I was talking with a relative that lives in NY but works in PA and he confirmed that every Friday since January has rained in PA - which he was glad of as he comes home on Thursdays and goes back to work in PA on Mondays.  I looked ahead for a different day- and Friday, which is no surprise it was going to rain - and we had tickets to attend a function locally.  Saturday seemed good. Last minute check  and it still looked good. And that Saturday - we got in the Roadtrek and headed off.

As usual traffic getting off this island and then off the next island was its usual bumper to bumper (one car on the side of the road - not even in the road - can bring all lanes to a standstill, but as we entered New Jersey - despite its bumpy and rough interstate highways (bang, bang, bang inside the RT) the traffic was gone and it was full speed ahead. Once we got away from NY, the fog had lifted - in more ways than just the actual fog we had driven through along the ocean.

We had nothing special planned when we got there - though there is an Amish bakery that makes an exceptionally good chocolate shoofly pie and I had contacted them a few days before asking if we called as we were on our way to Pennsylvania would they have a couple of these pies baked and ready for us when we got there.  That was the first stop!  Meryl called once we got over the second bridge which I figured if we got that far we were clear to actually get to PA.  The young lady that answered the phone (even Amish businesses have telephones) said the pies would be wating for us when we arrived - which we estimated and the GPS estimated would be just after one o'clock.

Ah! The GPS. The Copilot RV GPS app was discontinued a few months ago. I got an email notice telling me that it was going to be replaced by the regular Copilot GPS app - which in the past did have an RV setting but did not route as extensively for RVs, plus cost only ten dollars - and not the $60 that the Copilot RV GPS app cost complete with all of its problems. So I downloaded the new app - no charge - and I have a feeling that there is no charge for this app any longer - though the traffic function in the app is and has always been by subscription at $10 for a year. The new app has a new look and far more confusing and not user friendly as the old app was. What it does have is the full RV profile setting that the Copilot RV GPS had. This will keep you off roads your RV is not supposed to drive on by height, restrictions, etc. That is does fairly well.  So now with one day trip in the car and this day trip in the Roadtrek and it did OK.  I am not going to say that I recommend it yet. If it actually is free you might want to try it. I have to get on the Google Play site not logged in to find out what is going on with the money for this app now.

What the GPS does do pretty well - as does the TomTom in the Eclipse II that is still in our RT dash - is estimate time of arrival very lose to the actual time arriving. They adjust every so often for sitting in traffic or a change in route of my choosing.  And the Copilot was routed directly to the bakery while the TomTom was routed further on - and the Copilot started showing us getting there earlier than we had seen when the call was made.  We did arrive early enough that it was too soon to get to the bakery - but there is another haunt nearby - and we stopped there.

(Now if this is the most boring trip - or article you have ever read - you are probably right. This was in no way an exciting trip. We were not out for excitement. I just wanted to be out and away and somewhere I enjoy - as simple a place as it is - that would just show me that any confidence I have been doubting in the Roadtrek or our just traveling in the Roadtrek was unfounded - and as boring as this trip may seem to most - it was just what I needed. And I am writing about it because I have heard from a number of readers asking if we are "OK".)

The weather was sunny and the temperature was in the upper 60's.  It was going to be the same at home - but at home we would be wondering what are we going to do today. Here - when our last trip to this area was at the end of September - also for a single day there and back - it was like coming back to our home away from home where there always seems to be a pleasant diversion.

We got to the bakery and there was a Mennonite young woman in the shop (who had been on the phone - Mennonites have phones in their homes). As soon as I said who we were she said she had the pies all ready for us. As she was putting the pies in boxes I commented on how long it has been since we have been able to get down there - especially on a Friday  to where this shop has a stand to sell their pastries and pies. She also confirmed that yes, it has rained, snowed or been frozen over on Fridays since the beginning of January. The pies in hand we set out - for lunch. (The pies were for home.)

Lunch was good as always in a little local spot we know. We spent the rest of the day at an outdoor popular tourist spot that was jammed (I rarely come to this area in PA on Saturdays to avoid the tourists) and  I lost track of time - which is a good thing - as when I looked at the time - expecting to keep going from there out to other regular stops of ours, it was 5:00 pm and things were starting to close down.  We decided to drive past the campground we stay at in this area - not to stay - but to see if there have been any changes. We heard that the company that owns the campground and the attraction next door had bought a hotel that had gone up for sale a year ago that was on the other side of the campground. And yes, there was construction being done on that hotel to turn it into something of a Nickelodeon themed hotel.  It is too soon to see how this is going to impact the campground.

Gas prices in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey have always been less than gas prices in New York but both states have put additional taxes on the gasoline and prices were higher than at home which has been around $2.65 a gallon.  On the Turnpike in New Jersey gas was $2.80 a gallon. On the roads in Pennsylvania gas was between $2.81 to above $2.85.  I could not put buying gas off any longer as the Roadtrek was below half a tank - which is not a big deal BUT seeing the total on the pump when buying gas for more than half a tank can result in severe shock.  $50 and the tank was once again full.  The price per gallon was $2.83. We saw the two lower prices later.  We usually fill the Roadtrek up at the last rest area in New Jersey, but with the prices what they are, I said as we were leaving this gas station that we would go directly to a local gas station at home before we went home that night and have a full tank for our next trip.

We headed out to dinner at a local restaurant that is out of the tourist area and is primarily locals, Mennonites, and Amish eating.  It is a favorite of ours - made up for take out dinner at home that we had for the occasion celebration at home - and really enjoyed it (as always). 

The ride home was smooth and without delays - unusual for a Saturday night.  We filled the gas tank near home - got upset with an Uber or Lyft driver who was driving haphazardly around the gas station and was backing into the front of the Roadtrek as I started the engine to pull away from the gas pump - and then we got home. Happy.

I purposely did not write names of where we went. They would all be seen a boring places to most - and some I just don't share to keep them from getting crowded. 😎

I, usually here, take everyone along for the ride - and this was another one of those articles. When something exciting happens I will write about it.

By the way Roadtrek, the company is out of business.  No joke.