Thursday, March 4, 2021

Abandon Ship!

 


    There's a very nice nature trail in Ringgold, Georgia that runs along side the South Chickamauga Creek and this morning Suzanne and I decided to explore it. 

    I found a couple of these pictures online. Hence, the greenery in winter...






At 1pm, upon completing our 2ish mile trudge and returning to the car, we drove into town and had lunch at a lovely little restaurant called The Homeplate Grill.  It was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon and there were two outside tables, neither of which were occupied, so after checking in with the hostess
we seated ourselves at the table to the left of the restaurant entrance where the sun was a little less intense.


Some fine southern fare

******
     Back at the coach, at around 3pm, I called the service desk at Premier Truck Group to ask if they had some idea as to when the parts would be arriving tomorrow so that we could be prepared to evacuate in a timely manner. 

    "Les is on his way down to your coach to explain the situation."

    Uh oh.

    The "situation" as explained by Les, the RV tech, is as follows...

    It seems that one of the sections of pipe needed for the repair, specifically the pipe that connects to the turbo, doesn't exist. It is nowhere to be found in the entire US Freightliner inventory and has to be fabricated at the plant. According to Les, fabrication, shipping and installation could take up to two weeks. 
    We are currently about 580 miles from home, my daughter has a few carpentry projects she wants me to complete before the baby comes in mid-April, we're getting anxious to see our kids, kids-in-law and grandchild, there's an upcoming doctor appointment, and we really don't care to spend a couple (or more) weeks hanging out in the greater Chattanooga area. 
     We've begun readying the escape pod and will head for home bright and early tomorrow morning. When the repair is complete we'll either drive down to retrieve the coach or board the dogs and fly down. We're not really upset about the predicament we find ourselves in and actually consider ourselves lucky that it happened where it did. We could have been in Van Horn, Texas or Delta, Utah or any number of remote locations far from the nearest big rig repair shop - much less an honest to goodness Freightliner facility! It could most definitely be worse! 
     It's all good.

Thanks for checking out the blog!




 



  

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

So Here's The Deal...

 



     One of the cool things about traveling around the country in a motorhome is that no matter where you are, when you're inside the coach you feel like you're home - even when it's in the parking lot of a Freightliner repair facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

******

     To be doubly sure we'd be ready when our service tech came a' callin' in the morning both Suzanne and I set our phone alarms for 6:30am before going to bed. We arose this morning after a restful night's sleep, readied the coach for slide retraction, walked the dogs and were back inside stowing/securing a few last minute items when there came a knock on the door... 

    "Whenever you're ready, bring it on up the hill to door #7 and honk the horn!"

     I retracted the slides and landing gear, disconnected from shore power, aired up the coach and drove up the hill to door #7 as Suzanne and the dogs followed behind in the car. Premier Truck Group has two very nice lounges for service customers - one for truckers and another for RVers. After allowing the dogs one more opportunity to potty we entered the building, walked through the service check-in area and up the stairs to the RVer lounge where we settled into a couple of very comfortable leather recliners, turned on the TV and awaited word from the tech as to what was wrong with our coach.

     I guess it was about 40 minutes later when I got the call... 

    "Mr. Killian, I have some pictures and an estimate for you. I'll be up in a minute."

    Gulp.

    The pictures...

Leaking, rust-rotted post-turbo pipes

Not what things are supposed to look like
      
  The estimate...


     Hey... whudya gonna do? A little more than I expected - but it's a bigger job than I would want to tackle. Maybe if we were home and I had plenty of time and more tools at my disposal... maybe I'd take a whack at it. At any rate, the parts have been ordered and should be in by Friday. The tech told me he'd dedicate the entire day on Friday to getting the job done so that we can be out of here and back on the road by 7pm closing time. 

    P.S. 
   The exhaust issue I had after leaving California? This was the real problem!  

******
     Figuring the coach was in bay #7 for the duration, we found a pet friendly motel about a mile down the road and checked in - paying for two nights. The room turned out to be... shall we say, "somewhat less luxurious than expected"? Despite housekeeping's valiant efforts, even the most liberal Lysol fumigation cannot transform a smoking room into the non-smoking variety. That, and the hairy pillow cases had us very much wishing we were someplace else. Just as we were discussing our options there came a call from our service tech at Premier.

     "Mr. Killian, I've got your coach back together and parked down in the RV lot if you'd like to move back in."

    Boy did I!

    I went out to the front desk and got my money back, minus a $20 housekeeping fee (uh, yeah... right) and we drove back to the RV lot at Premier. We'll hang out here for the next couple of days awaiting the arrival of our parts. The RV lounge will provide a comfortable enough environment for us and the pooches to while away the hours on Friday when the coach is behind door #7 being repaired. There are also some nice looking parks and hiking trails in the area. 

Then it's back to living the dream! Right?  

Thanks for checking out the blog!






Tuesday, March 2, 2021

"Chattanooga... We Have A Problem..."

      We spent Saturday night in Vicksburg, Mississippi at the Ameristar RV Park, just across the street from the Mississippi River and owned and operated by the Ameristar Casino and Hotel. We stayed here once before on a homeward trek. During that stay we sampled the local tamales, something for which Vicksburg is famous. This time around we passed on the tamales and instead, I barbequed some chicken. Sometime in the early afternoon a brand new Tiffin Allegro pulled in beside us. And I do mean brand new. The owners and a brother-in-law were travelling from their Texas home to their Virginia home and it was their maiden journey in the new rig. The dealership must not have provided a very thorough tutorial as they had lots of questions for me as to "what to do next?" or "what button should I push to...?".  As I was preparing for departure the next morning, the husband was looking over my shoulder, paying very close attention to my every move and asking more questions. I was glad to be of some assistance. 

     We considered spending two nights in Vicksburg but instead stayed only one, heading back out on the road around 9:00 Sunday morning. 

******

     We pitched our tent Sunday and Monday nights at Gadsden, Alabama's The Cove RV Resort and Campground. I've mentioned before that many of these establishments take great liberties with the term "Resort" - and TCRVRAC was no exception. Lots of gravel, a fair amount of mud, tight turns if you're in a big rig. I mean, it was a nice enough place on a pretty little lake... but resort? Check out Indio California's Motorcoach Country Club. Now that's a resort!

******

      And speaking of less than ideal accommodations...



       Today we find ourselves overnighting in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Premier Truck Group of Chattanooga, a Freightliner dealer and repair facility. 

      As soon as we left Gadsden I could hear a noise coming from the engine compartment upon acceleration or while climbing. I stopped at a Pilot Service Center to get out and listen at the back of the coach as Suzanne revved the engine but whatever was causing the noise was happening only while the engine was under a load. 
      Unsure whether to contact a Cummins or a Freightliner garage, I first called a Cummins shop in Chattanooga. I described the sound to the service consultant, telling him I suspected it may be a belt, and he advised me that I might be better off with Freightliner, specifically Premier Truck Group, as they would have a greater variety of belts and parts. I should explain that the engine in our 2011 Winnebago Tour 42qd is made by Cummins while the chassis is manufactured by Freightliner. 

      We had to take a short eight mile detour, turning south on Interstate 75 instead of north, before arriving at PTG. It's a huge facility and we consider ourselves very lucky to have been so close to such a seemingly top-notch Freightliner shop. The service writers were very responsive and I had my paperwork filled out within minutes. Their RV tech was also out in the check-in area and under the engine of my coach within minutes - seeing what he could see and asking me more detailed questions about exactly what I was hearing and when. Emerging from beneath the coach he told me he'd try to fit us in this afternoon but it was more likely going to be tomorrow morning before he'd be able to get it in the garage. 
"Can I boondock in your parking lot overnight?" 
"We have six RV parking spaces at the bottom of the hill with electrical hookups. Go ahead down and pick a spot. They're marked".

******

     So here we are in Chattanooga. Hopefully it won't be for long and it'll just be a belt that needs replacing. Fingers crossed. Our coach has a rear-facing radiator and even if it is just a bad belt, replacing it may mean having to remove the gigantic radiator to gain access. It may take a while.
     I've found several pet friendly hotels in the area and when PTG is ready to tear into this thing, we may end up checking into the local Super 8. 

Thanks for checking out the blog!

 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Don't Mess With Texas!

    


     Low-Hi RV Ranch is a charming, no frills, Passport America affiliated oasis located in southwestern New Mexico just off Interstate 10. We stayed here once before on a 2017 trip to southern California on which our son, Aaron had joined up with us in San Antonio, Texas. I also made a reservation here during a subsequent transcontinental voyage but cancelled. I think we had decided to continue a little further down the road. 

     There's really nothing of great historical or cultural significance about Deming, New Mexico, but the weather was nice and Google told us there were a couple of things in the area worth checking out so we decided to make camp for four days. The $18 nightly Passport America rate made the idea of an extended stay even more appealing. 

     We always like to check out the Old Town areas of places we visit, especially these little southwestern towns. Sometimes it's a disappointment, but more often than not there are interesting things to see and do. The architecture and ambience of these little burgs has always appealed to both Suzanne and me. Our last visit here was just an overnighter and we didn't make it into town. This four day respite provided more than enough time for exploration. 

     Some photos of Old Town Deming...

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum


Deming lost more than its fair share of soldiers during the Bataan Death March

       In a museum display case...

Who doesn't?!

   The Courthouse was the site of the controversial trials (read about it here) of the Villistas, Pancho Villa's men who fought the Americans in the 1914 Columbus raid...
 




      We spent a couple hours at the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. It was really a fascinating place to visit - three floors of everything from archeological artifacts to antique fire engines. On our way out I bought Suzanne a pair of silver/turquoise earrings in the gift shop, and these...



     We drove out to Rockhound State Park one morning to do some hiking but were turned away at the gate. No hiking in New Mexico State Parks for non-residents. You can shop at their retail establishments but when it comes to exploring their wide open spaces... uh uh, sorry.

******

    After leaving Deming our next stop was Van Horn, Texas where we've stayed a couple times in the past. There's not a whole lot to see or do in this sleepy little Texas town but it's a convenient spot to overnight and fuel up. There are 4 or 5 RV parks along Broadway, its main thoroughfare, several auto repair facilities and a well stocked grocery store. It's one of those towns, like Tucumcari, NM, that was a going concern until the interstate passed them by. Long since closed motels and vacant store fronts are reminders of what used to be. 
      We stayed at Mountain View RV Park, a different park than on our two previous visits.

      Views from the park...




      Before leaving Van Horn we backtracked a couple miles to the west end of town in order to fuel up at Sam's Truck Stop where Diesel fuel was a relatively cheap $2.69 a gallon.

******

     Abilene, Texas would be our next destination - where we stayed at the Whistle Stop RV Resort.  A very nice park that, were it not for the 20 mpg wind gusts, would have been a great place to try out our recently purchased pickleball set. 


     Oh well...

     Wednesday was a fun day - beginning with a visit to Frontier Texas a very cool interactive museum with fascinating exhibits, 3D presentations and the like. And because we were the only ones there we didn't have to wear our masks! One of the more memorable pieces was a stage coach built by Twentieth Century Fox for the Paul Newman movie, Hombre. It was subsequently used for several other movies and TV shows including Bram Stoker's Dracula. 






       After leaving Frontier Texas we took the 15 mile drive out to Fort Phantom Hill, the remains of a Civil War era frontier Army post. Fascinating stuff...










     It was time for lunch and... well, when in Texas...

Brisket!

******
       
      The Weather Channel had us leaving Abilene with the expectation of a rainy travel day. As it turned out, the rain held off until just after our arrival at Fernwood RV Park in Longview, Texas - and that was just a drizzle. We did get some significant rain overnight last night and distant thunder audible enough so that I had to pop a chill pill down Travis' throat. 
     Oh, and on a sad note, as we were motoring east on Interstate 20 yesterday a big deer came bounding down a hillside to our right and shot across the road about 30 yards in front of  me. He made it safely across the eastbound lanes and the 30 foot grassy median strip but ran smack dab into a westbound semi. It was one of the most disturbing things I've ever witnessed. Suzanne and I didn't speak much for the next half hour or so.  I guess it could have been worse. We could have been the ones to hit him - or someone on a motorcycle.  

******
      
     We rolled into Longview around 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon and, as soon as I finish composing this blog, are about to go exploring. 
     First on the list... more barbeque!!

     Thanks for checking out the blog!









 














 

       

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Peaks & Valleys

       Tonight is our last night at Leisure Valley RV Resort. We considered staying another night as we're not super anxious to move further east - in light of the nasty weather they're experiencing in Texas. However, after a bit of Googling we determined it's safe to put another 290ish miles behind us and spend four nights in Deming, New Mexico at Lo-Hi RV Park. We stayed there once before on a westward journey back in 2017 and I gave it high marks in the blog I wrote the next day. As a bonus, it's a Passport America affiliate... and at $20 a night, although I don't have a clear recollection of the place, I trust my past impressions. I called this afternoon and made the reservation.

******

      Picacho Peak State Park is about 38 miles east of Leisure Valley RV Resort and just off Interstate 10. Suzanne and I donned our hiking shoes and headed over there this morning after walking and feeding the dogs.


     We opted not to hike the Hunter Trail to the peak and instead did the more moderate Calloway Trail which, after an approximate 300' climb, offers a beautiful vista of the valley below and Picacho Peak.







 




******

       I mentioned in a previous blog that we purchased a dash cover for the coach. 



      We're very happy with it but its installation presented a minor issue. Our Garmin Dezl 788 Trucker GPS unit lived on the dash by way of a suction cup mount. Before departing Indian Wells we broke out an old weighted beanbag-type mount we used in our previous coach - but the area of the dash on which it must sit is pitched, and during last Friday's drive it kept sliding toward the edge of the dash. We had to reposition it several times. No good.
     After a little head scratching I came up with what I think is a pretty good solution.  

     I modified a bracket that came with our Weboost Cell Signal Booster that I didn't use  Then I grabbed the old beanbag mount and removed four tiny screws - separating the business portion of the contraption from the beanbag. I made a paper template of its base and hole locations, marked and drilled four holes in the modified Weboost bracket, attached the mount to the bracket and screwed the assembly to the back of the cabinet face frame over the driver's area. 
     As with the exhaust leak fix, I'm afraid I didn't take photos of the process... but here's what I did next...
     I removed a section of the dash to expose the wiring I would need to tap into to supply power to the GPS unit. I then removed the left plastic windshield post cover so I could run the wires up behind it.           Attached to the underside of the cabinet floor is a 1.5" furring strip frame. Attached to the underside of that is 1/8" vinyl covered luan. The void created serves as housing for two of the coach's dash radio speakers. I removed the vinyl covered luan so I could conceal the GPS wires within the void. 
    It all went according to plan until I accidentally touched the negative and positive wires. It wasn't at all a spectacular event - and I really didn't think much about it - but the unit wouldn't power up when I connected it. As it turned out, the problem was simply a blown fuse in the charger cable's cigarette lighter plug. 
     But the story doesn't end there.
     I won't go into details. 
     Suffice to say I ended up doing something stupid and ruined the charger cable. The thing is, it's not just a charger cable. It's a $50.00 Garmin GTM HD Digital Traffic Receiver. Yeah, I wasn't happy.
      Thanks to Amazon Prime's free next day delivery I'm back in business... with minor damage to my wallet and pride.



I like it!


      So tomorrow morning we head for Deming, NM!

      Thanks for checking out the blog!


       



Monday, February 15, 2021

Exhausted!!

      



      We left Indian Wells RV Resort around 9:30 Friday morning. Our destination, approximately 300 miles to the west on Interstate 10, was Casa Grande, AZ. We spent a little over a week at Casa Grande RV Resort in January of 2020 on our way to Southern California. I chose a different RV park this time... for no particular reason. Just wanted to try something different. I wish I could say the trip was uneventful - but it wasn't.

     I guess it must have been about 100 miles into our day when I began smelling diesel exhaust fumes. I've smelled it a couple times before, very briefly, and dismissed it as likely emanating from a tractor trailer in front of me. NOT. 

     There was a rest area just a mile ahead so I signaled and exited, parking in the RV/Truck section. After setting the air brakes and shutting down the engine I made my way back along the center aisle to the rear of the coach where the smell of exhaust was much stronger. I opened the door to the master bath and was greeted by a London fog of diesel exhaust. Turning on the ceiling exhaust fan quickly cleared the air as I set about formulating my plan of attack. I was pretty sure I knew what the problem was.

      I should explain that our coach is a "diesel pusher"- a distinguishing characteristic being that the engine is located in the rear of the vehicle. There is an engine access panel in the bathroom floor...


     I was pretty sure this was where the fumes were coming from. I've had this panel out once before, I don't remember why. We also had some work done a year or so ago that I know, from the tell-tale greasy fingerprints, involved removal of the panel. 
     Underneath this panel is a second panel made of metal. It is in two sections which are held together by a flange and six bolts. The metal assembly is supposed to be secured to the steel chassis subfloor by way of four bolts - one in each corner. There were no bolts. The panel was unsecured and a little askew. It is necessary to separate the two halves before they can be lifted out of the recess in the floor so I removed the six bolts joining them and pulled them up and out. Both panels were significantly bent, like somebody became agitated while attempting to get them back in place (they were a little tricky getting back in) and just sort of forced/stomped them back into position. Additionally, there is a rubber gasket beneath the panel and around the opening, similar to the rubber gasket around a car door, that had become dislodged and was dangling into the engine bay. I should have taken photos of all of this to include here but I was so involved in solving the problem that I didn't think to do it. 
     I took the two panel halves outside where I cleaned and straightened them. I then grabbed a can of rubber conditioner, took it back into the bathroom and cleaned and conditioned the rubber gasket before securing it back in position. I carry a pretty impressive assortment of nuts and bolts and was able to find four bolts of the correct thread and length to secure the panel(s) to the chassis - as they are intended to be. Oh, I forgot, there is also 1.5" thick foil-clad insulation attached to the underside of the panels that had become about 50% detached so I drilled four holes through each of the panels at the corners of the insulation and reattached it with rivets and large washers. 
     2.5 hours later we were merging back onto Interstate 10 east - making a brief stop 30 miles down the road at the next rest area so I could make sure the bathroom was exhaust free. It was.
     
******

     Our coach has air suspension. The body floats on several big air bags that are connected to the chassis. There are also shock absorbers front & rear. The shock absorbers Winnebago installs on the Tour are not the best. Conversations I've observed on the FB owners group page and a desire to improve ride comfort and performance on some of our country's rougher Interstates finally moved me to do something about it. Before leaving Indian Wells I ordered two Bilstein 24234498 Front Shock Absorbers...



... and had them delivered to Leisure Valley RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ. They were waiting here when we arrived and I installed them Saturday afternoon. 

Out with the old

In with the new

      The rear shocks are supposed to be a bear to install. I'll probably have that done at a garage sometime in the future. I'm anxious to get back on the road to see if I notice a difference in the ride. 

******

We had some great Mexican take-out Saturday night and are planning to do it again tomorrow night. It was good! 

******
      There are some interesting things to do here in Casa Grande (believe it or not) and tomorrow we're thinking we'll check them out. A trip to "Old Town" was a bit of a disappointment. However, to be fair, it was Sunday and most of the businesses were closed. 
     
      I forgot to mention it rained for a portion of our drive last Friday and... well... the coach got kinda dirty. Today I busted out my new Greenworks Pressure Washer and made her pretty again. I love my new pressure washer.

Thanks for checking out the blog!!






     


Thursday, February 11, 2021

It's That Time Again...

     


Our stay here in Southern California's Coachella Valley is soon coming to an end. Our daughter, Allie is expecting her second child in early April and we'd kinda like to be home a few weeks before the blessed event. By the time we get home we will have been on the road for nearly 5 months and we are very much looking forward to spending time with family... and welcoming a new member into the fold! 

     Having remained static here at Indian Wells RV Resort in Indio, California for the past couple of months, I haven't been particularly motivated to blog on a regular basis. It's not that Suzanne and I haven't done anything blog-worthy during our stay here, but the things we see and experience while on the road, to my way of thinking, seem to make for more compelling reading. 

     Rather than a chronological accounting of our time here in the California desert I thought I'd simply  upload a bunch of photos with a bit of added commentary. 

******

     There are always projects to be done on the coach. For a long time I have wanted to do something about the entryway. I've always thought it looked a little cheesy and it has always been very difficult to keep clean. There is a hidden platform at the top of the stairs that, with the push of a button, moves out and up, closing/capping off the stairwell while the vehicle is in motion. There has always been a gooey, greasy residue around that contraption that I assumed was lubrication for its moving parts. Much of Travis' shedded hair finds its way into the stairwell and cleaning the resulting hairy, sticky mess has been a frequent and unpleasant task. As it turns out, the goo was some sort of adhesive for the vinyl & carpet stair and wall coverings. I'm not sure if it is supposed to be that way or if it just never set properly. At any rate, getting rid of it, after peeling off the vinyl & carpet, was a bear, and took three days. A heat gun, various scrappers, putty knives, razors, steel wool, caustic chemicals and patience finally got the the job done. 

 

Factory Stair Treatment


Yuk!

Clean And Ready For Something New 



The Finished Product



   Other projects included changing the coach's oil, oil filter & air filter. Rust abatement in the chassis battery compartment...




Done!

   Rust abatement under the chassis battery compartment and DEF tank...

Before

After

     Wheel polishing...


     With the help of my friend, Tim I also reinstalled the 30' vinyl slide-topper that blew off during a wind storm in Sparks, Nevada back in November.

     I cleaned the coach's radiator with a nifty little electric pressure washer I ordered on Amazon.

   
     We bought a very nice dash cover...


     Over the past couple years I've made several attempts to repair the reservoir for the coach's leveling system. The plastic welding job I did last year proved not to be the answer to my problem and I finally decided to replace it with an aftermarket tank I bought and modified a year or so ago. HWH, the manufacturer of the system, doesn't sell just the replacement tank. You have to purchase the entire pump/tank assembly - which is very expensive. 

New Tank In Place

******

     It hasn't been all work and no play. I took a bunch of great bike rides. And then there was...

Coachella Valley Preserve

Joshua Tree National Park

Cousin's Maine Lobster

Several Movie Nights

Use Of Our Friend Tim's Golf Cart

Beautiful Sunsets

       We head for home tomorrow morning. Our first stop is in Casa Grande, Arizona where we plan to spend a week before continuing our 3 to 4 week journey eastward. It's always a little sad hauling anchor and leaving our Southern California family and friends. 

      And who wants to leave this weather behind?   

      Thanks for checking out the blog!