Sunset in PV

Sunset in PV

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 8 - 16, 2011 "Murphy"

No one likes to start their trip with aggravation, but with Murphy, anything is possible. We got ready to roll and during our pre-departure light check, CC noticed a damaged wheel on her bike. I looked at it, and the only thing I could imagine was one of the too many golf carts in the campground had run into the rear wheel, so it was off to the office to file a report. After filling out the paperwork, CC got this astonished look on her face, and said to the campground ranger, “Can we take your golf cart over to our campsite?” When they returned, I got the rest of the story. It seems that while backing the Jeep out of the campsite, she backed into a lamp post. We definitely had egg on our face and offered to pay for any damages. The owner inspected the post and said, “Your bike got the worst of it. It’s no problem; we’ll just tighten the screws, and thanks for being honest.” (Click on any image to enlarge)

We departed Wauseon, Ohio for La Porte, Indiana, and decided to stop at the RV Museum and Hall of Fame located just outside of Elkhart, IN, and we’re glad we did. We’re on a tight schedule, but we decided this was one stop we just had to see, considering our chosen lifestyle. It seems ironic, that one of the largest Amish settlements is located in this part of Indiana, considering they still ride in horse drawn buggies. The irony is many of them work at the numerous RV factories located here.

We finally departed for our trip to the Amana Colonies just outside of Amana, Iowa, and also the birthplace of the Amana Corporation. This is one of those places, about 10 miles north of I-80, many people just pass up, and keep driving. We found the place fascinating. Take the time to click on the link above, and if you’re ever in the area stop by; the people are VERY friendly.

Once inside, I was in heaven. My grandfather was not only a butcher, but a German one at that. It was like being a kid again, going to work with him. Let’s see what we need. Double smoked bacon, smoked sausages (6), smoked pepper jack cheese, smoked pork chops, pickled garlic, pickled asparagus spears, horseradish jelly; yea that should just about do it.

While staying at the Amana Colonies campground, we heard the sound of barking dogs, from 7 am to about 7 pm. CC and I were out walking, and we asked if there was a dog show at the pavilion in the park. “No”, they replied, “It’s a Flyball meet”. OK, I’ll bite, what the hell is Flyball. Watch the video below to find out, but only if you need a good laugh. The owners of the dogs are sometimes funnier than the dogs themselves.

When CC and I embarked on this adventure, we were both cognizant of the fact that most likely Murphy’s Law would be a small part of our travels; whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.  Picture this, a 30,000 pound house on wheels rolling along for miles and miles, in the midst of a magnitude 3.5 earthquake.  Something’s gotta give.

Over the last 14 months of driving on America’s roads, the only real information I have is the economic stimulus plan, to fund “shovel ready” projects, has not been used on the highways, as PROMISED. (Imagine that?)……. A logical person would assume that the Interstate System would have better roads than local, state or US highways. Let me assure you, this is NOT the case. OK, I feel better now that I have that off my chest. Back to shake rattle and roll.

We are finally in Forest City, Iowa; the home of Winnebago Industries and builder of our Itasca Suncruiser. A few weeks ago, I called and tried to set up and appointment to get our list of issues/repairs taken care of. I was told no appointments were available for July due to the Winnebago-Itasca Grand National Rally, which we are attending, and the first available appointment was August 15. OK then, August 15 it is.

We arrived in Forest City on Monday, July 11, and after talking to other attendees, were informed we could get into the service center simply by going and setting up an appointment, as during July, they operate on a walk in basis, first come, first served, but limit you to just 7 items to be repaired or replaced. Not an easy task, since Monday afternoon when we pulled in the campground, and were setting up, we had an accident when extending one of the living room slides and broke the vertical trim that encases the slide. (Gotta remember to check for clearances before extending or retacting those slides.)  Add another one to the list. Remember Murphy? Hmmmm, now to go through our list of 14 and prioritize the top 7. 

We hustled over to the service center at 7 am Tuesday, and were told we could most likely get in Wednesday. Great! That was easy enough. Winnebago has a staggered service schedule. You are either assigned a 6 am or 6:30 am time slot to have your rig at the service center, and the technicians begin work at 7 am. They also have a 9:30 am and 11:30 am  “Stand By” which means they MIGHT get to your rig. Every day at 3 pm, they post the list of times for appointments for the next day. We were assigned 9:30 am. Oh well, at least we can sleep in.

Wednesday 11:00 am. Finally met with Larry our service advisor and went over our list of 7 items, and were told to be close just in case they needed to speak with us, so just hung out the day at the service center with the 30 or 40 other people in for work. At 3 pm they brought the rig around, and we went over the items they had completed. 1) Replaced weather-strip on one of the slides. 2) Remove and install window retainer ring that was improperly installed when the rig was originally built. 3) Replace electrical relay on hot water tank so it would operate on 110V. (We had been using the LP to heat water.) “What about the slide needing adjustment”, I asked Larry. To which he replied, “It’s already been adjusted to the max, so the slide may need to be replaced.” I said, “Oh yea, why is that?” He said, “I’ll have more information tomorrow.” OK, 3 out of 7 in a half a day, I thought to myself. We were told to be back at 6 am the following morning, and told we could overnight in the adjacent lot where 30 amp services were available.

Remember Murphy? Around 7 am Thursday morning Larry informed me the slide would need to be replaced with a new improved forged steel slide to replace the extruded aluminum one, to the tune of $3,500 - $4,000. When I asked him who was going to cover that cost, he told me he would check with his boss, Bernie. About 30 minutes later, Larry came out and said we were responsible for the cost of the repair since it was out of warranty. I asked to speak to Bernie, and waited patiently until 1:30 PM when Bernie emerged from his well fortified office. I proceeded to explain that I thought it was a design – engineering – manufacturing defect and that we should, at the very least, split the cost 50-50. Furthermore Winnebago must have realized there was a flaw, otherwise they wouldn’t have made the replacement stronger than the original. Again Bernie repeated, it is out of warranty. I told him he was really making it easy on us to make a positive buying decision on a new Winnebago if this was the attitude of customer service, to which he replied, “You gotta do what you gotta do”, and turned on his heels to return to his office. To say I was not happy, would be an understatement.

Around 3 pm they brought the rig out, and Larry went over the repairs of the day, less the slide. 1) Repair duct work on basement air that was partially blocked by broken/dislodged insulation.  2) Met with the Norcold  rep to determine why our refrigerator was not cooling properly. (I thought it was an intake problem, that the intake was too small for a 4 door refrigerator.) Remember Murphy? I was told it was the correct vent size and the unit was cooling “within specifications”. 3) The dash A/C needed recharging but a leak in the dryer was noticed, so it will be tomorrow when they can get the part. OK, the end of day 2, and only 3 items have been repaired. Back to the adjacent lot for the night where I replaced the 2 high rear tail lights on the back of the rig, and two door hinges damaged in the slide incident on Monday.

Friday, 6 am day 3. Larry told us the new part was to be delivered by 10 am, so I’m thinking we’ll be outta here by noon. Murphy, where are you? 11:30 am, Bernie called on my cell phone, as I don’t think he wanted another face to face with me, only to inform me the part they received, was the wrong one, and a new one won’t be available until next Wednesday. Oh, there you are Murphy. With that bit o’information, we moved back to our spot on the rally campgrounds. Can you see us in the photo below?

While here at the Rally Campground, I have arranged with Duncan Industries to repair/replace 2 windows in the rig with broken seals. (One actually has about 2” of water between the dual panes.) The replacement trim for the slide incident should be ready next week. After the rally we will be going to HWH for them to correct some leveling issues we have had with the automatic hydraulic leveling system. At this point, there is no way I want Winnebago to work on a vendored item. The wind sensor in the awning still doesn’t appear to be working properly, but I will address that with Carefree when we get to Colorado, as it is also a vendored part.

CC and I are looking forward to the rally this week and absorbing as much technical information as we can possibly soak up. We have already met some wonderful, friendly campers, and have been to several “happy hours” without Murphy. So…………………….

Until next time, take care and stay well……………………………………………

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 2 - 7, 2011 "The Bridges of Ashtabula County"

Since reading the book, The Bridges of Madison County, CC has been captivated by this architectural anomaly; each one, uniquely different. Pennsylvania boasts the most of any state, and it is reported that the Amish from that area brought the concept with them as they migrated westward. While we were staying at Kennisee Lakes just outside of Jefferson, Ohio, we discovered that Ashtabula County has a total of 17 covered bridges, and so it was, a day of exploration was a must do. (As usual, click on any image to enlarge) 

Each bridge has a “badge”,that describes the statistics of that bridge. What amazed me was the fact that there seems to be no “standards” for this type of construction. No minimum or maximum on widths, heights, clearances or lengths. It appears the bridge designer has complete artistic freedom to design in any way, shape, fashion or form he chooses.

Most of America's covered bridges were built between 1825 and 1875. By the 1870s, most bridges were covered at the time of construction. The original reason for the cover was to protect the bridge's trusses and decks from snow and rain, preventing decay and rot. The cover served other purposes also-it kept horses from being spooked by the waters underneath, it was a reprieve from weather to the weary traveler, and it was used for political rallies, religious meetings, a night's sleep for tramps, town meetings, poker parties, sweethearts' rendezvous, drunken revels, dances, and even rainy-day luncheons took place on the covered bridge. An uncovered bridge would last approximately 20 years but a covered one could last 100 years.

The Graham Road Bridge, which was built from remnants of a bridge washed downstream in the 1913 flood, now sits in a small park on the south side of the road. The 97-foot Town Truss was over the west branch of the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township.

The people of Ashtabula County truly embrace their covered bridges, and are determined to keep the concept, and to some degree, the culture of such alive for future generations. New bridges are being built using the same design concepts and principals of the past.

We will now be making our way to the Winnebago Itasca Grand National Rally in Forest City, Iowa, that runs from July 17 – 22. I think we both just realized how far we must travel to get there, so will double up our travel plans and move at the speed of light, around 100 miles per day, which will drastically alter our sightseeing agenda. Oh well, it’s a tough lifestyle we lead, so please don’t try this if you are faint of heart.

Until next time, take care and stay well………………….

Friday, July 1, 2011

2010 - 2011 Budget "1st Year Average Expenses"

The final numbers are in for our first full year of living this full time RV lifestyle. When we started this adventure, I had some idea of expenses, based on our lifestyle in our "stix & brix", but had to "guesstimate" at what to budget for others. My crystal ball has been broken for years, so it all boiled down to doing the research and crunching numbers. And while we came in under budget, which is something our elected officials should take notice of, there are areas that I'm sure we can improve. (As usual, click on image to enlerge)
These past 3 months have proven expensive, and they drastically altered our budget. As numbers don't lie, to live this lifestyle entirely in the East, would easily cost 20% - 30% more than our combined average of living mainly in the Midwest.

Just why it is more costly in the East, is a combination of things. Gas is more expensive, largely because most of the refineries are along the Gulf coast. Toll roads and bridges are the norm here. Campground fees are higher because most are only open for 6 - 8 months, so they have to cover their annual expenses in a shortened camping season. EVERYTHING in NY is more expensive, due to their tax rate and belief that everything but air needs to be taxed, which most likely is on the horizion. While shopping at Wally World in NY, we noticed the price of cigarettes at $10.95 per pack, while at the duty free along the border they were $2.40; that is one helluva tax. Not that I smoke, but only to point out the extent of their taxes in New York. The toll to cross the bridge into Manhattan is now $8.00.

While our RV expenses were under budget, that will no doubt change later this month as we are headed to Forest City, Iowa for the Winnebago Itasca National Rally, and have scheduled several services to be done on the rig while there.

For those of you contemplating this lifestyle, and are in the process of gathering budget information, there are several areas where we could trim, if necessary. We both have cell phones and the air card for internet access; we could easily trim one of the cell phones. Dining out/Groceries/Libations could be cut in half IF we ate in all the time, instead of eating out for lunch while we are out "sightseeing". DirecTV is a want and not a need. Jeep expenses are high, largely because it only gets 15 - 18 mpg, and we do like to explore the areas we are visiting. A more fuel efficent "toad" would easily trim $100 per month.

We are laid up in Wauseon, OH for the 4th of July.  CC is not impressed, but it's not that bad. As I tried to explain to her, we've stayed in worst. So with that said, we wish you all a safe and happy 4th of July. Until next time, take care and stay well............................