Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Shakedown

We've got the rig and it's outfitted.  Time now for the shakedown cruise.  Originally the plan was for this cruise to the Tetons and Yellowstone was to be the start of the Trip.  But then reality intervened and we realized that we could not packup our entire house in the 1 week between getting a leasee and departure.  So, we're going to the Tetons & Yellowstone and back (maybe by way of Crater Lake, or if we really stretch it Snoqualome Falls for some cherry pie).  Then we drive across the country.  2000-3000 extra miles never hurt anyone did it?  Don't tell the kids.

We scheduled 4 days for the drive figuring then we could go slow.  The first day we got started a little late.  3.30p.  But at least everything that occurred to us to pack was packed.  The traffic leaving the bay area was rough.  We rolled into Sacramento around 7p.  Dinner was awesome.  It was free pie night -- everyone who had an entree (including kids meals) got pie.  We all won.  Except me, I suppose, because Martha had a side salad, so I had to split my pie with her.  Those who are married understand.  Unfortunately, being free pie night, the place was packed and service was slow.  After paying and then filling the diesel (71 gallons! ~$240) it was dark.  And then made a wrong turn going for the RV park and had to back out in the dark on to a fairly busy street.  Martha was a trooper directing me & Landshark.  I have to get her a pair of flashlights like the people who direct planes use.  And my resentment over the pie diminished significantly.

Leaving Sacramento the next morning was straightforward.  We drove to Reno and stopped for lunch at Joe Bob's Chicken Shack.  It was awesome.  Perfect chicken tenders for the kids, buffalo wings made on site.  I can't thinkof when I have had better chicken.  Getting into and out of the parking lot was a bit bouncy, and on our way back to the highway I had to turn a bit tighter than I would have liked and heard some box hit the ground in back.  Whatever. 

We continued in heavy traffic towards the highway when Martha suddenly called from the back, "Do you know the side is out?"  I looked in the passenger side mirror and sure enough, one of the sides is half out.  Yes, an optimist may say it was half in, but the fact is that having a slide at all out while driving is not unlike the Mr. Bean episode when his fly is stuck open and he's waiting to meet the Queen.  It not only isn't done, it could get you hurt or killed.  I try turning the generator on, turning off the engine, putting on the emergency break, Martha and the three kids are trying to pull it in -- anything to get control over the side.  No dice.

The light turns green, so we take advantage of our huge size, blow off the left turn on to the highway and smoothly cut across traffic at 5 mph to turn on to the frontage road while everyone in back frantically holds on to the side to keep it from sliding further.  I reason that every other driver on the road would notice me with half of my side hanging out and just want to not be involved.  I was rewarded for my faith and we safely made our way into a large parking lot.

Going out, I find that I can push or pull the slide in easiy from the outside, and I remember how the previous owner mentioned something about pins that sheer off.  Opening the panel beneath, I find 4 pieces of metal which used to be 1 pin.  Luckily the previous owner was kind enough to leave a supply of 3 pins. With the help of our handy dandy radios, my tools and a lot of patience, a new pin was aligned, tightened and we were back on the road. 

The unexpectedly good deal I got on Landshark is starting to become clearer.  But I still rationalize that if I had bought through a dealer, the same situation could have occurred, but I would have paid more and they wouldn't have left me a few pins. 

Paul later said, "I thought when the side went out our plan was over, and I was relieved.  But then I was sorrowful." Me, I was very touched that Paul shared this with me.

During the afternoon I started to realize the joy of having so many batteries and an inverter.  Unlike every other RV I have been in, we were able to run the full electrical system while under way.  Just awesome.  The kids had full freedom to play with various electronics with no fear of running out of power. 

Our campground was pretty good, and we failed to take full advantage of the sports bar & karoke night they were hosting.  But fortunately, we were far enough from the bar not to involunarily share.  A good night's rest was had by all.

This morning was a slow start, literally.  First campground I've been at which included free breakfast (donuts!) in addition to the more standard free showers.  I wrote 3 more blog entries, showered and we were ready to go.

Cue second time I questioned the price of the rig.

Waiting to turn into traffic, the engine sounded a little light.  I finally got my opening and floored it. 
Nothing.  I didn't hear any change in the engine idle.  Without thinking how ridiculous this was to do, I leaned my body forward.  Still nothing.  I took a deep breath and changed my turn signal to the right (to loop back into the next driveway, hopefully).  Another opening and I literally stood up on the accelerator.  Standing there, and leaning forward almost touching the windshield, Landshark ever so slowly crested the final bump in the ramp and we eased up to 5 mph to loop back down the driveway.

The only thing that had changed as far as I knew is that I had filled the fresh water tank.  Great.  50 gallons was enough to stop this trip.  This could be bad.  I head back to our spot and decide that it's a good time to empty the black and grey tanks.  Hell, if this trip is over, we might as well have clean tanks.  I checked out the coolant recepticle (previously unmentioned problem which was actually my first time I questioned the price of the rig, so I'm actually on the 3rd -- and 3 is the charm...).  I button us back up and we head up the exit ramp again.  We accelerate smoothly and have no problems. 

It is a mystery. 

Hopefully it will never reoccur.


Now that I'm selling the rig (the trip is over :( ), I realize that I should likely point out what I've learned after the year+ with the rig especially after posts which dig into the rig at all.

1.  Slides rolling out on their own.  Scary.  Really scary.  And after going to the Tiffin factory and talking with the techs, I know what happened.  The last owner never learned how to do it right, and he passed on his ignorance to me.  He told me that to operate the slides you get them close to the end (1-2 inches), and then make these quick little presses over and over and over again -- 7-8 presses is good.  That way the motor is not overloaded.  The guys at Tiffin told me that you hold that sucker down until it stops.  It's smart.  You're not.  By pressing the button over and over again, you're putting 1-2 tons of stationary pressure against a motor which needs a ton of torque to move it at all, and there's just these little sheer pins to hold it on.  And yes, they sheer.  He showed me how doing it even 1-2 times starts to mess with the pins (and he then replaced them).  Bottom line, after 30-40 times rolling slides in and out after learning that trick, I never had a single slide sheer pin break.  It compares rather favorably to the every other time I messed with the slide they would sheer off.  Moral of the story, get instructions when you get a new rig.
2.  Motoring up that incline.  Oddly, it never happened again.  Whole trip.  Not once.  My brother in law the mechanic said that when a diesel is cold, they occasionally have a tough time catching.  Bottom line, if I have a sharp incline early in the morning, I give it a running start.
3.  The coolant thing is a total mystery.  We had it happen twice more in the states (once at the actual repair shop when I went to get the repair guy!).  Once on the trip.  Once more since having been in the states.  I've learned to keep a gallon of water ready for if the check engine light comes on, and it slows my departure down by 2 minutes when it happens.

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