Note from Me: I posted these two stories in reverse order...I didn't mean to but not sorry I did!
By -Gramps-, 22 Apr 2012
It has certainly been awhile since I posted anything having to do with motor coaching. I guess I could just ignore that fact and just post like I don’t have a care in the world and no time has gone by at all since my last new entry. I won’t do that, however. I will tell you that Diane and I have managed to make it to some chapter campouts where we had some weekend fun with our fellow FMCA and Good Sam members, while still longing for a good long trip on the road.
Three weeks or so ago we finally got our wish, sort of. We also got the opportunity to practice one of my rules for owning a MotorCoach.
Rule number 2, to be exact: Keep your temper on a very short leash. Or, when owning a motor coach, patience is not only a virtue but a necessity.
I had some time between jobs, so Diane and I took advantage of that fact and quickly packed up the coach for a trip to Florida to see our daughter and her family, which includes a brand-new grandson. For nine months we had been hoping and semi planning to take this trip, without knowing exactly what day we could leave, so when a chance came our way to take off, that is what we did.
We left on April Fool’s Day. If I were a superstitious person, I might have chosen a different day to roll down the road.
Our first stop was to be Greensboro, North Carolina. We needed to stop at Terry Labonte RV to repair a couple of things that had gone wrong with the coach. Maybe a better way to phrase it would be that we needed to fix things that were going wrong with the coach. We kept having this nerve-wracking alarm go off on a regular basis. It was a combination of an ABS alarm, a hydraulic brake alarm and an auto park failure. Alone, none of these alarms was much fun; together I figured that they were a recipe for big trouble. I was correct about that.
Usually after this alarm would rear its ugly head -- which manifested itself as a bunch of flashing lights on the instrument console, sometimes accompanied by a very irritating unending beep -- I would pull over at the earliest safe spot and restart the engine. This would clear all the nasty little messages and lights and we would continue on our merry way.
We were less than a mile from the intersection of U.S. 58 and I-85 South, when the alarm went off with a vengeance. I pulled off the road onto an access road to a closed Wal-Mart parking lot. We found ourselves between a bank and an Arby’s when I stopped, put the rig into "Park," shut off the engine, turned it back on with the hope of having all the noises and flashing lights gone, if not forgotten.
Hoping does not always work. I restarted the engine, but the alarms were still very much there and the coach would not come out of "Park."
We were stuck, broken down on the road.
“Diane, we are not going anywhere today,” I told her.
She and our dog, Teddy Bear, just looked at me with “What do we do now?” expressions on both their faces.
I had no real idea what to do. It was Sunday, for Pete’s sake. There would be no one at Workhorse to answer the phone. We currently were not using a road side service, and even if we were, it was still Sunday.
I called a friend, my daughter Jeri, and my parents. The first call was to Mike Pelchat, former Workhorse Ambassador and a person who knows quite a bit about the UFO chassis. We discussed a few possibilities about what was wrong and what to do about it. We both agreed there was not much we could do today.
We sat and stared at each other for a while. I did turn on the inverter so we could watch a bit of TV to help pass the time. When dinner time arrived I walked over the Arby’s and purchased a Rueben for myself and a Turkey sandwich for Diane.
At nine I extended curbside bedroom slideout and we hit the hay. We knew we needed to start making phone calls very early the next morning to tow companies, service centers and manufacturers, but not necessarily in that order.
At nine thirty there was a knock at the door.
“Who can that be?” asked Diane.
I knew who it was. I opened the door to see two policemen standing on Arby’s grass.
“Are you planning on sleeping here tonight?” one of the officers asked me.
“Well, yes we are.” I responded. “But not by choice, we are broke down.”
“Oh, sorry to hear that” said one of the officers. “You are planning to do something about not being here long?”
I told them that I would be contacting a tow company in the morning and hopefully we would not be there long at all. I also told them it could have been worse….we could have been stuck at the stop light on 58. I hated to think how much fun that would have been, my coach blocking lots of trucks and cars on their way to who knows where.
The officers told us that they were about to come off shift and would let the next one know our situation and they would keep an eye on us to make sure we were safe. I told them I appreciated that very much.
I closed the door, locked both locks and went back to bed.
I actually slept thru the night.
The next morning we called Terry Labonte RV, and once transferred to RV and truck service, Pal Dojcsak the Service Manger answered the phone. I explained our situation, and Pal said the best tow company to pick up our rig and bring it to Greensboro and their shop would be Ray Harris towing. I called them and agreed to pay for a large bill.
Now, I know it might have been best to have road side assistance, but that is something I did not have at the time. During a previous road side problem with our first coach, I found the roadside assistance that we had at the time (AAA with RV coverage) to not be much use towing a 36 foot motor home. First the call back took hours and when I finally did get a call; I was informed that there was no one available to tow the rig for days, if at all. Lucky for us we were able to continue on our way without a tow….but that is another story.
So I never renewed, and did not subscribe to any other service. Plus I had heard of so many horror stories about towing pushers, (especially a UFO) that I figured if anything did happen; I, as the tow-ee would be better off choosing the tow-er myself instead of being locked into some network outfit.
In theory and in practice I may have been correct.
Andy, from Ray Harris Towing arrived on site at 10:45 about two and a half hours after I called. Once there he went to work. He attached the truck to the coach; I jacked up the back wheels so he could disconnect the drive shaft.
Then things got a bit tricky. He asked me to take the coach out of park, and I told him that could not be done. The auto park would have to be manually disconnected and the instructions in the manual were not quite right.
I made a second call to Mike Pelchat.
Mike had the proper instructions for disconnecting the auto park on an R-26 coach. He talked to Andy and about thirty minutes later we were following our big silver box down the road.
We arrived at Terry Labonte RV around one pm when we were hoping to be there early in the morning. Needless to say we lost our appointment time and had to go to the end of the waiting line.
While we were waiting, Andy had to go pick up another coach. Some tow company had towed it to the wrong site (they took it to Terry Labonte's paint shop, which was some miles away). Andy went after it only to discover that the tow company driver neglected to disconnect the coach drive shaft. Hopefully the owners, who had a busted radiator, would not also have a busted transmission. Andy jumped a curb with the rear end of our coach, which scared me, but no damage was done. Other than that I think he did a great job of getting the big rig where it needed to go.
We hung around the coach for the rest of the day. We had lunch, Diane read her Kindle and I walked over to the RV sales lot to just visit and try not to think about when we might be back on the road to Florida.
Around four thirty we packed up the car and headed for the La Quinta just up the street. It was the only pet friendly place around, except for our coach, and we could not spend the night in there because it would be locked up behind a security fence.
There isn’t much exciting to say about how we spent our time in Greensboro. It took four days to get the coach repaired. Late Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Sweeney and Jim Smoot discovered, with help from Eric McCann (who is also a friend of mine) at Workhorse that the ABS pump was, in layman’s terms blown, and would need to be replaced. That meant waiting for parts which in turn meant Thursday morning before the main repair could be made.
So now I had the opportunity, once again, to practice my own rule number 2 for owning a Motorcoach. That rule almost needed to be tattooed on the palm of my hand, so I could see it a lot over the next few days.
We had a not always pleasant night at La Quinta, however having a hot shower felt really good. We had carry out from Chick-Fill-A, which consisted of salad, sandwich and chicken noodle soup.
We ended the evening with some TV and I spent the rest of night having nightmares about coaches being towed over curbs and rolling into ditches.
The next morning we had the continental breakfast in shifts. Diane went first. I went next and brought some hard boiled eggs, yogurt, along with a biscuit and some pretty stiff gravy back to our room. .
After eating we headed back to the service center just to check on the days agenda. There was not much to tell us as the coach had three others in front of it. We would not really know anything until very late in the day.
We decided to kill some time at Camping World. I wanted Diane to take a look at the Rand McNally RV GPS and who knows; maybe we would find some bargains there as well.
We went, we looked, and we did not buy the GPS because we had a gift card that we left behind in the coach. We visited the local Farmer's Market but nothing there grabbed our attention for long.
We jumped back in the car and drove to Lexington, North Carolina where we planned to do two things: one. buy some locally made Conrad and Hinkle Pimento Cheese. It is the best Pimento cheese on the face of the earth. I love the stuff. We also planned on meeting my Mom and Dad for lunch and just spend some time together.
We did just that. Diane, Teddy and I walked around downtown Lexington for awhile before Mom and Dad arrived. Then we had subs from the local Italian restaurant which we ate outside. I wanted a beer to go with them, but that was not possible because we were in a dry county. Oh well.
After lunch we bought two quarts of Conrad and Hinkle, some ginger ale, I threw the cheese into a freezer bag along with some ice and we then went shopping. We visited a candy store located in a hundred year old building with creaky wooden floors. The hand made fudge was out of this world and Dad bought some for Diane.
We said goodbye to Mom and Dad and drove back to Greensboro.
We came back in the afternoon and our coach, at the last minute before closing, was moved out from the fenced area to a spot with power. We now had our home back to a useable state if not a drivable one. We were rescued from another night in a hotel. For awhile it looked like we were going to have to visit the La Quinta again. The tech was having problems with the auto park and connecting the system to read the codes. Having been told that, it sure was a relief to see the coach move to its parking spot.
Bruce told us that he had been getting a lot of help from Eric at Workhorse.
Wednesday the fourth of April was a very hot day. We had the coach all to ourselves that day and going somewhere did not appeal to us. Jeri, our daughter, checked into the hospital very early that morning. We had hoped to be there but obviously we were not. We would have to sit and wait for the arrival of our new grandson from the comfort of our coach while it sat in a parking lot.
I decided to pass the time by cleaning our Vue. It really needed it. I washed it with Armor All extreme shine detailing stuff, vacuumed the carpets and shampooed them and everything else on the inside. During this time I decided that I needed some shade so I rolled out the electric awning and about half way out it made a loud banging noise and then fell open the rest of the way.
That did not sound right, so I tried to retract it and it would not move.
It was pretty obvious that the awning was broken. Oh well. I figured that it was small potatoes compared to a massive brake failure and it picked a good time to fail. We were parked in front of a repair facility, not going down the road. I walked into the office and informed Pal we had another problem. Pal sent Scott Frunzen, the same person who prepped the coach four years earlier, to come over and have a look. Scott discovered that the motor shaft was stripped. Another part would have to be ordered. Do want you have to do, was my response.
I went back to cleaning my car.
Around four, Pal stretched a garden hose a very long way over to our coach so that we could fill our fresh water tank. This took some time and while Pal and I were standing outside just shooting the breeze, Diane came out with some really good news.
Gavin Thomas Wheeler came into the world just after four. Both mother and newborn boy were doing just fine. She then showed me a blurry picture on her not so smart phone.
Pal, who has a set of very young twins at home, said congratulations.
Not a bad ending to the day I guess. Before the day ended for the techs Scott had to roll a scaffold over to our coach so that he could roll up our awning and tie it off. A big storm was on its way.
It rained like crazy that night with lots of thunder and lightning which Teddy hates as much as he does motorcycles.
The highlight of our next day was a trip to Wal-Mart for some things, food and new cups along with a baby gift for our new grandson, whom we still hoped to see soon, and back to Camping World.
We took advantage of Good Sam's roadside assistance being offered on sale on site. The staff member who helped us was well very helpful. We also purchased the Rand McNally RV 5510 gps.
I was not happy with our old Garmin. It got us lost the first trip to Camping World. It kept turning us in circles because it did not recognize most of the streets we were on. I was ready to throw the thing out the sunroof along with my smart phone and Teddy Bear who kept barking at passing motorcycles. Diane was ready to throw me out the roof from fussing about the Garmin and the dog.
On the way home Diane played with the new GPS (she loves it by the way) and we bought some Dunkin Doughnut blueberry Munchkin holes for the techs. We figured they would be more fun to hand out than cigars.
Our coach was not in its spot when we arrived. We sat in the car and played with the GPS.
We had some good news waiting for us, the ABS break pump had been replaced and the awing was now repaired as well. The next step was to bleed the brakes, which was a long, complicated and critical process. Once that was done the coach would be parked again and hopefully, the next morning we could be on our way.
The brakes were bled successfully, the coach was taken on a test drive by Pal around the lot, and then they told me to take it for a longer one.
I climbed into the coach. The generator was running so that Bruce’s laptop could stay connected and running which would allow it to capture any errors that the Engine Computer Module was generating.
I took it for a spin and worked the brakes pretty hard. They felt great, like new.
Everyone was happy with the result.
The next day, Friday, the guys checked the coach air conditioning, which was not cooling. They discovered that it was low on coolant but there were no leaks and all was good to go once the system was recharged.
We saw the coach come out again. We paid the bill, the part for the brakes was covered by Workhorse (thank you Eric!) we gladly paid for all the hard work the guys did, we had lunch and then at noon we hit the road. Almost.
After eating lunch, I hooked up our tow only to discover that none of the lights would work. It took me awhile to realize that I had put the coach end of the electrical connection in the socket upside down. Stupid of me I know. Once that was fixed we were on our way.
The guys at Terry Lobonte RV really came through for us... Eric McCann at Workhorse, Mike Pelchat, Andy from Harris Towing, they all played a huge part in getting us back on the road in time to see our new grandson.
I can’t thank them enough.
Well, my next post will be about the trip from Greensboro to Florida and back. It will be some fun reading with pictures. Hopefully I can keep the days straight. Stay tuned to this channel.