Year 2 Day 6 On The Road Again!

Well, we are off, chasing after another adventure. This is the reason we moved from our sailboat to a RV. We are just not ready to stop being nomads. We are not ready to join the “sane society” and settle down. There are just too many places to see, people to meet, new and exciting experiences to share.

With this in mind, this morning we finished bundling up LeuC and headed down the road. Our goal for this journey is to return to Karstner Caverns State Park, about 1.5 hours east of Tucson, Arizona. We plan on arriving in a week and, at that time, we will be joined by our daughter, Christina, her husband, Michael, and their three cute kids, Isaac (5), Stella (3) and Wyatt (1). They are renting a trailer and will be camping next to us for the three-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend. Whoo Hoo!

Our journey is about 1000 miles and since we have a week to get there, we plan on just dinging our way down the road. We do have a planned stop in Mesa, AZ on the 11th, where we hope to have the ceiling lighting issue we are having fixed. Over the 4 months we have had LeuC, we have lost over half of our 50+ ceiling lights. We are not sure if it is a voltage issue or if the LED lights are just bad. In discussing this problem with the parts department at La Mesa RV, we learned that most RV manufacturers that they service use the same LED light and there is a long history of failure with them. He shared a story of one Winnebago needing 30 lights replaced. I think we will give that bus a run for the trophy as it seems a new light fails each day. Grrrrr. Tiffin has a reputation of being a premier RV manufacturer and supposedly uses high quality products. When we arrive in Red Bay, Alabama, in March, to have them work on a number of little issues that we are dealing with, I will explore this reputation with them…

Right before we get there, I will post a list of the issues we have so you can get an idea of what we are facing. None of them, except for the ceiling lights, are what I would call a major issue, but when taken together, they are aggravating.
I realize that a RV bus does go through a lot of twisting and turning and pounding as it zooms down the road at 60 to 70 MPH. This generates a lot of variable stress and constant vibrations. Even though our air suspension system provides us a very smooth ride, the many parts and connections that make up a bus do go through a lot. Our bus is not like a house in that respect. With the exceptions of earthquakes, a house just sits on the ground, vibration free. A bus is more like a sailboat and we have a lot of experience with issues that occur on a sailboat. Thus, I should not be surprised that after 8000 miles of driving LeuC down all kinds of roads, we have our list of little issues that have cropped up.

Today, we stopped again at the Harris Ranch, off of the I-5 freeway, near Coalinga, California. They have a large dirt parking area for RVs and trucks. Plus, they have a great restaurant that we enjoy. For dinner I had their wonderful prime rib while Mary Margaret had their beef stew in a sour dough bread loaf. Yum! We also splurged and bought a boysenberry pie. While good, it was not like the pies Mary Margaret makes so we were a bit disappointed in that. Plus, it really needed a big scoop of vanilla ice cream to make it complete…

Tomorrow, we will drive down to Bakersfield and then turn left, to drive up and over the Tehachapi Mountains and then into the Mohave Desert. We plan on having a new experience when we stop for the night. The road between Bakersfield and Barstow is State Route 58. It is now mostly a freeway or, at least a separated 4 lane highway. However, there are still a few places where the highway ends and a two-lane road takes over. At one of these places, there is a huge area which, someday, will be made into a freeway. However, right now, it is a large, relatively flat area that can hold hundreds of trucks and/or RVs. Outside of a few trucks, we have never seen anyone spend the night there, even though we have read about it in a couple of RV campsite websites. We will let you know what we think about it, in our next blog.

Year 2 Day 5 Getting Ready

After spending two two-week periods here at the Del Valle Recreational Area, it is time to move on. We have enjoyed our time here with the park’s spacious camp site’s, scenic locale, and roaming wild animals including deer, turkeys, bobcats, Canadian geese and swans. The only things we did not like about this park is that we do not have Internet or cell phone coverage due to being nestled deep between two high mountain ridges that also contain the reservoir that is the heart of the recreational area.

Another advantage of this park is that it is relatively close to our two kids, Heather and David Paul, and their respective families. It is one of the few public parks in California that is set up for big rigs such as LeuC. It also is the first public park that we have been to that had electrical, water and sewer hookups at each campsite. This is a real luxury because we do not have to drive LeuC to a sewer dump whenever our black or grey water tanks are full. This let Mary Margaret do laundry whenever she wanted to without any concern of overfilling our grey water tank. This was especially nice since Heather and Victoria spent about a week with us and Victoria, being a one-year old created lots of dirty clothes.

Getting ready for us means that we go shopping, getting the provisions, we need for the upcoming journey and restocking our basic necessities. I also inspect LeuC, making sure that all of her fluids are full, there are no other issues such as loose fittings or nuts, the tire pressure is OK, the windshield is clean, etc., etc., etc.

With that done, I built one last fire, enjoying my Cuban and the warmth that the fire provides. It actually was nice and warm today with the highs touching the low 70’s but as the afternoon waned, the dark clouds moved in and it starting raining as bedtime neared.

We actually have had very little rain during our one month stay here, even though we are in the heart of California’s rainy season. This has made our time here especially nice, allowing us to enjoy the outdoors and the beauty this park has. It has been very nice.

Tomorrow, we head down the road again, with our goal of returning to Kartchner Caverns State Park, outside of Tucson. We will be joined by our other daughter, Christina, and her family, who will be trying out a trailer that they will be pulling behind their plush pickup truck.

Along the way, we will be making a stop at Mesa, Arizona, where we hope to have an electrical issue taken care of that has been burning out our ceiling lights, one by one. 25 of our 50 plus ceiling lights have now burned out. Go figure!

Year 2 Day 4 Look, Ma: No Brakes!

When we left the Fiat dealership yesterday, we drove off fat, dumb and happy: reunited with our cute little Fiat. We drove the 30 odd miles from Concord down to Livermore with everything working great.  With Mary Margaret driving the rental car and following me, we entered Livermore and prepared to return the rental car.  As I pulled into the middle turn lane so I could turn into the rental car property, I applied the brakes and discovered that I could not stop in time.  I sailed past the entrance of the rental car property as I pressed the brake pedal harder and harder.  I ended up using the emergency brake to bring the little Fiat to a full stop.  Whew!  I was sure that Mary Margaret must have thought I was nuts to drive past the turn.

I turned the car around and coasted into the rental car property and was able to stop and park the car next to Mary Margaret.  The brakes worked but felt soft and spongy.  It was raining and the first thought I had was that the brake pads were wet and maybe coated with oil.  Hmmm, was the newly installed engine leaking oil and did it take the duration of the drive to Livermore to give time for engine oil to drip down and impact the brakes?  It id not make sense but I did not have any other explanation.

After dropping off the rental car, we returned to our campground and LeuC.  During that drive, the brakes worked but still felt spongy and not fully working right.

This morning, I drove up to the top of the ridge that overlooks our campground so I could get Internet access and cell phone coverage.  At that time, I called the Fiat dealership and reported the problem.  They agreed that I should return the car and they would look into the issues with the brakes.

After returning to LeuC to tell Mary Margaret that I was going back to Concord, I slowly and carefully drove down the road.  In my drive down the freeway I left lots of room between me and the cars ahead and shift down the gears to slow down the car whenever the traffic slowed down.  I seldom had to use the brakes, instead relying on the technique of engine braking by down sifting.  This worked great and I was able to pull into the service center of the Fiat dealership with minimal use of the car’s brakes.

Within an hour, the service technician had test driven the car, inspected the brake system and solved the problem.  As it turned out, he had improperly reconnected our supplement tow braking system after installing the new engine such that the hose from the brake system’s vacuum pump had loosened and was leaking air.  Now, I do not really understand how these braking systems work but I do know that leaks in the system, whether an air leak or a hydraulic oil leak, is not good.  Fortunately, it was an easy fix, with the technician replacing the connection fitting which took care of the problem.

The resulting drive back to Mary Margaret and LeuC in our campground was great with the brakes, the engine, the transmission and the front wheel axel all working the way they should.  Yea!

Tomorrow, we start to prepare LeuC for our journey back to Arizona as we looking forward to our first major leg in our trip to Red Bay, Alabama.

Year 2 Day 3 Whoo Hoo! Our Little Fiat Is Back!

Today was a wet, dark, cold day. In a word, it was dreary. However, no matter how wet, how dark or how cold it was, it was a great day! What made it great is that the Fiat dealership up in Concord told me that our cute, little Fiat would be ready to be picked up this afternoon. Thus, Mary Margaret and I hopped into our rental car and drove up to Concord where the dealership is located.

Getting there was a bit of a challenge due to the sloppy weather and the heavy traffic. Drivers in California react to the first significant rain of the season the same way drivers in the East, Midwest and North react to the first snow. In other words, they don’t realize that they do not have to same control of their vehicles on slick roads as they do on dry ones. The result is a traffic mess with fender benders making the freeways as slow as molasses. It took almost 90 minutes to travel the 35 miles we had to drive. Nevertheless, the horrible drive was worth it as we were reunited with our cute little Fiat once we arrived.

There she was, bright and shiny, glistening in her bright red paint with drops of rainwater making her look all the more attractive. It seemed to us that she was as happy to see us as we were to see her.

As we walked into the office of the service center, we knew the good part of our reunion was over with and we braced for the bad and ugly parts. During the 29 days that the dealership had our little Fiat, I had been in contact with them, discovering what the problem was and what it was going to take to fix her up and get her back on the road.

As it turned out, the transmission was just fine but they discovered two problems. The damage that occurred was restricted to the engine. The pistons, the piston rings and the cylinders that the pistons work in were all shot. Furthermore, we discovered that it would be cheaper and faster to just replace the engine than having it repaired. The service center was not set up to rebuild engines and, according to the technician, it is no longer done for newer cars due to the tight tolerances and electronic nature now required in newer engines. My research into this subject seemed to confirm this. Things have changed so much during the 10 years we have been sailing and, as a result, the gas mileages have zoomed up and the gas emissions have zoomed down.

The bad and ugly parts of our experience all had to do with the costs of the repairs. A new engine, which is the heart of every car, is not cheap. A silver lining of having the dealership working on our car was that they also discovered that the left axel rubber boot was torn and the thick, heavy grease that coats the axel gears was leaking out. The technician shared with us that when the new wiring for our tow breaking system was installed, the installer ripped the rubber boot which caused the resulting loss of grease.

While we were not happy to learn this, we were happy that it was discovered before all of the grease was lost and the gears were ground down and no longer worked. I asked why did I not see grease on the ground under our Fiat wherever we parked her and was told that there is a shield between the underside of the engine compartment and the road. The grease was piling up on the shield and would have never fallen onto the road.

Once we paid our bill, we drove back to Livermore and dropped off the rental car and returned to our campground and LeuC. We were a bit lighter in the pocketbook but richer knowing that our little Fiat was healthy once more.

Year 2 Days 1 and 2  Our Immediate Plans

The new year has started and we are getting our act together for the start of this year.  Our short term goal is to travel leisurely through the southwest, making our way east to Red Bay, Alabama.  Red Bay is the home of Tiffin and was where our Allegro Bus was build last year.  We are anxious to drive there for a few reasons.  First, we are looking forward to the great tour of their manufacturing plant where we can learn more about our bus and how it was made.

They will also provide us more insights into some of the nuances in operating some of the more complex systems of our RV.  I am having some difficulties in setting up a couple of the systems properly.  For example, you can program the generator to turn on when the house batteries drop to a selected voltage.  I have followed the instructions properly but I still cannot get the generator to turn on automatically when the house batteries fall to 12 volts.

I am also anxious to have some repairs and adjustments made.  For example, I believe we have a 12-volt regulation issue with our ceiling lights.  We have over 50 ceiling lights throughout LeuC, however, about half of them have failed or in the process of failing.  These lights are LED lights that should last for years.  However, many of them have flicked before failing.  Grrrr.

We hope to arrive in Red Bay in early March.  Along the way of getting there, we will be camping with our daughter, Christina, and her family at the Kartchner Caverns State Park, east of Tucson.  We stayed there a few months ago and loved it so much that Christina and Michael have decided to rent a 5th wheeler and go camping with us over the Martin Luther King three-day weekend in a couple of weeks. Whoo Hoo!

From there we hope to make our way to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  There is a campground nearby that we would be staying at.  However, it is up around 3500 feet and I am not sure that it would be wise to go there in the heart of the winter.  While we would have electricity there and could keep the LeuC nice and warm, I am nervous about getting trapped there because of snow.  We will just have to check the weather forecast before we head out for Carlsbad.

We then continue east through Texas with a major stop in Kerriville, near San Antonio.  We hope to tour the Alamo while there.

We will continue east to New Orleans where we will be staying a couple of weeks at the Bayou Segnete State Park.  It is located right across the bayou from downtown New Orleans which makes it a convenient place for us to stay while we explore and enjoy the foods, drinks and music of that city.  We will purposely arrive a few days after the festivities of Mardi Gar just to avoids the crowds.

From there we will make our away to Red Bay, Alabama and our stay at the Tiffin facility.  That is as far has we have planned so far because we do not know how long we will be in Red Bay.

Year 1 Day 113 2017 In Review December 31 2017

Today is the end of our first year in our RV. It did not start on January 1, 2017 as, at that time, we were still living on our sailboat, Leu Cat. We spent 2/3 of the year living on Leu Cat until we sold it on Aug 30. During that period, we sailed from Grenada, which is just north of South America, up through the West Indies visiting such islands as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guadeloupe, Sint Maarten, St. Croix, St. Thomas, St Johns and finally returning to Sint Maarten in hopes of sailing across the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean. During this time, we were visited by our dear friends, Portia and Steve and then by Valerie and Joe. We also spent a week with our blog friends, Rich and Brent, who lived on St Croix and had so graciously invited us to stay with them.

When we returned to Sint Maarten we retrofitted Leu Cat in preparation of making our North Atlantic crossing. Once we finished the retrofit, we watched the weather and waited, waited and waited some more for a decent weather window to make a safe crossing. Alas, it was not to be due to the many, many horrific storms that swept the North Atlantic, making a safe passage problematic.

The thought of spending a third straight year in the Caribbean in hopes of making a crossing to the Mediterranean in 2018 was not appealing so we decided to sell Leu Cat and return to living on land. This was not an easy decision since we loved Leu Cat so much, as well as the wonderful sailing lifestyle we had lived for the last 10 years. Nevertheless, we felt it was time to move on and the decision was made.

In August, we found buyers who loved Leu Cat and we believed would take good care of her. They were going to sail Leu Cat to her new home in North Carolina in February 2018 when the sailing conditions would be good for such a passage. We even agreed to help crew her during that passage and assist them in getting to know the various systems that made Leu Cat such a great boat.

Unfortunately, it was not to be because Hurricane Irma hit St Maarten in early September, destroying the island with winds up to 225 mph. Along with the island, Irma also destroyed hundreds of boats, including Leu Cat. While we no longer owned Leu Cat, we were devastated since she was our home, our island of safety as we circumnavigated the world and was part of our family for so many years.

Shortly after selling Leu Cat we bought LeuC, our 40-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus and moved on board during the first week of September. Since then, we have driven about 6,000 miles, touring the southwest and visiting family and friends along the way. Our tour took us from Mesa, Arizona, where we bought LeuC, to Tucson, then to New Mexico, and up to Denver, Colorado. We returned to Tucson and then continued on to Southern California, up to Sacramento, California, back to Tucson and finally, returning to California to spend the Christmas holidays in the San Francisco Bay area.

We have visited with each of our three children and their families, seen many friends that we had not seen in years and met many other R/Vers’ along our way. This was all done during the last few months of 2017. Whew!

As you can see, it has been a very hectic year for us, with many, many significant changes. But it has also been very rewarding year meeting new people and making new friends.

We are in the process of planning our 2018 travel year which will have a heavy emphasis on touring the South, the East and the Midwest. With luck, we may make it up to Canada and visit some of our old cruising friends who now live there. Time will tell…

Year 1 Day 111 and 112 Deer, Turkeys and Mountain Lions, Oh My!

We have been impressed with the amount of wildlife that roam the Del Valle Recreational Area, where we have been staying. Besides the many birds, including raptors that circle overhead, Canadian geese that walk over the parkland grasses and either swans or white cranes that swim across the long reservoir that is the heart of the recreational area, we have spied or been warned about numerous other animals.

The largest have been the black tailed deer that scamper about. You have to drive the roads of the park very carefully and slowly in order to avoid running into them. On three or four occasions we have had to brake our rental car hard to avoid hitting them. They not only range over the open flanks of the high ridges that soar above us but wander casually through the campground. They are shy of people and scamper away when they see you approaching but they leave their droppings as a reminder that we are the visitors and they own the landscape that we so admire.

We have also have had to brake and patiently wait as flocks of wild turkeys strut across the road, letting us know that they are the royal family and as mere subservient beings, we need to keep our distance. They are plump, fat even; giving proof that they are well fed living off the land here in the park. Each time we have seen them, I did not have my camera available so I am without any photos to share with you. But I am hopeful that before we leave in a week, that I will have captured these large birds in a photo that I can post with this blog.

The last type of animal we have seen have been cats. I have come across feral cats with bushy tails and a slightly larger bobcat that scampered across the road. So far, we have been lucky and have not come across any mountain lions. However, our daughter, Heather, was warned about a mountain lion sighting while walking her dog, Stanley, by a couple that had seen one only a few minutes before. Needless to say, she immediately turned away and returned to our bus, safe and sound. Mountain lion sightings are not to be taken lightly. These cats are dangerous and do have a history of attacking people. In fact, back in the 1990s, when we lived in Lake Forest, down in Orange County in Southern California, we had a schoolmate of our daughter, Christina, being attacked by a mountain lion while she and her family were hiking along a trail in the Casper Wilderness Area a few miles from our house. The little girl did survive but was horribly mauled by the lion before being saved by her dad.

I am not sure what other wild animals we will see before we leave but if and when we do, I hope I will have my camera with me so I can capture the sighting and share it with you.