Car Trouble

For those who have been following us since the beginning of this year’s trip, you may remember me mentioning I was concerned we may be having an upcoming issue with the Jeep.  Today was the day.  At one of the rest stops, Regis needed to get in the car for something and the car and the key fob wouldn’t work.  There was no electricity.

While driving down the highway, with Regis at the wheel, I did some internet research on my phone to find somewhere to take the car after we arrived at our campsite in Columbia, Missouri.  The local Jeep dealer did not have good reviews, but All Star Automotive on N 1st Street had good reviews.  We opted to go with All Star and risk not having them be able to handle an issue covered under warranty.  I called to let them know we were going to find a way to get the car there and the gentleman said they would look at it tomorrow if we could get it in there today.  We also discussed the possibility of taking the car to them with the motor home, but they have a small lot.  I was able to determine that our RV Roadside Assistance package with Coach Net covers the tow vehicle.  If we needed to get it towed, they could do it.

We decided to see what the situation looked like when we got to the campsite.  At the campsite, Regis was able to get in the car with the key fob but the engine wouldn’t start.  One of the wonderful guys working at the campground gave Regis a jump start and Regis drove the car to the repair shop about 6 miles away.   We were suspicious that it could just be a dead battery since the car isn’t even that old and we spend our winters in Florida.

Here’s where things get totally amazing from a customer service point of view.  Not long after Regis left, I saw the Jeep pulling up to the RV.  As Regis began entering  the RV, the Jeep pulled away!  The guy from the repair shop dropped Regis back off at the RV.  Shortly before 5:00, they called to say the car was ready and they came to pick Regis up.  And it get’s better.  They determined that the problem was an after market wire connected to the battery the wrong way causing a loose battery cable connection.  The only after market work done to the Jeep was to get it set up for the tow package at the place we bought the RV.  Anyway, it was easily fixed and the bill came to $31.50.

I’m thrilled it was an easy fix.  But, I am flabbergasted by the amazing customer service from All Star Automotive.  If you have car problems in Columbia, Missouri, they are the  place to go.

Also, the folks at Cottonwoods RV Park were very helpful.

Sorry, no pictures today.  But, the weather is beautiful.  I already paid the campground to stay an extra night, so we’ll check some things out here tomorrow.  It’s all good!


Ready, Set, … Go?

By Regis.

Last post I told you I would post about the RV upgrade projects. Well I haven’t a clue how to present that in an interesting way. So what your’e going to get is a list and some pictures with a short description.


But first, as the title teases, we are about to start this years trip! The continued cold weather does have us worried a bit. The plan is to head to the Pacific Northwest and spend a lot of time around in the state of Washington. Apparently, the shortest way is to head to South Dakota, then west. Fair enough, we like that part of the country. But if it doesn’t warm up we may be snow camping! Fortunately, we have a working heater. Unlike the first year in this RV, where we found out how much colder it can be at 7000 feet elevation (without a working heater) verses 5000 feet. Check this post  brrrr-and-wheres-dart-2
Our first several days will be at the local beach. We actually have a water front site! No, not the ocean water or even the ICW water but maybe a marsh of some type but we can walk to the ocean! Then we head to the gulf coast for a bit then bee line for South Dakota.

One more thing before I get to the upgrades and pictures. I wanted to let you know how you can follow our blog posts! I know some of you get our posts forwarded to you by a friend or notice the Facebook post. You can “sign up” on our blog site, then you can get notified when ever we post, you won’t miss any of the action and you can comment as well!

to sign up on our blog:

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It should take you to our latest post. On the right side panel you should see a list of older archived posts. ( read through and catch up!) Below the archives will be a “button”  “follow us we’re lost.” Click it and enter your email.

Now you should get notified when we update our blog! FYI… The first time you comment on a post it will need to be approved by us, so be patient, we’ll get to it! (internet access out in the wild can be spotty!) Once you get approved your comments will post immediately.

On to the upgrades!

I’ll list what I’ve been doing then expand on a couple;

  • Air horn
  • espresso holder
  • basement organization
  • reroute some electrical
  • Flash light holders
  • Four wheel weight RV
  • Align headlights

Espresso holder?

In the RV space is at a premium, even in a big RV. One thing Linda and I will not do without is our espresso drinks. She, a cappuccino, me a latte. Our espresso machine, while not big, will not fit in any of our cabinets. It resides on one side of the stove in camp and on the other side when traveling. Problem is when traveling ANYTHING not tied down will bounce and shift around while going down the road. My solution is to brace the machine on the counter with a “stop” wedged into a gap between the stove and counter. This works great and version 2, made of IPE wood, even looks great!

Pretend the basket is an espresso machine. It will not slide to the left!

Basement organization.

There are several compartments below the living space, the “basement”. This being the longest trip planned and other factors, we need to be more disciplined with the basement storage. I had seen a great Vlog from the RVGEEKS about how they organize their basement with plastic totes. I went with the concept about the totes. What it has done is to delineate space, which helps keep stuff in its place. One compartment was a big problem in that removing one thing causes two others to fall out! No more!

RV Weight.

For two years now I’ve been wanting to get the RV weighed. Ever since I found out that I under bought (not by much, but still over loaded) the truck to pull the 5th wheel, the RV weight has weighed on my mind. I even had a weigh in scheduled last year be had to cancel. The manufacturer does supply a sticker that lists the weight of the RV, full of fuel and propane, out of the factory, but is it accurate? Well it probably is. But how much STUFF have you added? Great news is that the manufacturers weight was darn close and even with most of our stuff we were well within weight limits on all four wheels! FYI we have been adding more stuff and will be getting a per axel weight soon but I don’t think it will change dramatically.


The only time slot I could get to weigh the RV was 9:30 a.m. and it meant I had to leave at 6:30 a.m. Since I had to fuel up before going I had to leave by 5 and that meant getting up by 4. At O’dark thirty you tend to rely on your head lights while driving. Besides not driving in the rain much (see is winter over yet) it was probably the first time driving the RV in the DARK. HA! Two summers on the road and just now driving in the dark for the first time and realizing the head lights are all akimbo! Well, I spent some time tweaking the lights and probably need some more.

Last but not least AIRHORN.

The RV is built on a medium duty truck frame, a Freightliner M2. Think of the largest UHAUL truck you can rent. Pretty big right? Now think about driving it and having to hit the horn and it sounding like a Toyota Corolla. Not impressive right. It might be a GUY thing but I had to install some air horns on the RV. Still not the sound I want but much better!



0722 Quebec (1 of 1)
View of Quebec from St Lawrence River

We left St. John to head toward Quebec.  Oh my.  My six years of French is not adequate for this.  Once we got to Quebec, all the signs were in French.  In the other provinces, the signs are in both languages so I was practicing by reading French first and then reading the English if I couldn’t understand it.  Now, I have no English translation to fall back on.

I feel a little isolated.  Everyone around us is speaking fluent French.  (One exception I will describe later.)  I think most folks know we speak English and avoid us.  The professional tourist people are very kind, but everyone else ignores us.  It’s a weird feeling.  Dart is wearing his USA bandana, but I suspect people know we are from the US without us understanding why.

This turns out to be a decent campsite that is a short walk away from the coast.  It is an amazing view.  We can watch Beluga whales from the beach.

I immediately took a whale watch tour leaving at 9:30 am the day after we arrived.  While I was doing that Regis set about fixing our newly broken table.  This is another one of those situations where there was a lack of quality in manufacturing.  Our dining table collapsed and was no longer usable.  While fixing it, Regis determined it was not adequately glued in the first place.  Apparently, someone noticed that in manufacturing and caulked it which was a temporary solution.  This is our second season in the motor home and it was time for the caulking to fail.

While he was working, I was enjoying a 3 ½ hour boat tour on the St. Lawrence River.  The guide spoke fluent French and then gave us an English translation.  His French accent was strong enough, along with the wind, sound of the motor, and other people talking, that I had a hard time understanding what he was saying even when he spoke English.  Nevertheless, I understood some of it.

0722 Before (1 of 1)
View of port from Rivier. yes all those boats are sitting in mud
0722 After (1 of 1)
View of port in Riviere-de-loop after whale watch tour.

Not long after leaving the dock, we saw Beluga whales.  Click here for a short video.  (It’s not great but look for the white whales.  Belugas are white.  We continued to see them.  We arrived at the whale hot spot, which I think is where the water from the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the freshwater of the St. Lawrence River.  We saw LOTS of seabirds.  So far, on this trip, we haven’t seen that many seabirds.  I think that’s because they are all here.  My goodness.  I saw thousands of cormorants.  It was amazing.  We saw several Minke whales where the water mixes.

0722 Lighthouse (1 of 1)
Lighthouse on St Lawrence River.

On the way back, we encountered a gazillion seals.  Okay, I don’t know how many seals there were but I have never seen that many seals swimming in the water at the same time.  The amount of sea mammals and birds is astonishing.

On the way back, I felt my fingers getting numb.  I was cold.  As I was trying to get circulation back in my fingers, I saw a young boy and girl come up on the top deck with me.  The young boy was wearing a short-sleeved Toronto Blue Jays shirt.  The young girl was wearing a sun dress.  They showed no indication that the cold breeze on the top deck was anything more than lovely.  I was wearing five layers – a shirt, a polartech top, a wool sweater, a sweatshirt, and a gore-tex rain jacket.  And, I was cold.  Jeez.

There were lots of people on our whale tour that probably spoke neither French or English.  When they gave the safety instructions, they gave them in French, English, and another language.  After that, it was all French and English with an accent.  I am exhausted trying to figure out what the guide was saying!!!

I have to tell you what happened after we arrived at our campsite.  After setting up, the skies opened up and it poured.  After it stopped, Regis decided to do a bike ride through town to check things out.  Dart and I stayed behind keeping each other company.  About 45 minutes after Regis left, it started pouring again.  Dart and I looked at each other.  Should we try to rescue Regis?  We don’t know where he is.  Dart and I decided to give it a try.  We took off trying to figure out where Regis might have gone.  Miracle of miracles!!!!  We found him.  He was wet and bedraggled, but we picked him up and brought him home.  Dart was happy to get everyone back together again.

0722 The walk (1 of 1)
Dart and I took a walk after dinner along the St. Lawrence River.
0722 Sunset 2 (1 of 1)
Sunset over the St. Lawrence River.

30 Day Oil Change!

I was going to attack the RV to-do list last month so I started with an oil change for the generator. Little did I realize the “easiest” item on the list would take so long.

We have an 8000 watt generator on the RV. It will allow us to stay at places without utility hookups. Toward the end of our last trip the service reminder started flashing. When I got home (where the generator maintenance book was) I looked up what needed  to be done. 50 hours: change oil and filter. Piece of cake!

I grabbed the tools and supplies I needed and headed to the RV. Once there I got set up, oil catch pan, check!  Wrench, check! Tarp, check! Radio blasting tunes out of the jeep, Check! I rolled under the RV and started to remove the drain plug.  No, wait, I TRIED to remove the plug. It was on pretty tight! I have always wondered if the people at the factories actually know how to adjust their tools as to not assemble nuts and bolts too tight.

What could be so hard?

After several attempts I started thinking “am I turning it the right way?”  Lefty loosey, righty tighty. Nope, I’m doing it the correct way. I need a bigger wrench for more leverage. So I pack up and go back home, where the rest of the tools are D’oh!

Thankfully the RV is stored about 8 miles from home, not too bad but just a pain to run back and forth. Get the small tool box, throw in an assortment of things and a HAMMER, just in case.

Round two! Back under with the bigger wrench. Nope, still not moving. I’m now thinking that the plug is just rusted in place. Time for the PB Blaster. If you don’t know PB Blaster is a “powerful penetrating catalyst”, “Frees everything faster”, “stuck, rusted, corroded pipe threads”. I give it a good spray and let it soak in. Still not turning. I give it another spray to soak overnight and pack up and go home.

Round three! After giving it an overnight soak I dove back under to give a try. Still nothing! Where’s that hammer? I put the wrench on and give it a few good hits. Nope. At this point I go all in a smack it with the hammer really, really hard. Hey it’s moving! hit it again and again. That should do it.  I turn the wrench by hand a couple times but it doesn’t feel right. I removed the wrench. Oh no, I rounded the corners of the plug and cracked the 10mm socket to boot! Time to rethink this.

Back home I spent the following week researching options for changing the oil by pumping it out the fill tube. Lots on different products ranging from $70 to $200 and varying reviews. I really didn’t like any of them.  How can I fix the rounded corners on the plug and still find a way to remove it? I went with using a Dremel tool with a grinding stone. There was just enough room between the housing and the plug . I ground a little off each side and went from a 10mm plug with rounded corners to a 9mm plug with well defined corners!

Grind away and it’s “just like new”.

Round four! Time for the big guns! This time I went back and bought the impact gun. Nothing like a hammer and wrench combined and powered by air. One of the projects on our last trip was the installation of a small air pump and tank. I had one from the trailer and used it for filling the tires. I was now using it to power the impact gun and remove the drain plug. After 10-15 minutes of trying I packed up and went home. No oil drained today.

Over the next several weeks I would research on the internet for a couple of days, form a plan, go to the RV and get rejected, and go back home to research.

I found an amazing amount of options to try. I didn’t try each mostly because they involved buying a tool of some sort (I’m retired and on a budget!) or heating to insane temps in the hope of expanding the pan around the plug thus, breaking it free and probably burning the RV down. I did come across an interesting idea using cold to shrink the plug.

This one guy used liquid nitrogen to freeze a bolt, shrinking it to break it free. I like it! I did have two problems. How to get some liquid nitrogen and how to pour up. The drain plug is on the bottom and you can’t pour up! I did find a product I could try, not as cool as nitrogen (I knew I could get a pun in somewhere) but comes in a spray can.

Arctic Blast by Chemtronics. It’s used to diagnose electronic circuit boards that are failing due to heat. By spraying and cooling each component, one by one, you can identify the one thats overheating. Chemtronic has several products and I could only source the one called Freeze Spray. It cools down to -60F/-50C. That should cause some shrinkage.

chill to -50c and my new best friend

Once it arrive via UPS ground I was off to the RV again. I sprayed the plug and tried. NOPE nothing. I thought, since I got a whole 10 oz can, how cold can I get it? I sprayed for a good 45-60 seconds and then another 20 seconds, maybe half the can. The plug was frosty white! Wrench on and turn. Wooo Whooo it worked!

drain plug… my nemesis now defeated!

Now the plug was out and the oil drained. Only took 4 weeks but almost done. Just need to change the filter and add new oil. Little did I know the generator was not done tormenting me yet!


More about that, next time!