On the Road Again, details of the breakdown

After 8 days in a hotel, we are finally on the road again.  We are currently at Horseshoe Lakes Thousand Trails in IN after our breakdown in Indianapolis.

We stopped at Flying J to have lunch and upon returning our 2007 Safari Simba would not come out of park.  Nothing we tried worked, so we were towed by Good Sam Roadside Assistance to Clarke Power Systems about a half a mile from Flying J.

Walt was the first person to greet us and was very understanding.  As it was the end of the day, we left to find a hotel room.   Troubleshooting began the next morning.  I must say that communications the first day were kind of poor.  I had to call them to find out what was happening and even then the information wasn’t something that I could understand.  That all changed when I called and found out that they had a customer support manager (Rich), whom I called on Wednesday.  Things moved along great after that.  First, the issue was identified as an adjustment to the transmission, that apparently lead to the replacement of a part, which still didn’t correct the problem.  By Thursday, they had dedicated an Allison Technician to find the problem and fix it.  Via software and good old troubleshooting, he felt it was the shifter console (which was not an Allison part).  We (John, the tech, Putt, my son-in-law and myself) searched for a replacement.  After some research two were found and one was put on order.  It would arrive on Tuesday morning.  The part arrived and was installed.  It still did not correct the problem.  Having tested wiring, transmission and the controller, John started calling around for assistance.  Calls to Ares (they are after market makers of the shifter), Allison and Monaco, John found out that the brakes can cause the shifter to not change from park to any drive gear.

After checking the brake system, John found the lights not working (our inspection before hitting the road showed they were working at that time).  John finally found a bad fuse under the dash inside the rig.  Replaced the 20 amp fuse and everything worked!  8 days of working on the rig for a bad fuse.  All told they had spend over 22 hours on the rig.

Now this may seem like a horror story and in a sense it was.  But since the rig was not using standard configurations and there were not manuals AND no software for this setup, everything had to be done the old fashion way, trial and error.

I must say that John really did understand Allison transmissions, he admitted that he knew nothing about RV but applied his understanding of Freightliner and Allison to work through the problem.  He even allowed me to help 🙂  My basic understanding of the rig and previous experience as a backyard mechanic did provide some insight to issues we ran across.  But in the long run the people at Monaco and John found the issue.

Now for the real horror story.  Good Sam Extended Warranty Program.  When we purchased the rig in September 2013, we also purchased the ESP from Good Sam just in case.  I had read about some of the issues people had with ESP so I was  a little prepared.  I was not however, prepared for the total lack of concern that the folks at GS had for us or the repair center.

Lets start with the first phone call.  I called Good Sam to determine what had to happen, what documentation was required and what would be covered.  This was Tuesday morning.  They told me that I would need to get an estimate from the repair center and have it faxed into them.  They would review it and authorize repairs.  I would be reimbursed for hotel and food based on the number of hours on the estimate.

The first Tuesday afternoon, Clarke contacted Good Sam and a ticket was open.  No estimate at that time as we hadn’t determined the problem.  Through out the process, I called Good Sam to update them, they could have cared less.

Since this was a manual troubleshooting process, the actual repair was performed during the troubleshooting.  The only expensive part replaced was an actuator that found bad the first day or so.  So, Good Sam never got an estimate.  After I talked with them, they decided that the final bill would be good enough to settle the claim with.

Rich came up with a bill that included 22 hours of labor, the actuator and some shop items.  Good Sam required Clarke to fax the invoice for the part before they could settle the claim. 5 hours later with multiple phone calls to Good Sam, Clarke finally got the news.  A $3900 invoice, Good Sam would agree to pay $1700, plus my $1000 deductible.  Good Sam would not pay for the troubleshooting time and would only agree to 6 hours of labor.  Oh, and it only took them 6 hours to come to this agreement.  Instead of getting on the road around 3 PM it was now 7 PM.  In the end, Rich made a management decision and left us go.  He will fight it out with Good Sam.

The screwing isn’t over yet!  Remember that Good Sam will only pay US for our hotel and food, based on the number of hours billed for the repair.  Since they would only pay for 6 hours of labor, guess who gets stuck with the 8 days of hotels and food bill!  That battle is going to be starting tomorrow.  But for now we are back on the road sitting in the campground eating food we cook and drinking our filtered water and enjoying life on the road.

Update on RV issues

Well, we have been on the road now for 3 weeks.  Spent a week in western PA, a week in OH and a week in IN.  Problem is the week in IN has been waiting for the repair on our 2007 Safari Simba.

We stopped at a Flying J outside of Indianapolis for lunch on our way to Thousand Trails park called Horseshoe Lakes in Clinton, IN.  After eating a quick lunch, I did my quick inspection and started the RV up.  Placed it in gear and nothing happened.  The RV wouldn’t come out of park.  Of course I called my son-in-law and our old RV Tech and checked some basic stuff.  Fluid was a little low (2 qts) which was topped off, checked for fuses etc., stopped and restarted the RV several times all to no avail.  So called Good Sams and got towed to a local repair center (there were 3 within a mile of us).   After a week of troubleshooting, they think the problem is the control pad for the transmission.  Monday morning they will have a tester available to make sure.  If it is the control panel then they will have one overnighted, if they can find one.  If it is not the control panel, we are back to square one for troubleshooting.  Also no mention was made about what will happen if they can’t find a control panel.  So best case is we will be on the road again on Tuesday.  I am thinking Wednesday is more likely (providing this is the problem and they can find the part).

I do have some pictures and other articles to catch up on.  We stayed in OH and visited the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base which I need to post.  Will get that done this weekend.  For now, Daisy and I are basically taking it easy.  Trying to de-stress as much as possible.

We are staying at a Motel 6 (my brother-in-law, Allen would consider this ruffing it).  The pool has been closed since we got here.  They update the status every few days indicating that it will be closed for a few more days.

The repair center is Clarke Power Systems.  The folks have been pretty good at taking care of us once they found out we are staying in a hotel until the rig gets fixed.  They even paid for dinner on Friday.  Rich, the Customer Support Manager, told us to go to dinner and bring him the bill.  Daisy found a Joe’s Crab Shack on one of our drives and he said to enjoy ourselves.  We did…$120 for dinner.  I don’t expect Rich to pay for it all, but it was a nice jester.


Wilmington Thousand Trails

As we travel around the country, I am hoping to continue to post about the different campgrounds we stay at.  Most will be part of the Thousand Trails/Outdoor World network as we are Elite Connection members and want to keep our expenses as low as possible.  If you would like more information on Encore Elite memberships please let me know and I can have someone contact you directly.

Wilmington Thousand Trails is located just outside of Wilmington Ohio.  The campground is well kept and most of the campsites are in the trees.  They have limited 50 amp service and those sites were all taken by seasonal campers.  The rest of the sites are 30 amps with sewer and water hook up.  For the most part the sites seem pretty level and are stone covered.  The rest rooms were clean.  They have a great indoor pool area with hot tub and kiddies pool outside.  The family room is also used for church services.  The adult room is small and not well used.  Laundry area had 4 working and one broken washer.  Staff was friendly and we had no problems with our reservations or our stay.

Generally this is a very quite campground.  We were in the C section and most of our neighbors were seasonal.  Over the weekend the campground does have scheduled activities up until the Halloween weekend.


Wright Patterson Air Force Museum

While we were staying in Wilmington OH we took a day trip to WP AFB to visit the museum, WOW is all I can say.  The museum is free of charge and if you have a military ID you can take a tour of the President area on base.  Those of you without an ID card will need to arrive early as there is a shuttle bus and it full up fast.  The day we were there all seats were taken before 10:30 AM.

The main museum is three hangers and starts at the beginning of flight with the Wright Brothers and continues to modern day rockets.  Honestly, these three building will take a good part of the day, with early flight taking the most time.  We didn’t get to see everything, so on our return trip we will spend another day.  For the elderly and handicap they have free motorized wheel chairs.

Wright Brothers

Wright Brothers first military plane

First Remote Controled German Bi-plane

B2 Bomber
B2 Bomber
Rocket Car
Rocket Car
Space Cap
Space Cap

Oh Where Oh Where is my RV Tech At?

Well, we are in Wilmington, OH.  Made it here safe and sound, although the bus needs a little attention (again).  On the way out here from Roaring Run Campground in Champion, PA, we lost our turn signals and the leveling jacks didn’t stow properly.

The jacks went up, but the indicator still showed that the jacks were down.  Good thing I have bad hearing, so I didn’t have to listen to the alarm bells 🙂  Tried several times to see if they would reset, but no luck.  It wasn’t until we got to Wilmington Thousand Trails that they actually reset.  Will check the fluid levels this week as well as test to see if they are working now.  Called two RV repair places and neither of them have time to look at it.  The one place said bring it in and we will get to it in a couple of weeks.  Told them we are full time and of course they said that they could see it for at least a week or so.  I sure do miss my mobile repair tech (JIM WHERE ARE YOU!).

The turn signals will probably be easy to fix once I find the stupid fuse.  A little research I did shows that  starting 2007 the good old signal relay was replaced and now a days it is usually a fuse that goes bad.  Once I get caught up on the website stuff, I will break out the tools and multimeter to see what I can find.  The turn signals have to be working before we leave next Monday for Indiana.

Update:  Turn Signal problem has been fixed.  Turns out it was a blown fuse.  Will have to watch it.  If the problem happens again may have to check out why.  This was the first time towing the car so maybe the electrical system to the tow hitch will need to be looked at..  But one problem down and one to go.



Small Falls
Small Falls

Took a little ride while in Western PA and discovered Ohiopyle.  This quaint little town with a great swimming hole and water fall.  Ohiopyle was founded in the 1800 as an industrial town due to the fast moving water in the area which provided power for saws, mills and other activities.  The area attraction now is water sports, hiking and biking.  It is a beautiful laid back area.



Flight 93

Took a trip to the Flight 93 Memorial today with Daisy and her mom.  I am not sure how to put this, but I have never been so moved by a memorial.  Maybe because I lived through it, also had a couple of my employees who were suppose to be working in the World Trade Center, that I am sensitive to the lost on Sept 11.

As I walked around the grounds, I found myself talking to the people that died there.  Feeling pride for what they did by standing up to the terrorist and wishing that over my 21 years in the military I could have done more to stop the killing.

War and terrorist acts should not be treated lightly.  If I was President I would use the full strength of the military against anyone who would act upon another human being as well as anyone who would support them.   It may not be the civilized thing to do, but then again, neither is terrorism.

I did feel one thing after walking around the memorial.  That is that no man who has a soul can leave the Flight 93 Memorial with a dry eye.

America Attacked Flight 93 Mayday Not Forgotten The Grounds The Names

Planning our Retirement Trip

This article is not to be an answer to everyone’s needs.  It is how we have chosen to travel around the country and planning our stops to make the most of our money.  Having discussed various methods on Facebook, I know this can be a hot topic.  Take it as one method to travel around this great land.

When we decided to retire and hit the road, I started researching the cheapest methods to visit various places.  We wanted to visit all the states.  We wanted to have the comforts we had grown accustomed to and live within our budget.

I am retired military and 62 years old.  Our income is slightly over $3000 a month.  We have money in the bank and are debt free.  Planning for retirement started about a year before we hit the road in June 2014.

For about 12 years we have lived in various RV including 2 fifth wheels, a travel trailer and now a motor home.  Initially, we were going to use the fifth wheel as our retirement home and take an embroidery business with us as an extra income.  However, we decided to sell the business and sold the fifth wheel to our daughter.  At the time we started planning for our retirement trip we owned a 2001 Dodge Ram 3500 Diesel Dually and a 2004 Prowler Travel Trailer.  The motor home came into our lives in September 2013 and we sold the truck and travel trailer prior to hitting the road.

Since parks (state and federal) and boon-docking are not within our chosen lifestyle, we needed to find a way to camp cheap.   Our first membership was Passport America.  Passport America is a discount club.  Your rate is up to 50% off the campground rate for at least one night. We purchased the lifetime membership to get the best deal and keep our monthly expenses low once we started traveling.  Both of us worked at the time so the expense was not an issue.  Next we looked into the campground memberships.  We had campground memberships in the past but couldn’t use them to the extent that would have made them worthwhile.  But we were familiar with the concept and being full-time knew that we could get our moneys worth with the proper plan.

Thousand Trails (Encore now) always had nice parks so I researched some of the memberships.  Figured out we wanted an Elite membership so we could go from resort to resort without having to stay ‘out of the system’ for any period of time.  Plus the Elite membership offered 3 weeks of camping per resort.  I started searching online for used memberships and found an Elite Basic membership for $2400 including the transfer fee.  It entitled us to 21 days resort to resort with a $540 annual maintenance fee.  As a ‘used’ membership we did not get ‘all’ of the benefits, but this met our requirements and saved us a lot of money.

As part of the Elite membership we were also able to purchase an RPI Gold membership which allows us to stay in any RPI campground for $10 per night.

These three programs make up the majority of our locations.  I also have Good Sams and am retired military so we can stay at military famcamps when and where available.

We knew we wanted to change our state of residence and had researched it many years ago when we first started living in our RV.  TX, FL and SD are the three most RV friendly states.  Researching the insurance, registrations, inspections, taxes etc will verify that.  I chose SD due to the insurance cost and no vehicle inspection requirements.  Alternative Resources (http://www.alternativeresources.net/) offers the mail box and other services that you will need while on the road.  South Dakota vehicle registration can be done over the web or you can have Alternative Resources do it for you.  Drivers Licenses must be done in person, so that will be our first trip.  To give you an idea on the cost savings, in PA our motor home insurance with Progressive as full-timers was over $3200 a year, in SD it is $975.

With all of this planning out of the way it was time to plan a trip to SD.  I knew we were leaving in July and had to return by Oct (Daisy’s birthday).  So I started with Google to plan a trip from Philadelphia, PA to Sioux Falls, SD.  Books with campgrounds listings for Passport America, RPI, and Thousand Trails were opened, a long with maps and Google was running.  I figured that the most I would drive per day was 300 miles and that I didn’t want to drive straight through.  We were retired after all and wanted to see the country not the roadside signs.

3 days later I had completed the planning.  Yes, 3 days of planning.  Looking at the map figuring out which way to go, then see if any free campgrounds (Thousand Trails) where in the area for the end of the day stop.  If not was there any RPI parks, if not, any Passport America parks, etc.  Then I had to check to see if the motor home would be able to go there (our height is 12 ft 8 inches).  Call the campground to see if they 50 amp service, sewer, water and space for a 39 ft motor home.  If all worked out ok, determine when to make the reservations and the cost of fuel and camping.  It was very stressful process.  Along some Facebook to the rescue.

I figured there had to be a better way, so off to Facebook to find an answer.  I asked people how they plan their trips.  I got the normal response of ‘I don’t plan, we just go until we feel like stopping’ answers.  But someone posted about RV Trip Wizard.  Research the site and signed up.

Redid the trip I planned out over 3 days in just a couple of hours (learning curve included) and saved over $300 dollars in the process.  RV Trip Wizard found campgrounds that were cheaper, closer to my route and told me about road hazards I hadn’t found.  In addition, it kept track of expenses and could be exported to my GPS and Excel Spreadsheet.

For those of you who like to have an idea of where you are going next, I would recommend RV Trip Wizard (http://rvtripwizard.com/)

Roaring Run Update

I checked in at the office on Tuesday with some questions.  Before I post the answers here, I do want to say this is a really nice park.  It is a quite, well kept park with plenty of room for each site.  It is definitely a place I would come back to.

We are a member of RPI so our camping rate is $10 per night.  The park is all 30 Amp service with no sewer on any sight.  They do have a honey wagon that is $12 per dump.  You sign up at the office.  If you sign up before 2 PM they dump the same day, otherwise it is the next day.

There are lots of different activities available and they have an adult lounge for those times when you just want to get away from kids.  All in all this is a nice stop on our trip around the country.


Roaring Run!

Well we are ON OUR WAY!  We moved out of our old campground (we have stayed there almost 12 years) and started our adventure.  In June we moved to Lancaster, PA area and stayed at PA Dutch Country (part of Encore).  Then we went to the Jersey shore area for a couple of weeks and stayed at Sea Pines (also part of Encore).  Both of these trips were a shack down of the rig, driving and setup just incase anything was needed to be repaired before starting out on our 5 year trip.

Fourth of July was with family at Hickory Run Campground in Denver, PA.  On Monday, July 7th, we left Hickory Run and headed out West.  First stop is Roaring Run Campground.  The trip is not without issues however.

If anyone ever asks you if they should a diesel puller, tell them NO!  The noise is something you might get use to, but the heat is something else.  I am not sure what the issue is, but the heat in the front of the bus is unbearable.  We have to figure out how to get cooler air in this area.  It was only 90 degrees outside, but we had to take several breaks to cool off it was so bad.  We had the generator running and the front AC on but that didn’t help.  It did keep the puppies cool.  I have a 12 Volt fan and tried to blow air into and out of the drivers area, but the heat was just too much.  I didn’t have a thermometer but I would guess it is over 150 degrees in the drivers area.  The RV dash AC stops working the faster the rig goes (not sure how that happens).  If we are sitting idle we have nice cool air, as we start driving the air gets warmer and warmer, until at 65 MPH it is pretty warm and not helping with the heat issues.

I am going to post this issue on Facebook in the RV Tips page.  Maybe someone can explain why and what to do about it.  Maybe this is a ‘feature’ of the rig to make sure you take frequent stops (not to rest, but to cool off).

As a reader you probably won’t understand how hot this front area is, but I was actually concerned about starting a fire due to the heat.

Now the campground, Roaring Run is a private membership campground a few miles off the PA Turnpike at the Donegal exit.  The area is beautiful.  It is mainly a ski area from what we have seen so far.

The campground is nice.  Lots are easy to get into and fairly level.  However, there is no sewer service.  It was explained to us that it is due to the trout creek near by.  There is a dump station.  I am going to check with the office to see if there is a honey wagon service, which would make sense since there is no sewer service.  Our site is only 30 Amps and looking at the campground map, it doesn’t look like they offer 50 amp service.  But we are here on our RPI membership at $10 a night so I really can’t complain.

I love the log cabin designs for many of the buildings.  They have plenty of games, including an 18 hole miniature golf course, basketball and tennis.

A quick trip around the area last night, showed that this is beautiful country.  Stopped for dinner at a local restaurant (about 20 miles away).  Picked up some of those ‘What to do’ cards and found a lot of interesting stuff.  Flight 93 memorial is about 20 miles from here, so that will be on the ‘To Do’ list.

More to come as we explore the area and campground.


Roaring Run Campground: http://www.roaringrunresort.com/