First Snowy Hike

You never know what will happen when you venture out with Deb and Steve, but we have learned from past experience to be prepared for anything!  We started out the day with an idea of taking a 1.7 mile hike along the rim trail.  A portion of it was closed, so we thought we would do what we could.  Before we got started though Lee wanted a cup of coffee, and we went into the General Store near Sunrise Point.  Steve and Lee got into a conversation with the employee there who told them that one of the trails to the bottom of the canyon was passable.  Since Steve really wanted to go to the bottom, Lee was willing to give it a try.

I was pretty nervous because although the hike was only 1.5 miles it had an elevation change of 850 feet.  Not only had we never done a hike with that much elevation change, Lee hadn’t hiked that far since the heart attack.  He was adamant he wanted to go though, and since we had packed lots of water and food, I said I was willing to give it a try.  If nothing else I thought we could always turn back, and I would like to see more of the canyon.

We had to hike through the snow to get to the trail head.


Here’s Lee with his cup of coffee!


The fairyland trail was an additional 4.4 miles but was closed.


The path was part mud and part snow, but didn’t look that bad in the beginning.


And the views right around the corner were outstanding.



Closeup with the long lens.


The path soon became more snow than mud though and we needed to pay close attention. This tree was the only obstacle in the path.


But we didn’t let that stop us


The path kept changing and we really had to watch our feet. Small steps were definitely called for and I really wished I would have brought my poles!


There were places to stop for rock hugs though


And some beautiful trees.


Lee’s pic…looks like a painting.


Eventually we turned a corner and saw the wall!


It was huge and really amazing and stayed in view for a large section of the hike.


I loved this section that looked like a mask.

Our favorite section of the hike was when we got really close to a section of wall. It was so tall and majestic it was hard to know where to look.


The path was totally dry on this side. See that tiny hole up in the middle left of the wall?


You could walk up to it on the path before coming down


This “little” section of wall was directly across from the large section.


Steve and Deb.


We all had a great time taking turns getting our picture taken.  So much to look at.


Gives you some perspective.


Someone is happy 🙂


Directly across was this rock formation that I thought looked like a huge poodle.


And I loved this tree


After that section the path was in much better shape, but it started to get really hot.  We had to start shedding layers as we walked and by the time we got down to the river, it was definitely warm.

The river


Deb heard water flowing and walked off the path to find this charming little waterfall. I have never seen a pink waterfall before.

Lee felt the waterfall deserved it’s own short video…..


Finally we made it to the Tower Bridge sign which was the end of the trail.


Steve and Deb were glad to see this. Three of these and you are considered a Hoodoo hiker.


The tower bridge itself was a bit anti-climatic, but did provide a shaded area to eat lunch


Here’s a short video Lee made of the hike….

Now it was time to hike back up and I was really dreading it.  It wasn’t great, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, mainly because we took multiple breaks along the way.  Plus it was much warmer going up and we stayed in our T shirts all the way.  I am really happy that we hiked all the way to the bottom and felt a sense of accomplishment from doing it.  It definitely wasn’t easy, but we saw people older than us doing it, and even one family carrying babies on their backs.  That will make you feel like a sissy pretty quickly!  I am especially glad that Lee had no trouble whatsoever, despite the cardio workout on the way back up.  That was wonderful, and I conquered my fears about doing a hike with significant elevation change, which was nice to do.  All in all really glad we got to experience it and especially with Steve and Deb.  We frequently stretch ourselves when we are with them and I am always grateful for it.

(Here’s a bonus video of some of the vistas from Bryce! Always best in fullscreen, at 1080 resolution. – Lee)

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Jack’s First Road Trip

It feels like Jack has been with us for forever, but the reality is he has never made more than a few hours trip in the truck, between the Center For Mental Wellness and two gates, and has only stayed at one RV park for a few days between gates. He went from the farm he was born on to the Center For Mental Wellness (Cori and Greg’s), to a gate, to an RV park, to another gate, and back to the Center For Mental Wellness.  None of those trips were more than an hour or so. He’s never made a multi-day road trip and I was a little worried about him as we started out.  We knew getting him to pee as we traveled would be an issue from our day trips, so we stopped at a very nice picnic area to give it a try.  Unfortunately there were just too many things to smell in that area and we were unable to get him to go at any rest stops along our drive. He has yet to ever pee at any stop.

You can tell by his body language he was pretty tense.


The flowers in bloom were really pretty.

Next up was Jack’s first ever truck stop, and that was pretty interesting as well.  At first he didn’t understand where Lee went when he pumped gas.  We both got a kick out of watching Jack as Lee washed the windows though.  He was riveted by the wiper, his little head bobbing back and forth tracking the window squeegee like it was a tennis match. We didn’t even try to take him for a walk here, because we would have had to pull into a parking space and there weren’t good places.  We actually found that picnic areas (without restrooms) were the best, and although he did walk around he wouldn’t go in any of them.  Lee and I were stopping every 1-1/2 to 2 hours though for both bathroom and smoke breaks.  For the first time in our marriage, neither one of us is smoking in the truck,  and I found it much more difficult than I anticipated.  It was fine while Lee was driving, but when I took my turn I found it hard.  Lee did great though. and we both got through the day, although between worrying about the dog and not smoking it wasn’t my favorite travel day ever.

Jack watching Lee clean the windows. His head kept whipping back and forth.

Lee had intentionally scheduled a short travel day and we stopped at the Hilltop RV Park in Fort Stockton. There is a $20 a night Passport America in Fort Stockton, but we had stayed in it recently and were not fans.  For $10 more a night, we could stay at what looked like a nice RV park with a dog run.  I didn’t call ahead, which I should have, and when we pulled in we got the last spot.  The sites were all pull-through, very level, and very clean, which was a good start.

The owners had obviously tried to spruce the place up a bit.


The sites were nice.


Every site had a little patio and nice table.

Unfortunately, when you looked a little closer, things weren’t so great.  The very small dog park was full of poop and cigarette butts, so I had to take the dog along the edges of the park.  That wasn’t easy either because there was tons of poop there as well.  Finally I found a small spot with relatively nothing in it and he peed. He was super jumpy though, and every dog bark or car door would get him distracted. I could have lived with all of that, he is a dog after all, and hopefully will get used to it soon, but when I went inside and turned on the water it was brown.  Not lightly tinted either, but pretty dark.  Even after double filtering it with the Camco filter at the faucet and with my Brita pitcher inside, I still didn’t trust it to drink. Despite hearing stories about bad water in places we have been super lucky and never really experienced it much.  I think this is only the third time in four years this has happened.  Thankfully we always carry bottled water so I had enough to drink that night or I would have been really upset.  It was just the last thing I wanted to deal with at the end of a travel day and for $30 a night I don’t expect frills, but I do expect the basics.

The puppy place would have been fine if people cleaned up after themselves.


I walked the edges but every time he heard a noise he would get distracted and go on alert.  This was a dog barking.


Told you the water was brown.  The color was actually darker than this picture.

We called it a pretty early night after dinner and watching some TV and both got a good night’s sleep.  We didn’t even wake up through the dog throwing up, which we discovered the next morning.  Not to be too gross, but there wasn’t much left, and I hand washed that part of the quilt that was impacted.  It was my Glacier Huckleberry shirt so I am glad the stain came out!  Other than that he seemed fine, and actually was full of energy in the morning.  He did his business right away for Lee first thing in the morning, and then walked around the campground like he owned the place, so much so that he really didn’t want to get in the truck to head out again.  The second day he seemed to do much better and slept most of it in his doggy bed in a patch of sun in the truck.  He still wouldn’t pee when we stopped, and I worried less about taking as many breaks.

This would have been a great scenic spot if it wasn’t for all the trash.  Jack tries to eat everything, which makes it a pain to walk him.

Thing were going so well we even talked about taking scenic drive 375 around El Paso, but ultimately decided against it.  Howard and Linda have done it, and Kelly and Bill, but it has some narrow roads and steep grades and Lee just didn’t want to deal with it.  So we went straight through El Paso, which I know people complain about, but we have done several times and it’s never that bad.  Yes, there is always construction of some kind,but as long as you don’t hit rush hour it’s fine.

In no time at all, we hit Las Cruces, and our stop for the night.  The Coachlight Motor Inn and RV Resort offers Passport America, and is not usually someplace I would stay.  Options were limited because Lee felt Deming was too far, and it was either this or a $41 per night “high end” resort.  I hate spending that for just one night, so we decided to give it a try.  It’s curb appeal is terrible with a very old hotel in front, but the RV park itself was actually pretty decent.  Yes, there were lot of older motor homes, but the people were nice and the area was really clean.  Plus there was a very nice place with trees for Jack to pee, and for once he went right away. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself quite a bit.  He was prancing around zooming here and there and really liked the shaded areas.

Not great from the road.


But the sites were fine for an overnight.


And this little area was really nice.


I’ve never seen an RV quite like this. Lee said it looked homemade from pieces and parts of a bunch of little trailers.


Told you he was strutting.


Glad to see his happy face!

Unfortunately, things weren’t going to stay good because as soon as I came back from our walk and I started doing the inside I started having problems.  First the computer was making a weird noise and when I tried to restart it I got a blue screen with lots of writing…never a good sign.  Then I started to put the couch slide out and heard a “pop”, again, not a good sign, and it turned out the outside cable for the slide had snapped.  Nothing I did, it just snapped from age and stress. Here’s the slide, half in and half out.

Lee came inside and I showed him what happened and then I just  got really angry.  I just walked out of the RV and sat in the truck for a while trying to sort through my emotions.  I was angry because even though I know this sort of thing happens, it is not something I would ever want to deal with on my own.  It brought back all my feelings from when he had his heart attack, but this time I didn’t have other stuff going on.  When I walked back inside to talk to him, he was in the process of cleaning out the computer.  It turned out it was just an auxiliary exhaust fan with a bearing that was going bad, and it booted up just fine. When he built that computer he definitely overbuilt it, because in addition to the fans for the power supply, the CPU and the video card, there are two fresh air intake fans, and two exhaust fans, so we can afford to lose one for a little while.


The slide was another story, but he contacted Danny who used to work for Open Range, and who fixed a slide for us last time, and also replaced our slide floor last spring. Lee had purchased two spares of the slide cable, and once he had chatted with Danny to make sure he was comfortable doing it he started to fix it. I’ll let him explain exactly what he did, but he was able to temporarily fix it.

(The cables terminate at brackets on the slides, one in each corner for both in and out, so 8 brackets in all. Here’s an example of what one looks like when it’s stressing and “getting ready to break”. You can see the crack in the termination and the cable starting to let go. This happens because the cables stretch over time and use and if they get too loose, the end can sort of get cockeyed instead of being straight and true. Then when you bring the slide in the tension is at an angle, and over time it just beats up the termination and eventually it fails. There is an improved bracket which dealers are supposed to treat like a recall, but of course we were never contacted about that. If you have cable slides, check these terminations from time to time, and make sure they are seated properly, and the tension is right, or have it adjusted by a tech. Or replace the brackets with the new style that helps prevent this condition. – Lee)

Of course, when the cable breaks…..

(This is what the cable looks like once it snaps. The good news is it is usually POSSIBLE to still run a slide in and out with just three cables, if you pull out the broken cable so it doesn’t get wrapped around the pulley. Just go slow and watch everything very carefully while running it in or out and STOP if you hear any unusual noise or see anything that looks wrong. The motor pulls the four corners in or out all at the same time, and unless another cable is seriously out of adjustment, it will work with three corners. If it starts to move at any angle it can bind up and get stuck and/or break the shear pin in the gear box, which is a MUCH more expensive and difficult fix. Ask me how I know. – Lee)

(And here’s what it looks like on the inside, where it comes through the wall, and wraps around the pulley. This is where it can get really ugly. The smaller strands can easily get wrapped around the small space between the pulley and the pulley housing, and can be very hard to remove. If you have a cable failure, STOP the motor IMMEDIATELY. That will almost guarantee you won’t have any wrapping. It’s MUCH easier to pull out the broken cable if it does’t wrap. Also, if the broken end is still accessible near the termination, it’s easier to trim away the loose strands to attach the new cable to “chase the old cable” back through the holes and pulleys. )

(This is what it looks like where the cables come together and bolt into the bracket for the chain. Each corner of the slide has a cable on the inside to pull it in, and a cable on the outside to pull it out. As you can see, each cable terminates in a threaded bolt that goes into the chain bracket, and allows for pretty fine adjustment on the tension. Each bracket also has adjustment where it bolts to the chain. )

(There are two of these trolley brackets on either side of the motor/gearbox, one for in and one for out. )

(So That’s eight cables total.  Total of 40 cables for all of the slides in our rig! (At $27 per repair kit, that’s over $1000 to replace them all!!!)  and at the motor there is a chain for each side, and it will either pull in or out depending on the direction the motor is turning. Everything is clearly labelled and color coded, and in the photo above just at the edge of the right frame there is a sticker with detailed instructions on how to adjust them.)

(Here’s the threaded trolley end of the broken cable, and the only thing I really don’t like about the repair kit is that in order to make one kit for all lengths, they’ve swapped out the threaded bolt for an eye bolt, which allows you to cut the cable, but it makes for a bulkier assembly and all of that stuff is pretty close together.)

(When you are opening and closing slides, those trolleys pass each other with just millimeters to spare. If the eye gets rotated so that it’s horizontal instead of vertical, it can catch on the other trolley, and that would immediately break the shear pin in the gear box. I travel with three of those shear pins, but swapping out the pin requires removing the upper fascia, loosening all of the cables, un-threading the chain from the sprockets, removing the gear box, then putting in the new pin, and putting everything back together. Several hours of work. And getting the tensions correct on all those cables can be a real bear. When the tension is correct, you can “pluck” them and they make a musical note, but I don’t know exactly which one. If you know it, though, you can use a tuning app on an iPhone to dial in the tension on each cable, which is pretty cool. But…I digress….)

Replacing a cable is actually pretty straightforward on this model. The repair kit comes with a cable that is long enough for any slide, an eye bolt to attach the cable to the chain system, a ferrule to secure the cable once it’s fed through the eye. There’s also a “finger trap” piece to attach the old cable to the new to help feed it through the pulleys (that’s the long black piece), a rubber keeper that’s supposed to prevent the termination from coming loose in the bracket (but doesn’t) and an adjustment nut where the eye bolt attaches to the chain bracket at the motor. 

(Unfortunately, when one breaks you often end up with the broken ends unraveling, and in every case where we’ve had one break, the cable gets wound up and tangled up at the pulley, so there’s no way to pull it back out towards the bracket to attach the “finger trap”. 

So I just pulled it out completely, and then removed the side fascia from interior slide wall so I could get to the pulley. Our slide fascia is held on the slide wall with screws, and the screw heads are covered by a small piece of trim molding which is just stapled on. Here’s one of the fascia pieces on the other slide, and you can see the trim pieces on the vertical fascia. Only the square piece with the star and the inside trim piece needs to come off. The star corner is also held in place with staples. )

And here’s the actual slide with the fascia removed. As you can see, by removing it I get that six inches or so of space between the slide and the cabinetry to work in. Without that this would be impossible. 

(Once I had access to the pulley and the hole in the wall, and had pulled out the old cable, I went outside. Outside, it’s just a matter of pushing the new cable through the hole in the wall and onto the pulley, then coming inside and pulling it a few inches farther and threading it up through the pulley and pulley bracket. If you look closely at the picture, just to the right of the cable, you can see the empty pulley. The cable you can see is the lower “OUT” cable, and the empty pulley is for the lower “IN” cable on that side of the slide. So I had to push the new cable in through the hole from the outside, and it came out through that small opening at the bottom of the housing next to the other cable. By pulling four or so inches of cable past the housing I was able to then push it back though the opening and up, and pull it tight.)

(Once you have it through the pulleys and up to the chain mechanism, you remove the old cable bolt, and put in the eye bolt. Then you crimp the ferrule and cut off the excess cable. A little bit of tightening and adjustment (think turnbuckles) to make sure the pull is balanced on all four corners, and you’re done.

I had a couple of “backup” repair kits, mainly because they don’t take up a lot of room, and when you need one, they’re not always a stock item, and can be a pain to get. It’s better to just have a spare or two. However, I do NOT have a set of bolt cutters for the cable, or a ferrule crimp, which is what is needed to clamp the cable loop around the eye bolt, which you can see in this picture. I was trying to decide if I could just muscle and cajole the ferrule closed, and worrying what might happen if it failed, and looking through some miscellaneous hardware when I came across the solution. Back in December when I bought a bunch of pieces parts to make a dog run, I got some nylon coated cable and in case I needed to shorten it and make a new end loop, I bought a set of screw-down wire rope clamps. So, I was able to use those to temporarily secure the eye bolt until I can get a ferrule crimper to do the job properly.)

(Those worked just fine, and I was able to connect the new cable and eye bolt to the bracket, and run the slide in and out with no problem.

Here’s the finished repair at the chain connection. I used a little tape to hold the loop in place while I tightened down the cable clamps so it wouldn’t slide around. I probably could have used just one clamp, but since they’re not quite as solid as a ferrule I decided to use both. Better safe than sorry. )

(I left the excess cable, because it’s REALLY hard to cut it without bolt cutters, and I left the fascia off so I won’t have to remove it when I finish up the job in a few days in Phoenix. 

(UPDATE 3/24/19: Finally, here’s my recommendation for anyone with cable drive slides: From time to time, inspect ALL of the cables and terminations. When all of the slides are OUT, walk around the outside of your rig and take a good close at where the cable goes into the bracket, same thing with the inside terminations when the slides are IN. Look at that termination and:  A) make the rubber stopper is in place to keep the termination from sliding to the side and popping out. B) check to see if the termination is properly seated in the hole. If it’s at an angle, try to wiggle it loose and seat it properly. C) See if the cables are tensioned. The cables on the OUTSIDE of the rig are the ones that pull the slide IN, so when they slides are OUT there should be just a tiny bit of slack on the cables. If you push down on the cable in the middle between the bracket and the sidewall, it should only deflect about an inch or less. Any more than that and they are probably too loose. If you aren’t completely comfortable adjusting the tension, pay someone to do it. The cables/terminations/brackets on the INSIDE of the rig are the ones that pull the slide OUT, check them too. D) Check the terminations to see if they are splitting or cracking, or if the cables are deforming or fraying anywhere. And E) keep a few sets of the repair kits in your rig, even if you aren’t going to do the work yourself, it’s a lot faster to get it repaired if you can call a tech and tell him you already have the kit!)

Back to Tracy….)

So I calmed down, realizing that I wasn’t doing it alone.  I’m still not crazy about how fragile these things are, but what are you going to do?  It’s part of the cost of living in a home on wheels, and I can either complain about it or accept it.  If things break and he can fix them…then I accept it.

One last thing.  I finally had a moment to go through my emails and blog comments and the support of this community is beyond anything I have ever experienced.  Someone reached out and offered us a place to stay while our rig was being worked on in Phoenix. Another person reached out and said they work in the insurance industry and could help navigate the medical bills when they start rolling in. A third researched RV dealerships and gave me information on car dealers in the Arizona area for some work we need to have done on the truck. I am literally crying while typing this.  I am not a person who asks for help much, and to receive such an outpouring of love and support is humbling.  Thank you all, it means more to me than I can say.

(Also, I wanted to thank everyone for all the kind comments, and generous thoughts about my heart attack and recovery. It’s genuinely nice to know there’s so much warmth and caring out there. -Lee) 

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.




Finally Got Our Furnace Fixed

After leaving Amazon we had two choices.  Go north to Columbus for Christmas, or head straight to Texas to get started gate guarding. After some discussion we decided to head north for a quick visit.  Two main reasons for the decision.  First, my brother’s son was three this year, and I really wanted to be with his family Christmas morning.  Two years ago I had the opportunity to be with my sister’s son for his first Christmas and the opportunity to be with my brother was important to me.  For me, Christmas with little kids can’t be beat, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

The second reason was our furnace is still not working.  The blower comes on, but it is not firing consistently.  Even the few times we could get it to work, it would stop working after a while.  So once again we were faced with when and where to get it fixed.  We called the company in Columbus who “fixed” it the first time when we were there October and they are closed for the holidays, but open to walk-ins only on the 27th.  Essentially we show up without an appointment and it’s first come/first serve.  Since the warranty company will not pay for the same work twice, we felt we should at least try to get these folks to fix the problem, but based on past experience neither one of us is very hopeful.

(For anyone who is wondering why I didn’t just fix this myself, especially since I went to RV tech school, there’s a couple of reasons. First, the actual removal of the furnace is just ridiculous. In addition to the very hard to reach location, there are 6 duct hoses that need to be removed, as well as the gas line and the wiring. On one of our “repairs” to the furnace, the tech left all of the hoses  disconnected, and it took me four hours to reattach them. If you’ve never done something before, there’s a learning curve. And I had to come out 4 times to reposition my body to to even that small thing. Second, the furnace sits on a wooden platform, which has to be disassembled to take out the furnace, while the furnace is supported with one hand. I honestly don’t think I have the forearm strength to do that. And finally, while I could definitely swap out a sail switch, or a limit switch, or a blower, or maybe even a gas valve, I have no way to test a control board. Add to that the fact that we have a warranty, and it just made sense to have a pro do it. Sadly, the pro experience is often not what it should be. – Lee)

We got into Columbus Friday evening and spent some time with family.  Lee is helping his parents with a few projects and I went to lunch with my Mom and her family.  Mom did sell her house by the way, and she bought a place near Myrtle Beach.  My mom doesn’t mess around when she’s made a decision, and before we even got here she had moved out of her house, sent most of her stuff down with the movers, and on December 27th she is heading to her new oceanfront condo.  Really excited for her, because she got exactly what she was looking for at a price she could afford. I spent Christmas morning with my brother and his two kids which was great, Christmas isn’t the same without little kids around, and then we hung out an extra day waiting for the RV Dealership to open after their holiday break.

When we go to my in-laws we park in front of their house, and stay in the house with them, which is usually not a problem if it is for a short stay.  It’s rare that the weather gets this cold this quick in Columbus, so we rolled the dice and chose not to winterize the rig before traveling up.  Winterizing is not a small project and since we were only going to be there a few days we definitely didn’t want to mess with that.  So we hooked a small space heater up to a long extension cord, put it in the basement of the rig and that was enough to keep the temperatures above freezing.  But the day after Christmas the temps plummeted and suddenly we were dealing with temps in the single digits and -6 windchill.

These rigs really aren’t meant to work in this kind of cold and although you can set them up and live in them in winter conditions (our friend Jim wrote a great post on how he got through a winter in Michigan), this is not something that can easily be done when your RV is on the street in front of someone’s house, especially when your furnace isn’t working.  So we crossed our fingers and thankfully, got through the first cold night, but we knew if we stayed longer we would definitely be pushing our luck. So we packed everything up, said our goodbyes, and headed to the RV dealership about 20 minutes away with the very faint hope the issue could be found and solved in one day. (The space heater worked really well, it never got below about 40 in the “basement” and a lot of the heat worked it’s way up into the kitchen and bathroom, which never got below freezing either. – Lee)

Before I go any farther let me explain that last comment.  We were talking to my father-in-law Denny about this and he was having a hard time understanding why we were so concerned and after we ran him through our history with getting work done on the rig he said he hadn’t read any of that in the blog. It occurred to me I have shied away from this particular issue, but Denny said “Let them have it” so here I am going to talk about this a bit.  Please keep in mind, all experiences are different and I don’t speak for all RVers, but my thoughts are based both on our experiences, what I have personally witnessed happening to others,  and anecdotal stories from our friends.

In my opinion, one of the worst parts of being a full time RVer is when you need repairs.  First, it is my home, so while the work is being done I need to find someplace else to be.  If the work strings over multiple days, I need to not only be gone during the day but also move my home every night or if I am lucky I get to stay in the bay or on the dealers lot. If I am lucky enough to have someplace else to stay, I have to pack up my stuff and hope I have everything I need since everything I own is in my house.  Compare it to having major construction done on your house, where you can’t live there, or if you do stay you have to be gone at the crack of dawn since most service departments start working at 7am.  Same thing. Yes, some service bays have nice waiting rooms, but you still need to buy food and find something to do while you wait.

Which takes me to the next problem.  These are recreational vehicles and, in my opinion, the sense of urgency just isn’t the same as if you have a major home repair.  Even if the repair shop is familiar with full time RVers and even if they tell you they can accommodate the fact that you live in the RV, in general these repairs aren’t quick.  A couple of reasons for that.  First and foremost these businesses are generally in the business of selling RV’s first, and fixing them second.  Most have service bays to perform repairs on RV’s they sell and their money is made on supporting that customer base.  As a person who bought their RV somewhere else, you get in line with the locals, and in my experience will get bumped by one of their local customers if something comes up.  Most service centers also don’t stock a ton of parts.  They will have some common ones, but anything complicated and you need to wait and depending on the problem you are experiencing you may not be able to move the rig independently until the work is done.

So let me run you through how this happens, and again this is based on both our own experience and many other people we know.  You are going down the road and develop some kind of an issue that needs to be resolved.  If you are lucky you can continue to travel until you find a service center that works with full time RVers.  You know this by calling them, telling them you are traveling and living in your RV and ask how they handle this.  They will either have answers on how they handle this or they won’t.  You’ll know pretty quickly. If they don’t have answers and it is an emergency situation, you will just have to work with them to figure it out.  Either way, the person you talk to on the phone is generally a service coordinator and regardless of what they say your experience may change when you arrive.

You arrive on site at the dealer and walk into the service area.  The first question is, do we unhitch?  Many dealers use their own vehicles to pull you into their bay, and once you unhitch (which takes a while), you go inside and wait.  In my experience it takes at least an hour to even get you into a bay and that is if you are lucky.  Even if you have an appointment, their bays are full, and it’s only until someone else’s work is done that a spot becomes available. Even if it’s pulled into the bay it doesn’t mean the work starts.  Rarely are there enough techs to cover everything in the bay, so they work from a priority list.  This is where the RV’s who were purchased locally come into play.  Even if you have an appointment and arrive on time, if someone who bought there comes in that morning, odds are they will be pushed to the top of the list.  This I have seen personally on more than one occasion, especially at busy service centers.

At this point you have two choices.  You can leave and find something to do, or you can wait in the waiting area.  The problem with leaving is “out of sight out of mind”.  Most people in that service bay have homes to go to, so they drop them off and pick them up when they are done.  Their repairs can take weeks and unless they have a vacation or something coming up they may not care.  We are different.  We can’t wait weeks, but since we are the exception, we need to keep that fact right in front of the service folks.  So we sit and wait.  We talk to employees.  We ask for status updates on our rig.  It helps, especially in the smaller service centers, but it isn’t perfect.  And it isn’t perfect because of the knowledge levels of the technicians.

Most basic problems we handle ourselves.  The only time we would go to a service center if something major is wrong and that means we need a senior tech.  In my experience, most service centers only have a couple of those, so not only are you waiting your turn for a tech, but you are waiting for a senior tech.  Despite having called and given details on the problem he is rarely assigned to the rig. So here is how it goes.  You arrive and wait to get it pulled into the bay.  A junior tech works on the problem for a while.  He diagnoses the simple thing, which you know isn’t it because you have already looked at that.  Right before lunch time they finally call in a senior tech.  The senior tech doesn’t trust what the junior tech did, so he starts the diagnosis all over.  He’s much faster though and eventually determines the problem.  At this point they go see if they have the part.  If you are really lucky it’s in stock, but even if they do have it, the senior tech can’t necessarily fix it that day because he has to finish the job he was pulled from when they called him to look on your rig.  If they don’t have the part it generally takes a couple of days to get in, even if you are willing to pay extra.

Now you have to figure out what to do for the night.  Are they leaving it in the bay and you are staying in it or are they pulling it out and letting you stay on the lot?  Or worst case, do they not allow either and you have to hitch up, go to a local campground, and come back when the part is in.  And all of this is assuming, by the way, they figure out the problem the first day.  At this point you might be thinking, what is the big deal?  The idea that we are all footloose and fancy free and have nothing but time is a nice one, but for most people that is actually rarely the case.  We have people we are supposed to see, campground reservations to change, weather related issues, or  work commitments we need to meet.  So we have to choose.  Do we kick the can down the road and live with the issue, or do we change our schedule and get the work done?  Either way, it’s rough to have your plans turned completely upside down and it’s stressful.  In our case we tend to avoid stressful situations when we can, which is why we haven’t had a working furnace for over a year.  We have tried on three occasions to get the problem fixed, and it hasn’t been.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that.  If they say they think they have fixed the problem, but it reoccurs, this can be a major issue.  Not as big of a deal if you are still in the same area, but if you have moved on, which is likely, now you have to start all over.  And our warranty company won’t pay for the same repair twice, so the second time it is on our dime.  Yes, I suppose we could turn around and go back to the place that did the work originally, but that doesn’t always work with our travel schedule. Let me put it this way:  Have you ever had a red light come on in your car and your service tech couldn’t figure out why?  You take it back multiple times and they just can’t figure it out, or worse, it doesn’t happen in their shop…frustrating right?  Now imagine the same thing was happening, except you have to take it to a new tech in a new city every time.  Oh, and all your stuff is in your car and you can’t access it while they are working on it. And you are not sure where you are going to sleep that night because they keep your car and don’t have a loaner program. I know I am pushing the analogy here, but you get the point.

So taking all that into account, perhaps you can see why we weren’t hopeful when we pulled into the dealer at 9am.  It started with their computers were down and they had to dig through files to find our hard copy paperwork.  Then they had to “open a space in the bay” for our rig.  That in itself is telling.  9am appointment, and they weren’t ready for us when we arrived. Hmmmm.  The reason they did this quickly was because it was below freezing and there was no heat source in the RV.  When the service manager told me not to worry and that  it would take some time to freeze up, I countered with are you willing to accept responsibility if it does?  That at least got us into the bay a lot faster?  And to her credit, she assigned us a senior tech first.  Since they had done the original work and I made it clear we were on our way out of town, she pushed me to the front of the line.  That could have gone a different way, but I am grateful that she did.

Then Lee had to remove items from the basement.  You can’t access the furnace without removing stuff, and since it was too cold to do that outside, he got to go into the bay.  Initially they said they would do it, but he was having none of that.  And once he was out there he just stayed.  This, by the way, works really well.  If you are standing there, you can watch what is happening and make sure they stay focused, but it is a little tricky.  Many service centers won’t let you in the bay, but some will turn a blind eye if you don’t cause any issue or slow down the techs.  So basically Lee stood there for two hours while they diagnosed the problem. (I just smiled at everyone a lot, and sort of strolled around the rig, looking harmless. Quite a few people looked like they were wondering why I was back there, but if I made eye contact for more than a few seconds I just turned around and looked intently at some part of the rig, and they wandered off. Path of least resistance, let someone else tell me I can’t be back there. I also lucked out because my tech was just a really nice guy and had lots of questions about full timing and wanted to tell me all about his awesome kids. I listened, and offered to hand him tools or just stay out of his way. I also asked lots of questions, without being a pain in the ass, because most people like to talk about what they are doing. And for anyone interested, here’s what it looks like when a person has to get to the furnace. – Lee)

They pulled out the furnace, put it on a bench and hooked it to a battery and a propane tank, and were able to immediately duplicate the problem.  That was good.

Then multiple techs got involved trying to figure out what it was.  They spent well over an hour fiddling with it. Finally the lead tech came out and told them to “stop screwing around playing detective” and just replace the easiest part and see if that worked.  (I actually appreciated that they were being so thorough. I think the number one problem with these places is that they want to get people in, and get them out, and that often results in partial or misdiagnosed problems. And usually when someone is “tinkering” it means they are invested in what they are doing, and that’s how things get done well. The hardest part for me was staying out of it. Not my playground, not my swing set. – Lee) So they replaced the sail switch.  Important point here.  Two of three times we have had service on the furnace the last year they said the replaced the sail switch but we don’t know if that was actually done. The part didn’t look brand new.

(Here’s a picture of the inside of the blower cover. The sail switch sits in the path of the air, and as long as the blower is moving air at the right speed, it pushes the long metal piece (the “sail”) and that pushes down the teeny tiny black button that can barely see on the right side, just to the right of the “123P”. If it doesn’t work, the gas valve won’t open. This is a safety feature, and an important one, because without the blower moving air, the heat just builds up inside the furnace until it catches fire. Well, technically that’s not likely, because there’s also a high temperature limit switch, as an additional safety feature, but I wouldn’t risk bypassing any safety feature. – Lee)

One teeny tiny little part.  Those are my fingers for scale, which are pretty small.

The tech replaced it and then tested the furnace outside the rig for an over an hour and could not get it to fail.  Then he put it back into the rig and again Lee and he tested it for an hour and it did not fail.  During all of this, they gave me a loaner car, which was very nice, and I went out and got Lee some lunch.  I sat in the waiting room, but he never left the rig.

We pulled out around 2pm and then we drove south until around 8pm trying to hit some warmer weather.  Even with a working furnace, there are still concerns about freezing and even though we made it to Franklin, KY (just a couple of miles north of the TN border) it was still pretty cold.  We used the furnace and a space heater under the rig, just to be safe, and I am glad we did because it was cold enough last night that the insulated and heated water spigots at the campground froze.  So, no showers for us this morning, but we are headed for warmer climes.  I know it’s only 45 degrees in many places, but I will take anything above freezing at this point.  It is just a lot simpler. (We’re headed to the Corpus Christi area, but I’m not going to stop driving until it’s above freezing, I don’t care if we end up in Bahia Thetis. I’m not kidding. – Lee) 



Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.