Monday, November 16, 2009

Chapter Two

Okay Brookie. Here we go. Your suite is spotless and ready for a visit by the way :-)

Perfect day on the Oregon Coast

When I left you we were having a perfectly wonderful dinner at King Estate Winery with the Arcuri family. The following morning we loaded up our coaches (they just took possession of a new Monaco Dynasty...beautiful thing!) and headed to the Oregon coast. Last year John and I spent two days at Outdoor Resorts in Newport. It was where Ransom found freedom from the leash for the first time since we adopted him and is without question the nicest RV resort that we've been to anywhere. Once again we had perfect weather and a beautiful view of the ocean, lighthouse and coastal range. And great company! John, Ryan and Tim played horseshoes, we all walked on the beach and the dogs all had a blast.

Horseshoes on the coast

On Tuesday we got up and drove back over the Coast Range to Junction City to drop off both coaches at Guaranty RV Service. Tim and Jeanne's coach needed work on the satellite television and Mary had a long list of issues that had piled up over the nearly two years that we have had her. As we traveled I compiled the list. At the bottom I added, "Vibration in center of coach." John read the list and when he got to the bottom he gave me the skeptical look. I honestly felt like a terrible nag about the whole thing so I told him that if they look and don't find anything I will shut up about it. Then I added that I KNOW something is wrong because all of that shaking isn't normal for any vehicle. Okay. So we pulled into the Guaranty parking lot and a nice man named Dean arrived with his clipboard to go over our list. One by one he jotted the issues down on his sheet. When John got to the vibration issue I almost cringed. John said, "My wife says...and I know she is probably right but...she says that there is a vibration in the back when we are traveling down the road. I can't feel it but she says it vibrates." Dean immediately said, "I believe you have a ridite issue." Puzzled I asked, "What is ridite??" He smiled. "Ride height," he said. "When I walked up to your coach I saw that it is leaning hard to the right. When it isn't level it torques the drive line and you can experience a severe vibration." I had to smirk. I really tried not to but I just had to. And I was immensely relieved that I hadn't lost my mind and imagined the shaking. He told us that leveling the airbags would probably take care of the problem.

Sidebar: I drove the Mercedes home from Florida in July when we sold the house. I followed John, Mary and the Camry roughly 900 miles from Vero Beach to Lexington and a couple of times I mentioned that it looked as though the coach was leaning to the right. I didn't get a response. I mentioned it again when I looked at her parked in her spot at the farm. "The ground isn't level." Okay. I mentioned it again when we left for our trip and I drove behind her to hook up the car in Indiana. I got a scowl so I didn't mention it again until we got to Joseph and I followed her into the campground. "It's really leaning to the right." I was also pointing out that there was a severe banging noise in the engine so the "leaning to the right" thing fell on deaf ears.

So we got into the Camry and drove to the Arcuri's farm where they so graciously put us up for the three days that it was supposed to take to fix Mary's laundry list of problems. Dean also said that they would do a free roof inspection while they had her there. Great!

Three days later we were headed for Junction City again, not to pick up the coach but to pick up some more clothes because they didn't expect to have the work done for another three days. When we arrived Mary was in the shop. We got our things and left, planning to spend part of the upcoming weekend at the Arcuri's home in Terrebonne, Oregon with some friends of theirs. We expected to pick Mary up when we got back. John called first thing on Monday morning. She still wasn't done but he was assured that the work would be done very soon. "How soon is very soon?" I asked. He frowned and said, "I don't know but they better get it done SOON".

In the next three days John's mission was to harass Dean at Guaranty to get the work done on the coach and get it back to us. I know he called at least three times a day. Every time he called he got another reason why the work that yesterday was "being done right now" was actually not done and there were still five things left to do. It was frustrating and bordering on ridiculous.

Pocket Arcuri

Nine days as house guests of the Arcuri's was making us feel like freeloaders (they were so gracious) not to mention the problem with Ransom and Andy the cat. Ransom being the little ratter that he is just can't resist chasing things that will run (remember the rabbit up in Pennsylvania?). Well Andy is a wise old black cat who lives in the house full time. Arcuri's have several dogs, one of which lives in the house (her name is Pocket and she doesn't have any teeth) and Pebbles, a highly energetic Border Collie type who sleeps in the kennel but is a house dog when Jeanne is home. So Andy gets dogs. But neither Ransom nor I knew that.

So the first day we moved into the guest room Jeanne was gone and I was busy unpacking with the guest room door open when out of the corner of my eye I saw Ransom and Andy squaring off. Ransom was locked on and Andy's hair was standing up on his arched back. Arcuri's house is a multi-level home with lovely hardwood floors throughout and lots of small landings and steps. The guest room was at the top level and the master bedroom and living room at the bottom level. I opened my mouth to warn Ransom to leave the cat alone but before I could utter a sound he took off after Andy. I jetted after the two of them, hollering "RANSOM YOU STOP NOW!!!" but before I could catch up with them they disappeared into the master bedroom. All I heard was the sound of Ransom's toenails on the hardwood and Andy's growl and then it was quiet. "Ransom!!!" I hollered repeatedly. Still dead quiet. I had visions of him with nothing but Andy's tail hanging out of his mouth as I stormed through the bedroom looking for him. I found him cowering in the walk-in closet and Andy was no where to be found. "Get your little ratter ass out of this closet!" I pointed at the door and he scampered out and made a dash for the guest room.

Ransom "Ratter-Catter" Jones

I couldn't find Andy. I was panicked. Where was the poor cat? Was he permanently traumatized by my prison-escapee dog? How would I explain this to the Arcuris?

A little later I went out to the kitchen to fill the dog water bowl and there was Andy sitting on the top of the breakfast bar. If I didn't know better I would say that he was smiling. I looked him over and he looked fine.

When Jeanne got home I explained what happened and how sorry I was that Ransom behaved so badly. She just laughed. And laughed some more. Then she explained that if Andy didn't want to be chased he would have held his own with Ransom. I thought she was being polite. The Ransom/Andy scene played itself out two more times in the next two days. I was mortified. Finally I was home when Jeanne brought Pebbles in the house. Pebbles is about the size of Breezy but a little lighter weight. She and Andy went to boxing and playing with Pebbles knocking Andy around and then Andy smacking Pebbles around. After that I would keep Ransom with me and Andy would come around and tease Ransom. I know he knew that Ransom would get into trouble if he chased him and that became the game for Andy...get Ransom in trouble. He succeeded on several more occasions before we got Mary back.

Finally the day came to pick Mary up. We were both so happy. She would be all fixed and we would have our space back and not have to be under foot at Arcuri's house. I drove John over to Guaranty and followed him back to the farm. After we pulled out on to Hwy 99 a little voice said, "The coach is still listing to the right." I said out loud, "Shut up. It's fine." We got on the freeway and the voice came back. "It's not level." I shook my head hard to silence what my eyes and brain were telling me. We parked her and moved back in. It felt great. The next day I got out and looked at her from behind. Not level. But I wasn't going to say anything.

Arcuri's left for the Morgan Grand Nationals in Oklahoma City a few days later and John took over working the Saddlebreds and a few of the Morgans that were left at home until they got back. One day I went to town to get groceries and when I came back I found John sitting in front of Mary with a completely dejected look on his face. I got out of the car. "What's the matter?" I asked. "I"m beat. I'm whipped. I can't deal with this anymore," he said as he led me around to the driver's side of the coach and pointed up to the top. "Look," he said slump shouldered. I squinted and when I saw what he was pointing at I felt weakness in my knees. The roof is put on the coach like a cap with the edges attached six or eight inches down the side and then covered with a bead. From the middle of the cap on the driver's side all the way to the back (keep in mind she is 42 feet long) the cap had pulled away from the coach. There was a big space between where it used to be attached and where it was now located. It appeared to me that the cap was coming off. More visions of disaster loomed in my mind. Cap peeling off...water getting into the sides of the coach...thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage. I said in a weak voice, "It might not be as bad as it looks," while my internal doomsday voice screamed, "This thing is going to bankrupt us!!!". John made some calls to try to figure out what in the hell was happening but in the end we were left with only one option. Guaranty...again. Dean was kind and said to bring her in first thing in the morning and he would look at her. When we sat down for dinner that night I looked across the table at John and said, "Gee, I'm sure glad that they did that free roof inspection. They resealed the skylight over the shower (the one that our coach washer stepped through and broke in March) for $650.00 but missed the fact that the f**king roof is peeling off." It was a lost night for sleep.

The following morning I followed him back to Guaranty again making note of the fact that the coach was not level. When we arrived Dean came out, looked at the roof and told us not to panic, that it may not be as bad as it looked. By this time I had brought up the fact that they needed to check the ride height again so Dean made note of it and we left to go back to the farm. John worked horses that day and then we got the call. It truly was not as bad as it looked. They blamed it on Monaco for not putting long enough screws in to attach it securely. They also said that they checked the ride height and it was fine.

"No it isn't," the voice in my head said. "Just shut the hell up," I said back. "This thing is going to drive me into the nut house before it is over," I said to my other voice. No shit.

View from Mary at Arcuri's farm

We settled in for two really beautiful weeks on the farm. The weather was so cooperative and the fall colors were stunning. I got to see lots of my family and friends and we just enjoyed the stay so much. And then it happened.

A day before we were supposed to pick Arcuri's up at the airport I got up in the morning and did my usual thing. I started the coffee, took the dogs out for a spin and fed them. When I opened the utensil drawer to get the can opener out I froze. Goose bumps ran up my arms. "Uh oh." John was sipping his tea and his head snapped around. "What is it?" I stepped back and pointed to the drawer. "We have a mouse." He must have been sleepy because he asked me an odd question. "What do we do about that?" I looked at him and said, "I don't know about you but I'm moving out." I slammed the drawer shut and willed my goose bumps to go away. They weren't cooperating.

I have a long history of mouse encounters. They are not my favorite creatures in the world. To say that I loathe mice is the understatement of the universe. They are filthy, can get in anywhere, will eat anything and poop all over EVERYTHING.

I'll stop here and take up with the mouse saga next time. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rx for the RV

Wallowa Lake, Joseph, Oregon

We left Kentucky the day before the All American Cup in Indiana, early in September. We stopped there to see the weanling class and then raced across Interstate 80 to Oregon. We only slowed down when we got to Utah and decided to smell the roses a bit on our way to Arcuri's farm.

We began having a few problems with Mary in the summer, like the motorized steps on the entry door quit working and a dozen other little things. She was due for several systems services so we made an appointment with Guaranty RV's service department in Junction City, Oregon for September 22. More on Guaranty later.

Chilling in Joseph
We were on a bit of a timeline to get to Oregon because we were due to be in Springfield on the 18th of September for Jeanne Arcuri's birthday and wanted to stop in Joseph, Oregon to see my aunt and uncle not to mention a weekend trip to the coast with a return on Monday so we could drop Mary off for her repairs. The day before we left Kentucky a bolt vibrated out of one of the big fan belts and Mary had to be rushed to the local diesel repair shop to be fixed. That's when they discovered a squeak in the other belt but told us that it would hold until we arrived in Oregon. It did hold...but it squealed every second of our trip across the country. It drove me nuts so I can only imagine how the dogs felt about all of the noise. John is effectively deaf to high pitched noises so he drove blissfully while I took pain reliever for the headache.

Deer totally unconcerned by our presence

Most RV parks and parking areas have the name and number of a mobile RV repair person (I'm learning that there is very good reasoning behind that) so when we were at the Indiana Fairgrounds we paid a guy to come out and see if he could fix our steps. John had purchased a mounting block (for non-equine types this is a molded plastic set of steps that you can use to get on a horse) from Chuck at World Champion's mobile tack unit. It is a rather giant step up and/or down from Mary without steps. Anyway, the repair guy came and spent a few minutes and then told us that they didn't work. We knew that. And that would be $153.00 please. An RV tip: Some of the guys that service the RV parks are really good and reasonably priced...some aren't. So John stowed the red plastic mounting block in a bay and had to jump out and get them set at the door so the dogs could negotiate getting in and out. We were pretty proud of the whole step idea...pain in the ass or not.
So we were driving along Interstate 80 after we left Indianapolis listening to the fan belt squeal when we both heard a beeping noise. John searched the cockpit area for the source of the warning noise and spotted a red light on the dash board with tiny letters that said "Step Out". We looked at each other and both of our eyes bugged at the same time. I dove onto the right side of the dash board to look in the side mirror to see if somehow the step motor had started while we were driving and they were indeed hanging out there at 70 miles per hour. There are rather dire warnings in "The Bible" (the Monaco users manual) about traveling with the steps out and what the ensuing damage would be to the side of the coach if they got hung up on something at high speeds. They paint a vivid picture for you. John kept asking me, "Are they out?" and I kept answering "No, I don't see any steps." We repeated that question and answer cycle as the beeping continued until I looked at him in total exasperation. "NO. THE STEPS ARE NOT OUT," I said. "We better pull over," he replied. "Fine," I said and plopped down in the co-pilot's seat. It turned out that the motor was trying to work but didn't have enough umph to push them all the way out. In order to stop the beeping he took duct tape (yes, he really put duct tape on the outside of the coach) on the steps.

Remember when the water bay door handle broke off in his hand when we were in Oregon last year and he had to spend hours trying to figure out how to get the door open and when he finally did he came in to announce his success and the weight of him stepping into the coach jarred the bay door and it fell shut again? Well the bay door handle broke again when we were spending the weekend at a national park in Kentucky in early August. Anymore when he says, "You're not going to believe this," I brace myself. So he figured out how to keep the bay door closed with a bungee cord. Once again we had a light on the dash board and a beeping noise telling us that there was a bay door open all the way from Western Kentucky to Lexington. When these things happen I hear a lot of big sighs and I know we are in for a lot of roadside stops for adjustments. He ordered a new handle (probably should buy them by the dozen) and it was delivered to us in Lexington. He couldn't find anyone to put it on so we drove across the country with a bungee cord holding the door closed. The water bay is where you empty the holding tanks so the bungee cord got a pretty good workout from Kentucky to Oregon.

Once the bay door was secured we decided that the repair could wait until we got to Oregon and Guaranty RV service could do the tricky work of replacing the door handle. Before we would have relied on our friends at Monaco Coach but they went broke (yep), reorganized, sold the company and reopened recently but don't have their service department up to speed yet.

Our last stop before heading to Oregon was Louisville for the World Championship Horse Show for a week. For that show we take two cars because I travel back and forth from the KOA to home to water the plants and pick up the mail during the week. So John took off with the coach and the Camry and I came about an hour later with the 4-Runner and the dogs. When I arrived at the KOA he met me outside of the coach. "You're not going to believe this," he says. My shoulders slumped. "What now?" I asked. "The front passenger-side slide out won't slide OUT," he said. So we piled into the coach (the steps still worked at that point) and he said, "See," and pushed the button that extends the slide. I heard the motor working and the front part of the slide was sliding but the back bottom part wasn't and at a certain point it was torquing the entire slide. I waved madly, "STOP!". I had visions of a badly bent slide out and massive repairs. Of course every man in KOA who noticed that we were having a problem wanted to conference with John about it and every time they thought they could help if they could just see it work so the torquing went on three more times before my nerves couldn't take it anymore. When that happens I must get a particular look on my face because I looked at John and he said, "Okay. I'll stop." We decided that we needed to find someone to look at it. As it turned out the KOA had the name of a repair guy who moonlights from his day job at an RV agency. John called him and scheduled him for the next day when he was going to be showing a horse to someone. The guy showed up on time and he was pleasant and I explained what the slide was doing. He tried it and when it started to torque he stopped and said, "That's not good." No kidding.

So the repair guy opened a low cupboard, removed a panel in the back of it and peered into the area where the slide's mechanical parts are located. His pointed his flashlight this way and that saying, "Humm," and "Wow," and "Weird," until I couldn't take it anymore. "WHAT do you see in there?" I asked. "The entire thing just fell apart," he said. "Fell apart?" I replied. "Yep. It looks like it just VIBRATED loose and the hardware in on the floor," he said as he contorted himself into a pretzel and retrieved the parts. In 30 minutes it was back together and working. I wrote him a check for $112.00, he threw in an adjustment to the shower door and was on his way. He was a good RV repair guy.

View from the tram going up to Mt. Howard
As you probably noticed I emphasised "VIBRATED" twice in the last few paragraphs. This would be because since last spring when we left Florida for Arizona I've been noticing and complaining (which turned into pleading and then into nagging) about a bad vibration in the body of the coach when we are traveling. I spend a good deal of time in the front doing my navigational duties and enjoying the scenery but every so often I make a trip to the back to grab a snack or use the bathroom and when I do I notice a serious vibration. The cushions on the couch vibrate off and the silverware in the drawer rattles and the dining table bounces to the point where I can't keep my fingers on the keyboard of my computer. Once I tried to lay down in the back and it was like someone started one of those old Magic Fingers machines that you used to get in hotel rooms (drop a quarter in and your bed vibrated until you nose itches). I've mentioned this vibration often enough that it has been looked at twice, wheels and tires and alignment checked and each time they have told us that there is nothing wrong with the coach.

Our first pleasant discovery on our journey was a small town called Garden City in Utah. It is the home of Bear Lake and the area and the lake are spectacular. We spent the night at the local KOA where we thought we would enjoy a peaceful evening. When we pulled in there were mostly empty spaces and after sleeping along I-80 for two nights we were ready for some peace and quiet. So we got set up and I made dinner and after dinner as I was finishing up the dishes John came in and told me that he had set up our chairs outside and suggested that I come out and enjoy the evening. That sounded like a great idea so I finished tidying up and stepped into the doorway. Before I could get one foot on the mounting block to exit the coach I discovered that John was visiting with two guys that were parked next to us. One was holding an adorable little puppy. I stopped in the doorway and sat down while they talked about their trips out west and told us about their puppy. They were very nice but extremely chatty and before it was over was giving them the tour of Mary, who wasn't as neat as I would prefer for guests. Just my neurosis at work. When they said goodnight and left it was dark out and I realized that I never did get out of the coach. John put the chairs away for our early morning departure and we went to bed.

One view from Mt. Howard
Another RV tip: If you value your privacy you probably don't want to buy a coach or fifth wheel unless you own your own remote RV pad somewhere. RVers love to share their experiences and

So we left the next morning and had a beautiful drive through the mountains, down through Logan and onto Interstate 84 on our way to Joseph. We decided to stop in Baker City, Oregon for the night and then drive the three hours or so to Joseph the next day. While we were in Baker City we discovered that the rubber around Mary's windshield had popped out on the driver's side. John fixed that and we were off to Joseph.

Joseph, Oregon is probably one of the prettiest, most peaceful places I've been in my life. I grew up in Oregon but Joseph (former home of the Nez Perce Indians) is way up in the northeast corner of the state. I managed to get into my 30's before I ever made a trip up there. They say it looks as much like Switzerland as anyplace in the U.S. We arrived at the far end of Wallowa Lake and located the RV park where Mary was going to stay for two nights. It was a nice park but VERY tight to get around in with that big bus. John snaked around until we had to stop and take the car off so that he could negotiate the turns into her space. When I jumped out of the coach (no red steps) the first thing I heard was a loud banging noise coming from Mary's engine. Once she was parked I mentioned it to John, who really wasn't in the mood to hear about any more problems with Mary. He just groaned. Then he listened. And then he groaned again. "Add it to the list," he said.

We spent to wonderful days in Joseph. We took the tram up to the top of Mt. Howard, a 15 minute ascent and the longest tram ride in America (seriously). We ate lunch at the top at the Summit Cafe and took photos from various view points. Twice we hiked up to a gorgeous waterfall with the dogs and took in the incredible mountain air and the sheer beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. We also took a tour of Valley Bronze, a local foundry that produces the work of sculptors from around the world. It was fascinating to learn the painstaking process of creating a mold that will reproduce long hours of work by the artists. Artists themselves, the foundry workers are pleasant and forthcoming with answers to questions about how the work is done. And then I got to see my aunt and uncle who live a good hour and a half north of Joseph. They own 80 acres in a beautiful valley that snows in during the winter. They have lived off of the grid for 15 years (way before it was popular to talk about much less do), growing a lot of their own food and enjoying a life in an area that is nearly untouched by civilization as most of us know it. We had fun catching up with them over lunch in the little town of Joseph.

Larger than life size bronzes outside Valley Bronze
From there we loaded up and headed down the Columbia River Gorge to Portland to visit with my 81 year old father. Mary squealed and banged all the way down the River, which was every bit as spectacular to me as the first time I experienced it. I just marvel at the sheer size of it as it works its way down to the Pacific Ocean. We arrived to a cloudy and rainy evening in Aurora. We grilled steaks in the rain and had a few scotches and had a wonderful visit with Dad before we turned out the lights and attempted to sleep to the sounds of Interstate 5 and a nearby trucks stop. Translation: Not much sleep. In the morning we took off for Springfield for two days at the Arcuri's farm and a birthday celebration at King Estate Winery with the Arcuri family. This establishment is difficult to describe without using "Wow" a lot. The winery sits on top of a giant hill where in any direction you look you see grape vines rolling and snaking over hills. The food was fabulous, the wine wonderful and the company was the best. We sat outside and the weather cooperated to the fullest with mild, shirt sleeve temperatures all the way into a moonlit evening. It was!

And like a total moron I forgot my camera.

I'll end the post here and take up again with our trip to the Oregon Coast the day after our wonderful dinner at King Estate Winery and tell you about Mary's visit(s) to Guaranty RV. To give you a hint I'm still dealing with Guaranty RV and we have been in Lexington since just before Halloween. And I'll fill you in on how the mystery of the VIBRATION was finally solved.