Saturday, January 23, 2010


Leaving the Arcuri's farm in October

It's nearly the end of January. Where does the time go? I swear that yesterday it was Christmas!

When I left you we were on our way to Arizona for the Carousel Charity Horse Show. We left Springfield following Tim and Jeanne Arcuri in their new Monaco Dynasty pulling a pretty new four horse trailer with three horses aboard. They have had coaches before but not for a long time so they were feeling a little like we were two years ago when we picked up Mary in Wakarusa. Well maybe not that bad but coach technology has come a million miles in ten years. They are user friendly even to those who have zero experience with one. We can attest to that!

Mt. Shasta from the road

We followed the Arcuri's down to Mt. Shasta. It was a spectacular day and the Mountain was just breathtaking. We stopped at a rest area so that they could water the horses and we took the dogs out for a spin. The next part of the trip was through the mountain pass at Mt. Shasta so we parted company. They planned to drive through to Scottsdale and we planned to stop for the night. Besides, John is not a great follower. He leads well but following makes him a little tense. Once we were on the road we made great time. We spent the night outside of Redding and the next morning we were off to Needles. That is a fairly long haul and we weren't going to get in until late so I made a reservation at the KOA in Needles where we stayed once before. A great thing about KOA is that after hours they will leave the space number and instructions on the door when you pull in.

As planned we arrived around 8:30. It was dark and I had the directions to the KOA off of their website (very simple) but we had also programed the GPS (Genius I call it) with the address. The directions didn't match. So in the dark along the freeway I am telling John that the exit is upcoming and he is looking at Genius and telling me that it isn't for another few miles. We are both tired and cranky. He says, "What do I do?" I said something to the effect that Genius would win out over KOA anyway so follow Genius. Silence fell as we drove by the exit that the KOA website said to take (which also had one of those little yellow KOA tent signs on it saying "KOA THIS WAY"). It occurred me as we were driving in the dark that Genius sent us the direction that we left the KOA the last time we were there, which caused me to breathe again and stop painting disaster scenarios in my mind. We saw the familiar palm trees and the lights on the entry to the park but when we made the turn into the park I lost the feeling of familiarity. We pulled up to the office looking for the night box when a man in shorts with his hair standing straight up came out waving his arms at us. A strange conversation ensued. They had no record of our reservation but thankfully they still had a spot available. Being as we were bleary eyed we were grateful for that and he guided us in. It wasn't until we were parked and plugged in that we all realized that this was NOT the KOA but a park right next door. When you reserve a space on the KOA website and don't give them 24 hours notice they charge you for the space. In the end we didn't care. We were tired and just wanted to get set up, get something to eat and go to bed. When John said to the guy, "You must get a lot of business this way" the guy replied that they don't have to advertise but just rely on people getting lost. Okay...

Following Arcuri's trailer over Oregon pass

The next morning we got up really early and got ready to go. One of the last things I do before we go is to close the slides. Everything went well until I closed the bedroom slide on the driver's side. It's the one that the bed is attached to. Of the four slides on this coach all are hydraulic except the one with the bed which is run by an electric motor. What the reasoning is behind that I'm not sure but it's a fact. I hit that slide button last and when it got to the closed position I heard something go SNAP! My stomach sank. I stared at the button debating whether I dare try to move the slide out again. The part of me that can live in denial said "LEAVE IT ALONE". The other part that must know said, "PUSH THE BUTTON". I had a rousing 15 second argument with myself. The must-know part won. I pushed the "Slide Out" button and I heard the motor running but the slide wasn't moving. About that time John came in from checking the car's hookups and announced that all was well and we were ready to go. "Not quite," I said. "What's wrong?" he asked. I gave him the run down. He tried the button himself. I know that probably doesn't make any sense but I've done that. There is something in our brains that says that if I push the button instead of you pushing the button it will somehow miraculously work. Sometimes it does. But not this time. We found the small miracle in the fact that the thing died while the slide was in. If it was out it would have been an entirely different scenario.

On the road to Scottsdale

So we hit the road and John got on the phone with Monaco to find a repair place in Scottsdale. They gave us the name of a place called RV Renovators in Mesa. John made the call and they said that they would be happy to work on Mary when we got there which according to Genius would be around 2:30 in the afternoon.

We decided to take a different route to the Phoenix area this time. We took an exit toward Lake Havasu. The road was perfect and the scenery was beautiful. There was very little traffic (the sun was just coming up) and we hummed along until we got to the Lake. I didn't actually see the London Bridge but I saw all of the signs to it. My biggest surprise was how large the Lake is and how much of a city has sprung up around it. It is a beautiful spot!

We drove and drove and drove until we hit Interstate 10 and drove on in to Mesa. Genius guided us into Mesa and we found RV Renovators. John parked and went in to talk to them about our slide problem. He returned with a nice guy named Eddie who took one look at Mary and said, "Your ride height isn't right"


Some Eastern philosophies say that in order to achieve peace in your life you need to give up the idea of being right all of the time. I truly did not want to be right about what my eyes were telling me. Being wrong would have been wonderful. In an effort to make myself wrong, a few days before we left Springfield I put an egg on the counter in the galley. I willed it to sit still. It rolled to the right side of the coach. "Funny shaped egg," I told myself.

John and Eddie went to work on the bed leaving ride height for later. They propped the air mattress up and looked in the compartment beneath the bed. There they found the motor. They tested it. Eddie said, "I've never seen this happen before." The shaft that runs through the motor that turns the gears that moves the slide was broken in two. It is a half inch piece of steel rod and it just broke. Eddie went see if they had a motor that would fit. Before he left he told us not to hold out a lot of hope. Being as these things almost never break it was a long shot that they would have what we needed. The RV repair gods were smiling on us and he came back with a motor that fit! They spent some time installing it, closed up the bed and moved on to ride height. While Eddie was installing the motor John mentioned to him that we were having trouble getting the generator to turn over and that Guarantee looked at it but said they didn't know why either (hello?). Eddie said he would check it out after he fixed the ride height.

As it turns out the ride height measurement for Mary is supposed to be 9 inches on both sides. Any first grader would know that 9 inches on both sides is level. Eddie did the measurements and found that she was 8 on the right side and 10 1/2 on the left. Not only that, she had an "iffy" (according to Eddie) ride height valve. I tried to give Guaranty the benefit of the doubt but when I realized that she didn't pump herself up to ten and a half on the left all by herself that went out the window. An hour later she was level with a new valve. That was in October. In January she is still level. Thank you Eddie.

Next it was time to figure out why the generator had to be started with the booster switch. When we had it in the shop at Guaranty one of the things that they did (and charged us up the ying yang for) was to check the batteries. There are ten of them, eight house batteries and two chassis batteries. They said that they were corroded so they took them out, cleaned them up, painted the tray that they sit in and reinstalled them. Eddie decided to check on their work. He took his battery tester and put it on each of the batteries in the tray. He turned to John who was hovering over his shoulder. "Here. I want you to test them yourself." John took the battery tester and registered almost nothing...on all TEN batteries. They were shot. "That's why your generator isn't turning over," Eddie said. So they had to call their battery guy and have ten batteries delivered and installed. The clock was ticking along with my temper not to mention...ka-ching, ka-ching, the bills were stacking up. While they were waiting Eddie pulled the batteries out. John looked at the tray. I was sitting inside with Breezy and Ransom with the windows open (no air conditioning without juice) and heard John say, "The sonsabitches didn't even paint the tray!"

That's when I got the six page Guaranty receipt out of the file and started making notes on each of the supposed fixes. A letter was composing itself in my head. "Dear Guaranty Ripoff Center..." I was more furious about them putting us on the road with ten bad batteries than for charging us for work that never got done, being completely dishonest and idiots on top of it. At the end of the day (nearly 5:00) we handed them our now well used credit card, paid them for the labor and parts and drove away with a slide that worked, ten good batteries and a level coach. I also resolved to write a letter and send it with the documentation to Guaranty to request a refund of the charges on the items that they lied about. I would get some money out of them if it was the last thing I did on the planet.

So we managed to get through 5:00 traffic on the 101 in Phoenix and arrived at West World ready for dinner and a glass of wine. We set up (all slides worked) and met Tim and Jeanne who were settled in and ready to go to dinner. We went to our favorite haunt in Scottsdale, Earl's for a nice dinner. It's a cool restaurant with a great patio and an eclectic menu that is five minutes from West World. Earl's has done well by us in the last two years.

Mary and Arcuri's coach at West World

Really tired from the trip and time at RV Renovators we turned in early. When we travel at higher elevations the air bed changes to higher settings. If you are really high (and we have been at times) the elevation can pop the mattresses so I'm pretty diligent about checking them. I didn't think we went that high on our way into Scottsdale so I hadn't checked them during the day. This king sleep number bed has dual controls and they go from zero (flat) to 100 (like sleeping on a slab of granite). I got into bed and my setting was on 100. I grabbed the control unit and punched the button to move it back to 50 (my sleep number) but nothing happened. It didn't even light up. John came in and pulled the covers back to get in the bed when he saw the look of total exasperation on my face. "What's wrong?" he asked. "The controller is dead," I said. His response was a huge sigh. I said, "Never mind. We are too tired to figure this out tonight." So we slept (sort of). I think I would have been more comfortable on the dining table.

The next morning after breakfast we tackled the problem. John propped the bed up again and we looked at the new motor. It looked odd to me that there was a shaft sticking out of the thing that extended a good six inches beyond the motor itself. Nothing about that extension served a purpose. The plug for the mattress compressor was pulled out and lying on the floor next to the new motor. I picked it up and looked at it. The plug end was all bent. We discussed all of this and then John plugged it back in and we put the bed back together. John picked up the control and it was working. We decided to test the slide. We ran it in. The lights went out on the controllers again. Many expletives later we had the bed back up and were looking at the plug lying on the floor again. Then it dawned on both of us at the same time. The shaft coming out of the motor was knocking the plug out of the socket when we opened or closed the slide. Apparently this wasn't exactly the same motor that was in there before and when they were at RV Renovators they tested the slide but none of us considered that the controllers wouldn't work. So we brainstormed for fifteen minutes before John came to the conclusion that the simplest answer was to buy a hack saw and cut the shaft down to a size that would allow enough clearance to leave the plug in the socket.

"A hacksaw?"

He had that crazed "Tim The Tool Man Taylor" look on his face. There was no arguing.

In the short time that we had been at West World Tim had made at least ten trips to Home Depot for barn stuff and coach stuff. He loves Home Depot. John would call him and say, "Where are you?" He would hang up after a short conversation and say, "Tim's at Home Depot." My answer was always the same, "Again?" So he called Tim and explained what we figured out and Tim suggested that we all go to lunch (he also can eat more than 50 people and never gain an ounce) and then go to Home Depot for a hack saw. Over lunch Tim told John that he had to get a BIG hack saw so that he didn't hurt himself while sawing the half inch rod in two. John's eyes lit up. So off to Home Depot we went. Jeanne and I stayed in the car while the guys gleefully trotted off to the store. Fifteen minutes later they came back and John had the single most expensive, hugest hack saw that exists in the tool world. I just smiled and shrugged. "John The Tool Man Jones," I said to myself.

We got back to the coach and John commenced his project. He propped the bed up picked up his hack saw and in five short strokes the rod was cut in two. He put the bed back together and emerged from the bedroom triumphant. It took less than five minutes total. And it worked. The slide moves in and out without tearing the compressor plug out of the socket. And we both slept like dogs for the rest of the trip.

Early morning shot of West World

Next time I'll get into our trip back home. You would think after our lengthy list of repairs (and $$$$$$) along the road both out to Oregon and to Scottsdale that we good to go for the next two years. Not so. I'm happy to report that Mary is spending the winter in a large storage garage in Lexington and that as far as we can tell she is in perfect running order for our next adventure.

I hope your New Year is full of health, happiness and prosperity!