Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 4 at the Tiffin Service Center

Red Bay, AL

At the end of yesterday's blog I closed with a bit of a "teaser".   Well, as Paul Harvey used to say "Here's the  rest of the story".  The latest repair has to do with our interior ceiling.

 Our Phaeton has the normal vinyl ceiling, but the main living and kitchen area is adorned with wood trim which forms the look of a tray ceiling. In our case, the vinyl panels are four foot wide and run side to side up to the wood trim.  The section inside the wood trim is then recessed about 1 1/2 inches. The structural "beams" in the ceiling are aluminum and the AC/Heat Pump ducting is cut into the styrofoam  of the aluminum grid structure.

Our problem is that the area inside the wooden applique has begun to "droop".  At the extreme point I measured a drop of about 1 inch.  To me it felt like the ceiling material was releasing from the glue used in the construction process of the ceiling.  When conferring with our tech and his supervisor it was made clear that this would be a messy job depending upon how easily the ceiling panels could be removed.  Another element  was that we would be looking at 3 days to make the repair.  The supervisor advised us that in addition to removing the ceiling vinyl, panels, lights,  a/c ducting and vents in that area that they would reinforce the area by bolting two steel strips running front to back beyond the edges of the tray ceiling area.  We made the decision to go ahead with the repair because I was afraid of future structural problems if we let it continue, and also because an additional 3 days of repairs really doesn't matter to us fulltimers.

Our tech began work as soon as we pulled into the bay at 7:00 AM this morning.  We were very impressed with the care he took he protecting the rest of our coach and our "worldly goods" by spreading plastic sheeting around the perimeter and carpeting on the floor.

Today's blog doesn't contain as many minute-by-minute details as in previous days.  By lunch the wooden trim, ceiling panels inside the trim, lights, vents, and ducting were removed and outside the rig.  Because several panels were damaged during removal, new panels were ordered and lighting and vent holes had to be cut.  The steel reinforcing strips were drilled and countersunk for installation tomorrow.

At the end of the work day all of the protective sheeting and carpeting was removed for us to be able to "live" in the rig back at the service center campground.  Hopefully, tomorrow we'll begin to see some construction of the ceiling again.

SPECIAL NOTE: In yesterday's blog I forgot to include information about Denise and her husband Ken.  Denise worked with Karen in a dental practice in Woodbridge, VA years ago before they moved just east of Huntsville, AL.  Denise and Ken made the drive yesterday to meet us for lunch and have a short visit with Karen.  I, unfortunately, needed to stay with the continuing work on the rig, so Karen and Denise and Ken went to lunch together.  Thanks again guys for making the trek to the "center of Alabama".   LOL

Thanks for visiting our blog!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 3 at the Tiffin Service Center

Red Bay, AL

Day 3 in the service bays and work continued at a better pace today. One of our items on our repair list was for the large driver's side slide out to be adjusted.  At the end of yesterday, our tech determined that the electric motor for this slide had seen better days and put in a parts order for a replacement.  We removed personal items from two bays on the driver's side to enable the tech to remove and replace the motor.

The old motor was removed and the new one bolted on in short order.

Old removed seal (note rusted metal "fingers"
The next item was for the replacement of the rubber slideout seal on this same large slideout.  The typical reason for failure on these rubber seals is water getting under the edge of the rubber where it contacts the metal wall of the MH.   Essentially the rubber seal is held in place on the motorhome by a continuous string of small metal "clips" under spring tension. This usually works well unless water gets to the metal.  When it does, the metal quickly rusts and literally breaks down into metal dust.  The seal fails and water intrusion into the slideout will eventually follow.

Fortunately, Tiffin has changed the type of seals currently being installed on their rigs. The older type used on our rig has been used by manufacturers for many years.

The new style of seal uses metal totally encased inside of a rubber channel, so hopefully should water get under the edge of the rubber, contact with the metal will not break down the holding clip.  Also, our tech indicated that he usually sees that a poor job of sealing is done when the rigs are manufactured.  He took quite a bit of effort to make sure that the edge of the rubber seal was silicone sealed.

By lunch today our slide out motor had been replaced, along with the removal and installation of a new slide out seal. We were still waiting for HHH Electronics, Inc. to return our OTA antenna which I spoke about in yesterday's blog.

Top case removed showing gears and circuit board
After lunch the antenna was returned from HHH with the notation "Bad, Must be Replaced".  Well that didn't tell me a whole bunch as I already knew that it wasn't working.  Let me say upfront that I have never liked this antenna since we first used it.  The range is just not nearly as good as the old "batwing" antennas.  I believe that Tiffin uses this style of antenna because the footprint on the roof takes up far less room than the batwing.  It's also controlled by remote control and I guess MH folks like electronics.  LOL  Personally, I was able to raise, lower, and manually turn the old styled antenna without much trouble. (Sorry, I"ll climb off the soapbox.)

Note corrosion and rust inside case
My choice at this point was to replace the entire antenna "head" at a cost of about $79 from an online source or have the antenna replaced at a higher price here.  The warranty from the company is only for 90 days.

I regularly monitor the Tiffin RV Network forum. This is totally owned and run by Tiffin owners and has NO connection to Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. so it's a great place for unbiased opinions and has been very helpful with keeping abreast and diagnosing problems with our rigs.  The forum is open to anyone and contains a wealth of information for anyone who owns any motorhome, or for those thinking about owning a motorhome. I recalled reading a thread on the forum about owner's with a similar problem.  Went back to the thread and found that I could order the entire motor/gear assembly and the amplifier circuit board for $26  from AntennaCraft, the distributor of the antenna. Once again, the TRVN forum came to my rescue.

Larger diameter of new roller on left
Our tech next went to work on making our slide out operate more smoothly.  He advised that Tiffin has recently been using a slightly larger diameter roller to enable the slide to operate more smoothly without a large rise and drop as the slide out moves into final position.  Our large slide out contains 8 rollers, with 3 of those being located closer together on the left end where our residential refrigerator is located.
The rollers were replaced and the slide out tested.  Ah, much smoother!  Plus the new motor seemed to move the slide much better as well.

It was now the end of the day and we had one other "more significant" item on our list to be addressed.  For this one, a supervisor was called in to make an inspection, and more importantly, discuss who was going to pay for the repair.  The good news is that this repair will be a warranty item by Tiffin (although our rig is now 3 years old).  The bad news is that it will probably take 3 days to effect the repair.  We are much happier with the progression of the repairs today. Sorry, but you'll have to read our blog tomorrow to find out what this repair will entail.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 2 at the Tiffin Service Center

Red Bay, AL

Day 2 of our service appointment has arrived and I will admit that although repairs are going slowly, things are progressing.

Drove up to Bay #3 again today at 6:50 AM. To our surprise the doors were opened immediately (before 7). Our tech immediately went to work on completing the last panel which was to be secured to the bottom of  our passenger side slideout.  Project completed fully at 10:00 AM.

Because techs have to order parts needed for repairs, then wait for their arrival by the parts guys, he started work next on replacing a crushed drain hose which attaches to the kitchen sink and goes to the grey water tank.  Basically, the cause of the problem was that Tiffin uses 1 1/4 inch spa hosing to make this connection and all would be well with that except that some installs had the hose wire tied very tightly to the plumbing lines, gas hose, and many electrical cables.  As the slideout extends and retracts this "bundle" moves in and out with the slide.  Unfortunately, the tightly gathered bundle causes the drain hose to kink which ultimately leads to a leaking hose.

The "fix" for this is to cut out a section of the spa hose and insert pvc couplings on each end of the remaining hose, then use heavy duty flexible radiator hose clamped to these couplers. Project completed in short order.

On to the next project.  We have 3 AC/Heat Pump units atop our rig and the middle one has been making "unusual noises" when it shuts down.  The tech had seen this before and believed it to be a "squirrel cage" which had slipped down on its' shaft.  Again, order placed with the parts department. By the time the part arrived and everything was moved to the roof to effect the repair it was time for lunch.

Similar to our unit, except for color
After lunch the tech replaced the squirrel cage on the AC/Heat Pump unit and went to work on a problem we've been having with our Over-the-Air (OTA) television antenna.  The antenna is contained in a circular housing and stands above the roof on brackets.  In the past, as the antenna was rotated by a remote inside the rig, a motor sound could be heard indicating that the antenna was turning.  For about the last month we have heard nothing.  A parts order was submitted to HHH Electronics who is located beside  the service center here at Red Bay.  I honestly have no idea what is wrong at this point.

Our large slide on the driver's side doesn't seem to be moving in and out as smoothly as it has in the past.  The tech called in a supervisor to take a look at this one.  The supervisor acknowledged that the motor on the slide seemed to be having difficulty. (We hope that this means that the item will be covered under warranty, or at least at a reduced repair cost.)  An order for the motor was placed as well as an order for a replacement slideout rubber seal on the same slideout.  We've known for a few months that the seal along the top of this slideout had come loose and was in need of replacement.

With that, the end of the 2nd day has arrived.  The parade of Tiffin motorhomes back out of the service area and return to their sites for another night.  We have decided to move over from the self-service campground nearby to the campground here at the service center.  We are now located on Site #33.  Although we had no choice in sites (because the campground is full as of 12:30 PM on Tuesday), just look at the surrounding amenities   Dumpster in front and electric pole to the side! Hey, what can tomorrow bring?

Thanks for stopping by to visit!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 1 at the Tiffin Service Center

Red Bay, AL

Although our pre-paid weekly stay at the self-service RV campground comes to an end tomorrow, we are thinking about staying here for the next week.  A check this afternoon with the office over at Camp Red Bay showed very few FHU sites available.  At least over here we'll have that available to us.  After our first day in the service center it appears that we are going to need a much longer camping stay than desired.

I've decided to detail our daily experiences at the service center in the coming blogs.  Some may be a bit on the pessimistic and frustrating side, but all will be accurate.  Remember, this is OUR experience, yours may be different.

We checked in with the Camp Red Bay office on Saturday and gave them our "list" of items we needed repaired. Because we had an appointment for Monday (25th) we were given our Bay assignment number to report to at 7:00 AM on Monday. We've been to the service center in two prior years so we are familiar with the scheduling system here. For those who might not be familiar, let me summarize.  (The policy changes frequently, but this is the current system.)  If you have a rig two model years or newer you are able to make an appointment in advance.  We made this appointment back on October 1, 2012 under the previous system (as our rig is now 3 model years old).  Tiffin is doing warranty campaigns on several large projects, but those are checked when you arrive and appointments for these items are not allowed to be made in advance.  Should you just "show up" without an appointment you are assigned a service number and worked in accordingly.  Now, if you are not thoroughly confused at this point, please read further and I'll describe our first service day.

This is not our rig, but one of many in front
of the bay doors in the morning
We drove up to our appointed bay at 7:00 AM.  The doors are always closed until 7, but magically rise in short order.  We were greeted by our tech (who I have not used in any of my previous visits) and we went over my repair list together.  Ok, so far, so good. Now, it's time for "hurry up and wait".  I had forgotten how slowly things progress at the service center. I had prioritized our repair list in the order of severity and importance to us.  Silly me!

At 7:06 our tech began searching for our highest priority on the list, an interior water leak in the bedroom floor area.  In his defense, he did attempt looking at several possibilities which I suggested. He also consulted throughout the day with several other techs.  Bottom line:  At the end of the day the leak's location had not been determined and no progress on that item was made.

The next item to repair was our over-the-door electric awning which had stopped working last September and I had wired tied into position to keep it closed.  He removed that it short order a bit after 8:00 AM and I felt that things were beginning to move along.  Silly me again! I forgot how inefficient the Tiffin parts system works. When the techs need a part, an order is put in to the parts department and eventually the part(s) is brought to the tech's bay by a gentleman on a golf cart.  The problem is, not much work gets done while waiting for parts.

Well,  by now it's time for break at 9:00 AM.  It's only 10 minutes, but by the time the tech gets back from the bathroom, BSing with his buddies about what happened during the past weekend, and getting back to the job, it is in reality much longer.

Ok, lunch break is coming by now at 11:20 AM.  To his credit, the awning motor has been repaired and re-attached to the side of the rig by lunch.  Lunch ends promptly at 12:00 PM.  I really have no idea what happened between noon and 1:50 PM, but I can say that no additional items got repaired.

Well, it's now 1:50 PM and the next item involves the underside of the passenger side slideout floor where the fiberglass material is beginning to tear (possibly due to a mis-adjusted slide).  The repair for this is to rivet four aluminum panels to the underside of the slideout where contact is greatest with the slide rollers.  Apparently this is somewhat of a common problem as you can see by the description on the repair panels.

The workday ends for the techs at 3:30 PM, but as of 3:17 PM only 3 of the required 4 panels had been secured.  The 4th panel was cut incorrectly, so that's first on the list for tomorrow.
I just have to remember,   go     slow    and   take    a    breath!

The real difference between this visit and years past is that because we are now fulltimers, we truly don't care how long it takes to get our list finished.  We really have nowhere to be until the end of March, and HOPEFULLY we'll be cut loose by then.

Tune in tomorrow, for "Day 2 at the Tiffin Service Center".

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Week In Red Bay, AL

Red Bay, AL

Sorry for not posting in a few days, but we've been trying to get things organized in the rig for our service "appointment" at the Tiffin Motorhome Service Center beginning on Monday.  We are currently located in the Red Bay "self-serve" campground about 1/2 mile down the road from the Service Center.  When we arrived in Red Bay last Tuesday we drove over to the Service Center and found that the camping area was pretty full. We decided to stay for our first week at the self-service campground as the rate is either $20 per day (the same as the Tiffin Service Center) or $100 per week.  Since our appointment isn't until Monday 2/25 we didn't want to take up space over there (and also save a few bucks), so here we are.

On Wednesday at 7:00 AM we had an appointment with Custom RV, Inc. (Brannon Hutcheson) to install our SMI Air Force1 supplemental braking system into our Honda Fit. Brannon did the install of the AF1 on the rig last March when we were in Red Bay.  I thought that I could handle the install into the Fit, but after looking at the limited space under the hood I decided to let the pro do it.

 I believe that this was a good choice and in about 2 1/2 hours Brannon was finished.  We have had Brannon do several projects for us and his work is always accomplished in a professional and efficient manner. His phone number is 256-668-0973 if you need any work done.

After speaking to Mui and Erin about a recent upgrade they had done to their coach, we decided to have Trevor Nichols 662-279-4461  fabricate and install a dash cover, along with inside step covers and a cockpit carpet for us.  Nice price and very efficient work by Trevor.  We called him after lunch, he arrived to make a few measurements and completed the install before dinner.

On Wednesday evening we met up with Mui and Erin, along with their new friends Deb and Curt to try out a local pizza restaurant called Mr. J's Pizza.  The food was fine and the conversation we had with everyone  was excellent.  I've said it before, but meeting new friends is one of the nicest things about the fulltiming lifestyle.

Thursday was an open day for us, so we decided to go over to the Tiffin factory and take a tour of the motorhome construction process.  I'm not going to attempt to go into detail on my blog about the tour as Two to Travel's Phaetons Journeys blog does an outstanding job in describing the process, and her pictures are much better than mine. We've taken the tour several times in the past, but we always learn something new and we enjoy looking at the changes made in the new rigs each year.

It was time for annual maintenance on the rig, so we took it over to Chris Morrow's company Bay Diesel on Friday afternoon.  We've always had our routine maintenance done at Chris' shop and his guys do a very nice job in an efficient manner.  I had two guys working on the rig who performed a complete chassis lube, engine oil and filter change, primary and secondary fuel filter changes. They also added coolant extender to the cooling system and changed the air dryer filter for the air brake system.  The generator also had its' oil and filter changed and air filter checked (still in excellent condition).

On Saturday we did a bit more GeoCaching in the area.  Found five or six caches in short order.  Once we find out what our service appointment will entail we might try for some more caches up in Tishimingo State Park.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Whirlwind Tour of Montgomery, AL

Gunter Hill COE Campground, near Montgomery, AL

With only one day to explore the area before leaving for Red Bay, AL on Tuesday, we knew any tour of Montgomery, AL would be incomplete and only scratch the surface.  Still, this is the part we enjoy most about FTing so far.  That is, the ability to explore  new areas and more importantly to associate historical events which we had previously only heard about or read about into living, tangible pieces of our lives.

Front entrance to the Visitor's Center
We had to decide how to learn the most about Montgomery for a possible return visit later.  The Montgomery, AL visitor's center seemed the logical beginning point.  The visitor center is located at 300 Water Street along the Alabama River in the old Union Station train depot.   

Inside View
This was a great place for an overview of the city.  We watched a short video detailing the historical importance of the city describing its' role in the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, and the growth of the city thru those periods in history. The woman at the information counter was a wealth of information about places to eat and what to see in a short period of time.  For a general layout of the attractions we chose to take a trolley tour of the city.  The tour only lasts about an hour, but during a normal day visitors are able to get off and re-board the trolley at several points throughout the city.  I say "normal" day because today was President's Day and many of the attractions were closed.  The cost is only $3 per person, or $2 for seniors.

After returning from the Trolley Tour we decided to walk around the city. The first area visited was Court Square Fountain on Dexter Street.  According to our trolley guide, before the fountain was erected the basin was known as the "pit", the area where slaves were held prior to being auctioned along with animals and other goods.  

A walk straight up Dexter Street ends at the state capitol of Alabama.  Because today was a holiday, traffic was very light.  I was able to stand in the middle of the street to take this photo of the front of the capitol. 

The Department of Archives and History was also closed for the holiday, but is an area we will definitely explore if we are able to return to the area.  

Although I learned quite a few new things today, one stood out somewhat because I lived in Virginia all of my life and never knew that the "White House of the Confederacy" was ever located anywhere other than in Richmond, VA.  I found out today that it actually was located in Montgomery, AL from February 21, 1861 until the summer of 1861 when it was moved to Richmond, VA.  

Karen on bench in the front yard of the "First White
House of the Confederacy"

Montgomery is rich in history of the Civil Rights Movement as well, but many of these areas were closed today due to the holiday.  These, and many other attractions, will be on our list of things to see when we return to the area.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time to Move On

 Gunter Hill COE Park, near Montgomery, AL

We certainly enjoyed the time we spent at Emerald Coast RV Park Resort, but after six very enjoyable weeks it's time to move on.  We put away most of our "outside" stuff last night, so only interior items needed to be stowed for the trip today.

Emerald Park RV Beach Resort serves a buffet-style breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00-10:00 am each week.  We had breakfast with our new friends Cathy and Phil (who are working towards becoming FTers).  Stay the course guys, you'll get there!

We are eventually heading toward  Red Bay, AL for a service appointment at the Service Center on the 25th, but first we will  make a stop to have some work done by Brannon Hutcheson of Custom RV, Inc. of Vina, AL on the 20th.

Since we don't intend to travel many miles each day anymore, we looked for a place to stop approximately midway and wound up searching for a place near Montgomery, AL (about 200 miles each day).  After reading about a Corps of Engineers Park (COE) discovered by reading the Where's Eldo Blog, I decided to look at a few reviews on the RV Park Reviews website.  Reviews were favorable, so we decided to give it a try.

Since we took our time leaving Panama City Beach, FL (around 11:30 am) we pulled into the check in area at Gunter Hill Park around 4:00 pm.  There are two areas for camping, but the Catoma loop is the only one currently being used during the winter months. Although there are 75 sites, only 8 were currently being used so we had our pick of the lot. Total site fee is currently $22 per night (incl. tax) for a FHU, and if you have a senior's pass the cost is only $11.  In our minds that is quite a deal for a FHU site with beautiful surroundings.

Our pull-thru site
 This COE campground is fabulous! A major upgrade was done to the Catoma loop during 2012.  The roads are all recently paved (no dust or potholes) and the sites are all concrete.  Non-typical for a COE park is that there are FHUs.  The power pedestals are all new and house 20, 30, and 50 amp receptacles.  Water pressure and electrical voltage were excellent.

Back-in site
 Although most sites are back-ins, there are a limited number of pull thrus available.  We chose a pull thru and we are adjacent to the water, just a bit up the hill.  It is VERY quiet here tonight.

View out our passenger's side 
Patio area

We didn't get to explore too much as it was getting dark by the time we got set up, but there appears to be many hiking and biking trails to explore.

We've decided to stay here for two nights before moving on to Red Bay.  Hopefully, tomorrow we'll get to visit Montgomery and learn a bit of the local history.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mardi Gras at Panama City Beach and New Friends

Panama City Beach, FL

This blog is a compilation of several activities stretching back to last Saturday.

Being from Virginia originally, we never celebrated or did anything special for Mardi Gras.  After being in our current location for a bit we started seeing decorations going up around the campground for Mardi Gras, so Karen thought we'd better get with it and put up a few trinkets of our own.
Campsite lamp post
Our rig's mirror 

I'm sure some of you have heard of a Mardi Gras "King's Cake", but we never had prior to arriving here.  Karen decided to try her hand at making one. She found a recipe on that utilized a bread machine for the kneading portion, and I must say, it was quite delicious!  We had to try a piece (or two!) to ensure that it was safe for human consumption before serving it to anyone else! ;-)  She did not have sprinkles in the traditional Mardi Gras colors (green, gold and purple) to place on top of the cake, so she made due with the sprinkles she had on hand.  It still looked festive!

Panama City Beach celebrates Mardi Gras at the Beach each year with many activities for both young and old and culminated this year with parades on both Friday and Saturday nights. There were also contests to select the "best" pirate and wench.
MC and selected pirate
The selected wench, and a not-so-approving
wench on the left

Although activities began earlier in the day on Saturday, we drove over about 4:00 PM to take in some of the live bands, street vendors, and watch the parade which began at 6:00 PM with fireworks following.

A few of the many floats in the parade

There was quite a turnout and a good time was had by everyone, especially younger folks like ourselves!
After a hard's night work of obtaining the beads

Even our cat got into the act!

Last night we engaged in an activity which is high up on our list of enjoyable things to do.  We met new friends Phil and Cathy (from all of the way across the road in front of our rig) and had a very enjoyable dinner prepared by Cathy and Phil at their motorhome.  They are in the process of getting their house ready for sale and moving into the Fulltiming lifestyle.  We had a great time swapping stories and meeting their two dogs Zoe and Darth Vader.

If we were a bit closer to New Orleans we'd like to take in the parades there. Hey, I almost forgot, we're Fulltimers.  We can go wherever we wish. Well, maybe next year!

Thanks for stopping by!