Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Eastward Trek

Dumfries, VA             (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

As fulltimers, sometimes plans have to be altered, changed, or scrapped altogether.  Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when we were notified that my father-in-law (who lives in Virginia) had suffered a heart attack.  He and his doctor made plans for him to have quadruple bypass surgery tomorrow at a hospital in northern Virginia.

After hearing of this we made plans to begin heading east to be of assistance to both Karen's Dad after the surgery, and to her Mom.

We left Palm Creek Golf and RV in Casa Grande, AZ on March 15 and slowly began our journey east. With the exception of one location, all of our stays were limited to just one night.  Certainly not something we usually do, and certainly not a fun way to travel.  It was very tough saying goodbye to our friends in Casa Grande, but we're making plans to return again next winter.

Thus began our long 2400+ mile trip back to Virginia.  Interstate 10 was our choice of highway leaving Casa Grande.

I'm not certain whether it is unlawful to bicycle along the interstate in Arizona (as it is in most states), but this chap didn't seem to let that bother him.  He's certainly a braver soul than I.

By looking at the progression of pictures in this blog as we travel east, you'll notice the stark changes in the landscapes.  This is pretty typical of the scenery along the AZ, NM, and TX highways until you reach the middle of TX.

The first night we pulled into the Escapees park named Dream Catcher in Deming, NM.  It was an easy stop off of the interstate and was not crowded at all.  Certainly not my idea of a destination location, but good for a couple of nights.

Our next day was to travel from Deming, NM to Pecos, TX.  The speed limit is much higher than we ever run in this wide open section of Texas.

Because we weren't too far from the Mexican border we encountered a US Border Patrol check point.  No problems encountered.  Just had to slow down as we passed thru the checkpoint.

At Pecos, TX we made the first of several fuel stops.  Judging by the number of trucks, this one is fairly popular in this part of TX.

Which way to go?  We could have continued on Interstate 10, but I had traveled on that road in LA a few years ago, so I hoped that Interstate 20 (towards Dallas-Ft. Worth) would provide a smoother travel surface.

The stop for tonight was in another Escapees Park called Tra-Park in Pecos, TX.  This park, in contrast to the one in Deming, NM, was very crowded.  It appeared that there were quite a few long-term residents here who worked in the oil fields of West Texas.  The look and feel of this park did not appeal to us.  Thank goodness it was just for one night.

The goal for our third day of travel was to overnight in Santo, TX (still west of Dallas-Ft. Worth).  We had decided NOT to drive crazy long days (sorry Paul) and wanted to reach our destination each day in the early afternoon hours.  Wind turbines were plentiful in this part of TX.  Believe me, they were turning as we encountered several days of windy travel.

This night's stop was in Santo, TX at a place called Coffee Creek RV Campground.  A fellow Tiffin owner and friend Bill and Kathy Blackman had given us the name of this campground.

If you are ever in this part of TX, you certainly  might want to try this campground for an overnight or even multi-night place to stay.  It's only about 1/2 mile north of I-20 and all of the sites are easy to maneuver.  The management folks were very friendly.

The next day's travel was to be from Santo, TX to West Monroe, LA.  This stopping point was chosen because it is the home of the Duck Commander business made popular on the  A&E channel's Duck Dynasty.   Enroute we noticed the landscape changing to green grass and increasing numbers of trees.

In West Monroe, LA we stayed at Pavillion RV Park.  There's not a whole lot to say about this park, other than it was a Passport America Park, so the rate was "ok".

It has easy access to the interstate, but is positioned in the industrial part of town.  Again, the folks were very friendly, but it just didn't seem like a park which I'd like to spend a long time in.

Of course, we had to drive over to the Duck Commander business to take a "touristy" look. None of the show's main characters were present, so Karen had her picture taken with the next best thing.

The outside of the building looks just as it does on the television show.

The inside is quite different, however.  Basically the public part of the interior is just a gift shop which sells all items related to the Duck Dynasty brand (including some duck calls).  It took us all of about 15 minutes to "tour" and we didn't purchase anything.

March 19th's schedule was intended to take us from West Monroe, LA to Red Bay, AL via the Natchez Trace Parkway.  We entered the Parkway just north of Jackson, MS.  If you've never traveled this road, it's certainly worth a relaxing ride in an RV. 

The road is 2-lane and 50MPH in most areas (some 40MPH sections when entering and leaving), but there are plenty of pull-offs to take a break or eat lunch.

We finally arrived in Red Bay, AL and had planned to stay at the Red Bay Service Center Campground (familiar to many owners of Tiffin Motorhomes, I'm sure),  but the center only had dry camping spots available.

We only needed to have the service center look at two items on this visit, but we also wanted to have our routine maintenance done at Bay Diesel and to have our coach washed and waxed while in town.

Because we wanted to spend a few days in one spot and get some "day to day" chores done, we opted for the Self-Service Campground (also known as a gravel parking lot with FHUs) just down the street.

This actually worked out very well as we met up with several friends.  Bill and Kathy Blackman and Roger and Mary Baird were on their way to the TRVN Forum's Southeast Rally in Sevierville, TN and had stopped in Red Bay to have some items taken care of.  We had signed up for the Rally, but were forced to cancel with the medical situation back in Virginia.  We got a chance to have dinner on several occasions together and then all three of us left Red Bay, AL and  caravanned together to Chattanooga, TN. 

The Blackman's had previously stayed at the Camping World service campground in Chattanooga, so that's where we stayed for this night.  Here's Karen showing me which site to pull into.

Here's the Blackman's Allegro Bus on the left and the Baird's Phaeton to the right side across from us.

Both couples were staying over a second night before continuing on to Sevierville, TN, but we had to take off the next morning for our next stop in Wytheville, VA.

Ah, back in Virginia again.

We stayed at Ft. Chiswell RV Park.  We've used this park as a stop on several occasions before we even had our current motorhome.  The park has easy access off of Interstate 81 and is easy to maneuver with a larger RV.

Almost all of the sites are pull-thrus, but some are not quite as level as I'd like.

Our last leg of the journey was a fairly easy 5 1/2 hour drive from Wytheville, VA to Dumfries, VA.  After having the rig newly washed and waxed in Red Bay, AL we, of course, ran into our first rain traveling up Interstate 81 and across the mountains towards Charlottesville, VA.  We knew we were back in our old stomping grounds again when we encountered the ever-present traffic and road construction along Interstate 95 north of Fredericksburg, VA.

We are presently "camping" in a campground near Dumfries, VA. It rained (and snowed some today) throughout the entire weekend.  Now I remember why we left this area again!

I know that this was a VERY LONG post, but I was trying to do a bit of catch up for all of the past few weeks when we had been on the move.  Our current plans are "set in Jello", but we are hoping for the best with Karen's Dad's surgery tomorrow morning.  Please keep him in your prayers.

Thank you for taking a look!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thetford Aqua Magic Style Plus Toilet Repair

Red Bay, AL

It's been almost 3 weeks since I last posted a blog.  During that time we've moved from our winter home in Casa Grande, AZ to our present location in Red Bay, AL.  I'll detail the cross country drive in another blog post, but today's blog is about a repair to our toilet.  If you don't have the same style of toilet or little interest in repair or maintenance jobs, please feel free to move on to the next blog at this time.

Ok, for those few of you who have continued thus far let me explain.  A few days ago we noticed that the toilet in our MH appeared to be leaking at the base.  I first suspected that the seal had failed and that we were having sewage not properly find its way south into our black tank.

We have a Thetford Aqua Magic Style Plus toilet in this MH.  It has a china base with a foot pedal in front to activate the waste gate valve.  The model is #34421.

I began a closer examination of the source of the leak by removing the plastic shroud which surrounds the lower portion of the toilet. This picture shows the shroud already removed.

Looking to the rear of the toilet I discovered that when I depressed the foot pedal to open the waste gate slide inside the bowl, water was dripping from the part later identified as the water valve.  This leak was occurring every time the pedal was depressed.

After looking at the parts diagram on Thetford's site I concluded that the problem must lie in the water valve assembly itself.  Fortunately for me, I'm currently in Red Bay, AL (the home of Tiffin Motorhomes) and their parts store is very good.  I walked over to the store and purchased the toilet water valve kit (which also includes a new rubber floor seal, new screws to replace the valve, and a new clamp to re-attach a hose).  The Thetford part number is #34100.

So now my dilemma was to decide whether to attempt to replace the valve with the toilet still in position or remove the toilet completely to gain better access.  After trying to see behind the toilet using a mirror and flashlight, the choice was simple.  That toilet was coming out!

Actually, the removal of the toilet is very simple.  Shut off the water, unscrew the water line to the back of the toilet, and remove the nut on each side of the toilet base flange which holds it to the floor.  Here's what you're left with after the toilet has been removed.  The dirty rag to stuff into the waste line is VERY important!

Now that the toilet has been re-located to an easier place to work the job will go much quicker.  Here's a better look at the water valve assembly.

First, take a pair of pliers and remove the return spring from the metal rod on the lower portion of the assembly.

Next remove the 3 screws holding the valve assembly in place.

At this point the valve assembly can be pulled away from the rear of the toilet.

The drive arm is removed next by pulling the ball end of the cable (which attaches to the foot pedal) from the plastic slot and by rotating the drive arm to free it from the wire rod (shown near the bottom of the top circle).

Here's what the freed drive arm looks like after performing the above two tasks.

Installation of the new water valve and drive arm assembly is literally the reverse of the above instructions.  The really nice thing here is that Thetford includes instructions in the package to do exactly what I have shown above.

All that's left to do is to replace the toilet over the existing toilet floor bolts, hook up the water inlet line, and check your work for leaks.

The entire job from start to finish took less than 1 hour and I'm happy to report that I had no leaks after the repair (the first attempt, no less).  This is certainly a job which can be done by almost any MH owner.  Not only will you save labor costs, but you'll certainly get a better understanding of how this type of toilet works.

......and here's the end result.  A normally functioning toilet once again.  HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Time to Move On

Casa Grande, AZ        (Click on Picture to Enlarge)

Well, not out of the area yet, but just out of our site.

We were originally due to depart Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort on March 1 to begin our journey east.  Due to the untimely death of Willey (our cat), we are going to have to stay a few more days to enable his cremated remains to be returned.  We are expecting them back sometime this week. (This is a Karen thing.)

So, since we are going to be here a few days longer we dicovered that the 11th Annual Palm Creek RV Pickleball Tournament is scheduled for March 7-9.  Well, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play in the tournament, so we are now scheduled to be here until March 15.

The only problem with the above plan was that new tenants were due on our old RV site beginning on March 4. I really didn't like the idea of packing up and moving for only a couple of weeks, but sometimes you have to do what it takes if you really want to stay in an area.

So, on Saturday March 1 we pulled in the slides, raised the jacks, and unhooked the utilities to move all of 150 feet (maybe) to our new site.  We just carried everything which was outside the MH to the new site.

As many fulltimers have said before, our plans are "set in jello".  Flexibility is the key.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!