Thursday, March 07, 2013

Update on Truck Problems and Other Things

With all the problems we’ve had with the truck this fall, we’ve been thinking about buying a different RV

We visited several of the RV lots around Quartzsite and found several used motorhomes that we liked.  Most of them had the older analog TVs and either no satellite dish, or an old one (or a dome), so not only would we have had to replace both TVs, we would also have had to install a new Winegard Trav’ler on the roof.  $$$$.  Not to mention lack of solar which we would have to add.  More $$$$.

Using our fifth wheel as a trade in really isn’t an option since we still owe money on it…we’d have to try and sell it ourselves and then use the money from the sale of it and the truck for the down payment.

We finally decided to refinance the fifth wheel.  When we first bought it back in 2007, the interest rate we got was 7+ percent.  We were able to refinance it at 4.99%, a savings of around $100 per month!

Earl made an appointment with a dentist in Algodones, Mexico, to have some extensive dental work done, so we left Gateway Ranch RV Resort on January 21, and drove to Gold Rock Ranch RV Park north of Winterhaven, California, just off Ogilby Road.

The dental work consisted of one extraction, eight root canals, and 13 crowns (including a bridge).  Total cost was just over $4,700!  Expensive, but I’d hate to think what the cost would have been in the U.S. – I imagine it would easily have been triple that, if not more!

After spending a week at Gold Rock Ranch RV Park, we moved to a BLM boondocking area just south of there on the east side of Ogilby Road north of the railroad tracks.

While traveling around Yuma, the engine check light came on again!  Earl took the truck to Fisher Dodge to have it checked out.  Turns out we needed more work on the transmission! Sad smile 

Everything that the guy in Alturas and the guy in Coachella did was done correctly – they just didn’t do a complete job.  This time, Fisher Dodge replaced the torque converter and the pump for the transmission. 

The guy at Fisher Dodge said that if the transmission had gone out in Yuma, they could have put in a brand new transmission and given us a 3-year warranty for around $5,000!  As it is, doing it piecemeal like we had to do, it cost us a total of over $8,000!  That includes the $500+ we spent at Peterson Stampede Dodge in Nampa, Idaho.  While the ABS module going out may have been just a coincidence of timing, I believe that it was all tied to the transmission problem.  Why do I believe that?  Because when we got in the truck the night of October 30 and found that the dash lights weren’t working, our PacBrake quit working and never worked again UNTIL we had the final piece of the puzzle done at Fisher Dodge.  Now the PacBrake is working just fine!

After we got done with everything in Yuma, we drove to Tucson to visit Blaze’s breeder, Tari Parrish, and had a really nice visit with her.  We then moved to Casino Del Sol and dry camped in their parking lot for a couple of days so we could have lunch at Takamatsu with a friend from our New Horizons days, Lloyd Treichel.

While in Tucson, we found a really good Mexican restaurant, Don Quijote.  We’ll definitely go back there again!

We spent time in both Yuma and Quartzsite visiting with friends Mike & Mary.  While in Quartzsite, we had lunch at our favorite places:  Times Three Family Restaurant (good fish & chips) and Silly Al’s Pizza (some of the best pizza we’ve had anywhere).  We also ate at Dos Amigos east of Brenda for their fish taco special on Wednesdays and, on our last trip into Blythe for shopping, we stopped at Popeye's for spicy chicken and red rice and beans. 

We left Quartzsite on the morning of March 5, arriving at Government Wash in the Lake Mead NRA in the afternoon.  Before heading out to Government Wash, we stopped at Camping World to buy a new lube plate for the fifth wheel because the old one had caught on the hitch and broken.  I don’t know why…it was only six years old!

I don’t know how long we’ll be in Las Vegas…just depends on when the weather warms up farther north.  I’d like to be back in Spokane by at least the middle of April, but we’ll have to wait and see how the weather is.

Friday, January 18, 2013

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Truck Troubles

We were having a good time visiting my mother (Gracie and Blaze have lots of fun running around in her fenced back yard, too).  One night after dinner, Earl and I got in the truck to return to the fifth wheel, started the truck, turned on the lights only to discover the dash lights were out!  The map lights and the ceiling lights didn't work, either.

OK, easy fix...just replace the fuse, which Earl did the next morning.  Lights all back on except now, the ABS light and the brake light continued to be illuminated, and the speedometer, cruise control, and PacBrake didn't work.  Earl took the truck to Stampede Dodge in Nampa where they diagnosed the problem as the ABS module, which they had to order.

The next day...the day we were supposed to leave...Earl took the truck back to Stampede Dodge so they could replace the ABS module.  Everything now worked...ABS and brakes lights off and speedometer was back to working (everyone claimed that the ABS module had nothing to do with the speedometer, but they also couldn't explain why it started working again after it was replaced...curious, eh?).

The PacBrake apparently still wasn't working (and the Dodge dealer didn't have the knowledge to fix it), so when we left the next day (Friday, November 2), we were headed for Reno where we hoped to be able to find a PacBrake dealer...if not, then we'd continue on to Las Vegas where we knew there was a dealer.  Heading south on US-95 there is about a 2,000' gain in elevation between Marsing and the Idaho/Oregon border near Jordan Valley.  We made it up the grade just fine, passing a semi while doing so.  However, sometime after that, Earl said that second and third gears were intermittently not working...then they stopped working altogether.  We were headed for Winnemucca, but because Burns was closer, we headed for there.  We dropped the fifth wheel at the casino's RV park and drove over to the Dodge dealer, Teague Motors.  They put the truck on their computer and claimed it showed nothing wrong with the transmission.  Say what?!  They called Chrysler who said it sounded like a plugged fuel injector, so we set up an appointment the next day.

Returning to Teague Motors the next day, before they did anything, two of their mechanics hopped in the truck to take it for a test drive.  When they returned they declared that the PacBrake was the problem...when they drove the truck with the PacBrake off, the transmission worked just fine, but with it on it was missing second and third gear.  Unlikely, but we could see we weren't going to get any help here, so the next morning we continued south on US-395, spending the night at the casino in Alturas, CA.

When we left Alturas the next morning continuing south on US-395, we were south of Likely and starting up the grade to Sage Hen Summit when the transmission light came on.  We pulled over at a wide spot in the road to let the transmission cool down.  Once it did, Earl tried to move the fifth wheel and said the truck just didn't have any power...we certainly wouldn't be able to make up over the summit and into Susanville, the next large town.  Fortunately, we had cell phone service (just barely, but it was usable) so I called the tow company and had them send two tow trucks out...one to tow the truck back to Alturas to Alturas Tire Center (a BF Goodrich dealer who had a transmission specialist on staff) and the fifth wheel to Sully's RV Park in town.  (The tow truck they sent for the fifth wheel was a pickup set up with a fifth wheel hitch, driven by a young man who had his wife with him...nice young couple.)

We ended up having to have the transmission rebuilt and a new planetary gearset installed.  The transmission specialist at Alturas Tire Center, Frank, said we were lucky that we stopped when we did because the transmission fluid was so hot that if we'd tried to drive much farther, it probably would have caught on fire!

The transmission was rebuilt using heavier duty parts and, instead of the aluminum 4-speed (or 4-gear) planetary gearset that came from the factory, we had a 6-speed steel one installed.  All of this stuff had to be ordered from Los Angeles, so we were stuck in Alturas for eight days...without any transportation.  Fortunately, the managers of Sully's RV Park had an old beater pickup they let us use for those times when we had to do grocery shopping or have a propane tank refilled. 

It got cold in Alturas while we were there...one night, the low was 8 degrees!  And it snowed a couple of times.  Here's what it looked like one morning when we got up and took the dogs for their first walk:



Finally, the day came when we could leave (cost us a much larger arm and leg)!  We made it to Fallon and stayed at the Churchill County Fairgrounds, where we usually stay when we stop in Fallon.

The next day we were going to turn off at Scotty's Junction off US-95 for Mesquite Springs Campground in Death Valley National Park, but there was a sign at the junction that said the road was closed about 25 miles down the road (around Scotty's Castle), so we continued on to Beatty RV Park in Beatty where we found out the road into Death Valley from Scotty's Junction has been damaged by a flood several months ago and hadn't yet been repaired.

The next day, Thursday, November 15, we made it to Las Vegas Bay Campground in Lake Mead NRA, east of Henderson, NV.  On Friday, we drove into Henderson to do laundry and do shopping at Wal-Mart.

On Saturday we went to Sears to buy a compressor (since our PacBrake wasn't working...it has a small air compressor on it that we use to fill tires).  While we were driving around, the engine light on the truck came on.  We had to drive a long way north on Boulder Highway to get to Chapman Dodge in Las Vegas.  One of the first things they did when we came in was to enter the VIN number into their computer where they found out there was a recall that we had never had done.  The recall came out about the time we'd moved to Spokane in May 2010, so we must have missed it.  It brings up the question, though -- why didn't the other Dodge dealers find this out???  Apparently, neither Stampede Dodge in Nampa, ID, or Teague Motors in Burns, OR, bothered to enter the VIN number into their computers or they would have found out the same thing! 

Being Saturday afternoon, they would not be able to get to the truck until Monday.  Fortunately, in Las Vegas -- unlike Alturas -- one can actually rent a car!  Which we did.

We got the truck back on Tuesday with the recall done...that, apparently, was why the engine check light had come on.

At that late date, we decided to stay in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving.  We left on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, spending the night at Burro Creek Campground off US-93.  We got back to Gateway Ranch RV Park on Sunday.

Frank, at Alturas Tire, had recommended that we have the transmission oil changed again once we got back so Earl called Larry Green Dodge in Blythe, CA, where we had bought the truck.  When they found out about our transmission problems and that we'd had a 6-speed steel planetary gearset installed, they said "Oh, that's wrong, the guy who did the work didn't know what he was doing.  Bring the truck in and we'll redo the work and put it back like it's supposed to be."  Yea, right...we didn't just fall off the turnip truck! 

Since the transmission was still giving us a bit of a problem at low speeds (hunting between first and second), we checked around and were finally referred to Marcelo's Auto Repair in Coachella, CA (just south of Indio).  Earl drove the truck over there where they replaced some additional parts.  The mechanic there said that Frank in Alturas did a good job...everything he did was 100%, but there were some additional things that needed to be done which Frank, not being a Chrysler engineer, probably wouldn't have known.  We had the valve body, press switch, and safety neutro switch replaced (don't ask me what those are...I haven't a clue) as well as another transmission flush and new oil. 

In the meantime, we've had new front brake pads installed and a front-end alignment.  Whew!  I hope that's it for awhile!

The only thing remaining is the PacBrake which works on and off.  The guy who installed it, Eric at Eric's RV Performance Center, will be in Quartzsite in January and February, so we'll have him take a look at it.

Catching Up

Before we moved into our new house, we had the tub in the downstairs bathroom resurfaced.  A bit expensive at around $300, but much cheaper than having the tub torn out and a new one installed.

We also had Sears out to give us a quote on redoing the downstairs bath...new cabinets, including a medicine cabinet which it didn't have, new sink and faucet, new toilet (old one was badly stained and I hadn't been able to get rid of the stains, plus it was an old fashioned high-flow toilet), and new flooring.  Our jaw dropped when we were quoted over $5,000 for just one bathroom!

We ended up going to Lowe's and buying all the stuff we needed and then hiring a contractor recommended to us by our realtor...we got both bathrooms done for less than Sears quoted us for one!  (The upstairs bath is a half bath and had much the same problems as the one downstairs:  old toilet which was badly stained and very low counter tops...on me they came to about where my hips and leg bone meet!)

All of the new appliances we'd bought were delivered and installed.  That is, except for the stove since it turned out that the old yellow stove, which was original to the house, was hard wired into the house.  We had never heard of such a thing, but had to hire an electrician who came out and installed a plug for the stove.  We also hired a plumber to install both the dishwasher and sink we'd bought.  The sink is a large single-bowl sink which I really like!  Oh, and we got rid of the plastic (yes, plastic) kitchen faucet and replaced it with a nice high crook-neck faucet that pulls out and sprays.   We will probably, at some time in the future, replace the kitchen cabinets since they're the cheap fiberboard cabinets.  We were planning on doing that this coming spring when we return to Spokane, but considering the amount of money we spent fixing the truck (more on that later), we may postpone that little bit of remodeling.

We also replaced the back door to the garage.  I don't know if it was the original door, or if a previous owner had replaced it, but it was an interior hollow core door!  We replaced it with an exterior steel door.  We bought the door at Lowe's and were going to have them install it, but they wanted $400!  We installed it ourselves for the price of the door and miscellaneous supplies.

Only one wall of the garage had sheetrock (the common wall between the house and garage)...the rest of the walls only had insulation, but no sheetrock.  So we bought sheetrock for the rest of the walls and put it up...it sure looks a lot brighter in there now!  Earl also installed a couple of electrical outlets over the area where he'd used the old bathroom cabinets to make a workbench.  We painted the old garage door, too.  It will probably be replaced at some point, but it's far down the list of things we want to do and it looks much better once it was painted.

On Monday, July 23, the movers we'd hired came and moved all the furniture out of the old house and moved it into the new one (we'd already moved all the "little" stuff...clothes, dishes, food, etc.).  It only took them a couple of hours to complete, so didn't cost all that much...and we had some heavy pieces that Earl and I would not have been able to move by ourselves.

The next day we went back and cleaned the mobile home in preparation for the new owner.

That Friday was the homeowner's annual meeting which is a potluck, so we were able to meet all of our new neighbors.  On Saturday, we had a going away party at our old neighborhood.

We both had our annual wellness exams at our respective doctors as well as eye exams.  We both had shingles and whooping cough vaccines (the whooping cough vaccine for adults come as a combo vaccine -- tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis). 

One thing we learned:  Don't have the shingles vaccine given to you at the doctor's office!  Instead, go to a pharmacy to have it done.  I had called the medicare insurance company to find out if they covered shingles and they did...with a $90+ copay.  My doctor's office didn't give shingles vaccine because it requires careful refrigeration and has a limited shelf life which they were not equipped to handle.  So I went to Safeway, paid the $90+ copay, had the shot, and they took care of submitting the paperwork to my medicare insurance company (shingles shots cost $265, so they're not cheap).  Earl, on the other hand, had his shingles vaccine at his doctor's office.  Big mistake!  It has to be submitted under Medicare Part D, which for some unfathomable reason, a doctor's office is not able to do (my doctor's office said the same thing).  So we are waiting for the reimbursement forms from Earl's Medicare insurance company so we can get the amount over and above the copay back!  Fair warning for those of you who are on Medicare and need the shingles vaccine.  At least contact your doctor's office (if they're set up to give the shingles vaccine) to see if they are able to submit it under Medicare Part D.  Of not, go to a pharmacy!

Russ, Dani, and Cameron came to visit us the first weekend of September.  We had a good time visiting and had dinner at Tomato Street (an Italian restaurant not too far from us with great food...we had our 37th wedding anniversary there, too, later in the month) and at Canaan Buffet, a Chinese, Thai, and Mongolian food as well as a sushi bar. 

In preparation for leaving to head south for the winter, we replaced the old analog TV in the fifth wheel bedroom with the 19" one we'd been using in the mobile home's bedroom (we bought a larger one for the office in the new house).  We bought a hanger that has a movable arm at Best Buy, attached it to one wall of the cubicle where the TV goes, and installed the TV on the arm.  Now I have a nice HD TV to watch while Earl is downstairs watching sports!

While we were out at the RV installing the TV, I noticed that the toilet didn't have any water in it and wouldn't hold water when I did fill it with water.  So on Wednesday, October 4, we took the RV to R&R RV Service Center in Airway Heights to have them replace the seals.  We also had them take out the washer and dryer since the washer had given up the ghost the previous winter, was not repairable, and cost too much to replace (a new one would have been $1,000+).  Additionally, the front jacks were really hard to put back up so we had them clean them, which consisted of them completely disassembling them, cleaning them, and putting them back together.

We got a call about the toilet...they didn't have the parts to replace all the seals.  They could be ordered and there was an 80% they'd be there by the next day...but the next day we had reservations at Alderwood RV Resort north of our house...and would cost almost as much as a new toilet.  So we had them install a new toilet.  I'm glad we did...the new toilet is taller, making it easier on old knees, and doesn't have the rim that the other toilet had which was very difficult to clean under.

On Thursday, after paying for the repairs on the fifth wheel (a small arm and leg), we took the rig up to Alderwood RV Resort for 3 nights while we loaded everything into it.

We left Spokane on Sunday, October 28, spending the night at Wildhorse Casino RV Park near Pendleton.  The next day we arrived to visit my mother, parking the fifth wheel at Celebration Park a few miles south of where she lives ($5 per day, 3-day limit...we ended up staying four days because of truck trouble...see the next installment for that sad story).

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The house didn't close at the end of the month; in fact, we were being to think it might never close!  We've bought lots of houses since we've been married, but never has it taken so long to get to closing.

But, closing day finally came yesterday, July 6.  We went in at 8:30 AM to sign the mound of papers and then, since the July homeowners association dues needed to be paid, we drove out to the house and met with the Treasurer to give him a check.

This morning, we went by the house to sweep out the garage and sprinkle ant killer around the edges, both inside and out.  After we finished that, we headed to Lowe's and bought the appliances that we're replacing (all of them, including the washer and dryer). 

Soon after we got back, our Realtor came by with a full-price offer for our house from a viewing that took place yesterday evening!  So, not only did we close on the house we bought, but we now have an offer on the one we're selling...all within the space of a little over 24 hours!  It's great when everything comes together!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wow, it's been a long time since I've updated this blog.  My only excuse is laziness, plus we've been really busy since returning to Spokane...more on that later.

We spent a week boondocking out at Government Wash east of Henderson in Lake Mead NRA.  We made a few trips into town to do shopping and laundry, including checking out the Smart & Final in Henderson.  It puts the Smart & Final in Blythe to shame! 

We left Government Wash on Tuesday, April 3, and headed to Las Vegas Bay Campground where we dumped tanks.  After dumping tanks, we headed north, stopping in Ash Springs to fill up with gas, diesel, and propane before getting to the city park in Pioche. 

We were planning on staying in Pioche a week, but we were having trouble with both our generators and our propane blue flame heater (probably because of the altitude of over 6,000 feet), so we stayed only two nights.

On Thursday, April 5, we left Pioche for our home park in Delta, Utah, Antelope Valley RV Park where we can stay for free up to four weeks per year.  Once we got set up at the RV park, Earl took both generators down to Delta Sports Center to have them serviced...something that hasn't been done since we bought them.

We were going to leave the following Thursday, but the weather turned bad with thunderstorms in the forecast, so we ended up staying an additional four days.

When we left Delta on Monday, April 16, we spent that night at the Grantsville Reservoir, a county park a few miles south of Grantsville, Utah.  The following night we stayed at one of our Passport America parks west of Wells, Nevada, Welcome Station RV Park.  This is your basic, no-frills RV park, but the owner is very friendly and there are nice places to walk the dogs.

On Wednesday, April 18, we continued north on US-93, stopping in Jackpot to have lunch at Barton's Club 93.  We then continued on to Rock Creek RV Park, a city RV park in Twin Falls, Idaho, where we spent a couple of nights.  While in Twin Falls, we shopped at Costco and Sportsman's Warehouse where I bought a new pair of hiking boots, since my old ones were being to fray around the edges!

When we got to Nampa on Friday, we checked in at Leah's Landing.  This is a new RV park near the Interstate at Exit 36 (Franklin Road).  Originally, it was set up for manufactured homes, but it apparently went bust before any homes were moved in.  The new owners have set it up as a combination manufactured home/RV park.  The daily fee is more than we usually spend ($33.74 including taxes), but there is good space between sites and lots of places to walk the dogs.  The monthly fee isn't too bad...as I recall it was around $350 including electricity.  We spent three nights here while visiting my mother who lives in a small town south of Nampa. 

When we left Nampa on Monday, April 23, we were planning on staying at our usual stop north of La Grande, Oregon...Hilgard Junction State Park...but it was still closed for the season, so we continued north and stayed at the Wildhorse Casino RV Park near Pendleton. 

The next day we arrived in Spokane and spent the night at the Quest Casino in Airway Heights.  The next morning, we dumped tanks at the Chevron station just south of the Casino and then parked the fifth wheel in front of the house while we unloaded it.  After getting everything out that we needed, we took the fifth wheel down to the storage lot where it will stay until this fall when we head south again...or until we take a trip somewhere.

When we sold our camper in January, we got a big chunk of money.  We were going to use that money to upgrade our house...change out the remaining aluminum windows for vinyl ones, new carpets, linoleum, and window treatments.  However, as we thought about it, we realized that we could sink $10,000-$20,000 into upgrading the house, but we'd still have a 40+ year old aluminum box that wasn't worth the money we would have put into it.  So we began thinking about buying a different house.

We looked at newer manufactured homes on leased lots, manufactured homes on their own land, single family homes, and condos. 

The problem with a manufactured house on a leased lot was, if we could get one cheap enough to pay cash for, we'd be in the same boat as we our with our current house...an old one not worth fixing up.  While we could get a personal loan (not a mortgage) for a newer, more expensive manufactured home on a leased lot, the interest rate was high (8+ percent), making the loan payments plus monthly lot rent expensive.  So we discarded that idea.

We checked into getting a mortgage on manufactured homes with their own land, and while that was possible, they had to be no more than 20 years old and be a double wide.  We saw one we really liked and would have bought, but it did not meet these two requirements.  Another few were ruled out because they were in really poor shape, needing several thousand dollars worth of repairs/upgrades.  One was a really nice house except the people who had lived there had been smokers and the inside smelled like an ashtray...we made one circuit around the inside and left!

We also looked at several single family homes, but found that most of them in our price range needed a lot of work.  While we wouldn't mind doing simple stuff like painting, maybe even have carpets replaced, we weren't interested in spending the money on major repairs.  We did see one really nice place that we liked a lot...it wouldn't have needed much work at all, but it was on a busy corner and it was a short sale.  We weren't convinced we wanted to get involved with a short sale.

We looked at a couple on condos.  The first one we looked at was nice on the inside, but after walking around the complex, we could see where things just hadn't been kept up like they should have been, which is often indicative of a condo association that is underfunded.  The second condo we looked at was really nice.  It's what we would call a townhouse or even a duplex, since there are two units together with a common wall.  However, unlike the first condo we looked at, there is no unit above it.

We decided to make an offer on this condo...it was countered, and we accepted the counter offer.  We've had the place inspected and it does need a few minor things fixed, like a new water heater, but there is no major work that needs to be done.  So now we're waiting for the appraisal and a new water heater installed, which the bank insisted be done before closing.  We're not sure exactly when it'll close...it was originally scheduled for June 18th, but that's not going to happen since the water heater we wanted won't arrive until the 19th and then it has to be installed.  Hopefully, it'll close before the end of the month!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ben Rush from On Site RV Repair came out and replaced our water pump on the 20th (it had stopped working when we were spending a couple of days at the Ajo Roping Arena).  Hopefully, nothing else will go wrong before we get back to Spokane!

We had Gracie groomed on the 23rd.  While we were in town, we stopped by the vets office to pick up more heartworm pills.

The next day, we were back in Quartzsite having dinner at the Grubstake with friends Mike & Mary.  We'll see them again when they return to Spokane in a couple of months.

We left on Monday, driving to the Wal-Mart in Parker to pick up Earl's prescription for his cholesterol-lowering medication.  Our plan was to continue north on AZ-95 through Lake Havasu City, on to I-40 and, from there, to Las Vegas.  However, just before we got to the Bill Williams Bridge, we ran into a road closure where all traffic was being turned around.  Don't know what the reason for the closure was...an accident, I assume...but it meant having to go all the way back to Parker and heading west from there over to US-95.  So we ended up boondocking at our normal spot west of Searchlight for the night.

In the morning, we filled up both vehicles with fuel and headed to Las Vegas.  We stopped at Camping World and Smith's before heading out to Las Vegas Bay Campground where we filled up with fresh water.  We then drove out to Government Wash, a free area in the Lake Mead NRA overlooking the lake.  We'll stay here until our fresh water runs out, or one of our tanks need to be dumped.  Depending on the weather farther north, we may hang around the area longer.