Our second camping trip… Finally!
After we bought our Journey in August, we’ve had one opportunity to take our coach out for a camping trip, until this past weekend. We had thought there would be plenty of opportunities to camp this fall, however it spent almost 3 weeks at the dealer getting the initial ‘prep’ done before we took it out the first time. Then Christine was off to New York and when we were all set to take the Winnebago out the 2nd time on November 14th an air leak forced us to take it in to Freightliner. We decide not to take the RV up to Oregon for our family Thanksgiving dinner.
December 12th – All set to go to Lake Minden – Nicolaus, California
On Friday, December 12th I picked up the RV from storage and we got loaded up. We stopped by Sacramento Valley Truck center, filled up with Diesel and weighed the RV. The last time I took the RV to La Mesa they put more air in the outside dual tires, and according to the information I had from Toyo and the RV recommended weight, it was too high. Both of the dual tires need the same pressure. When I weighed the Winnebago the first time back in August I had too much weight in back. If you are at 90% capacity in your coach overall, then the weight at each axle should be at 90% of capacity. When loading up the RV today, I moved more items towards the front and now I want to check the tire pressure for our new weight.
At only 33 miles away and on the flat-lands this trip should pose no issues.
Friday, December 12th – Lake Minden
The weather for the weekend was perfect for December. The forecast is for showers Friday afternoon, then a mixture of cloudy and sunny weather for the rest of the weekend. No more rain until Monday.
We had remembered all of our kitchen gadgets – Vitamix for breakfast, rice cooker/steamer to make some soup and the Cuisinart to shred carrots for the dogs (something we add to their dog food).
About 5 miles from Thousand Trails Lake Minden the Tire Pressure Monitoring System’s beeper went off with a high pressure condition for one of the dual tires. The pressure was still well within limits for the tire at warm running temperatures – reporting 116 lbs pressure. To be safe, I pulled off at Riego Road. I realized I had put the sensors on the opposite side of the coach than what the monitor was displaying. Other than that everything looks OK, so we drove on to our camping spot.
I was planning to finish the videos on the Hughes Autoformer and the RV Quick Shades, but the rain started so we decided to crank up the TV antenna, kick back and veg out. TV reception was great, but Christmas music on Sirius was better – that along with listening to the rain come down.
Saturday, December 15th – Lake Minden
After feeding the dogs, having breakfast and then taking the dogs for a walk I was ready for some fun.
Lake Minden has a lot of cropland and walnut orchards around. A bit soggy but the dogs loved it!
Nice evening reflections…
I am looking forward to learning more about the RV, and the first thing I wanted to check out was the weight of the RV and calculate the correct tire pressure; then make sure all the tires are inflated properly. At 9,320 lbs on the front axle and 16,960 on the rear axle we were at 90% for both axles. Looking at the Toyo chart, that puts me at 93 lbs. all the way around – that makes it simple! Tire pressure management is done when the tires are cold. Even sunlight shining on the side of the tire can make a difference in tire pressure.
The Journey has an air compressor used for the suspension, and there is a fitting by the generator that can be used to fill up tires etc. However, to use the air compressor the engine has to run to maintain the compression. Since I am not the fastest at this stuff – and I am being careful taking off the TPMS sensors so they don’t fall between the dual wheels (they are unscrewed and taken off to use the air gauge and to inflate/deflate the tires). I do the front tires first since the sensors are easy to access. Then do the co-pilot rear dual tires. The outer dual valve stems are reversed, so the opening faces the inside. This is a bit more of a challenge and I have to take of both sets of sensors off because they are on the wrong sides of the coach. I could re-program the monitor, but since I’m taking all the sensors off anyways I’ll just swap them.
When I move over to the driver’s side rear dual wheels, the inside tire shows no pressure. The sensor, manual and digital air gauges all read ZERO. This was the tire that had shown over pressure on the way up. It will not build up any pressure at all. I shut down the RV – by this time I am really tired of hearing the engine idle while I air up the tires.
One of the great things about RVing is the people you meet. Kelly, one of our neighbors a few RVs down stopped by after seeing me out with all my air hoses and still struggling with my chores. Kelly and his wife have been RVing for about 4 years now after retiring from Exxon. He thought that my built-in air compressor did not have enough oomph to fill up an empty tire. He had purchased a passive in-line pump from Les Schwab that increases the output of the Journey’s air compressor. This didn’t help, and we realized that we could actually feel the tire wiggle on the wheels. Yikes, it was off the rim!
Kelly also mentions that there is no way 93 lbs is enough pressure for an RV of our size. We need to follow the chassis label (110 lbs @ max load) and it should be much closer to that pressure. Great… did I under-inflate my tires? Uncertainty leads to worry. What if I ruined my tire and possibly put the coach and family in danger because I mis-understood what tire pressure to keep in the tires? I feel like a dunce.
Warranty? What Warranty?
We have an extended warranty on our tires, however after calling USA Travel Care’s tire warranty service the the tires themselves are covered and up to $50 for towing. Roadside repair is not covered. My USA Travel coach extended warranty covers up to $300 for towing when I have a flat, and my RV insurance has unlimited towing. Seems like a simple solution, eh? Get towed and have the flat fixed. That way the warranty covers the cost. I have no idea how much a tow will cost us. After a call to Geico they decide it’s covered but it’s getting late so we decide to call back on Sunday to get towed and get the tire fixed. I called Les Schwab and they don’t tow RVs (remember this for later in the story).
Sunday, December 16th – Lake Minden
After having breakfast and taking the dogs for a walk I’m back on the phone with Geico. They call around, and after over 4 hours off and on the phone with them (partially because of he poor cell coverage for AT&T at our location – we keep getting dropped) they finally locate a service that will come out. They will be there in 2 hours.
Great! We start packing up, get unhooked from water and stow our things. I lower the antenna and put my tools away. Then I stand back and check the RV. The antenna is still up. Well, crap. I go in, and try to lower the antenna… it’s lowered all the way according to the crank. I wind it up, then lower it down again. When I go outside, it’s still up – proud and dandy. I go back inside and the handle for the antenna comes off in my hand, and it’s jammed tight now.
This is not good. We don’t want the antenna to get ripped off and damage the roof.
Okay, I have not been up on the roof yet, and that is one of the things I wanted to do so I can check the seals around the vents. I am a little apprehensive about getting up on the roof. As I have “matured”, my balance is not the greatest, so I have to be careful going up on the bricks & sticks house roof to clean the gutters etc. Here’s a pretty smooth, curved surface with no gutter. I get the A-Frame ladder out and check out the side. There is no way I can reach anything from the side on the A-Frame ladder. So on to the back of the coach and up the rear ladder. The roof is in good shape… and not slippery at all. I make my way along the center line of the coach roof to the antenna. I don’t see anything on the antenna to ‘fix’. There is a geared sprocket like thing but it won’t move. Fortunately there are two pins with a slip washer on them. I take them out and the antenna comes down, then I put the pins back in holding the antenna in place.
As I scrabble back to the rear ladder I inspect the seals and overall condition of the roof. Everything looks good. I think it should be easy to replace both of the fans in the kitchen and the bathroom. Both are noisy, have to be closed when it rains and the rear fan’s gasket is loose.
Down the ladder and back on safe ground! Whew. I’m feeling good. Two major achievements this weekend so far. We tested out our heating systems – the furnace worked both on propane as well as electric, and our new Dyson fan worked great to maintain the temperature. And I inspected our roof. We also managed to record some power usage using our Kill-a-Watt meter.
Things are really going good. Another neighbor stops by, and they have just retired 3 weeks ago and are gradually making their way down the west coast starting from Seattle. They have been getting rain all the way down. Their older Bounder has had NO PROBLEMS at all. Hmmmm. Well, we’ll get the bugs worked out of our Journey.
He spoke about CoachNet and heard good things about them, and I can see the advantage of working with a company that understands RVs – especially newbies like Christine and I.
Geico calls back… the towing company can’t tow us. So they are back calling around to find someone to give us a tow. Finally after a few more dropped calls and exchanges they contact a company that can tow us – but not until Monday. I was instructed to call back at 8 a.m. Monday.
We continue to pack up and I notice there is a bunch of soot by the water heater vent. We heard the water heater go on, but didn’t have any hot water. However we have an electric water pot and that served us OK. Now I know the reason we didn’t get hot water – something’s wrong with it. Another thing to add to the list to get fixed.
In the meantime, Christine needs to be able to go back to work on Monday, so we contact River City Indoor RV storage where I dropped off the Honda Pilot and asked them to pull it out; then contacted our daughter and asked her to pick me up and take me home to get the keys before picking up the Pilot so I could take Christine and the dogs home. I go back to Lake Minden just as it is getting dark after Christine fixes a great dinner. Danny, our Golden Retriever and I spend the night so we can deal with Monday’s adventures.
Monday December 17th – Lake Minden
Right at 8 o’clock I call Geico and they call the tow company dispatcher. The tow company reports that a diesel can’t be towed, and Geico calls around for a company that can bring or repair the tire on-site. While I’m waiting for Geico I call CoachNet. I want to know if I sign up for service, how long before I can get covered. They report that coverage starts the next day, even for a ‘pre-existing’ condition ;-). I get signed up for their premium service that includes the tow vehicle. Just in case…
Geico calls back, and report that the only place that can provide service is Les Schwab. Since they don’t have an agreement with Geico, I would have to contact them myself, pay for it then get reimbursed. Ha! Didn’t I call Les Schwab early on? But I asked the WRONG question. I asked if they TOWED RVs, not did they provide on-site service. I called Les Schwab and talked with Danny. He was out in an hour.
Rescue at Lake Minden
All set for the dramatic ending for the Rescue at Lake Minden? With Jeff and his side-kick Danny the Retriever and Danny from Les Schwab as they are the key characters. What’s the plot though?
Danny from Les Schwab got all set up and was going to take off the outer dual wheel, but couldn’t find his air wrench. Evidently his pickup was taken in to replace the catalytic converter and someone had taken out the wrench and not put it back. No worries though. Danny crawled under the coach and using a thing-a-ma-jig that looked like an over-sized leaf blower he popped the tire back to the wheel, then aired it up. And I do mean POPPED! When he put the TPMS sensor back on the wheel he could hear the air leaking. Well that answers that question! To be safe, he follows me back to Sacramento so he can check the tire & wheel at the shop.
Les Schwab – Sacramento
Back at Les Schwab Danny removes the wheels and check out the tire & wheel. All looks good.
So I ask him about my tire pressure. I show him the weight report and he types in some numbers from the side of the tire and comes up with…. (Drum roll)… 93 lbs – front and back.
What a relief! At least I was right in my research on tire pressure.
What a great Les Schwab story. :) and actually what a great weekend camping. Not only did we get a chance to get the RV out, we learned lots.
Took the Journey back to storage and the rest is for another day.
Over the next few weeks I have done some testing on the TPMS sensor, and now I’m not certain whether it’s the sensor that’s bad or the valve/valve stem. More research on our next camping trip!