Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rural Southern Louisiana. Part 1, Repairs and Work-arounds

We arrived at our mid-point break from traveling at a vacation lot of a couple friends from "back home" on February 20th... just in time to celebrate their 50th Anniversary with them at a relative's place next door. For their privacy, I will not post photos of them or tell exactly where their lot is. I will only say that it has hookups available for at least four RV's, and a small workshop for minor puttering... no house or other amenities on the property. However, the cell signal there is weak. We could send emails, but any file uploading or watching videos was next to impossible, even with my cell signal booster.

Our host's lot, with their RV and ours, looking southwest.

Our hosts lot, with our RV by the barn, and theirs, looking northwest.

Our host's nice little screened gazebo, where we could visit and get out of the bugs.
This is looking southeast.

This short reprieve from traveling allowed us to get some things accomplished that we hadn't been able to do while being on the go every day. The first of those projects was to find out why we still had a propane leak, after just having it "supposedly" repaired by an RV shop in Quartzsite (the dealer where we we bought the RV last April).

Having no jacks or jack stands large enough to lift the RV, I used our leveling blocks stacked under both right-side sets of wheels and drove up on them, so that I could at least crawl under that side. The leak still seemed like it was coming from the same place that they had supposedly repaired... behind the rear wheel, and behind the water heater, right against the frame rail. That was where the copper tubing had cracked before. But they had replaced the entire piece of tubing between the end of the black pipe trunk line and the water heater valve, and supposedly rerouted it so that nothing could damage it, so this new event in the same location was strange.

Once I crawled underneath and could see what I was doing, there was no visible problem... but as soon as I grabbed the flare nut where the tubing attached to the black pipe, I could tell it was loose! In fact, I was able to give it at least 1-1/2 turns with my fingers before I even crawled out to go get a wrench! Needless to say, putting a wrench on it tightened it the rest of the way, and to this day, we have no more leak!

What is aggravating is that I even asked the man that did the repair if he soaped everything to check for leaks, and he assured me that he had! BS! In that (roughly) ten days that we traveled before I realized we had a leak again, the proximity of the water heater to this leak could have caused a catastrophic explosion and destroyed our home and everything we owned!

On top of that, we also lost an entire 85-pound tank of propane (again) (the first one was when I discovered the cracked tubing the first time) and it was down to fumes again by the time I shut the propane tank off again at Kerrville, Texas. And then we had the hassle of (again) emptying out the RV fridge and moving all the food back to the other fridge in the trailer. Without that option, we would have had more expense in food spoilage! I love having redundant systems available!

The other bad part, was that where we were in rural Louisiana, the closest place to get propane was a small convenience store in the middle of nowhere, and after I filled both the 30# tank and the RV, I realized only then that they were charging $3.89/gallon for their propane! That is the highest by far that we have EVER paid for propane... ANYWHERE! I was pissed... and still am!

As a comparison, I pay $2.10/gallon at our local rural hardware store here in Florida!

Meanwhile, I also had to deal with three out of four roof rack brackets broken totally off of their gutter mounts on the trailer. Fortunately, our hosts knew of a neighbor who does odd jobs, including welding, so he was able to weld the three broken brackets for me (at a cost, of course). Our host also had a pile of scrap iron behind his workshop, and luckily for me, there were two straight pieces of 1/4" x 1" flat stock nearly 30" long, that when cut in two and redrilled, would make the four angle braces that I needed to permanently repair the roof rack!

Our host's barn and workshop, with a BBQ grill. Looking northwest.

The only problem was that his only vice in the shed was a woodworking vice, with flat jaws. And I was in a hurry and not thinking. As I was drilling new holes in the braces, one piece came loose from the vice and whacked me across the left jaw so hard I was seeing stars for awhile. It only scratched the skin, but my upper jaw and sinus hurt for a couple weeks afterward! Lesson learned! The next piece went between the rods at the bottom of the vice so it couldn't flip out again!

But after all the pieces were wire brushed, primed and painted, and all new bolts with nylon insert lock nuts installed, the new braces look like they belong with the roof rack, and I shouldn't ever have to worry about them rocking back and forth and breaking loose again.

Brackets welded and new braces installed on the left side of our trailer.

Brackets welded and braces installed on the right side of our trailer.

The other major thing we did while we were there was the much overdue brake job on the front end. We found a shop in Kinder, LA, about 14 miles away, that said they could do the work, but we arranged to have them look at it first to make sure, and to make sure they ordered the right parts. So we wasted half a day with that first trip. Why was it wasted? Because on the second trip... the "repair trip"... they realized that the new rotors that they ordered were the wrong ones (because they never actually removed a wheel to look at it that first day). So now, after scheduling the next full day to do the work, they couldn't because they had to reorder the "right" parts to do the job!

However, on the third day, they had the right parts and could finish the job. Only to this day, I still don't think they did it properly. I didn't notice that the right front wheel squeals like a banshee until we were gone from there and on our way into Mississippi! I wasn't about to turn around and go back all that way! So now, it is nearly mid-May as I write this and the right front brake pads still squeal like a banshee... probably because they didn't clean out all the old metal dust from the old pads which had worn down to bare metal!

And I didn't really notice when we left their shop, but DID notice it on the way to Florida that the press-in dust cap for the bearing on that wheel is now missing, along with two of our "fake" lug nut covers... all likely because they weren't reinstalled properly! So now, it's going to cost me even more money to have to go to a different shop and have the brakes (at least on that wheel) redone, and all the covers replaced!

Last summer, while still in Texas (before heading to South Dakota) we went to two different shops that said they could do a wheel alignment on this thing. The first was the tire company that we bought the new front tires from. The second was a heavy truck repair shop! I told both of them exactly what chassis we had, a P-30 Chevy, that it was a Class A motorhome, how long, and everything they needed to know! And they still had no clue!

This is what really gripes me about driving a large rig that nobody seems to know how to work on. The confusion over parts and labor never seems to end with this thing, despite that the chassis is the standard Chevy P-30 commercial truck chassis that has been used on bread trucks, step vans, RVs and other vehicles for the past 50+ years! Our '86 Honey motorhome had the same exact chassis and it was ten years older than this one! And the chassis dates back to far longer than that! It shouldn't be rocket science by now! And yet, I have to search out specialty mechanics to work on it every time I want something done, and then pay exorbitant prices for labor, just because it's a larger vehicle!

This is why I originally wrote the free ebook on how to "create" a minivan camper without building anything. Do the math. It is far cheaper to put your excess belongings in a rented storage unit and travel with a vehicle that gets far better fuel economy, and is much less expensive to maintain, than it is to drive a "house" down the highway with all your possessions in it! I see more and more sites and blogs coming online that are devoted to doing exactly that! And believe me, I am seriously considering going back to that method of traveling!

Anyway, now for the "work-arounds"... the first of which came with the poor internet at our friend's lot. Of course, that situation isn't their fault... it's just the remote location. The only way to get it out there is by having a phone line put in, but since no one lives there full-time, that would be more hassle than it's worth, and we understand that.

Sharon working with WI-FI at a nearby snack shop.

I was using a table on the opposite side of the snack shop.

Fortunately, there is a place nearby that has WI-FI, and walking over there is pretty much what we did for a few days when we couldn't even get emails or text messages out. The cell signal booster that I have works great to boost the signal by about 3 bars... when it's in the right location. The magnetic antenna will stick to the steel roof of the trailer... but not to the aluminum roof of the RV. And none of the wires are long enough to reach from one to the other, nor could we work in the trailer, because it was full of stuff we were carrying to Florida to put in storage there! Here's where the "work-around" comes in!

What I ended up doing was scavenging a piece of heavy galvanized sheet metal from our host, and setting it on top of a 5-gallon bucket along side the RV, and running the antenna wire through a window. It wasn't nearly as high as it should be, but the sheet metal provided just enough of a ground plane to boost the signal about 1 bar, and that was enough to do emails and texting while we were there... thankfully. But not enough for eBay or blogging photo uploads.

There was water and electric at the lot for up to four RVs, but we had just refreshed our tanks before we arrived, so we were able to get by for about a week with no problem. We had intended staying longer, but when it finally came time to refresh our tanks, we discovered that all of the four sewer connections were backed up with water! We could fill with fresh water from water spigots, but couldn't dump waste water. I knew that it was time for us to go, and I didn't want the hassle of having to drive 20+ miles just to dump our tanks, and return again, so we left a few days early.

Our hosts had other people arriving within days, and with the sewer situation, it was better for us to make room for them.

Besides that, we were pushing our luck to even be there at that stormy time of the year, and that was proven out by the storms that hit the area within the next two days as we were cutting across Mississippi and Alabama, far enough north that the worst of the storms missed us.

But we did enjoy our stay there, and the opportunity to get our repairs done and visit with our hosts, and our friend and fellow blogger Ed Helvey, who timed it right to stop in for a few days as he was heading for California. We made one outing to Lake Charles with our hosts while we were there, and went to the Coushatta Casino Resort with them to see the famous Mustang Sally Band another night, and I will tell about the social aspect of our visit, with photos, during the next post.

We hope you have enjoyed following our travels. There are more to come as we head for Florida, and then a couple of posts about our stay (to date) here. We have currently stopped traveling for awhile, to let our money catch up with our spending, but nothing is written in stone. It's nice to have electric for running the air conditioner and other things during the warmer months, but anything could happen at any time to change future plans. Many things have to be completed, including more research, and things need to be resolved before deciding what lies ahead.

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And thank you for using our links to do your online shopping and purchase products we offer. It doesn't cost you any more than going to the source directly, and the money we make helps to offset our repairs and other travel expenses, so we do appreciate your using our links.

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