Friday, June 10, 2011

80 Miles of Country Roads To Motorhome Repairs

New deer in the area. I still can't get a picture of them. This morning,  they were wandering around the woods, to the side of the motorhome.   I guess I startled them, so they took off running.

Tonight, while writing, the puppy dog suddenly went nuts barking, I turned around to see a deer on the patio!  All by himself, he looked like a teenager out on his own for a Friday night.  

I suspect he was coming after Harley's corncob. Yes, my dog loves to play with corncobs. It gives him something to chew on, when he is in a teething mood. I had cooked some fresh corn on the cob in the microwave in the husk. Oh my gosh, is the taste wonderful.  It peels very nicely too, much easier than when raw. The corn husk strings just fall right off. I sliced off the corn to toss in my salad.  Later when Harley went outside to play, I pitched the corncob outside for him to chase. I know the last time he had a corncob, he nibbled it down to about half the size in an hour or so. 

The sad thing was, when Harley voiced his indignation over the deer being on the patio (we were inside) the deer ran down the driveway, then up the road towards the exit of the park. I hope he veered back into the woods. 

Deers and roads don't mix well. 

Wednesday, I took out a new mortgage, repaired leaky motorhome roof and repaired air conditioning. Well, not a mortgage, but it was an ordeal. I'm not ready to talk about the roof repair. It was done at the place that did my roof last year, I am VERY UNHAPPY with them for now. So I'll talk about that later. 

It was done 75 miles northeast of me, the A/C repair was done 80 miles southeast. I get around lately!
It's just so ironic, that after the roof repair (150 mile round trip, 2 days, one night)  I got back to my workamping spot and the air conditioner died. Well, it didn't want to start when I parked and plugged into the 30amp electric box. So I put the 50amp adapter on the 30amp cord then plugged into the 50amp box. The air conditioner finally turned over. For the next few days, I let the fan run continuously, but not the compressor. I only turned it on when it was super hot, which is generally from 11am to 8pm. 

But one hot afternoon, I came back from park patrol with my little bark ranger.  I thought I had turned the A/C on just before our walk. But no. I had closed up the entire RV, with just the fan on. So stepping inside, was like a pizza oven. 

We were both super uber hot, so we cranked up the compressor, drank lots of water, then plopped down on the bed for a little nap. We woke up to brutal heat. I thought I was very sick, as my clothes were plastered to me, I was sweating so bad, then I realized the air-conditioner was silent. 

The breaker inside the motorhome was tripped. I flipped it back.  Nothing.  Just a little hum but the fan motor wouldn't spin.  I removed the overhead A/C cover that houses the filters and the innards of the A/C.  I tried WD-40 on the fan, it came on briefly then stopped and hummed. My thermometer said it was 102 inside the motorhome.  By now I had all the windows open plus one 12 volt fan going and two exhaust fans on, one over the stove, one over the toilet. 

I think the black asphault from the boat trailer parking below me, just radiates the heat right up to me on the little hill above. 

To clarify a few things, I'm in a 28' Class C motorhome, with a Ford van engine and chassis. I was thinking  of maybe firing up the engine to use the dash A/C. I went on the to see what those pros might know about this temporary method. 

Different folks were totally divided as to whether I could use the dash A/C while parked and idling for awhile. I didn't really like the idea either, guzzling gas, when my utilities are provided as part of my workamping. I never got a clear answer, at the time. 

But my own thinking, is the A/C does works while stopped, because vans are typically made to be driven in heavy traffic as well as nonstop on interstates. I had never heard of a car or van  A/C that didn't work while stopped.

I never found out about the dash A/C because a friend stopped by.  I forgot what day it was, and that they were coming to visit, so I thought it was a surprise visit.  They informed me it was Tuesday. Head injuries are such fun!  I live in la-la land clueless at times. Other times, I am right on top of everything with my copious notes.  Now where are those notes?

They took me shopping to buy a bigger fan. I was trying to cool the RV with a tiny 12 volt fan, that really does put out a hurricane. I recommend everybody have one. It also dries wet clothes in a hurry.  

My RoadPro 12 volt fan has very fast RPM's and really does push a lot of air around. I've had mine about 9 months.  It's a must have, as it just comes in so handy. 
I took this picture from my table and chair outdoors. As you can see, I have the fan cord strung out the window with the fan attached to the door, aimed at yours truly while I type outside. 

The fan we went to buy, was on sale rather cheaply.  It  wasn't on display where I could test its effectiveness.  When assembled back at the RV, it turned out to be somewhat anemic. Amazingly the tiny 12 volt van, I already owned,  was far more powerful, though noisier. 

I guess noise goes with the power. 

Though I had made numerous phone calls, I had not found a repair person or place at this point, that I felt confident dealing with for the air conditioner.  It was a hot steamy night and the fan teased me, but I did mange a few hours sleep, after a very cold shower. 

Someone suggested asking a neighbor for help, but I think they assumed I was in a campground with other RV-ers. But it's just me, the bark ranger, the coyote, red fox, assorted deer, turtles, bear, fish, cougar, squirrels and birds here.

Asking a neighbor to help would be divine.  There are some neighbors in houses in the country scattered beyond  the park area.  I've met a few, but don't know which houses belong to who.  Many are just 2nd homes used occasionally.  Not too many RV's though some are scattered around in driveways.

I am workamping at a remote boat ramp and picnic area set in the woods on the lake.  No campground.  There is just the one (quite lovely) camping spot provided for the volunteer park host and bark ranger. On a side note, it is very difficult to find workamping for a single female, in spite of all my eclectic skills, so when this offer came my way, I snatched it up.  (It is kind of lonely.)

I continued to make numerous phone calls to RV repair places and Mobile RV repairmen, though I am willing to travel to meet them elsewhere.  One thing I've learned about living aboard fulltime with no toad, (car) is to make that very clear to the potential repair place. So many have this attitude of "just drop it off and we'll get to it sometime next week."

I did not want to go back to the roof repair people because they have a rip-it-out-replace-with-new attitude towards repairs. Their initial estimates are always way low and the final bill way high.  Matter of fact, several places I called were insistant that replacing the A/C with new, was the ONLY answer. 

That works fine when you have deep pockets but my past illness beat them to the pockets, so I unfortunately, need to find a good old fashioned repairman.  (Very hard to come by!)

Eventually I located a Mobile RV repairman 80 miles away who was backed up with work both mobile and with a crew working in his back yard.  He claimed to have lots of used and new parts laying around, and felt confident he could probably get me going again at a reasonable rate. He actually asked detailed questions about the A/C and listened carefully to my answers. (What a joy!)  Later I found out, his father was in the RV business up north for decades, where he (the son) learned his trade, then relocated to the south.

After I agreed to drive to his remote place in the country in another state, suddenly several people returned my calls, but after talking with them, I didn't feel very confident, even though they were much closer. One didn't want to talk to me all, just wanted to come out and look things over.  He was more intersted in making sure I had cash waiting for him for his travel and repair fee, rather than the symptoms of my A/C.  When I asked if he had parts to repair the existing unit, he got a bit grumpy.  I never did get a proper reply. 

Suddenly the phone got all staticky and disconnected. He never called me back. Gee, that's a real go-getter for you!

I had also talked to another RV-er by phone who was sure I was in the land of junkyards and that plenty of RV A/C's in near perfect condition, were just laying around for the taking.  Having spent all last summer trying to track down junk yard parts in a dozen states to fix my awning frame, I don't know where all this used RV stuff goes to hide, but I had a heck of a time finding my awning parts or any used parts. They are out there, but they are hidden super well. 

I really didn't want to turn this A/C repair into a new career for the summer. My RV friend was also sure that dozens of mobile RV folks were in the area, I just wasn't looking hard enough. I decided my RV friend was in la-la land.  Many of his RV repairs do take months on end but he has the luxury of a home, he's not in his RV fulltime, but he does lots of his own work.

If anything I learned I should keep looking and calling and pushing forward.  I even talked to a friend of mine who is in the A/C business, but seems to think RV A/C's are a whole different animal that he is not trained on. He was willing to take a look, if I traveled 70 miles one way in his direction, as he thought it might be the start-run-capacitor.

At this point I was seriously thinking of relocating to a shady campground, as I was beginning to wonder how many days/weeks this A/C repair was going to take.

In the past I have chosen shady camping spots so I could enjoy the fresh air and not need A/C much, but this host camp spot, is not shady in spite of it being surrounded by tall trees, the shade is intermittent and brief.  I think the fact that I am on a slight hill above an expansive blacktop boat and trailer parking lot, makes the heat from the asphalt rise right up to my campspot as some afternoons, my thermometer reads 6-9 degrees hotter than what's reported elsewhere in the vicinity.

I decided to bust up camp, then drive 80 miles of country roads to reach this mysterious RV Mobile repairman that claimed to have used and new parts on hand. The final miles were gravel and then one lane dirt. He had explained all this in advance, he is on the edge of the Sumter National Forest.

I don't think there was another house within 5 miles of him. But when I got there, he had a yard full of junk parts, coupled with out buildings full of tools and more supplies, several campers, a crew putting a new rubber roof on an old trailer, three dogs, a toddler, his very pregnant wife and an RV-er  from Pananma, also getting repairs done.

I more or less made myself at home, while they intermittently worked on my A/C between all the other chaos.

When all was said and one, they decided my fan was bad,  removed my A/C unit,  ripped another fan out of a junker, modified it to work, as it wasn't the same style. They cleaned the whole unit to look and act new, then reinstalled it back on the roof with a new gasket.

He also modified my system for holding in the handcut filters, as I can't seem to find filters for this unit.  My little wires that are supposed to hold it in, are missing, I had fashioned some of my own, but he made  better ones.

Four hours later, the project was finished, but for some mysterious reason, the fan only works on high not low.  They tried several different things, and finally asked if I could live with the high only fan (I can) so we called it a done deal. He claims I should be good to go "for years"  and that I should be cooling far faster than before.

He also did the pesky chore of checking and filling air in my tires. Meanwhile he had me plugged into 30amp, and the repaired A/C was cooling the RV rapidly.

Harley dog  and I toured much of his remote property, which thrilled him to have new scenery to piddle about on. We made a little lunch, then laid down for a nap under the fan in the heat of the day. I wanted to rest up for the drive back since the dog has no driving license.

The grand total bill was $300. Of course I drove 160 miles round trip, but over the phone before hand, he had made me feel confident he could get the job done.  Nothing like going with your "gut feeling" and in this case, it proved to be the right thing to do. I actually enjoyed the drive, as it was quite beautiful both there and back, down lonely country roads, occasionally interupted with picturesque small towns. The dog only got us lost once (he's lousy at maps).

I think the dog gets us lost, just so I pull over to study the map. Since I'm already stopped, might as well get out to take the puppy for a brief walk. He always enjoys this.  Sometimes we get a little snack too.  Suddenly a 2 minute stop to study the map, has turned into a 15 minute break. But that's OK. 

One nice thing about driving a motorhome, the bathroom and kitchen go with us!

Since it's just me alone, I don't bother with the generator while driving. So we used the dash A/c through traffic, and open windows the rest of the time. Once I parked, and plugged in, back at my workamping, I turned the A/C on then took the dog on bark patrol around the park.

We returned all sweaty, but the RV was icy cold, so cold that we had to adjust the thermostat way down. Even though most nights it's cool enough to just enjoy the fresh air, we slept with the A/C running. By morning, I noticed I was buried under the comforter and the bark ranger was hiding under a blanket.

I'm actually back to open windows right now, but soon as the heat climbs, it's sure nice to know I have A/C ready and willing.

I guess I can use the recently purchased anemic fan on the patio this summer or maybe just take it back for refund. It's great if you park it 2 feet from your face, it does cool you down.  But that 12 volt clip-on fan really does wonders, in spite of the roar it makes, it's powerful. 
This blog program won't let me put this picture where I want to. It's late, I'm tired, the dog is sleepy. But this picture is about a mile before the house in the forest where we actually had a delightful afternoon. 

One bonus, since we went to Mount Carmel near McCormick in South Carolina, the gas prices in  South Carolina are about 35-50 cents per gallon cheaper than Georgia. It took me 2 hours to get there, 4 hours for the repair and 2 hours to get back.   All in all, a rather pleasant day. 

I had contemplated just spending the night at a nearby South Carolina state park, as they are always budget friendly. Then I remembered I had obligations the next day, so I pushed myself to make the drive back. 

I find country roads a lot easier to drive, than the interstates, so it wasn't as taxing, at least for me. Maybe it's just looking at the wild flowers and rural areas that are more entertaining than the interstates. 

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1 comment:

  1. Could you give me contact info for the guy who fixed your A/C? I live in Lexington SC and my motorhome could use his help.

    dick AT techherding DOT com


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