Green water

Green stain

Green stain

We have been noticing, for several months, that our water had a greenish tint.  Sometimes it was barely noticeable and other times it looked like green tea.  I tried several times to identify the source of the green and tried to compare water coming out of the tap with water coming from the ground, where we connect our water hose.  I couldn’t reach a firm conclusion.  Until about a week ago.

One morning last week the water was particularly green, so I did the water test – a glass of water from the tap and a glass of water directly from the water supply, side-by-side in the sun.  This time it was pretty obvious that the water source was clear and the tap water was green.  The problem was in the internal pipes of my RV.

The plan was to, first, replace the water hose and, second, to flush the internal water lines with a sanitizer – a process similar to winterizing the lines.  So I ran off to get the necessary tools and supplies.  The first step was to replace the hose.  Easy enough to do, but I was shocked at what came out – a dark green stream of water that actually stained the concrete.  Shocking!  We were drinking this crud!  I have to assume that it was due to a benign algae as it hadn’t made us ill.  But it was disgusting!

Replacing the hose was trivial.  Flushing and sanitizing the lines was more difficult because I had to use a hand pump.  But in an hour or so the job was done and we once again had colorless drinking water.

Another fine (and very expensive) mess

When we paid up front for our winter RV site in Florida I expected that our out-of-pocket expenses would be relatively low for several months.  Well, we killed that thought last month when we booked our very expensive April cruise, justifiable as a “bucket list” item.  Now I am facing a huge truck repair bill – probably around $2,500.

Yes, I took the truck to another dealer, asking them to take a look at my “leaning tire.”  The guy at the Goodyear shop had estimated that I needed about $800 in parts, so I was braced for a $1,200 to $1,500 estimate.  But I was told by the GMC dealer that the problem was not limited to the right front tire; the left front tire was leaning as well.  Also, the steering gear box was leaking and needed to be replaced.  In short, I needed to pretty much replace the entire steering linkage. Estimated cost: $2,100. Plus tax. Plus, I suspect, about $100 for another alignment.

I have to do it.  Just as there was no good alternative to replacing the head gasket 18 months ago, there is no good alternative to making repairs to the steering now.  We need a tow vehicle and a new one is over $60,000.  Even a used one is probably $35,000.  Trade-in for the truck in it’s current condition is probably less than $10,000.

Gotta do it.

And I need to find a summer job.

Truck maintenance nightmares – 2 of 2

After my “adventures” at DeVoe Buick GMC on Wednesday and Thursday I decided that I had better get the bad tires replaced ASAP.  So on Friday I drove over to the Goodyear Collier Care Center just a few miles from our park. The instructions, though not trivial, were clear:

  1. Put two new Goodyear Wrangler tires on the inner rear and move the inner rear tires to the outer rear.
  2. Put the spare tire on the right front and make the right front tire (which was unevenly worn but had only about 20,000 miles of use) the spare.

Due to reasons which even now I don’t fully understand, I was informed that to move the inner rear tires to the outer rear would be an additional $80.  So I simplified the instructions: put the new tires on the outer rear.

I got the truck back 2 hours later and drove home without inspecting the work. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the two new tires were put on the right front and the right outer rear.  The spare had not been touched.  I immediately returned and had a spirited discussion with the customer service guy who told me that the spare couldn’t be the original because he had *personally* seen it taken down.  I told him that I knew my spare tire when I saw it and it hadn’t been touched.  I got pretty heated because not only had they not done as I requested, they were now calling me a liar.  After I calmed down I told them to:

  1. Take the spare and put it on the right front.
  2. Take the new tire from the right front and put it on the left outer rear.
  3. Take the left outer rear tire and make it the spare.

Another hour passed and I got the truck back, no additional charge.  But this time I inspected the work.  Once again they had screwed up: the left outer rear and right front tires had been swapped; the spare – AGAIN – was untouched.

This time I spoke to the manager.  I told him that I had now TWICE requested that the spare be mounted as the right front tire and both times my request had been ignored or misunderstood.  I resisted the urge to draw him a picture, primarily because the instructions were now as simple as could be:

  1. Swap the right front and spare.

Another 30 minutes go by and I get the truck back a third time.  The spare was now indeed on the right front.  Yay!  But the spare, rather than being the tire that had been on the right front was now the original right front tire – the unevenly worn one that had been mistakenly discarded in the first round.  I once again spoke to the manager, asking why, oh why, was the right front tire discarded and the original worn tire now being used as a spare?  I couldn’t really complain about that because that was my original plan, but I was curious.  He told me that the other tire was too old (4 years) to be used and had damage to the sidewall.  He said digging the original tire out of the discard pile was the best option for the spare.

I accepted his explanation and finally – 5 hours after starting my quest for 2 new tires – went home.

But on the way home the thought occurred to me: the tire that wasn’t good enough to be used as a spare was good enough to mount as the right front? Because they were going to send me home with that tire mounted had I not objected.

After 3 days of truck maintenance nightmares I had to wonder if these two “service” centers weren’t conspiring to drive me insane.

Truck maintenance nightmares – 1 of 2

So I took my truck to DeVoe Buick GMC of Naples on Wednesday with a short list of things that needed attention:

  1. Oil change.
  2. Check the brakes.
  3. Diagnose and, possibly, fix the shimmy that I feel at highway speeds.

I dropped the truck off at 11 am and got no phone call that afternoon.  I called an hour before closing (6pm) to find out what was going on and was told that there was “definitely a problem with the right front steering linkage” but would have to have another technician verify that in the morning.  So they kept the truck overnight.

Then I realized that my softball gear was in the truck and I needed it for a 10 am game on Thursday.

So Thursday, 8 am, I am at the dealership to collect my gear.  The service advisor took me back to the truck where the technician was looking at the right front tire and steering linkage.  We had a brief conversation about the steering, including a recitation of the work that had been done in 2016 to get the front end aligned.  His conclusion was that there was nothing wrong with the steering linkage, that the little bit of give in the linkage was normal and that all I needed was a new tire.  I declined to get the tire, so they promised to do the oil change and the brake inspection and call me when the truck was ready.

No call by 2 pm, so I called DeVoe.  The service advisor was “with a customer” so I left a message asking him to call me ASAP.

4 pm and still no call.  I called again, asked to speak to the service manager.  Got a voicemail.  Left a message that if I didn’t hear from him by 4:30 I would be coming to the dealership to talk to them in person.

4:30 pm I finally get a call telling me that the truck is ready.  Jett and I drive over.  The service advisor tells me that the brakes are fine and that, other than the recommendation that the tire be replaced, everything else is fine too.  That was after they did their “27 point inspection.” Total cost for its 28-hour stay at the dealership: $89.10.

As I start the vehicle, the “change fuel filter” message pops up on the dash. Question in my head: the “27 point inspection” didn’t include starting the engine?  Annoying, but not a big deal.

On the way out of the dealership parking lot, the service advisor happens to be crossing the driveway.  He looks at me coming towards him, flags me down and says – I am not making this up – “your tire is leaning.”

I didn’t know quite what he meant, so I get out, walk to where he is standing about 20 feet in front of the truck. He points at my right front tire which was, indeed, “leaning” – it had a tilt that was visible to the naked eye.

28 hours in the dealership and they couldn’t diagnose a “leaning tire” which is obviously a steering linkage problem.

Incredible.

Needless to say, I will not return there to get my “leaning tire” fixed.

Retrospective on our 2017 travel experiences

We traveled a LOT in 2017. I have documented our day-to-day experiences under the labels of “Third Trip North” (TTN), “New England Tour” (NET), “Second Trip West” (STW) and “Second Trip East” (STE). From the time we left Florida (14 Apr 2017) to the time we returned (20 Nov 2017) – 220 days – the longest we stayed in any one place was 3 weeks in Plymouth MA. We towed the RV 11,426 miles and stayed at 64 different RV parks where we spent about $11,700 in campground fees. We visited 16 states that we had never been to previously, completing our lower-48 map. We put just over 20,000 miles on the truck.

A LOT of travel.

Now, two months after completing the journey, I want to reflect on what we did. I particularly want to identify the highlights and lowlights. Fortunately, there are many more highlights than lowlights. It was a great 7 months of travel.

In chronological order, some of the more memorable highlights were:

Swans at Savannah KOA

Swans at Savannah KOA

  • TTN:
    • The KOA Savannah South campground with its huge population of geese.  It was like living in a zoo. A fun zoo.
    • Seeing Savannah again.
    • Visiting family in VA.
  • NET:
    • Visiting family in Plymouth. In particular, getting to meet nephew Brad’s wife and children was a treat.
    • Doing some great genealogical research in Plymouth MA.  Pilgrim Hall was awesome!
    • Having Jett’s sisters visit us several times in several places during the NET.
    • 11 nights at Normandy Farms Campground in Foxboro MA. A great, great campground.
    • Wandering around the quaint shops of Newburyport MA.
    • The Escapees Chapter 3 Rally at Newfound Lake NH. The rally was smaller than we expected, but spending time with other Escapees is always fun.
    • Being treated to a 2-hour guided tour of the Wells ME region by a couple that we met at the campground.
    • The family 4th of July (with lobsterfest) at Lucas Pond in Northwood NH.
    • Participating in the Make-a-Wish festivities at Saddleback Campground.
    • Playing some EMASS Senior Softball League games and seeing David Ortiz (“Big Papi”) at one of them.
    • Visiting some fascinating cemeteries in Amherst and Springfield MA.
  • STW:
    • Visiting some of Jett’s childhood homes and actually digging into death records in Watervliet NY.
    • The beautiful campsite on the banks of the Mohawk River.
    • Boldt Castle.
    • The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.
    • Greenfield Village in Dearborn MI.
    The banks of the Mohawk

    The banks of the Mohawk

    • Visiting American Jewelry and Loan, home of Hardcore Pawn TV series.  Tacky and smaller than we expected, but still great to see.
    • My 50th high school reunion in Madison WI. It was great to catch up with old friends. But how did they get to be so old?
    • Visiting some of my ancestors’ gravesites in WI.
    • The Field of Dreams baseball field.
    • Badlands National Park.
    • Wall Drug and the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall SD.  Wall Drug lived up to the hype and the museum was surprisingly moving.
    • Mount Rushmore National Monument.
    • Deadwood SD.
    • Teddy Roosevelt National Park.
    • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
    • Yellowstone National Park. Seeing Old Faithful was a treat, but the biggest highlight was being stopped by a herd of about 300 bison.
    • Mount St Helens.
    • Seeing my sister and brother-in-law in Tillamook OR.  Great people, wonderful town.

    Yellowstone bison

    Yellowstone bison

    Snake River

    Snake River

  • STE:
    • Catfish Junction RV Park and the Snake River.
    • Salt Lake City and Temple Square. I feel I have a much better understanding of the Mormon faith after the visit.
    • Truck problems in Salina UT.  Yes, I am including this as a highlight because the truck failure resulting in very few real problems for us and in fact gave us a couple of very nice, unexpected days at a tiny RV park in Salina.  I think we were extremely fortunate in where this problem appeared and I have to feel good about that.
    • Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Moab UT. This area is amazingly beautiful.
    • Completing our 48-state map in KS.
    • Sunset near Port St Joe

      Sunset near Port St Joe

    • Choctaw KOA and Casino.  One of the best RV parks that we have seen anywhere and a first-rate casino.
    • Visiting family in Austin TX.
    • Seeing, first-hand, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Rockport TX.
    • The Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Great tour, great museum.
    • New Orleans.  I finally got to see the Big Easy and it didn’t disappoint.
    • Silver Slip Casino and Beachfront RV Campground in Waveland MS.  This is a very nice casino and a wonderful, inexpensive campground.
    • The Gulf Shores AL area.  Beautiful beaches, good restaurants.
    • The Port St Joe area of Florida. Interesting restaurants and shops, beautiful beaches. Laid-back attitudes.

Lowlights:

  • TTN:
    • Putting a small dent into the truck’s gate by backing into the pin while at KOA Savannah South.
    • The weather in April and May. We barely missed the closing of I-95 due to flooding but had to endure soggy grounds and cold, wet weather all the way north and to the end of our stay in Plymouth MA.  It was a miserable period of weather.
    • Puncturing the front basement door while hitching up at Lakewood Camping Resort in Myrtle Beach. Lesson: either back in straighter or put the gate up before completing the hitch.
    • The Bear Creek Campground at Lake Compounce. The campground was fine, but being the only campers was downright spooky.
  • STW:
    • The winding, undulating roads in upstate NY. Jett’s stomach hated them.
    • The ridiculously overpriced site at Niagara Falls KOA.
    • Having the Google Maps miss a low bridge south of Buffalo, resulting in a 10-mile detour.
    • The rustic site (and overall creepiness) at the Woodside Lake Park, Streetsboro OH.
    • The God-awful trip from MI to WI via downtown Chicago.
    • The Corn Palace and Mitchell SD in general. A complete waste of time.
    • Putting a dent in the RV when I foolishly tried to squeeze it into a parking place at Yellowstone National Park.
    • The snowfall and freezing temperatures at West Yellowstone.
    • Breaking a valve stem while setting up in Ennis MT and almost losing a tire the next day while traveling on the interstate.
    • Missing out on Glacier National Park due to forest fires.
    • Coeur d’Alene. I feel bad listing this as a lowlight as it is a very nice little town, but my expectations were very high and I didn’t see anything to justify the anticipation.
    • Failing to meet up with my nephews and niece in Tillamook.
  • STE:
    • Truck problems in Salina UT, making it necessary to skip Bryce National Park, Zion National Park and Monument Valley.
    • The 200-mile detour to avoid the 11,000 foot pass on I-70.  I couldn’t get the courage to attempt it, with the truck still questionable and the weather very iffy (possible snowfall).  We missed out on Denver, too.
    • Brownville TX and the Rio Grande Valley region.  I really thought that I would like this area, but it fell flat. The Breeze Lake Campground in Brownsville was a trainwreck.

Farewell to the Yaris

Yaris

Yaris

We bought the Yaris in Nov 2013, shortly after we arrived in Ft Myers for our first Florida winter. It had become obvious that Jett was not comfortable driving the truck, so another vehicle was necessary. We considered leasing and even renting, but decided that purchasing would be the most economical option.

We had the Yaris transported north and back south again in 2014 and 2016 (we didn’t come south in 2015). We transported it north one last time in April 2017, used it during our summer in New England and left it with Jett’s niece when we embarked on our trip west. We decided, early last fall, to sell it to her. The transaction was completed in Dec 2017.

So we owned it for just over 4 years. It served us well. It never had a major mechanical problem and got over 35 mpg. Jett loved to drive it. It was a pleasure to own and served us well.

I suspect that we will miss it. We are renting a brand new Nissan Versa for 3 months this winter. It is okay, but it not as much fun to drive as the Yaris. We may buy another car next year.

Probably a Yaris.

Our next cruise adventure

Oosterdam itineraryJett yesterday: “How did we start with a 7-day cruise and end up with a 27-day cruise?”

Yes, we booked a 27-day cruise yesterday, characterized by Jett as “the cruise of a lifetime.”  And since we had already blown our “budget” by choosing to go at all, we decided that we might as well go in comfort and booked a Signature Suite.  We will have nearly 4 full weeks cruising, first, the Atlantic and then 16 ports in 8 countries in the Mediterranean.  We will get to check some very fascinating places off of our bucket lists: Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome (maybe), Naples, Corfu, Dubrovnik and, most importantly, Venice.  We will stay a total of 3 nights in Venice, then fly home.  Total trip duration: 30 days.

The original plan was to cruise for 7 nights in the Caribbean. Then we started thinking how nice it would be to do back-to-back 7 night cruises on the same ship (Jett always liked the idea of waving goodbye to the other passengers while we stayed on board). Then, since we were talking about 14 nights I started looking at Panama Canal cruises. And because my sister has always spoken highly of transatlantic cruises, I took a peek at the 12- to 14-day cruises to Europe. And then I saw the 27-day cruise to Venice…

Damn! How cool would that be, to board the ship in Florida and disembark in Venice? Answer: very, very cool.

So, by making a deal with myself to actually work this summer, to offset some of the cost, I succumbed to the temptation.

A 27-day cruise! Can’t wait!

Relatively cold

January 2017 was beautiful in southwest Florida.  Every day in the mid-80s, sunshine, light breezes.  Absolutely dreamy.

January 2018 has seen a few of those days, but has also seen rain, wind and freeze warnings.  Nothing dreamy about this January.

It is 48 right now – very cold for south Florida.  Still, it is only relatively cold.  I sympathize with all my friends back north who are dealing with actual cold (it is 17 and snowing in Boston).  I don’t miss those near-zero temperatures or the white precipitation.

But I would like to see more 80s.

“Sycamore Row” by John Grisham

Dell Mass Market, 2014

Yes, it has been quite a while since I posted my last book review. My primary excuse is that I have been busy traveling over 10,000 miles. But John Grisham deserves a share of the blame, too. Sycamore Row is long (637 pages in this edition) and it moves slowly.  It took me a month to get to the point where it grabbed me at all.

The story is that of a terminally ill white man who hangs himself.  But before committing suicide he wrote, in longhand, a 1-page will leaving 90% of his estate to his black housekeeper.  He also wrote 2 pages of instructions to the lawyer of his choice – a local guy named Jake Brigance – in which he stated, in no uncertain terms, that he did not want either of his children to get a penny and that he wanted his holographic will defended at all costs, knowing that it would be challenged.

There was no question why he would want to disown his children – they were unlikable and were not close to him, even as he spiraled downhill to his death.  The real question was why did he leave most of it to a housekeeper that he had known for only 3 years.  And that, folks, it mostly what those 600+ pages are about, along with the courtroom circus that ensued.  Because the estate was valued at over $24 million, an inheritance that would make the housekeeper not only the richest black person in the county, but one of the richest persons of any race in the county.

I won’t spoil it for you and the answer is, indeed, a little surprising.  But I will fault Grisham for taking too long to get to the point.  This would have been a better book if it had been 400 pages.

5 out of 10.

STE3 wrapup

STE3 Actual

STE3 Actual

By the numbers:

  • 9 hops
  • 16 nights
  • 1608 tow miles
  • 2103 truck miles
  • $687.65 in campground fees ($42.98 per night)

The actual route included two stops that differed from the plan and had some minor detours and changes in route, but otherwise went as planned.

Highlights:

Lowlights:

  • Brownsville TX and the entire south Texas area.  I had high hopes for this area, both as a place to visit and as a place to spend a future winter.  But other than the rates, which were very low, we did not see any RV parks that we liked very much.  South Padre Island was a huge disappointment and neither Brownsville nor any of the nearby towns offered anything of interest.