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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mexican Golden Shower

Nothing quite like waking up at 3am to a pissy bed. Especially when neither you or your hubby have incontinence issues. Last night I was jolted awake by Jeff jumping out of the bed, pulling the covers off the mattress and uttering a trail of terms not fit for publication on this blog. What was happening? I soon found out when I sat up and ran my foot right into a puddle on my side of the bed.

Our precious little travel companion Boo-Boo aka Booty Cleopatra had a major pee-pee accident. She never messes up inside, so something was obviously wrong. Once we got up and got our bearings and started removing the linens, the poor little baby was so upset and shaking that she kept right on peeing all over everything. It was at this point, we remembered that neither of us had taken her for a walk before going to bed - oopsie. We'll never make that mistake again.

We stripped the bed, balled up the soiled linens and then blotted and cleaned the memory foam mattress pad - after febreezing the heck out of it, we had to move it to the front of the camper to let it dry - it was at this point I got really tickled and started to giggle uncontrollably. I realized that I did not plan on us having an incident of this type and therefore had not packed any extra sheets or blankets or anything for our bed. Luckily, Noah was not using the comforter I packed for his bed, so we were able to turn it sideways and use it as cover. Since we moved the foam mattress pad up front, we were able to sleep on the mattress which had been spared any wet spots.

At this point, we were both wide awake, so we turned on the tv - only to find a plethora of infomercials and other crap tv - the kind you can always find at 3am! We stumbled upon a movie with Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans and Halle Berry (who must have been about 19) we watched most of it, I was in and out, but Jeff made it almost to the end. We still don't know the name of it or how it ended. But it got us through the rest of the night.

Poor little Booty - she slept the rest of the night in her bed in the front of the RV. When I got up at 8, she was looking pretty pitiful. We laundered our linens at the campground laundrymat and remade our bed and swore an oath to walk that little pooch whether she needed it or not!

Alternator Universe - Time travel from The Branch to The Beach

I am writing this post from the comforts of our home away from home. We are set up for a last weekend of summer getaway to Myrtle Beach. Some people say that "getting there is half the fun" - those people have obviously never traveled with us.

It took us 12 hours to get to Myrtle Beach from Flowery Branch. And, no, we were not stopping to smell the roses on the way. In fact, we only stopped to get gas and go to the potty. Immediately following the last one of these stops, Jeff noticed that the alternator gauge was acting funny - it was pegging out somewhere between "I'm going to blow up" and "You are about to be left on the side of the road." Wonderful.

This is what an
alternator looks like...
We were somewhere in the armpit of South Carolina - once again searching Google for RV Repair Shops when we lucked up on a guy who said he would come to us - but it would take an hour for him to get to us. A milkshake and a nap later, the mechanic arrived - did I mention it was about 6pm on a Friday night? He brought a buddy and they went to work.

My mental picture of Shade Tree the Mechanic
Thank heavens the problem was just another one of the previous owner's mechanic (We'll call him Shade Tree from now on) examples of excellent workmanship. He had put the alternator on with a bolt about 3/4 of an inch long - so, only about two threads of the bolt were actually holding the alternator in place, this had cause it to wiggle and wobble until the belt used by it had gotten all wonky and caused the system to red light. Luckily, all we had to do was replace the belt and put a proper bolt in the thing - which was about a 2" bolt by the way.

The roadside mechanics were awesome. They completed the work in a downpour of rain and got us back on the road without gouging us for an unnecessary replacement of the entire alternator assembly.
We were back on the road at about 8pm - with at least 2 hours to go. Once we finally made it to the campground - PirateLand Family Camping Resort - right on the beach. It is awesome. They have an indoor pool, and outdoor pool, a lazy river, about a mile of exclusive beach access, a camp store, club house, playground, paddle boats....etc etc get it. It's nice and has all the comforts of home EXCEPT wireless internet. But that's why I married an electronics geek. We carry our own wireless with us.
My Red Crockpot Rules

Did I mention that I cooked our dinner in the crockpot on the road all the way here? I did. I'm learning. So, once we got settled in - about 10:00pm! We had a yummo dinner of beef tips and gravy, mashed potatoes and green salad. It was so nice to have a hot dinner that I didn't have to cook after that long ride.

I will write more later, I have a wonderfully delightful tale of how Boo-Boo (our 4lb Chihuahua) peed all over us in the bed at 3am. Stay tuned!

Pump the seriously, pump the brakes

Just prior to our Lake Lanier trip, the RV spent about ten days in the shop. Evidently it needed some major brake repairs and the mechanics found a few other gems in need of polishing while they were working on the brakes. $1,400 later we had new brakes and had learned why the RV would make like the little engine that could when we came up a hill. Whomever the previous owners had used as a mechanic, was a real leaving things half done, that is. He had replaced the spark plugs but did not put new heat shields between them and wires and thus we had three of eight cylinders with burnt through wires. Nice. No wonder the RV was working so hard. Jeff was able to replace the wire harness and the heat shields - and miraculously we got some real power under the hood. Things are looking up. 
Burnt spark plugs make an RV lazy

After its stint in rehab, we brought her home for a little TLC. Jeff has been working on replacing the airbags that are located behind the tires. They inflate or deflate as needed to help keep the RV level when driving and when parked. The front ones were completely dry rotted and had to be replaced - he thought he could do it on his own...but it's been a real challenge. Seems as though one must have the slight of hand of David Copperfield and the strength of Mr. Universe to get the new bags into the space occupied by the old bags. 

Needless to say, we still have new airbags sitting in our garage. One day we'll be able to consult with an out of work magician who can tell us how to fit those darn things in the teeny tiny space provided. Let's hope we find him soon because it's a bit like riding on Aladdin's magic carpet without the front end leveling.
Water regulator thingy
Handyman Jeff also did the wonderful job of replacing the toilet and repairing the water lines - seems as though without a pressure gauge thingy on the waterline when you hook up to "city" water - you'll blow out the pipes somewhere inside the RV everytime you hook up. Fun fact they don't tell you until you blow out the pipes. So, now we have a pressure regulator and a new toilet and dry we are ready to brave the open road again...

Sweet Jack = Sweet Deal at Lake Lanier Islands

So, I am a collective buyer - that doesn't mean I buy things and allow them to form collections. It does mean that I take advantage of the new social media craze called "collective buying." I'm sure you have seen commercials for the uber popular Living Social or Groupon sites who offer special deals if enough people "collectively" purchase the item. That's collective buying - we all buy - we all save.

Recently, I purchased a two night camping stay at the Lake Lanier Islands Resort (disclaimer: the company I work for is partly funded by them, so my opinion of this location is slightly biased due to my need for a paycheck.) The deal was two nights of camping for $35, not bad. The Islands are close to home and this would provide a great practice outing for us. We really need to get better at packing, unpacking, setting up and taking down. Not that I feel we'll be entered into some kind of weird Supermarket Sweep type gameshow with those who can set up and take down camp in record time being lavished with fabulous prizes...I just know we can do better and not make things so complicated....R I G H T.

Our Sweet Jack weekend began on a Friday night, we packed up and headed over to the LLI Resort after we got off work and had eaten dinner at home. It was about 9pm. A short 12 mile drive later and we were at camp. The office was closed, so signs and gate staff had instructed us to go to site 114 where we would find the charming resident host. Since we knew our site number, I hopped out to go "check in" and sent Jeff up the trail in the RV to find our site and park - we were losing daylight fast and I was not too keen on setting up in the dark (more on that later.)

I found the host's campsite and knocked on the door - out popped this little hobbit of man wearing shorts and flip flops. He was wearing no shirt and was a hairy little beast. Similar in fact to the gaggle of cats I saw swaggering about behind him in his humble abode. After telling me his name, which I promptly forgot, he came outside with our registration packet and began to tell me how to find the site. Being a kind little hobbit, he offered to squire be to the campsite on his golf cart. I accepted.

By the time we got there it was pitch black dark. And when I say pitch black, I am not kidding. The campground has no street lights, no trail lights and the think the camp site numbers are marked on 4x4 posts in Braille. Jeff was not there. Now, it had been a good 15 minutes since he dropped me off, and this campground is not huge. Knowing he had never been here before and that seeing the numbers on the site posts was a little like playing "Where's Waldo" I called him on his cell phone. He was almost to us, having made a wrong turn and taken the scenic route all the way around the grounds. After he arrived and parked, the Hobbit left us for the evening and wished us well.

Sample campsite...kinda primitive for my tastes.
First things first, I have to find the bathroom. You may not remember that we were having some toilet trouble (leaking into the floor) during our first outing - so we did not have an operational bathroom at this point. Relying on the comfort stations at campgrounds so far had been fine. Well, at this campground, the nearest bathhouse was down the street, up a hill (through someone else's site) and through a small patch of woods. Not exactly what I'd call a "comfort." So, being the lazy soul I am, I took the car. The restroom facilities were nice, very clean and well stocked. Thank God. The only troubling thing was the note tacked to the door..."be sure to keep this door closed. if you don't all manner of critters will be attracted to the light and we don't know what you might find in here." Yikes. I promptly went back to camp.

Once there, I noticed the engine was still running on the RV. That was odd since Jeff had everything all hooked up and we looked like we were ready to settle in for the night. Turns out that the campground only had electric hookups for 30 amps - we require a 50 amp hookup. Of course we had no converter (they make this thingy that hooks up to your 50 amp electric and makes it work in a 30 amp plug in. But we had none. And neither did the Hobbit. Jeff thought he had one at home in the garage - since we were so close, he went home with Noah in tow to find it. He came back empty handed, frustrated and tired of looking. So, we slept with the engine running the generator all night. Which means we ran on gas all night, which means by the morning we were very dangerously close to the "E" symbol.

50 amp to 30 amp thingy
At first light, Jeff headed out again, this time to a nearby camping supply store where he purchased the converter for $20 and got us all hooked up. Again, thank God. The only downside to this 30 amp hookup was that we could only run one air conditioner, but we didn't mind because the single unit we were running kept the place on arctic blast.

Later that morning we met Jennifer (my friend from work) and her daughters at the LLI waterpark for some sun and fun. It was packed. We got there early and staked out a place under one of the large umbrellas. It was a perfect day. Shade when we wanted it, sun when we wanted it and perfectly delightful water when we wanted it. After some swimming and sunning, we headed back to camp for lunch. It was so nice to be able to go back to the RV, eat and rest before heading back out for the afternoon.

Noah had a birthday party to go to that night, so Jeff and I had our first evening alone in the RV. Did I mention there was no cable tv or internet at this campground? And that we were about a quarter of the length of the Bataan Death March from the bathrooms? It was a fun filled evening of driving to the toilets and twiddling our thumbs, until we were sitting outside under the awning and a dude jumped out of a truck passing by and started yelling at Jeff. It was Derrick (a guy he used to work with at Peachtree Dekalb Airport.) Derrick was at LLI with his family celebrating his nephew's birthday. They had a campsite too, and a boat and were taking the kids out for one last spin on a tube before it got too dark. We invited Derrick and his wife, Uganda to come over when they got the kids settled. It was a date. Our first cocktail party at the camper! Woot!

Mean ass trail raccoon.
A little while later, Derrick made it back, Uganda was getting their kids in their pajamas and then she would head over. We had some snacks and drinks and visited with Derrick for a while. It was really nice to have company. Later we went and sat outside - the weather was nice - in the low 80's which for this summer meant tolerable. Uganda walked up a short time later and she was a little bit excited because on her long walk (in the dark) from their campsite she encountered some raccoons (at least she thinks it was raccoons) on the path. They were a little bit snarly and aggressive, nice. But she made it and we had a nice visit with her too.

Nothing like running on empty to elevate your senses.
The next morning we packed up early and headed home - via the first available gas station...remember we were on empty after a full night of generator running on gas alone. We made it home without further incident and enjoyed our Sweet Jack deal at the Islands. Their campground was a semi-primitive experience, but the views and convenience of being near the waterpark were worth it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Barth Repairs & Trip Preparation

After driving it home and around town - we did find a few things that needed repair. Nothing to compare to the needs of the Argosy - but vital repairs all the same...

- Automatic step motor
- Rear air needs upgrading
- Front air levelers need replacing
- Curtains need replacing
- Water tanks need to be cleaned and flushed
- Air filter and fluids need checking/changing
- Cruise control needs repair

Otherwise, we are ready to go. The fridge works, tires are in great shape and there's plenty of storage for our stuff. I went through all our tent camping gear and pulled items we can use in the RV. Good news is there are alot of things like dishes and cookware that we won't have to buy.

I also scored some towels and other linens from my Granny's house to stock our RV.

We've made our reservations - and will be heading out to Tybee Island next week for our maiden voyage! Wish us luck!

Once more with feeling - 1988 Barth

We've taken the plunge again. This time, it's a 1988 Barth - newer and in much better shape. We found it on Craigslist in Dalton, Georgia and made the trek up there to check it out. After giving it the once over, driving it and drilling the owners with about 10,000 questions - we bought it.

We had a very pleasant ride home and are super excited that we won't need to rebuild this RV before we can go camping in it. Noah laid out on the couch and watched a movie on the way home - in air conditioned comfort, I might add. We immediately started looking for reservations to take it for a test camp trip the coming weekend - but since it was 4th of July weekend, there just were not any campsites available where we wanted to go.

So, we decided to take her home, do some cleaning (it was already in great shape, we just needed to line the drawers and shelves with no-skid paper and pack them with our kitchen items, bedding etc.) All week we've been working on the RV - cleaning, sewing new thermal/blackout curtains, doing minor repairs and running around collecting the utensils and other necessities for the upcoming trips.

It's going to be an awesome remainder of summer and fall as we put this Barth to the test!

Out with the old...RIP Argosy

Well, it's been a little while since I wrote a post - that's because a lot has been going on. We took two very short trips in the Argosy to test it out. Both were road trips only - no camping. The first one was to celebrate Nanny's (Jeff's Mom, Wanda) birthday. It was her 75th and we had a family picnic at Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, GA.
The RV made it to the park, up a very winding mountain road. We had our doubts but it made it. There were a couple of issues including the air conditioner kept throwing the breaker and shutting off and the door started flying open when we made left turns. My Dad (Leo) ended up standing and holding the door shut for about the last 45 minutes of the trip there. Following the party, we returned home with no air conditioning and a bungee cord holding the door shut. Winner. By the time we got home, we were all soaking wet with sweat and miserable. Everyone came in the house and went straight to the showers. Nice.

The second trip was to Albany, GA to my folk's house. We were meeting up with my brother (Lee) and cousin (Rusty) to clean out our Granny's house so Rusty's daughter Amber can move in. The RV made it to Albany - Jeff had put in a new (used) air conditioner, so we had cool air on the way down - the only issue we had was an exhaust leak that caused blue sparks to fly from the rear (we sort of looked like a hip hop low rider.)

While we were there, my uncle (Bubba) took a look at the camper and one of the guys who works for him at his wrecker service did some welding for us. Aside from the bald and dry rotting tires, Bubba had concerns about the oil and water levels in the engine and the general wear and tear on the RV overall. Not to be discouraged, we headed home with Noah in tow...only to stop for gas (while still in Albany) to find that a part on the generator had blown - so that meant no air conditioning for the four/five hour trip home. Oh dear. Did I mention it's late June in Georgia? Thank God, we made it home.

The next day, Jeff took the RV into a local repair shop - but before he could get there - the motor blew up - literally - plumes of white smoke, brown fluid streaking from the chassis, and a loud sputtering marked the end of life for the 1976 Argosy. He was able to pull it off the road safely. After a fit of cursing and dancing and throwing a few things around - it was decided we would have to scrap it.

We sold it to a local auto salvage yard, who came and towed it and scrapped the metal for cash. Tear. I can't say I was all that sorry to see it go. What a nightmare. We've decided to find a newer RV with less repair/renovations needed. I'll keep you posted.