Monday, March 19, 2018

Pogo Stick Express To Texas

Rio Concho Towers, San Angelo, TX – March 19, 2018

Tupelo to San Angelo 2018

Our last post left off with us bouncing down the road on our way to Texas. It was so bad with the new Motion Control Units (MCUs) that we were begining to doubt if the Phaeton was the motorhome we wanted to continue traveling in. EJ was emphatic when she said “No way I’m going to Alaska in this motorhome”.

We were so disappointed because when we installed MCUs on our previous motorhome the improvement in ride was amazing. On the Phaeton I was convinced I had made a huge mistake.

What are MCUs you ask? They are air flow restrictors that are placed in the air line between the air tank and the air bag suspension on all 4 corners of the motorhome. Their purpose is to reduce side to side rocking motion caused by things like semi trucks passing you and going over driveway dips at an angle. This is sometimes called the “Walmart Wobble”.

Super Steer MCU

When you cross over a driveway dip at an angle the motorhome leans to one side then violently leans in the opposite direction. This has been know to cause cabinet doors to fly open spewing contents all over the floor. This generally results in a very unhappy co-pilot/navigator.

When we had the MCUs installed on the Itasca, it totally eliminated the side to side rocking motion. In no way did it affect any other aspect of suspension reaction.

On the Phaeton,while it did suppress the “Walmart Wobble” it also violently accentuated every dip in the road. Riding in the Phaeton was now like bouncing on a Pogo Stick!


However, Dad was expecting us in San Angelo, so we pressed on.

Due to lot’s of rain in the area quite a few of the low lying areas were flooded.

Mississippi Flooding

Mississippi Flooding (2)

As faithful readers know, we really try to avoid interstates and enjoy cruising the back roads of America. This leg was no different. We overnighted at the Walmart in Tupelo, MS; Harlow’s Casino in Greenville, MS; the RV corral in Queen City, TX; Walmart in Mexia, TX; Faunt Le Roy in Gatesville, TX and finally the Rio Conch Manor parking lot in San Angelo, TX.

We had intended to stay at a Corp of Engineer’s Park near Queen City, but it was closed due to flooding. And in Mexia we raced to the Walmart barely outrunning a severe thunderstorm. So along with the bouncing the trip was not without it’s excitement.

And in Gatesville at Faunt Le Roy Park our campsite had neighbors right across the fence. But at $20 a night for full hook ups who’s to complain?

Faunt Le Roy Park

The next day, before we begin to make preparations to leave for San Angelo, Gabby greets the early morning.

Early morning Gabby

See you in San Angelo, where we continue the MCU story.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

First Time to Red Bay

Bunkhouse RV, Red Bay, AL         March 2 – 13, 2018

First Trip to Red Bay

And we’re off! On March 2nd, we had finally pulled the plug and said enough is enough. We’ve prepared the best we can and it’s time to just wrap it up and go. We know we’ll forget some things, but we’ll just deal with it when we figure out what they are.

We said goodbye to our good friends Jeanne and John Stratton, turned the keys over to them, hooked up Sunny and hit the road.

We got as far as Waycross, GA, a whole 70 miles from our starting point, when we were notified that our Visa cards had been compromised. They would need to be replaced. And they would only send new replacement cards to our home address. Well that wasn’t going to work! We had made appointmens in Red Bay, AL that could not be broken without causing substantial delays to our trip. We just couldn’t turn around and go back to Orange Park to wait for new cards to show up.

EJ got down to business on the phone and convinced them to send the replacement cards to Dad’s apartment in San Angelo. The new cards should arrive in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, we would just have to limp by on our remaining cards. Whew! Crisis averted!

True to our word, we stopped by Paradise Lake RV Park in Enigma, GA again. If you remember, we were amazed at the hospitality we received here when we were fleeing Hurricane Irma last year. Our second night was spent at the Super Walmart in Prattville, AL.

On Sunday, March 4, we arrived at Chris Berry’s shop, Making Sawdust. Monday morning we were scheduled to have doors made for our shoe cabinet.

It had been raining for several days and had made quite a mess, but Chris had several loads of gravel put down in the driveway to make it all better.


Chris showed up on Monday and he and EJ discussed several options (projects) but in the end decided to just go with new doors for the shoe cabinet. He got those on order, and that afternoon we skedaddled over to Bay Diesel to have the M3 maintenance done on the Phaeton.


We figured we would boondock for the night but Chris McKinney said that at 5 o’clock we were to move over by the rollop doors and they would hook us up to a 30 amp connection for the night. He even had a water hookup if we needed it.

The next day, Tuesday 3-5-18, they did the service and even had time to install a SuperSteer steering damper for us.


Once again, we spent the night, figuring tomorrow we would go hunting for a place to camp while we waited on Tiffin Service to do some warranty work for us. Wednesday morning we took a tour and found that Bunkhouse RV was one of the few places that had space available. So we signed up and they didn’t want any money until we were done with Tiffin.

That same day we went to the Tiffin Service Campground to register for the service work. We knew there was no space in their campground, but we asked if we had to move to their campground to register for service. Thankfully the answer was no. Those folks in the Tiffin Campground were squeezed in like sardines. We were quite pleased with our site over at Bunkhouse. And it was all of 5 minutes away from the service center.

For the next several days we played tourist. Every one that goes to Red Bay has to check out the Coon Dog cemetary.


And of course, one must see the Rattle Snake Saloon.


It is a Saloon/Restaurant built into a cave. But the one thing folks don’t tell you is they don’t serve beer or wine until after 5pm. You see the restaurant is on an equisterian ranch. And they don’t want the riders getting drunk and falling off their horses. The trails close at 5pm and then the bar opens.

While reseaching about Red Bay we had heard how it was an absolute must that you eat at The Mason Jar restaurant. After hearing so many people rave about it, we figured it wad be hard to get a seat.


I guess we got lucky and hit the lull between breakfast and lunch.

Back to the main reason we went to Red Bay. Most folks have these huge lists of items they want fixed by the service center. We try and fix a lot of things ourselves because we are reasonably capable folks. Also because we are generally disappointed in the quality of work performed by so called RV experts. As a rule, we try to go to the “source” ,ie RV manufacturer, chassis manufacturer, etc. Since our motorhome was made in Red Bay, we had a nagging issue we wanted them to take a look at. Actually there were four.


The step recall I could have done myself, but the manufacturer wouldn’t sell the parts to me. Something about a liability issue.

I wanted to learn more about the slides, so I figured why not let the experts show me?

And the night stand fix, we probably could have done ourselves, but we were here so why not?

The ceiling issue was way beyond our comfort level. But the service center handled all of them for us in one day. Wow! is all we could say.

We stuck around a few more days because I wanted Bay Diesel to install a set of Super Steer Motion Control Units(MCUs) on the Phaeton for us. That turned out to be a mistake.

Finally on March 13 the MCUs came in, they had to ordered, and were installed. We spent one last night in Bay Diesels parking lot and headed of to Tupelo, MS the next day. We drove on the Natchez Trace Parkway which is very smooth, and didn’t notice anything was amiss.

The next day was a long one and a good portion of it was spent on very rough roads. It was perhaps the roughest ride we had every encountered in all our years of RVing and it turned out it wasn’t all the roads fault. The MCUs installed on the front air bags had turned our Phaeton into a pogo stick.

But that is a story for another time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Hitting the Road After an Eventful Year

Location: Bunk House RV Park, Red Bay, Alabama

It’s been a year since we slowed down for a temporary hiatus in Florida. Little did we know it would take so long to get back on the road. But life continues at it’s own pace and we don’t move as fast as we used to.

We cut our last adventure short because Frank had ignored the pain in his left hip long enough that it was now inteferring with having fun. That just wasn’t going to do. So the first order of business was a new hip.

FP's Metal Hip

Of course that meant lots of this.

FP Recuperating

Then while he was recuperating, he was also searching the internet for a newer RV. And we found this.

Phaeton in Itasca out

Under the roof is our new to us 2012 Tiffin Phaeton 36 QSH. Outside in the rain is our 2005 Itasca Meridian 34H which was going to be for sale.


EJ says goodbye to Big Guy after we move him to Rick Baker’s RV in Green Cove Springs, FL to let him handle the sale. And sure enough, 6 months later he found a buyer and got us our asking price.

in the mean time, we had a load of projects we wanted to do on the Phaeton. Even though it is 2 foot longer, the storage space is not as usable as it was in the Itasca. So we set about to change that.

Bathroon Kleenex Holder and Shelf

We added trim to the window valance to turn it into a shelf. Also added was a kleenex box holder to free up precious counter space. In the dark by the toilet is a wooden bracket that holds the scales. We also added a towel rod with pieces from the Tiffin parts store.

Litter Box Cabinet

The previous owners had opted to not have a TV at this location. We turned the cabinet into a spot to contain the litter box. EJ installed the tile backsplash to give it some pizazz!

Litter Box Cabinet Pulled Out

The litter box is also accessible if the slide is closed. An important feature appreciated by the kitties. This required extending the cabinet by 4 inches which is concealed by trim and a place to hold spices and napkins.

New Pantry

Also a missing feature our Itasca had, was a pantry. EJ said we had to remedy that. So we took one of the overhead cabinets and turned it into a mini-pantry contating 3 pullouts. Much deliberation and mockups went into determining the proper heights for the shelves in the individual pullouts. Syrups, soups, and canned vegetables all have their own spots now.

Removed TV made storage added doors

This location used to hold a TV. Since we don’t watch TV in bed, it was kinda a waste for us. So instead we decided to make a shoe cabinet out of it. When we visited Red Bay, Al we had Chris Berry of Making Sawdust add a pair of doors to cover the opening. Now it looks like it came from the factory that way.

Bedroom Kleenex Holder

EJ wanted a place for kleenex tissues that didn’t involve the nightstands since they are pretty small. So we built a box to hang them overhead. That way the tissues can be easily reached while we’re in bed.

Another idiosyncrasy of the Phaeton is the use of vertical uprights on the shade valances. They take a lot of valuable counter space.


Here is an example. The nightstand on EJ’s side with the wooden covers.


Here is the same nightstand without the wooden covers. They look pretty, but they are really cover up a lot of valuable counter space. EJ also has a place to store her Kindle.

New Faucet, filtered water system, soap dispenser, Paper towel holder

The previous owners had the spray for the sink coiled up and stored under the kitchen counter. We kinda like a spray so we took the opportunity to replace the faucet with one that has a built in sprayer plus added a soap dispenser and a filtered water dispenser.

Old window treatment

EJ thought the old window treatments could use a little jazzing up. We like brighter colors, somehow they just make us happier.b(Even tho the picture shows the upright of the shade valance, all were removed to open up more counter space.)

New window treatment

The result really does make for a more interesting look. Subdued, but colorful.

While all this was going on, there was maintenance that needed attention too.

New Tires and Shocks

The tires were five years old and minor cracks in the sidewall were starting to show up. So new tires were installed and while the wheels were off, we had new Bilstien shocks installed also.

While all these mods and upgrades were taking place we had a couple of failures too.

Step Motor

One morning the steps stopped working. We had noticed they made an interesting noise when retracting ending with a “thunk”. Eventually they ending up just hanging there uselessly. We diagnosed the problem as a failed step motor. A quick replacement and we were back in business.

CO2 Alarm replacement

We got a  call one afternoon from the storage yard where we keep the RV that it was beeping loudly. We went to investigate and found the propane alarm going off. The propane tank was shut off and no leaks were detected. The alarm was 5 years old which is about the maximum life for for a propane detector. A new one was installed.

We wanted to protect our investment against electric faults so we added a SurgeGaurd, hardwired into our shorepower wiring. But installation uncovered a potentially disastrous problem.

Bad wiring

Bad Wiring2

And this was the wiring that supplies power to the whole coach. Needless to say, we remedied this very quickly and got the new SurgeGuard installed.

Our batteries were also 5 years old and we agonized for months over which batteries to buy. We finally developed a spreadsheet containing charging scenarios, battery types, solar controllers and panels. It highlighted a few issues we’d been mulling over and gave us a couple of options to pursue.

So these

Old flooded batteries

got replaced with these.


Yep, 400 amps of lithium batteries in an insulated box to help protect from freezing. In the process we lightened our load by about 240 pounds. I won’t go into the many advantages of lithium batteries, but we think they will serve us well.

Lithium buttoned up

The lithiums are installed and all buttoned up. The wiring, fuses and solenoids are all items to protect the batteries.

960 watts of power

And of course to power those lithium batteries we had to add some solar panels. We have a total of 960 watts which may be a little overkill, but that way we won’t have to tilt the panels so often.

Making some power

Finally, it’s all together, pumping some serious amps into the batteries.

EJ installing Spritzer

Soon EJ is putting the final touches on the motorhome and we get ready to roll.