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Four Day Trip = New RV

For the past several months Steve and I have scoured the internet ads looking for the perfect motorhome within our budgeted price range. In my last post I mentioned we had a narrow list of three. But neither felt exactly right for several reasons. For example one of them had a refrigerator in the slide, another had negative reviews for that model year, and the other had a very low axel/wheelbase ratio.

There are very few short diesels for sale around the US and when we factored in our year range of 2005-2007 there were even less. Then last week a 2008 model came up for sale and I remembered that the chassis on motorhomes is normally manufactured the prior year. I contacted the owner and sure enough, this MH did not require the ULSD fuel that cannot be obtained in Mexico. Better yet, it was low mileage, had first been owned by an aerospace engineer who had added every upgrade imaginable to include 540 watts of solar panels with a 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter. Documentation and CAD drawings are bar none. I will eventually make a tab at the top for “Alice” listing all the upgrades which you won’t believe. Anyway, here she is:

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2008 Tiffin Allegro Open Road FRED 32 feet. There is a slide out for the sofa and dinette on this side.

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And another slide in the bedroom. The body is in perfect condition as it has been stored under cover and professionally cleaned and waxed twice a year.

Of course we didn’t get every single “want” but Alice comes close enough. No washing machine and the kitchen is rather small, but there are two pantries to make up for that. And recently, new very small portable washing machines have come on the market that we can stow. Oh yeah, and we came in under budget!

It was a one and a half day 800 mile drive to the Phoenix area. We met the owners at their house at noon on the second day,  received a good going through of everything, wired the money at 3:00, did the transaction at their financial institution at 4:00, and were on our way by 5:00. The funny part is the owners were looking to buy a newer RV of a particular model which is hard to find. While we were at their house, they received a phone call that the RV they wanted had just come in on a trade and no other salesmen knew about it yet. Our Allegro owners bought it the next day.  The wife thought it was Karma that brought us to them at just the right time.

We had a bit of a problem finding a place for the night and Steve was understandably nervous as he has never driven anything this big. The extremely nice owner, who I might add had an oil change done the previous day and filled up the fuel tank, actually drove Alice to the very north end of Phoenix for us so that we would immediately be on the two lane road headed north. The only place to stay was a casino at Ft. McDowell. We got there and it was so crowded that there was not one spot to park an RV. Then we found out there was also an RV resort only 1/4 mile away. But they were full. The lady at the desk suggested an overflow parking lot at a county park a few miles away. The problem was we had absolutely no kitchen utensils, no food, it was almost dark, we had not eaten since breakfast, and the casino was the only place for miles with food. Then the desk clerk generously told us we could park behind their RV storage area for the night in a wide open area. It was quiet and the views were pretty good. We were warned that cows and horses might come up to the RV but that didn’t happen, unfortunately.

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The next day we drove through the mountains to the high desert where we picked up the 4 lane highway in Holbrook. The driving then became easier for Steve and he is loving the engine brake for steep downhills.

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We spent the night at the Route 66 Travel Center which is next door to a casino. As we had had no lunch (again), we splurged on the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. This casino has a pretty classy buffet with different stations for Mexican, Mediterranean, Asian, and American food. Very good but expensive!

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I will take pictures of the interior once we put the living room slide out and get more organized. I am sitting in the passenger seat at my desk writing this as we go down the highway. And when Molly Dog travels with us she will have her very own window at my feet.

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$1200 Gift

Just a couple of days before I went into Mexico in December I received an email from friend Tessa with a website link to information on a recall of Michelin tires and ascertained that ours were included.  Last week I finally drove Tulip to a tire store and they verified numbers and dates on the tires that showed we were in fact entitled to six new tires at no cost to us including free mounting. 

The only problem was that so many vehicles were affected by the recall that no Michelin tires of this kind were available for replacement.  Even the distribution center in Nevada had none and no one knew when any would be available.  However, we could get BF Goodrich tires instead.  I said no, as the warranty is 50,000 miles vs. 70,000 and the Michelins are considered to be better tires.  We would just wait since there is no expiration date on the recall and we are not traveling anywhere soon.

Lo and behold, three days later the tire store called and they had located some replacement Michelin tires in Denver.  So today I followed Steve to drop off Tulip to get her new tires. 

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We have driven Tulip 72,000 miles and we have only bought tires once and even then we received a 40% adjustment discount.  Nice.

Here are links to recalls on several models of Michelin tires:

http://www.michelinman.com/voluntary-safety-recall.page

http://www.michelinman.com/safety-recall.page

Towing–Finally!

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It has taken me two months or more to get the right components purchased for the right price and for Steve to be able to install himself.  Everything I have read points to a price of around $3000+ for a tow system with at least $1200 of that being labor.  I had checked with the local Camping World to find out how many hours it would take to install a tow package and they told me 10 or 11 and their hourly rate is $129 + 10% for shop supplies.  No way.

I was stuck for quite a while on what braking system to get for our tow vehicle – a 2003 Chevy Tracker.  First I purchased an Invisi Brake which cost $900.  THEN, I took it to an RV garage nearby who only charges $100 an hour but they told me the install would take about 9 or 10 hours.  So I returned the Invisi Brake.  More researching, more pulling my hair out.  Then I saw a recommendation from a technician at an online hitch business that said a 2003 Tracker is light enough that no supplementary braking system is needed.  Legally, a braking system is required in most states if the towed vehicle weights 3,000 pounds or more but the Tracker weighs 2,600.  California, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and maybe one other state require braking systems for vehicles weighing 1,500 or more.  We will cross that bridge later.

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Steve installed the Blue Ox base plate in the Tracker which took him one day.  I bought a Blue Ox Alpha tow bar (and cover) that is easy to use and in fact there is a video for it on etrailer.com  For the time being, we just have magnetic lights to put on top of the Tracker (about $40) instead of having lights wired in.  Steve ordered a 2” drop hitch which arrived just the day before we set off on our camping trip last week……whew!  And he bought some locks for the hitch.  All in all, this setup cost around $1300. 

We drove about 250 miles round trip over the 4th long weekend to our camping place and had no problems – in fact it was hard to tell that there was a tow behind us.  I drove part of the way back and it was a piece of cake.  The best part was setting up Tulip for four days and not having to break camp to go places.  We were coming and going constantly in the Tracker and saw much more than we would have otherwise.

If Your Slide-Out Gets Stuck

A reader asked me to write a post on trouble shooting a stuck slide.  Ours got stuck in the out position while at Bryce National Park about a month ago.  Our slide has malfunctioned twice – the first time it was a broken shear pin and this last time a broken shaft.  Steve carries a “just in case” supply of spare shear pins which he obtained from Barker Company in Battle Creek Michigan. Their phone number is (269) 965-2371.  He also ordered the drive shaft assembly (about $12) from Barker.
These instructions only address getting your slide back in so you can drive the motor home and not how to replace the shear pin or repair the shaft.  Also, these instructions only pertain to the two problems we have had on a 2006 Winnebago View and what Steve did to get the slide to go back in until he repaired the actual problem.
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First take out the screws (there are 11 in the 2006 Winnebago View) and remove this panel from the slide.
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This picture shows the brake that is on the motor in the locked position.
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                                 Lift the lever to disengage the brake.
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Use a ratchet wrench with a 7/16” socket on the motor’s gear shaft to manually crank the slide in.  If the shear pin or shaft is broken this procedure will NOT move the slide.
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In that case, use a 3/4” open end wrench on the square rod that runs from one side of the slide to the other, and manually turn in an upwards direction to crank the slide in. If there is any resistance, stop turning because it means that there is something else broken besides the shaft or the shear pin.
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Until Steve repaired the slide (which he did yesterday), put a tension rod inside the motorhome’s slide (one at each end) to prevent it from accidentally sliding out.
If you believe you have a broken shaft or shear pin and wish to make the repair yourself, feel free to email Steve at www.evesteve@gmail.com and he will gladly advise you.