Boarded by Pirates and Surrounded by Idiots

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Boarded by Pirates and Surrounded by Idiots

Finally camping again and glad to put this chapter behind us. This weekend finds our adventure resuming at Hanna Park after a month due to interruption by events beyond our control or any test of reasonableness. Before I recap the events that have transpired since the last blog entry, let me focus on the positive and moving forward. We are camping again in space #18, a very nice back-in site with a beautiful view (though the utilities are pretty far forward in the site), a nice breeze blowing on a nice summer day. The music is playing, there is a rib eye roast in the Cobb and it is not hard to remember why we like doing this.

Now to recap the happenings that lead to the title of this entry. Yes, we were boarded by pirates! After dropping the Island Time off at the Gore RV parking lot on July 4 I called on Saturday, July 5, to make sure they were aware that the trailer was in their lot and needed to be moved to a secure area before closing that day. On Monday, I called the service department to start the repair process. They indicated that they would put an estimate together and submit a claim to CornerStone for the repairs as part of our extended warranty and repair contract. The service representative mentioned that it looked like someone had attempted to break into the trailer and had damaged the door. He indicated that it did not look like they had managed entry to the trailer.

Explaining that we had a week-long vacation planned at the end of the month, I would guarantee payment for the axle repair so that we did not have to wait for authorization from CornerStone to place the order for parts and I would pay for the door as well. The service rep indicated that it usually only took about a week to get the axle, but it may take longer for the door.

Later that week I received a call from the service rep that CornerStone had declined the axle repair on the basis of the terms of the contract. According to their rejection they did not cover nuts and fasteners, which is true, but the terms were listed in the exclusion portion of the contract not the performance portion of the agreement. The service rep also indicated that the door would be special order from the factory and be $695.00 for the parts. Here is a key clue, he suggested that we may want to file it with our insurance. I indicated that with $500 deductible, all it would really do is charge us with a claim and not really be worth the effort.

To try to shorten the misery of this recap, I called at least twice a week to see what the progress was and to make sure it is ready for vacation. I repeatedly got a story that the axle is there but they are waiting for the door. I am still not able to get a clear date for completion and we need to decide if we are going to take vacation or not. We finally decide that we are going to go on vacation as it seems likely that the trailer will be repaired the Thursday before were were planning to leave.

At the end of the week before vacation, I am still getting the same story on waiting on the door, so I called their parts department. They told me that the door had been there for over a week, but they were waiting on the axle and it would be delivered on Monday. So knowing this I check with my service rep and he assures me that it would be ready Monday or Tuesday at the latest, so we decided to take our vacation, but cancel our reservation at Hilton Head. We would just make the best use of the time that was available and go exploring in other areas.

Then on follow-up on Monday the service rep tells me that it may not be ready until the following Friday as they were still waiting on the door. Since I knew that the door had been there for at least a week and that the axle arrived on Monday, it confirmed my fears that my service rep was less than reliable, so I escalated to the General Manager who got involved and assured me that it would be ready by close of business on Thursday. I am not very happy at this point as we have wasted a large block of vacation time. Looking back I could see in fact that my service rep had been misinforming me all along and basically had a reliability problem. Great.

Boarded by pirates. Thursday morning we received a call that the trailer was ready, so we quickly got ready and went to pick it up. $2,300 later they brought the trailer around and when we open the door, we discovered that the TV was missing, to which the service rep immediately responded with “well you will just have to add it to your insurance claim”. Get the connection. He seemed close to panic when we told him that the door could only be locked with a key or from the inside, but it was not possible to lock the door from the inside and close it. Since the door had not been breached previously and it would take a key to re-lock the door, it had to be an inside job, with someone who had access to the key. The logic of this situation was impeccable, there is no other explanation that works. It happened while in their control, and as you guessed it, they denied any responsibility.

Finally, after working through the service rep and the service manager, I was able to get the General Manager involved and he agreed to reimburse us for his cost for the 32” flat screen, $170. That was better than nothing, but would not replace my Samsung 32” 1080p, 120 hz refresh rate TV.

There are so many other details to this story that support the surrounded by idiots portion that it would just be too depressing to document them all. As an example, they forgot to order a tail light replacement lens, so they were going to have to keep it another two weeks. We resolved that by buying a whole taillight assembly and they were just supposed to snap on the lens and give me the rest for parts, instead they installed the whole new assembly and charged me for the installation and forgot to give me the parts. They forgot to order a wheel cover and lost my coupler pin. The list just goes on.

I will never go back to Gore RV for service unless forced to for warranty work, no wait, the warranty did not work either.

Once we got away from Gore, we went to Discount Tire and had four new Goodyear Marathon tires mounted. This may not have been necessary, but I did not want to take a chance. Of the four, one was brand new on the ground as the spare replaced the one with the separating belt. Another tire was severely overloaded when we had the bearing failure, and the other had been subjected to high heat when the bearing hub was on fire. So four new tires please. These were mounted and balanced without any fanfare and we were headed home, finally.

I was able to find a nice replacement flat screen and mounted it on Friday morning. Same model, size and refresh rate, but this one has Smart Apps with it, so I can get Netflix for grandchildren directly on it. Oh yea, they got my Apple TV also. By the way, the new TV is great.

All of this is now in our rear view mirror. I will file an appeal with CornerStone and feel reasonably confident they will pay. Even if they do not, this is the end of the line on that. I need to move on from this and look forward to the great adventures ahead.

Here is what I have learned:

- I will never get service at Gore RV again if I can help it
– I will make sure the bearings are serviced every 12 months, needed or not
– These things will happen
– It can all be fixed
– I am way too dependent on others for my happiness
– Pirates have moved inland
– Idiots are everywhere

Thanks,

Captain Skip

Island Time Loses Bearings Runs Aground

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Island Time Loses Bearings Runs Aground

This is not the Fourth of July weekend that we had planned, at all! All week we had been counting down the days to the long weekend at Hanna Park. We had reserved our site in February and were gathering our favorite outdoor camping meal recipes and getting the Ham Radio ready for some time.

It was not to be. Instead, we were to get an education in adventuring with a travel trailer. It should have been a warning that about half way there the new ML350 gave us a warning that the right rear trailer taillight was out. For most of the way there we thought that was our biggest worry.

About on half mile from Hanna Park someone drove up alongside us and yelled out their window something about our rear trailer tire. I looked back in the mirror and I could see smoke from the driver-side rear tire on the trailer. I slowed down because I thought we had a flat tire and limped along a few blocks until I could make a safe turn onto the road to Hanna Park. As soon as I got out of the car, I could see an occasional flame shoot out of the wheel-bearing opening. Not good.

As luck would have it, a mechanic was across the street waiting on members of his party to arrive. He and I took a look at it and it was a smoking mess. The wheel cover was gone, the grease seal was gone, the castle nut was missing, the bearings were gone and the wheel was just hanging on. We were stunned.

After calling Coach-Net for assistance and getting a mechanic on the way, we limped into the gates of Hanna Park so that we could at least have security protection. Shortly the mobile mechanic arrived and was able to cleanup the mess and get the trailer so that it could be moved for a short distance if necessary.

The Mechanic speculated that the axle had never had a cotter pin put through the castle nut that holds the bearing assembly in place. As a result, the castle nut backed off and eventually fell off releasing the bearings and grinding them to pieces. The drum got so hot that it melted a portion of the seal area, making it impossible to reuse.

Totally dejected and still in shock, we had no choice but to abandon the trailer at the gate at 9:00 PM at night, unpack and head home. I let security know what was going on and they indicated that they would watch it overnight for us and to call the office at 8:00 AM the next morning.

At 8:00 AM the next day I contacted Hanna Park Management and let them know what was going on and that I would be working on getting it out of there as soon as possible. I then started working with our extended warranty and travel interruption insurance provider CornerStone United to get the Island Time relocated to the dealer for service. The Mobile Mechanic had suggested that we limp along on three wheels to the dealer about 20 miles away. That would entail going over the Dames Point Bridge and I could just see having the overloaded tire blow out there, so that was not an option.

CornerStone did find a local towing company that tows big rigs and busses that could bring a Landoll flatbed trailer and load the Island Time and deliver to the RV dealer. We were able to maneuver the trailer out of Hanna Park and these guys were really good and were able to load the trailer onto the Landoll. Billy and his partner from Southern Crane were amazing and delivered the trailer to the RV dealer without any issue.

At this point I have talked with the RV dealer and they are going to secure the trailer in their service area and take a look at it on Monday. They are also helping to build a file to submit to CornerStone for coverage of the parts and service. We will see how that goes.

When it is all said and done, this should have never happened. It was not a lack of care or maintenance on my part, but I now know how and where to watch for problems. I will include an annual personal inspection of the bearings to be sure they are functioning properly and that they are secured properly. We also learned a great deal about how to use roadside assistance and what can be done in the field. As we travel there will be the occasional tire or even car problem and we are better prepared as a result of this. We will never have a bearing problem like this again. I will see to that.

We need a new axle because the spindle is damaged on the old one. I will have them service the other wheels while that have it and go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Everything can be fixed.

When we were done dropping the trailer at the dealer we were already starting to regain our perspective and ended up laughing at parts of it. We are going to continue our cruising on land and ended up laughing at singing road, road, road, your boat… The Island Time will be fine, we will be fine and we will continue the adventure knowing that we are wiser and more experienced and the Lord keeps us safe in the palm of his hand. Amen.

Thanks,

Captain Skip

This was all that was left of the wheel bearings

This was all that was left of the wheel bearings

Island Time being loaded on trailer

Island Time being loaded on trailer

A Tale of Two Weekends at Stagecoach

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A Tale of Two Weekends

Back to back weekends at Stagecoach, were very similar in many ways, but in many ways they could not have been more different. The weekend of June 21 was a hot weekend with high temperatures in the upper 90’s and so was the weekend of June 28. Both weekends had rain and both were pleasant weekends.

They were different in that the weekend of June 21 was the last weekend with the 2011 ML 350 and June 28 was the first weekend with the new 2014 ML 350 Bluetec. Both were somewhat emotional weekends as we found we were more emotionally attached to the white ML than we realized, with it being the object of many camping firsts. It was the first to pull the Island Time, the first to take us to the Keys, first to take the grandkids camping; it turned out to be a great tow vehicle.

While taking the 2011 ML in for servicing as it approached the end of its warranty I became aware that this would be the last year of the ML350 Bluetec with its 455 ft-lbs of torque. The 2015 replacement will be a ML250 with a turbo four-cylinder diesel producing around 350 ft-lbs of torque. While that is sufficient, we did not want to pass on the option with more torque, so we immediately contacted our Mercedes Sales Representative and started a search for one of the few remaining in inventory.

To make a long story shorter, on the same day we received an offer from Mercedes to absorb the final five lease payments if we traded vehicles. Offer in hand we found just the vehicle we were hoping to obtain. It is silver exterior with grey interior ML350 with many of the goodies, including keyless ignition, lane change assist and 455 ft-lbs of torque.

I took Thursday off to have the brake controller installed and then to have the trailer setup checked. Everything checked out, so we were ready to go for the weekend. Just as we were backing out of the garage to go get the trailer, Jeannie noticed a screw in the left front tire. We immediately went to the local tire store, where they removed a screw with a trailer type of head on it. I wonder where it could have come from? A brand new vehicle with 200 miles on it and a patched tire, oh well.

The new ML 350 Bluetec is a towing machine. It pulls the hills in the Interstate without even having to downshift. It is getting 25 MPG in town and looks like it will get 14 – 15 MPG when towing. Very nice!

As an aside, June 28 – 29 was the ARRL Field Day weekend and for the first time in many years, WB9ZNN was on the air. With my new AlexLoop antenna and my Baofeng HT I was in full action and enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately the heat chased me inside for the afternoon before I was ready, but it was nice anyway.

The weather chased us out on Sunday, but we made it home safely. We are ready for the second chapter to begin in our camping adventures. We sure are having fun.

Thanks,

Captain Skip

2011 ML 350 on final camping adventure

2011 ML 350 on final camping adventure

WB9ZNN on the air on Field Day

WB9ZNN on the air on Field Day

Taking a nap during a rain delay

Taking a nap during a rain delay

First adventure for the new ML350

First adventure for the new ML350

2014 ML 350 Bluetec with Island Time

2014 ML 350 Bluetec with Island Time

First Visit to Pellicer Creek Campground

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With the longer days of sunlight we are able to stretch the distance of our after-work run on Friday nights to include sites we cannot get to in the early Spring or late Fall. This weekend we ventured down I95, past St Augustine to the Pellicer Creek Campground and it was really worth the trip! The campground is a small gem hidden away in the travel guides because it does not have bathroom facilities as part of its infrastructure. But it does have 30 full hookup sites nestled away next to the Pellicer Creek, with a beautiful view and quiet surroundings.

We were fortunate enough to get the most prime space in the park, #25. It is a short cutout at the bottom of the small incline that is too small for big motor-homes, but just right for us. It is a pull through with (as it turns out) a very narrow turnout between two trees on the exit road. Though tight, we cleared the trees by 6 inches and could have cleared by more with a little wider initial turn.

The view was spectacular! Our site faced the creek that had a small deck and landing nicely incorporated into the creek side. The deck allowed for fishing and landing canoes and kayaks as they roamed the creek. There was a nice wooden swing and a fire pit nearby and together created a picture perfect setting.

The weekend was anything but ordinary. Earlier in the week the weather forecast was marginal, but by mid-week seemed to be more favorable. It turned out that it was somewhat rainy on Saturday afternoon and evening and threatened a Nor’easter on Sunday afternoon. As a result, we did not unload all of our outside accessories or even use the awning. While sitting at the picnic table I noticed several bumps in the sidewall of the front trailer tire on the passenger side. It seemed to start at the indentation commonly seen on radial tires at the overlap of the belts, but the irregularity seemed to span eight to ten inches around the sidewall of the tire. Not being a tire expert, but comparing it to the other tires it seemed abnormal.

Not wanting to take any chances, I decided to have the tire changed. Fortunately, of the ridiculous number of add-on packages we purchased, we did subscribe to Coach-Net for roadside service. One call to them and within an hour someone came and changed the tire for us at no additional charge. Not bad. Now I need to go through the process of replacing the spare. It seems that nobody is satisfied with their trailer tires on the Internet, so this may be the subject of another blog.

Additionally, this weekend I replaced two of the mini-blinds that were broken. In fact, one of the new blinds came broken, so I had to rob parts from one of the bad ones to make the new one work. Anyway, I was able to get the new blinds mounted without too much fuss and we no longer have to use storage container lids to block the galley window for privacy.

Oh yes, not to forget the Bliss Lights. We put on a spectacular show this weekend by lighting the trees in the area. Several people noticed, though it had to be really dark to get the full effect.

We scooted out on Sunday around noon to avoid the weather front that was blowing in from offshore on the radar and made it home without incident. We are really looking forward to returning to Pellicer Creek Campground when the weather is more favorable. We are still enjoying the adventure. Stay tuned for more.

Thanks,

Captain Skip

Pellicer Creek Campground Sign

Pellicer Creek Campground Sign

Site #25 at Pellicer Creek

Site #25 at Pellicer Creek

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

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