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Friday, December 31, 2010

Discovering hidden features

Yesterday I did my major projects relating to the radio and the power switch for the front night shade. (if you are bored by technical details, stop here, go away and get a good book to read.  But if you are a techie, read on….)

The shade turned out to take some time as I had to be very careful that I connected the right wires in the right place.  If you read the previous blog entry, you’ll know that the goal of this task was to move the switch from the driver’s left side where it is all but inaccessible while not in the driver’s seat, to the center of the dash above the heater/defroster controls.  Fortunately the switch is identical to the other switches in this area and there were three blanks for additional switches.  A secondary goal was to make the switch operable at all times, not just when the key is in.

There are 8 wires involved and I carefully tagged each one with numbers on both sides of where I would cut them.  Then I “spliced” in an extra 5 feet or so of wire and re-connected the other ends.  There were two power leads which I did not splice in as these are controlled by the ignition key.

I did find constant power source on the generator start switch next to the new location for the shade switch so I tapped in there.  Once I put everything back together, it didn’t work!  I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong.  And of course, there was no easy way to undo it all, so I needed to get it to work.

Did some research and decided to try easy fixes first.  I tried to run a hot lead from the old red wires that I wasn’t using to the relocated switch and viola, everything worked.  So maybe the genny wasn’t the best place to tap into.  Tried the hot lead on the utility lights and now everything worked – and without having the key in the ignition.  Closed everything up real nice and it looks like you couldn’t even tell it didn’t come that way from the factory.

Now the radio (Magnadyne M1-CD) was a different story.  Found the installation manual for it online and downloaded it.  The wire I’m looking for on the harness is supposed to be yellow, but there is no yellow wire!  Going to have to call the factory on that one.  But while reading the manual, discovered a whole host of features I didn’t know we had:

  • Sirius Satellite radio option – and found that the full satellite radio is already installed and ready to use.  Was able to receive their basic information channel with no problem.  Found a free trial online and may activate it for our next trip just to play with it.
  • Special traffic alert feature – when enabled, anytime there is a traffic alert in the area you are driving through, the radio will interrupt whatever else it is doing to play the alert.
  • Full weather radio – push the special button and you get the NOAA weather including any watches & warnings for your local area.
  • IPOD connection – a special cable out the back for you to connect your ipod via optional cable.  I ordered the cable so we can use it.  It allows the radio to control the IPOD and also charges the IPOD while it is being used.  I’m going to run this under the dash once it arrives to make it more convenient.
  • USB connection – for USB MP3 players – don’t have one of these so probably won’t use this feature. May try a memory stick in it to see what it does.
  • Memory card feature – it has a slot for memory cards that will allow you to play audio from the card.
  • Extra TV connections – This one I’d really like to use.  Currently our TV doesn’t have the greatest sound because the TV’s speakers are so small.  I can play it through the radio by running a cable from the TV earphone jack to the aux input on the front of the radio.  But if you get the volume up too high, you get background hum.  If I can run the wires from the back of the radio to the TV selector system, I will not only eliminate the hum and improve the sound, but to play music channels on Direct TV, I won’t have to have the TV on any more!  And best yet, it will work in the front or back of the RV.
  • The radio can be operated by an optional remote control device.  (need to see the cost on this one).

Here I thought it was just an AM/FM radio with CD player.

So, this was a manual well worth discovering.  Monday I will call the factory on the elusive yellow wire and check into any other options. 

Stay tuned for my further adventures as I personalize the RV.  Heck, I may get it so comfy in the rV, that I never want to leave it!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Never ending maintenance

The last couple of days have been RV maintenance days.  It’s been raining most of the time, so I can’t do too much.  But yesterday I remounted my Pressure Pro tire monitoring system.  This system has a control panel that I mounted to the left of the gauge cluster and has an outline of the RV and toad showing the tire positions on each.

Each tire has a small sensor on its valve that relays the tire pressure every 5 minutes to the control panel.  If the pressure drops by 12% or more, it sets off an alarm.  The system is really accurate and once on a trip, it indicated that one of the toad tires had suddenly lost air pressure.  I was able to pull off the highway and take care of the problem before the tire went flat and was ruined.

I had originally used Velcro tape to hold the control panel in place but over time it would fall off.  So instead, I screwed some L brackets into an area on the dash under a cover and mounted the Velcro tape to the brackets.  This works really well and is a much sturdier mount.  Also had to replace 3 sensors as their batteries died after 7+ years.  I have the remaining 7 sensors ready to replace when the remaining 7 die too.

Today I got the oil changed, chassis lubed and a new oil filter installed.  I decided to go with synthetic oil this time and it is supposed to last twice as long, so I should save $$$ money over time.  Also completed winterizing the RV (or as much as we do here when the temp goes below freezing).

Tomorrow I have two tasks to work on.  First, the clock in the radio doesn’t keep time unless it is turned on.  There is a wire for the clock memory but for whatever reason, it was not connected.  I’m going to trace it back and connect it so the clock remembers the time.

Also, the power switch that raises and lowers the front window nightshade is on the drivers left, below the arm rest near a cup holder.  I’m planning on moving this switch to the center console where it will be easier to reach and also changing its power source so that it does not require the key in the ignition to use.

The radio and the switch sound easy, but will take some time and careful work to get done right.  I want to get all these done before our next trip to California in a few weeks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oregon or Bust

We planned to leave at 9 this morning from Corning, CA and head to 7 Feathers RV Resort up in Canyonville, OR.  That’s a distance of 265 miles.  But both Carol and I woke up early, around 5:30 or so, and we just decided to get going to get a head start on any weather.

So, at 8:30 we left the RV park and went to refuel and fill up the propane too.  By the time we got all that accomplished, it was 9am and we were back on our original schedule.  We did check the weather, and it looked pretty good.

We have a small portable inverter that Carol can use while we are driving to power her computer.  She can tether to her phone and have full internet access anywhere she can get good cell coverage.  Fortunately, most of the interstates have good coverage.  So while we were driving, she was able to access the highway cameras and look at live conditions as we drove.  Everything looked to be in good shape over the passes.  As you can see, when we got to Siskiyou Summit (highest point on I-5), the weather was, to our happy surprise, gorgeous and there was no snow to be seen!


We entered Oregon expecting bad weather, maybe some wind and ice, snow, etc.  But other than a lot of frost on the plants, it was a beautiful day!


We arrived at 7 Feathers right before 3pm, filled up the RV with gas, and parked it!


Tomorrow, we plan to head home.  Though the forecast calls for strong easterly winds and possible snow.  So we shall have to see how it goes with that. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A long, long, long day

Yesterday we did some errands (haircut, stores, etc.) and also a bike ride.  We also visited the Monarch Butterflies nesting area right near our RV park.

We ate out (our last dinner in Pismo) and planned our next day heading north to Monterey.  We hope to visit the Pebble Beach GC area as I won a free trip there to play Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Spanish Bay.  We may do it this spring or early summer.  But for now we want to check out the area and RV parks, etc.

Just before I went to sleep, about 10pm or so, Carol was on the internet and happened to get the weather for Monterey.  Turns out there was a significant update from a few hours earlier when I checked it.  Now there is a major storm coming in Friday that will bring high winds and heavy rain to the Bay Area and down south.  So we quickly did some planning and decided to forgo the Monterey stop and get up early and head home up I5.  We planned to get to Corning, CA – a distance of about 420 miles.

So we got going early (about 7:30) and headed out.  Had lots of tule fog (A very spotty, but dense fog that causes those 100+ vehicle pileup you read about).  Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad and we made great time getting to Corning at 3:30. 

Of course we visited the Indian casino for their 2 for 1 buffet and both Carol & I played $5 in the slots.  I won nothing, she left 25 cents ahead.  You can tell we are big time gamblers.

Tomorrow the weather looks marginal.  We will probably encounter some snow showers up around Mt. Shasta and again as we enter Oregon going over the Siskiyou mountain passes.  But it doesn’t look too heavy and hopefully we will beat the worst of it.  As we get further north, the weather should improve somewhat too. 

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


We spent Sunday resting and relaxing.  I watched my Raiders lose a heartbreaker and probably their playoff chances to Jacksonville.  That was tough to see.

Monday, we drove to Lompoc to visit some sites.  First we went to a Victorian mansion that was supposed to be open from 9 to 11 but we were there at 10 with no one in sight.  So then we walked around town a bit and then drove to the Amtrak station at Surf.  This is about 12 miles west of Lompoc at the beach.  There is a modern train station there that has a nice commuter-type station.  And that is all that is there, literally.  There is nothing else for 10 miles in any direction.  At least nothing else accessible to the public.  This whole area is on Vandenberg AFB, home of the Pacific Missile Range.  The Amtrak station is totally surrounded by restricted areas!

From there we went to the mission.  This is one of the few missions not founded by Father Junipero Serra.  It was originally at another site in town, but was destroyed by earthquake in the early 1800’s and rebuilt on the La Purisima site about 7 miles east of Lompoc.  The buildings were restored in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  We took the walking tour which is about 1.5 miles in total and is self guided.

From there we went east to Buellton and were planning on eating at one of my favorite places, the Bakers Square restaurant in town.  But when we arrived, we found that it was out of business.  So we went across the highway to Pea Soup Anderson’s.

Then we drove into Solvang and did another short walk in town.  If   you have never been there, it is worth going to.  I’m sure Carol’s blog will have details and pictures from Lompoc, the mission, and Solvang.  Click here for Carol's blog.

Today, I went and played golf at a local 9 hole course.  Shot 3 over par which for me is really good!  As you can see, the weather was ideal – shirt sleeve temps and blue sky – A far cry from the rain and 38 degree temps back home in Vancouver, WA.

2010-12-14 14.04.40

When I got back to the RV, I was checking the weather and it looks like a snowstorm will hit the mountain passes that we will pass through on our way home.  So we may change our route a bit by going to the coast which may also change when we depart for home.  Stay tuned for updates!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

386 miles and what do you get???

Well, we woke up early this morning and verified that there were no more leaks!  So about 7:30 or so, we mounted up and headed out.  We had foggy weather for the first 100 miles or so followed by overcast for all but 60 miles of the remainder.  The overcast made it much easier to drive as this time of year, the sun is low in the sky all day and we were heading right into it.  We made really good time and completed the 386 mile trek at just a few minutes after 3om.

We were able to pick our site from a list of about 8 or so and found one with good satellite reception.  It is so warm here that we grilled tube steaks for dinner!  Definitely shirt-sleeve weather!

Pismo Coast Village is a nice RV destination with all kinds of amenities.  You can even be a share owner here which lets you stay 45 days free per year.

Tomorrow is a day of rest (and Raider football!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

I can’t believe we fixed the whole thing!!!!

Well, first, let’s go back to yesterday……when we last left this exciting tale of suspence, we were awaiting the final fix on the slide and getting ready for departure…..However, Thursday morning we discovered a leak from the toilet.  Actually, this leak had been there all along and was masked by the problem with the sprayer.  Once we fixed the sprayer, I thought the problem was gone.

But not so fast…..there was another leak and when the tech troubleshot it, he found the cause and, well, if you’ve been reading the past few entries, you know what happened next…..yup, that’s right, we needed a special part….and of course, it would arrive on the next truck which would come sometime on Friday between 10 and noon.

But wait, there’s more…..of course the truck doesn’t come till 1:45 today.  Fortunately, it had the part on it.  So, by 4:30, all was fixed.

Of course, it was too late to go anywhere.  So we plan to stay one more night (that will make 10! – more nights occupied in one place by any of our RV’s ever!) and then leave early tomorrow and possibly make it to Pismo Beach all in one 400 mile day.

Now get this…..and this isn’t just a Christmas story……the folks here are DeMartini have about 40 hours all told in the various repairs.  Additionally, there are numerous parts (roller, gears, thermistor, toilet seal, valve seal, rubber hose, slide strips, slide lube, bolts, slide panel, etc.) that were needed for the various repairs.  Probably close to $5,000 minimum is the bill.  And of course, our warranty ran out in mid October.

At this point, there is no charge!  They are going to bat to get Fleetwood to cover it all.  Yes it took 10 days, but these guys refused to treat just the symptoms.  In every case, they wanted to know why something wasn’t working and how to permanently fix it.  And then they applied the fix!

And throughout this time, we stayed for free with full hookups in their RV area which we now call Camp DeMarini.  We were there long enough to consider ourselves camp hosts!!!

If you are an RVer reading this, it is worth it to drive the 1200 mile round trip for this kind of expertise and service.  It is so rare these days that when you find it, you need to make sure you use it.

Hopefully, if all goes well tonight, we will leave early in the morning and head south to warm, sunny weather!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hang ‘em!

Yesterday we knew we had a free day while waiting for our part to arrive, so we decided on a trip down highway 49 to Placerville.  Highway 49 takes you from Grass Valley south through Auburn and then onto Placerville.  If you go beyond Placerville, you eventually come to Sonora and down near Yosemite.  We would have liked to have gone further, but time didn’t allow it.

Highway 49 in Auburn can be a bit confusing as there are several turns you need to make on local streets to follow the highway.  While they put signs on most of the turns telling you which way to go to follow 49, in one case they didn’t.  Of course, since we were trying to go south, in the absence of a sign and you need to turn north or south, a reasonable person would pick south by default.  Do that and you get a great tour of Auburn’s older section, but not the road you really want.  After getting some local input, we got back in the right direction.

As you leave Auburn, the road has some very tight turns for about 6 miles.  You can’t go more than 20mph and most often are going considerably less.  While we could take the RV on this road, and it would do fine, it would really punish whoever is behind us as there is no place to pull over with a vehicle of any size.  So I see why RVs are not recommended.

The road straightens out in a town called “Cool” and remains fairly straight for about 17 miles,  Then the last 8 miles or so are curvy again and very slow.  Just as you get to the curves, there is Marshall Gold Discovery State Park where gold was first discovered.  We stopped there briefly and Carol got some great pics (see her blog).

Once we arrived in Placerville, we had lunch and then walked the town for some exercise.  This is an old town with some really old buildings, but all are well kept up.


In the center of town, there is a bell tower.  This bell was used to summon the citizens when there was a fire somewhere.  All would bring their buckets and come together to help put it out.


The town was originally called “Hangman” because of all the hangings they did there.  There was a tree in the center of town used for this and since Placerville is the county seat, the tree had a lot of business!  In the late 1800’s there was a building erected to replace the tree and the hangings ceased.  (hopefully the reason for them ceased too!)


On the way back, we had this great view of the I-80 bridge spanning the canyon of the north fork of the American River.  It appears to be about 250 to 300 feet high.

Today (Wednesday) we awaited the arrival of the UPS truck to bring our gear for our slide.  The truck arrived at about 10:30 so we quickly got the RV disconnected and ready to move.  I went up to verify that the part had arrived and I’m glad I did because it was not on the truck.  Somehow they messed up the shipping.  We were then told it would arrive by 3pm.  So we went back and hooked everything back up again.

At 2:30 the truck came and I called to verify that the part was delivered and it was.  So we quickly got everything ready again, unhooked everything, and started pulling in the slides, when they called and said they weren’t sure there would be enough time left in the day to get it done.  So, once again, we hooked everything back up and will now stay another night in Camp DeMartini.

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 they will install the gear and if all goes well, we will leave afterwards and head toward Pismo Beach.  We hope to get to Patterson on I-5 south of Tracy at a minimum.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Almost Ready

Monday (yesterday) we again had the RV in at DeMartini’s to continue the repair process on the slide.  It turns out the slide gear is not reversible, so a new one is being ordered and will be installed on Wednesday.  We found all this out about 1pm or so.  We returned the RV to its spot at “Camp DeMartini” and went exploring some of the neighboring area for a few hours.

First we went to a town called Smartsville, expecting it to be a small town with some kind of history.  It may have a history, but the area is in rather poor condition and the road in was well worn.  We didn’t stay there long because there really is much there.


Next we went to a town called Rough and Ready.  This was a mining town and also sits upon a major road into the foothills.  This town actually seceded from the Union for a while until they realized that they had nothing to celebrate on July 4th!  Then they quickly returned. IMG_7808

Interesting that the population, elevation and year of secession all have the same digits!

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Today we are pretty much free since the gear part won’t arrive until tomorrow.  So we are going to take a long ride down highway 49, probably into Placerville.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Update & Snowdate

Our RV spent all day in the service bay on Friday getting the slides worked on.  The techs here are superb.  Unlike where I took it last time for warranty service (initials CW), these techs won’t give up until they actually figure out a cause and solution.  For example:

Our bedroom slide was not coming in straight and it would leave the trailing edge with anywhere from a half inch or more when it closed.  You could sometimes hear a noise like a thump when it closed.  The other place would just put it back in and reset it and of course, 3-4 more opens & closes and it would be right back out again.

The DeMartini techs figured out that the slide mechanism is centered under the bed but there is also a closet to the right (trailing side).  This meant that there was uneven weight being moved when operating the slide and the closed was basically sliding along, or in this case, dragging along.  When the friction became too much, the rightmost gear would jump a tooth and then the slide would be out of alignment.  Their fix is to get a roller, similar to what you might put under the rear of an RV to stop it from hitting the ground, and mount it under the closet to support the weight and reduce the friction.  This works great!

They are even going a step further and going to reverse one of the gears since it was worn from the extra torque needed.  They will do that Monday as well as try a few things with the big slide and its problem.

So we got the RV back at 5 and am parked at their campsite for the weekend.  Last night we went to the Cornish Christmas street festival in Grass Valley.

Today (Saturday) we drove up to Truckee. We went from Grass Valley on Hwy 20 up to I-80 then to Truckee.  Some great scenery along the way with the wintery snow conditions.


A great picture of Donner lake from I-80

IMG_7676 As the transcontinental railroad, and the current Union Pacific railroad, cross Donner pass, the actual railroad is covered for about 7 miles with a wooden roof to keep the snow off the tracks.


We had lunch at a little cafe called “Coffee and.”


After lunch, we went to Donner State Park.  This is where the Donner party spent the winter in 1847-48 and ran out of food.  Over 33% of the party died and the survivors had it so bad, that some resorted to cannibalism in order to make it through.

While at the park, we got out our snowshoes and walked along the nature path in snow that was about 2 feet thick.  You could see that many people tried to walk the path in boots and left deep impressions.  But the snow shoes handled it with ease.


Friday, December 3, 2010

First Day of Service


Yesterday our RV went in for the first day of service.  Hopefully there won’t be too many more, but our plans are flexible so we can easily stay long enough to get all fixed.  We have a problem with the bedroom slide that won’t close properly, the main slide makes a snapping noise when closing, the oven won’t light and the water heater was having problems.  Also the Norcold fridge has a recall.

The water heater is fixed and the recall is done and while doing it, they found and fixed a small water leak.  The problems with the slides are more involved.  Hopefully we will see more progress today too.

We can’t say enough about DeMartini RV of Grass Valley, CA.  Their sales and support are both top-notch.  The facility is clean, spacious and they are very friendly.  They have wifi and let Carol and I take over a conference room to spread out and access the net.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grass Valley, CA

We left Corning this morning at about 9:30 or so and arrived in Grass Valley at noon.  While it is only 100 miles, parts of it on Highway 20 are curvy and slow.  We pulled into DeMartini RV and was assigned to one of their 3 campsites with full hookups.


The roads were actually in good condition except for one.  My GPS gave us a “shortcut” that saved about 15 miles, but used a country lane for about 2 miles.  This lane was in great shape for the first 200 feet, but then degraded.  It was fully paved, but the potholes had been patched and repatched, so it was a bit bouncy.  But it quickly go better and I think the shortcut was worth it.  Highway 20 is also a bit narrow, but has frequent passing lanes.



As you can see above, we had great weather.  The forecast was for rain showers, but it was sunny all day and very mild temps.  They have some rather interesting signals along this road.  Double red lights!  I guess one for each eye or maybe since this is in California and they are big on diversity, they have these for those who are cross-eyed.


After getting settled, we drove to Nevada City.  One of the helpful techs at DeMartini told us of their Victorian Christmas festival to be held tonight, so we went to check the place out before it started.  Nevada City is a quaint little town and well worth seeing.


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After a brief tour, we went to meet our niece, Keri for an early dinner.  It was great seeing her during her lunch hour (she works a split shift at a vet clinic).  Tomorrow night, we meet her mom and another niece for dinner.

After dinner, we went to the Victorian Christmas Festival in Nevada City.


They close several streets in old town and there are booths for vendors to sell their wares as well as all the stores being open.  We parked at the government center and took a $5 shuttle to and from the festival location.

Tomorrow our RV goes in for some repairs.  Will write more about that after they are done.

Also, I didn’t mention this in an earlier blog entry as we were home at the time, but my local golf course, Green Mountain in Vancouver, had a 10th anniversary contest.  The grand prize was a trip for two to play Pebble Beach, Spyglass, and Spanish Bay and includes travel, meals, etc.  Suddenly, I had a lot of friends!  I’m actually going to take my 3 other golf partners (we play in scramble tournaments together) and plan to do it in May.  It should be a blast.  So we will be coming back to California in May in the RV.