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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Getting Ready To Cruise

To increase my puzzlement, all the dashboard gauges now worked perfectly.  Evidently all the wiggling of the wire harness under the dash tightened some loose connection.  During our 160 mile trip from Mayport, FL to Patrick AFB in Cocoa Beach, FL, they performed flawlessly.  Lovely, plus no more annoying warning alarm.  Figures, but I’m still going to get the wiring harness replaced at the Freightliner Service Center in Gaffney, SC as soon as we head that way.

All is going well, we have a 50 amp electric site here at the AFB FamCamp for $14.50/night.  It’s right nearby Port Canaveral where we’re catching our Royal Caribbean cruise ship Sunday for a 7 day sailing.


We’re leaving both the Journey and the Element toad here and taking a taxi up to and back from  the ship. Cab fare is much cheaper than the $120 it would cost us to park at the port for a week.  Can’t get too much more secure than a military base to leave our traveling home.

Lots of neat aircraft here to watch, including the Air Force Blackhawk helos from their rescue squadron.  I love to see my tax dollars being well spent. 


We’ll be back on 3 May to work off our sea legs and get back to being landlubbers.   We’re intending to roam Florida for the rest of the month.  Heat?  Humidity?  What’s that?  :cD

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Talk About Customer Service!

Okay, you can get off the edge of your seats now, my problem with the dash gauges has been solved. 

I opened up the dashboard, and exposed the wiring behind it.



I called Freightliner Customer Service and spoke for about an hour with tech rep Dwayne.  He recognized the problem right away but walked me through several steps to properly diagnose the issue.

It seems that Freightliner has had problems with the wiring harnesses on my model year chassis.  The wiring harness has white colored wires and an upgraded harness has been made with all black wires.

To be sure, he had me move some of the wires around from gauge to gauge to prove the problem was the wire harness and not the gauges.



It was hard to see and I had to use a mirror to make sure I was unplugging and plugging the wires in the right spots.

Funny, right now all the gauges are working, but they may go out again, something is loose with a connection somewhere and that’s why Freightliner upgraded the harness. 

If you remember, a short time ago we had a problem with an air pressure gauge.  Yep, that gauge has wiring from this troublesome harness, too.

The best part is Freightliner is going to pick up the cost of the repair, parts and labor even though the Journey is years and miles out of warranty.  How is that for great customer service?  We’re going to schedule a repair at the Gaffney Freightliner Service Center possibly in June on our way up to Missouri.

Now I just have to put that dashboard back together with those zillion screws.  Hope I remember where they all go!

(Marti has told me a million times not to exaggerate, the truth is there are only half a zillion screws!)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Surrounded By Squid

We headed out this morning with a close by first stop, a Speedco oil change place.  I’ve been using them when I’m on the road and they do a pretty good job, quickly and about a hundred bucks cheaper than a dealer.


The Journey got some TLC and we’re good for another year or 11,000 miles, whichever comes first.  Wanna’ guess which will come first?

I watch the techs doing the work, but I won’t let them change my fuel filter.  Fuel filters are important on diesels because even the tiniest dirt, we’re talking 2 microns, can cause damage to fuel pumps and injectors.  Most shops prefill the fuel filter with unfiltered diesel, which defeats the whole purpose of a filter.  And they don’t keep the cans they use to fill the filter in a clean place.


I have the Journey set up with a hand fuel pump I installed on my engine’s fuel line.  I put the new filter on dry and with the hand pump, pull fuel through the filter so I know it’s clean.  I’m just picky that way.  And cheap.  A new injector costs around $1K (I have six) and a fuel pump goes for over $6K on my engine.  All of them can be damaged by the tiniest bit of contamination.  A penny saved…

We had an extremely long driving day, in fact I think I might have set a new PDD record.  75 miles.  Maybe that’s a negative PDD record?

We pulled in to the Mayport Navy Base Campground called Pelican’s Roost.  What a great place, how come we’ve never stayed here before?


We found ourselves surrounded by “Squid”, that is the nickname that Coasties fondly call Navy Sailors, after all they call us “Hooligans” and “Shallow Water Sailors”.  But all is not lost, we watched a Coast Guard 210ft Medium Endurance Cutter, the Valiant standing out to sea.  Yep, I miss the Coast Guard almost every day.


I got a chance to talk to a Freightliner Tech rep in the phone about our missing gauges.  He put me on to a possible problem with some wiring in the dash to the gauges.  Evidently the gauges are all wired in a daisy chain, sort of like the old Christmas lights, where if one bulb went bad, the whole string didn’t light.

He gave me instructions on how to check to find either a wiring harness defect or a bad gauge.  Now I have to do a dashboardectomy.  Winnebago put the Journey’s dash together with about a zillion screws, unlike my old Adventurer that had a flip up dash.  Another “What were they thinking”?  issue.  Looks to be an interesting day’s work ahead.


Of course, this isn’t bothering Marti a bit.  We’re only staying here three days, but I might have to pry her out of here!  :cD


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Monday, April 20, 2015

Whistling Down The Highway

What fun would RV life be without a challenge thrown in once in a while?  Actually, I’d love it to be once in a while instead of seemingly every time we get the Journey rolling.

We departed the J. Strom Thurmond COE this morning with a new “bug” bugging us.  Our dash gauges, the oil pressure, water temp, fuel level, charging, speedometer and tach were all not functioning.  Zero, zilch and nada.  Yet the engine lit off just fine and the two air pressure gauges came right up into their normal range.

We have to be in Florida by Saturday to catch our cruise or lose a pretty significant chunk of money, so we rolled out anyway.

Now I would never do anything dangerous, despite any monetary loss.  My dash has a information readout that told me the speed and a temp reading on the transmission, which runs a cooler through the radiator.  If the engine started to overheat, I’d see that temp rise.


Having just checked the oil level and knowing I had a full tank of fuel with a range of more than 500 miles, there wasn’t anything that would hold us back, so away we went.  Along with one major bummer.

The dash has an alarm whistle when any of those aforementioned gauges fail, along with a red light.  We had to put up with the whistle.  Turning up the radio helped a bit.

Along the way, we spied a Freightliner dealer, so we stopped.  No chance of getting any service, they were swamped with over the road trucks.  I decided to do some troubleshooting myself.


I opened the chassis fuse and circuit breaker panel and checked all the fuses.  All good. 

There were a number of relays and circuit breakers there that I couldn’t test.  Plus on the back of the panel cover was a list of what all the fuses, relays and circuit breakers went to.  Of course, there was no listing for anything remotely connected to dash gauges.  With a wild guess, I bought and replaced the relay that went to the ignition circuit.  It’s the clean square thing on the bottom left of the panel.  Thankfully, it was only $5, because I guessed wrong.  It didn’t stop the whistle or restore the gauges.  :c(


With no other options, we whistled down the road.  225 miles to the Golden Isles Campground in Brunswick, GA, a Passport America participant.  Nothing fancy, but for $18.90, it’ll do for the night.


I’ve got a few posts on some RV forums looking for some ideas.  Hopefully someone has seen this issue before.  Tomorrow we’re going to a nearby Speedco for an annual oil, lube and filter change before we head further South.  I’m going to check for some possible ground issues and do a “hard reboot” of the chassis electrical system by disconnecting the batteries for a couple of minutes. 

Will any of it work?  Stay tuned, I hope something will, the ringing in my ears hasn’t stopped yet…

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Wrapping It All Up

Time flies when you’re having fun and we’ve had a great time during our “Tour of Duty” here at the J. Strom Thurmond COE Project in SC.   We had two jobs that we wanted to finish up before we leave for our summer travels (and our next Caribbean cruise).

The first one was a bit challenging, we had placed life jacket reminders in all the gate houses around the lake, except the one which had the much smaller window.


We headed back another day, armed with scissors and tape to try and cut and squeeze all the letters together to fit the window.  Marti carefully cut each letter out.


We trimmed the letters and carefully pieced them together tightly to fit.  We did a loose alignment to make sure we’d be able to bunch them up before we applied them to the glass.


Once we were happy with the fit, we applied pressure to adhere the lettering to the glass.  It came out pretty good, and all the Rangers were happy with the result.  We were too, after all, our reputation as expert decal installers was on the line.  ;c)


Our final project was to make copies of the Water Safety posters that were borrowed from a COE park in Florida.  After pricing out local reproductions of the posters (about $4K for four sets!!!) we were determined to find a cheaper way to get copies of all 15 posters for use here at the Thurmond COE.

I photographed each poster with my little point and shoot camera, holding it as steady as I could.



Then my pictures were loaded onto a computer where they were enhanced by Ranger Ron using Photoshop.  His skills were first class.

Next the pictures were printed out poster size on a special printer here that that the COE uses for making large maps.  After the pages came out we trimmed the excess paper off to standardize all the posters.


Then we ran each page through the laminating machine in the COE office.


A final trimming of the excess plastic,


and we had a complete set of posters all done and ready to be used here, now we can return the borrowed posters.


Now that we have the first set done, the savings have been realized.  Four sets of posters can be done for about $200.  That frees up money to be used on other projects around this wonderful Corps of Engineers Project.  Now if some of those savings would show up as a refund of my income taxes…

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Stuck Up

We’re into the closing days of our “tour of duty” for this year at J. Strom Thurmond COE project, but that doesn’t mean we’re bored or doing the same old thing.  In fact, we learned something new, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

As part of the COE’s dedicated effort for water safety, we had a dozen decals with a water safety message made up to be placed in the windows of all the gate houses around the lake.

Here’s a before:


And an after:


We’d never done this type of work before, but found it wasn’t too complicated as long as we took our time and applied the lettering very carefully to a squeaky clean window.

First, the one side covering of the lettering is peeled off exposing the sticky side with the letters.


That side is placed on the glass, then carefully rubbed with a smooth plastic tool.  All the air bubbles are worked out and the letters stick tightly to the window.


Then the backing is slowly peeled off, leaving just the letters.


Of course, there had to be one gatehouse with non standard sized windows, making the decal too big to fit. Oops!!


We’ll have to figure out a way to fit this one on, maybe by cutting the decal up into individual letters and moving them closer together.  But that’s a job for another day.

Because of the wonderful warm weather we’ve been having here lately, the beaches have been swarmed with visitors.  Because the gate houses are not officially opened, the self pay stations are being used.  People get so confused and can’t follow the clearly posted directions on where to put the paid envelope in.  They kept coming in and asking us as we were working on the lettering.  It got so bad, we had to take action and help the people to see where to put their envelopes.


We’re always here to help!  :cD

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Drip, Drip

Water.  The liquid enemy of RVs.  Regular close inspections of the roof, windows and other seams is what I do to keep that water where it belongs.  Outside.

Thankfully, Marti has good hearing.  This afternoon she heard a drip, drip sound inside the Journey.  Not good.  Especially when it was a nice dry and sunny day.  That means an internal leak somewhere.

I began my exploration to find the source of the noise.  Looking all around the inside, we didn’t find a single wet spot anywhere, yet we continued to hear the dripping.  So I looked outside.

Yep, there was a huge puddle under the Journey, right under the refrigerator panel.  Opening up the storage compartment underneath the panel revealed water pouring in from above and the water level had flooded the compartment right up the the door lip.

I pulled a coin out of my pocket and opened the fridge panel and found water shooting out from the white plastic ice maker feed line.  I quickly turned off the water from the campground faucet and investigated. 

I removed the water line brass fitting and inspected the plastic water line, there didn’t seem to be any cracks or holes in the line.  Hmm.

I reinstalled the plastic water line, making sure the fitting was tight.  Turning on the water showed that there was no further leak.  The fitting had just loosened up, probably from vibration or hot/cold weather over the years.  Tightening it up solved the problem.


Thankfully, it was a cheap repair.  The cleanup, however is a different story.  I removed all the gear stored in the compartment and broke out my handy little shop vac.


I vacuumed out all the water and place a bucket in the compartment to catch the last few drips.


I’ll have to let the compartment dry for a day or so before I replace all the gear.  One quick, cheap fix that could have been much worse had it not been for Marti’s sharp ears!  :c)

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

My New RV

You could say I’ve downsized a bit.  Our Journey is 40 feet long (okay, I lied, it’s actually 39 feet, 11 inches) and hustling it about sometimes can be tough, especially winding through tight campgrounds or fueling stations.  So I yearned for something a little smaller.

I’ve been waiting for a long time to find the perfect smaller RV, something reliable, yet reasonably comfortable with some pretty good storage space.  It didn’t have to be new, but in good, well cared for shape.

Finally, I found it.  Let me ‘splain.

Our son, Corey, is the service manager at a large New Jersey car dealership.  He called me up one night and told me all about this RV that someone had traded in for a purchase of a new car.  He had one of his techs check it out and said it was in A-1 condition.  Corey sent me pictures of it, which raised my interest.

We talked back and forth, I had Corey check out a few things and even take it for a spin to see if it performed well.  After the road test, he said it ran perfectly.  A few more pictures to help me make up a decision and then the price.  The price was good, in fact, it was a steal. 

Just for my peace of mind, I did some research on Kelly’s Blue Book and Craigslist for comparable RVs and found the price was amazing, so I pulled the trigger, sent Corey a check for the cost and now I own this new (to me) downsized RV.  The dealership wanted to move this RV off the lot because they don’t normally sell this kind of vehicle.  Plus, I got Corey’s employee discount.  Sometimes the stars do align.

So, without further ado, here is the picture of my new, downsized RV:


It is a fully loaded 2003 Honda VTX 1800 motorcycle. That’s a picture of Corey with our granddaughter Anabelle on it the day last week when Corey rode it home to his house.

For now, Corey is going to keep the motorcycle in his garage for me and ride it whenever he likes.  I’ll get a chance to ride it this summer when we are up in NJ for a couple of months.  As to the logistics of where we’ll eventually keep it and how (if) we take it with us in the Journey as we travel will be worked out when the time comes, but right now I had to strike while the iron is hot.

I’m looking forward to a few short motorcycle trips this summer with two of my brothers who also live in NJ and have motorcycles.  I’ve been riding motorcycles for many years and did a major 7000 mile cross country motorcycle trip years ago with my dad and brother.  In fact, Marti and I went on our honeymoon 37 years ago on a motorcycle. That whetted my appetite to travel leading us to our full time life.  I gave my last motorcycle to my other son, Ryan, shortly before we hit the road.

I don’t think Marti will do any long trips with me on the motorcycle, just maybe some day long sight seeing rides.  I think riding in the Journey has spoiled her a bit. 

Of course, all of these plans are dependant on if I can get Anabelle off the motorcycle…  ;c)

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