Thursday, July 28, 2011

RV Woes Update

Photos from happier Serrano times.

Well, Bloggers its been quite a week or so. We discovered more things wrong with our Serrano since my previous post.

We had thought if Danny could dismantle the automatic steps that we could drive it over to Seffner (85 miles) to Lazy Days for repairs. It took Danny two trips to the storage facility and several hours under the rig to disable the steps. Then, he discovered the instrument panel was dead. He checked the turn signal and lights which still worked and decided that using his iphone to monitor speed and just filling up with fuel prior to hitting the road, he could still drive to Seffner. Cranked the engine to drive to nearest gas station and low and behold, it made a horrible screeching and rumbling, the Serrano bucked and refused to go more than a couple miles per hour despite pushing the pedal to the floor. Obviously, it was not drivable. Our appointment at Lazy Days was the next morning.

We called Good Sams/Camping World roadside assistance and they said the would send a tow and meet us at our storage unit the next morning. We would meet the tow driver at Lazy Days. Tow driver quoted me a price of $190.00 overage charges since they only cover 25 miles to nearest repair facility. Nearest facility in Orlando can not repair our rig; we already checked. The overage wasn't too bad so I gave the go ahead and we hit the highway.

About twenty miles out, the tow company called and said, "Oops the charge is $310.00. Driver quoted you the wrong rate and we take cash only. I had twenty dollars in my wallet. Color me unhappy. Finally I agreed to the highway robbery charge and they agreed to accept Master Card.

Lazy Days was great. They gave us a free lunch in their cafeteria and a nice place to wait for the driver. We looked at similar sizes and types of motor homes on their extensive lot and dreamed of switching. They had already contacted Thor Industries on our behalf on the warranty and repair issues. Thor called Danny and said they were sending someone down from Indiana to look at our rig since we had listed 12 items that needed repair and it isn't drivable at only ten months old. We went home.

The manufacturer's rep found more than fifteen things that need repair or replacement and green lighted lazy days to do the work. Thor is so far really trying to make it right. I don't know how long the process will take but at this point am hopeful that we will get a better than new unit back.

Here are some of the problems we found:
Unusual and excessive wear and tear to leatherette driver and co captains chairs, pantry door falling off, a/c unit drips onto the bed, nonfunctional cruise control, non functional steps and instrument panel, engine issues, leaky windows in cab area, computer tray table sticks from warping after roof leak, one outdoor bin doesn't lock properly, missing radio antenna. I don't know what else the folks at Thor and Lazy Days found yet but will keep you posted.

We do love the smooth way our Serrano drives (when it drives). The interior is very comfortable and spacious and we like the floor plan. We love the outdoor storage. We like its size at 31 feet. It has plenty of 'pick up'. We like the fuel savings of a Fred engine. So, if it is fixed and we have no further issues with it we will keep it. Thor has, so far redeemed themselves with their customer service. I recommend Lazy days. The dealer, RV One (Orlando, Des Moines and Buffalo) is still on my s--t list. I will never ever do business with them again, not no how, no way.

Hoping for a nice leaf turning jaunt to NC. Its too hot for a vacation anywhere on the east coast now anyway.

Happy trails to you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

King of the road deposed

Well my blogging friends, our long anticipated summer trip to Gettsysburg and the West Virginia mountains is not going to happen. Before I tell you our story, let me warn any of you thinking of purchasing a new RV to choose not only your model but your dealer very very carefully.

I fell in love with a pretty thirty-one foot Four Winds Serrano 'Fred' rig that seemed very reasonably priced for a 'Fred' at RVOne (Orlando RV) in Winter Park, where I live. I traded in my used Winnebago View for the Serrano, even though I was not familiar with the product. Once the dealer had me on the hook they reeled me in and things never went quite the way they should. The RV cost more than it I was told originally, the finance manager having danced a few really slippery dance steps. He tried to cheat me on my trade in , too. The repair department was never terribly efficient or caring about the problems that cropped up post delivery. The unit was in the shop more often and longer than it should have been for new RV, although the warranties were honored.

The cruise control never worked. We were told that was not a dealer issue and nobody in Orlando was certified to fix it under warranty. We could travel without it, so we just kept putting off dealing with it. We could not put off dealing with the broken shower head since we could not shower. We waited several weeks for the dealer to replace it and then Danny bought the right kind himself and installed it using the internet directions on his iPad! The roof leaked badly a few months later and the cab was flooded. Back to the dealer who said they couldn't be bothered with it for the better part of a month! Danny drove it to the lot and parked it in their driveway and they took care of it in two days.

There was other stuff like an air conditioner that leaked condensation over the bed soaking the mattress and a cabinet door that came apart from the wall. The radio antenna fell off in a windstorm. Another window began to leak badly with the summer rains, flooding the dash and floor in the cab. The battery compartment wouldn't lock and the weather stripping fell off the door. The leather seats in the cab began to crack and rip as if they were years instead of months old. But it was usable and we decided to make an appointment to have all fixed after our vacation.

Then a few days before scheduled departure, we had a seriously severe storm, went to the storage facility to check the window leak and discovered the steps were stuck in the down position and the instrument panel was non-functional. Went to the dealer who said, call the Workhorse chassis people. We called them and they said it was a Manufacturer issue. We called Thor who said 'is not our job, man'. They told us to call the dealer. The dealer said 'we can't see you for at least eight weeks'. Now, we have a warranty but nobody who takes responsibility for repairs. Nobody gives a rat's ass, we can't use it and more and more water damage as it sits unused outside in the storms will be a major issue.

I've been reading about Serranos online. Quality seems uneven. Some folks have had no problems, others have had experiences much like ours. Would I buy another Thor product. Uh uh. Not with the lack of customer service. Would I ever deal with RV One again? What do you think? If you said NEVER, you'd be right.

Well, we called Lazy Days in Seffner, Florida near Tampa and they said, 'sure we can fix it all if you can get it to us'. We made an appointment in two days. Danny figured out a way to detach the steps and how to monitor speed with his iPhone. We can fill it up and be sure there's enough fuel even if we have no way to check it via the dash gauge. The turn signals work and so do the break lights, so we will manage.

It's a three hour round trip drive. Even though I hate highway driving I will follow in my Volvo. If I decide to sell the rig and/or when I am ready for trade, you can bet your britches I will go to Lazy Days first before any other dealer. My advice to you again is to avoid RV One whether in Buffalo, Orlando or in the midwest. Its all one company. Management seems only to care about volume sales, not satisfied return customers.

That's my story. I guess my summer vacation will be spent at Universal Studios which is 45 minutes away and driving the hour to the beach for an afternoon in my car. Give my regards to the mountains. Next year, hopefully I'll be there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Overdue Update

Photos: (1) Ma and Pa at a WallMart parking lot (2) Danny installing safety device to start the generator (3) Dog is always our copilot, in this case, Ginny (4) PJ enjoying the St. Augustine Pirates Museum (5) Bailey chilling out on board in St. Augustine (5 and 6) at our favorite beach parking place, Beverly Beach Camptown in Flagler County

Sorry folks that it has been so long since I've visited with you. I'd come up with an excuse if I could thing of one that was really entertaining and still true. Its not that we haven't spent time on our RV, cause we have if week ends and day trips count. Just haven't posted. That's the fact, Jack. No excuses. But, we are getting ready for our summer vacation trip in a few days so I thought it was high (way) time to check in with you again.

Aside from some beach weekends and day trips from late winter to now, we took a whirlwind drive to Atlanta in mid May when Danny's youngest brother had a very serious accident which required airlifting him to Grady Memorial hospital where he had to have immediate brain surgery. Danny's mother and sister had driven down to see us here in central Florida the day before and their car broke down on the highway and was in a local shop for repair when we got the early morning call about Brian's fall from a roof of a building. We quickly drove them to the airport and a day later, having picked up their repaired car, we rented a trailer thing from uHaul, hitched the toad to the back of our Serrano and towed it to Atlanta. A grueling 10 hour drive in one day. Aside from the tiresome trip, towing turned out to be a breeze. We'd never done it before. Gas mileage was half of what we're used to though: about eight miles to the gallon instead of 13 to sixteen. Ouch.

Anyway, we parked the RV in Danny's mother's driveway and hooked up to her household current. The next morning we turned on the a/c, left a window or two open slightly for the dogs
and drove downtown to meet the family at the hospital. While we were gone, the temperature outside soared up to nearly ninety and something tripped the breaker in the house and our RV power went off. Our dogs were locked inside an RV in the sun with very little ventilation.

We were lucky. We must have returned at just the right time. We opened the door to find to our horror that the power was down and the dogs were seriously panting. I looked at the thermostat which read 95 inside. I got the dogs off, into the shade on Charlotte's back porch, turned on the ceiling fan and gave them water. Went back on board and in the five minutes that had passed the thermostat read 98. I took the dogs into the house, we all cooled off, and we left for home an hour later.

After that almost horrible and heartbreaking experience, I ordered a part for the RV that automatically turns on the generator for back up power if something like what happened to us occurs when plugged into shoreline power. I further replaced a ceiling fan and outside vent with one that has a thermostat control so it also automatically comes on if the temperature in the coach gets to a preselected level. Together these two items cost about a thousand dollars, but Danny was able to install them himself which saved some further bucks. There is also a RV/boat nanny device which calls your cell phone if the RV power goes out. Its very pricy but one day I will get that too. We also have an outside Genturi system that vents the generator fumes overhead so they don't come in the windows if they are open while running the generator.

We are a little nervous about traveling in the heat with the dogs even with these precautions so if anyone out there has any other safety addition suggestions please let us know.

After that tiring two day trip, we spent a nice long Memorial Day week end at the KOA on Anastasia Island near St Augustine with my daughter and family, which includes a two year old and an eight year old. The 'kids' stayed in a cabin and we drove into the old city in their car, returned to the campground for cooking out, swimming, and s'mores. If you go to St Augustine, I recommend the new Pirates Museum just opposite the Castillo De San Marcos. It was fun for all ages.

As a sidelight, we've had a lot of annoying stuff go wrong with our still almost new RV. Sone of the windows still leak in Florida's bad storms, the a/c over the bed drips water on us, the pantry door hinge is stripped, cruise control doesn't work, and the captain and mate's Flexsteel leatherette chairs aren't wearing well. "Fabric" is ripping and splitting. I am told that is par for the course with RVs. Should all be under warranty, so I guess we will send her into the shop when we return from our summer trip to Gettysburg, Pa. and West Virginia.

We're leaving in a few days. I will report post trip. Happy trails.

PS: 1. We are doing podcasts called, All Things Overnight Parking. Check us out.
PS 2. Danny's brother has made an almost full recovery.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Turbo Resonator Story

We promised to bring you the story of the Turbo Resonator failure, so here it is.

We'd already committed to purchasing the Serrano, and were waiting for it to be prepped for us to take home. The dealer wanted us to bring the Parakeet to the lot, but we knew better than that, and also had one more trip to make.

My stepson Stephen and his bride Casey were getting married on Anna Maria Island. It's about a 3 hour drive (I drive a bit lower than the speed limit) from our house, so we set off early, just in case. Right after Seffner Florida, Nancy noticed a burning oil smell. I thought it was probably from the Tractor Trailer in front of us. Another 20 minutes down the road, the RV lost power fast. I could only get it to 35 mph. I looked on my ScanGauge. No codes. No 'check engine' on the dash indicators. I knew exactly what it was. I was in 'limp-home' mode.

When Winnebago came out with the View line, and the Sprinter based chassis with a Mercedes Diesel engine, I joined a few Yahoo Groups that focused on them. Automotive groups are excellent for sharing information and solutions to common problems. I learned that the 2006 5 cylinder Diesel engines had a problem with the turbo resonator . The resonator is basically a muffler for the turbo charger. It reduces the high pitched whine the turbocharger tends to make. I makes a deeper, less annoying sound. There were several versions of the device. Most Sprinters had either a Q3, Q4, or Q5.

A Q5 (left) and Q4 (right) Resonator

The Q4's and lower tended to split near the top, causing the limp home mode to engage.

The Q5's were supposed to be a better quality, and not split. When we purchased the RV, I had the mechanic let me know if we had a Q5 or not. The Parakeet had a Q5. From the Yahoo View/Navion Group, I learned even the Q5's could split, but there was a fix.

James Riordan had created a Turbo Resonator Eliminator.

People on the Yahoo Group swore by them. Just in case, I went ahead and purchased on. I thought we'd gotten away with not needing the Eliminator. I decided to leave it on board, and let the future owner know it was there, just in case. 

After the Parakeet went into Limp Home Mode, I pulled off I-75 and looked for a spot to park. We found a closed automotive store with lots of shade and no one else parked. It was 92 degrees out, so the shade was very necessary. I pulled out one of our 12 volt fans, placed it on the ground under the engine, opened the hood and let it cool down. Within 20 minutes, the engine was cool enough to work on.

I pulled out the Turbo Resonator Eliminator, but I couldn't find the instructions anywhere. Luckily, I'd put a pdf copy in our DropBox, so I accessed it on Nancy's iPad, and had her read it to me. I quickly discovered I'd purchased the wrong size socket. But according to the instructions I could use a 5/16 socket, and I had one of those. 

The resonator was in a tight spot, and it was difficult to work it out. The worst of it all was zip-tie that was cutting my arm to shreds. Being the summer, I didn't have any long sleeve shirts onboard, so I just had to frown and bare it. During all this I was watching the time. The time for the wedding was ticking down faster. I finally got the resonator out, and put the eliminator on. Getting it back on was way easier than taking the other out. The eliminator is skinnier and easier to move around in that tight area. I bolted it up, cleaned up as best I could, and cranked the engine. All seemed okay so far.

We got back on the road, and full power was restored. I felt like one of the Apollo 13 crew. We got to the wedding location with just 3 minutes to spare. Luckily, they were running 15 minutes behind, so I was able to clean up a bit more. We watched my stepson and his bride get married, overheard all the drama going on behind the scenes, and had a wonderful evening. My grand-stepson Gavin was cute as a bug.

Yesterday, we learned that someone near Buffalo New York purchased the Parakeet. Luckily for them, they won't have to worry about a Turbo Resonator Failure. 

This experience taught me something; with good instructions, I can fix almost anything!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011



A poem by Nancy Deutsch aka NanNan

In this great land from sea to sea
There's many a sight that beckons me
I revel in the roads untaken
The sprawling cities soon forsaken

Past swamp and lakes through piney grove
With naught to do but roam and rove
Through sunlit valley up misty peak
Without a plan from week to week

Through caverns, museums, and founders' houses
Theme parks with wizards, rockets, and mouses
Or viewing vistas veiled in mystery
While learning more of our own history

With Danny and pair of canine friends
Exploring America from end to end
Standing in fields where armies fought
Following trails the Indians wrought

Camping at night on a sandy shore
As palm fronds sway outside screen door
Then parking by river or rocky stream
in thick forest, where black bears dream

Often rambling down some busy highway
Turning off again, on an interesting byway
I'm just as happy as a person can be
Riding in the cockpit of Serrano RV


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tampa RV Show

We made it over to Tampa for the show which was extremely crowded on Saturday. About a thousand RVs of all sizes on site to walk through. Not too much innovation in the motor homes noted apart from the Monaco Vesta, which was a real design beauty with lots of upscale perks included as standard. Nice mid size, spacious interior with beautiful cabinetry and furniture, diesel fuel for good mileage, good exterior storage, but a tad pricey compared to our 2010 Serrano. We had hoped to see some 2011 Serranos there and were disappointed to find only one. We learned later that there had been eight at show's start, all sold and gone by Saturday save the one we saw. That made me feel good about my purchase.

The real innovation seemed to be in the campers and trailers. We saw one with a full size step up kitchen with wrought iron railings, beautiful white washed wood cabinetry, a fireplace, spacious bedroom and a drop down roofed outside deck with flat screen TV as well as toy hauler space/screened porch out back. Another had a trendy Euro design interior. Several had full outdoor kitchens with flat screen TVs to watch during food prepping. No more seventies design with nubby sofas for the purchasers of these beauties!

I was disappointed in the exhibition hall offerings. Not much innovation there in terms of interior appointments and accessories. Weirdly enough, lots of jewelry. I personally never wear or take my jewelry with me on vacations since our travel style is strictly jeans and shorts and t shirts. I guess some folks do, though.

There were lots of dogs there. We took one of ours, which was a mistake because it was too crowded for her to be comfortable and she got a little grumpy after several hours of evading legs and feet. The food was the usual yucky carnival sort of fried somethings or other so we only sipped lemonade. Promised entertainment of bagpipers and dog acts was absent on Saturday afternoon and we never encountered any of the Bloggers we hoped to see there. Still it was a fun day and we got a custom wooden sign for the RV.

What we also came away with was a sense of being very pleased that we purchased the Serrano. We didn't see anything else with the possible exception of the before mentioned Vesta that would tempt us away from our 'Badger.' If I wanted a bigger gas model, I loved several of the Winnebagos and the Bounders. But as far as mid-sized diesel goes (32 feet) I think the Serrano is a good buy and a good ride. And since we don't want to tow, it works well for us.

All for now. Happy trails to you along the roads less taken.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Long time, no post, well slap me with a sandspur studded sock...

SOME RANDOM PHOTOS FROM OUR RECENT WANDERINGS: The Badger, Cedar Key water scene, lunching at the Lightner Museum, Castillo De San Marcos, Brightly painted authentic circus wagon at Circus Museum, Cedar Key RV park, behind Ca D Zan, Anastasia Island, Bok Tower.

Whoops! Time sure passes quickly doesn't it? Yes, I've been busy with other things, notably finishing a novel, editing, formatting, etc which took up all my time and energy throughout the fall season. Then, the holidays came. Now, its 2011 and I can sit back and breathe easy again. Even catch up in the Blogosphere.

I read my last post where I told about the Serrano. There was more to the story. We did pick it up. The tricky finance manager (who looks like a weasel if you want to imagine him) hit me with a third set of papers which he claimed were to clean up the messy notations on the last (2nd set) he'd given me. The numbers were different for the third time and in the end I paid more than I'd agreed to both as down payment and as monthly payment. By this time I was weary of the whole miserable purchase process, had spent nearly three hours of a walk through on the new unit and had turned in the Winnebago. I just wanted to go home. So I admitted defeat to myself and did. I let the guy get away with incompetence at best and shady business practices at worst.

During the walk through we discovered that somebody had ruined the bedspread, we were missing a pantry basket, and there were several other minor repairs that needed done. Not so minor was a shower that did not work. The tech guy promised that all would be fixed two days later. Long story short, we waited two weeks for the shower to be fixed, they never did, and Danny bought the part and fixed it himself. Otherwise, I doubt we'd be able to use the motor home yet!

Its four months later and the other issues are not repaired. I bought a new bedspread at Wall Mart.

I had to go through major contortions to get the bank information from the dealership too so I could contact the loan folks and get the paperwork so my first payment wouldn't be late.Lots of headaches here RV folks. My advice. Never deal with Orlando RV. The service department guys are polite but you can't count on them and the finance manager is nearly impossible to work with. He asked me to lie to Bank America too, on top of everything else.

Okay, that update is out of the way. Aside from the getting of the Serrano, we really love traveling in it. The Queen size bed is very very comfortable, living space is quite ample with the slide out out, the automatic awning is huge, outside storage amazing, fuel economical (diesel), upholstered furniture very comfortable, flat screen TVs with surround sound well paced for viewing. Window arrangement and fan placements make ventilation for the dogs easy. Despite being 32 feet long, we haven't had any difficulty parking on our trips and have not towed my car as yet. Danny says its easier to drive than the Winnebago was. It can carry a lot more weight than the View, too.

We've done some week end trips in it: beach day trips and Florida on a tankful trips. We went to St Augustine for Thanksgiving and to FT Meyers, Sarasota, and Cedar Key between Christmas and New Years. Which leads me to another thought.

What were the highlights of 2010, RV travel wise? Below is my list with recommendations in order of chronological visit.

1. Savannah and Tybee Island, Ga. Try a walking tour of the lovely historic city which is download able on your iPhone. Park the RV at the train station. But do this in cooler weather. Summer would be tough. Tybee Island has a neat little museum and interesting lighthouse complex to visit and Ft Pulaski is well worth a couple hours time. Take a picnic: there are walking trails adjacent to the fort and shaded areas to relax and dogs are welcome, too.
2. Top Sail State Park in San Destin, Florida. An excellent RV park for staying for a week end and the prettiest beach I ever walked on.
3. St Mary's and Golden Isles. St Mary's is a picture perfect and quaint little town with shops to walk through and some good sea food restaurants on the marina. You can take a ferry to Cumberland Isle and see wild ponies running on the beach. Nearby Fernandina Beach is dog friendly and sugar sand is beautiful but we enjoyed the swimming at Ft Clinch State Park nearby. Dogs had to stay in the RV there, though.
4. Asheville. I would move there if I could. Asheville has everything: wonderful art and culture, shopping, great restaurants, friendly people, beautiful mountains and it is a dog friendly city too. We enjoyed staying in an RV park right on the French Broad river adjacent to a paved walking and biking trail that went on several miles to a beautiful riverfront park on one side and adjacent to a wetlands, and recreation area on the other. The dogs would probably vote this as their favorite park of the year. Then of course there was Biltmore! Incredible just about describes that, but not quite. Allow a full day for Biltmore. Spend a half day up at Grove Park in the two museums and crafts shop and eat at the cute little tea room. You won't be sorry.
5. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Amazing, spectacular. One of the most beautiful drives we've ever taken. We particularly enjoyed the crafts center just past Asheville, Linville Caverns, Altapass, Mabry Mill, and The peaks of Otter. Got off the Parkway at Natural Bridge, Va which turned out to be one of our favorite side trips. Despite the tacky entryway, this natural wonder is not to be missed.
6. Monticello at Charlottesville, Va. Probably our favorite single stop. Plan a full day here and at the adjacent tavern and Monroe home (Ashlawn).
7. Tamarack in Beckley, West Va. Hours of happy shopping for mountain crafts and art and books and the best dang food I've had in a long time, made by Greenbrier chefs. Good RV parking here, too.
8. Bok Tower and gardens, Winter Haven Fl. A delightful surprise with a cool 1920s mansion to tour and a really nice gift shop. Lots of RV parking and picnic areas shaded by tall trees. Incredible photographing opportunities.
8. St Augustine. We love St Augustine. Parking is a problem in the city, though. We stayed out on Anastasia Island in a really nice KOA. Beach was a short (5 minute) bike trip away and they had a bus that looked like a trolley car that picked you up at the camp office to ferry you into town. Paid twenty bucks a person for the whole week end and it dropped you off on any one of twenty historic spots and you could re board as often as you wanted. The lighthouse and Gator Zoo were included as was the Mission and Fountain of Youth. Made it all easy. We couldn't do everything in a week end so we will go back. We really loved the Lightner Museum which has a really good restaurant. The Flagler college tour is a must do. Enjoyed the oldest house and the Castillo as well and wandering around the shops of old town. Wonderful city, lots of art and good eats. Beach was as pretty as as Fernandina, second only to Destin.
9. The Edison and Ford winter homes in Ft Meyers, Fl. Definitely go there. Fascinating day. Don't miss the Edison museum, too.
10. Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, Fl. $25.00 buys you a full day. Gardens, incredible architecture at the art museum not to mention world class baroque art (Think Velasquez, Rubens, Rembrandt et all), delightful food at the museum's restaurant, a tour of the magnificent mansion Ca D Zan on Sarasota Bay, Mable Ringling's rose gardens, the Asolo theatre, and the two delightful circus museums. We were blown away by the circus museums which we hadn't expected to be so interesting. Definitely a favorite memory.
11. Cedar Key, FL. Cedar Key so laid back and stubbornly tacky that is ultra cool. In a reverse way. This is a remote (one gas station, no supermarkets, no fast food, no neon, no malls or movie theaters, no Wall Marts, no hotel chains), sleepy town where everybody is happy to know your name. It reminds one of Florida in the mid twentieth century. Stay in a mom/pop hotel or RV park next to the gulf or marsh, eat seafood in a mom/pop restaurant, shop local art, bicycle, fish, rent an air boat or hang out in a local pub. At our RV park they offered free entertainment in the form of blue grass band by the water and free soft ice cream and they sold home made key lime fudge.

We're looking forward to our next get away. Up this week end: day trips to Tampa for the Big Big RV show. I'll try to be a better poster in 2011.