Saturday, January 9, 2016

Overdue Update....

Since our last post, several weeks back, and upon our return from Maui, Hawaii, we've been quite lax with blogging.  But we were not idle.

Our Christmas was spent with our grand-kids, their folks and friends.   And we got to have some outdoor fun too.
Grand kids:  L-R  Easton, Owen, Brie and Kaylie
A custom at our house is a pajama gift opening.  Everyone comes over in jamies for the gift opening on Christmas morning.  And what fun it was.  Good food follows the gift opening.
Ginette, Easton, Brie and Trevor opening their gifts.
Deni and Courtney had baby Kaylie (three months old) napping.
Owen was not napping though.  He was busy opening the gifts from Santa.  And it seems that a lot of the fun is unwrapping the goods.
Owen with a nice book he got from Santa.
It was a pleasurable Christmas....and a great get together.  Courtney and Deni, along with Owen and Kaylie live in Edmonton, Alberta.  They were able to get away and to spend two weeks on the west coast.  Overnights visits were balanced between Courtney's mom's home and ours.  What a treat!
Here is Easton giving Brie a ride on the tractor he received on Christmas one year ago.
Owen got his chance to drive the John Deere.  That battery powered set of wheels was a big hit.
Trevor and Brie enjoying some outdoor time.
We also had the opportunity to enjoy dinner with some of our friends.  Ione, wearing the red sweater in the photo below, invited us and Vancouver Island friends, Gwen and Steve for a nice post Christmas dinner.  It was a great get together.
Ione, Jeanette and Gwen
We traditionally share Christmas with our good friends, Mariette and Lorne.  This year, we hosted.  
Mariette and Lorne
Between dinners and visits, Jeanette was occupied with her RV preparations while I did some work on our motorcycle swivel-wheel. Having decided to take our Harley Davidson along on our RV snowbird journey, the chalk needed to be adjusted.  The Harley wheelbase is two inches shorter than our Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad.  Having made the adjustments, it was time for a test run.  Attached to our truck, with the Electra Glide loaded, Jeanette followed me in our other vehicle to see how well balanced the new set up was.  

Giving her thumbs up, she then drove the dually while I followed behind.  The test proved true.  The swivel-wheel was balanced and ready to attach to the 5th wheel.
A swivel-wheel road test.
Typically, we always have our truck serviced before heading south.  This year was no different.  What was different was the suggestion that we purge the coolant.  I OK'd that along with a few other recommended services.  And that is when 'Murphy' reared his ugly head.

Back home from the service centre, I started our dually the very next morning and to my surprise, huge clouds of white smoke were steaming from the exhaust.  WHAT?  Back to the service centre, it was discovered that the EGR (an emission control thing) had failed.  That required a fairly lengthy number of hours to delete the EGR.  It also required removing the turbo and headers to access the EGR.  I have no idea what or who caused the problem.  Was it bad luck, incompetence or both.

Back home, after many days in the service centre, we were ready to hitch up and head out on the 31st of December. 
Ready to roll to the US southwest.
Only one hour south from the US border, we lost our turbo while climbing a small hill on I-5.  What?  I pulled over to the shoulder, took a good look under the hood and, unable to see any loose parts, I had the sneaking suspicion that our turbo had failed.  It was a possibility.

Given that it was New Year's Eve, and given that repairs would likely take several days - including New Year's Day - Jeanette and I thought it through and chose to head back for home.  Without the turbo, the truck would pull the 5th wheel but at less than half the normal speed.  

We had limped back to our home within five hours after leaving at 7:30 am.  

I called the service centre.  The owner was keen to have my truck back to determine the cause for the failure of the turbo.  Within minutes, a diesel mechanic found the problem.  A clamp that holds one of the blue tubes that connects the turbo tube near the radiator had fallen off.  Really?  

Recall that the turbo had to be removed to delete the EGR.  So, someone at that service centre had been negligent when reinstalling the turbo assembly.  A new clamp was installed and on the test ride, it failed again.  The tube blew off.  A new tube was ordered - along with two new clamps - and once installed, we were good to go.  That was completed late in the afternoon of New Year's Eve.

Jeanette and I quietly celebrated New Year's Eve at home.  We had been invited to join other friends for celebrations but after our experience that day, we chose to stay home, get a good sleep and head south, once again,  bright and early on New Year's Day.
Cruising past Seattle on New Year's Day.
Well......only 2 1/2 hours south from our home and the US border - between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia on I-5 - our truck died.  You read right.  With no warning whatsoever, our truck died.  Forced back on to the I-5 shoulder, we both looked at each other and pondered what caused this failure.  I was thinking about incompetence from the work done by the service centre.  But that was a guess.

I called our RV Plus AAA for a recovery service.  Slowly and carefully explaining our towing needs, it was determined that two tow trucks would be commissioned to take us to a Ford dealer nearby.  We would have a two hour wait.

Well, that 'Murphy Bad Luck Guy' reared his ugly head again.  AAA sent us a 1 ton truck.  When it arrived, Jeanette expressed the opinion that we would not be going anywhere fast with a tow truck that could not tow our rig, let alone load our dually on its back.  The driver apologized once he saw our set was.  He could not help us and could not call AAA.  We had to make another call.   Aargh!!!!!

A State Trooper stopped by to check on us.  He had found a dollar on the ground next to our 5th wheel.  Claiming he could not take the dollar, he gave it to us.  He was a first class fella who said he would check back on us should we have difficulty getting the right towing services.
A second call to AAA and I was put through to a supervisor.  The woman was most competent and quickly apologized for the error in sending an undersized tow vehicle.  Reading our file on computer, she could not believe how someone could make the mistake.  She would handle our file and she would order a 'stat' for fast service.  An hour or so later, an F-650 tow truck appeared with a licensed driver who could disconnect the drive shaft, and tow us to a Ford dealer nearby.

In the meantime, RV and motorcycle friends were heading north bound, on I-5, back for home.  Recognizing our 5th wheel, they turned around and dropped over to see how we were doing.  Once the proper tow vehicle arrived, John and Kim headed back for the Canadian border and their home.
All in one towing.
AAA had told the tow truck driver to tow us to Lakewood Ford - 17 miles north  - off I-5.  The driver, believing he had a better idea, towed us 5 miles south to a small Ford dealer.  He chose to park us next to the east wall.  He was certain we would get service the very next morning.  OK, we thought.
Parked at Mullinax Ford, a small Ford dealer in Olympia, WA.
First thing Saturday morning, January 2nd, I walked into the service centre of the dealership.  Within two minutes, it was clear that 'Murphy' would again rear his ugly head.  The young lady (and I use that term loosely), with a very cocky attitude stated that she could not service us on Saturday, nor Sunday, nor Monday, nor Tuesday, nor Wednesday.....but possibly on Thursday or maybe Friday.  If not, she could look after us one week later.  WHAT? 

Do you find this hard to believe?  This is honest to goodness truth.  No service for several days or possibly even going into the next week?

To add insult, I was told to get our 5th wheel out of their dealership.  They had a business to run and we were in the way!  WHAT?  Were we not new business?  And while I was in the service centre, the sales manager was banging on the 5th wheel door.  Opening the door, Jeanette was told - in an insulting tone - to get our 5th wheel and truck out of their lot.

Peeved, I walked back to our 5th wheel, only to be even more peeved when told about Jeanette's encounter with the sales manager.  Working the telephones, I called triple AAA to secure a tow to another Ford dealer.  While AAA were working on finding a towing service, I got busy calling three large Ford dealers in the area.  A service centre adviser at the large Lakewood Ford dealership (only 19.8 miles north from where we were) offered a diesel tech to service us as soon as we could get our truck towed there. 

Bang, bang bang....and this time I opened the 5th wheel door to be met by the errant sales manager wanting an answer as to when we would be vacating his dealership?  I stepped outdoors, closed the door, exchanged some terse words with this idiot....and he walked away.  I have a tough time suffering fools....and she was one BIG FOOL.  I never heard nor saw again that day.  Message had been clearly delivered.  I would vacate when I could.  

I also asked why this dealership - with no service - would not assist in helping us find another dealer and/or finding a towing service. 

The comedy of errors (that 'Murphy' guy) erupted yet again.  The only licensed tow operator who could pull our rig was on a day off.  He would not agree to tow us.  The only other option was to find a towing service that could provide a 5 ton flat deck to load our dually and another truck to tow our 5th wheel.  Over a four hour period, no service could be found; and this in the huge major metropolitan greater Seattle/Olympia corridor.  

I could not believe hearing the AAA adviser tell me that they could not find a service to assist us.  They were dropping the ball.  Finding a towing service would now rest on our shoulders.  I was not a happy guy, let me tell you!  

Once we get settled in the desert - and the time permits - I will be writing letters to AAA, BCAA, and Ford USA.  I plan to copy these letters to the Washington State Better Business Bureau too.  I also have to take issue with the Canadian service centre that initially installed the EGR delete kit.  The Lakewood Ford service centre discovered the turbo tubes were installed backward.  Of all things, it cost us more dollars to fix the initial screw ups.
Please, please, please avoid ever seeking service at this Ford dealer in Olympia, WA.  The dealer does not deserve your business.
I got on the phone once again and called so many towing services. No success!  I called Garry, the great service adviser at Lakewood Ford and he suggested one towing service I had not yet called.  Although that company did not have a 5th wheel capable tow vehicle,they suggested another towing company.  I was fast running out of options and the day was waning quickly.

A call made to Nisqually Towing connected me to a nice lady who listened to my plight but  admitted she didn't know anything about their equipment and had no idea if they could assist us.  I asked her to please write down precisely what I needed her to pass on to a their senior tow truck driver. He was on a call, assisting on a recovery.  She did take the notes.  Feeling uncertain about her, I asked if she could repeat what she had written.  She had taken good notes.  I then asked if she could call the senior tow truck guy, read the notes and ask if he could be of service.

A few minutes later, I received a call from the very nice lady at Nisqually Towing.  A few questions were posed and she promised to call back within a few minutes.  She did just that.  We struck gold.  Nisqually towing could handle our needs.

By 3:30 pm, on Saturday, January 2nd, 2016, two large tow trucks showed up at the awful Mullinax Ford.  Our truck was unhitched from the 5th wheel, then loaded onto a large flat deck.  The 5th wheel was hitched to another 5 ton truck (equipped with a proper hitch) and off went, heading for I-5 northbound and to the large Lakewood Ford dealer.  

Minutes after dropping our F-350, the dealership had the truck in its service centre and within one hour, Jeanette and I had a comprehensive breakdown on the required service to get us rolling again.  The failure was fairly catastrophic.  The fault also cooked our fairly new batteries (there are two on our truck).  Service would begin late that Saturday afternoon but, sadly, we would have to sit out Sunday and most of Monday before having our truck repaired.

Lakewood Ford securely stored our 5th wheel while Jeanette and I were booked into a local America's Inn and Suites nearby.  

Finally, by Monday, mid-afternoon, we had our truck back.  This Ford dealer was top class.  How unfortunate that we were not originally towed there.  Had that happened, our truck would have been repaired on Saturday and we would not have lost an extra two days, plus hours upon hours of frustrating attempts to get us out of the awful Mullinax Ford dealer in Olympia.

Now, many of you may find this story to be surrealistic.  Writing this, it does seems surrealistic to us too.  To be dealt with so much incompetence: beginning with our truck service at home, losing the turbo, returning home, needed more repairs, the electrical failure, incompetent AAA service, disastrous and inhumane treatment from Mullinax Ford, numerous telephone calls to find services, and the stress (money too) for all of this almost cooked our snow bird adventure for this 2016.  We seriously considered taking our wounded selves back home and to never, ever again return to the US southwest.  

A good night's sleep, coupled with some encouraging words from our good friend Hector (who was patiently waiting for us at the Seven Feathers RV Resort) returned our resolve to persevere and continue our winter journey.  And it has been a good trip since.
Some of the weather we drove through.  This is in southern Oregon
"Murphy" yet again came to haunt us.  Yes, it is true! Unbelievable!

 Arriving at the Seven Feathers RV Resort truck stop, in southern Oregon - and where Hector was hanging out, waiting for us - I was pulling up to a fuel bay when an Oregon State Trooper stopped us.  He took issue with our swivel wheel.  He claimed we were illegally operating a triple tow.  I patiently explained that our swivel wheel was not connected to a ball and it was not an articulated system (which defines a ball type towing mechanism).  I also explained that this was the 13th time we towed through the State and had been followed on numerous occasions by State Troopers in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada. We had not ever been stopped once it was observed that ours was not a ball type triple tow system.  Well, this Trooper was adamant.  He held us up for well over 45 minutes while sitting in his car attempting to get a ruling from a superior. I could even prove that we had owned this set up since 2010.  We carry the bill of sale and the title in our RV records

In the end, he still argued that he was right and I was wrong.  

I then detailed a case that was previously defended in the courts, in his state.  It involved a Californian - towing a swivel-wheel like mine - who successfully defended himself in an Oregon court.  The judge ruled that the swivel-wheel was not a triple tow.  

Nadda!  This trooper was going to issue a ticket.  I chose curb my polite arguments.

He returned to his car and minutes later walked back to our truck and issued a warning.  So, although not ticketed with a violation, he made clear that should we be stopped by another Oregon Sate Trooper, we would be served with a ticket because we were now in the computer system.  CRAP!  Feeling like we should just pack up and head home, Jeanette felt like doing just that.  Go home, sell the whole RV set up and further our travels anywhere in the world but never again in the USA.  That was how we felt!

I called the Texas based manufacturer of our swivel-wheel and confirmed the Californian who successfully defended the Oregon ticket.  Feeling positive about defending a ticket - should that present itself - we chose to press southward.

However, we did choose to spend two nights at the Seven Feather Resort.  We had some business to take care of and working the phones and computers while parked proved better than trying to complete that while rolling.  Hector, ever the trooper, hung in with us too.  His wife, Diane is still back home dealing with her father's health issues before joining Hector in the Palm Springs area.

In the weeks ahead, I will attempt to find the court record for the swivel wheel court case; print the documents and keep them with our RV documents.

Another carrier system called the Idaho Tote. 
Registering at the Seven Feathers RV resort, I spoke with the owner of this system.  Although a similar towing system, he was surprised by our encounter with the State Trooper. This RVer is from Washington State.  He too firmly believes that we are on the right side of the law with respect to triple towing.  He also said that he had been followed numerous times by State Troopers in numerous US States and had never once been pulled over or even threatened with a violation.  He also thought it was a frivolous act to even argue that we were triple towing.  He clearly understood the definition of an articulated system. 

That said, it has been a trip to never, ever forget.

I pondered long and hard - for days on end - about whether to write about our tribulations.  'Murphy' got us good this time out.  But that's life or, as we like to say in the French language, 'c'est la vie'! 

So....with support from close friends....some time to compose ourselves following the disastrous set of circumstances, we fully realized that 'Murphy' came very close to killing our travel plans. the grand scheme of life, our tribulations do not even come close to those suffered by so many folks from natural disasters, third world living conditions, war, political strife, sickness and health....and more.

It's all good!
Our lovely site at the Seven Feathers RV Resort
Good roads and driving conditions on the high mountain Siskiyou Summit.
Great driving conditions at the Lake Shasta Summit
Hector and I - with Chico, the great Portuguese Water dog - enjoying relaxing chat.
At the Orange Grove RV Park - east from Bakersfield, CA
Hector got busy harvesting some oranges.....
.....and Jeanette managed to harvest enough oranges to keep us through the next couple of months.
And there you have it.  That's our story.  And from here going forward, we press on.

Thanks for dropping in.


  1. Rene:

    I have just read this posting and I like you would seriously consider returning home but I am glad that you did not let "Murphy" win as life is to short. I have been reading your blog for 2+ years now keep up the good writing.

    Kim Edmonds
    Milton, ON

    1. Thank you. Your kind words are most appreciated.

  2. In the letter of complaint to Ford's you will have to write to the Canadian as well as the US legs of the company. First your problems were cause by poor workmanship in Canada. Than the poor treatment you received was in the US. Don't mention installing an EGR Delete Kit because they are only allowed on off-road vehicles. The advantages of the modification in my opinion causes the vehicle to create less pollutants and to get better fuel mileage.
    Kathy and I have CAA RV Plus service that we use in Canada but use the Good Sam Roadside Emergency Service when traveling in the US and have never had an issue with the later.
    We both read your post and could not believe that Murphy had messed with you so many times in a short bit. In 2013 we totaled 13 events that really cut into our resources and had us second guessing our future as RVers.
    When you find the Court Ruling on the Swivel Wheel with the case number laminate it and keep a copy in the trailer as well as on the visor of the truck. Also send a letter of Complaint of Harassment to the Highway Patrol Headquarters so they will get all their officers up to speed on the ruling.
    Be Safe and Finally Enjoy your travels.

    It's about time.

    1. Several letters and telephone calls are in the planning book. I just need a few days - well settled - to put pen to paper, so to speak.

  3. I did forget to mention in my previous comment that there is a misconception that lots of people have about RVers. "They have lots of money." Wrong! Many people that RV is their home and if they didn't live in it would not have anywhere to stay. We've had Border Crossing Agents and Police ask how we could afford our RV. They are jealous wishing they were the ones driving down the road. Due to that jealousy they will make life miserable for people they have no business bothering. You are bringing your hard earned monies into their country to help bolster their economy but they don't get it.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. You need and deserve a better future. What a start to your winter trip.

    1. It was quite the square bat to a round head. Or was it a round bat to a square head. Either way, it wasn't fun.

  6. Wow what and adventures.
    Glad that you Murphy by the horns and did not let him win.
    Press onward and south you will enjoy it once you get there.
    Now travel safe and no more issues now would be awesome.

    1. Agreed George; no more Mr. Murphy. We've had enough of him.

  7. I suspected you had run into some issues when we heard nothing about your travels for a day or two, but glad you persevered and continued onward. I too have CAA RV Plus and also US Rider which is an outfit that will haul loaded horse trailers as sometimes AAA decides it doesn't. Have a great winter and we are looking forward to seeing you down here at Dogpound South.

    1. We rolled into Lake Havasu this late afternoon. Heading to Yuma for one week, then to Gold Canyon for two weeks before hanging out in Palm Springs.

      We'll get in touch.

  8. Unbelievable! I can only echo Rod's comment, you deserve better treatment. What a tale! I hope you do follow through with your letter writing campaign and really follow through with it, you are entitled to a refund of some money, even for the new batteries! Everything can be traced back to the original Canadian repair facility.

    I believe AAA will reimburse you for the hotel room and for the bill from the last towing company even if they are not in the AAA system.

    Please enjoy the rest of your winter, it will all fade into the past after a glass or two of nice wine which you both richly deserve!

    1. I fully intend to persue those responsible for our misfortune. BCAA has verbally OK'd the second towing charges and accommodations.

      I have several letters to write & phone calls to place.

  9. Holy smokes--we were reading and would think, OK, that's the end of their troubles but then you guys just kept getting slammed! What a mess--glad you decided to stick to your winter plans--would love to see you guys again this winter!

    1. Thanks. We are happy to choose the southwest climes over being back at home. But it was a close call to head back north.

    2. We'll try to work in a ride out your way. We'll get in touch once we get into Gold Canyon.

  10. First off .. Just want to wish the two of you a belated Merry Christmas!!.. Now as for your 'Murphy' adventures?.. Holy crap!!!
    Hope the rest of your trip is. Uneventful!!
    Our friends just left the Rv park as you were just in .. She shared the same picture of her husband picking oranges!!!.

  11. Wow, So sorry you had such troubles, hope you have a wonderful
    holiday, with no more visits from Mr. Murphy. Tell Hector Jean and Skip say hello.

    1. Will tell Hector that you said hi.

      No more Mr. Murphy's for us!

  12. I suspected something had gone wrong when you didn't post that you were leaving but WOW you guys have been through a lot! We hope the rest of your winter goes better 😊. Rene you are a very good with the written word so I have no doubt that once you find the time and energy to start writing your letters you will hopefully get some of your money back.

    1. Oh for sure. The letters will be written in the days ahead.


  13. OMG! I have read and enjoyed your blog for a couple of years now. You and Jeanette have helped inspire my husband and I in new retirement to RV.(Currently wintering in Apache Junction) I am so glad you guys decided to soldier on..(my head would have probably exploded..ha) I hope the rest of your winter is peaceful!

    1. The start to our winter snow bird adventures was a test of will. Battling one problem after another is wearing too. Having arrived in the US southwest is allowing us to relax a bit more and to re-focus our energies on those activities that drive us.

      Letters to the misguided and inept organizations; including the main offenders, will have to written soon.

      We are thrilled to learn that you are RV'ing and presently enjoying wintering in Apache Junction.

  14. Really sorry for your trucking miseries..and extremely poor and incompetent service folks. Just an all around really bad mechanical experience. Taking a diesel in for engine work is a crap shoot...and can very quickly tap a fellow's wallet with the labor charges these days. Hope this is the end of your issues, at least for the remainder of this trip. Safe travels.