Category Archives: Maintenance and Repair

Not So Simple Repair

Our granddaughter, Lainey, is through with high school and also had the day off work on Thursday. After lunch on Thursday, we took some time to have a discussion on safe handling of firearms in preparation for a trip to the gun range. Back in the 90s, I was a certified Washington State Hunter Safety instructor. I also taught a class at Darrington High School on safe handling of firearms. The focus of the class was how to handle a firearm and also to recognize unsafe handling if you are ever in situation where someone is showing a gun.

After going through the safety lesson, we went to Norpoint Gun Range, about three miles from here. Lainey got to shoot a handgun for the first time. She found it much harder to shoot accurately than she imagined – it’s not like on TV! Donna also practiced and I had my share of rounds down range. Altogether we went through 250 rounds of ammo.

Lainey at the range

I’m putting a group into the top bullseye

Lainey had fun learning to handle a gun. I think it’s an important skill to have. Anyone can can encounter firearms and if you don’t have a clue about how to safely handle or operate one, it can have tragic results.

There was another project I’d been putting off since we arrived here at my daughter Alana’s house in Arlington, Washington. The cord for the pull start on her lawn mower broke and needed to be replaced. I wasn’t putting it off so much as I was waiting for a day that wasn’t dark, dreary and raining. Working on the mower in a dark, cold garage wasn’t my preference – I was hoping for a sunny day to tackle the job in the driveway.

The weather took a turn for the better Thursday afternoon. I dove into the lawn mower repair. Replacing the pull-start cord seemed like a simple task at first glance. Well, as usual I had to start peeling the onion. First I took the plastic cover off the top of the Briggs and Stratton engine. Then I found the sheet metal housing for the starter pulley was riveted in place. I was hoping for sheet metal screw or bolts. I’m sure the rivets are used because it makes manufacturing simpler – no tapping threads for bolts and not enough clearance for screws.

Once I drilled out the rivets and had the starter pulley assembly in hand, I could see this may be challenging. I needed to wind the recoil mechanism of the starter pulley to tension it and then feed the pull-cord through two holes. Holding the assembly – which comprised the sheet metal housing, pulley and internal recoil spring  – upside down in my hand, I didn’t pay enough attention to which way it was winding. It only provided sufficient spring tension in one direction, so I tensioned it and used a small punch tool to hold it in place while I installed the cord.

Sounds simple, but the cord was a little frayed and nearly impossible to pass through the two holes I needed to get it through. I tried cutting it clean and using a little super glue to stiffen it. No go. Then I used a length of safety wire and attached the wire with the thought of pulling the rope through. I got about halfway through then it was stuck. I had to use a small punch and hammer to get it through.

I temporarily attached the assembly with two rivets – instead of all four – to try it out. No go. The spring didn’t pull the start cord back – it was turning the pulley in the wrong direction. By then I was through. I figured it was best to attack it fresh on Friday morning. The weather forecast for the next several days is good.

Clear skies at sunset on Thursday

On Friday morning, I got after the mower project again. I drilled out the rivets I’d installed the day before and went through the assembly steps again. This time I worked the recoil spring in the right direction, but it didn’t feel right. When I turned counter-clockwise as I should, it would provide some tension then it seemed to slip. In a clockwise direction, it increased tension with every turn. Puzzling to me. I managed to get the rope holes aligned with the peak tension in a counter-clockwise direction and went through the agonizing steps of threading the rope again. This time I got a little smarter and wrapped the frayed end of the rope with tape, then cut through the tape with a knife to make a clean, tight end.

Top of the mower disassembled

I put it all together and installed two rivets to test it. No go. It wouldn’t reel in the pull-starter cord. There wasn’t sufficient tension. I took it all apart again. This time I went deeper and pulled the pulley assembly down to it’s component pieces. I found the problem. The spring inside the assembly was shot. Apparently when the pull-start cord broke, the pulley assembly rewound without any resistance and the spring was damaged. The spring is supposed to be a flat section of spring steel wound like a main spring on a mechanical watch. What I saw was a spring folded back on itself with random wavy areas.

Here’s the problem

I went to Arlington to the mower shop there – about two miles away. They didn’t have the part. They said they usually stock it and would have some on Tuesday. No good. We will leave on Monday and there’s no way Alana can reassemble what I took apart. The guy there told me the only other possibility was 20 miles away at The Shop in Mount Vernon.

I called The Shop in Mount Vernon, but only got voice mail. I took a chance and rode the Spyder up there. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the 70s under blue skies. I went up SR9 to Lake McMurray, enjoying the sunshine and views all the way. This two-lane highway meanders through woods and the traffic was very light. From there I went west and up I-5 to Mount Vernon.

When I got to The Shop I found what I was looking for. They told me they try to always have this part on hand as it’s a common replacement.

New spring and pulley

I also bought five feet of cord thinking I shouldn’t be using the old cord to pull-start after this ordeal – after all it broke once and would likely break again sooner than a new one.

With all of the practice attempts at completing this repair, I had it back together in short order.

Repaired assembly riveted in place

A pull test had the mower running in three pulls. It worked perfectly and retracted the pull-start cord as it should.

Job done!

While I was working on the mower, I had another strange thing occur. In my last post, I ranted about Amazon not making good on a guaranteed delivery date. They offered me options for return and refund, but I thought it best to wait and see before I took up the offer for refund.

Friday morning I looked at the tracking info again and it showed out for delivery – scheduled for Monday June 26th. This didn’t make sense to me. If it was out for delivery, why wouldn’t it deliver that day? Well, the UPS guy showed up while I was working on the mower. He had two large boxes on a handcart and two smaller ones. I recognized one of the smaller ones as something I’d ordered, the other was for Alana. The two large boxes turned out to be an error as they were addressed to someone else.

He said, “Wait, I must have grabbed the wrong boxes, I show two more at this address.” He came back with the tires I ordered for Donna that were guaranteed to arrive Friday but showed they would arrive on Monday. Apparently it was a problem with the UPS tracking – the tires arrived on time.

What’s wrong with this picture – hint – I took this shot on June 23rd

Donna was out with Alana while I was working on the mower. They stopped at the computer repair place where the guy transferred the data from her hard drive to an external drive so she can easily set up a new laptop. Then they shopped at WinCo and Costco.

I grilled wild Alaskan sockeye salmon that Donna bought and we dined at the table in the front yard. Warm, sunny days are so much nicer than the weather we had last week!

Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon

We have another sunny day ahead and the temperature should reach the 80s. Donna and I plan to meet Sini for lunch in Edmonds. I need to start prepping the trailer for travel. We plan to pull out Monday and head over the North Cascade Highway to Winthrop for our next stop.

Mishaps and Miscommunication

I haven’t posted for a few days as I haven’t had much to say. Sunday was a cloudy day with periods of rain. My middle daughter, Jamie, along with her significant other, Francisco and family hit the road. They planned to go back to Texas via California so they could visit Francisco’s cousin along the way. It was great having some time together and hanging with her family.

Monday was another gloomy day. There was a thick, low overcast ceiling. Although some sunlight penetrated the cloud cover, it was diffuse light and the clouds were so thick you really couldn’t pinpoint the position of the sun. A light mist fell most of the day punctuated by occasional large rain drops.

In the evening, we went over to my ex-wife’s house for dinner. LuAnn grilled fish burgers and also had hot dogs for the kids. We had a send-off for my youngest daughter, Shauna, as she had a red-eye flight back to Washington D.C.

Tuesday’s weather was more of the same. The daily high temperature only hit 64 degrees – a few degrees cooler than the previous days. With the damp mist it feels colder than recorded. My oldest daughter, Alana, had to report back to work after having six days off. She was back to 12-hour shifts in the emergency room at Providence Hospital in Everett.

I spent most of my time indoors reading books. I don’t get on very well with the sunless, wet weather. Donna managed to get in a couple of bike rides when the rain stopped for a couple of hours.

Donna had another laptop mishap Sunday night when her wine glass toppled right into the keyboard of her laptop. It was up and running at the time but shut itself down. We let it sit and dry out for a couple of days but couldn’t get it to work. It sounded like the hard drive was spinning and we could see the power indicator light up, but the screen remained dark. On Tuesday afternoon when we had a break in the rain – it was still misty out – we rode the Spyder to a computer repair place in Marysville. The guy there was able to get the laptop to boot up using a remote keyboard and monitor.

We took this as a good sign. He said oftentimes when liquid is spilled into the keyboard it remains there as the bottom of the keyboard has a plastic liner. If that was the case, he could replace the keyboard and check everything out and she would be back in business. We crossed out fingers and left the laptop with him for an assessment.

Wednesday morning the cloud cover persisted. The computer repair guy called with bad news. Liquid had damaged the motherboard and fried a cable for the display. It wouldn’t be cost effective to repair the laptop.

Meanwhile I was having a couple of customer service challenges. I needed to replace the jack on our cargo trailer. If you’ve been reading my posts you might remember how I mis-judged the severity of a dip at the Elks lodge driveway in Palmdale and damaged our jack when it dragged on the pavement.

I called the TrailersPlus outfit in Marysville Tuesday to see if they had a replacement jack. When I asked the person on the phone for the parts department, I was put on hold for a minute. When they came back on the line they said there was no answer in Marysville as everyone was tied up with customers. They took my number and said someone would call me back shortly. I realized I wasn’t talking to someone in Marysville, I was talking to the TrailersPlus call center, wherever that may be.

A few hours later, I hadn’t received a call back so I phoned again. This time I was told the Marysville store is extremely busy and they’re operating on reduced hours. Really? When the store is extremely busy you shorten the hours of operation? He said it was necessary so they could handle paperwork and not be serving customers all the time. Wow! What kind of business model is that?

After lunch on Wednesday, I borrowed our granddaughter Lainey’s car. I had to pick up Donna’s laptop and I also wanted to see if I could find a jack for the trailer. I stopped at an RV and trailer supply store nearby in Arlington. They had jacks but not the one I needed. I was told they would have it on Thursday if I wanted to come back. The price was $61.

After I picked up Donna’s laptop, I stopped at TrailersPlus since I was nearby. I went in the front entrance and found an empty lobby area. I looked around and found a couple of empty offices. I walked through a door into the shop area. Outside the shop, I saw a couple of guys shooting the breeze and smoking. They asked me if I needed something. I told them what I was looking for and one of the guys said he would get someone to help me.

A couple of minutes later, he came back with another guy that motioned for me to follow him. We went back into the front lobby area. I told him what I was looking for. He hit a few keys on a computer and told me he had the jack and it was $29. Deal. I bought the jack and a new sand pad – the old pad was bent when the jack dragged. While he was entering the sale, I heard the phone ringing on three occasions. It was ignored by everyone. A few employees walked in and out of the lobby area but as far as I could tell no one was doing anything useful. This store is definitely in need of competent management.

Damaged jack on top, new replacement below

When I came home, I was able to change out the jack in short order. I was a little leery of the threads tapped into the frame for the jack mount. The mounting bolts took a mighty whack when the jack was pulled across the pavement. I used thread locking compound and was careful not to over tighten the jack mounts.

Job done!

The other customer service story was totally unexpected. On Monday, I ordered a new set of tires for Donna’s bike with my Amazon Prime account. At checkout, before I proceeded to finalize the order, I confirmed the shipping info. It said “Delivery Guaranteed Friday June 23.” I placed the order.

I received an e-mail Wednesday from Amazon telling me the order had shipped and it had tracking information. When I tracked it, the arrival date was Monday, June 26th! We are booked at the Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop on Monday. I called Amazon customer service. The representative I talked to definitely wasn’t a native English speaker. I was pretty sure I was talking to someone in India and his accent was so heavy, I had to ask him to repeat his question a few times. He couldn’t get the address I gave him or the order number right – he kept transposing the numbers and I had to repeat the info several times. It made me think of the times I was in Germany and tried to communicate with my rudimentary language skills – I think the phrase I most often used was “nochmal langsam bitte” or “repeat slowly please.”

After we got through my account information – which took about 15 minutes – I explained the problem with the order and the delivery guarantee. He put me on hold a couple of times saying  “Please on hold” and returning with the phrase “Thank you for on hold.” He said I would receive the items on Monday. I explained again how that wouldn’t work for me and they had guaranteed Friday delivery. He said it was “in shipment” and nothing could be done. I hung up frustrated.

To Amazon’s credit, I later received and e-mail giving me return options. I think I’ll wait until Friday to see if the items miraculously deliver before I choose a return and refund option.

On Wednesday afternoon, the skies cleared and we had bright sunshine. Donna rode south on the Centennial Trail and got 26 miles in. The forecast calls for much warmer temperatures with highs in the 80s by the weekend. This is more like the weather we’re used too – just in time for us to prepare to leave.

The Road North

When we pulled out of Lake Shastina Tuesday morning, we vowed to return for longer stay in the future. It’s such a beautiful and quiet setting. Our route took us north on Big Springs Road to County Road A12 – also called the 97-99 Cutoff. This took us west to I-5. We were surprised at the number of large houses we passed along the way. I wondered aloud where the money was coming from and whether these were primary residences or vacation homes. It’s a pretty remote area.

We drove north through Yreka and crossed the border into Oregon. A few miles past the border, we reached the Siskiyou Mountain Summit – this is the highest point on I-5 at 4,310 feet. Once we were over the pass, we hit a seven-mile 7% downgrade. We dropped over 2,300 feet of elevation. I was thanking Jacobs Engineering for their marvelous engine compression brake – affectionately known as a Jake brake. The Jake brake on our Cummins ISL engine has two settings – low and high. By toggling back and forth between the two, I was able to control our downhill speed without using the regular service brakes – I only stabbed at the brake pedal a couple of times when we approached tight curves in the road.

We passed through Ashland and Medford. The interstate has a series of summits as it undulates through the mountains. We would quickly climb a thousand feet or so, then immediately drop back down only to repeat the process time and again. We crossed both the south and north Umqua River. North of Roseburg, we pulled off at Sutherlin – a small town on the North Umpqua River. Our destination was the SKP Timber Valley RV Park. As Escapees members, we were able to dry camp in the park for a five-dollar fee.

We found a site long enough to back into without dropping the trailer and set up.

Our site at SKP Timber Valley

Donna had a Skype call as a guest speaker for an online organizing course. She set up shop outside to take the call.

Donna’s office Tuesday afternoon

A park member served as the welcome wagon and stopped by to drop off gifts. She gave us a cat toy made by someone in the park and Ozark the cat loves it. The toy has a wild turkey feather sewn in. We saw a couple of turkeys as we entered the park.

We had a quiet night but after sunrise, I woke up several times to the sound of turkeys gobbling. After slumbering for a while longer, I got out of bed. I saw wild turkeys strutting in the street in front of our coach. I went outside as they were moving away from us and tried to get closer to them. Wild turkeys are usually very wary creatures and it’s not often that you can approach them. These turkeys were obviously used to people in the park and came out of the woods to forage around – they didn’t seem too afraid of people.

A couple of them were strutting with their tails fanned out and feathers puffed up. I managed to get close enough to take a couple of photos.

Wild turkeys struttin’ their stuff


Walking back to the coach, I saw a jackrabbit slinking through a site.

Jack rabbit slinking away

There’s no shortage of wildlife in the area!

We hit the road just before 10am and continued our journey northward. We were still in hilly country but the climbs were short followed by short descents until we reached Eugene and then the terrain was flatter through the Willamette Valley.

Cruising along on the flat terrain, I noticed our transmission temperature seemed abnormally high. It was running around 210 degrees. The engine coolant temperature stayed normal – ranging from 180 to 195 on climbs and staying around 182-184 on the flat stretch of road. I thought it was odd. After a while, the transmission temperature started to increase again. When it reach 220 degrees, I became concerned. There was a rest stop a few miles away. By the time we pulled off at the rest stop it was at 224 degrees – much higher than I’ve ever seen in the past.

With the engine idling and the transmission in neutral, the temperature quickly dropped to 184 degrees. I used the Allison transmission key pad to check the fluid level and interrogate the control unit for trouble codes. The fluid level was fine and no diagnostic trouble codes were recorded. I found my Allison manual and read through it. It said high temperature is worrisome when the sump temperature exceeds 250 degrees, so we were still in safe territory. However, it wasn’t making sense to me. Why was the transmission running that hot when the engine temperature remained normal and there wasn’t any reason for the drive train to be under more stress than normal?

We got back on I-5 and continued on our way. The transmission temperature remained normal for several miles, then started climbing again. When it reached 211 degrees, I shifted down from sixth gear to fifth gear. The temperature dropped to 204 degrees. I still can’t make sense of this. As we approached Portland, I shifted back into drive and the transmission temperature stayed in the 190s.

Driving through Portland, Oregon is one of my least favorite drives – it ranks right up there with Seattle. We hit I-84 on the south side of the Columbia River and followed it to I-205. This took us over the Columbia River and into Washington. We pulled into the Vancouver Washington Elks lodge around 2:30pm.

Our dry camping spot at the Vancouver Elks Lodge

We plan to boondock here for two nights. Our thinking was Donna could get some bicycle mileage in here – she bicycled when we stayed here last year. While we were driving, Donna had a beef stew in the crock pot. The aroma was wonderful! After we set up and paid for two nights, we took a walk to the Fred Meyer Supermarket about a half mile from here. The crock pot stew continued to simmer.

Then we went into the lodge for a cold one. When we came back to the coach, I was reading a book when I thought to check the battery condition. Oh no! The inverter was powering the crock pot from the house batteries and I had run them below 12 volts! I went to start the generator but it was dead. Hitting the start button did nothing.

I started our engine to put some juice back into the batteries from the alternator. I still couldn’t get anything from the generator start button. It didn’t make sense to me, we had run the generator that morning without any issues. I went out checked the connections at the battery bank. Sure enough, the cable that runs up to generator had corroded and pulled out of the connector.

I made a temporary fix by clamping the cable to the terminal with Vise-Grip pliers. Today I’ll have to clean the cable and connector, strip the insulation back and reconnect the cable.

MacGuyver temporary solution.

With the temporary fix in place, the generator fired up and recharged the batteries.

Meanwhile, Donna dished out the stew and it was excellent!

Crock pot beef stew

This morning we woke up to rain. I hope it clears up so Donna can get her ride in and I can work on the generator/battery cable.

Darkness, Darkness

We were invited to join fellow Alpine Coach owners Dessa and Frank Halasz at their coach for a small gathering Monday night. I wasn’t feeling up to par after suffering from dehydration in the afternoon, so Donna went without me. She rode the Spyder over to their site at the far end of the park before sundown, around 7pm.

She returned a little past 9pm and said she had a heck of a time riding home. It’s very dark in that section of the park so when she first started out, she thought maybe her eyes just needed to adjust to the darkness after being inside in bright light. She tried the high beams, hoping to shed more light, but that didn’t change anything. It took her awhile to navigate the unfamiliar park roads, but she eventually found her way home. She told me that she thought something must be wrong with the Spyder’s headlights. I went outside and checked it out. She was right – the tail lights and running lights worked, but no headlights. I needed to do something about that – I wouldn’t want us to be caught out in the dark. For some reason the Jesse Colin Young song Darkness, Darkness came to mind.

Tuesday morning we played pickleball here at the Escapees Park of the Sierras. We quit before noon and it was another hot day. After lunch, I looked at the headlight situation on the Spyder. First I checked out the 30amp headlight fuse. Looking at the manual, I saw tail lights and running lights were on a separate circuit from the headlights. The fuse was fine so I moved on to the next check.

I read the shop manual instructions for bulb removal and it seemed pretty straightforward. Simply remove the instrument panel, then take the cover off the rear of the bulb housing. Twist the bulb holder counter-clockwise and it should come out. Easy, right?

The instrument panel snaps in place with plastic tabs. You’re supposed to depress the tabs with a screwdriver and gently lift the panel out. Okay, except you need a screwdriver that’s less than an inch long or else it’ll hit the windshield! I took an old pocket screwdriver and modified it for this task.

Modified screwdriver for instrument panel removal

With the instrument panel out, I could reach into the body work to remove the headlight bulbs. However, the instrument panel opening is fairly small. My hands aren’t especially large, but they’re not small either. I wear an XL glove size.

Instrument panel out

Next I had to take the cover off the rear of the headlight housing. There wasn’t much room – the back of my hand was jammed against plastic mounting points for the dash body work.

Not much room in there

Once I had the rear cover off, I needed to twist the bulb holder and unplug the H7 halogen bulb. This took a lot of effort. The headlight housing is like a monkey paw trap. I could get my hand in there, but once I wrapped my fingers around the bulb holder my hand was trapped against the inside of the housing. Also my wrist was against the edge of the instrument panel opening – not too comfortable. I tried different approaches standing on either side of the Spyder. Eventually I managed to get the bulb out.

The bulb holder is free from the mount

The headlight bulb was burned out. I didn’t bother removing the left side bulb at this point, I assumed that both bulbs were bad. A while back, Sini told me she thought one of our headlights was out. I didn’t think so – I thought the headlights only used one bulb on low beam and both on high beam. Some motorcycles are set up this way. It turns out that both bulbs should be illuminated at all times. High beams are actuated by a solenoid that adjusts the reflector in the headlight assembly.

I rode the Spyder to Coarsegold and bought two new H7 Halogen bulbs.

Old H7 halogen bulb

When I returned, I went back to work. Accessing the left bulb was tighter than the right side! There’s a wiring harness behind the bulb housing that makes removing the rear cover and the bulb holder nearly impossible. I’m sure the factory assembles the headlights on a bench, then installs the body work and instrument panel on the vehicle. To do it the way the factory assembled it would mean removing the windshield, the instrument panel and all of the associated front end body work. It would be a large task.

So, I continued the monkey paw game in the 100-degree heat. I had to take care not to touch the glass bulb – halogen bulbs run hot and any oils from your fingers will cause them to fail. After a while persistence paid off and I had both bulbs changed. Getting the bulb holders back in place was another test of patience. Eventually I got it done. But I would like to have five minutes with the person that designed this set up. I’m guessing it was an engineer that got a mechanical engineering degree because of an aptitude for math. Obviously they had never serviced or repaired anything in their life!

I spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off inside with a book. Before dinner, Donna and I took a cruise around the park on the Spyder. This is a large property with several loops through five sections. We took a look at Coarsegold Creek where it crosses a golf cart path – the creek is running strong and with the large Sierra Nevada snow pack I imagine it’ll run strong through the summer months.

Coarsegold Creek

Donna made coriander crusted pork chops with a pineapple salsa for dinner. She served it with green beans and sweet potato mash – it was a hit in my book – very juicy and flavorful!

Coriander crusted pork chop with pineapple salsa

We played pickleball again this morning. We expect another hot afternoon with the temperature exceeding 90 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler. We’ll head out early tomorrow to visit Yosemite National Park.

Last Dance in San Diego

Our last week in San Diego was filled with the usual activities and then some. I hit the pickleball courts and happy hours at Offshore Tavern and Grill and Dan Diego’s. In addition to getting some writing done, Donna got in some cycling and also attended a beach workout sponsored by San Diego Magazine.

In my last post, I described the dead end I hit trying to change out Sini’s kitchen faucet. After discussing the issue with my friends Mark and Paul – both have earned their living as plumbers their entire adult lifetimes – they came to the same conclusion. I would have to cut the frozen brass nut off of the old faucet with a sawzall reciprocating saw to remove it. I had two problems with this. First – I don’t have a sawzall. Second, I would most likely damage Sini’s sink if I used a sawzall on the faucet nut. I hated to do it, but I had to tell Sini I wouldn’t be able to complete the job.

On Friday night, Donna, Sini and I went to Offshore Tavern and Grill. We were joined by Sini’s friends, Larry and Cindy, who were visiting from Washington. We ordered dinner from the happy hour menu – Sini and Donna went for the poke plate while Larry and Cindy had carne asada tacos. I went for the seared yellowfin tuna – delicious.

Seared yellowfin tuna

We left Offshore around 7pm and headed over to Tio Leo’s – a Mexican restaurant and bar a few miles south of Offshore. We met up with our friends, Carole Sue and Mona, there. It was my night out with the girls.

Carole Sue, Donna, Sini, Mona and me

The Siers Brothers Band was playing at Tio Leo’s. This was the second time we saw this band – we saw them at the end of April at the Beachcomber. This time they had another member – a singer fronting the band – he did a smooth rendition of the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling. They were as good as before – we really enjoyed their performance and I even hit the dance floor with Donna for a couple of songs.

Siers Brothers Band

Steve Siers

Steve Siers and his brother Mark play guitar in the band. They trade off lead and rhythm parts. It was interesting to see their different approach and style of playing. Mark tended to be true to the original recordings and played the lead parts pretty much note for note. Steve was a little more free-form and put his own twist on the solos. It was really evident when they covered Tom Petty’s Last Dance with Mary Jane. Mark also plays hot slide guitar and really cooked on the Allman Brothers One Way Out.

On Saturday, the kitchen faucet saga came to a close. Sini’s current faucet works fine – no leaks or problems – she just wanted to upgrade it. Since I couldn’t get the job done, she decided to wait on replacing it rather than hiring a plumber to do it. Meanwhile, Donna really liked the faucet Sini bought so she decided to buy it from Sini so I could install it in our coach.

I replaced our faucet two years ago but Donna wasn’t entirely happy with the one I put in. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it was too low and she didn’t like the way the sprayer functioned. The faucet Sini bought was a Delta high-rise pull-down kitchen and bar faucet. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to remove our faucet since it was only two years old and not corroded.

Our “old” kitchen faucet

Of course I had to deal with a cramped work space, but there was more room than I had in Sini’s cabinet.

Cramped workspace

As I suspected, the threads on the hold down nut weren’t corroded at all and removal was easy.

Clean threads and easy removal

Installing the new faucet was straight forward and I had the job done in less than an hour.

New high-rise pull-down faucet

Donna is happy with her new faucet. She likes the way the sprayer works and the high-rise design gives her more room in the sink. A happy ending to the faucet story. Sini will probably have her faucet changed when she returns here in the fall – she’s spending the summer up in Washington and her coach will be in storage.

The weather has been a mixed bag this week. We had a few showers at the beginning of the week. The pattern has been cloudy mornings with sunshine in the afternoon. The temperature has reached the upper 60s everyday. Today may be a little cooler.

I have a few things to accomplish today. We’re pulling out of here tomorrow so I’ll need to pack the trailer, check tire pressures and put away the tire covers and windshield cover. Tomorrow we’ll drive 90 miles up to Hemet where we’ll check in at Golden Village Palms RV Resort. I got a great rate on a 70′ pull-through site there with our Passport America discount – under $30/night.


Pop Goes the Rivet

The cooler weather forecast for Monday arrived as predicted. It was in the upper 40s in the morning when I headed over to the pickleball courts. It didn’t feel that cold though – we had abundant sunshine with clear skies and calm wind. The high temperature for the day was 68 degrees.

One of the things I love about the RV lifestyle is the community. We’ve met so many people and made new friends as we travel about. In some cases, we have connected with our new friends several times in different places. Our stay here in Mesa, Arizona is one of those times. On Monday afternoon, we met up with Hans Kohls and Lisa McGuire (Metamorphosis Road) at The Hub for happy hour and dinner.

Hans and Lisa are full-time RVers and we’ve crossed paths several times – most recently at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego. Since we both like to spend the winter months in southern California and Arizona, we often find ourselves in the same areas at the same time. We sampled some good beers – stouts for the girls and IPA for Hans and me. We sat and talked for about two hours and the time flew by. Today they’re moving from Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction to McDowell Mountain Regional Park – about 40 miles away.

Last night, before Donna went to bed, she said the door on one of cabinets didn’t feel right when she closed it. The cabinets on the upper walls of the living room/kitchen have small spring-loaded struts that hold them fully open and keep them closed. When she opened the cabinet door this morning, one of the struts was detached from the door.

Left strut detached from mount

The strut attaches to mounting points with rivets. I have several replacement strut assemblies that I picked up a couple of years ago, but I decided to repair this one since it was a quick and easy repair. I’ll save the replacements for times when a strut sacks out and loses spring tension to hold the door open.

I retrieved my pop-rivet tool and and a 3/32″ rivet from the trailer and went at it.

Pop-rivet tool and rivet

Pop-rivet inserted through strut and mount

Tool pulls mandrel, breaking it as it expands the rivet head


The entire repair took no more than five minutes – job done! It’s always good to have the proper tool for the job at hand.

If the weather-guessers have it right, today will be the start of a warming trend. The forecast calls for upper 70s today and mid to upper 80s for the rest of the week.


*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

RV Renovators – Day 29 – Outta Here

Steve and John put the finishing touches on the paint job Wednesday morning. For good measure, Steve painted the latch handles on the basement compartment doors. This gave it a crisper overall look – I think I’ll paint the latches on the other side of the coach.

Black paint on the latch

Once they were finished, Izzy put a new seal on the slide where the outer wall meets up against the body when the slide is closed. He also went over all of the molding with silicone sealant.

Then Dave took over and installed the window awning and slide topper. With that done, we moved to the wash bay at 3pm for the last step in the process. They washed the coach while I settled the bill in the office.

We headed out around 3:30pm. Donna rode the Spyder while I drove the coach and we met at Mike Hall’s house. I hooked up our trailer and we pulled out – Donna was following on the Spyder. It didn’t make sense to load the Spyder in the trailer for a trip of a few miles only to unload it again.

We pulled in to Viewpoint RV Resort a little past 4pm. I told Donna to take the Spyder to our site after giving her directions. The security person wanted me to wait for an escort to take the coach there. After waiting for five minutes, I told security that I knew where I was going. She said I was supposed to have an escort, but could proceed if that’s what I wanted to do.

The RV sites here are wide. I didn’t think I would have any trouble backing the trailer in. What I didn’t realize was how narrow the road was and we had a fence and structures right on the edge of the road across from our site.

I made several passes before I was able to position the trailer on the concrete pad. Then I drove the coach to the end of the road and made a three-point turn to come back facing the opposite direction. I wanted to back the coach in from this direction.

It was a tight squeeze with an small orange tree on the passenger side and a street light post on the driver’s side. Again the narrow road didn’t help. We had an audience of several people watching while they enjoyed happy hour. One guy – our new neighbor to the right – came out to help. The thing is, Donna and I have our system worked out. Sometimes too much help just jams us up. This was case here. In fact, he even opened the door to the coach while I was backing in so he could talk to me!

I had to jockey in and out of the site several times to position the coach. I would gain a few inches closer to the concrete pad with each pass. At one point I was extremely close to the light post. I could see in my side view mirror I only had a couple of inches when I heard a bang! The slide topper on the bedroom slide extends a couple of inches beyond the side of the coach. It hit the post. This is the first time I’ve ever hit anything with my coach.

Once I finally had the coach positioned where I wanted it, we had another issue. They placed the sewer connection at the rear center of the site! It was under the rear of the coach. I had to pull forward, attach our sewer hose, then back in over it. Otherwise I would be crawling under the coach to attach the sewer hose.

Several friendly neighbors came over to chat while I was setting up. I was friendly as well, but I don’t like anything to break my set-up routine. That’s how mistakes can happen. When I put the slides out, I had a problem with the bedroom slide. It was binding after moving a few inches. There’s a stop lever on the end of the topper tube. When I hit the light post, it pushed the stop lever to the side and it was hitting the mount. After I finished the rest of the set-up and dumped our tanks, I got a ladder out of the trailer and pounded the stop lever back in place. Now the bedroom slide opened fine.

Roomy site, but difficult to enter

It was after 6pm by the time I had us set up.

We’re so happy to be out of the shop and in a nice, quiet environment. We’re also going to take advantage of the amenities here – pool, pickleball and whatnot.

The next couple of days are forecast to be sunny with highs in the mid-70s. Rain is coming this weekend though.

RV Renovators – Days 27-28 – The Best Laid Plans

I’m sure you’ve heard this before – the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. Well, it’s true – at least in this case. Monday morning I was optimistic about getting the job finished. I was sure we would pull out of RV Renovators no later than Tuesday, possibly even by the close of business on Monday.

On Sunday, our painter, Steve, told me he had a few small touch-ups to do on Monday, then another clear coat. After that it only needed to be blocked and buffed. Izzy has some sealant to apply and the slide topper needed to be installed.

Around 9am, I realized we might be in trouble. I went outside and saw John sanding the clear coat. I asked him what was up. He said he didn’t think Steve was coming in, he had called in sick. John said he was going to sand then buff the clear coat. I told him that’s not what Steve intended. I showed him a few areas that Steve wanted to touch up. I also told him Steve only applied a light clear coat to seal the paint before it rained and he was going to clear coat it again.

Here’s an example of the small imperfections Steve wanted to touch up

John said he would handle it. He cut through the clear coat and masked and painted several areas. He was still working on it when I left around 3pm to go to Viewpoint RV Resort to choose our site and also inform them that I may not be out of the repair shop on Tuesday.

From there, I stopped at Red, White and Brew and had a cold one with my friends Pat and Leendert.  When I got back to the coach a little past 5pm, John was gone. He had sprayed clear coat and at first I thought he was done. Then I looked closer and felt sick to my stomach. The paint didn’t have small touch ups – it had major flaws now. John had screwed it up completely.

Bad tape job

More bad masking

Waves sanded into the trim

Tuesday morning I had a heated conversation with the owner, Monte. I was totally frustrated. All the hard work done by Izzy, Armando and Steve had gone by the wayside. In the end, people won’t see the time and talent that went into the job – they will only judge the job by the finish applied. I’m sure it was disappointing for Steve, too. He had to sand out the mistakes and start taping all over again.

Masking and re-shooting the base coat

He spent about five hours taping and applying colors again.

More taping

Around 3pm he was ready to apply clear coat. He rescued the paint job, but it has a few minor flaws that weren’t there on Sunday.

Clear coat applied

Oh well, the rest of paint on the coach isn’t perfect either. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it at this point. I’m hoping there are no more glitches today and we can get out of here.

We’re looking forward to moving into an actual RV Resort with a patio outside our door, pickleball courts and swimming pools. I’ll have our trailer and can set up the barbeque and Traeger smoker/grill. The weather looks good for the rest of the week – highs in the mid 70s and sunny. They’re calling for rain in the area over the weekend though.

RV Renovators – Days – 25 – 26 – Almost Done

The weekend was low key. On Saturday, Donna felt jet-lagged and had a rough feeling in her throat. She’s still feeling the effects of something she picked up on her trip to Vieques – a cold or some virus.

We managed to get out for a while on the Spyder to start looking for our next place to stay. February is probably the busiest month of year for RV parks in Mesa, Arizona. Things start thinning out in mid-March. We went to Val Vista Villages first – this is a huge park with somewhere around 1600 sites and lots of pull-throughs. The pull-through sites are 100 feet long.

Unfortunately, they wouldn’t have a pull-through site available until March 17th. They didn’t have anything for us unless we wanted to make a few moves over the next month. This park is part of the Cal-Am family of RV parks. They told us not to bother stopping at a couple of their other parks in the area as they are all full.

So we went east on University Drive about seven miles to Viewpoint RV Resort. This is another huge place with a golf course, pickleball courts, tennis and a bar and restaurant on site. The regular rates there are high, but with our Thousand Trails membership, we qualified for their Encore rate. I booked two months there starting tomorrow, leaving on April 14th. The total bill is $1375 ($687.50/month) plus electricity.

On Sunday, we ventured out to visit our friends, Dave and Stilla Hobden. They’re fellow Alpine Coach owners who recently bought a home here in Mesa. They were on the road full-time, but decided to set up a home base and also provide affordable housing for their single-parent daughter and grandson. We had a nice visit and toured their new digs. Stilla has been under the weather and is staying home while Dave heads out to Lake Havasu for the Winter Blast Alpine Coach rally today. We were with them there at this time last year.

We’re assuming we’ll be done at RV Renovators by the end of the day today or late morning tomorrow. Over the weekend, Steve the painter came by. On Saturday, he spent some time doing touch-up on the paint but couldn’t stay long due to family commitments – he’s a single parent. He came by again on Sunday and sprayed clear coat. He wanted to seal the paint job with a layer of clear as there was rain in the forecast and it looked like it could start raining at any moment.

Today he needs to do a little sanding and finish the touch-up work. Then he’ll apply two more layers of clear coat. This will be followed with final sanding and buffing. Then all we need is to have the slide topper re-installed. I had a seam on the topper repaired while it was off.

Another job I had them do while we were here was repainting the front lower valance. Some people call this the front bumper area, but I don’t think I would ever want to bump anything with it. A while ago, I talked to Levi about painting the lower area where there were large stone chips and some peeling paint. He said he would have a guy sand it, put down a layer of texture coat and then paint it since we already had the paint. It would be a minor job.

This job was assigned to John. He worked on it last Thursday while Steve was painting the slide out wall.

Lower valance sanded and primed

Texture coat added

John told me he thought having the lower valance painted in the dark brown color wasn’t right. He thought it should be the light pewter color to better match the coach. I agreed with him and told him to go ahead and change the color. You can see the brown on the lower valance in the header photo.

By the end of the day on Thursday, he had it sprayed. He actually used two colors – the color we discussed and the silver 1/4″ trim color. I thought it looked good until I looked closely. There’s a light brown strip above the 1/4″ trim. I could see splotchy areas where the paint was coming off. John saw me looking at it and said the paint peeled when he pulled the masking tape.

So on Friday morning, John masked the front again and applied light brown above the newly painted area. Now we have a three-color job on what was supposed to be a simple sand, texture and shoot job. John was two days into it. I talked to our service advisor, Jim. I told him how the front paint job transpired. He told me John had already told him about it. He said he instructed John to do whatever takes to make the job right and he would only bill me for the simple job we originally agreed on. Nice!

New paint on front

When the generator compartment is completely closed, the paint colors will align

Our stay at the RV Renovators workshop is about to come to a close. We’ll be happy to settle in to a real RV resort with full hook-ups and the slides out. Donna joked that she’ll miss the banter, the singing and noise of the workers here.

The rain came last night along with lightning, thunder and high winds. This morning, we have mostly cloudy skies which are supposed to move out east. The forecast looks good for the rest of the week.

RV Renovators – Day 24 – Five Colors

While I was watching Steve mask an area he had painted in preparation for the next color, one of the service guys stopped by. He mentioned how labor intensive repainting a coach is. I agreed with him. He told me he often gets requests from customers to do a “spot repair” on peeling clear coat. Then when he explains what’s needed to repair it right, they’re shocked at the cost.

Clear coat on a two-stage paint system contains UV inhibitors to prevent the base (color) coat from deteriorating due to exposure to sun light. Peeling clear coat can be a indication of the base coat deteriorating. You can’t just shoot clear coat over the area and call it good.

As Steve was masking, I realized I was wrong about the number of colors in our paint scheme. Earlier I said it was four colors but it’s actually five colors. I wasn’t counting the base layer that makes the 1/4″ stripe between the other colors. So what I was calling the first color was really the second color.

Second color masked and Steve is spraying the next color

The blue areas you see in the photos are painter’s tape masking the previous coat of paint. We don’t have any blue paint.

After each color, Steve masked the freshly painted area, then sanded the overspray with 800 grit sand paper and Scotch-Brite pads and wiped everything clean with solvent.

Third color on and masked

The fourth color covered large areas and is masked with paper

All five colors revealed

Now the end is in sight. Steve will touch up a few spots, lightly sand the surface and apply clear coat. Once the clear is cured, it will be wet-sanded in stages with with fine grit, then buffed for a final polish.

With the weekend upon us, we’ll have a few more days here at RV Renovators before we’re done.

Donna made it home from her trip to Vieques around 9:30pm Friday night. It was a long day of travel. She had a great time there and she’s feeling refreshed after spending a week in the sun and sand – although she may have caught some kind of cold virus on her flight there. Hours of flying in a crowded airplane can spread a lot of germs. She still has a rough throat, but nothing too debilitating.

We’re expecting the temperature to reach nearly 80 degrees today and tomorrow with a chance of rain moving in Sunday night. I don’t know if rain will affect the final steps of finishing the coach. I hope not.