Thursday, May 23, 2013

HOT Water!

Today’s main job for our tech Daniel was to replace the tankless water heater with a traditional RV type that runs on either electricity or propane.

Daniel first removed the tankless heater and disconnected the hoses and wires.


Only two wires were required for the tankless, but the other three wires needed for the traditional were included in the wiring harness, just in case. Daniel told me the first few coaches he did this swap on didn’t have the extra wiring, so they could only be wired for 12v and propane, not 110v. Glad that didn’t happen in our case; it would take a lot of 12v power to heat 10 gallons of water!


After disconnecting everything, Daniel had to enlarge the opening for the traditional heater. The cavity is plenty big, but the opening is too small. He measured carefully.


Then he sawed off a few inches to widen the opening.


The before and after. Click on the pics for a closer view.


The new heater was wired up and hoses were connected.


An electrician came inside to install the new switch. He had to enlarge the hole to be able to reach all the wires.


The old and new switches. Now we have lighted switches, so it will be much easier to see at a glance whether the heater is on, and which power source is being used. There’s also the option to turn on both propane and electricity to heat the water quickly, then turn one source off to maintain the heating.


The full instrument panel. Other Phaeton owners may notice that we had previously switched some of the controls around, primarily so that my 5’1” frame can reach the most often used ones more easily without climbing on a chair or stool.


A new access panel was required outside. This will be painted to match the coach later.


It was close to quitting time, so only the propane function is hooked up now, but the electrical, which requires a breaker to be added to the system, will be made operational tomorrow. In the meantime, we’re already enjoying really HOT water. It took very little time to run enough water through the system to get the air pockets out and soon we had water too hot to put your hand in. Our water was never that hot on the tankless, a negative feature I failed to list in my previous explanation.

Toward the end of the day, Daniel discovered another thing to add to our list. He wondered if we had any goldfish to put in our fish tank (right side taillight)!


Now to switch gears for a few notes about friends.

A fellow blogger Larry (Road Runner) who is a friend of friends of ours (Jerry & Suzy, Our Life on Wheels) stopped by briefly after dinner last night to introduce himself. He saw my blog post about being in Red Bay and figured out where we are parked. It’s a small world! We look forward to getting together with Larry and his wife and getting to know each other.

This evening we again joined our friends Jim & Donnalyn Vickers to have dinner at one of mine and Don’s favorite places, Speedy Pig, in Russellville. Three of us had the smoked chicken, and Jim had the BBQ pulled pork. And the food was really yummy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bay #3 at Tiffin Service Center

Our first day in a service bay went pretty well, although it started off slow. We got a call the previous afternoon and were told to go to bay #3 at 6:45 am. So we (Don) got up at 5 am (I snoozed a little longer), then scurried about, quickly checking email, eating breakfast while watching a bit of the news especially about the aftermath of the tornado in Oklahoma, showering and getting the coach ready to move.

About 6:40 I drove the motorhome directly to bay #3. The door was open, so I drove in, paying close attention to my approach so I could go in as straight as possible and avoid hitting anything with the mirrors. Usually someone is there to guide me in and tell me where to stop. Nobody was. Don brought the car around and came inside. He asked me who directed me in and was impressed that I did it by myself. (Should I feel complimented at that or not?)

So we pulled out our Kindles and waited. Finally, a few minutes after 7:00 am, Daniel came along and started reviewing our list at the workstation in front of our coach. He came inside, and went over it with us. We were impressed with his knowledge and calm approach to the tasks at hand.

He set about taking care of the small jobs first, easy stuff that could be finished quickly. He said the water heater exchange would take most of a day, and the whole list should be finished in 2 1/2 days. We stayed in the coach all day, and were able to watch most of the work and consult about a few things, especially when a specialist or supervisor needed to be called in to give advice. Shadow 'greeted’ everyone and probably wondered why so many strangers were walking into his home.

By the end of the day, Daniel had finished quite a few things, including a few we added that we had forgotten to put on the list. We said “We’ll see you in the morning.” I asked what time, 6:45? He said, “I don’t come to work until 7:00.” So that explains our wait this morning, and we now know we can sleep an extra 15 minutes tomorrow!

Here are a few pics that show the service center and our rig in the bay, as well as other scenes around the property. Can you tell I had too much time on my hands?




That’s us on the left, our twin on the right.


Fancy trailer!


It might belong to this high-end 45-ft. Zephyr.


The owner of this satellite dish is obviously from the great state of Texas and proud of it!


Dennis & Carol, this one’s for you!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Allegro Campground, Red Bay, AL

Here we are again!


We’re surrounded by other Tiffin motorhomes in both directions. And there’s another row not seen in these pics, with sites around some of the buildings as well, totaling over 100 sites. All of them are full, and there are 8 more coaches in the city park.


Our main purpose for coming to the Tiffin service center this time, after taking care of what we call “birth defects” last September, is to have the tankless water heater changed out for a traditional 10-gal. electric/propane heater. Why? We have had bad luck with this new style. It came on the coach we bought; otherwise we probably wouldn’t have paid extra for it as an upgrade. The one good thing about it is that you will never run out of hot water as long as you have propane. The bad news is below. (ALERT: If you don’t need to know this level of detail, just skip it.)

- A flow of .5 gal/minute is required to turn on the heater. If the water pressure is low, it's very hard to regulate a warm shower because in mixing cold with hot to get warm, the flow of hot goes below the .5 gal/min and suddenly you're taking a cold shower.
- Similarly, if you want a slow stream of warm/hot water for washing/rinsing dishes, the water goes cold. You must maintain a full flow.
- When boondocking, a lot of water is wasted. Taking Navy showers, you wet down, turn off the water, soap up, then rinse. Except then you get cold water again because the heater has turned off and the water in the lines has cooled down.
- The unit works only on propane. So, even when you have full hookups and have paid for electricity, you can't take advantage of running it on electricity.
- We understand that wind can blow the flame up and burn wires. This hasn't happened to us, but we boondock in the AZ desert a fair amount in winter, and it can be very windy. We don’t want that to happen to us!
- We've had one of the two thermistors fail, twice. This means the best you can get is lukewarm water until the thermistor is replaced.

When we were in Quartzsite in January, we spoke with Bob Tiffin. the company’s founder. He said other folks have had problems with it, too, although he and his wife Judy like it, but they don’t boondock. But he said, “Come to Red Bay and we’ll change it out for you.” I verified that he meant it would be done at Tiffin’s expense (we had been quoted $1800 previously), and he said, “Yes.” I told him he just made me a very happy lady! So, this is the first opportunity we’ve had to come to Red Bay, and I can’t wait to have a new water heater.

We usually run into someone we know when we come here, and this time is no exception. Jim and Donnalyn, who we met at Betty’s RV Park in March, are here getting work done on their coach, too. We went out for dinner with them last night.


It seems that every time we come here we also find several '”goodies” to buy for the coach. This time (so far), it’s new step rugs from Trevor Nichols. He makes dash covers (we got one in Sept) and other things as well, and does a really nice custom job in fitting, as there can be small differences from one coach to another.


Finally, I skipped over our visit to the Memphis area. We spent about the first 1/2 of May there, parked at the FamCamp at Millington Naval Support Activity Mid-South, north of Memphis, a very nice RV park.


Our main “Bucket List” items were to visit Graceland and the World Championship BBQ Competition, part of Memphis in May. We thought we might also attend part of the music portion of MIM, but rain caused us to miss that. We just stayed snug and dry inside our coach.

We did find a dry day to visit Graceland, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it’s fairly expensive, we used two discounts (senior and military) to bring the cost down below $60 for the Platinum Tour for both of us, which is listed at $37 per adult. It was $10 to park, and we had a rather pricey meatloaf sandwich for lunch, so it still wasn’t an inexpensive event.

But, all in all, we agreed that the mansion and grounds, including the graves of Elvis, his parents and grandmother; two customized airplanes; many videos and several other exhibits were all entertaining and enlightening. Our opinion: anyone who likes Elvis Presley’s music will enjoy visiting Graceland at least once. Rather than post a lot of pictures, I’ll just let you explore the web site if you’re interested. Here’s one shot of the mansion.


The final event, one that Don had looked forward to for years, was a big disappointment. We discovered that the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is more of a competitor’s event than for observers, even though they are encouraged to attend. If you know a competitor and can somehow get a position on the cooking team, great. But just buying a ticket and showing up isn’t the way to truly enjoy the event. Plus, after buying tickets online in advance, we discovered the mid-day hours when we visited was free for entrance!

Only one of the competitors was licensed to sell food, and by the time we found this out and got to their booth, the rain had returned and we didn’t want to get soaked while eating lunch. We could have bought hot dogs, nachos, funnel cakes, popcorn and any number of other “fair” food from vendors not competing in the BBQ event, but we simply gave up and went to a restaurant famous for their fried chicken!

Oh, well, live and learn! Been there, didn’t do that…