Friday, August 28, 2015

Roadrunner Financials - July 2015

Roadrunner Recap
In July, we began the month at a great campground at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  We were surprised there to meet up with a number of friends including some we didn't know had moved their from San Diego.

After a couple of weeks in the Colorado Springs / Denver area we moved on down the road heading east to see the Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library and the Kansas State Capitol in Salina.

We met up with long time friends in Branson MO for a some golf and a couple of great shows.  Next we made our way over to Pam's sister and brother-in-law's place in Maynardville TN where we have an RV pad and hook ups with a sewer dump.  It was another busy month on the road!
  • Peregrine Pines FamCamp USAFA, Colorado CO
  • Buckley AFB, FamCamp- Denver CO                                                                       
  • Salina KOA, Salina KS                       
  • Osage Prairie RV Park, Nevada MO           
  • America's Best Campground, Branson, MO                       
  • Lady Luck Casino CG, Caruthersville, MO           
  • Nashville East KOA, Lebanon TN           
  • Roadrunner RV Resort and Campground, Maynardville, TN            

Good News Areas We Are Under Budget




We were under budget in RV Maintenance Repairs and Campgrounds as well as Household Items

Biggest Expenses
Our biggest expenses this month were in diesel and gas.  We also were way over in Computer Accessories and Entertainment.

Large One Time Cost Item
We had more than one high cost item with a hard drive upgrade on my aging MacBook laptop an iPad Bluetooth keyboard, and training classes ($309) at the Mac Super Store in Colorado Springs.
We added an expensive round of golf and two shows in Branson MO that while 'worth it' were $200. 

Monthly Average

At $304 over the monthly average, we are not on a very good glidepath to keep to our budget for the year.  We will have to have a few lean months to get back near our target numbers.

As always, if you think this spreadsheet might be useful I'd be glad to pass it along at no cost.  Just let me know.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Red Bay Repairs Recap - Aug 2015

I always like going to Red Bay.  Red Bay is the home town of Tiffin Motorhomes.  We have found it to be the quickest and easiest place to go to get our motor home (the Roadrunner) serviced.  Since Pam's sister and brother-in-law live in Maynardville, TN we are in this part of the country each year. Getting to Red Bay only takes about 6 hours from there.

We usually don't have to wait a long time to get things done and we learn a lot.  We get a chance to talk with people in the Allegro Campground
to hear the latest on what's getting fixed we find new things to buy in the Parts Store.  We also take advantage of the Tiffin factory tours and learn lots, no matter how many times we take the tour.

This post summarizes the highlights of what we got fixed this trip.

We left Maynardville and arrived at the Allegro Campground on a Saturday.  We have found the earlier we check-in, the sooner we get on the list to be seen in the 'Express Bay'.  So we were ahead of those that checked in on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

Our fix-it list in Red Bay looked something like this:
Tiffin
- Heater/air conditioner thermostat (front temps often go to 103 degrees)
- Sink drawer need to be tightened
- Keyless entry:  front door and a bay door sometimes would not lock

Bruce Deaton Custom Paint Shop
- Check the rails for cracks
- If there are no cracks, spray on new Clear Coat (Clear Coat was peeling on top of rails)
- Install a new wind strip / black deflector piece near the hinges on the main front door

Bay Diesel
- Check why engine appears to 'chug' a little going up hills
- Amber light comes on going up hill, then goes off on the down hill.

On Monday morning we checked in with Bruce Deaton to make sure we were on track for our Tuesday appointment.  We were and next we went over to Bay Diesel to schedule a Thursday appointment for the Roadrunner.  Next we took our time and went over to the Tiffin factory and walked through some new models.
On Tuesday we left the campground and were over at Bruce Deaton's a little before 6:00 AM.  We dropped off the coach and then went over to Jack's for breakfast.  They finished up a little before 11:00 AM.


Then we got a call from the Express Bay and were in by 11:30.  They moved quickly through our list and replaced the front heater/air conditioner sensor in the ceiling in the front of the coach.  It fixed our thermostat problem.

Next, they sanded off the metal contacts inside the door opening near the hinges.  They also sprayed some cleaner on them.  That also worked.  While they were at it, a QC guy came by and check the rails and wet bay.  No problems there.  And they check the floors on the slide out.  Big problem there.
Yikes!

Yup, the DS slideout floor needed to be replaced.  They told us they could get us in the repair bay as soon as the next day or as late as 10 days....It all depended on how many work orders came in before closing time.  None did and we thankfully got in the next morning at 7 AM.
More bad news. They pay for the floor repair for units 6 years old and under.  The Roadrunner is 8 years old.  They wanted to be sure I understood it was going to cost me $950 to repair the floor before they started working on it.

I didn't see a) how it was going to get any better if I didn't get it repaired, b) how I would ever find someone else to do it cheaper or better somewhere else.  So we gave them the go ahead to proceed.
While they were doing that, I was going through my options on how to get them to cover the costs or at least reduce them.  I figured if I saved $100 or $200 it would be worth it.

I started with the techs and asked if there were 'magic words' or some approach I could should use with management.  No ideas there.  Next I talked with the supervisor.  He wasn't very helpful at first
but after I asked if he had any 50% coupons laying around he started to be a little more interested on doing something for us.

After they got the slide out and laying on its side, a number of them were looking over things and then the supervisor walked by en route to talk to his boss say, "I think we may be able to do something..".  False alarm he came back and said he talked with his boss and we had two issues that we probably couldn't overcome:  the fact that our paperwork was stamped "Not Original Owner" and it was over two years out of warranty.

Next I went to go see Wade and talked with him.  It was a short conversation.  Cordial to a degree but when I heard him say, "I am just going by what 'they' told me to do -- the customer pays half and we pay half".  I asked if he didn't have some leeway, or if there wasn't something he could do, or if he could work with us?

He replied with the same thing he said before. I knew I lost him when he got that '1000 mile gaze' through the window for the third time and we sat there in silence.  So I dusted myself off and said 'thank you' and went back to watch them fix the floor.

Some days are tougher than others when you try to negotiate from a position of weakness and zero leverage.

They finished up the floor and put the slide back in and we were out of there before noon.  We went back to our campsite and went over to Bay Diesel the first thing (7:00 AM) Thursday morning.

It took them a while at Bay Diesel to get going on it but moved it into the Service Bay and put the diagnostic gear on the engine and ran some tests.  From that they determined we needed a new lift fuel pump.  They put that in, we took it out for some test drives with the diagnostics hooked up and it did not solve the problem.

We spent the night parked outside of their shop and took another run at it on Friday morning.  They were not successful in finding the issue and ran out of ideas so they called a repair facility in Tupelo, MS (100 miles away) and got an appointment with one of their Cummins engine tech for 7 AM on Saturday morning.

So that's a recap of the repair work we got done and tried to get done on our 7th trip to Red Bay.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Another Campground Upgrade

We arrived in Maynardville last week and I'm pretty excited about our latest upgrade.  The 'campground' is our private Roadrunner parking space at brother-in-law Mike's place.
Over the years we've put in a 50 amp pedestal and run a water line over to it.  The but we didn't have a septic solution.  Until last week.

Mike is on a septic system and I thought we could use it somehow but have never really checked it out.  We got a 'blue boy' and a new lid for the septic tank and problem solved.  It came together a lot faster than I expected.

The first thing to do was dig around and find the lid.
 Next, I got a crowbar and got the lid off to see what it looked like and what was underneath it.
 The beveled lid measured 19.5" inches on the top and about 16" on the underside.  What we found inside was a very full septic tank.  Every few years it is a good idea of pump these things out and it had been more than a few years.
Then we had a couple of other things to do:  get a 'blue boy" septic tote and find a septic pumping company.  
We found the nearest Camping World and picked up a small 12 gallon "Blue Boy". (Blue Boy is a generic term that refers to another company's model that is all blue plastic.

Next, Mike called and scheduled a local company to come by the next morning and pump out the septic tank.  J&J Septic from Luttrell showed up promptly at 9:30 AM and we got going with it.

 It only took about 20 minutes to drain the 900 gallon septic tank down to the bottom.  Then the washed off the hose and put things away.  We asked them about a lit that might have a removable plastic top.  Sure enough, they knew of a company over by Heiskell, TN that had a lot of models.  We drove over there and went right past the Escapees Park at Raccoon Valley.
We normally stay there for a night after our time at Joan and Mike's just so we can use there dump station/sewer.  

With our new set up though, we won't have to do that.  

On down the road past the Escapees Park, we found Knoxville Pre-Cast Concrete.  The lady behind the desk asked what size of a lid we had and I told her and to my surprise she said, "ok - yeah, we have one.  Cost is $51.02.  Pick up a round plastic green top outside and here are three screws to secure it. Drive abound back and a guy will be waiting there with the concrete lid."
 Done deal.  We put it in the back of the truck and returned to Mike's house.
 We turned it around twice to see which way fit best, put it down and Mike filled in the loose dirt around the top.
 I needed to do a "Proof of Concep" demonstration, so I emptied the black tank on the Roadrunner.
 Then I got two flat boards to make a ramp over the new dump station.
 I aimed, tipped and emptied the tote tank.
 After hosing it out and cleaning it, the job was complete.
We now have 50 amp power, water and a dump station at the Roadrunner RV Campground and Resort.  Pretty excited about it too!

Now all we have to do is figure out a DirecTV solution so we can get satellite TV again.  In the fall and winter the trees have no leaves so it hasn't been a problem.  But it the middle summer, the trees block our Winegard Trav'ler set up on the Roadrunner.

But for now, we watch local TV and don't have to worry about managing our toilet use.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Roadrunner Financials - June 2015

Roadrunner Recap
We spent one of the best June's on record visiting a major portion of Utah.  We started out at Mesa Verde and saw the cliff dwellings, then moved over to Monument Valley and took a jeep tour.

Next we traveled to Page AZ where we saw Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, Vermillion Cliffs, Grand Staircase, Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

We spent a week in Orderville UT and took day trips to St. George UT, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.

We stopped in Torrey UT to see Capitol Reef National Park before moving on to Arches National Park in Moab UT.  Then we stopped at Fruita, CO to see the Colorado Monument SP.

We ended up the end of the month at the foot of the Rocky Mountain National Park in Loveland CO.

It was probably the most scenic and spectacular month we have spent in our six years on the road.
Here are our stops:

  • A. Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA - Cortez Colorado
  • B. Gouldings Campground and RV - Monument Valley, UT
  • C. Lake Powell Campground - Page, AZ
  • D. Mt Carmel Motel and RV Park - Orderville, UT
  • E. Sand Creek Campground - Torrey, UT
  • F. ArchView RV Resort and Campground - Moab, UT
  • G. Monument RV - Fruita, CO
  • H. Riverview RV Campground - Loveland, CO

Good News Areas We Are Under Budget
We were only under budget on a few areas and overall we spent a lot on campgrounds and internet.  I called Verizon and adjusted some things but it was quite a shock to be over that much.  

Biggest Expenses
During the summer high season in Colorado and Utah we found ourselves paying more than we like at a lot of the campgrounds.  I just have to remember that we will make some of that up in the coming months when we stay at military bases and at free places like Joan and Mike's (Pam's sister) in Tennessee.

We spent 172.13 on shirts and souvenirs while visiting Monument Valley, the Northern Rim and the Arches National Park.

Large One Time Cost Item
The biggest expense for the month was getting new Michelin tires for the Honda.  We called ahead to the Walmart and ordered them so they would be there when we arrived.  It turned out to be $649.61 which was cheaper than what we have paid in the past at Sam's Club for the same brand.

Monthly Average
Not much to average here since it is only the first month of our 7th year on the road.   

As always, if you think this spreadsheet might be useful I'd be glad to pass it along at no cost.  Just let me know.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Roadrunner Front Console Tray

Pam and I have often wondered how to make the front console area more useable.  The wood cupholders are not really that functional because they are shallow.  I asked my friend Kirk, who has a woodshop if we could come up with something and we did.

It took us a couple or three years to finally get it done, but we are very happy with the result.
First, Pam and I taped together some cardboard to make a template of the area we thought we wanted to cut out of wood.
We liked the size and the way it fit, and Kirk went to work in his woodshop using some poplar wood he had in his garage.  It was a little bit of an 'L' shape so he glued a piece together using wood glue and a biscuit joiner.
We liked how the rough cut fit and gave ourselves a little distance on the left half in front of the dials below the radio so we had room to operate them.  For the corners, we used the curve of a plastic cup.
Next, Kirk added 1/2 inch of trim along the edges around the whole top.
After he cut all the pieces like he wanted, he glued them down and used a few brad nails to secure it.
Next he cut down the excess and sanded and sanded the sides.  We both took turns on that until it all looked like the trim was right on the edge.
We wanted to cut a 'test case' before we did it on the new table top.  He used a scrap piece to make sure it was going to work.
The test case was developed from my first iPad holder prototype and we proceeded.  We cut two pieces that fit snuggly into the cupholders.  Then we carefully drilled two holes for screws and inserted a two female-threaded screw receptacles.  (Forgot what the technical name for the piece is...)
The iPad holder was also screwed and secured with a bolt into the underside of the console.  None of the screws or the bolt touched any wood.  There was no scratching or contact of metal and wood except for the drilled holes.
Then we carefully measured where the screws were going to go in the top of the console.  We had to precisely drill the holes over the female inserts.  The screws on top were 'counter sinked'.  When the screws were tightened, the bottom piece in the cup holder drew up against the cupholders on the underside.  On top, the console was tight and secure.  No movement at all.
The moment of truth came when I slowly screwed down the four screws.  All went into the threaded receptacle pieces easily and screwed down just below the top of the console so there was no unevenness.
We were pretty excited about using it after we left Oklahoma City for Palo Duro Canyon near Texas.
I had an iPad holder which worked well and we had a space that was 100% more useful than the previous cupholders.  Instead of a balancing act when we had lunch as we traveled down the road, this new surface made it easy.

Once we got to Albuquerque, we had a couple of trial and errors on the right tint and color to match the color of the other woodwork in the Roadrunner.
Pam tired a couple of different stains before we declared victory and went with something that was not exact but close.
Next, Pam got some rubber/foam matted shelving cover for the console top so things would not slide around.
It was a one piece deal, so I had to sequence it all together and tighten down the four screws underneath the pad.
The final result:
We've had it now for a few weeks and really love it.  We couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
If for some reason, we decide we don't want the iPad holder any more, we can remove that and cut out a new black pad and you couldn't even tell there was one there.
Or, if we decide we want to go back to just the cupholders, we can remove the entire console unit and there are no scratches or screw holes to be seen.

But I think we will use this for a long time...

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!