Thursday, March 29, 2012

Great times in Florida

We are here at the Manatee Cove FamCamp at Patrick AFB near Melbourne, FL.  It is very convenient to the beautiful beaches, a great fitness center on base, local shopping and Major League Baseball Spring Training.
The weather has been great so we are really enjoying it here.  Plus our campsite is right on the beach with a little bit of sand and some pretty great sunsets.
Viera is the home of the Washington Nationals MLB spring training and only about 10 miles down the road.  We got some mid-day tickets last week and enjoyed a great game between the Nats and the Atlanta Braves.
We also found time last weekend to visit another pretty good flea market.
But mostly we have been settling into a routine and getting some things done.  I washed the RV and am almost half way through putting a coat of Mother's Wax on it.  Hopefully I will be done in a day or two.

On Tuesday, they had a going away party / happy hour pot luck for the camp hosts that have been here for a number of years.  We didn't know them that well but decided to go and meet some people anyway. It started at the traditional 4:00 happy hour time.  At 5:00 PM at most bases, they play the Star Spangled Banner.
Pretty cool to see all our fellow campers rise and respectfully face the direction of the music.  We enjoy these get togethers because they continue to be a way we can get to know other people.  We met quite a few that evening and met one couple that had been full timers for eight years.

We are looking forward to some more nice weather and sunshine and plan to be here to be through the end of April.

That is it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Golf Hall of Fame - St. Augustine

We spent three great days in St Augustine last week and spent Friday we went to the World Golf Hall of Fame.  It is a very large building with displays, memorabilia and interesting things to do and learn.
The grounds are very well kept and they have Hall of Famer's Walk of Champions.  Here they have names such as Mickey Wright (Women's Hall of Fame) carved in granite on the sidewalk.  The tower is the signature architecture piece on the property and we made our way over to it and the beginning of the tour.

The tour is a self guided one with lots of information and short videos.  We began with an explanation of how one can become eligible for the Hall of Fame:  member of PGA for 10 years, 40 years old, winner of ten tournaments or two majors.
This year's inductees include Hollis Stacy, Sandy Lyle and Phil Michelson.  There is a very large display and area devoted to Bob Hope.  He was a lifelong advocate of golf, had a tournament named after him and at one time was a 4 handicapper.
 There are some very unique displays on how and when the game of golf began.  Also, we looked at early versions of hickory shafted golf clubs, the featherie (filled with goose or chicken feathers and hand sewn) and the gutta-percha golf ball (covered with the rubber sap of a Malaysian tree).

We took the elevator to the top floor of the tower where the trophy display was located.  Wow - there must have been 30 trophies on display.  First the Claret jug, given to the winner of the British Open.
Then the U.S. Open, Masters and the PGA Tournament (Wannamaker trophy) were there in all their glory.  It was pretty neat to see the those trophies.

From the tower, we could see out to the grounds and the island green for the Challenge Hole in the middle of the lake.  Off to the left is the tee box to the green.  This is where you can buy chances to hit the green.  As we waited our turn, the guy in front of us actually hit a hole in one!  ~First hole in one I have ever personally seen.  That was pretty cool.
Now back to the museum and some more displays.  Some of the Hall of Fame inductees had their own sections and memorabilia.  Johnny Miller was a favorite of mine during the 1970's and we saw the scorecard from his record 63 (-8 under par) in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open.  And I always admired Tom Kite.  I remember watching on TV when he finally won a major with the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Then there was Nancy Lopez.  I followed her great career from its early beginnings in New Mexico.  As a 14 year old she was the Ladies state champion.  She was from Roswell and I grew up in Santa Fe and it seemed as if she was always making headlines.  Her display was one of the more extensive ones in the building.

Our time at the World Golf Hall of Fame was a lot of fun and well worth the time.  We spent a couple of  hours there, had lunch and then came back for more.  If you are a golf enthusiast like we are, you may find this to be a good stop.

That is all for now.  Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More Repairs


Yes really...  We drove from Red Bay AL to Destin FL last week and stayed at the Army MWR Recreation Campground in Destin, FL.  We were looking forward to staying there because of our good impression last time.

It was raining and overcast for the first couple of days and in the middle of Friday afternoon Pam noticed a pool of fluid on the ground between the back tires.
It was transmission fluid and this looked like a big problem.  Not much we could do on a Friday afternoon late in the day.  The main thing was not to panic and think through this thing…  We were in no danger so let's just figure this out and learn all we can in terms of how to deal with it.

We got up on Saturday, confirmed it was still dripping and thought we should tell the campground registration desk that we had a leak and we knew it and were working on getting it fixed.

The lady there gave us the name and number of the RV Doctor who was a local mobile RV repair guy.
He came out and took a look but it was leaking around the transmission pan seal.  It was probably a job that was too big for him but he wanted to confirm it with his boss - Bob.  Bob and Mike came out on Sunday and confirmed it was transmission fluid leaking.   I paid them $40 for two onsite calls and made some phone calls.

The folks at the 1-800 Allison transmission/Cummins dealer in Panama City.  I kept getting promises of call backs but never talked with anyone that could help.  We found the nearest Freightliner dealer - NorthWest Florida Fleet Maintenance in Fort Walton Beach.  They turned out to be the answer to our problems.
They diagnosed it correctly and had the facilities and expertise.  They suggested we take the 'pump drum' of transmission fluid back to our campground, top off what we had lost on the ground, and drive the Roadrunner over to their shop 12 miles away.
That is what we did without incident.

Next, we went back to cleanup of our site.  We got sand and spread it over the spill.
Then we went back over to the Freightliner repair shop and they indicated parts would need to be ordered. We got the parts on Tuesday afternoon and got into the Service Bay a little after noon on Wednesday.  It was supposed to be a 5 1/2 hour job so they thought the could get it done that day.

And they did.  It took them until almost 7:00 PM but we were glad they stayed late to do it.
They cleaned us up, we paid the bill ($1078.64) and we got underway.

But looking back we were very satisfied with our time at Fleet Maintenance.  We met the owner (David) the first thing Monday morning.  He could not have been more helpful.  Then the scheduler Jerry was good and we also liked the mechanics that worked on the Roadrunner.  The folks let us stay two nights at the repair facility free of charge.  They quoted us a price on Monday morning and came within $100 of it,  told us they probably would be done Wednesday after the part came in and got us out of there though they had to stay late.   Generally they are what you call customer oriented excellent professionals.  And the kind of folks we highly recommend!

It has been a little while since we have done some night driving but we decided we wanted to get a couple hours under our belt and stay at a Rest Stop (on I-10) or a Walmart.

After we went about 120 or 130 miles, I stopped at two rest stops but they were small and full (I passed a couple of big ones with plenty of parking but didn't stop at that time…) and we decided on the Walmart at Mariana FL.  It was about 9:20 PM and we were tired.  We stayed at this same Walmart a few weeks ago when we were headed to Red Bay and it was fine.
The next day we drove on to St. Augustine where we are going to be for a few days.  Glad the repairs are done (for a while).  Even though we had a lot of time in the shop there at Fort Walton Beach, we were able to do some shopping and sight seeing (another blog post?).  The area still has the whitest and best beaches we have ever seen…

Thanks for joining us on this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Roadrunner Financials - February 2012

Roadrunner Recap for February - 
February was a great month though we were a little over budget.  We finished up our time at Key West.  We arrived a couple of days before Christmas and stayed over seven weeks.  Key West is one of my favorite places.  We will be back!

From Key West, we made our way up to Fort Myers.  We have friends whom we wanted to see there and in Naples.  February is 'in season' for snowbirds here in Florida and it took us a while to find a place. Our first three choices were full.  We ended up at a nice resort in Naples.  Also in February, we had one night in a Walmart parking lot, one night at a casino parking lot (both free of charge) and spent eight nights at Patrick AFB (east coast near Cocoa Beach).

While there I dinged the coach and put an 8" crack in the fiberglass side of the coach near the bottom of the front door and steps.  We left Patrick AFB and took it to an RV service center in Kissimee to get it fixed.  While the coach was there, we spent three nights with good friends in Orlando.

The RV technician was not real confident how to fix it but the estimate was $2600.  We went ahead with the claim and got the check (minus the $800 deduction). We decided to take the coach to the Tiffin Service Center/Factory in Red Bay AL.  We had two nights en route at Maxwell AFB Famcamp and then spent the rest of the month (a total of 10 days) in Red Bay.

For February we travelled about 1253 miles.  That was far different from January when we stayed put in Key West with zero miles.
Good News Where We Are Under Budget - 
The biggest area where we were under budget  ($232.28) for the month was in Campground fees.  
Biggest Expenses For the Month - 
Our biggest expenses were for fuel (a total of $866.63) and I bought a new suit ($238.10) for an upcoming wedding.  The good thing about needing a new suit was is that I have lost 25+ pounds and my suit jackets and pants 'hang' on me so I had to get a new one.
Large 'One Time Cost' Item -
We replaced our old fold up BBQ table with an aluminum fold up table that cost $68.46.  This one should last indefinitely.

Here are the numbers of my Budget vs Actual cost items for Feb 2012:

I need to adjust my budget for the Verizon/Internet bill.  The days of $29/month for good service are over.  I think the new normal for us is closer to $85 for internet and about $115 for phone service.   

That it for today on the Roadrunner Chronicles. Thanks for joining us.  Until next time...  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New Tires and Braking System

While in the Service Bay at the Allegro Campground, we saw a problem with the right front tire.  The tread was coming loose and I was able to pull a chunk off without too much trouble.  The tires had only 56, 500 miles on them but more importantly they were 6 1/2 years old.  Time for new tires.

I called around and the closest place that sold Michelin's was Simmon's Tire Company in Shefflield, AL. Sheffield is about 50 miles from Red Bay and next to Muscle Shoals.

We arrived at 8:00 AM on Monday morning towing the Honda.  We parked and unhooked and talked with the owner about getting the new tires and having the alignment checked on the front and back end.  I also made sure that I was registered with Family Motor Coach Association.  They have a Michelin Advantage Program  that saved me $50 a tire.  With six tires to replace, it was worth my time to give them a call and get registered for the discount.

After that, we left in search of a Starbucks or McDonalds or something with a decent place to hangout.  We found a Jack's and I took a booth in the corner, had some coffee and checked into my company (I work part time about 20-25 hours each month).

While I got set up and started working, Pam ran some errands and then we had lunch at Jacks.  About 1:30 Simmons called and we returned.  I asked them to turn the two rear stems on the inside tires outward so I could easily get to them.  That sound make checking them and putting in air a lot easier.  I checked the air in the tires, we hooked up the Honda and paid the $4275.29 bill.

Ugh - this was another big one.  I was planning to replace the tires next year so that was no surprise.  We just had to do it sooner than I hoped.  While the bill is substantial we have had some good news to help.  My body shop repair bill was only $500.  We got an insurance claim check for over $1900.  Even if you add $400 in fuel for a trip from FL to Red Bay, there is about $1000 we were not planning on.  Then we had over a $1000 saved up for emergencies.  My work has leveled out over the last year which allows me to make over $1000 a month.  So in a few months we should be back on track financially.

Now to the next upgrade.  We were able to get squeezed into Brannon's schedule at Custom RV in Vina, AL on Tuesday morning.  We had him install an Air Force One proportionate braking system.  When we left Florida, we locked up the front brakes on our Blue Ox Patriot braking system.  Thankfully a lady at a stop light alerted us to it because of the smoking brakes on the Honda.  We took the Honda into a dealer and had it all checked out and they were OK.

But we had lost confidence in the Patriot system so we had Brannon replace it with the Air Force One.
It only took a couple of hours.
They have installed a lot of these systems so it was no big deal to them.  I like watching professionals who know what they are doing.
We also have been getting some readings from our SeeLevel gauges.  They checked out that and replaced the sensor on the black tank which reads '42' even though I know it should be reading '0' after I empty it.

They also pulled out the spray/clean end piece and used a 1/32 drill bit to add more spray holes and clean out the ones already there.  That worked like a charm.  He didn't charge me for the new sensor and only for 1/2 hour of labor so I was happy with that.  All told - it was another $1524.92.  That made it a $5800 trip to Red Bay.  But it was worth every penny.  We had the right folks get things fixed and we are good to go for a while.

I look back on our projections Full-timing expenses.  I was way under on my estimates for RV maintenance and repairs.  But it has all been manageable.  Hopefully some of this information you will find useful when comparing your estimates or expenses.  

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Until next time...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Getting fixed up in Red Bay

We arrived in Red Bay, AL on Sunday and were at Bruce Deaton's Body and Paint Shop early (6:00 AM) to get our crack on the front cap fixed.
8 hours later it was done (along with the slideout topper covers I scraped going out of the gate at Maxwell AFB.) Total cost: $500.  I was very happy with his work and the price.

Then we got cycled into the Express Bay sequence at the Tiffin Service Center.  While waiting for a bay to open up, Nick came by and downloaded the latest DirecTV software for our system.  I think it upgrades the basic software and the HD operation.  Since we don't have an HD receiver or DVD-R yet, it just makes us ready for that option later on.
We had some water in the rear tail lights, so Brandon removed them and drilled drain holes in the bottom before putting them back in place.

The old rubber trim was rusting on the inside and coming off the edge of the slideout so Brandon and Ricky replaced it with a new trim.
After that, we moved on to another bay to check the hydraulic leak under the front PS corner.  It was in the hose for the slide out pump.  They found the leak and put on a new connection.
Our last stop was at the paint and body bay where Anthony worked on two slides that had rubbed against the coach.  The rubber trim had failed so it was metal against metal.  Also we found the seam along the PS galley slideout was separating and the paint was cracking so he patched it up to, repainted it all and caulked over the whole area.
Cost for our time in the Tiffin Service Center:  $20/night and $228.43.  That was a welcome surprise.

While in our first bay, we found a chunk of tire missing on the right front one.
Yikes!  Glad we found that here and not while we were barreling down the road at 60 mph!  We made an appointment for Monday in Muscle Shoals at Simmons Tires.  We were hoping to have the current tires last until next year which would be at the 7 year point.  But we can't risk it and will get that new ones now.  Cost estimate for 6 Michelin tires:  $4000 including balancing and front and rear end alignment.

The last thing we are going to do is get an Air Force One to replace our Blue Ox Patriot braking system. We had some smoking brakes when we pulled out Kissimmee last week and now we don't trust the unit.
Cost estimate $1400.

Ugh…  the tires and braking system are not in the budget but we are going to go with it.

That should do us for upgrades and maintenance for a while hopefully.

That should do it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Thanks for joining us today.  Until next time...