Hey guys … This is just a note to catch you up on what has transpired in the last couple of weeks.

On the Sunday before Harvey’s Doctors appointment, we took a dry run to Lakeland in the Toad to make sure that we could find everything the next morning at 7:00 AM.  It turned out that it was a good thing we did as National’s East Coast Repair Facility, or NECRF, was not an easy place to find.  It was sort of hidden behind a lot of strip Malls and lots of silly traffic.  But, Monday at 5:00 AM (yeah I know, that time is obscene) we headed out for the 30 mile drive to Lakeland getting there at 6:45.

We were the first in line to go “behind the wire” as the Irish used to say of British prisons.  The facility has 10 huge bays and is located in the grounds where there used to be a very upscale motor home dealership.  The area was huge with barbed wire and iron gates to protect someone, just whom I don’t know as the area around did not look very bad.  But, after driving through the two gates – first one into the lot and the second one into the inner sanctum – we were greeted by a very efficient lady who took the particulars and introduced us to our “team”.  The team was headed by Kenny, who was a particularly successful anal retentive with whom I ended up having several words,  and his mechanic Wade, who turned out to be highly trained and a really nice guy.  He was a guy you could trust working on our home.  The head of the facility is Steve who wandered around in an Hawaii shirt and tried to look important.  He really didn’t make it!

Anyway, we presented our two page list of problems, and Wade just shrugged and got busy.  To make a long story short, well kind of short, we lived in the RV during the day, and at night they backed us out into the inner sanctum, gave us a key for the iron gates and said goodnight.  The next morning, sharp at 7:00 AM the doors to the bays opened and another day commenced.  I followed Wade around like a love sick puppy watching all he did and trying to understand what he did.  It turned out that the bathroom light problem that we had put up with for 6 weeks, and the propane and carbon monoxide detector difficulties, were all caused by a poor connection to the main electrical bus in the fuse panel.  All he did was pull it out, and put it back in – everything worked.  Hmmmm.

All the fit and finish problems, Wade just slowly corrected.  As he did, I checked off each item … a bit anal myself eh???  Monday passed, Tuesday passed and the list became shorter.  So did my patience at being locked up each night.  It was strange just how it felt even though we could leave if we wanted to.  Just the fact that there were walls, locks and barbed wire surrounding me worked on my claustrophobia … it sure would be hell to be really locked up!!!

While waiting there we finally set up the satellite dish and began to figure out how the home theatre system actually works.   We finally got the smart card for Direct TV from the factory sent to us in DogPatch, and Jason, our Bellingham Nephew, sent it to us via FedEx.  I don’t think that I will ever forget trying to explain to an “attitude on the phone” from Georgia that no, I was not putting this in a house, I did not have a phone number, and I also did not have a social security number.  I guess I did not do well with her as it took Elsie two more phone calls the next day to actually set things up… or was it undoing the damage I did???  We will never know, but we do have the thing working and is it ever neat!

During the days, Wade, with me following, worked away until we came to the two really large problems: the dash A/C and the dash lights.  This is where it got fun!  The A/C first …

If you recall, we first lost the dash A/C in North Dakota when the temperatures were in the high 90’s.  We got it “fixed” in a Freightliner dealer in Sault Ste Marie.  The heater control valve had been put in backwards and all the hoses had to be switched around.  The weather got cooler and we did not need it again until heading into St John’s, NL.  Again, the A/C died, and we had it looked at in Moncton where National air shipped, over night (actually turned out to be 5 days) a new one.  We had that put in, and it too did not work.  Well, when Wade started to look at it, he figured that the valve that we had shipped to us was faulty.  So, out came that one, and in went another one that we had to wait for as the manufacturer was over-nighting  a bunch of them.  Apparently, a whole string of RV’s had come off the line with a similar problem.  The repair facility had already replaced over a dozen of them, and we were among a group of 6 who were currently waiting for similar work. Wade explained that the part was made with an English Arrow to show where the flow of water was to be, and they should have used a Spanish Arrow as most of the workers are Spanish in the factory. Am I a little sarcastic, or what.....

In went number three heater control valve.  Guess what … no A/C.  All the other units waiting for the part were operating OK but not Harvey !  Oh no … nothing is ever easy for Harvey.  Off came the dash yet again, and this time Wade followed wires and muttered to himself.  I kept saying … “you don’t suppose that this heater control valve is faulty too?”

“Oh no was the reply.  It couldn’t be!  Not two in a row that were faulty.  What are the odds?”  Several hours of sweat, did I mention that Wade is a very large man, and the weather is very hot and very humid, and many half-swallowed curses later, he could find nothing.  What to do?  Tight-assed Kenny was no help either.  It was getting to the end of Wednesday, and Wade had originally thought that we would be able to leave that day.  So, as they had used up all the new heater control valves they had … more were expected the next day … he went on to the dash light problem.

After several hours of back killing work looking behind and under the dash, the problem was found.  I had no power to my SP008 wire.  “Viola, I said.  Now we know what to fix.”  The end is nigh!

“Ah no!”, said tight-assed Kenny.  That wire is a chassis wire and as such must be fixed only by the chassis manufacturer.   Wade just looked away, and Kenny went on to say that I could make a separate appointment with a Spartan Dealer somewhere else.They would look at that problem.  Well, you can just imagine my comments! But, just before I got to the screaming and hitting stage -- I had hit the forceful “I don’t believe you a**h**** stage.  With that anal retentive just standing there smirking, and Steve looking like he just wanted to run anywhere, I remembered that at Lazy Days I went around to the Spartan representative, introduced myself, and got a complete wiring diagram for Harvey’s Chassis.  We sat and chatted for about 30 minutes.   He gave me his card and told me that if I ever had a problem with the chassis, to call him directly.  So, off I stomp with Kenny feeling really powerful I guess.  After a quick call to Jeff at Lazy Days, he was shocked at what I told him, I returned to Harvey and waited.  Jeff said that he would sort things out.

About 30 minutes later, Wade came in and said that he was told to fix SP008.  Just then, Kenny walked by … I could not resist … yeah I know childish, childish Joe … I smiled and waved at him in the most pleasant fashion.  He made my day by glowering and looking away and marching off in high dudgeon.   Cheap victories are often the best!

By Wednesday night, the problem with SP008 was resolved and now there was only the dash A/C to go.  The next shipment of the valve was expected by 9:30 the next morning so we had a chance to sleep in as Wade had completed everything else.  By 10:00 Harvey was back in the bay with the 4th heater control valve inserted.  Guess what???  It did work!!!!!!!!!!  Wade took Harvey for a test drive and everything was perfect!  We were free!!

We had decided to head back to Lazy Days for several days of recovery … no barb wire... no walls!  Luxury personified!  I don’t know exactly who was happiest at our leaving, but as I was pulling out in Harvey, Kenny was smiling …..

We were only going 30 miles so we were not going to hitch up the Toad.  Elsie and the dogs were going to lead the triumphal return to sanity in Lazy Days.  That was until I looked down at the dash board.  The ABS light was on and would not go off.  Did I have brakes?  I was so mad that I almost left anyway, but instead I returned to the inner sanctum with this to report.  The only person to come near me was the sign-in lady who   went to talk to Steve, and then returned to tell me that this was a chassis problem, and that she had called the Spartan dealer who said I could come right over and that it was OK to drive Harvey.

Within 20 minutes, we had arrived at the Spartan Dealer who turned out to also be a Cat dealer too.  That meant that they were professional!  Before we had left National, I turned Harvey off and back on to see if that would clear the light.  It did!  I thought that it was better to be safe than sorry, so at the Spartan dealer, we talked to a really good, informed service man.  I told him about turning off and on and the light going out. His comment was that with all the work they were doing behind the dash it probably explained the light going on.  He reassured us that there would probably never be a return, and that we were “good to go”!  That was enough reassurance for me and off we went for 3 days of Lazy Days fun.

The weather was turning on us and the rains came.  When it rains here, it really rains and then clears up and the humidity comes back in force.  The weather turned us off sufficiently to decide to head to the “Redneck Riviera” between Panama City and Pensacola on the Florida panhandle.  There is a 10-10-10 rated campsite there and this is the highest rating that Trailer Life can give.  We were anxious to see just what they could have that would make them rate so high.

It turned out to be a really nice place.  I should have become suspicious though … when we signed in they carefully went over all the rules for us and even had us initial the statement that there would be no refunds given for any reason.  It was the end of a long drive and we were tired … at least that is our excuse.

We signed in for two days, went and found our very narrow site, set up, got out the chairs, and got ready for happy hour!  Just behind us, about 30 feet away, was a very large solid wooden fence.  It did not raise any concerns with us.  All the campsite was meticulously cared for.  Neat and tidy, very clean and overall very nice!  We had dinner, and as the sun went down, it was starting to get a little chilly so we went inside.  We began to hear some very peculiar sounds from behind that fence.  It reminded us of noises we heard in Kenya and Tanzania at night.  Lions and apes here …. Nah … no way … only … ???

Sure enough, out I go and the neighbour confirms it for us … we were right beside a Zoo, and it was indeed lions and tigers and apes and …  All night the zoo symphony continued.  The thought of another night here was not a thought of comfort!  All I could think of as I lay in bed, sleepless, was my initialing the “no refund for any reason” clause.  Remember though, this is a 10-10-10 rated resort.  Elsie and I have spent nights in campsites right beside major highways, beside trans-continental rail lines, under the flight path of major airports and beside raging rivers.  But, this is a first … beside a Zoo.  Hmmm … what next …????

The next morning we headed off to see Panama City.  It did not take us long to understand just why this is called the “Redneck Riviera”.  To start off, the beach is fantastic.  The white sand has the consistency of icing sugar.  The weather is beautiful!  Paradise you ask?  Well, the beach goes on for miles, and the beachfront is either covered with huge multi-storied time share hotels, or 1950’s style motels and run down houses.  The whole area looks like a cross between Waikiki and Birch Bay, Washington.  Scummy old bars and beautiful cocktail lounges, large well kept parks and over-lit amusement arcades, brand new roads and pot-holed monstrosities, huge deluxe hotels and run down wrecks.  It is an area of true contrasts.

We spent one more sleepless night in Zooland and headed off for Louisiana and Texas.

One night in Louisiana and then we headed straight through to Kerrville, Texas.  Here we have hit gold.  Solid Gold!

The campsite is a 10-10-9!  Compared to the lions den (10-10-10) this is heaven.  Elsie figures that the only way the place in Panama City got the 10 rating is that the evaluator did not spend the night, and the fact that the campsite took out a huge 2 paged ads in the Trailer Life book.  This place in Texas has only a very small ad.  She figures that is the reason they got the one 9 rating.  A little jaded Elsie …??????  Though, she probably is correct.

This place is really lovely though the weather has gone off on us.  The last two days has been cloudy, almost rainy, with the temperatures in the high 50’s today (Friday 14th).  The rest of the sites offerings more than make up for the lousy weather.  When we arrived here, there was a campsite dinner being put on for $6.00 per person.  The meal was chicken parmigiana, broccoli and wild rice.  Tea and coffee was also included.  We went along and met a totally different brand of people from those we met in Florida.  Here the people are more our age … Florida tended to be more in the late 60’s and up … and there are fewer of the $400,000 and up motor homes.  The conversations ranged from where their favourite place to visit was to where the cheapest gas is to be found.  Plus there was never a mention of grand children and Florida real estate prices.  A very nice change I must admit.

We have been introduced to a new concept for us called work camping.  It seems that many of the really nice parks need workers to maintain the campsite and to hire them would be cost prohibitive.  The answer seems to be work camping.  A couple agree to do 20 to 25 hours of some kind of work in the campsite per week.  For this effort, you are given your site, electricity and water for free.  We met several who are staying here for the winter doing just that.  It gives them something to do and removes a large cost at the same time.  It is something that Elsie and I must look into ….

Another neat thing about this park is that they have free WiFi.  For you uninitiated, this means that if you have a WiFi card in your computer, you can access from your RV high speed internet for free.  If you don’t have a card, they rent them to you for a couple of bucks a day.  WOWWW, I have forgotten how nice … no necessary … high speed access is.  Needless to say, I have spent the day surfing the net and not missing the sun at all!  In fact, I will post this from here in a couple of minutes.

We also get a phone connection so we are feeling quite like home here.  This has to be the best site we have ever hit, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort in Kerrville.  Obviously, we highly recommend it.

We have been in touch with Lou and Carole from Osoyoos who will be spending December in Parker Dam California.  We figure that after our next Doctor visit in the factory for Harvey, we will head that way and visit with them.  After that … east again perhaps to New Mexico or even Mexico … who knows???

We will probably be home late January or some time in February.  Again … who knows!

Harvey has been doing so well since New Brunswick that driving is now a pleasure again. We now feel that we can rely on him to behave and do what he is supposed to do.  And now that we have dash A/C, comfort and survival is no longer a concern.  The factory visit should be quite short as there are only 3 or 4 small things we need them to do and several of them are not under warranty … just improvements we want made.  So, its off into the wild blue yonder once again.  With heads held high and even higher hopes we really are looking forward to the next few months. 

From here we are heading truly into the wild blue yonder as we head towards Roswell New Mexico which is the UFO center of the USA.  Little blue men, or is that green, here we come!!!

Anyway, there are no pictures this time and we apologize for that.  We just got too busy … we did take one picture though  …. Barley is a happy guy just like the rest of us!!!

Joe, Elsie and the contented duo