The best laid plans aren’t always perfect
At the end of season ten we had made a quick jaunt up to Michigan to see a friend of Lauren’s. From there we had to make a bee line for our job in Pennsylvania via a stop at Ronsheim Campground and a night boondocking in a Walmart parking lot. We had to check in at our new jobs to finish our employment paperwork the day before we could move into the campground we would be staying at for the duration of our ten week contract. There was a pretty awesome state park (Gifford Pinchot State Park) not too far from our jobs to spend the last couple of nights before we would start work.
Working in the warehouse was exciting. We got the opportunity to see the process that happens after you click the check out button for your online order. And, it was quite the process. On our first night we found out that our job this season was to pick the products off the shelves so that they could be packed and shipped. It sounded simple enough. However, being in a warehouse meant that the products were on pallets and some of those pallets were 30 – 40ft in the air. In order to retrieve the products in this massive warehouse we would have to learn to drive heavy machinery that would lift us up to the shelf where we could pick the item.
As we were training Ben came to the realization that this job was not going to work for him. Unfortunately, every time he descended in the machine he was experiencing vertigo like symptoms. This was worrying for us because we did not want to lose our contracts because of an inability to do the job. Luckily, the warehouse had plenty of other jobs and Ben was moved to the shipping team. Ultimately, no matter what job function you were completing in the warehouse you were doing the same thing. We liked to joke that it was like deja vu, every night we would pick up a box, move a box, and put a box down.
Our long shifts and nights off gave us a lot of time to think about our careers in work camping and the other places we’ve been (Video 32). As well as planning for the next season and ordering materials for the upgrades we planned to complete before the start of season 12.
We were preparing for our departure when we realized that the situation with the Covid-19 Pandemic was not getting any better and we would have to make some changes to our plan. The biggest change was the cancellation of season 12. This was a tough decision to make. Initially, we were going to spend some time with Lauren’s family, install the upgrade we had planned, and then head to a ski resort for our next season. With the pandemic raging, and increasing concern for our health and safety, we decided to cancel the plans we had for season twelve and postpone the next season (Video 38).
This is when season 11.5 was born. After we finished our contracts at the warehouse we got on the road, headed for Rhode Island (Video 40).
When our Covid-19 test results came back negative we spent some quality time with Lauren’s family and then we hit the ground running to start season 11.5 which would come to be known as the season of upgrades. We had one big upgrade planned for our time in Rhode Island but when we realized we would be staying a little longer than expected the list grew.
Our major upgrade for the season and the one we had been carefully researching and planning for was changing out our propane stove and oven for a diesel cooktop and oven. The diesel appliances we would be installing we initially developed for marine applications. However, they have started to make their way into Class B RVs and knowing that they were rated for mobile living and the exhaust would be discharged overboard we were ready to pull the trigger and make the switch. By doing this we would eliminate propane from our rig completely and become a single fuel source RV (Video 41).
Lauren’s Dad would help us tremendously with this project by doing the vast majority of the cabinetry work while Ben figured out the plumbing and wiring. Firing up our new appliances was so satisfying as they heated up and Lauren was able to cook on them for the first time, all the work had been worth it. There would be no more searching for propane or transporting heavy propane bottles.
As we mentioned before the list of upgrades grew. The next upgrade was the Viair 485c Dual Gen. 2 Air Compressor Kit (Video 43). This was a very exciting upgrade which was a little more involved than just installing the components that came in the kit. We used the kit as a base to build off of to create a system that could control the air bag suspension from the cab as well as installing quick connects in the front, rear, and mid ship on the truck so that we could fill our tires on the truck or trailer easily no matter which direction the truck was parked. The last piece of this upgrade was to add an air horn to the system. Lauren was not exactly thrilled about this addition until it came in handy one day when we were driving back from the dump station and someone nearly ran us off the road. Since then she has been slowly warming to the idea of having it.
In the midst of these upgrades our power converter for the trailer started to fail (Video 44). At first we thought the battery bank had failed and we were worried we would have to replace the entire battery bank before we got back on the road. When we started to troubleshoot our power issue we realized that the converter was not taking the AC power from the house and converting it at the correct rate and amperage. The cause of this was a short internally. Knowing this was not something we could repair we did some research and ordered a replacement. This would be our third upgrade of the season, though unplanned.
When we decided to do the air compressor install we knew we were going to need to make some other changes. Which led to the fourth upgrade of the season which was a 400amp alternator from Mechman Alternators (Video 45). To give you an idea of what the difference was from the stock alternator, the original alternator could only generate 105amps of power. Why did we make the change? The original alternator was sized to meet the power demands of the original accessories in the truck. When we added the plug for the trailer lights, the Sterling Battery to Battery Charger (Video 50), and now the air compressors the probability of our power demands exceeding what the alternator could generate was becoming more and more likely.
The last upgrade of the season was the smallest upgrade with a huge impact. Lauren’s Dad helped make this one come to fruition. A holder for our french press constructed of wood that matched the insert for the new stove (Video 46). This holder though small has made a huge difference for us. We have a mantra that we live by; if the item cannot stay where it is stored when we are travelling then it either needs a new home in the RV or we need to get rid of it. The coffee pot never really had a home in the cabinet because it constantly gets used. And, there was no way we were getting rid of it because neither of us is a delight to be around prior to our morning cup of coffee. So, this was the last item in the RV that we needed to pack in order to move. Thanks to Lauren’s Dad this is no longer the case and as long as everything is where it belongs we are now in a constant state of readiness to move the RV and enjoy another adventure.
With the last upgrade installed we were ready to make our way west and towards our next job and a new season. Or so we thought…
Rhode Island Take 2
We hadn’t gotten very far when we realized something was wrong with the breaks on the truck. It was the weekend which meant that repair shops were not open and not wanting to compromise our safety we turned around and headed back to Lauren’s family’s house (Video 47). We discovered that it was the hydro booster and we got to work sourcing the part and reading up on how to replace it. Once we had the new part installed it was time to get on the road again.
The trip started off fairly smoothly. We decided to make our way south to I-70 because weather and the fact that it was very early season for camping there were very few places for us to stay if we were to take I-80 across. We had been on the road a few days and were roughly an hour from our destination for the night when all of the sudden the truck brakes applied themselves, there was a popping noise, and we both lurched forward in our seats. We were descending a grade when this happened and neither of us knew what to make of it. We did know we were going to pull over at the very next opportunity. A good Samaritan noticed that we had out of state plates and stopped to see if he could be of assistance. He happened to be a mechanic and although he was not familiar with our vehicle he got another mechanic on the phone and they did a quick troubleshoot of what was going on. All of us had come to the conclusion that there was air in the system and what happened may have been caused by an air bubble but in addition the pump was probably failing and would need to be replaced.
It was Friday evening and chances were that we were not going to get the truck into a repair shop. We tested the brakes several times and deemed that they were still operating and that we could limp the truck to the campground (Chestnut Ridge). We stayed the weekend and first thing Monday morning we took it into the nearest dealer. They were extremely busy but they squeezed us into their schedule and after doing an initial diagnostic on the truck deemed it unsafe to drive. They determined that the pump did need to be replaced and they had a memo that when one component in this system is changed out all three should be changed. In the last year we had already changed two of the three so we agreed to have them change the pump out. We had the trailer with us at the dealership and they were nice enough to let us boondock in the parking lot for the night as they would not be able to get the part and and replace it until the next day. By early afternoon the next day they had it fixed and we were on our way again.
We got on the road and made it to Kentucky but there was still something wrong. The brakes were still not releasing properly. We tried a few repair shops on the way but every shop was booked for at least a week. When we got to the campground we made some more calls and eventually found a shop but they would not be able to get us in for two days. We took the appointment and arrived at the shop promptly. When they took a look at it they found that the master cylinder which attaches to the hydro booster we had just replaced had failed. They were able to get the part and had it replaced within 2 hours and we were excited when we found out this was not the only problem. (We had suspected the hydro booster we had just put in had failed and bought a replacement the day before.) They determined that the hydro booster had failed and they used the part we had sourced it fixed the problem and we were on our way for the third time this season hoping that nothing else was wrong with the truck or the brakes.
We made our way through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri rather uneventfully with just one extra stop due to windy weather conditions.
Then we arrived in Kansas.
The weather in Kansas was going to cause us to have to stay put for a few days before making the haul further west. And, on the way to the campground we had to travel through a construction zone at the end of which was an enormous pot hole which had flattened the tires on three cars before we came upon it. Luckily it did not burst our tire. After a pretty long trip with rough roads it was the last straw in throwing the steering alignment off. Knowing we were going to be in the area for a few days we decided to try to get the truck aligned. The only shop we could get into was first come first served and had a five to six hour wait. We decided to wait. They took the truck in early to take an initial look at it and determined that it could not be aligned because the inner tie rod end was damaged and would need to be replaced. They did not have time to do the repair so we had to find another shop. We looked and drove around for several hours trying to find someone to do the repair and the alignment. To no avail. Ben called one last shop at the end of the day and was told if we were there at opening they would take a look at. We were able to get the part replaced and the truck aligned and were headed back to the campground (Milford Lake) by lunch time. It was such a relief.
Hoping that this would be the last repair shop we would have to see for a while we reminisced about what the last year had brought (Video 52). And as we enjoyed the view of the sun setting over the lake we wondered about what new adventures and experiences the next season would bring.