Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday in the Park...Errr Storage Lot

With the less than stellar performance of Giant RV in Montclair, CA, we were relieved that both after-market installers were able to come to us. It would have been nice to have the work already done, and not necessitate our using our Saturdays to finalize what should have happened in the six weeks the dealer had the rig. Still, not making the drive back to Montclair, and not having to listen to more excuses was a better solution at this point.

Today was the Tyron install on the front tires.  Two things we don't mind spending money on are tires and brakes. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but extra caution in critical areas is worth the peace of mind. Some things you buy and hope you never, ever need them.

Like many nice storage places, ours does not permit mechanical work on, or the washing of, the rigs that are stored there. However, the owner was very generous in allowing us to get the non-messy installations done on site.  There are a couple of areas with three empty parking spots together that provide plenty of room for the work, and one was just across the "aisle" from our spot.

Jeff checked in when he was on his way first thing this morning, and again when he was about 15 minutes out. Awesome. Big smile, firm handshake, he arrived ready to get to work. 

We had assured the lot owner we would be with the rig for all the work, and this one was only going to be about 90 minutes. So Bill pulled out a camp chair and I popped over to a nearby store to pick up a couple items for the upcoming wedding.

There are so many mobile install/clean/repair businesses now, and their set ups are usually pretty fascinating.  Jeff and his Tyron gear were no different.

Everything needed to do the job

Generator, compressor, special giant tire holder contraption that pushed the deflated tire down to expose the rim for the install without taking the tire completely off. All from that little truck. Plus large and small tools, hoses, etc.

The pitch of the spot was perfect for the leveling jacks to lift the front tires off the ground, making the job easier and faster. Don't bother telling me we're not supposed to do that (the factory rep said it's not a problem), and it's already done :-) 

It was pretty entertaining!

Jeff cleaned up and headed out and we pulled up the jacks.  Then we put the slides out.  And turned on the basketball game.

Local channel from antenna - great picture!

Because our son Nick and his girlfriend Jillian were stopping by to see the rig for the first time!  It was so fun to "show it off", and they said all the right things.  Good kids.

Jillian took the ride around the lot with me to pull it back into our spot, and then the five of us (Tessa of course) went to lunch.

It was overcast and chillier that it has been in a couple weeks, it was asphalt and no trees, there was no view. We had to stretch our "pretenders" to make it a day at the park, but it was fun none the less.  One more thing off the list :-)

Friday, February 13, 2015

RV Dealerships - Do You Think It's a Test?

It has to be planned.  There must be a mandatory training program.  They all have a manual they follow.  Incentive bonuses are paid, badges are earned.

Otherwise, why would an entire industry have such consistently poor customer service?  I mean you really have to try to be this bad!

The goal

We bought our rig at an RV show.  Not a big, multi-manufacturer/dealer show.  A show put on by one dealership - huge, but one dealer.  Rigs from three locations, but one dealer.  Sales, finance, service - all one dealer.

Might as well have bought it on another planet.  From aliens.

And everything that didn't get done, or was done wrong, was the fault of said aliens (sounds familiar).  They are "show people", apparently not "really part of" the dealership. Of course, we really liked those people and wish they had come back with our rig.  Apparently they return to the mother ship until another show......

Thanks man, see you at the next show!

When "Fiasco Friday" was over we put the experience behind us, after sharing it here, and prepared for a good relationship with our dealer.  Stuff happens, the people were nice, things worked out.  All good.

Now having time to "reflect" on where we are with getting everything finalized we realized there was no paperwork in the rig on the two after-market items we paid for "at the show".  In fact, why would they be buffing out scratches if the permacoat had been applied?

About the time this thought pops up we get a phone call from the permacoat rep.  Now, a small backtrack to the first week after we bought the rig: the permacoat rep calls me to ask if I know where my rig is. Seems she has called the dealer and they have no record, can I help her out.  Hmmmm, I call my sales guy who gives me the name of the service manager who refers me to the service rep who "finds" my rig after too long on hold. I call back the permacoat rep with the information.

Okay, back to the current call. She now tells me that after six tries (over six weeks) to set up the application she has learned we picked up the rig before it was done.  She gives me the names of the service people she spoke with who kept telling her to call back.  Sometimes, you really don't want to be right :-( 

Good news, they come to us and there's no need to return to the dealer.  Appointment is scheduled, cell phone numbers are given, issue resolved.  The after-market companies don't get the training or the manual.......

But there's still the tire thingys we paid for that clearly never got done.  Three phone calls and two messages to service later, "my" service rep calls back.  Service doesn't schedule after-market SERVICES, that's the responsibility of the finance department.  On the other side of the service driveway, 40 yards away, at the same dealership!  Of course, if they can lose a 35' DP I shouldn't be surprised they don't communicate between departments!

I'm transferred to the finance department and leave a message for the same person who apologized on Friday for not scheduling our walk-through.  She calls back a few hours later and gets my voice mail.  Guess what?  Guess who's really responsible for scheduling the after-market installs????  Yep -

It's those "show people"!  And since they've all been beamed up, what's a gal to do?!  Her message also says she has contacted the tire thingy people who will be in contact with me directly.  I like the idea of talking with anyone who hasn't already earned a lot of badges from my purchase.

The work is going to get done. We aren't under any time crunch.  No extra money has been spent, or extra miles driven (yet).  I haven't lost my temper.
But just getting what you paid for shouldn't be this difficult!

So did we pass the test?  Is there some karmic exam that is automatically part of buying an RV from a dealer?  Do WE get a badge too? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Weird Temporary In-Limbo Part-Timer Phase Begins

It's sort of weird.

Now that we've had our maiden voyage of only two nights, it seems strange to be back in our temporary apartment with Bill going to work. Our time at Lake Tamarisk was way too short, a quick tease of what our lives will be like in the rig.

Time to enjoy the many colors of a single eucalyptus
There are still undeveloped lots on the water
The unknown gem that is Lake Tamarisk
Camp Gravel
Our first stop, leaving one small mark
The drive home we tackled a few more "firsts" - filled up with diesel at a regular station, descended a long grade with the wonderful engine brake, and stopped for lunch at a rest area with the generator running the a/c and having everything we needed without stepping out the door.

We thought we had two items on our shakedown run list: sewer hose won't attach to pipe, and no key for the outside tv. One of these being much more critical than the other......  But when we stopped at the dealer to pick up the Jeep, Bill found the key and the tech was able to turn the sewer pipe at the right angle (it was tight enough for us to think we'd break it if we "forced" it).  So nothing to be fixed and we were on our way home.

I don't know that I'm ever going to be comfortable in the passenger seat so Bill took advantage of our need to move two vehicles and drove the rig the rest of the way.  Following behind in the Jeep I thought "Wow, that thing's pretty big!"

Our son Travis saw it pull into the apartment complex so he got a quick tour and helped unload. We dropped it off at Camping World for the night.

Monday morning I was back at Camping World with the keys, confirming the tire monitor installation, and feeling much better than I did at the RV dealer!  They knew who I was (you're Tessa's mom......), what needed to be done, and were fine with me bringing the Jeep back later for its tire monitors.

Also known as "Tessa's Word".

They insisted that she just make herself at home, and techs and salespeople came in for their doggie-fix during the 30 minutes we were there.

If anything goes wrong with the installs I am confident it will be something Tessa breaks on purpose just so she can go back to her other home!

In between monitor installs I had a somewhat important task to complete.  When we picked up the rig at the end of the day we had nowhere to "put" it.  Sort of important for a small house on wheels in a metropolitan area.  I had already checked the rv storage places and was pretty sure I knew where we would be taking it, but I had yet to reserve a space. As expected, they had a perfect pull-through spot for us, and with a boat trailer on one side there is even room to open the driver side slides far enough for access to everything inside.

On the way to the lot I noticed the camera screen was blank.  It's a short drive and the mirrors were more than adequate. Once parked we found that nothing worked but the frig and the microwave. I remembered that it is usually something simple but we were baffled for a while.  House battery switch off by the door - not much simpler than that :-) 

It felt wrong leaving it at the lot.  We just picked it up!  We're ready to live in it!  We feel like full-timers. 

There are a couple planned trips before our June launch, and we hope to find time for some unplanned ones as well.  Still, it's only part-time. 

All the wonderful events that are happening in the next few weeks could be attended from our motorhome!

Our apartment feels too big now (although our refrigerator is about 2/3 the size of the one in the rig). 

Bill's remaining five weeks of work seem like something that should be behind us. 

It's very weird.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

First Post From the First Day in Our First Rig

"And the gods will test your resolve......."  and your sense of humor, your patience, your stamina and your friendships!

February 6, 2015, the day we have been looking forward to like children seeing presents under the tree having to wait for Christmas morning. The alarm is set for 5:30, but we're both up before 5:00. The Jeep is packed with all the things we have for the motorhome - every inch of the inside is stuffed and the chairs are strapped on the top. We head out around 6:30 for Montclair where we have a 9:00 appointment with the Giant RV sales department to do our walk through.

We have the new tow bar that they are going to run the wiring through so it's all set up the right way. We drop that off at the service department when they open at 8:00, and drive around the area to kill the hour. I lived there over 30 years ago so we go see if we can find the old house. Naturally it looks so much smaller, and except for the shape of the front, is completely different. Hour killed, back to the dealer for 90 minutes, and then on the road with motorhome and toad!

The sales department has no clue who we are (we bought the rig from the dealer's RV show, not from their lot). After being asked three times if I was Mrs Hill, I finally asked what the Hills bought - maybe I AM Mrs Hill, at least you're expecting her! About 9:40 I am finally greeted as Mrs. Gravel. Progress.

Slow progress. Our rig is in the bay having scratches buffed off the side, they'll have it ready for us in the afternoon. "Like hell you will buddy, we expect to be driving out of here in a couple hours and you'd better light a fire under everybody's ass now"....I say in my head. Knowing this guy is in a position to make or break our day, I instead calmly explain that the afternoon is not acceptable, that we have reservations at a park in the desert, that we live 90 miles away, and we really need to be on the road at noon. Oh, and there's that walk-through I scheduled three weeks ago that no one is even acknowledging.

Still in the service bay

Not where we pictured spending our first day

So while he is adding a team of body buffers and interior cleaning ladies to get the rig ready, I head over to double check that the Invisibrake wiring I sent by FedEx last week has been installed. "My" service guy says he'll check for me. It's now after 10:00. When I come out of the restroom Bill tells me the wiring will be done by noon. You can likely guess what I say in my head.

Bill is the master of "water off a duck's back", and I'm very even-tempered most of the time. But we're feeling a bit "testy" at almost 11:00, still sitting in the lobby. I knew who I scheduled the appointment with, and about this time she comes out of the finance office and introduces herself. And owns the mistake. A genuine apology makes a huge difference to me. I always hope that mine will be accepted. We accept hers. Tessa is wagging her tail. We can't stay mad now.

The walk-through tech is good. He immediately "gets" how to work with us, and we have fun with him while confirming that "buttons you push, and knobs you turn". Even though we have passed noon, while we're in the rig we don't care how long it's taking. The ten minutes back in the lobby while no one knows what we're waiting for puts us back into OMG-can-we-just-get-the-rig-and-go mode. Next Bill sees our rig pull out of the lot and disappear down the road. We surmise that filling up the propane happens off site. It finally returns and we are finally able to pull up the Jeep and attach the tow bar. 

Check the water in the batteries regularly

Accommodating much longer legs than mine

Now that I'm all dirty from the RV lot, can we go already?

So close. But nope, not yet. Although we knew the procedure for putting the Jeep's transfer case in neutral for towing, it won't do it. After a few unsuccessful attempts Bill goes to find our service rep who worked for Jeep for ten years. We have now spent enough time here to know such things. The decade of experience does us no good. It's not going to work. Unhooking the tow bar brings out a few curses......long overdue at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Without hesitation we unload the boxes and assorted stuff, wrap up the tow bar cables on the rig, park the Jeep in the shade, and finally drive the rig off the lot! Three hours later than planned, still have to get groceries, over two hours of driving ahead of us - we are so not getting to the park before dark.

Both acceleration and stopping taking longer than in a car or truck. Getting the speedometer to 75 mph takes much less time (I attempt to keep it at 65) on a nice flat freeway. It's a dream to drive. I'm in love. All is right with the world

Center lane, 65 mph, smooth as silk

Damn, groceries. Double damn, Walmart is the most convenient place to stop. I bite the bullet and do my first ever shopping in the den of the enemy. I knew I would have to do it when we got on the road, so I suppose adding it to this already crazy day is fitting. Groceries are purchased. It's not a terrible experience. I'm not struck by lightning.

We pull the grade on I10 out of Indio at 55 and when we pass the exit at Chiraco Summit the sky is completely dark. Desert dark. Although we've never been to the RV park we have known this area for 50+ years so we have no anxiety about finding where we need to be. We will take our time and get in to the site just fine. We're in site #48.

Most of the lots are permanent residences. Nice. Very clean. Only about half of them have numbers. There's no street lights on the narrow streets. We finally find #48 (we figure it's the one between 47 and 49). Wait for it.......

There's a fifth wheel parked there with awning out and chairs set up. 

We laugh.

I leave a message on the rv park's phone number and Bill calls our friend from high school who lives here at Lake Tamarisk. Coy knows way too much about each of us, and loves us anyway. Come on over, there's hookups, stay as long as you like. Sweet!

The location of the hookups requires backing the rig through brush, past a large eucalyptus, beside the patio cover and house (in the dark). Bring it on! With Bill under the backup camera and Coy at the driver's window I get it in place in one shot.

Slides out, power hooked up, we're set up in five minutes. Several cold beers on the patio, lots of stories shared, Cheetos for dinner. The stars are incredible - bright and nearly close enough to touch. The night is soundless (when we finally shut up about 11:30).

This morning the sunrise over the little lake made yesterday's trials seem like a long time ago....

Watching the sun rise from the dining table

Prime spot at Chez Hamby - thanks Coy!

Living the dream

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Quarters - in the Super Bowl and on the Calendar

We are "those" people who believe that Superbowl should be a national holiday - observed on the following Monday to accomodate drives home, hangovers and mourning. Even though the games are often the most boring of the whole season (the playoffs this year were certainly adrenaline overloads!), we always enjoy the "event" that is Superbowl Sunday.

Sometimes we host a party, sometimes we attend a party, and sometimes, like this year, we hang out at home and yell at the TV with just the two of us and the dog.

Now this year's game......the quarters were individually exciting - switching leads, tieing at the end of the second - and that fourth quarter!!!! While I was unhappy with the outcome, it was definitely more exciting by quarter than most entire Super Bowl games. Bill winning the fourth quarter office pool was a nice consolation prize :-)

In addition to the game, today marked the cross-quarter day of Imbolc. We are at the half-way point between Spring and Winter (Phil the Groundhog will let us know tomorrow what to expect for the second half :-] ). For those who celebrate the natural cycles of the seasons, this day represents the great potential lying just under the surface - of the earth and ourselves.

Saturday evening a few friends and I joined with about 20 others to dance and sing under the stars, to honor our connection with Mother Nature, and to speak our commitment to making good use of all that potential. It was joyful and empowering, simple and fun, community and personal. 

On our bucket list is visiting all of the NFL stadiums as we travel back and forth across the country. We also want to catch some local high school football games on Friday nights. The smaller the town, the better :-). Sharing the joy of the game with new people is something we look forward to.

We're also looking forward to learning about, observing, and participating in local/cultural celebrations in all regions of the country. While the seasons will look different in many places, the wheel of the year will continue to turn as it always has, and celebrating with others in both traditional and brand new ways is going to be very exciting.

The Quarters were definitely a big deal this weekend :-) .

(Thank you my friend, for a most important reminder.)