RV service

Charley’s Tune Up

Charley holding his own with the big rigs!
Charley holding his own with the big dogs at the truck stop!

This morning we dropped Charley off for a little work.  While he can surely hold his own with the big rigs, he’s riding a little rough.  So after much research on Fred’s part, we think we’ve come up with a solution to make our riding on the road – more specifically, over the bumps! – a lot smoother.

We’re now heading back up to Chicago, then Appleton, in Toad, sans Charley.  We’re leaving him in good hands (we hope!) at a truck repair place down in South Carolina.  Wayne’s going to install some new shock absorbers and a sway bar – which at first I was mistakenly calling a roll bar.  I hope we don’t need a roll bar!!

After our holiday time with family and friends back up in the Midwest, we’ll drive Toad back down to rendezvous with Charley, then off we’ll go to see Daddy & Joan in Southport.  From there, we’ll make our way down the Carolina & Georgia coasts, with stops in Charleston and Savannah, then head to Ft. Myers Beach for Christmas and our fabulous Jolly family wedding after Christmas!

Charley has served us well for almost six months, but we all can use a tune-up every now and then….

Pop Goes the Tire!

11:04 a.m. — I had just texted Bob letting him know that our GPS said we were 1:08 away and that we were looking forward to joining him & his wife, Diane, for lunch at Castle Rock Lake where they have a lake house. We’ve seen pictures of their beautiful place and we’re really looking forward to spending our afternoon and evening with them at the lake.  As the old adage goes, I spoke too soon….

11:08 a.m. — We’re rolling along on I-39 approaching Wisconsin Dells, when BAM!  We both knew what it was and simultaneously dreaded what that meant.  Yep – tire’s flat.  There are dual tires on each side in the back – our flat is the drivers side rear outer tire.  Fred gets out to check and he can see it’s losing air.  I am not lying when I tell you that not even 30 minutes prior we saw a boat trailer jacked up along the side of the highway with one of the trailer wheels off, and I commented that somebody is having a bad day.  Well, that is now us….

12:15 p.m. — Just got off the phone, first with AAA who confirmed for us that roadside assistance didn’t include our RV – we figured as much – then with State Farm who said we were covered for the roadside call.  Fortunately our misfortune occurred less than a mile away from an exit ramp and we were able to make it off the interstate and into a BP station, so now we are waiting at the Poynette exit (#115) for the tow truck to come to either repair or replace our tire.

I’ll fast-forward the next couple of hours as they’re not so much fun, and they include the fact that we waited a long time for our tow truck.  When they did arrive, we learned that State Farm had sent them to the wrong BP location which really made no sense because I told two different agents where we were (remember exit 115 – Poynette) and also gave them my permission to track exactly where we were using my cell phone as a tracking device – pretty cool technology, actually, but I guess unfortunately there was some user error in there.  Anyway, there shouldn’t have been any confusion as to where we were but somehow there was which meant yet more delay for us.  Oh well, at least we were safe.  We’ve been saying all along that we know there will be “issues” and challenges along our journey – we just didn’t expect that our first one would be within the first month!  [And lesson learned: if you have to break down, do it on a weekday – Saturdays are bad; Sundays are even worse, we were told.]

3:50  p.m. — I am sitting inside Charley once again.  I’ve been here off and on over the last four hours.  It’s hot outside, but at least there’s a cross-breeze coming through the RV.  I can’t believe we ate at McDonalds, but there was nothing else around.

Jerry Blystone from Blystone Towing out of Portgage and his nephew, Aaron, have been here for an hour and a half taking care of us.  We couldn’t have had a better experience with them, actually – very nice, capable guys.  Jerry’s father started this business in 1950, then Jerry took it over, and now his son is involved – I like legacy businesses like this.  They took off our old tire and replaced it with a new one – see photos, below.  We watched and learned – not that we would ever be changing our own tire, but it’s good to know how much air pressure we should have, how the tire should be changed properly, etc.

Fred and I often comment that it’s wonderful to see someone who’s good at what they do, regardless of what that is.  Well Jerry epitomized this observation.  We learned a lot from him, and are better for our chance encounter, even if it did mean we missed our afternoon on the lake.  Thank you Jerry!

Hover your pointer over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through photos from our flat tire adventure.

Our three final days in Chicago

Fred and the guys at Ehrhardt's going over the towing system
Fred and the guys at Ehrhardt’s going over the towing system

Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31 — Wow – we are moved out!  Knowing in advance that we would have some loose ends that needed to be tied up (like returning the cable boxes back to RCN, delivering some of our plants to their new caregivers, etc.) we planned to stick around the area through the end of the week to wrap things up.  This has proved invaluable as there is still some work to be done on the RV, too – matching up the tow plate on the front of the car that was installed by Blue Ox in Nebraska with the tow arm that Tim & Dave and the Ehrhardt’s guys installed on the back of the RV.  We ordered a bike rack that can mount on the back of either the RV or the Subaru, so they are installing that, a mud flap, and a few other small items.

Final night dinner with family & friends
Final night dinner at Anne’s – Fred, Claire & Kyle, Anne, Tom & Eric

We are very much enjoying being Anne’s roommates for these last three days in Chicago. She’s a dear friend who has generously opened her home up completely to us and all of our remaining odds & ends.  She also happens to have an extra car, so an additional set of wheels has been invaluable as once again we’ve had to split up to get things done.  And while we are doing some running around, we are also able to sleep in, relax in the mornings, and enjoy some final dinners with friends and family.  We will miss Chicago and our friends very much, but at this point we are very excited to launch – we will do so in the morning.

Three crazy days!!

Monday-Wednesday, May 26-28 — Divide and conquer – that’s what we have to do to make deadlines and complete everything on our list. We need to be out of our condo by Wednesday, the 28th, so here’s how we spent Monday through Wednesday:

Blue Ox in Pender, Nebraska
Blue Ox world headquarters in Pender

Fred –  Drove 520 miles to Pender, Nebraska, to have Blue Ox install the towing system on our new Subaru – seems they haven’t built a model tow system for any 2014 Subaru Crosstreks yet, so if we bring it out to their factory in Pender, we’ll get the tow package for free – a great deal for us except that we need to be in Pender at the same time we have our move scheduled.  So Fred broke in the new Subaru on the drive out, and then on Tuesday when the Blue Ox guys were working to build our prototype tow plate, he drove 100 more miles in a loaner car up to Sioux Falls to pay the taxes on the Subaru and get the title then 100 miles back.  Then Wednesday late morning he started the 520 mile trip back to Chicago — make that Evanston, for as of Wednesday we are homeless, so staying with our dear friend, Anne, who’s giving us her guest bedroom for a few days. We figured we needed a couple more days here in Chicago to tie up loose ends and say final farewells before we launch on Sunday, June 1.  [Launch – this is now a noun and a verb for us.]

The piles are overtaking the house!
The piles are overtaking the house!
Our packers' handiwork
Our packers’ handiwork
Move out day!
Wednesday move day!

Laura – Meanwhile back at the condo, I was sorting household goods into what comes with us vs. what goes into storage for two years.  Tuesday was packing day, so for eight hours Ivan and Jose from our moving company carefully packed up our entire house.  When I went to bed Tuesday night, I looked out at my view of the city one last time, then realized all my pillows were packed, so I just curled up with my duvet (in the ‘comes with us’ pile) and fell promptly asleep on top of the crappy RV mattress.  Wednesday started early, as have most mornings for the past two weeks.  Unfortunately by 5 a.m. my mind starts racing with all the excitement of our journey that is to come, and my head begins swirling thinking about the many To-Dos still left to do.  Our movers arrived at 8 a.m. to begin wrapping up the furniture, then by 9 a.m. four strong men were taking everything down the elevator and loading it into the truck.  By noon the job was complete!  I finished cleaning up the condo and was out of there around 4 p.m.

Anne & I opened a much-needed bottle of wine as soon as we got to her house and made dinner, something I hadn’t been able to do in over a week which is so unlike me.  I was very happy to be back in a kitchen again, even though my own is all packed up and will soon be in a big warehouse for the next two years.  We waited for Fred who showed up around 8:30 p.m. road weary and hungry, but with all the towing gear we will need on the Subaru.  I fell asleep on Anne’s sofa and missed the epic double-overtime Game 5 Blackhawks goal to keep us in the Stanley Cup playoff finals, but fortunately they whooped loudly, I woke up to see the replay, then promptly went to bed and was asleep again before my head hit the pillow.

These have been crazy, exhausting days for us, but they’re behind us now, and we are so keen to wrap up our time here, visit with a few friends and family members one more time, and then hit the open road on Sunday!

Picking up Charley

Fred installing our new SD plates on Charley
Fred installing our new SD plates on Charley
Fred beginning to pack in his clothes into one of his three drawers
Fred packing his clothes into one of his three drawers

Friday, May 16 — Today we brought Charley out of winter hibernation down at Pontiac RV and drove him back up to Ehrhardt’s RV in Des Plaines for de-winterizing and some other work.  Although we’ve had a few summer-like days this spring, today felt like winter all over again which was just plain cruel, for we’ve already had enough of this particularly harsh winter!  Donned in cold-weather clothing still, we easily made the two-hour drive down to Pontiac and started to pack in the beginnings of what we will need to live in Charley full-time for two years – clothing, bedding, some kitchen items, etc.  We drove back up to Chicagoland were we dropped Charley off in the good and capable hands of Tim & Dave and the crew at Ehrhardt’s.  We reviewed with them some of the work we want to have done on Charley including installing the Blue Ox towing system we need to use to tow our car, installing a mud flap to cut down on mud & rocks being sprayed off the back of Charley and onto the front of our “toad” (towed vehicle), installing a bike rack, and performing various other little tasks to get Charley ready for our two-year road trip.  The pace of what we’re doing is now starting to pick up as there is a lot to do now in a short amount of time.  Ready or not, our “launch” is just two weeks away!

RV Operations School

Today we drove Charley to Ehrhardt’s Trailer Sales in Des Plaines – the next suburb over from our summer storage site – which gave us some more city driving practice.  There, we got schooled by Dave, an awesome technician with 23 years of RV experience.  He showed us RV neophytes how to operate our unit – from the hot water heater (capacity just 6 gallons – Navy showers!) to pumping out black water (first!) and grey water (second, to act as sort of a rinse) and everything in between.  I took copious  notes – eight pages of them – so with this training, we are ready to hit the road!