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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year from San Diego California!

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The culprit

Your Ad Here This little $355 (dealer quoted price) part has a selonoid (or a small motor) in it and when you insert the ignition key into the switch, turns a small gear which pulls on some levers which unlocks the steering wheel, the ignition switch, the shifter and some other things.

It's a bit too complicated for even itself evidently. Mercedes has redesigned the part 3 times in an effort to make it more reliable. This part number is the newest revision.

the new part

When the selonoid (or motor) quits working it locks everything. It's an anti-theft device but when it goes bad, it won't even allow the key holder to start the vehicle. Because it stops working in the locked position, the part cannot be removed without actually breaking the housing and releasing the gear & lock manually. The mechanic broke it with a chisel and a hammer. The result can be seen in the picture above. Others have taken a Dremel tool and ground a hole in the housing to get at the locked gears and pin. Notice the round black gear is plastic and the worm drive gear is metal? That can't be a reliable combination? I wonder if the new part has both metal gears in it? I sure hope so. You can see the Mecedes Benz name stamped into the old part. The mechanic said that the only thing is made by Dodge on this Winnebago View are the badges. He said everything else is Mercedes.

Part number and box. Mouse is for size comparison.


Your Ad Here Maybe we'll be rollin' today.

Amazing weather here in Yuma!

Your Ad Here Check this forecast out. 

If you like sunny warm days and cool nights, This is t-h-e place to be during winter.

A sick View, a wrecker ride and now waiting for repairs at the dealer

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Since the breakdown happened, we decided that it makes no sense for Herman and Sandy waste valuable vacation time hanging around waiting for the RV to be repaired. The taxi took them to the airport at 6:30 AM and they were in the air by 8AM. They'll be sleeping in their own beds tonight.

I am sitting, waiting (at Fisher Dodge in Yuma) for a part (and a mechanic) who can install it. I am told the part (steering column control module) was ordered yesterday will arrive today. However, the manager said there probably won’t be a mechanic on duty today to install it. And, the dealership is closed on Sunday… so, it looks like I’ll be hanging out here for a while. 

The only “squeaky wheel tactic” I can think of... short of standing at the service desk drumming my fingers on the counter... is to leave the fairly loud RV generator running and leaving the slide out. Maybe they’ll get tired of listening to the Onan and just hurry me out of here. Wish me luck.

Yesterday morning, I called Dodge to ask about the warranty and found out that it ran out in July of 2011. Evidently, broken part is a known problem (the part has be redesigned by the factory 3 times already). Because of that, the manager of the service department is covering the entire repair under warranty. That’s awesome since the dealer price of the part is $320. Add labor and I’d expect this repair to cost at least $600.

It was Sandy and Herman’s first wrecker ride. I think it was the Views first wrecker ride too. My dad used to own and operate a wrecker 30+ years ago so, I’ve been in a few wreckers. The driver went 35mph down the freeway and even slower in the city of Yuma. It was a different way to see the city for sure.

The story really begins before the wrecker ride though. When I phoned Good Sams roadside assistance they decided to send me a mobile repairman to fix the RV in the parking lot. The guy was nice enough but watching him work, I knew he didn’t know what he was doing. My dad was a mechanic for 30 years so I have spent untold hours watching mechanics work.

It took Don Gabby (that’s his name) at least 1.5 hours just to take apart the dash. He told me he gets $85 an hour and that the part we needed was $355. That concerned me. When I noticed he was trying to remove the ignition switch is when I finally told him… “Thanks but no thanks. Pack up and I’ll get a wrecker tow it to the dealer” The ignition switch had absolutely nothing to do with the problem and did not need to be removed. EDIT: I found out the next day at the dealer that NONE of the dash parts needed to be removed to swap out the steering colum control module. Our mobile repair guy was a total dumba... ah, nevermind.

Having thoroughly researched the steering column control unit on the internet, I was pretty sure what needed to be done to fix it. This mobile repair guy had no clue. I was even reading him excerpts from the internet on how to separate the bezel and speedometer housing from the dash. If I didn’t, it would have broken the way he was yanking on it.

So now, we have a partially disassembled dash and a RV that won't start. Great !

I call good sam again and explain that we needed a tow to the dealer. They called the only local Dodge dealer who said… “We don’t work on Dodge Sprinters anymore”. Now we’re really screwed! I ended up calling the service department myself and explained the situation to Hector (a really nice guy!) and asked if he could help. He told me to have the RV towed to the dealership but he couldn’t guarantee that they could fix it. I figured our odds for getting a quality repair was better at the dealer than at Don Gabbys shop.

So, Here I sit in the middle of a 3 lane service drop off. Wreckers and flatbeds pulling in, dropping off dead vehicles and then leaving. It’s a busy place but the RVs running generator and TV is drowning out much of the noise. Heck, I am probably making more noise myself! LOL! The squeaky wheel …gets the steering column control module installed, right?!

Rewind to 2 days ago at the Yuma territorial prison museum.

Tigger says… “Where is that mechanic?!”
2011-12-23 09.02.19

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Broke down near Yuma

Your Ad Here We had some fun in Los Algodones Mexico. For $5, I got my hair cut professionally for the first time in years (I do it myself). It was a fine job but not any better than I do myself. I had my shoes shined for $5 (waste of money). I got a beer for $2.25 and some nasty fish tacos. Sandy got her hair colored for $12. That was supposed to take 45 mins but I think it took more like 2 hours. It felt like 2 hours anyway. Herman bought a $2 maraca that I am sure he could have bargained down to 50 cents.

The mexican vendors in Los Algodones are like drooling, feral dogs watching people eat steak. We're a dollar bill to them... nothing more. Their extreme pushiness was annoying at first but then it became comical. It had to or you'd SCREAM. One vendor pushes his cheap wares up in your face and you say "no thanks". Literally, 10 feet away on the same sidewalk, another vendor thrusts the same exact cheap jewelry, maracas and gum at you and again you say "no thanks". It's like a Benny Hill skit.  If you ask "how much", the price is high at first but rapidly goes down the farther you walk away. It's like that over and over and over all day long.

Americans mainly go here for cheap eye glasses, dentistry & prescription drugs. The doctors are supposedly schooled in America and the services top notch. I honestly couldn't trust my vision or my mouth to a mexican dressed in scubs yelling from the sidewalk, asking me if I need a dentist or eye glasses. It just seems very wrong to me.

This line back into the USA goes as far as you can see and then wraps around the corner and goes that far again
So, after about 4 hours of  "sir, come here. I want to talk to you", we got in line to cross the border back into the USA. The line was almost an hour long. You can walk right into Mexico without even a second look from anyone but getting back into the USA requires a long line wait and a weak grilling by a customs agent. After spending time in Mexico, I can see why they all want to come to the USA... It's a sh*thole really.

I took this pic for my mom. She loves T.C.
Evidently, you can look like Tom Cruise circa 1999 if you get your hair cut here.

Everyone raved about these fish tacos but I thought they kind of sucked. 7 hours later & I'm still burping them up.

Me having a Dos Equis in Mexio. There are worse things!

A view from a View

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A view from A View

An Itasca Navion pulled in last night. They slept in their RV in the hotel parking lot. That seems a bit ballsy to me since they weren't patronizing the hotel. No one bothered them though. I think for the most part, business owners tend to ignore the smaller RVs when parked on their property. We don't stick out like the 40 footers do.

23 foot long

I got talking with the owner this AM. He told me it's a 2006 & he bought it last summer for $66k with 35k miles. The 06 and 07 navions and Views are 1.5 foot shorter than the 2008 - 2012 models. That extra foot and a 1/2 really makes a difference. He asked about our RV and I told him it was an 08. He almost fell over when I said we bought it from a dealer in NY, with 16k miles for $49k.

from behind

He is buying a brand new Class B today. He didn't say why he was downsizing. You'll probably see his Navion on eBay soon. He didn't like the dealers lowball trade-in offer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

John on the road

Your Ad Here We met a fellow blogger (John) in the campground today. He's a helluva nice guy and very inginuitive. He outfitted a 6 x 14 cargo trailer to make it comfortable for "full timing". He has everything in it that you could need... except insulation and he's working on that.

Stealth to the MAX!

He not only has solar (for free energy on the sunny days), he has a wind turbine (for the windy days). He says when it isn't sunny, it's usually windy. That makes sense to me!
Nice rig!

Tigger says... "I LIKE THIS GUY!"

More thoughts on Quartzsite Arizona

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You can click any of the pictures to make them larger.

Overall, Quartzsite was a great experience. We stayed 2 nights in the free "HI JOLLY" campground area. It was quiet and tranquil. Every RVer that we have had contact with has been super friendly. There are a few whack job hoarders living in their cars in Quartzsite but they're easily avoided once you are aware of them. They think they own the McDonalds RV parking lot I understand.

Here's a few pics of the area where we stayed. There are no designated camping sites. You just find a level spot and set up camp. There are no hook ups. however, water, propane and dump station are all available about 2 miles down the road ahould you need it.

Tigger LOVES running around unleashed!
Sandy gets in on the action

There are surprisingly few rules here. The 3 rules we were told about are... 1. try to park at least 50 feet away from your neighbor (people like their space). 2. don't run generators after 10pm (most people ignore this it seems). 3. leash your dogs at all times (most people ignored this too). That's it! No other rules.

It looks barren in the pics and it is. But, it's a good barren. It's exactly the kind of terrain that you'd want if you were in an RV and looking for a spot to camp. ATVs are everywhere here. They're even allowed to ride on the local roads just like any other vehicle. I don't know how that's possible but it is.

Desolate? You be the judge

We bought a $7.50 pot at the dollar store and cooked our first meal ever in the RV. Beans and beef franks. It was delicious!

Herman cooks
Mmmmmm Beans & Franks!

There are some really cool and down to earth people in Quartzsite. Paul owns a bookstore and is a naturist (google it). He wasn't busy so we talked for a while. He used to be a professor at a Mark Hopkins collge in Brattleboro Vermont. He had frequented "the Ledges"... my favorite nude beach (in Wilmington VT).

The RVs vary from 1970's beaters to 2012 multi million dollar units.


The View at the BIG SWAP MEET. The prices are absolutely ridiculous here. Don't waste your time if you come. It's mostly junk you wouldn't take for free if it was sitting on the sidewalk with a FREE sign on it. I don't know how these sellers stay in business?

Part of Main Street. Lots of RV dealers here. Sandy had never seen the inside of an RV except for ours so she and I checked out a bunch. From 24 footers to 42 footers. She liked a 36 footer that was $169k.

 We are now in Yuma Arizona... The sunniest place on earth. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Yuma is the sunniest place on earth. Of the possible 4,456 hours of daylight each year, the sun shines in Yuma for roughly 4,174 hours, or about 94% of the time. The near perfect flying weather year round attracts military interest in training their pilots here. On average Yuma receives about 3 inches of rain annually.Herman and Sandy are staying at a hotel and Tigger & I will sleep in the RV. We're doing laundry on-site and get 2 free breakfasts in the AM.
Home for the night

Tigger says... "I just want to relax. I don't wanna have to do something or go somewhere all the time!"

Almost as good as it gets

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Full Batteries, fresh water, gasoline, almost full LP and empty grey & black tanks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grand Canyon to Quartzsite Arizona

Your Ad Here Herman got behind the wheel for most of this 5 hour trip.

There's lots and lots of beautiful country out here!

These guys were having fun! I think the 1st bike was a BMW gt1300 like my friend Rays. It was 50 degrees. They must have been a little chilly.  

I have always wanted to see these big cacti (cactuses?) in person. They are cool, weird and almost alien-like. I tried to get Herman to pull over so I could get a picture with one but there really wasn't a safe place.

We were seeing more and more RVs as we neared Qaurtzsite Az. This little "BornFree" was well kept.

We saw this spaceship in Pheonix Az.

This is steam coming from nuclear reactors off i10 near Pheonix Az. These plumes are HUGE. The photos were taken about 10 miles form the highway with 16x zoom.

We made it to Quartzsite just as the sun was setting.

Quartzsite is a weird place. Lots of 20-something hippie type dudes with dogs begging for change and a many grumpy old men.

The busy part of town (near McDonalds) is an odd scene after dark. It's like homeless central with hoarders living in their cars and vans. Not that there's anything wrong with that... just don't do it at McDonalds and other parking lots where people are trying to conduct business.
We were parked behind McDonalds and herman and Sandy were inside getting Subway subs. While I'm sitting in the RV doing eBay on the computer, this old beat up white van backs in next to our RV... so close that we now can't open the coach door all the way. He revs his van up 4 or 5 times to let everyone know he's arrived. The stench from his untuned engine was enough to make a tree-hugger cry. I politely asked him to move over a little. He told me NO in so many words. Next thing ya know we're calling each other "asshole". I drove off at Hermans urging.
I went back this morning on my scooter and it's a different place. No obvious homeless vagabonds, no hoarders cars and no bums.

Today we all went to town to RV shop, check out the flea market and generally be tourists. After spending a few hours in Quartzsite, I had an idea for a new T-shirt...