13 July 2011

Postcard from New Mexico- 3

Santa Fe, NM

So. Here we are in Santa Fe, all dressed up to go somewhere and no way to get there. I'll explain.

Since we bought this new Montana, I've been reading about what crap-tires Keystone installs on the rig. We've had zero problem, but then we try to keep the weight down and I limit top speed when pulling to 60 mph (the Marathons are rated at 65 mph max). Tire pressure is checked frequently and I have a small compressor stored in the basement to fill the tire if needed. The reality is that Goodyear Marathon tires are at their maximum load rating with our fully loaded 3400RL Montana. So at this point I don't know if we're doing something right or if those that have had blowouts are doing something wrong.

Whichever the case, in light of heading thru the midwest with some of the hottest weather on record, I finally waved the I'm-a-coward flag and ante'd up for a set of Goodyear G614 RST (over $400/tire!). The G614's we bought are LT230/85R-16G which are a tiny bit larger than the LT235/80R-16E Goodyear Marathon tires that came with the rig (7mm or about 0.28" larger radius). That's supposed to mean about 7 fewer revolutions per mile. The new tires are Load Range G instead of E which should give us plenty of reserve load capacity. And the G614 RST has a full steel belt (Goodyear's Unisteel construction) instead of steel+fiber belting of the Marathons.

Everything seemed straightforward until I realized we would have to disconnect and go to Discount Tire for an hour for mounting, balancing and installation. I hated the thought of 3 hours or more of tear-down/reconnect for just 1 hour of work (not to mention parking again which is always a white knuckle event for me!), so I chose to get a proper sized torque wrench- which I needed to get anyway- and take the old tires one-at-a-time to Discount Tire to get the new tires mounted.

Damaged leg with the pad removed.
Tires #1 & #2 went fine till one leg of the landing gear on the opposing (driver's) side dropped about 4". The leg extension slipped when the locking pin either sheared or bent, but at least it didn't collapse completely... there must have been enough pin left to jam the extension. My WAG - technical mnemonic used in aerospace proposals which means Wild Ass Guess - is that jacking the rig via the frame (per the Keystone manual) tips the trailer to so great an angle that the resulting side force contributed to additional load... which may mean it was on the verge of collapsing anyway. In the photo I've removed the articulating foot (pad) from the leg so I could fit a jack stand under the frame and be able to remove the bottle jack I used to lift the weight of the frame off the damaged leg.

Undamaged (I hope!) leg with the pad in place.
More significantly, our spring-loaded lock pins for the leg extension never did protrude thru the both sides as I suspect they're supposed to. There's nothing in the (nearly useless) manual and it wasn't mentioned in the walk-thru. If the pin extended thru both sides of the leg it would mean the load isn't distributed across 2 points of contact but rather the weight rests on just 1 point. This is the passenger- (curb-) side leg which shows what the drivers-side looked like before it collapsed. Notice the slight downward angle of the pin handle which prevents the pin from extending through the far side. The end of the pin is pointing up at a slight angle. If your locking pin looks like this, you need to get it fixed before your rig breaks like ours!

So now we're trying to figure out how to get repaired so I can get the last 2 tires and get on our way to Maine. The nearest Montana dealer is Aloha RV in Albuquerque, but the service manager said his boss told him they won't touch it since we didn't buy our rig from them. And that's a reality of RVs vs. cars/pickups: they don't have to work on your rig unless you bought from them.

TravelTown, the Santa Fe RV dealer where we bought our used 2003 Montana (not a dealer for new Montanas), will work us into their schedule but that means there will be no consideration for an out-of-warranty claim. And TravelTown is busy- this is when they sell a lot of new rigs- so they have to work us into the shop's schedule plus find the source for replacement legs.

The Montana is sick and waiting for repair,but the truck is good to go. There's fresh full-synthetic AMSOIL 5W-40 in the engine and, like the first time we used this type oil, the diesel engine is noticeably quieter as it idles... an odd but interesting side effect of full synthetic motor oil. Plus a new in-line filter in the transmission.

And we had the truck's tires rotated which turns out to be a bigger deal than a car because of the dual rear wheels. Apparently you have to dismount certain of the tires since there are 2 different kinds of wheels: 4 aluminum rims and, counting the spare, 3 steel rims. So with the mixed wheel types you can't arbitrarily put any wheel in just any location. So some wheels can be relocated while others have to have just the tire moved.

At least the brake lining is still OK: 50% worn at about 62,000 miles towing a combined load of nearly 23,000#... very close to the max allowed. Probably a testament to the brakes on the Montana working OK.

Now we're waiting to hear from TravelTown that they're ready to have us come over for repair. We look forward to finally calling Brad, Stephanie and the girls and saying "We're on our way!"

Eye pressure and vision are just fine after the YAG laser procedure. Worked beautifully.

Btw, a WAG (above) is a slightly lower quality estimate than a SWAG which is a Scientific Wild Ass Guess. The difference between the 2 is that you use a calculator to add the numbers in a SWAG, but a WAG is done in your head. Both a WAG and a SWAG are considered substantially superior to a PIROOMA: Pulled It Right Out Of My Ass. Customers generally were never impressed with any of these 3 as a basis for awarding a contract. Credit for coining the PIROOMA goes to Des Bailie, a master of dead-pan who must be a killer at poker.

01 July 2011

Postcard from New Mexico- 2

Santa Fe, NM

Solar array at Santa Fe Skies RV Park from the east end.
We got back to Santa Fe and settled in at Santa Fe Skies RV Park and were dazzled by the new solar array the Brown family installed. While large solar arrays are nothing new, what is amazing is that this is a small private RV park. This isn't something the local utility or the state or county did. Just a small 235 space RV park that is sick of paying the utility company at a growing rate. Since visitors don't pay for electric power, this is a big cost savings to the park.

With the rig hooked up and safe, we reserved a car-trailer and headed back to Arizona to retrieve the Highlander. Now that was an experience.

All went well with picking up the new trailer. We arrived in Tucson well ahead of closing time and were able to drive the 40 miles back to Benson before dark. We stowed the car while it was still light then took the dogs to a motel for their first ever stay. It took about 2 seconds to realize that dog owners get to stay in the same room previously damaged by another dog (or more likely the dog's owner!). But it went well and they didn't bark too much. Breakfast was a Kind Bar and a couple donuts from Suzy's... best donuts in southeastern Arizona! Nothing like a healthy breakfast to start the day.

U-Haul tire repair... thank you U-Haul!
So off we went to Santa Fe. We'd gone perhaps 90 miles- somewhere just before the New Mexico state line- when a car pulled up beside us and the driver frantically pointed at the trailer. We pulled over and... what a bummer. The right-rear trailer tire was flat and, though not yet shredded, was clearly not going to hold air ever again. I stayed on the shoulder and crept along maybe 2.5 miles to the first available exit and called U-Haul. It took a little longer than they said, but in an hour a really nice tire-dude showed up with a new tire and wheel to replace the now completely shredded original. In a few minutes we were again on our way to Santa Fe and had further problem. But I was left with the conviction that, if you're going to pull a U-Haul (or anything else for that matter), you need to stick to Interstates or major highways where you can expect cell service.

We settled into a different site at Santa Fe Skies which looked like it might be easier to back into. I'm the first to admit that I'm terrible at parking the rig so I try to make it as easy as possible regardless the view another site might have. Now that we're in the site I realize that we'll be taking a tour of the back portion of the park in order to leave, but that shouldn't be a big deal.

Our medical appointments started right away with me leading the parade. All went well including my eye-pressure check, plus I got a referral to see someone for a vitrectomy of my right eye. The floaters are getting really bad and, since it was such a miraculous improvement in my left eye, I'm anxious to get it done on the right.

Late April is when the southwest started burning. First came the Wallow fire in eastern Arizona which covered border towns like Reserve & Luna in heavy smoke. Albuquerque and Santa Fe also had dense, choking smoke so Celia brought our HEPA filters from the house to clear the crap out of the Montana. Santa Fe is something over 100 miles away from Wallow, AZ but you'd think it was just over the hill. For the first week we stayed inside and hugged the AC and the filters. [ Wallow was at 540,000 acres the last time I checked in mid-July. ]

las Conchas fire (los Alamos) the evening of 26 June.
About the time the wind shifted and gave us some relief from the smoke from Wallow, a fire started in Pacheco Canyon immediately north of Santa Fe. While we were all worrying about what was going to happen with that fire, another broke out in las Conchas canyon (a tree was knocked down by strong winds and damaged a power line) which threatened los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Labratory. This was (at least) the 2nd fire to threaten the town of los Alamos, the previous being in 2011. While they were building the fire crew for las Conchas, yet another fire broke out in Cochiti canyon, north of Cochiti reservation and south of las Conchas. [ las Conchas has become the largest wild fire in New Mexico history at over 150,500 acres when I updated this mid-July. It was considered 61% contained at that time. ]

las Conchas fire about 3 PM 26 June.
Even though it's now part of the las Conchas fire, we still see smoke from the Cochiti area. Pacheco is 80% contained with 10,500 acres burned. And the cost so far is $9,000,000 for Pacheco and $37,000,000 for las Conchas and growing. Yikes!

This is what las Conchas looked like from Santa Fe Skies a few hours after it started on 26 June 2011.

While we'd like to get on our way to Maine to visit our family, I'm not sure where we can go without either being too hot or in danger of yet another fire. What a summer!