27 December 2011

Postcard from Arizona- 7

27 December 2011

The Furnace Problem That Wasn't

It's been getting cold at night (20s F), but the furnace has always worked well down to at least that temp when we set the thermostat to 62 F. Sometime after we arrived, however, the furnace stopped getting as hot as it should. It would run and run, and often the burner would cut off shortly after lighting. The fan was blowing air that was sometimes barely warmer than the outside temp and at best it was body temp. Clearly something was wrong somewhere in the furnace system, but the repair folks were all out of town for the year end holidays. Then we got lucky when...

Celia asked around among others in her line dance class and got the name of a mobile repair guy that's new to the Benson area. One person had had occasion to call him and he'd treated them fairly and done a good job. So we called Wayne Tedford (928-242-9123) and asked for help. He apologized that he wouldn't be able to get over right away... would 2 hours be OK? Huh?! In my mind 2-hours is pretty darn close to instantaneous!

Wayne had the right equipment to check the pressure of our propane line and, happily, that was the problem. Why happily? Cuz pressure that's too low is probably caused by a bad regulator and, at least in our case, a regulator is easy to replace. Plus, as RV parts go, propane regulators are cheap. We have an RV parts store 1.5 mi. down the road (Cates-Hill on AZ-80), so he was back in 30 minutes with a work-alike part that fit the space. Now we have a new cross-over regulator from the same mfr. (Marshall). The story was that the model regulator delivered with our Montana had a high failure rate. The replacement regulator has been on the market longer and is touted as being reliable. We'll see. Plus it's possibly the last 250,000 BTU crossover around as regulator mfrs have stopped making anything that big for an RV (seems odd considering all the high-end rigs available these days).

The big surprise was when Wayne removed the old regulator and oil started dripping out of the low pressure hose. Yikes!! Turns out this is a common occurrence and almost always shows up on the low-pressure side of the regulator. I asked where the oil came from and Wayne asked which version of the story I wanted to hear. Apparently the experts don't agree: could be propane turning back into oil; or leaking seals on the supply pump; or a certain chemical (sorry... forgot the name) which is added to propane for odor; or a combination of these guesses. Whatever the cause, you really don't want to get any of that nasty oil stuff in your mouth like I did while trying to blow the excess out of the hose. Uugh! 1/2 hour after I set the old regulator on top of the power pylon it was still oozing oil. I can't help but wonder if that was what killed the regulator but have no idea.

Merry Christmas

We managed to get past the holiday, but not without falling off the diet-wagon. A couple of chocolate Santas (each), a bunch of cherry cordials, a chocolate orange (each), packages of various chocolate candies, and more. After all that we were ready to say "Enough!"

As planned, we did manage to avoid the big 2-day Christmas feed at the club house by going out to eat. We'd planned on Golden Corral in Sierra Vista (buffet style restaurant) but they closed for Christmas day. It seems like any question you might have has answers at Celia's dance class, so once again Celia asked and, sure enough, she got an answer, this time from Alaska Linda. 3 places were open this Christmas: Denny's in Benson, Omar's Truck Stop (dunno where they are but they're supposed to have really good chicken fried steak) and the Triangle-T Dude Ranch in Dragoon. Armed with Celia's info, friends Mike & Susan did all the arranging and I volunteered to haul 5 of us in our truck. There were 10 of us all together and we had a great roast beef dinner with all the trimmings but gravy (the Admiral says that's good but I disagree!). And we had 3 choices of pie (the Admiral says that's bad but I disagree!). And they provided live entertainment. Raleigh Jay sang and accompanied himself on guitar... we enjoyed his singing very much. Unfortunately for Alaska Linda and her party, they arrived too early for the roast beef and had ham steaks instead. They weren't impressed.

It's getting warmer

The NWS says it's getting warmer this week. Supposed to get into the 70s during the day by Wednesday. Hope that's true. We've seen mostly high 40s or low 50s for the last couple weeks as the jet stream has drooped down near our latitude. Night time temps are the biggest concern: we've seen 20F every nite for the last 5 nights. Generally speaking, NWS predictions suck for San Pedro Valley evening temps... we've been consistently 10 or more degrees colder than forecast. Same thing happened last year, and local TV forecasts are worse.

Anyway, a general warming trend is welcome news and I may actually be able to put my down coat away for awhile. Annie & Kelly are perfectly happy with the colder temps, but I whine a lot!

16 December 2011

Postcard from Arizona- 6

15 December 2011

Christmas is getting close. I can tell cuz the Christmas lights have already fallen down 2 times and the big bow on the front has fallen 3 times. Made us feel pretty festive. So when friends Mike & Susan invited us to go with them to see the Christmas lights in Tucson we jumped on the opportunity.

It's pretty easy to do. There's a street in Winterhaven area of Tucson named Christmas Ave. Property owners there go all out decorating their yards, trees, houses, cars or anything else that stays put for a few hours in the evening. I guess when you live on a street with a name like that you have no choice. Even those in the neighborhood who don't celebrate Christmas join in. Like the house with the makeshift minora made from plastic pipe; and another with a giant dreidel.

Mike did his homework and got us there quickly: I-10 to Exit 255. N on Miracle Mile (past the NoTell Motel... seriously!) to Oracle, 2 blocks left to Ft. Lowell, then down Ft Lowell to Christmas Ave. He even found a map of the neighborhood that showed the proper route to drive through the neighborhood. It needs to be organized cuz there are a lot of cars! Tucson police control all vehicle access and each of the entry points is lighted with emergency lighting. There are only 3 nights when cars are permitted into the area, otherwise you have to make it by foot. There's an entry fee: as many canned goods as you can afford. The only problem I saw is that pedestrians are permitted onto the same streets as the cars, so it can get a little scarey and we needed to stay alert.

Trying to get photos turned out to be a challenge... night shots from a moving car are if-y at best. So, if you'll pardon the fuzziness, here's our memory shots:

Straight from an animated movie...

Dunno how I managed this one!

LOTS of cars!

Not sure... an Arizona igloo?

Anybody wanna play Angry Birds?!

Not terribly inventive, but it was better lit than a shopping mall.

Even this Jeep got a layer of lights!

Mike looking pretty grim: "Where's the bathroom?!"

Yep... a dreidel

Traditional southwestern motif

Couldn't miss this with lights banging on/off.

12 December 2011

Postcard from Arizona- 5

12 December 2011

Warranty Truck-Repairs

Yesterday we were finally able to take the truck for a proper Sunday drive... our first since Lawley Ford in Sierra Vista completed warranty repairs. During an earlier visit they updated the firmware and this time they replaced the high pressure fuel pump (plus a couple other things). They also discovered there's a problem with our Banks 6-Gun Tuner and had to leave it disconnected. So this drive was to see if things really were running right and that there wasn't something that went wonky after sitting for a week or so.

I'm happy to say the truck runs great! What's more, the firmware update seems to have improved our fuel economy. Halleluiah! What an improvement. When we pulled out of our campsite our on-board mileage computer said 16.8 mpg. By the time we got back after 106 miles driving (including 1,500' elevation change), the mileage was over 18 mpg. Granted we haven't seen what happens with a real load pulling our trailer, but there is certainly an improvement running solo.

The best mileage we ever saw after installing the Banks tuner was just over 17 mpg running solo. So repairing and reinstalling the Banks tuner would mean we would have to settle for poorer fuel economy... we're not gonna' go there. So I think we'll pass on rushing to get the tuner (harness?) repaired.

I have to believe that the other (non-tuner) Banks mods, i.e. the air cleaner + DPF-back exhaust system + inter-cooler, are probably part of the reason the mileage has improved compared to stock. Knowing what I know today, I'd probably pass on installing the expensive Banks 6-Gun tuner + iQ display since we aren't interested in more power without improving fuel economy. Today I'd choose just the mechanical mods.

Looking Good!

Our Montana has a rubber roof. Sort of. Montana covers the plywood roof with a thin rubber membrane. That rubber film does a good job keeping the roof water-tight and it can survive for many years with some care. But the rubber film will die in the sun unless it's treated regularly. Montana says it should have a treatment every year to provide UV protection. Kinda like sunscreen for the roof.

Our winter-neighbor here in Benson has his New Horizon travel trailer washed & waxed every year by a local named Hooper. His rates are very reasonable and, for a small extra charge, he'll use a special washing product which protects the rubber film. Our neighbor's trailer always looks really nice, so we asked Hooper to do our Montana and to use the special rubber protectant.

It took Hooper quite awhile since he got delayed by wind and weather, but he finished a few days ago and what an improvement! I'd forgotten how much shinier the rig was when we first took delivery. Now it looks even better because the polymer-based wax (?) he uses has filled those microscopic scratches that buffing leaves behind. Now the rig fairly glistens in the sun and finally the decals have some protection too. At $5.50/foot + $25 for the special rubber protectant, we think it was a bargain.

We were a little disappointed to discover there was already some damage to the decals, though. We really needed to have done this last year. Now we have at least one location on the nose fairing where a decal is starting to curl (it hadn't had any protection applied at the dealer). Plus there are a few places where rocks or bugs have nicked the decals and the white shows through. And these decals are supposedly the tougher variety that Montana uses now.

Rainy day

This is a la niƱa year and that means extra snow in Santa Fe. And apparently rain in Benson. Like Santa Fe, Benson had an essentially dry monsoon season. But now we're sitting in our Montana watching everything get a good drink. There's already been 0.3" of slow steady rain. Not exactly what a person thinks of here in the desert, but an interesting change that is supposed to go on for a few days.