We did our second 'trial run' last week, and I can't say it went as swimmingly as our Memorial Day weekend outing. But, we did learn a lot - which is why we are doing trial runs...
Tuesday after Memorial Day, we turned right around and headed out again for Ames, Iowa. Our son, Jack, was a member of an Odyssey of the Mind team that made it to the World Finals, which were held at Iowa State University. Iowa State was founded in 1858, only three years after our beloved Michigan State University, a fellow land-grant university. The campus was just as beautiful as East Lansing, and multiple times when walking across campus I expected to cross the Red Cedar.
Jack's team had the best performance of their year and had their highest scores across all of their previous performances. For their long-term problem, the main problem they had to solve, they had the highest score of any team, in any division, across any problem. They rocked! And, ended up taking 3rd place for their division and problem. We are very proud of them and they had a great week.
Our drive to Iowa was completely uneventful, but once we got to Iowa the fun started. We were in a campground that only had electric hookup, so we needed to be self-sufficient when it came to water and waste. In every previous campground we had a city water hookup - this was the first time we were running off of the fresh water system. And the fresh water system would not run...at all.
We eventually found a valve under the bed that closed off the fresh water tank, and had not been opened. It took calls to both the dealership and the manufacturer to find this valve. Both of them had pointed us to multiple other spots on "the coach" (industry lingo for Harvey), including going through every compartment, nook & cranny, and even taking off a panel to access the hot water heater. Turns out that just about every coach is different, and this is why nobody, not even the manufacturer could tell us exactly what was wrong. One would think that standardizing systems, such as those needed for fresh water, would make sense. Anyway, we now have running water, whether we are hooked up to city water, or not.
In an effort to regain our ability to flush the toilet during our water crisis, April posted our problem to an RV enthusiasts website in hopes of drawing from the collective wisdom of the world wide web. The lack of standards in this area, along with the multitude of other potential causes to our problems created a rather entertaining online argument between a couple of more seasoned campers. I'm thinking that posting random questions may be a good source of entertainment throughout the summer. The discussion got pretty heated, and was a welcome diversion from the frustration of not being able to flush the toilet.
The next challenge came when unhooking from electrical. There is a switch you have to flip in Harvey when you move from being plugged in to, running off the batteries. Apparently, when you first make that switch, the refrigerator stops working while it switches over to propane. Apparently, the panel that shows all of the tank levels also takes a minute to switch over. I happened to notice during this time that the refrigerator was not running, and when I went over to the panel I saw that the propane tank showed as empty. Since we had food in the fridge, this launched us on a quest to refill the propane tank the morning we were leaving Iowa. Once we found a place that does refills, the attendant immediately saw that our tank was full and when I rechecked the fridge, I saw that it was running just fine. Lesson learned - make sure to be patient when switching everything over. We finally made it home late Sunday night, and everyone promptly collapsed from a great week.
On Monday, one week from our official launch, I started installing steps on Toad to make it easier for April and the kids to get in and out. With the extended lift that is on Toad, the door frame is probably about 30 inches off the ground and requires a fair amount of acrobatics on their part to mount and dismount Toad. The steps I bought online are meant to use the bolts that attach the body to the frame and require removing those bolts, inserting a bracket, and then re-using those bolts. Apparently, after 20 years of use, those bolts are pretty much rusted on. Forever.
I know those bolts are rusted on forever because I sheered (yes, broke) two of them off while trying to remove them. May I remind you that these are the bolts that hold the body of the jeep to the frame. I found a shop here that specializes in Jeeps and brought it over to explore my options. In the immortal words of the proprietor, I'm 'screwed.'
He gave me a whole bunch of bad news, which summarized to - the only way to remove the broken bolts will be to take off all the other bolts (which will very likely meet the same fate), then lift the body off the frame to expose the unbroken portions, remove them, replace the body on the frame and get new bolts. No time for that. So, then it was time for some (relatively) good news. I only broke off two bolts, there are still four others still holding the body to the frame. The ones that I broke off, broke at the head and the rest of the bolt still goes through the frame and into the body - in other words, they are 'good enough.' Lastly, he had a set of steps that bolt directly to the frame, and do not require removing any additional bolts. Toad is now in his loving care getting a new set of steps installed.
Sorry for the long post... It's been a busy week! And, going to get busier as we get down to the final days before departure.