As I sit and write this blog post, it is preparation day for the Passover. This is the season celebrated as a memorial of the Israelites being set free from slavery. It began with the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes and, after the death of the firstborn, continued with one million people exiting Egypt. We are finally seeing the ‘light’ to the end of our ‘misadventures’ and will begin our exodus to Alaska on Monday. It really does feel like we have been set free from a bondage that taught us a lot about RV dealers, manufacturers and trusting God for everything.
On Monday, April 8, 2019, we began our journey across the U.S. to Indiana to pick up our trailer. Loaded with necessities for staying in it on the way back, we set out across Colorado on a beautiful spring day. In the rearview mirror I could see the grandeur of snow-covered Pikes Peak looming above the foothills. It was a glorious day and we were really heading east.
Because my husband drives 99.9 percent of the time when we are hauling the trailer, I drove the first leg of this adventure. Before we knew it we were in Kansas and felt as though we were back in our travel element – even without Sadie being towed behind. Yes, our fifth-wheel is a Crusader, but that word just never sat well with me so we call our trailer Sadie. I tried Tzade, which is grandpa in Yiddish, but my husband nixed that one. So Sadie it remained.
We spent our first night in a DIVE of a Days Inn on the east side of Kansas City in Concordia. It had been awhile since we had even stayed in a hotel as we are either in Sadie or rent Air BnB’s when we travel. This place had paper thin walls and was not appealing. My husband commented, “We just need a place to rest our heads.” And we did. After nearly 12 hours on the road, we were exhausted and this was only the first day!
The next morning we continued our travels through Missouri and St. Louis. Somehow we didn’t realize there was a beltway around the city so we drove through it. What a nightmare of twisted roads. The mousetrap in Denver has nothing on that mess. We dreaded driving our trailer back through it on the way home. We passed the St. Louis Arch and being the football fan that I am, I wondered if I would see Patrick Mahomes driving by us as I saw Peyton Manning in Denver.
From Missouri we went through Illinois and then Indiana. The roads in both of these states leave a lot to be desired. Potholes and rough road are the norm, and again we considered driving our newly refurbished trailer bouncing on these horrendous stretches of highway. How would she do? From Indianapolis we began heading north toward Wakarusa where our trailer actually had been all along. Unfortunately, we never saw Elkhart which we have heard is an amazing city with every RV manufacturer having its headquarters and manufacturing buildings there.
After another 12 hours, we arrived in Nappanee – an Amish community about 5 miles from Wakarusa. When researching any of the RV manufacturers in Indiana, they always mention their Amish craftsmen who build the units. It didn’t really compute in my brain that meant Amish communities. I felt like was back in Pennsylvania driving around Lancaster County with all of the horse and buggies on the road.
One of the few hotels in the small town was called The Inn at Amish Acres and we decided to stay there. They offered us a room with a king-sized bed and a jetted tub! After the dive the night before, we took it and basked in rest and relaxation – after iHop. Yeah, I had been craving iHop pancakes. After stuffing ourselves with bread products at nearly 10 p.m. (which I don’t eat) we enjoyed what was left of the evening at Amish acres.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
The big day for retrieving Sadie arrived. We drove the ten minutes from our hotel to the Primetime Service Center. Notice I wrote, Service Center. Our trailer was never in a manufacturing bay, but at the Primetime Crusader service center. We’re not sure why we were told they couldn’t get us into the service center, but they did. In fact, when we asked about that, the two people working with us looked very confused – especially the one who had told us that in the very beginning! Our trailer would never have gone into a manufacturing bay according to these two, so from the get-go, we were told a little fib.
Sadie looked shiny and new. All of the exterior cracks were gone. New decals were put on the sides because they removed the old ones with the sides. My husband discussed some of the issues they fixed or had inspected. The frame was not bent. The camber fell within the legal limits. The leaf springs were replaced and made the trailer sit higher. After we had the trailer with us a few days, we looked at the original photos of it when it had been delivered. It never sat as high as it does now which leads us to believe the leaf springs were never quite right. They said the axles were fine, but to us it looks as if we also have new axles.
The slides opened and closed smoothly though there were these long plastic strips called Slide Slickers taped to the floor where the two slide wheels came in over the linoleum. I asked what they were. Apparently, they learned that the slide with the refrigerator, stove/oven, pantry, TV and fireplace was a little heavy for the slide roller. Newer models have a different type of roller – a stronger one – which helps support the heaviness of the slide. Ahhhhh, so that’s what really happened! It was a manufacturer error that they upgraded on new models. When they realized their error, they should have recalled these trailers before they cracked rather than blame us for having too much weight! A little tidbit of information they hid from us so they wouldn’t have to fix our trailer. For anyone that has heavy slides and can see the marks on the floor, consider investing in a couple of Slide Slickers and save your flooring.
We had to make a detailed check of the trailer before signing off and taking it out of the lot. This is a very difficult thing to do. What do you check? The obvious problems were solved like the slit in the flooring, but they had taken out all of the slides to replace the sides. After putting on new sides, they put the slides back in. They removed everything that was attached to the exterior slides and then put those things back in. They had removed all the windows and front door and put them back in. They redid all the trim, re-caulked and the list goes on. How does one inspect all these details without actually living in it and finding the problems as you use it? We took about an hour to make sure the stereo system worked (one speaker wire had to be fixed), the TV turned on, the fireplace put out heat, the refrigerator door didn’t stick and all the lights turned on and off.
Before accepting our trailer, we were told we have a 90-day Warranty on everything they touched in the trailer – which is pretty much everything. Again, we were told at the get-go there would be no warranty – another fib? We signed the papers, handed in our travel receipts as they only pay one way, hitched up Sadie to our truck and departed the Primetime service center. We stopped in Nappanee to fill our propane tanks and we were ‘on the road again.’
Driving a fifth-wheel is very different from just driving a truck. We drive slower and go fewer daily miles. When driving to Alaska, we limit ourselves to only 6 hours per day or 300 miles so we don’t burn out with driving. Because of that it takes us 14 days with two-night stops on Shabbats. On the way to Indiana, we had beautiful weather, but leaving was a different story. A winter storm was crossing the midwest and though we missed the snow in Kansas and Colorado, we had to endure some rain across Indiana and Illinois and the front with wind, lots of wind across Missouri and eventually Kansas. This made the drive even slower.
As the navigator, I am responsible for finding rest stops as well as stops for the night. On one of our rest stops, I went into the trailer and decided to turn on the lights. NOTHING. I tried again. NOTHING. I asked my husband, “Don’t we have batteries? Shouldn’t the lights have come on?” Yes. He does a little trouble shooting to find that one of the things they did and neglected to tell us was to completely disconnect our batteries. While in the lot, we were hooked up to electric! Little problem #1 solved.
I have to give a shout-out to my brother now. As we were heading toward St. Louis, I found an RV park somewhat in the city (remember we didn’t know about the beltway). About an hour outside of St. Louis, he called and asked where we were and where we were staying. Because he has traveled across country numerous times, he completely nixed my choice. He said that we needed to take the beltway north around St. Louis and be on the other side so we would not encounter morning rush hour traffic. He actually said if we stayed at that place we would want to kill ourselves the next morning! I took the advice and began looking for a park on the west side of St. Louis. I found what looked to be an amazing place called Lakeside Park 370 in St. Peters, Missouri. It was a wonderful stop. And, it was only 5 minutes off of Interstate 70 when we took off in the morning. We missed ALL morning traffic! Again, shout-out to my bro!
With another long day ahead of us, the wind was not welcome. We had to cross Missouri and go halfway through Kansas with a stop in Kansas City at Cabela’s. For those who may want to know, yes, we saw flooding. We crossed the Missouri several different times, but only once was there obvious flooding. The mighty Mississippi flowed thick and muddy, but that is the norm from my experience. We did see a riverboat floating down the Mrs. Sippi (as my mom used to call it) which always reminds me of Mark Twain and “Huckleberry Finn.”
Our last night stop on the road was in Ellinwood, Kansas, a small town outside of Great Bend and about 45 miles south of Interstate 70. Though it was a tad ‘out of the way,’ our dear friends and Alaskan ‘family’ Bob and Stacy live there on a farm. For the past two years, they were our camp host mentors, major support system and encouragement. They became not only friends, but like family in Alaska. Because of some health issues, they won’t be returning to Alaska this year and we had to see them, hug them, and tell them how much we will miss them and will pray that maybe someday they can return to Quartz Creek Campground. Our timing couldn’t have been better as it was Stacy’s birthday and we met some other wonderful people as well as had catch up time with some we already knew.
From Ellinwood, we continued our journey back to colorful Colorado. While we were at a rest stop, as I was putting the few things away from lunch, I noticed the light on the refrigerator blinking, “Check Gas.” Well, that’s not something I want to see. I told my husband and his initial reaction was that we blew through all of our propane the night before with our furnace. I objected. We had lived through sub-zero temperatures at Cherry Creek and never used two 30-lb propane tanks in one night. Even in Alaska when we use a lot more propane for daily living that never happened. We were both baffled by the incident especially after he realized that both tanks were still full!
As my husband was trouble shooting, he realized that we didn’t have propane to our stove either. Unbeknownst to us, there is a valve under the trailer that controls the propane to the fridge and stove. While Primetime serviced our trailer, they turned it off. Nice of them to tell us! All I can say is I’m glad we didn’t have a propane leak! Simple problem #2 fixed.
We arrived southeast of Parker, Colorado Friday afternoon and stayed at a sweet little campground called Casey Jones RV park in Elizabeth. In this city-run park, we were going to hang out a few days, rent a U-haul and retrieve everything out of storage for the trailer.
As I began making dinner at Casey Jones, I noticed water around my sink. I couldn’t figure out where it came from so I kept wiping it up thinking it was just from washing dishes. Nope. Somehow the entire piping under the kitchen faucet became loose and water was running out everywhere under the sink and into the cabinet below. Of course, like everything thus far, it was a quick fix, but now we had water puddles and nothing to dry it with except a few paper towels. A sigh of relief when it was mostly dry and there was no warping of the wood. Simple problem #3 solved.
We began putting together our new Berkey water filter. Yes. We bought a Berkey water filter because we are tired of buying cases of water especially when we are on the road and there is nowhere to buy them. Plus, we are becoming more ‘green’ and less ‘plastic’. Once it was together, we filled it halfway with water, set it on our island so it could filter all night.
While the weather was beautiful and not windy the day before in Colorado, we woke up to snow and cold again to move! What’s with that? And, the public water was frozen in the outside pipe so we had no water. Generally, we try to keep some fresh water in our tank for this very issue, but we were just getting settled again and well, we didn’t. We managed to have breakfast without water and went to pick up our U-Haul about 30 minutes away. We rented it for 8 hours, but they told us we could have it the weekend because they are closed on Sunday. At the time we didn’t think that it mattered, but that extra time became a blessing – a huge blessing.
It took us about 45 minutes to unload our storage unit. We then went to our son’s house for lunch and to gather as much of our stuff as we could in the truck and trailer. After another 30 minutes, we were back at the campground.
When I walked in the door, I heard running water. What? Why would water be running? Then I saw it. I. Saw. It. One of us had turned on the water at the kitchen sink, but because the pipe froze no water came out. One of us forgot to turn the faucet off! The water, whenever it unfroze, began to pour out of the faucet and into the kitchen sink. After it FILLED the galley holding tank, it filled the sinks and then overflowed into the kitchen and made its way into the bunkroom where the carpet was completely drenched. Water was everywhere! I mean everywhere! This time I did have towels and began soaking it up. We put a little heater in the bunkroom to help dry the carpet which took about 4 days.
The chunk of time it took us to dry up the trailer cut into the time planned to unload the U-haul and put all of our stuff away. Remember, no ducks should ever be put in a row! We needed that extra day of rental! Thank you Yeshua for always being ahead of the game! By the evening, mostly everything was put away inside of the trailer, but again my husband noticed water on the table where the Berkey had been sitting. I figured it was just water from all the water that seemed to ooze from everywhere after the flood. Nope, it was the Berkey. The spigot had not been tightened enough and nearly all of our filtered water had leaked out.
Because the manufacturer insisted that we were overweight, we have spent months going through what we put into Sadie and removing what we really don’t use or need. As we put away everything that was in boxes, we filled a rather large plastic tub with more items. In the end, we have extra space in cabinets that we didn’t have before and, under the trailer in the basement, we have a lot more room. We believe we have lightened our load so to speak.
After leaving Casey Jones, we headed back to Cherry Creek for a few days. We made a small stop at Denver Mattress so the new mattress we ordered could be put into our trailer. After sleeping on it one night, we decided it was not for us. First, it was too soft. Second, it was too heavy. We couldn’t open the storage under the bed TOGETHER. This little purchase suddenly put the weight back in that we had taken out. Third, it was 14 inches high. It was too high for me to get into bed and I had to slide out. I didn’t want to spend my next few years climbing into or sliding out of bed.
The stop at Cherry Creek was also for us to do some renovation. Our trailer has a bunk room. It’s a wonderful place for storage, but really it couldn’t be fully utilized because it had a sofa bed. The project for our first day back at our ole stompin’ ground was to remove the sofa bed, put it in storage, go to Home Depot and Lowe’s to buy the necessities to make a closet for my husband with storage behind while still retaining the actual bunk for grandchildren. We also had to purchase a small chest of drawers for all the miscellaneous stuff we kept in smaller plastic drawers. There is also a small closet in the bunk room that is so narrow that only child hangers fit. We decided to put shelves in there for manuals and the like because none of the cabinets are wide enough for one single notebook. Who designs these trailers? They need women involved! By the end of the day, those projects were finished and, while my husband had worked on them, I made the developers of Command Hooks a lot richer.
The First Days of the Ninety
The next day we had to make a phone call to Forest River. They forgot to put trim in some places, they put trim upside down on one of the windows and they forgot to put the blind back in the bunkroom. For these issues of their carelessness, we need to see a dealer so we’re going to wait until we’re in Anchorage rather than delay our northbound trip any longer. The other smaller issues we decided we will fix.
Law and Grace in the Real World
Also, it was laundry day that I wanted to do at the park along with some errands. I won’t go into details about how horrendous my laundry experience was, but I will say that I won’t be returning to camp host at Cherry Creek State Park next year. From the word ‘host,’ comes the words ‘hospitality’ and ‘hospital’. None of those words describe Cherry Creek. Suffice it to say that the rules in the park are more important that the guests and even those of us who volunteer our time. Their recent volunteer newsletter says they save millions of dollars using volunteers, but they really don’t appreciate in any respect the needs of the volunteers.
In our nearly 30 years of walking out a Messianic faith, we have heard more times than we can count that we have ‘put ourselves under the law.’ Or, that the law is done away with for grace. Good teachers and judges even know that one needs both grace and law. Laws exist to regulate decisions, but sometimes circumstances require grace in the decision-making process. This is not something I witnessed while working at this park, nor is it something I experienced as a camper. In the end, my laundry was completed and we spent our final evening at Cherry Creek visiting with the two other volunteer hosts who I worked with during the winter.
We pulled out of Cherry Creek at 11:59 a.m. on Wednesday, one week after retrieving our trailer. I record this time because as a host we could never figure out why people would sit until one minute before noon and then leave. Noon is checkout and these particular folks were always somewhat annoying as we hosts have to wait until the guest leaves to prepare the site for a 1:00 check in. We decided, as a joke, to be those people and we pulled it off!
The Finishing Touches
From Cherry Creek, we had two more stops. The first was back to Denver Mattress. We returned the monstrosity for a lighter, firmer model. Once in the trailer, we made it up and laid on it a few minutes. We picked up the bed to find it could be easily lifted to the storage below. We then locked the door, put up the steps and began pulling out of the pick-up area. We turned the corner into the parking lot and my husband gasps. What? WE FORGOT TO PULL IN THE BEDROOM SLIDE! We have never done that, EVER. All I could do was laugh and laugh and laugh. We were and are so exhausted that well, we left the bedroom slide out and began driving! I jumped out of the truck, unlocked the door and pulled it. I am still laughing at our faux paus just grateful we weren’t on the main road when we noticed it!
Then off to our last big stop – Parker Trailer where Sadie will be receiving new and improved suspension, a new pin box with suspension (hitch) as well as upgraded steps.
While waiting for Sadie, we’re back at our son’s house and I finally have time to update our adventures. Overall, we are happy with Forest River/Primetime. As the manufacturer, they took responsibility for their product and made things right even giving us a 90-day warranty. Only time will tell how the work they did will hold up over the thousands of miles Sadie will be on the road. During our discussion with them about the events over the last six months, we expressed concern that our dealer in Loveland, after being sold in January, didn’t want anything to do with helping us. This was not good news to Primetime as this dealer still represents them and sells their products. It is very important to have a good relationship with with your dealer and they need a good relationship with the manufacturer.
On Monday, April 22, two weeks after a cross-country trek to Indiana, numerous ‘misadventures’ and moving back into our ‘home,’ we wait for sunset and the beginning of Passover, symbolic of the spiritual new year. As we move into the days of Unleavened Bread, we will pick up our fifth-wheel and begin our Exodus from Colorado to the last frontier of Alaska.
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