Archive for the ‘Modern Nomad’ Category

No Ducks, No Rows

Wouldn’t this be nice?

In October 2018 after we returned from Alaska, we took our trailer to the dealer in Loveland, Colorado to inspect the crack that had developed on the exterior midline of the rig. After a thorough inspection, they informed us that we not only had the 12-inch or so crack in the middle of the trailer, but each of the four slide-outs had cracks on each upper corner. They had never seen a trailer with so many cracks!

As the trailer was still under a structural Warranty, they contacted the manufacturer, Primetime at Forest River, who said they could fix it mid-February and it could take up to eight weeks to complete. The other openings were in July and October 2020! Though February put a little crimp in our plans with regard to camp hosting at Cherry Creek State Park Campground, we accepted the offer because we needed to start our trek north back to Alaska in mid-April. We wanted our trailer to be ‘like new’ so we wouldn’t worry about it falling apart on the road – something one of the Forest River folks told us could never happen.

In December 2018, we sold our home in Nebraska. We packed all of our belongings and put everything in storage in Colorado near our son’s house. As the weeks progressed in January, the dealer, at the request of the manufacturer, came numerous times to check the camber and take multiple photos of the cracks. He also took photos of the twisting of the refrigerator, the cracking in the ceiling of the shower and the twisting of the front door. He noted that all of the doors slowly shut themselves, something they didn’t do when we bought the trailer. We learned through the photos that the leaves on our axles were flat and possibly the reason for the cracking from a bent frame.

The manufacturer insisted we were overweight which caused the leaf problems. We didn’t agree with this assessment as we had weighed our trailer twice when full and once totally empty. Though it may have been ‘close’ by some estimates, it was definitely not overweight; it was a problem with the manufacturing. We have learned through research they produce everything to the minimum requirements by law.

While waiting for mid-February to arrive, we met a family at Cherry Creek who had had similar issues with their Heartland fifth-wheel. Theirs was also under warranty when the cracking began and it was taken to the factory and fixed -– superficially they learned. While driving to Canada, their entire trailer began to fall apart on the road. They had to limp it to an RV park where they left it for parts because Heartland refused to help them as their Warranty had expired. The manufacturer didn’t take any responsibility. When they saw the condition of our trailer, they freaked out because they knew what could be in our future.

As mid-February approached, we contacted our dealer to find out when the manufacturer would be arriving for our rig. After all, we had to pack and remove all of our belongings and rent another storage unit. Though our trailer wasn’t the size of our house, it would still be a major project. They made a call to the manufacturer; we made calls to the manufacturer and someone, somewhere did not make the appointment for our trailer back in October. Forest River explained they were booked until July or October. We were overwhelmed. After having a meeting with everyone at the Loveland dealership to discuss what was happening with Forest River, they admitted NO ONE followed through by making that appointment! What were we going to do? We have to be in Alaska mid-May or we lose our jobs!

My husband tried calling one person at Forest River who was so rude he hung up on us. We were no longer under Warranty, (it expired the end of October) and they didn’t need or want to help us. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We met with the dealer again with some ideas, but even though they liked our suggestions, they had been bought and the new owners didn’t want anything to do with our situation. We were the previous owner’s problem. So, a no-go on the compromises. It appeared we were stuck. I began praying for Yeshua to be the Warrior I know he can be.

One evening my husband decided to write a letter to Forest River. A good friend had found their Code of Ethics online and he used that as the basis for the letter. He sent it to everyone’s email he could find online from the CEO to the janitors.

Suddenly, the phone began ringing. They had no openings for us in service, but they would take the trailer and fix it in the manufacturing bay. They were going to inspect the frame and camber, replace the two exterior walls, the leaves and check the axles. This would not be Warranty work, but ‘good faith’ work and they would not guarantee the work when it was finished. Not sure how ‘good faith’ means you don’t guarantee your work, but at least we had forward motion. They would be able to pick it up at the dealer within a couple of days!

We began packing and moving as quickly as we could – in spite of the suddenly frigid and snowy weather which is how we moved out of our house! Once the trailer was completely empty, everything we owned was in a storage unit and we found ourselves ‘homeless.’ Thankfully, we have a son and daughter-in-law who graciously took us in and allowed us to live with them until the trailer could be fixed. We said ‘good bye’ to Cherry Creek State Park 10 weeks earlier than our agreed ‘contract’ and moved in with our son.

We drove our trailer to the dealer and a day later it was picked up by a transport company and hauled across country to Elkhart, Indiana, the hub of RV manufacturing. Every Friday we received an update with our trailer’s progress. Lippert (who makes frames) came to check the frame and said there was nothing wrong with the frame. The camber was within the legal limits. The leaf springs were replaced. One side was replaced. The other side was replaced. The vinyl flooring that had torn because of a messed up slide-out was replaced (something we didn’t know they were going to do).

Because they will not ‘guarantee’ their work, we spent the weeks pondering and struggling with the idea of trading it in and buying a different trailer. Through the process we learned there are two types of Warranties on trailers – fulltime and not fulltime. We had a not fulltime Warranty and were living in it fulltime so in effect it invalidated the Warranty, but no one ever gave us that information when we were buying the trailer or when we were using it fulltime! Fulltime Warranty trailers are constructed somewhat better and have a few features we could really use. Unfortunately, the trade-in value didn’t put us in a price range for buying another trailer. Plus, we do like our trailer and it is our home, but we do use it more than 95% of the people who buy this type of 5th-wheel.

During our wait, one of the manufacturing plants for Forest River blew up. It destroyed everything and would takes weeks to figure out the cause. Though we prayed for our trailer to be in that explosion so we could get insurance and buy a fulltime warrantied trailer, ours was not in that building.

We continued to wait for the Friday email updates.

We also attended an RV show in Denver to look at new trailers and review the one we really liked. Unfortunately, the dealer didn’t bring the one we had looked at so we visited some of the booths and talked extensively with the MorRyde folks. We wanted to add suspension to help our trailer with the terrain, not on the Alcan Highway, but the roads in Alberta and Wyoming and even Colorado which are worse than anything we encounter driving through British Columbia and the Yukon!

We found a place that could install the new suspension so we’re probably going to keep our trailer and upgrade it. We are also going to do some remodeling inside to help with some of our storage issues. Even so, we still are not sure of what we’re actually going to do and when we’re going to do it. In order to remodel, we need time at a campground and everything around us is filling up, including Cherry Creek. We still vacillate between a new camper and keeping the old one depending on what the place says regarding the suspension when they inspect it. We still don’t know if we trust the work that Forest River is doing. Thus, we have no ducks, no rows, but continue living day to day by faith in what God is doing, waiting for a miracle if that is His will, and just walking this ‘misdaventure’ out step by step.

Last week, according to the email, our trailer was nearly completed. It went through a rain test and a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection). Today we received an email that we can drive to Elkhart and pick it up next Wednesday, April 10, 2019. The original discussion back in October with Forest River included them paying our expenses to drive to Indiana. We now wait to hear if that is still the case, but maybe, just maybe, we have one duck waddling around right now.

As with everything in life, whether it’s a house, a car, a trailer, a boat, there will always be issues. The greatest thing I’ve learned through all of this is about faith and prayer. When we didn’t know what was going to happen after finding out no one made the appointment, I prayed that Yeshua would be the Warrior He is and battle mightily for us. He did. Each day is a waiting day, but also a living day, expecting God to continue to amaze.

I placed a prayer request in the box at our congregation with nothing more than the words, ‘A Miracle.’ I was expecting one thing, but since that Shabbat, other miracles are taking place that keep me praising the God of Israel for His faithfulness to us in everything. Our God can never be put in a box because there is no box big enough for him (I should know because everything I own right now is in boxes), but also because He works outside the box. He is freer to work His will when we have no ducks and no rows because then He gets all the glory for everything.

What a blessed and glorious life we are living. Through these events God has given us everything we need for our life and will continue to do so in ways we will never imagine. For everyone who has prayed with us and for us, thank you. You have all been encouraging and supportive and well, it’s almost time for the next phase of the modern-nomad life of living a dream.

Cherry Blossom

As we neared the end of our summer at Cooper Creek, we knew we needed a winter ‘job’ somewhere in Colorado. Why not Florida or Texas? Colorado is our ‘home.’ My husband and I met in Boulder, built a log home in the foothills west of Boulder in Fourmile Canyon, and had each of our four children in Boulder. Though we moved from Colorado to podunk, our hearts never left the place we called ‘home.’ Now that our four children are adults: our oldest daughter is married and lives in Alaska, our youngest son lives in California, our oldest son is married and lives in Parker, Colorado and our youngest daughter lives in Fort Collins. We spent the summers in Alaska and so we figured why not spend the winter in Colorado with two of our other children? (The one in California will be visited on the trips north and south.)

The best part about Colorado winters is that one day you can receive two feet of snow, but three days later it is gone due to the number of days of sunshine per year (300) and the warmth that sun provides. So, my search began at Cherry Creek State Park because it’s very close to my son’s house in Parker. I sent an email every day for a week to the same person requesting a camphost position for the winter. Amazingly, I received a response – a positive response. We were offered a ‘volunteer’ position in the park as the main camphosts in the only loop they have open in the winter. I found it funny that it is called Abilene as we could say we are in a part of Texas!

In Alaska, we boondock and get paid. In Colorado, we live for free and volunteer our time cleaning the bathrooms which are beautifully tiled and relatively spotless (especially after I started working in them). We also have to ready sites for the next guests which doesn’t involve much when there is snow all around though some guests still have campfires so the pits have to be cleaned. Though the loop is the same size as our loop in Alaska, we have a golf cart to drive around with our cleaning supplies. Honestly, I enjoy walking more, but it is easier to transport a broom, shovel, and trash buckets in a cart. We also had to be trained to work in the campground office answering phone calls, booking group sites for the summer, checking in and out campers along with general cleaning.

Not long into our gig at Cherry Creek, my husband was hired at Centennial Airport as a ramp manager. He directs airplanes in and out of the ‘parking area’ in sun, rain, snow and below zero temperatures. For a man who is virtually retired, he works hard 40 hours per week. His pay and his daily tips cover our basic life costs, and, he meets a lot of rich and famous people (Peyton Manning being a regular).

Because he has a fulltime job, I became ‘the camphost’ who either works in the office or cleans sites and bathrooms. Unlike Alaska, I actually have days off per week which allows me to do laundry and grocery shop after I take my husband to work. One of the interesting differences between Cherry Creek and Cooper Creek is the constant oversight of the park by rangers/law enforcement. At Cherry Creek we are not to deal with issues that we constantly deal with at Cooper Creek. For the most part, we enjoy not having such intense responsibility with keeping guests ‘in line,’ but we do not have as close of contact with visitors as we would like as hosts.

As a ‘camp host,’ I work with two other volunteers who help with the daily routines. They both spent the hectic summer here at the campground – one worked in the tent loop, the other in the office. Hectic? This park has over 1 million visitors per year because it is literally an oasis in the middle of Denver. It is the largest and oldest state park in Colorado, and, someone had the forethought to protect this area as a wildlife refuge.

Within the park are coyotes, white-tailed and mule deer, geese, rabbits who get into trouble, squirrels who live in the dumpster, and owls. Every evening we are whoooooed to sleep by so many owls it seems like thousands live in the trees above our trailer. As I mentioned earlier, Colorado winters are unique. With the miles and miles of trails, on beautiful days bikers fill the park along with hikers and dog walkers. I have taken to hiking the trails on my days off and collecting trash in and around the beach areas. Sadly, the only place I have ever hiked that I didn’t find trash was in the wetlands area where no bikes or dogs are allowed. As the weather gets colder, people ice skate or ice fish on the reservoir though it’s not recommended by the rangers and I wonder if the small bike tires they have planted near the beaches would really save anyone if they fell through the ice. Still, the ice looks beautiful with its frozen waves, cracks, and birds scattered on it hunkered down far from the shore.

As we wind down our 5-month commitment here, the weather has turned much colder with the lows in the negative digits. We have propane delivery which has made the heating aspect of our time here less stressful. We have water which has frozen only once because of a loose connection at the outside faucet. Even with it freezing, we don’t have to haul water! We have electricity which allows us to run our fireplace heaters and make it a cozy little home. No listening to a generator every morning and evening! Even better, we have sewer so we don’t have to haul our waste to an outhouse. It’s actually like living in a real home; however, we really do love boondocking on the Kenai Peninsula and look forward to heading north again in April – IF we have a safe trailer to pull behind us which is another story in the Miss Adventures of the Modern Nomad.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries

Miss Adventures of the Modern Nomad

2016 Forest River Crusader and our wonderful Ford Truck

Where do I begin? As I have blogged over the past two years, my husband and I purchased a 2016 Forest River Crusader 5th-wheel trailer and a Ford F350 dually truck to pull it.  This all came about when he lost his job with Cabela’s corporate offices after they were involved in a hostile takeover that eventually led to Cabela’s selling to Bass Pro.  Yes, for those who don’t know, Bass Pro is now the official owner of Cabela’s. At that time, we decided to put our house on the market in February 2016 and drive to Alaska to work as campground hosts at Cooper Creek National Forest Campground along the Kenai River in Cooper Landing, Alaska. 

Cooper Creek South
Our Home at Cooper Creek

We began our adventure in Loveland, Colorado so we would be close to the dealer when it came to working out quirks from the trailer’s newness. From the short three-hour drive from our home, the curtain rods in the closet fell and we had scratches on the glass doors on the kitchen and pantry cabinets. Our first showers revealed that no one had caulked the shower and water leaked everywhere. Within a week or so we needed a new board for the refrigerator and a new board for the furnace. Remember, this trailer is only a few months old.  

From the moment we left Loveland, Colorado, Miss Adventures of being a modern nomad arrived in our life and began her activities.  The first event happened when our pre-owned truck decided to lose 6 of its 8 cylinders over Donner Pass.  We had a delay of 10-days while a dealer in Auburn, California waited for the parts to arrive from Tim-Buk-Too. We were able to have a wonderful visit with our son in San Jose and enjoyed the beautiful yard of my husband’s cousin where we parked our rig.

The next adventures occurred as we traveled the freeways and cabinets and curtain rods fell off the walls. Even the shelves of the pantry eventually cracked and broke and we had to replace and reinforce them.

Our Slashed Tires

But the greatest Miss Adventure of the first year occurred in Quesnel, British Columbia when our tires were slashed in a Walmart parking lot by Steven Gattenby, a disgruntled hater of the United States. We were forced to buy several tires for our trailer and our truck.  The adventures continued in the Yukon Territory when I thought someone was sabotaging our trailer again, but it was only a 6.4 earthquake and its aftershock.

Eventually we ended up at Cooper Creek Campground and worked for Alaska Recreational Management! We love you all!

Our sweet little campground
Our Office at Cooper Creek North
on the Kenai River

Year number two began uneventful (yay), but when we arrived at Cooper Creek campground for our second summer, we noticed a small crack in the exterior of our trailer between two of the slides.  This caused great concern because we had met other hosts whose fifth-wheel front fell off due to the frost heaves.  We didn’t want that to happen to us and had our trailer ‘x-rayed’ before we left Loveland the second year.  We were told everything looked safe and sound! As the trailer sits for the summer, the crack remained about 2-3 inches long.  When the summer ended, we packed up and headed south toward the US on the Alcan Highway.

Mile Zero, the Alcan Highway

Many people ‘hear’ that the Alcan is a horrible highway.  Probably until the last 20 years it was a difficult travel, but early on in the 1950s – 1980s, it was dirt in many places and frost heaves abounded.  What is a frost heave? According to the dictionary, “it is the uplift of water-saturated soil or other surface deposits due to expansion on freezing; a mound is formed by frost heave, especially when broken through the pavement of a road.”  A frost heave can be minor, but the major ones wreak havoc on vehicles and trailers, especially on those who drive fast! All of the present-day Alcan is paved so it’s really good road except for those places further north where there are frost heaves.  Most heaves are marked with signs or red flags, but some appear suddenly and road maintenance crews can’t mark each and every one.  We knew that our travel south with the crack could be … well, merciless on our trailer.  

Frost heave sign along the highway

The worst part of the Alcan is in the Yukon Territory at a village called Destruction Bay (population 48), not because of destruction by frost heaves, but because of its destruction from wind storms off the bay on Kulane Lake during the military construction of the road in 1942. In the past two years, the maintenance crews have made this section quite nice, nicer than most sections of the road.   Still, the pavement tends to be bumpy and slow-going.

Kulane National Park, Yukon Territory

Several days into our trip south, we stopped at Destruction Bay for fuel. The gas station/ motel looks dumpy on the outside, but to our surprise was very nice inside and we bought several bottles of Yukon maple syrup!   When we checked our crack, it had lengthened to about 6-9 inches.

As we traveled and stopped for the night, we needed to open the slides and began to notice they were very sluggish coming in and out.  One slide, the side with the most weight (fridge, stove, pantry, fireplace and TV) had actually stressed the vinyl on the inside flooring until it cracked.  I put some clear packaging tape over it so that it wouldn’t ‘catch’ and tear the whole floor.  Sluggish slides are normal when you open them once or twice a day on battery power, but they were sluggish when we were plugged into electrical power. And, we were opening and closing them several times a day: closing in the morning when leaving a campground, opening and closing for a lunch stop, and then opening for our evening stop.  Our trips lasts about 2 weeks so that is 26-28 times that the slides were opened and closed during the trip south. We worried that ‘this time’ they might not actually come in or out, however, we kept pressing on toward ‘home’ where the dealer could look at it while still under Warranty.

By the time we traveled through British Columbia, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado to our home in Nebraska, the crack had lengthened to nearly 12 inches and we began noticing cracks to start on the four corners of each of the slides.  We made an appointment for it to be checked and dropped it off for a two-week inspection.  The dealer found that the cracking was not only on the outside, but also the inside.  The axles and leaves of the axles were flattened not allowing for the correct suspension and so with every bump on the highway – and Alberta, Wyoming and Colorado are worse than the Alcan – the entire trailer was being jolted.  

After their two-week inspection, we had an extensive meeting with the major players at our dealer. We discussed the options under the two-year Warranty for the frame.  Forest River, the manufacturer, wanted a gazillion photos, a stress test and a Camber test so they could be ready to fix the issues in mid-February as we needed it by May 1 to return to Alaska for our third year at Cooper Creek.   We had found a winter job hosting and would be spending the winter at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colorado so the trailer would sit quietly and hopefully nothing more would happen to make it impossible for it to be picked up and driven to Indiana.

Cherry Creek State Park Campground

The pictures taken over the next few months started revealing the underlying reason for the damage to the trailer – the axle leaves. The springs were completely flat. There was little to no suspension and  eventually the trailer began leaning toward the driver’s side, the refrigerator began sticking because it no longer sat square and our bathroom door which once was able to stand open would slowly close as the trailer leaned toward that side.  Three separate times we heard loud BANGS and the trailer would shift – to this day we have no idea what that was or what it means. 

Cracking on the outside of the slide
Axle and leaves

It is now the beginning of February and we’re preparing to send our trailer to the manufacturer in Indiana.  We rented a storage unit – our house sold and closed January 30 so we no longer have a ‘home’ apart from the trailer – and began to box everything up in the trailer.  We caled the dealer and eventually the manufacturer only to find out that no one reserved the mid-February date on the service calendar – neither our dealer nor anyone at the manufacturer who should have been following through on all of the photos! One employee said he had never even heard of us or our situation even though the photos had been sent to him at his request. He apparently really didn’t want to deal with us because during our call for information he hung up on us.

We are now in another Miss Adventure. We have to leave Cherry Creek at the end of March. To be in Alaska by the first of May we have to begin our trek by mid-April.   We have to have a trailer for traveling and for living.  Forest River can’t and WON’T make an appointment with us in spite of this great gaffeur until July (which won’t work) or next October, an entire year after the initial inspection and the original determination that our Crusader needs extensive work! One employee of Forest River actually told us to drive it to Alaska and back. He wouldn’t give us a guarantee that it would make it without falling apart – in fact, he said it wouldn’t fall apart as he’s never seen such a thing in 20 years of working with trailers.

As camphosts we meet a lot of very interesting people from everywhere in the world.  At Cherry Creek, we met Italians who homeschool their three children in their toy hauler, world schoolers from the Netherlands who travel the world with their children, and four radical road schoolers with a fat cat who just happened to stop at Cherry Creek before heading for several months to the Colorado mountains for an extensive ski trip.  As we chatted about our issues, their faces froze.  They had their very own Miss Adventure.

After looking at our cracks, they told us they had similar cracking in their Heartland fifth-wheel (and they’ve never been to Alaska) that were superficially fixed under their Warranty.  While driving in the northeast toward Canada, their fifth-wheel completely fell apart.  They limped to an RV park where Heartland wouldn’t help them because they were no longer under Warranty and they refused to back up their product and its frame (made by Lippert who owns the market on RV frames).  Yes, the superficial fixes didn’t fix the problems with their frame and their axles! This family has been on social media, radio shows and have their own blog that has reached 100,000 people and still Heartland has no heart to make things right.  They eventually paid off their loan, abandoned their trailer at the RV park for parts and trash and had to buy a new one – a totally different brand.

We are not so far into our Miss Adventure, but with similar cracking, slides that are mis-aligned, flat suspension and most likely a bent frame, we are not interested in driving to Alaska and having our trailer disintegrate somewhere in the desolation of the Yukon Territory.   We are not interested in parts flying off and hurting another traveler or having our trailer become dis-membered and perhaps cause serious injury to us. It seems no one considers that liability when traveling with a trailer is known to have extensive issues needing to be repaired.

Is all hope lost?  Never.  First we have an amazing Creator, Father, Provider, and Warrior for a King and God. We have been praying for His favor and mercy on us and, as one friend reminded us ‘many counselors make for wise decisions’ (Proverbs 15:22).  So we have been counseling with many different people from many different angles to come up with fair and viable options.

Virden, Manitoba, Canada

As of today, we are still in a waiting period while our dealer, (the dealership was sold January 1, 2019 to make things even more interesting) processes the idea that we trade-in our rig for a good deal on a new one while they send ours to the manufacturer at their leisure and re-sell it as a pre-owned trailer.  For us that is the best option at this point for both our living needs and traveling needs as well as timing for our Alaska job, BUT the decision is up to who and what is left of the dealership in MANITOBA, Canada.  Yes, Manitoba, Canada! If they accept our option, we may have to drive our trailer to that dealer (Loveland is more realistic as Manitoba adds the danger aspect of the travel) and drive the new one back to Colorado where everything we own is in storage.  But, hey, we’ve never been to Manitoba and one of the reasons we are full-time modern nomads is to see and visit places we have never been.  At this point in our Miss Adventure, we are hopeful that the dealer will help us resolve all of these issues. We will be able to do a trade-in in Canada and resume our nomadic lifestyle.

As for the manufacturer, Forest River, we won’t say anything negative until they truly act contrary to their corporate Code of Ethics apart from the slamming of the phone. No matter what is said to them by who, they still can’t grasp that we need our trailer before May 1 and they are not making any attempt work this problem through with us our our dealer. Apparently, even if they would work with our timing, Forest River is not known to be reliable on completion dates so really going that route would be as bumpy as a frost heave.

We have been asked if we filed an insurance claim. Yes, we have. Unfortunately, insurance is for accidents not failure from manufacturing problems especially when still under Warranty. We can’t prove the cracking issues came from the frost heaves so they can’t use that as an accidental cause though in a round about way it may be. What we are hoping for from the insurance company is that an adjuster will come out and decide whether or not the trailer is safe for driving. After all, they aren’t going to want to pay out liability money already knowing the trailer is not safe to drive. Their inspection will just confirm our concerns with the ‘someone’ who thinks driving our trailer with cracks back and forth to Alaska is a not good idea.

Option: Cardinal Luxury

In the meantime, we are looking at new fifth-wheel trailers. Unfortunately, we may have to settle for another Forest River, but then maybe not. God knows the plan and we are just walking this whole adventure out step by step. We love our trailer, but it’s no longer made. We loved having the middle bunk room for an office, extra storage and a room for grandchildren sleepovers, but we also believe that some of the problems the trailer encountered was because it is 42-feet long with only two axels. We are looking for something a tad shorter with better axles and a hitch with suspension. Until we know whether or not our idea becomes a real option, we remain in Camphost spot #1 at Cherry Creek State Park Campground in Aurora, Colorado until the end of March. Come visit us if you’re in the area!

©2019 Tentstake Ministries

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