Sunday, July 15, 2018

Trip to the Factory

Friday,  June 1st, 2018

I should have blogged this at it happened, but we were quite busy during this time, so this may be a little more concise posting of the events.

Last year when we were at the North American Heartland Owners Rally in Goshen, Indiana, we had Jim Fenner, Director of Service at Heartland, look a concern we had. Our front overhang was showing signs of movement at the wall juncture, so we wanted to have Heartland look at it and tell us if it was anything to e concerned about. Jim had his team come by with test equipment, and decided that yes, we need to bring it to the factory for assessment.

Since we 've been through this before with our previous rig, we were not concerned. We knew that Heartland would take good care of us. We decided wed make an appointment for next summer, since it's next to impossible for Tony to take 10 days off when school is going on.

Last fall, we made the appointment for June 4th, 2018.

Since I have started working full-time for a company in Cisco, that meant I could not go with Tony to Indiana. So, that also meant that I needed some kind of accommodations while our "home" was gone to Indiana. Recently, Tony's sister and her boyfriend decided to buy a used BigHorn. They offered to let us borrow it while Tony was on the road.

They brought the BigHorn up over Memorial Day weekend, and we spent the following week moving items over from our rig to theirs to lessen the load and clear out items for Heartland to do their work.

pic here

So, on May 30,  we both moved into the Bighorn temporarily so we could finalize the prep of the Big Country and make for a quick departure (all hitched up and slides in the day before) on Friday, June 1.

Friday,  June 1, Tony headed out to Big Cabin, Oklahoma.

pic here

He had no issues and made it to Cabin Diesel Services and RV Park, mid-afternoon. It was the first time staying at this park, and Tony said it was a no-frills park,  good location for a quick overnight stay.

pic here

Saturday, June 2nd

Today, Tony headed to Terre Haute, Indiana. He again had a nice, uneventful drive. Along the way he stopped in Effingham and got the rig washed at the Blue Beacon, just so she'd look a little better.  He stayed at the Terre Haute KOA. Overnight, it rained, and knocked a bunch of tree pollen onto the roof and slideouts, so he had to get on top of the rig and brush them off before pulling in the slides.

pic here

Sunday, June 3rd

He pulled in to Elkhart and went over to the Heartland Service Center, where he set up the rig and began unloading some things. Then he went to the Hotel and got checked in. He went back and gathered the rest of the items, so the rig was ready to go into the shop BRIGHT AND EARLY AT 6AM MONDAY.

Turns out, Terry and Carol H, also from Texas, were also here at the Service Center, finishing up their repairs. So, Tony stopped by their rig Sunday night, and they invited Tony to meet for breakfast Monday after dropping off the rig.

Monday, June 4th

Today, Tony got up early and headed over to the Heartland Service Center. He met with Heartland, and began the walkthrough process. They discussed all the items on our "list" and some things we wanted to see if they would do as well. Sadly, they are really busy and would not get to do anything that wasn't already scheduled to be done. Our "list" was really items that had been brought to Heartland's attention before our warranty was up, but had not been properly addressed or fixed since then. None of these were earth-shattering, they were just annoyances mostly, or items we could wait to have fixed right at the factory. They included a cracked fitting on our water tank, paint overspray on the front cap, a raised section on the roof underlayment, the AC ducting not distributing cool air very well, the Level-Up legs making some popping sounds and seemingly not holding level over time. And, of course, the flexing that was the main reason to bring the rig to the factory.

pics here.

After he was done checking in, he and Terry and Carol headed over to eat at the Golden Egg Pancake house. It was great food and great to visit with some long-time Heartland friends.

Tony said Heartland would get back to him after they took things apart and could have Lippert, the frame manufacturer, come and look at it. He didn't hear anything, so that evening he went by and checked on the rig. It was after hours, but he could see her in the bay with the front cap loosened and the front bulkhead removed.

pics here.

Tuesday, June 5th

Tuesday, the day was rainy and Tony hung around waiting to hear from Heartland. After a while, he went over to the Service Center and found that Lippert had done some corrective measures of adding some additional gussets to the frame where the pin box is located, and two additional large gussets near the landing gear.

After visiting with Heartland, he decided to go to Shipshewana and go eat at the Blue Gate restaurant, an Amish run restaurant. He had a great meal of fried chicken, and then enjoyed shopping a bit. He also visited Rise N' Roll in Middlebury, the famous donut shop that sells "Amish Crack", their Cinnamon Carmel Donuts. He managed to not buy anything!

pics here

 He also visited Heritage Ridge Creamery and bought some Salsa Jack cheese. We loved this cheese last year when we went on the Amish Countryside tour, pre-National Rally.

Wednesday, June 6th

Today, Tony decided to tour the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart.  He really enjoyed seeing memorabilia from trains in this part of the country, a different perspective from others we've seen in the west.

pic here

After the train museum, he again went over to the Service Center to check on things. Terry went over the things that had been done, and what was left to be done. He also talked to some of the techs that were working on various items. One said that the AC was performing as it should, but he explained that it wasn't the AC, but the ductwork and plenum where the AC attaches to the ducts that we were concerned about, so they agreed to scope the ducts.

Regarding the LevelUp, Heartland followed the Lippert protocol to replace a quart of hydraulic fluid with fork oil, and then said it was working correctly.

The front end was being reassembled.

The rear cap was looked at, and determined no issues with it.

After visiting with Heartland, Tony decided to take a tour of another Manufacturer, Grand Design. They are a young, independent manufacturer making a name for themselves in the RV industry. He went on the factory tour, and was not surprised that much of the construction was basically the same. However, their plant was newer, and much cleaner than Heartland, and it appeared they took a little more time during the construction process.

For dinner, Tony ate at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, another Amish run restaurant. He liked the Blue Gate a bit better.

Thursday, June, 7th

Today Tony went over to Heartland to check on the progress of the rig. They were working to relocate the new fresh tank so that hopefully we won't have the connection to the fresh water line to the pump crack again. They also mentioned they had scoped the ducts and fould nothing irregular. They added a "diverter" in one of the vents to help more air into the kitchen area.

They also fixed a window treatment that appeared to be crooked, stating that the cabinetry above it was overloaded and causing the problem. They resecured it.

They also repaired a small bubble in the wallpaper, where a Command Hook had pulled the paper away from the wall.

It appeared everything was moving forward, and he was assured that the rig would be ready to go in the morning.

Tony then headed to Bontragers , a large RV Surplus store in White Pigeon, Michigan, just over the state border from Elkhart. He looked around, but didn't find anything he couldn't live without.

After that, he went to locate some cheap fuel, and found it at the BP across from the Walmart on the west side of town.

He ate at Cracker Barrel, next to the hotel for dinner, and began getting ready to head back tomorrow.

Friday, June 8th

Friday morning, Tony anxiously awaited a call to tell him the rig was ready to go. He got the call from Heartland just before 10am, and headed over with the truck loaded with stuff. He had most of it in the cab, since rain was predicted that morning. 

When he arrived, he had to wait on Terry Hayes to do a walkthrough of all the things "official list" of repairs. However, there was caulking that wasn't completely finished. Tony had to wait for them to finish up, then they pulled it out of the bay and into one of their on-site RV sites. He proceeded to load the rig as quickly as possible, as storms were quickly approaching. 

While getting the rig hitched and ready to go, he discovered that in the front compartment, (where the work had been done), the lights were not working, and the rear camera did not work, either. He found a fuse sitting on top of the battery boxes. So, back to the Service Center he went, and asked them to evaluate it. They couldn't figure it out, so they asked Tony to pull it into the service bay. After a few techs were looking at it, they finally asked Tony to go wait in the lounge. He waited a few hours, with no word, and finally checked in and found they had fixed the issue, and went to lunch, failing to tell Tony it was ready! He finally pulled out about 1:30pm.

Tony stopped again at Terre Haute KOA for the night, and noticed the caulking was separating again where the wall meets the molding on the overhang. We're hoping its because it was not cured properly before departure.

Saturday, June 9th

This day, Tony headed back to Cabin, RV Park.  The rear view camera was cutting in and out due to a plug issue, and he drove in a heavy shower around St Louis, but had a fairly uneventful drive.

Sunday, June 10th

Today, I was excited that Tony was going to be home! However, I got a call about  10:30am, when Tony called to say he had an issue. Tony noticed that in a construction zone where the lanes narrow, the trailer seemed to be tracking oddly and he could see more of the side than normal. Since he was on the Will Rodgers Turnpike, he had to wait for a travel plaza to pull off and investigate. 

He discovered that the passenger side rear spring hanger bolt was missing, along with the 8 sided CorrectTrack cams. Luckily, we had an old bolt from a previous upgrade, and he was able to resecure the spring to the hangar, without too much issue, since he knew exactly what to do and how to do it. It took about an hour to complete the fix, and then eat lunch.

He headed down the road again, stopping periodically to check everything. He stopped in Ardmore, OK to get fuel about 3:30, and everything still looked OK, but we decided rather than travel all the way back home in the late afternoon/evening, we thought it would be best to go ahead and stop in Thackerville for the night. 

Tony arrived in Thackerville to stay at the WinStar Casino RV Park. unfortunately, he could only get a back in site. As he finished backing in, he heard a "clunk". He went to find out what was happening and discovered the driver's side rear spring hangar bolt had failed, and half the bolt, plus one CorrectTrack Cam, was laying on the ground! The other half and Cam were gone! So, fortunately, the backing may have actually brought the issue to light! 

However, he no longer had a spare part to use. He called me to explain the situation, and I worked to locate replacement parts. Being Sunday, we decided our only option was to order a full CorrectTrack kit, which would have the bolts and Cams necessary to complete the repairs properly to both sides of the rig. Thanks to Amazon, we could order and it would arrive on Tuesday at the RV Park, so that's what we did.

Tony stayed and did some relaxing, played a little and waited on parts until Tuesday afternoon.

Monday, June 13th

While Tony was waiting for parts, he spent some more time investigating the repair work done at Heartland. When he unhitched the truck, he discovered the caulking gap was now closed up, and wrinkling the graphics! This may mean there is still some flex going on there! He also discovered the  lap sealant on the roof was poorly applied, along with the caulk cleanup in various areas of the repair. We are both assuming someone at Heartland dropped the ball here, ut we'll look more closely and address it when Tony gets home.

Tuesday, June 12th

Finally, the parts arrived and he got to work. It arrived about 5:30pm. He was ready to go by 7:15pm, and decided to head back to home. We were both ready for this trip to be over! 

About 8:20pm, he stopped in at Bucee's in north Ft. Worth near the Texas Motor Speedway, and checked everything, then continued on, arriving about 10:30pm when he arrived back home. We got the rig set up and my stuff moved over. Whew! What an adventure.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A "Whistle Stop" Rally in Abilene

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Today, we got ready to head to Whistle Stop RV Resort in Abilene, Texas, to prep for the upcoming Heartland Owners Club West Texas Chapter Rally. It was Tony's spring break, so he was off all week. Since I began working again full-time in January, I could only take off one day of vacation, so I would be driving back and forth to Cisco every day, except Friday.

We loaded up and pulled out just after lunch, and arrived at the rv park about 45 minutes later. We got checked in and set up, then went to explore the facilities. We worked on some rally details and prepped some items for the rally bags. I can't wait to see everyone start to arrive this week!

A nice welcome sign for us!

Our site at Whistle Stop RV Resort

After settling in, we decided to go out to eat at one of our favorite fast food places that we missed from the Metroplex, Cane's Chicken Fingers. We had dinner and went back to the rig to relax for a while.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Today, I headed to Cisco for work, and Tony did some prep-work for the Rally. He went and got our goodie bags from the Chamber of Commerce, and talked to the RV Park about facilities, getting additional tables, and asking about using various things in the Clubhouse. The park has been very supportive of the rally, and we are hoping it will go as planned! This is their first rally.

A few folks started arriving today, and we had a get-together at the Finnegan's new Landmark for brats and hot dogs. The weather cooled off as the sun went down and it was breezy, so most folks didn't stick around too long into the evening.

After the get-together, we worked some more on Rally prep, making sure the agenda was clear and all of the printed materials (details for the different events, sponsors, silent auction info, etc.) were ready to go into the rally bags tomorrow. We were up kinda late, but needed to get it all done.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tony worked with our Regional Director to get the bags stuffed and handed out the bags to those already there. Many folks did some exploring around Abilene. 

Tony also went to the store and got some food for us, and started purchasing some of the items needed for the rally, such as coffee and creamer. He checked out the HEB, and really liked it. 

I came home from work, and did some visiting around the park, until it got too dark.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Today, Tony did some more visiting and greeting, as a good number of the attendees were coming in today. Some of the guys went golfing, as well, and had a good time. Tonight was also suggested to get a group together to go to Perini Ranch for dinner. So I met them there, heading there after work.

We had a good meal and good visiting, but we were outside, and the ambiance was not quite the "fancy steakhouse" feel. Some really liked it, some said it was just OK. But hey, they can all say they've been to one of the top Steakhouses in Texas.

Everyone experiencing Perini Ranch Steakhouse.

After dinner, we did some more visiting for a while, trying to make sure we greeted everyone that arrived and made them feel welcome.

Some pics of the entrance and facilities at Whistle Stop RV Resort.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Today, most everyone else was arriving, so Tony made another run to get more groceries for our Friday Meet-n-Greet and Saturday Potluck in the morning. He ended up getting everything at HEB, except for a few items needed from WalMart. Overall, we did really well on the budget.

Thursday evening, I came home with dinner from Cane's again, because it was convenient. ;) We will have to be up early for our trip to Dyess AFB tomorrow!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Today is the first OFFICIAL day of the Rally, and usually, they start in the evening. However, we decided to host a unique event Friday morning, a tour of the Dyess Air Force Base. They don't do tours on the weekends, so we opted to do this on Friday.  We met at 8:00 and headed to the base, to be there by around 8:30, as instructed. 

Gathering before the tour, we were to board the bus provided to go on base.

Our guide welcomes us and gives instructions.

Sadly, no pictures were allowed on Base, which was the entire tour. However, I borrowed an image from the Dyess website of the C-130 cargo plane we got to climb into and tour. It was pretty interesting. While we were touring, they were prepping a number of other C-130s to head out somewhere. We boarded the bus and moved away from the prep area, and we were able to watch a few of them take off, including a B-1 Bomber. It was really amazing!

Entrance to the base (Abilene Visitor's Bureau photo)

(An artist's rendering of the airstrip.) The C-130's are lined up in the distance.
We drove by the B-1's in the bus.

a photo (from the Dyess website) of a similar C-130 like we toured.

We then got a quick break at the PX for the restrooms and headed to the Linear Air Park. We got to tour some of the exhibits and hear lots of history about them. (again, no pics of us, these are borrowed off the internet.)

After the airpark, the bus took us back off the base and over to the Dyess Museum. We got to hear the history of William Edwin Dyess. If you want more info about the history of the Dyess Air Force Base, click here.

Hearing the history of William Dyess.

The tour was very long, and we were all pretty tired by the end, but it was an excellent tour. We left as soon as the lecture ended, because we needed to get back and prep for the rest of the events. We ran to Whataburger, and then back to the park. 

Tony and I then worked to prep the meat for the Saturday potluck. We were having Tacos, so we browned 13lbs of ground beef and seasoned/cooked it with Taco seasoning. We filled two crock pots full of the meat and took them over to store in the fridge at the Clubhouse. We then prepped the space for the evening events. 

Friday Night, we had our Ice Cream Meet-and-Greet, our White Elephant gift exchange, and enjoyed ice cream with toppings provided by the club.

Dishing up dessert, Bluebell!

After ice cream, we're opening White Elephants!

After that, some folks decided to play dominoes, and we cleaned up the tables so they'd be ready for tomorrow. We didn't stay to play, we were pretty tired!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Today we got up before dawn to meet the "donut guy" at the Clubhouse. Donuts were generously provided by the RV Park! However, the park's cleaning crew unexpectedly locked us out of the Clubhouse! Tony had to get the park manager to let us all in, but that was ok, it was a learning experience for us all. We had donuts and coffee Saturday morning and had quite a few folks come out and enjoy. 

At 9:30, we had a pallet painting party for those who signed up for it beforehand. Tami did a great job instructing us on how to paint our pallets, using stencils on the wood and "dabbing" our paint in the open areas of the stencil. I had created some designs for smaller signs, that I thought would look good in an RV, as well as came up with sayings for RVers. 

We had 8 ladies attend, and we had a great time! For more info about Big Country Pallet Painting by Tami, click here.

Our finished signs

Everyone enjoyed their pallet painting!

While the ladies were doing this, many of the men were working on RV Projects. 

You can always find a helping hand at a Rally, or at least half-a-dozen sets of eyes.

After lunch, we had an event scheduled to go to the Frontier, Texas! Museum. We caravanned over to the museum, and had a large group go through. Many of them said it was one of the best they've been to.

After the tour, we rushed back to begin prep for the evening meal. We had to heat up that 13lbs of meat, prep the taco fixins, set up the door prizes, and set up the raffle items. Thanks to generous sponsors, we had a number of great items to give away or auction off!  They included RV Lock, LLC, Origen, Torklift International, SmartPlug, T&S Enterprises, Zarcor Solutions, Southwest Emblem, Hairball Creative, Big Country Pallet Parties by Tami, and WhistleStop RV Resort.


Enjoying the meal.

Tables of door prizes - everyone got at least one, and we kept giving away until the table was empty! This included some painted pallets, hats, calendars, docking donuts, tumblers, drink holders, and more.

New logo Heartland Owners Club hats, donated in part by Southwest Emblem.

Whistle Stop RV Resort also gave us two goodie baskets to give away,
that included a coupon for 2 free nights!

Silent Auction Items. Money raised here goes to help fund more Rallies!

After the doorprizes were handed out, we awarded the silent auction items. 

After that, the evening wound down. Some folks stayed again to play dominoes, but we cleaned up the leftovers and such, and prepped for the next day's breakfast. It seemed to be a fun night for all. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Today we set up leftover donuts, and some breakfast breads and fruit for our Rally folks. Most were not leaving today, and we had a light turnout. I did some work for some of the rally attendees, then Tony and I worked to gather our stuff to take home (rally goods.) We took off the table cloths and restored the Clubhouse kitchen to how we found it.

After lunch (another meal from Cane's) we finished packing up and headed back home. Most everyone was staying, leaving Monday. So we said our goodbyes and headed on. We thought the rally went very well, and the park was terrific to us. The owners even came by and visted, and we enjoyed meeting and visiting with the Manager, who also owns a Bighorn.

I don't know yet when our next rally will be, but we sure think Whistle Stop is a great park for a Rally!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Much more than a shade better!

February 25th, 2018

Today we went to the Dallas RV Supersale rv show, mainly because I won tickets online. They normally are $15 a piece! We just went to look at what's new in the rv industry, and see what Heartland products were there. We also heard the GM for Big Country would be there.

We saw lots of Heartland products this time, because Fun Town has started selling Heartland. We looked at Landmark, Big Country, and a variety of others, but we didn't see the GM for Big Country after all. Oh well.

However, we did run across a vendor at the show that we were interested in. Zarcor Solutions makes products for marine and rv applications,and they have a very unique window shade that we had both been interested in. We happened to see their advertisement in the latest issue of Trailer Life Magazine.

Tony talked to the owner, John Halter, for a while before I showed up, and we talked about our upcoming West Texas Chapter Rally. John was eager to work with us! We worked out a deal to buy a window shade, and Zarcor offered to send us some doorprize materials and flyers for our rally.

March 2nd, 2018

Today we recieved our new RV Door Window shutter and glass. Here are some pics of the unpacking:

Opening the box


Window Sealant

Window Shade

Clear Glass

The next day, we proceeded with the install:

Old frosted window

Instructions say to tape the window before loosening the screws.

Removing screws from inside frame.

Removed the inside frame and glass

Removed outside frame.

Cleaned the frames, and applied new sealant to inside and outside frames.

While one person holds the outside frame, the inside frame and glass are positioned and screwed into place. 

Note the now clear glass! Clean well before next step.

Carefully peel off the backing on the adhesive spots on the shade.

Tip the shade into place, and rub spots to make a good seal to the window. 
Determine the proper placement, and add handle with two new screws.

Vew with the shade open

View with the shade closed

View from the exterior, with the shade closed.

Overall, the install was very straightforward and easy to do. It's especially easy if you have ever removed the door window in the past and know how it's done.

The only snag we had was that the handle was not easily reachable in our screen door opening. I contacted Zarcor, and they priority shipped me a replacement handle that was longer, and worked PERFECTLY!

We are very happy with our Zarcor RV Door Window Blind, and I highly recommend it if you want to see out the front door window, or block the light/heat from coming in the front door window. This shade does both VERY WELL!