Thursday, December 15, 2011

Uh, oh

December 15, 2011—It wouldn’t be a camping trip without a bit of trouble.

Actually, except for that little incident with the palm tree and bicycles (see an earlier blog), we’ve had very little trouble since our first real trip back in July. That’s when we hitched up the “toad” (our car) at the place where we store it and then literally dragged it about five miles before realizing that the wheels were locked up. We discovered the problem when a good Samaritan told us we had lost a wheel cover. We actually lost both front wheel covers. Made from plastic, they had melted off the wheels from the friction caused by the dragging. Since that experience, whenever we hitch up the car, I watch to make sure the wheels turn freely. (Incidentally, that learning experience was a bit costly: In addition to buying new tires, we also had to get new wheel bearings, and have some work done on the brakes. The cost? More than $800.)

The other bit of trouble we had encountered in August was a cracked windshield. Fortunately, it was covered 100% by our insurance.

Today’s troubles didn’t cost us anything, but they might have. We left the Florida Keys this morning and drove up to Hobe Sound, just north of West Palm Beach, where we had reservations at Jonathan Dickinson State Park (very nice). Jim pulled the bus in front of our campsite and unhitched the car. As he was doing that, I prepared the car for driving.

Our car, a 2009 HHR, which looks like a miniature station wagon, requires going through a simple procedure to tow it: You turn the key to ACC, put the gear shift in neutral, and pull a specific fuse. Doing this disengages power. To prepare the car for driving, you put the fuse back in, put it in park, and then start it up. Easy. Except this time, when I put the fuse back in, we had no power. For some reason, the battery had discharged. (Taking out the fuse is supposed to alleviate this, and always has—until today). I managed to put the car into park, but could not start it.

Unfortunately, without power, we could not take the car out of park. That meant we could not push it out of the way. It was in front of our camping space, and it was blocking the road.

We hoped by jumping the battery the problem would be solved. Unfortunately, the battery is in the back of the cargo area (not under the hood, as in most cars). And the jumper cables were also in the stowage area in the cargo area—under two sets of golf clubs and miscellaneous other things. When Jim tried to open the “way-back” door, it wouldn’t open. All the other doors were unlocked, but that one wasn’t. And there is no lock on it; it unlocks electronically. What dodo engineer designed that?

I looked in the auto manual for help. We discovered that to jump-start an HHR, you don’t attach the jumpers to the battery, which is essentially inaccessible. The engineers put a special jump station under the hood. That solved one problem, but we still had to unpack the cargo area to get to the jumpers—an awkward process since we had to do this through the side doors.

I’m happy to say that jumping the battery solved the problem. Everything in the car works again.

That wasn’t the end to our troubles, however. We parked the bus. After Jim got the sewer hose, water, and electricity connected, he proceeded to lower the jacks to level the bus. More trouble. The blocks under the left rear jack were not centered under the jack. As the jack came down, it tilted, and the jack itself went askew. When we pulled the jacks up, the jack’s plate fell off. And then the jacks would not go up or down.
I’m very proud of my husband; he can fix anything. He showed off his skills again. It took a while, but he managed to fix the jack. The bus is level, and everything works just fine.

With all that done, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner out. I’d say we deserved it.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


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