So, we began the year with our perfectly lovely Cayamo cruise, no sewage running down the walls for us, no sir! Just great music, unlimited soft-serve ice cream, and good deck chair conversation. We got off the boat already looking forward to the 2014 cruise.

Here our troubles began.

Before we headed south for the cruise, we left the RV in the hands of the henceforth to be called Service Yahoos with three things on their to-do list: fix the awning, fix the furnace, and replace the windshield gasket. When we began our trip home from Miami we learned they had: fixed the awning, failed to fix the furnace, and broken the driver’s windshield while replacing the gasket. To make matters worse, the people they subcontracted the windshield work to told them the RV frame was twisted and they would probably break the next windshield. Then the subcontractors immediately went out of business.

We had no place to live if we couldn’t get the RV out of the shop; the loft had been staged with rented furniture and was listed as “unoccupied.” We asked Mary Jo, Nan’s younger sister, if we (and the cat who’d been at the vet’s) could stay at her place until we could get the RV back and head for points south as per the original plan. She kindly agreed and we are greatly and forever in her debt.

We wound up staying with her for two weeks, disrupting her diet and her cat’s life, while our carefully crafted web of RV park reservations began to collapse like dominoes. The Service Yahoos managed to get the windshield installed after having some body work done on the windshield frame but were still struggling with the furnace. When I overheard the Technician Yahoo suggest that stuffing a stick of dynamite in the furnace would be his next troubleshooting step, I’m afraid I lost my temper and told them to put the damn furnace back together and de-winterize the RV so I could pick it up. I also told them I wasn’t paying anything for the parts and labor they’d spent on the furnace so far. That turned out to be a good thing since they had $3,000 worth of parts and labor in it by that point.

We got to the service center the next day and prepared the RV for departure. The plan was to drive to Mary Jo’s, pick up our remaining stuff that had been stored at her place (some of which had been moved five times since December), and then drive to a local RV park where we’d spend the night. The next morning we’d leave after the rush hour traffic had cleared up. Before we left the service center I checked the refrigerator to make sure nothing we’d left in it had gone off in the four weeks it had been sitting at the service center. I was greeted by a blast of ammonia to the face when I opened the door. When I asked the service manager if ammonia was an artifact of the winterization process, her eyes bugged out of her head and she told us we needed a new cooling unit to the tune of $1500 and did we want her to order the part so they could fix it? Nan and I looked at each other, thinking this meant disrupting our lives (and Mary Jo’s) for another unknown period of time. We decided to head south anyway. We could live out of a cooler and get the refrigerator fixed where it was warm. The furnace had always worked in the bedroom and bathroom, just not the living room. Since we were heading to warm places, we thought we could get by with the furnace in its semi-functional state.

So we drove to Mary Jo’s where I proceeded to destroy 15 feet of curb and several square yards of sod in her median strip while positioning the RV in front of her house—and put a nice big scratch in the side of the RV when I got too close to her mailbox. Then we noticed the furnace was leaking, a problem we didn’t have before the Service Yahoos started to work on it. I am now referring to the RV as the Edmund Fitzgerald. We drove to the RV park, taking some extra time to get lost in the dark, and hooked up for the night.
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Murphy reared his ugly head the next morning when we tried to put water in the fresh water tank—empty because it had been winterized—only to see water pouring from the storage compartments.

We looked at each other again. We were still going South.

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