Back to the RV narrative. These events occurred before my medical adventure on June 7th. In the RV timeline, it’s May 15th.
On May 15th our long-dreamed-of objective was finally achieved—Bend Oregon, home of Beaver Coach Sales and Service (henceforth to be referred to as BCSS). This was the destination change we decided to make while we were in California en route to Las Vegas. I’d been cruising the internet, particularly the Beaver Ambassador Club forum, trying to resolve some issues we were having with our fresh water tank, and kept seeing references to Bend: “What do the boys in Bend say?” “The boys in Bend can answer that—fix that—replace that.” We would not be this close to Oregon again until 2014. We decided we would bag the plan for the second half of the year (Canada) and make the Bend pilgrimage after we’d hooked up with our friends and family in Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, working our way to Oregon in the process. We called Beaver Coach Sales and Service (AKA: the Boys in Bend) and I poured out our tale of various woes—furnace not working, problems with plumbing, dysfunctional entertainment system, ratty carpet, etc.—to Ken, the BCSS Service Advisor. After listening with a sympathetic ear, Ken said, “Sounds like it’s time to bring her home.”
The last long stop before Bend was to be Boise Idaho where my cousin Don and his family live. Our plans to spend time visiting them were changed when Nan’s mother passed away the day we we arrived in Boise. We flew back to Saint Louis for the funeral, then returned to Boise and on to Bend almost immediately. We did have time for a couple of brief visits with Don and his wife Eileen. Eileen made us breakfast one morning and introduced me (Nan had heard of it) to the concept of the portable induction cook top. We liked the idea so much we ordered one from Amazon as soon as we got to Bend. It’s a great way to cook outside the coach and reduce the heat and mess associated with frying.
We thought we’d be spending a month in a cat-friendly hotel, something we were not looking forward to but willing to endure in order to have competent people working on the Edmund. When we set up the Bend appointment we were surprised to discover we could live in our home while it was being worked on if we wished. These people were set up to accommodate the full-time RV life, unlike our experiences with the Service Yahoos in Saint Louis who had fixed some things but made other things worse.
When we pulled up late in the afternoon we were assigned a slot along the back of the service parking lot. The spaces on the edge of the lot had 30 amp shore power, there was a dump station at the entrance to the lot, and fresh water available on the property. Ingress, egress, and regress was possible 24 hours a day. There were more Beaver coaches here than I’d ever seen before, some for resale, some for repair. We learned a lot about the history of Beaver coaches here, every model year from the mid-nineties through the final years (2009/2010).
The Old Beaver Factory
I’d been a little confused about the nature of BCSS. I’d heard it described as though it was the place where Beaver coaches were manufactured but I knew that Beaver manufacturing had been discontinued at some point after the Edmund was built in 2002. It turns out BCSS is the original sales and service site of the Beaver factory, the remains of which are still spread around the BCSS lot though most of the old factory buildings have been taken over by other enterprises. The Edmund was built in these blue buildings. Most of the technicians and many of the admin staff started work in the factory.
Playing “Whack-A-Beaver” in the service bays
It was a comfort to be surrounded by so many other Beaver coaches, we hadn’t seen a lot of them on the road or in other campsites so far. The facility had something like 14 bays and there were about 10 coaches parked in “”Repair Row” and another half-dozen or so occupying the bays at night because the nature of the work being done to them didn’t permit them to be moved. The place was a beehive of activity.
Jackapalooza: Invasion of the Leveling Jack
The first morning we were there, I decided to go ahead and engage the leveling jacks since the Edmund wouldn’t be embayed until some estimates were done. As I was waiting for the automatic leveling process to complete, I heard a loud BANG from the back and the Edmund rocked wildly from side-to-side for a few seconds. This had never been part of the leveling process before. When the jacks stopped their movement, I went back to see what had happened. I found one of the rear jacks poking through the bathroom floor. I didn’t know that could even happen. I walked into the service manager’s office and reported to Ken that I’d broken something else. He didn’t know that could even happen. He enlisted one of the technicians to come out with us and look at it. The technician had never seen the like, but he was able to pull it into one of the bays immediately. Over the afternoon, there was a steady stream of technicians who came by to look at the jack, shake their heads, and tell me they’d never seen the like either. One of the two bands holding the jack in place was gone, missing who knows how long, and the jack had shifted out of position and was pushing through the floor instead of the frame. The jack was replaced and the hole in the floor patched from underneath by 4 PM. We were going to replace some the floor anyway, so we walked around the missing tile for several weeks until we decided whether we were going to replace all the tile or patch the hole in the bathroom and just replace the carpet.
It’s mind-boggling to think this could have happened at any time on the road and could have involved major logistical hassles just to get to the point where repairs could even be started. There was no place in the known universe where this problem—if it had to happen—would have been more convenient to fix than the parking lot of BCSS. Sometimes you get lucky.
The stay in Bend settled down to a routine. Most week days (and some Saturdays) we were expected to have the coach ready to be pulled in to one of the bays by 8 AM. That meant slides in, TV antenna down, cat sequestered in the bedroom, and us out of the way. During the day we spent most of our time in or around the customer lounge: drinking coffee, surfing the Beaver Public WiFi, reading Kindles, and making ourselves generally available to answer questions and provide direction regarding ongoing repairs. We’d occasionally go out to lunch, run errands like laundry or grocery shopping, go to a movie (saw the Great Gatsby and the new Trek movie in Bend), or go sightseeing in the area. I was always a little nervous to be away from BCSS during a work day for fear something would come up and the lads would have to wait on us for direction. In the evenings we’d sometimes socialize with the other residents of Repair Row. I was smoking at least four little cigars per day now, one in the mornings with my coffee and one after every meal so I was spending a fair amount of my time outside communing with other smokers and thinking deep thoughts while I kept my eyes open for rock chucks. They’re so ubiquitous in Bend they even have their own Facebook page.
We wound up staying at Bend from 5/15 through 6/28, two weeks longer than we’d originally planned. The delay was mostly driven by the work on the Edmund but the medical crises described in my blogpistle of June 22nd played a part as well. We had a huge amount of work done at Bend and spent a huge amount of money. The good news is, adding up we paid for it originally, what we spent before leaving Saint Louis, and what we spent at Bend, the Edmund still comes in well below what the Blue Book says it’s worth. Everything on our wish-list was resolved except reupholstering the driver and passenger cockpit chairs; the earliest date we could get from the BCSS subcontractor would have been September. Some of the work was unexpected. There was Jackapalooza (pictured above). We had to have BCSS redo the windshields, turns out they were screwed up by the Service Yahoos in Saint Louis. We had to replace the Aqua-Hot heating system since the old one the Saint Louis Service Yahoos hadn’t been able to fix was actually beyond repair. We had the body damage I’d done to the Edmund’s exterior repaired. And there were a host of other issues we had addressed while we were there—a total of 33 additional maintenance and improvements too minor to detail. But most of the time was spent doing the things we wanted to do in order to improve our quality of RV life.
The New Floor
We replaced the entire floor with new tile and are very pleased with the results. We had the old entertainment system gutted and replaced with a Blu-ray compatible home theater and a larger (and smart) TV in the living area. We had the plumbing system simplified, stripping out some of the after-market clutter installed by the previous owners and replacing some of the failure-prone electrical components with simpler manual valves. We had the water stains on the ceiling cleaned up and some carpentry work done on the living room desk to give it a sliding top. We replaced the less-than-comfortable living room chair with a La-Z-Boy recliner, bigger and more comfortable but with a smaller footprint when we’re on the road.
We became very familiar with both Bend and the Beaver Coach staff in the month-plus we were there. The staff treated us well, very well. There was always fresh coffee available. Many days there was homemade bread baking in the customer lounge bread machine. While we were there one of the technicians set up a grill in Norman Park, the wood-chip covered common area behind Repair Row for those of us dwelling in Repair Row who wished to barbecue. The office staff was uniformly friendly, always cheerful and willing to suggest restaurants and sight-seeing expeditions in the area. The technicians were—in my experience—unusual in that they were uniformly friendly and willing to go the extra mile to make sure things were done right. They treated their jobs more like vocations than mere occupations. They demonstrated both passion for and pride in their work, the opposite of the time-servers and clock-watchers I’ve dealt with and worked with in the past. Sean and Ken, the shop foreman and the service coordinator, were always there for us. While I was hooked up to oxygen they both stopped by on the weekend to make sure we were OK and to see if we needed anything.
There was a real sense of community on Repair Row as well. We met many Beaver owners and shared stories and experiences with them over cocktails and burgers in Norman Park and fresh bread and coffee in the customer lounge. With any luck we’ll meet these folks down the road some day.
If we’re still on the road in 2014, we plan to come back to Bend and spend more time with the men and women of BCSS. We’re working up our list of things to do, fun things like new window treatments and routine things like scheduled maintenance, not the laundry list we showed up with in 2013.
Postscript: We didn’t just hang on Repair Row for the entire month-plus the Edmund was in Bend, we spent some time on the Oregon coast and checked out some old (and not so old) volcanic activity. But that will be a separate post.