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That’s Life: The RV shakedown cruise

By on March 28, 2017 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By G. Wayne Hawks

Ah, summer.

When the days are long, the air is warm, and life is full of joy.

A great summertime recreational opportunity presented itself on July 30, 2011 when a couple of wonderful friends told us they had decided to sell their 1978 22-foot Class C motor home (in case you don’t know, a Class C is one built on a truck or in this case a Chevrolet Van chassis) for only $2,400 because they decided they “just weren’t RV people.”

 I thought that was an odd way of putting it, but saw a great opportunity in this. So, we took it for a test drive. It started right up and off we went. The heater and windshield wipers didn’t work, nor did the speedometer, but those were minor things. At least the engine ran well. And, that’s the most important thing.

 So, we bought it and I spent the next three weeks replacing light bulbs, fuses, and the speedometer cable. I also changed the oil, oil filter, and air filter. Linda cleaned windows, shampooed and vacuumed the shag carpet and the orange upholstery. Perhaps Class C in the case of this particular motor home was less a designation of type and more of a grade…

 And then, it was time for the shakedown cruise on Aug. 27. The engine started right up and quickly came to a smooth idle. I backed it around, put it into drive and we were off.

Being a hot day, I put my window partly down and turned the heater fan on high. After jiggling the ignition switch the heater fan came on and the alternator started charging. I made mental notes of what else we might want to get done shortly:

1. New ignition switch.

2. Thermostat — it was running a little cold (fortunately!).

3. Lots of play in the steering. Tie rod ends? Ball joints? Wheel bearings probably need to be repacked.

4. Better get it lubed — I noticed that it had been a long time when I was under it to change the oil. I also noticed at that time copious amounts of rust everywhere. I especially noticed it on the propane tank which I had recently had filled….

5. There was a lot of sway. It probably needs new shock absorbers and possibly leaf and coil springs also.

At this point I realized our EX-friends had not been entirely honest with us….

Going down Moses Coulee was a beautiful experience though. With the window half-way down we weren’t sweating as much as we could have been. (Need to get the A/C recharged). Plus, it gave us the opportunity to clearly hear the backfiring of the engine after I put it in second gear to try and hold it back from running away. (Needs a tune-up — distributor cap, rotor, spark plugs, spark-plug wires?).

But, by pumping the brakes and holding the steering wheel to the left, we made it to the bottom alive and it climbed the far side just fine. (New brake pads, wheel cylinders, perhaps brake drums, master cylinder?). Sure glad the sparks from the brakes didn’t ignite the leaking propane…

Then, near the top I noticed an unusual thrumming noise just before I started to smell antifreeze (bad heater hose, water pump, head gasket, or a cracked head?) mixed with the propane and gasoline smells.

Well, maybe it will stop I thought. And it sure did, right about the time the engine died, on the hill down to Coulee City…. You know, power brakes usually work better with the engine running…

Fortunately, I managed to get it stopped and then didn’t have to walk more than a couple miles to get cell phone reception so I could call a tow-truck. After just a few tries, the tow truck driver answered and said he’d be there in about half an hour.

So, what to do in the hot sun for half an hour? First, I called to cancel our reservation at Steamboat Rock Park. After several minutes of being on hold, the service rep came back on the phone to thank me for waiting and to tell me that our reservation had been cancelled. And she assured me in a cheery voice that the fee was NON-refundable. Made me so glad I had called…

The other thing we did, once I got back into the 110 degree or so RV, was to join with my wife in reciting an ancient family curse on the cruel people who sold us this “inexpensive” motor home and to question their pedigrees….

At this point, with sweat running down us, and our dogs panting like crazy we realized that, like those freshly-cursed people, we “just aren’t RV people” and resolved to put it up for sale, donate it to a charity, or, if necessary, burn it to the ground….

Then the tow truck arrived. Built in Japan, seemingly by Tonka, he was driving the smallest tow truck I’ve ever seen.

No way that thing could pick up and pull that 22-foot motor home, especially with one side of the sling, a large rubber strap, half torn. But, it did pick it up. In fact, several times it did as he was trying to get the chains attached correctly.

And, each time he managed to customize the front bumper more and more. I say customize because you can’t get them from the factory in that shape. But, we didn’t care. We just wanted to get home safely and at this point wouldn’t have minded if he dropped it on the way back.

So, I rode with my dog on my lap, shoe-horned between the driver and my wife and her dog. I’m pretty sure he had never cleaned the inside of this truck and most likely only the rain had cleaned the outside.

When my wife mentioned he might want to clean his truck from time to time, oddly, he didn’t answer. He just started telling a story about getting stopped at the Canadian border and them discovering his pistol….

But, get back we did, and safely too. Then, the next morning I had a dream that I went out to the motor home and tried to start it and it started right up.

After waking up and getting ready, I went out to the motor home and it did indeed start right up. So, I crawled under it along with the weeds, spiders and ants and re-attached the drive shaft that had been unattached so it could be towed. Then we spent a couple hours cleaning it out and we’re now ready to sell it.

So, if you like tie-dyed clothing and think you might be interested in a Class EEE motor home, here are some things to consider:

1. It only burned half as much gas as you’d expect, the last time we took it out, having been driven one way and then towed back.

2. It has a custom front bumper.

3. We’re only selling it because we decided that we’re just not RV people.

Update: Linda had a coworker who we felt sorry for. He works full time plus builds fences, etc. on the side just to made ends meet for himself and his three children, we were told.

So, we decided to give the motor-home to him. Actually, we decided to sell it to him for $1. It’s the little accountant in my head who wouldn’t let me throw away ALL that investment.

Anyway, he picked it up one day, drove it straight over to the NAPA dealer and started his own investment program in parts.

He did manage to drive it to Wenatchee. Then, when he tried to change the title over, he called us because they refused to let us sell it to him for $1. We’d have to gift it to him.

Okay, that takes different paperwork I assumed. But, he didn’t have time to do that then since he was due to leave for Hawaii. Yes, I just said he was going to Hawaii. The guy I had felt sorry for. I’ve never been to Hawaii!

But, that’s okay. When he came back he got the title changed over and then evidently that old family curse we had aimed at the folks we bought it from caught up with the guy who “bought” it from us.

First, a friend of his had some company coming and wanted to borrow it for them to stay in. So he loaned it to them. They got almost to Malaga (about 10 miles) when the transmission fell out!

The next day, the proud new owner of the motor-home got up to work on the roof of his house and fell off breaking four ribs and his wrist.

That’s just the beginning.

I suspect that very soon he won’t be “RV people” either….

Wayne and Linda have lived in and around the Wenatchee area for the last 17 years.  He works for Confluence Health as a financial analyst.

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