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Old 05-08-2019, 11:27 PM   #1
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Tim and Sandi's Most Excellent Airstream Adventure...

So, our “excellent adventure” began as most of our Spring cruises do - our annual pilgrimage from Mississippi to the mountains of the New York/Vermont border.

We had planned and made reservations to leave Vicksburg on Monday, April 15th, with campsites awaiting us en route near friends along the way. The week before was scheduled for the annual de-winterizing and packing of the rig, along with new tires for the TV, and some maintenance for the 2008 VW Beetle that I had talked my wife into driving as a “chase car” so that I’d have something besides the 2015 Ram 3500 Crew Cab Long Bed I use as a TV for my summer sojourn in the North Country. Unfortunately, we had thunderstorms and heavy rains for each of the 10 days preceding launch - which played havoc with the prep countdown. This culminated on Saturday, April 13th with our neighborhood being hit by two tornadoes that afternoon. We were very lucky and suffered no serious damage (the large trees that fell either landed between the houses or fell back into our woods). But the neighborhood was a disaster and no power. I used our little Yamaha 2000 to power the Airstream while we worked in it, and ran an extension cord into the house for the refrigerator and a lamp in the kitchen. The rest of the house was lit by kerosine lamp and candles - not the best way to pack. The Palm Sunday hymns in our neighborhood were a cacophony of generators and chain saws. Sunrise on the morning of the 15th was at 6:34am - the time I would’ve liked to be on the road; but I wanted broad daylight to make one last pass around the house for overlooked, mislaid and forgotten items, as well as a good look agt the rig prior to launch. We rolled out at 9:30am. Ughhh!
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:29 PM   #2
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After the stormy launch...


Our first day on the road brings us about 520 miles to the KOA at Sweetwater, TN. We’ve stayed there a lot, and have always had nice sites. Since this is a “late in - early out” overnight, we always go for a pull-through spot and leave the TT and TV hitched.

The first issue was when went to the office to sign in at 7:30pm. Apparently, when it got late (after 6pm), they called me, or at least called the number they had for me. It was one digit off, and the person they reached said that they had no such reservation - so the KOA cancelled our reservation and billed my credit card for the late cancel. I would’ve called, but, with all else going on, forgot that I had crossed into EDT time zone, and was an hour later than I realized. We finally got that all straightened out, and went to our assigned space, only to find that it had quite a downhill pitch to it - both front end down and right side, as well. We would’ve had to unhitch to jack and crib the Airstream level so we could keep the ‘fridge on - which defeated the whome point of the pull-through. We got a new site, but still with a bit of a pitch. I used some Andersen levelers to sort it left-to-right, and started to use the power jack to lift the front. It had to come up quite a bit, to the point where the jack was partially lifting the back of the pickup - which cooked the jack, or at least its fuse.

At least we had the Vee-Dub chase car, and could go get supper that night and breakfast the next morning at a little buffet, the “Dinner Bell”, just off I-75 at the exit for the KOA. Launch next morning required taking the head off the jack and using the hand crank to retract the jackstand. The adventure continued...
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:30 PM   #3
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A lull in the action and a couple pleasant days of R&R...


We only had a 450 mile day on Tuesday, as our next scheduled stop was at Misty Mountain Camp Resort in Crozet, VA (on US 250 between Waynesboro and Charlottesville, on top of the Blue Ridge). It is a pretty spot and we always get one of the pull-throughs down next to the creek. Our plan was to stay for two nights, and visit with my old college roommate, who lives nearby. As always, he had a huge feast waiting for us, so life was good. Early the next morning, we went to the local NAPA and got a new 30 amp fuse - but the Barker power jack did not flicker. Still had to take off the head and manually crank it. The two day R&R respite was welcome, and included an “insider’s” tour of the UVA campus and rotunda, as Matt worked there.

Thursday was a short, sweet haul of about 180 miles up I-81 and US 340 to a campsite in Brunswick, MD (just across the Potomac from Harpers Ferry, WV) to again spend 2 days with friends. Our 27FB had its dining table literally 8 feet from the banks of the Potomac - which I was keeping a close eye on, since its level was rising due to torrential rains along the Potomac and Shenandoah valleys. My buddy tried to help me fix the jack, but no luck. So we spent the two days feasting and drinking with friends and relatives. Well fed and relaxed, we once again headed northward on I-81 on Saturday, April 20th, for the final 380 miles to our summer spot in Washington County, NY. Little did we know...
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:31 PM   #4
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And then things went South, heading North...


All was running well and traffic was light, well “light” for I-81, anyway, so there was at least a slight break between tractor-trailers. My wife and I used some Motorola walkie-talkies for communication between myself in the Ram, and herself in the VW - which worked well enough as long as we were within a mile of each other. Upon crossing the Mason-Dixon Line I noticed that the yellow “check engine light” had come on; but it has done so in the past, just to go out on its own with no residual codes, so I figured I would just press on. Just as we were passing Carlisle, PA, a notice came up on the Ram’s dash stating that I had a “DEF System Malfunction”, and that I would be “reduced to 5mph max in 150 miles”. Great, that would leave us dead on the side of I-81 in the middle of the Pennsylvania Alleghenies around Hazleton, PA on the Saturday afternoon. It also said that I should “see my dealer immediately”. Yeah, the one 1200 miles behind me. Through the modern miracles of smartphones and Google, we found a Chrysler/Ram dealer in Mechanicsburg, PA (I found the name hopeful...), but they said that their heavy-duty diesel guys didn’t come in on Saturdays, and were badly backed up for the coming week. If I left it with them for the week, they *might* be able to diagnose it. Note that they did not say *fix* it. When I asked what to do with the huge Silver Twinkie attached to the rear, the service guy had no answer. He suggested trying the truck stops back down along I-81. My 150 miles was now down to 87...

We drove down to the Flying J down the road, and went to the service shop. They had no one that could do anything for a Ram/Cummins DEF issue, but they did call around and found that the Triple K Truck Repair shop up at Exit 77 in Manada Hill would take a look at it and at least run diagnostics for us. So, once again we were northbound on I-81, watching our mileage “death watch” carefully. We arrived at Exit 77 with around 62 miles left...

The guys at Triple K were great, but what they could do was limited. FCA had updated their OBD software recently, and, since the main customers of Triple K were 18 wheelers and other big trucks, they did not have the most current version. The OBD computer that they did have indicated that it was an issue with the DEF pump pressure being too low. Since we could hear the pump running, the mechanic thought it might be a sensor. But that could not be verified nor the part ordered until Monday. I asked if we could just camp in the repair yard until then, and they said fine - and ran us out an extension cord so we could have 120VAC.

And so we spent Easter Sunday in the Triple K Truck Repair depot on the side of I-81, north of Harrisburg, PA, instead of an Easter Supper with our daughter and husband in Saratoga Springs, NY, as planned. But Airstreaming is *supposed* to be an adventure, and so it was...
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:33 PM   #5
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"Triptus Interruptus", or "stranded in Pennsylvania"...


We were able to use the VW to head out to restaurants in the area (our main choices were the Hershey Road Family Restaurant at Exit 77 and the Olde Country Buffet down on US Rt. 22 towards Harrisburg), as well as other reconnaissances and tasks necessary to get back on our journey - so glad we did have a chase car!

After quietly celebrating Easter in the repair yard, and a quick “Up the Republic!” cheer over my coffee (not Irish whiskey) on Easter Monday in honor of the 103rd anniversary of the 1916 Irish Rebellion, we talked to the mechanics again Monday morning. On one of our “recon” missions Sunday, we had discovered another KOA 13 miles north at Exit 90. And, since the campground in Maryland didn’t have a septic hookup, we hadn’t dumped tanks since we left Virginia the previous Thursday morning. It would also be easier for the mechanics to work on the truck without an Airstream attached, so off we went to the KOA to drop off and set up the Airstream. We got back to Triple K with 36 miles left on the “death is imminent” countdown.

Triple K ordered and installed the new DEF sensor of Tuesday morning, April 23rd. Unfortunately, that did not solve the problem or clear the code (DEF codes cannot be “cleared” without repair). It seemed that the culprit was the DEF pump itself. After calling several FCA dealers, they were told that it would be at least 10 days to even get the part.

Another development with the diagnosis was the issue of warranty. The Federal Warranty for diesel emissions includes 100% of all parts and software for the first 5 years or 100,000 miles on *all* medium-duty diesel trucks. The trick was, you had to have the repairs done at a FCA dealer. We drove the VW to two dealers in the north Harrisburg area only to have them tell us that they did not work on the Cummins diesels - and that we’d have to find a dealership that sold and serviced 2500s and 3500s and above. Since my 2015 3500 has the Crew Cab, 8' long box, and is fitted with tool boxes, bed cover and bed roller, and we were loaded with “full battle rattle” for the cross-country trip, it has a 169" wheelbase and, per CAT, weighs in at over 10,000 lbs - they two dealerships we visited said that they didn’t have any lifts that could handle it.

We called two other FCA dealers north of Harrisburg that were recommended, but were told by both that, yes, it was around a 10 day turnaround for the pump; and that, since it was warranty work, they would have to run all their own diagnostics - which would take a couple days - and then a couple days more on the other end to fix it. All in all, we would be stranded in Harrisburg for another two to three weeks, minimum. It also occurred to me that my truck was an “orphan” breakdown on the way from Mississippi to New York; and that the dealerships would most likely prioritize their own customers’ needs and repairs - so three weeks might be an optimistic projection...
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:34 PM   #6
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A plan emerges. Not a good plan, but a plan nonetheless...


So, early on the morning of Wednesday, April 24th we made the decision to somehow haul the dead Ram and stranded Airstream home to Upstate New York. I called Stephens Chrysler/Dodge Ram in Greenwich to make sure that they could handle a 3500, and was told that they sold and serviced up to the 5500 series; and if I could get it to them, they would fix all under warranty. Now, it was just a matter of transport...

If you should find yourselves in a similar situation, I will pass along a piece of helpful information: Enterprise rents 3/4 ton and 1 ton pickups, both diesel and gas. All are new Ram 2500s and 3500s or Ford F250s and F350s. The 3/4 ton we rented was $75 per day, which also included 300 iles per diem free. But not every Enterprise location has the trucks - only the truck rental locations. Fortunately, Harrisburg had trucks. That solved the Airstream problem - I could just transfer my Equal-i-zer/AirSafe hitch from my truck to the rental and haul the Silver Twinkie home. The truck was a different matter. No one had a flatbed trailer big enough or heavy enough to haul my truck. Not Enterprise, not U-Haul, nada. Triple K said that they could haul it up on a tilt-back, but that it would cost $2200.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I had an old buddy that pulled his 40,000 lb excavator to local jobs on a flatbed behind his 1995 International dump truck - which was a former town plow/sand truck; i.e. no suspension and a straight pipe exhaust up the passenger side. It worked fine for local hauling around Washington County, but now we were talking about a 750+ mile round trip at highway speeds and across a state border (that cost $148 for a three-day permit, BTW). Brooks said that he would call me back; which he did about an hour later, and said that he “thought” he could cob-job a couple minor repairs so that the truck could make it. “Thought”. I mentioned that having two dead diesels in Pennsylvania was a scenario that I had absolutely no solution for... But hey, Airstreaming is an adventure, right? ;-)
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:40 PM   #7
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The rescued Silver Twinkie again heads Northward...


Early on the morning of Thursday, April 25th my wife Sandi brought me down to the Enterprise rental place by 7:00am, when they opened, and where there was a nice, new Ram 2500 Hemi gasser waiting for me. We drove back up to Triple K at Exit 77 to get the hitch and all my tools out of my truck, and then on up to the KOA at Exit 90 to hitch up the Airstream. By 10:00am we were once again northbound on I-81, with the Rental Ram pulling the Airstream and Sandi following in the VW. The biggest difference in the rental truck and mine (other than the obvious one being that it ran, and mine didn’t) was when that Hemi would scream at 4500 rpm pulling the uphill grades on the Alleghenies - as opposed to the 1600 rpm rumble in 6th gear of my standard tranny at 65 mph going up the grades, and the bleating of the engine brake at the same rpm going down the other sides. We arrived home with just enough daylight to set, unhitch and level the Airstream in its summer spot. The first part of the mission was accomplished, but the adventure continued...
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:43 PM   #8
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The "Shushan Cavalry" to the rescue; we do not leave our wounded behind!


Up again at 5am on Friday, April 26th to meet my buddy, Brooks (henceforth known as the “Shushan Cavalry” for his daring and timely rescue) down on the flats by the campground entrance to load the rental Ram onto his flatbed trailer, and then to a nearby country diner for a hearty breakfast. I figured it was going to be a long, hard drive to Harrisburg before we saw supper. After giving me the “fellow woodchuck” deep discount, I was to pay him $1200 for the two day use of him and his truck and trailer, all diesel used in the trip, hotel room and meals, plus interstate permit fees. I figured it was going to be at least $1800 out-of-pocket (and *not* covered by warranty), but better than the $2200 previously quoted, and being paid to a friend. He really was risking his “bread and butter” rig to help save my butt.

Now, if you’ve never had the pleasure of driving in an old International Cornbinder snowplow dump, you will *never* truly appreciate your Ford, Ram, Chevy, Tundra, etc. First, as mentioned before, any suspension noticed is merely your imagination; especially running “empty” as we were - no 10 tons of load in the dumpster, or 20 ton piece of equipment on the trailer (it didn’t even know that Ram was back there). Also, as mentioned before, the 10 liter Cummins had no muffler - just a straight pipe up the passenger side, like an old deuce-and-a-half. So we wore earplugs the whole trip and communicated with hand signals. It has a nine speed, non-synchronized manual tranny (so I guess clutch use is optional), that at least my buddy could shift flawlessly. It topped out at 55 mph and averaged 8 mpg. Towns don’t usually auction off their snowplows and dumps while they are still in their prime, and this one had seen hard use *before* and after it became a “woodchuck work truck”. I’ve driven many the deuce in my army days, and they were smooth, quiet and economical by comparison. But, again, desperate times...

We arrived at the rental place in Harrisburg around 6:00pm, took the rental Ram off the trailer, and used that to go chow down at the Olde Country Buffet, then left that at Enterprise and drove up to our Hotel 6 at Exit 77.

On Saturday, April 27th, we walked over to the Hershey Road Family Restaurant for a heavy breakfast of scrapple, eggs, homefries, pancakes and coffee; and then drove over to Triple K to load my dead Dodge on the flatbed. After a long day of bouncing up and down and hand-signaling to each other while wearing our earplugs, and driving through snow squalls from Scranton, PA on I-81 past Cobleskill, NY on I-88, we arrived at the Ram/Chrysler dealer in Greenwich, NY and off-loaded my seriously ill Ram 3500. He dropped my off at my campsite and Airstream, and the mission was declared complete and adventure, for the moment, done.
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:44 PM   #9
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Epilogue...


The good news is that the local dealership was able to replace the bad DEF pump and clear all codes in just a week, and I now have my truck back. And it was all covered under warranty. I’ll have to fight with FCU to get pay-back for the $329 diagnostics done by Triple K in Harrisburg when none of the FCU dealers would do it for us.

The not-so-good news is that I think the Barker power jack is just fried, and needs replacing. I’m researching a 5,000 lb capacity one. Not made in USA like Barker, but I think I need the heavier jack.

The final chapter in our Spring “adventure” happened yesterday to my wife. She was scheduled to fly down to MD Anderson in Houston for her quarterly check up (cancer all gone, thank God); and I dropped her off at Albany airport yesterday morning. But, apparently, Houston was socked in by terrible winds and storms, and her plane was diverted to New Orleans, and terminated. They got her to Houston late this morning, but too late for any of her appointments, so she just camped out at Bush until her return flight to Jackson and then home. She says she has had more than enough adventure for one season - but I reminded her that we are due to fly out to Honolulu in July to meet our new granddaughter. Another adventure awaits, just sorry I can’t drive my Ram and Airstream to Hawaii...! ;-)
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:51 PM   #10
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Postscript...


One of my buddies, learning of our adventures, claimed that if was *really* an Adiredneck (or "Woodchuck", as we call them in these parts), I could've done it all in one trip, like the guy in the attached photo.



Not sure if that illustrates bravery, ingenuity, and overcoming the odds; or something that needs to be preceded with "Hold my beer", or "Hey, y'all, watch this!"...
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:54 PM   #11
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Post-Postscript



Regarding that next adventure to Hawaii, I think I may have a solution...
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Old 05-09-2019, 08:32 AM   #12
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Spectacular Story!!!

So sorry your vacation was ruined, but there will be more to come. I'd say more, but what can you say and besides, I have to go check my DEF levels.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:51 AM   #13
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Adiredneck, post from a fellow Mississipian. For future travels, try Bluewater Resort RV Park in Dayton, TN. You’ll love it. Also, get a Husky Brute 5000 power jack. Likewise you’ll love it too, especially the remotes.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:06 AM   #14
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Sounds like QUITE the adventure. But you slogged thru and came up with solutions are still married and not giving up traveling.

Regarding that u haul picture would that be towing, or triple towing. Definitely worth praying about. Before departure and after arrival.
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