"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Friday, December 27, 2013

not slowing down much

Thursday morning I made a few more calls trying to find the motor I needed to fix the slide outs and jacks. None of the RV dealers here in central Indiana carried them but they all offered to order one for me. :-(
I took my search back to the internet and after trying several search phrases stumbled across a company in Fort Wayne, In. who boasted of having a large warehouse full of hard to find items for hydraulic systems. I knew it would be a long shot but gave them a call anyway. Sure enough they could order one but had none on the shelf. The guy asked me what I needed it for so I explained our situation, full time RVer's visiting family for the holidays and trying to live in a leaning, skinny motor home. I left out the part about not having any underwear, it didn't seem like appropriate "guy" talk. :-)
He told me they actually manufacture hydraulic systems to sell and said he would check the systems they had built to see if any had the motor I needed already installed on them and would call me back. I didn't hold out much hope for him to even call back much less luck out and they actually have the motor but sure enough, about 30 minutes later, he called and said he had not one but two motors! I told him I could be there shortly after noon and he said he would remove it and have it ready to go for me. Now all I had to do was get Rudee out of bed and convince her that driving 3 hours (one way!) was a good idea. :-)
She was a good sport about it though and we were soon headed North, I guess she was as ready to get back to normal living as I was.
The drive was a long one but I finally got my hands on a brand new replacement motor! We made it back to the motor home about 3:30 pm and I got it installed about 10 minutes later. Here is a photo, the new motor is behind all those bundles of wires and relays. I still have another motor being shipped to us and we'll hang onto that one for a spare so we are not in this predicament again.

ahhh, now we're living! I never realized blue jeans were so ...... scratchy. :-)

Friday I decided to tackle another project. One of the advantages of working at Amazon is the 10% employee discount on their products. We took advantage of it by purchasing two new flat screen TV's. Our motor home is a 2002 so the TV's in it are pre-digital, large, heavy monstrosities. We decided to tackle the living room first. The old TV was removed along with the DVD player and the separate VCR.

I moved our Dish Network receiver to sit below the new TV instead of in the cabinet beside it. I also ran the cables for the new Blue Ray Disk player Rudee got me for Christmas which will sit in the right side cabinet where the VCR used to be. Once all that was done I attached the swing arm mount to the side of the steel TV "box" that serves as the framework for our entertainment console above the dash. Next it was time to hook everything up and see if we could get it all to work right. I guess I measured pretty good because the TV fits perfectly and we even get a picture on it! :-)

Looks pretty good up there. We still have to figure something out to fill the space between the bottom of the TV and the satellite box. We are thinking of just covering some cardboard material with black cloth and attaching it to the cabinet but I may look for a "sound bar" that would fit so we can blast away on those Blue Ray movies. :-)
We still have the bedroom TV to replace but I'm hoping it will not be as intimidating as the front one was. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

family time

We wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. One of the biggest reasons we worked for Amazon this year was to have the opportunity to spend the holidays with our family. We have been really busy the last couple of days. Monday evening I kicked Rudee out of the kitchen and made two large batches of noodles. She had finally finished her baking and candy making so I really didn't have to push her too hard, she was tired. :-)
Tuesday morning we were out the door early and, along with daughter Amanda and grandson Nicholas, headed toward Rudee's Mom's house to get things ready for dinner and family time. We spent all day cooking, cleaning and setting up tables, chairs etc. Her family all live within a few miles of each other and have the tradition of gathering at the old home place on Christmas eve. Over the years, as her family grew, we moved the gathering from the living and dining room to the attached two car garage. Rudee's Mom is in her 80's and not able to do all the work needed to host such a large event so we were thankful we were able to get everything ready for the rest of her family to enjoy. Just another advantage of this full time RV lifestyle. :-)

Christmas morning was spent inside our daughters house watching the grandkids open their presents. Amanda made a nice breakfast for us and we had a great time with them. That afternoon we gathered everyone up and drove over to our son in law Ryan's brothers home where we had another nice meal. We had a great time and it sure made working those weeks at Amazon worth all the aches and pains. :-)

I am getting closer to getting our slideouts and jacks fixed. We initially thought we were going to have to take it to an RV repair place to have it replaced but I did a little more research on the internet and it didn't look too hard. I decided to give it a go, so Monday morning I got the tools back out and removed the motor. I then called an alternator/starter repair place in nearby Crawfordsville, Indiana and they said they would take a look at it. We made it a family event and loaded up the grandkids and headed out. We dropped the motor off and they did a quick test, yep it's bad. They don't have that type of motor but said they would try and fix it for me so I left it with them. We did some shopping and were eating lunch when the shop called me and said it was ready. They took it apart and it was "full of rust" so they cleaned it up and got it working again. We finished lunch, picked up the motor ($32.00) and headed home. I quickly got the new motor installed and then headed inside where I nervously pressed the button for the living room slideout. The motor started but only ran for a couple of seconds and quit again :-( RATS!
I checked all the wiring again and we had power to everything so I took the motor back off again. Ryan was home from work by this time so we tested the motor using a battery charger for power and got it working again. We installed it on the motorhome once again but it still would run when under the load of turning the hydraulic pump even though we can turn both shafts by hand. I decided to order a brand new motor and have it shipped here so we are still living with the slideouts in. The motor we removed was an aftermarket one made in Slovenia so this part is apparently a replacement for a past failure of the original part. I think carrying a spare one might be in our future rather then having to wait for one to be shipped because I have yet to find one on a shelf at any of the local places.

We have also had some other issues. The temperatures have been really cold here with the lows in single digits. Before leaving Kentucky we filled the water tank up since we knew we would not be able to hook up a hose to their house since it is a couple of hundred feet from the spigot to our rig. Tuesday morning we woke up and a water line had frozen somewhere so now we had no water flowing! I had prepared for the cold by placing an electric heater into our "wet" bay and our wireless remote thermometer said it was almost 40 degrees in the bays. Since we had such a busy day planned I didn't have time to search out the problem and the temps were not going to warm up much anyway. Once we got home Christmas eve I checked the wet bay and, even though I thought it wasn't needed, I turned the electric heater up a notch to see if that helped. The last thing I did was move a hose that was attached to the water filter so I could close the compartment door and it was frozen! That hose is what I hook the outside hose to when using an outside water source. This way the water passes through a filter before entering the coach. I had left the other end hooked up to the outlet into the rig and it was also frozen. Hmmmm, I think I might have found the problem. I unhooked the hose, crossed my fingers and shut everything up again.
Sure enough sometime during the night things thawed enough to let the water flow again and we have not had any other problems! :-)
Our plans for the rest of the week will be pretty laid back. I have two TV's to replace here in the motorhome and hope to get those projects completed and of course the new pump motor will need installed (I'm getting pretty fast doing that!). Besides the good news of being able to take a shower again Santa Clause was nice enough to leave me a package of underwear under the tree. Life is good again! I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Our last shift at Amazon was Friday night. Rudee and I both ended up watching the clock way too much while we worked. I guess we were hoping it would move a little faster. Several times I glanced at it thinking, surely another hour had passed only to find out it had only been 15 minutes. :-)
When we returned from our lunch break at 10:45 pm they announced that all of the Camperforce (that's our "official" title at Amazon) were to be dismissed at 2:00 am to report to the large break room downstairs for our "mustering out". Let me tell ya, that old clock almost screeched to a halt after that! We finally made it and headed downstairs to the "party". We got checked in by an HR person and was given yet another T-shirt. Several managers got up to speak and pretty much all said the same thing. We were then dismissed and our very first Amazon experience came to an end. The work was probably the hardest work we had ever done and I can't be prouder of Rudee. We both hung in there in spite of the aches and pains. As soon as we exited the building I gave her a hug and yelled out "we did it!', I was pretty excited to be done. :-)
Here is a photo of us and our fellow Camperforce co-workers.

They were a great group of people who I can now call friends. :-)
Several of us met at the Huddle House restaurant for a last celebration meal before saying our goodbyes. Rudee and I then went back to the rig and got a few hours of sleep.
Saturday morning I got the rig fired up and the power cord put away. The motorhome started on the first turn of the key, not bad after sitting for two months. :-)
I pulled the jacks up and we pulled out onto the roadway so I could hook up the Dakota. Once everything was hooked up we pointed the nose of the rig North and headed for home.
The temperature when we left Cambellsville at 10:30 am was 68 degrees and once we got to Indianapolis (only 200 miles!) it was 38 degrees. Brrrrrr! That was a BIG change. Beside the temps we drove in rain and heavy traffic for the entire trip. We made a stop at a rest park a few miles from the exit to our daughters house and unhooked the truck. Rudee would drive it the last couple of miles so I could back right in their driveway. I got the rig parked and started the set up procedure. First thing on the list is to lower our stabilizer jacks. No problem, jacks came right down and were leveling the rig when they stopped. I pushed the button manually and nothing happened. Not good! I hit the "store jacks" button and they returned to their up position but would not deploy again. :-(
I checked all the fuses that I could find but nothing was wrong there. I finally crawled under the rig and checked the hydraulic motor. The solenoid on the motor would click when Rudee pushed on the buttons but the motor would not move. I gave up on it for the night since it was cold, pouring rain and getting dark. I soon found out the same motor works the slide outs too so it will be a little cozy (and bouncy) in the rig until I can fix it.
We took Amanda and her family out to the local Pizza Hut for dinner where son in law Ryan, their next door neighbor Steve and I proceeded to drain two pitchers of beer. Hey, it had been a tough day!
After dinner we headed back to the motorhome (with Rudee driving) where we finally headed to bed. :-)

This morning Ryan and I started looking for a fix for the slide out/jack motor. My first check was the batteries. I learned a long time ago that if anything is going "goofy" in an RV that it might be a bad battery causing it. Both of the batteries were "A-OK" so we moved on. The next thing to check was the ground for the motor. Ryan undid it from the frame and cleaned everything with a wire brush and I tried the buttons again ..... nothing. We then tried to "jump" start the motor by bypassing the solenoid, that didn't work either. We are pretty certain the motor is shot and it is a little over our heads replacing it so I will make some calls tomorrow to the local RV places to see if anyone can fit us in their service schedule. The good news is we are safe and sound, our rig is still "livable" with the slides closed so we can stay warm and dry. The bad news is the bedroom slideout contains our closet and my clothes drawers so I cannot get to my underwear! Rudee had all the laundry clean and put away so there is only one dirty pair that can be washed so I guess I'm "El Cammando" for a few days. :-o I know, TMI but like I always say, I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the end is in sight!

We received an email Monday evening from Amazon announcing our "furlough" date. Our last shift will be this Friday night, so once we clock out Saturday morning at 4am we are free to pack up and leave. The only problem with that is when we get off work we are both dead tired and who wants to start out at 4 am anyway! We are planning on coming back to the rig and crashing for a few hours and then head toward our daughter house sometime that morning or maybe later depending on how comfortable that bed is. :-)

Yesterday was supposed to be the busiest shipping day of the year for Amazon. On our shift, in our department we had 39 people packing boxes and moving them down the conveyor. When we started 9 weeks ago there were only around eight of us. At one point they said we were shipping out over 3500 "units" (boxes) per hour. That is a ton of product seeing that each "unit" has to be boxed and sealed by hand. Needless to say we were both bushed when we got off work. Things should start slowing down in the next couple of days as the Christmas orders slow and people start thinking more about faith, family and food rather then about gifts.

Our last weekend off we made a trip to Horseshoe Casino in New Albany, Indiana with some of our co-workers. I found a great deal on rooms at the Casino Hotel on "cyber Monday" and we each got our rooms at $46 for the night. Larry, one of our fellow packers, plays craps and he came out the big winner. Not to be outdone I had some more luck on the penney slots. One machine I cashed in almost $200 over and above the money I put into it to get started. :-)
We had a fun night out with our friends, just the thing to recharge us for our final week. :-)

Once all the fun at Amazon ends I will write about our experiences and thoughts about being part of Amazon's Camperforce so stay tuned. I plan on tearing the antenna booster down in the next day or two so will probably be incommunicado but will update you all when we land in Indiana.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hot water woes ...part deaux

Well I guess I was a little premature when I declared the hot water fixed. I went out the front door of the coach and there was water running out the bottom of the access door to the heater. Now what??!! I knew the pressure regulator had been dripping occasionally and had purchased a spare "just in case". Now it was pouring water out at a steady stream and it wasn't even hot water. Time to change the old corroded regulator with the shiny new one.

I got out my adjustable pliers, turned off the water and "presto, chango" had that sucker swapped out in no time!. I turned everything back on and was back in business. The water heater fired up and ran, and ran, and ran, and ran before finally shutting completely down. Now what??!! I quickly deduced it had to be the thermostat not working. There is an emergency cut off that shuts things down when the water reaches a really high temperature, like 200 degrees (YIKES!). I called the only RV place here in Campbellsville and he had the proper part so we made a stop on our way to work. Yesterday was another "presto, chango" day so I once again got my tools out and started to work. The old thermostat came out pretty easy but the new one was a little tougher to install. The thermostat is held in place by three tabs on the outer wall of the water heater case and is held tight to the inner tank by a spring that has to be compressed while turning the thermostat so it locks in place. I had to bend the tabs a little with my screwdriver and, of course, two were easy and the third one was tough to get too. Of course no job is complete with out a little blood shed and an apology to our neighbors for my language. :-)

I was able to get the new thermostat installed and after two days of operation it is back to cycling like normal.
No big news at work yet on our release date. We are still planning on our last shift being our "normal" end of week on December 21st. There has been some rumors about us getting out a day or two earlier. We are supposed to get the "official" date from Amazon sometime this week, until then it's just work, eat, sleep and repeat. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

feeling our age .....

Wow, this week has been a tough one! Our only days off were Sunday and Wednesday so we really didn't have the time to recuperate. My hat is off to the full time employees who are required to work the mandatory 60 hours of overtime as well as the work campers who volunteer to do it. We are only required (as work campers) to do a maximum of 50 hours and that is our schedule for at least one more week. The good news is, since our overtime day is Tuesday, we are back to having two days off in a row. :-)

This week has not been without it's drama though. Friday Rudee was finishing her shower and hollered at me to come into the bathroom, she was smelling a "hot" smell. I went in and knew right away we had an electrical issue ...... somewhere. She had the electric heater on but we quickly ruled it out, then I checked the portable ice maker we keep on a shelf above the washer/dryer. Nope, that's not it. Then I thought about the water heater and ........ yep, you could smell the hot, burning wire smell coming through the floor area where the water heater is located. Crap! I quickly shut it off and the smell slowly went away. The water heater heats the water two ways, either by an LP gas burner or by a 120V electric heating element. We have almost always used the electric portion since the gas burner is noisy and the water heater is just below the floor at the foot of our bed, plus the electric provided at most RV parks is included in the site fee. :-)
I let everything cool down some and turned the water heater back on using LP now. Oh oh, I should be hearing the burner burning but it was totally silent. Double crap! By this time we had to leave to go to work so I didn't have the chance to figure out what the problem was with the gas side of things and was worried the the whole unit was "toast".
Saturday afternoon (which is our "morning") I was finally able to take a look at it. Our heater has "thermal cut off" which is a type of fuse that will not allow ignition if it is blown.
The problem is you can't always see if it is good or bad just by looking at it. I got a small piece of 12v wire and bypassed the fuse and "whoosh" the unit fired up! Now we're getting somewhere! I had to replace the fuse once before and when I bought the replacement it came with two of then in the package. I just had to remember where I put the other one. :-o
I showed the old one to Rudee and she had no idea where it could be. I looked in all my usual hiding places and then remembered I store some small things in a compartment in my tool box and "looky what I found".

I put the new fuse in place and we were back in the hot water business! I will tackle the electric element down the road when I have more time (and energy!).
The weather has made a turn for the worse. We went from 60's earlier this week to the 20's and 30's with heavy rain. When we came out from work this morning I had to scrape about 1/2" of ice from all the windows and there is nice coating of ice on all the tree limbs. Brrrrrrr!
We are starting to do the big countdown for our remaining time in Kentucky. Two more weeks to go! I just hope this weather gives us a window where we can get out of here safely. Our plan is to head back to Indiana for a week to ten days and then head south to Florida. We are still in the market for a work camping job (or any gig really) for this winter. We are checking into Disney but they require "in person" interviews so we may check them out further once we are there but if any of you know of anyone hiring let us know. We are not too picky our only requirements are no snow or ice! I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

gonna be busy!

With Thanksgiving over the big Christmas buying frenzy starts. I have to laugh a little at the whole "Black Friday" thing. Since when did Friday begin at 4pm on Thursday? Looks like all the stores are doing their best to get people in earlier and earlier for the mayhem.
We were invited to go to dinner Thursday afternoon with a group of fellow "Amazonians" here in our RV park. To give us time to enjoy the holiday Amazon let the day shift off three hours early and delayed our start time by three hours, thanks Amazon! :-) There were five couples and we had a great time getting to know each other and share our stories.

Friday and Saturday were our regular scheduled work days and it was also an "all hands on deck" event. Pretty much everyone who works at Amazon had to work those days. We were busy but with all the extra people from different shifts we handled the additional work load well. The biggest issue was getting in and out of the parking lot! Even though the police were directing traffic it was still a slow process moving that many people in and out.

Today (Sunday) is our only day off for a few days. We are normally off Sunday, Monday and Tuesday but with "Cyber Monday" coming up we are having to work. We will get Wednesday off and then back to work the rest of the week. We are both still a little sore after work but my hands have quit hurting and my feet are starting to "get used to the abuse". :-)

While off today I took advantage of the time to complete my next project. Several months ago I read on an internet forum about changing the fluorescent lights in the ceiling into LED lights by simply wiring in a strip of lights. I kind of forgot about it until our friend and fellow fulltimer Steve (FOSJ Blog) wrote that he had made the switch in their motorhome. This sparked the memory in me and I got busy ordering the LED lights and electrical connectors which were delivered last week. The lights are pretty easy to install, they come in a big strip and you can cut them with scissors to the length you want. I removed the florescent bulbs and cut the wires to the ballast. Then you simply wire the LED's up and peel and stick to the inside of the light fixture. The lights work great but I had some issues with a couple of the "quick connects" that came with them, they just didn't want to make a good connections. I changed out all three of our overhead lights and we really like the new lights.


I still have one connector that is giving me a problem. I think I'll get my soldering iron out, maybe that will scare it into working right! :-)

We also decided to get into the Christmas spirit so we put up our tree! That consisted of me crawling into one of our basement storage compartments trying to find the box holding our tree which, of course, was all the way back into the farthest corner. Turns out that was the hardest part since the lights are already strung on the limbs all you have to do is spread them out and hang the ornaments.

Looks pretty festive! :-)

I'm not sure if I'll feel much like writing in the next week or so since we will be working so much. Only three more weeks to go and we'll be free again! I'll keep you posted.