Sunday, July 29, 2007

Refrigerator Problems in Espanola & Albuquerque. July 5-14, 2007

Refrigerator problems at Espanola and Albuquerque. Thursday July 5th thru Saturday July 14, 2007.

We had been camping in Bandelier National Monument and boondocking in Santa Fe NF and this morning we moved to Espanola, NM. What a surprise we had when we arrived at Cottonwood RV Park in Espanola, NM!! We arrived about 11:30am and selected site #35 at the RV Park and as soon as we got the trailer parked, I opened the door and was immediately hit in the face (or should I say nose) with the strong order of ammonia!! Since we don’t carry a bottle of ammonia cleaner in the trailer, this could only mean one thing: the coolant from our Dometic refrigerator leaked out and the fridge is now toast! For those of you are not familiar with a gas powered refrigerator (the correct term is “Absorption Refrigeration”), the coolant is ammonia. It provides the same function as Freon does in an electric refrigerator or air conditioner. One big difference is that ammonia is very toxic or fatal if you are exposed to very much of it for very long. If you have pets, don’t leave them in the trailer while you are traveling!! I wouldn’t think there is a great risk leaving your pets in the RV while parked. The plumbing (Cooling Unit) containing the ammonia in the refrigerator is much more likely to break while traveling down the road, subject to all the vibration than it would be while parked.


Bottom of Cooling Unit (the culprit!!) The gray can & tubes contain the ammonia.

Campsite at Cottonwood RV Park

We do have an extended warranty from Good Sam Club, “Continued Service Policy” (CSP) to repair things like the refrigerator, a/c, hot water heater, etc. I called CSP and they said yes the fridge is covered, but the contract will only pay for a rebuilt cooling unit to be installed. They said we could pay the difference and install a new cooling unit, or even have a new fridge installed. Yes I read in the contract when we bought the extended warranty, but figured that wouldn’t be a problem. Hmmm, on second thought, while rebuilt parts are common for automobiles, I wonder just how easy it would be to find rebuilt parts for RV components. We are going to find out.

Of course today is the day after the Fourth of July; so many people are off for a long 5 day weekend. The owner of Cottonwood RV Park, Art Martinez, suggested we call Action RV Mobil service in Santa Fe. We called them about 12:30 and got voice mail and left a message. By 3pm we still had not heard back from them. We did find a second phone number for them online and tried that. We got voice mail there too. We are thinking they took the weekend off. How dare they take time off when our refrigerator is broken!!! Smiling!

We went on the internet to the online Yellow Pages and didn’t find a lot of options for RV repair in the Santa Fe, or Espanola area. We asked Art for other places he could recommend and he suggested Travel Town RV in Santa Fe. I called them and the service manager said they don’t deal with “any” extended warranty companies. It is just too much of a hassle to work with them! I guess Travel Town RV must have plenty of business so they don’t need extra work. He did say the cost to replace the cooling unit would be cost close to the same as installing a new refrigerator.

It’s 5pm and we are still waiting for Action RV to call back. About 5:30pm we finally got a call back. They are indeed taking the weekend off. We certainly understand wanting to take time off, people work hard and are entitled to time off! Action RV said they would call us Monday morning and we would get started with the process to fix our fridge. Being a holiday weekend, we figured that we wouldn’t find anyone else to fix the fridge before Monday anyways, so we agreed.

Monday about 8:15am I called Action RV and left voice mail detailing CSP’s stipulation that they only will pay for rebuilt cooling unit, not a new one. No return phone call. I called back about 11am. They were just getting around to calling Dometic about parts & cost. They called back about 2pm & said new cooling unit from Dometic was $939, (plus shipping and installation) but they were out of stock and it would be a 2-3 week wait. However Dometic had new refrigerators in stock for $2130. No mention of rebuilt part or CSP requirements in the call, so I had to tell them to price out a rebuilt unit. They called back about 3pm and asked me for the serial number of the cooling unit assembly in refrigerator. No call back from Action RV the rest of Monday or Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning about 10am and still no call back from Action RV! Grrrr! We gave up them!

By now we had decided on getting a new refrigerator and not trying to repair old one. A new refrigerator probably doesn’t cost much more than repairing old one. Also when you look at how the absorption refrigerator is made, you wind up tearing the refrigerator apart to replace the cooling unit. What are the chances of them getting it all back together w/o more problems in the future? Better to spend a few extra hundred dollars and get a new refrigerator.

I had been checking online and Camping World has our refrigerator in their catalog for $1599, $69 shipping & $200 install, but there will be a two to three week shipping delay.

I called Camping World in Albuquerque and they said they would work w/CSP on extended warranty and the refrigerator would be $1599 plus shipping, etc, but they would need for us to bring the trailer to them for diagnosis before they could call CSP. It has been 5 full days now since the refrigerator broke! It was time to “do” something! The refrigerator at Camping World was $500 to $600 cheaper than anyone else so we are off to Albuquerque.

Wednesday afternoon we arrive at Camping World. I went in to the service desk, and the inexperienced service writer man started talking about a $120 refrigerator diagnosis. After much talking I finally got them to understand all the ammonia leaked out (the guy kept saying Freon). They finally said “Well since you could smell the ammonia there is nothing we can do except replace the refrigerator or the cooling unit. Well, duh!!!!

Finally the work order was created to install a new cooling unit for $1600 or to replace refrigerator for $2000. After calls to CSP, Camping World came back with; CSP will pay about $1200 of the $1600 to replace cooling unit, or about $1500 of the $2000 to install new refrigerator. Both, of course, less our deductible of $100. Bottom line, we will pay $650 out of our pocket and Camping World will install a new refrigerator! Not cheap, but not too bad either. Now a wait of 2-3 week for refrigerator to arrive. Wheeeeee!!! Exactly what to do is finally over with. Well, sort of. We now have to wait; live out of two coolers we bought at Wal*Mart, come back to Camping World and hope everything works out. It should, but time will tell.

Thursday morning, about 10am. Action RV finally called back and wanted to give us a price for repair which included the rebuilt cooling unit. Wow! We haven’t heard a word from them since 3pm Monday, almost three full days ago! Did they expect us to just wait around? Go figure!!

Since the refrigerator situation is on hold we are going to do a little tourist stuff.

Friday, we went to Albuquerque Old Town to do some shopping and lunch. The following is a quote from their website:

Old Town is the heart of Albuquerque's heritage. The first Spanish families settled near the banks of the Rio Grande in 1706. That’s right April of 2006 marked Albuquerque's Tricentennial! Albuquerque was a colonial farming village and a military outpost along the Camino Real between Chihuahua, Mexico and Santa Fe. The village formed in the traditional Spanish pattern of a central plaza surrounded by a church, homes and government buildings. Some of the old homes are still standing and many have been renovated into businesses.

The shops sell a variety of turquoise & silver jewelry, pottery and knickknacks (tourist junk). A couple of things Sharon found that she wanted were way more expensive than she would pay. Other things they didn’t have. Of course I was elated; we didn’t have to buy any stuff!! J. We had a decent lunch at a reasonable price at: La Placita Dining Rooms, A quaint, old hacienda in the heart of Old Town, serving up New Mexican and American fare. We selected La Placita because we ate here when we spent a night or two in Albuquerque on a camping trip when Sarita was 1 year old and enjoyed the food.

Sharon at La Placita.

Saturday we are off to a little higher & hopefully cooler country, about 6500’ to 7500’ around Grants, NM for 2 or 3 weeks until the refrigerator comes in. Albuquerque is about 5700’.

While we have been here in Albuquerque we have been staying at Enchanted Trails RV Park. The park is clean, neat and quiet even though you are not far from IH40. The owner and office attendants are very nice. No grass, all hard packed sand for roads and parking sites. If you plan on staying at Enchanted Trails more than overnight, stop at the entrance and walk to rows “B” & “E” and see if any sites are open. Both these rows are close to the entrance. These rows have some sites with trees which give some shade. Also the sites have all the RV pointing in the same direction. This gives you a little more space between sites. All the other rows have side-by-side hookups. This means every other RV parks pointing in the opposite direction and the street side of your RV is right up close to the street side of the other RV. Also most of the other rows don’t have any trees. The first two days are cheap if you are a Camping World, Presidents Club member, $13 a day. After that, 20% off the regular $26 fee.

Campsite at Enchanted Trails RV Park.

That’s it for now. We are off to Grants, New Mexico tomorrow.

Palo Duro Canyon to Jacks Creek CG in Santa Fe NF. June 18-24, 2007

Palo Duro State Park to Jacks Creek Campground in Santa Fe National Forest. Monday June 18th thru Sunday June 24, 2007.

Monday: After a nice three day weekend at Palo Duro State Park, it was time to move on towards the mountains of New Mexico. Since, as usual, we don’t want to drive more than about 4 to 5 hours we won’t get to the mountains today. We plan on stopping overnight at Conchas Lake State Park, 180 miles from Palo Duro and about 35 miles NW of Tucumcari, NM. Conchas Lake is a pretty lake with beautiful deep blue water, located at the confluence of the Canadian and Conchas Rivers. The SP is nice with a number of campsites overlooking the water with elect & water hookups. However all the nice elect sites are reserveable so don’t try to stop there on a summer weekend unless you make reservations. There are a number of areas in the SP where you can dry camp right on the water and beach your boat right at your RV. Highs in the low to mid 90’s this afternoon, but it is a “dry” heat!!!

Every day is an adventure when you are traveling to places you are totally unfamiliar with. While the Conchas Lake SP is nice, some of signs indicating where the camping areas are located were lacking. We even had a copy of the State Park brochure on the laptop, but that didn’t help with locating the camping area. We took a couple of wrong turns before we found Belle Point CG. Surprise!! All the nice campsites have reserved/occupied signs on them even though this is Monday. The sites were empty but do we ignore the reserved/occupied signs?? Those aren’t for *US*! We drove up to the visitor center, but the door was locked and a sign said they were out and about, and would be back later. No return time noted on the sign. Well we figured that since this was Monday, the SP personnel probably thought almost no one would be coming in today. So it could be hours before anyone returned. We headed back to the campground. Upon closer inspection of the reserved/occupied signs we saw detailed reservations slips stating the people reserving the sites were supposed to leave today. We decided to pick a site we liked and take a chance on setting up and then checking back with the visitor center later. It worked out fine. I went back to the visitor center later and they said we would be fine for one night at the site we took.

We had a warm afternoon, quiet night with pretty views of the lake and sunset. I forgot to take pictures.

Tuesday. Only about an 80 mile drive today from Conchas Lake SP to Las Vegas, NM. The drive was pretty, going along valley floors with high hills topped with flat mesas covered with juniper trees on the sides. The road was a good two lane hwy but a little narrow since the shoulders weren’t paved.

Another afternoon of adventure again!! In Las Vegas we stopped at the visitor center and found out there was one RV Park in town, a KOA 5 miles south of town on IH25, and Storrie Lake SP a few miles north of town. We knew about the SP and the KOA. We don’t like to stay at KOA’s as they are usually $4 to $10 more than the local RV Parks and many times not any nicer and quite often NOT as nice. The RV Park in town was a gravel parking lot attached to a self storage place, full hookups but no trees or grass. We headed to Storrie Lake SP. Again we had trouble easily determining which campsites had electric. We must be getting old and senile. We found the non-reservation elect hookup camping area first. It was totally unusable. It was a parking lot w/o enough room between sites to open our slides and open our awning too! Driving over to the reservation sites, we saw all sites had reserved signs on them, but nothing stating what dates they were reserved for - way too intelligent to do THAT. We found the CG host and he checked his list and said if we only wanted to spend one night he had a couple of sites open. We took one of the sites and set up camp. Storrie Lake SP is too much like a RV park to suit us. Except for the primitive dry camping areas right down by the lake with no shade, all the camp sites are pretty close together. The temperatures are going to be in the low 90’s this afternoon, so we want electric.

It was early yet, just about noon. We had a quick lunch and then headed out to check out the other state parks and national forest campgrounds in the areas. I had looked at Morphy Lake SP on the New Mexico SP web site and it looked beautiful, a small 15 acre lake at 8000’ with camp sites on the water and views of the mountains.

Morphy Lake SP. Picture from New Mexico SP web site. I forgot to take any pictures while we were at the SP

It was noted that it is a steep drive to the park but no details about the size of the campsites or roads. We had a pretty drive to Morphy Lake SP and we wouldn’t have had a problem pulling the trailer up the steep road to the park. Just put the truck in 4 wheel low and slowly pull the trailer the ½ mile up to the park. But roads winding through the park were very narrow with trees close to the edge of the road. No way could we maneuver the trailer in here and keep it undented or worse. From Morphy Lake, Coyote Creek SP was only about 25 miles further up the road, so we decided to check it out. Another disappointment! The elect sites were all a parking lot. There were only 2 other sites in the park suitable for RV’s over 20’ long.

Back to Las Vegas, and to check out two national forest campgrounds about 16 miles from town. It was a long twisting 16 mile drive through a pretty canyon to the two campgrounds. However the first CG we visited was buried in the trees and by this time it was about 4:30pm. Since we still had a good 45 minute drive back to Storrie Lake we figured the other CG would probably be the same and headed back to camp.

That was a disappointing afternoon driving 150 miles of mostly narrow two lane roads and not finding a nice camping area we could get the trailer into. One saving grace was all the country we drove though was very pretty.

We were tired. BUT THE DAY WASN’T OVER YET!! Fun can happen anywhere or anytime with us! When we got back to the trailer I noticed water dripping from below our fresh water holding tank. It was a slow drip so we quickly decided we could investigate the leak in the morning.

Wednesday: The sun rises a little after 6am here so after coffee, I was outside about 6:45, lying under the trailer, removing the 25 to 30 screws holding the protective panel beneath the water tank. With the panel off, I could see that the leak was coming from where the trailer water supply connector was molded into the tank. When the manufacturer made the tank they didn’t properly mold the connector into the tank. It was just a small hole about 1/16 inch long and the width of a pin. How to fix it??? The tank is a white polyethylene plastic which next to nothing sticks to. I called the service department at NuWa, the company which manufactured our 5th wheel, and asked them what to use to patch the leak. They weren’t much help except to say look for an adhesive that states it sticks to plastic. Thanks bunches!

I would have liked to connect to the internet and do a search for tips on how to patch the white polyethylene tank, but the Verizon service in Las Vegas doesn’t allow internet connectivity using the cell phone. We did talk with Sarita and she did a search on the internet and did find a tip which first stated the correct way to repair the tank was to take a hot air plastic welder and weld the hole shut. But if you didn’t have a welder you could take a hair dryer and heat the area where the hole is and then take a white plastic milk bottle, cut it into small strips and melt the plastic into the hole in the tank. The plastic milk bottle is made of the same material as the plastic tank. The tip sounds like it would work. I gave the procedure a try. However lying on the ground under the trailer, trying to drip melted plastic on to the side of the tank and not on me, didn’t work. I am sure if I had removed the tank from the trailer the procedure would have worked just fine

So off to NAPA Auto Parts store. They had a small tube of epoxy patch which stated it was for patching plastic gas tanks and radiators for only $16. Normally tubes of epoxy cost 2 to 4 dollars. Might as well give it a try. I patched the tank with the epoxy and let it sit and cure for a day before putting water in the tank. It is a month later as I am writing this and the patch is still holding.

By the time the hole was patched and we had packed the trailer up it was 12:30pm. We had planned on moving to Jacks Creek CG in Santa Fe NF, but it was about a 3+ hour drive so we decided to move to the KOA about 5 miles south of Las Vegas.

The KOA was fairly nice. The sites were mostly separated by small trees instead of being a parking lot and the price was $28 with a discount for being a military veteran. Not too bad for a KOA. Also free WiFi which worked well.

Thursday: Are we ever glad we didn’t try to drive to Jacks Creek yesterday afternoon. The first part of the drive was easy. It was about 40 miles on IH25. But the last 28 miles from IH25 to the campground took us almost one hour to drive. The road was a winding, twisting, up hill and down hill road. The last 10 miles was a narrow paved road with no center stripe, and we met three other RV coming out as we were going in. It was a little nerve racking the last part of the drive but we made it just fine.

We had been to Jacks Creek CG about 33 years ago when Sarita was just a little baby and remembered the CG as being in a very pretty valley with views of the mountains all around. We weren’t disappointed. The CG is very pretty and the camp sites are well separated. The altitude at the CG is 9000’. The air is thin. We are glad we stayed in Las Vegas for a couple of days at 6500’ so we could become acclimated to the altitude. We experienced altitude sickness once before and it is not fun. However altitude sickness is easily overcome, if you can quickly move to a lower altitude.

Jacks Creek Campgound, a little band of snow on the mountain in the background, Pecos Baldy Peak.

Our Campsite

Santa Fe Mountains from CG

Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Three very nice days at Jacks Creek CG. With the high altitude, the afternoons only got up into the low to mid 70’s unless a rain shower came though and dropped the temp down to about 60*. The mornings were in the upper 40’s. Good sleeping weather.

Other than my hiking a trail up into the mountains and forests and Sharon working on a quilt she is making for our new grandson, who is due in late October, we didn’t do much except enjoy the weather and the scenery.

The CG was very quiet and we mostly had the CG to ourselves until Friday afternoon through Sunday midday. All the weekend campers were well behaved and nice folks which made for a nice stay.

Busy Saturday in the campground. That’s our truck & trailer in the middle foreground. The couple in the lower right had two cute and lively daughters who really seemed to enjoy the weekend.

Photos from my hikes:

Forest Trail

Mule Deer Doe

Mountain Meadow with wild Iris flowers

Santa Fe Peak

Pecos Baldy Peak

Flowers along trail:

Wild Orchid

Wild Iris flowers

Close-up of Wild Iris

Wild Roses

Close-up of Wild Rose

That’s all for now.