Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Our Stressful Experience Undergoing DRV Warranty Work was Cured by Touring Ohio, the Buckeye State

In my last blog post, we had just set up at the courtesy RV site at the DRV Service Complex in Howe, IN for our warranty work.  We only stayed within the rig here the night before work commenced because DRV practices “contactless service” COVID protocols.  So, once the rig went inside the garage for service the following morning, we could no longer access our rig until all service was completed.  We were required to handle all temporary lodging needs for the anticipated 4 days of service.  Fortunately, there is a Holiday Inn Express right across the street from the plant.  They are extremely understanding of the situation, allowing us to check in at 6 AM, the time required to vacate our rig, and they offer a small discount for DRV customers.  We paid a surcharge for having a pet, but that is understandable.  This was the first time our tabby cat has been inconvenienced this way in all her 16 years with us, so she had some major complaints about being in a strange room, having her “tabby hut”  with litter pan and food in a weird location, and she certainly didn’t like firmness of the bed.


Sweet Retreat awaiting her repairs

Midway during Day 2 of the anticipated 4 days of service, we were informed via email that the list of 2 dozen mostly-cosmetic items for which we required repair/replacement was completed.  However, when we returned to the rig to inspect later that afternoon, a half dozen of the issues were not addressed at all or not done to our satisfaction.  We attributed this, in part, to the inability to have in-person discussions with service personnel. If we were allowed in the rig with them, we could have pointed out the specific issues rather than just leave them a detailed listing/applicable photos.  Even Chad the Service Manager (with whom General Manager Shawn instructed us to speak about a specific issue we had) told us he was “doing us a favor” having a face-to-face discussion.  (Mom was so enraged to hear this come from a higher level customer-oriented department head that her eyeballs nearly popped out of her head. Fortunately, I was nearby to restrain them.)


Without boring you with all the gory details, let’s just say our experience with DRV does not qualify for  one of my Rambling RV Rat coveted 5-cheese awards. 


Perhaps we were already perturbed by what occurred to our rig just 2 weeks prior to our departure date from our volunteer gig in Ahsahka, Idaho:  Our fresh water tank collapsed through our basement!  Strangely, this occurred after sitting stationary for 3 months and in an 11-month-old 2020 unit!  My parents were less than pleased, particularly since Dad had seen posts on DRV Owners Facebook sites AND had a lengthy discussion with a DRV corporate sales rep about this possible issue BEFORE we even purchased our unit!  Furthermore, we didn’t buy a third Montana fearful that Keystone cranking out several thousand units a year would interfere with quality.  But it has become glaringly apparent that DRV manufacturing significantly fewer units (500 units/year) has no bearing on quality assurance.   Anyway, we contacted the DRV factory service/warranty group directly, who instructed us to bring our unit to the closest DRV dealer—which happened to be 200+ miles away in Boise.  On our first call to the dealership in Boise, no one from the service department was available to speak to us.  When we expressed the urgency of the problem, the phone operator offered to take a message. However, the first query out of his mouth was, “Did you purchase the unit from us?”  We did not hear back from the service department within 45 minutes, so we called again.  We did not reach a “live” person on our second attempt, so we left a voicemail message.  Exhibiting patience is not my Mom’s forte.  So, after another half hour, she instructs Dad to select “sales” from the phone menu rather than “service”.  Sure enough, we get to speak to someone personally, albeit, not in the service department.  But he does get us through immediately to a live service rep.  Not that the service rep offered much help.  He couldn’t get us into the shop for several weeks just to look at the problem.  We inquired about a mobile tech—nope, none to dispatch.  The dealership service rep then suggested we bring our rig back to the manufacturer in Indiana.  And thus started the game of ping pong, since it was the manufacturer who told us initially to bring it to the nearest dealer!  Thankfully, my Dad is quite a handy guy, so he ended up spending 10 hours doing all the water tank repairs himself.   DRV at least was gracious enough to reimburse for the materials.


Our water tank dropped through the basement!

Sadly, during our short time of DRV ownership, we have found many dealers are incapable of servicing DRVs properly (as we encountered during our Pre-Delivery Inspection).  Other dealers are just unwilling to service units that were not purchased from their dealership, seemingly the case with our water tank issue.    We encountered this unwillingness a second time when we contacted the “premier” DRV dealership in Oklahoma that everyone raves about.  We asked to have some additional warranty work completed there rather than us traveling all the way to the factory in Indiana.  But the “premier” dealership never responded initially.  When we followed up, they said, “will be in contact”.  But they never contacted us at all.  Would it have killed them to just be professional, courteous and honest and say, “sorry, we can’t help you!”   Obviously, this Rambling RV Rat and his family are unimpressed with these examples of DRV dealership customer service.


Some good things did occur during the time we were in Indiana with warranty work, though.   We had the opportunity to catch up with friends John/Shirley for lunch at Olive Garden in Elkhart.  John was the very first fulltime RVer we connected with in-person when we embarked on our lifestyle in 2012, having had previous “conversations” with him on the Montana Owners Group forums.  Knowing we had to remain in the hotel another day or two to get DRV to re-address outstanding issues, John/Shirley and their cute canine companion Aussie invited us for a delicious homecooked breakfast at their 5th wheel parked in Elkhart.  Good times, terrific people, and wonderful hosts!  We also celebrated a belated milestone  anniversary dinner at the Chubby Trout Restaurant for friends Guy/Sue, who were in Elkhart having their Luxe fifth wheel serviced.


John/Shirley in foreground

My parents celebrating Guy/Sue's milestone wedding anniversary at Chubby Trout Restaurant!

This is one photogenic family!

We walked to the local farmers’ market, did a shopping spree in Meijer’s (which is like an upscale Walmart), and patronized several Elkhart and Howe restaurants until we were given the nod on Day 4 that our warranty work was completed.  But we found the out-of-kilter trim on our kitchen cabinet (an issue we raised during our Pre-Delivery Inspection) still was not done.  DRV refused to do anything to align it, claiming it “met spec”.  Dad convinced Service to give him the pieces of trim needed and he would fix it himself.  So, we left Indiana the next morning, glad to put the whole stressful experience behind us.


We caught some "locals" taking a dip as we walked to the farmers' market.

DaVinci's Restaurant in Elkhart made this delicious veggie pizza for us utilizing our plant-based cheese! 

DRV refused to fix this upper cabinet trim, claiming it "met spec".

Dad's work surely is indicative that DRV's idea of "spec" is out-of-kilter.

Did I tell you that we recently joined Harvest Hosts?  They have expanded their sites to include museums, golf courses, and working farms in addition to wineries and breweries.  With the size of our set-up, it is not easy to find overnight accommodations in an RV Park.  So, Harvest Host offers the perfect solution.  We are well-versed in boondocking and have PLENTY of solar, so we do not need to be tethered to a power pedestal. 


Hence, as we entered Ohio, we stayed at a Harvest Host brewery, enjoying the company of Janice/Rick, wonderful folks we met in 2015 when we all were “Camper Force Elves” at Amazon for peak holiday season.  Janice/Rick were also long-term DRV owners, so they are a wonderful resource for educating us on some of the nuances of our unit.


Dinner with Rick and Janice

We were greeted with beautiful sun-shine as we headed to Charlestown’s West Branch State Park, which acted as “home base” for the next several days.  We had a private, spacious boondocking site.  The park has a few pull-through sites and even a section with full hookups.  Although we don’t use campground bathrooms, we always go to check them out.  West Branch earned a solid rating on cleanliness, and they even had the facilities all decked out for Halloween.  We hiked the 2-mile Spur Trail that linked the campground to the Buckeye Trail, which encompasses a 1,400+ mile loop circling the state of Ohio.   I learned that a buckeye is a poisonous seed from soap berry trees/shrubs.  Who knew?  I thought it was just the name for a tasty peanut butter treat!


Our spacious site at West Branch State Park in Charlestown, OH...

The reservoir at West Branch State Park.

West Branch State Park was all decked out for Halloween.

We love everything about Christmas, so it is never too early to start our “festivities”.  Therefore, the next day we headed to 3159 West 11th Street in Cleveland, better known as the location of The Christmas Story House and Museum.  What a fun tour!  The current owner of the house bought the property on Ebay and restored it to its 1941 movie décor.  So, the living room includes the radio and infamous fragile leg lamp.  The Lifebuoy Soap is ready and waiting in the bathroom for the next guest who uses foul language.  I even got to hide in the same kitchen cupboard that Randy did!   The only thing missing was the Bumpus dogs running through the kitchen eating the Christmas turkey!  (Interestingly, we learned that the dogs used in that scene were so well trained that their handler had a daunting task getting them to raid the bird!).  The home’s attic was converted to a loft that can be rented for overnight stays with access to the whole house.  I just put that on my bucket list!  The Bumpus home next door has been transformed into a Bed and Breakfast with circa 1940s décor.  The Museum housed the authentic Red Ryder used in the movie, the toys that were displayed in Higee’s Department Store window, and the hat worn by Schwartz, the “triple dog dare ya” kid.  Visiting here was the perfect antidote for destressing.

The Lifebuoy Soap is just waiting for its next foul-mouthed patron!

Like Randy, I fit perfectly in the kitchen cabinet!

If you ever need inspiration to overcome obstacles, visit the Earnest Warther Museum in Dover, OH.  The product of a single parent household (Dad died when he was age 3) with economic hardships and educational barriers (he had only a 2nd grade education), Earnest epitomizes the American success story.  As a young boy, he contributed to his household’s income by bringing cows to graze (hence his nickname “Moo-ney”).  At age 14 he commenced working at a steel mill.  His diligence over the next 20+ years brought him all the way up the corporate ladder to the #2 position.  From the tender age of 5, he began whittling a carving out of a single piece of wood, demonstrating his spatial recognition and math skills.  His masterpieces include steam engine trains.  But whittling was his hobby—he made a living out of carving knives.  You can see by these photos what a talent and genius he was.  His wife of 60 years was no slouch either—she made quilt designs out of buttons, demonstrating ingenuity and creativity.  The museum is located on the grounds of the Warther Family’s original home and workshop.  Because of COVID, there was no film to view.  However, the 2+ hours admiring these amazing works of art was time well spent, and the place is well worth the $15/adult ticket price.


Warther's early childhood works.  Each of these were whittled from a single piece of wood.  Through visualization, he calculated the number of cuts he would need to complete each project.


Moo-ney's wife created exquisite quilt designs with buttons!

We noticed Ohio roads are in desperate need of repairs/maintenance.  Good thing we reshoed Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, in Idaho.  Otherwise, we probably would have blown a tire from all the potholes we hit.  In general, most Ohio towns we drove through were middle-class America, reminiscent of neighborhoods in which my parents were raised.  Then as we traveled to Cayahoga Valley National Park, we drove through Hudson, an upscale enclave of stately older homes mixed with new McMansions and a swanky, chic business district.


We spent two days touring Cayahoga Valley National Park.  At nearly 33,000 acres, it runs through several urban and suburban areas and contains a few public recreational areas within its boundaries.  As a result, it attracts more than 2 million guests each year, ranking it #14 on the “Most Visited National Park” list.  We hiked to Blue Hen Falls.  It was a good thing we had heavy rains recently, otherwise nothing would be trickling down.  The Brandywine Gorge Loop Boardwalk provided views of Brandywine Falls, which flowed more dramatically.  We strolled the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail, which was flat, level, and uninhabited.  We walked along the Stamford Trail, getting a flavor of the flora and fauna that surround Stamford House, a homestead turned into overnight lodging accommodations (though now closed due to COVID).   We took a drive to Tinker Creek Gorge, though Gretchen our GPS almost took us OVER the gorge rather than TO the gorge.

Blue Hen Falls were a trickle.

Brandywine Falls were flowing much more dramatically!

Walking to Stamford House.

View of Tinker's Gorge.

We purchased tickets for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR).  For $15/adult plus $4.50/ticket processing surcharge, our agent told us the train would bring us from Akron to Independence.  However, that was the pre-COVID agenda.  We had the misfortune to be the first train reinstated (October 1) since their COVID shutdown in March.   So instead, it only went to Peninsula and turned around, which was the halfway point of the anticipated trip.  If you got off at Peninsula to peruse the local shops/restaurants (though not much there), you had to pay another $15 and get a later return train.  Though the train had ample volunteers and staff with microphones, there was no narration.  Instead, we were instructed to use the Train Tracker App.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work for any of us patrons.  According to the Tracker at various intervals throughout the trip, the train never left the station! In its current COVID form, the CVSR was a total waste of my cheese money.  Had the agent given us any of this operating-during-COVID information during our purchase telephone call (even though Mom asked several questions), we wouldn’t have pursued this tourist attraction.


A view from the window of the CVSR.  Fall foliage is starting.

We left West Branch State Park and set-up at Cabella’s so we could tour Castle Noel, a magical Christmas paradise in Medina, OH.  Due to COVID, it has limited hours and tour sizes, so we purchased our tickets in advance.  The museum includes sets, props, and costumes from all our favorite holiday films, past window displays from New York City retailers like Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, and it even gives you a ride down the slide from Christmas Story.  The tour includes a nostalgic stroll through Toyland (toys from Christmases past) and a virtual pass through a winter vortex.  It is hard not to be jolly around this family-owned and operated museum.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience for kids of all ages, it earns a Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese award!

NYC department store window displays...

Costumes, props, and sets from holiday movies...

Cousin Eddie had already emptied the sh**tter earlier in the day.

Frosty from Christmas with the Kranks.

A small sampling from Toyland

Afterwards, we took a drive up to Avon so I could dip my paw in to Lake Erie—boy it sure was chilly!  But I warmed up as we walked along the Coastal Lake Trail for a few miles.  Here again are some mega million-dollar homes.  Later we ate at Taki’s Greek Kitchen.  We chose to sit indoors near the cozy warmth of the fireplace, but they have outdoor patio accommodations as well.   Their diversified menu had something for us all, including plant-based for Dad.  Good service and nicely-sized portions, too.


Dad's meal at Taki's Greek Kitchen

We couldn’t visit Ohio without stopping at Yoder’s Amish Home in Millersburg.  Fortunately, we arrived well before they opened, so we were able to park our set-up in an easy-to-leave spot.  I loved meeting all the farm animals, though we had a hard time keeping the local feline gang members from breaking into our rig.  We participated in the house tour, learning about life in 1860 for members of the Anabaptist congregation.   It was fascinating to learn about modern Amish life, too.  We witnessed Amish women cooking and baking, and we took full advantage of purchasing some of their delectable treats. We were truly impressed with their education system.  Their K-12 curriculum focuses on the basics of reading, writing (including cursive!), and arithmetic (though they teach several other subjects) to prepare Amish children for continuing their family’s business, whether farming, mercantile, or carpentry.


These feline gang members were trying to break in!

Our tour ticket included a ride in an Amish buggy, too!

The Yoder family and their staff are informative, welcoming, and receptive to answering questions about their communal living.  We enjoyed all aspects of our visit and wished we could have stayed longer.

Later that afternoon, we left Yoder’s bucolic, pastural environment.   Within 5 miles we found ourselves in Walnut Creek, a major tourist area with sprawling housing developments.  What a contrast!

We spent the night at a Harvest Host location near Zanesville, Ohio.  The field where we parked was unlevel, but we enjoyed the surrounding pastural atmosphere.   Thankfully, the overnight downpour didn’t create a mud pit, and we were able to depart the next morning without incident.

We caught a quick glimpse of Cincinnati (though no sighting of any of the WKRP staff) before we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky.

I’ll tell ya about our adventures in Kentucky in my next post.  Talk to you again soon!