Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Derailed by Delamination

We departed Central New York on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m. for our 5-hour drive along the New York State Thruway and Interstate 86.  Our destination was another Boondockers Welcome location in Upstate New York that just so happens to be owned by friends Pierre/Lesa whom we met 2 years ago in Quartzsite.   Our traveling protocol includes Mom and Dad switching off on driving duty every 2 hours.  While I am busy inventorying my cheese supply, Mom and Dad diligently perform a safety check of our setup each time we stop.  This includes rechecking lights, visually inspecting the setup for dings, dents, and chips, and doing a manual gauge of all tires even though we have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).  So, just imagine our shock when we were within a half-hour of our destination to learn that had a major problem:  a delaminated Goodyear G114 tire on our 2020 DRV Mobile Suites.  We didn’t feel anything and the TPMS never went off.  It wasn’t until we entered a roundabout (or jug handle, as we called them in New Jersey) in Olean, New York, that Dad noticed something flapping on the side of the rig.  He was horrified to find extensive damage (the final tally was nearly $10,000) to the side panel of the rig and underside.  The tread that segregated from the tire was wrapped around the wheel and smacking the rig each time it rotated.   Thankfully, most of the damage was cosmetic, and neither the hydraulics nor the brake lines were affected.   Ironically, the tire never lost pressure, hence no TPMS alarms went off to alert us to the problem.  We were able to drive SLOWLY and SAFELY to Pierre/Lesa’s and get settled.   Fortunately, Pierre/Lesa had no other Boondocker guests coming, and though they were scheduled to travel on Monday, they graciously offered for us to stay on their property for as long as we needed.


So, we took a collective deep breath and just enjoyed time with our friends and their gorgeous 200-acres within the picturesque Enchanted Mountains. Their farm products are very diversified:  hay, timber, heifers, chickens, and even shitake mushrooms!  There is a pond from which you can view the abundant deer in the area.  The serenity and spirituality derived from staying here was just what we needed.

We all enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Sprague’s Maple Farm, where Pierre and Lesa are frequent patrons.  So, it seemed apropos to bestow them with a gift certificate for future use in appreciation of their hospitality for what turned into a 4-night visit for us.  Our only stipulation was that they promise to share table scraps from their future meal with my pal Manny.


Where the maple syrup is made.

My pal Manny

Early Monday morning we drove into town to get cell/internet service to start the claim process with Goodyear.  After our initial phone call to Goodyear, we learned we had to deal with 2 different departments to facilitate getting 4 new tires: the warranty department and the property damage department.  Since the tires were less than 3 years old by tire date code and had good tread, Goodyear warranty authorized 3 new tires at a prorated cost of $25 each, plus mounting/balancing, tax, etc.  The property damage department stipulated that we must purchase 1 new tire at full price for them to even consider the claim for damage to the rig.  We ordered the 4 tires from the local Goodyear tire dealer in Olean, who would receive them on Tuesday.  But Goodyear property damage also mandated that the delaminated tire be returned to them for analysis to ascertain the issue was caused by a defect.  No defect with the tire, no honoring our claim.  And they only analyze tires for defects on Fridays.  Friday!  That was nearly a whole week from the time the incident occurred!  Meanwhile, we were trying to get the repair work scheduled with Paul and Kay Cross of Indiana Interstate, who came highly recommended to us from good friends and prior DRV owners Rick/Janice.  Paul is very familiar with DRVs having worked for the company in the pre-Thor-owned days, when the company was known as Doubletree (I learned the hotel chain of the same name sued the RV company for trademark infringement.  Hence, the company is known now as DRV).   Indiana Interstate was booked solid until December 1, but they left some gaps in their August schedule to facilitate them getting vacation time.  They would order all the necessary parts, but we would need to play by ear when they could have us come in during the next few weeks.

We are in our 10th year of fulltime traveling and have been blessed to never experience any prior incidents like this.     We had a 2-month trip planned and reservations booked to visit Civil War historic sites and battlefields, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvia through Vicksburg, Mississippi (I was prepping for our tour by reading several books about the Civil War).   What stops would we need to cancel/postpone now that we were going to Indiana for repairs sometime in the next few weeks?  Though she has improved significantly through the years,  patience and flexibility are 2 things Mom has not quite mastered, so she was stressing out.  Thankfully, Dad took things in stride, step by step and one day at a time.  Good thing, ‘cause there were lots of gyrations.  For starters, the tire shop did not have a mobile service, and it could not fit our RV on the property’s footprint.  So, we had several trips to make from town to the farm and back, starting with Dad having to remove the delaminated tire and drop it at the tire shop for shipping to Goodyear in Akron, Ohio.  Similarly, on Tuesday, we had to drive into town to get cell/internet to forward pictures/estimates to Goodyear.  We also had to pick up the new tires, which were arriving after noon.  Once again, Dad had to do all the work, hauling the tires onto the back of the truck and returning to the farm to install them onto the rig.  We are mighty lucky he is such a handyman!


Since we were there so often, we walked around town to explore.  Custer, South Dakota has bison statues, Tubac, Arizona has javelina statues, and Olean, New York has statues of squirrels.  My favorite squirrel statue was called “Pepe and Peppita”.  It reminded me of my own pocket pal Nezumi.  We patronized 2 eateries in town (Beef and Barrel and Green Acres), which were decent, but Dad struggled to find options for his plant-based diet.  Beef and Barrel was able to provide him with an off-menu entrée of pasta primavera.


Santa Squirrel

Pepe and Peppita, my fav squirrel statue.

Me and my pocket pal Nezumi.

On Wednesday, we returned to Sprague Maple Farm for brunch, enjoying the ambiance inside and outdoors.  They had some very special guests there!  I felt like the Paparazzi snapping their photo, but I couldn’t resist.

With Suite Retreat re-shoed, we hit the road.  We already had to cancel our Gettysburg visit (fortunately, we had visited the National Military Park on 2 prior occasions.)  But we were able to keep our 2nd planned stop intact, a one-week visit to the Army Corps of Engineers Tionesta Recreation Area.  This would put us within 6 hours of the repair shop, an easy 1-day drive, especially with Mom sharing driving responsibilities.  We spent the first 3 nights boondocking at the Kellettsville Campground.  With just 20 sites abutting Tionesta Creek, it was a tranquil setting during mid-week.  It has a dump station and potable water (though good thing we called before arriving, because the potable water was not usable at that time due to high mineral content.  So, we took on fresh water before arriving). 

The sweltering temperatures, oppressive humidity, thunderstorms each day and overhead trees were a challenge.  Due to lack of sun to power our solar setup, we used the generators to run at least one air conditioner.  We also purchased a $350 portable air conditioner/dehumidifier, which uses only 7 AMPS of electricity to run compared to twice that amount required by the rooftop Dometic energy hogs.

Despite the weather, we did quite a bit of hiking with good elevation changes along the North Country Trail.   The campground hosts, Marlin and Sue, were friendly and interesting to speak with since they have been RVing fulltime for 20 years!  Their gig at Kellettsville sounded wonderful—no cleaning bathrooms, no grounds maintenance, and no taking reservations.  They simply needed to have a presence, clean firepits, and check folks in when they arrived.  We all visited the creek each day to search out snakes, and our mission was accomplished.  We enjoyed our time in Kellettsville immensely.

This couple was soaking up some rays.

And with the campground’s adequate cell service, we received phone calls giving us terrific news:  Goodyear ascertained that their tire was, in fact, defective, so our property damage claim would be honored.  Furthermore, Indiana Interstate said that if we could arrive on Monday, August 23, they could begin repairing our unit.  That would work perfectly, giving us several days to drive leisurely to Indiana.     We had additional travel plans to cancel, but we were thankful to the Good Lord for all the positive news.  Now we could de-stress a bit.


On Saturday we moved to Tionesta Campground, a full-hookup RV area just 20 miles away on the other side of the Creek.  Nearby is a secluded tent section and a day use section.  During our stay, we traversed the various roads and trails within the area and watched anglers cast lines near the earthen dam.


These Keebler Elves were hiding in the tenting area.

On Monday we trekked into town, which proved to be a fun, interesting excursion.  Our first stop was the Forest County Visitor Center, where I learned the vital role logging played in the development of the area.  We stopped for beverages at Hallers General Store.  Gotta love these old-fashioned mercantiles--you could purchase anything from clothing, souvenirs, food, fishing gear, ammo, and even test your luck at a few slot machines.  We continued to the Fish Hatchery.  The sign said it was open to the public, but no guided tours were offered.  We walked around the breeding tanks to see steelhead trout in various stages:  larvae, juveniles, and adults.

Steelhead trout at the hatchery.

By this time, we had walked 2+ miles, so we were ready for some chow.  We enjoyed a veggie pizza at Joe’s, a small, Mom/Pop eatery with pleasant, helpful staff—the type of place we always are happy to support.  Though not the best pizza, it certainly was not the worst we ever had.  As we departed Joe’s, we got caught in a downpour.  My beloved human Grandma always said, “Rain makes you beautiful.”  I know Grandma had plenty of showers and storms in her lifetime because she certainly was a beautiful, benevolent, loving soul.  We opted to duck into the Historical Society to take a $5/person tour of an 1880 Victorian home.  Its architecture and wood furnishings represented the Eastlake style—less ornate, more simple detailing.  The home contains many fine examples of glass and porcelain tile made locally in Tionesta.  When interest waned for this type of decorative glass, the local mill transitioned to producing Evenflo Baby Bottles.  Unfortunately, the Evenflo mill closed in 2002.  The basement contains various logging tools and it displays memorabilia of life in Tionesta throughout the centuries.  The docent was very friendly, informative, and a pleasure to meet.

Fireplace features tiles manufactured in Tionesta.

Our final destination on this outing was Sherman Island and Peace Park, a patriotic, spiritual 23-acre joint venture of the Masons and Lions fraternal organizations.  Sherman Lighthouse is the Park’s main attraction.  Built in 2003 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Tionesta, it houses memorabilia from the local Sherman Family, including an extensive collection of replica lighthouses.  Unfortunately, tours are only available on Saturdays.  So, yours truly couldn’t climb the 7 stories to the top of the lighthouse nor peruse the museum pieces.  But I enjoyed walking the grounds throughout the park.  With its patriotic culture, logging history, topography, and down-to-earth residents, Tionesta and Forest County, Pennsylvania remind me so very much of Northern Idaho.  Clocking 7 miles of walking, we returned to our RV site 5 hours later.


I thought this sign provided some sage advice and
words of wisdom.

One day we visited Titusville, Pennsylvania, where you could stay overnight within a vintage train car at the Caboose Motel. How cool is that!    

Caboose Motel.

At the Perry Street Train Station we boarded a circa 1930s train car of the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad for a scenic and interesting 3-hour excursion through the “valley that changed the world.”  The earliest record of petroleum in Pennsylvania dates to 1755.  But the Drake oil well, constructed in 1858 near Titusville, is considered the birthplace of the modern oil industry.  Oil was found skimming on the nearby creek, which was collected and barged along the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh to be refined.  Thereafter, speculative drilling via “wildcats” occurred, leading to further discoveries and a “boom” in the area.  Oil was transported by horse-drawn wagon, barge, and tank car, until the first successful pipeline was built in 1865.

Drake Oil Well site.

All of the cars on the train were named for notable people in the local oil industry. We rode in the Van Syckel car, the builder of the afore-mentioned pipeline.  The train contains a mail car, the last rolling post office in the country.  We rode through Oil Creek State Park, where I was excited at the possibility of seeing the bobcats, groundhogs, and eagles that the on-board narrator said are viewed on most train trips.  But during our tour, we only spotted a mamma deer, her fawn, and a heron.  Despite the disappointing tally on wildlife sightings and the dismal weather hindering my photo taking, I thoroughly enjoyed this train ride and found it a great value for the $20/adult ticket price.

After a day of running errands, doing laundry, and performing chores, we relaxed on our final day in Tionesta Recreation Area.

We left Tionesta and stayed at a Harvest Host in Belleville, Ohio which provided a huge parking area, delicious Amish fare and treats, and some lovely scenery.  We enjoyed walking/hiking in the area, which lead us to lunch one day at the Buckeye Express Diner, a very nostalgic bar/grill located within a vintage train car.  The owner of the property on which the Diner is situated also has a restored Pullman car on the premises.  The Terry Byrne Railroad Company operated as a bed/breakfast until COVID raised its ugly head.  We chatted it up with the property owner, who has added statues of cowboys and long-horn steer to give the premises a Western motif.

We travelled a few hours to our next Harvest Host site in Ohio, providing us another big parking area and a chance to chat with newbie RVers, who were happy to get some answers from us about full-timing.  We also met fellow motorcyclists who were out cruising on their trike.  Now it was our turn to pick brains, since Dad intends to get his motorcycle converted to a trike later this year.  We enjoyed some goats at the nearby petting zoo and were also enthralled watching a battle of nature.  An industrious arachnid had spun a web hanging from our our RV and captured a cicada.

Get ready to rumble.  The agile arachnid...

...VS the creepy cicada...

We had a visit with wonderful friends, Janice/Rick.  From being  DRV Mobile Suite owners, to working together at Amazon for 2015/2016 peak seasons, we always enjoy their company, and have been blessed to catch up with them at least once a year since working together.   We thoroughly enjoyed two days of fellowship and dining together at various area eateries with these warm, kind, and caring folks.       

The garden seating area at Otie's, one of the eateries we patronized.  

We arrived at Indiana Interstate on Monday by noon and discussed required repairs with Paul/Kay Cross.  After meeting them, we felt confident that our unit was in good hands and that Suite Retreat would be good as new within a week.  We finished packing our bags and headed to the Holiday Inn Express in Howe, Indiana.  We stayed there in 2020 when we had our warranty work done by DRV and found the staff to be efficient, personable, and accommodating.  Our tabby cat was not happy about staying again in a hotel for a week, but we knew she was safe here and had all the comforts she needed.

We had loads of fun during our week-long stay in Howe, which I’ll tell ya about in my next post.  Talk to you again soon!

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