Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Odel with OxenEarly in our travels, we had trouble with a slide topper awning, displaced by a heavy wind.  After our neighbor, an easy-going guy in an older converted bus, helped Odel straighten the slide topper, we spent time chatting about the fairly constant stream of minor and major issues that plague those of us living in RV’s.  He told us something that became our mantra: “If I’m 80% problem free, I’m 100% good”.  In other words, everything on/in your RV will never be perfect at the same time, so be happy when your issues are few.

So, though we usually have an item or two or three that need attention from a professional, we’re pretty happy with 80% working – as long as the problems don’t keep us from moving.  Up until a week ago, our list was short: we have a crack in our windshield (which we are ignoring); we have a noisy problem with our door lock (only annoying on a bumpy road).  Our automatic leveling system is automatic in theory only – after the third “fix” didn’t last several years ago, we gave up and now deploy the jacks individually.

Wagon and VCOur hot water heater does a half hearted job when heating with electricity – but does great when heating with gas.  We have an appointment to get this looked at soon (actually, we are at the service facility right now as I write; Odel is hovering over the knowledgeable repairman asking a million questions).

Five or six days ago, we moved into the RV’ers no-mans land: our refrigerator stopped cooling!  Gulp.  Big, big, gulp!

We got home to Lincoln Rock State Park from our trip to Lake Wenatchee to find both the refrigerator and freezer about 10 degrees warmer than usual, above what we consider acceptable.  After we opened and closed all the doors, bumped the temperature setting up to the maximum cold setting, and turned the unit off and on, it started cooling again.  By three days later, it was as cool as we have every seen it (as monitored by three remote transmitters we put inside the fresh food and freezer compartments and consulted obsessively).

Just when we breathed a sign of relief and declared it a glitch – boom, it happened again, as we were enjoying our visit to Baker City, OR (click here to read our review of Mountain View RV Park).  This time, we went into full troubleshooting mode.

Inside the wagonRefrigerator problems are not new to us, and recalls, fires, defunct or balky cooling are the frequent subjects of RV’ers blog posts and conversations (read Paul and Mary’s recent excellent posts on the issue here and here).  Of all the appliances that can fail, an RV refrigerator - which runs on both AC power and propane and requires a DC connection - is the worst.  Not only are you likely to lose the contents of your freezer and refrigerator, but past experience has proven to us that finding the cause of the problem is likely to be a long-term and costly process.  We are once again beginning the troubleshooting steps.  Maybe an easy fix, maybe a difficult/expensive one… we’ll see.

We’d come to Baker City to revisit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and complete the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway drive that we had begun when we stayed in Joseph earlier this summer.  The temperature was in the mid-80’s when we stopped at the Interpretive Center; with the exception of irrigated farms, the rolling hills were brown, dry, and uninviting as far as the eye could see.

IMG_3772“Interpretive Center” is an accurate description for this wonderful center; the exhibits, videos, and interactive displays bring the history of the great western migration alive in a most evocative way.  Driven by the difficulties of life in the southern and eastern US, travelers on the trail faced incredible hardships – breakdowns, disease, accidents, skirmishes, death.

Talk about a new perspective!  We might not have HOT water, but we have water… and from a faucet, no less.  Refrigerator not working?  No need to eat maggoty flour or moldy bacon – let’s head to Safeway, or the nearest café!  Too hot to walk?  Hop in the car; we’ll turn on the AC while we see the sights!

So, while we feel a bit plagued by the imperfections of our modern conveniences (oh, I forgot to mention that our GPS died yesterday, and that our Verizon aircard is giving us fits), life is still good rolling down the (graded, paved) road!


  1. We have yet to experience our first breakdown. Of course we have yet to experience our first trip!

    Driveway bound.

  2. Sorry to hear about the issues you are having. We are lucky enough to have a full sized residential refrigerator. So no gas for us, just electric. This does cause it's own issues when power may be limited at a park. But we've always managed and it sounds like you are to.

    Please don't ignore the crack in the windshield too long. It could cause lots more dangerous issues as you are driving down the road if it decides to crack so much it wants to pop your windshield out. Not a good situation. You should ask someone at the service center you are at if they could fill in the crack like they do with chips. If it's small enough, they should be able to and that will prevent it from spreading into a larger, more dangerous crack.

    Please be careful.

  3. That 80% rule is a good one to remember. It's just that my present 20% is trying my patience! :)

  4. I like that 80% rule. But when I'm stuck in the 20% it gets pretty frustrating.

  5. Looking back at how things used to be makes it understand how blessed we are. We had a chip in our windshield but got it repaired. Our last fiasco has been blowing two hydraulic hoses and emptying the fluid everywhere. Thank goodness for extended warranties!

  6. Love that 80% rule!

    So sorry to hear about your refrigerator. We certainly understand your pain. So wish you were closer. We have a small "dorm" fridge that we're no longer using. ;-)

    Best wishes for a simple, quick and inexpensive repair!

    (And, thanks for the shout out on our fridge posts!)

  7. It's amazing how often I've needed to remind myself of the wagon trains to make me feel better about our glitches and how long it takes to drive across the plains. But, that image does work wonders. At least we are not walking alongside our wagon in the dust it stirs up wondering when the wagon master is going to let us stop again and if there will be water at that stop. OK, sometimes we do wonder if there will be water at the next stop when our tank is getting low but at least we get to pick our own stop.

  8. Sorry to hear about your frig but I sure like your 80% rule. Hope the problem has an easy solution.

    We blew right thru Baker City even though we wanted to stop. It is definitely a "go-back" destination. Just no time this trip.

    As we were leaving John Day, we came to the summit of a hill. But as far as the eye could see, there were hills and mountains, each one bigger than the next. Russ and I talked about how hard that must have been for those early pioneers. We do have it comparatively easy.

  9. We just came to the conclusion whatever home we live in will need repairs and maintenance :) But like you said "perspective is in the eye of the beholder." We love the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. We even walked along some of the ruts with our grandson. We look forward to going back again and spending even more time there.

  10. Sounds like you have a good attitude about the dilemma..Yes, your home on wheels is still your home and the same thing applies...Anything that can go wrong , eventually WILL go wrong..We found that out early on as RV virgins...We will keep our fingers crossed for you...You and Odel should be hanging out with Judy ( Judy and Emma)...

  11. As one who lost most everything in the freezer/fridge in June, I commisserate. Hated to lose the contents.

    Our joys are many, but that danged fly in the ointment is really aggravating, esp if there's a fly in this jar and that jar and etc.!

    I'm one of those silly women who expect things wo work... and you know what they say about expectations! Good luck to you.

  12. Great post on putting things in perspective especially for those of us who have spent the last 7 nights at the Winnebago Service Center and drop those but gulp gulp bucks on little things we were being patient with that turned into big things. Thanks!


  13. remember the old saying...a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!..hang in day maybe all the parts will be working properly or at least at 99%

  14. Love the 80% rule. It does seem like there is always something that needs to be fixed.

  15. Consider installing a residential refrigerator... might restrict boondocking a bite but with a little dry ice and a generator you should do fine...

  16. They say problems come in threes but in your case maybe fours!

    The fridge is the biggest and we have had our share. We replaced the whole cooling unit twice only to have them both fail again soon! And then the time the door fell off in southern Mexico! I would really advise you to replace the fridge and I know it is $$$!

    The forums have lots of reports on people dumping the RV fridge altogether and installing an apartment sized electric fridge. You double your usable capacity and they are much cheaper. An inverter keeps it running while you travel and while parked during the day your solar should hold it. I don't think you guys boondock very often but the fridge will stay cold overnight as long as it is not opened more than once or twice.

    Something to think about anyway. Good luck and keep us informed.

  17. Small blessings... There is no sales tax in Oregon.

  18. I'm liking the 80% rule as well. . .it's just that our 20% decided to happen all in one week, to the tune of about $3500. . .ouch! But it's all good. . .I just tell myself to amortize it out over the life of the vehicle, and then it doesn't seem as painful. . .ha!

    Wishing you luck on the fridge!