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Author Topic: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report  (Read 3885 times)

SantaCruzRider

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2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« on: August 25, 2012, 01:22:07 PM »
Just returned from our first real trip in our new-to-us motorhome and want to share a few notes – as I feel like I very much benefited from reading about the experiences of others on this board.

Following are the particulars:
Motorhome: ’95 Pace Arrow Vision 32 (34”) gas, 16k miles that we bought in July and have taken on a couple of local weekend shakedown trips. No toad because we have yet to buy one, so we were limited to mountain bikes and a couple days of rental car in YNP.

Trip: Starting in Santa Cruz and heading to West Yellowstone via Sacramento, Reno, Elko, Twin Falls; then down through Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP to Jackson and Park City, Utah. Then home via Hwy 80 through Salt Lake, Elko, Reno and Sacramento.

Duration: 11 days planned, but extended to 13 because we were having too much fun. Total mileage was about 2,500.

Time: August 10-23, 2012

Day 1: Learned that refrigerator doors can be fussy when 14-yr-old son twice pulled door from hinges and dumped contents of door across moving RV. Door shelves subsequently lightened and 14-yr-old banned from opening fridge w/o supervision. Fuel pump issue presents itself with RV stalling on Hwy 80 at Nyack near Donner Summit. Run generator and house AC while waiting for engine to cool enough to restart (generator use ultimately is found to be contributing to the overheated fuel line issue, but I’m skipping ahead). Back on the road after 90-minute cooling off period, but second stall comes as we stop for gas in Reno. Short break has us back on the road until third stall lands us “almost” in rest area between Reno and Winnemucca. Restart prompts commitment to never again allow the RV to slow (which seems to contribute to the stalling), so we re-enact the movie Speed and drive into the cooling evening, finally stopping in Elko around 10 p.m. and after covering 600+ miles on Day 1. (Special note: Our stalls twice prompted patrolling CHP and Sheriffs to stop in and check on us – great feeling knowing these folks are out there prepared to help.) Boondock in Smith’s/Casino parking lot. Relatively quiet Saturday night and adjacent Starbucks, gas station and Smiths Grocery make this a convenient, though perhaps not entirely legal, stop.

Day 2: Early start, drive to Wells, then up to Twin Falls, ID and north toward West Yellowstone. One small stall at gas stop in late afternoon, then smooth sailing to Grizzly RV in W. Yellowstone. Booked this park based on feedback on this forum and it ended up being the standard by which all other RV parks on this trip were measured. Loved being in walking distance to the town’s grocery stores, restaurants, shops and museums. Bonus was the miles of mountain bike/hiking trails bordering the west side of the park. We plan to go back just to explore these. Tonight we watch the original National Lampoon Vacation movie -- which seems uniquely appropriate to this trip. ;D

Day 3: Rent a car (Grizzly made it easy by booking car with Budget, which picked me up at the Griz Office) and drive the southern loop of Yellowstone NP. Glad I went with a car rental as by 10-11 a.m. all the turnouts and parking lots are packed with tour buses and trying to get around with the 34-foot RV would have been frustrating. Fun day with return to RV within 6 hours to find that our two small dogs had been behaving themselves and had made it in the air conditioned RV with no accidents and no howling/barking.

Day 4: Took the rental car for the northern loop of YNP – starting even earlier to avoid crowds that intensify by 11 a.m. Returned to W. Yellowstone for dinner at local pizza shop. (Note: We met lots of great folks on this trip, but the store owners/staff, and restaurant staff of W. Yellowstone were among the nicest we came across. This was just a great town to hang out in.)

Day 5: Quick stop to local mechanic (appointment made on Day 2) to learn that my RV issue is likely a fuel pump/regulator; he can’t get the parts for two days and he hasn’t ordered anything despite the fact that I gave him the same info 3 days before and his diagnosis still comes before touching my vehicle. No worries, we are pressing on to Yellowstone Lake in the RV and arrive with no incidents – other than lots of elk sightings. Boondocking in Grant Campground is pleasant, though marred by the racket of neighboring campers using noisy poor running standalone generators. Peace comes shortly after 8 p.m. and this ends up being one of the few places we stay where we can have a campfire – so out come the smores.

Day 6: Quick day hike to lake overlook, then drive south to Colter Bay RV Park in Grand Teton NP. We stay in the RV park, which has full hookups. Very friendly staff, nice size lots and plenty of shade makes this another winner for us. Jackson Lake is a short walk/bike ride and we take full advantage with some nice long swims across the mouth of the harbor.

Day 7: RV remains in Colter Bay while we rent a motorboat and explore the shore of Jackson Lake. Area fires and smoke mar the usually epic views, but it’s still beautiful and a wonderful park. During our stay, the park experiences an issue with their piped water and all water service is cut (no fault of the park, supposedly someone hit a water main). To their credit, the RV park staff issues notices to all RVers, offers to provide jugs of purified water and the local restaurants truck in water to maintain meal service. Everyone earned points for keeping the lights on and managing through this hiccup.

Day 8: 2-hour morning horseback ride with the Colter Bay company. Super nice staff, informative guides and we end up getting very close to a mother moose and her two calves – a real highlight for us. Then we pack up and drive the RV south to Jackson. Our original plan was to drive south to Salt Lake City, but we are having too much fun in the mountains and not yet ready to leave. (We may have opted to stay another night or two at Colter, but the forest fire smoke is still pretty dense and clearing as we move south.) We check in at Virginia City RV Park in Jackson without reservation. The first spot we are offered backs onto a buzzing high-power electric transfer station and the subsequent request for a different spot is greeted with eye-rolling and then a better spot. The park itself is nice and clean. Huge bonuses for the adjacent motel’s pool (which you have access to) and a large public dog park that is two block west (toward the Albertson’s). Evening is spent at local playhouse production of “The Ballad of Cat Balou” – a great family event.

Day 9: Remain in Virginia City RV Park and use bikes to access all of Jackson. This is one town where we did not miss having a toad. Bikes proved to be easy, and free public transit is frequent and runs to all the main attractions, including Jackson Hole. The town of Jackson is the “spendiest” town so far, but is cute beyond belief, has lots of Old West stuff we are looking for and is another in the growing list of spots we plan to return to.

Day 10: Pack up the RV and drive south to Park City, Utah. Route has us crossing into Idaho, back to Wyoming, back to Idaho, back to Wyoming and then into Utah. It’s a pretty drive and no mechanical issues along the way. Arrive in Park City in time for lunch, then multiple trips down the ski resort’s summertime roller-coaster and slider “bobsled” runs. This is some big fun and my son’s choice over a day at a Salt Lake City water/amusement park. It turns out to be a winner – though dad (me) leaves some skin on the bobsled run after pushing his limits on one turn (no EMT required and I am secretly hoping for at least a small scar so I can have a “story” to tell.) Evening is spent walking through the impossibly quaint town of Park City Downtown. (Tip: When we return someday, we will leave the RV at the ski resort and then take a series of two ski lifts ($11 RT) to the downtown area for dinner, then back to the RV.) Accommodations come via afterhours check-in at Park City RV Resort. This ends up being our only RV park “error” – not because we stay here, but because we end up staying in the premium sites, rather than the cheaper sites down by the river. The premium sites are for new RVs – which we don’t fit, but were directed to occupy by a manager I called earlier in the day. These sites are clean and modern (though our afterhours check in leaves us without cable access and bathroom/washroom codes you end up paying for), but are a bit noisy as the park is right on Hwy 80. It’s no complaint, but the real gem here are the lower sites with just water and electric. This is where older RVs like us are supposed to go and they feature green grass, fire pits, creekside and dog trails, and are much prettier and quieter. All have access to a small rock climbing wall, laundry, pool and Jacuzzi – and we’re going back. There’s a Walmart just over the freeway (bike ride away), but Park City is too far for easy access via bike – so a toad would be a real benefit for multiple days here.

Day 11: Early start and heading west on Hwy 80 through Salt Lake City towards home. Stop for photos at Bonneville Flats (wish we had bought “The World’s Fastest Indian” video for viewing on this trip) and then press on towards Elko, NV. Fuel pump issue reminder occurs when we pull into Elko, but we manage to sputter into Iron Horse RV Park. This is a beautiful park and an unexpected treat. Elko is desert (no West Yellowstone), but Iron Horse is really nice, with thick grass, the best showers and bathrooms of the trip. We also end up using the associated Hilton’s indoor pool and workout room – then dinner at the Hilton, followed by ping pong and billiards back at the Iron Horse. All in all, it felt like a combination of staying at a desert spa and a KOA. Given more time, the area casinos and hotels all offer door-to-door transport and this would be a fun place to go sans toad. Also, ended up chatting with some locals and they were as nice as they come.

Day 12: Head out of Elko and continue west on Hwy 80. Lots of road work and single lanes on this stretch. Road surface west of Battle Mountain has me convinced that I have a major front end issue, with the front jacking to the point that I drop my speed to 60 in stretches with a 75 mph limit. I stop west of Winnemucca to check tires and pressure, then press on. Road changes outside Reno and all is well. Then the fuel pump issue recurs as we approach Donner Lake and we spend 40 minutes in a nice wide chain install lane (at least we have a view of the adjacent babbling brook). Next minor stall comes as we try to idle at the stateline ag inspection, but possibly the worst of the trip is still to come and occurs when the RV stalls 20 feet short of our spot at Coachland RV park in Truckee – strange how being within sight of your goal makes a stall so frustrating. We have a pull-through site near the park entrance. Site was all dirt, but had nice shade. They have a weird set up where all the 50 amp sites seemed to be taken (apparently by full time residents), so you get a 30 amp site with a stern warning not to run the AC or you’ll blow the circuits for the whole row. Regardless, I ran one AC unit for the family and nothing is tripped. Downtown Truckee is a 5 minute bike ride, so no toad was needed, though I’ve spent plenty of time in Tahoe and it’s well worth extended exploration.

Day 13: Early start and solid hopes that lower elevations and a shorter run will help us avoid additional fuel pump issues. Still, prudence convinces me to avoid the direct route home via Hwy 17 (with a steep climb and very limited shoulders/breakdown lanes), so I plan a bit longer route through Watsonville. Then about 1.5 hours from home, we hear/feel an explosion as the inside left rear tire sheds its tread. We manage to get to the right shoulder of Hwy 80 in Dublin. 90 minutes later a tow truck arrives, only to admit that he can’t handle changing our tire and then 40 minutes later the real deal is on scene and swapping in our spare. Meanwhile, the family is occupied reading and playing cards. Then we are on our way and home by 5 p.m.

Post-script: Need a new spare, plan to get a mechanic to diagnose the fuel pump issue and most likely need to replace the pump and regulator. Also will inspect and repair some shredded wiring cover (which occurred with the tire blow) and ensure that all is in order. I’m looking at different toad options, but not entirely convinced that this trip would have been hugely improved by one – most likely would have been some give/take. Biking potential will be upgraded with some lights (we got caught out after dark in Jackson and the ride was a bit daunting) and some cargo carriers. Overall, it was an awesome vacation. Even the family agrees that the nearly 8 hours spent roadside was far more enjoyable than it would have been if we were in the family roadster. As ridiculous as it sounds, I spent some of our downtime planning a future trip to return to some of our favorite stops. Hope others find this helpful or at least can empathize with the minor road issues.

deal

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2012, 01:43:29 PM »
Great trip report. Sounds like you are hooked. I like your choice of movie and recommend the Robin Williams movie RV as a purchase to remain in the coach.
July 2010 - purchased first RV (1998 Triple E Senator 28ft class C - Ford E350 V10)
retired but stuck in a stick house full time

SargeW

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2012, 03:54:37 PM »
Great write up!  With a little work you can smooth out many of those "bumps" you had.  That tire blowing is a good wake up call to check all of the date codes on your tires.  It's an expensive replacement, but your family's safety can't be measured by a price tag. 

Let us know how the fuel issue works out.  Good info for others with gas engine coaches. 
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Betty Brewer

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2012, 10:07:00 PM »
Thanks for sharing!


Betty
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Wendy

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2012, 10:10:57 PM »
Wow ! You did a lot. And it sounds like you're hooked on RVing. Enjoy your next trip and tell us all about it.
 
Wendy
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Ken & Sheila

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2012, 10:18:27 PM »
RE: the frig door. On some you can use a washer under the bottom pin to shim it up a bit. I had the door come off a Dometic while going around a corner many years ago. Used the washer and had no issues afterward.

Enjoyed your trip writeup.

ken
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Roadhappy

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2012, 04:01:28 AM »
Great writeup.  Glad to hear about your bike excursions.

Robin
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2012, 08:39:15 AM »
Great tale! Glad you had fun despite the bumps.

I'm guessing you have a  Ford chassis. They were notorious for fuel pump failures in that era and with only 16,000 miles it is likely your was never replaced by the original owner. Few of them lasted more than 30k miles.   The good news is that Ford redesigned the fuel pump in 1996 and the replacement should last forever. The bad news is that it is in the fuel tank.
Gary
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SantaCruzRider

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2012, 04:32:26 PM »
Thanks for the feedback. A couple of quick responses...

Sarge: Good info on the tires. The RV got new shoes 2 years ago and they looked good. I had checked the tire pressure all around just a couple hours before the blow. I'll know more when I get the spare replaced next week, but my hunch is that it might have been a road hazard. Regardless, I'll get an expert opinion on the rest of the tires -- no need to tempt fate.

Wendy: You're right, we did do a lot. I think we have to learn to slow down a bit :) . We are a pretty "go-go" family, and I think this trip burned some pent up excitement to finally get on the road and try RVing. Our trip home actually included a change in plan from 500-mile days to 300-miles days and more stops along the way. It ended up being more enjoyable. Hopefully, we are already learning to relax -- at least a bit more.

Gary: You're right, it's a Ford 460. I suspected as much after doing some research on this site. It seems to only be problem on hot days, at elevation and climbing, and after running for several hours. It's a shame about the expense, but I already feel like I had a guardian angel on my shoulder making sure we had a safe place to coast to everytime the RV quit this trip. I'm taking it in for repair this week and will report back on the diagnosis, but I'd wager that you and Sarge are right on.

Thanks,
Dan

Kevin Means

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2012, 02:19:36 AM »
Really enjoyed the write-up Dan. Thanks for the personal insights and details. They make the story so much more entertaining.

Kev
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KarenS144

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2012, 08:28:37 AM »
I enjoyed your trip!  I'd have enjoyed it more had I actually been there but thanks for the narrative AND all the tips.  Yellowstone is on our list for next year as are Teton and Jackson.  This thread is going into my 2013 trip folder!
Karen
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PatrioticStabilist

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2012, 08:22:54 PM »
Sounds like a wonderful trip, I have planned the last 2 years to go to Yellowstone and haven't made it yet.


Billy Bob

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2012, 09:56:55 PM »
Thanks SantaCruzRider just finished reading about your Yellowstone & Grand Teton trip enjoyed reading about your trip. Yellowstone & Grand Teton are my favorite Nat. Parks. Do you have pictures? Love photos of parks & wildlife. Keep on posting your trips.
Billy Bob

SantaCruzRider

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2012, 08:40:35 PM »
You asked for photos, so here's a video slide show link. It's a complete record, but it gives a hint at some of the cool stuff we saw/did. Runs about 7 minutes -- but I won't be offended if you choose to skip the boring parts --  ;D

http://youtu.be/IenVDmjXmzg

BTW: Turns out I needed a fuel pump (registering at 30 psi with standard min. being 35), an ox sensor and an ERG valve. Came close to $2k (OUCH), but it was overdue. Fingers crossed that this fixes stalling and gives me single digit 0-60 times!


Billy Bob

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2012, 10:18:14 PM »
thanks for the video slide show what boring Parts I enjoyed  all of the pictures. Brings back memories of our last trip to Yellowstone 

TomHaycraft

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Re: 2,500 miles Yellowstone shakedown, breakdown report
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2012, 06:01:30 AM »
Well done!  I was last at Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP in 2005.  It was on a motorcycle.  Times have changed, sure would like to get back out there now with trailer and spend a bit more time.

Thanks for stirring some memories!
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