It was departure day from Memphis, so we rolled out of bed crazy early, a little after eight o'clock! We've done so many departures now that our respective duties are pretty well automated. Sandy takes care of most of the 'pink' things (chores inside the coach), and I tend to the 'blue' things (chores outside the coach). My chores do extend inside Phannie a bit to include things like stowing the satellite antenna (not much effort there; it requires pushing a button), raising the jacks and bringing in the front slides. On this particular day, The long main slide would retract only on one side and not the other. I knew from experience exactly what had happened: A slide motor torque tube shear bolt had broken.
This was not my first experience with this problem; we've had a shear bolt failure on this slide on two previous occasions in the past six years. This appears to be a poor design by Tiffin on this older coach. The slides are all electric, and they have worked perfectly for more than ten years, except for these doggone shear bolts--and only the ones on the main slide, which is, of course, the largest and heaviest. This is what the bolt looks like:
In keeping with the title of this post, you should know that I was prepared. Some time ago, I had ordered a half dozen of these bolts from Tiffin, and I knew where to access the broken one from inside the belly compartment underneath the errant slide. Opening up the belly door and shining a flashlight on the bolt, I found that it was still intact! Assuming the problem was something more serious, I gave up and called a mobile RV service tech, who appeared at Phannie's door in a couple of hours. I informed Sandy that we would not be leaving Memphis today, and she more or less shrugged and began undoing the preparations she had already made. (That's where the flexible part comes in; If you don't learn to be flexible while RVing, you probably won't do it for long.)
Jay, the very friendly RV tech, found the problem in a couple of minutes--a broken shear bolt!
"What?" I said. "I looked at it before I called you, and it looked fine!"
"Did you look at one in this compartment?"
It was then that I noticed he had opened the compartment containing the propane tank instead of the one beside it where I had looked at the bolt.
"This slide has four shear bolts," he said, "two on each side of the motor; the second one on this side of the motor is in here."
I was clueless about this; I thought there were only two--one on each side of the motor. I didn't know that another one was lurking inside the next compartment, well hidden from view by the large tank inside. I also wondered why the extra one would be needed. I suppose I could have looked in the owner's manual for this information, but guys don't usually do that. It would be a sign of weakness--much like asking others for directions. It's much better for us to spend money needlessly on mobile mechanics and find ourselves hopelessly lost from time to time.
I sheepishly handed him the bolt and, in a few minutes, I was also handing him eighty dollars for the service call. Now I have more reasons to worry about shear bolts, since I know there are four of them on this slide instead of two.
The delay wasn't a complete loss. We went out for dinner with Dan and Peggy again, which was very enjoyable. Sandy and I also had time for a late afternoon walk along the riverbank, where I was able to snap this photo of clouds over the Mississippi that were reflecting the fading light of the setting sun:
I always enjoy our stays here close to the river, struck as I am by the size and power of this mighty force of nature. We do not take for granted the good fortune we have, being able to travel anywhere we wish and see God's creation up close.
The next morning, we went through the same departure ritual again and, this time, the slide came in exactly as it should. I retracted the satellite dish and raised the jacks, and we were ready to go, saying farewell to Dan and Peggy and wishing them safe travels.
We stopped for fuel when we got to the Interstate, paying $2.11 a gallon at a barebones discount place that had no amenities at all. Thank you, Dan, for pointing it out to me eariler! There were no restrooms, no food and drinks, no attendant, and the door was locked; you just pay with your credit card and go. That suited me fine; Phannie already has all of those amenities, and I saved about 25 cents a gallon. Sweet!
Then we stopped at a nearby truck wash to get Phannie and Mae cleaned up. It had been raining in Memphis, and these girls needed a bath. They look really good now.
We drove north on I-55 to Sikeston, where we were finally going to patronize Lambert's Cafe, the "Home of the Throwed Rolls."
Once inside, the waiter brought Sandy a huge mug of iced tea and another mug full of ice. Tea-aholic that she is, she was clearly in heaven:
It was a hot day, and it felt good to get back to cool Phannie, where the air conditioners kept her frosty while we were in the restaurant. Yes, it is indeed time to keep heading north!
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day!