Sunday, August 20, 2017

RV Apps and Memberships

In preparation for this road trip, I had joined a number of RV "clubs" and downloaded a number of iPhone apps. Some were very useful, some less so.

Good Sam's Club: This is one that I've used on just about every RV trip over the last 25+ years. It gets you 10% off on the daily campsite fee at participating campgrounds, a 10% discount at Camping World stores, and a discount on diesel at Flying J truck stops. I more than recovered the membership fee on this trip. I used their app to find campgrounds down the road.

Good Sam's Road Assistance: The one tow in Redding,CA, paid for this. I could have called them in Idaho to change the blown trailer tire but figured it would be faster to do it myself. They have an app but I never used it. I just called them on the phone.

Passport America: Another discount campsite club. If you stay at one of their member campgrounds, you get a 50% discount on the daily rate. The discount is usually only for one night. I think we broke even on this as most of the campgrounds don't provide the discount during their peak season. But the membership paid for itself after only being used three times. I used their app to look for member campgrounds and to look at their discount policies.

KOA: We stayed at a couple of KOA campgrounds and received a modest discount. Probably not enough to warrant joining. Their campsites were generally had more amenities suitable for a family such as miniature golf and larger playgrounds. I used their app to look for campgrounds down the road and they usually had space as they generally cost a bit more.

Harvest Host: We stayed at four of their sites. You need to join before getting access to their database. It was worth joining as we enjoyed staying at all four of the location. The locations can be wineries, fruit stands, farms, or museums. Generally, they ask you to visit their site, store or tasting rooms in exchange for the free parking site. Generally, no hookups but one of them had water and electricity. There is no app, just a web site.

AllStays App: This was our go-to app when we needed to find campgrounds, rv parks, rest stops, truck stops, Camping World, Costco, Walmart, BLM sites, etc. It was well worth the $10 and it was used regularly when looking for the next campground or when we needed fuel or food. The app also lists road grades and low bridges.

GasBuddy App: Useful app to compare fuel prices. What the apps don't tell you is how open the parking lot is to maneuver a 33' trailer that is over 13' high.

The last app that I used regularly is LevelMatePro. It works with some hardware mounted to the wall and communicates using low energy bluetooth. It's really convenient to see how level the trailer is side to side from the drivers seat when pulling into a camp site.

Some less than useful apps are Sanidumps+, Roadtrippers. Due to the number of RV parks we stayed at, finding dump stations between RV parks wasn't needed. If we were dry camping more then maybe. Roadtrippers is an app that helps you find things to do while on the road. I never really had the opportunity to try the app out. 

Not really an app but one of the "fails" on the trip was the Spot 2. The hardware failed, the company said hmmm, and in the next breath said no refund for the remaining ten months. Basically, too bad. I'll never get another one again… 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back to Normal?

If "normal" is working on the Ural then things are back to normal. This evening, I pulled the transmission out leaving the engine in the frame. To do this, it's necessary to remove the final drive as well as removing the rear swingarm pivots. This allows the drive shaft to go back far enough to remove the rubber flexible coupling between the output of the transmission and the driveshaft. Definitely easier than removing the engine and it took about 1½ hours.

Now, I need to figure out the minimum disassembly needed to crack open the transmission. The Ural repair manual mentions some special tools but I'm thinking that they would only be needed if the transmission was going to be completely disassembled.

I removed the kick start lever then the seven screws holding the case together. After a few light taps, the case separated. The picture on the right shows the inside of the gearbox after the reverse idler was removed. I am unable to remove the output yoke as there isn't enough room for even a very thin walled socket.

It took me a bit to figure out which gear was which. In the picture on the right, 4th is the uppermost gear and 3rd is just below it. Right now, it is in 3rd gear and you can see that the shift fork is held in barely held in place. If there is any wear on the gear, the fork or the shift sleeve that engages the gears, then it could easily pop out of gear. Since it isn't going completely into 3rd, it seems that the shift fork is probably the worn part. There is a little bit of rounding of the edges on the sleeve and 3rd gear. More than any of the other gears.

This is the 3rd gear side of the 3rd/4th shift fork and there seems to be a lot of wear and even some hot spots. Those are the discolored spots. I think that I am going to order the 3rd/4th shift fork, the 3rd/4th shift sleeve and 3rd gear. I think that the reason it isn't staying in gear is that the parts are just worn out. 3rd gear is used a lot. Just about any speed from 30mph to over 50 mph could be in 3rd gear.

By the way, there was only a trace of metal on the drain plug magnet and the oil still looked pretty fresh. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Meeting up With Mike

This morning, I had another opportunity to meet up with Mike Saunders. an intrepid Ruckus traveller. I had originally met Mike several years ago when he was near the beginning of his last trip. Since then, Mike has crisscrossed the country multiple times from Key West to Prudhoe Bay and Baja to Labrador. After being in Fairbanks for the last couple of months, it is now time to venture south again before the snow flies. This time the Ruckus was mostly unladen before he heads south to Wasilla before heading towards Canada and points south.

I think that this may be a good time to start tearing into the Ural. I usually don't ride when the snow starts to fly. The weather is pretty nice in September but without third gear, the Ural isn't really very rideable. When hitting a hill, you are relegated to 30 mph unless you can make it up at least 50 mph. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Road Trip Summary (Cont.)

The question has come up on what, if anything, we would do differently. There are a few things. Traveling through the desert in the summer was silly. But one of Bridget's must see destinations were the Utah national parks. And one of the things that I had scheduled was the MOA rally in Salt Lake City. Given the MOA history of having the rally in some miserably hot areas, I won't have the rally as a destination again unless it is really convenient and somewhere cooler.

I would've scheduled our travel days differently. Maybe travel for a day or two then stay put for several days. We wouldn't cover as much ground but that was never the goal. We used a planner/calendar put out by a full time RV couple on this trip to keep track of where we stayed each night and how many miles we traveled each day. It was useful information as I had pre-filled in the campground reservations as I made them. This allowed us to see how far we needed to travel between those reservations. And reservations were only needed if we wanted to stay in popular areas such as near national parks especially if it was the weekend. We were generally unable to camp in the national park campgrounds as most of them could not accommodate an RV longer than 30'.

Making reservations the day before worked well enough especially when we could use an app to look for a campground. Many times, the campgrounds would fill up by early evening so it's better to arrive at your destination by mid-afternoon. Most of the Walmarts no longer allow overnight parking. Mostly due to local ordinances. Many of these local ordinances were put in place due to pressure from private RV parks and campground organizations such as Good Sam's. Another reason is there are many that abuse the free RV parking. Examples of abuse are using it like a campground (lawn furniture, awnings, etc), sleeping in your car (no RV), or staying multiple days to months instead of simply overnight.

To us, the only useful time when overnight parking made sense was when we simply needed a place to stop when we were traveling between locations. We used Harvest Hosts for some of these and a casino for another. Walmart or a rest area would've been a last resort.

It would have been really convenient to have some sort of motorbike on the trip. I saw a number of RVs with rear mounted carriers with modest sized bikes and scooters. I wouldn't use a carrier that only fit into the receiver hitch but would reinforce it with some attachments to the trailer frame unlike the one pictured.

I think this post will be continued later. Including a list of apps that we used.

On the maintenance front, I pulled out the anode rod from the RV water heater today as I suspected that it was in pretty poor shape. I had no idea how poor it was. On the right is what a new anode rod looks like. This is a picture from Amazon. Below is what the anode rod from our water heater looks like. Quite a difference. It's essentially completely consumed.

The purpose of the anode rod is to protect the steel parts of the water heater from rusting away. It is made from a magnesium alloy that will corrode faster than the steel components in the water heater. All that is left of this rod is a thin layer of metal on the steel rod in the center which provides mechanical support. If the water heater tank starts to rust away now I know why. Fortunately, it isn't leaking but I should plan on replacing it in the near future. As part of the winterizing process, the water heater is usually drained by removing the anode rod. It's an opportunity to check its condition. Last October, I had asked the previous owner about draining the water heater and he said that he had never done it. I didn't have a 1⅛" socket with me at the time. I had brought one with me on the trip but I had forgotten to check the water heater.