The RV Road Trip Fulltimer's Blog for December 2011

It is the beginning of the final month of 2011. It is amazing how time has flown by this year, but we still have 4 more months before we depart for our Spring and Summer travels. The activities here in the park help pass the time as there is almost always something going on. Bingo, card elimination, shuffleboard, pot lucks, pool (swimming and billiards), a wood shop and lots more. One such event was the big Thanksgiving dinner and there was about 350 people from the park that ate. It was a good time and there was tons of food, especially slices of pie!

Endless pie slices.

The budget worksheet for November has been completed and is available via a link in the left hand menu. This covers the basics of our full-timing costs but for privacy reasons, we do not disclose every little detail. The fine print on the budget page explains it all.

As everyone well knows, December is the month of Christmas. We hope that everyone keeps focus on the real meaning of Christmas and not the commercialization of it. As for Cynthia and I, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We do understand that not everyone believes the way we do... each person has the free will to decide on their own. As long as you know what Jesus did for you, then the rest is up to you. And before anyone makes a negative comment, please keep in mind that we are not offended because you do not believe in Jesus, and we expect that you will not be offended because we do.
CJ and Scooter each have their own cage that they sleep in. CJ's bed sits between the driver and passenger seats in the cab of the motorhome and Scooter's bed is at the foot of the couch. While the dog's were playing, they accidentally knocked CJ's door closed. When bed time rolled around, CJ could not get into his bed so he went into Scooter's bed and went to sleep. A short time later, Scooter decided he wanted to go to bed but there was a problem! Here is a shot of Scooter with that "help me get CJ out of my bed" look.

Crowded bed.

Did you notice that HEB brand cola was on sale this week? :)
To carry a purse or not... that was the question. Cynthia still has a purse. In fact, she gets a new one every so often for no apparent reason. But the deal is she must get rid of her old one the same day as she gets the new one. There's just no room for a purse collection in an RV. The current purse she has is all black with zebra striped pockets on each end. Her taste is clearly different than mine.

It just isn't practical to carry a purse to many of the activities we do. The most she would need is her ID which easily fits in a pocket, usually mine. If she did take her purse, it ends up getting left in the Jeep and although we lock the Jeep, it is still susceptible to theft. She states that she might need something from her purse like a pen and paper, Chapstik, a Kleenex, her Glock 26, etc. OK, she doesn't really carry a Glock. Or does she? Hmmm.

Sometimes when we start to go out she instinctively grabs her purse. I ask her why she needs it, she pauses for a minute, then says "I guess I don't". More often than not, it ends up being something to keep track of rather than a useful carry all for Lord knows what. We very rarely see women carrying purses unless we are out shopping, never in a campground.
Christmas is in full swing here in the park. People are decorating their motorhomes, park models, 5th wheels and travel trailers. Some displays are quite elaborate while others are quite simple. I think our outdoor decoration is the simplest of all. Cynthia found a single 10 foot strand of lights and just had to put them up outside. She also set up and decorated her RV sized Christmas tree. Last year Santa tried to visit us and inadvertently came down the vent pipe for the black tank. Needless to say, we didn't get any gifts.

Christmas Lights

Christmas Tree

Scooter is such a sweet puppy. He loves to sit in your lap and always wants attention from you. If you go outside without him, he instantly jumps up in the dinette seat so he can look outside and see what you are doing.

Scooter the Miniature Schnauzer

We've been doing a little more maintenance on the Jeep this past week, something my son very clearly had not been doing when he had it. We had to replace a rear u-joint and the straps that hold it in. We bought a set from Autozone and installed them but the fit was not good at all. After reading the packaging, we found out why... made in China. We returned those parts and went to NAPA and got some made in the USA parts. Perfect fit and problem solved.

We also discovered a leak in the transfer case and apparently it had been there a while. There was very little fluid left in there and what was left, was very dark and smelled burnt. We replaced a defective o-ring that we determined to be the source of the leak and refilled the transfer case. After a short test drive, we noticed the fluid was leaking out again. Upon closer examination, we discovered a hairline crack in the front housing. I sealed it temporarily with black RTV and we have begun the search for a replacement NP231J transfer case.

We don't want to get one from a junk yard as they are likely in no better shape than the one we have now. We have no way to test it or to look inside it for wear. We're looking at remanufactured units and the cheapest we have seen so far is $675 plus $180 to install it. Ouch.
Rain in the RGV! I slept pretty good last night so I never heard the rain during the night but Cynthia claims she heard it. It has been raining off and on all morning which is a good thing. At 7:11 this morning, the power went out. We turned on the mobile hot spot on the phone so we could still get online using the laptops. At 8:00am the power was still off so we fired up the generator so Cynthia could make some coffee. A little after 9 the power came back on so we are back to normal now.

CJ doesn't care for the rain and when he goes outside, he does his business then wants back in. Scooter, on the other hand, loves the rain and loves to get as dirty as he possibly can. Needless to say, Scooter needs a bath now. Oh well, we are thankful for the rain. The ground needs it and we love the sound it makes on the roof of the motorhome.
For those that may not know what a transfer case is, we will explain. A transfer case is a device on a 4 wheel drive vehicle that sits between the transmission and the drive shafts. It allows you to select different drive options such as 2 wheel high, 4 wheel high, neutral and 4 wheel low. It transfers power from the transmission to just the rear drive shaft for 2WD or both the front and rear drive shafts at the same time (4WD).

We took the Jeep to the local 4x4 shop to see about the transfer case problem. Since all these guys do is work on 4 wheel drive vehicles, we figured they would know better than anyone else. We explained the problem and they said they would fix it for $180 plus parts. That's cheap! We agreed and they removed the transfer case and opened it up. The only bad parts were the plastic buffers that ride on the shifting arm, and a crack in the front housing. Here is a shot of the Jeep raised up and they are about to pull the transfer case out. The next image is the unit removed.

Lifting he Jeep to remove the transfer case.

NP231J Transfer Case

You can readily buy a replacement rear housing but not the front, at least not around here. The crack appeared to be caused by someone over tightening the shift detent bolt and not a stress crack. We decided to seal it up with JB Weld from the inside. They disassembled the rest of the transfer case and cleaned it all up, replaced the necessary parts and seals and put it all back together. I took the Jeep home and noticed a very small drip from the drain plug but a few turns on it did the trick. This morning I drove to my doctor's appointment, which is about 5 miles away. I smelled transmission fluid, which is what goes in the transfer case. Sure enough, it was leaking. After I came out of the doctor's office, I headed to the 4x4 shop.

They put the Jeep up on a lift and found that when they put the case back together, the sealant between the front drive shaft housing and the main front housing did not seal properly in one spot. Needless to say they had to drop the entire transfer case again and reseal the whole thing. While they had it out, they put some JB Weld on the outside of the case where the original crack was for good measure. They wanted to let everything sit overnight to cure and then a test drive in the morning. Hopefully, all will go well and we will get the Jeep back before lunch time.

Almost forgot, while they had the Jeep the first day, I had them replace the front axle u-joints. I knew how to do it and probably could have but after watching them try to remove 12 year old rusted in u-joints then press in new greasable Spicer units, we feel that was money well spent! All in all, the transfer case repair and the new u-joints came to a total of $320.07. That is a heck of a deal!
OK, the Jeep is fixed. Woohoo! No more transfer case issues. We had ordered some new o-rings for the oil filter adapter and they finally came in. The original 12 year old o-rings had hardened and oil was seeping out but not any more. The new o-rings are in and they should last at least another 12 years. You know, a new car may not require much maintenance, but the dang payments on them are much more than we'll ever spend on the Jeep. And they don't make the Jeep Cherokee any more (2001 was the last year) and we really like this vehicle.

We got a fair amount of rain a couple of days ago and it looks like we might get a little more this week. Cynthia got used to not having to worry about rain so she got careless. While out shopping it started raining hard and she didn't have a rain hat... so she improvised.

Improvised rain hat.

We had Safelite come out and replace the front windshield on the Jeep today. Last week we developed a very nice crack that was about 2 feet long. I guess stress coupled with a chip may have caused it but we're not sure. Anyway, the fellow came out this morning and put in a new windshield. You'll never guess where the glass was made. If you guessed China, you were right.

We remade the banner at the top of the page as the one we had seemed a little plain to us. We used a picture we took on the Blue Ridge Parkway as the background, added a shot of the Jeep on the left and a cartoon of the RV and us on the right. If you look closely at the RV, you'll notice Scooter is in the middle. CJ's eyes are in the lower right portion of the tunnel.

To respond to Dave's comment below, we decided it was time to get a regular vehicle instead of the scooter so we'd have a way to take the wheelchair without having to take the motorhome as well. We wanted something we could tow 4 down and the 4x4 allows that and the option to get off the beaten path should we want to. There are many other toad (towed) options and everyone has their own preferences. If it wasn't for the wheelchair, we would have kept the scooter.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today, my dad turned 71... err, I mean 39 with 32 years of experience. We don't waste money on cards and we don't send gifts but we always take the time for that all important phone call. It was good to hear his voice today and to know he is doing well. Sharie (his wife) takes good care of him... bless her.
Today is the last day of crazy folks running around acting like they had no idea what day Christmas was on this year. The parking lots are packed and I've seen less activity when disturbing a fire ant mound. I wonder if I could write an alternate version of the 12 days of Christmas just using the events of the season. Let's give it a shot...

On the 12th day of Christmas, society gave to me...
  • 12 red lights a running
  • 11 fingers flipping
  • 10 shoplifters stealing
  • 9 gifts re-gifted
  • 8 random gift cards
  • 7 tempers flaring
  • 6 Chinese products
  • 5 missing kids
  • 4 stolen parking spaces
  • 3 atheists protesting
  • 2 eff you's
  • and a pepper sprayer in the Walmart.

Now the day after Christmas, people will act like that is the only day you can return an item and there will be mile long lines at the customer service counters. Slow down folks... life is more fun without all the self created stress.
Merry Christmas
So what did everyone get for Christmas? Did you get what you wanted? We don't really do Christmas anymore, we generally just get each other a few stocking stuffers. We are already so blessed that we really don't need anything so instead of giving each other something, we either buy gifts for needy families or donate to a cause that supports them at this time of year.

One gift we did give to someone this year was to our friend David and his wife Nancy. We won't go into the details for privacy reasons, but we gave them CJ. CJ has always loved them and they loved CJ as well and it just seemed like a really good fit. CJ doesn't have to share with Scooter anymore, he doesn't have to put up with Scooter pestering him all day every day and David has a golf cart so CJ gets unlimited rides now. To make Scooter a better behaved pup, we told him that the dog catcher got CJ and that he will get Scooter too if he doesn't behave. Here is Scooter begging us not to let the dog catcher take him away!

Scooter begging.

It sure is nice to be sitting in one spot when you need to do maintenance. Today, we ordered a new stainless steel header for the Jeep. It seems the OEM exhaust manifold developed a crack at the collector, which is common for the 4.0L Jeeps. We also ordered replacement hardware so we won't have to use 13 year old bolts to put the new one on with. 13 years of daily driving is a lot of heat up and cool down cycles so the bolts probably wouldn't like being torqued down again.

The leak is fairly small but audible, which is how we discovered it. And even as thin as the crack is, it causes the O2 sensors to give false readings thus resulting in pathetic fuel mileage, about 13 MPG instead of the normal 18 MPG. Luckily, this is a repair we can do, albeit a time consuming one. We estimate it will take about 3-4 hours from start to finish. We'll also replace the fuel injector o-rings and the fuel feed line o-ring. After we have the new header in, we'll take the Jeep to a local muffler shop and have them fabricate a new pipe that runs from the header to the catalytic converter. This piece is crimped from the factory and restricts flow, so we'll have a new one that isn't crimped. In this piece is where the upstream O2 sensor is so we'll drop in a brand new one when the pipe is installed. That should result in a smoother idle and better fuel economy. We'll drop in a new downstream O2 sensor for good measure. The header was $180, the o-rings were $5 and the O2 sensors were $38 each. Labor is free since we will be doing it ourselves, and we think the cost of the new pipe at the muffler shop will be about $30. So we get all this done for $291 instead of the $1100 the stealership, err dealership wanted.

The Jeep will soon be in showroom condition at the rate we're going, LOL.
The finalized 2011 expense summary is now available, a link to it is in the left hand menu. In the coming year we'll be sharing even more content than we did this year as we will not be stationary during the summer! We are eagerly looking forward to getting moving again even though we have enjoyed our extended stay here in the RGV.

So this is it... the end of 2011 and our second year of full-timing! We're eagerly looking forward to 2012 and more adventures on the road. We'd like to thank each and every one of you who reads our blog and supports us by supporting the advertisers we have and shopping through our Amazon affiliate store. We really enjoy sharing all the info on the site with you and are so glad that it benefits so many of you. We appreciate every comment and every email we receive and we especially enjoy the visits in the campgrounds. We hope that you'll tell all your friends about our site and mention us on your favorite blogs and forums. May God bless you and may you all have a very prosperous 2012!


RV Blog Archives

2017   JAN, FEB, MAR         Please visit
2014   We did our massive 22 state and 15 national park road trip.
2013   We dealt with Jerry's wreck and thyroid cancer treatment.
2012   JAN, FEB, MAR, APR         We stopped full-timing in April 2012.
2008   The Beginning

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