Class continued. We were halfway through the class and we now had a routine. Up early, put all the “stuff” away, bring in the slides, bring up the jacks (just kidding, we couldn’t use our jacks), forcibly extract the kitties from their hiding places (it didn’t take long for them to catch on that they were being whisked away to Daisy’s each day), wait for the tech to pick up the coach, drive to Daisy’s to drop off the kids, drive back, grab some goodies from the continental breakfast, then go to class.
On Wednesday, we were updated by Chris. They couldn’t fix the leak in the radiator so they would have to replace it which would most likely be done on Thursday, the 44 point inspection was done and no problems surfaced, they couldn’t find the “air leak” but were still working on it, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the steering and he had opened a case with Meritor and was waiting to hear back from them. Sure doesn’t sound like a lot of progress was being made.
Ted Cook continued his Entegra session with a Q & A session on Wednesday morning, then in the afternoon, we were introduced to our driving instructor, Bill Charron from Extra Effort Enterprise a driving school in Harrison, MI, and everybody was assigned a time for their driving class in their own coach. There would be two parts to the class: the range portion where we would drive around cones in a parking lot and practice backing into a space using certain techniques and the road portion where we would actually drive in the town (gulp). By midday on Thursday, we had been told that our coach wouldn’t be out of service until Friday – since we needed our coach to participate in the driving class, we asked to be scheduled for the last class on Friday which was around noon time.
After lunch, the afternoon session was led by Bill. We watched a rather long and somewhat boring video showing various driving situations and at the end of each segment, we had to answer several questions about the video. Bill was such a dynamic and comical speaker we would have much preferred to listen to him instead of the video.
At the end of the day, our coach was brought out, we picked up the kids then settled in for the night.
On Thursday, after following our regular morning routine, it was back to class. Instead of the usual continental breakfast, Spartan served a full breakfast complete with an omelet station where you could order any type of omelet you wanted plus there was bacon, fresh fruit and pastries. So good! You would think after a full breakfast, we would have a lighter lunch but nope, that didn’t happen. It was prime rib day! Forgot to mention earlier but each day at lunch, various Spartan people were brought in to speak to us. On this particular day, one of the original founders of Spartan was the guest speaker. During one of the sessions we learned that Spartan had won a contract to provide 56 fire trucks to Peru so all week long they were testing the trucks out in the parking lot. Peru had not replaced any of their trucks since the 1970’s! Also, normally Spartan only builds the fie truck chassis, for the Peru contract they were shipping completely functional fire trucks.
After breakfast, the class split up – some couples were off doing their driving class while the rest of us were either attending the Brakes/Tires session or Principals for Women session. I went to the Women’s session which in my opinion wasn’t very worthwhile since it pretty much was a repeat of some of the things we had already learned – it could probably be eliminated from the training schedule.
At the beginning of the women’s session (there were only 3 of us in class), one of the women, Melissa, said that she thought she was going to black out. Long story short, an on site medic came – he recommended that she go to the hospital so an ambulance was called. Later we found out that she was dehydrated and after being given fluids at the hospital she felt much better and was back on her coach by the end of the day. It was quite a week medically speaking! At the beginning of the week at the start of the factory tour, Gary had complained of numbness in his arm so he ended up at the hospital where he was told he had had a minor TIA and Jill who had been taking Alleve for a medical condition ended up at the hospital all week because she had developed a bleeding ulcer. My goodness! What’s with that? Was it something in the air or in the water? The rest of us hoped that we wouldn’t experience a visit to the local hospital before the week was out!
Thursday afternoon, Greg hosted a round table session asking for feedback on the class. Boy, did we give him a lot! From making it less technical and focusing on procedural information (like what to do if something happens to the driver while driving) to eliminating the driving video to revamping or even eliminating the women’s session. Whether they do it or not, who knows? It’s still a great class even as it is. I think if they implement some of our suggestions the class will be even better than it was.
After that, we talked again to Chris to get an update on our coach. The good news was that they had put in the new radiator, the bad news was that they had to put down the rear jacks to raise the coach enough so they could remove the old radiator. When they raised the rear jacks, somehow the front jacks came down unexpectedly, hit something and bent one of the front jacks. Oh goody our jack problem just got worse! And there was more bad news, the radiator was still leaking! And they were still trying to track down that elusive air leak.
And more bad news – he had an update on Meritor – their response was that “noise was not covered under warranty” so they would not pay for replacing the gear (we learned later this was a $7000 part). Again he told us how difficult they were to deal with. To be honest as a customer, we didn’t really care how difficult they were – that was for Spartan’s to resolve, after all they must do millions of dollars in business with Meritor! All week long all we heard during class was how Spartan and Entegra would solve whatever issue a customer had – they did not want the customer feeling like they were caught in the middle. Can’t say this philosophy was working very well for us.
Okay time to man the battle stations! Based on conversations with several of the Spartan techs as well as Mike at Entegra, Rob was advised that the whine we were hearing was not normal in an RV. Apparently there are two types of gears – one that is typically installed on a truck chassis and the quiet one that is supposed to be installed in an RV. One of the techs implied that perhaps our chassis had the noisy truck gears. With that knowledge in hand, Rob sent a note to Joyce Skinner at Entegra asking for her help in getting this resolved. Joyce immediately forwarded his email to a handful of people at Spartan asking them to take care of us. We felt good about that but that good feeling went away when there was no response from anyone (at least any that we knew about).
And the bad news continued….due to the unresolved air leak and Meritor gear our coach was not going to be ready by Friday and would need to go back into service on Monday so we would have to spend the weekend at the Spartan Resort!
Since Bill (the driving instructor) was at the round table session, Rob asked if we could change our scheduled driving time to that evening (Thursday) at 5:30 p.m. since we had no idea when on Friday our coach would be ready. No problem! So after the session was over, off we went to pick up the kitties. Lucky them, they would get to experience Mom as a student driver.
Although I was nervous, both driving sessions went well. Lot of good tips similar to what we learned when we took the Lazy Days driving course. I only had to “shush” Rob once during the range session when he was giving me his instructions in one ear at the same time Bill who was standing outside the driver’s side window was giving me his instructions. Jeesshh! Then of course during the road session I got flipped off by an impatient driver and later I almost took out a telephone pole because I misjudged when to start a turn (I think Bill rattled me with his instructions). But both the pole and I survived!
Apparently there was a party going on at Tim and Roger’s coach because when I drove into the Spartan parking lot, everyone came out and started cheering and applauding. Too funny! Seeing all of them, I promptly refused to back into our spot (even without them there, I wouldn’t have done it anyway). Woohoo! The somewhat stressful driving lesson was over and it was time to unwind! Where’s my glass (make that a bottle!) of wine?
On Friday, everyone met for breakfast one last time. Several couples were ready to hit the road so we exchanged emails and reluctantly said goodbye to them while others would wait until Saturday morning to leave. Even though we had to stay the weekend, we had thought we would have our coach back in the early afternoon so we decided not to take the kitties over to Daisy’s – so since it was cool and cloudy, they stayed in the playpen in the back of the van. Well that of course turned out to be a bad assumption!
The chassis that had been in the class had been removed and later in the day, we watched as a fire truck was brought inside the classroom. This was the first fire truck built by Spartan in 1975. It was moved to the training room because they needed more room to test the fire trucks that we headed to Peru. Rob had fun pretending he was a fireman, hopping in the cab and sleeping on the seat behind the cab!
BTW, Spartan Motors is the phoenix rising from the ashes of what was once the Diamond REO Company. The story is that when the Diamond REO truck division went belly up in 1975, four enterprising individuals acquired some of the assets and with virtually no capital to invest, built the Fire Truck prototype shown above. Today Spartan Motors is a financially healthy organization with products covering several markets. Also of interest is the rock band REO Speedwagon which took its name from an early Diamond REO production model, the Speed Wagon, which is considered an ancestor of the modern pickup truck.
Finally our coach was returned to us at the end of the day. With the weekend looming and not knowing how much longer we would be at Spartan after that, we decided to take a ride over to the local fairgrounds to make a visit to the dump station. Boy, that was fun! The road to the dump station was dirt but luckily it wasn’t muddy and although the dump station itself was easily accessible, there was no place to turn around. Rob had to back the beast into a small driveway (it was raining too) then make the turn back onto the main street. When we got back to Spartan, we drove over to the side of the training building where there is a city water spigot so we could fill up our water tanks. OK, we should be all set for our extended stay!
At this point our chassis situation was uncertain, there was no resolution after 3 days for our air leak, which was of concern, and we didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes in regard to the noisy “quiet gear” – all of which gave us a lot to talk about for the next couple of days! And despite the fact that all of our classmates would be hitting the road, Lisa and Mike had arrived to have general service done on their coach on Friday and would not be leaving until Saturday, so we knew we would have some company for at least part of the weekend.
Stay tuned to hear about our exciting weekend!