Pictures at the end, plus a super long pick-up/trip report going from Hohenwald to Greenville, SC. It was a baptism by fire (almost literally thanks to the 100+ heat indices), but we managed to deal with most of the problems (a few not even of our making!), and made it home safe and sound with our new LEII. Sept. 8-12, 2019
About us: Never RVed, tent camped a bit decades ago, never drove a large vehicle or towed. Bought a Lincoln Navigator in April to use as a tow vehicle. We read all the manuals in Oliver University, watched 100s of hours of YouTube videos, and attended the 2019 owners' rally. Me: Medically disabled, severe reactions to chemicals/fragrances/foods/heat/sun/you name it. Thus, the Scent Free Ollie.
First I'll give a shout out to Merriwether's Retreat in Hohenwald. The Voorhies House is a house rental/B&B right in downtown Hohenwald, making it easy to get over to the Sales Office first thing in the morning. Melissa, who runs things, was amazingly friendly and understanding of my chemical/fragrance/food issues. The house we stayed in was a lovingly renovated and restored historic home. Thus, it does have a slight musty smell, so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone with serious allergies to that sort of thing. I surprisingly didn't have too much trouble, though I took my own food, soap and pillow. For most people I think this would be a good option if you need a place to stay before pickup or while having multi-day work done.
We showed up to find our lovely Ollie in the A/C'ed back of the Sales Office. Thankfully, the Oliver team was kind enough to have let it air out for a few days, so most of the chemical smell, other than in the cabinets and the back of the bathroom door, was gone. I am so appreciative of that, since it made it vastly easier for me to be in it. Chuck, our delivery specialist, gave us a rundown of the Ollie. He's new-ish to the company, so he wasn't as familiar with some of the systems as I might have hoped, though he was more than willing to find out answers to questions he couldn't answer. We've mainly seen 2018 and older Ollies, so we were rather surprised by some of the subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the Ollie compared to what we thought we were getting, from the extended sewer hose attachment to the location of the inverter to the fuse/breaker panels.
Chad pulled the Navigator around and Chuck started setting up the Anderson hitch, only to discover he had the wrong size ball. He had to go back to the factory to get the right one. He showed us how to attach and detach the whale tail/triangle, but his instructions were not at all what I had read and seen in instructional videos. I expressed a concern about this, but we weren't given any explanation for the discrepancy, and we're still not sure that everything is set up correctly or that we're tightening to the right tightness (our Ollie rides a bit higher in front than in back, with 1" squat on the Navigator - back up from 2" squat without WD - and we have to tighten the chains 9 turns to get them tight). I'm thinking we may have to lower the hitch ball height? And maybe take out links in the chains? This was something I was not expecting to have to worry about.
So, off we go, totally nervous newbies, heading to David Crockett State Park for the night. We were very pleasantly surprised as to how easy it was to tow, even to make corners. We drove slowly and just took our time and made it to the park with no trouble. We checked in, drove to our site, and proceeded to take hours to level, unhitch, hookup and generally get our crap together moving stuff from the Nav to the Ollie. In upper 90 degree temps. In the sun. While we could have taken a production date picking up as early as July, I had specifically decided to wait in order to avoid the heat of summer. The fates had a good chuckle at our expense. While learning anything this complicated (and expensive and/or life threatening) can be overwhelming, doing it in this kind of heat is another kind of crazy. After we got leveled and unhitched with the power plugged in, I went inside to turn on the A/C and Chad came to tell me the driver's side stabilizer wouldn't go down. He hand cranked it just to get it down and not slow progress. Later, we determined that it had a blown fuse! Replaced the fuse and all was well.
We picked site 23 and I recommend it, and the one to the north of it. These are smaller, relatively level pull-through sites right along the creek. We sat outside for dinner and just enjoyed watching the birds flit through the trees.
You know how when everything is new and unfamiliar, you have no idea what is normal and what is something you've done wrong? Well, we had an interesting experience overnight our first night. Some time in the night I woke to a *clunk* *beep*. Had no idea what had just happened. I eventually realized that the microwave was on 0:00, so the power must have gone out and come back on. I got up and looked out the window to confirm that our external surge protector/circuit analyzer attached to the post showed everything was A-OK as far as it was concerned. Weird. Eventually got back to sleep. Some time in the wee hours of the morning, happened again. Confirmed I saw microwave on, circuit analyzer on post happy, I may have even peaked at the EMS and saw E O, so I went back to sleep.
Well, Chad gets up early and immediately informs me that there is NO power and we've been using the batteries for who knows how long (though I don't think we had much on). Far as we could tell, the power was fine at the post, but not coming into the Ollie, and thus was likely being stopped by the EMS or a breaker. Chad checked the breakers and none had tripped. He tried flipping the breaker off and on again (you know sometimes they don't flip all the way), and I went to look and see if the EMS showed a Previous Error Code and what it meant. Sure enough, it said that the voltage had been too high. Soon after, the power came back on. I don't know if it was because the voltage was only now low enough, or because the EMS waited the two and a half minutes after Chad flipped the breaker, but we were back in business! The nice lessons here were a) the EMS sure as shootin' did it's job and b) we have a decent handle on trouble shooting some of the basic electrical issues in the Ollie. Later, Chad went for a walk and saw them working on a transformer...aha, our culprit! That made us feel much better. The park has a nice little museum with outdoor exhibits (it was closed), so we drove up and parked near there and enjoyed those before we left.
Skipping over the nitty-gritty: Hot, stressful morning and drive but nothing went terribly wrong, we spent the second night at Poole Knobs COE campground. Nice enough campground, terrible hike up to bathhouse, mostly pull-throughs, site 24 was not quite level, but our levelers made us off the other way. Gave up and went with not level. While we had a nice lake-front site, the ones on the inside of the loop have a nice lake view and tended to be more level, though steep to get up to and down from. Note that at this time of year there are very large nuts falling from some of the trees. Finally got smart and started the departure process while it was still cool-ish out. Couldn't figure out why, but the tow/haul light, which is supposed to engage automatically when we're attached, didn't go on until we were on the road out of the campground. We made it smoothly through Tennessee on I-40, including some traffic around Knoxville. It helps, as Chad gets used to the size of things, to have me keep an eye in the passenger side mirror to let him know how close he is to the lane marker/edge of road on my side, particularly with semis around us. The tow/haul mode performed beautifully without having to do much of any breaking or manual downshifting on hills. It was startling at first how loud the engine would get, since we never asked much of it before, but we got used to that quickly.
Our last night was at Anchor Down RV Resort, which is a very highly rated private resort overlooking a lake. While the views were stunning and the facilities well maintained, it was packed with huge RVs, most with dogs (some who barked), had no trees to speak of, and had an unbelievable list of rules and regs. You had to be out by 11am, and if you weren't, they'd charge you $100/hr, minimum one hour!!! I was actually stressed that we had to make sure that we were out by 11am on the dot, since who knows how long we might take, being total newbies! We spent less time outside due to the heat/sun and the many people using lighter fluid and other things very nearby. I didn't think this sort of place was our cup of tea, and this confirmed it. It was nice to have full hookups so that we could dump tanks at our leisure, since this was our last stop and we were doing it for the first time, but we likely could have found a more laid back and much cheaper place. We left with 20 minutes to spare.
The tow/haul mode decided not to come on for the last day of the trip, which is when we had to go over the Appalachians with 4% and 6% grades. Chad did some manual downshifting and a bit more breaking, but the Navigator did pretty well considering it wasn't in tow/haul mode. Of course, 20 minutes from home, not long after the 6% grade, the tow/haul light comes on!
Chad almost immediately washed the Ollie and applied a coat of Duragloss Aquawax, along with adding silicone to a number of the chrome brackets around the tiny marker lights because they were loose. His first mod was to add reflective tape to the ends of the bumper and glow-in-the-dark tape to the stairs. The Ollie is now safely tucked away in a field at the storage place, waiting for it to cool off enough to go for a long weekend nearby and just relax! The Navigator has an appointment scheduled to see if they can diagnose this intermittent problem (not holding our breaths).
Feel free to ask questions about any part of the trip or the campgrounds we stayed in, or put in your two cents if you have ideas for us to improve our techniques!
-Kathryn (& Chad)
P.S. I developed very extensive departure and arrival checklists, based on an amalgamation of those from the forum and other online sources. No good plan survives contact with the enemy, and these didn't, so I'm going to try to revise them. Once I have, and maybe after we put them through their paces a few more times, I'll post them for anyone who wants to use them. They really did help us (mostly) keep our heads screwed on straight when the heat and stress was making us more than a little scattered. And it really does pay for both people to do visual inspections inside and out and when pulling out of the site. We found things that were overlooked on a few occasions.
P.P.S. One basic thing I would like suggestions for involves leveling. It seemed that everything we used , which included regular "lego" type squares and Camco's shorter version of the Anderson-type levelers (these are less likely to get caught between the two tires), wanted to slide. Nothing wanted to stay still on gravel, and the Camco levelers even slid on asphalt, despite being hammered in under the tires before starting. Do we need to get thin sheets of rubber to lay under these to keep them from moving? What have you done to deal with this?