Winnebago, Thou Hast Forsaken Me….

Anyone who knows me, knows I have been a Winnebago View cheerleader since it was “love at first sight” back in 2012 when I finally found “The One.” My 2008 J-model Winnebago View had been “garage kept” by the previous owner, alongside the little Tracker with complete Blue Ox towing package included. I have loved her ever since…praised lavishly, babied with regular service intervals, gleamed with pride when others asked, “Is it new?” So yesterday, during my final plea to Winnebago Customer Relations to please not forsake me, it was quite a slap in the face to hear “Well, maybe if it wasn’t so old…”

Rewind to the night before I left for my Channel Islands Adventure, when I thought I had a small gray tank leak. I called the mobile tech Adolfo to fix the leak, who diagnosed a much bigger problem. My “leak” was as a result of my hitch having broken loose and now resting on the pipe. Turns out, I almost left my Tracker on Highway 101. “What about the safety chains?” one might ask? Well, seems they don’t do much good if they are attached to the hitch and the hitch breaks off!

Back in ’08, Winnebago increased the View towing capacity from 3,500lbs to 5,000lbs. Around the same time, they increased the length of the coaches from 23 ft to 24 ft, and added a Class III towing hitch instead of a Class II. But they didn’t do anything to beef up the frame extensions (supplemental rails beneath the coach where the hitch and holding tanks are bolted.) The following year, Winnebago added some “beefier” frame extensions.

I have now found examples of three people on the Yahoo View/Navion Forum alone with ’08 Views who have had their frame extensions sheer off. I have exchanged emails personally with two out of three, both for whom Winnebago picked up the tab for the repairs, even though they were out of warranty. Ergo my reasoning for phoning Winnebago Customer Relations.

See, this should not have happened. I only tow a GEO Tracker, which is well below the towing limits at 2,800 lbs. In my attempts to find help for repair, a welding fabrication and hitch specialist told me he would not repair them via welding, because “the overall metal is crap! Way too flimsy to support the hitch they have got on there.”

I wouldn’t have expected Winnebago to bear any responsibility on this, if it were not for the fact that it is a “known issue” on the View Forum. And, I had examples where they had helped others out of warranty. “If only it wasn’t so old….”

My initial call to “Mitch,” WGO Customer Service Representative, left me hopeful. He told me to get to a WGO dealer, have them take photos, and submit the work order, which I did immediately. But my follow-up with Mitch resulted in an unreturned voice mail. I sent an impassioned email on 5/18 which has yet to be acknowledged. So I called yesterday to escalate, downright pleading for help. I even asked, “Well, what if I come there? To Forest City?” The guy responded “Sure! We’ll fix it!…at retail cost.”

The Catch 22 has been finding someone to fix it. The welding shops don’t want to deal with the holding tanks (bolted to these same extensions) and the RV Repair places don’t have the capability to weld. I pleaded with “Steve” at Winnebago Customer Relations to …”please help me find a solution. I am stranded. A single woman traveling alone. In my only home. In a city where I know no one. I can’t leave here. No one will help me. “ His solution? “Go on the website and plug in your zip code.” Seriously!

So could it be worse? Always! Nobody died. Nobody is even bleeding….well, maybe my wallet. And I have a 50 lb hitch in my living room. But I am in a safe place, the Tracker is still mobile, and I have two healthy feet. And I am not being sued for dropping a hitch in someone’s lane on the freeway. So yes, it could be worse!

In the end, the local RV Repair shop has agreed to fix it, but only after they learned that it will not involve any welding. The new, “beefier” frame extensions can be bolted on. But Winnegago is not helping with the parts. Winnebago is not helping with the shipping. Winnebago is not helping…

Today, I am thinking back to the day I learned American Express was laying me off in 2001 on the heels of 9/11. I had felt such loyalty to them for 20 years that I even joked about “bleeding Amex Blue.” I loved that company like family. But receiving the pink slip was a turning point for me where I realized the naivety of my misplaced loyalty. Sure, they hired me back, but from that point on, it was “just another job at another big, uncaring, corporation.” That’s how I now feel about Winnebago….

Looking up from the ground up.  Lower darker section is the hitch.  Metal with manufactured hole and bottom edge ripped away is hitch extension.   Silver in upper section is coach frame.

Looking up from the ground up. Lower darker section is the hitch. Metal with manufactured hole and bottom edge ripped away is hitch extension. Silver in upper section is coach frame.

Hitch now in my living room floor.   Note piece of frame extension still bolted on in lower left of photo.  Hitch is fine, just needs a wash.

Hitch now in my living room floor. Note piece of frame extension still bolted on in lower left of photo. Hitch is fine, just needs a wash.

Here, you can see the thin nature of the hitch extensions as compared to the thicker metal of the hitch.

Here, you can see the thin nature of the hitch extensions as compared to the thicker metal of the hitch.

Ragged edge of tear.

Ragged edge of tear.

My current situation.  Holding tanks are held in place by 1/2" zip ties.   Since they were bolted to the same frame extensions, they will need to be lowered for the new extensions to be bolted in place.

My current situation. Holding tanks are held in place by 1/2″ zip ties. Since they were bolted to the same frame extensions, they will need to be lowered for the new extensions to be bolted in place.

And Finally, When One Island Just Isn’t Enough…

It’s not possible to move between the Channel Islands by way of commercial transportation.  Only by private boat can one visit multiple islands in one boat trip.  Otherwise, one must go back to the mainland and book another excursion with Island Packers.  Which is precisely what I did.

So why would I do this after having spent three delightful, fulfilling days hiking, kayaking, and exploring Santa Cruz…really, all the best that the Channel Islands has to offer?   What has Anacapa Island got that Santa Cruz hasn’t got?? Continue reading

Channel Islands National Park, Part 2…The Hiking

The Channel Islands National Park is one of our least visited parks in the National Park system.   Ranger Erin at the beautiful Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center in Ventura Harbor tells me that of all the visitors that come to the center, only 10% actually travel by boat to set foot on the islands, as one need go no further than the mainland Visitor Center to get their National Parks Passport Stamp.  Of  those 10% who do take the boat trip, only a lesser percentage Continue reading

Channel Islands National Park, Part 1…Camping and Kayaking

After multiple phone and email conversations with friends and family, all who said GO!  You will be sorry if you don’t!” I boarded the Island Packers boat the next morning bound for Santa Cruz in the Channel Islands, knowing if I couldn’t quit stressing over needing to address the Winnie repairs, I could always come back early. Continue reading

Oh Hi to Oh No!

Just 15 miles inland from the coastal town of Ventura is a cool little “mountain valley” town, Ojai, pronounced “OH hi.”  The little town is nestled in the Ojai Valley, surrounded by 5,000 ft tall mountains…well, “mountains” according to coastal standards.   Wikipedia describes it best, “The city’s self-styled nickname is ‘Shangri-La’ referencing the natural beauty of this health-and-spirituality-focused region.” Continue reading

Ventura Highway in the Sunshine…

Hanging around north of LA waiting on my upcoming Channel Island getaway has given me time to explore the area, specifically Ventura County’s cool and “mostly affordable” (at least by SoCal standards) Regional Parks.   But there are a couple of tricky rules that could potentially cause a snag. Continue reading

A Presidential Library, Hollywood Style!

I always had a soft spot for the Reagans, but not for reasons one might think. Back in the early days, my Mom and Dad both bore a striking resemblance. Their heights and weight were an exact match to the Reagans. Dad had thick wavy brown hair and could fill out a suit and tie with panache, while Mom had the 80’s “brown football helmet hair,” Continue reading

Putting Politics Aside for History

I have a terrible memory, as I am reminded every time my 87 year old mother prefaces a bit of family history with “You don’t remember???” I can’t remember much about any of my “formative years.” But what memories I do have are vivid. For example, I still remember exactly where I was on August 8, 1974. Continue reading

The Swallows Have Left the Building

I write a lot about music here on the blog.  It’s always been an important aspect of my life, providing a continual soundtrack running through my head since I was a pre-teen.   But I really marvel when one song can be so influential as to change an entire perspective of a place in history.  Such is the nature of San Juan Capistrano. Continue reading

If I Can Just Get Off of that LA Freeway…

“If I can just get off of that LA Freeway without getting killed or caught.” Yep. Another song lyric – written by Guy Clark, made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker, circa 1972, for those who might not recognize it. A popular hit from my University days in Austin, hanging out at the Armadillo World Headquarters.

Anyone who knows anything about Los Angeles knows there is no “LA Freeway” per se. Everyone speaks in idioms of numbers these days, all proceeded with a “the.” Continue reading