Fixing Problems and Dodging Weather
A Monday morning email came in from Jeff, our Vanleigh warranty representative. We had an invitation to show up at the factory at 1:00 and we shared fist bumps and relieved smiles. Since purchasing our new 2021 Vilano 320GK last September we had spent hundreds of hours corresponding with Jeff and identifying, troubleshooting and repairing problems that should have been caught by Vanleigh’s self proclaimed triple pre-delivery inspection. One by one all of the issues had been brought to resolution and Jeff was always responsive in sending us the parts we needed without delay. Now we had hope that we would be getting hands-on help that very day with the dangerous dropping jack problem.
We arrived at the Vanleigh factory gate and explained to the Guard that we had an appointment with Brett, the Director of Service and Warranty. The property was much smaller and more modest than I had previously envisioned and it was apparent that they weren’t used to end users like us just pulling onto the lot. We created a bottleneck at the entrance and they quickly re-located us to a nearby empty lot where trailer axles were stored. With a warm smile and a strong southern accent Brett introduced himself and let us know that he had read our letter and watched our videos. He and his top hydraulic technicians went to work inspecting and repairing the system.
In addition to the hydraulic issues, I pointed out my concerns about the condition of the frame. In particular I showed him the bent steel plate that is meant to stiffen the main I-beam where the spring hangers attach. It was obvious that this was a production defect that somehow made it past delivery inspections and I asked if someone could inspect all of the welds so that we could have piece of mind. Brett hit the speed dial on the phone to call Lippert (the manufacturer of the frame) and since he was standing just a few feet away from me I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation. The person who answered the phone responded to Brett’s request that he come down the street to have a look with something like “Not My Problem”. After Brett repeated the request a few times the Lippert Guy said he would come over. I remember thinking it must have been embarrassing for this group of Vanleigh employees that I could hear everything being said.
The Lippert guy came and went fairly quickly leaving me with nothing more than a few quotes. “People go too fast and hit pot holes”, “Something must have caught it and bent it”, “I’ve seen worse”, “No I don’t have a card” and “Gotta get back to the office” were a few. There would be no inspection of the welds that day by the frame manufacturer but Brett and his Vanleigh technicians were both professional and consciencious and after replacing the manifold and the three remaining original jacks they purged air from the system and tested until they could give us a confident nod that our jack problem was fixed.
After thanking Brett and his crew we spent the evening celebrating with take-out Chinese food and trying to figure out how to get out of tornado alley without another scare like the one we had before leaving Florida. As we had previously anticipated the weather window was quickly closing and there was a big front in the forecast for Tuesday evening. We made the decision to stay put at our campsite in Corinth for another night to wait it out.
It felt good to have a day to catch up on video and website work and install the replacement fuel filter in the transfer tank. As the afternoon wore on it became apparent that a multi-state line of thunderstorms was heading directly toward us. Local television news stations were broadcasting live updates and warnings as the storm rolled east through Little Rock and Memphis with 80mph straight line winds followed by destructive tornados. Once the forecasters announced that Corinth was on the countdown list we made final preparations that included bringing in the slides on the rig, disconnecting power and getting us, Gracie and Jasper into the Truck. For the second time in a week we were inclined to take our chances in the truck as the campground had no adequate tornado shelters.
We pulled the truck as far as possible from the tall trees that bordered the small private r.v. park. There we sat with the engine running as if there would be anywhere to go if all hell broke loose. In an instant the calm evening air gave way to the deafening white noise of the 80mph wind as it caused every tree in the forest to lean hard to the east. A torrential driven rain came in sheets that the windshield wipers could not keep up with. Next everything started to swirl and a tornado warning blared over the weather radio. A handful of campground guests could be seen running through the rain to a metal building and others could be seen like us, waiting it out in their vehicles. Then just as quickly as it arrived it was gone.
We awoke the next morning to find that the straight line wind damage in Corinth was extensive and a tornado touched down about a mile away. On so many levels we felt as though we had just completed a journey but in fact just beginning our journey back to Colorado and beyond without having to worry about the safety of our rig.