Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Repairing Your Oasis Elite Door Awning

Odometer 54446

Ajo, AZ

Good Morning Readers!
Today's blog posting is a technical post for other RVers who may have a Dometic A&E Door Awning on their RV.  Other readers may want to skip onto the next travel blog.

Joan and I have been experiencing problems with the small electrically deployed awning that is situated above the entry door to our Itasca Horizon motorhome.

2002 Itasca Motorhome with Oasis Elite door awning

This small awning has both an electric motor furler and a manual override which will accept a hand crank which is stowed in one of the basement bays.  Not all models came with the manual crank option, as I'll demonstrate in a bit.  When we initially started having problems with the awning, the motor would open the awning a little bit, and then stall.  We just got the hand crank out, and deployed the awning that way.  Same when it came time to retract- the motor just couldn't do it.

Dometic label plate for door awning
For those of you that are still reading, I'll assume that you are here for the technical information on a DIY fix, or to better understand and explain the problem to those that will fix it for you.  The model and serial numbers for the particular awning that I will be referencing are in the photo to the right.  The model/serial number tag is affixed to the inside of the head rail which mounts the awning to the sidewall.  This means if your awning is broken and will not deploy you will need to remove the motor drive (or crank if manual) to allow the awning to deploy to get to the two mounting screws, and to see this number plate.

Fiamma label plate for door awning

There is a second label inside the headrail because Dometic does not make this particular awning.  Dometic resells this product manufactured by Fiamma of Italy.  Also if you noticed the label above lists this product as having been made in October of 2002.  When I contacted Dometic, they referred me to Fiamma, as they no longer stock parts for this unit.  Luckily, Fiamma has a US outlet in Orlando, Florida, and although their web site is abysmal, they do have knowledgeable staff that you can talk to on the phone.  I spoke to Jeff Roberts at (407)672-0091 to find the part I needed and get it shipped to me.

It is possible to work on this unit without first taking it down off the sidewall, but for my purposes I took it down and worked on it while it was resting on a table.  There is a very good video on YouTube posted by RV Geeks showing how to work on the motor unit.  You can check out their video in a pop-up window here (Click Here).  I had one additional defect that the Geeks did not have, meaning I had to disassemble more of the awning, plus it was time for new fabric.  I was able to get the awning to open far enough with the hand crank to allow me to remove the fixing screws that hold the awning in place.

Removing retaining screws from door awning 

One screw is about where my left hand is resting the other is being loosened with my right hand.  These screws go from the aluminum rail into the coach sidewall and their purpose it to keep the awning from sliding fore and aft.

Sheet metal screws anchor awning in mounting rail

The awning assembly is hooked into a track that is mounted on the sidewall and slides forward out of the track. There are two screws that need to be removed that anchor the chassis of the awning in the mounting rail.
Before you can slide the awning out of the mounting rail, you have to deal with the electrical wires that connect to the motor.  In their video the Geeks dug out the caulking and fished the connectors out of the sidewall of the coach.  I cut the wires and installed quick disconnect spade connectors.  Your choice.

After removing the screws and dealing with the motor wires the awning can be removed by sliding it out of the track.  Caution!  The awning is heavier than it looks and quite awkward to do single handed as shown here.  After the photo Joan assisted me in getting the awning off and safely to the ground. (Ladder technique used here is unsafe, and not recommended)

Whole Awning Removed As A Unit
A picnic table worked well as a work table to further disassemble of the awning mechanism.

Removing screws holding motor unit onto awning chassis

I have a long blade Phillips screw driver that helped to remove the two screws that hold the drive unit onto the chassis of the awning.  There is one screw where shown in the picture above, and another that is in the same relative place on the opposite side.  My unit also had an 1/8" pop rivet at the approximate location of my left thumb in the picture above which I drilled out.

Sliding motor unit out of awning chassis

Once those three fasteners are removed the power unit slides off the end of the chassis and the fabric roller tube.  Your unit may or may not look the same as mine does.  My awning has an optional manual crank attachment which is the white and red plastic module sandwiched in between the awning and the motor unit.

Removing the bolts holding unit together
With the motor unit on the work bench take a felt tip marker and draw lines across the attach points from one module to the next to assist with proper alignment during re-assembly.

Once unit is marked begin disassembly by removing the hex head bolts (3) that hold the motor to the planetary gear section.  The planetary gears are the gray metal drum shaped section closest to my pinkie finger in the photo to the right.

Remove the electric drive motor

With the bolts loose pull the motor unit free and set aside.  Next slide the white plastic manual crank assembly off the drive shaft.

Remove the manual crank assembly

Set the manual crank assembly aside

Gently pry loose the gear pack

The planetary drum was stuck and could not be removed by hand on my unit.  If yours is like mine use a pry bar or screwdriver to GENTLY work your way around the circumference of the gear pack until it slides out of the roller tube drive.

Gear pack was gouging the bracket

The picture at right shows a good part of the reason that the planetary unit was stuck.  It had worn a groove from contact with the flange on the metal mounting bracket on the white plastic roller tube guide.  The new part that I ordered had an upgraded bracket that came with it, that should prevent this from happening in the future.

Old Planetary drive with snap ring loose
Finally!  This is the culprit that I have been trying to get to.  This unit has 3 planetary gears inside that are the gear reduction unit that allows the motor to provide enough power to wind in the awning against the springs.  On my awning this unit was jammed and would not turn.  I'll show you why in the next several slides.

In the photo to the right I have already partially removed the snap ring that allows you to disassemble the gear pack and look inside.

Old Planetary with grease removed
In this photo the cover has been removed (as has all the grease) so you can see the planetary gears
inside.  You may or may not want to disassemble your drive unit.  On my awning this gear drive was locked up tight and I wanted to know why.  This 15 year old awning that is rarely ever used is broken, whereas the main awning that is used a lot has no motor drive problems- so I was curious.  If you can hold the exterior of your planetary, and spin the small input shaft with your fingers, making the square recessed drive on the big end turn- you don't have my problem.  If yours is locked up too- you don't have to take it apart - just order a replacement.

The picture above is the old planetary with the gears and shafts removed.  Notice that the holes where the gear shafts were inserted into the back of the bell are egg shaped not round.  This caused the gears to collide with each other and bind up.  Nothing I could do to fix this.

Okay.  I got a hold of Fiamma and ordered up a new planetary (Part # 02598-01) $80 plus shipping at the time of my order.  Now I have a pretty good idea why my part failed prematurely.  The new unit would not turn when I tried to spin the input shaft with my fingers- or when I gently applied a crescent wrench.- Hmmm...  Took off the snap ring and opened up the gear case.

New unit has hard congealed "grease" that had to be chipped out and cleaned with solvent

This is what I found- the "grease" they used to pack the gear cluster had hardened to a plastic consistency.  I'm not kidding here- it had to be chipped out of the unit with a screwdriver and a series of o-ring picks, then cleaned in solvent.

Re-packed with hi-temp bearing grease
Once the unit was spotlessly clean, I repacked with hi-temp bearing grease.  Now the unit works like a dream.  I weighed my options before doing this.  Yes, I could have returned the unit to Fiamma along with my complaint and waited while they shipped a new one.  However I believe they are ALL packed with this hard, congealed, grease- that is most likely why my first unit failed too!  So I bit the bullet and bought $8 worth of hitemp bearing grease and did the work myself.  As time goes on I'll update this blog and let you know how I'm making out with the "improved version"
I did send a text to Jeff at Fiamma along with photos.  Jeff said he'd look at another unit on the shelf and see if it too was jammed with "plastic" grease.

I hinted earlier that there has been a modification to this part.  The new gears came with a re-designed bracket and bushing plate.

New bushing plate (right) comes with replacement gear pack

Remember when I disassembled the motor drive, the old planetary had a groove worn around the drive hub.  Well the new unit comes with a re-designed busing plate.  The original was a single thickness plastic plate, the new one has a 3/8" bearing collar in the center, and the hole is smaller diameter.

New bracket and bearing plate ready for installation
Remove the old mounting bracket from the motor support and install the new pieces shown in the picture above.  Note the orientation of the old bracket and install the new one in same orientation.  To make re-assembly easier, transfer the marks you made earlier with the marking pen from the old bracket to the new motor bracket.

Transfer marks from old bracket to new bracket
You are now ready to re-assemble in the reverse order of disassembly- however, if you like me, are needing replacement fabric on your awning, now is a good time to do that job also.

Removing fabric retaining screws
Replacing Awning Fabric

The screws holding the fabric on the roller tube are buried and hard to find.  About 2-3 inches in from either end is a #1 Phillips head sheet metal screw down in the groove of the roller tube.  Carefully tease out those two screws and then go to the other end of the awning where there are two more screws.

Note: A standard #2 Phillips screwdriver in too big and may destroy the head of the screw

Loosening the nut that holds the end cap on
In the picture to the right, the screw on the outer rail has been removed (red arrow) and I'm getting ready to remove the end cap so I can slide the fabric out of the groove.  The two screws in this end are 1/4" hex head sheet metal screws and much easier to get to, and to remove.

Use a 1/2" (13mm) socket to loosen the pinch bolt on the end cap and gently tap it off the end of the outboard rail.  The nut does not have to be removed- only loosened

Sliding old fabric out of the channels
Once the screws (4 of them) are removed, two from each edge of the awning, and one end cap is removed- simply tug the awning fabric out of the groove in the outer rail on one end and the roller tube on the other.
Reverse these directions for inserting the new fabric.  Spraying silicone spray in the groves before inserting fabric make inserting much easier.

On re-assembly before you re-insert the new awning fabric mark the location of the screw hole where the fabric retaining screw was removed (if you are going to re-use the same screw and hole).
 Make this mark on the metal roller tube adjacent to the groove where it will be visible after the fabric is installed (see photo below).

Fabric retaining screw on roller tube
 After the new fabric has been inserted Re-install the plastic end cap on the outer rail.  Gently tap end cap into place and tighten the 1/2" (13mm) nut.
Next center the fabric in groove side to side, use a drill and a small (1/16") twist bit to put a guide hole into the fabric's rubber spline where your hole mark is.  Using your #1 Phillips screwdriver push the screw into your drilled pilot hole and screw the screw in while rotating the tip up/down & left right in a very small orbit, until you feel the screw tip hit the old hole in the roller tube.  Finish installing the screw until the head is below the lip of the guide in the roller tube but do not tighten to where the head of the screw disappears into the fabric or vinyl spline, or it may pull on through.

Fabric retaining screw on outside rail
Do not install the fabric retaining screws in the outer rail until after you have remounted the awning and hooked up the power leads.  You must adjust the fabric side to side in the outer rail to allow the awning to close properly.  My mechanism was old enough (14yrs) that I also needed to lubricate the joints of the awning "arms".   I used a light spray oil that has Teflon additive in it.   There is a very tight clearance to pocket the outer rail into the sidewall chassis.  Take your time in adjusting the fabric side to side in the outer rail until it closes perfectly.  There is only about 1/8" to 1/4" tolerance.  Just before the outer rail pockets into the sidewall chassis, move it very slowly (light taps on the switch) and constantly check alignment.  If you rush this- some plastic will break!   Once you get the awning to close properly install the two outer rail screws. (blue arrow)  The awning arms bend in a "V" shape as the awning closes up.  The V's point at each other like this (> <) if the two arms are not collapsing at the same rate and the Vs don't line up (as mine didn't) they need to be lubricated as explained above.

The Motor

I did all of this,  (up to the part where the awning actually closes ;->) only to find that my motor was not strong enough to power the awning.  The manual crank worked like a dream- in and out, but the motor -not so much.  So guess what...

Motor unit removed from chassis
I took the awning down and removed the motor (again).
By now I was glad I had opted to install the spade connectors on the power leads.  I reached up and plugged in the motor to test it outside the gear train and awning mechanism.  With the leads connected and the switch on, the motor was stalled.  I could feel it hum, but it would not rotate

Worm gear on motor unit

First I checked to see if there were any obstructions in the worm gear, or if they may have used the same hard "grease" in this area.

The grease seemed entirely appropriate, and everything was well meshed and unbound.  I used a toothpick to redistribute the grease from the corners to the main gear and buttoned that end back up.

Lower bearing mount for motor armature

I took the two long bolts holding the motor together lengthwise out, and gently pried the bottom off.  I think I found the problem alright!

As seen in the picture to the right, the bottom sleeve bearing for the armature is "rusted" onto the armature shaft.  I could not pull it off with my fingers, nor would it come loose with a gentle pull using pliers.

I took a micro torch and heated the bearing up till it would come loose using the pliers and some very gentle persuasion.

I cleaned up the bottom cover with some solvent, then took my needle nose pliers to gently pull the friction ring out of the shaft support hole.  This thin spring ring is supposed to hold the sleeve bearing in place and retains a soft felt washer also.  I cleaned the support hole, and checked to see that I had not badly distorted the spring ring.  I washed the felt washer in solvent, dried it thoroughly.

Motor armature

Using a green polyester scrubbing pad and some WD-40 I polished the armature shaft and the inside surfaces of the sleeve bearing.

I took a dab of bearing grease on my finger and pushed it into the bearing, and applied a light film of grease onto the armature shaft where it rides inside the bearing.

Cleaned up and lubricated armature bearing
Note:  The felt washer indicates to me that the bottom bearing was most likely assembled with light machine oil on the bearing surfaces and soaking the felt washer.  I decided on grease- your choice.

 Next I put the bearing back into the recess in the bottom cover and placed the felt washer on top. Satisfied with the position of the bearing, I pressed the spring washer into the recess to retain the bearing in place.

RTV silicone gasket on bottom cap
I elected to seal the bottom cap on with some silicone gasket material, just in case that seam was where the moisture was getting in.

I reinserted the armature and fit the cap onto the motor housing, re-installed the long bolts, and tested the motor by hooking it back up to the wires  coming out of the coach.


By this time I was well practiced at assembling the awning and installing the awning on the motorhome, so that all happened fairly quickly.
Bottom line is that it now works and has a new fabric topper.  Total cost was$145.00.   $95 for the new planetary and $50 for new fabric.

I hope this experience helps at least one other RVer.

If you have any comments or questions, please use the comments section below.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Desert Footwear

Odometer 54446

Ajo, AZ

Trekking in the desert the other day, Mark and I found some very excellent examples of footwear.

Mark holds a pair of Saguaro boots
Of course, the footwear I am talking about is the saguaro boot.  These "boots" are formed out of scar tissue generated by the saguaro plant when they are attacked or wounded.

Saguaro cactus  with flesh wounds
It is amazing to me that a plant that has such a great natural defense mechanism is so vunerable to the Gilded Flicker and the Gila Woodpecker, both of who make burrows and nests in the flesh, and sometimes burrow clear through to the other side.  
Once the nest has been vacated by the maker, they are often apropriated by owls and Purple Martins.

The remains of an old Saguaro cactus
Once the cactus dies and falls to the desert floor, the flesh is eaten or rotted away leaving the interior woody supports- and the tough leathery scar tissues that sometimes resembles a shoe or boot.

Would this then be a Saguaro slipper?
These are great finds and everyone wants two or ten of them as a souvenir, however wildlife biologists urge us not to collect them, but rather leave them in place as habitat for the smaller creatures of the desert.   Oh-yeah, it is also illegal to remove a saguaro boot from the desert in Arizona.

Hey! that looks like a size 11-1/2 - alright!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Coffee Pot Valley

Odometer 54446
Ajo, AZ

A recent desert trek took me out to CoffeePot Valley where Mark and I were scouting for another aircraft wreck site.  CoffeePot is east of Ajo out behind the Batamote Mountains.

Joan and I were out near here last year when Mark and I got stranded in the Suzuki when his shift bushing crumbled leaving the transmission in neutral- permanently, well semi-permanently,we got it fixed pretty quickly with a new piece from Low Range Off Road.
This time the Suzuki is working well and we are tracking down a report of an F-104 that crashed in this vicinity back in 1969

The distinctive rock crest is what gives this mountain its name- but I'm not seeing the coffeepot- maybe a whale?  but no, not a coffeepot of any kind I've seen.

Boulder Road
The road is very challenging, best accomplished with a good off-road machine.  The "road" is a single lane and goes from gravel, to mud, to rocks the size of a football, and the ruts and washouts just add to the fun.  Forward speed is regulated by how good your spine and internal organs are feeling that day.  Today we hit high speeds in the 25- 30mph range however the average was more like 4-5 mph. Low range 4 wheel drive makes it easier to crawl along with out fanning the clutch in, and out all the time.

The search area for this particular crash will be about a mile square, because the coordinates we have been given have degrees and minutes, but no seconds.  I believe they are kept vague for a reason, but not sure what the reason is- souvenir hunters maybe?
Our goal today is to scout the area and get more data that will help us come up with a good search pattern.

There is a high pressure gas line that follows this route.  The gas line was installed back in the early 20's to supply natural gas to the Ajo copper mine.  Most of the line is buried, but washes (arroyos) and solid rock ledges have forced the installers to leave some of the pipe exposed.
Gas line from Tucson to Ajo
Did I mention that there are wild burros out here too?  There is one in the middle ground of this picture checking me out.

Natural Gas Pumping Station

Out in Coffeepot Valley there is a fuel powered pump that runs all the time- keeping the line pressurized  enabling the gas to cover the 120 miles from Tucson and Ajo. (probably one of several)

The road to Coffeepot Well and Corral takes off from the mainline here and takes us north through the valley that lies to the west of  Coffeepot mountain.

The corral and the holding tank are still out here, but the wind pump has been taken down, so the only water in the troughs here is rain water.  This was one of many wind pumps that operated in this area in the late 1800's and early 1900's to support the cattle from the Childs Ranch.  This setup is much like the well and corral on the pipeline road at Burro Gap that I reported on in this blog a few years ago.  [You can read that blog in a pop-up window by clicking here (Burro Gap).]  Something I read at the Organ Pipe National Monument said that ranchers need to have water available about every 6 miles for their free range cattle, and that seems about right when I consider all the wells that were active in this area.  This is public land, but the rancher that controlled the water- "owned" the grazing.
No wreck found today- but we'll be back...

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Having Some Fun and Doing it With Safety

From Ajo to Oregon and Back

I hinted in my last post that we accepted a safety training job that would take us to back to Oregon for 13 days in the coldest part of the year - January!   Our good friend Mark has volunteered to take us up to the airport and bring us back.  We failed miserably at remembering to take PHOTOS.  I think we were preoccupied with the details of the trip and the training, and seeing family and friends- well that's my excuse...

We got up early on Sunday morning and finished packing our bags, had a light breakfast and secured the bus, including turning off the water at the park's water spigot.  We left the heat on at a low setting on the thermostat, closed the window blinds.  We had already secured all of out outdoor equipment; chairs, tables, awnings etc.  Mark was right on time to pick us up at 9:15 AM and the 2 hour trip to the Phoenix airport was uneventful.  We had already "checked in" on the web app for Alaska Airlines, and printed our boarding passes and  routing tag for our one checked bag.

Once we got to Sky Harbor Airport we dropped off our checked bag at the ticket counter and headed for the TSA lines.  When you check in on-line with the app, you can do a TSA pre-screen that allows you to get in the fast lane at TSA. The pre-screen just amounts to reading and agreeing to the TSA rules for baggage and carry-ons.  In 1 minute we were through the arch and in the gate concourse.

The flying time up to Portland is 2 hours and 8 minutes.  We decided to fly into PDX rather than Medford for several reasons:
I-205 through Portland on Jan 13th 2017

  • Medford is famous for getting fogged in this time of year
  • Car rental is cheaper in Portland
  • Driving down we could stop and see family in Salem and pick-up our training materials in Eugene.
We had excellent exit row seats and the flight up was very pleasant.  We flew a landing pattern that took us down the Columbia river and as we made our turn over the city on final for landing we could see that the recent snows had not melted off yet.   Portland was still under a blanket of white!

Joan had already arranged for a car, so we headed for Dollar where we picked up a 2016 Toyota Corolla.  After a few minutes of familiarization in the parking garage, I was ready to head south through Portland on I-205 for Salem.

Image result for toyota corolla cruise control switch
2016 Corolla Cruise Control
Those of you who know us, know that we drive a 2005 Honda, so a new car has much more technology to learn.  We were amazed at how the car could be made to lock onto Joan's iPhone and start playing our tunes, display our contacts list, and probably much more.  The LED headlights were amazing!  The brilliance was excellent and the cut-off to keep the lights out of the eyes of an approaching car was a straight horizontal line- nice!  One thing I did not like was the way the cruise control worked.  Instead of being on the steering wheel, it was under the wheel on a short stalk on the lower right hand side where my fingers brushed into it all the time, knocking us off cruise until I could do a resume.  I hold my hands on the wheel at the 4 &8 position as recommended anytime there is an airbag in the wheel.  This keeps you from having your hand/arm punch you in the face if the air bag deploys.  Well, that puts my fingers where they brush the Cruise stalk all the time.  End of rant.

We planned to spend an extra day in Salem, and it was great to be able to see mom and my two brothers.  Mom is going to be 96 in April and is still living on her own in an apartment in a retirement center.  My brothers and their families took Joan and me to Olive Garden where we commandeered the largest table in the place.  It was awesome to see them all.  Joan and I were all bundled up, as we were used to the warmer "summer like" climate of southern Arizona and the sub-freezing temps in Oregon affirmed our preference for the nomadic life of the snowbird.

Joan and I drove to Medford on the 18th, stopping in Eugene to pick up the class materials for the 3 trainings we would be presenting over the next 5 days (not including the weekend).  We looked for an interesting restaurant in Eugene for lunch.  We drove to Cafe Yum! only to find it closed on Wednesdays, however, across the street was the Mediterranean Network Restaurant which looked intriguing.  We got a table and ordered the sampler platter for two which gave us Pita bread, hummus, baba ganouj, dolmathes, fresh vegetables and falafels.  We both had plenty to eat, and if we could have found a Starbucks without back-tracking we'd have been in heaven.  As it was we stopped in Cottage Grove 21miles south of Eugene and indulged ourselves a the Starbucks in the Safeway.

Best Western Horizon Inn Medford, OR
The rest of the trip to Medford was like driving on auto-pilot, we have done this stretch of I-5 many-many times.  We arrived in Medford at around 4 PM and checked into the Best Western Horizon Inn for a 4 day stay.

I am anxious to get setup at the desk in the room to make last minute tweaks and test all our AV equipment for the training tomorrow.
We are also excited about seeing our good friends Doug and Kathy for dinner at McGraths tonight.  Doug and I have been friends since the early 90's and Doug and Kathy have been unfailing in their commitment to stay connected with us. Doug and Kathy have visited and stayed with us at our home in Port Orford every year, even when the house was gutted and we sat and talked in lawn chairs in the empty living room.  Friends for Life!

The next three days pass by in a blurr.  The trainings went very well and they put us in contact with more friends Curt and his sweetheart Val and Chris and his engaging wife, Deann.  We met initially through my association with ASSE (Am Soc of Safety Engineers), but the relationships are much deeper than that.  Curt and I formed a kinship back in 2004, both with similar backgrounds and passions.  Chris and I teamed up years ago to teach OSHA 10 and 30 hour trainings, and Chris like me, taught the AGC Supervisor Safety Trainings at Rogue Community College.  The six of us were joined by Chris' 12 year old daughter Aubrey at Kaleidoscope Pizza on Friday night for a great re-union.

La Quinta Grants Pass
Saturday and Sunday were lost in preparation for my next two trainings in Grants Pass for the Public Works Department.  One notable exception to the class prep, my long time buddy Mark Salter called to say he'd be by to pick me up for lunch on the go.  We had some serious catching up to do and after grabbing some tacos we drove around the countryside and talked and talked. Somewhere in the middle of the class prep, we checked out of the Best Western and into the La Quinta in Grants Pass.

Here we had two days of Confined Space training and one day of Fall Protection training at the Public Safety building off Park Ave.  My voice is holding out better than I expected thanks in part to a wireless mic. and speaker that my good friend Mike in Port Orford brought us from home, and nightly salt water gargles.

Tap Rock Northwest Grill Grants Pass, Oregon
With our training completed, we celebrated with a fantastic dinner at the Tap Rock Northwest Grill between 6th and 7th streets on the bank of the Rogue River.  Our hostess brought out a basket of warm pretzel rolls and a dab of honey butter- we were in heaven!   For dinner I had two fish tacos with chipotle mayonnaise and they were fabulous! Joan had the portobello sandwich, equally good. We spent the night in Grants Pass and at 6 the next morning, headed back up I-5.

 A quick stop in Eugene at the HQ for D2000, my employer, then on to Salem, to spend the rest of the day with family.   We took mom to Little Lois' Deli in West Salem for a real treat, and later in the afternoon my big brother Nick and I got a chance to hang out for an hour or two, something we haven't been able to do in many years.  Kathy made a scrumptious taco dinner for the four of us and Joan and I turned in early because we had to leave for Portland 6 in the morning.
At 6 in the morning on the 27th we crept quietly out of Thane and Kathy's house and regarded our now iced over car!  I'm missing the south already!  The trip to Portland was uneventful, we used the time to scrub our phone's DNA out of the car's memory, blue tooth/ contacts/ etc.  The rental car check-in was very smooth and so was the transit through TSA- that meant we had a little over two hours to wait for our flight to board.
Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant

The plane was completely full and everyone was carrying a monster carry-on.  We worried that all the overhead storage would be gone by the time we got called for boarding, but luck was with us.  No exit row seats this time, we were in the purgatory section, and the woman next to Joan had a sloppy cold- fun!

Tapas for $6
Alaska was worried that the pilot on board was would time-out on the flight down, so they held up the flight at the gate for 30 minutes while they got a replacement.  Next we waited for a de-ice spray down and finally we were good to go.  A quick taxi out, and cleared for take-off.  Warm weather here we come!  Leaving  without much time for breakfast, Joan and I both purchased a snack on the flight down.  $6 buys you a fresh fruit platter or a Mediterranean sampler with hummus and pita chips- not bad

Despite being almost 30 minutes late arriving, Mark picked us up at the curb outside baggage claim in Phoenix and we set out for some lunch.  We were heading for Buckeye on Interstate 10 west so we googled up a Panera and got off in Goodyear.  Couldn't find it where it was supposed to be so we went to Rubio's Mexican at Mark's suggestion- and it was GOOD!  As we were leaving, Joan noticed that the bakery next door was the Panera- they were so new they didn't have the sign up yet!

An hour later, we were back in Ajo and home.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan