In the eight years that we have had the Alfa, we have replaced three of the Atwood jacks when they failed. Also, Atwood is out of business, and replacement legs are hard to find.
For my non-rving friends, an RV should be level when parked. Not only for the comfort of the occupants, and for frying eggs in a pan, but for the operation of an absorption (electric/gas) refrigerator. It is less important if you have a residential electric refrigerator, which some RVs have.
The four legs also stabilize the coach so you don't bounce around when someone is walking inside, and an egg won't roll off the counter if left unattended.
Our first campground after White Pigeon had a nice firm, fairly level gravel pad. The legs went down quietly with just a press of the control panel buttons, and Craig had no problem correcting the programed level position with a few manual tweaks. (They set the program at the factory, but it is not quite right and eventually when he gets more familiar with them, Craig will reprogram it.)
Our second campground, in Chippewa Falls, was more challenging. It was a somewhat rough grass spot and since they had had a lot of rain recently, the ground was soggy and soft.
With the Atwood legs, Craig would have had to put blocks on the ground under the feet so the coach didn't sink and get stuck. At the Sioux Falls Fairgrounds, he had to dig the blocks out of the ground when we were leaving!
We bought the optional snap pads for the feet. They are made of a "tuff stuff" type material and stay on permanently. No need to kneel in the mud to slide blocks under the coach!
We are not sure how long they will last, but replacements are only $50 each and can be installed by the coach owner.
After we pulled out of the spot in Chippewa Falls, I went back and looked at the impressions left in the soft ground. The Bigfeet had come up easily. By the time we were at the next campground all the mud had dried and blown off, so they looked as good as new.
Our next park, in Saginaw MN, was pretty level, but Craig still had to make a few manual adjustments.
Finally our spot at Indian Point in Duluth, was a bit uneven with grass and older gravel. It too would have required the use of extra blocks with the Atwood. No problem with the Bigfoot system.
We know there will be more challenging locations in the future, but for now I think we have a pretty good sample, and arrival or departure is far less stressful without the worry of "will the jacks go up or down one more time?"
[From Craig] My main complaint about the Bigfoot system also applied to the Atwood Levelegs. I don't believe that there is any one "level reference" setting that I can accept for "fully automatic" leveling at all sites. What I think is the fault of both systems is that when they compute the jack extensions necessary to level the coach, both systems seem to do MOST BUT NOT ALL of the necessary extension(s). For example, on both systems, if what's needed is raising the back and the passenger side, in order to achieve good leveling I have to manually do a little more extension on the back and a little more on the passenger side. Considering how corporations use common technology nowadays, I wouldn't be surprised if this similar behavior is because Bigfoot's leveling is descended from Atwood's. Before I get sued, I don't mean that Bigfoot copied stuff from Atwood. But the Atwood control module that I removed to send to another Alfa owner, looked really similar to the Bigfoot control module that I see under my dashboard.
So, all in all we are satisfied with our decision to replace our leveling system. However, our installation experience was not the best. The factory tech tried repeatedly to get the program to level the coach. Since we were not hooked up at the time, and the area was in the midst of the heatwave, the coach kept getting hotter and hotter as they tried to tweak it. Craig finally accepted it as "good enough", knowing he could reprogram it himself in the future.
Then, after the techs left, he discovered a couple of wiring problems in the coach dash. Both our phone dock and our Tire Pressure Monitor system were dead. Craig traced the phone dock problem to a blown fuse. He had another and was able to change it. But the TPS wiring had been disconnected from the power connection and was just hanging loosely from a piece of electrical tape. Fortunately Craig knew how to fix it. He has a small soldering iron among his onboard tools, and was able to rewire it. I suggested he call the tech back, but he didn't want them to touch anything else.
I hope that in time we will come to love these jacks.
Back to our RV travels:
It took us a couple of days to drive to the Duluth MN area, our next destination. We ran into a horrendous rain storm while I was driving through the south end of the Chicago area. I hate when that happens. I was driving in a very tight freeway area with semis on either side, when I inadvertently caused my side mirror to clack into that of an adjacent truck. No damage, but the driver was not happy with me. He really blasted me with his horn as he sped up to pass us! The plus was the rain washed the bugs off the windshield!
This seems like a month for things breaking. This time it was the monitor screen on Craig's Apple laptop. We ended up driving 150 miles, from Duluth to the Apple Store in Minneapolis (in the Jeep). That was on Monday, Craig had to go back for it on Saturday, but there was no charge for this repair, as for the previous keyboard replacement in Colorado.
Before our appointment, we had time to go downtown and see the Mill City Flour Museum in Minneapolis. Neither of us had known what a big flour mill center the city had been. The Flour museum was in an old Gold Medal mill that had exploded and been rebuilt.
Lots of old machines were on display along with some excellent information about the milling process.
|A look into the past|
We took a glass elevator up to an observation deck overlooking the walls of the old mill, which had burned out after it had been closed.
We had a beautiful view of the bridges and river. One of the complexes on the other side was Pillsbury. Not much milling is done in Minneapolis anymore. But many of the wheat silos still stand. I don't know if they are still used.
The next day, back in Duluth, we went to the Duluth Railroad Museum.
It is housed in the old depot, and the outside architecture was charming.
Many of the old engines and cars have been maintained in working order by numerous volunteers.
This snow removal equipment made us glad we do not live in the Northern states!
Park of our visit to the Railroad Musem included a 90 minute ride along the shoreline in an old train.
After boarding, we walked through several newer cars that were air-conditioned. They were pretty full, and the fogged-up windows did not open.
Further back there were several older cars that were not cooled, but the windows opened for much better views and photography.
Half way through the ride the engine is detached and is run back on a siding to the other end of the train. After it is reattached it pulls the train back to the depot.
I was able to hold the camera outside the open window for these shots as the engine came alongside.
After an ice cream treat back at the depot, we walked across the bridge over the freeway to the Lake Superior Aquarium.
It had some very nice tanks and interesting fish. I was a bit disappointed that it didn't have many educational displays about the changes and environmental disasters that have occurred in the Great Lakes. Thje priome cause is the invasion of non-native species into the lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway and in the ballast tanks of large ships. This spring I read a lot about this in "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes" by Dan Egan.
Another highlight of our days in Duluth was a visit to a "Super 1" grocery store, where we were able to buy several things that we had eaten as Milwaukee children. Marrow bones, several kinds of sauerkraut (I only bought one), turkey thighs in July (sometimes found elsewhere close to Thanksgiving), smoked fish, and fresh, fresh, fresh Lake Superior white fish.
Thunderstorms are common in the afternoons. The above image should have been a movie. I watched this huge plume of clouds grow in a very short time.
I hope this is not a sign of our future. I recently read the value of the dollar has gone down a bit, but is still strong. All I see is increased prices so that a dollar doesn't go as far as it did a few years ago.