It’s a Pug’s Life on the Road


Bean is snoozing away while I slave over another blog post. We’re in the van parked in the back yard at my sister’s house.

I am also watching a movie on the Blu-ray player, which is connected to the 32-inch monitor, which is also connected to a Microsoft Surface Boook in the closet to the right of the monitor.

Bean’s snoring is distracting me, so …

Sportsmobile’s Cody and Crew Raced Through My Issues

Bean and I with van rolled into Sportsmobile about 8:00 AM after our overnight at Cracker Barrel. We crowded into the always-jammed parking area full of folks like me getting minor improvements, newly-built vans waiting for delivery and cars of those dreaming of their own Sportsmobile van.


Cody and crew jumped right on my to-do list.

 Cartridge-Toilet-Compartment Keys, Please

When I arrived at Sportsmobile, I had still not found those troublesome cartridge-toilet-compartment keys although I had unpacked most of the van the night before. I remember putting both keys in some clever place – apparently, too clever.

Using the trial and error method, Cody determined that there are about 20 different keys and found one in their inventory that matched. When I find mine I will replace Sportsmobile’s. I’m still looking. Next week I will totally unload; so hopefully, the keys will turn up. In the meantime, I can pee stress-free.

Another Table Pedestal, Please

I had chosen the short table pedestal because it’s makes the table perfect typing height with the keyboard connected to a 32-inch monitor that pulls out from the wall. But, I learned that shoveling food into my mouth is better done with a taller table. Solution: interchangeable pedestals. Thanks.

I’ll Keep My Hair, Please


The little thingie shown in the picture is about one inch by 4 inches. It is part of the cellular booster that enables any cell device in the van to get better coverage. It is attached to the ceiling between the cab and the living area. The original glue simply melted leaving the sticky thingie hanging in the perfect position to catch my hair time after time. Sportsmobile’s solution: cleanup sticky mess on the ceiling then reattach with better adhesive (I hope). I don’t know how well it is going to work because I am beginning to like the blue masking tape that holds it in place until the adhesive is dry. No more pulled out hair.

Trim Shelf, Please

The kitchen cabinet has a shelf that was too big to fold out when the sofa cushions were properly placed. All it needed was a good trim.

The What’s Rattling Game

My van had a loud solid-sounding rattle near the kitchen, which is on the wall of the van’s sliding door. Such rattles are a continuing battle between a motor homer and her rig. The first suspects are things packed in the motor home. I had padded and wedged until I was confident that my stuff was not the cause. Cody and crew tightened things and test drove time through several iterations until the rattle had much diminished, but not gone. The main culprit was the van’s sliding door, which was decidedly loose. The kithen’s outside fold-down shelf was also tightened. I am still driving and listening for more causes.


Overnight at Cracker Barrel, Round Rock

We’re at Cracker Barrel in Round Rock for an overnight stay. After dinner, Bean relaxed in a rocking chair on the patio.


Still No Key

I unpacked everything in the front of the van looking for the cassette toilet compartment key, but no Joy. Unless I can find it tomorrow morning, I’ll be asking the folks at Sportsmobile what I should do.




On the Road with Bean

Finnaly, we are on a real road trip. We are headed for San Antonio for some adventures with Veta (sister) then on to Houston for a weekend with Allen (son) and Malia (granddaughter).

I’ve spent the past few days packing and re-packing the van. It has plenty of space for a two-week trip, but I had fun exploring various ways of putting it together.

Where Did I Put that Key?

img_0374I now have big problem — I can’t find the key to the  cassette toilet. The key is required to unlock the outside compartment to empty the cassette. Later today when I get to my overnight stop, I’ll take apart all that packing until I find it or give up.

Bean’s Rolling Place

When we are rolling down the road, Bean is in his road bed. It is on the passenger-side floor. Above him in the passenger seat, is his buggy bassinet. He knows I am nearby so he is content. img_0372

In the above picture to the left top is the iPad that Iuse for navigation, which I prefer to the installed system (I’ll write about navigation later).  To the lower left is my knée.

We stopped at a Love’s so that Bean could sniff the grass and other things. And since I have misplaced the key to the van’s cassette toilet, I did the smart thing.







My First Sportsmobile Adventure

10 Starts Remaining . . .

From Austin, where I had picked up my MB Sprinter Sportsmobile the day before, I headed to San Antonio to see my sister. Just before Seguin, I stopped at a truck stop to top off my diesel tank. When I cranked up my van, the warning “10 starts remaining” popped up on the dash display.


What the #%$# does that mean? “10 starts remaining” sounds like the end of the world — or, minimally, the end of my Sprinter. Had I already worn it out? I had only driven it one day. Seemed a little soon. I had heard that those Sprinter engines were good for 200,000 miles or more. This was a whole lot less. What do I do?

After thumbing the Sprinter Owner’s Manual both print and PDF versions, I didn’t find the meaning of that very threatening message. So, I turned to Google and Bing. Turned out, I was not the first who had shrieked at this message. The consensus was that it meant that the Sprinter was low on DEF. Hmmm. I had never heard of DEF. Wikipedia explained that  DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) is required to lower the bad stuff in diesel emissions. The consensus of Sprinter owners on the Web forums I scanned was that the message means exactly what it says: after 10 starts, the Sprinter will absolutely not start again. I get it. I hoped that that meant it would not start again until Mercedes-Benz worked some magic. By now, I should have known to call Mercedes-Benz Sprinter service hotline — but, I’m stubborn.

I went back into the truck stop and bought a gallon of DEF and a funnel. I read the manual to figure out how to open the hood. I popped the lever inside the cab and found the release latch under the hood. Like a weightlifter, I did a two-handed lift only to find that as I stretched and stood on my tiptoes, I was about 6 inches too short. Fortunately, I had a little stool with me. Standing on it and on my tiptoes, I could barely get the hood to lock in place. Those German women Sprinter drivers must be really tall, either that or they are just not considered potential Sprinter buyers, which also explains the belittling treatment I had received from the first Mercedes dealer I had visited when ordering my Sprinter. But, back my 10-starts-remaining adventure.

Under the hood after removing the screw cap labeled DEF in big letters (thank you)\, I slowly poured the entire gallon into the reservoir. I screwed the cap back on, let the hood bang into place, put away the stool, put away the funnel then confidently climbed back into my Sprinter and I started the engine.

9 Starts Remaining . . .

Same message, but now it was “9 starts remaining.” On well, I thought, maybe it just needed some times to figure out that it had a gallon more DEF than it had the last time it started. I drove on to San Antonio.

Parked in front of my sister’s house, more Web browsing suggested that it might take another start or two for the Sprinter to figure out that it now had enough DEF. I started the Sprinter again.


8 Starts Remaining . . .

After a good sisterly visit, I cranked up the Sprinter the next morning to head for Dallas confident that that #$@%$*$# message would be gone. No joy

7 Starts Remaining . . .

More browsing suggested that even more DEF might be needed. I headed out of San Antonio on I-10 towards Houston, planning to bypass Austin on State Highway 130 ( 80 mph toll road). I stopped at Love’s near Seguin to add even more DEF. The reservoir swallowed nearly 2 more gallons. I started the engine confident that the message would be gone. No joy.

6 Starts Remaining . . .

OK. I’m stubborn, but I know when I’ve been bested. I knew of a Sprinter-service-capable Mercedes-Benz dealership in Georgetown, which was on my way to Dallas. With the engine running, I called them, and – wow!– they said they could get me in about 1:00 PM, which, with the 80 mph speed limit, I could just make.

Thumbs up to Mercedes-Benz of Georgetown!

In the picture below, my Sprinter is in the right service bay hooked up to a diagnostic computer.


While I munched on unusually good snacks in the Mercedes-Benz service waiting room (as it turned out, both my lunch and my dinner), the Sprinter service guys ran diagnostics on my van. They were terrific in explaining to me what was going on and how they determined what was wrong.

Ugly Message Gone!

Within a couple of hours they knew the problem: the Sprinter had not necessarily been low on DEF, but rather, the entire DEF electronics module was not being “seen” by the van’s control computer. Turned out a fuse was in the wrong slot, which left the DEF module effectively dead. The DEF module is one of those things that absolutely must be operational. If it is not operational, the 10-starts-remaining-countdown is initiated.

What the 10-starts-remaining message really means is “get your butt (with Sprinter) to the nearest Sprinter-servicing Mercedes-Benz dealer.” There are reasons other than DEF problems for the message and only the Mercedes-Benz diagnostic computer can figure it out.

From the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Website

“All Mercedes-Benz Vans come standard with our 24-hour
Roadside Assistance Program and expert advice 24/7
through the Mercedes-Benz Customer Assistance Center.”

I better get that number, which I didn’t find on the Website. Maybe it is somewhere in that really big stack of manuals that I suppose I am now motivated to read?

Why Was the Fuse in the Wrong Slot?

How did the fuse come to be in the wrong slot? I certainly did not move it. The MB service folks and Sportsmobile talked during my check out, and, although when I left, they had not agreed on who would pay the bill on the service, it was not to be me.

On the Road Again — Happy