Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Even When You Are "IN" Safe and Sound

With all the problems that plagued us almost daily on our recent cross country run, we were mighty happy and feeling fine to back in to the site at Thousand Trails in Hershey and shut the engine off. Whew! Made it. No more problems- at least for a while. But that feeling assumed there would be no problems without the engine running and the wheels turning. You do know what happens when you "ASS U ME" too much, don't you?

So I guess I really should not have been all that surprised when I hooked up the city water supply, turned on the spigot, and the inlet valve on the side of coach exploded in my face and sent water shooting everywhere. Without that inlet valve- no water, no shower, no dishes, no anything water related. The valve contains a back-flow preventer or check valve, so it was not even possible to access the water in the holding tank, what little we had been traveling with. So after 9 hours of driving, we phoned around to find a part and off we went to fetch it- a ride which required another three hours on the road. Then home to lay on the wet ground in the dark and make the repair.

Now if that would have been the extent of the situation, I guess I would have been laughing in short order instead of crying. But I still faced figuring out what had been the problem with the basement doors, which had popped open a total of thirteen times on the crossing. That was lucky 13 because the doors did not get clipped or ripped off; unlucky though because I couldn't seem to stop it from happening again and again. I rigged them with small bungees as each in turn became a problem en route. Latch adjustments. Latch hold adjustments. Door adjustments. Lock adjustments. Nothing stopped the problem. And while over the last two weeks I have worked on those doors repeatedly and put redundant safety mechanisms in place- I really won't know until we roll again whether my "fixes" were fixes at all, or just me spending some quality time with my basement doors.

When I have not been working on things at the coach, we have been fixing things at the home of my mother which is about an hour (each way) from the campground. So while the coach hasn't moved in two weeks, the same cannot be said for the van. Fuel prices here are hovering up and down around the four dollar level. Could be worse I suppose. But sure wish it were better.

Tomorrow we will move the coach to Krumsville where we will be parked for one month. I will still be working on the coach I assume....and doing chores at the house. Marilyn will be traveling "the world" with her sisters. There must be a Ya Ya Sisterhood post or two in there somewhere. But a bit more of that in June, and then hopefully I will have a "guest blogger" late in the month.

Today I checked all fluids. A special brand of paranoia is driving me hard right now! I fixed the safety catch on the rear sliding closet doors. I also picked up a new potable water hose as the one we have been using decided that it too would spring a pin hole leak and super soak the ground under the water compartment. I could go on and on, but right now I'm not seeing the point, so I'll stop.

My high school class, the class of 66, will also be holding its 45th reunion next week. This will be the first one I have ever attended. It may just be the last too. If that is true, I hope it is because I choose not to attend any more....and not because I can't! A lot of the class of 66 have passed into the next life, so I guess there is merit in touching bases with those that are still here.

Rolling June 1. Go, coach, go!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I never intended to vacation in Kansas. You can tell Dorothy and her little dog that for me! But here I sit in a hotel room at the Comfort Inn in beautiful downtown Topeka, typing away on the components of the computer that I could "salvage" from the coach. Not "salvage" as in the rest of them are ruined...as in I can't can't get to them. Why? Because no fuel, no run engine, no run generator, no open slide, no charge batteries, no keep freezer and fridge running....and so on. See what I mean?

Last post I used the word "worse." And in retrospect I do think that was entirely fair and maybe even spot on. Now more and bigger problems have developed and so technically I suppose I will have to say that matters have gotten "worser." To be sure we are not at or even near "worst." Dare I say that? Not with any confidence, but with full faith that that will be the case.

So there I was, minding my own business and feeling a touch tired after driving 400 miles (800 since our last layover for repairs). The only problem of the day had been the wind gusts to 35 mpg that slapped us on the right side of the coach for about the last half of the day. But that was doable, manageable, bearable. We slipped off Rt 70 exit 333 and proceeded a mile down the road to our rest stop for the night, a lovely little camp ground made from an old train station in Paxico, KS. It looked very picturesque. I was glad the day was coming to an end. This trip has felt like a bit of a battle at times. Just before the entrance to the camp ground, the road that ran parallel to the train track crossed the track, essentially in a 180 degree crossing and became a 1/4 mile dirt road into camp. Do I smell diesel fuel? We pulled up to the office to register and Marilyn got out to go do just that. I stepped to the rear of the coach to use the rest room on wheels- it smelled very strongly of diesel fuel (no the coach, silly), and that is nothing resembling typical. I stuck my head out the door towards the back of the coach. Smoke? Lots of smoke? Did a quicky check to see what was up and realized muy pronto that the problem was in the engine room. There was fuel spraying everywhere. I ran for the closest fire extinguisher. I keep them pretty much everywhere ......and now I know why. Shut the engine down. Ran in the office to inform them of the problem. Put the bright orange cones out to signal disabled vehicle. We are still within about 20 feet of the rail line...and now only some three minutes after stopping dead- here comes the freight train. Crap! Did I mention we were right smack dab in the middle of the entrance to the campground at this point? You could get around us if you tried hard, but clearly we were in the way. And that train! Crap!

The campground gave me a tub to slide under the coach to catch leaking fuel. The fuel now dripping at a significant rate from several spots under the engine, was, just 80 miles up the road, a fill up at a cost of 550.00 dollars. Forget the smoke, the heat, the danger, the nuisance, the hassle, the heartbreak- that was my damn fuel budget leaking out the back end of my damn coach! And the repair budget- oh, honey, that was totaled many miles and many months back and this is only May!

What to do? Call the tow company for which we pay a handsome "retainer" of sorts for just such occasions. A first defense legal fund for breakdowns is how I have to look at it. And although there will surely be a healthy deductible, the warranty and extended warranty will surely kick in to our private version of rebuilding America one repair at a time. But not so fast. That last repair was carried out with about 300 miles left on that old extended warranty run...and that was now done, finished, completo, finite. CRAP! I say again as I notice the odometer has rolled over 60,000 miles, the end of one contract and the beginning of a new one. 60,075.4 Surely it had been clever of us, despite the transition, to sign on to an additional 4 year extended warranty contract only three days ago as we took care of that last problem with the sensor on the old policy. Surely we were paying attention to our needs. Surely our timing was perfect.

But not so fast! The new warranty company claims there is a 30 day waiting period between policies. Crap I say yet again. Double crap. Crap on all y'all! This must not be allowed to stand as no one told us about that and nowhere in the brochure we have does it say anything about that. And they now have all the money for a "premium" that could otherwise go to cover this repair! Resolving that issue is in the works. Like having a courier carry in a part from Kansas City first thing Monday morning for, hopefully, an afternoon repair. Like pressure or steam washing the engine so the fuel that is everywhere under the belly is cleaned before it becomes a fire hazard yet again on the next leg of the journey, WHEN there is a next leg of the journey. Like reconnecting the drive shaft that must me dropped to tow the coach. Like finding a hotel in Topeka that realizes this is Topeka and not Times Fricking Square on New Year's Eve. Like trying to get caught up on rest and sleep with all this stuff shaking my brain. Like trying to summon the courage (where is the lion from the Wizard of Oz when you need him?) to actually get back in the drivers seat of that big rig and try to face all this crap one more time?

The Comfort Inn. I know how it got its name now. In Topeka, anyway, it is adjacent to the Hooters Property. And last night I needed some comfort AND a drink. Hooters has that covered (or uncovered as the case may be) and then some.... It helped us kick back, calm down, chill out, mellow fellow....and forget at least some of the crap for a short while. And more importantly, a relaxed mood gives you the ability to realize that while it may have gotten bad, then worse, then worser, and could become even worserer at some point, it is still a long way off from worst.

At least some of our friends and relatives are posting "Coach For Sale" signs on Face Book. More email comments than I can respond to right now from my corner-by-the-window-simulated-knotty-pine desk in the Comfort Inn are rolling in. Our support system is deep, and we appreciate all of you and all you have to say: the ads, the jokes, the well-wishes, and yes, even some of the crap that you dish out...

...now if each of you would just take one little dollar bill, put it in an envelope and send it to: Gundyville, On The Road, Somewhere in Kansas......

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When Bad Gets Worse....

If you read the last post, you saw we had a pretty rough day. But we survived it, and expected things to get better. But bad turned to worse and a long two day delay to get things fixed ensued. All of the problems that seemed to work themselves out came back...and then some. Long story short, we found an auto dealer for the van and a diesel engine repair facility in the tiny town of Las Vegas- that's New Mexico, not Nevada, for the coach. The Santa Fe Trail. Somewhere between places we could have had problems and taken care of them easier....maybe. It took heating the van's exhaust system up to 1100 degrees to burn out the carbon in the exhaust system that wanted to make that engine not run. And it took an overnight replacement for a coolant sensor to get the engine on the coach up and running again. Small town friendly made a bad situation tolerable. Good service from small companies "on the spot" made it possible to get going faster than one might have thought. And the good folks at Spartan Chassis in Michigan shipped our part out late afternoon one day and it was here and installed before noon the next. Gotta love that....

So this is a report and not a story - true. But stress and fatigue from pushing as push requires to get back on the road made one too tired to be telling stories tonight. Last night the canyons echoed with the screams of the frustrated, but tomorrow morning, he said with his fingers crossed, the sounds will be the joyous sounds of a big diesel rolling down the highway. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm................

Monday, May 2, 2011

What's The "Sensor" Of It?

Tonight finds us in New Mexico headed East. There was lots of beautiful scenery that we couldn't really take the time to properly appreciate today, and we rekindled lots of nice memories as we rolled past places we have visited before: Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest, and Las Vegas just to name a few. But in these first two days of travel, problems have plagued us big-time. It almost seems like a shake down cruise, but it's far from that....more like a shake up cruise!

It all started yesterday as we were all hooked up and ready to pull out of Desert Gold in Brenda. We never ever pull out without a final check of all the lights. And on this occasion the right turn signal on the tow car would not operate. I disconnected and reconnected the tether wire several times ...and nothing. It may not sound like a big deal, but lane changes in traffic, like say in Albuquerque, can be disastrous if others don't know where I am headed. It's a big rig and despite lots of mirrors there are blind spots- so I really needed to get this blinker working. On past occasions, some dirt has gotten in one end or the other of the plug and kept it from working. Cleaning usually helps, but not this time. Moisture maybe? I licked my thumb and wiped the end of the contacts, and tried again. Still nothing. It was hot and very windy and my thumb had pretty much dried before I wiped the contacts. Maybe if I licked the plug real quick and sanitary like? Oh, the other end was still connected to the coach. Any idea what 12 volts feels like applied directly to the tongue? Remember the old hit: Good Good Good Vibrations? My tongue vibrated that tune for the next 300 miles.....oh, yes it WAS a bit dumb. BUT: it worked, the blinker came back and off we went. That is the extent of my mechanical skills, but what works....works.

Today should have been better. But while breaking camp this morning one of the slides refused to pull in. Running down the road with an open slide? Not possible. So today started about the same as yesterday. But a few pokes and prods, a couple jiggles, and maybe a kick or two with the back of the heel and that too began working again. Ready to go? Lets check the tire pressure. Oh oh, one tire monitor not working; we had a spare, took the time to reprogram that on the front right tire of the rig. Now ready to go? Here we go.....

But as we got ready to pull out of our campsite, the "STOP ENGINE" light came on the dash. I did. The jacks had not fully retracted. Tried it again. Came on again. The third time this happened though I let it run through its cycle and eventually the warning light went out. Let's try this again.

A couple of mildly nervous travelers cruised down the road. Feeling any more at ease? Maybe. Until we tried to pass a couple other big rigs and while doing so, another tire monitor was set off. It showed the back left tire on the tow vehicle was losing air rapidly. That's what they are for- to let you know you are running too soft before the tire heats up and blows. We completed the pass and pulled over quickly on a tight stretch of highway in heavy traffic. With little room to work I ran back to check the tire. Yep. Problem. But the sensor that alerted us to the problem was also actually causing the problem as a seal on the sensor had popped loose and was leaking. Again, we had a spare (part of the Gundy redundancy program) and reprogrammed it and set it in place. But the tire was still too low on air. I carry a 50 foot compressed air hose which hooks up to an on board compressor in the front of the coach. But that doesn't reach the back tire of a car in tow. I carry a portable compressor too. But these new sensors require a lithium cream lubricant to keep the brass and steel stems from "freezing" and this stuff is sooooooo slippery. How slippery is it? Slippery enough to keep the nozzle of the compressor from locking on to the tire stem, so the minute I hit 70 pounds of air it popped off. I needed 80 pounds. Not good. After all else failed, we limped down the road until we came upon a travel stop owned by the Hopi Indians. They had fuel; I didn't need any. They had a free air compressor- but it didn't work. Drat! They told us where there was tire shop nearby. Two bucks and two minutes later and we were back on the road. My insides were all torn up... something or other had been going "south" all day while we were traveling north and east. The nerves were shot. It felt like there would be more. There was....

A fifth wheel we had passed a short while back now passed us pointing wildly down at the bottom of the coach. Other campers often wave or give a thumbs up, but this was different. Were they telling us something was wrong. That's a roger! One of the locked basement doors had somehow bounced off its hold and was flapping in the breeze- a 70 mile an hour down the highway breeze that is. Again we pulled over and took the time to repair the lock. We didn't loose any cargo, the door was not damaged. Onward!

Despite all the delays and setbacks, we completed the 350 miles we had set for a goal for today. This is a mountainous trail we are traveling and the uphill sections are slowwwwwwwww. If there was good news in the day, the snow showers were no harm no foul at the higher elevations. We made it to our campground, and a nice guy jumped in a golf cart and guided us to our site. He parked and talked for a few minutes, then jumped back in his cart and....... nothing. His battery was dead as a doornail....

It was just one of those days! Tomorrow is another day, and I hope a better day. But ya never know! Do ya? I'm a bit nervous.