Some of you may be getting the wrong idea about the pace and focus of our lives in retirement. It may seem that we spend our days making repairs to the bus, with only occasional interruptions of reliability (and sightseeing and enjoying life on the road).
You would be right to come to this conclusion based on our blog posts, which are framed by our “adventures.” But, that’s the deal: What fun (or interest) is there in documenting the mundane? I have often said that travel is way better the more things go wrong!
To a point, of course, but we have not reached that point yet!
Still, I thought I would make a post that could at least put all the other posts about mechanical issues into perspective, just in case you were worried about us.
In some ways, the bus is not unlike our 100+-year-old building in Chicago. It is vintage, well-built and in need of ongoing maintenance. Things need to be maintained in our stationary home, too (which rent $$$s and our property manager currently (usually) cover)! UNLIKE our building, though, our current aged domicile bounces down the road for a significant portion of its life – what could go wrong with that? It is actually NO WONDER things need to be fixed and maintained aboard RV WHERE YET!
The truth is, I have always needed a project to keep me out of trouble. In former days, it might have been tinkering with fish tanks, building or improving our home, maintaining the plants and irrigation system on the deck or even (if severely pressed) working on client computers and software. The bus, rolling to-do list that it is, has merely supplanted all these other kinds of projects.
Our friend and accountant, Howard, worried when I retired that I would be bored silly with “nothing to do.”
And we DO INDEED spend significant time and sometimes significant $$$$ maintaining our “home.” A “Good” repair is one that costs less than $1,000 and takes less than a day. Most of the repairs are like that…needing some time and noodling and greasy wrenching, but not that much money. Some repairs even manage to expand our circle of friends…to include eager Bluebirders who are always willing to help.
In fact, you might even say that bus mechanical issues are a direct conduit to meeting cool people. Peter from Courtenay and Pat from Olympia are perfect examples of folks whom we know well, now, only because we needed to fix something. Who knew that the bus was actually a sort of online dating service? Post a problem and several people propose solutions and offer to help.
So, what does Liz do while I am wrenching to keep us on the road? Well, she worries about the cost (she IS the Secretary of the Treasury). She worries about imposing on new friends – people whom we have never met who take us in, help us fix things, and ask nothing in return. And, she is mastering Knitting and planning to take on Quilting. The ratio these days is about 25:75 worrying:Knitting.
And, my new mechanic friends often have wives and/or significant others who seem to enjoy Liz’s company (or possibly are just sympathetic and able to commiserate?). She also enjoys biking and hiking (which we do together) and running (almost daily, 3-4 miles) in new places with new scenery, from mountains and Redwoods to Seals and Crabs.
And, for the record, it is not just the Vintage Bus that has mechanical issues…we have had a few with the 2013 (barely out of warranty) Clown Car. I have eluded before to the CC’s hard, and probably short, life. It is dragged behind the bus, eating dust and spray and sometimes almost disappearing in potholes. Yet, we expect it to fire up and take us where we need to go on a moment’s notice. Which it almost always does!
One day, the CC’s Oil light came on as we drove to the grocery store. We actually found a Smart mechanic…a miracle in a small Oregon Town since there are in fact no actual Smart dealers between Des Moines and Portland! He diagnosed the problem as the plastic outside-facing-end of the Oil Sender – broken by a rock, pot-hole or other road hazard. The problem is, a replacement part could not be had in less than a week…and the town was not THAT interesting!!!
So, I took a pic of the broken part and found a mechanic in the SF Bay Area – maybe 5 minutes from our first stop there! — who was willing to get the part and make an appointment to install it.
In the meantime, the CC was 100% tow-able, and even drive-able. The issue this sensor-failure presented was: If there were to be an ACTUAL oil pressure issue we would not be warned and would probably brick the engine. Only an issue when driving, not towing, and not “likely” in any case. So we could get to SF no problem and we confined ourselves to short drives, like to the grocery or other errands until the repair was complete.
Believe it or not, the modern CC is actually harder to get serviced than the vintage BB! I cannot do anything myself because it needs special tools and diagnostics for all the damn computers (vs. the bus, which has no computers or limitations on things I cannot tackle save tools and the ability to lift it off the ground).. There also isn’t a community of Smart Car Curmudgeons, willing to get dirty and help, like for the Bluebird. And there are not that many Smart dealers or mechanics (double entendre possibly intended) in the world, apparently (whereas any diesel mechanic, or truck shop can and will gladly work on RV WHERE YET…once I convince them it is not really an RV).