Second Trip, First Breakdown!

First “real” trip:  400 Miles to Minneapolis. This is an Extended Shakedown Cruise.  One with Friendlies (and Parts sources) on the other end.

Liz behind the wheel…
Wind in her hair…
Copilot weighing in…
Dan terrified!!

Truck drivers honking at us…
Liz panicking…
thinking she has done
something wrong…
But no,  just saying hello…

2015-08-03 14.35.03
Liz and her Co-pilot.

Lots of first,  actually.

First “breakdown.”  The bus sputtered to a stop just outside of Eau Claire.  We managed to pull over safely.  Engine not willing to go another inch.  In the process of attempting to start,  battery getting weak.  NO PROB.  Start the generator.  But it won’t start either.  So,  two breakdowns, actually.

Two possible approaches:

    1. Use the “Premier” roadside assistance we have purchased to get towed somewhere a mechanic can examine the issues.
    2. GO FOR IT. Become a bit of a mechanic as see what we can figure out.

It is clear that we need to learn to take the first crack at any problem (So, door number 2), if for no other reason than we have more time than money.  Diesel Mechanics cost money,  even if the tow would be free.  How hard can it be?  Fuel plus air == BANG and motion.  Now no bang and no motion…So,  what could be wrong?   Logically,  must be fuel or air…

Truth is,  while Liz was driving,  I had my eye on a gauge that was SQUARELY in the red.  Still trying to figure out what all the gauges do,  and hadn’t gotten to that one yet. Way off to the right..hardly visible from the driver’s seat, so,  it must not be TOO important…   “Racor” is how the gauge is labelled.    What the hell is a “Racor” and why was it in the red.    Not much more information in the manual, though…especially what “RED” means and what to do.     Engine was running…so at that time I figured I would use the Google machine to figure this out when we arrived at our destination.   But now we weren’t progressing towards the destination AND there was no Google Machine.

With us semi-stranded (and NO GOOGLE MACHINE AVAILABLE),  we were forced to reason through the problem:

  • Universally,  except at Christmas and during hockey season,

Red is a BAD color!

  • On a Baseball player (Such as the St. Louis Cardinals) and
    Especially on any gauge associated even remotely with an engine that is now not running.

I say “Semi” stranded since we have a bed, kitchen, refrigerator and cold ones therein.  That does not rise to the level of “Stranded” in anyone’s book.

Owner’s manual did say the “Racor” is a “Fuel Filter and Fuel-Water Separator.”   Hmmm.  Water and gunk in the fuel would in our estimation cause the engine not to be happy.  There is a drain at the bottom of this “Racor.”   I have an empty Ginger Ale bottle.  Opened the valve and drained OVER 2 L of BLACK UGLY WATER.    This seems like the problem,  since I knew that engines need generally more diesel and less water (and gunk) to run.  But now the second issue:  weak battery and inoperable Generator.

Another problem to work.  With a twist.  The generator compartment is locked and the tool to unlock it is in a bay on the HIGHWAY side of the bus.  So I need to wait for a break in traffic,  RUN to the bay, open it and grab the tool to unlock the generator slide.  All  before air pressure drops (Engine is not running and the generator opens with air pressure).  This so I can get a look at the generator to maybe see why it won’t start.

Fortunately, I was able to retrieve the tool without being killed AND there was enuf air to open the slide. I noticed almost immediately that the “Kill” switch was not in the “RUN” position.  Kinda stuck between “Run and “Kill.”  Probably bumped by some idiot like ME when I was insulating the generator compartment.  Reset the switch  and the generator fired right up and immediately began to recharge batteries.

Once the batteries were charged and the fuel primed,  we turned the engine over a bit.  It sputtered,  then ran a bit.  Then a bit more.  Then again running perfectly.  Just as the engine started,  a Wisconsin State Trooper is knocking on the window.  We know FOR SURE we did not register, much less register too fast on his radar,  and in fact he just wanted to make sure we were OK.  We ‘splain that all was good (at this moment).  He said he would help us pull back out onto the highway and since acceleration even with a CLEAN “Racor” isn’t the best,  and our was still not clean…we were very glad for the assistance.

Finished our trip.  My sister scammed an “Obstruction” permit so we could park outside her house (RVs are illegal to park overnight in Minneapolis).   Her comment:

“We have a 7,000 sq ft home (a stately restored mansion, to be clear) with a guest suite…and they want to stay in THEIR TRAILER.”

Yes,  we do.  Because we want to see what else we can break (and fix).  Meanwhile next morning I Immediately bought some new filter elements for the “Racor” (after Google found them on Amazon!) and learned how to swap them out by watching a YouTube video.   I wonder if Google’s much mentioned drone delivery service will ever rescue us by delivering parts to the middle of nowhere?

Now,  we are entertaining family and friends in our “Home.”  Out goes the awning and the aforementioned Cold Ones.  Ice maker not yet working.  A problem to work tomorrow.

Lessons learned:

  • Being a diesel mechanic (even a Google-and-YouTube taught one) is going to be important for life on the road.  It seems likely that there will be some event on each and every voyage.  These are best viewed   as part of the adventure.  The Bus’s systems are simple enuf that some logical thinking and persistence (and Google) is enuf to fix a lot of stuff.  Which is good when you have more time than money.
  • When Trucks honk at you and Cops knock on the Window, more often than not,  they are in a FRIENDLY MOOD,  which the bus seems to encourage.
  • The bus is a big old Faraday Cage, which effectively blocks all WiFi signals (and most Cell Signals). So,  I write this with my computer next to an open window facing my sister’s WiFi Router.  Clearly,  we will need a WiFi Repeater to bring signal into the bus, where the coffee is.    Does anyone know a good IT Guy to help us with this?  Mine retired!!!
  • Being in a hurry is NOT COMPATIBLE with this lifestyle. We were 2+ hours delayed by the water-is-not-fuel    WHO CARES.  Retirement Rule #1: If you don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time,  you cannot be late.

Next installment:  Improvements and repairs we have made to the ride and therefore our overall living situation while on the road.


5 thoughts on “Second Trip, First Breakdown!

  • Enjoyable reading! If you take enough trips maybe you’ll get it all fixed before you get too old to drive.

    Great to see you both maybe now you’ll come more often?

  • If I ever doubted your ethic roots, your mother’s comment removed all doubt!
    Travel safe, guys.
    P.S. I do know a good and much younger IT guy for you. 🙂

  • I’m impressed, and would have loved to be Liz’s copilot. Can’t wait to be a part of this adventure. It’ll be like Jekyll and Hyde, awning to awning

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