7:34 am - PDST - Friday - 48º F, 79% humidity, wind 8 mph out of the north northwest......clear blue windswept skies in lovely Lompoc, CA.....wait, what? I thought we were headed for Ventura and Rincon Parkway, and 6 days of walking along the ocean, of watching the sun set in the western sky each night......what the bleep are we doing in Lompoc? Read on for the straight scoop about what happens when your 'number is up'.....
We were ready to roll over to the dump station around 9:30 am.....our "JELLO" plan was to be done dumping around 10 am, and then make a leisurely drive up to the Fontana/Rialto Elks Lodge to pick up my Elks Membership renewal card for 2017-2018.....my current card expires 4/1/2017 and without the renewal we would be denied access to RV sites at Elks Lodges on our trek up the coast......little did we know how important it was that we got that card before we left town! True to plan we were exiting the park just before 10 am......we followed Crestmore up to Mission Blvd where we turned left heading west to Rubidoux Blvd. where we turned right (north) intending to merge on to SR-60 over to the northbound I-215 to the westbound I-10 exiting at Cedar to drive up to the Elks Lodge. As I turned on my turn signal to turn right on to SR-60 I had this feeling that I should just drive Rubidoux north (it eventually becomes Cedar). Even though it is a shorter distance driving Rubidoux it actually takes way longer than the longer freeway route. I followed my instinct, turned off my turn signal and continued northward on Rubidoux.
About 10 minutes and a few miles later I happened to glance down at the temp gauge for the coolant....usually it is running around 180-185º F......I did a double take as the temp reading was well over 220º F and climbing fast......Detroit Diesel series 92 engines do not like to overheat, and I was fast approaching the automatic shutdown temp of 250º F.......the engine turns itself off and you are stuck where you are stuck.....I had to pull over quick and shut her down to avoid catastrophic damage and being stuck in the middle of a major road. We were approaching a side street called Santa Ana and I could see there was a dirt shoulder about 100 feet down so I turned right, pulled on to the shoulder making sure my entire 62' was off the road and shut her down. Had we been on the freeway when this happened we would have on the shoulder with traffic whizzing by probably having to be towed off the freeway....instead. we found ourselves on a quiet side street able to take our time solving our problem.
When you own one of these behemoths you are always wondering in the back of your mind when it's your turn to have a major breakdown. You do everything you can to prevent it, but sometimes in spite of your best efforts and intentions the unexpected catches up with you and there you are on the side of the road wondering what happens next, and will it cost you 5 figures.
The first thing I did was to attempt to determine the cause of the sudden overheating.....I'm thinking of several possibilities....a stuck thermostat....a bad water pump....a ruptured coolant hose. As I approach the rear of the coach I can hear this 'HISSING' sound.....I first open the rear door to look at the site glass on the radiator to see if there is a coolant issue.....there is a coolant issue.....none is showing in the site glass. Next I open the right rear engine bay door and see steam coming out of the overflow hose.....it's really hot! I can see no obvious leak, and I don't see anything leaking on to the ground under the engine. I next walk around to the left rear engine bay door and open it.....I see steam and droplets of coolant coming out of this 1" stainless steel braided hose like you see out of a steam engine whistle when it is 'whistling'.......
I begin pouring in one gallon after another sticking my finger in the radiator after each gallon to see if I can feel the coolant.....after 4 gallons I can not feel the coolant yet. Now, during all of this I did receive a call from a mobile mechanic who could be there in 90 minutes. I told him I had things under control, but would call him back to let him know if we still needed his services. So I called him (Justin) to find out if he could bring coolant to me, and he answers in the affirmative, but says they charge $30 a gallon...why don't I just top off the radiator with water and then go and have it changed out for coolant at my convenience......of course! I have 150 gallons of fresh water in my fresh water tank so I thank him and then begin to fill the empty gallon coolant jugs with water from my tank......in all I had to add 10 gallons.....4 gallons of 50/50 coolant, and 6 gallons of water to top off the radiator.
While I am finishing that TLE returns with the Elks membership renewal card.....I go inside and turn over the DD and then go back outside to see if anything is leaking.....nothing is leaking.....then I go back inside and watch the temp gauge......all is normal.....it comes up to operating temperature and stays there....we are tentatively good to go. We put the car back in the trailer, pick up our triangle hazard reflectors....it is now 2:15 pm......we stopped at 10:15 am.....we should already be at Rincon Parkway getting ready to watch a sunset, but instead we are getting on I-10 at the beginning of rush hour in SoCal.....our ETA for Rincon Parkway is 5:10 pm.
Now, I have to make a comment about my mental state at this point.....I never panicked, or got negative, or down.....I just began problem solving and dealt with each thing that came my way. Normally I would look at the time and say "We're done for today.....let's just go back to Rancho Jurupa for another night and try again tomorrow", but I was totally sanguine about just continuing up to Rincon Parkway which is about 145 miles away at this point, and we head off westward hoping for the best.....I say that, because we had hoped to get there early enough in the afternoon to snag a spot....the weather in Ventura has been great for the past two weeks, and I am sure Rincon will be packed.
So, we exit SR-101 at the Seacliff exit at just 5 pm, and begin to meander southward towards Rincon Parkway where they have 107 dry camping sites right next to the ocean.......we suddenly realize every single site is taken......EVERY SINGLE SITE! Well, there goes the Jello.....what is our plan B? We find a place to park next to the ocean and TLE and I begin contacting RV parks and State Parks in the area only to find everything is booked.....why you might ask? Well, silly us, we forgot this is 'Spring Break' season in SoCal and there is 'NO ROOM AT THE INN' if you will. I begin calling Elks Lodges....Santa Barbara, no room.....finally I reach the camp host at the Lompoc Elks Lodge and she says they have plenty of sites....come on up! So, we make a u-turn and head back to get on the freeway northbound to Lompoc just 76 miles away!
Of course, now you might think the rest is a downhill run, but it was not.....I managed to enter the wrong freeway entrance and find myself on 101 going south, not north.....we have to drive 10 miles to the next exit to get back on 101 going north......it is now 6:20 pm, and sundown is at 7:20 pm....we are going to arrive after dark in a strange town and it is windy.....30 mph plus as we edge northward. I remain calm, but I am tired and ready for the day to be over. Around 7 pm I turn on my marker lights and running lights for the first time in a few years.....we never drive after dark.
Well, we arrive at the actually very nice Lompoc Elks Lodge about 7:50 pm.....the parking area and RV sites are very well lit....we are met by the camp host, Lydia. She is very sweet and understanding and lets me drop my trailer in the back in site right next to our site.....there is only one other RV in the park, so she doesn't charge me for the site in which we park the trailer....our cost....$15/night for 30 amp and water....there is a dump station. By 8:10 pm we are backed into our sites, and dialing in the DirecTV......TLE is making dinner while I am hooking up our utilities, and lighting the water heater......all is good in the world.....we close our curtains and we are 'home'. We begin to talk excitedly about what Miss Serendipity has gifted us......we are in a place we would not normally have chosen to visit, but are just a few miles from Solvang, as well as some great local wineries. We decide we will stay in Lompoc for at least 3 days, if not longer.....from here we will head up to the Elks Lodge in Oceano.....next door to another of our favorite beach communities....Pismo Beach. Thank goodness for Elks Lodges during 'Spring Break'.
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