Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Courtesy Parking in Austin, TX

There are four different ways to live your life on the road. The first, and most obvious, is to utilize local RV Parks along the way. Even with discounts such as AAA, Good Sam, Passport America, Golden Age Passport, or utilizing Escapee Park membership discounts, it can be quite expensive even if you are paying as little as $15 per night using one, or as many discounts as you are allowed.

The second option is to utilize "courtesy parking" opportunities as often as you can. Courtesy parking is parking on, or near the property of a friend, or relative where you are able to get an electrical outlet providing 15 amps of power, and maybe a hose bib connection for water. A really good courtesy parking option also provides access to a sewer "clean out" so you can pump your waste water (gray and black) out of your tanks and into the city sewer system, or the property septic system. The later requires some thought as you don't want to add hundreds of gallons of waste water to your friend's/relative's system that it can't handle.

The third is dry camping. Dry camping can also be done in the courtesy parking situation, but means you have no water, electric, or sewer options and must manage your consumption of water and electricity to be sure you don't exceed the capacities of your fresh water tanks, your waste tanks, and your house batteries. If you have installed a solar charging system such as we have, then managing the electrical part of your dry camping experience is much easier, because you can replace each day what you have used the prior evening. Dry camping also takes place often in large parking lots of the big box stores such as Walmart, or in restaurant parking lots that provide RV parking, or in Rest/Picnic areas along the Interstates, or secondary roads.

The fourth option, and one we are looking forward to exploring more in the coming months, is boondocking. This is a situation where you may park your RV on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in some cases for free, or up to $20 for 2 weeks. Of course you have to have the ability to replenish your house batteries. Batteries only store so many amp hours of usage. You can replenish the used electricity by using your on board generator, or a portable one, or by utilizing your solar charging system. Another option for managing electrical consumption is a wind generator. These are becoming popular in the desert regions of the Southwest.

So far in the first month of our fulltime journey we have utilized (in Jojoba Hills) the Escapee discount for 4 nights, the Passport America discount (Benson, AZ) and since then courtesy parking. In each of the courtesy parking situations we have had access to 15 amps of electricity (Mesa, AZ), 45 amps (Bullard, TX), and now 100 amp service in Austin, TX. We have also had access to water, and sewer clean outs. None of these courtesy parking situations have cost us anything out of pocket. Of course, depending on the situation, and duration of stay you might feel obliged to leave a monetary gift behind. So far any offer of compensation has been refused. Our total costs for parking our coach for the month were $95.

After we leave Austin we will be on our own until we hit Louisiana a couple of weeks from now. We have already been offered a courtesy parking opportunity there. It will provide a great base of operations for visiting New Orleans, and other sites within driving, and biking distance. The same can be said when we get to Alabama. So, in between those times we will utilize dry camping, boondocking, and on occasion an RV Park.

We plan to be in the Austin area until Sunday when we will depart for the Gulf Coast. We plan to head directly to Corpus Christi where we will turn east and meander along the Gulf Coast until we hit the Florida Panhandle, or the end of April arrives, which ever comes first.

The weather the past two days has been overcast, with brisk winds yesterday afternoon, and quite humid. As our Austin host said yesterday, "Clarke, it's always humid in East Texas, you just don't notice it as much in the winter." Well, OK, I notice!

Today we will get the bikes out and do some riding. I have a couple of "elective" projects to work on today. By "elective" I mean nothing is broken, but I'm going to try and fix it anyway.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"All systems are go, and confidence is high"

Rainy day in Austin

I have always liked that NASA phrase......of course, the one you don't want to hear yourself saying is "Houston we have a problem". Any of you who know me well know there is a pessimistic side to me. Even though, intellectually, I understand that I did the pump installation correctly, and there should be no problem whatsoever, there is a little part of me that is often waiting for the other shoe to drop. Anyway, I say that to say this.....the first 20 miles on the road yesterday my eyes were glued to the water temp it slowly approached it's idling operating temp of 180 degrees I was half expecting it to keep on going. Of course, that didn't happen, and after 20 miles it kept a steady reading and I began to relax and enjoy the beautiful driving day.

We spent 8 days at my sister-in-law's home and thoroughly enjoyed the time with all those related to us. I wish I had been able to spend more time riding my bike instead of having my head stuck in the engine bay. Even though I wear mechanic's gloves when I work on any part the coach I still suffered a few minor injuries to my hands that are still healing. My back hurts from the awkward positions required to put the pump in place, but it is getting better each day.

Our driving goal for Monday was an easy 243 mile jaunt down to Austin, TX where more relatives and friends await. It was a partially cloudy day portending the rain that would descend upon us last night, and the temps were so pleasant that I drove with the driver's side window open much of the time. The last time we headed south from Bullard in the Spring of 2009 we took HWY 79 all the way to Round Rock where we got on I-35 for about 10 miles and then got off again. There are a lot of small towns along the way, and even though it is 20 miles shorter going that way, I takes longer because of all the towns. This time we decided to head directly west, or at least as directly as is possible....we took FM 344 west to HWY 155 to HWY 79 to HWY 84 and hit I-35 around the 135 mile mark giving us 98 miles of freeway driving before we exited at HWY 45 to FM 620. This route was a good choice....very few towns, and beautiful pastureland and blacktop all the way to the Interstate.

Each time we took a driving break I walked around the coach looking for anything out of the ordinary, and found nothing each time. Even when we arrived at our destination I was concerned again that something might go wrong just as it had the last two times I parked in front of friend's home.....haha....but again, nothing. Right now we are parked at a fellow Newell owner's home on the shores of Lake Travis, which, until recent rain storms, was 52' below normal....they got 3.2" of rain the other day and the lake went up over 4 feet! The last time we were in this area we were attending a Newell mini rally at La Hacienda RV Resort, which is less than a mile from our current location. It rained on and off last night, and is still drizzling as I write, but the sun should poke its head out around Noon time. We'll go visit Elaine's sister and brother-in-law this evening. Our host has offered to take me gun shopping today. I'm looking for small shotgun to keep under our bed in case someone decides to "intrude". This does happen on rare occasions, and has happened to others we know. While it is a rarity I plan to be prepared. I hope I never have to pull the trigger, but I'm sure an intruder hearing the pump action of the shotgun will not think twice, and retreat.

Hoping that the weather clears up so we can take a short bike ride around this neighborhood.

Thanks for stopping by!

If it weren't heavily overcast you could see Lake Travis behind those trees!

The first time I have disconneted the trailer since January 31st

Monday, February 27, 2012


Sunday morning around 9am I turned the engine over and it started right up. I walked back to the engine bay and watched for a few minutes and saw NO LEAKS! I let the engine run up to operating temperature and then shut her down. All is well! Later on in the day I decided I needed to be sure I could back out of the dirt/gravel driveway as the rear wheels had settled a little....maybe 3-4 inches due to a heavy rain just before we arrived. So, I fired up the Detroit Diesel one more time and was able to successfully back up 2 feet, and on to more solid ground. I let it run up to operating temperature again, and then shut it down. Again, no leaks were observed. I spent the rest of the day washing the trailer and most of the had been in rain, and had a lot of road grime. By the end of the day I was whipped......this retirement thing is wearing me out! I hate to be on the road looking grungy, so now I was ready to hit the road Monday morning.

We had a nice going away dinner (my sister-in-law cooked her specialty, Lasagna!) with the relatives and hit the sack around 10:30pm. All in all it was a good stay. I learned more about the mechanical aspects of my coach through the installation of the new water pump, and gained a lot of confidence in my ability to make a major repair.......OK, at least major for me. Tomorrow we off to Austin to visit more relatives and friends.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Sometime early Saturday morning the temperature dipped below freezing. How do I know you ask? Each morning one of the first things I do is turn on the kitchen faucet to HOT to preheat our coffee mugs. I like hot coffee, and I like it to stay hot for more than 4 minutes, so preheating the mugs is a must. Well, the water had been running for just a few seconds when the flow reduced to almost nothing. My suspicion was that the there was an ice plug in the hose, and sure enough when I checked the outside temp it was just 34 degrees at 7am! Gradually the plug melted and I was able to get on with my coffee!

Since it was so cold there was no way I was going to start pouring coolant until it warmed up a little. Finally around 9am it was warm enough to be outside. I first had to finish attaching the 5th hose, torque the 5/8" bolts, and reattach the fuel filter before proceeding to mix and pour up to 22 gallons of coolant into the giant rear facing radiator. It didn't take long to finish the unfinished business from the day before, and I began mixing a gallon of coolant with a gallon of distilled water. After pouring in each 2 gallons I mixed I would peak inside the driver's side engine door to see if there were any leaks......after 8 gallons there were still none, but after 10 gallons I could see coolant running down around the pump. Of course, I was dismayed at this revolting turn of events! To say the least I was mildly depressed.

Using my small LED flashlight I began to look around the pump to figure out where the coolant was coming from. At first it appeared to becoming out of the area where the pump butts up against the engine block, but I knew it couldn't be the pump as it is a gear driven pump and no water enters the housing area where the pump attached to the engine block, so it had to be coming from higher up. Nevertheless, I decided to drain all 10 gallons out, and undo all the connections to be sure I wasn't missing a crack in the pump housing walls, or something catastrophic like that. It did not take too long to disassemble the pump and hoses. After re-checking the pump for any flaws, and noting that the "O"ring was still in the proper position I turned my attention to the hoses where they attached to the pump. It turns out the highest hose connection, a 4" connecting piece had not properly seated to the pump when I put it in the first time. I didn't want to completely remove the pump, so I took my time and "massaged" the hose connection lower onto the pump housing. After I was satisfied that it was in a better position I attached an 8mm socket to my socket wrench and tightened down the two hose clamps on that hose, as well as all the others. Instead of reattaching the fuel filter I decided to leave it out until I was sure there were no leaks.....just makes it easier to see what is going on, and get at any hose clamps that may need additional tightening.

Now the process of re-pouring the 10 gallons back in to see what I had. As I poured in the 10th gallon I said a little prayer, and then went and looked. For a minute all looked fine, but then I began to see a very small, and I mean small, trickle coming down from the upper 4" hose connection. I got out the 8mm fitting and ratchet and began torquing each hose clamp slowly so as not to over tighten and strip the clamp. At last the trickle stopped. I wiped everything off and waited a few minutes. No leaks. Yea! With the leak plugged I proceeded to pour in the rest of the coolant. Finally about 4pm I finished, and still no leaks.

Today, Sunday, I will check first to see if the coolant level has dropped (liquid seeks it's own level, and sometimes overnight it will settle a little requiring the addition of more coolant to top it off), add any if necessary, and then start up the 6V92 and see how it, the 4" hose connector, performs with pressure applied.

We are staying on the property of Elaine's sister while we visit. Elaine's sister works for US Air and is on a trip until this afternoon, so we have been spending time inside the house while she is gone....well Elaine has.....I've had my head inside the engine bay of our "home" for 3 days. At any rate, her brother and sister-in-law brought steaks, and margaritas over for dinner. A very nice way to unwind after an up and down day.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Well, it's not really alive, but the new Detroit Diesel water pump will bring my baby back to life tomorrow. As we rejoin the saga of the pump stuck in Mesquite, finally found it's way to the Tyler sorting center, and on to a truck headed for our neighborhood on Friday. Mark, the UPS guy, arrived at our door step around Noon with not only the long awaited pump, but the new door panels for our "new" Dometic fridge. I don't know if I can stand this excitement!

The door panels were an easy install (thank you CampingWorld for sending the correct ones this time.....undamaged), and have transformed the fridge into a modern looking appliance. There is a lot of wood paneling in our coach.....and don't get me wrong....I like the wood paneling, but there is a lot of it so being able to break up the paneling with black plexiglas is nice. The old fridge had faux wood panels that could not be transferred due to the freezer in the new Dometic being a little larger.

Doesn't she look purdy?

After ooohing and awwwing for a couple minutes I excused my self to tackle the removal of the old pump, and installation of the just arrived new pump. I first had to remove the fuel filter that is attached to the pump via a bracket so I could get at the 3 5/8" bolts that afix the pump to the engine, and that was amazingly easy. The harder part was separating it from the 5 hoses that were attached to it for 30 years. I got four of them off in about 45 minutes but the final one.....about 4 inches long....just a connector, would not budge, so I finally decided to cut it off and get a replacement at Napa Auto Parts, which in Bullard is about 3 minutes away. Once the pump was out I had to remove two pipe fittings to transfer them to the new that was really the hard part. I carry a small pipe wrench with me....probably about 12 inches long....what I needed was one about 24 inches long to get enough leverage. I rummaged around in the trailer and came up with a 6" long piece of pipe that fit handily over the end of the pipe wrench and was finally able to break the fittings loose without destroying them. Once the fittings were transferred I began the installation of the new pump. Surprisingly it went in pretty easily, and I was able to reattach 4 of the 5 hoses before the sun set. I planned to reattach the 5th hose Saturday morning, use the torque wrench on the 3 bolts, and then reattach the fuel filter....then on to the big job of pouring 22 gallons of coolant back in the engine.

That fuel filter must be removed to get at everything else....

The pump is removed

The pump itself......this is a gear driven pump.

I jumped in the shower and then drove with Elaine up to Tyler to meet her brother and sister-in-law at BJ's Brewery.....we had a great dinner, and some really great stout beer. Tomorrow the finish of the water pump installation!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The waiting game....

The culprit hiding behind those hoses!

Elaine's sister is a flight attendant for U.S. Air, and she was scheduled to leave Bullard to drive into DFW for a four day trip at around 11am. Our two shipments (water pump and Dometic fridge door panels) were scheduled for delivery by the end of the day YESTERDAY! We could see on the UPS site that both packages had made it to Mequite, TX at 4am yesterday morning, and there they sat all day without moving an inch. At any rate, since we wanted to be sure someone was here to receive the deliveries in case signatures were required we left early to drive into Longview to pickup the 12 gallons of Power Cool coolant to put back in the engine after I R&R (remove and replace) the water pump. The drive in was very windy.....I heard later that Colorado got hit by vey high winds, and perhaps we were just getting a little of that. We made it back around 11:30am and spent the rest of the day playing the waiting game with UPS.

The coolant and distilled water awaiting their fate.

While we waited Elaine continued her daunting task of scanning a few generations of family photos into digital format. Initially, before we left California, she was working on our family photos going back to 1971 when we were married. Over time old photos from Elaine's childhood in Florida began to surface, and now that we are in Texas she is deep into scanning pictures from both her mother's side of her family, and her father's side of the family.

So, while we "waited" she continued on that task, and I turned my attention to getting ready to receive my water pump. I had to finish draining the rest of the coolant from the engine block, radiator and other systems within the coach. That amounted to another 10 gallons, in addition to the 12 gallons we had already lost on the ground, or drained to stop the pump from dumping anymore on the ground....that, my friends, is a lot of coolant! Additionally, Elaine's brother, Read, who also lives in Bullard, noticed that grease was leaking from one of the trailer's four hubs. He pointed out that usually that means the hub has overheated for some reason....worn bearings, lack of grease, or electric brakes rubbing when said brakes are not engaged. He recommended I pull off the tire, and brake drum to find out which of those scenarios applied. I carry 2 20 ton bottle jacks, so I pulled out one and jacked up the rear of the trailer to get at the tire and brake drum. In less than an hour I had everything off and discovered that one of the brake shoes was out of adjustment and had been rubbing against the drum causing the excess heat, so I will need to replace those brake shoes, have them properly adjusted, and then repack the bearings with grease. Doesn't look too complicated, and Read gave me a referral to a local trailer supply place where his business gets their trailers serviced.

Around 4:30pm I rechecked the UPS website to find that our two shipments had not moved an inch all day, and were still sitting in Mesquite, TX. We decided there was no way we were getting our items then, so we went out to a local Mexican place called Chuy's for dinner. We got home around 7pm and I got set up to SKYPE with various family members. The night before Elaine and I had SKYPED with our daughter Meredith, and our "adopted" daughter Amanda, who lives at the home with Meredith and Tim. Later I got Sharon, our youngest daughter, on SKYPE and we talked for a while. SKYPE is soooo cool. It's the next best thing to giving your kids a hug. Last night it was time to visit with my oldest son, Chris, and his family. We talked and laughed for 30 minutes or was great to see our grandson, Christopher....he is such a! After that I called my sister Jill, who lives near Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we talked for 30-40 minutes before my voice began to take on a raspy quality. I'm going to try and connect with my brother Philip tonight. SKYPE is such a wonder tool for staying connected with family and friends, and I am so grateful for this amazing technology! Mom, if you are out there, you need to install a video cam so we can talk "face to face"!

Just after we retired for the evening UPS updated their website to show that our two items had been transferred to the local Tyler shorting facility, and as of 4am this morning they are OUT ON THE TRUCK FOR DELIVERY! So, another day of waiting is upon us. If the weather, which has gone from a summer like 85 degrees yesterday to blustery and cold today (may not hit 60 today), and UPS cooperate we'll take another bike ride today.

Boy, do we take up a lot of room!

Life is good! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Back to regularly scheduled programming.....

"I'll take an iced cappuccino please...."

We have a trailer full of bikes and yet so far on this trip we have ridden our bikes two times while we were in Indio, CA once, and then in Mesa, AZ. So, today we got out the tandem and took a ride out Farm to Market 344 toward Teaselville where our niece, Maryon, owns a coffee shop called Deep South Coffee House. We stopped off there to get a couple of Cappuccino's and then rode on to Elaine's brother's place of business called Accu-Log, Inc. The air temperature got up to 81 today with a little East Texas humidity mixed in for good measure. The first 6 miles we fought a mild headwind, but after Teaselville it calmed down. FM344 was recently repaved, and it was a pleasure to pound out 20 miles on that road. We got back home around 1:30pm, and had lunch on the patio. Just another nice day!

Tomorrow is delivery day for our new replacement Detroit Diesel water pump. Tomorrow morning we will drive over to Longview to Stewart and Stephenson, a distributor for Power Cool Coolant, to by 12 gallons of new coolant to mix with 12 gallons of distilled water to replace the old coolant. Power Cool is designed specifically for 2 stroke diesel engines which is what our Series 92 6V92 Detroit Diesel is. We'll spend the weekend here and then head for Austin, TX to visit more family and friends. After that we are off to Corpus Christi to start our tour of the Gulf Coast all the way over to the Florida Panhandle.

Also, tomorrow we are supposed to receive the correct decorative door panels for our Dometic Classic refrigerator. I hope I will be able to give CampingWorld a compliment this time tomorrow evening.

About 8 years ago when we belonged to a riding group I helped my sister-in-law get a bike, and got her set up to ride with us, which she did pretty regularly until she moved to East Texas. Since then her KHS bike has been sitting in her garage gathering dust. Well today she ask if I would tune it up for her so she could start riding again. Of course I agreed, because I love working on my bikes, or anyone's bikes. Surprisingly her bike was in pretty good just needed to be washed off, and cleaned up. Took about 45 minutes and it looked brand new again, and rode great. Always glad to bring a bike back to life.

That's another day in the books.....thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We had a brief rain shower last night, so it was still soggy this morning when we got up, but today we had a bright sun shine day with warmer temps. The forecast for the next few days is for temps in the mid 70's. We will definitely be taking a long bike ride tomorrow to enjoy the weather.

Even though we are currently "plugged in" I still take time a few times a day to check the Blue Sky monitor to see how many amps we're getting from the solar panels. When I checked first thing this morning there were no amps coming from the panels, and, of course, no amps going to the batteries.....hmmmmm! I spent the rest of the day in contact with the installer trouble shooting the problem while Elaine went all over town with her sister. After verifying that volts were indeed being generated and sent to the Blue Sky charge controller the technician had me take the front panel off the charge controller. I had no sooner removed the 4th screw than I saw what the problem was.....there are 4 wires fastened to the circuit board each with a screw.....the head of one screw had sheered off resulting in a disconnected wire. It was an easy fix and after reattaching the loose wire, and buttoning up everything I had disconnected during our troubleshooting foray I turned back on the system everything was working as it should again!

We had a great dinner with Elaine's sister and a fun evening watching some of our favorite shows.....Tuesday night is NCIS, and NCIS L.A. night, and as usual both were great!

That's it for today.....pretty uneventful, but uneventful is not a bad thing!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Detroit Diesel Water Pump

Monday, February 20, 2012, 2pm -

Courtesy parking at my sister-in-law's home

With the help of a fellow Newell owner I was able to locate and purchase (on Ebay) a replacement water pump, and if all goes according to plan UPS will deliver it to me on Thursday. My brother-in-law came over today and wired me into a 45amp service so we have a good power supply and can run our electric heaters tonight.....much quieter than the gas furnaces we have been using for the last 2 weeks, with the lone exception being Friday night in Benson, AZ where we had 50amp service.

The weather here is cold and blustery, and prior to today it had rained almost 3.5 inches over a couple of days. The ground is saturated, and I was a little concerned as we pulled into our parking spot yesterday afternoon that the ground might be too soft, however, where we are parked has a gravel base, and is solid! We are getting settled in for a week stay.....really depends on how difficult the removal and replacement of the water pump is. I'll start tackling the removal part tomorrow. If it is too difficult for me, my expertise, and tools I will call a mobile mechanic to come out and install it.

Today marks 3 weeks of being on the road.....we have traveled 1638 miles since we departed my mechanic's place of business on January 30th. I was struck by the vastness of our country as we traveled from Mesa, AZ through New Mexico and into West Texas before turning east on I-20. The vistas are staggering, and breath taking, and ever changing. It is in these areas where I my mind begins to feel uncluttered and free. I am beginning to feel free at last, free at last!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

We woke up Saturday morning around 6am, and were on the road by 8:30am. We decided we needed to be in Bullard, TX by Sunday evening, which meant 2 long driving days.....something I don't do, and specifically don't like to do, but there is a first time for everything. We stopped at a Super Walmart in Deming, NM to do food shopping....our fridge was bare, and it was time to stock up!

Our goal for the day was rather optimistic....Midland, TX.....565 miles away from our starting point....the longest day I had done in the Newell was a little over 400 a couple of times, but this was new territory. I wish we had started earlier, because with the change into Central Time we lost another hour, which meant that even though we did not stop too much we didn't arrive in Midland until 10pm Texas time.....we headed for the local Cracker Barrel restaurant and caught a very late dinner there (they are open until 11pm on Saturday nights), and were in bed by 11:30pm......and awake again at 4:30am, and on the road by 5:30am.....we had 453 miles today, and I didn't want to finish in the dark AGAIN! The great thing about Cracker Barrel Restaurants that we like is you can park overnight in their parking lots, which we did this night, and were not disturbed.

Today, Sunday, we made good time and reached Bullard, TX around 3:30pm. The early start paid off, and we arrived with lots of daylight sill left in the sky! The drive from Mesa, AZ to Bullard, TX was completely without incident......UNTIL we parked the coach in my sister-in-law's I exited the coach after parking I smelled coolant....not a smell you want to greet you....I opened the driver side engine compartment door and saw coolant gushing out the back of the water pump for the engine! Apparently, just we we were parking an internal seal in the pump failed completely.....I quickly grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and opened the pet cock valve on the bottom of the radiator and drained the coolant below the level of the pump so it would no longer drain out there. I think I lost 5, or 6 gallons, but save another 4 by draining the radiator as fast as I could. Tomorrow I will locate a replacement pump. We are so thankful this happened here, and not somewhere in the vast West Texas landscape 100's of miles from anywhere. If you've got to break down it's good to do it in your own driveway, or in the driveway of a relative! If we had taken more than the 2 days to get here who knows where we would be stranded, and how much it would have cost to get back on the road. Here I can do this myself. I have located a pump, and will replace it in the next couple of days.

Sunrise just west of Abilene

Parked at the Cracker Barrel in Abilene for breakfast

What the trailer looks like packed with the T-Bird

It is a TIGHT fit!

Thanks for stopping by!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Leaving Encanto.....

The street where we were parked for 11 days is called Encanto Street in Mesa, AZ. We were planning on leaving Wednesday after we received a shipment from CampingWorld, but as it turns out CampingWorld did not ship our item until Wednesday! It was ordered on the phone Monday morning, and we paid for 2 day shipping! It finally was supposed to be delivered this afternoon, but I called and got them to hold it off the truck so we could pick it up in Tempe on our way out of town on I-10. We left our friend's home around 10am, but got just two blocks when I noticed the air pressure was spiking over 150's supposed to bleed off pressure when it hits 120 we limped back to Tom and Darlene's home while pumping the brakes to lower the air pressure. I called Tom at work and he suggested I call his Detroit Diesel mechanic, Leo. I did, and Leo immediately diagnosed the problem as a bad pressure regulator on the mechanical air compressor mounted on the "back" of the engine, which actually faces forward. I stopped by his shop after picking up our CampingWorld item, which, it turns out was the WRONG ITEM!!!! UGHHH!! At any rate Leo sold me the replacement valve, showed me where to find it on the 6V92 and we headed back to Encanto Street.....Tom arrived home from work just about the time we got there....2pm. Within an hour I was able to remove and replace the faulty pressure regulator while Tom supervised, and offered encouragement in his street clothes. We were finally able to depart Encanto Street at 3pm, and finally reached Benzon, AZ around 6:3opm. On top of that our drive here was totally uneventful....the way it should be, right?

A pleasant turn of cruise control does work again after replacing the on/off switch, and the "momentary" switch that is used to set the speed, and resume speed! I love cruise control and I am so happy our fix worked! I hadn't had time to road test it before we left, so when I turned it on and was able to set the speed and feel it take over I let out a little whoop, and gave Elaine a high 5!! Along with that fix the new Mak air valves work wonderfully, the new fridge continues to work flawlessly, and the brake/turn signals work great!!! I even had running lights all the way around tonite! And, and, and the LED lights are fantastic!

Tomorrow hope to get across New Mexico and deep into Texas, and by Sunday afternoon hope to be in Bullard, TX (south of Tyler) to visit with family, and then on to Austin by the 27th to see more family, and to visit with some more Newell friends.

That's it for am I tired! Time to hit the sack...tomorrow will be a long day! Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finishing up

When we arrived in Mesa, Az I had a list of 7 major things to fix before we left....I'm down to two, and they are minor issues that I could live with if I can't get them fixed, but I will give them another shot tomorrow.....the tachometer stopped working on our trip back from Santa Fe a year ago, and the latch on the front door that doesn't allow the door to close flush with the outside. It is flush when we throw the deadbolt, but when the deadbolt is open the door has a little play in it.

We are waiting for two items that should be delivered in the next couple of days. First, we ordered new front panels for the new Dometic. What you see in the pictures is the foil covering , which is were the panels would cover up. We ordered black Dometic panels from Campingworld. Secondly, I have ordered 2 addtional LED brake lights that were shipped today, and should be in Thursday. So, by Friday we should be on the road again.

Today I fixed three switches up for the docking lights which melted down as we were parking the coach in front of our friend's home, and second were the two switches (on/off and momentary) that control the cruise control, which stopped working three days before we arrived. Looks like I have restored power to the cruise control, so all that remains is to road test it.

As I write it has started to rain.....never got above 56 degrees today.....brrrrr!

Tomorrow I will have to lower the rear hitch height which is now too high since we replaced the solenoids! It's a problem that I'm happy to have to solve. Nice to have the rear of the coach at the correct height now!

That's the update, and now I hear the dinner bell ringing. Thanks for stopping by!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dometic Classic Absorption Refer

When we arrived in Mesa, AZ last Monday to visit our good Newell friends, Tom and Darlene McCloud, and to "let" Tom help me with some nagging issues with the coach, I suggested that we wait until the following Saturday to remove and replace our old Dometic absorption refrigerator, so we we have an entire day of daylight to get it done. During the week, as I have posted, we accomplished a number of tasks on my list, but that involved a lot of night work as Tom has a real job that he must be present for M-F, but it worked out well. So, Saturday morning comes and it is time to really remove the old "refer" and install the new one. One of my life long mottos (although, from time to time I fail to follow it) is if it is not broke, don't try to fix it. Our old "refer" is 30 years old in 2 weeks, and, therefore, it could be considered by a reasonable person to be a ticking time bomb. Nothing worse than waking up on the road, far from home, and find that the refer has passed on during the night whilst you slept. Then comes the scramble to locate a replacement, and have it installed. Very inconvenient, and usually very expensive. Fortunately for us Tom had removed his Dometic Classic Automatic (a much, much newer version of our old Dometic) in order to install a regular household 110 volt refer in his 1990 Newell. I asked Tom what his plans were for the perfectly good refer he had just removed and he said he was going to dispose of it. I said I was interested, and he agreed to give it to me if I would come to Mesa, AZ. WOW! What a great offer.

Well, we installed that new refer yesterday, and it did take most of the daylight hours to get it done, but it works great. Now I don't have to remember to open the refer door and change it from electric (when we unplug) to gas, or visa does that automatically for LESS thing to remember.....yeah!

After we got cleaned up, and presentable again Tom took us out to Texas Roadhouse for a steak dinner, and what a great dinner and conversation! Thanks Tom and Darlene!

We have a couple of other minor issues to troubleshoot in the next couple of days, but we expect that we will be pulling anchor by Wednesday at the latest. We will hate leaving our friends, as we have had a great time spending time with them.

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Leak No More!!!

11:01PM - Thursday, February 9th

The end of a very long day, but you should see the smile on my face.....I purchased the
additional solenoid leveling valves for the suspension/leveling system....there are six in all for
can be detected by human ears. We lowered and raised the coach several times and all is good!
Before Tom got home from work I converted the rear of the coach. Tom McCloud and I sat on his garage floor for several hours disassembling and reassembling the 6 valves. Tom took a picture of everything before we
removed it and began "fixing it", and printed a blowup of it so we would be able see what it
used to look like, where all the hoses went, and where all the wires connected. We started
around 6pm, and finished just shy of there are no air least that2 more fluorescent light fixtures to LED's....3 to go. Also did some more rearranging of things in the trailer.....slowly but surely getting the
storage figured out. The early part of the day was spent driving up to north Phoenix to get the
additional solenoid valves to fix the rear suspension, and rid our lives of air leaks! Tomorrow
several small projects, and then Saturday we will swap out refrigerators. Life is good!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mesa, AZ

Courtesy parked in Mesa, AZ

T'Bird in the driveway of our friends and coach/trailer on the street

9:30am - Thursday, February 8th

With the help of my friend Tom McCloud we were able to troubleshoot, and solve a number of electrical issues involving the trailer lights, and coach brake lights. About 90% solved. We also worked on a couple of leaking "ride height" valves, and have found a source for replacements locally at a good price, so we'll get on that later today, or tomorrow. Later in the evening Tom spent a couple of hours showing me how to convert my fluorescent ceiling fixtures to LED's. Got one done last night and will begin tackling the others over the next few days. We are becoming so energy efficient!

Heading out to Home Depot in a few minutes to pick up some materials to complete the fluorescent light conversion. I have 13 more fixtures to go!

We are so grateful for the numerous new friends we have made through the users website. Tom and Darlene are two of the new friends, and have just rolled out the red carpet for us. We first met them when they were traveling through SoCal and stopped in Newport Beach to visit our other good Newell friends, Michael and George Day, who were spending the summer at Newport Dunes. We then got to know Tom and Darlene better at a Newell rally in Austin, TX and actually spent a few days traveling back home with them. Not only do we have a wonderfully made coach, but the new friendships are an unexpected blessing!

Will write more later today!

11:40pm - Thursday, February 8th

Made a run to Hei Tek in north Phoenix to buy suspension solenoids for the rear air suspension today, along with numerous other stops at AutoZone (replacement bulbs for running lights that had burned out), Home Depot to get things needed to replace our fluorescent light fixtures with LED lights, Radio Shak for 18 gauge stranded wire for the LED installation, Parker Hose Supply for air fittings. We left around 11am, and got back home around 3pm. I was able to replace the cove lights in the bedroom (totalling 8 fluorescent fixtures, each with 2 18" bulbs) with LED's in about an hour's time. About the time I finished up that project Tom, our host, arrived home from work and we promptly began working on replacing the two ride height solenoids. Took a couple of hours, and then we turned the coach back on and it aired up in about 2 minutes....used to take 8-10 minutes! Then we lowered the coach down again to raise it again and 3 and the 4 remaining original solenoids started leaking air....guess they didn't like being jostled and banged around while we replaced the others, so it's back to HeiTek tomorrow morning for 4 more....not going to wait for the 4th to go!

We didn't eat dinner until about 9:30pm, and sat talking and laughing with Tom and Darlene until almost 11pm. Well, it's time to hit the sack....a lot to do tomorrow, and Friday, and Saturday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Our dry camp spot....on solar baby!

7am - Monday, February 6th - Last morning in Indio

Nothing like sunrises in the desert! In a few hours we will pull up anchor again and merge on to I-10 going southeast into Arizona. It has been a week since we departed Rancho Jurupa, and somehow we have not managed to escape the vortex of Southern California, but today, barring an act of God, we should breach the Arizona border before Noon.

We had a wonderful 18 mile trike ride yesterday over to Palm Desert to a small Mexican restaurant for breakfast. The weather was perfect.....light breeze and 74 degrees. Was really great to get out on the trikes and do some distance!

Need to make some small alterations to the trailer interior storage before we put the 'Bird back in position to travel. Will post more later today after we are on the road!

10:30pm - Monday, February 6th

At last we pulled up anchor at around 11am and headed down to the local ARCO to put $200 of diesel in the tank to get us into Arizona where everything is less expensive. We got on I-10 about Noon and set our sights on the Arizona border. We just don't feel like we have "left" anywhere yet because until today we have been within an hour of our home. Our goal today was Mesa, AZ...about 265 miles southeast. Around 2:54pm we approached the Colorado River which is the dividing line between California and Arizona, and wondered if we could break free of the Southern California vortex and bust through the force field that thus far had kept us from really being on the road. Now that we have crossed that border we "feel" like we are finally underway.

Of course Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time....thank God, but escaping the nutty State of California means you have to give up something....that something was one hour of was suddenly 3:54pm, not 2:54pm! As darkness approached I noticed the running lights on the trailer were not coming on, so we pulled off the interstate at exit 94 and checked to see what could be wrong. It turns out that the "fix" I did to get the brake lights on the trailer working nullifies the running lights when they are turned on, so I had to cut that splice in order to have the running lights come on. There appear to be several other issues that have developed today with our exterior lights that will have to be resolved tomorrow before we can haul anchor again.

A positive today was that since I replaced the air filter (you remember, that big behemoth!) I have regained power that had been slowly disappearing over the last year....apparently the old air filter was more clogged up than it appeared. Now that the Detroit Diesel is breathing better she is running like a thoroughbred again!

We will be here at our good friend's, Tom and Darlene, home in Mesa, AZ for about 5 days while we install the new refer, and diagnose the wiring issues that have developed in the last week, or so. With Tom's expertise I am sure we will figure it out quickly!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I-10 headed southeast

Saturday, February 5th - We unhooked the Newell's umbilical cord around 8:50am, and drove down the hill (Jojoba Hills) to the boondocking area where we "dropped" our trailer when we came into the park on Monday. Today we were going to hookup the trailer, and then, for the first time in a long time, load the T'Bird for travel. As you will recall we spent parts of 3 days reorganizing the "stuff" inside the trailer, which included re-securing a number of items, and getting rid of others. We donated a large bag of clothing to Goodwill in Temecula we knew after a year at Rancho Jurupa we were not going to use. The loading went fine, I had forgotten how tight things can get in that trailer with the car in....haha! We had decided we would drive the 12 miles back to the outskirts of Temecula and find a large parking lot near Stater Bros. (SoCal supermarket chain) to park and check the load inside the trailer for "movement" while Elaine went in and did some shopping. Everything looked good, with the exception that the T'Bird had moved a few inches forward.....this is typical as it seems to find it's own sweet spot, and there is plenty of room in front. So I tightened up the large cargo straps front and rear and we headed on to I-15 which we would take north to CA 60, and then east to join up the I-10 eastbound traffic.

The drive was delightful with temps in the low 70's until we descended into the Coachella Valley where they rose slightly to the high 70's...this is why people flock to this area in the winter. Our destination for the day was Indio, CA where my good friend Claude Banker lives. I have done a number of extended bicycle trips over the years with Claude, as well as backpacking in the Sierra's. Our longest bike ride was 465 miles starting at his home in Indio and heading north through Yucca Valley into the Mojave National Preserve, continuing north into and out of Death Valley, ending at Lone Pine, CA, I kept a blog of this trip which can be found at Mystical Mojave Meanderings. We arrived at Sun City, where Claude lives, around 1:30pm. We are parked down the street from his home about 100 yards where there are no driveways to interfere with....we are a little over 60' long and these lots are not that!

The solar panels are tilted toward the southern sky to catch the sun's rays as we are off the grid for two days! We will watch the Super Bowl with Claude and his wife Lindy, then then continue our trek southeast into Arizona on Monday morning.

Sunday, February 6th - Today, before the Super Bowl comes on we'll take a "trike" ride with Claude and Lindy to breakfast, and around town. I'll post some pictures of us on the'll get a kick out of them!

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Solar Powered - Day One

7:15am - Got up on the roof as the sun was cresting the local hills and tilted my solar panels for the first time in order to catch the maximum sun exposure. The process took less than 5 minutes. They can be tilted to the passenger side, or to the driver's side. Mike and Lisa (The RV Guy, Inc.) are attending their AGM for this SKP park, and will be back over at our coach sometime this afternoon to complete the installation and to give us a little instruction on the use of our system.

7:35pm - Last night our installer had me turn off the converter/charger so I could monitor our usage during the evening and early morning before the sun came up. We are still plugged in for our major AC appliances (TV, microwave, electric heaters) but everything else is off the house batteries since last night. Tomorrow we will turn on the inverter and start to experiment with the larger appliances to see what our electrical draw will be, and what we can use, and how long. To me this is the fun part. We will get to know our electrical system, and what the possibilities are for living off the grid as much as possible, and how many of our bad electrical habits we can live!

The sealant was applied this afternoon around 3pm, so we must sit still for another 24 hours before we can move the coach, which means we will not depart SKP Jojoba Hills until Saturday morning.

Elaine and I spent another couple of hours in the trailer securing everything that might come lose and hit the T'Bird. On Saturday, when we leave, Elaine will once again follow me back into Temecula where we will find a large parking lot to check out the interior of the trailer to be sure nothing has shifted, or come lose. If all is good then we will load the 'Bird in the trailer and head to Indio where we will spend a couple of days with an old friend, and take in the Super Bowl. On Monday we will get back on I-10 and head into Arizona....Mesa, AZ specifically, where we will spend a few days with a good Newell friend who is providing our replacement refrigerator, and who will help me install it. After a few days there we are off into Texas.

After we worked on the trailer Elaine did some laundry, and I started washing the coach....first time I have done that in a few years. I say "started" washing the coach, because I ran out of gas after doing the driver's side, back and front. Tomorrow morning the passenger side will be done before the sun gets too high in the sky. We had planned to have it washed before we left Rancho Jurupa, but it was very windy for several days prior to our departure, so it never got washed. I hate driving a dirty coach, so when we leave here on Saturday it will be clean again!

Thank you for stopping by today!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Heaven at 2750' elevation

This Escapees Park is a little slice of heaven......crystal clear winter views, light breezes, a few clouds, and temperatures in the 60's. We are really cherishing our time at this park, and as of this evening we will be here a least one more day than planned. There were a number of issues the last two days that have extended the instllation time, but all were overcome with good solutions, and we are very happy with the professionalism of the installation. Below are a few pictures of the step by step process of installing the solar panels. I will post more pictures tomorrow of the charge controller, and batter monitor.

Panel upside down to be "wired" up.

Panel now wired and attached to the roof.

How the panels are configured

"Combiner" box mounted on side of refer chimney

Cables now plugged into "Combiner" box and power flowing to batteries.

The panels come with tilt bars that can be used to tilt the panels left, or right to catch the sun when it is low in the sky as it is this time of year. Tomorrow the sealant will be applied to the areas where screws were used to attach the panels. By the time we finished hooking up the cabling it was too cold to apply the sealant. So, we will be here until at least Friday afternoon, BUT, frankly, that is not bad duty at all. We love it here and will probably take a bike ride tomorrow, and then finish up securing a few more items in the trailer to be sure nothing falls on, or into the T'Bird.

I was able to diagnose and fix a problem we were having with a brake signal making it to the trailer brake lights, so that was a major accomplishment today.

Life is good, and in another day and a half we will be on our way into Arizona.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by and visiting. We appreciate your interest!