Sunday, August 20, 2006

Another late start

When I posted yesterday about the virtues of our Camping World digs, I did not yet know that we would also get a free lunch out of the deal.  I went back into the store to check out some bay door struts, and discovered they were having a hot dog cookout for customer appreciation, in celebration of 40 years in business.   We had hot dogs, chips, cookies, and cold drinks -- thanks, Camping World.

The struts, it turned out, did not fit.  We did manage, though, to change the hinge rubber on the LPG door -- the old hinge was on the verge of splitting in two, and I had visions of losing the door someplace along the freeway at high speed.

After lunch and the minor repairs, we packed up and headed out to the freeway.  On the way to the ramp, as we finished the turn from a side street, we heard a huge clunk and felt a thud.  So we drove past the ramp and into a gravel lot to have a look.  My eyes immediately went to the tie rods, since that was the last thing worked on, and I soon discovered that the pinch bolts clamping the left inner tie rod end were rubbing and catching on a frame member.  Apparently, the geometry of the tie rods and front end suspension had kept the rubbing to a minimum until this particular turn, for whatever reason, where the end of the bolt caught completely, and the thunk was the result of the steering pump simply overpowering it and the bolt clunking past the frame member.

This situation was immediate cause for real concern -- the end of the bolt could, conceivably, catch the frame at just enough additional angle to keep the steering from moving further in that direction.  At speed, that could spell a serious loss of control.  We determined that the situation would need to be rectified immediately.  We drove at a reduced speed for about ten miles to a TA truckstop that our guidebook said had a 24-hour repair shop, we surmised with a pit.

After a lot of posturing about not working on coaches, they agreed to let a mechanic look at it, and, after a 40-minute or so wait, we maneuvered over the pit.  This was no small challenge, since the approach to the shop involved a steep-angle swale -- I had to raise the front suspension to clear the front over the swale, then drop the front all the way to the ground and raise the rear as far as it went to avoid dragging the frame and low-centering.  Once we were over the pit, of course, it was a ten minute job to loosen the bolts and rotate the clamp until they were out of harm's way.  With a half hour minimum, the tab came to $40.

I'll be contacting Luke at US Coach tomorrow about this, since his shop did the tie rod work.  They had the youngest and most junior mechanic on our coach, and it looks like he just overlooked the potential conflict (and did not test the assembly lock-to-lock when he was done).  Still, it's a serious safety item, not to mention I'm out another $40.  I am hoping Luke will offer to pick up that tab.

By the time we were done at TA, it was 3:30.  Nevertheless, we pressed on all the way to the Atlanta area, since there were no decent stopping options between there and Greenville.  We spent last night at the Wal-Mart in Roswell (map).  While doing our obligatory shopping, we noticed a constant conga line of taxis outside the store, and even a line-up of them at an informal taxi stand.  We can only guess that some number of families in the area commute to work on transit and have no cars, and so take taxis to Wal-Mart on the weekends to do their shopping.  And here, we thought we were the only ones to call a cab to a Wal-Mart.

At the moment, we are doing our laundry at a small strip shopping center, also in Roswell (map).  We're still unclear where we will be spending tonight, though we may head over to Marietta and check out our parking situation for the week.  Alternatively, we will find something close the the kennel where we will be boarding the pets.

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