Saturday, August 18, 2007

A nice visit

Yesterday we had a nice drive from Foss Lake, although we abandoned the Route 66 plan early on, as the route was hard to follow and the roadbed was in bad condition in many places -- we'll try again when we are in a more leisurely mode. We ended up getting back on I-40 after Weatherford (although we did follow the old route through Clinton and Weatherford before giving up). That took us all the way to Oklahoma City, where we took on 130 gallons of fuel at the Flying-J before crossing the city on the freeway and bailing off onto US62, which took us most of the way to Okmulgee.

Louise found us a great place to stay -- Okmulgee Lake State Park (map), where for $16 we snagged 30 amps of power for our air conditioning. That meant our friends had to trek about five miles to come get us, but we really needed the AC in the humidity. We almost had to turn around before the park entrance, as we rolled up to a bridge clearly posted "Weight Limit 10 Tons" (we weigh 24 tons). While we were sitting there with our flashers on, digging out the two-way radios so we could back out onto the highway again and head off to who-knows-where (probably the Okmulgee Wal-Mart for a night of generator fun), the park ranger rolled by in the other direction and stopped to ask what the problem was. We explained the bridge issue and he told us to just go over it -- the park gets deliveries all the time by semi-truck and they cross the bridge with no problem. Having thus been granted permission by law enforcement, we proceeded over the bridge and into the park, which was actually quite beautiful. The campground, while not empty, was lightly used on Friday night, and we found it quite enjoyable.

We had a very nice visit with our friends, who fixed us dinner on Friday, and then fetched us again this morning for breakfast. After breakfast, I spent a few minutes trying to further tighten the fuel supply line, filled up the fuel separator, and we got back on the road. Although as we were leaving I noticed quite an oil slick leading into our parking space from where we pulled up to back in -- I asked Louise (who was standing outside giving me signals as I had backed in) if we had made it, and she emphatically said that, no, nothing was leaking while we were backing and, besides, it was in the wrong place to have come from us. So I thought nothing more of it.

After leaving the park, we passed through Okmulgee and headed east on US62 again, which eventually connected us to US64. 64 follows I-40 rather closely, criss-crossing it and winding its way through cities and towns that 40 bypasses, and this road will take us all the way to Tennessee. We won't need to get on I-40 again, but it's available in short order should we get a call and need to speed up our progress.

US64 was a beautiful drive today, crossing the Arkansas river several times, and showing us the underside of Salisaw, OK, and Fort Smith, Van Buren, Dyer, Mulberry, and Ozark, AR. Tonight we had intended to be even further east, but just west of Ozark, we heard a loud "crack!" as a rock from completely out of the blue hit the windshield, just above and to the right of my main field of view. It left a volcano the size of a dime, and the beginnings of a star the size of a quarter. I haven't a clue where the rock came from -- a car had just passed us in the opposite direction, but it seemed like the rock hit a good second or more afterwards.

Having much experience with this by now (we are on our third windshield), we immediately slowed down to around 30mph (from the 45-50 we had been doing in a 55 zone) to take the wind pressure off and reduce jouncing and vibration, much to the annoyance of cars behind us. We limped along this way to Ozark, where we stopped at a Wal-Mart to take stock of the situation and make some phone calls. Why, oh why, do these things always happen at ~4:30 on a Saturday afternoon? Most of the glass repair places we called were already closed for the weekend, and the couple of major national chains allowed that the best they could do was have someone out Monday morning.

We briefly considered just staying there at the Ozark Wal-Mart until Monday morning. But the fact of the matter is that the last time this happened, the star became an 11-inch crack overnight, while we weren't even moving. Now, without any special insurance on the glass, we really, really wanted to get the chip filled not only before we moved further, but also before nightfall.

After about a dozen phone calls came up dry, and realizing that Ozark, Arkansas is nearly the middle of nowhere, we decided to fill it ourselves. Wal-Mart carries the fix-a-windshield brand repair kit (from the makers of fix-a-flat), which appears to be one of the better ones out there. The kit consists of a suction-cup-mounted frame, similar to the ones professionals use but made of plastic, and a screw-in pressure fixture to inject the resin, along with a small bottle of resin, a razor blade, and several clear plastic sheets to cover surface repairs while they cure.

The kit worked reasonably well, as far as we can tell. We'll know in the morning, I guess. Because our windshield is dead vertical, it was hard to get the resin into the fixture -- a complaint that the professionals made on more than one occasion as well. But it did seem to get quite a bit of resin into the damaged area. After the injection fix, we put two liberal coats of surface resin on everything that looked like it might be an all-the-way-through crack. Tomorrow morning I will scrape off the excess with the razor blade. I have my fingers crossed that the repair holds -- you can definitely still see some damage, but I don't care about the appearance as long as it does not spread into a windshield-eating crack. We liked the kit so much, that I went back into the store and bought another one, to have on hand for the inevitable "next time."

By the time we were done with the repairs, including letting things stand for a while in full sunlight, or at least as much as there was (the resin cures in UV light), it was getting late. And I was past done for the day. So Louise dragged out the guides and discovered that right across the river was a Corps of Engineers park, "Aux Arc Park", with a nice campground and electric hookups (map). It's actually quite lovely -- we have a site right on the river, just upriver of the Ozark Dam, power house, and lock. As we arrived, a tow was locking down-river.

We found a nice space that looked good for getting on the satellite. As Louise was standing behind Odyssey backing me in, she screamed that smoke was coming from the engine. We decided to get fully backed into the space to deal with it, and that's when she noticed transmission fluid all over the road where we were backing up.

Aha! This was the same fluid pattern I had noticed back at Lake Okmulgee. So it was, indeed, us. And the symptom seems to be that we are leaking gobs of tranny fluid (the expensive, $40-a-gallon stuff, natch), but only in reverse. Leaking so forcefully that the fluid is hitting something hot and smoking. Now, on our way to Stewart & Stevenson from Santa Fe, we had a brief "Check Transmission" light and found a code 12, which sometimes indicates low fluid. I put half a gallon of fluid in and cleared the codes, and S&S found the tranny to be low. Odd, since we thought it had been topped up properly at PEDCO, but sometimes it's hard to get the level right after replacing the pan -- some of it disappears into the filter or the cooler or whatever. We did not think much of it.

I am now pretty sure that the tranny leak developed either at PEDCO or not long afterwards, and we've been leaking fluid across seven states. As soon as we figured this out, I called S&S, who, fortunately, was open today. I managed to get the same tech who did the work on Odyssey, and I related the symptoms. He thinks it's the reverse pressure switch, which is, basically, what makes the backup lights work. It makes sense -- this switch is on the outside of the tranny, threaded into a 1/8" port through the case and into the reverse hydraulic circuit. When you shift into reverse, fluid pressure builds in this circuit, and, among other things, closes the switch to make the backup lights work. If the switch is cracked, or loose in the port, or broken internally, then fluid will shoot out under pressure, but only in reverse gear.

Tomorrow morning, when all has cooled down, I will crawl under the bus to see if I can get to the switch. Hopefully, the problem will be obvious, but, if not, we will chock the wheels and Louise will put the tranny in reverse while I keep my eyes open for where the fluid is spurting out. Fortunately, I have a 1/8" pipe plug and two extra gallons of TranSynd with me. But I do feel bad about spilling toxic waste across seven states and in some pristine campgrounds. I would have fixed it sooner -- had I only known.


  1. I did not "scream" at you about the engine smoking. I merely told you with a hint of urgency in my voice.


  2. We hope and pray that you are safe. Have just been watching the helicopter rescue of 2 people swept off road somewhere around Kingfisher. The flooding looks absolutely devastating!

    Stay high and dry! Looks like the Red Cross will be needed right where you are located.

    I volunteer with the ARC here in Naples, FL and we had a couple of busy years in 2004 and 2005!


  3. Oops, I should have reread your post to see you moved further east into Arkansas so hopefully there are no floods there.



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