Wednesday, December 5, 2007

About face: Mexico must wait

Well, notwithstanding that we were working our way, quite slowly, toward Mexico via Calexico, tonight finds us 300 miles further away from that goal, in a gravel parking lot at the Harris Ranch, along I-5 east of Coalinga (map). And there is no denying that we are at the Harris Ranch, as their feed lot is just north of us, within smelling distance.

As we were still dawdling around Wal-Mart in Palm Desert, figuring on heading perhaps to Salton Sea State Park for the night, we got a phone call around 2:30 from the Red Cross Disaster Operations Center. We are being dispatched to Portland, Oregon, where a relief operation is starting up for the massive flooding that has occurred due to a huge storm that moved onshore from the Pacific. There is also an operation starting up in Olympia, Washington, which will be a good deal larger, but I don't think we can get there -- I-5 and all the alternate routes north through the state are under water, and the only way around at the moment is to run up the Columbia gorge, north through the Yakima valley, and then over the Snoqualmie pass, where we could easily get waylaid by snow.

By 3:00 we were packed and on the road, although Louise is still under the weather with a cold. Based on my own experience, as I am about a day ahead of her, she should be on the upswing tomorrow. I myself had a pretty good day today, and the last lingering symptoms seem to be gone as of now.

So today we blasted past, in quick succession, most of the places we'd stayed in the last month: Morongo Casino, the Santa Ana river, San Manuel Casino, and even the Wal-Mart in Palmdale. We made pretty good time, stopping for fuel and to dump tanks at the Flying-J in Frazier Park, and for dinner in Buttonwillow.

Unfortunately, it seems we can never undertake this sort of journey without an obligatory problem cropping up with Odyssey. On the way from Florida to San Bernardino, we had to replace a tire, and fix a crack in the windshield. Today's problem was the power steering which started acting up on 138 as we made the grade up to the Grapevine. When I pulled off at the Flying-J we discovered that virtually all of the fluid had disappeared from the reservoir. I had a gallon with me, and we picked up another six quarts in the c-store, which was enough to get the steering working again but not quite enough to fill the reservoir up to the sight glass. We put another half gallon in at the bottom of the hill. We looked in all the usual places for evidence of what must be a good size leak, but found none.

The steering assist quit again about 25 miles from here, which calculates out to about 2-3 quarts an hour, or about an ounce a minute. Still, I could not see anything leaking when we pulled in. First thing in the morning I will have to crawl under the bus to see if I can locate the bugger. I suspect either a seeping fitting around the steering box, since that perennially seems to be a source of leakage, or the hose we had replaced back in Little Rock a few months ago, which was weeping when we had it checked in Nashville, but seemed to have cleared up, likely as the new hose swelled a bit, not long afterwards.

We're parked on mostly dirt right now, and with any luck, I will find a dark spot under the bus in the morning like a smoking gun. Whether or not I will actually be able to do anything about it before we get to Portland is another matter. At $4 per quart for ATF (what our steering uses for hydraulic fluid), that can be expensive, so we'll peel off at the next Wal-Mart for Power-Tech brand in the gallon jugs, about $10 each.


  1. Sean, Too bad you took I-5 instead of 99, we are parked just south of Fresno at Paul Evert's and I have a 5 gal jug of hydraulic fluid. I suspect by the time you read this you will be in northern Cal, so have a safe trip. My brother is the disaster relief coordinator in the north west corner of Oregon, says they are quite busy up there right now.

  2. Another thing it could be is a blown shaft seal on your hyd pump dumping back into the motor case ... just another suggestion.

  3. If you make it home (Odyssey's) there's alway's a standing offer for dinner. Maybe a lift could shed some light on the steering leak?

  4. When you get up to Portland you can likely drycamp for a week or two across from the Red Cross HQ at +45° 32' 46.25 -122° 40' 14.25" in the Legacy Emanuel hospital employee parking lot. There are often RV's there for short periods as thier kids are in the PICU etc.

    There is also a good off-leash area for Opal at the East Delta Park (can overnight drycamp on other side of road for a night or two - have seen many other very short term RV's there passing through) at
    +45° 35' 56.40", -122° 40' 32.80"



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