Sunday, December 9, 2007

Checking in

As Louise wrote on Thursday, we are at Red Cross relief headquarters, in Beaverton, just west of Portland. As usual, I can't post a direct map link here. HQ is in an empty warehouse facility, and, while we've been in the far reaches of the parking lot since we arrived, tonight we moved over to an empty bay of the loading dock, where we have access to a 15-amp receptacle. It's been dropping into the 30s at night, so this will cut down on the amount of diesel we are using for heat.

We have also not set foot off the property since we arrived. Red Cross has had three meals a day brought into headquarters, which is perfect, since we've been working 12-14 hours a day since we got here. Tonight is the first chance I've had to check in here at the blog. That being said, I do hope we get a chance to leave the building long enough for a meal, at least, before our first week is up.

I want to take this opportunity to say how gratifying it is to have such a loyal readership here. I sometimes wonder if people are really following along, and then a post like the one about the steering will generate several comments within less than a day, and I realize that we are blessed with many friends, some of whom we have yet to meet in person.

I am also sometimes awed by the interconnectedness of it all. Only a day after I posted the steering issue here, good friend and regular reader Jim Shepherd related the story as a cautionary tale over on one of the bus boards, generating a good deal of discussion. Similarly, perusing recent comments led me to catch up on "From the Lily Pad," the blog of fellow motorcycling-RV-fulltimer "Froggi Donna," wherein I noticed that she picked up and passed along the tidbit about the upcoming auction of Draco.

Speaking of comments, some answers to recent ones:

"Skysix:" wrote in to say that there was parking across from the Red Cross chapter, at Legacy Emanuel hospital. Thanks, and we very nearly might have needed it, as the operation ran out of the chapter office until just after we arrived. We reported, though, directly here to operation headquarters, where our first tasks were to string network cabling throughout the building, get the satellite dish up and running, and install the fly-away server system (297 pounds worth) to support the operation. We may yet get to spend a night or two there, as it is not unusual for us to transition the operation back to a chapter office as things wind down. I expect that will be sometime after Christmas.

Ron (prevost82) wrote in to say that Southern Oregon Diesel would be a good choice to do the steering pump work. Of course, we drove right past them, but had to keep on driving. We do know David Gregory (who, if I am not mistaken, is relaxing in Mexico right now) and would gladly have them do the work, but David has seen our bus, and I don't think he relishes working on it. They turned us down when we asked them to quote on our (first) engine rebuild. Perhaps replacing the steering pump would be a different matter.

Ted (f550man) wrote in to suggest a steering pump rebuilder in our old home town of San Jose. Thanks, and we'll keep them in mind. The real problem, though, is not the rebuilding but the removal/reinstallation. We will need to be on a lift or over a pit, and the bus will be immobile until the pump is replaced. So we need a shop that can do the whole job end-to-end (even if they send the pump out someplace) and is willing to let us live aboard while they do it. Suggestions for such a shop are welcome, and the closer to Portland the better.

Mac, editor of, inquired by email about how the steering fluid could leak into the engine. On these big diesels, there are accessory drive mounts arranged around the perimeter of the engine flywheel, with intermediate pinion gears set into the case. Each accessory mount has a specific gear reduction from engine RPM and a specific direction of rotation, and many if not most engine-driven accessories on these big motors are gear-driven through this system, rather than belt-driven as they would be on smaller or automotive type engines. So on our engine, the air compressor, power steering pump, and even the alternator are gear-driven. The gear train is lubricated by engine oil, and so the bottom of the case is open to the oil sump, so the lube oil can drain. And the drive pinions on the accessory items protrude into the case, and thus into the main engine oil system. If a shaft seal fails on a hydraulic pump, the fluid will leak out towards the pinion gear, and, in this case, will drain into the oil sump. This is not a problem, obviously, with an air compressor, nor with an alternator (although our alternator is oil-cooled, the oil came from the main engine in the first place).

Thanks again for all the encouragement, support, and advice. As usual when we are on a relief operation, my posting here will be sporadic. I promise to return to a more regular routine when the operation is over.

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