Saturday, March 21, 2009

Going for the record

We are still/again on the street in front of Los Angeles Freightliner.

I had really hoped they would be finished yesterday, and, indeed, they had "completed" all the work. However, they failed to activate the locking mechanism when they checked the tag axle alignment. Since the lock cylinders may well be trying to push the tags out of alignment, I don't consider the alignment complete, and I was very clear with them about this.

Unfortunately, it was past 4 when everything else was completed, so the alignment re-check will have to wait until Monday. I really, really hope they are done Monday afternoon -- if we are still here on Tuesday, that will make three full weeks that we have been in this area getting mechanical work done. I think that's the longest we've ever been "down" for mechanical work. Of course, if you count the fact that three Mondays ago we had the A-frame replaced in Escondido, we'll actually have been at this more than three weeks by end-of-day Monday.

In the meantime, we've "missed out" on any number of things we might have done here at the end of March, including seeing friends in Mexico, a bus rally in Arizona, and SXSW in Austin. Having come to this point, we are now completely re-evaluating our options moving forward.

Given our commitment in Salt Lake starting June 24th, our need to be in Washington sometime before the start of hurricane season, and wanting to get some work done at Infinity Coach, I've asked them if we can arrive at the shop basically on Memorial Day, which gives them plenty of time to work, while still allowing for a very leisurely trip to SLC with plenty of stops. That gives us about eight weeks to work our way to Sumner.

We're thinking it's still too cold to start heading north directly from here, so we are toying with heading east to the desert for some agenda-less downtime for a couple weeks. It has been a while since we had the opportunity to just do nothing for a while, which is what we had basically planned to do in Mexico, had we made it there.

Just to recap what's been done over the last three weeks, we've had the bent tag axle A-frame replaced, fixed a bunch of oil leaks in the engine, transmission, and differential, inspected the liners, re-packed the wheel bearings, replaced a worn tie-rod end, changed and sampled the engine oil, changed and sampled the differential lube (to synthetic), put six new tires on, balanced the front wheels, and aligned the wheels. We also discovered an air leak in the emergency brake release circuit, and had that air line replaced.

In addition to discovering the air leak, which was likely caused by trauma to the exposed line while entering a steep driveway, we found the threads on the differential fluid drain plug to be nearly completely destroyed.

I can only guess the plug stood proud of the drain hole by a little bit, and some under-trained tire jockey once jacked the drive axle up by the pumpkin. 20,000 lbs of force on the little drain plug would certainly cause this sort of damage. We had to use the fill plug for the drain hole, and re-tap the fill hole for a larger plug.

The air leak discovery reminded me of just how important the pre-drive inspection is, but also that such an inspection just can not catch everything. It was a pinhole leak, invisible to the naked eye. I heard it while walking past the coach when they had the front wheels on stands, greasing the bearings. It was a very distinct and audible hissing, and my first thought was that I had never heard it before, and it certainly was not leaking that way before we came to the shop.

Not necessarily so, as it turns out. The leak is in a circuit that is only pressurized when the emergency/parking brakes are released. Of course, when I do my inspections, the brakes are applied, and so I had never noticed it, either on walk-around or just while we were parked (not sure if I would even hear it on the walk-around, with the engine running). It was only by virtue of the fact that the brakes need to be released to work on the bearings (the coach was chocked) that the leak was evident. It never showed up as any kind of pressure drop, because the engine-driven air compressor easily overcame the tiny amount leaking from the parking circuit.

In other news, I apparently made someone in Bakersfield quite cranky with my post on sanitation Thursday. I guess the years I spent as Director of Operations for a public utility, or the nearly two decades I spent in the facilities business do not qualify me to know my, err, "stuff" about, umm, sanitation. I left the comment up (often I delete such diatribes), even though it comes perilously close to violating our decency standards here. But that suggests I need to mention those:

I am not easily offended. It is hard to imagine that there is any sort of vulgarity which will shock me (or that I have not heard before). But this is a family blog -- we have little kids reading here. We even have nieces and nephews that are just now coming into their reading years and will be following along as they become able. So no foul language of any kind will be tolerated in the comments, period. That includes words where one or more letters have been omitted or replaced with punctuation such as underscores or asterisks -- if it's clear enough for a reader to understand, and it is a word that would be flagged if written in plain text, then it is not appropriate in the comments. If you feel moved to swear at me, then send me an email -- our addresses are easily found at the "Who we are" link in the sidebar.

Separately, if you are going to tell me how "little" I know about a subject, you had best be prepared to educate me. I am not above being told I am wrong about something, if that's the case. But don't just yell "you're wrong" -- provide links to the correct information, or cite your sources, or at least display your credentials. The internet is full of self-proclaimed experts, and I'd be the first to say don't believe anything you read here without checking it out for yourself.

Thursday night we again had dinner with readers and fellow bus owners Tom and Donna, at BJ's in the mall nearby. Yesterday, readers Flo and Dan from La Quinta were passing through, and stopped by to see us. They found us, of course, in the Freightliner waiting room, surprising Tom who stopped in to check on us shortly thereafter. I think the conversation among the five of us annoyed the truck driver who was stuck in there with us.

In a few minutes, we'll be taking the scooters to dinner. We've pretty much exhausted all the dining opportunities within four or five miles; last night, we returned to the Olive Garden in Whittier (around eight miles), and tonight I think we'll head back to Charley Browns. We'll certainly be glad when we finally leave this neighborhood, although we are quite thankful for the free parking and the quiet, and the weather's been great, too.


  1. I see in your last paragraph that you "took the scooters to dinner." What did they order? :)

  2. @Gayla:
    Allegro just had something quick, and Chip, of course, had the ice cream.

  3. As a construction guy, (who has spent more time in my younger years in Sewer manholes than I care to admit), you're post on the sewer manhole details was correct in all details. Quite often the lids are incorrectly marked but your "peek" into the business end of the manhole was well shown and described. Many campgrounds sewer hook ups are actually into septic systems which eventually transfers the "water" into the ground. (water table). Sanitary Sewers eventually end up in a treatment plant. Dumping into manholes is not something I would make a habit of, (and you don't either), but in a pinch, and as long as a person knows what they are doing, no harm done.

  4. Having been stuck in LA for 3 weeks for a Ford problem on our motorhome, boy, do I understand you situation. You don't want to rush them, because you want it done correctly, but it certainly is stressful. I suggest New Mexico for a rest prior to resuming your travels.


  5. @BMWHacker: Thanks, Doug, for the support. Of course we don't make a habit of this, but more or less stuck here in front of Freightliner, I did not have many options. I took the disgusting photo specifically to address the earlier "you don't know what you're doing" criticism, from someone clearly lacking in experience with such things. I was surprised it came out as well as it did -- I pretty much only had to increase the gamma (it was very dark when it came out of the camera).

    @Kate: I think NM is probably a bit far off course for this trip, although we love it there. Looks like you are enjoying yourselves along the lake. We're probably going to pick a nice spot of California desert for a couple of weeks, just to unwind.

  6. Please don't let rude people (with poor home training as we say in Middle School) close your blog to outsiders like me. I think I saw you working during Katrina. I was too shell shocked to remember "perfectly." I think maybe the next time you come through the Mobile, AL tunnel I can offer all of you dinner on the Causeway. With great joy I have followed your journey.

  7. I guess the bigger point about the sanitation issue is, those who do not have "Director of Operations for a public utility, or the nearly two decades I spent in the facilities business d" and attempt to dump via the methods rv'ers we should follow some common ground, similar to the walmart overnight's,

  8. @Anonymous 1: We'll look forward to that dinner in Mobile. I guess you'll have to contact us when you next see us getting close...

    @Anonymous 2: Yes, the reasoning behind my lengthy post was exactly to avoid anyone doing "the wrong thing." Many of the folks who follow us here, though, are full-time and "shunpikers" like us, and may some day find themselves in the same kind of jam. In those cases, more informed folks will usually make better decisions than less informed folks. I can assure you, I have seen sewage dumped alongside highways (and we know of several parking lots that are no longer open to RVers because of dumping of sewage).

  9. Huh. All this time I had imagined you guys as Silicon Valley whizzes who managed to sell a dot-com at the height of the tech boom. The "facilities business?" :) -- Jon

  10. @Houn: Jon, I was, indeed, in the computer, networking, and telecommunications business. But I always ended up being "the operations guy" -- Director or Vice President of Operations. In addition to running the computers and networks -- my primary responsibility -- I also often ended up running the, uhh, toilets too. If it could break or needed maintenance, it was probably my job, whether it was a computer or a truck. That's where I got my real-world experience with things I didn't study in school, like plumbing, or fleet maintenance, or security.

    Louise, BTW, in addition to being a microwave engineer (which, she constantly quips, qualifies her to reheat the leftovers) early in her career, was a publisher when we met. So the business we had to sell to hit the road was a small publishing house.

    But, hey, we were there when Al Gore invented the Internet :)

  11. I have to ask, since this is a follow on to the sewer discussion -- is that dog poop in front of your scooters on the street?

  12. @Rob: No, that's actually horse poop. Just a little ways off-camera to the left is the equestrian park. There are stables, but also a place where people bring their horse trailers. One popular thing to do, apparently is to ride along the San Gabriel River, and the riders come right up the street here on their way to the river trail.

    Its amusing to see a person's head bob past our windows, which are just about at eye level for a person riding a horse.

    I've been diligently cleaning up Opal's droppings, but the horse poop is everywhere, and we've had to be careful not to drag it into the house.


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