Monday, October 4, 2010

Hampton Roads

We are at the Elks lodge in Norfolk, Virginia (map), at the end of a narrow alley and backed up to one of the myriad tidewater sloughs that empty into Hampton Roads. We arrived here Saturday morning, which turned out to be the lone dry sunny day this week.

Shortly after I last posted here we were ready to depart the lodge at Hampton. I completed my walk-around with no exceptions noted, yet as I pulled up to the end of the driveway and prepared to turn left, when I checked my mirror the left awning was fully extended. Without really thinking about it I thought the worst, that I had driven away with the awning out, and I barked at Louise to retract it. Of course, it wouldn't retract, and neither had it been out when I started to drive, as awnings are part of my walk-around inspection as well as Louise's pre-departure checklist.

After our pulse rates came down, we immediately realized what had happened, because something similar has happened before. Apparently I did not blog it, because I did not yet know how popular my "coach repair" posts would become, but way back in 2006 that same awning suddenly started to deploy itself. We were parked in the RV area of the San Jose Elks at the time, and the awning very nearly extended right into the rig next door to us. Thinking quickly, we killed the power to it just a foot shy of the next rig, and then had to pull Odyssey forward 20' in order to fiddle with it.

In both cases the cause was a short in the control board, mounted in a weather-tight box on the roof. Four years ago that short was caused by a loose screw inside the box, but we'd also had water intrusion issues with the box at various times where the awnings stopped working altogether. We finally managed to get those boxes sealed up and have had no further for the past several years, although we did end up replacing one of the control boards early on. Well, apparently, this storm's 12" of rainfall (yes, you read that right, 12" in the span of a little more than a day) and 50-knot driving winds managed to drive some water into the control box, shorting it out and causing the awning to self-deploy.

We counted ourselves lucky that it happened before we even left the parking lot. It could have been much worse, as it might have happened on the road, or the light pole that we passed on our way to the end of the driveway could have snagged it and ripped it right off the bus. As it was, we had to retract it manually. The manual cranks that come with the Girard awnings won't work on Odyssey, because the curve of the roof precludes access to the crank connection. Years ago we drilled holes in the top of the awning cases and made a drive shaft that chucks into the cordless drill, and five minutes on the roof was all it took to get the awning back in.

That's in stark contrast to what we had to do four years ago, which involved spending over an hour on the roof, removing part of the deck to access the control box, then bypassing the control to supply power directly to the motor to retract the awning. Now that this has happened a second time, and while driving to boot, I've already sketched out an electrical interlock to kill power to the awnings while we are under way. In the meantime, we've added an item to the checklist to turn off the awning circuit breaker before moving the bus.

Friday night found us at the Wal-Mart just east of here, adjacent to the Janaf shopping center (map). We needed supplies anyway, and that put us a short walk from nearly a dozen restaurants plus some other shops to browse. We walked to Wasabi for dinner, a local Japanese Hibachi steakhouse and sushi restaurant. The food was excellent yet inexpensive, and we had the non-Hibachi dining room to ourselves.

We would have spent more of the day there Saturday, but I did not want to be taking the roof apart at Wal-Mart to work on the awning, and we needed to come here to the Elks later anyway to take the scooters out for dinner. Of course, as luck would have it, as soon as we got parked here at the lodge, the awning was working perfectly again, and so we turned our attention to other projects.

I had not yet had a chance to put away the electrical adapters I used in Richmond to hook up to the weird power outlet in the warehouse, and now that the weather was nice I took the opportunity to dig out the plastic toolbox I use to store them. To my dismay I found that the sideways-driving rain which had infiltrated the bays had made its way into the box, partially filling it with water and soaking my adapters -- yuck. I ended up taking every last one out, rinsing them off, drying them in the sun, and using WD-40 as needed to clean them all up. That gave me the opportunity to photograph all of them for an article I have been meaning to write on our electrical bag of tricks, and while the sun angle was terrible for pictures, now that it is done be looking for a blog post soon on the topic.

By the time I had everything put back away it was time to leave for dinner, and we had a nice scooter ride downtown. Dinner at the Town Point Club was very nice, and we got free entertainment as well, since the club was hosting a wedding in the room next door. The bridal party and various guests kept coming out onto the balcony just outside our table for photos, and after sunset, there was an impressive display of professional fireworks over the harbor, apparently a surprise gift from the father of the bride. I don't know what kind of pull he has, but there were at least three patrol boats of some sort closing off the harbor for the fireworks. After dinner we rode along the waterfront, past the cruise terminal and the USS Wisconsin, BB-64, now part of the Nauticus museum complex. Downtown Norfolk is quite pleasant, and we made a mental note to visit again, perhaps in the boat wherein we can stay right on the waterfront.

We would have ridden back downtown yesterday to visit the museum or the lovely waterfront parks and maybe sample another restaurant, but it has been raining more or less continuously since yesterday morning. We have 50 amps of power here so we ran the crock pot yesterday to make dinner, and basically just stayed inside catching up on email and reading. The lone other rig that was here when we arrived left mid-day yesterday, and other than them, we have not seen another soul here since we arrived -- no one has come to open the lodge at all since we got here, and I suspect this lodge is not long for this world.

UPS reports that all three of our packages are "out for delivery" to the UPS store in Chesapeake, and so we will pack up shortly and head in that direction to pick them up. I am hoping for a break in the weather in the next 24 hours so I can get the rooftop part of the satellite dish project done, otherwise we will be hauling the replacement mount around in the living room. Besides, I'd like to get everything working before we leave Chesapeake, where our satellite internet provider's office and shop are located, in case we need help.


  1. Although I am quite aware that it would go against (normal) weather patterns, I was wondering if you could send some of that rain to Colorado? We are drying out into raisins here! Share and share alike, you know. Ha!

  2. Downtown Norfolk is a beautiful place. We took the short paddleboat ferry ride across the harbor, got a good look at some Navy ships. My father spent his career working for the Navy. When I told him I saw a ship being worked on he asked," What number was it?" I looked at the pictures I took and told him. He was, "Oh, that's a blah-blah-blah-blah ship. They do this..." I Googled it and sure enough he was right. It has never occurred to me that ships might be numbered. Duh.

    Enjoy your writing as always.


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