Friday, February 4, 2011

Heading to weather

We are at the Elks lodge in Beaumont, Texas (map). We have good friends here, and we try to see them whenever we pass through. Usually we stay closer to town, or else meet them at their ranch in Woodville, however our current need for power sent us here.

We've been here before, notably on a pair of visits bracketing Hurricane Rita, so we got to see the old lodge both before and after it burned down, a side effect of the storm. The RV parking area in the back has a couple dozen pedestals with 30-amp, 50-amp, or both, and water spigots. There is also a dump station. After Rita, the campground was full for a long time.

In the past we've simply parked in one of the numbered spaces, which are on a grassy area underpinned by gravel. When we arrived yesterday the area was very muddy, and we carefully chose what looked like a firm spot nearest the graveled entrance. However as soon as I drove out to it, with Louise watching from outside, we sank into the earth a good 3", and rather than risk getting stuck in the mud I gave it more throttle and drove right back onto the gravel. We're parked on the very edge of the gravel nearest the RV area, and I checked in with the lodge to make sure it was OK for a single night.

They've finally completed a new lodge building, and while it is not nearly as elaborate as the old one, it seems fairly nice. However it was way too smoky in there for us, so I paid our $12 camp fee and bolted. Today on our way out we will avail ourselves of the dump station; we already put water in yesterday, just before they shut it all down due to the freeze. Nothing here is protected from freezing weather because, really, it doesn't happen often.

Yesterday's drive along I-10 was uneventful and the Rain-X again did its job, although when we arrived here there as a nice glaze of ice on the non-glass portions of the nose, including the headlight covers, and icicles were hanging from the mirrors. We stopped mid-day to call Sure Marine in Seattle to finalize the order for the replacement coolant pump, and we got a bit of bad news.

After discussing it with them on the phone Wednesday and sending them a photo of the pump, we were pretty certain it was the smaller 1200 model. But when they did a little research yesterday morning they decided it was actually more likely the larger (and twice as expensive) 12000 model, which normally sports 1.5" hose barbs, retrofitted with 3/4" barbs for our application. The only way to know for certain was to try to get a number off the pump.

So after we got settled in here yesterday I spent half an hour under the rear bumper loosening the clamps holding the pump in place, in order to remove the rubber vibration pad between the pump and the clamps so we could get a number. When I finally got the pad loose, the label was stuck to the pad and not the pump; peeling it off left the part number stuck inside-out on the pad.

Sure Marine was then able to confirm it was the larger pump. They had one in stock which should have gone out yesterday afternoon, and we are hoping it will be in Killeen by next Monday, right after we return from DC. Our friends there have promised us at least a 15-amp power outlet, so we ought to be able to keep the bus and pets from freezing while we are away.

On top of everything else, we discovered yesterday morning that one of the check valves in the air suspension has started leaking, likely in part due to the cold weather. Fixing that is an uninviting task, involving cramming myself into the wheel well behind the tire, removing the valve, disassembling it, cleaning it, and reinstalling it, all while seated cross-legged and hyperventilating due to close quarters and steering gear capable of squashing me like a bug. It's damp and freezing cold right now, and we've decided to defer that little repair until we have more time and better weather, so we spent the night with the suspension deflated and the bus down on its stops. It's not a problem when driving, because the massive Bendix compressor hardly notices this minuscule leak.

As if it was not already bad enough that we have no wipers, no diesel heater, and a leaky suspension, today we will try to make it half way to Killeen, where we need to be on Saturday afternoon in order to make our Sunday flight. Between here and Killeen sits Houston, and this morning's weather headline was "Ice Storm Cripples Houston." Indeed, Houston, where almost no one has snow tires or any cold-weather, slippery-surface driving experience, has ground to a screeching halt, with accidents on every major highway.

We have all-weather tires and we grew up and learned to drive in the snow and ice, so we are not overly concerned about our own safety, but it is going to take everything we have to pick our way through to the other side, stopping for a breif visit with Louise's brother and his family in the middle. We will be arriving on US-90 and departing on 290, so at least we will miss a lot of the Interstate chaos. Also, we are waiting right here in Beaumont until after noon, so that at least some of the ice will be gone.

There is an adage that the most dangerous thing to have on a boat is a schedule, and I suppose that could also be said of an RV, or even a car for that matter. If we did not already have flight tickets out of Killeen for Sunday, there is no way we'd be pressing onward into this mess. And with the Webasto out of commission, we'd rather not get stuck someplace along the way with no power. But the worst case would be to have to pull over somewhere to wait it out, running the genny at $3.75 per hour to keep warm, and that seems more sensible than waiting here another day and trying to make the whole 8-hour drive to Killeen tomorrow.


  1. Be safe ... another saying is "when it rains, it pours." I hope your list of needs fixing stops growing.

  2. I live in Ponder, TX. It is supposed to be above freezing tomorrow. That should help but the slush will be a pain with no wipers. Good luck. Sorry that TX is treating you so badly.

  3. Wow! You've had quite a few complications lately. FWIW: As a regular reader, I really appreciate the effort you put into posts about your repair projects. Yes, I really do pay attention to the technical details - and then find myself inspired to work out my own "How would I approach that kind of problem?" scenarios. Thanks for sharing the fun - and the reality! - of RV living!


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