Sunday, March 20, 2005

We are at Laguna Seca recreation area, in Monterey (map). And, yes, this is the place with the race track, although it is quiet at the moment. We are here visiting Louise's dad, Jerry, and his wife, Kay, who live just down the road.

Friday we went to Les Schwab in Livermore to have our new tires and wheels put on. We had been informed by ABC Bus that Watkins freight would be delivering the two steel inner wheels by 2pm, so we arrived about 1:30 and technician/salesman James Cox started working on removing our existing wheels and making sure the new Alcoas fit properly and the fancy sleeve nuts engaged properly on the existing studs. All turned out to be fine, but two o'clock came and went with no steel wheels. A quick call to Watkins confirmed the bad news: the wheels were at their San Francisco terminal, having arrived late, and would not be on their way to Livermore until Monday.

James graciously agreed to temporarily mount our new inner drive tires on our old 8.25" steel wheels, in the interests of getting the job done and us back on the road. We will return sometime later this week to have the tires transferred to the 9" rims that are still en-route.

So we now have our six shiny new Alcoa Dura-Bright alumninum wheels mounted up, and they look great. Also, the new tires look and feel good, and all the vibration we've been experiencing on the old tires (due to irregular wear) is now gone. Handling and road feel is much improved. The block treads on the drivers "sing" a bit on the highway, but it is minimal in the cockpit. The drivers look really butch now, especially on the new rims. I hope to get some photos of the coach with the new wheels up on our photo site soon.

One of the things we had done at Les Schwab was installation of the SmarTire tire monitoring system. I have to say that this thing is way cool, and, I think, worth every penny of its fairly hefty price tag ($980 for an eight-wheel system, plus $350 for installation). We now have a little module on our dashboard which alerts us audibly and visually if any tire drops below normal pressure, or increases above reasonable operating temperature. We can also scroll through all eight tires and see a direct reading of the tire's pressure and internal temperature. It's been interesting watching the tires heat up as we drive. Right now, we are getting contsant alerts on the inner duals, since we did not have the sensors mounted on our old, temporary rims. The alert for unreporting sensors is different than the tire alarms, so it's not really an issue. Besides which, the other two sensors should be in place within a week.

Another great thing about having the internal monitors is that I will seldom have to check pressures with a gauge. This is good because the gauge lets a bit of air out every time. It's especially good now, because we also have a dry powder substance called "Equal" in every tire that dynamically balances the wheel as we drive. In certain instances, the powder can try to come out through the valve stem when letting air out or using an air pressure gauge, so we want to minimize these activities. (The Equal people sent valve inserts with little screens on them to prevent this, but they do not fit in the Alcoa stems.)

We spent Friday night at the Fremont Elks lodge (map), en-route to San Jose and Monterey. They have a handful of RV spaces with electric hookups, and we got the last space. This happens to be my old lodge, the one where I joined the Elks many moons ago. Still looks the same, but I did not recognize anybody.

Saturday morning we dropped off a few items at our "storage locker" in San Jose (a garage closet that is part of our condo, the rest of which we rent out). We then stopped by the curb-side drop box at the San Jose library to drop off some books we checked out during our stay. A library staffer just happened to be there emptying the drop box, and, as we pulled up, he said "Wow, I didn't know musicians could read," which has to rank as the funniest rock-star-bus comment we have heard to date.

From there we came straight here, just in time to celebrate Jerry's birthday at a nice local eatery called "Passion Fish."

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