Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cruisin' along

Another big update today on Odyssey's repairs. Before I start in on that, though, I have an update on our schedule: we're going on another cruise. I mentioned in my last post that Louise's dad is celebrating his 70th, and they are cruising South America for the occasion, and have invited us along. Well, we're now booked, at least for the cruise portion of the trip.

Since the cruise finishes in San Francisco, we will be flying to South America out of the bay area mid-March, and will leave Odyssey in good hands there. Since we'll be gone about a month, we are still trying to find arrangements for the dog and the two cats -- we really don't want to just put them in a kennel that long. Mostly because they hate the kennel (and don't get enough human interaction there, or even interaction with each other), partly because they come back to us worse for wear (the cats overeat and under-exercise, and the dog nervously licks all the fur off her wrist), and partly because it's so darned expensive, at over $50 per day for the three of them. Suggestions (or volunteers) are welcome...

At any rate, this pretty much establishes that we will meet up with our motorcycling buddies in Death Valley over Presidents' Day weekend, and then work our way back to San Jose. Our cruise returns April 12th, and we will be back on the road shortly thereafter, with no particular agenda. That being said, we have plans to be in Poulsbo, Washington June 6-10, followed by Portland, Oregon June 19-25. With less than two months in the interim, we will likely stay west of the Rockies, which will make this our longest stint in the west since we embarked on our adventure.

The other big question mark this presents is how we will manage our Red Cross availability. We had intended to be on the list right now, but with engine troubles that is out of the question, so we are still "unavailable." If we get this resolved in the next couple of days, we could conceivably go on the list for February, but we'd have to leave early March open to get back to San Jose. I suspect we will just end up staying off the list until we return mid-April, then go back on through May, off again in June, and back on in July and through hurricane season. That probably means we will be working our way east in July, with an intent to swing by Nashville where both a windshield and A-frame await us.

Now about that engine trouble... We returned from Sierra Vista (where, by the way, we had a most excellent, but too short, visit with our friends) Sunday evening and spent Sunday night in the parking lot at Williams (map). First thing Monday morning they backed us in to a bay, pulled out our ECM, and put a test ECM in place before lunch. So we drove Odyssey to lunch, with nary a problem. On the way back, however, the same problem came right back, thus ruling out the ECM. As a side note, another old issue we had regarding the ECM not getting vehicle speed data input from the transmission was also not resolved with the new ECM, so I have work to do on that as well (troubleshooting this issue two years ago stopped at the "replace ECM" step, because the speed data is informational only and did not warrant a $1,500 ECM).

The tech spent the rest of the day making up and "installing" a direct cable from the ECM to the throttle pedal, to see if that would resolve the problem. I put quotes around "installing" because running a cable fifty feet from the ECM at the very back of the coach to the pedal at the very front is a non-trivial matter requiring us to unload the contents of every storage bay, remove quite a few of the trim panels, and try to fish the cable through an already jam-packed cable chase. Or buy weatherproof armored cable and a few dozen cleats, put the coach up on lifts, and start running the cable underneath the bays -- less desirable because it is subject to road damage there. So instead we secured the cable along the left side of the coach with gaffer's tape; kind of a kludge, but good enough for testing purposes.

So we left the shop around 4:00 yesterday, and drove around for two hours in stop-and-go traffic, with a few hills thrown in for good measure. No matter what I did with the throttle, we could not reproduce the problem.

Yesterday also happened to be my birthday, but after a full day of working on the coach and getting grubby, followed by pretty intensive driving, I was not up for a fancy dinner. I opted instead for Olive Garden, and so we parked for the night here (map), in a rather stealthy spot behind a Home Depot / PetsMart / Circuit City strip mall, a short walk from the Olive Garden across the street. We were not disturbed, but we did have to listen to the beep-beep-beep of Home Depot's forklifts all night, moving stock around.

As soon as I've got this posted, we will fire up and drive around the city some more, on the theory that the problem may come back with a cold engine after sitting overnight. If we can't reproduce the problem today, I will have them change out the connector pins and perhaps the last couple inches of wire on the existing cable, in the hopes that the problem is at the connector rather than buried somewhere in the length of the coach. It's worth a shot before investing in permanently running a new cable.

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