Tuesday, August 14, 2007

All-expense-paid trip to Hawai'i

Among Red Cross volunteers, it is sometimes said that the unofficial motto of Disaster Services is "travel to exotic places at non-exotic times." This morning, we got a phone call from the Disaster Operations Center that, even though we have been half-expecting, still was hard to answer. They wanted us to go to Hawai'i, in preparation for Hurricane Flossie.

It was hard to answer because we turned down the assignment. We've been tracking Flossie for the last few days, and so we had already discussed the possibility that it would make landfall on the Big Island, and what we would do if we got called. The reality, for us, is that this type of fly-away assignment presents a logistical problem, and probably also carries a heavy (and non-reimbursable) cost, specifically, kenneling the pets for the duration of the deployment. Not to mention finding a place to lay Odyssey up for the duration as well, although she does not need the care and feeding that the pets do.

When that call comes from the DOC, though, it's hard to say "no." At least we can rest assured they will have no trouble finding other volunteers to go -- Hawai'i is considered a cherry assignment (and so we are honored to have been asked), and volunteers often come out of the woodwork. Unlike, for example, Guam or the Marshall Islands. Besides, the current track forecast shows Flossie just grazing the Big Island with tropical-storm force winds, so I would expect the scope of any response to be limited.

While the DOC will remain focussed on Flossie for the next few days, we and they both are also watching the development of Tropical Depression 4 in the Atlantic/Caribbean theater. Once we turned them down for Hawai'i, they suggested we start heading toward Texas. I think the possibility of a US landfall for this storm, if it even becomes one (in which case, it would be "Dean") is remote, but it will likely happen in Texas if if does at all.

In the meantime, we are still in Santa Fe. Well, actually, we are at the Camel Rock Casino, just a few miles north (map). We left the Santa Fe Elks yesterday afternoon, heading generally in the direction of Taos. With a couple inches of fuel in the Fuel Pro water separator, I wanted to get the engine warm and under a bit of load, then stop someplace and see if my repairs Saturday made any difference. Heading north out of town on US84, one climbs a substantial grade, passing the famous Santa Fe Opera. The grade was the perfect load test, and things were nice and warm by the time we crested.

We pulled over at the bottom of the downgrade on the other side to check on things. We coasted most of the way to the bottom, but I noticed power was down as soon as I pulled away from the stop at the end of the ramp. Once again, the fuel level was below the intake in the separator. Damn. Well, the next step in the troubleshooting process was to replace the filter media and bowl with a spin-on filter, which, if it cured the power issue, would implicate the media, the grommet, the spring, or the bowl and O-rings that seal it. If it did not cure the problem, that would be pretty good evidence that the leak/blockage was upstream of the separator (as I still suspect).

With the bowl already empty of fuel, getting the spin-on in place was pretty straightforward. And the big Detroit fired right up once it was all tightened down. Unfortunately, I don't think I allowed it to sit and run at high-idle long enough to purge the air out of the spin-on. Once I shut the engine down (to transfer start/run control from the maintenances switches in the back to the driver's switches in the front), I could not re-start it -- we had lost prime.

The only way to re-prime (without a priming pump, which I don't have) is to put the bowl back on the separator and fill it with fuel. So off came the spin-on, and on went the media cartridge, the bowl, and the seals. Unfortunately, at this point we were out of fuel in our little one-gallon jerry can, and we are on the shoulder of an on-ramp with no services in sight. So I had to go to my emergency priming back-up plan, which involves pulling the supply hose off the generator, sticking it in the jerry can, and running the little electric fuel pump on the genny. I would guess this pump runs at about 15gph, which meant it took a good two minutes or so to get about half a gallon out of it. But that was enough to fill up the Fuel Pro and get the engine running, although it still took three or four cranking attempts.

This time, I let the engine idle for a good seven or eight minutes before throwing the switches back to driver control. I also flipped them quickly enough that the engine never shut down. So we were up and running, but I knew I was out of tricks, and we would have to call the cavalry on the fuel delivery problem. I put in a call to Virgil Cooley over at PEDCO, but they told me he'd be out of the office for a couple hours. Since we were still on the side of an on-ramp, we decided to get under way, and find a more convenient spot to park, possibly for the night.

We were still on the northbound side of the freeway, and we had to go north at least one exit in order to even turn around and head back to Santa Fe. Before we even hit the next exit, we saw a billboard for this casino, "just three miles ahead." I remembered from earlier research that Camel Rock had RV parking, so our plan immediately changed to coming here, probably for the night.

When I finally got hold of Virgil, he called his buddy over at Stewart & Stevenson in Albuquerque. By this time, the service manager was gone for the day, so we all agreed that I would call in at 8 this morning to see when they could squeeze us in. That squared away, we settled in for the night in the RV/truck area, a dirt lot just north of the casino. It was dark and quiet, just the way we like it.

The casino here has a small restaurant, the Pueblo Artist Caf'é, and we decided to have dinner there. An earlier exploratory visit revealed this to be a dry reservation, a fact for which we, ahem, compensated before we went in to eat. The food was good, although the menu is quite limited most days. They apparently have a more comprehensive buffet on Friday nights and Sunday mornings.

As has become our custom, we also signed up for the players' club, which snagged us each a dollar in cash, plus $15 in slot play. I parlayed my slot play into about $11 in cash, but Louise somehow managed to rack up close to $20. I gave $5 of my windfall back to the casino at the blackjack table, on a $10-for-$5 coupon. Still, we walked away with $28, twice the price of dinner ($14 for the two of us, plus tip). Not bad for a free overnight stop.

I had set an alarm for 8 this morning to make the call to S&S. No matter -- we were up already from the 7:15 Red Cross call. In any case, they will be able to get us in first thing tomorrow morning. We'll spend tonight out in their yard.

It's about a two-hour drive back to Albuquerque from where we are right now. We'll stay right here until it starts getting warm this afternoon, then head back through Santa Fe for supplies on our way to S&S. I expect to be "off line" tomorrow, at least until they get us back out of the shop. S&S is the kind of place where we will have to spend our day in the "customer lounge" -- where "customer" generally means "truck driver." I'm hoping that, once they have us in the shop, they will also be willing to flush, fill, and have a look at our cooling system as well.

I think this probably ends our foray north in New Mexico. When we are done at S&S, we'll likely either head back up I-25 to US56 east into Oklahoma, or just continue east on I-40 if it looks like we may have to head east on a faster timetable.

1 comment:

  1. We spent about a week there at Camel Rock! You're parked in the dirt lot across from the paved parking lot, no? Really nice and quiet there.


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