Wednesday, July 2, 2008


We are at the Cam-Plex in Gillette, Wyoming, at the Escapade (map). For those who are here, we are in Reatta B-31. We've been swamped since we arrived here, which is why I have not had the chance to post until tonight.

After some last minute exchanges at both Wal-Mart and K-Mart Saturday morning, we made our way here and were directed to this spot by the efficient parking crew. Had we been fifteen minutes earlier or later, we would have had a more favorable north orientation -- we are now facing south, which means the covers will stay up on the windshields all week, to keep the heat down. Also, we need to be careful when on the deck not to step in front of the satellite dish.

The electrical service here is a central panelboard with a dozen 30-amp pendants hanging from the bottom, and just four 50-amp receptacles mounted to the sides of the enclosure. I immediately pounced on one of the available 50's, which required dragging out the 50' 6-gauge extension cord, since we were just a tad too far away for the 25' shore cable to reach. Many rigs had to use multiple extension cords to reach, as they were quite some distance from the panel.

We came in with full water tanks, but I hooked up a hose to the provided water service, also centrally located and consisting of a "tree" of Y-adapters, so we could fill the hot tub. I wanted to get that set up early, before lots of folks hooked up and were then counting on city water pressure. So I pretty much immediately started to work on finishing my compressed-air adapter for inflating the tub, which involved opening the street-side tool drawer.

Wouldn't you know, the darn latch on that drawer failed? We had just been through the ordeal of disassembling the LPG bay door on Friday, after its latch failed, and now this. No latches have failed for nearly four years, and suddenly we have two in the span of three days.

Fortunately, the latch on the opposite tool drawer had failed once before, not long after we were on the road, and I had, at that time, fashioned myself a little tool to insert through the gap around the door and, in essence, jimmy it open. I have since weatherstripped those gaps, however, so I did have to force the tool past the weatherstripping. I was able to get the door open after four or five minutes of fiddling (again involving swear words), to find the release wire had jumped off its guide roller, which was better than the first time this happened, where the swage had come loose and I needed to re-crimp it. (Lacking a swager, I used our 30" bolt cutters instead.)

Once I got the drawer taken care of, I was able to finish my little inflator gizmo and try it out. The hot tub was inflated in just a few minutes with the compressed air, as opposed to several times longer using the little electric blower we have, followed by a hand pump. I've already ditched this latter item, and the blower is history just as soon as I confirm that my gizmo will work equally well on our inflatable boat.

After we got ourselves fully squared away, we tracked down some friends and went to dinner. My vote would have been for the prime rib joint, but there were grandkids involved, and we ended up at Dairy Queen. We had a lot of catching up to do, which killed the rest of the day.

Sunday involved yet more setup, as we wanted to deploy the deck, and I needed to set up the funky external fuel tank for the Webasto (to continue with troubleshooting and also to heat the hot tub). We did take time to enjoy the steady parade of new arrivals from the deck -- Sunday was the official arrival day. We also did a full pass of the exhibit hall before the afternoon's opening ceremonies, keynote speaker, and other activities.

Monday we had a visit from Brian and Hillary, whom we know through the bus conversion bulletin boards. They are converting an MCI 96A3 in their spare time, and travel in it periodically when they get time off work. They just happened to be passing by here on a whirlwind three-week vacation, and we enjoyed getting to see their rig and the progress they've made in the past five years or so. We had a nice couple of hours sitting out under our awning and talking shop -- great folks. Although we had to do a little two-step with the security patrols, since our guests were not registered for the Escapade.

Today's gig involved cramming bus projects in between seminars, along with Louise having to deliver a Red Cross training teleconference this evening. After I spent some time on the phone yesterday with Sure Marine, I made another attack on the Webasto problem, this time changing the burner nozzle out (for a used one that I saved after the last routine service), as well as aggressively cleaning the flame sensor photocell. After getting it back together, I fired it up to heat the hot tub, and it ran for four hours with absolutely no evidence of the problems we've been having. I have my fingers crossed that I finally have this licked.

I also spent a frustrating few hours working on the toilet's water supply. One of the problems we've had ever since we hit the road is that the toilet uses way more water than we expected. The specification says it's two quarts per flush, but it's actually been somewhere north of three quarts. For a while, I tried to adjust this using a stop on the supply line, but with minimal effect.

Things get worse when we are plugged in -- the slight bump in DC voltage caused by the charger makes the 24-volt water pump run at a slightly higher pressure, causing even more water to flow to the toilet during the (non-adjustable) cycle time. I've long suspected that installing a water pressure regulator on the toilet supply would cure this.

That said, I've never been able to find a regulator small enough to fit in the limited space in the toilet "tank" (actually a hollow in the porcelain fixture, in which sits the complex air and water valve mechanism). Turns out, though, that one of the vendors here in the exhibit hall had just such an item for sale -- I merely needed to remove the garden-hose style fittings from it and replace them with appropriate pipe-thread items.

To make a long story short, I wrestled with the new fittings for quite some time, trying to get the brass-to-plastic junction where it connects with the PEX to stop leaking. I finally got it down to a slow drip, stuck a towel under it, and called it a day -- I'll need more parts to fix it right. By that time, the hot tub was up to 104 and we enjoyed a nice soak after a long day.

Our soak was interrupted by sudden 30+ mph wind gusts, which prompted us to get out and take down our new little bug-screen room, one of the items we had so carefully set up on Sunday so we could have a mosquito-free place to sit outside.

Tomorrow is mostly set aside for cleaning out the bays. We'd like to add any items thus removed to the little pile of "free stuff" we've been displaying in front of the coach. Some of that is moving quite slowly, but the vacuum disappeared within mere minutes of setting it out. I've also promised a number of folks that we would offer tours, and I would announce them here. Right now, that's looking like sometime Thursday or Friday -- stay tuned.

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