Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Never-ending maintenance

We are at the Elks lodge in Frederick, Maryland (map).

Yesterday's drive through Shenandoah National Park did not happen. After leaving the Waynesboro Wal-Mart, we proceeded back the way we came and turned off at the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive junction, only to find a locked gate blocking Skyline with a sign reading "Road Closed -- Snow and Ice." A similar gate and sign barred access to the Blue Ridge as well, making us glad we finished it before they closed it. (And what, we wonder, happens to the folks who are already inside Shenandoah when they close the road?)

We pulled into a little turnout at the bridge to contemplate our options. After a quick look at the maps and Street Atlas, we decided to continue east on 250 to Charlottesville, then north on US-29/US-15 to Frederick. After clearing a 13'6" overpass on 250 we thought we were home free, but the sign advertising a 13'2" overpass ahead promted us to bail off onto I-64 the rest of the way to Charlottesville.

There were no such issues once we were on US-29 and US-15, and we had an uneventful and mildly scenic trip, if a bit more suburban four-lane than our usual fare. Since our plan to, perhaps, camp in Shenandoah (two of the campgrounds are still open) went out the window, Louise broke out the guidebooks, and found this lovely Elks lodge here in Frederick.

In stark contrast to many lodges, this one is in a nice, modern building and appears to be quite vibrant. They serve dinner six nights a week in a well-run facility, have a huge parking lot (complete with two 30-amp power outlets for visiting RVs), and a nice bar. The whole place is also smoke-free, which is always a plus on our list. We wandered over to the lodge last night for dinner; I had prime rib, and Louise had haddock, and both were excellent and reasonably priced. They also have nightly specials, and attract a good crowd daily for lunch, as well.

Since we were well parked and had 30 amps of power, we decided to stay put today to get some pressing things taken care of. Louise hauled out her scooter and schlepped three loads of laundry to the laundromat about a mile away, and I set to work on one of our pesky air leaks.

When the weather turns cold, we always leak more air (and coolant) than otherwise. Mostly this has to do with differential rates of contraction at the fittings, and we don't worry about it too much. But for the last three days, we've been losing copious quantities of air at the left front leveling valve, a problem we've seen before.

This leak is so bad that the electric compressor had to run nearly full time to keep up with it. Hard on the compressor, hard on the batteries, and hard on the neighbors in the middle of the night. The consequence has been that we've had to park more or less on level ground, turn the compressor off, and just let the bus settle on the stops. Because both our toilet and our main entry door are air-operated, I had to start the main engine and build air every time we needed to use the bathroom, and some of the time we needed to exit/enter the bus (the rest of the time, we just squeezed over the seats and used the driver door).

So today I bit the bullet and crawled into the wheel well to see if I could fix it. It's in the 30s here, so we picked up a portable 1500-watt electric heater at our last Wal-Mart stop, which I stuffed into the wheel well with me. It helped quite a bit.

The last couple of times I went through this, disassembling the leveling valve and cleaning it out did the trick, so that's where I started. No small job in the cramped quarters, and it took me over an hour. Unfortunately, that was absolutely no help this time. So I ended up taking a wrench to the nearby check valve, which, having never been removed before (as far as I can tell) took quite a bit of effort (and copious amounts of WD-40) to remove.

Sure enough, the check valve was leaking (passing air in the wrong direction), which meant the air bag was continually trying to fill even as the leveling valve did its best to exhaust enough air to keep it in balance. I managed, with some effort (and no small thanks to the enormous wrenches I bought to fix the fuel system a while back, even though they are SAE and the valves are metric) to get the valve disassembled. There was a good deal of crud in the 24-year-old valve, but also the rubber diaphragm is just tired. After cleaning it out and lubricating it, I got it to perhaps 99% functional.

After reinstalling the check valve and airing back up, we find the compressor coming on about every 12 minutes or so for less than a minute. Not perfect, but we can live with it. I'm going to have to look into getting some new check valves; I'm sure every valve in the system is in about the same condition.

We'll be here at the Frederick Elks for another night. Louise found a massage place just a mile or so away, and we have 6:30 appointments for some long-overdue massages, after which we will grab a bite at a nearby restaurant. Tomorrow I expect to head towards Mount Airy and the scooter, which I am hoping we can cram into an already full scooter bay.

1 comment:

  1. I'm very glad you two are back to posting, I've missed it!
    I must say, I won't complain about the little maintenence we do to our fifth wheel again after reading your blog! ;)
    Happy travels!


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