Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Progress report

We are still at Infinity Coach in Sumner, today marking the end of three full weeks. At this writing, it appears we will be here through the end of this week, which is our absolute deadline to depart in time to make our conference in Salt Lake.

I had estimated two weeks for all the work, with the idea that a third week would be no problem if it was needed. I did not anticipate having to go beyond that, however, and so we have had to re-think our route plans for Salt Lake -- we now will need to travel via the most direct route, most of which is on the freeway. Some of the delay has been due to unanticipated problems finding all the leaks, and some of it has been due to the shop being overbooked -- the guys keep getting pulled away to work on other projects.

That said, we've gotten quite a bit done. For starters, we've identified perhaps a dozen places where water has been getting in, and many of those have been sealed up. Howver, the most recent testing revealed we did not get them all, and so more trim has had to come off to access the rest.

We've replaced the living room sleeper sofa. After five years of nearly daily use, the old one, while cosmetically in good shape, was suffering from break-down of the seat cushion foam, and had become uncomfortable for more than one person to sit on at a time.

We got an estimate on replacing the foam, which, due to the way the cushions are all tied together as part of the "mattress," turned out to be prohibitively expensive. By sheer coincidence, Infinity had an identical model sofa in inventory, ordered for another project four years ago. While the fabric pattern was not something we would have chosen ourselves, the colors at least matched our decor, and we made a deal on it for far less than refurbishing our existing one would cost.

It was more or less a plug-and-play replacement, although for some strange reason Flexsteel had moved all the bolt holes back about an inch, and shortened the legs by a fraction. We had to make some plywood stringers to attach the now offset bolt holes to our existing floor holes, and at the same time raise the unit half an inch to clear the folding ladder we store underneath it. The old sofa went to a good home, as another bus aficionado came and picked it up yesterday.

We also got a quote on re-covering the love seat, which the cats had damaged and the ensuing attempt to repair had destroyed. That, too, was unacceptably high, and we decided to hold off until we can get to Mexico. Instead, we had Infinity re-cover just the rather simple front and side panels in some leftover contrasting Sunbrella, which will keep the cats mostly at bay, and had constituted the worst part of the damage.

The last remaining wallpaper in the bedroom and kitchen, which had always been iffy and was now irreparably damaged by the water intrusion, was also replaced with glued-on Sunbrella to match the other walls. Those had been re-done in Sunbrella at the outset, after we could not get the wallpaper glue to hold properly.

While all the interior trim is off to repair the leaks and redo the wall coverings, I took the opportunity to dig out all the water-damaged wall underlayment, treat it with wood hardener, and fill the resulting gap with "plastic wood." So there is now no rot in the walls and we have good structure under the finish -- one of the big concerns that I had since we've had so much water coming in. A handful of the maple window trim pieces were too badly damaged to salvage, and Infinity has made replacements for those, which we will reinstall when we are certain we are done with the leak repairs (the trim needs to stay off during testing, so we can see all the possible leak areas).

The body shop next door repaired and repainted the damaged section of the nose fiberglass that we cracked on our way into San Bernardino for the wild fires nearly two years ago. We are still hopeful that we can also have them touch up at least the spot where someone hit us with a front-end loader while trying to be helpful when we got stuck last year. That will hinge on whether all the leaks are handled by tomorrow evening at the latest.

While I had the 'roo bars off for the front end bodywork, I cleaned and polished the headlights (and replaced a bulb, whose low-beam filament must have broken as we removed the assembly for the bodywork), and also polished up the Lexan headlight protectors with some plastic polish. As long as I had the polish out, I also buffed out five years of oxidation on the porch light (a Whelan emergency vehicle "scene light") and on the sole rear turn signal (of four) that did not get replaced two visits ago. I was surprised at what a difference that made -- the scene light had yellowed and crazed quite a bit, and now looks new, and the older turn signal is now indistinguishable from its three newer brethren.

The 'roo bars themselves and their mounting brackets had quite a few rust spots, where rock chips in the powder coat had let moisture in. One spot on the bracket had a big chunk of powder coat flake off, fortunately in a spot that does not really show. We applied rust converter to all those areas (as well as any rust damage to the tubes around the leaking windows), and I primed and painted as needed, which should keep things in good shape up there at least until some more rock chips come along (the 'roo bars, being low to the ground, take the brunt of anything kicked up by vehicles ahead, and the Lexan headlight covers mounted to them have clearly prevented the glass headlights from being broken on many occasions, judging from some serious divots in the plastic).

All our floor-to-wall joints have been re-caulked and the generator alternator has been fixed -- it turned out that one of the alternator mounting bolts, in a hard-to-reach spot, had sheared. The entry door was adjusted -- it would not seal properly unless you pushed it from the outside while closing it -- and the minor cold-weather coolant leak in the scooter bay has been located and addressed. Baseboard trim for the new vinyl floor in the bedroom has been made and will be installed this week, a full year after I installed the flooring.

In the course of repairing the leaks in one of the bedroom windows, a factory "emergency exit" type, we had to open it. This window has not opened properly since before we left five years ago -- the plastic release handle broke off back then right in Louise's hand (we have two emergency exit windows in the bedroom, so this did not concern us very much). As long as we had it open, we discovered that the original failure was, in part, due to one of the latch dogs having been moved over ever so slightly when someone (probably at Pegasus) broke one of the mounting screws in its hole. We drilled that out and relocated the dog, which reduced the pressure required on the operating handle. We also had a full set of replacement handles machined out of aluminum (once you pay to set up the CNC machine, you might as well make several copies), so we can replace the other three plastic release handles if/when they break over time.

Lastly, we had asked Infinity to quote replacement fabric for the Girard awnings. After five years of daily use, often running them in and out (at least part way) several times each day, holes had developed at the fabric seams in the outermost five inches or so of fabric. The fabric is standard Sunbrella, but it is seamed to length and has cordage sewn into it by Girard to fit the mounting tracks, and the quote came back much higher than we wanted to spend ($1,000 per side -- gulp). After noodling on this for a bit and discussing options, such as cutting the bad 5" off and re-sewing the cordage back on, we all realized that the entire fabric could be removed, turned around, and re-installed with the bad edge toward the roller. This worked great -- the bad part never even leaves the roll with the awning fully extended, and it looks more or less like a brand new awning, for just an hour or so of labor (which would be needed to install new fabric anyway). The curb side has been done, and they will do the driver side the same way later this week.

All of this has kept us incredibly busy -- I've been doing as much work myself as I can -- and left little time for blogging (although, apparently, it did not stop me from keeping up with a running argument on one of the bus conversion boards) and other pursuits. We tend to wrap up sometime around 7 each evening, then roll out to dinner someplace -- I think we've eaten at every restaurant in Sumner now at least twice.

Fortunately, we have had near-perfect weather since our arrival three weeks ago. No rain, which is good while the leaks are not fully addressed, sunny most days, yet not really hot enough to need the A/C except perhaps for a few hours on just a couple of days. Also good, since we don't have a single window blind -- all removed three weeks ago with the rest of the trim to find the leaks. We feel somewhat as if we are living in a fish bowl once the sun goes down -- thankfully quite late (9:30 or so). At least we have some reflective mylar covers to use in the bedroom, so we have a little privacy there.

We've also spent two Sundays up at Lake Tapps, where the Lewis family has a waterfront home, and have had several nice meals with various Infinity staffers who are now part of our extended family. A week ago we went to San Jose on the Coast Starlight to attend a memorial service for a friend who passed too soon. The folks here were gracious enough to watch the pets for us while we were gone. We reconnected with many people whom we had not seen in over five years -- I suppose funerals have a way of doing that.

With a little bit of luck, we should be done here no later than Friday, and on the road to Salt Lake by Saturday morning. We'll likely be missing some of our rubber trim below the rain gutters, which has disintegrated from age as we've removed it, and is now out of production. I'm trying to either find some left over someplace, or have it custom-extruded for us, but in either case we can't get it here before departure.

I expect my next post here will be this weekend, from the road.


  1. Wow - you guys have been busy! I'm glad all the work is going well, if taking a bit of time... We'll start our 3 weeks of work (no more than that I hope!) next week...

  2. When I discovered you and your amazing bus conversion I was delighted. I especially appreciate the details regarding maintaining the bus and the details regarding opperation. While I don't anticipate a bus conversion of my own, I do enjoy following others who are living on the road on the higher end of the scale.

    It would be equally interesting to follow some of the expenses, though I do recognize that this is a personal matter. Those of us who still dream of getting on the road would benefit from the knowledge of how much each form or road living might cost, at least in general terms.

    Additionally, some information as to how you created a lifestyle that allowed you to take this course would be interesting. Again, I recognize that this is quite personal, but some knowledge as to how a viable road lifestyle was achieved could aid those who currently only dream.

    Thank you so much for sharing your adventure. The vicarious travel has been quite theraputic for me. My time on the road may come, but is not yet here. Your shared adventures are a delight.



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