Sunday, July 17, 2011

Relaxing on the Clinch

We are at the Norris Dam State Park (map), at the eponymous dam on the Clinch River, about 20 miles or so from Knoxville, Tennessee. The dam itself is actually owned by the TVA, the very first dam in the system and one of the first projects of Roosevelt's New Deal. The state park occupies the upstream shoreline of the lake for miles on either side.

We are in the smaller East Campground, closer to the dam. Power pedestals here sport a 30-amp and 20-amp receptacle, which have been keeping us quite cool and comfortable. Yesterday we rode over to the larger West Campground, quite a ways away, where we noticed the sites had additionally a 50-amp receptacle. That area is also more wooded and we would have had more jockeying to do to get the satellite dish on-line. All sites also have water spigots and are $20 per night, which is a bargain for power in this weather.

We finally wrapped up at the Choo Choo Garage Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday we were actually able to move the bus, and we looped around the parking lot to pull it into the bay and over the pit, so the coolant could be changed and everything inspected from underneath. We discovered a power steering leak, which turned out to be a bad hose. Everything was back in place by the end of the day Tuesday, and Wednesday morning we went for a road test.

We just did a quick dozen miles or so on the freeway, climbing a moderate grade in both directions. Everything worked well, and an initial seat-of-the-pants assessment of the cooling system suggested a significant improvement. I noticed steering fluid dripping at a check stop, but that turned out to be from a small pool of it trapped on a motor mount. Another old problem was also back with us, namely that the compressor unloads every half minute or so. When we got back to the shop we pulled back over the pit.

Joel spent several hours Wednesday diagnosing the air problem, which ultimately turned out to be a combination of a bad check valve and and undersized air line. He was able to clean the valve, and the shop had the proper line in stock, so the problem was fixed for good by mid-afternoon. In the meantime, all the air dumping and filling had caused the perennial leak in the left front leveling check valve to return, a problem I had just dealt with the day we left Mississippi. No better time to deal with it than over the pit, and Joel was able to find me a used check valve lying around the shop that we were able to adapt, using bits and pieces he had in his little pile of parts, plus two fittings and some tube I bought at the hardware store down the street. With luck, that will be the end of having to crawl into the wheel well to rebuild that valve.

That took us nearly to the end of the day, so we spent Wednesday night outside the shop, in the wash rack. Louise and I spent a couple hours Thursday morning with the pressure washer trying to get the bus clean. The back was so covered with grease from the oil leak, however, that we ruined the scrub brush. Don and Joel rescued us with chemicals, products called "Dun EZ" and "Purple Power," which not only got the grease off the back, but also cleaned up the brush. The wash rack also houses the dump, in typical bus-garage style, so we were able to empty our tanks before we left.

Louise had made arrangements to meet her brother and sister-in-law and their daughter as they made their way from Roan Mountain, near Smoky Mountain park, back to Houston. Their route took them past Chattanooga, but we were eager to move on, so arranged to meet instead in Knoxville for lunch on Friday. That gave us a chance to have dinner Thursday night at our club there, but the only decent parking option was the Elks lodge a few miles away, which had no power. So we lingered at the shop, where we still had 20 amps, until we had just enough time to fuel and make a quick stop at Camping World on the way to Knoxville.

Fuel was $3.69 a gallon at the Mapco station between the shop and the freeway. The dispenser was incredibly slow, though, and would only let me buy $100 at a shot, so we quit at $200. Camping world was just across the highway, and our stop was necessitated by having to purchase a new 30-amp-to-50-amp "dogbone" adapter. The one we'd been using came with the bus, and was at least 20 years old. Still, it was working OK until we arrived at the shop.

Unfortunately, the shop had only 20-amp duplex outlets, and Mike lent us an adapter that converts a duplex receptacle into a 30-amp trailer outlet. In hindsight, I should have just used my 15-to-30 adapter, because the orientation of the duplex receptacles meant the adapter was "upside down." This meant that, instead of hanging straight down, our 30-amp adapter had to dress upwards from the outlet, then hang down to the side. We tried to secure it in that position somehow, but it ended up with the weight of the cord on the tangs. After three weeks of non-stop 20-amp draw in near-100 temperatures, the hot tangs melted through the old rubber, and the plug was not a pretty sight when I removed it. I suggested to Mike that he flip the receptacle over, and gave him the melted plug for show-and-tell.

We made it to Knoxville just in time to take the scooters out and make our dinner reservation. The Elks lodge was pleasant enough, and downtown Knoxville was very interesting -- we'd like to return in cooler weather and spend a few days. At least it was cool enough by the time we arrived that we could go off to dinner without leaving the A/C running, and we were also able to spend Friday morning as well as go off to lunch without it. It was too humid for sleeping, though, and we had to run one unit overnight on low. In better days, our batteries would have easily handled that task, but they are now so bad that the generator auto-started four times overnight, running for just an hour each time.

After saying good-bye to Louise's family, who were trying to make it back to Houston in just two days, we spent the next hour or so looking for someplace nearby with a power outlet. We knew we could be comfortable without it if we got high enough into the hills, but here in the vicinity of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we reasoned that most of the campgrounds, even the fairly primitive ones, would be full up for the weekend now that it is high season. Louise started looking at state parks, and this one, closest to Knoxville, is far enough in the opposite direction that they seldom fill up. At just $20 per day, it is cheaper than running the generator.

We paid for two nights, last night being the second. But with no concrete plans to go anywhere else, we're going to purchase another night when the ranger rolls around. We have our eyes on Investigation Area 98 off the east coast of Florida, so we certainly don't want to go any further north or west just yet. There is a public pool over on the west side of the park, so perhaps we will go for a swim later today. In the meantime, I am still cleaning up the project bits and pieces leftover from the shop visit. Today I should have all the hatches dogged down, so we can stow the rest of our gear.


  1. Hey, that's just a half hour up the road from me! It's a nice park; I keep meaning to get up there more often, and not managing it. Enjoy yourselves!

  2. Hi Guys, We're so glad to read your on the road again. And it's been hot here in TN, but next week is forecast to get even hotter so FL sounds "cool". Personally I was glad to read about finding a Southern radiator shop without having to spend days on the road to haul it. We missed the posts and certainly understand your being covered up with repairs and parts chasing and are looking forward to tales of the asphalt.
    Travel Safe, Pat and Russ

  3. I saw you had posted on the BCM boards that your batteries were 'done.' What are your plans and time frame to replace them?

    I ask because I am thinking about a similar (scaled down) type of battery setup for my bus and was curious about your setup.

  4. Good to see you have broken your bond to the shop. Was starting to wonder if you were stuck for another week. Stay cool.

  5. Wanting a larger view of the photo of the Noris Dam Campground, I clicked on it, and actually got a smaller view!


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!