Monday, July 11, 2011

Sweet sound of a purring two-stroke

Today we started the main engine. It fired right up, and other than a minor leak in the power steering system, quickly resolved, all seems to be well. Clearly Joel is confident, since they put the tailgate back on this afternoon. The cooling system is filled with plain water, in preparation for a good flush over the pit before we put all new coolant in, per the recommendation of the radiator shop.

In the meantime, I spent most of the day in the generator bay, trying to get the enclosure and ductwork back together. Yesterday I managed to replace the old and crappy wire-type hose clamp on the leaky coolant hose with a standard worm-drive type. That seems to have cured the leak, although only a long load test will tell, something I can't do with the exhaust just millimeters from the shop door.

We did not get a chance to test the transmission today, as we did not actually move from our position, in which we have been for three weeks. And while we did not actually finish everything up today, I am hopeful that tomorrow things will be buttoned up enough for a road test. If that goes well, we should be able to leave sometime Wednesday, for parts unknown.

My last few posts here have generated a lot of comments, many expressing either sympathy or, perhaps, disbelief. I want to take a moment to address this. While, to some, these sorts of posts may seem to be nothing more than an exercise in whining, I write up all of our mechanical tribulations for two reasons. The first is that, for whatever reason, the mechanical issues and repairs posts are enormously popular with our readers -- more on this in a moment. The second is that, just like a ship's log book, this blog is the record of everything we do with, to, and on this bus, and we often find ourselves needing to go back to our own posts to verify what has or has not happened in the past. For example, while we have been here at this shop, I have gone back to several posts from the two times we had the engine rebuilt, as well as the time the power steering pump was replaced, and of course the posts about our original discovery of the end-plate gasket leak. All of those references yielded valuable information for our current circumstance.

About that popularity... I would like to think that most of the readers who are fascinated by these posts are learning something from them. In my fantasy, readers are looking at these mechanical issues, seeing how we deal with them, and that is giving them the confidence to strike out on their own, knowing that all these sorts of problems are manageable. Some, I hope, are actually gleaning a technical tidbit or two, while others are seeing that there are resources all over the country to help even those of us with weird, out-of-production, custom-converted rigs get things fixed.

Of course, I could be way off base. It's possible that the popularity of these posts is a kind of schadenfreude -- "Gosh, hon, look at all the trouble Odyssey is having. Boy am I glad we bought a Bluebird/Monaco/Newell/Marathon/YadaYada coach that has no problems whatsoever (cough, cough), and, even if it did, we can just go to the dealer and slap down our Visa card and get them fixed."

In any case, I want to assure our readers that we are fine, and we consider all that has transpired in the last three weeks to be par for the course -- part and parcel of owning a 27-year-old weird German bus. I haven't seen the bill yet, but when all is said and done here at Choo-Choo Express, it will not have cost us even as much as one year's property taxes from when we lived in a condo in California. In fact, when we are done here we will have spent the better part of a month, and we've paid nary a cent for rent and utilities, even though we have been helping ourselves to power, water, and sewer. Again, back in San Jose that would have been perhaps a $2,000 expense for the month -- a good bite out of our shop tab right there.

Sure, I'd rather not have had to do this. But in the grand scheme of our lives, it is but a minor annoyance. As you may know, we are contemplating moving from Odyssey onto a boat, and I have every reason to believe that boat ownership will be more of the same, except with higher shop rates. No way are we ready to trade this lifestyle for "the American dream," complete with property taxes, utility bills, pesky neighbors, and, of course, all the same plumbing/electrical/Internet/whatever problems that even homeowners must navigate.

One of the television programs I have taken to watching on occasion is a show called Holmes Inspection on HGTV. Perhaps that is my own form of schadenfreude. It is a good reminder that there are "conventional" homes with even bigger problems than an orphaned quarter-century-old German tour bus. In a day or two, we will be back on the road and enjoying the life of travel that we love so much, and all of the hard work of the last few weeks will fade into the background.

Photo by Godfrey DiGiorgi


  1. It is definitely from your posts & personal sharing of dealing with these issues that has helped know we'll be able to handle any of these sorts of issues with our new (to us) 1961 GM 4106.

    Thank you for continuing to share, I love your authenticity.

    We're looking at this adventure in vintage buses as testing our ability to handle this stuff at sea eventually.

    And darn right... even a massive engine rebuild is on par with major househould repairs & remodels. When we look at it that way, really can't complain much about it.

    Looking forward to our first bus rendezvous with y'all!

  2. Thanks for the technical reports, it is great to be able to glean some guidance from your problems and although we are not in a bus like yours and parts are probably easier to find it is interesting for me to see how resourceful you are with your unique situation.

  3. I hope you keep your detailed, technical posts coming. While we will never sell our home and hit the road, I do thoroughly enjoy reading of your exploits and adventures, and am always so very impressed with your depth of knowledge of all stuff Odyssey, and road living related.

  4. I am absolutely glued to your website. I'm not a gear-head at all myself and admire your ability to diagnose, repair and just figure things out. We have an '08 Monaco Dynasty (purchased new) that has run pretty good with a few repairs here and there; mostly house items, not too much with the drive-train.

    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoy your postings and hope that you continue with Odyssey for many years to come.

    Mark in TN

  5. As a fellow motorcyclist and gearhead I enjoy the technical repair posts. The Neoplan is an interesting, innovative design and seeing the "guts" of her is enlightening.

  6. As you may remember, we also have a 2 stroke Detroit Diesel series 92 (6v92), so I follow your mechanical issues with great interest. That you have been able to find mechanics from east coast to west coast to work on this power plant is very encouraging to me as we prepare to hit the road full time in just a few months. At some point we will have to repower, and you have given me confidence to prepare financially for that and to know that it is not insurmountable. In the over all scheme of things it is less expensive than a mortgage payment with property taxes is just a matter of perspective. Thank you for sharing the detailed and descriptive process.

  7. What a mechanical Odyssey! And I had no idea JBWeld would be useful on such a vehicle.

  8. As a fellow scooter enthusiast, and a common Freightliner motorhome owner, I enjoy your resourcefulness when it comes to solving almost anything. It gives me confidence that I can surely drive over to the local Freightliner dealer and plop down that plastic and getter done! The bus forum has been the best tool you got in the box though.....

  9. Sean, I marvel at your dogged persistance in solving your mechanical problems. Your detailed descriptions of what happened, and what you had to do to make the repairs, keeps me glued to your posts. Thanks for taking the time to give us the "rest of the story". Hi to Louise, and a pat for Opal. Steve & Carol

  10. Although I doubt I'll ever be in a position to hit the road full-time, I'm a big fan of your blog. I enjoy following along on your journeys, and admire your approach to problem-solving.

  11. Love the pictures of George in your last 2 posts!

  12. Put me in the "I pay attention to all of the mechanical details because I hope to do it myself someday" category. Plus, the engineer in me finds it interesting.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Meant to post this last night but Blogger ate it and I didn't copy it before attempting.

    Anyway, no schadenfreude here - I'm also quite rapt in your daily travels and travails, as I hope to emulate them soon myself.

    I have a 6V92 in the 1989 RTS that I'm presently converting, and anything 92-series interests me. I did wonder whether or not this latest patch of monetary haemorrhage had pushed you closer to giving up on Odyssey. I'm glad to see that it hasn't.

    As someone who has experienced the American Nightmare^WDream and the $3500 Bay Area mortgage that went along with it, I'm more than happy to spend as little on housing as possible. I also like the idea of being nomadic and seeing places I haven't seen before in this country (I do it all the time by going to other countries!)

    And I hope I'm fulltiming long before you move onto your boat!

  14. I look forward each day to your posts. You and Louise are a source of inspiration and encouragement for me. Since I cannot travel yet in my bus, I live through your travels.

    Lexington Ky

  15. As owners of a 1967 Silver Eagle w/ an 8V71 we also follow your blog regularly. Thinking back on our long weekend at Choo Choo Express I marvel at your calmness and all the you have express verbally or non-verbally. Also the time to fix other things as needed was of value.
    See ya on the road.

  16. You can't imagine HOW much higher those marine shop rates will be but that isn't the really frustrating experience. In the "bus" world I see a lot of people who are eager to learn from others' experiences. Maybe I've been hanging out in the wrong marinas but I don't think so. What I've seen there is an almost religious reliance on whichever particular marine guru happens to catch the boater's ear. And some of these marine guys are morons with a capital M. The money that gets needlessly and heedlessly dumped into boats annually would easily feed small countries.

    I'm glad to see you're out of the garage. You're right about the "free" power and water part but the view gets monotonous after a few days let alone weeks - BTDT GTTS. Our biggest problem while we were parked in Camp Luke was disposing of gray water. He didn't really have a system so periodically I would roll his wheeled scrub pail over beside the bus, fill the pail with gray water, roll the pail to the shop bathroom and dump it. It takes a very long time to empty 100 gallons of gray that way.

  17. Perhaps I have a slightly different perspective, being an engineer myself (though mechanical rather than electrical). I do not see problems in these kinds of posts. I see solutions. I love your passion for (a) doing it right, while also (b) not merely throwing money at the problem till it goes away.

    Another factor is as a newcomer to the blog, I know that there is a happy ending eventually.


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!