Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting to get my bearings in Chattanooga

My apologies to everyone for the lack of updates here. I have been going non-stop since I last posted here, without a break long enough to post. Odyssey really wants a two-person crew, and when only one of us is aboard, things get extremely busy.

I am now at the Choo-Choo Express Garage, in Rossville, Georgia, just south of Chattanooga (map). This is the very same place we spent three and a half weeks back in June and July having much work done on our engine. The bad wheel bearing got me all the way here, and is now out on the shop bench. It was full of metal shavings, and the spindle got hot but not scored, so it will be an easy fix.

That said, we could not find the parts anywhere in the U.S. I am not surprised, as we had the same issue when we had the bearings repacked a couple years ago. As we did back then, I have ordered the parts from a supplier in the U.K. He plans to send them via DHL overnight on Thursday, and if we get lucky we can have them in hand Friday. If they get hung up in customs, though, it's anyone's guess.

To catch up from where I left off here last week, we made it to Atlanta without incident. My plan had been to perhaps park at the College Park or Lakewood MARTA station, take the train to dinner and then again to the airport first thing in the morning. Based on some responses to my question about this, posted here Thursday, we instead headed for the Wal-Mart at Dunwoody, which would mean an extra half hour on the train in the morning, but shaved another 50 miles off what we'd have to put on the bad bearing.

That turned out to be a mistake, as the Dunwoody Wal-Mart does not own its parking lot and the lot is posted No Overnight Parking, notwithstanding that it was not listed as such in my no-no list. We did speak with the manager on duty, who said it was fine with him, but he could make no promises about whether the landlord might boot us out.

We had arrived there around 3pm, with plenty of time to seek alternatives, but we did not see any No Parking signs, since we came in via a little-used back entrance that was not so posted. After noticing another rig settled in to the lot, we figured we were fine and spent the next hour and a half driving to the two nearby MARTA stations to see what we'd need to do to get Louise to the train in the morning before heading to dinner.

We came back to the Wal-Mart lot via a different entrance, and that's when we spotted the signs. By this time, rush hour was in full swing, traffic was brutal, and we had very limited options. One potential course of action was to head south past the airport to a different pair of Wal-Marts, but there was no way we were going to do that until traffic settled down.

I had hoped to take Louise to the Commerce Club downtown for her birthday dinner, but given the circumstances, we opted instead for J. Alexander's, just a short walk from the Wal-Mart. We discussed our options over a glass of wine, and when we got back to the bus we decided we'd take our chances with the landlord, parking in the back of the store with the trucks (map). The other rig also spent the night, but in a way more conspicuous place, so we figured they were an easier target anyway.

As it turns out, we were not disturbed, other than by the Friday evening noise of the nearby popular sports bar. And we were up well before the dawn, as Louise figured she needed to be on the 6:06am MARTA to make her flight, the very first train of the day. I dropped her off right at 6, in the bus lane at the Dunwoody station, and headed for Chattanooga, possibly the earliest I have ever gotten on the road in Odyssey.

Knowing I would be on the road immediately from the MARTA station, I had carefully programmed my route into the GPS the previous evening. I figured at that early hour there would be no problem running at 50mph on the freeway until I got out of metropolitan Atlanta's gravitational zone, and I set a waypoint on US-41 somewhere near Allatoona Lake. That would have made for about a four hour drive, putting me at the rally around 10:30 with stops.

What I had not figured on was that it would still be pitch dark out when I arrived at that waypoint. With only a single set of eyes in the cockpit, and still very little traffic early on a Saturday morning, I just stayed on I-75 all the way to the lone rest area on the route. The sun was just starting to rise as I pulled off, and I spent twenty minutes between using the facilities, walking the dog, and re-calculating the route.

By this point it made sense to stay on 75 almost to Ringgold and just take US-41 the last dozen miles, with a minor detour around the 11'7" underpass in downtown Ringgold. I rolled in to Camp Jordan park (map) and the Bus Conversion Rally at 9:15, while breakfast was still being served.

I parked next to Chris and Cherie of Technomadia, and after breakfast I set up the patio, fireplace, chairs, and hot tub, a project that normally takes the two of us and ended up taking me well into the afternoon. I had hoped to also get my swap meet table set up, but between meeting and greeting as well as answering questions and helping a few folks with problems, the dinner hour came along without that done. After dinner we had cocktails in the hot tub, within earshot of the large entertainment lineup that ran from 6:30 to 11.

Sunday morning found me still not fully prepared for the two seminars I was scheduled to deliver that afternoon. I had well-intentioned plans of detailed slide presentations for both, but that was before the wheel bearing crisis, when I had figured to have a few hours to work on them over the course of our trip to Atlanta. So after spending an hour or so getting my swap meet table together, I retreated to the bus to finish up my presentations.

Photo: Cherie Ve Ard

My first seminar, on hydronic heating systems, went off without a hitch and was well received. The second, on setting up a coach for boondocking, was a bit more ad-hoc but did generate some good questions and discussion. The pavilion area where the seminars were scheduled was too close to the ongoing afternoon gospel music, so we ended up doing the seminars right on the patio at Odyssey, with Technomadia generously supplying their large computer monitor for the slide decks.

Photo: Cherie Ve Ard

Once again it was a full day right up to the dinner hour, and another relaxing evening of cocktails, hot tub, and music. That did leave me with a huge pack-up project on Monday morning, putting away the unsold swap meet items (most of them, unfortunately) and packing the hot tub, patio, and other accoutrements. It was past lunch time by the time I rolled into the shop here.

While I was already expected at the shop, a number of other coaches from the rally had also decided to drop in for various service items, and it was late afternoon by the time they parked me in our familiar old spot. An hour later, however, already having loosened most of the lug nuts, they decided to have me turn around and back all the way in to the shop, since rain was forecast for Tuesday. That left just enough time to get the outer bearing out.

That was not really a problem, as the two-day workshop that I was scheduled to begin teaching here yesterday has been canceled, along with the one-day workshop that had been scheduled for tomorrow. Good thing, really, because after master technician Joel got the inner bearing out first thing yesterday morning, I spent most of the rest of the day trying to cross-reference part numbers and find bearings, all to no avail.

I had dinner on Monday with Cherie and Chris, who are here having their air bags replaced, and last night with Jim and Pat Shepherd of RV Safety Systems. Jim was also scheduled to teach a workshop that has now been canceled, on Friday, and instead they will be heading out tomorrow. I'm glad they decided to stay at least an extra day or two so we could get together; I am trying to persuade Jim to start selling his monitoring and fire suppression system into the boat market, where we would be happy to be his first customer.

With no workshop to teach, and the bearings now on order from the U.K., I am finally able to spend some time catching up on other things, including this post. I also need to adjust the air door, which has not been closing properly for over a week, and I will look into why we are not getting any heat in the driver compartment. I did already spend some time helping Chris diagnose why his coach is tripping GFCIs -- it turned out to be a branch circuit with two dead shorts to chassis, probably from someone running a screw through the cable. Potentially a very dangerous situation and I am glad we found it, all thanks to a GFCI campground outlet.

It is cold and wet here today, so I am trying to work up the motivation to go out and adjust the door. At least I have a little power for heat and hot water, and Internet access courtesy of both Bus Conversions Magazine as well as Technomadia. I'll be catching up on email and forum posts until that motivation comes to me. I should be able to get everything done by the time the bearing parts arrive.

Louise is due back to Atlanta on Saturday. I am hoping the bearings will be done either Friday evening or perhaps Saturday morning so that I can just drive the bus down to pick her up. If not, there is a shuttle from the Atlanta airport to Chattanooga every couple hours and she'll join me here Saturday evening. Where we go from there is still an open question.


  1. Glad you made the trip safely! And I'm glad the weather was still good while you were on the road -- it's sure chilly here in Knoxville right now.

  2. I hope you ordered two sets of bearings this time. I even carry TWO serpentine belts for my Ford F350. BTW, I love your fabulous conversion job.

  3. Again you are in great hands, those of Joel and Don. We did not get to the rally as that was the only time our son had available for a visit from us prior to his deployment. I bet Jim Sheppard would install the fire supression system in you 'ship' when you find the right one. Eagle guys will do what ever for "the cause". Cause us owners of old buses usually need a cash reserve. Glad your spindle is OK.

  4. Michael beat me to it on ordering two sets of bearings, only I would install them both so you are starting out on brand new on both sides. Everyone sees it different.......

  5. "Potentially a very dangerous situation and I am glad we found it, all thanks to a GFCI campground outlet."

    Well.. and with much thanks to your expertise, persistence and skill! Thank you again for that, and all your help with our bus.

    It's awesome being temporary neighbors!

  6. My head is spinning just reading this.
    I'm just saying.

  7. When we talked on the phone I knew you had a chance to make it, and also a chance not to. I'm glad that the first option won. Every once in a while I'm glad I decided to follow your suggestion and call that guy in PA to take my potential problems off my hands. Thanks for the postings to that all of us can breath again. Russ

  8. Yeah, that Jim Shepherd, he's a hell of a guy, I bet he would do just about anything to help out other Eagle guys for the cause....Tee hee, says his daughter!!!! Glad to hear you guys made it. Had some catch-up reading to do-Whew, thank goodness for other bus nuts, eh????


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