Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not what we meant by "pop rivets"

We are still parked on what used to be the bottom of Lake Mead. Our good friends Ben and Karen left yesterday afternoon, and our plan had been to simply stay put right here until our fresh water runs out, perhaps two days or so from now (we only put in half a tank before coming up here), getting a few chores done. After all, it's a pretty nice spot, and the hot tub is already filled.

The first chore on my list was to change the oil in the generator, which is overdue by 40 hours or so. We had stopped by the auto parts store on the way here and picked up two gallons of diesel oil and a filter just for the purpose. The project went fine, the oil is changed and we can probably go another year now without worrying about it. It took about an hour of my time, sitting or kneeling on the ground at the back right corner of the bus, where the genny lives.

While I was back there I happened to look up, and was appalled to see that the skin covering what would have been two passenger windows on the right side of the coach has come loose, with the skin, the belly band, and a half dozen rivets all standing proud of the side of the coach by as much as an inch. Clearly this has been a developing problem for a long time, but we think it finally gave out right here over the last day or so.

For one thing, it's pretty obvious, and I would have noticed it in my pre-drive walk-around, which was last done at Arizona Charlie's just four days ago. For another, Louise is pretty sure she heard some groaning and popping noises in the last day or two (not uncommon -- there are sometimes groaning and popping noises from the roof accessories as the bus heats up and cools down).

We've had some big temperature swings here -- it's been nearly 70 in the daytime and down in the low 40s at night -- and that side of the bus is south and so has been getting pretty hot in the sun during the day. It looks like the skin has heated up from the sunlight and then buckled outward, finally pulling out whichever was the last rivet to still be holding it on. The problem is cosmetic and not structural, but weather can now get in through the gap, so it needs to be dealt with pronto.

So this afternoon I called B&B Coach Works in Las Vegas to see if they could help. This is one of the handful of firms that we had originally approached back in 2002 about re-converting the bus. They went through my 19-page bid spec and essentially declined to bid on the project, but they have at least seen the bus before. Normally, they specialize in Eagle conversions, but they've had lots of makes through their shop.

Gary thought he could fit us in without any problem, and so we've agreed to come down to the shop tomorrow afternoon. They can have a look at the problem and figure what needs to be done, and we'll just stick around so they can get started Thursday. Depending on how all that goes, we may have them look at a few other things as well, such as sealing around the upper windshield.

Thus ends our lovely desert boondocking, at least for this pass. Tonight I will drain the hot tub, and tomorrow morning we will roll over to the Park Service campground at Las Vegas Bay to dump and fill our tanks before heading back down the hill. I have my fingers crossed that we can get this fixed before the weekend, so we can come right back out to the desert, but I am not getting my hopes up. After all, I did not get far on my project list.

Actually, right now is good timing for this sort of event. We pretty much have no schedule or commitments until we need to be in Death Valley on the 15th of March, so we can be very relaxed about getting whatever work is needed done. Las Vegas would not be my first choice for a breakdown, but it's not my last, either. And at least the weather has been relatively pleasant.

We had a great time over the past few days with Ben and Karen. We ended up going to Valley of Fire instead of St. Thomas on Sunday, and they took some great photos. There was good food, lots of wine, and nightly soaks in the hot tub, and we were sorry to see them leave yesterday. We were less sorry to also see perhaps a third of the other campers out here leave as well, as the holiday weekend ended -- it was a bit quieter and more rustic here last night.

We'll likely see them again in the next few weeks (Ben and Karen, not the other campers). I've offered to visit the radiator and/or engine shop with Ben when they return from Hawaii in two weeks to get his generator cooling issue resolved, and we'll probably spend some more time together in that week of overlap before we head west to California.

In the meantime, there are at least two other bus folks here in the Las Vegas area that have expressed interest in getting together, and we'll try to find some time for that in and among whatever the current repair has in store for us.

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