Saturday, May 12, 2012

Empire built

We are back home, currently still parked at Infinity Coach, after our whirlwind trip to New York. We were so busy while we were there that I never got a chance to blog, although I managed to tweet exactly once, from our layover in Chicago on our way home. We've also been going full-tilt since we returned Thursday, and this morning it was blissful to sleep in. Now that I am caught up, I finally have the time for a post.

We had a great trip. Sound Transit got us to the airport in plenty of time for a late lunch before boarding our flight. My handheld amateur radio earned me extra scrutiny at the TSA, but all made it through eventually, including both the radio and my cheap corkscrew that I keep for just such occasions. We had a celebratory beer at lunch in honor of our ninth anniversary, and in anticipation of no further imbibing to be done once we boarded. My usual seat-booking trick netted us an empty seat between us, making the five-hour flight a tad more tolerable, and we arrived on time into Newark and were in quarters at the Hampton Inn there by midnight.

I have gobs of Hilton points, even though I haven't paid for a room there in over a decade, because two out of my three credit cards rack them up. A "free" room in Newark was available at Hampton, Hilton, and Doubletree, but Hampton includes breakfast and WiFi. We dragged our sorry behinds out of bed just in time to catch the last of the hot breakfast, and shortly afterwards my folks arrived from mid-state to pick us up. We had a nice drive north, and four hours in the car together to catch up since our last visit, during the Hurricane Irene NJ relief operation for the Red Cross.

After getting settled in at the hotel in Queensbury, where we met up with my aunt and uncle, we all headed over to a nice restaurant in downtown Glens Falls to meet up with my cousin, his wife, and their son, whose First Communion we were here to celebrate. The cover story was a pre-communion family dinner, but in actuality it was a surprise 80th-birthday party for my mother, whose actual birthday was just a few days away. She really was surprised, too, and one of our clandestine roles had been to ensure they picked us up in Newark in plenty of time to make dinner.

Our "nephew" (really first cousin once removed) had his First Communion at mass Sunday morning, along with four other First Communicants. It was a nice service, followed by brunch at a nearby restaurant with family and friends from both sides. It is a rite of passage for young Catholics, and I passed on to him the talismans that I myself received on the same occasion over four decades ago. A steak dinner at their house rounded out the day.

We had a great visit and enjoyed catching up with my family over the course of the weekend. Monday morning my aunt, uncle, and folks left for points south, and my cousins later dropped us off at the train station in Albany in enough time for all of us to have one final dinner at Rudy's, just across the tracks, which we can highly recommend.

Most of the trip from Albany to Chicago is overnight, but we did enjoy a bit of scenery at both ends. After checking in at the Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station, where we were able to securely store our bags, we had plenty of time to walk over to the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) for lunch. We have an affiliate club there on the 67th floor, with stunning views in all directions. We reminisced briefly about our dinner there, just about a month before we started blogging our odyssey here -- we actually drove Odyssey into The Loop and parked on the street overnight right outside the Sears Tower, possible only because we were there on the weekend.

Union Station in Chicago is a bit of history in itself, and Amtrak's first-class Metropolitan Lounge makes waiting there between trains pleasant. In addition to the baggage check, the lounge provides free WiFi, soft drinks, coffee, and muffins, as well as early access to the boarding platform ahead of coach class. As we passed the coach-class platform entrance, we noted for the first time a phalanx of TSA employees and scanners, and it appeared that the coach passengers were being inspected before boarding. Apparently, terrorists do not travel by first class sleeper accommodations, which would lend new meaning to the term "sleeper cell."

The Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle is the real reason we wanted to return by train, one of the few great US train trips which we had never done. We were not disappointed; despite bringing three magazines and my laptop, we never stopped looking out the windows during the daylight hours, and our attendant put the beds down shortly after we returned from the dining car each night. We traveled a portion of this route in Odyssey two years ago (waving to the passing Empire Builder in several spots), and we enjoyed seeing some of the same landmarks from a different perspective.

We noted several places we had stopped overnight as we passed through small towns and station stops. As we passed through Glacier National Park, and later the Cascade Range, I was actually able to stare at all the passing scenery, something I generally can not do as I am focused on the road when we are driving. The meals in the dining car were acceptable if not gourmet fare, and we met several interesting folks at meal times. In all, a very worthwhile excursion.

The King Street station in Seattle is partly under construction, and we had a bit of a challenge finding our way to the bus stop for the ride to Sumner. There is actually a train that would bring us here, but it only runs southbound in the late afternoon, and we were in Seattle by 10am. We will, instead, take that train north back into Seattle Monday morning to meet up with our broker to view some boats; he arrives in town Sunday evening.

When we left Infinity last Friday, I left them with a to-do list that would have kept them busy the whole time we were gone, and then some. However their backlog of other work plus the loss of an employee in the interim meant they did not even get started until the afternoon we returned. You may recall that I had removed the toilet just before we left, in order to facilitate repairing the floor in the bathroom, and, not wanting to do that nasty job twice, we lit a fire under them to expedite the floor project that same afternoon.

Louise ran off to the flooring store to pick up some new vinyl; a 3'-wide strip of roll goods cost us all of $20. Meanwhile, the rotted subfloor was removed, a consequence of the same window leak, now repaired, that cost us the replacement of half the wall in that same room back in Las Vegas. Without hookups and easy access to a clean restroom there, we did not want to remove the toilet at that shop, thus could not replace the floor at the same time as the wall.

Infinity had new subflooring in and some leveling compound applied in just enough time to be able to glue down the new flooring at the very end of the shift. Louise and I were able to wrestle the toilet back into place and I had it all reconnected in enough time to avoid any clandestine excursions to the nearby bushes after hours. And after five full days of eating out two or three meals per day, we had a light snack for dinner before crashing completely.

Yesterday was another full day at the shop, starting with pulling into the lube bay at 8:30 for a lube, oil, and filter change. Disappointingly, while the bus was up on the lifts we discovered that oil is leaking from the air dryer, confirming my suspicions. The dryer itself has no oil supply, so this can only mean that oil is leaking at the air compressor. We've never had this problem before, yet as a precaution we replaced the compressor with a remanufactured unit when we had the engine out, at Choo-Choo Garage back in July. I have to guess now that the replacement unit has a problem; too bad, because getting it out now that the engine is in the bus is a major project.

The rest of the day was taken up by finishing up the work in the bathroom, to include caulking the new floor and replacing the trim, and recaulking the shower, as well as replacing the upper front windshield trim that had been damaged by the leaks there, repaired last month in Alameda. We also pulled off the butch 'roo bars on the front of the coach, now chipped and rusted where the powder coat has been damaged by eight years of road wear, and sent it off to be media-blasted and re-coated with more durable bed-liner material. Unfortunately, the employee who left the shop was the woodworking specialist, so the various cabinetry touch-ups we had requested are probably not in the cards.

You may detect a theme in all this, which is that we are now dealing with mostly cosmetic issues. For example, we are finally sending the cat-damaged love seat out for re-upholstery here, in addition to all the other work. We are working on getting Odyssey listed for sale, in anticipation of a move onto a boat, and these sorts of cosmetic problems can be show-stoppers when trying to close a deal. Long-time readers know that, when it comes to the seldom-seen underlying systems, we've always been on top of maintenance and repairs, whereas cosmetic-only issues have been a lower priority for us. Not so with many sellers, likely because surface appearance is so visceral with most buyers.

Tomorrow's project for us is to empty the area under the loveseat and get it unbolted so the upholsterer can take it Monday morning, and get the rest of the coach ready for a day of work in our absence. We need to get on the last Sounder at 8:15am, before the shop opens, to meet our broker in Seattle Monday morning, and we'll be back long after the shop closes. On their slate for Monday is to adjust both awnings, pull out the loveseat, and try to get Truck-Lite and their retailer to honor the warranty on our expensive LED taillights, which are still legal but look unappealing due to a handful of LEDs out on each one.

We need to be in Anacortes by Tuesday evening to look at some more boats and be in place for Trawler Fest, so we will try to wrap everything up here by mid-day Tuesday. With any luck, enough of the list will be ticked off by then that we will not have to swing back here after the show, but we are leaving that possibility open if need be.


  1. So how did the kitty's make out at Petsmart. And whats your feeling on a MCI 9 or 10 for a conversion.

  2. Some how I was under the impression that you were going to look at a boat while on the East coast.

    Bill Kelleher

  3. It will be sad to see you leave the Odyssey and move on to a boat but new adventures await. I have often looked with great interest at the videos and pictures of you beautiful conversion.

  4. What becomes of the scooters if you move onto a boat. Does it make any sense to bring them along?

  5. Why won't this allow cut and paste? Found a great boat almost free but could not post URL????

  6. Wow, lots to answer here. I had no idea this post would be so popular...

    @Capt. Joey: The cats *hate* the kennel, and this one was no exception. I would say it was a "normal" kennel visit for them. PetsHotel gave them a "report card" which basically said they had a good stay.

    MCI coaches are very popular for conversions and there are many resources for them, so you can't really go wrong. The MC-9 and similar MC-12 (updated -9 made only for the 'hound) are excellent choices. I have never heard of an MC-10. After the MC-9 they went to a different naming system, for example 96A2 (the MC-12 was the exception, again explicitly for Greyhound).

    @Bill: We had talked about trying to see a Lowland 48 while we were there, but the seller never responded to the numerous queries our broker made. I see it has dropped off YW, so it was probably a fluke anyway. The main purpose of our visit was our nephew's First Communion.

    @Ken: It will be sad for us, too; we have many memories in this bus, and it is really very "us" in a way that the boat, not being custom-built to our specs, will not be. There is a good chance we will just be putting it in storage to come back to it some day, if we can't find a buyer for our particular taste.

    @Road&Loyce: We plan to take the scooters with us on the boat. Or possibly some different scooters, depending on how they fit. We are rejecting any boats that don't have some extra room for a pair of small scooters on the boat deck, and we are carefully inspecting davit/crane placement, etc. to allow us to on and off-load them at a dock.

    @taflocks: There is no reason why you can't paste something here in the comments; on Windows, CTRL-V or rick-click/paste works fine. However, URLs will not become hot-links unless you bracket them with HTML HREF tags. If you are having trouble copying the URL, that's an issue with the web site from which you are trying to copy, not Blogger. Try copying and pasting to a .TXT file first, to see if you are even getting it on the clipboard.

  7. Hello, I Have Been Following Your Adventures For Years. I Will Be Bummed If And When You Sell Odyssey. I Like Your Idea Of Puting The Bus In Storage.
    Anyway........... I Hope I Can Meet the Two Of You Someday. I Also Am A Bus Nut And Am In My Eagle As I Write. I Feel As If I Am Part Of Your Journey. Great Job You Guys Do !!! I Will Miss You. Thank You.
    MrBreeze (Bestekustoms)


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