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Old 11-15-2009, 12:03 PM   #1
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frank-id's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Twin Falls, Idaho
Posts: 806
An RV story


Well Saturday morning and on the road. Heading west through Virginia we stopped at a couple of A/C repair shops and were told to forget it. Seems it would take a day just to diagnose then parts,etc,etc. we decided to stay on the road and if a likely spot came up to get the A/C working we would give it a go ,if not we would gut it out .
The temperature was cooperating and it seemed cool weather would stick with us.
I was not 100% sure but I thought the Detroit was running at about 185 or 190 degrees before the water hose broke. It now was running at 190 to 210 depending on the outside temp,and other conditions like grade speed etc.On one grade the overheat buzzer came on and we lost all hope of an uneventful ride home. I tried to baby the Big Blue machine (well blue, green, gray, or purple depending on the angle, light etc).
In fact I was relieved that after the one incident, weather and road conditions gave us a trouble free first day. To make it better I calculated our fuel mileage for the trip on the first day to be 7.7 MPG man I could live with that as my last pickup truck got about the same but I was now wheeling a heavy duty ROAD MACHINE capable of destroying anything in its path
. We found a motel in Grayson Kentucky and had a decent dinner ,while looking out the window as our bus was surveyed and pointed at.
Sunday morning off and running,it had been thirty years since we had driven across the country and now recalled how absolutely beautiful our country is. I remember thinking that if the Ozone is made by green plants and trees and we are depleting it, than the south and east are getting more than their fair Share!
Sunday brought bigger hills and higher Motor temperatures. I couldn’t imagine what had changed. The hose was fixed, the radiator was full and all systems were the same.
That evening about five miles from Ofallen Illinois the throttle started acting up and I thought sure that the failure to get it calibrated had caught up with me. The action seemed inconsistent and more like a fuel problem. But I had plenty of fuel, Evan at 6 mpg I should have plenty.
On an off ramp in O’Fallon the magic bus started to stall and rolled to a stop. I was not in a good spot and did not want to be in the road. I had no license plates and did not want to push the issue. I waited a few minuets and tried to start the engine. It fired and ran far enough to get me to a gas station at the bottom of the ramp. It was nearly dark and I did not want to deal with an issue like this as we were both road tired and the frustration of the trip was taking its toll. I had just about had it! I remember thinking for the first time that I had truly made a big mistake and wondered how I could get my tire money out of this thing and dump it, right here in Illinois where I got it! Was this a sign? Was God giving me the Big Hint? Was he telling me that I had made a dumb ass mistake and I should get it through my thick head that I couldn’t laugh this one off? Some of you may know that I have been trying to lose weight so I can get my badly beat up knee replaced. As part of that effort I quit all alcohol consumption. I wanted at this moment to sit in a pool and chug a lug a bottle of Jack Daniels. Should I have mercy on my poor wife and release her from her agony? I sat there wanting to scream and break something, but the answer was NO! This was my idea and she insisted on coming along. I gave her lots of opportunity to back out. I was not ready for defeat quite yet (but close as I had been on any of my wild ass ideas in a long time)
I took a deep breath gathered my thoughts and told myself to stop complaining and deal with the problem! So I did the honorable and independent thing. Something I had not yet done on the trip. I wept quietly and called Frank from Idaho. A knowledgeable and friendly guy met on one of the groups who was more than willing to give advice to a newbie in the bus arena. He asked me all the appropriate questions, gathered his thoughts and made the fallowing conclusion which he delivered in a precise and professional manner “You dumb ****; you ran the thing out of fuel”.

“But Frank that’s impossible I got 7.7 mpg yesterday and I should have 25% left in the tank”

“You said it has been running hot, they use more fuel when they run hot, you ran it out of fuel, now stop whining go find a can and get some fuel. You may be lucky if you did not run it totally empty and fill the filters, it may start without doing the whole prime thing”

“But I don’t have a can, they don’t have diesel at any of these stations and I don’t have a car whaa whaa whaa”

I hung up on Frank, considered he really didn’t know much about this particular bus and called a mechanic near my home

I explained all the A/C problems, the hose breaking, the 7.7 Mpg and the faulty throttle sensor to this long time Truck mechanic. I was sure he could give me the real diagnoses and send me in the right direction.
He quietly considered all the facts and said
“You ran the Damn thing out of fuel”. “If you’re lucky you will be able to start it after filling the filters”.

CLICK! Where can I find a good mechanic when I need one?

So I walk to the auto parts store with my bad knee and fat tired ass and get a fuel filter wrench.I Walked back then sent Kathy back to get the right one, while I get numbers from the phone book and try to find a mechanic who will come to me and find out what the hell is wrong with this Lemon of a bus!
After several calls it is getting late,AAA of Illinois sends a wrecker who has never worked on a diesel and has a truck that couldn’t tow a decent size water melon.
I send him home as gently as I can .He looks in the bus as he gets in his truck and says ’ “WOW, NICE CHAIR”
Finally I get Earl from 24 hr truck service. He will come out for a $75.00 service call plus parts and time at location. Deal!
He has been a mechanic and truck driver for thirty years; maybe he can find out what is wrong and get me on the road.

Earl shows up an hour later, listen, looks, and feels. He gives several parts a quick thump and a bump kind of like a black magic spell! I like this guy! He is a Maestro!

Earl filled my filters, sprayed some dynamite in the intake and she fired right up. He gave me some advice on the overheating and thought I may not have got the correct 50/50 water antifreeze mix. He says you need at least 50% antifreeze or the motor would run hot. (I had never heard this but I had no other explanation) Earl collected his $160.00 service call fee, gave me a better route to Ca and advice that I take a trip to the Speed co truck lube a few miles out of my way in Troy Ill. He said they would do a complete oil change, check my antifreeze, and do an oil analysis for a little over a hundred bucks. I thanked him and drove to a fuel stop that had diesel, booked a hotel. I checked my mileage chart and determined I had gotten a little over 4mpg on this very expensive day!

I had one more thing to do before I went to bed. It was not easy but it had to be done. I had to call Frank and Ken and admit what had happened. I did what any honorable man with Evan a smidgen of macho would do. Both conversations were went essentially the same
“FRANK. (KEN)” ” The mechanic got me on the road, seems a plastic bag had been sucked into the air cleaner, thanks for your help, good night”.

We found a motel with high speed internet had a terrible dinner and went to bed.

Monday morning we hit the road, drove the 40 miles out of our way to the Speed co in Troy. They did what earl said. The analysis indicated oil was in good shape and no problems were detected. The antifreeze analysis showed way to much water in the mixture. Bad news they don’t do water system work due to no antifreeze removal permit.

45 mins later I am on the road, I picked up a few gallons of antifreeze, locate an appropriate EPA approved antifreeze dump site and drain a few buckets of the green stuff out replacing it with 100% antifreeze.
The bus starts running at 190 degrees and only gets up to 202 up grades. We are on our way. And running smooth. I stop every 8.6 miles for fuel (just to make sure)
We are happy as clams and the bus is running fine. Top speed is 61 mph (and 25 up any significant hill).I can deal with the top end and will look into more power up hills, but for now we are doing well, the curse seems to have been lifted.
Ten miles fro Cuba Mo, I see a large object come from under a semi truck. Probably a tire carcass I suspect and not a big problem. As I get closer I see it is not a tire but a large Piece of Metal, in fact it is an entire rear quarter panel of a pick up truck. I make the decision to hit it square on as apposed to trying to swerve. I hit the fender dead center and can hear and feel the large metal object scraping, cutting, and ripping the undercarriage of my already beaten up rig.
As the metal passed under my bus I could only imagine torn hoses, ripped fuel lines, airhoses etc, but not my BRAND NEW TIRES! I then saw the pick up truck that lost its load on the side of the road. The driver running back to retrieve the cargo. I passed him and pulled to the curb waiting for him to get his metal and pull in behind to apologize and help evaluate the damage. He got his load threw it in his truck and passed me like the wind heading west. All the arm waiving, honking nor cursing would stop him. I slammed on the accelerator reaching top speed within an hour or so.. I stopped in Cuba Mo called the trooper and inspected my bus. I was not in the mood to crawl in the dirt but I had to survey the situation. Seems that my fuel tank had a large non penetrating groove cut in its belly and a front skid plate had done its job. The trooper took my information while giggling at my bus. When he asked me for the license number on my rig I changed the subject and offered up the pink slip indicating “IT WAS IN PROGRESS” The trooper took the report including the SUSPECTS Lic #. He indicated the Lic # was not on file and that I may have written it down incorrectly. I thanked him and he drove away. I at least wanted to give the driver a piece of my mind for not tying down his load properly but mostly for running without Evan an apology. I contacted some friends in the P.i. business and received the name and address of the drivers within minutes (I will deal with him later when I am in a better mood).
We took I-44 to Oklahoma City, then I-40 to I-54. South to I-10. I must say I had always assumed that the Baja Peninsula was the longest driest road I have ever driven, but I-54 from I-40 to Las Cruses New Mexico was one vacant place with one exception. THE ROADS ARE MUCH BETTER IN BAJA. Wow I thought I would lose my teeth!

Things were going smooth and we were enjoying the road trip until the temps rose as we headed west on I-10 toward Tucson Arizona. We slid into a Motel in Tucson jumped in the pool and died in the Air-conditioned room. How about we get up early and hit the road before the temps kill us and the bus?

We leave Tucson at seven am with a breakfast bar and lots of coffee. I remember that after pulling out of Tucson I had to pee real bad due to all the coffee consumption. I got real scared when ten miles out of town I did not have to pee anymore. I was drinking sodas like crazy and still did not have the urge. Somewhere between Tucson and Yuma Arizona I stopped for Fuel and Ice. The thermometer in the shade read 123 degrees. The rolling heat box I was riding in was cooking the life out of all three of us.
I purchased two large blocks of ice. I placed one block on the ottoman that came with the N.A.S.A. Chair. The block was placed in front of the twelve volt fan mounted on the dash of the death wagon. Chica climbed on along with the Ice and looked at us both and wanted to say” What have I ever done to you guys, I think P.e.t.a. should hear about this” Her pushed in little nose was trying to suck air below 100 degrees. Kathy had slipped into a coma and I covered my lap with white shop towels soaked in Ice chest water. I looked like the Jolly green giant with a diaper.
We were stopped at a border patrol check, and the agent just looked at me and my diaper, glanced at Kathy and Chica and just waived us through. I could hear him laughing and yelling to his partner” NO RESPECTABLE WET BACK WOULD RIDE IN THAT PIECE OF SHIT”

The block of ice lasted about twenty minuets. We wanted to save the second one for later in the afternoon. Toby Keith kept me alive with the volume blasting on our Ghetto blaster. As the sun moved west it began to heat up the extremely large windshields. The air from the fan was at least 200 degrees. I became delusional and seriously discussed rigging a rope to the steering wheel and steering it from the shaded area six feet behind the driver’s area. Kathy slapped me several times to snap me out of it. The wings on a butterfly smashed on the windshield started to smoke and obscure my vision.

As the sun fell lower I tried to convince Kathy that we should keep driving as it would be cooler soon as the sun fell. We had just pulled a hot steep grade at a whopping 15 MPH. Kathy Stood at the open front doors and threatened to Jump with Chica if I did not agree to stop in Toucson at a motel with a pool NOW!!! I agreed but said we would have to get up early to beat the heat. Kathy agreed but would not leave the stairwell until we were stopped in the parking lot. Chica appeared disappointed that they both did not jump to a quick death.
Kathy is a sleeper and does not ever wake before me. Friday morning she was up at 4:30 am pulling me out of bed ,”Get your ass up we are getting out of here” I jumped up and had my gallon of coffee. We hit the door only to feel the 85 degree heat at 5am. We were advised by a friend to take I-10 into Blithe as apposed to I-8 as the grade is a bummer at the pass and the heat will be the same. We decided against 1-10 as San Diego sounded cooler than Blythe. Boy was my friend right. The grade was a killer and we were in first gear for over an hour and a half. The old blue Buzzard buzzed me a few times causing me to stop and cool her off.
We slid home at 1pm and again fell out of the bus in a very unusual Huntington Beach temp of 90 degrees. I later watched from inside the garage windows as our neighbors stopped and shook their heads.

What would I do different??

If I Knew then what I know now would I have purchased this bus?

Probably not. I think I would have looked for a bus closer to home.

I would No matter where I bought the bus, found a local Mechanic and paid him a fair fee to go out and do a COMPLETE check of the vehicle. I would then be able to decide whether I would do the deal based on the needs.

Would I buy a Transit?
Not sure!

I would suspect (what do I know) that a school district would maintain their vehicles much better than a municipality due to their precious cargo.

I do like features of the transit. The two doors are handy and most of the schoolies I have seen have only emergency doors, high off the ground.The rear stairwell in fact will make an excellent shower. Just a curtain and a little biodegradable soap and out the door it goes. You can evan sit and wash your feet.

I do like the large open windows as the view is much better for driver and passengers.

I would not buy a bus without Air ride.
I do like the kneeling feature and the grab rails inside the bus. Both features make it easier for entry and walking considering Kathy’s lupus generated arthritis and my bad knee and shoulder. WE are Old and crippled! Most would eliminate the rails to do a conversion but for our purposes this bus will have a limited conversion and be used on a windy road with lots of bumps and abrupt shoulders.
I wanted a rear engine for noise issues,however I cant hear or smell what the motor is doing.

Another important issue is I would not have worried about getting the bus fixed in the city which turned out to be a big pain in the ass and very frustrating to say the least. Once we were on the interstate we realized that the U.S of A gets most of its goods from the big rigs moving like ants across this great country. To support these vital source there are thousands of strategically placed truck stops and repair facilitiesalong the interstates.. I must have passed a hundred or more tuck repair facilities and ten bus repair places in four states alone. I would have enjoyed my stay and visit with friends and saved them from all the hassle of carting us around ten cities to get repairs. I am sure I could have solved my tire issues in an afternoon at a substantial savings.

In the end the cost of the bus was around $3K
Repairs, tires etc $4k
Hotel, fuel, airline tickets $1k
Total cost of bus $8,000.00 bucks without a/c and or any conversion

Value of trip ====== PRICELESS!!!!!

On a final note to a great adventure

I must thank many concerned friends and group members. For friends that don’t know I joined a couple of various on line bus groups when I decided to look for my Baja Runner. I learned bunches from the groups and their members, and the value is immeasurable.
Surprising to me I received much support from strangers who were truly concerned for our suffering and well being. For that I apologize I did not want to cause anyone concern for an adventure that we intentionally undertook.
Finally even more amazing was those messages from younger people, some who now me but perhaps not well enough, and from those who know nothing about me. They were truly serious when asking why in the world we would take on a endevour like this. Some implied that it was drugs, insanity, or perhaps mid life crisis.

I am not sure how to answer you but to say the following

I have walked the entire John Muir trail and climbed Mt Whitney Yet I am neither a back packer nor a mountain climber.

I have jumped from a perfectly good airplane on purpose yet I am not a thrill seeker.

Sometimes I am the smartest person I know and many times the dumbest, in fact the older I get the less I know.

I have built a house from scratch, but I am not a builder and never built anything prior to or after

I have started three successful businesses and a couple of failed ones but never claimed to be a businessman.

I have been rich and poor a couple of times and will be again.

I have shot and been shot at by people I don’t know but have never been in the military.

I have written and sold a treatment for a TV series yet I am not and never intended to be a writer.

I have been given acting parts in movies yet I am not and never was an actor

I have spent thousands of hours at sea but I am not a seaman
(Evidenced by three boats that I have watched sink)

I have developed land in a foreign country yet I don’t speak the language and am not a developer.

I am conservative and often throw concern to the wind

I try to admit and share all the embarrassing moments in my life

I have hung out with the rich and famous but recently rode a hundred miles in the back of a beat up pickup truck with a donkey.

I have driven a semi truck and trailer into the belly of an air force C-5 transport plane flew it to the east coast from LA, yet I am neither a pilot nor a truck driver.

I wrecked my shoulder carrying a fire hose while fighting a fire, yet I am not a fireman
I have been married 29years and raised a son who is wonderful human being, yet claim to know nothing about woman, and or raising children.

I have as many friends as enemies

I have owned and driven Ferraries, Mercedes, and Porsches yet I have not had a bigger thrill in a vehicle than I had wheeling the Magic buss across the country...

So what does all this gibberish mean?

I sure don’t know, your guess is as good as mine, you decide.

But the following words seem to apply,only wish I had a few more lives to really make it happen

"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "...holy ****...what a ride!"
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:41 PM   #2
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Re: An RV story

That is... OMG
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Old 11-15-2009, 05:57 PM   #3
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Re: An RV story

Sounds like quite the adventure! thanks for sharing.

*note to self: find a bus closer to home.

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Old 11-15-2009, 11:05 PM   #4
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Bringing home a bus

There is a great feel of an adventure in finding and bringing a bus home. I have retrieved buses from KC, Mo.,Lexington, Ky., Salt Lake City, Ut., Santa Barbara, Ca., and New Orleans, La. Yep, the trips were great fun with great joy and challenge. Each bus was like the area that the bus was used. I love a long bus ride. Frank Picture of a long bus...
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Old 11-16-2009, 02:10 PM   #5
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Re: An RV story

Frank, Great story and insight into your pesonal life. Thanks for sharing. Life should be lived exactly the way your last lines described.
Enjoy my friend
"I've never been lost, but I been mighty confused for several days"
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Old 11-16-2009, 06:50 PM   #6
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Re: An RV story

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Old 11-16-2009, 07:27 PM   #7
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Re: An RV story

A plastic bag, he told you? huh.
Someone said "Making good decisions comes from experience, experience comes from bad decisions." I say there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their mistakes, those who learn from the mistakes of others, and those who never learn.
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Old 11-17-2009, 09:16 AM   #8
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Re: An RV story

Originally Posted by frank-id

Finally even more amazing was those messages from younger people, some who now me but perhaps not well enough, and from those who know nothing about me. They were truly serious when asking why in the world we would take on a endevour like this. Some implied that it was drugs, insanity, or perhaps mid life crisis.
How are you doing today Bob?

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