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Old 01-16-2019, 10:23 AM   #1
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Advice on big mid-winter road trip?

Hi folks.

I need some advice on a thought I've had for a ski trip in mid March.
I had planned to drive my skoolie from Ogden UT to Banff sunshine to meet there with some friends and ski the area for about 6 days.

This would be a drive on 1800 miles round trip. I was already a bit nervous about making that drive. I budgeted 20 hours to get there and 20 hours back. Two drivers.

However I've had some things come up, including some work commitments that require me to be back in Wisconsin right before the trip is slated to begin.

I'll spare the details and options but what i'm considering is just bring the bus with me to the work trip, then depart from WI with all 5 of us and drive to the Canadian Rockies in one long 25+ hour drive.

This would help out the few of those in the group who won't have to buy plane tickets anymore. But it would darn near double the distance of the driving ( from 1800 miles to 3800 miles )

My question is to those of you who have had schoolies and been on the road a lot. How feasible is it to make a mid march drive in a 2002 TC2000 flat nose bus from WI to Calgary in about 25 hours. Thats a moving average speed of 62 mph.

I have only driven the bus from my pick up location to its storage location. About 22 miles. I've made many cross country drives before and am not intimidated by the distance, but am intimidated by the size of the bus and it's unknown mechanical condition.
( 240K miles, AT545, Cummins 5.9 24V, Passes emissions and shows no immediate mechanical problems ( oil pressure good, temps good, starts great, shifts fine, ATF clean and red, bat 2 years old, tires ok, air brakes are meh )

I would hope that by March I can take it out on at least a 500 mile trip and get a feel for what i'm signing myself up for.
What preventative maintenance should I focus on before hand so I can ensure a success for this trip?

Please put yourself in my shoes and let me know what you think?


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Old 01-16-2019, 10:38 AM   #2
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Hi folks.

I need some advice on a thought I've had for a ski trip in mid March.
I had planned to drive my skoolie from Ogden UT to Banff sunshine to meet there with some friends and ski the area for about 6 days.

This would be a drive on 1800 miles round trip. I was already a bit nervous about making that drive. I budgeted 20 hours to get there and 20 hours back. Two drivers.

However I've had some things come up, including some work commitments that require me to be back in Wisconsin right before the trip is slated to begin.

I'll spare the details and options but what i'm considering is just bring the bus with me to the work trip, then depart from WI with all 5 of us and drive to the Canadian Rockies in one long 25+ hour drive.

This would help out the few of those in the group who won't have to buy plane tickets anymore. But it would darn near double the distance of the driving ( from 1800 miles to 3800 miles )

My question is to those of you who have had schoolies and been on the road a lot. How feasible is it to make a mid march drive in a 2002 TC2000 flat nose bus from WI to Calgary in about 25 hours. Thats a moving average speed of 62 mph.

I have only driven the bus from my pick up location to its storage location. About 22 miles. I've made many cross country drives before and am not intimidated by the distance, but am intimidated by the size of the bus and it's unknown mechanical condition.
( 240K miles, AT545, Cummins 5.9 24V, Passes emissions and shows no immediate mechanical problems ( oil pressure good, temps good, starts great, shifts fine, ATF clean and red, bat 2 years old, tires ok, air brakes are meh )

I would hope that by March I can take it out on at least a 500 mile trip and get a feel for what i'm signing myself up for.
What preventative maintenance should I focus on before hand so I can ensure a success for this trip?

Please put yourself in my shoes and let me know what you think?



averaging 50 MPH in a bus might be a stretch - there can still be black ice on the roads in the Rockies at night - to average 62 MPH would have you travelling well over the speed limit in many places and you'd likely become familiar with the RCMP/GRC
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:04 AM   #3
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I never figure better then 50 mph average. Fuel stop and food stops eat some time.

Snow chains might be a good idea....You might be pushing what is realistic

Change engine and transmission fluid, grease everything.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:23 AM   #4
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With all due respect for the need for adventure, I'd predict the plan to be a recipe for disaster. Too many miles in an unfamiliar vehicle, too much chance for really foul weather and too much of a push for time.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:24 AM   #5
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Thank you!

At 50 mph average we're looking at 31 hours of driving. That's doable.

I don't want to be speeding or get familiar with the local Mounties, lol.

If there is forecast for a major storm it's likely I would scrap the trip, or just fly, rather than risk the road in bad conditions with my bus.

Jack, Thank you for the input. The words of caution and wisdom are why I posted here.
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:55 PM   #6
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no go

you are pushing too much, get in to a time crunch and it is likely you will start to make poor decisions based on lack of time.

This, to me, is not about a ski trip, but rather a road trip to a skiing destination.

I feel that the risk of breakdown of some sort, coupled with pressure from passengers with you to make it on time, will lead to bigger troubles, the kind that end friendships, or worse, make the six o clock news.

If you were a pilot about to get into trouble you say the weather is good enough.
if you were a good pilot, you have to be able to say the weather is good.

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Old 01-16-2019, 01:32 PM   #7
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Your shoes are far too young for me. There's not a chance in hell I'd take a trip like that......inexperienced driver of a bus of unknown reliability in weather of unknown severity is an auspicious endeavor. I'm good for maybe 500 miles at a clip. But then we've not taken too many long trips. I've done plenty of 20 hour marathon roadtrips in my car, but driving a bus is a whole other animal. Our trip from Denver to Chicago took 3 days.....it was my first time driving it and it surprised me how different it was from driving a car. Both physically, but also mentally. There's a lot to be aware of with a rig that big and it wears you out a little.

This isn't to say you couldn't do it, just that there are a lot of variables that I wouldn't personally feel comfortable with. Plan on averaging 50mph for normal highway driving. Weather and Canadian highways, I would consider unknowns and factor that in.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:34 PM   #8
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Your shoes are far too young for me. There's not a chance in hell I'd take a trip like that......inexperienced driver of a bus of unknown reliability in weather of unknown severity is an auspicious endeavor. I'm good for maybe 500 miles at a clip. But then we've not taken too many long trips. I've done plenty of 20 hour marathon roadtrips in my car, but driving a bus is a whole other animal. Our trip from Denver to Chicago took 3 days.....it was my first time driving it and it surprised me how different it was from driving a car. Both physically, but also mentally. There's a lot to be aware of with a rig that big and it wears you out a little.

This isn't to say you couldn't do it, just that there are a lot of variables that I wouldn't personally feel comfortable with. Plan on averaging 50mph for normal highway driving. Weather and Canadian highways, I would consider unknowns and factor that in.
VERY well said!
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:20 PM   #9
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That sure is a tough route for someone with experience and knowing his/her vehicle well. Every inch can be killer cold, whiteouts, crosswinds, headwinds all the way. did I mention icy roads? Got chains and know how to install them? Freezeups happen fast, fuel gels quicker. Any auxiliary heat plans?
Towns are few and far between and that means isolation if you break down, expensively long tows, frayed nerves if y'all survive.
How many unexperienced drivers aboard that will be sober, straight and rested?
And then the mountains, foothills or whatever nearing Calgary, treacherous in the best of vehicles.
If time was no issue then perhaps but do the right thing, fly up, party, ski, party fly home. Get to know your bus before a stunt like this.


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Old 01-16-2019, 03:21 PM   #10
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if the bus 'seems' to be running well and it's been checked over, I'd tackle that trip, but I'd allow lots of time to get there - I've nursed some ratty old trucks up to the NWT in the winter when it was cold enough that 10/30 oil wouldn't pour from the container - In one truck the heater wasn't working properly and I had to cover the doors on both sides of the truck with sleeping bags, and wear my parka, warm up pants, fur hat and my sheepskin lined mitts INSIDE of the truck during the BEST part of the trip!! - lol - then my steering box let go, leaving a full turn on the steering wheel before the front wheels responded - 'doesn't work too well on a snow covered road with grader ruts left in the direction of travel - then there was the powder snow that blew 100 - 200 feet in the air every time a transport passed at 70 MPH and I was blind for the next 1/4 mile - I nursed that old truck 1000+ miles home, but I had no pressure about how long it was going to take - got home, fixed the truck, and was off to another race 500 miles away the next weekend - other than phenomenally low gas mileage because of head winds, the only mechanical problems I had were cured by replacing a steady-bearing at the side of the road - lol - I look back and am still amazed at what a musher is willing to do to get to a race - there is a saying in the sleddog racing circuit - 'beware of the guy driving a ratty old rustbucket of a truck, he likely spent all of his money on buying fast dogs' - lol
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Old 01-16-2019, 04:50 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone for the advice. I'll stop considering this option and fall back on the original plan.

That is Ogden UT to Calgary over the course of 2.5 days. 900 miles. Bail if weather is anything but ideal or reroute around it.

I agree with what everyone has said, These are thoughts that occurred to me but hearing it echoed back from experienced folks made it real.
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Old 01-16-2019, 05:28 PM   #12
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If time was no issue then perhaps but do the right thing, fly up, party, ski, party fly home. Get to know your bus before a stunt like this.


John

I would totally agree with BlackJohn. In March, winter is in full grip and it can be a SERIOUS issue. Wait until the weather warms and take a shakedown cruise in your area. That's too long a trip in the winter in an unknown bus.
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:11 PM   #13
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Thanks everyone for the advice. I'll stop considering this option and fall back on the original plan.

That is Ogden UT to Calgary over the course of 2.5 days. 900 miles. Bail if weather is anything but ideal or reroute around it.

I agree with what everyone has said, These are thoughts that occurred to me but hearing it echoed back from experienced folks made it real.

This Plan B of yours. Not the best idea either. When your bus has been parked so long without attention, expect lots to happen enroute. Your fuel will be shaken up and clog filters easily. No fun on the side of the road dealing with that at anytime, let alone winter weather.
Might be wise to put a moose catcher on it, lots of those and big elk waiting to spoil your day.

I hope you have reservations, passports in order. Crossing the border might be quite the experience, coming and going in a private bus. Questions, dogs hassles etc..we have lots of great pot, leave yours home.


Just sayinn,



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Old 01-16-2019, 07:32 PM   #14
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Sounds like there has already been plenty said on the topic, and I think there is a lot of wisdom in the group.

For what it's worth, I did something arguably as inadvisable. I spent 11 months on a conversion and then set out on an 8 week, 7000 mile trek through many a desolate place in the heat of summer with absolutely everything untested because I finished (pressed pause on) the conversion literally as we were pulling out of the driveway. I had driven the bus very little: the longest trip I had taken was 2 hours.

I did have the engine checked out by the local CAT shop and the transmission serviced (Transynd) by a certified Allison shop, and I flushed and filled the cooling system, greased everything etc. and I made it home in one piece without any really serious issues. It was an epic trip that my family will remember forever, and I don't really have any regrets...

But,

it was extremely stressful because I didn't know what was normal vs. problematic for the vehicle. Every noise that it made and every quirk in functioning seemed like it might be an omen of impending catastrophe. I felt like I knew how to drive it before I left, but I never imagined all of the crazy situations I could get myself into. It isn't an understatement to say that when you are thousands of miles from home and in the middle of nowhere on sketchy roads it is nothing short of terrifying when something happens that may leave you stranded without help and with the specter of expensive tows/repairs and/or losing your investment.

It was more of a trial by fire than I had envisioned, but you know what? I was forced to face my fears. I got myself into trouble and fought my way out. In hindsight, none of it seems like a big deal, but when the threat of jeopardy is still alive and staring at you it can seem like a very big deal.

Could you pull off the big trip? There is a decent chance that you could. But I think there's also a decent chance it would be extremely stressful for all the same reasons mine was, plus more.

Others have already mentioned, but here is my perspective on likely challenges:

AT 545 is going to hate you in the mountains. From what I hear they don't like highways, but going up and down all those grades in the rockies will be a very big chore. That isn't to say it couldn't be done, but I think you would need to be very conservative and vigilant. Heat can sneak up on you on the climbs and speed can get you on the descents so it's low and slow both uphill and down.

50 MPH is my default estimating value. Mountains will be slower for sure.

It is easy to hear the voices of concern and cop out on something that maybe you should have done. I felt like I was in danger of being in that boat.

Assuming that the bus is good mechanically, you are prepared for the weather and can sustain a delay here and there, 1800 miles doesn't sound too bad, but I think (as you have concluded) that the longer trip just seems like asking for trouble.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:08 AM   #15
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Thanks,

Under considerations of the other posts, I've made some more modifications and concessions.

The trip now looks like this




And we shuffled around the dates and my time off so that I now have 6 full days to get to Calgary. This should take all the time pressure off the trip and let me re-route around bad weather or bad roads. Or just wait out storms.

The bus will have at least one 500 mile + trip on it ahead of this excursion.
I will buy and pack a spare fuel filter ( although I don't know where it is to replace it... )
I'm open to suggestions of things to check or maintenance to perform.

I've scheduled for the bus to go into a truck service center for them to look over my air brake system. It works fine, but is rather leaky ( right at the 3psi per min limit ). I think most of the leaks are from the door solenoids, air bag adjusters or other peripheral stuff, not the actual brakes. But I would like some pro's to fix all that before this trip which involves many mountain roads.

I have been looking into the regulations about crossing into Canada witha skoolie. I got the main things, have your Reg, and Insurance paperwork in order, and make sure your insurance is valid in Canada. Clean out your fridge, and don't bring your guns or firewood. A-Okey!
One thing that is not clear to me is the air brake certification.
Can someone who has actually driven in Canada with a U.S license tell me if there is a problem with not having an air brake endorsement for a skoolie?

I will go through the process of getting one if it doesn't involve getting a full blown CDL and all the other crap that comes with it, ( physical, yearly exams, drug test, etc )

All input is valued, But please make it constructive, I would like to do this trip and just taking a **** on my plans without feedback doesn't discourage me from going, and also doesn't help me improve the outcome of the trip.

Thanks!
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:17 AM   #16
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whewn having your air brake system checked out, be sure they check the operation of your air dryer, and also if the dessicant filter hasnt been replaced in a long time, have it replaced..



part of checking the air dryer should be its heater..



winter air in the snow is very ,oist and casn result in significant mositure in your air lines.. the air dryer will take care of thise and help a LOT to keep ypur nralkes from freezing.. ive not driven in more than minus 10f or so but my air dryer working properly, was pulling lots of water out... if its cold and dry you are better off but still want to make sure that piece is in tip top shape..
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:21 AM   #17
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As far as the fuel filters and whatnot, I hired a mobile mechanic off of Craigslist to walk me through oil change and all filter changes, he also showed me how to prime the fuel system in case I get air in it. That may be something for you to consider....whether it's the service center you bring it to or a mobile mechanic or even just Youtube.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:30 AM   #18
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Awesome,

Yes, my goal for the air brake service was for them to replace the regular wear items like the dryer or desecant or filter,a s well as fix up any random leaks.

Every time I purge my wet tank after driving it comes out totally dry, never seen much moisture ( so I guess thats good? )

I like the suggestion about hiring someone with experience for some help getting to know the bus.

If the service center is chill I will ask them if I can spend a half hour or so with the Tech and ask some questions while they have my bus in the shop.

I have the cummin's 5.9 factory service manual and am handy with a wrench, I can do pretty much any job on a car that doesn't require a mill or lathe to perform, ( engine rebuild, shocks, alignment, brakes, electrical troubleshooting )

Youtube has been awesome, people put such good tutorials on there!
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:10 AM   #19
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"I will buy and pack a spare fuel filter ( although I don't know where it is to replace it... )"




Buy a case and learn how to prime the filter before installing.

Still not envying your idea at all, a great awakening is ahead. That is one tough route so be prepared for avalanche and delays. Carry mucho fuel.



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Old 01-23-2019, 11:35 AM   #20
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"I will buy and pack a spare fuel filter ( although I don't know where it is to replace it... )"




Buy a case and learn how to prime the filter before installing.

Still not envying your idea at all, a great awakening is ahead. That is one tough route so be prepared for avalanche and delays. Carry mucho fuel.



John


I wish that I had changed my filters before my big trip. I brought spares with me but underestimated the task in a couple ways that were hard to compensate for once I was on the road.

First of all because mine were very accessible I assumed that I could get a good enough grip on them to take them off by hand when in reality I needed the filter wrench. I was able to finally get the filter off with a pair of chain vice grips, but ended up inadvertently puncturing the filter and pressurized diesel sprayed all over me in the process.

Also even though my bus has a hand pump/primer to make filter changing easier, that pump failed to function (not a big deal if prepared, but I didnít know) and I had to find transportation to a local service station to buy transmission fluid to replace the fluid volume of the filter.

The final filtration mistake that I made was thinking that the water separator was not also a primary filter. If you have a separate fuel water separator and downstream 2 Ķm filter, change them both at the same time, that way you know youíre starting fresh. I changed the 2 Ķm filter in mine first only to realize that the upstream water separator was badly clogged. I would strongly encourage you to go ahead and change both filters now and have spares for the road. Youíll also know how to do it with confidence when you find yourself in a pinch rather than realizing what parts you failed to anticipate once itís too late.
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