The past three weeks have been very stressful and interesting, to say the least. Before we left for our annual trip, I had checked the charts and found out Mercury was going to be in retrograde until the 14th of Nov. I was a little leary about traveling during that time, but it was very cold in northern Wisconsin, so we decided to leave anyway.
Nov. 3, 2006
We started off on our way to southern Nevada for the winter. First we noticed that the pipes from the water tanks in the back (under the bed) to the kitchen sink were either frozen or had been frozen. Obviously one of the pipes or hoses on one of the water barrels had broken when it froze. We lost all of the water out of one of the barrels, which ruined part of the newly installed bedroom floor.
Nov. 4, 2006
We were close to Austin, MN when Alan looked in the mirror and said, "Something doesn't look right." He pulled onto the shoulder, went around the back of the bus and came back with our dump pipe for the toilet holding tank. OOPPPS!!! We had just dumped so it wasn't a problem as far as spilling sewage, but we were now back to using our little porta-potty until we could fix that pipe.
We were about 10 miles north of Des Moines, Iowa. I was reading, Alan driving along nicely. All of a sudden one side of the front door was flapping in the wind. The bottom had broken loose, but the top was still attached. Alan pulled over and we set about putting several bungy straps on it to hold it on until we could get it fixed.
We finally made it into Des Moines and to the Pilot Truck Stop. No one there could fix the door for us as their welding unit had broken somehow. But, they did tell us about a shop not too far away that could fix it. This was Saturday, so we had to wait until Monday morning to get it fixed.
The nice young man at the welding shop put a very good weld onto the bottom of the door, then wouldn't take any money for his work. He said he didn't know how much to charge as he had never done that kind of fix before. I gave him $10 anyway and thanked him profusely.
Nov. 9, 2006
We had been going along very nicely for several days through the rest of Iowa and Nebraska, although we had to stop several times to tighten screws on the window plates, taking our time. We had gotten over Mount Sherman in Wyoming just fine, except Alan smoked the brakes coming down and we had to stop to let them cool. We had to stop in Laramie, Wy. for a little while to again tighten the screws on the window plates (bumpy roads and high winds tend to loosen them). I felt like we should stay in Laramie overnight, but Alan wanted to keep going. So, we proceeded up Elk Mountain. Part of the way up it started snowing, big, heavy, wet flakes, and it got very cold. When the engine overheated the first time, we thought it was because of the high headwind which we had been up against. But, the engine overheated a couple more times. We finally made it to the rest area at the top of Elk Mountain. Alan lifted the doghouse to check the engine. While he poured water into the radiator, I watched the engine to see where it was leaking. We had blown the head gasket!!!
We took turns staying up, turning the engine on every hour to keep the battery charged, all the time keeping the radiator as full as we could. While the fierce wind blew the temperature plunged to 12 degrees. I couldn't sleep at all, so sat up most of the night and read while tending the radiator and engine.
Next morning Alan drove to an available phone, about 6 miles away (the rest area only had one for 911 calls). We called the kids in Wisconsin to tell them what was going on and ask, if we needed it, could we borrow money from them. They said not to worry, they could help us out.
Alan found out that the closest place to get the engine fixed was in Rawlins, WY, about 44 miles west. He would drive 2-5 miles, have to stop, cool down the engine, add water, and go for another few miles. It took him close to 8 hours to drive the 44 miles.
We finally made it into Rawlins and to the Flying J Travel Center. Alan went inside to find information on engine repair shops. By then it was close to 5 p.m. on a Friday evening. But, one of the shops told him, if we could make it over to the shop, they had a place we could plug in and sit for the weekend. We did it!!
As we were sitting at Wyoming Deisel Repair in Rawlins, Wyoming, for the weekend, a police officer pulled in and wanted to know why we were sitting there. Alan told him we had permission as our engine needed fixing. NO PROBLEM. In fact, the officer stood on the inside steps of the bus and talked to us for almost half an hour. Nice guy!
On Monday morning the mechanic had to get the bus started with jumper cables, then move it to the part of the shop they would pull it into. We locked the cats in the bedroom with their litter box, large bowl of water, and food. We were told, however, that we could not stay in the bus and would have to go to the motel. Bummer!! So we got a few things together and waited for someone to take us over to the Days Inn. After the mechanic got into the engine, he said what we already knew...blown head gasket....but, also, the head was warped and a hose was blown.
It would take him a few days work to get it in driving condition.
So we were not only stuck at the motel, we also had to buy our meals, and try to sleep in an unfamiliar bed. The room was so hot and dry it was uncomfortable sleeping. The high point was that we had satalite TV with many channels to choose from...NICE. They also had a very nice breakfast for guests.
Nov. 16, 2006
The shop called Thursday morning to tell us we could have the bus back, but would have to sign a paper stating there was no gaurantee on their work as the head was warped and a few of the piston chambers were scored. We had decided to just have it put back together with a new gasket because a replacement engine would have cost $6500 plus labor. The way it was, the cost for what they had done was close to $2250, plus we had to get a new battery as the old one just wouldn't hold a charge anymore.
After calling the bank we paid the bill, with help from the kids. And we were off. The engine sounded a little rough, but it ran....good enough. We called the kids again and told them we had decided to head back to Wisconsin for the engine was still in bad shape. We were worried about continuing on to Nevada. They said they would have a bedroom ready for us for the winter.
We were worried about going back over Elk Mountain, so we took the side road of Hwy. 30. It was hilly, but bypassed the mountain. We had only gone about 3 miles on Hwy. 30 when the bus just shut off.....completely.....and would not start again.
Alan started walking back to the gas station close to I-80 when a nice gentleman stopped to pick him up. I learned later that he had passed us going east, had turned around and come back, and also had a cell phone he let Alan use to call the shop in Rawlins.
Alan came back to the bus about an hour later in the mechanics truck. The mechanic found the problem right away. Apparently a wire had been loosened on the fuel pump cellenoid, then had completely come off when we hit a bump. He fixed it, called the shop to see what the charge was, picked up our road triangles, came back to the bus and said, "Have a nice day.", and sent us on our way.
We were about 5 miles from Laramie, getting dark, and the alternator would not hold a charge. The head lights got dimmer and dimmer while we pushed on to Laramie. It was comlpletely dark when we finally made it to the Petro Truck Stop in Laramie. Alan went in to talk to the mechanics about the problem, came back to the bus and said we could wait until morning and check out the alternator ourselves.
Nov. 17, 2006
The only thing wrong with the alternator was a broken wire. It seemed the Universe was finally on our side again. Besides Mercury was now back on course. We checked the oil, added 2 quarts, then took our chances on Mount Sherman. Surprise! Surprise! No problem at all.
We took our time over the next week, traveling less than 200 miles a day most days, and finally made it back to northern Wisconsin on November24, 2006. Every day we had to check the oil a couple times, usually adding 2 quarts each day. BUT WE MADE IT!!!
The "kids" have a nice downstairs bedroom ready for us and our two cats. We are now making plans for a fun filled Yule Season.
Life is an adventure and I've learned not to make plans as the Universe may have other plans. I told myself constantly, on the way back, not to worry for I couldn't do anything about whatever was going to happen anyway. Apparently the Universe, Fate, Karma, or whatever, wants us here with family for the winter.....SO BE IT!