Our “plans” are definitely subject to the winds and whims of the weather.
We had the idea to travel northwards a bit to see old friends Rhonda and Randy Dietz in far-Northwestern Arkansas, then Lynn and Dave Gray in far North-eastern Oklahoma. We had some days to spare and diesel in the tank, so why not?
Well, let me tell you why not: 6 inches of snow and temperatures BELOW 10F. Neither the end of the world in our past lives, but neither something we choose to investigate in RV WHERE YET, for very practical reasons. Such as water pipes and tanks hanging out in the (frigid) breeze. We hear stories at rallies of the effort required to re-plumb a bus after frozen pipes, and we have NO INTEREST in experiencing this…
Sad, though. Because we so look forward to maintaining friendships, which we have the time and flexibility to do. So I looked HARD at the weather forecasts and the days available. I realized we merely had to let the snow and ice blow itself out, to be replaced by the inevitable spring thaw following immediately behind. Hanging back just THREE DAYS would see 10 degrees replaced by 40 at night in Arkansas, and we’d still get to Fort Worth by the 18th or so!
This , of course, is an Ice Age of BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS for Louisiana
Assessing the map and the weather forecasts, we decided we could drive PART WAY towards Oklahoma and stop near Shreveport Louisiana. Precipitation forecast to be all rain, and temps dipping briefly and slightly below freezing overnight for 2 nights. This , of course, is an Ice Age of BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS for Louisiana, but not something likely to freeze RV WHERE YET pipes or tanks or occupants.
I found an RV Park (“Miss Ellies”) which has to qualify – so far – as the FRIENDLIEST we’ve ever stayed at. Limited on beauty and amenities, but the staff could not be more pleasant. They ought to bottle the sweetness and serve it on Pancakes!
While at Miss Ellies, Liz and I took the stationary-time-with-good-wifi to attend to a few necessities. Banking for us and for Mom, coordinating delivery of certain essentials from Amazon to points along our path, etc. Starting to consider our coming Alaska trip, and realizing we should be carrying and so needed to be ordering plenty of things like fuel filters, leveling valves, diesel additive, etc. We also took the time to look at a few interior upgrades for RV WHERE YET.
The Secy. Of the Treasury has mandated that, now that we have done “all” of the mechanical upgrades needed for the bus (she actually realizes that just THINKING that, never mind SAYING it virtually guarantees we are NOT done…), the next $$$ spent are for interior stuff we have been putting off. So, we have started looking at flooring for under the driver an passenger seats, replacement of the cheap vinyl flooring we put down a couple years ago, etc.
As if to emphasize the importance of irony (and kharma) in our mechanical lives, we had some potentially serious mechanical issues on the way to a couple days in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I blame Liz completely for jinxing us. HOW UNUSUAL that this story ends with a bill of, wait for it… $5.80!
A “hill” in Louisiana is the ramp up the Interstate Exit to the crossroad
On the way to Hot Springs, we started ascending a few ACTUAL hills (a “hill” in Louisiana is the ramp up the Interstate Exit to the crossroad) and I, per usual, flipped the switch to activate the radiator fan. This is proactive – the fan will come on by itself when engine temp gets to a certain point, but I find things work better if I lead that a little. Anyway, I flipped the switch and – NO RADIATOR FAN.
This had the potential to be VERY serious, because there is a part called a “fan clutch” that in our Bluebird was electrically activated. The clutch is NO LONGER MADE or AVAILABLE. If that clutch is bad, we would have to limp somewhere where we could do some fairly extensive mods (since the part is not available), keeping an eagle eye on radiator temp. Helpful that the weather is quite cool, and the terrain not too too mountainous…
I am now thinking that Liz’s desire to do some internal things “because we are done with mechanical for now” has completely BLOWN UP in our (her) face. AND, we are going to be stuck somewhere (if not Hot Springs, somewhere nearby) for awhile — the mods necessary to retrofit other Radiator Fan Options are well documented on the online forum, but need parts and installation – not trivial. We made it to our intended campground in Hot Springs, and I proceeded to swing the radiator to get a look at the fan; hoping for the best.
At which point, serendipity smacks me right between the eyes…
ALWAYS keep your eye on things whenever there is an idiot in your dash board!
The radiator fan issue turned out to be TOTALLY trivial. It seems that some idiot (that would be me) had loosened a wire on the Radiator Fan dashboard switch when he was monkeying around in there a couple weeks ago. That wire had fallen off; hence the switch did not work. I put the wire back on, and tested the clutch – 100% operational, and in fact would have worked fine when the thermostat eventually started the fan automatically. And, reaffirmed something I already knew: ALWAYS keep your eye on things whenever there is an idiot in your dash board!
SO, here is where the serendipity (and the MASSIVE expenditure of $5.80) comes in.
When I swung the radiator, I noticed that the alternator belts were hanging loose. This is NOT GOOD. Whatever was wrong must have happened VERY recently, because no-alternator==stranded once batteries discharge. Now, THAT could take awhile, because on our old engine, the ONLY thing requiring electrons AFTER engine start is the fuel solenoid. Feed the old Cat fuel and air and you are good to go! In fact, it could take hours or DAYS for the batteries to run down enuf to disable that and stop fuel from getting to the engine.
I remembered hearing a weird squeak for about the last 10 miles, but had not focused on that since I was worried about the radiator fan. THAT must have been the moment the belts had gotten loose. The question is, WHY were they suddenly loose?
It seems a big bolt that holds a threaded arm that is used to adjust tension on alternator belt just plain FELL OFF. Arm dropped. Belts hanging loose. Once I realized this was this issue, I purchased a new bolt (with a lock-nut) at Lowes, and after some grease stains on jeans and hands and face AND of course skinned, bloody knuckles, all is good!
I also discovered a potential rubbing issue on a radiator hose while everything was open. That, too, would have left us stranded eventually (and a BIG MESS as coolant drained through the eventual hole in that hose). So I temporarily addressed this with a piece of rubber and a couple tie-wraps. This may require a new hose – TBD, but since I had both lying around, I cannot even add those to the cost!
Lest you think we spent ALL our time in Hot Springs inside the engine compartment, we did NOT. That whole episode only took a couple hours! Turns out one of our neighbors in Chicago, Ashley Gold, is originally FROM Hot Springs, Ar. She recommended a whole bunch of stuff to do, and her list included a Bathhouse-turned-brewery and two of her favorite Barbeque places complete with an analysis of their differing Sauces. We had a whole day, so using her list as a sort of (Ashley) guided tour, we enjoyed the area.
We started at the National Park vistors center at the Fordyce. This is one of the old Bathhouses on “Bathhouse Row” in downtown Hot Springs. It has been refurbished into an interpretive center that ‘splains the history of the region and the Spas. We continued to Buckstaff Bathhouse, which is the only one still operating as such. This was patronized by MANY professional Baseball Players, including Babe Ruth, where they endeavored to purge the toxins from alcohol and tobacco binges. Athletes’ bodies were not yet temples back in the day.
At Buckstaff I did the “Whirlpool Mineral Bath” (Liz passed on the opportunity), which, it seems, is JUST THE THING to get bus-grease off of one’s skinned knuckles! It is also supposed to cure all of what ails you.
Liz said it was going to take a lot more than that in my case.
Despite this (or because of it), I decided to skip the Swedish Massage, Souvenier Logo’d Loofa Mitt (no room for such souveniers onboard RV WHERE YET), Paraffin Treatment for Hands, etc. Instead, we moved right on to the Brewery for further treatment, which consisted of consumption of beverages still made using ancient yet-still-used-everywhere fermentation techniques – for medicinal purposes only, of course!
We also found one of the BBQ places recommended by Ashley – Stubbys. Very Yummy! And Ice Cream with HONEST Product Labeling.
The last thing we tackled in Hot Springs was one of the “Interior” projects commanded by Liz. Whereby we were snakebit again. We acquired some rubber edging material meant for Landscaping, but just the right size and flexibility to wrap around the floor at the edge of the engine compartment. This edge has been ragged, exposed plywood for 2 years, and Liz wanted to (finally) to finish it. Naturally, it turned out to be WAY more complicated.
We had acquired TWO pieces of the rubber edging, thinking that would be enuf. It was not. We went back to Lowes to get one more, and found they had, overnight, rearranged their ENTIRE landscaping area and there was no more edging in the type and color we had used. Instead there was a different color, and slightly different profile.
Did I mention all of this happened OVERNIGHT!
We asked the manager to PLEASE help us find the 5 or six pieces I KNEW were there the day before. She could not even FIND such a thing on their inventory system. FINALLY, I found it on Lowes website — but only a six-pack of the product. And, this was out of stock, PERMANENTLY it seems. The manager claims it was never available as individual pieces, that it must have been a special order, and had been on the shelf to close out. Now, it must be gone and could not be re-ordered (not that that matters — we were leaving town the next day) — and no stores even had the six-pack available.
Back to engine work, only!!
I could NOT believe that the 5 or six pieces left merely 18 hours before could be gone – but she took us around to all the various bins and carts where such close-out merchandise is displayed for sale…no luck. OF COURSE this is the stuff we had selected, and now we were in MID-PROJECT. AAAACCCKKKKKK!. In the end, I was able to piece together just enuf rubber from the ends of the two pieces I HAD used to make the project complete (enuf). This took the rest of our time in Hot Springs, and we moved on towards Vian, Oklahoma and a visit with Lynn and Dave Gray.
Weather continues to be a consideration…storms of the Thunder-variety are predicted – which is not something to be taken lightly in Oklahoma. We hope NOT to spend any time in the steel SAFE ROOM the Grays have in their house because of the very real threat of tornados in the area. Well, maybe a little time in there – because as I recall that is also their pantry, and we look forward to the magnificent food fete a visit to the Grays always produces.