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Monthly Archives: August 2008

We picked up the RoVerhauler from Cashman Cat about an hour or two ago. We are planning to leave Reno for Black Rock City early tomorrow morning. I have my fingers crossed that we make it in to Burning Man by mid day tomorrow and back out again under our own power.

The RoVerhauler may need to go back in to Cashman Cat when we return from Burning Man. They addressed the transmission linkage problem, put in a new air filter and restored the drive train, but we still may have a low power issue. Jeff or I will write up more details about the repairs soon, but I’m too tired to concentrate on that right now.

Too tired, and too angry. I’m sitting here in my hotel room in the west tower of John Ascuaga’s Nugget, overlooking a giant parking lot that is less than 1/3 full and has AMPLE space for the RoVerhauler. There is another parking lot at the other end of the property, on the other side of the Nugget parking garage, that is *totally* *empty*. They say that we cannot park there because that is the valet parking overflow lot, but let me repeat: that lot is TOTALLY EMPTY. The Nugget is not allowing us to park the RoVerhauler in either of the adjacent parking lots. They told us to park in a small “RV lot” under the bridge on the other side of Victorian Ave., but when we pulled into a pair of front-to-back “pull through” spaces in that lot, our tow dolly was blocking the aisle… the spaces were not long enough for the RoVerhauler and the dolly.

We ended up putting the RoVerhauler in a lot that was across the street from there that appears to have some overflow parking from the rib-fest, but that is not a Nugget lot. The night staff here at the Nugget, both at the front desk and at the security phone number, have been pleasant, but totally unable to deal with the situation and unable or unwilling to escalate it to a manager who has the authority to say that it is OK to park in either of the verboten lots.

Grrrrr. It just does not make sense. They are turning someone who had been a loyal customer into someone who will speak ill of their facility and who will not stay here again. Oh, well… too bad. For the RV-ers among you, be forewarned and do not count on the Nugget to be an RV friendly facility.

Well, enough ranting. Back to our regularly scheduled program. 🙂 We are unlikely to be able to post again between tomorrow morning and Labor Day, but will let you know how the RoVerhauler performs once we are back “on the grid”.

One benefit of sitting in a hotel room with nothing to do (yet) is catching up on offloading cameras, making minor adjustments to photos and getting them uploaded to share with you.

I’ve added photos to a number of the blog entries so you might want to start back at the beginning and take a look. Thanks for your patience and understanding. We know we’re Web 2.0 lame for not managing to do this on the fly.

Whoops! The photos have been cropped in an unintended way when posted. I’ll try to sort it out later today and will let you know when they look right. (Feel free to have a look anyway, but remember you’re not getting the full picture!)

Yesterday morning, after consulting with Boston Freightliner and Michael Moore, a local truck technician with Cashman Equipment in Elko, we made the decision to have the rig towed to Reno. The Cashman truck shop there seemed like our best bet at getting the various problems sorted out promptly and, if it is the turbo charger, they will honor the warranty on the part. I called them to let them know we’d be coming, then called Good Sam Club to initiate the tow. Unfortunately, because their coverage only includes the “closest facility” with no regards to warranty needs, we’re eating the majority of the bill for this one. No complaints, the folks at Good Sam have absolutely delivered on everything we signed on for.

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Our “old friend” Leland from A-1 Towing was again dispatched to hook us up and pull us down the road. We followed, as best we could, in the Land-Rover. It was a long and grueling drive. If anyone ever tells you that I-80 is flat once you get past Winnemucca you should laugh. We were again frequently forced to reduce speed, though I will grant that there were no genuine mountains to summit.

We arrived and found the folks at Cashman were extremely friendly and the shop was as big and well equipped as we had hoped. We were encouraged to see them pushing the rig into a repair bay for diagnosis before we even left the facility.

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We checked into the Nugget for the evening. We devoured a late lunch along with four glasses of water each, ran a few errands, enjoyed the pool and hot tub and a “fancy” dinner at the Trader Dick’s tiki restaurant.

While we’re both anxious for news that we can get back on the road, at least we’re in familiar and comfortable territory and we’re both encouraged that we’re closer to our goal.

We’ll keep you posted!

We’re not wasting all of our time sitting by the pool here in Winnemucca. Along with our more serious problems, I’d noticed a dribble from the sewer drain pipe while we were sitting in the rest area waiting for the tow truck on Friday night.

The problem was due to a stress crack in the sewer pipe. Fortunately, the crack was in a reasonably accessible spot near the end of the run. John, who along with his wife Liz owns the RV Park, coached me through the replacement of a length of ABS pipe and the endcap for the drain. The job went fairly well though we did have a little spray when I first opened the “drained” pipe (the small hose drain and end valve were both partially blocked and there was quite a bit of “water” pressure in the system.

Did I mention they have really nice showers here.

Anyhow, that job is done and I’m sitting by the pool where we just met another couple heading to Burning Man. Rachel and Anthony (aka Apple Man) hail from Calgary and just got married last week. They’ll have another ceremony on the Playa at Burning Man.

Last night we met a couple from Ontario traveling with their son and one of his friends. They’re attending Burning Man for the first time and we gave them some pointers about what to expect.

One of the best things about this mode of travel is the people we’re meeting in these RV parks. They are definitely more “social” than hotels and motels.

***

Back at the rig. I just put the sewer system through it’s acid test. It passed with flying colors. I went so far as to locate all the fancy hardware to make the proper connections as opposed to just sticking the “slinky” hose down into the drain. We look like we know what we’re doing now.

Here I sit in the RoVerhauler in the Winnemucca RV Park, enjoying the cool, dry evening desert air. This is a delightful place… lovely pool and gardens, nice people, a beautiful setting with big sky and lovely mountains in the distance. I’m feeling great; however, the RoVerhauler is not too happy right now.

What is wrong with her? Well, for one thing, her driveshaft has been removed so that she could be towed in here by a big rig tow truck. We have a new buddy, Leland, from A-1 Towing. He dropped the drive shaft in a rest area about 20 miles out of town to tow her to the local Freightliner shop yesterday evening and to the Winnemucca RV Park this morning.

She needed to be towed primarily due to a problem with her shift linkage. The transmission seems to work just fine once she is in gear, but it has been getting harder and harder to get her into a given gear. I suspect that this is due to a mechanical problem with the linkage, and I am hoping that it is not something more serious. If this was her only problem, we might have been able to fix it ourselves.

In additon, we seem to have lost the flywheel cover somewhere along the road. Jeff noticed that oil was dripping out from under her when we stopped at a rest area on what we thought was our final stretch of road before Reno. Little did we know… We had a brief panic during which we thought that the bottom fell off the transmission, but a mechanic who happened to stop by the rest area took a peak and reassured us that the problem was not that drastic.

On top of that, we had been suffering for two days with awful, and I mean AWFUL black smoke pouring out of the exhaust. At first we thought it was just that the RoVerhauler was not tuned for altitude. The problem seemed to start on I-80 right outside of Cheyenne, WY, and it got worse over time. We also experienced a significant loss of power going up hill, especially on long climbs. I thought we’d be reduced to about 45 MPH uphill, but we were lucky to get 16 MPH on some of the steepest summits, with a long line of unfortunate vehicles trapped behind us in some of the construction zones.

Our current guesses are either that a stuck fuel injector is dumping too much fuel into the engine (Boston Freightliner had warned us that one injector was ailing, but said that we could deal with that when we returned home from our trip), or that we are having a problem with the turbocharger, which would be a real bummer because they are expensive and we have a brand new one (approximately 2 weeks old, installed by Boston Freightliner).

The black exhaust smoke was so bad that a police officer pulled us over yesterday to see what was going on. Jeff explained that the Rockies had been rough on us and that we had taken in the RV in Elko that afternoon, but the mechanic could not diagnose the problem without tearing into it, and unfortunately the problem was not something obvious. The mechanic had said that we had a decent chance of making it into Reno and having the problem worked on there.

The officer warned us of Nevada’s “no visible emissions” law and told us that there were no guarantees that we would not get stopped again, but he allowed us to continue on our way since we had a mechanical problem. He was quite polite and treated us well, even thought Jeff told him that we were on our way to Burning Man (we have both heard stories of police harassment of burners on the road, but my 4 years and Jeff’s 5 of coming out here, neither of us have experienced that).

One bit of advice: if you ever break down in one of these small towns, don’t do it on a Friday. We’re stuck here in Winnemucca at least until Monday morning. Despite our best efforts, we could not find a mechanic to look at the RoVerhauler over the weekend. We are planning to check in with Speedy, the mechanic recommended by our RV park… his shop opens at 8:30 AM on Monday… at which time, if things had gone as planned, we would already have been setting up camp on the playa at Burning Man. 😦

The Rocky Mountains really gave us a challenge. It took a vast amount of strength and endurance to get this far. Even if the RoVerhauler had been working properly, it still would have taken a lot of energy, but with the problems we were having, the drive was significantly more challenging and draining than it should have been. Even though we slept in places that might have allowed for wifi access, we did not even have the bandwidth left to write about what was happening. Please accept my apologies for the delay in posting and the flurry of posts tonight.

What can we do? We are stuck here. We must be patient. If we are lucky, the RoVerhauler will be repaired on Monday or Tuesday, and we can hit the playa on Tuesday or Wednesday. If we are less lucky and an obscure part needs to be brought in or something, the RoVerhauler may be stuck here longer. If that turns out to be the case, we may just buy a tent here in Winnemucca and throw that and our food and water into FINSUP and hit the playa without our beloved rig. We’ll see what makes sense come Monday.

BTW, I have to give huge props to Liz and John Wells, the owners of the Winnemucca RV Park. They have been great. They have given us a warm welcome and made us feel right at home. They have done wonders for our spirit with their advice and friendliness. I would gladly stay here again, although I hope that next time it is by choice!

Anyway, Jeff and I are exhausted but recovering, and the support we have received from friends back home, burners we have met on the road or here in Winnemucca, and the locals as well have given us the hope that we will get through this and make it to Burning Man.

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Michelle recovering from the ordeal

This turn of events has forced us to slow down, which those of you who know us know is not entirely a bad thing. There are many less pleasant places we could be stuck.

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The view from the pool, Winnemucca RV Park

Well, I was hoping to post more pictures tonight (I have taken TONS of them), but Jeff seems to have fallen asleep while I have written this, and I do not yet know how to post them, so once again, I’m promising photos “some time soon”. I’m off to meet the Sandman myself momentarily… I can barely keep my eyes open. Good night! [We’re back-posting photos to the blog as we can–Jeff]

Great news:

Jeff finally got our new generator to start! He had tried so many times that the battery for the generator had lost power, so we picked up a set of jumper cables at a Bosselman truck stop along our route.

When Jeff attempted to start it previously, we thought that the problem may have been air or something in the propane line. We had run the propane tanks dry (the gages do not work… yet another project), so we thought the line might need to be purged.

Well, after connecting the jumper cables and repeated priming and attempts to start it with no joy, Jeff noticed a small grey connector dangling from a wire that was not hooked up to anything. We checked the manual, but could not easily identify the connector, so he plugged it in where it looked like it should go, and about 5 attempts later, the generator began purring like a kitten. Hurrah!

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Ultra-slick generator installation by Overland Engineering. Jumper cables thanks to owner incompetence.

Morning at the RV Hall of Fame. Driving, and more driving. Another night in a Flying J parking lot. Tonight we are in a Cabela’s campground in Sidney, Nebraska, about 2 hours east of Cheyenne, WY. Cheyenne was our target, but with the high winds, the driving was very fatiguing, so Jeff and I decided that a night at a campground with electric, H2O and showers would ease our road-weary bones.

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We found the RoVerhauler in an ad in a copy of RV Trader that we bought on a lark during our Christmas visit to Chicago last year, and we purchased her from her previous owner in Higganum, CT in February. He told us that he had bought her from a buddy of his who had bought her in an estate auction. Unfortunately, we do not have any of the original documentation that came with the vehicle.

Before we officially christened her “RoVerhauler”, I often referred to her as “The FrankenTruck”, because she looks like a cross between an old school firetruck and a cab-over camper. I even considered mounting giant bolts on the cab to complete the Frankenstein look! She is definitely eye-catching, in a kind of steam-punk (or, more accurately, diesel-punk) way.

Ms. RoVerhauler has a 1972 Ford C8000 chassis. She kind of looks like an old school fire truck, but she has a dump truck bed and a cab-over. She was repowered in the recent past with a rebuild Caterpillar 3208 diesel engine. She has an Allison automatic transmission. The camper body has one name on it, ‘Jac-Kir’, centered above the windshield.

As much as she looks like an RV conversion, she was originally built as an RV. That is what the original owner told us, and we have found no clues that indicate otherwise. The story we got was that the RoVerhauler was built by a Nascar driver to pull his car transporter and provide infield support. We have been unable to verify that story, but are hoping to come across someone who has heard of ‘Jac-Kir’ or recognizes this vehicle from the 1970s. We’d love to learn about its original owner and early history, whether or not the Nascar story turns out to be true.

Google searches have turned up no information about ‘Jac-Kir’, nor did a post to RV.net. We visited the RV Hall of Fame earlier today (Day 3), with the hope of finding out about ‘Jac-Kir’ in their research library (if I recall correctly, they have 20,000 volumes!) or from the staff. We had a great time speaking with Al Hesselbart, their historian, but he had not heard of this brand or maker. He was very interested in seeing the vehicle, so we gave him an impromptu tour in the parking lot. He speculated that the RoVerhauler may have been a one-of-a-kind or one-of-a-half dozen. He said he was going to do some research on our behalf.

I must say that the RV Hall of Fame is worth the visit, and not just because we got a personal tour from Al. They were open from 9 AM to 5 PM, and I could have stayed the entire day exploring their collection, if not for our schedule and the need to get back on the road to Nevada. If you are interested in RVs, vehicles in general, American culture, history, manufacturing or design, there is something there to capture your imagination. Next visit, I will allow more time to explore. We might be able to stop there again on our way home, but our schedule from Moab back to MA is pretty tight.

As I sit here writing, I can hear the crickets chirping. The cool evening air is chilling my skin, and my hair is still slightly damp from the swimming pool and showering. Rather than spending another night in a Flying J truck stop parking lot, Jeff and I decided to treat ourselves to a night in a campground. We wanted to be able to plug in to use the microwave and to have a quiet spot to work on the generator.

Quite by chance, we found Eby’s Pines Campground here in Bristol, Indiana (near Elkhart). It is a charming place. I would stop here again in a heartbeat, especially during the summer months when the swimming pools are open.

The staff here is very friendly. The grounds are pretty, clean and well kept. There are numerous trees on the site, and it is nice and quiet. We asked for a shady pull-through spot that was off to the side, so that early morning work on the RV would not bother any neighbors, and that is exactly what we got.

We are rather road-weary, so the generator will have to wait until tomorrow…

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Michelle posting her entry to the blog the following morning

Off to an early start. Jeff was up before me, replacing the headlight that burned out last night, buying a pair of $5.99 sunshades for the cab, checking tire pressure all around, etc. He woke me around 5:30 AM so I could get dressed, hit the head, buy some coffee and go.

Buy some coffee? Didn’t we bring a coffee maker? Why, yes, we did. But the alternator does not seem to be charging the house battery bank, and the house bank is getting low (~11.3 Volts), so we did not want to run the microwave or coffee maker or anything this morning.

What to do?

Step 1: Hit the road.

Step 2: fill the propane tanks. We ran out yesterday. The gauges on the tanks do not work (on the list to fix at some future date). We’re hoping that the next Flying J will have propane. The one we spent last night in did, but I guess they can’t pump propane before daylight

Step 3: get the fridge cooling on propane.

Step 4: get the generator charging the house bank.

Step 5: check the charge coming out of the alternator.

Step 5 will hopefully take place at a campground in Elkhart, Indiana. Our original goal was to get there before 5 PM today, in time to hit the RV Hall of Fame before they close. At this point, we’ll have to hit it briefly tomorrow morning before we hit the road.