Monday, October 13, 2014

LOVE - HATE RELATIONSHIP

The Shop last Spring
While we did most of the interior work last year with the Bus outside, at our house, I needed a place to work on the exterior that would not be ruled by weather. I found the perfect building only ten minutes from home - a 56' x 60' pole barn built about six years ago and situated on two acres of land. The building has two 14' high doors at opposite ends plus two 7' conventional garage doors to the side bays. One bay we've converted to a paint booth with radiant floor heat, super insulation and
Interior
excellent airflow. Mark and I have a couple of cars waiting for restoration down the road - a '70 Chevelle Malibu SS, a '68 Torino GT, and a '39 Ford 2 door street rod that my oldest kid and I finished the first time around in 1990. Anyway, back to the Bus. I moved it over there in late June to restore, prep and paint the exterior. I've had three "deadlines" pass and it was still not in full primer. Once again, a project I underestimated x10. I bought this particular bus because of the fresh engine and
Distorted  panel
 
suspension. If I had it to do over, I may have taken a closer look at just how rough the exterior was. Here is one example of a panel that had to be replaced. Note the bulging between rivets. Electrolytic corrosion occurs between the steel backing panel and the aluminum outer panel, forming a white power oxide that expands to a greater volume than the metallic aluminum, pushing the two metals apart. Since aluminum is more malleable it deforms, causing the bulging between the line of rivets. Solution - remove the aluminum skin, apply a layer of undercoating to keep the two metals 
Corrosion under panel
electrolytically separated, and replace with a fresh panel from the donor bus. Many points of steel / aluminum contact were separated by what looks like tar soaked cloth at the factory. You can see some bulging of the panel above, but there are limits to the amount of rebuilding possible These buses were magnificently engineered, but I doubt those engineers expected them to be on the road almost sixty years later. My original plan was to retain the anodized aluminum bottom half and paint
Corrosion barrier applied
the upper half, but there were way more defects in the skin than I had originally realized, so I decided to paint the entire bus in order to repair all the damaged areas and fill holes cut for a refrigerator, furnace, outlets, etc. by previous owners. As I said in an earlier post, I wanted a clean roof which required 11 holes to be patched in the roof alone. In addition there were only four bay doors that were not damaged. I wound up using all three large bay doors from the donor bus, but they still required a
Replaced, re-riveted,painted
considerable amount of dent and gouge repair, as well as removal of all the bay door pull-out handles, straightening and re-riveting. In addition there are over 80 bolt-on window and trim parts that were all removed for repair and refinishing. Two of the bay doors were rebuilt to add expanded metal for venting the air conditioning units and the remote oil cooler. In addition, I removed the front license plate assembly and grafted in a section off the donor bus to give the front a smooth, unbroken
Some of the bolt-on pieces
look. The roof was sanded down to the original,very tough green prime, re-primed and then shot with white Imron. All the bay doors were hung with new hinge rubber. We etch primed all the bolt on pieces, doors and sections as we went. All bolt-on parts were seam sealed to create a smooth,tight, unified look. It's been three months of hammering, filling, sanding, priming, more sanding. I hate sanding! It's like a bad remake of The Karate Kid - wipe on, wipe off. Filler on, sand off, primer on, sand off, and on and on...
Panel repair

Refinished latch handle






Modified front
Old front



Silver at last!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

THE THIRD YEAR

Yup, three years as of February 2014. Since being so late with my last post, I thought I'd try to catch up on what's happened since our return from California in January. The Bus sat exactly where I parked it on arrival for almost two months. 
I plugged her in and left the mini-splits set as low as I could (60 degrees F). Amazingly with temperatures dipping into single digits, the system could still extract heat from the ambient temperatures. I thought I had enough heat in the utility bay to prevent freezing, but after a couple of below zero nights, one of the plastic PEX manifolds burst. I also had the refrigerator to repair and I decided to send the Victron back for a go-over since it was still under warranty. I was convinced the inverter was the cause of the refrigerator cable fire. 

So, my first project in the Spring was to pull the inverter and send it in for testing. The good news was that there was nothing wrong with it. The bad news was there was nothing wrong with it. I'm still unsure of the cause of the meltdown. I got the inverter back and re-installed it with a few "better ideas" added. I can't find any abnormalities in the system. I hate it when that happens!


Donor accelerator pedal
Next - replacing the cable throttle with an air throttle. Although I pulled, cleaned, and lubed the cable when started the project, it has gotten more sluggish over time. The decision was made easier as the parts bus had an air throttle. When I drove the parts bus home, the throttle response was so much better, that I moved it to the top of the To-Do List.
The first step was to remove the system from the parts bus. That was pretty straight forward - unbolt the accelerator pedal assembly up front and the piston assembly in back on the governor. The pedal assembly is a proportional air valve with three air lines. A supply line from the front air tank, a distribution line to the actuator piston on the governor, and a vent line to depressurize the air valve. The picture shows the valve with the pedal removed.

The old pedal had to be cut out from the brake/accelerator assembly and replaced with the air pedal mechanism. It looks easy. Took about two hours. 
New pedal

Old accelerator pedal
Next, the old cable throttle was removed. Then the air throttle had to be modified because the governor on the Bus was different than the donor's. The mounting plate had to be modified by adding an extension plate and the pivot return arm flipped to make it work on my governor.
New air throttle

Old cable throttle

I ran 45' of 3/8" air hose from the pedal assembly to the throttle piston, aired up the system with the shop compressor, fired up the Detroit, and volia! Great throttle response, and a drastic improvement in overall drivability. I don't use the clutch once rolling, so quicker shifts are possible since the engine revs drop quicker with the air throttle.

STILL TOO HOT


Driving in the mountains last winter pushed the cooling system to the edge. We had to pull over a few times when the temp started climbing past 190F at 80F ambient. With electric fans, it only took a few minutes to bring the temp back to 180F, but that's not going to hack it at 95+F. I didn't want to go back to the stock the radiator and crank driven fan which failed twice in the past. My decision was to install an additional, independent oil cooling system to take some of the load off the water cooling system. I haven't seen this done before, so it's pretty experimental. I installed two 18"x24" Hayden oil coolers in series - tucked into the space behind the rear electrical panel which is pretty much empty since I gutted all the original wiring.

 The coolers are hung with rubber hangers stacked one behind the other. A remote, 12v electric, gear driven oil pump moves 5 gal. per minute from the bottom of the oil pan, through the oil coolers and returns the oil via a fitting in the block below the oil fill. I cut a hole in the bay door and also in the aluminum panel separating the compartment from the area behind where the coolers are
located. I mounted a Flexalite fan to push air through the coolers. I've done a short run, but not under conditions that would put the system to the test.



Next: The Shop

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Click to enlarge
It's been awhile – yeah, I know, more than awhile. Like, six months. I actually left you hanging with us in California in the dead of winter. We found an RV park about twenty minutes north of Paco and Allison's house at candlestick Park,In South San Francisco. This is a Google Earth view of the stadium, RV Park, and Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.
The rate was very steep at $89.00 a night, AND they didn't allow bus conversions! We arrived late in the evening and the night manager said we could stay for one night and talk to the General Manager in the morning to determine if we could stay longer. Fortunately, the GM was very nice – we could stay, and if we paid for a month it would only be $1200.00, a “savings” of $1470.00. In other words, we could stay for four weeks for less than the price of the two weeks we had planned. The weather was great in San Francisco and brutal in Michigan, we were with our grandkids every day, and we were retired – tough choice!

The RV park was at Candlestick Park – the stadium! Candlestick Park is, actually was, the home of the San Francisco Giants MLB team from 1960 to 2000. It then became the home of the 49ers NFL team until the end of the 2013 season. It will be demolished later in 2014 or early 2015.The RV park is located across the street from the main stadium parking lot. 

Candlestick Point is a spit that juts out into South San Francisco Bay. It is a lovely natural retreat with walking paths and a fishing pier. It's also adjacent to the RV park and we would walk out into the bay to enjoy the breeze and smell of the ocean, talk with the fishermen and enjoy a little piece of nature in the middle of the city.  We spent almost a month in San Francisco / San Mateo - mostly hanging out with the grandkids. 


We went to the Star Wars exhibit at the 
San Jose Tech Museum.


Maddie in her Luke Skywalker Halloween costume.










And Point Reyes National Seashore.

We reluctantly decided to head home the end of January. Big mistake. It was in the low to mid 70's and sunny the whole month. We knew it was cold back in Michigan, but didn't expect it to keep up. We had John and Nicki checking on the house (when they could get up the 800' driveway), and we had the new automatic generator, but felt we couldn't extend another month. Should've called them. They would've talked us into staying in California. We left on January 27th to climb over the Sierras - from 9' above sea level at Candlestick Park, down to 73' below sea level crossing the valley then up to Truckee River RV Park - 190 miles and 6000'. It was a long slow pull with the bus doing 27 mph max. at times (top speed in second gear). I'd put the four-ways on an follow the heavy trucks in the right-hand lane.




The next day we headed out of California and across Nevada. There were a few short climbs along the way, but basically uneventful. We stopped in West Wendover, NV for the night - just short of the Utah State Line. This is the view of the casinos from the campground. The casinos offered free shuttle service to and from the campground. We passed and went to bed early. 


Next state - Utah
Next morning, within minutes of crossing the Utah state line, the terrain becomes flat and brilliant white in all directions. Miles and miles of salt flats. No trees, dry scrawny shrubs, and little more. The only other "scenery" was hundreds of names and messages written on the salt by arranging stones. This one says "PARKER" and "TANNER".What are you going to do for entertainment under these conditions? Of course! Get out of your air conditioned vehicle and collect stones to arrange in the blazing sun. Salt flats stoners.
PARKER and TANNER
Welcome to the salt flats


On the east side of Utah was another mountain range to climb - The Wasatch Range - from Salt Lake City up into Wyoming. 
Once in Wyoming the winds began to intensify. I mean INTENSIFY. The digital speed limit signs read 25mph! The speed limit on an Interstate is 25?? Yup. The winds were 50 mph with gusts to 70. Empty trailer loads were ordered off the Interstate. I thought we'd tough it out for awhile, but then the wind blew a semi trailer we were following from the right lane to the left in a split second - in the wink of an eye - fast as greased lightning - a speeding bullet - a rabbit - a trailer in a high wind. So, we took the next exit and parked it for the remainder. The oil rig guys next door left their trailer and got a motel room for the night. Wimps! We just hunkered down and rode'er out. That's whutcha do when yer in Wyoming.

The next day was a long haul - 455 miles to Sidney Nebraska, home of the original Cabella's. They have a campground there, so we parked the bus for the night. Next morning I really felt wiped out, so we decided to spend another day in Sidney before moving on. This was not the high season for camping in Nebraska. We were back in the grips of winter and really desperate just to get home. So, it was a two day sprint across the remainder of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and finally into Michigan. Teri had called ahead to get our 800' driveway plowed prior to arrival. We pulled in late, around 10:00 pm. We could unload the bus in the morning. It was time for a good night's sleep in our home sweet home.





Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Road to San Mateo


It had rained all night. A light but steady drizzle. And, at thirty one degrees, a perfect
combination for the common Michigan ice storm. This wasn't the worst we'd seen, but bad enough. By 8:00 am, a quarter inch of ice coated every weed, stick, branch, phone line, power line and clothes line in the county. We'd finished packing The Bus the night before. More bad weather was on the way – Lots of snow and cold. We had a small window of opportunity to get out and far enough south to avoid the next storm sweeping in. I had to take the Ridgeline out to scout an escape route for The Bus. There were branches hanging six to eight feet above the road. Many could not withstand the weight and had snapped to the ground, requiring a serpentine path down the road. The Bus, at ten feet tall, would not make it down 48th St. - just too many low hanging branches and too much debris. But, C Ave. to 46th St. was passable, and it looked like 89 had been salted - wet, but not icy. We loaded up last minute items, fired up the old Detroit 6-71, and trundled down the deep slush of the driveway.

Once on I-94, the pavement was damp and the traffic was moving at a normal pace. The Bus was cruising at a respectable 67 mph and the rebuilt heater system was keeping us toasty warm. There was a slight draft coming through the driver's side windshield wiper panel under the dash. This was a component that had to come off before painting, and so wasn't sealed properly yet. I had added acoustical foam in the back, under the bed and around the air cleaner, so the screaming two stroke Detroit was virtually silent from up front.

We had taken her on a shakedown run to North Carolina a month earlier, and no mechanical or electrical issues had materialized. It was time for the big trip – Augusta, Michigan to San Mateo, California; where my son and his wife are holding our grand children hostage.
THE ROAD TO SAN MATEO (click to enlarge)
Taking the southerly I-40 route, to avoid the unpredictable winter weather of the Great Plains, it was 2553 miles. We passed Fort Wayne feeling like we had made a clean escape and stopped to top off the fuel just short of Indianapolis. That's when I first noticed the faint screeching sound coming from the engine bay. The Detroit is a pretty loud engine, and it was hard to locate the source of the screeching. Near as I could tell, it was coming from the area of the bell-housing. My first thought - a bad throw-out bearing. I found a parking lot next to a McDonald's and parked in a group of big rigs for the night. I got online (we have our own hot spot) and posted our situation to other “bus nuts” on the busconversions.com forum for advice.
By morning I had several replies to my post. Yup, consensus was the throw-out bearing, but “don't panic, just give'er a shot of grease and keep on going. I had packed all my tools – except for my grease gun. I asked Siri where the closest auto parts store was, and in less than three miles we were at an Autozone right off the Interstate. I bought a grease gun and grease and got out my GM 4104 Maintenance Manual to guide me to the grease fitting for the throw-out bearing. No grease fitting where the book said it was. After ten minutes of searching with a flashlight, I found it. A previous owner had removed the tube that allowed remote access to the bearing and had screwed a fitting directly into the top of the bearing. Laying over the transmission, flashlight in mouth, I fished the coupler onto the fitting and pumped the grease gun. After considerable pumping, I was unable to see any grease being extruded from the bearing. It was a brand new grease gun, right? It had to be working properly. So, I fired up the Detroit and the screeching slowly subsided. Ahh, success!

Not so fast there buddy. By the time we were on the other side of Indianapolis, the screeching was back. I had gotten a phone number (from the bus forum) of a guy in the area that could maybe help. I called Scott, and he met me a couple of exits down the road. He looked everything over, and agreed it was the throw-out bearing and felt we should give it another shot of grease. More grease, silence from the bearing, so once again we're on the road.

As darkness fell, we found a campground (using my RVParking.com iPhone app) outside Brownstown, Illinois - Okaw Valley Kampground. A mile away from the campground, on a remote side road, the headlights went out. I drove the last mile with just the marker lights.  We passed three or four oncoming cars.  They all flashed their lights. Like I didn't know I was driving in the pitch black with no headlights. We pulled in to the campground, plugged in and went to bed; pretty discouraged at this point. It was nine degrees that night, but we had plenty of heat from the mini-splits and slept well.

The morning was clear and cold. We met the campground owners, a young couple who had just purchased it a month earlier. They offered to take us to the local Wal-Mart for a resupply of propane and some other needed supplies. On route back to the campground they pulled into a truck garage that might be able to get more grease into the bearing than I had managed, and maybe help fix the lights. They were booked for the day, but would be open Thursday - the Day after Christmas. I booked an appointment. It was becoming obvious we were not going to make San Mateo by the 28th.

Christmas Day; the loneliest Christmas we've ever spent. Stuck in an empty campground, at the end of a dead end road, outside a tiny town in very rural Illinois, with a wounded bus and no running lights. So, I surfed the Internet – we had our own hotspot, and reception was pretty good. Teri divided her time between reading her kindle and knitting. I took an afternoon nap and we went to bed early on another single digit night.



Next morning, it took two hours with the engine heater plugged in before the Detroit would fire up. We couldn't locate the campground owners, so we left for the truck garage. Being two hours late, we had another hour wait to get in. At least we could work inside. The pneumatic grease gun confirmed my suspicion – my new grease gun was crap. With plenty of grease in the bearing, we went about looking for the gremlin responsible for the loss of head and tail lights. All the wiring in the bus runs down a raceway along the left side – inside the bus. I did this so any trouble would be easy to access and fix. It didn't take more than fifteen minutes to discover that the tail lights had shorted out due to an abrasion point I had overlooked and was blowing the circuit breaker for all the running lights. Note to self: separate headlights and tail lights into two circuits when you get home. The kid (20) who was helping me had just finished diesel mechanic's school. He was real quiet at first, but as we tracked down the wiring problem he began to ask questions about the bus. He'd heard of two cycle diesels, but never seen one. He asked a lot of questions about how it ran compared to today's design. We finally just replaced the two shorted wires and we were good to go. One hundred sixty eight dollars including a can of Orange Crush. We settled up with the campground with a Visa card over the phone. Four days and we were still in Illinois. At least we were far enough south to miss the blizzard moving into the Great Lakes. On through St. Louis, and Tulsa and Oklahoma City. We stopped for the night at a Best Western that also had a small RV park next to it. Full hookups, showers, and only $18.00 a night.

Next day, the noise was once again escalating from the clutch. My online support group included “luvrbus” (Clifford) who said I should push to get to Albuquerque. Everyone else said “listen to Clifford – he's the pro”. There was a guy just outside Albuquerque who would take care of us. His name - Larry Jones. I had his phone number from the bus forum So, despite the now horrible noise coming from the failing bearing, we pushed on. Late in the afternoon, just past Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX, the engine just shut down. 
Cadillac Ranch I-40 Amarillo, TX


We pulled off onto the shoulder and I just sat there; physically drained, emotionally exhausted and psychologically beaten. Then Larry called. “Where are ya? What's your status?” I told him about the shutdown. He had me dump the primary fuel filter. It was full of crud. No spare. Make another note – always carry spare fuel filters. I refilled the filter I had by pouring the fuel I had dumped through a paper towel to eliminate most of the crud. The secondary would catch the rest. Who knows what that one looks like. Several attempts at a restart, with no success. I called Good Sam road service to get a hook to haul us on to Albuquerque. They covered the first 100 miles we paid for the other 150. The wrecker came from Tijeras, just east of Albuquerque. It'd take four hours to get to us, about an hour to hook up and four hours back to Tijeras. I called Larry back and told him the plan. He knew the guy that was coming to get us (he knows half the population of the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area). “Mike's a pro, he'll take good care of ya. Have him drop you off at the Zuzax exit and we'll
see if he can get you up into Hidden Valley RV Park. I've already talked to them and you can stay there while we make repairs.” I told him it'd be after 11:00 before we'd get there. “No problem. I'll meet you at the top of the exit.” It took Mike about 45 minutes to hook us up and drop the drive-shaft – he's good. We hopped in the wrecker. Teri took the sleeper spot and we headed for Zuzax, New Mexico. Mike's been a wrecker driver for over 35 years. Moved from Lorane, Ohio when he was nine. He's hauled everything, everywhere. Zuzax is a made up name. A guy built a gas station on old Route 66 and he wanted to be the last name in the phone book, so he called it Zuzax. A few folks settled around the station, a couple bought acreage up behind the station and put in Hidden Valley Campground and people started calling it Zuzax. It doesn't have a Post Office, but it does have an Interstate exit sign. The canyon that Route 66 went through was the best choice for I-40, so the Zuzax Gas Mart did not fall victim to the Interstate like so many other enterprises that were bypassed along old Route 66.

We arrived at Zuzax almost exactly at 11:00 pm. Sure enough Larry was sitting at the top of the exit, waiting. He and Mike decided to try to put the bus in a pull through site up at Hidden Valley. It's a short, but steep and twisty climb to the campground and a 30 foot wrecker pulling a 35 foot coach required some finesse to get it parked. We found an extra wide site, so we had room to pull the transmission and replace the throwout bearing. We thanked Mike and Larry profusely, plugged in and went straight to bed.

Larry owns a one-man HVAC service business. He only works on BIG commercial systems. Sometimes he hires help, if the job requires, but mostly works alone. “It's better for everybody concerned that way.” he tells me. His work schedule is pretty light right now – he's been cutting back on jobs. “Been mulling over closing the business. It interferes too much with all the stuff I have to do.” Like helping strangers repair their broken bus.

Next morning, it was sunny and in the low 40's. Not bad, if you were in the sun and the wind wasn't blowing up the canyon. The campground sites are terraced up this little canyon. Since there's no level ground, each site is two to three feet higher than the one downhill. In the light of day, I was amazed that Mike got the bus into the site. I had packed all my tools (except the grease gun), so I started pulling the transmission.
The 4104 and its cousins, the 4106, and Scenicruisers were probably the most well designed buses ever. They were built by General Motors – primarily for Greyhound. Their design was a collaboration of the two companies. The bus is built almost entirely of riveted aluminum panels with bulkheads – like an airplane fuselage. There is no chassis. The running gear bolts directly to the monocoque body. The engine and transmission are mounted on a cradle, transversely in the back. Doors open to give full access to the entire drive train. They were designed for serviceability. It's said that good Greyhound crew could swap out an engine/transmission and have the bus back on the road in about four hours.

Within a half hour Larry arrived, noticed that the emergency shutdown lever was in the shutdown position.  We zip-tied it up and the Detroit fired right up!  One problem solved.  Lesson from Larry - "It takes fuel and air to run.  I had all the wires, bolts, and controls removed, and the drive shaft off the drive spline. We went up to Larry's house on the other side of the Interstate to get his all terrain fork lift to actually remove the transmission. Larry's “driveway” is about a quarter mile long and climbs an 18% grade (that's three times steeper than any Interstate grade). It winds up past 50's era Macks, Internationals and other heavy trucks and equipment. At the top is Larry's coach – an '89 Eagle. Forty-five feet long, 12 feet tall and about 40,000 pounds. He BACKS it up his “driveway” because “it climbs better in reverse”. Our bus would never make the grade. He fired up the forklift and I followed him back over to the campground in his Trailblazer. Half an hour later, the transmission is on a pallet and the clutch is off the flywheel. The throwout bearing is destroyed. It's a ball-bearing assembly, basically an outer ring that spins on an inner ring with steel balls rolling between the two. The balls must be well greased at all times. These hadn’t been. When we removed the bearing, the remaining four steel balls (out of about 24 originally) fell out. The carrier bracket was chewed up, the clutch fingers were shredded and the disc was worn out. Fortunately the flywheel pressure plate was good. I got on the phone and called Luke at U.S. Coach in New Jersey (another bus forum contact). He could ship me the parts that day, and he'd loan me a alignment tool. This was New Year's Eve day, so shipping was going to be a little sketchy. In addition, they were expecting a blizzard to move through Louisville for the next two days. It's the the main UPS hub in the U.S. Could be in Zuzax for a while.

In the meantime, Larry and his wife Judy treated us like old friends who had dropped by for a week - or three. We went out to a great Mexican restaurant our second evening there. The following night, we went to their house for a New Year's Eve dinner featuring Larry's home smoked and grilled beef brisket – delicious! New Year's Day they took us on a tour of Old Town Albuquerque, small boutique shops and of course more food. Needless to say, we always picked up the tab. Great people – new friends.

Saturday, I got up early (7:30) for Larry's Saturday Guys' Breakfast at a local cafe. We went in his 1931 Ford Model A Cabriolet! He also has a Stanley Steamer, a '31 Ford A fenderless roadster hot rod with a tricked out 4 cylinder flathead, a 1952 International Travler fully restored, a '38 Chevy coupe, and of course, his TWO buses – the Eagle and a 1960 4104 like ours. Larry is a collector.

We just hung out from Sunday through Thursday waiting, not so patiently, for parts. The Jone's had loaned us their Trailblazer (can you believe these people?), so we made a shopping trip into Albuquerque one day. Another day, I helped Larry replace a hydraulic leveler on his Eagle. Then we discovered his start batteries were toast, so we pulled the old batteries and made another trip to the city to get new ones and install re-installed them in his bus.

Another day we rebuilt the alternator mounting bracket which we had removed to get the transmission out. It was fabricated by a previous owner and was not square and had some other design flaws. Larry welded on some reinforcement and I re-drilled the mounting holes to make it square.

Thursday, parts arrived. One throwout bearing, one clutch assembly, one pressure plate... no bearing bracket. The bearing bracket looked trashed. The throwout bearing is press-fit onto the bracket. There was so much wear, that the bracket was almost 1/16th inch undersized. Larry to the rescue once again. He built the bracket up by brazing to about 1/8th inch oversize and then turning it on his lathe, down to .005” oversize. By heating the bearing, we got it to slide over the bracket with a little persuasion with a hammer and wood block. Once cooled we had a super tight fit. I think it's good enough to be a permanent fix. Larry's help was better than I could have gotten at any repair shop.



Larry's friend, Neil, dropped by to see how things were going, and maybe lend a hand.
We hustled with the remainder of the assembly and had the clutch installed and transmission back in The Bus by Friday night. I took her for a spin around the campground. The clutch was smooth as silk. Saturday morning we said our thank-you's and good-bye's to Larry and Judy, unplugged, and resumed our trek to San Mateo.


Remains of refrigerator wiring
We were on the Interstate less than 10 minutes when Teri smelled something burning. Within seconds, the bus was full of the toxic smoke of burning electrical wire. I pulled to the shoulder, shut the bus down, ran to the electrical panel and threw the main breaker. We each grabbed a cat and bailed. I called 911. We were parked on a big blind curve with a concrete wall at the edge of the shoulder. We climbed over the wall and walked as far from the bus as we could. The cats were freaked! The fire trucks arrived within 15 minutes. By then, the smoke had cleared and the firemen could not find any hot spot with their infrared detectors. We got back in The Bus and I drove it to the next exit with a fire truck escort. We went over The Bus again, thanked the firemen and they departed just as the local TV station van pulled up, hoping for a giant bus in flames. They paused, scoped out the situation and left. Sorry for no pictures.  I guess there was so much excitement, we forgot to take any.

Just then Larry called. “How's she run'n?” I filled him in. He said, “I'm almost to that exit. See you in a minute.” I'm, like, stressed to the max. Do we give up and go home? What else could go wrong? What was I thinking? Buying a 57 year old bus, and expecting it to reliably cross the country! The North Carolina trip had gone so well. This had caught me completely off guard. Larry pulled up, got out and said “This is just part of owning an 'ol bus. No big deal. Enjoy the journey, you got no deadlines. If you bought a new 'sticks and staples' RV (bus-talk for a commercial motorhome) you'd have more problems than this – believe me.” Well, it was real hard to believe him, but what the hey! We could driive back to WINTER or push on to the kids. Clifford lived four hours west, so we had one more resource we could tap, if needed. I shook hands with Larry, and thanked him again for all he and Judy had done. We got back in The Bus and headed west.


We drove to Williams, Arizona and stayed at the KOA there next to the Grand Canyon Train siding. Next day we got up early and hit the road. Through Needles, California (where Clifford lives), through the southern part of the Mojave Desert and onto I-5 through the San Joquin Valley – a sometimes irrigated desert. We pulled onto Ivy Street, San Mateo in late afternoon. We'd made it.  


       SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Larry and Judy Jones
Clifford  (LUVRBUS)
Luke at US Coach
Scott in Indianapolis
Everyone on the BSM forum.  Without this great network of support we would not have made it.

            NEXT UP - BACK TO WINTER