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 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I'll never make any money at blogging. I'm just not committed enough. Another six weeks without a post. So, we took our second trip in the bus.
Traveled to Haseville NC. 1400 miles round trip. Everything is pretty much operational at this point. The mini-splits are working great. They've kept the bus at 62 degrees, even on zero degree nights. Got the water heater hooked up - hot showers now! We went down to visit our great friends Jim and Diane (see episode one). We took two days to drive down.


Ran into some Jawas at our first 
campground exit. It wasn't exactly a sand
crawler, but I've never seen anything like this before.  It was at night and I was trying to make a left behind this gigantic machine.  Wound up driving through the intersection, making a left into a Flying-J, another left through the Flying-J parking lot and then a right back onto the road blocked by the sand crawler.  The next morning it was gone. And I never noticed those figures in the lower right when I took the photo. You can't take pictures of your own hallucinations, can you?

No mechanical issues the whole trip. Once we got off I-40, we ran into some pretty long, steep climbs on the last 50 miles of two lane. Remember the bus weighs over 10 tons, and has a 238 hp. six cylinder engine.  One grade was 5% for five miles. I drove it in second gear at 25 mph for fifteen minutes. Seemed like two hours. We finally got there and Jim had arranged for us to park in the neighbor's driveway.  


They live in the mountains south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park; on a road about five miles long - Jarrett Rd. Almost everybody is related on Jarrett Rd.  The land has been passed down from generation to generation. So, Martha, Fanny, Tilly, Bobby -  all of them are descendants of John Pierce, who owned all the land there. And, they keep an eye out for each other. The next morning at about 9:00 am the Sheriff pulls in. Sheriff: "Hi, y'all.  Whucha'll doin up in these parts?" (We've got Yankee plates) Me: "We're visiting Jim and Diane - next door. Norma gave us permission to park our bus here. She's gone to Florida for the winter." Sheriff: "Yeah, I know Norma's left. One of the neighbors saw this big 'ol bus parked up'ere and called it in. Wherd'ya say you was from?"  Just then Jim arrived from next door and explained how he had made arrangements with Norma for us to park the bus there. Sheriff: "Well, I gotta keep a check on these things, ya know." Jim: "Yes officer, and we appreciate your keeping an eye on the neighborhood." 

We spent the next week just hang'n out and enjoying the 70 degree, sunny days and the beautiful Fall colors. 





Friday night Jim and I went down to the river where "the boys" have a campfire, drink beer, and tell stories. We did the same on Saturday night, but we added shoot'n tin cans off a stump to the activities. By the end of the night, Bobby wanted me to buy one of the river lots (it's an open field with a stake in the ground every 300 ft. to mark off the lots) and move down for the winter. The trip home was trouble free. Two great iPhone apps that make travel much easier are RVparking and iExit. RVparking finds RV campgrounds, gives you a full description, directions, phone number, website link and much, much more. iExit lists every facility at every exit on every Interstate in the country - period!  Next trip, Dec. 21st we head for San Mateo, CA. 

So, what's been done since we got back, you ask?  I installed bubble insulation behind the side windows that have been closed off.  I got weatherstrip installed in the front passenger side window. Rewired the turn signals with a unit that has a hazard switch built in. I could not figure out how to wire flashers with a separate switch and wasted, probably three days, making an attempt, before giving up and just buying an all-in-one unit. With the warm weather holding out, I installed an air dam below the front bumper and hung a heat lamp in the utility bay to prevent water freezing.  I also added a 3" computer fan to blow warm air from the living quarters down into the utility bay as a backup measure.  Last week - THE END of warm weather. Zero degree nights and 20 degree days, and now 8" of snow. Can't wait to head for California.

I finished filling and sanding the walls in the bedroom. They're ready for priming and wall paper. Added some aluminum trim pieces, Art Deco Mirror, installed the bathroom light, outlet, and vanity shelf.  That's about all we can get done before heading west.  This is how it looks so far.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Holy crap!  I haven't posted in, like six weeks.  Well, I did take another ten days off to do our annual mountain bike trip in Moab, UT.  We rode The Magnificent Seven, Bartlett's Wash slickrock, Hazzard County, UPS, LPS, Porcupine to Sandflats Rd., Pipe Dream, and Onion Creek - plus a trip down to south of Blanding to check out Moon House ruins.  So enough about that.

Click on image to enlarge










I discovered that the whole time I've been driving this Bus around I had NO FRONT BRAKES!, I decided it would be prudent to make necessary repairs.  TWO weeks to complete.  I pulled the wheels and checked the brake pads, which hadn't touched the drums in years.  The drums were rust pitted.  The pads were worn out and the slack adjusters were cranked out to their limit.  I made a call to Luke at U.S. Coach in NJ.  He had me measure the inside diameter of the drums - 14.5".  He told me they had already been turned twice and I needed new drums.   Got two new drums,  new pads, nuts and bolts, 10 new lugs for the right side and three for the left and 16 rubber bushings for the suspension radius rods.  Remember, these are parts for a 1956 bus, and they're still available!  They came by UPS in two boxes.  One box had just a drum in it.  The other had a drum plus the pads, bolts and wheel lugs and nuts.  Each drum alone weighs 94#!

Drilled out
The first challenge -  get the drums off the hubs.  The drums have five 3/8" flathead bolts holding them onto the hub. They've been there since the Eisenhower Administration. They were fused to the hubs.  Nothing would break them loose - not three kinds of penetrating oil, not heating with a torch, not drilling and using an EZ-Out.  My experience has been that EZ-out is a misnomer.  If anything they should be called Not-So-EZ-Outs or Never EZ-Outs. I resorted to drilling them out just short of the thread depth and then and chasing the threads with a tap.  

With the old drums removed, the worn out pads had to come off the shoes.  The pads are bolted to the shoes with brass flat-head bolts.  Those came off easier.  There's two pads per shoe and two shoes per hub, so that's 16 brass bolts to remove on each side.  The shoes were cleaned up and since I had easy access, I greased all the steering fittings and replaced the rubber bushings on the front radius rods.  I'll tackle the rears later this year. The next task was to replace the wheel lugs.  I had to heat each retaining nut with a torch to get them to budge. Once the nuts were off, the old lugs had to be driven out of the hub.  New lugs inserted and bolted onto the hub and tightened to 300 ft/lbs., new pads bolted on, springs reattached, slack adjusters turned all the way in and new drums bolted to hubs.  Wheels remounted, slack adjusters adjusted and back on the ground. Took her out for a test drive - stops WAY better now.
Shoes before pads
Hub removed

New lugs, ready for wheel









Shoes with pads bolted on









The Detroit Diesel engine is BIG.  It's an in-line six - called a 6-71 (six cylinders at 71 cubic
inches per cylinder).  That's 426 cubic inches, about the same displacement as a big block V-8 car motor.  But this engine weighs 2100 lbs. compared to about 690 lbs. for the 'big block", and it makes 238 hp and over 600 ft/lbs of torque.  The engine sits transversely in the back, so the radiator is on the left side, rear corner of the bus.  This creates a cooling problem since at highway speeds, the air is rushing PAST the radiator, not INTO it as it does when the engine is up front and facing forward.  I went with four electric cooling fans instead of the original direct drive fan, because the previous owner had put in a bigger radiator and tossed the fan shroud (critical for effective cooling).  I also wanted to replace the direct drive fan with a pulley to run a second alternator.  So, cooling was marginal.  The engine should run at 180 degrees and on a 90 degree day I'd be pushing 190.  So, I strapped on a piece of carpeting to act as a scoop to see if that affected the cooling.  It worked great, but was totally hillbilly, so I built a scoop.  










Took a curved fluted sheet and expanded steel off the parts bus and cut to size. 


 








Then cut two aluminum side pieces.  Riveted it all together and bolted over the radiator. 
The fans don't even come on when going down the road at cruising speed - a steady 180 degrees. 



Scooping in all that air requires a place for it to get out of the engine compartment, so using more expanded metal from the parts bus, I made an engine bay vent in the rear. 

We were planning a trip to North Carolina, but a few more items need to be checked off the "to do list".  Installing a new water heater and finish painting and papering the interior.  Next blog - "The Interior" or My Wife the Coolest Bus Interior Decorator".