Wednesday, November 20, 2019

On the move again - Mid October - Mid November 2019

Hard to believe it has been a year since I've cracked open this blog.  Certainly does not mean nothing has happened since last November,  just that I've not paid much attention to our personal blog.  But here we are in Year 7 traveling full time with our usual May - October stay in Mallet's Bay Campground (Vermont) And now we're on the move again.

We left Mallet's Bay mid October and headed to southern Vermont, where we parked in a school yard for almost 10 days.  

and worked with students and teachers at Shaftsbury Elementary School to integrate more creating and making into their learning.  I'll blog more about that at the Create Make Learn blog,  but if you're wondering what our days look like inside a school, check out these short videos.

From Shaftsbury, the bus  headed to to Turkey Swamp Campground in Freehold, NJ.   It's one of our go-to campground when we want to spend time with Craig's NJ kids and Lucie's Brooklyn kids and grandkids.  And as you can see, it's a beautiful spot.

Craig got to spend his 65th birthday with both his kids and their spouses (and even 3 of his 4 sisters) as everyone gathered in Manhattan for a very fancy wedding. 

and for those of you who have never seen Craig in a suit - here's  a rare occasion.

Then Craig and I said goodbye for a few weeks, as he headed out in the bus towards Iowa to get the leveling jacks repaired at a factory in Moscow, Iowa and I headed into Brooklyn to spend some time with these babies and their parents. 

Not only did I get to spend Halloween with my grand babies, but I got to cheer on runners in the New York City marathon with them, too.

Then for a real treat, my son, Matt, invited me to join him for his Broadway debut where he played piano, accordion, and conducted the music  for Hadestown - a Broadway play with a Vermont origin.

and as a bonus I got to enjoy the show with his twin brother, Adam.
Lucky me! 

Then back to Vermont via a beautiful train ride along the Hudson river

just in time to watch the white stuff cover the ground, as I spent a few days with my Dad
where 2 of my sisters showed up unexpectedly for an early birthday lunch.

The visit also allowed me to sneak in a little extra time with my 3 Vermont grandkids.

Got to watch my oldest grandson and his friends building a skateboard ramp in their barn

and take my only grand daughter to the gym
and play in the snow with this special guy. 

And finally one more early birthday dinner with my cousin, my Mom, and sister at the Single Pebble!

After some great family time, I put my work hat back on and made a quick trip back to 
Shaftsbury school for more making with 4th graders

and then launched right into my conference director role
for VermontFest 2019 - Vermont's annual Fall EdTech event. 

Exhausted but pleased with the outcome of the conference, 
I put EMMA (my mobile studio) into winter storage and took a cab to the airport.

After several false starts due to mechanical issues with planes in the Burlington Airport, I finally made it to Denver.

It was great to reunite with Craig after 3 weeks of traveling in separate states.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Trip West Fall 2019

Lucie leftTurkey Swamp in New Jersey for Brooklyn to spend time with the grandchildren on Monday October 28. That left me a few days in New Jersey to hang out with my daughter Maggie, Peter and Skeeter the granddog. On October 31st (Halloween) I emptied and filled the tanks on the Wanderlodge and headed West.

I stopped after about 300 miles at a Flying J truck stop near Lamar Penn. Throughout the day I had become aware that the air system on the bus was cycling much faster than it had in the past. Every 2.5 minutes the compressor would come on and build up air pressure to 125 lbs, then the air dryer would spit and 2.5 minutes later it would repeat. Normally it would take over 10 minutes for one of these cycles. I started doing research and reaching out to the Wanderlodge community online. It was a rainy day and I was glad to have made it to a suitable resting place for the night.

The next day, Friday, I traveled another 300 plus miles to Castella Ohio. I was taking a more northerly route, I80, because I had made an appointment at HWH, the company that made the leveling jacks on the RV, in Iowa to have a broken jack repaired. I stayed at an Interstate rest area in Ohio. I80 is a toll road in Ohio, so I figured I could at least get a nights rest out of the toll. In the morning I noticed a little puddle of diesel under the Racor fuel filter on the Wanderlodge.

Saturday I proceeded to a Flying J truck stop in Lasalle IL. As evening approached I called 3 Walmarts along my route that were marked as OK for RVs to park overnight. All 3 said they no longer allowed RV parking.

There was snow on the ground here and it was quite cold. I filled the propane tank on Bella in the morning.

Sunday I traveled less than 200 miles to the HWH factory in Moscow Iowa. It was below freezing with snow on the ground. I parked in a parking lot in preparation for my 7AM appointment to get the leveling jack fixed.

I ended up spending four days at HWH. What started out as repairing one leveling jack ended up having another jack replaced and rebuilding the control manifold being added. I figured that I might as well get the system working correctly while I was there. One of the things that added to the time it took is they assigned some new people to work on Bella. There were always experienced people supervising and I was not charged anywhere near the number of hours they actually worked, but it did end up taking quite a long time.
The first night I parked outside where HWH provides electrical hookups for their customers.

After that they let me stay inside, which was a good thing because the temperatures plummeted.

Being on the inside the diesel leak from the Racor fuel filter became very obvious. I tried to tighten up the valve that is used to drain water from the filter and ended up making the leak worse. By the last day it was leaking a quart of fuel a day.

By the last day the leak was so bad the Wanderlodge would not start. There was air where there should be fuel in the injector pump. I ended up calling a mobile mechanic who had a spare, used, fuel filter that he sold me and then we bled the air out of the engine. Once it was running the HWH people could finish up their work. After paying they allowed me to spend another night inside,which was nice as it was 15 degrees Friday November 8th when I headed out for Topeka KS.

It was 400 miles to Topeka where I was welcomed by Tim, who had helped us last year when the water pump broke and stranded us. He has a 30 Amp hookup at his business where I settled in for 3 days. He very generously helped me replace the air dryer on Bella which at that time was the prime suspect for what was causing problems with the air system. The one on the RV was so old that parts were not available and one of the truck dealerships in Topeka had a more modern replacement. Tim fabricated a mount and he and I worked under the bus, in the snow in 20 degree weather, replacing the air dryer.

I am eternally grateful to Tim who so generously shares his master mechanic skills with fellow Wanderlodge owners. He refused payment, but did except small remuneration in maple syrup, which he has developed a taste for.
On Tuesday November 12th I left Topeka in 8 degree weather. I had not frozen up any pipes, but I’m pretty sure my holding tanks were solid blocks of ice. I drove over 400 miles to Sebert Colorado, where it was above freezing and I got a campsite with full hookups to empty and fill the tanks in preparation for stealth camping on the street at my son Warren and Allison's place.

On Wednesday I drove the 125 miles to Broomfield CO where we are now. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with my Son and his Wife and for the beginning of the stay, the weather was sunny and above freezing. Warren has a 30 amp electrical connection wired up to his house that makes it welcoming to stay here.

On Sunday November 17th Lucie flew to Denver. Now we are back together and preparing to head South for the winter. We decided that instead of taking off immediately we would wait for the next spell of cold weather to pass, so we would not get stuck in any of the mountain passes we need to pass through.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Radiators Revolt in Kansas

We left Vermont a little bit later this year due to a conference I was helping out with.  This made Craig nervous, as snow was in the forecast.   On November 12,  we started our 7 day road trip to Denver to spend Thanksgiving with Warren (Craig's son) and Allison (his wife) before venturing further to the Southwest again.

As expected at this late date, it snowed.
We watched the weather forecast closely, and were finally past St. Louis when we felt the snow was behind us.

Craig even used the snow to keep the windshields clear.

We're not sure which was most distressing, 
the snow at the gas pumps
Or the $300 a shot fill ups. 

But the bus seemed to run okay and 
averaged a little better than 8 miles to the gallon.
We averaged around 350 miles a day,  pulled off the road before 5 to avoid rush hour and get an early dinner.   Thanks to our redundant services for Internet, I got a good day's work in while Craig drove.

We spent our nights in truck stops or Walmarts, nestled in amongst the trucks.

The bus sometimes seems so small
next to the trucks.
Waking up to the hum of the refrigerator trucks.

It looked like we were on schedule to make it to Denver in 7 days,  until we got to Kansas.

Craig quickly pulled off I-70  about a half hour past Topeka.   I continue to marvel at how in tune he is with his engine - constantly listening to make sure it is humming along as expected and watching the MANY gauges that come with the Bluebird.

I figured something was wrong when he pulled over, and sure enough it was.  The engine heat gauge had risen to 200 degrees.   We made it to a truck stop in a little town called Maple Hill, Kansas.

 What appeared to be pin holes in the neck of the radiator were spewing out fluids. 

Craig went to work troubleshooting, while I looked up truck and bus repair services.  The closest ones were back in Topeka about 25 miles back.   All throughout, Craig was  posting updates to his WanderLodge Owners Group (also, known as WOG).    By the end of the day Friday, we had an appointment for the following week at Holt's truck stop back in Topeka.

The big question was how to get it there.    Even though we have Coach.Net Roadside Assistance,  Craig was really hoping to avoid getting the bus towed.   The next morning, he ran into town and picked up JB Weld.   After carefully applying it to the radiator neck, we had at least 4 hours to wait for it to cure, so I started to look for distractions in Topeka.

We discovered a Brewfest, live music in the street, and a makerspace to visit.  What a find! (I'll blog about the makerspace in a future post)

After enjoying some great music, meeting some wonderful folks at the makerspace, and indulging in Kansas BBQ, Brownies, and Beer, we returned to the bus to make a plan for getting the bus to  Holt's truck repair.   

Sunday ...

But thanks to the AMAZING Wanderlodge community, a different plan unfolded.   Craig had received a few different responses to his post on the Wanderlodge User's Group including one from Bob who offered to bring his tools and help.  Bob was a fairly new Bluebird owner who lived about 45 minutes away.   Craig and Bob corresponded by email and phone and tried a few things.  They made a plan to meet up in Topeka.   Craig crossed his fingers that the JB Weld would provide enough of a temporary solution to drive the bus back to Topeka.

Well,  we didn't make it very far before the bus hit 200 degrees again.   More troubleshooting!  More conversations back and forth with Bob and before we knew it,  Bob and his Bluebird joined us.

The two  BlueBirds hobbled over towards Topeka.  Two miles!  Troubleshooting!  Add Water!  Cool the engine!  Try again!  Two more miles!  Again 200 degrees and Steam!  Pull over!  Cool Down!  Troubleshoot!  Add Water! and try again!

Meanwhile,  Tim, another BlueBird owner reached out and offered to help.  He had a shop in Topeka and space for the bus to park. WOW!  And just in case we needed another sign that we should take Tim up on his offer to help,  a car pulled up in front of us during one of our 'Cool Down' periods on the side of the road.   The woman quickly jumped out of the car and introduced herself as Natalie - Tim's wife!   "When I saw two Bluebirds pulled over the side of the road, I figured this has got to be the folks Tim has been talking, too." 

What's better than two Bluebird owners troubleshooting?
THREE Bluebird owners, of course! 

Natalie gave us more detailed directions on how to find Tim's shop (which was about 13 miles away)  and we continued to hobble over a couple miles at a time. 

There was definitely plenty of room for both BlueBirds!

 And before we knew it 3 BlueBird owners 
put their heads together and started to work out a plan.

Tim even offered us a place to plug in!   The 30 amps was very welcomed on this cold Kansas night (about 20 degrees).  After everyone went home for the night with a plan to continue in the morning,  Craig and I decided to go find a place to breathe a sigh of relief and  give thanks for the incredible support we were receiving from the WOG community!

Food, Brew and Wine at the Blind Tiger in Topeka


Tim,  Craig, and Bob met early Monday morning and worked most of the day on removing the radiator and continued to troubleshoot.  Thermostats were boiled, new parts were fabricated, theories of what had triggered this radiator event were debated.   It was amazing to watch.   All I kept thinking was HOW frickin smart these guys were.  Watching their passion, their knowledge, their camaraderie was totally amazing!

By afternoon, Craig and I were driving the radiator to Kansas City to a Orr's Radiator Shop, where it would obviously spend a few days.    Since Thanksgiving week is a short work week, we were crossing our fingers and hoping for some news right after Thanksgiving.

Tim was the most amazing host.  I can't believe how blessed we were to enjoy his shop as a place to break down, troubleshoot, and plan our next steps.  A safe place to park!  Tools!  Fabrication shop next door!  30 amps to keep us from freezing!  A warm fire in the shop!  Tim even offered up a washing machine in his shop to catchup up on laundry.  But more than anything was the unbelievable knowledge, resourcefulness, skill, and spirit that surrounded us.  We were so so blessed and are so so thankful! 

Tuesday ...

On Tuesday morning, we left the bus behind and jumped into to the Jeep on an 8 hour road trip heading to Broomfield, Colorado (just outside Denver/Boulder).

Craig was so thankful that his plan to spend Thanksgiving with his son had not been foiled-- or so we thought....

About half way to Colorado.. this happened!

You've got to be kidding!  Another radiator having a hissy fit!
Again we hobbled off to the nearest exit.
It felt a little like the movie Ground Hog day.
We hobbled about a half a mile at a time.  Cool the Engine!  Repeat!
We landed in a little town called Oakley.  I'm talking real LITTLE!

But again our unfortunate event, was followed by good fortune and we found a  small town mechanic named Kenny who was knowledgeable about Jeeps  and who went right to work on the problem.

Kenny changed out the thermostat  and that helped a bit, but not enough to give us the confidence we needed to keep driving towards Denver.  The radiator was again suspect.  After some debate about best options,  we decided to leave the Jeep with Kenney for him to work on after the Thanksgiving break.   And again our good fortunate was with us that there was a local small town auto dealer with ONE car to rent - a 2016 snow white Jeep. 

Once again we hit the road traveling west passing the glow of the windmills shining in the night. 

Four hours later, Craig and I and the cooler filled with Vermont Heady Topper beer and Citizen Cider arrived at Allison and Warren's house in Broomfield, Colorado.   With a big sigh of relief, after an intense few days,  we gave thanks that we had made to Colorado in time for Thanksgiving with family.  

The cooler might just have a little less
Heady Topper and Citizen Cider in it
than when it less Vermont. 

Is there room in the fridge?
Gotta keep those cans the right temp!