getting ready to take a road trip in a car is one thing. it is something else to get ready to take a road trip in a motorcoach. or, at least it is for me.
as you may know by now, i am not mechanically inclined. in fact you could say i am a-mechanical. me and mechanics both start with the letter “m”, but that is where the similarities cease.
to give you some idea of what i am talking about, i will share a story of what happened on the day of my departure. Mike Fox, one of my best friends, came over to my motorcoach to see if i needed any help. he was aware that i had just picked up my motorcoach from the facility where i had it stored in for the last 5+ months.
here is what he found…
first, he noticed that there were dark tire marks on the road leading up to where i had the coach parked waiting to uncouple my car. what could those tire marks be from? apparently the wheels on my car locked up as i was towing it from the storage facility. nothing that two new front tires can’t fix!
second, he noticed that i was having trouble decoupling my car from the hitch on the rear of the motorcoach that is used to trailer the car behind.
then, once he has helped unhinge the car from the towing hardware on the back of the coach, he tries to put the towing hardware back in its stored position which sticks out from the rear bumper of the coach. but, he has trouble doing so. the joints don’t move easily. to give you some idea of Mike’s confidence in my mechanical abilities, Mike does not ask me if i have any WD-40.
no, instead Mike asks me if i have ever heard of WD-40?
but these problems pale in comparison to the problems i encountered in the next 24 hours as i began this road trip.
do you recall my second post of this trip? the one that talks about the heat of the desert. where it feels like you are walking into an oven when you walk outside.
do you remember my third post which talked about truck stops? in particular one truck stop at the California/Arizona border. you may wonder why i stopped at that truck stop on my first day of my road trip to Branson Missouri. the Arizona border is only 100 miles from Indio California where i started out. why would i stop there?
i planned to stop there for one reason only — to purchase diesel fuel for the motorcoach. the cost of fuel is so much cheaper there than in California. $3.00/gallon vs $3.90/gallon.
well, i pull up to the fuel bay #35, and proceed to fill up my fuel tank with diesel. Anxious to continue my journey in the late afternoon to Phoenix, i get back into my coach, assume my position as driver, and turn the key to start the Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine. what happens? the engine turns over but does not engage, does not catch.
holy cow! i am occupying one of the fuel bays in the truck stop and i can’t move my motorcoach. it is going nowhere. and i have truckers all around me, looking at this guy in shorts in this motorcoach wondering what is this guy doing. yikes. i can’t start the motor which was running fine until i filled up with fuel. what gives?
my first move is to notify the truck stop of my problem. they then put orange cones behind my coach so that other truckers know that lane #35 is out of commission for some reason.
then i call Prevost, the manufacturer of the motorcoach. they have technicians on duty 24/7 to help. i also call Mike Semple who used to live in the motorcoach resort in Indio where i live part of the year, and now repairs motorcoaches out of Redding California. they both remotely analyze the problem and speculate that there must be water in the fuel and perhaps some bad fuel from the old, not the new, fuel that had been in my tank for over a year. they think that the fuel separator and the water separator need to be replaced.
the challenge then becomes who to find to do the replacement. it is now 5pm on monday of Labor Day weekend. it is a national holiday. after waiting for almost three (3!) hours, a service truck with its yellow lights blinking shows up. how they found them i am not sure.
the service technician proceeds to remove and replace the fuel separator, but he does not have the part to replace the water separator. he still unscrews it and empties the contents, and refills it with diesel fuel to the top and screws it back in. he asks me to start the engine. i happily do so. but once again, the engine tries to start but does not engage. what now?
he suggests we look at the air filter. he unscrews it and sprays some silicone into the vacant space. he then asks me to start the engine again. i do so, and, lo and behold, the engine starts! hooray!! amazing.
i say thank you — a very special thank you. he leaves and i release the brake and put the coach into its drive gear. the coach begins to move forward and goes about 10 feet and stalls. yes, stalls. i immediately try to start the engine again, and no dice. it won’t start. i am now still occupying most of bay #35. unbelievable.
i immediately call the technician that had come to help me and ask him to come back which he does. he repeats the silicone treatment in the air filter and the engine starts again. but this time i let the engine run for 15 minutes before i attempt to move the coach. and i do so at a high rpm. and i ask him to stay with me until i actually move the coach. and he does so.
it is now way past 9 o’clock, and it is dark. there is no way i am going to Phoenix in the dark at this time of night with an engine that i can’t trust. so, my only option is to spend the night in the truck stop just like the truckers are doing — in a line up, one truck after another. so, i move the coach just a few hundred yards to get a parking spot in the back of the truck stop, next to many other trucks.
Mike Semple has been on and off the phone with me during this experience, and he says Neil you have a decision to make. i say, what’s that?
Mike says when you park your coach you will have a choice — do you turn off the motor, or do you keep the engine running all night long. he said if it were him, he’d keep the engine running all night long so that there was no chance that the engine would not start in the morning. i took his advice.
so here i was, in my truck stop which i love, parked just like the other truckers. and i had my engine on all night, just like all the truckers do. pretty cool, eh?
well, it turns out that the reason the truckers keep their engines running all night long is to keep their cabins cool through air conditioning. in my case i have to run my generator to keep my air conditioning going through the night.
this brings me to my next problem. my generator.
I try and try but can’t get my generator to keep running once i turn on air conditioning in my motorcoach. i can start the generator but it dies every time i turn on one of the three air conditioners i have on the ceiling of the motorcoach. normally this problem would be something that i could live with since i do not need the generator to work when i am plugged into shore power. if my coach has electric power coming from the RV park’s power stanchions then my air conditioning works well.
however, when i am not in an RV park with shore power, then i have to rely on my generator. if the generator is not working, i am not getting air conditioning in the coach.
to paint the picture for you…i am in a truck stop where the temperature at 11pm at night is 90 degrees. i have my engine motor running, but have no air conditioning. on top of that i don’t want to open the windows of the coach because of the 90 degree heat and also the fact that the noise from all the truck motors running is deafening. so i end up sleeping in the coach, windows closed, no air con. did i mention that my bed in the coach is right next to the engine motor.
having said that, i have a lot to be grateful for. my friends who take calls at all hours of the day and night and on national holidays. the guys who are actually working on national holidays to help guys like me. the fact that i have a bed to sleep on even though i am sweating like mad. the fact that i am safe. my coach is locked. and that this all happened in a truck stop instead of on the open road.