So after finishing the first bunk, we gave the bus a test. My wife and I got invited to a multi-day wedding reception for a couple of our friends on another friend’s land out near Franklinville, NY. The trip was only about an hour away, but it wound along the 400 expressway and then up into the edges of the Alleghany mountains on Route 16. The weather was great, and the bus ran nicely. When up to speed, I could take most all of the hills along the route in fifth gear, but we still ended up slowing some people down because I wouldn’t speed (much to the relief of my wife).
For this trip, I brought an inverter and wired up a 12-volt outlet so that we could blow up a queen-sized air mattress while the bus was still idling and cooling off the turbo fan. And the fan did get warm. The land we were headed for was on a small 1 ½ lane road that I missed while we were looking for it. Luckily, it was a nice, clear day, and there were plenty of places that farm, gravel, or other trucks and vehicles had packed down and could be used to turn around. So we did. And we got on the road and drove happily along it.
Having never been to this location before, we weren’t sure if the barn at the bottom of the hill just off the road was the one that we were supposed to park at or not, and so we drove up and set the air brakes half-way up a fairly steep incline where the reception was actually at. After several hellos and a brief confirmation, we found that the barn (now behind us) at the bottom of the hill was, in fact, the right place, so again we were going to have to turn the bus around. And, I’d have to get it going on the hill.
Now, I learned how to drive on standard (manual) transmission vehicles, and I grew up in the mountains, but this was to be the first time that I had to put the bus with its diesel engine to the test in this environment. But it was surprisingly easy. The very low gearing of first gear (that I routinely complain about because of the fact that I have to use it to get the bus moving, but then have to shift out of almost immediately as its top speed is 5 mph) was awesome for getting the bus moving, even if I couldn’t get it above 15 mph getting up the hill. But, of course, just on the other side of the hill was, well, the other side of the hill going down. Luckily here near the top, there was an intersecting road with a wide mouth at an angle that allowed for me to bring the bus along on it, back up a little, and then get the bus turned around.
Getting back to the barn was then easy, though I did find out that the seemingly big (to me) 7.1 L T444E engine, even with the low gearing, wasn’t enough to hold the bus back (in fourth, which I thought would do it, but I probably should have been in third). Now, toward the end of making the bus stop for the parking space at the bottom of the hill, I used the brakes, which did slow the bus, but I now know that I didn’t use the “stab” braking that I should have, instead using steady pressure that would have, on a longer, steeper hill, likely overheated my brakes. (Stab braking is a hard use of the brakes to below the ‘critical’ speed you need to stay below, and then a full release until you’re just above the ‘critical’ speed.)
So, at the bottom of the hill, we parked the bus near the barn, secured it, set up the air mattress, and then walked back up along the road to the reception. There, most people were camping in tents, so we were at a distance from them, but, our ‘steel tent’ was bigger. But we brought up some camp chairs and our bocce set and had a great afternoon and evening, with DJs and live music by Penny Whiskey.
We cooked in our ‘Toas tite‘ maker over the communal fire, and in the morning I made espresso over a camp stove and we had a half card table that fit perfectly between the two facing bench seats, so we had our breakfast there. We stayed until late afternoon, and made our way back home, which was also a slower trip, but because of my adherence to the speed limits. It turns out that there was some manner of motorcycle rally, and we were stuck in the ‘parade’ behind it. Otherwise, the trip home was uneventful and fine.
We did realize that the narrow hallway along the bus was going to take some getting used to. We spent plenty of time getting in each other’s way realizing the thing we wanted was at the other end of the bus, past the other one of us doing something along the way. But we worked things out and, really, more organization would certainly help.