So skip forward to now, and we just took the bus to Evangola State Park to stay for a weekend. As of the writing of this post, the bus has some of the electrical system in and the three-way-fridge working on both the AC & DC settings (but all that’s another couple of posts).
The trip was somewhat marred by the fact that the alternator had lost its regulator. While the alternator had never put out really high voltage levels, they’d always been sufficient to charge the batteries and run the electrical needs of the bus systems. With the regulator problem, the alternator would put out 13+ volts for the first few minutes of the engine running, then only put out between 5 and 9 volts.
A couple of days before we set out on Friday, I had made my way up to the Tonawanda Res to fuel up the bus, and due to some poor weather, I had the lights and wipers on for that run, and these, then, ran off the battery, and the ammeter was showing that there was 12-13 volts over that time which seemed low, but okay for the way the alternator had been since we got the bus.
Now you might be thinking, ‘Hey, wouldn’t you have realized this sooner? I mean, on my car, if the alternator goes, it’s really dramatic.’ However, you have to realize that the bus is a diesel, so it doesn’t have spark plugs or anything consuming the electricity as the engine runs (well, excepting the ‘electronic brain’ that sucks down some 10 milliamps), and the battery bank is two big 8D batteries, which hold a whole lot of amp-hours (~950 cold-cranking each).
So on Friday, we set out from our house to pick up our son from camp downtown and head the additional 26 miles to Evangola. Unfortunately, two blocks away from our son’s camp, I was making a tight turn and shifted into fourth instead of second and stalled the engine. Which then wouldn’t start. I boggled for a minute, as my pre-trip had shown 13 volts, but the battery now was down below 10.
I quickly grabbed the jumper cables and used the house batteries to jump-start the bus. Given that the AC/DC converter (used to) have a charging circuit, we headed on, picking up our son, and running another errand in the city before heading off to the campground. It was a nice, uneventful drive, and our site was wonderful.
Our site was maybe 60 feet from a cliff right on Lake Erie and had wonderful sounds of the surf the whole time we were there. There was a nice, flat, grassy area (perfect for playing bocce), and very light woods off toward the cliff. It was a twelve minute walk to the beach along the cliff-side trail, and we had cool people in the campsites near us. A couple people stopped by to see the bus, and seemed suitably impressed. And, on our last day/night we even had a friend come out to stay over, so we could be hosts!
Even without a functional kitchen, we were fine. I had the refrigerator working, so we were able to keep stuff cool (including the ice-cream bars in the freezer!) and most of our cooking was done over the fire (except for one breakfast that was cooked over a propane camp-stove). I brought a keg of cider and the little CO2 cartridge pressurizer worked well (and since there was no driving going on, it was all safe!).
We had a massive thunderstorm, and had a couple of leaks from the hatches’ vents, providing with another thing to check, although they hold up fine to regular rains. On the other hand, the auxiliary air tank (coming up in another post) held enough pressure long enough for my wife to blow the four-chime whistle (same post as the air tank) at the parading pirates, much to everyone’s enjoyment.
Now, the whole time we were there, I had disconnected the house batteries from the converter and used my jumper cables to hook the bus batteries up to the ‘charger’ part of the converter. Unfortunately, the charger part wasn’t working so the bus batteries had no charge, and the house batteries didn’t have enough charge, so we couldn’t get the bus running when we set out to leave.
Luckily, we have AAA with the RV upgrade, so I called and in 20 minutes or so Matt from Tick Tock Towing & Recovery showed up and spent the better part of an hour trying to jump the bus form his truck, pull-start it (since it’s a manual), then finally calling for the big shop-charger to be brought out. In less than five minutes on that the bus was started.
And so we were off, on our way home. But it had started to rain again, so I needed the wipers on, and the lights. And of course, that meant that these drained the already low batteries further. To the point where the electronic tachometer and speedometer kept resetting. So, again the house batteries came to the rescue. I ran the jumper cables up to the power bus bar and everything electric perked up.
We made it home safely, and the consensus was that we all couldn’t wait to go camping with the bus again.