Category Archives: trip

A Warm Reception

  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.

A July Bus Trip to Evangola

  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.

  Success!

A life lesson learned …

   Last weekend we took the bus out to camp at one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve been to (not that we’ve been to a lot, but it will be getting a post all it’s own soon …).  As of right now, the bus is not finished.

No plumbing.

None of the 12 VDC lighting.

No solid walls.

Exposed outer skin, insulation, and wiring.

No levelers.

And yet, our boy loved it.  He can’t wait to go out again.

And it was a great lesson.  He told us that “things don’t have to be perfect in order to be fun.”

We talked about it and it seems like he’s less likely to get upset over a long-range goal taking time to achieve if he can see the progress and enjoy it along the way.

Huzzah for the bus being a teaching tool!