Friday, April 26, 2013

no longer Airstreamers. a loooooooooong saga O.o

For at least part of last year, we were getting a little restless in our trailer.  It was beautifully done, but after 5 years it was feeling a little close.  A few months ago we finally decided to do something about it, and I started cruising ebay.  This is what came of it.

It’s a 40 foot 1979 GMC transit bus that was purchased by a private party and converted into a “party bus”.  By that I mean he painted it a nice color, took out the transit seats and lined the walls with seats that faced the middle so people could sit and talk and have a party, and added a restroom.  That owner then passed away, and the person it was passed to didn’t have the room for it, nor the desire to own/operate it.  We won it for less than 3 grand.  It was located in the small town of Lake Zurich IL, which is just a little north of Chicago.  We figured that since we LITERALLY had to drive right thru that area on our way back to Hayward, we may as well leave it there in storage and just pick it up when we went, instead of 800 miles there, 800 miles back, and then 1200 miles a couple of months later.
Fast forward to the end of March.  In anticipation of moving into the bus, we cleared out the Airstream and sold it.  I cried watching it drive away hitched to someone else’s truck, but I think the new owner will appreciate it.  We put our memory foam mattress topper on the “bed” in the van to make it a bit more comfortable to sleep on, put our computers and a few basic needs in the van, and packed the rest of our worldly possessions into the smallest trailer uhaul offers, and headed off.

A few days later we arrived, took delivery of the bus, and started out… only to stop dead on the side of the road 15 miles away. Thankfully I signed us up for Allstate RV Roadhelp just a few months prior… after a few minutes of freaking out, we gave them a call.  I got some guy with a thick Indian accent obviously reading off his form and I went around and around with him trying to impress on him that it was a 40 foot bus, and him saying “what kind of car is it?”  Finally got off the phone with him, and a few minutes later the dispatcher from the tow company calls, and I ask “did they tell you it was a 40 foot BUS?” and he was like “um… noooo…”  and even then he thought I was talking about a school bus, so the first truck he sent wasn’t heavy duty enough.  He had to go back and get the biggest flatbed roll-off I think I’ve ever seen… but meanwhile while we’re waiting for him to come back, I get 3 phone calls from the police, and a cruiser shows up and hangs around bothering us saying it needs to be moved as soon as possible.  Tow guy finally gets back and loads up the bus on the flatbed trailer (which was a trip in and of itself, because the engine wouldn’t stay running to air up the bus to release the brakes, so we had to find the external air nipple so he could plug in his air hose from the tow truck’s built in air compressor).  Then there was some confusion as to if Roadhelp would actually pay for the tow because apparently the police had called for a tow also, and where we wanted it taken…etc etc etc… but I called first, my ticket took precedence, and where THEY wanted to tow it would not have been able to handle a big bus, so it was ruled my tow was paid for.  In that one day alone I spent over $20 in minutes on my phone.  Normally I go $15 a month and usually don’t even use it all.

The bus got dropped off in an apparently abandoned lot next door to a GMC medium-duty truck sales and service center (they use the lot as storage, but I don’t think it actually belongs to them) on Sunday the 7th and we spent the night in a nearby hotel.  We showed up bright and early the next morning at the GMC place to ask them about the bus, and the shop manager gave us a funny look and basically said “that may be a GMC, but it’s a whole different vehicle than what we work on here. We don’t work on THAT here. I have no manuals no parts no nothing.  i could work on it, but I would be flying blind, and that’ll be expensive”.  He gave us permission to work on it ourselves.  We spent the next two full weeks suffering the most miserable rainy windy crappy (even snowy one day) weather imaginable trying to puzzle out what was wrong with the bus.  We had no internet unless we drove to the nearby Starbucks, so I couldn’t look up answers to our problems or find people to ask… we were flying blind also.  Several of the worst days we just ran off to a nearby RV park to wait out the rain.  The rest of the time we either drove to a state park with a crazy-high price ($25 for electric ONLY. No sewer, no water, no internet) or bundled up under a few blankets in the van and crashed in the Walmart parking lot.

We eventually determined (with some help from online searching and asking questions while hanging around the Starbucks) that there was potentially a problem with the voltage regulator (among other, slightly more minor problems).  However, by this point we were low on time, money, and sanity.  We bought batteries… they were the wrong kind.  We took them back and got more batteries, wires touched that should never have met, and the lead posts on 2 of the batteries insta-melted… we took those back and got MORE batteries (yay Walmart!).  Those got drained and damaged by a combo of something in the bus sucking voltage out of them that we were unaware of, and a cold snap. We took THOSE back and got one more set, which we installed on Monday the 22nd.  Our plan was to start the bus, and once it was going… just not shut it off, just drive (we were still worried the voltage regulator was faulty, and if it was, it would fry the batteries and we would be unable to restart the bus if we shut it off).  Try to push to make it all the way in one day. We were sick and tired of the whole thing and just wanted it to be OVER… well, we fought with the bus all morning and part of the afternoon to start it (turned out to just be an air valve or something. When we turned it, the bus cranked right up immediately like a champ), and we finally hit the road about 5:30pm.  Our fears about the voltage regulator were realized and the 4 brand new batteries were fried before we made our first pit stop… but the bus stayed running.  I know a lot of people were praying hard because of what happened over the course of the trip.

Our original intention was to push thru the night (400 mile trip at 55mph) but by our second pit stop all the electric had died in the bus.  No headlights, no taillights, no brake lights, no gauges, no nothing.  Fortunately the vital stuff (brakes, power steering, etc) is all air or engine powered, but this also meant we could not drive through the night as we originally intended.  At the time, we were dismayed, but there was nothing we could do about it.  We stopped for the night at 7:45pm in a rest stop 100 miles into our trip, left the bus idle, and bundled up in the van and slept till first light.  It dawned dreary and grey with threatening clouds.  Weather said rain was expected. This presented another problem… most states now have a ‘wipers on, headlights on’ law, and even without the law, headlights are better for visibility when it rains. The wipers are air powered, so we could have used them, but of course no headlights.  All day long as I drove in front (with electric out, no working speedometer in the bus, so I provided the “pace car”) I prayed that we would make it safe and that the weather would hold.  The “rain” never got heavier than a mist, and by the time we reached the home stretch last 50-60 miles the sky was clearing.  It was still a long tense harrowing trip where I think I spent more time looking in my rearview to make sure the bus was still keeping up with me and not conking out than I did looking at the road before me, and full of fears of things like running out of fuel because we had no idea what kind of MPG the bus got, nor how much it used while idling for 10 hours, and with no gauges we had no idea how much fuel we had left, and fears of the overheated batteries exploding and/or bursting into flames, and the rain, and getting pulled over for whatever reason, and any myriad of other worries.

God has a sense of humor.  For 400 miles I prayed we would make the trip safe and sound… that we would get there.  We got there alright.  But at some point in the last few miles the air hose that fueled the air-ride driver’s seat came loose or popped or something, and when we pulled into the (SNOWY) driveway of the park the bus had finally lost enough air that it crossed the threshold and triggered the emergency brake.  We made it 400 miles only to get stuck in the driveway.  While Eric ripped the seat off to find the leak, I chatted with my new co-workers and found out that the snow was fresh.  If we had driven through the night as we had originally intended, we would have driven straight into a blizzard that dropped 8-10 inches of snow on the area.  Thank God!  As it was, we had a site plowed out waiting for us on the front row.  Eric pinched the air line, built the air back up and moved the bus around to our site… but 400 miles of highway driving is not the same as maneuvering a 40 foot bus in the confines of a very tree-filled park.  Two mishaps later (one scrape against a tree, and one broken fiberglass bay door on a site marker post) and we were finally in our site.  Eric and I have never been big drinkers, but I am not ashamed to admit that 3 wine coolers were consumed by each of us that evening, followed by two days of doing nothing much important to unwind from 16 days of hell.

we're here now, tho, and safe. so now the adventure begins again soon... i'll try to keep up with the building of the bus into a right and proper home for us.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It is apparently "Pit Bull Awareness Day" today...

so let me say this:  I am a nearly middle aged housewife.  I mostly work in RV parks. I am a full-time RVer who travels the country in my Airstream.

and i own a pit bull.

She was used by a local animal shelter in a fundraiser once ($1 per kiss), she has been mentioned and/or pictured in the newspaper four times, she has worked as a therapy dog in a nursing home, and she has been our faithful companion for the past 7 years.

Thank you Luna for being the wonderful dog you are, and for teaching me, and many many others, that "Pit Bulls" aren't what the media and the hype makes them out to be... they are just dogs. wonderful wonderful dogs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

you see interesting things when you drive near nashville...

like Loretta Lynn's dusty pink tour bus with her name across the side.

or this slightly more understated one:

by the Belamy Brothers

drove past the Grand Ol Opry, too. was cool! squeeeeee! :D


Thursday, September 16, 2010

What could cause electric trailer brakes to drag slightly at random intervals? It's driving us nuts and screwing our MPG.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Holy crap this dog is awesome. and in other news....

stumbled across this vid tonight, and it is awesome. best dancing dog i have ever seen. had to share

and in other news... we returned to Rodanthe early early this morning. very minimal damage to the park, altho the ground was wet and squishy, and the road still had some water and sand on it in places. Earl was a big threat, and a big nothing. o well, better safe, and out, than sorry and stuck there. back to work as usual

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Earl's comin' to visit...

so i'm getting the heck outta dodge. leaving tomorrow and heading a couple hours inland. hopefully the bridge stays up so we can get back.

i'll take pictures of whatever happens wherever i end up, but i won't be on the OBX, thas fer sure :D

Sunday, August 22, 2010

WARNING. pissed off rant ahead...

I like my job in NC. it's very busy here, busiest KOA i've worked at yet, and the first corporate location i've worked. there's a new manager here this year, which brings me to my complaint.

i am getting sick and friggn tired of hearing how great the last manager was. how everything was spotless and beautiful and perfect and how things have gone "so far downhill" this year. normally i would just blow this off, yeah, things tend to take a dip the first year a new manager takes over... its the learning curve. so WHY does this bother me so much this time, you ask? because in this case, the last manger let the whole park fall apart... he didn't repair ANYTHING. he would just slap a fresh coat of paint on the wall that was rotten inside and falling down, and hang a flower basket in front of it, so it LOOKED pretty... and he let the park fall to ruin like that for FIVE YEARS. now a new manager comes waltzing in, and the whole place collapses around his ears, and he's doing all he can just to keep his head above water, and every day i just hear about how great the last guy was.


yeah, the grass gets a bit tall on occasion, we're severely short-staffed. we have maybe 1/4 to 1/3 the staff we SHOULD have for a park this size. we get on it as fast as we can. yeah, the bathrooms get a little dirty-looking sometimes. hello, we're at a beach, people track sand in constantly. every dall, all day... and with the aforementioned short-staff situation, we can't mop as often as we should, but it does get done! there's a nail sticking out of the deck? someone's there with a hammer. toilet clogs? someone's there with a plunger. we're doing our darndest, but there's only so many of us, and so many places we can be at one time.

and to that guy who pissed and moaned about the dump station, and then wrote a paragraphs-long nasty review about how pissed you were and you were never coming back and we're an ecological disaster...shut up. we don't want or need you back if you gonna act like that. the whole park is on a septic. not sewer. no city pipes hauling your crap away, no siree. there's a big ol crap tank down there, and they DO give out after a while... especially when handing the needs of a 300 space park. you just happened to be the lucky guy that the thing blew up on. if you'd come in the office and expressed your displeasure in a reasonable manner, we woulda probably given you some money back, maybe a free night at some later date when things were fixed up right. they're nice, reasonable people here... but no, you came storming in acting like a d-bag and threatening to call the EPA on us. well guess what. that dump station has a BRAND NEW tank now. there is no 'ecological disaster'. the thing works like a charm now. and it isn't because you pissed and moaned and had a temper tantrum in our office. it's because it broke, and our new manager actually FIXES things that break. imagine that!

we've been here for a month and a half, and we've gotten a brand new septic tank, new bikes on order (because the old ones are hideously old and rusted and falling apart, like everything else), and a new bouncy pillow. the pillow is important because the old one broke. people LOVED the pillow. corporate said they wouldn't pay for a new one. it was too expensive. the manager somehow managed to GET ONE ANYWAY.

so yeah, we don't have flowerpots hanging out front and fresh paint on everything this year. sorry. we're actually spending the corporate budget on FIXING things that are broke this year. i guess NEXT year we'll focus on pretty.

signed, that smiling face at the front desk.