Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Had a great day in CDA on the fourth. Went to the parade with new friends Kevin & Melissa. Barb met them last winter while here in CDA visiting the folks. They rented the house across the street. Fantastic couple (dinks)...our favorite!!! They have 2 very well mannered dogs. We offered to trade our kids for their dogs, but no go...haha
The parade was good sized and lots of military and servicemen and women, so the patriotism was high!! Later in the day we hopped on one of the lake cruise boats and motored out to the middle of the lake to watch the fireworks.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Been awhile since we posted. The kids and grandkids came for a visit. The photos are one from our hike around Tubbs Hill looking onto the CDA Resort & Marina. Barb and I do a walk around the floating boardwalk every couple of days. Have to admit, this is a fantastic place to spend the summer :) Other photo is the 4 generations on the folks' back deck. Ray (97) Barb's dad, Bruce (s0n-in-law), Todd (grandson) and of course me :P
Monday, June 2, 2008
All settled in the RV park here in Coeur d'Alene. Barb's parents are glad that we're here to help with the summer yardwork. The Coeur d'Alene Rv "resort" has a great heated indoor pool and gym so we may even lose a few pounds this summer. The temps here are continuing the "unseasonable" trends and staying in the 50's & 60's with pretty regular rain, but that will end soon and we should be seeing a more normal summer. Considering the alternative 100 degree temps in Tucson, we'll adapt just fine :)
Our Verizon broadband is working good and we added a Cradlepoint WiFi router and amp so we'll stay connected for the summer. After losing the awning on the trip up, we decided to go for a 10x10 gazebo for our "patio". We plan on staying here through September and will then head back south to Twin Falls for Kevin's dad's knee surgery. By the end of October we'll know if we're returning to CDA to continue caring for Barb's parents, or heading back to Tucson. Stay tuned......
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
We left Twin Falls today and headed west on I-84. 45 miles out of town our awning decided to unfurl :( Nothing like doing RV repair on the side of the freeway. The wind was howling and we could tell the fabric was toast, so I grabbed the razor knife and Barb now has several yards of outdoor cushion fabric. Guess I know what I'm getting for my birthday now.
We continued through the strong headwinds into Baker Oregon where it combined with rain. Up and over the blues and we're now settled in for the evening at the Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton. Hopefully the awning was the only problem for the trip....
Monday, May 19, 2008
Finishing up the week in Twin Falls. We head to Coeur d'Alene Tuesday(tomorrow). Never found the big oil leak on the bus, so we'll head down the road and stop in Boise for another look. Got to drive the Cadillac. Will leave it here for now but may come down and get it for a second car in CDA Helped dad with his Ercoupe. He's in the middle of a major rebuild before the July airshow.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
After many long days and nights we're finally packed and ready to head north to Idaho. We depart early tomorrow morning and will make it to exciting and scenic Needles California. Next day we'll head into Vegas for a 2 night stay to see some old friends. We should be arriving in Twin Falls by Thursday the 8th. We'll spend a couple of weeks at Kevin's parent's house, then off to Coeur d'Alene where we'll be staying the rest of the summer. We now have Verizon Mobile Broadband so we can keep up the posts and communications as we travel.....stay tuned.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Driving 30+ year old vehicles comes with it inherent problems up front. Unless you are an experienced mechanic and hopefully have the tools, space, and other resources to support these vehicles, finding reliable, EXPERIENCED mechanics can be a challenge.
We first encountered this with the purchase of the 1980 bus. We were fortunate to find a bus shop in our then home of Las Vegas that had many years of experience with GM coaches. Unfortunately, a year after we bought the bus, he retired and closed his shop. We had learned of a few remaining GM mechanics, one on the west coast and one on the east coast, but having to drive thousands of miles for mechanical work wasn't our preferred option. We did find another "bus shop" within close proximity but ended up paying a premium price for any work we had done.
A few years later as we were fulltiming, we lost the clutch crossing Hoover Dam. Not a good place to break down. Thankfully we had the FMCA roadside insurance through CoachNet and were hauled back to Las Vegas to the Freightliner dealer for repair. So here's the lesson learned from this experience:
- Roadside assistance policies are worth their weight in gold. For a $100 annual premium, we avoided paying a $450 tow bill. I can't imagine traveling without this protection. CoachNet was very helpful and responsive. Our 40' bus cannot be towed front wheels up and must be flat hauled. Not all roadside policies pay for this, so make sure you choose one that does. Even the GMC Motorhome may need to be flat hauled if the airbags are deflated.
- Realize that the roadside assistance provider will have you hauled/towed to the "nearest" service facility, which may not be the "best". If you want to end up someplace else, negotiate with them to do this. It may cost you additional, but it could be worth it.
- The major truck franchises (like Freightliner) charge premium rates for RVs and in my opinion don't really like working on them. Avoid them if at all possible. Make sure you discuss in detail with the service writer what your repair needs and expectations are and make them provide you a written estimate of repair costs. We were given a verbal "around $800" quote to replace our clutch using parts we provided. After 6 days of waiting, we were presented with a bill for over $1700. The mechanic that actually performed the work told me that our clutch could have been adjusted and didn't need replacing. Since they hold you "hostage" you often have to pay the bill or end up with a legal battle on your hands later on.
After we bought the Palm Beach I took it to the "neighborhood" mechanic for a check-up. It was running rough and was in need of new belts, hoses, etc. He discovered 4 stuck and bent valves. $2000 later, we had rebuilt heads, new belts and hoses, and a tuneup. I didn't consider this amount exhorbitant, but again, make sure you have a clear understanding with the mechanic of what you expect to be done and how much he estimates it will cost. The GMC Motorhomes, while unique in design, use many standard GM parts and "most" reputable mechanics can perform basic repair on them. When our mechanic replaced the hoses, he capped off the lines that went to the water heater, not knowing the coach design and where they went. These kinds of issues can be avoided by taking your coach to someone with experience working with them.
Most recently, I took the bus to the local International Harvester truck dealer (didn't I previously say to avoid these guys?) Out of frustration here in Tucson, they were chosen because they were the closest shop with a pit and had done work for other local bus friends without complaint. All I needed was a competant mechanic to walk under the coach, locate, and fix the air leaks. Simple enough, or so I thought, and I had expressed this in detail to the Service Writer. 3 days after the promised date, I was contacted and informed that the rear leak was due to a bad air tank. It was "obsolete" and they had no way of finding a replacement, end of statement. The front leak however was simple to fix. I needed new airhorns. But wait, I said, I disconnected the OEM airhorns when I first bought the bus since they didn't work and there should be no air to them. Nope, they were leaking and could be replaced, said the Service Writer. At $105 per hour and 75% markup on parts, I really didn't need the airhorns to work and I would eventually replace them myself, so I told them to just "cap off" the line and call it good.
When I picked up the bus, the total bill was $174 (could have been much worse I thought), so I gladly paid the bill and went out to start the bus. The first problem I had after I got it aired up was the parking brake (air) would not disengage. Never had this happened before. After a few attempts, it released and I was off to the house. When I arrived home, I was unable to set the parking brake...hmmmm.... So I shut the bus down, left it in gear, and went out to investigate my problem. What I discovered first stunned and then infuriated me.
The air valve for the parking brake exhausts through a 1/4" airline which drops out under the coach just below the driver's seat area. The mechanic (and I use this term loosely) had inserted a capscrew into the line to "plug the air leak" DOH!!!!!! To add insult to injury I also discovered that the air horns they were referring to were the cheap $20 plastic set I had bought at Checker and stuck under the cab. They had pulled the plastic airline off of them and disconnected the 12v wire that powered the electric momentary compressor. Now I knew why the parking brake wouldn't set or release properly. After an email, a letter, and a voicemail, I still have not heard back from the Service Manager.
SUMMARY & CONCLUSIONS
- Accept and understand that we drive vehicles that are no longer serviced by the manufacturer nor many of today's repair facilities.
- Those that still claim to work on our vehicles may not be skilled nor qualified to do so. Make sure they are recommended by another GM owner or are a recognized business through one of our GM clubs or groups. (I have compiled my trusted vendor list below)
- Never have your vehicle worked on without an estimate (written preferred) of the repair costs.
- Communication is the key to successful repair work. Ask questions and clearly define your expectations.
- Realize that the remaining businesses that still work on GMC Motorhomes and buses are in all reality doing it because they share our passion for the vehicle. Very few (if any) could survive fulltime on the business we provide them.
- You are paying not only for the actual work, but more importantly, the expertise to know what you need, where to get it, and how to install it correctly. Yes, the price may be higher than the franchise parts store.
- Don't be a cheap ass. The motto of the Western GM Bus Group is "If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch." Playing with these vehicles can be costly. If you are unable to pay the price, consider buying another type of RV. Or as my favorite bar sign reads, "If Broke, Stay Home".
MY TRUSTED VENDOR LIST (4/1/2008)
Cooperative Motor Works
Monday, April 7, 2008
After 3 attempts to inspect the 1978 wrecked Royale here in Tucson, the day finally arrived and I was able to get it hauled out to the ranch. The coach was placed on eBay by the daughter of the owners in Oklahoma. It had been hit "very hard" in the right front while here in Tucson and hauled to an insurance storage yard for auction. The owners settled with the insurance company and bought back the salvage and then placed it on eBay. The successful bidder was Jim Pasek of Minnesota who contacted me to help him with getting it moved out of the $25 per day insurance yard and out to my property where he could decide it's future.
I was able to jump the batteries and get the compressor going to air up the suspension. Having just hauled the 76 Eleganza on the 30' rollback, I knew that the higher the rear suspension, the better.
It now is happily resting at el Rancho de la Calle Seneca awaiting Jim's arrival so we can determine the next step. Stay tuned. Sorry for the crappy cell phone pics, better ones are coming.
If you're interested in parts, email me.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Finally got the Eleganza II hauled to the ranch :) I spotted the coach while helping a friend out that was looking at an MCI bus for sale by the Vision Quest organization here in Tucson. The Eleganza was in pretty sad shape with the rear glass broken out and 10 years of blowing sand and sun beating on it. A few of the side windows were losing their rubber trim, so some MORON decided to seal it with that nasty black roof tar!! The native Arizona pack rats had taken residence within, so basically it was pretty GROSS!! After making the organization an "offer they couldn't refuse", the task of getting it moved from point "A" to point "B" began.
First task was seeing if the airbags held air. Removed the lines and installed schrader valves. The portable air compressor I had brought was too small and there was no elec anywhere close. So on to the next task, getting the shifter into neutral. No keys anywhere to be found so a call to the mobile locksmith and $100 later, I had ignition and door keys :) I considered doing an LA car theft process but breaking the ignition lock would require I replace it eventually, so the $100 was a fair trade off.
Back with a larger air compressor. Bags held air but the driver side was out of alignment and the rubber had warped from years of sitting flat. Pass side refused to seal properly so the coach raised a bit, but not to full height. When the coach was parked some 10 years back, they had placed cinder blocks under it, so some heavy duty jacking was in order. With the blocks out, the coach settled onto the air suspension, with a noticeable list to the stern. Tires held air (barely).
With the transmission now in neutral and the frame out of the dirt, I attempted to pull it out of its resting place. The Vision Quest ranch is in the river bottoms of the Rillito river and the soils are very sandy. Yes, you're seeing where I'm headed (or not heading as the case may be). A few tugs with my 2 wheel drive Dodge V-10 pickup moved it about 5 feet before I lost traction. I had arranged for a 30' rollback to move the Eleganza the 33 miles to its new home but was worried that the tow truck may not be able to get to the coach. Tucson had experienced a rare spring rain a few days earlier and there was a large mud bog directly in the path of entrance and exit.
I was VERY fortunate to find one of the ranch hands onsite with his brand new Dodge 4X4
Cummins powered truck, and you know how guys are about proving their trucks can do anything!! I have to admit, it was a big task even for the 4X4 Dodge, but he pulled me out of the sandy soil, through the mud bog and onto the blacktop where the rollback could get to me easily :)
The air suspension was totally flat by this time and the tires were not happy about being rolled from their resting place. Another shot of air all around and we're ready for the rollback. Of course the first thing the driver tells me is, "The ass end of this thing will drag." Yep, I know that. Let's get it loaded. Cudos to the driver as he manuevered, blocked, and repositioned to minimize the rear end drag. The trailer hitch on the rear bore most of the drag and we were now loaded, chained, and ready for the road.
With the rear glass out and the top of the roof pod gone, I was entertained for the entire 33 mile trip to see what was going to "fly out" next. The ladder was also gone so I had no way of viewing the contents of the pod prior to departure. Let's just say that a LOT of dust blew out and only one unknown piece of trash hit the freeway :)
So now, the Eleganza II sits comfortably in it's new home next to a large shade tree to shield it a bit from the harsh AZ desert sun. Upon the first round of clean out, we discovered a cut piece of plexiglass for the rear window, a brand new alternator, and a huge hydraulic jack, oh and Barb found a rat chewed one dollar bill! The second round clean out will require the shop vac and hazmat suits...haha
Stay tuned !!!