Friday, April 20, 2007

From Lordsburg

Life is full of major defeats and small victories. My small victories today were several. My defeat was major.

I have learned the routine with getting the decorative and thoroughly inconvenient wheel covers off and bought my own pipe wrench so I could get them off myself. With the wheel covers off one can get at the lug nuts. (The Lansing minor league baseball team is the Lansing Lugnuts by the way, in case you were wondering.) They are an oddball size and the truckstop where I wanted them tightened to the specified torque did not have a socket that would fit. I went to a few places that didn't have large sockets, then to one that had a row of them but I didn't know which to get. But by the trial and error of buying one after another and returning them, I discovered that all day I had been wanting a 30mm socket and had not known it. I bought a pipe wrench in the same place. Later I will find a place with a Filson wrench and dump the pipe wrench in California, but for now.....

I actually succeeded by mutual intimations in bribing the wheel-and-tire guy at the truck stop in Deming to work on my bus (using my exciting new 30mm socket) ahead of the 18-wheelers lined up there. Even a palm already greasy can be greased. $30 and worth every penny. It was one of those small adventures that are precious for being preposterous.

Between Deming and Lordsburg on I-10 is a mountain pass which marks the continental divide. For days now there has been a stiff wind out of the west (presumably Mariah) which for me is a head wind. The Pachyderm has an immense cross section to the wind and clearly was going to get me killed by slowing to a crawl on the way up to the pass. My small victory was having the foresight /intimidation to get to Lordsburg via Silver City, an additional 40 miles but over little-used roads.

In addition to other small victories this morning, this eveing I succeeded in broiling steak over a portable Coleman grill I got in Las Cruces. I have been looking forward to this for a while now. Restaurant steak is usually too salty for me so I have learned to avoid it. And there is a sense of accomplishment in cooking one's own dinner.

The last of the small victories was delightful. I arrived in Lordsburg at dusk and was looking for a place to look at a telephone book and came upon Holiday Inn. In looking for a place to park I discovered a large graveled area next to a wide field with a few heavy trucks parked in it. I parked there too. The people at the desk were ungracious because I was not going to stay at their motel and because I am quite dirty from crawling around and under the Pachyderm all day. In returning to the Pachyderm in the broad graveled area, I discovered that I can get Holiday Inn's wi-fi signal just fine. Smile.

The defeat was that in spite of the new alternator, the Pachyderm's electrical system still occasionally shuts down under heavy load and sometimes under not-so-heavy load. It did it once between Deming and Silver City and again between Silver City and Lordsburg. (I love Western place names.) The first time it started again almost immediately. The second time I sat in the road for fifteen minutes before it would start. Even the emergency flasher was disabled. I will take it to yet another mechanic in the morning

But in spite of this frustration, during the whole day I was active and busy, I exerted myself, and enjoyed most of what I did.. I accumulated almost 12,000 steps on my walkmeter. That is a successful day, whether the Pachyderm works consistently or not.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The SOB's at Freightliner El Paso accomplished almost nothing in spite of charging a great deal and wasting eight days of my time. I got almost to Deming, New Mexico and had a sidewall blowout on a front tire. That took two full days of screwing around to get a front tire replaced. And to get the other tire replaced as well because of cracks in its sidewalls. I had the air filter replaced. It was clogged and changing it significantly improved the performance of the engine. But it still spontaneously shuts down under heavy load, i.e. highway speeds. I had assumed that fixing the air filter and thus the air pressure problem would also fix the shutting down problem since I assumed that the engine was being throttled off by too little air.

Now I have no idea at all what the problem is. I drove back to the mechanics shop in Deming that changed the air filter (it is a huge cylinder and hard to get to). They said that they didn't do such work and that I had to go to an RV service department to get it fixed and the nearest ones were in Las Cruces. So I backtracked fifty miles to Las Cruces. And learned the exact opposite. The RV service department I spoke to said they did NOT do that kind of work. So my trip to Las Cruces was pointless. But since I am here I am going to talk to yet another mechanic tomorrow. So it goes on and on. I cannot see a way get out of this without solving it.

While it is discouraging and dispiriting, it is still true that I have gotten three of the problems fixed: the tailpipe, the air filter, and the tires. If I can get the engine shutting down problem fixed, I think I can go home.