Getting 2024 off the ground

Conroe Texas

It’s almost May and we haven’t hit the road yet. Usually we’re off and gone by February but, not this year. If you read my last post you know that we had engine problems with the coach. It turned out to be a warped head on the engine due to the issues that we had last year. Water was leaking slowly by the head gasket and into the crankcase. Oil in the water. We put it into the shop for 3 weeks in February. A rebuilt head cost us $9K. We stayed local some time in Conroe, TX and some in Brazoria trying to build up a little confidence in the repair (and a little money).

When we stay in Conroe each winter we have shared time between Thousand Trails Lake Conroe and the Cagle Recreation Area just 8 miles farther north. Our TT membership is a park pass that gets us 2 weeks in the park. Then we have to spend a week out of the park and can return for two more weeks for the whole year. We stayed here 5 Months this time.

The RV park in Brazoria that we stay at is K&J RV Park on CR400 just outside of town. It’s a nice little park with several long-term rentals and a few short term. The spots are large, gravel and grass and come with full hook-ups. It’s only 5 miles from our oldest daughter and the grandkids.

We spent the Christmas and Easter holidays with the kids in Brazoria. While we were there we took them to Surfside Beach a couple of times. It was a bit cold for the adults but the kids loved it.

Our oldest grandson, Bo, has become involved with the Brazoria Train Museum. I went with him one Saturday to see. Wow! Every boy’s dream. He’s the youngest one there by at least 55 years.

We seem of have adopted a new dog. His name is Jax. I’m not really happy about traveling with a large, hairy dog. It was not in our original plans. But; he is pretty well behaved. The only real problem is that he can’t get along with other dogs. He’s part Chow and part Golden Retriever (we think) and about 10 years old. When we got him in December he was skin-and-bones and looking poorly. Since then he’s gained 20lbs and lots of hair. People keep saying he’s beautiful. I don’t see it.

We spent March and April doing small repairs including a new microwave/conv. oven and a new gas stove-top. Reorganized some of the storage spaces, added more water filters and generally tried to get the coach in shape to hit the road once more. Plans are to leave Conroe on the 28th heading north. Little Rock, Memphis and St. Louis, then on to Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Should be back in Conroe before Nov 5 in time to vote.

Good luck and safe travels to all of you who are joining us on the road.

2023. What a year that was!

Hey everyone. We haven’t posted here in quite a while but, here goes nothing. As it turns out, retirement can present itself with a lot of distractions and issues that you hadn’t planned on. Setting aside the time to write and post on a regular basis has proven to be difficult at best. Beth has continued to post items on Facebook and many of you follow her there. Thank you. I will be taking over the website posts, probably stealing much of the content from her Facebook posts. Look for more later.

SO, 2023. We started out at the end of January leaving Houston and headed for the east coast. We had been having problems at the end of 2022 with the coach engine overheating. There were problems with the hydraulic system that drives the cooling fans. The filter was plugged and of course obsolete. Freightliner wanted $6K to replace most of the system with an upgrade. I declined and found a way to construct my own filter. I thought that we had successfully addressed the issues but by the time we made Beaumont it was painfully clear that, if anything, the issues were getting worse. We made Beaumont at sunset and in the rain. The traffic was bad and forced us to go slower than desired and the coach overheated repeatedly. We spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. 🙁 (A first for us.)

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

I had discovered that if I held the coach at exactly 55 mph the temperature would hold steady. We proceeded to the east going 55. However, we were losing the power steering at slow speeds, also (same hydraulic system). Turning at intersections became a real challenge. More than once Beth had to stand up and help me turn the steering wheel. I learned eventually to downshift to 1st gear as I turned with one foot on the brake and one on the gas, keeping the rpms up and quickly upshifting as we cleared the corner. All while avoiding curbs, cars and other obstacles with the car on back. After studying the system and researching online, I determined that the hydraulic pump was failing. As some of you are aware, our coach is sixteen years old. Two truths about an old RV are, things frequently break and, most of them are obsolete!

Off to see the Wild Ponies on a barrier island.

By the time we made Virginia, months later, I located a pump in Georgia at a small truck service center and had it mailed to us. Then I found a Freightliner Service Center in PA that would install it. I usually do my own repairs, but this was just too much to try in an RV Park. With that successfully done, we continued on to discover that the problem wasn’t completely solved. The cooling fans were spinning full speed. We sounded like a jet engine coming down the highway and we still lost power steering occasionally. I discovered that the electronic controller was not functioning correctly and set out to find a replacement. Obsolete of course. No one had one. One of the Freightliner service centers finally had some information. The last of their stock had been shipped to Vintage Parts in CA. I looked online but, there was no Vintage Parts in CA. Found one in WI though. I called and the lady said, “I have one.” But she couldn’t sell it to me. I had to arrange for a Freightliner dealer to buy it on my behalf. It took another month, but we got it done and installed it. So, after $6K in parts and repairs, finally, the coach was running great, and I relaxed a little.

Our travels up the east coast were great. We enjoyed ourselves staying on the coastal islands and touring the cities. In Virginia, we flew our oldest grandson up to join us. We camped at a Boon Dockers Welcome farm in Maryland and took the train into Washington DC every day for a week before flying Bo back home. Our nine days of solid walking wore us out! We rested for several days after that. We needed it!

New Hampshire was gorgeous. Really loved the countryside and mountains views. However, the day we ascended Mount Washington to ride the Cog Railway. The coach overheated big-time. Steep climb, two lane road with no shoulder. We overheated 4 times, and it was July 2nd. We stayed in the parking lot until July 5th before calling a tow truck as we didn’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday. Sam’s Roadside Assistance came through for us. They got us a tow ($275 out of pocket) and found a small diesel repair shop nearby. At this point I want to praise and highly recommend Dark Horse Diesel to anyone near Bartlett, New Hampshire. They are a small shop and treated us fantastically. We stayed in the coach alongside the shop until the last few days when we moved into a nearby motel. Diagnosis? The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler had burst at the seams, dumping all of our coolant. Another $9K spent and we were on our way, broke but happy.

We made it to Maine and stayed a few weeks in Wells, Maine. We drove our car up to Bar Harbor but didn’t get any further than that. We had planned on an excursion into Nova Scotia, but lacking any reserve funds for emergencies, I decided it was time to go home. Of course, I don’t make the decisions on that regard and any of you who live in Texas; remember how hot it was in July? Beth refused to head home to the high temps but agreed that we shouldn’t continue on North. So, what did we do?

We found a work-camping job in western New York state through the website. It was at a privately run resort on Lake Rushford. Beautiful place high up in the wooded mountains. We were given a free spot for the coach, hidden away up on the mountainside with water and electricity and I worked at the resort for four days a week for an hourly wage. Beth especially loved the temperatures that were in the 70s in July and August. Thank you, Kathy, Dan, Jerry and Bill. You were all great people to spend the summer with. We had a fantastic stay!

Lake Rushford, in New York, is down below the clouds.

Two and a half months later, money saved up, temperatures dropping and the leaves turning all around, we headed back down south. Back down through PA, WV, TN, and MS, we stayed at a number of COE and Harvest Host locations along the way. We arrived in Conroe, TX November 20 and have been bouncing from Thousand Trails in Conroe, Cagle Recreational Park in Willis and K&J RV Park in Brazoria (where the grandkids are).

The view from our site in Western New York State during our work camping stay.

We ended the year with the Christmas holidays and the discovery of water in our oil pan. Well, crap. But that’s a 2024 story.