Monday, November 20, 2017

Hidden in the Hills

Odometer 58204
Trip Meter 0

Joan and I are guests at the home of friends in the  suburbs north of Phoenix, Arizona.  Our motorhome is set-up in one of four RV spaces they have on their large property.   Our hosts are Model T aficionados, never far from their collection of Ts.

Ralph and Ann in their 1913 Touring Car
I am lucky to be a student at the Model T "academy" here at our host's winter residence.  I get the opportunity to work on engines, transmissions, cooling systems, electrical systems, tires and chassis, under the guidance and instruction of a master who has repaired, built and rebuilt Ts for over 34 years.

On this particular morning Joan and I have been invited on a tour with our hosts, and two other couples.  Our entourage includes a 1910 Commercial Roadster more commonly known as a "mother in law car" which we will be driving,  our host's 1913 touring car, a 1912 speedster, and a second Commercial Roadster.  Our plan is to take the Ts on the 21st Annual Artist Studio Tour called Hidden in the Hills which is an extended tour of various artists studios and residences in Cave Creek, Carefree, and N. Scottsdale, area. 

But first we drive our fleet of Model Ts 15 miles to the nearby city of Cave Creek for breakfast at Big Earls Greasy Eats, a re-purposed 50s style gas station which is now a very popular diner on Cave Creek Highway.  Four Model Ts make a big splash anywhere they go and here is no exception.  The newest of the cars is 104 years old,still looks good and best of all, still runs well!

Dick and Helen  arrive in their 1912 Speedster

This art tour is huge and it is not possible to see it all in one day.  The format is like a treasure hunt.  The eight of us navigate from place to place with our map/brochures in hand, following the sinuous back roads of this beautiful community.

Paul at Desert Rat Forge shows his metal smithing skills
Some houses were modest, some were storefronts or commercial studios, while others were million dollar mansions like gems in the hills above town.  Hard to say what impressed me the most, some of the homesites or the art- both were superb!  We saw jewelry, pottery, paintings, woodworks, ironworks, tapestry, glass, gourds, etchings, sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, photography, stone, leather, drawings, gems, collages and more.  Everywhere we went we were welcomed and given preference in parking.  Anonymous, but driving celebrity cars!

The sunset as seen from our patio
After an exciting day of touring we returned to our home on wheels in time to take in another beautiful Arizona sunset.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Night in the Desert

Odometer  57708
Trip 308 miles

Another late start for us today.  When we went to start up the Honda and run it through it's gears before a day of towing, we found the battery was dead.  Our owners manual says that after every 250 miles of towing it is necessary to start the car and churn the oil in the transmission.  We have jumper cables, but they will not reach the batteries in the motorhome from the car hooked to the tow bar.  Our options were to:
A.  unhook the car and push it closer to the battery compartment or
B.  take a battery out of the motorhome and haul it back to the car.

We chose B and that took some time, but it did work, and we were soon on our way east and south.

The big Cat diesel in the motorhome decided to do a hard start this morning also.  We are not sure exactly why, but this does happen from time to time.  The engine will catch and immediately die.  And it does this several times in a row, usually with a big cloud of dark sooty exhaust.  What seems to work the best in this situation is not very easy on the starter- we hold the ignition in the start position through the brief run portion and goes immediately into restarting.  This worked for us today, but always sets my teeth on edge, wondering what it's doing to the starter and ring gear.  The overnight temperature was 30- 32 degrees F and we had the engine heater on for about 40 minutes before starting, which I think, kept the glow plugs from doing a full cycle.

I snapped this photo of our desert campsite just before dark

When we did finally get underway, we hopped onto I-80 east to Fernley and then route 50 to Fallon, before settling in on US95 south which would take us to Vegas.
We stopped in Hawthorne to make lunch and were sitting at the table eating sandwiches and soup when an MP knocked on the door and told us we were in front of a Federal facility and would have to move immediately!  We looked up and there was a brick wall between us and a parking lot on the other side.  Hmm... what-ever we weren't going to argue.  We were pretty much finished so we hit the road.
What I did next was really stupid!  I cruised through town and out the other side- up into the hills for almost 20 minutes before I realized- I was on the wrong road!  I'd taken Route 359 towards Mono Lake- not 95 South to Tonopah, which is a left turn in the middle of town.  We found a gravel pit where we could turn our 53 feet of vehicle around and slunk back to Hawthorne and US 95.

An hour later we were leaving Tonopah heading for Goldfield, we decided that we were both ready to stop for the day. 

Our little side trip had cost us the extra time we needed to get to Beatty and set up before dark.  Our daily destinations are usually only a guideline anyway- we don't have a schedule to keep.  The weather was sun shining through a high thin overcast, so that coupled with the high elevation, it never really got very warm.

We found small gravel road that headed off into the distance, and decided to nose our bus out into the desert about 500 feet from the road and stay for the night. 


The furnace, the new batteries, and the new inverter panel made our evening and overnight stay a very comfortable one.  In the morning we started the generator to make coffee and toast, and while we were, I hooked up the battery charger to the Honda battery, which was DOA again.  We let the Generator run for about an hour as we finished breakfast and stowed all our gear.  When we were ready to depart, the Honda started just fine.  We stirred the oil in the Honda's transmission and we were off with an early start time of 8 AM.  Some kind of a record for us!!

Joan called our friends Steve and Trish in Las Vegas to see if we could meet for lunch on our way through.  As luck would have it, they had no obligations and arranged to meet us a Khoury's a Mediterranean restaurant off  West Sahara .  We had some excellent food, and had a great time catching up the latest news. 

Steve gave us directions to keep us out of the majority of the downtown traffic, and within 30 minutes we were headed south on 515 towards Boulder City where we would catch US 93 south to Kingman.

We changed time (ahead) as we entered Arizona making our arrival in Kingman around 5 PM.  Joan found a Passport RV park which should save us 50% on our rent tonight.  Sunrise RV is an older park right off I-40, and they had a space available, however they would not honor the Passport 1/2 price stay saying this was their "busy season"  Hmm... At $30 it was still a good value and we registered and got set-up in a pull through space.

Our Home For Tonight at Sunrise RV Park in Kingman, AZ
 I say it is an older park because the spaces are so narrow, our slides almost touched the neighbors picnic table!  Being in a park meant I could charge the Honda battery thoroughly overnight, and I sneaked in a "bucket wash" on the coach.  A bucket wash is where I fill a collapsible canvas bucket 1/2 full of water and dribble in some RV Wash™ which allows me to do a rinse-less wash with a microfiber cloth.  Wipe off the dirt- rinse and repeat until the water is black- water a plant and repeat.  Usually 3 buckets gets me all the way around as high as I can reach, and the wheels.


We had a pleasant night last night, and in the morning, we had an uneventful start with the car battery topped up and the car still hooked up to tow, we were off with a minimum of fan fare.

Our destination today is our friends Ralph and Ann's house in a suburb north of Phoenix.  They have invited us to mooch-dock at their ranch (full hookups!) for a couple of weeks, while I expand on my knowledge of all things Model T.  It's an easy 3-1/2 hours down the road for us on a hazy/sunny day with temps from 57 this morning to 85 this afternoon in Phoenix.
We roll in to our friend's house at 3PM and get set-up in one of their 4 RV spaces, just in time for cocktails on the veranda.  The Honda battery held on just fine- so we'll see if it stays topped up.

After some cool beverages and a lot of catching up, Ralph takes me to the shop and outlines the first 3 projects that we'll tackle tomorrow- Awesome!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Medford to Reno

Odometer 57400 miles
315 miles this trip

We left Central Point at 9:30 this morning and headed down I-5 past Ashland, OR,  up to the summit of the Siskiyou Pass (4310 ft) and into Yreka, CA.  In Yreka we took the exit onto Cal 3 where we indulged ourselves with Starbucks coffee and sweet rolls!  Finding parking for a 53 footer can be challenging.

We laughed as we were heading back to the bus with our coffee it looked like we were pulling through the drive-thru lane of the Burger King next door!

The weather in the Rogue Valley (Medford area) was partly cloudy to mostly sunny, and temps in the mid 40s.  I have to admit the sun streaming through the windshield felt mighty good.  We were rather surprised that we hit ground fog at the Siskiyou summit and it stayed with us all the way to Weed, CA.  The fog lifted just in time to give us an opportunity to photograph Mt. Shasta as it slid into view in front of us.

 We continued South on I-5 to where we turn east onto California Highway 89 near Mount Shasta City.  We take Cal 89 south and east through the northern end of the Sierras before turning onto route 44 which takes us further east  past Lassen Volcanic National Park and down a very steep grade into Susanville, CA.    At Susanville we join US highway 395 which takes us south and east to Reno, Nevada.

Lunch stop at Hat Creek on  Cal Hwy 89

This route is well known to us, but the scenery never gets boring.  Today the sun turned the yellow leaves of the cottonwoods a bright golden color and the foothills were frosted with a hint of snow.  We stopped at a gravel turnout near Hat Creek to make a quick lunch

This natural log jam made for a nice deep pond and a nifty waterfall

I wandered along the banks of the stream while Joan fixed us a quick lunch of veggie tamales and "Cowboy Caviar" (Corn and bean salsa) from Trader Joes.  Delicious!

This route is high elevation and we are getting a lucky break to be able to transit these 3-4,000 foot summits at this time of the year without a drop of snow

Joan has been studying the RV parks in and around Reno and Fernley, and suggests we stay at the Grand Sierra Resort Casino in Reno.  Easy on and off the freeway and relatively inexpensive at $26.50 + tax with our Good Sam membership.

Sunset over Reno and the Grand Sierra Resort rising into the night sky.  We watch folks driving floating golf balls into the "lake" behind the resort and casino, before retiring to the coach for dinner and some relaxation. 
Tomorrow we have set our sights on the small town of Beatty, NV

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Deferred Maintenance

56898 miles

188 miles this trip

Heading South for the Winter

The old Grey Goose is flying south for the winter

This is how you reach the gas furnace in our motorhome (behind rear wheel above water heater)

Well, Almost.
First we have a little maintenance to do.  When we last parked it, we had made a list of things to fix, and well, it never got done.  So, time to get serious.  With two weeks til departure, now I've got to hustle to fix the furnace/ propane problems, and the inverter, and a full lube on the chassis.

Six year old house batteries
My first thought with the inverter is that our house batteries were 6 years old and we've hauled them all around the US and used them hard for most of that time.  I called Les Schwab  in Coos Bay some 50 miles north of us and had them charge up 3 new replacement batteries and drove up to get them.

I have been very pleased with these heavy duty truck batteries, and I know I'm supposed to have a deep cycle battery in this location, but in their infinite wisdom, Winnebago sized the battery trays such that the typical 6 volt golf cart batteries do not fit.  After much research and talking to people I trust, and given my past history with these big heavy truck batteries- I got the same batteries again and installed them.
Sadly- the inverter did not spring back to life, as I had imagined that it would do.

I removed and inspected the Inverter, and seeing nothing obviously wrong with it,called on my buddy Mike to see if he could find the problem.  Mike suggested his son Paul would be the best person to diagnose the problem.  He was right about that!  Paul did several checks on the inverter and pronounced it ancient but in very good condition.  Paul told me to buy a new remote panel and wire set.  I got on Amazon, and had an exact replacement on it's way.  Sure enough, I plugged the new wire and panel in at the electrical bay and voila!  The new panel, and inverter worked beautifully !!  Now all I had to do is run the new wire from the electrical bay to the status panel in the galley.

Inverter control cable pinched paper thin and shorted out

New inverter remote panel (bottom)
As I attempted to find out how the original wire was routed, I found this.  The wire had been crushed by the bedroom slideout.  I'm so glad I had not gotten lazy and decided the re-use the existing cable with the new panel!  My friend and neighbor Howard helped me navigate my way around the open spaces of the RV with the new wire, eventually ending up in the correct space!  Needless to say, I chose a different route than the original. 

Oil runs out of the propane regulator and hoses

One more problem we had to investigate was the contamination of our propane regulator with oil.  We lost the use of our propane furnace, and water heater at the end of last season.  When we got to Port Orford in May I checked the propane tank and delivery system.  The regulator and the lower hoses were filled with oil.   Faithful blog readers may remember that going south in 2015 we developed a crack in our 30 gallon propane tank.  It was covered under warranty and replaced in Tucson.  We were worried that the replacement tank may have been incorrectly installed.  All summer I never got back to the problem.  NOW two weeks before our departure, I get excited enough to make some calls to the manufacturer.  I am assured by the manufacturer's rep that it cannot be the tank at fault.  I find out that my friend Mike is in Coos Bay, so I call and ask him to bring me a replacement regulator from one of the RV shops.  Luckily, the regulator works with no problems, and we decide to run with it and see if the problem returns.
Hwy 101 near Port Orford
 There are many checklists that must be completed before launch.  Or loading manifest for food, clothing, and electronics, is one, and the house preparations is another.  Gutters cleaned, water turned off, heat set on low, etc, etc.
Launch day is finally here and, of course, the weather has turned already, and we leave Port Orford in a driving rainstorm (pun intended)
After hooking up the car, my jeans are soaked and my sneakers go squish with each step.  I climb aboard and warm up as I change to a dry pair of pants and dry shoes.

It's all worth it as the bus starts to roll and a new adventure begins.

After a very late start the first night we land in Medford, at the brand new Southern Oregon RV Park in Central Point on the Expo grounds.  Very nice- we'd recommend it.  Sorry I didn't think to get some photos!  Tomorrow we continue on to Reno, NV, and we hope a little better weather!

Thanks to all who helped us with our preparations, and a fond farewell til Spring.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Friday, November 10, 2017

Model T Project

Odometer  56281
Trip meter 0

Port Orford, OR

Been a while since our last post- time to catch up.  We are spending most of the summer at our Northern roost in Oregon.

1919 Model T Roadster

Magnet retainer plate found in transmission
 I admit to being anxious to get here because I have an exciting project awaiting me.  At the end of last summer a good friend left a Model T Ford in our garage for me to "have fun with".  We did have fun motoring around and learning how to drive it, until one day it wouldn't go into reverse.  I took off an inspection cover on the transmission and discovered that something was coming loose and pieces of metal were being churned up into the transmission bands.

On our stay with Ralph and Ann at their home in New River, AZ last March I went through a course of Model T mechanic's school, courtesy of my good friend Ralph.  The hope was that I would be ready to tackle a minor engine overhaul on the 1919 T when we got back to Oregon.

This car is 98 years old and the last time it has been maintained is somewhere back in the 60's, so the bolts are rusty and everything is caked with mud and congealed grease and oil.  I rented an engine hoist and borrowed an engine stand to be able to pull the motor out and get it mounted to where I could further disassemble it.

Model T engine on a custom mount
The engine needs custom side adapter to fit on the engine stand.  A typical modern engine would mount up from the transmission end.   T engines need to mount from the side.  I welded up this adapter with help from a good buddy here who has a lot of steel stock "left overs".
Lifting the transmission off the engine 

The engine needed to be held in a nose down configuration in order to remover the transmission, and get to the magneto, where the magnet retaining plates were breaking loose.

I decided that I wanted the engine to look spiffy when the repairs were finished, so I elected to clean and paint the parts as I took them off.  Having the hoist and stand meant that I could do the work by myself, working my own hours.

Setting the magnets on the flyweel

Once I got to the flywheel and the magneto magnets, I replaced all the attaching screws and peened over the ends to keep them from backing out of the tapped holes in the flyweel.

I really needed a dial indicator and a milling machine to set the magnets all at the exact same height, but alas, not having the above, I did what any T owner would have done "back in the day" and rigged a contraption to get me as close as I could, and hoped that would do.  So using a laser level and a belt sander, I put it back together.

Primed and painted the block

I found just the color I wanted for the engine block and had Jackie at our local auto parts store order me a couple of spray cans in an engine enamel.  I also bought some semi gloss black for the frame and other supporting elements.

I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say there was a lot more work involved than I want to showcase here, which culminated in THIS!

The engine looks and runs beautifully.  I involved Joan in many parts of the rebuild and the re-install and she was a real trooper, pitching in to hold, turn, carry, crank, etc, as requested, when requested.  Joan and I relined all the transmission bands with wood linings and got them installed in the transmission before we reinstalled the motor.

My mentor Ralph arrived in town at about this time and assisted me with the tuning and timing to get it running like the little tractor she is.

Over the summer we also purchased and installed 4 new tires, and upholstered the seat back and bottom.

1919 Model T Running Gear with 1923 Roadster Body

All the restoration work was immensely satisfying, and I'd do it again in a second, but the real fun in this T is in the driving!

Joan and I have a standing appointment at 3-4 in the afternoon, we take off in the T, usually with friends.  We take a "tour of the town" which is a leisurely drive around as many of the roads, streets, and avenues as we can find.  It's a fun and relaxing way to find out what's going on in town.  We always get in a stop at the Port and watch the activities for a while and scan for whales in the bay.  Summer brings our local pod of whales in very close- sometimes only 50 ft from the docks.

Ah the life!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan