Tag Archives: Genset

2013_08_03 (Sat) Across The Northern Tier

Today was a travel day, and an uneventful one at that (the best kind).  Linda spent some time last evening and again this morning researching places for us to stay tonight somewhere between Ashland, Wisconsin and Iron Mountain, Michigan.  The choices appeared thin; the Walmart in Ashland didn’t allow RVers to overnight due to a city ordinance, and there did not appear to be a Walmart anywhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  (I know, I know, that doesn’t seem possible.  It turns out there is one in Ironwood, and probably others we haven’t discovered yet.)  As our route eventually put us on US-2 we settled on a city RV park in Ironwood, Michigan, just over the border with Wisconsin on the north side of the highway.  Based on available online information, this park appeared to have a variety of sites from “full hookup pull-thru” to “no hookup tent site.”  (Note: Full hookup in this case meant 20A electric power, barely sufficient to recharge our house batteries, and run the refrigerator, and run the air compressor.)  The sites were first-come-first-served; no way to make a reservation.  And being a city park, there was no one to call for information on a Saturday, the city offices being closed.  So we did something very unusual for us, we started driving with no guarantee that we would be able to get a site, much less one that our coach would fit in, or if the park was even still open.

We left the Forestedge Winery (very reluctantly) at 9:19 AM CDT and headed south down MN-64 towards Akeley where we picked up MN-34 heading northeast to Walker.  MN-34 ends at MN-200 in Walker and we headed east on MN-200 from there.  MN-200 appears on the map to run straight east-west, but in actuality it bends to the left and right, and goes up and down, through lovely forests and past bodies of water, large and small.  The forests eventually gave way to shorter, scruffier growth and marshy areas that reminded us a great deal of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  MN-200 ended at US-2 and we merged on headed southeast to Duluth, Minnesota 52 miles away.

The roads were generally very good, with smooth, quiet surfaces, and we rolled along at 55 MPH except for the occasional idiot who seems unconcerned about pulling out in front of a 41,000 pound vehicle traveling fast enough to turn their sub-compact into a splotch on the highway.  No, we didn’t hit anyone, but one of the things I do not like is having to suddenly get on the brakes.  Buses do not stop quickly (in a short distance) when traveling at highway speeds.  I know that–and I generally try to drive very, very defensively–but I have no control over what other motorists do, and I find in particular that it is not always possible to anticipate what a stupid/oblivious person might do next.  One or my other pet bus peeves?; drivers who wait until the passing lane is about to run out and then decide to try to get around you.  One &%$*(#! did that to me today and he ended up facing oncoming traffic.  I am not going on the shoulder and risking putting a 41,000 pound bus in the ditch for someone that stupid.  I did not encounter the most common peeve situation today, however, as it involves entrance ramps on limited access highways; people who don’t get up to speed and pay not attention to the traffic that is already on the highway and into which they are required to merge, i.e., get up to speed and blend in.

BTW:  The weather today was almost perfect; blue skies with lots of white puffy clouds (enough to create plenty of shaded areas on the highway) and afternoon temperatures in the low 70’s.

Paul had told us to just stick with US-2 east and we would soon find ourselves in Wisconsin, and so it was.  As you approach the northwest corner of Duluth MN-194 splits off to the left and US-2 goes to the right.  Signs make it very, very clear that trucks are to use US-2 to get into, around, or through Duluth; they are NOT to get on MN-194.  One of the interesting things about driving an motorhome that’s really a commercial bus, is there are times when you are not a truck (such as highway weigh scales), and other times when you are, such as any road situation that involves height, width, length, or weight restrictions.  Toll roads are a toss up; some go only by axles, thus treating you like a commercial semi, while others have special fares for RVs and the things they tow.  Also, if you have a Jake Brake (we don’t) local noise ordinances prohibiting their use apply to you the same as they do to commercial vehicles.  If you don’t believe it, try using yours.

US-2 takes you to I-35 south of Duluth.  From I-35 you travel a couple of miles north and onto the Bong bridge which takes you into Wisconsin, or 10th state.  It’s a fairly high bridge, but an easy one to drive over (sorry Nick).

The drive on US-2 across northern Wisconsin was a bit tedious.  The road is rough and noisy in a lot a places, and each town you go through seems to stretch out along the highway for miles and requires you to drive 30 or even 25 MPH.  It will be nice to be back in Michigan where speed limits are almost universally ignored.

We arrived at the Wisconsin/Michigan border around 3:15 PM CDT, returning to our state of origin.  As advertised, we found Curry Park right where it was supposed to be, and it was open for business and mostly empty.  We spotted a pull-through site with good ingress and egress and made pulled in.  It appeared to be an electric only site, so Linda filled out the form and put the required $15 in the envelope.  Turned out that it was full-hookup site, which is $20 per night and the camp host came around later to collect the extra $5.  Even though we only needed the electrical hookup, we were not about to move.

Our neighbors on either side appeared to be off doing whatever it is RVers do in the late afternoon, so we ran our generator for a while to at least bulk charge the house batteries before switching to shore power.  Linda went for a walk around the park and I put the finishing touches on the blog posting for yesterday while keeping an eye on our batteries.

We have to be very thoughtful about how we use the coach and its various (electrical) systems when we only have a 20A electrical connection.  Not cooking dinner avoids having to use power, so Linda (the smartphone/Google queen) found a well-reviewed restaurant in town that was a four block walk from the park on the same side of US-2, and had pizza on the menu; Federico’s MIKES.  Winner.  Well, maybe.  Since we don’t eat dairy products we order our pizza withOUT cheese.  That is guaranteed to get some strange looks and even questions, and the outcome is always a bit of a gamble.  (We had a fabulous vegan pizza in the Black Hills of South Dakota back in June but we have had others that just were not very good.)  The waitress took our order—16” thin crust, no cheese, with onions, mushrooms, olives (black and green), and pineapple—and a young man in the kitchen who obviously loved making pizza threw himself into the task.  He even came out part way through our meal to see if we liked it.  We did, and we told him so.  We saved a few pieces for lunch on the road tomorrow as it will be another travel day for us, boxed it up, and walked back to the park.

Tomorrow we have another travel day, and then plan to stay put for a couple of nights before our final leg back to the house.

2013_06_10 (Mon) Working On The Bus In Twelve Mile

Linda worked all day on the accounting for Service Motors.  Butch and I drove to Logansport first thing in the morning to get various parts for the bus projects.  When we got back, Butch welded unions on either end of the bendable exhaust while I worked on the water pump issue.  On the genset end, one part of the union was welded to a cut-off pipe nipple and then threaded into the outlet from the GenSet turbocharger.  The mating part for the other end was already installed in the floor of the generator bay.  We secured the pipe with the unions on each end and ran the genset to check for leaks.  Seeing none, we bent the pipe into its initial/open position.  I them wrapped it in 2” wide fiberglass header heat wrap, using a 50% overlap, and secured it with hose clamps.  We tested it again and say no evidence of leaks, so we slide the genset back into the bay and coaxed the pipe into its final/closed position.  It now works well and looks nice.

Genset exhaust union

Genset exhaust union and bendable pipe

The fresh water pump is connected to the coach plumbing by 30” long hoses whose purpose,

beyond allowing the connections to be made, is to isolate the plumbing from the vibration of the pump.  We disconnected the pump outlet hose from the plumbing and checked the pump flow by pumping the discharge into a bucket.  The flow was not good.  We then attached the hoses so we could draw water out of the bucket and pump it into the fresh water tank, thus back flushing the supply (suction) line.  That seemed to improve the flow a bit.  We also drew from the bucket to test the outgoing lines to house and that flow was also quite restricted.

One of the problems with bus conversions is that they are essentially one-of-a-kind vehicles built to the requirements of specific original buyers.  To that extent they are custom built more than they are engineered, and that really shows up in the systems that are hidden from view.  Our fresh water system was built with two supply lines from the fresh water tank to the water pump.  These lines leave the fresh water tank on the driver side near the floor of the bay and are routed up and over

the fresh water tank to the other side of the bay and back down to a compartment about 18 inches above the bay floor.  This is definitely not a good design as water pumps like the Shur-Flo 4048 are not designed to draw very hard on the vacuum side.  We back-flushed the other supply line and them plumbed the two lines together using additional short hose sections, plastic pipe nipples, and black iron pipe connectors.  The flow was improved a bit, and we decided it was as good as we were going to make it for now.

Long term the better solution will be to relocate the water pump to the driver side of the bay and mount it at floor level near where the water exits the fresh water tank, which will eliminate the draw on the vacuum side.  I will then attach the outlet of the pump to a new, larger supply line and route it to the other side of the bay and then redo the plumbing in that compartment to eliminate as many

of the right angle fittings, T-fittings, and valves as possible.

In the midst of all this work we also discovered that the middle (kitchen) air-conditioner was not producing any cooling.  Butch, among many other things, is an HVAC guy, and suggested we take a look at the three house AC units before we left the next morning.  Knowing that we would be spending much of the summer in the high plains and mountains of the west, that sounded like a good idea to us.

While it was not our intent to work on the Zena power generator, I was able to pick up some welding cable and crimp on terminal lugs and make the battery connection cables using Butch’s press.  They did not get installed, however, as I still need to locate and mount a fuse holder for a Class-T fuse.

A good day’s work done, we headed to Logansport for dinner at Pizza Hut.  Pizza hut serves various pasta dishes, but they all involve meat sauce and/or cheese.  We had a thin-crust pizza with no cheese, and it was OK.  They also have a salad bar, and that was OK too.


2013_06_09 (Sun) GO!

Ready or not, our first long journey began today.  We finished loading last minute items, including some refrigerator items and the two cats.  The bus started right up, I backed it into the street, and we hooked up the car.  We were aiming to be underway by 9:00 AM, and actually pulled away from our home in S. E. Michigan at 9:25 AM.  Not bad.  Our destination was Twelve Mile, Indiana via M-59, I-96, I-69, US-12, M-217 (Michiana Hwy), US-20, US-31, and IN-16.  The weather was good and the drive went smoothly.  The over-the-road (OTR) air-conditioning even worked well, although we continued to get an occasional “low pressure” warning light for the system.  We stopped at Gallahan’s, a truck stop at US-24 and US-31 not far from Twelve Mile, and topped off the tank.  We arrived at Service Motors, Butch and Fonda Williams business in Twelve Mile, around 3:30 PM.

After a quick “hello”, Linda went to work with Fonda on their business records (Linda is a retired CPA) while Butch and I began working on the genset exhaust and fresh water pump low-flow problems, as these seemed to be the ones most likely to adversely impact our summer travels if not resolved.

Butch and I decided that the only reasonable solution to the genset exhaust pipe problem was to use unions on both ends.  This in turn would require parts and welding.  We discovered that the attachment that goes through the floor of the bay already had a union, but the exhaust outlet from the turbocharger did not.  The problem with the water pump appeared to be bad plumbing design; the lines are undersized PEX and there are too many right-angle and T-fittings that are further constricted in diameter.  That wasn’t a problem we would be able to solve in the day or so we had to work, but we had some ideas of a few other things to check out the next day.

We only worked for a few hours and then drove into Logansport to have dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants.  We stopped at the Home Depot first to get parts, but they had just closed.  Since Linda and I follow a “whole-foods, plant-based” (WFPB) way of eating, our choices of restaurants and restaurant menu items are usually quite limited.  Many Mexican restaurants have “veggie fajitas” on the menu, and these work well for us.  (BTW: the story of the naming of Twelve Mile, IN is that is 12 miles NE of Logansport, 12 miles S of Rochester, and 12 miles NW of Peru.  Most of our runs, however, are to Logansport.)


2013_06_07 (Fri) Ready…

Welcome to our blog.  I (Bruce) will be the primary person posting here, but Linda may contribute something from time-to-time.

We purchased our converted coach in September 2009.  It is a Prevost H3-40 that was built as a shell in August 1990 and sent directly to Royale Coach (Monaco) for conversion, so it was never in commercial service.  Monaco finished it in October 1991 and titled it as a 1992 vehicle.  The conversion was 18 years old when we bought it with the shell being about one year older.  It is now four years later.  Since it’s titled as a 1992, the state considers it to be 21 years old.  At age 25 I think it will qualify as a historic vehicle.  The license plate is OMNIBUS, from the French phrase meaning “every man’s conveyance.”  The term “bus” was ultimately derived from this word.

As best we can tell we are the 4th owners.  The coach had been sitting (outside) in a northern climate for at least a couple of years before we bought it.  We were still a few years from retirement at that point and wanted some time to fix it up while we were still gainfully employed.  We have been fixing it up ever since, while using it primarily to attend nearby RV rallies.  I have been submitting articles to Bus Conversions Magazine describing some of this work.  The first article was in the February 2013 issue, where our coach was featured on the cover.

I (Bruce) retired June 1st 2012, and Linda retired April 1st, 2013 (no fooling).  We have been pushing hard to prepare for our first extended travels.  We planned to leave on June 1st, but could not pull everything together in time.  We finally set our deadline as June 9th, ready or not.  On the date of this post (2 days prior to departure) I tried to finish up work on several bus projects as best I could, which is to say, they were not really finished.

One of my projects was the installation of a Zena power generator system for charging the house batteries while driving the coach.  The physical components were all installed, and the wires were all run but not completely hooked up and thus not yet operational.  This is a complicated system that needs to be installed correctly, so it was unlikely that I would finish this project while on the road.  This was not absolutely necessary for travel, however, and finishing the project could wait.

I had also installed a Parker Fuel Polishing Module (FPM) and had to redo some of the fuel lines due to leaks.  The re-worked lines still had a small leak in the return line from the Aqua-Hot.  The leak is either where the hose fitting threads into the check valve or between the two halve of the check valve body itself.  The purpose of the FPM is to circulate and clean the diesel fuel when the coach is parked/stored long-term, so it was also not necessary for travel.  The leak is only present when running the FPM; operation of the Aqua-Hot was unaffected, so it was usable while traveling.

Another project I was trying to wrap up was replacing the leaking flexible exhaust pipe in the generator bay.  I discovered that I was unable to get the new bendable exhaust pipe end-fittings to fit on either the powerplant exhaust or the fitting going through the bay floor so that they would not leak.  This, in turn, prevented me from wrapping the pipe in exhaust header insulation.  Without a leak-free, heat-insulated genset exhaust we would be unable to use the genset, and that would be a problem for travel.

Finally, I had replaced two older Aqua-Jet fresh water pumps with a single Shur-Flo 4048 water pump.  The pump was installed and connected, but yet to be tested as we had not yet filled the fresh water tank.  All-in-all it was a pretty discouraging start to a long trip.

While I was wrapping this stuff up Linda started cleaning and organizing the interior of the coach to make it ready for travel.  We spent the evening trying to get the house ready for us to be away for a while.