Home Life on the Road Chapters

Up Up and Away!

It’s only been a few days since we left St. George with intentions of heading eastward through Colorado.

I write this from Amarillo, TX.

Which you might notice was NOT on our intended route.

So what happened?

A Lot of Air Pressure Leaks

As we were leaving Lake Powell, we heard a sudden WOOOSH of air in the driver’s compartment, and we suddenly lost air pressure – which meant our main air breaks are inoperable and the spring emergency breaks would soon be engaging.

Chris got us safely pulled over to the side of the road.

Immediately behind us was an empty tour bus, which pulled over in front of us. The driver got out, and introduced himself. Turns out, he used to own a 4106 – and helped us check things over.  Even as avid followers of Serendipity as we are – this was quite the coincidence.

While we were making a new friend, the air pressure refilled on the bus on its own.  We put out a quick message to the bus conversion community asking if we were safe to move on to the next town, or if we needed a tow.  The diagnosis was that one of our air release valves likely released (normal when air pressure gets a touch high – which is explained by us recently changing out the air compressor filter), but was so gunked up that it didn’t immediately close as it’s designed to do.

Nothing a little WD-40 and cleaning wouldn’t fix up. So we did that to the visible dump valve we could reach.  The bus nut community is *amazing* and we feel so blessed. We had several mechanical gurus sending us advice and re-assurance that we were ok to drive on.

We made it into Page, AZ just fine, and decided to move onwards to our next intended stop of Durango, CO.

The incident reminded us however that we still had routine maintenance that we haven’t able to do as we have no drive-up ramps and a suspension blocking system (something we need to fix ASAP).  So we called around to truck repair centers anywhere near our route before the Rockies to schedule a brake adjustment, chassis lubbing and replacement of all of the dump valves.

We found a place in Durango that didn’t seem too scared of a vintage bus.

In the morning as we were leaving Monument Valleny, the same thing happened – except this time, the air pressure didn’t rebuild.  Some diagnosis with our bus nut friends led us to suspect the air compressor governor’s relief valve as the culprit.  It was likely gunked up, and now stuck open causing a consistent major air leak.

Some percussive maintenance (ie. pound it with a hammer) and some WD-40 fixed that right up – saving us a tow into Durango!

We arrived to Durango a bit later than anticipated, but the diesel shop was awesome.  They spent two hours with us giving the bus a good underside servicing.  They even invited us to join them in the pit, and taught us all sorts of things about maintaining the parts.

This was the first opportunity for us to see under our bus, and we again patted ourselves on the back for finding our bus in arid Arizona. Especially after seeing a 1976 Prevost we had closely inspected in our bus hunt that was seriously corroded after years of service in Canada.

Working in the pit, under our bus!

Their general assessment was that ‘She’s old – but in great shape!’ (we can only hope for such an assessment in 10 years!).

We left with brakes adjusted, every zirk found lubed and some air leaks taken care of. We also left with a new governor, which Chris replaced on his own later.

A couple scary moments, but all and all – we thrived with the challenges, and are upping our bus knowledge exponentially!

A Lot of Hot Air

We were originally going to route through Colorado primarily to visit our friends in Salida. However, we had already eaten into the weekend time they had available.  And with a couple of scares that would have been much MUCH worse on an incline or descent, we decided that risking driving through the Rockies was probably not the wisest of decisions.

We opted to take the flatter southern route – which put us going through Albuquerque.  And guess who was there?

Yup, our awesome bus nut technomad friends – Ben & Karen! They arranged us a spot next to them, which was amazing – considering it was also the start of the 40th Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  Being neighbors with these guys is something that we can’t get enough of – we always have fun adventures together.

Now, we’ve heard great things about the balloon fiesta – but nothing prepared us for its awesomeness.

Sunday evening Karen and us headed over for our first glow event (Ben had to fly out for a seminar he was giving, so we were sure to tease him as much as possible).  During a glow, many of the balloons inflate on the ground and synchronize glowing with their propane jets.

What I hadn’t realized is that spectators get to roam the grounds right next to the balloons!!

I spent the entire evening with my eyes up and my jaw down, and feeling like a little kid. It was absolutely beyond belief. The sounds. The crowd energy. The lights.  The BALLOONS – they’re everywhere!!

All three of us were in similar states of disbelief.  And we all decided that we HAD to return in the morning for the ascension.

Which meant getting up at the “butt crack of dawn” (my new favorite expression, coined by Karen) – something us night owled technomads don’t do well.

Karen photographing the ascension.

But we did it.. and it was so worth it.  I counted at least a kabillion (give or take a dozen) balloons launching.

And apparently those were the ‘just for fun’ launches.  Later in the morning, balloons launched from around the city at different locations to compete for prizes by tossing super tiny little rings onto poles planted on the main launch field.  And considering balloons have no steering, that’s some pretty amazing piloting.

Think the pictures above are descent?  Hah.   Be sure to follow Karen’t blog at http://www.thepixeldiaries.com , as her pictures are going to be 1,000,000x better than mine. And she’s there for the rest of the event, which wraps up this coming weekend. (If you’re anywhere nearby.. GO!!!)

What an amazing experience, and so delighted serendipity routed us this way!!!

Path Forward

We’re still heading to Chattanooga, aiming to arrive there next Monday evening for some bus workshops before the Bus Conversion Magazine Rally.  We’ll now be meandering from Amarillo, TX through Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, and then through Tennessee somewhere over the next week.

But before then, we’re taking a couple day distraction-free break north of Amarillo, TX at one of our most favorite free camp spots ever.

And I promise – if I can get Chris to focus on anything other than plotting how to carry a hot air balloon with us; his lithium ion battery post should be the next post you see here later this week.


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  1. Oh, I’m INSANELY jealous. Going to the Albuqueque Baloon festival is top of our list. In fact we’re planning most of our fall 2012 run around that event. Very, very cool!

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