Home Life on the Road Bus Projects

On the Road Again!!!!

We can’t thank the team at Interstate PowerSystems in Billings, MT enough for their efforts this past week during our engine re-install after the rebuild. They all put in long hours.

Inspecting the engine during its first firing up!

Inspecting the engine during its first firing up!

They tackled each obstacle head on.

All with one goal – to get us back on the road in time for my birthday yesterday.

When this whole adventure started back in mid-June never did any of the estimates even have a hint of this extending into early August. Heck, originally it looked like we might even be on the road in time to still host our lighthouse in Oregon for the month of July.

But as the days and weeks drew on, suddenly there was a real possibility of us being still stuck in Billings for my birthday.

And while we would have of course made the best of it if that was the case – this was a special birthday. My 40th.

Each day last week ended with us smelling freedom a bit closer to our grasp. It was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows as problems were found and solved. When Friday ended with another problem, the reality was setting in – we might actually be in the shop well into the next week.

Our service manager, Scot, invited us over to his home to commiserate that evening (have we mentioned how awesome the folks at Interstate are??) – the first time we danced with pity during this whole ordeal. It helped to let it pass and face the next day with positivity again.

Getting ready for our first road test drive, with mechanic Jamie on board!

Getting ready for our first road test drive, with magician/mechanic Jamie on board!

Our team all came back bright and early Saturday to tackle the situation head on with fresh eyes, and magically by mid afternoon we were on our first test drive! (We live video streamed our first parking lot test drive, in case you are really bored.)

We came back to the shop after climbing the Rim Rocks of Billings with our mechanic on board… and Zephyr’s new engine was officially proclaimed in service!

Exactly 6 weeks from the day we were hauled to Interstate. 

Finally!!! We were free to roam!

But by choice, we stayed another night and joined up with new friends from the shop for a live performance by Blues legend Johnny Winter – it was a rocking way to celebrate the completion of the rebuild, and the start of my birthday!

Leaving Billings!

Leaving Billings!

We finished up a few tasks on Sunday morning on our own, departed Interstate PowerSystems and were officially on the road again!

We could not be more elated – freedom to roam again and a new view is the best birthday present!

Ahhh... now that's a view!

Ahhh… now that’s a view!  See that hammock there? Oh yeah, I totally took a nap while listening the melody of the babbling creek!

Yesterday afternoon we arrived to a lovely creekside campsite to celebrate my special day and our regained freedom!

We’ll rest up here for few days before returning to Billings for further tweaking (and maybe more Blues!) – the engine is running a few degrees warmer than any of us would like, but performed wonderfully on our maiden voyage.

There will be many posts forthcoming detailing all of the work done during the overhaul, the other upgrades to the bus we made and who knows what else.

But for now.. we rest. Let life and sleep catch up with us. And enjoy views that aren’t of a diesel shop parking lot!

And of course... we ate birthday cake right off our sparkly clean 'new' engine!!

And of course… we ate birthday cake right off our sparkly clean ‘new’ engine!!

Thank you to everyone involved, and thanks to all of you for following along and helping keep our spirits up!

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30 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. I knew immediately you were very cool and interesting and an inspiration….but when you listed the Hitachi magic wand as one of your electrical inventory devices I knew you were a soul sista…. keep on truckin’ and loving your life….you are a beauty!!

  2. I can only imagine the serious ups and downs you have felt through this whole ordeal. You guys are troopers! So glad you are back on the road!

  3. Great to hear you’re back on the road! Congratulations. Please keep us posted on the status of the new rebuild and detail those ‘issues’ that held you back for the last week.

  4. Happy Birthday! Congratulations! What a Blues surprise, Geri saw Johnny Winters and his late brother Edgar in Tampa sometime in the 70’s. Glad you’re back on the road again and it sounds like your little(long) bump in the road may, in the long term. be a blessing! Safe Travels!
    Chuck n Geri n the K9Kids.

  5. Congrats! I was hoping we’d catch up to you but unfortunately we’re 2 weeks behind you. Before you broke down we were not mobile yet! Now our house is sold and we’re on the road. Our site is up now and our little gimmick is that we live stream our from cameras from the front and rear of the rv and also livestream engine stats as well as GPS position. We’ve been working out the kinks for the last couple of weeks but it seems to be getting reliable. I haven’t had good internet for weeks to upload more pics and articles though so the site is a little sparse. Hope you enjoy the site as much as I enjoy yours.

    • I just checked out your streaming camera and engine stats setup – serious geek points score!

      I’ve often fantasized about setting up something similar, and once did some preliminary planning work, but have never made the time to make it happen. It is cool to see you doing it.

      I look forward to a future geek rendezvous.


      – Chris

      • The setup we did has been nothing but problems unfortunately. The Ford EEC-IV link likes to break, the program can crash for random reasons and the cameras are not as waterproof as their chinese sellers indicated. But we’re keeping it going!

  6. Happy birthday! So glad to hear that you’ve been sprung from Billings. Let the good times roll!
    Jennifer & Kevin in St. Louis

    • Thanks Brandon… however, we’ve decided to cancel BM this year and just sold our tickets. Just can’t see taking this newly rebuilt into that environment before we’ve had a chance to fully break it in, and not feeling the call. It’s been an intense 6 weeks of living on limited resources, hot weather and dusty environments. Don’t really need another week of that so soon 🙂

    • But even though Black Rock City isn’t in the cards this year… We definitely need to get Zephyr and the Ghost Bus together for a rendezvous one of these days. *grin*

      • Definitely! The concrete parking spots in our driveway are always open to you guys.

        We’ll be blasting towards Nevada in 2 weeks (scary because I have the fuel tank out of the coach right now!).

        Stay in touch and when you get PNW bound, we’ll come say hi!

  7. Congrats on the birthday. My 40th was so long ago don’t remember it. Glad your on the road. I don’t know if I would have had the patience you showed. But what could you do. Safe travels

  8. Happy Birthday. Best gift ever. Love seeing you all back on the road. Cannot wait to hear about how well it drives. It will be awesome to hear about the difference between the old worn engine and the new rebuilt one.

    Thank you so much for archiving your adventure for all to read.


  9. Happy Birthday Ms. C. Forty is a milestone of sorts, I wish you many more happy returns, onward. Cheers, Michael in Montana

  10. First off HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! And second so glad that your back on the road!!! It is really amazing reading your story and how you have just gone with the flow… spent too much time in Diesel Shops when I used to drive truck (28 years you see a lot of diesel shops) but I must admit how you kept your sanity for 6 weeks has me baffled!

    Hope you have many many many years of great service on the new motor and only get to see the guys at the shop when you stop in to buy them a beer 🙂 on your way through.


  11. Happy Birthday and congratulations on the rebuild! Glad it all worked out to your favor. Now you can really enjoy Montana and …. the REST of your story.

  12. I can’t believe you were stranded in my hometown! When you come back into Billings for those tweaks (or for others stopping by), may I suggest:

    – Walkers Grill: http://www.walkersgrill.com/
    AMAZING food. Classy. Free live jazz every Sunday. LOVE the atmosphere/decor. It’s been a staple in town for 15+ years.

    – Enzos: http://www.bistroenzobillings.com/
    Huge, juicy steaks. My husband loves the rack of lamb.

    – NaRa: http://www.narasushirestaurant.com/
    The best sushi I think you’ll find anywhere and other travelers have agreed with this statement. Just don’t order any of the hot dishes (pretty bland). It looks like prices have gone up considerably since I was last there (I think the rainbow roll used to be $15). It can get pretty busy. The waitress (only one) is the chef/owner’s daughter, some people think she’s rude (I like her “unique” attitude). Service can be slow. If you’re super laid back and nice, you’ll have a good experience.

    Montanans know their beer! Check out these breweries:
    – Carters: http://www.cartersbrewing.com
    – Yellowstone Valley Brew Pub: http://www.yellowstonevalleybrew.com

    I moved to Washington in 2010 and I miss the food back home. 🙂

    Burn the Point happens this year on August 30th. We love our old cars and ratrods! This is when everyone takes their beauties out of the garage and shows them off in a huge parade. You’ll see the Delorean, the Batmobile, the Scooby Mystery Machine, lots of classic old cars. My fav are Steve’s rat rods (I think he’s moved to Nevada now): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMevqNjVV3M

  13. Congrats for surviving quite a challenge! I’ve been following along minute by minute as your engine was rebuilt. You did an excellent job of showing every step of the process. So glad that you’re now ready to roll.

    BTW, the color of the engine matches your eyes. Did that figure into your choice? ;c)

  14. The best birthday present! Cute you had birthday cake right on the new engine. You guys have a terrific outlook on life. Happy trails to you and many more birthdays to come.

    • Before the rebuild it was 185, now it’s 193.

      And that’s after having the radiator re-cored to 7 (and cleaned). So probably a thermostat not set right, or perhaps the fan not kicking in when it should. Could also just be the engine breaking in, which is why we’re cautiously taking this voyage not too far from Billings to get some miles on her.

    • WOW!!! *sniff* That is so so so very special, and you have touched our hearts deeply. That is simply amazing, and beautifully done!

      Thank you for the enthusiasm and cyberlove, your comments have definitely brought cheerfulness to our lives these past several weeks.

      And happy birthday to you too! How super cool!

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