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Archive for Maintenance

Organizing for tomorrow’s fun

tucson-emma-easter-cookie.jpgEaster was a success, by kid standards. An appropriate basket of candy was left for Emma, and a small one was left for Eleanor (a pleasant surprise from the Easter Bunny, who is always full of tricks). About two dozen eggs were stashed in various places around the house too. I think we got special treatment this year because Emma left a basket of goodies for the Easter Bunny, including a cookie with instructions.

Once the fun was over, it was time to tackle our task list. Anyone who arrives at our house this week is on notice: you may be put to work. Gunny was the first victim. He showed up mid-morning for a visit and within an hour we had him helping to move furniture and boxes so I could finish sealing the dining room floor. When Bert & Janie arrive, and Susan & Adam, they might get jobs too, but don’t tell them because I don’t want them to suddenly realize they’ve got to detour by way of San Diego.

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Emma had her job too: entertaining Gunny’s German Shepherd puppy. It turned out that both of them found the same enjoyment in the garden hose. We were wondering which would tire out first. It turned out to be the dog.

We have begun to seriously clear out the Airstream. It is scheduled for an overnight service later this week (for the heat pump problem), and so we will be forced to spend at least one night in our house. I know it sounds bizarre but we’ve reached the point where it would just be easier to stay in the Airstream until we leave for the next voyage.

I would just grab what we need for an overnight “campout” in the house, but this is our chance to re-organize and slim down our possessions. So we moved a lot of our stuff out of the Airstream and into the house today and will continue to do so through Wednesday. The stuff we don’t need will get sorted out and packed away in the house. Tonight we will spend our first night in our new beds in the house. I doubt it will become a habit.

Mostly the re-organizational process means reducing our equipment and clothing, but in a few cases we’ll actually add stuff, like books on Mexican travel. Eleanor is also planning a total refit of our food supply, which is substantial. Right now the 25-cubic foot refrigerator in the house is full, and the 8-cubic foot refrigerator in the Airstream is empty. Somehow all the food in the refrigerator must disappear before we go, and it can’t all fit into the Airstream. Eleanor says she has a plan …

I’m also removing a lot of spare parts. Over the past couple of years I’ve accumulated little-used items (like spare wheel lugs) which are basically souvenirs of past mechanical disasters. These things were useful in past situations which are unlikely to recur, and so I’m finally clearing them out. Other items were never useful, like the caulk gun (it was always easier to use squeezable tubes for the little jobs inside the trailer).

It is hard to pack for a very long voyage. People seem to take one of two approaches: They either attempt to pack something for every circumstance, or they take hardly anything and expect to acquire what they need as they go. Having the storage of the Airstream we tend to take the first approach, but in moderation.

For example, we are often asked how we pack for different seasons. We have learned to take a little something for every season, just not a lot of it. Even though we are heading into summer and expect to be back in Arizona before late fall, we know better than to offload our long underwear, hats, gloves, and warm socks. Somewhere in this country there will be freezing temperatures at night in June and August, and we’ve managed to find those places every year, sometimes without meaning to.

So although my cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts will be front and center in the closet, somewhere under the bed in a Rubbermaid tub you can also find a set of black synthetic thermal layers, a spare fleece, and a few other warm things. It doesn’t take up much space and it leaves open the possibility of camping just about anywhere this fall.

I really don’t know for sure where we will go. I can foresee mountains, beaches, deserts, swamps, and lakes. I know we’ll attend rallies, birthday parties, and business meetings. We’ll hike urban streets, western mountains, park boardwalks, and shopping malls. We may be back in the heat of Arizona summer or out ducking raindrops in the Pacific Northwest again like last fall.

The uncertainty of this tends to spook people, but it’s really the fun part. So packing the trailer is not a drudgery but rather somewhat exciting. Every decision about what to bring reminds us that all kinds of interesting possibilities lie ahead.

Lightening up

We’re back in Tucson at home base.   The little three-night trip to the Sierra Vista area was very helpful as a test of our ability to go back to road travel after three months of parking.   It was as easy as anything could be, so my fear of getting terribly rusty has been abated. I can still back up the trailer, hitch it, and find my way to the bathroom at night — the three essential skills.

Tucson has warmed up to what I regard as decent weather: low 80s during the day with lots of sunshine.   “Winter,” as it is defined here, is over, and that means the house is starting to show how well-designed it is for desert life.   I opened the door this afternoon and found the interior at about 68 degrees, downright chilly for my blood, despite the warm temperatures outside.   The masonry construction and reflective roof are doing their job.   I almost wish we could spend the summer just to see how well it performs in the real heat yet to come.

The warm weather has inspired Eleanor too, I think.   Knowing that we have only a little more than a week left here, she is starting to tackle the maintenance and housekeeping items   on our list.
First item today was the routine defrosting of the refrigerator.   Since our refrigerator is normally in continuous use, it accumulates ice and frost and needs this process every six months or so.

It’s much easier now that we have a second refrigerator in the house to put all the food in, but even on the road it’s not hard to do.   We just put the food into a big cooler, shut off the refrigerator, prop open the door, and mop up the melting ice for a few hours.   The melt from the refrigerator compartment will mostly drain out the drip line (located in the exterior refrigerator access hatch), but the freezer doesn’t have a drip line so it has to be mopped up with a sponge.

The other major task to prepare for the road ahead is to clear out stuff from the Airstream.   When we started full timing our procedure was to re-evaluate what we were carrying every six months.   Anything that wasn’t used in the preceding six months, and wasn’t likely to be used, got pitched overboard, donated, or shipped back to storage.   We haven’t done that in a while and since we are here at our “storage facility,” this is our chance.

Some of our stuff has become embedded in the deepest, darkest recesses of the Airstream’s storage compartments.   The only good way to deal with it is to completely empty those compartments, and then re-pack them slowly, evaluating the utility, necessity, and weight of each item.   I already did this with the front storage compartment and found that about 20% of the stuff could stay behind.   Now we can actually get to things we need in there without fighting past layers of “we might use this” stuff.

The mental challenge of this stems from the fact that even an Airstream can seem dauntingly packed with stuff.   Where to start?   It’s a gumption block.   So we’ve broken the task down by room.   First on the list will be the bathroom.   Everything comes out, gets evaluated, and only the essentials go back.   If we tackle one room a day (counting the exterior storage compartments as a single room), we’ll easily be done before next weekend.

When we get back on the road, I’ll stop and get the trailer weighed.   This is another task we haven’t done lately, and I think it’s good practice for every RV’er at least annually.   We haven’t done it since July 2006, so we are overdue.   Our GVWR (maximum weight) is 8,400 lbs., and at that time the trailer weighed 7,320 lbs.   The empty weight of the Airstream is 6,400 lbs., so at the time of our last weigh we were carrying less than 1,000 lbs of stuff (including a full tank of water @ 312 lbs by itself).

People are often surprised that the trailer weighs so little, and that we able to full-time with so little weight.   But what would we carry that weighs a lot?   Clothes are light, as are bedding, toiletries, DVDs, laptops, and stuffed animals.   The only heavy things we carry are magazines, books, dishes, cookware, Emma’s rocks, and water, and we keep our collections of things like books and rocks to a bare minimum (which reminds me, I’ve got to check that Emma has offloaded her rocks).

I do see some RV’ers who carry ridiculous items just because they have the space.   More than once I’ve observed a fifth-wheel or Class A motorhome owner open up a basement storage compartment and reveal half a dozen concrete blocks (“to put under the stabilizers”), a chainsaw, 300 feet of garden hose, and a mechanic’s toolkit that could be used to rebuild a Boeing 777.   I think we run light because I enjoy the challenge of finding lighter and smaller solutions to problems.   I was just eyeballing the charger for my Nikon batteries and thinking, “I bet I can find a travel-size version of that.”

I’ll also need to make some off-site backups of my data.   I’m amazed at the number of people who travel around taking irreplaceable photos of their trips and don’t even have a primary backup.   One microscopic failure in their computer’s hard drive, and poof, all those photos are gone! That happened to my photos from Glacier National Park, and it was painful enough. It would be a nightmare to lose two years worth of photos.

So in addition to my primary backup drive, I have an emergency backup of my most critical files on a 60gb iPod.   It’s encrypted so if the iPod is stolen, no valuable information can be compromised.

I have also periodically maintained a off-site super-duper emergency backup on DVDs, but this is getting too cumbersome (my photo collection alone is over 30 gb, which is about seven DVDs). I considered getting a subscription to “.mac” (dot-mac), which will do incremental backups over the Internet, but the sheer volume of data I have makes that impractical (and dot mac costs $99 per year).   Ultimately, the cheapest thing to do is buy another external hard drive for $100, back everything up to it, and leave it in the house.

Think I’m paranoid? Well, remember we don’t go to home base very often.   If the Airstream is stolen, or catches on fire, there goes my computer, my backups, and a big chunk of my livelihood.   For the average traveler, I’d just recommend having at least one good backup on an external hard drive — and remember to update it once in a while.

Soon we will be lean, clean, and tuned up for another six months on the road.   This will be the critical week before getting back out there.   Our trial run worked out well enough, but after a week more of preparation we should be in prime form for some fun camping.

A tirade about tires

Back on the road!

Getting hitched up and ready to go always takes longer when you’ve been parked for a while. When we are moving every few days, our departure routine is quick and efficient. After a week of parking, it can take a couple of hours to get everything packed up, and after several weeks, it seems to take most of a day to get ready.

It would have been much easier to leave if I hadn’t had a pile of frustrating tasks to complete first. I am relocating the company’s official mailing address from Vermont to Florida (for complicated reasons having to do with mail forwarding), and this means literally dozens of phone calls to vendors. Those people have managed to make “customer service” an epithet. Of 13 vendors on my list for today, nine had dysfunctional websites that could not or would not accept my new billing information.

So I had to call again and again, wading through voice-response menus and answering security questions about “the last four digits of your social,” and “your mother’s maiden name.” It took about six hours to effect 11 vendors. The other two proved so well-defended against customers who might try to make changes to their accounts that they defeated me today. I’ll have to attack them again another day.

Vonage won the award for most irritating “customer service”. Their rep was beyond obtuse, and I finally had to threaten to close my account completely before he would make the billing plan change I requested. Sprint won the award for best defenses against hackers and customers, by instituting a new web system that required me to set up a new username (8-30 characters with a mix of letters and numbers), a new password, a new PIN, a new security question … and then provided no way to give them a new credit card for billing.

FedEx deserves an honorable mention for their incomprehensible website, which was so baffling that even their own representative could not at first tell me how to navigate it to make a simple billing change. (He figured it out after I did.) Verizon’s website became convinced that my VISA card was a Mastercard, and thus would not accept it. And so it went all day.

After six hours of this, you can see why I was eager to pack up and hit the road, and maybe chuck a few Molotov cocktails toward the call centers of certain companies. It was not the most inspiring day, and the rather uncharacteristic weather we had today (occasional rain and temperatures in the 40s) didn’t help. But I went out and hitched up anyway.

I’m always suspicious when we’ve been parked for a long time. Everything gets a more careful check, especially hitch, tires, and brakes. Scanning the tires, I noticed one had a definite thin patch in the tread. This is a sign that a belt inside the tire has broken. The broken belt allows the tire to bulge, and that causes uneven wear.

This not the sort of thing you want to ride on for long, so even though we were eager to get going, I called a local tire shop and verified they had a replacement tire (the Airstream takes ST225/75R15 tires), and that they could handle a 30-foot trailer coming into their parking lot. Assured on both counts, we headed over to the nearby “Big O” tire shop.

After a 40-minute wait, the tech came over and said, “The tire is still on the trailer? I’m not allowed to take a wheel off a trailer.”

Huh. And here I thought I was at a tire shop. So we got the manager over and he explained first that “We don’t have a jack big enough for a trailer like that.” I pointed to the hydraulic jack sitting nearby and said, “That one will do just fine.”

“No,” the manager said, “that one is only rated for 10,000 pounds.” Well, the Airstream’s max weight is 8,400 lbs. Once I clarified that, the manager told me that it was a “liability issue” and that he had to protect the technician. The trailer might fall off the jack and smush him, you see.

I refrained from pointing out that the trailer was unlikely to topple over, that it was hitched to the Armada with the parking brake set, that we can chock the wheels, and that it has a spare axle which makes it impossible to “fall”. But I did point out that I had called in advance to verify they could do this job and was told they could. That got me nowhere.

So I volunteered to do it myself. Nope, still not good enough. Liability again. I finally clarified, “I’ll use my own equipment.” And finally the manager said, “I have no problem with that.”

Well, that’s a relief. I was allowed to remove my own wheel with my own tools, and roll it over to the service bay, whereupon they removed and remounted a new tire, balanced it, and returned it to me for $150 in total. (That’s no bargain.) I mounted it back on, using my torque wrench, and fled. So I can’t recommend Big O Tire to anyone with a trailer.

Once on the road, the whole rig felt perfect. It was like putting on a worn old baseball glove. The trailer towed as beautifully as ever, the road was smooth and the short 60-mile drive (now at sunset) was scenic. I haven’t driven the Armada or towed the Airstream since early January, but it was still as easy as ever.

Our trailer is now a tire test lab. As the original tires (Goodyear Marathons) have been replaced, either due to wear or failure, I seem to always end up with a different brand. In Idaho when we lost a wheel in the summer of 2006, I bought a Trailer King because that’s all that was available. I was wondering about it at first, but it’s still on the trailer and seems to be wearing very well. In December 2006 we replaced two of the worn-out Marathons with two new Marathons. In Oregon last October we bought a TowMax from Les Schwab. Now in Arizona we have replaced one of the Marathons with a Green Ball tire. This means that we have four different brands on the trailer, counting the one Goodyear Marathon still on the trailer.

Of the seven Goodyear Marathons we’ve owned, two have had belt failure, two have worn out, one suffered an irreparable flat, one was destroyed when the wheel came off, and one is still on the trailer. I’m not happy with the loss of two tires from belt failure, but until I wear out a few of the other brands without similar failure, I’m not ready to cast aspersions on Goodyear alone. Another year on the road will be a good test.

Having taken a wheel off means I’ve got to check the lug nuts periodically, but again I’m so used to that routine that it’s really no big deal at all. Whenever a wheel is removed we check the lug nuts at 10, 25, 50, and 100 miles. When in doubt, check ‘em again — it only takes a minute.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a very good article about trailer tires and why they fail.  

Tonight we are in Huachuca City, AZ, near Sierra Vista. We are parked directly beside an identical 30-foot Safari bunkhouse owned by our friend Brent. Tonight Brent made corned beef and cabbage for all of us (in honor of St Patrick’s Day) and we unwound at his place for the evening. I’ve still got work to do this week, but I’ll keep it to a minimum in order to enjoy the little break. I definitely won’t be calling any more “customer service” departments.

Keeping the Airstream happy

For the past few days there has been a mysterious drip under the Airstream’s water heater.   At first I thought we just had a bit of condensation, but when it didn’t go away I realized we had a leak.   I’m sure you can see the irony of this coming on the heels of yesterday’s post about all the leaks in the house.

The leak itself was simple to fix, fortunately.   Water was seeping past the nylon drain plug.   I simply turned off the heater, shut off the water, and removed the plug (thus dumping 6 gallons of warm water, which I collected in a bucket).   Then I cleaned the mineral deposits out of the plug’s threads, wrapped it in Teflon pipe thread tape, and reinstalled it.   Problem solved.

But why did it leak in the first place?   Our Airstream has bumped over some pretty brutal roads in the past two years, and it never leaked.   Why is it that just sitting here in the driveway the water heater drain plug suddenly starts to drip?

I think the Airstream is telling us that we need to use it or lose it.   A sedentary life of sitting in the driveway doesn’t suit it.   The poor thing probably thinks it has been retired, like a greyhound after a few years of chasing rabbits at the race track.   The longer it sits, the more the little things may start to dry out, crack, discolor, squeak, and settle.

You may think I’m joking but really, these trailers are happier when moving.   They’re like people: a little exercise is good for them.   The motion of the wheels moving over the road helps keep the tire rubber and the rubber cords in the axle supple and strong.   Regular use of the air conditioner and refrigerator help them stave off early death from internal rust.   Gaskets on windows, doors, and even the toilet’s seal will all dry out if ignored; regular use makes it obvious when things need attending to.

When we are in the trailer and using it daily, we take care of it daily.   That may be a function of full-timing rather than the usual mode of vacation getaways.   I’m sure when most people are out in their RVs their mind is on escaping work, rather than servicing the rig.   We’re more accustomed to fixing things as we go, because up till now there hasn’t been any other opportunity.

However, we may have a chance to get some things done later this month, before we head out again.   My short-term “fix list” looks like this:

  • repair non-working heat pump (and possibly A/C)
  • replace bumper compartment cover and misc trim (damaged last month)

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My longer-term list contains these items:

  • implement a solution for the problem of the front storage compartment leaking when towing in the rain.   We have several ideas but haven’t decided which path to take.
  • install the catalytic heater
  • install the replacement Fantastic Vent motor/control board. The one in our front bedroom has a problem which causes the motor to “surge” but Fantastic Vent sent me a replacement unit.
  • repaint A-frame — it is getting a little rusty.
  • unbend and repaint the rear scrapers (which are now U-shaped thanks to a gas station in CA)

And my “wish list” is:

  • add an external connection for a satellite Internet dish, which I have purchased but not yet activated (for travel in remote places)
  • install a second Vista View window in the front bedroom
  • upgrade the power converter to an Intellipower (for faster 3-stage charging)

My plan is to take care of the short-term list before we go, or along the route, because the heat pump will only be under warranty for another few weeks.   The rest can wait until we get to one of our favorite Airstream repair people — or to one of our handy friends in Florida, if we can recruit them.

Although the lists above may seem long, they are absolutely nothing compared to the lists we’ve been making of things to do for the house.   An Airstream is much easier to care for than a house, and much less expensive.   I’m rather impressed that with all the use we’ve put ours through, it needs relatively little to keep going down the road in good condition.

Preparing lists like this for the house can be depressing (all that money!) but in the context of the Airstream it is actually a little inspiring.   Planning upgrades and repairs means travel is on the   horizon.     And travel is our Airstream’s exercise plan.   When it moves, it’s happy, and when it’s happy, I’m happy too.

Tough equipment

I’ve over-used my camera and it needs a rest. Some time ago I calculated that I shoot roughly 12,000 photos a year. The trusty Nikon D70 that I have been using for about three years has put up with immense stress, including everything from being dumped in Florida sand to being splattered in the Washington rain forest.

The camera has done well, but the toll of years, miles, and images has begun to show. The onboard flash stopped working a year ago, the long 55-200 zoom makes a grinding noise from the sand inside it, and now my primary lens has a spot in it.

If you look at the photo of “The Mad Greek” I posted a few days ago, you will see the problem. In the upper middle of the image there is a unfocused dark spot. This has actually been in all my photos for the past week or so, but in some images it is hard to see. The spot appeared while we were in Hawaii, sometime between the USS Arizona Memorial and Hanauma Bay. It’s probably some dust that got inside the lens.

In a way, it’s a souvenir of Hawaii, perhaps some lava. I hope Pele the volcano goddess doesn’t blame me. She doesn’t like it when you take lava from the islands.

I was able to work around the other problems, but this one is a killer. The lens probably has to be disassembled, and in the meantime I’ll be camera-less, which for me is like having a thumb removed. My friend Bert Gildart, a serious professional photographer, advised me to get not only another lens but a second camera body, so the D70 could be retired to the role of spare.

(Bert can be forgiven for his free-spending advice. He is currently blissed out, rolling around in joy like a pig in slop, because he just got his new Nikon D300, which is an amazing new camera. The D300 costs $1800 without any lenses and it is not in my budget.)

I have discovered that getting a hard drive replaced on a laptop is much easier than getting camera service. My options are few: ship the camera to an authorized service center, or find a local camera repair shop (very rare) in a major city. Either way, the camera is out of commission for days.

So Bert’s advice does make some sense. A couple dozen of my photos have appeared in Airstream Life, and hundreds are on this blog, making the camera a clear business expense (ahem), and potentially justifying spending a bit more. I’m looking at a really slick replacement lens that would lighten my camera bag and greatly reduce the need to switch lenses when working: the Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom. Unfortunately it is not exactly cheap either, at about $700 from reputable dealers. I’d ask Santa but I already got a ukulele.

Despite the maintenance now needed, the Nikon has been almost as tough as our Airstream. The Airstream has over 50,000 miles on it and with a good bath it will look almost new. It still performs like new and there’s every reason to expect it will last for decades. I can only hope the Nikon lasts as long. I like equipment that can take a beating and doesn’t wear out prematurely. Traveling as we do, there’s no advantage in buying cheap stuff that doesn’t last.

We are still in Las Vegas because Brian and Leigh won’t let us leave.   No, really, it’s because they keep emphasizing that we are welcome to stay longer and that’s awfully convenient right now.   We have nowhere to go for a while, Eleanor can do her shopping easily here, Emma can recuperate, and I’ve been finalizing articles for the Spring 2008 issue of the magazine.

Plus, Brian and Leigh are giving me lots of “black socks” ideas that may get integrated into our upcoming new website launch.   Airstream Life magazine will have an exciting (I hope) new website in a few weeks with a lot more content for you.   Our staff of programming gnomes have been hard at work on it for weeks, and I’m really pleased with the way it is shaping up.   Airstreamlife.com should soon be a very interesting destination …

Valley of the Rogue State Park, OR

The bleeding has stopped, momentarily. With Robert’s help I managed to finally bleed air out of the brakes to the point that they are responding much better than before.

As with all things, it was much easier once we had the proper tools and proper procedure. First thing this morning, Robert and I went to Grants Pass to fetch the correct sized wrench (1/4″) and then focused on the task itself. We had a few false starts and at times I was tempted to give up and call in the pros, but having moral support from Robert I soldiered on.

It turns out that the bleed valves on the front axle are virtually inaccessible without removing the front wheels, but once that is done (one at a time) the rest of the bleeding procedure is fairly simple. Of course the learning process involved some semi-humorous moments, including a time when I managed to get sprayed in the hair with brake fluid. (Note: brake fluid works a bit like hair gell.)

By about 11 a.m. we had it under control and had road-tested the trailer on the state park roads. Now that I know what to do, I plan to do the brake bleeding again in the next few days just for fun. No, not really. In fact, we need more brake fluid and a better place to work than in the state park, if we are to get the brakes back to the performance they originally had. We’ll be courtesy parking in the next few days, so I am hoping for a suitable spot to do the work.

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Emma and Allison have had a marvelous day, chasing each other around, playing all kinds of made-up games, eating blackberries off the bushes around the park, playing “spy” with the walkie-talkies, and generally being two very active little girls. We want to give them more time together, and do some hikes as a group, so we are hoping to rendezvous later this week.

The adults have done fairly well together too. We’ve discovered that Robert likes to cook breakfast, and one of his breakfasts lasts all day. The last time I had a breakfast like that was courtesy of my friend Rick at the Region 1 Rally in Woodstock. We didn’t need to eat again today until Robert made a fire (above) and started cooking up bratwurst (with bean soup, and corn bread).

It has been beautiful here at Valley of the Rogue. I could easily stay a few more days, but the clock is ticking against us if we want to get into Yosemite. Right now they are getting upper 60s and sunshine in Yosemite Valley, and the forecast for next week looks good too.

Bleeding

The idea was to start heading south today but I decided to book another night here at Valley of the Rogue State Park, for three good reasons.   First, our friends the McDills had decided to ditch the RV park that they were in, to come up and join us here.   That meant more time for Emma and Allison to play, a big bonus, plus more time for the adults to plot future travels.

Second, this is a very nice state park and the late fall colors are beautiful.   Third, I decided to attempt bleeding of the Airstream’s disc brakes.

Those of you long time readers probably know that I am not mechanically inclined.   I’ve been forced by circumstance to learn travel trailer repair skills from time to time, so I can pretend to know what I’m doing for a few specific tasks.   In the summer of 2006, for example, I learned how to replace lug studs on the wheels — because I had to.

Ever since our disc brake actuator was replaced in Warrenton, the braking action has not been as good as it was before.   The conclusion by most of the people I’ve talked to is that a little air got in the brake lines.   The solution is to bleed the brakes, a process of allowing some brake fluid to escape at “bleed valves” located on each brake.   Once the brake fluid starts to come out free of air bubbles, the job is done. It sounds simple, but for me at least it has not been.

A simplified version of the instructions is this: activate the disc brake actuator so there’s pressure in the system, open the bleed valve on one of the brake calipers, let the fluid drain out through a clear vinyl tube into a jar of brake fluid, watch the bubbles, close the valve, add fluid to the actuator’s reservoir (so it doesn’t run dry) and move on to the next brake caliper.

The first task was to go into Grants Pass, six miles north, and get the necessary brake fluid and tubing.   Then I attempted the job, with Eleanor working the brake controller to keep pressure on while I worked.   It was a disaster. Instead of fluid running into the tube, it ran all over the place, leaving a big messy spot on the ground.   I had the wrong size tube: 5/16″ inner diameter rather than 1/4″.   I was also having trouble turning the nut, which I attributed to using an adjustable wrench rather than a box-end wrench.

So, off to the store again.   This time I went to Medford, about 15 miles south, because there was a better selection of hardware stores.   Back to the trailer.   I tried again and again, but nothing helped.   Still leaking all over the place, still having trouble with the nut.   A few phone calls and several hours later, it emerged that I was turning the wrong nut.   I was loosening the 7/16″ nut that holds the bleed valve in place instead of turning the very small 1/4″ nut that actually opens the valve.

Didn’t I say I wasn’t mechanically inclined?   I didn’t even notice the little nut.   I was beginning to feel like the big nut, however.   By the time I noticed, it was too late in the day to make a third trip to the store, and after hours of wasted effort I was too frustrated to try again.   Better wait until tomorrow. I can dream up a whole new batch of dumb mistakes to make, overnight.

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The McDills arrived in the campground around 5:30, by which time Eleanor was already deep into dinner prep: a ginger-teriyaki chicken stir fry; jasmine rice; Thai-sesame-lime shrimp on skewers; Asian green salad; fruit salad with mango, leechees, pineapple and Mandarin orange.   Nobody had room for dessert.

We’ve made some plans to get to Yosemite before the season has gone too far.   If all goes well with the brake bleeding we will depart on Friday, and if not we will hopefully depart Saturday.   I want to get our brakes in top-notch condition before we do much more towing.   We’ll meet the McDills next week sometime, in Yosemite.

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