Wednesday, August 14, 2013

11 days without posting!  Wow!  I'm sorry to have kept everyone in the dark for so long, but they've been very full days, filled with fun, computer failures, poor communications, an international border with all that entails, a GMC mechanical problem, etc., etc.  So, for now, I'm going to gloss over a lot of that and not even try to find and post photos.  Instead, I'll just try to present a synopsis of our adventures; perhaps I can later give more details and phots.

From Pacific Beach, we moved to Bogachiel State Park on Sunday, 4 August. <>  Then we moved on around the Olympic Peninsula to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort <> on the 5th of August.    There we hiked 1.8 miles through the rain forest to a nice little waterfall.  I've been astounded by the amount of downed timber in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula.  The forest floor is littered with trees that were hundreds of years old laying across other hundreds of years old trees in every direction, all beneath a canopy of standing trees which are themselves hundreds of years old!  VERY impressive.  And frightening when I learned that Washington state had NO rainfall in July!  A forest fire in these jungles will be a roaring inferno to dwarf Hell on a hot day!  Pray that it doesn't happen.

After Sol Duc (sometimes seen as "Sole Duck"), we proceeded to Port Angeles, WA, where we met a "born GMCer", Greg Birch, grandson of the renowned GMC engineer Alex Birch.  Guess what GMC he has?  Yep, a Birchaven.  He and his lovely wife Lorraine welcomed us like family members and we parked the GMC in their yard.  Greg took us on a tour of the area, including the Hurricane Ridge, which gave us our first real view of the mountainous interior of the peninsula.  We also visited his beautiful dental office sitting on a bluff overlooking the Port Angeles harbor.  To cap the day, "Rainey" served us a wonderful dinner with steaks grilled by Greg.

The next day, we left the Honda CRV toad at the Birch's and took the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC.  By pre-arrangement, we went straight to Courtenay, half way up the eastern coast of the island to visit with Richard and Allie Floyd (remember rgf from our Omnistor awning orders).  He took us on a tour of their area, and, again the Mrs. prepared us an outstanding dinner.  Can't beat these GMCers for good eatin'!  Their schedule was full for the next night, so we headed back toward Victoria.

Half way from Courtenay to Victoria is Nanaimo, home of Gordon and Lucie Seykora.  We spent two nights with them.  They took us on a thorough tour of the area with detailed descriptions of the sights and the history of the points along the way.  No one could have been better guides.  We even got down to the beach where we could have gathered star fish (and did examine one up close).  Gordon's experience as a logger, commercial fisherman and transporter, computer support specialist, and numerous other vocations, allowed him to give us a really in-depth understanding of the area and its history.

We planned our whole trip to Vancouver Island around visiting Butchart Gardens <>  in Victoria on Saturday night, when they have a spectacular fireworks show.  After checking into a nice RV park 10 miles away early on the 10th, we headed for the Gardens.  About half way there, the power steering pump began to howl.  Since I had a quart of PS fluid, we were soon on our way again -- for less than a mile.  That time when I got out, I checked underneath first:  PS fluid was dripping from the Pitman arm. :-(

Undaunted, I drove on to the Gardens without bothering with more fluid -- steering was stiff, to say the least, at low speeds; not too bad at 10-15+ mph.  With most of the day remaining, we toured the gardens, which are a MUST SEE.  No way words, or even photographs can do them justice.

After marking our selected fireworks viewing location with a blanket (per local custom), we retired to the coach for several hours before having a wonderful dinner (prime rib for me) in the Garden's cafeteria.  The 9:15 PM fireworks display may not have been the best I've seen, but it was the best in memory.  Very entertaining.  I wondered throughout how they managed to get permission for all the aerial pyrotechnics considering the very high fire hazard throughout the area.

The drive back to the RV park without power steering was surprisingly easy, so I formed a plan to drive to a ferry departure point for Seattle and to repair the problem at Todd Sullivan's place.  Since we wanted to tour more of Victoria, on Sunday, Dave Jarvis brought a car to the RV park and loaned it to us for the day!  Talk about GMC hospitality!

On Monday we caught the ferry back to Port Angeles.  Since we arrived at the port without reservations, we had to wait several hours before getting aboard.  That gave us free parking downtown so we could, as planned, see that area.  Most of the time we spent in the BC Museum, mostly studying the history of the Scott and Amundsen expeditions to the South Pole.  We did find some time for the First Peoples exibits also.  It's a VERY impressive museum which should not be missed.  As we've found in most cities on VI -- and WA -- there are a LOT of people out and about.  Many are tourists, but most are, as explained by one of our hosts, "locals taking advantage of our short summer".

When we got back to the coach, we found Jim Bratvold  about to leave us a note on the door.  We had a very pleasant "finally" introduction and conversation, which was cut too short by the beginning of our loading process; visitors have to leave the passenger area before loading begins.  Loading was a bit strenuous with having to muscle the steering wheel around, but nothing hazardous.

Back in Port Angeles a couple of hours later, we proceeded directly to Greg Birch's office, which is closer to the ferry terminal than his home, and with no hills.  He'd already shown us the beautiful, flat, parking area between his office and the cliff overlooking the strait.  Rainey showed up a short time later with the Honda, and Greg right after.  After a little visit, we said our goodbyes since we planned to leave at crack'o'dawn.

And so we did.  We arrived at Port Angeles via highways, but to get to Seattle, where a replacement steering box could be gotten readily, with as few hard-to-steer road miles as possible, I chose to take the ferry from Bainbridge Island directly to Seattle.  There was some concern about being able to load the low-slung GMC because of the very large tidal variation at BI; but, the tide tables show high tide at about the time we planned to catch a ferry.  Sure enough, we barely stopped to pay our fare before loading onto the ferry.  45 minutes or so later, we were driving to Todd Sullivan's shop, Seattle Collision Repair, only a couple of miles from the ferry terminal.  Which sounds a lot simpler than it was:  No one told me about the hills of Seattle.  Especially the one directly in front of us a block and a half off of the ferry!!!  I'm sure it's at least a 25% grade!  And traffic was heavy.  And it stopped 1/2 way up the hill.  And the GMC could go no farther -- sound and smoke proved that. :-(

MAN!  Was I ever glad I had my 10-wheel parking brake.  Flipping the dash switch turned on the little 100 psi compressor, which activated the 1.4 pneumatic cylinder which pulls the chain attached to the GMC brake pedal.  When I put the transmission in Park, I knew there was going to be no load on the parking pawl, so it would neither come disengaged nor break, and that I'd have no trouble taking the lever out of park later.  SHE got into the Honda while I disconnected the cables and tow bar.  It probably didn't take 2 minutes for us to be rolling again.  I'm sure we didn't miss (nor make the backed up traffic miss) more than one traffic light cycle.  Without the toad load, the GMC had no trouble at all with the grade, though I think I burped the front tires rushing out of people's way. :-)

At Sully's we set up to get right to work on the coach.  Within an hour or so I had the box out and the replacement, ordered the day before from Red-Head Steering Gears, here in Seattle, a rebuilder well known and thought of by GMCers in this area, had arrived.  Unfortunately, a glance in the box revealed that it was the WRONG box.  A too-small input shaft with a funny nipple on the end and probably metric threads had no chance of fitting the GMC.  Red-Head said they probably had the correct one on the shelf if I'd bring mine for them to check.  When I arrived there (15 miles or so away), they said "Nope, the internal stops make it unique.  We can rebuild yours in a hour or two."  So, I stood around and watched as closely as I could from outside the large open shop doors (insurance rules, you know).  Within an hour and a half or so, they had the box hooked to their dynamic test jig running it stop-to-stop to check operation and leakage.  The only thing obviously wrong with the box when I brought it in was that the internal circlip holding the Pitman shaft seal in the housing was no longer seated and the seal was therefore blown out.  But they found more than that:  some wear burrs which needed to be cleaned up, and worn bearings and grooves -- they installed "2nd oversize bearings" (whatever that means).

Back at the coach, I quickly installed the box and then began the arduous part of the job:  Installing the serpentine belts.  At Greg Birch's I'd cut off the PS+AC belt to keep from running the PS pump for the 80 mile trip to BI and in Seattle.  Now, I had to remove the Alternator+WP belt to install the new PS+AC belt.  That involved removing the lower half of the fan shroud (thank goodness I long ago made that possible), and the multiple bolts holding the PS pump and the Alternator.  I finally found all of them and loosened them, some from the bottom, some from the top.  One alternator bracket was broken, so Sully re-welded that for me.  That was probably the cause of the intermittent belt squeal SHE's complained about ever since she's been with me.

With everything back together, I tested it by maneuvering the coach into the fenced back yard at Sully's shop.  There we spent a peaceful night.

Today we visited the Seattle waterfront and all the shops there.  I'd intended to go to the top of the Space Needle, but SHE was having none of that after we drove by it.  Since I've been about 50,000 feet repeatedly, it didn't really matter that much to me.  So, after a little shopping, we returned to Sully's, where we've settled in for the night.  Tomorrow afternoon, Sully's exhaust expert friend is coming to cure my exhaust leaks, including installing the flexible couplings I've wanted for a long time.  Then we'll have dinner with the Sullivans before a final night here at the shop.

Sorry there are no pictures, but they'd just be more trees, mountains, flowers, and water anyway. :-)  Seriously, when I have a chance, I'll download them from the camera and post some.  Did I mention the other big problem?:  About 5 days ago, when I turned on the notebook/tablet I use to monitor the EFI/EBL, and do all my typing, the hard disc did not spin -- and hasn't since. :-(  This is being written, somewhat laboriously, on a bluetooth keyboard driving HER Nexus 10.  No way y'all would get all these words out of me on that on-screen keyboard!


Ken H.                        

1 comment:

  1. just love reading this stuff Ken, thanks so much for taking the time to write!

    Got any tips for getting through US/CA customs with a GMC? We'd love to do that trip some day.
    When we went through a couple years ago (without a vehicle) it seemed like the US return was the worst part.

    take care, and keep writing!:-)

    Karen B