Lone Pine, California: This is quite a two-day report. Strap yourself in.
Hummingbird Update: Jack has flown the coop. (I named the lingering hummingbird Jack... as in Hit the Road, Jack... encouraging him to leave the nest.) Jack didn't leave until late Wednesday afternoon. Thank goodness, as I would have been fretting about him after our Thursday departure. Now, I know he is healthy and his mom is taking care of him. Whew! Wanna know what is gross, yet still fascinating?
Barely two inches across, this hummingbird nest held two fledglings at one time. It is a disgusting combination of plants, spider webs (hummingbirds love to use spider webs in their nests), feathers, leaves, bugs, larva, and poop. It will be interesting to see how it fairs during our absence. The nest that has been constructed two years in a row (that we know of) in our lemon tree is pretty-much gone by the time the mother needs another nest. Another interesting hummingbird fact: the male only mates with the female. That's it. No help with nest-building, sitting on the eggs, feeding the babies. Nothing.
Back to our story: We had neighbors Jill & Bruce over for drinks in our RV (parked in front of our house) Wednesday night. They had a tour of our pretty motorhome, then we took the golf cart up to the clubhouse for dinner.
We were on the road by 9 o’clock Thursday morning, stopping first to give the Morongo tribe $600. Not at their casino - at their diesel pumps. We followed I-10 to the 210 to the 215 (where we saw an unstable/drugged/drunk man walking on the interstate, one arm flapping like a bird with a broken wing, shouting and stumbling on the pavement. So scary. Traffic was crawling as drivers were unsure if the poor guy would step in front of a car! One driver pulled over and made a call, obviously to 911. Thing is, this man was on the median. How the heck did he get out there - four or five freeway lanes going each way?
We reached Highway 395, that follows the eastern side of the Sierra, towards our first stop, Lone Pine. However, about an hour south of Lone Pine (junction of Highway 395 and Highway 14), our engine temperature went from a usual 190-something to nearly 230 degrees. Opps. 13 years, and this has never happened. Dave pulled over to a (luckily-placed) wide spot along this two-lane highway. We waited for the temperature to go down, while he checked the engine compartment for signs of a coolant leak or anything else gone awry. Nothing. We pulled ahead, and less than a mile later, the temperature climbed again. Pulled over again.
We were able to get a mobile repair guy out in an hour (we were an hour from anywhere!), so sat inside the bus with the generator running the roof AC. Tim arrived with coolant - just in case - and proceeded to check out the situation. Within a few minutes, Tim determined the radiator cap had failed, causing all of the engine coolant to slowly drain/drip out while we were driving down the road on our last trip to Eugene. Or, anyway, this was his first diagnosis. Tim had brought 6 gallons of coolant, and it all went in, with none of it going into the reservoir tank - the coolant was going into the engine system - which made Tim feel his diagnosis was correct. He hopped back in his truck to return to town to fetch more coolant and a new cap. Fingers crossed.
While Tim was in town, he had the cap tested and it was working perfectly. Plan B: there is a slow leak in a hose somewhere. Adding a bit of pressure to the system, the new coolant began leaking from a hose under our coach. The mechanic crawled under our bus - on his back in the dirt - to find the leak. He looked for well over an hour, but could not locate the exact failed connection. He was also most uncomfortable and he was laying in the sand/dirt next to a major highway. We decided to move our bus about 200 yards, across the road, to a huge pullout we had seen truckers using all afternoon.
Being off the roadside gave us the ability to open the slide rooms. We set up camp. It was getting dark and we weren't going anywhere. Tim would return in the morning, with jacks to lift the bus and some other tools.
In the end, we have camped in noisier RV parks than this turnout. The hum of our generator was barely noticeable from the bedroom (our genset is under the driver seat). We had air conditioning, and the Tour de France on the DVR. We had wifi via my iPad hotspot. We even had a beautiful view... with the occasional trucker stopping to rest. We had a home-cooked (cooked last week and frozen) bowl of Lasagna Soup. I only had to boil a bit of pasta to add to the pot. Easy.
Considering the amount of stress we were under, we both did get some sleep. The roadside truck mechanic, Tim, returned to our stealth campsite around 11:30a. He was loaded down with all sorts of clamps and gallons of coolant. I am not a diesel mechanic, so can only report that between emails and phone calls and photos sent to our Coburg Cummins dealer, Tim was able to by-pass all the coolant lines that went through the furnace portion (where the leak was determined to be), so we could get ourselves up to Eugene for the track meet and get our bus re-plumbed at our Coburg Cummins shop.
The bad news? We can't use our furnace. Ha! Since we have used our furnace at least/maybe ten times in 13 years (our radiant floor heaters serve us well), I think we are good. Not to mention it is 100 degrees nearly everywhere until we reach Eugene, and when/if we reach Eugene, the furnace will most-likely not be needed.
Tim finished up around three o'clock and we hit the highway (395) to Lone Pine. The bus reacted well with every climb, temperatures rose on the hills to normal degrees, and leveled-off on the flats. It was like nothing was different on our 50 mile drive to Lone Pine. Arriving to our one-day-delayed campsite at the Boulder Creek RV Resort, we were greeted like old friends (they have been phoning DT several times a day, worried about us parked on the side of the road). The Boulder Creek campground were so happy we had our engine issues resolved and were here for one night, instead of two. (Never mind we were still charged for last night as well- not their fault.)
Don't care! Would have happily paid double (we did) for that hot shower. Our feet were disgusting after tromping around in the sandy dirt for two days. The meal plan for tonight was to roast the cherry tomatoes from our garden (with garlic, herbs, Kalamata olives, salt, pepper, and olive oil) in the oven, then throw in a few asparagus spears and a cod fillet.
Everything was so delicious - and so easy. While roasting the veggies, we sat outside to enjoy the beautiful sunset behind the Sierra.
A Swiss family happened by and we shared a glass of wine with them, while discussing their trip around California. They did not laugh at my German. Much. Their kids (Leo and Lucile's age) were so surprised to hear an American speak German. And I was amazed at the English skill level of the young children! The children had a tour of our RV (they are in a rented C-Class) and were blown-away. Little did they know this fantastic coach was idle in the dirt last night. My German isn't good enough to explain our plight.
Did you know the Sierra are not the Sierra's? Just like Lego are never Lego's. Sierra is a Spanish word for (these saw-top-like) mountains and Sierra is already pluralized. Like Lego. I'm here for you, people.
Still in DC, Leo and Lucile are having the best time ever with Lenny's family! They went to a National's game, saw fireworks from the Washington Monument, visited the Natural History Museum, the National Zoo, went to the top of the Washington Monument, and had their photo taken (above) near the spot where their mom received her diploma from The George Washington University in 2003.
So tired, Dear Reader. Heading to Bishop in the morning. Still on schedule. Considering our very scary delay, we are so happy tonight. Until my next update, I remain, your duct-taped correspondent.