Friday, July 31, 2009

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Friday evening July 31, 2009 (fifth travelogue of this trip)

Well, as you can tell from the subject line, we are home. We made good time and got home Wednesday in the early afternoon.

Now let's finish our catching up on this trip. We mentioned that we did some fun things on our trip home. When I was doing a lot of traveling for Gates in a company van, we found a great little restaurant called the Blue Springs Cafe ( about 35 miles west of St. Louis on I 70. As you can tell from the link, they are famous for their “foot high pies”. Years ago, they used to have a billboard on the interstate that made it sound like their chicken was 100 years old. We remember hearing truckers on the CB talking about the “old chicken”. It is a fun restaurant with great pies. We also stopped in Topeka at Pat's Pig for lunch. This is a restaurant we used to eat at when we went to the races in Topeka. It has great barbecue and has quite a racing theme to it. Both brought back fun memories.

Our stop in Russell was also planned based on fond memories. They have a neat oil field museum that I really enjoy touring. It is pretty run down and basic, but it brings back memories of working on experimental belt drives in the “oil patch”.

When I talked about bus vs “normal” travel, one of the main issue for me is the coffee. I am a coffee “snob” and I really don't like the brown water that they call coffee in most of the hotels. I would stop at McDonalds and get coffee that at least has some taste to it {grin}

Let finish this travelogue with discussion about our genealogy research in Greenville, OH. Pat has been doing a lot of work on our family tree, but was not able to learn much about my father's family. I am an only child of an only child and that seems to make it difficult to get much information on that line of the family. We knew that my dad was born in Greenville, so we went to the Garst Museum which has a great genealogy section. We were able to trace quite a few relatives and get some leads for additional research.

The two biggest finds were my grandfather Orion Shepherd's grave (map) . Even more exciting was that we found out quite a bit about my grandmothers family. We were able to learn that her mother lived in a house at 420 Elm street (map) for most of her 96 years. We are sure that my grandmother was born in the house. We were able to contact the folks who own the house (Becky and Terry). Becky showed us the part of the house that she thinks was the original house. In addition to our documentation, they have some documentation that it was the Culbertson house (my grandmothers maiden name). They are the third owners and were excited to find out more history about the house. It turns out that Becky's grandfather built the house adjacent to their house, so they have a lot of family history in that area as well.

I have posted a photo of the house below. We suspect that the front part of the house is the original house (obviously remodeled).

The Original Culbertson house at 420 Elm Street

As a note to our newer readers, I post a link to Google Maps that shows the satellite view. You can zoom in several times to get significant detail. For example, we can see my grandfather's grave stone when we zoom in on that map.

Pat has been able to do some more research on the Internet based on the information we found and now we will have see if our travels will permit us to return to Greenville.

That is all for this trip. We will leave for Salt Lake (Pat: convention; and Jim: Bonneville) next Monday. I will start that travelogue sometime next week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello from Russell, KS

Hello from Russell, KS

Tuesday evening July 28, 2009 (fourth travelogue of this trip)

Our main purpose for this trip was to be vendors at the FMCA International Convention in Bowling Green, OH. The facilities were great, albeit spread out over a large area. The vendor building (map) was a great building. The official coach count at 2,725. That is up a bit from the past few rallies but far short of the “good old days” of over 7,000 coaches. The attendees seemed quite upbeat and were buying at a reasonable pace. Our expectations for the rally were not good. We are SilverLeaf dealers, but the company had a booth and did the seminar. In addition, our major fire suppression competitor was there. The main reason we attended was “defensive”, so that folks did not think we were out of business.

We were pleasantly surprised in that we sold out of an admittedly limited inventory of most items. The profit did not pay for the trip, but it sure helped.

When we finally made the decision to make this trip, we said that we were going to be tourists as well as vendors. In this post and at least one additional post, we will detail some of the fun things that we have done.

One of the thing we wondered about was what it would be like to travel without our bus. Most bus conversion folks call themselves “Bus Nuts”. Indeed, there are various organizations with that phrase as a part of their title. What would it be like to travel like “normal folks”?

Well, we can tell you that we really miss the old girl!!! Bus folks often say that traveling in a bus is the most economical way to travel. Tonight we went over some preliminary numbers and it looks like this trip cost about twice as much as it would in the bus. Certainly the fuel is much less, but motels and meals really add up!

Speaking of motels, we have had some experiences! We decided to try “lower cost” motels when possible. We have stayed in several Super 8 motels with mixed results. The difference in cost between the Super 8s and Holiday Inn Express (our favorite) is $30-40 per night. Some of the Super 8 motels were just plain bad. The so called “Super Start” breakfasts were a joke. In many cases we had to stop and get something with a bit of protein and that offset our “savings”. A couple seem to be less than sparking clean. Another hotel we stopped at in Greenville, OH had a nice enough room, but the Internet connection was terrible. The night clerk told us it was something with our computers. However, we found the room where the router was and had them let us work in that room – no further problems. Tonight we are at the Russell's Inn, a hotel that has seen better days. The room is OK, but we have seen several bugs that we hope are not cockroaches.

Speaking of Greenville, OH, that is where my dad was born. We decided to spend quite a bit of time doing genealogy research and we hit the jackpot. More in the next blog.

On Sunday 7/26, we toured the US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH ( This should be on everyone's must do list. I had on my pedometer and it said I walked 4.7 miles. I am not sure how calibrated the unit is, but I suspect it is close. There are four huge hanger type buildings with at least 100 planes, many of which are one of a kind experimental planes. A separate hanger has 9 presidential planes including 4 that you can tour. One is the retired Air Force One (a Boeing 707) that carried Kennedy's body home and where Lyndon Johnson was sworn in. The facility also has a great IMAX theater and we took in two great movies.

That evening we were completely worn out and only drove a short distance to Richmond IN.

While we will be home tomorrow, I will try to finish catching up with another post (hopefully in the next few days).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hello from Boonville, MO

Monday evening July 27, 2009 (third travelogue of this trip)

We are at a Super 8 hotel in this fun little town. We have stayed here a few times, but we were always in the bus and stayed in the parking lot of the Isle of Capri Casino.

I feel like a race horse trying to catch up on all that has happened since we started this interrupted trip. So let's start with the days leading up to this leg of the trip. As I noted in the last blog, we had to return to Evergreen to work on the bus. I got the engine out and delivered it to the local Detroit Diesel Dealer on Tuesday (7/7). I discussed the terrible findings in our last post to this blog. For the next several days, we went through just about every emotion you can think of. We were dealing with what to do on the bus and trying to make a decision about the major FMCA rally in Bowling Green, OH.

We finally decided to drive to Bowling Green in one of our cars. We had paid for the booth and it would look bad to have an empty booth with our name on it.

We departed Evergreen Friday (7/17) at 7:00 AM with almost 1300 miles to cover in 3 days. Everything went well for the first 100 miles. We stopped at a rest stop and during the stop I got a call from a potential customer that was quite intriguing. I decided to start driving while still on the phone with the customer. After we got on the road, I hit the cruise control and the Durango seemed to struggle getting up to speed. I did not pay attention and kept talking to the customer. As it turns out, I had the transmission selector in probably second gear and when I looked down the engine was quite a ways into the red region on the tach. I knew that was not good. We made it another 20 miles and the engine started knocking. We called AAA and had them pick us up on a wrecker. We got the Durango back to the house about 2:00 PM and quickly packed the PT Cruiser with a downsized load and left at 2:45. By this time we were completely numb, but determined to not let a silly thing like blowing up an engine stop us.

That night we make it to North Platte, NE and stayed in a Super 8 motel. Plain ,but it did not matter. This seemed a bit strange to us, since we often stop in North Platte and stay at the Wal Mart in the bus (great parking).

The next day we drove to Davenport, IA and again stayed in a Super 8. We had a great time, as there was a huge car show at the local mall. We even had a great dinner at a local restaurant.

We made it to Bowling Green in the late afternoon on Sunday (7/19 my birthday). We had reservations at what turned out to be the “hotel from hell”. The two rooms they tried to put us in did not have the fridge and microwave we asked for and were very dirty. I don't think many of the “guests” spoke English. We quickly got on the phone with the Holiday Inn folks and found a great Holiday Inn Express in Perrysburg, OH (map), about 15 miles from Bowling Green. Pat negotiated a pretty good rate and we crashed for the night.

I will stop here and we will continue to try to catch up in the next few posts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hello From Greenville, OH

Hello from Greenville, OH

Saturday evening July 25, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

I am calling this the second travelogue in spite of the fact that we had to detour home and deal with the engine problems in the bus.

This travelogue will be rather short and is intended to let you know that we have survived some rather traumatic issues with our vehicles (yes plural) in the last month. It will take me several blogs to catch up on all that has happened this month. I have not had the time or inclination to do any posting in the past few weeks. As you read this blog and the ones that will follow, you will begin to see why our heads are spinning like tops.

The Fleetwood rally turned out to be a very good rally for us in terms of sales. By most standards it was a small to medium rally (415 coaches) and a small number of vendors (34). I think many of the vendors did reasonably well, which is a hopeful sign that the economy has bottomed out. This was a Fleetwood sponsored rally which almost did not happen. Fleetwood filed chapter 11 and the courts had to approve the expense of the rally. They now are in the final stages of being purchased by a holding company that seems to have their best interest at heart (an all to often false statement). In any case, the Fleetwood folks seemed upbeat as did most of the attendees.

In our last blog I mentioned our engine problems in the bus. We got the bus home without a problem, arriving there on Friday (7/3). Over the next 3 ½ days I removed the engine and took it to the Detroit Diesel Dealer. The results of the engine tear down can be seen at: The quote was over $15K. We do not have that kind of money, so we have been scrambling to find acceptable alternatives. More in another blog.

We drove our car to Ohio for a major FMCA rally. In the process we destroyed the engine in our Durango. We then went back home and loaded the PT Cruiser and headed out again. The rally turned out to be a good one for us. More in another blog (detect a theme here?)

We are currently at the Greenville Inn (map). We stopped here to do some genealogy research. We hit the jackpot with some great information (more later).

Well, that is all that I have energy for right now. I will try to fill in all the holes in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hello from Gillette, WY

Hello from Gillette, WY

Wednesday afternoon July 1, 2009 (First travelogue of this trip)

We are at the Fleetwood Factory Rally at the Cam-Plex facility (map). Actually the rally ended yesterday.

For the past several days we have felt like a yo-yo with some pretty significant ups and downs. As you read this belated blog, you will see why we are mentally drained and “wiped out”.

First, let's catch up on our travels. When we last posted it was May 22nd and we were on our way home from a couple of rallies in Goshen, IN. Since then we had a family vacation in Dillon, CO from 6/12 to 6/20. We had a ball! During the week, all three of the girls and their families were with us in a couple of condos plus one daughter's family town house. Very relaxing and lots of quality time with the eight grandkids. We usually have the family week in our various campers at a campground, but this was a fun alternative.

For this trip we left on Wednesday 6/24. It is less than 400 miles to Gillette, but we planned to do the trip in two days. We stopped in Douglas, WY. We had planned to stay in a campground since it was pretty warm, but the one we could find was full. We pulled off onto a circle road for an area that was not yet developed. We were not sure if we would be asked to move, but we had a peaceful night. The next morning, a sheriff stopped by and asked if we were OK and then drove off.

We got to Gillette on Thursday and got settled in. Friday afternoon we set up for the show. We had a very good show. I did two seminars and Pat did two craft classes. I was busy the whole show and really did not get to “relax”. Booth traffic always comes in waves and this time the waves were almost overwhelming at times. That is a good problem, but it still causes moments of anxiety when I have to leave the booth to make a customer call at the coach or fill extinguishers when customers are waiting in the booth.

Our plans for this trip were to travel to Ennis, MT for an Eagle bus rally and then on to Bowling Green, OH for the big FMCA rally and a converted coach pre-rally. Unfortunately most of that will not happen. That is the down part of the “yoyo”. Ever since I got the bus on the road, I have had to add some coolant every 1-3K miles. I figured that I had a very small leak somewhere. I recently installed a temporary catch bottle on the pressure relief valve outlet and discovered that the coolant was being forced out of the system. Worse yet, I discovered that the coolant was being turned gray in color. On this trip the problem has gotten worse. I am pretty sure that I have a head gasket issue. I went to the local Detroit Diesel repair shop and they concur. They were kind enough to give me an outrageous quote of $6K-8K!

I have had a few moments during our stay here to think about our problem, post my problem on the various bus bulletin boards and make several calls. I have gotten some good input and this has helped me form a couple of optional plans.

For sure we have canceled the Eagle and Converted Coach rallies. They would have been great fun, but we were not going as vendors, so we would not be loosing sales. The FMCA rally is troublesome. We will probably not be able to get our vendor fees back. We are looking at alternatives to get to that rally.

Today we are staying over at the Cam-Plex grounds and relaxing and catching up. Tomorrow we will head towards home. We will stop at a well known diesel repair shop to see how they might approach the job. In Gillette we had worked out a scheme to take out the rear window and pull the head with the engine in the bus. By removing the bed platform (easy) there is full access to the engine. Worse case, I can remove the engine and take it to a repair shop or do the work myself. I had the engine in and out several times during the conversion, so I know I could pull it in about 8 hours. I still have all the equipment necessary for the job.

I will probably make another post to this travelogue to let the readers know how we will approach the repair of the bus.

That is all for now.