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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Harvey's pipes.

After another couple of days rummaging around in Harvey's nether regions I think the pipework is all tight again. Judging by the way the floor dried out so quickly and didn't show any sign of having being wet before, I think the leak was a result of winter storage and joints drying out rather than a long-time problem. In the end I had to replace the plastic drain valve as well, which decided it couldn't really handle the pressure. So off for another mystery tour; first to the RV park shop, more out of habit than expectation, to find that they didn't have one but they did know of a brilliant plumbing supply shop a mile down the road. They didn't have one either but they sent me on to an Ace hardware another mile down the road, which had all the original plumbing fixings for a GMC! Quite remarkable. It was an ironmongers (does anyone call them that nowadays?) from my youth. Like Winslades in Winscombe in its heyday, it had rows and rows of dusty cardboard mini-boxes full of the most obscure bolts and widgets and washers and doodads. They had not only the plastic valve I needed ($7) but three variations of it. Wot joy. I scooted back to Harv put in the new valve, topped up the battery with distilled water from Giant Foods, plugged it all back in and turned on the water pump. Brrrp...and silence, and no drips. Perfect.

Of course with the mysterious pipework region now fully exposed I decided to do one or two other jobs, including properly mounting the generator socket, which involved endless poking about in Home Depot, and then  going back to pick up other fittings to make the gang box I'd bought actually fit the slightly too big hole. But it does now and works well, so I put all the cupboard liners back in and decided against covering them back up with carpet.

There are two original digital accessories by the doorway, a clock and a temperature gauge which have been looking at me blankly since I first picked up the GMC. The clock is so dim that it cannot be seen unaided by the human eye, and the thermometer occasionally bursts into life with a brief, but exciting reading of 99! Brother-in-law Richard has agreed to have a look at them, being that he knows about resistors, and circuit boards and all that good stuff that I am fairly clueless about. If anyone can get them going again, Richard can!    

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Harvey's plumbing, or why you can never do only one job.

Right. To work. Back down to Woodbridge today to tackle The Leak. I pulled up the carpet and it was pretty clear where the water had come from - the city-fill water connection on the other side of the wardrobe. Scary, but actually not as scary as it seemed at the weekend, because now I was armed with Advice from Other Owners as Foretold by the Oracle of GMC.net. Out came the carpet in the cupboard and of course, the sideburned engineers at GM had thought all this through thirty odd years ago and put in removable panels over all the right places. So I unscrewed the panels and there was the elusive City Fill Water Connection in all its plastic glory. Its here in fact:

I turned on the water pump and sure enough there was a hissing and then a dribbling from the white cylinder at the top right of the picture. I tightened up the screws and it stopped! Oh was I pleased with myself. Problem solved! Well  95% anyway. A little further down the pipe was a small drop of water from another connection. It was hardly worth bothering with, but I had come this far... To get to that I had to go through the Living Area Electrical Cupboard, which has all the big fuses and a weighty metal thing about the size of a shoe box which handles all the various power sources.

To unscrew the back panel I had to take all of that stuff out of the cupboard... To do that I had to disconnect all the batteries, so out into the rain to unhook the massive 8D battery at the back and as I pulled it out I realised that it needed topping up with distilled water. Right. They'll have some in the shop at the entrance, where they sell every sort of RV and boat accessory you can imagine. No they didn't "but the 7-11 has distilled water" said a guy in the queue. Off to the 7-11 where they looked at me as if I had asked if they had any live dinosaurs. Then an older guy in the queue (Old Hand perhaps) said "You need the grocery store." I went to the grocery store where three people had never heard of distilled water and clearly doubted my sanity. I tried Home Depot. "distillated what now?" I gave up and went back to my box of wires. I removed them all, then the back panel and finally had my hands on the leaky connection. I tightened it up and....ran out of time to put the battery back in and try the water pump to see if it was fixed. Tomorrow...

What's in a name.

I have never, ever named any vehicle I have ever owned, and tend to curl my lip slightly when people introduce me to their car ("this is Pumpkin"). But "GMC" seems at least a syllable too long to keep saying every time, and "RV" doesn't do it justice. One Mum in the playground, Bonnie, refers to the GMC as "The City Of Woodbridge" which I rather like, as it makes it sound like a battleship or a galactic star cruiser in an Iain M Banks sci fi novel. It makes me smile, but doesn't do much to bring down the syllable count. Then it struck me. Harvey. It nods both to the vehicle type, the period and the steady sort of masculinity of a distinctly American type, which seems to sum it up quite well. I still can't quite bring myself to call it by name, but if there is to be a name, Harvey seems to fit.

Smarter than the average bear.


A hundred miles outside Washington DC, through Warrenton and Luray and just across the Skyline Drive is Yogi Bear's "Camp Jellystone". Its a collection of RV sites, and wooden cabins with a big grassy field in the middle and paddle boats, giant trampolines and things to climb on. This weekend it had our GMC and us in it too, along with Maya, Liam, Alia and Darrel. They stayed in a cabin and we, of course, stayed in the GMC. It was the perfect, easy destination in which to try out all the GMC's toys and iron out any problems.

Apart from having a cup of tea in it when we arrived in Woodbridge, Philippa has never actually driven in the GMC so I wanted it to make a good impression and sure enough the beds turned out to be pretty comfortable, the stove worked well, the heater came on when it was supposed to and the airconditioning worked so that was all very pleasing. Less pleasing was the fact that I broke the furnace thermostat in the night trying to turn it off, the sewer hose was ridiculously short and we awoke to find a damp patch of carpet outside the bathroom, of which more later. (can you bear the suspense). Anyway it was a grand weekend in which we assume Tom was with us, but we never really saw him accept for meals. The rest of the time he was rushing around with Liam and Alia and we could just about pick out his seven year old form, bouncing vigorously on the giant trampoline at the end of the campground, and waving at Yogi who appeared every now and then to say hi to the kids, who probably had no idea who he was, given that Yogi is probably in his late fifties by now, and some way from his heyday.



The grownups really enjoyed sitting about in the bright sunshine and doing not very much at all, punctuated with the occasional beer and book. Actually, quite a bit of my weekend was punctuated with sorting small things in the GMC like flushing out the anti-freeze in the system and filling it up with water. Then I tried out the ridiculous thirty-two year old sewer hose, which was so short that I had to park the GMC virtually on the drain in order to plug it in. Ho for the shop and $40 later I had a new sewer hose which expanded up to 15 feet but compressed down to 45 inches - small enough to be hidden away. Inevitably the fitting wasn't quite right, so I ended up trotting back to the shop to get an adapter, but it all worked. Actually, everything does really and in a really ingenious way. The bunk folds out and swings up very simply for Tom, the water heats as you drive along, the bathroom is a perfect little demonstrate of form and function. Its all very satisfying. Apart from that wet patch. It appeared just after I plugged into the "city water fill" where you plug in your hose to their tap, and rely on their water pressure. Unfortunately there is a wardrobe and drawers in front of the connection but that seemed to be where it was coming from... Rats. It looked like it would be a complete pain to track down and fix and I didn't want to add anything else to The List, but there was no avoiding this one. But I wasn't about to start pulling things apart this weekend, so instead the seven of us cooked each other lovely meals, threw the kids in bed when it was dark, and chatted around a campfire into the chilly night. It felt like we had had the GMC for years.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

I take it back...

My praise of the Duo-Therm Old Hands lasted right up until the point at which I opened the box they sent me, to discover that the $5 piece of foam they charged $15 to send me was too small by a factor of about three. Maybe when they said I could cut it to fit, they meant I could cut down the air-conditioner, because that is the only way it would have worked. Is it completely impossible for someone at Duo-Therm to call the warehouse and ask someone to get the thing out and measure it before they send it out? Apparently so. Thankfully, about twenty years ago someone invented the internet so I went on that, found a roll of stickyback foam for eight dollars and it is even now lining the AC housing.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Back to the real world...

If you have a thirty two year old roof-mounted Duo-Therm airconditioner, chances are that the foam is spontaneously trying to escape from the housing on yours too. Duo-Therm were initially a bit clueless about what to replace it with. The pimply youth on the other end of the customer service email (I assume it was a pimply youth), initially suggested a part number which turned out to be a small foam block the size of a bar of soap. Over the course of six or seven more emails, said youth was unresolvably  mystified when I explained that a piece of foam the size of a bar of soap wouldn't really be able to replace the 12" by 12" piece I needed. I sent them a photo and eventually the young email person at Duo-Therm said he had consulted one of the "Old Hands", who of course, knew exactly what I needed. I wish there was a way of politely saying at the outset of these kinds of chats that there is no point in me trying to explain the problem to the young person on the front line, but is there an Old Hand around that I can talk to...? Anyway, the part has arrived at Woodbridge. The Fantastic Fan I ordered (with the help of another Old Hand) arrived when were were in Florida, and Jerry in Northport has sent the missing rubber strips from the screen door that got separated from the kit when I bought the GMC, so I now have some projects to get on with...

Space Age Motorhome



Sleeps seven, plenty of storage space, twenty seven million horsepower, dedicated maintenance team and soon to be available second hand...

We went to Florida to see the fourth-from-last shuttle launch and it didn't disappoint; first a flash from the boosters lights the dawn sky, then there is a brilliant glow as it lifts from the gantry - the sound took about ten seconds to cross the water to where we were. There was a dull roar then a louder crackling thump that feels like being pushed in the chest. It arcs across the sky, chasing the space station (which we saw twinkling across the night sky before the launch) and when it gets high enough it catches the sunrise, the shuttle glinting in the light and its vapour trail illuminated so that it looks like a comet streaking across the sky.