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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Quote of the day

As Heather said "The GMC is really just grownup lego isn't it"

They had only arrived on this continent the night before, but so eager were they to see this triumph of American engineering that all other Washington sightseeing was postponed and we were on our way to Woodbridge at the crack of about ten o'clock. We even had a run in Harvey to Walmart, so that was another extremely exciting thing in just one day. The most exciting thing for me though was the re-installation of the original seventies digital clock, which Richard Thomas performed a minor miracle with. When he first took the back off he said it had clearly gone bang in a seriously spectacular way at some point, and it was extremely fortunate that it hadn't taken Harvey with it. He replaced several components and fitted a fuse and its now restored to its full blue-LED glory. Despite shouts of "clear!" and much earnest thumping of the thermostat's electronic heart, it was sadly beyond saving, though Richard was mystified as to why and it no doubt keeps him awake in the wee small hours. You saved the clock though Richard! And what's more I have found a replacement 12v thermometer on the interweb for $8 which even has matching blue LEDs. Will this excitement never end...?  


So apparently you can actually CAMP in these things, not just endlessly tinker with them. The Tidewater Crabs, who collect all the owners from the region together in one handy group, were meeting at the Antietam KOA and we tagged along too. It was the first time we have seen more than two of these things in one place and we noticed lots of other campers checking out our little patch of the KOA and scratching their heads over this assemblage of thirty somethings. The vehicles that is... What a nice bunch of people though and utterly helpful.  Eric looked at my dash and I pointed out the two needle gauge that has had me scratching my head since driving the GMC home. "Oh that's a pressure gauge for your two suspension airbags" he said. of course it is - thanks Eric. The accumulated GMC wisdom was a wonder to behold. Even if one of the wives told Philippa rather wearily that she had reached her limit on GMC talk. "Do you have another hobby?" asked Philippa "OOOH yes" she said emphatically "you really have to..."

Sandra and Bob from Texas rather put our own forthcoming trip to shame when they told us they were also on their way to Nova Scotia (from Texas)  and would be driving home via Illinois to stop off at another GMC gathering. They first got their GMC in Florida and four days later were headed for Alaska in it. Now that's confidence.

There were some more attractive paint jobs, but Harvey held up well I think and I was pleased to hear more than one person say that we had got "one of the best available". Several people wanted a look inside and I proudly demonstrated how the DVD, er didn't play through the screen at all. Rats. Off came the back of the dash, out came the DVD unit and in tracing back the wiring I discovered that all the speaker wires had simply been twisted together. So I put proper connectors on before going any further, and then continued my voyage of discovery, head squished against the windscreen as I peered into the electrical spaghetti behind the dash. I eventually discovered that I had stopped the DVD working by removing some redundant wiring a few days earlier which turned out to be not redundant at all, but in fact, vital. I plugged it all back in and it worked fine. Not only that ("there's more?" I hear you gasp - why yes, read on) not only that but I showed the Tidewater Crabs the old analogue TV receiver that was also lurking in the dash and Ellie promptly gave me a new digital one which she said she didn't need. I plugged it in, raised the aerial and we have perfect TV reception on our screen,  

Philippa, wisely, had made her excuses and left with Tom and Maya and co for a tour of the Antietam civil war battlefields while I got friendly with Harvey's innermost mechanicals, so when they all got back things looked pretty much normal again and she probably wondered what on earth I had been doing all day...

Evenings were spent either by the fire or in the back of Harvey with the kids running around until much too late and the adults talking about the kids running around until much too late, over glasses of wine. There was a great little diner on site, with an "I love Lucy" theme - lots of memorabilia and reasonable food too.

We left during a break in the heavy overnight rain the next morning - and none too soon as it turned out. I got an email from Sandra saying the access road flooded that afternoon and those who stayed, were stuck. The KOA plied them with free pizza though and it all sounded rather jolly. I felt I had spent rather too much time messing about with Harvey and not enough with the other owners, so I hope our paths cross again so we can be more sociable! Thanks to everyone for a lovely weekend.


To the left, a cleaned out house battery compartment with the old rotten wood removed along with what was left of a battery hold-down. To the right, the new varnished wood base in place along with the newly farbicated compartment cover - plans courtesy of Bob. Thanks Bob! There is a whacking great battery in there now with an off switch you can get to through the vent hole. All very satisfying, as was the installation of the new holding tank dump valve below. Which is something I never thought I would hear myself say...

All the new bolts went in very smoothly, right up until the one I hadn't got. So slide out from underneath, scrape off the worst of the muck and head back to Home Depot for that last 80 cent nut, bolt, washer, lockwasher that I needed. So, that's power and sewage sorted for the moment at least. Now we can go away for the weekend....

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


After several days groveling around on the floor of the GMC, cutting up carpet, sawing two by fours and heaving the dinettes about, they are now raised up on two frames allowing people of normal height to to see each other over the table. Lifting them by four inches also created a little bit of extra space which is exactly the right size to fit the original jack, which is made out of girders and possibly heavier than the GMC itself. Of course once it is stored away, it will take a small crane to remove.  

I got lucky with the carpet, as having cut it out from under the dinettes, there turned out to be exactly enough, and no more, to cover the frames so they blend in. $14.99 on a heavy duty stapler was money well spent...So we will see this weekend whether Philippa's feet touch the floor and whether Tom can now sit at the table and do lego/drawing/plan world domination as we parents sit up front in blissful ignorance.

I have also fitted (and bear with me here) a brilliant little trash bin which exactly fits on the door of the cupboard under the sink. No more ratty old supermarket bags floating about in dark corners ready to spill their all at the least hint of a bend in the road. Yes I know, how nerdy can you get, but actually these things matter and for once the engineers with the kipper ties who built Harv and his ilk appear not to have thought through the question of What Do You Do With Your Trash. Thankfully, Camco did.

Friday, 14 May 2010


Work on Harvey has actually continued apace over the past few weeks - despite the lack of blog entries about it. If something doesn't appear on a blog, has it actually happened? Discuss. Anyway the green golfball on my forehead is testament to my efforts in this regard, if not my expertise... I was lying under the "black tank" using a spanner to pull on a reluctant nut holding the dump valve, when it flew off and whacked me in the head. Lying, grime-smeared on a piece of cardboard, head throbbing and effluent dripping murkily into the gravel beside me I did momentarily wonder if there weren't easier ways to have fun... Anyway, it all came off in the end - quite literally in fact. I won the battle of the bolts and even fixed the tank level sender in the process, so it was a good afternoon.

I drove Harvey out to a sheet metal place in Woodbridge to commission a new house-battery compartment cover from aloominum (as we must call it here), and bumped into Tom Phipps who is a fellow owner in Woodbridge and someone I have exchanged emails with a few times. It was great to put a face to the name and nice to meet you Tom. It was quite a sociable day in fact as when I pulled up into the Home Depot carpark an elderly gent in a beaten-up pickup stopped right in front of me in order to come over and ask me what I thought of the GMC experience. "Haven't seen one of these for years" he told me. He was quite a character, with three fingers missing on his right hand as a result of an argument with some kind of machine, and a glass eye replacing "the one I lost last year". He was a spry 81 and "what's between the hairline and the eyebrows still works pretty good". Old vehicles. They do bring out a reaction that the new ones very rarely do.

My sheet metalists were in a classic small factory. It was mostly full of silent oil-smeared machines in that vaguely 1950s pale green. I had sent plans of this battery cover (courtesty of Bob on of course) to a few places in the area. All the ones with websites replied somewhat sniffily that they didn't do that sort of thing. It needed a been-there-for-years kind of place with no web presence and not much going on; pokey offices stuffed with creaky leather chairs, piles of curling paper obscuring all available surfaces, and a receptionist of a certain age called Tammy. Nirvana. Yes they could do it, said big Ken. How about Monday. Actually they did it that afternoon.

So now I have ordered a new dump valve which I must put on next week, before we head up to Maryland for a weekend of camping with other GMCers. Its our last chance for a camping roadtest before the big road trip...