Where Are We Now?
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October 1 Ė 6:
We spent this time getting things done so that eventually we can leave Texas and head to Florida. Mac and my dad went and found a golf cart. Itís a very nice one. Now my parents can get around in the park easily. We also ran around getting them set up with doctors locally, set up a local bank account, local insurance, etc. etc. etc. Lots of work.
Friday, October 7:
Today we are leaving and heading back to Florida. There is always something that we could be doing here but we really need to leave so that we can see our daughter before she has the baby. Sheís eight months pregnant now so she could have the baby at any time.
Weíve spent a little over a month helping my parents get started over again. I feel like Iím leaving dependent children. I worry about them, are they going to be alright? Now that my parents have reached the point where they arenít strong anymore and they have started depending on others they donít feel like my parents anymore but like my children. My dad is getting so feeble now, he doesnít have much strength, he canít even carry a bag of laundry to help my mom. They both are getting so forgetful too. But that could be more the result of stress caused by the hurricane than by their age. I worry about them but Iím glad that they are where they are at. They will receive all the help they need at the Care Center.
We finally left today even though it was after 3 in the afternoon. There was just an endless list of tasks to complete before we could leave. Mac wanted to stay another night since it was so late already but I insisted that we leave. Putting it off another day would have been very hard on all of us. It was hard enough as it was. We were all trying not to cry.
We drive north heading for Shreveport LA. We had heard that gas might still be hard to find on I10 so we are going to head for I20. Shreveport has casinos also so weíll get a few days of enjoyment in before we hit Florida and all the chores there that we need to do there.
We drove to Shreveport (Bossier City, LA) and arrived about dark. Weíre staying at the Horseshoe Casino in their parking lot designated for RVís. Thankfully, the weather isnít hot so we donít need to run the generator and air conditioner. We just opened a few windows that weíd previously fixed to open a small amount with a screw in them so they canít be opened any further than that.
We went into the casino and went to the ďWinnerís CircleĒ (a.k.a. Players Club) to get some new cards and to check if we had enough comps to get dinner. We had enough comps so we ate dinner. The food was very good too. Afterwards we went and played for a few hours.
Saturday, October 8 Ė Sunday, October 9:
We continued staying at the Horseshoe Casino. Weíve played quite a bit and using the comps that weíve earned weíve eaten at the buffet and at one of the restaurants. The food on the buffet is very good. There was a lot of food to choose from too. There were baby back ribs on the buffet too and they were so tender. I ate a bunch of them. We enjoyed the food at the restaurant also. It was flavorful and there was too much per order. It was very nice.
The weather was very nice too. We didnít have to run the air conditioner at all. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Horseshoe Casino. The video poker was full pay meaning 8/5 Bonus Poker and 9/6 Jacks or Better. Those are the only 2 games that I checked out. Mac enjoyed playing live poker and craps. I hit a Royal Flush once while we were there. Mac did good also at poker. So we were winners all around.
A few comments about the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, LA. I think this will be one of our regular stops in years to come. We look for several things in a casino
I'd rate the Horseshoe a solid "4" on a 1 to 5 scale as follows:
Video Poker: "3" Full pay 8/5 BP and 9/6 JOB. Ticket in/out machines. No progressives. No FPDW. No promos.
Live Poker: "3" Mostly 4/8 limit games. They do have a cash NL game. Tournaments M, W, Su only. No snacks, no free coffee/tea/water.
Food: "4" They have an excellent buffet. Coffee shop (called the "Oak Creek Cafe and Grill") is very good. We had no disappointments. We ate a variety of foods here including sandwiches, Italian dishes, steak, seafood, etc. All were Good to Excellent. Plan to try the steak house next trip and maybe the Asian restaurant. One negative is no Italian restaurant on site.
Comps: "4" Our normal play will cover 2 full meals a day in either the coffee shop or the buffet. Looks like we'd qualify for the steak house once or twice a week.
RV Parking: "4" Special area for RV parking, clean, fairly near casino, patrolled by security. No dump.
Other Misc: "4" Excellent Craps, tables in good condition, short tables, allow setting, 100x odds, $5 table open most of the time, good dealers. Attractive grounds and interior. Restrooms are "ok" and basically clean. Personnel are friendly and mostly knowledgeable.
Monday, October 10:
We slept in late this morning and went over to the casino and played for a few hours. Afterwards we had a nice lunch and left heading east towards Florida. It was a fun weekend but we need to move on.
We start having some trouble with the RV. Itís started running rough and backfires occasionally. Weíre using too much gas and canít go as fast as we would like to. The RV needs a tune up and probably some other work done but we want to continue heading to Tampa.
We drive to Vicksburg Mississippi and spend the night at Wal-Mart.
Tuesday, October 11:
We head out and continue on towards Jackson Miss. We head down Highway 49 towards Hattiesburg Miss. We start seeing more and more damage along the way. In Hattiesburg we get on Highway 98 heading towards Mobile Alabama. We get on I-10 and continue on to Summerdale. Weíre going to spend the night at Rainbow Plantation Escapee Park. Itís a very nice park and quite large also. They have a very large nice swimming pool that is solar heated. The clubhouse is very nice and the library is great too. We spent one night there but we really liked it and want to visit again.
Wednesday, October 12:
This morning Mac ran out to town and bought supplies to change the oil on the RV. After he got back he changed the oil. Itís good for the RV but it didnít help the rough running that itís doing right now. We have to continue on and just hope that the RV makes it back to Tampa without breaking down.
We leave around lunchtime and continue on to Pensacola Florida. We stop there and pick up our mail. Pensacola got hit this year by Hurricane Dennis. There were several places that had not recovered from last years hurricanes and then got hit this year with another hurricane. There is a lot of damage everywhere in that we saw in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Itís very sad to see so much damage.
After picking up our mail we head out to I-10 again. There was a long line of traffic backed up. They were working on the bridge and it was down to one lane of traffic. We were in traffic about an hour to go one mile so we got off and headed over to Highway 90. The traffic was moving much better on Hwy 90. We drove on to Marianna Florida and spend the night at Wal-Mart.
We got up early this morning and headed out. Mac is really in the mood to drive and he drives us all the way to the Tampa area. I was very tired for some reason so I took a nice nap on the couch. Mac didnít stop except when needed.
We arrive and check into the Alafia River RV Resort in Riverview Florida. Itís right down the road from our daughterís house. Hereís a link to their website: http://www.alafiariverrvresort.com/.
Weíre so happy that the RV made it back and didnít break down on the road. Now we can get it taken care of.
Friday, October 14 Ė Wednesday, October 19:
This time is spent visiting with our family and catching up on all the news. Our daughter is so cute with her big round belly. Weíre glad that we got back here early enough for the birth.
Thursday, October 20:
Mac has checked around and found a place to take our RV to. Weíre having a lot of work done on it. Mac can write more on what weíre having done. We take the RV in to the shop and unload our stuff that we are taking to a hotel. We have a reservation at an extended stay place. We had to pack up clothes to take with us, unload the refrigerator, pack up our office so that we can continue to work. So Thursday was pretty much a hard working day.
Chris has mentioned the problems we had with the RV from October 10th through 13th. It started smoking blue from the exhaust, idling rough, had a slight vibration, had a dull clicking sound like a leaking exhaust manifold, and would backfire under heavy load such as climbing a big hill. It also started overheating again. Add all this up and it's likely we have more than one problem.
The most minor problems I can imagine causing all this would be: a partially clogged radiator and/or a defective fan clutch; some issue in the heads involving valve stem seals and either a burned valve, or a head gasket leak; exhaust manifold cracked or gasket blown.
I saw basically two options for repairs. Option one was to just fix specific problems, which would involve fairly extensive diagnostics, pulling the radiator, and likely a partial engine disassembly of one or both heads. The labor I guess would be about $1000 to $1500 for this. Add parts expense, and we're talking easily spending $2k. The result of this would be a good running engine with 74,000 miles and still a small rear main seal leak.
Option two was to replace the engine. I shopped around and considered a factory long block, a complete crate motor from GM, a Jasper engine, etc. If money was no object we'd have a 502 GM Crate engine. What an awesome engine 515 lb/ft Torque, 320 HP! But the engine alone cost $6k, plus other parts and labor we'd be spending over $12k. WAY too much. Jasper was also too expensive. They wanted over $4k for just the stock long block. After much local searching, I found a local shop here in Tampa, Engine Lab of Tampa, that specializes in complete engine rebuilds for stock and high performance applications.
Engine Lab of Tampa made a great initial impression. I visited their facility, met the owner Dave Deegan, saw their operation, and I was sold on them. All that remained was to get a quote. To my surprise their quote was the lowest cost of any I had considered -- $5,250 for complete job remove, rebuild, reinstall. Of course, this is the LOW estimate, many other components may need to be repaired or replaced, but the same would be true for all other options so this number is good for "apples to apples" comparison with the alternatives. So, on October 20th we left our coach with them, and checked into an Extended Stay hotel.
We expect all this to be completed before November 1st and I'll report back to you then. In addition, I expect to have updates and some photos for you as we go along. The shop will invite me in after the complete teardown to discuss other optional parts replacements and any issues they encounter. Note that the final cost will be quite a bit higher than the basic estimate. I'm adding $700 in parts & services to the engine alone (cam kit and balancing). Also added expense replacing the water pump, all hoses & belts, radiator service, etc.
If you're interested in the technical details of this rebuild see the story at this link to our Tech and Projects Section.
Tuesday, October 25:
Quick update. Wilma missed us to the south. But it looked bad for Key West on the news. We're worried about our "winter home" at Key West NAS, but we should know something in a few days. The temperatures here in Tampa are very cool now, 50's at night, so I visited the RV and picked up some jackets. They took the engine out today. The shop was closed due to the hurricane but we still expect to finish on time. I took a couple of pictures but forgot to bring the cable to connect camera to PC, so that will have to wait a couple of days. And the biggest news; our daughter is getting ready to deliver our grandson :-) The doctor has a few concerns, nothing too serious, but he plans to induce labor on Thursday. So we're all excited about that! Yes, we'll post photos of the baby!
Friday, October 28:
It's a boy! :-)
Our grandson Austin Kenneth Acord, 5 lbs 14 oz, was born yesterday at 5:14pm (what a coincidence huh?). Our daughter Nicole and baby are both doing fine. Photo below, additional photos click here.
Daughter Nicole, and Grandson Austin
RV Engine Rebuild Update
The engine rebuild is progressing well. We discovered the primary engine malfunction was a burned valve. Also a number of other problems; worn cam lobe, damaged rod cap, exhaust manifold leaks, burned spark plug wires, leaky oil sender unit, leaky rear main seal, defective sensors, leaky water pump, partially blocked radiator, etc. etc. etc. We expect everything to be finished before November 3rd.
I hadn't mentioned this before, but we do have a "warranty" on this RV. It's the "CSP", Continued Service Plan, purchased through the Good Sam club. These warranties are quite restrictive on what they cover, especially on older coaches like ours, so we're only expecting them to cover a small part of what we're having done. They cover parts that have sudden mechanical or electrical failure, not normal wear and tear. Our most realistic hope is that they'll cover the burned valve, and pay for the standard hours that repair alone would have cost. I'll keep you updated on the results here.
Our "baby" -- You can see our RV in the 2nd bay here at Engine Lab of Tampa
Greg is a master mechanic. The engine is out and ready to start tearing down.
Here's the burned valve - hard to believe the engine was running even as good as it was!
Wow, another month has passed! It's amazing to me how fast time has gone since August. Much of the last two months is a blur. And even though we face some hectic times ahead we're looking forward to November and December. Here's an outline of just a few events we have upcoming:
End of Month Budget Update
We paid for 8 nights camping this month; one at the Rainbow Plantation SKP Park in Summerdale, AL, and seven nights at the Alafia River Resort in Riverview, FL. The latter was $27.14 a night, and that increased our average cost per night by 31 cents to $8.42.
We also have a "miscellaneous" expense this month for hotel stay while our RV is in the shop. I expect it will be around $700 by the time we check out. I debated whether to include this in our spreadsheet, but decided against it. It's not an actual "camping expense" so it's omitted. Of course, it DOES get counted in our general budget. Can't ignore $700! But it would distort the averages if included as camping costs.
Camping costs since Jan 1, 2005
Our previous mileage for driving in the East (i.e. flat lands) was around 7.5 MPG. This included towing our Honda Civic, and running the generator occasionally. Out west, our average dropped to under 7 MPG in the mountains. More recently, with the burned valve and other issues we averaged only 6.31 MPG over the last 640 miles driven. With the engine modifications being done now, we hope to improve fuel economy and power. Will report back our results next month.