|DC at the end of August
||[Sep. 16th, 2011|09:24 pm]
We spent longer than we’d planned in the DC metro area in August; this trip had a bit more excitement and slightly less fun than we usually have. J was scheduled to work at two different customers during the week, and then we were going to get my cousin and head up to northern New York for a relaxing week in the country. At least that was the plan.
We were in town for the earthquake in Virginia; J was in a business meeting (they evacuated to the parking lot and reconvened) and I was in the truck at a red light, wondering what the heck the nearby construction crew was doing to make the truck shake like that. When we got home we were relieved to find the cats completely unimpressed by anything so inconsequential as a little shaking; the rig moves a little as we move around, and lately they’ve been doing a lot of travelling, so they just took it in stride. B came over for dinner and we all felt a slight aftershock then. I didn’t feel any of the later stronger aftershocks, but by then I was more worried about other things (like a hurricane, maybe?)
We were watching the weather closely (obsessively? nahh...) as Hurricane Irene came on. My cousin came down and had kabobs with us and dropped off her youngest son for a week as planned. Our thought had been to head to Corning, NY and then the Finger Lake area while he was with us, but the plan changed repeatedly over the next few days. First, it was go over to a friend’s house for a Doctor Who party and bring chili, leave on Sunday for our trip north to New York. Then it was bail out on the party and leave on Saturday, getting out of town while the weather was still good enough to travel. Then, midweek, the truck started losing power on the hills while J was on his way back to the campground. He limped it home while I called around to repair shops and rental car places. We made arrangements to drop the truck at the mechanic and pick up a rental car first thing in the morning, and all was as well as may be, until the truck wouldn’t start (sigh.) One call to Enterprise and another to Good Sam, and J went off to get the rental while I waited for the tow truck. We were still hoping to get out of DC on Saturday, provided it was a simple repair.
Of course, it was a complicated repair: with the symptoms of losing power and then not starting the next day, the mechanic initially thought the problem was the batteries. The batteries have been a long-standing issue and one of the posts had actually broken on one of them, so that made sense to us. They replaced the batteries and took it for a nice long test drive and had 20 minutes of good driving, but on the drive back to the garage the power loss issue started up again. They got it back to the garage, checked the fuel filter (full of gunk) replaced that, and repeated the test drive with the same result. Turns out the protective coating on the inside of the fuel tank is flaking away and the tank (and the filter, and the pump, and the thing in the tank that sucks in the fuel) are full of what are essentially flakes of paint.
By now it was Friday evening. The coming storm didn’t look like it would be too bad. T&B offered us and the cats emergency crash space if needed, but the projected winds were going to be merely moderate so we thought we would be ok in the rig. Party back on. The weather was just cruddy enough Saturday morning that I wasn’t sorry not to be driving in it. J put the chili on in the morning and in the evening we went and had a nice dinner at T&B’s. We skipped the 9 pm showing of Doctor Who in favor of getting back before the wind and rain ramped up completely; both of us wanted to be in place to check the rig and run in the slides and/or evac the cats if need be. We finally went to bed at midnight, but every gust of wind had me awake and listening for more.
We heard the power go out in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully it was cool enough that we didn’t need the A/C. The fridge and the water heater both run on propane and most of the lights are 12 volt, so we weren’t too uncomfortable while we waited for the electricity to come back on. The campground has a good sized backup generator, so the clubhouse had air conditioning and lights; we were hanging out there recharging our phones when the power came back at about 8 pm. I heard folks talking later in the week and it turns out that they got power back to the whole campground, then they had another glitch and half the place lost power again. We were in the lucky half that kept power, which was a mercy since we couldn’t move the rig yet.
We went over to see how they were doing with the truck on Monday. Our mechanic did a bunch of research online to find that this is a problem caused by biodiesel interacting with the tank lining; we occasionally fuel up with 5-10% biodiesel so that's probably what did it. Plus buying inexpensive fuel -- who knows what percent we might have gotten. He was going to send it to the diesel mechanic he has an association with, who would powerwash the tank and put everything back together, but the diesel person didn't have an opening until Wednesday. So our guy started looking around for other solutions which would be faster. We said, well, would it be better to simply replace the tank? And he looked into that, and the only place to get a new tank is Ford, and the new tanks ($$$) have the same issues as the old ones. I don't mind replacing the tank but not if it's going to fail yet again. So he called his radiator supplier, and it turns out that the tank can be pressure washed and coated with a lining that he says is bulletproof (and more importantly fuel-proof) and it's about a third of the cost of a new tank, BUT the coating has to cure for 24 to 48 hours and it's being applied on Tuesday.
So, at this point the plan is to head out as soon as the truck is ready, which we hope will be Thursday noon-ish, dropping my cousin back at home on the way north to Oneida Lake. We’re still hoping to keep our weekend plans and be back on track after that. I am not holding my breath. Subject to change without notice. No warranty expressed or implied. Your mileage may vary. Etc, etc.