A spanner in the works

Try not to faint.

Yes, this is a new blog post.

I apologise for my extreme dearth of blog posts. I do hate the fact that I have become so apathetic when it comes to my writing, given that I started with such vigour and excitement, determined to record every aspect of my travelling life for posterity.

As time passes I seem to find myself dragged into whirlpool of everyday stuff and nonsense. And when I manage to kick free of it, I realise that it feels like an actual physical force. My body is tired and lethargic, my head feels all gummed up, and my actions seem small and inconsequential.

I’ve just looked at the date today and been shocked to realise that we are already almost a quarter of the way through the year. How on earth did that happen?! Time has slipped away and I am trying to remember if I have used it wisely or if I have let life get away from me; allowing days to just pass me by while I sit and watch them.

So let me take stock….

My last update was actually way back in September of last year, almost six months ago (and once again, it’s very surreal to think that). Loops and I had finished our time at Piney in TN, I was feeling pretty darn good about the whole summer in general, and we were off to face another winter season at Amazon, my 2nd in Kentucky.

All told, I consider that we ended the year on a high note. My Amazon season went swiftly and pretty pain free. If any of you remember my post from the previous year, you will know that I was beaten up fairly badly by the physicality of the job – concrete floors, near constant movement for 10 hours a day, the rigors of non-stop bending, kneeling and standing. This season I faced little of that. I was not only fully prepared mentally for what awaited me, but this time I had a full six months of on-my-feet preparation from working in the campground store to get me started.

So all told, I was a happy Amazon workamper (the pay rise to $15.00 per hour didn’t hurt either!). I enjoyed the feeling of returning to a place I already knew well. Admittedly I still had to battle every day with the bloody combination padlock they insist on using on our lockers, but apart from that, I felt settled and secure, and was even able to offer some advice and direction to some newbies who were having trouble finding their way through the maze of buildings and aisles.

I managed to score some new Amazon goodies – the world’s smallest tea mug and my amazing new hoodie (of which I am already inseparable from and have had people ask me where they can get one – sorry folks, staff only!). I even got Loops some cool socks! I only have one item left to conquer, and with some luck I might be able to do so this season, and that is to obtain my Amazon logo jogging bottoms which I have coveted now for two years.

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And so we were upbeat as we reached the end of 2018, with plans of using 2019 as a full travel year on the east coast.

Now, because I am on a really big Bernard Cornwell reading kick and am engrossed in The Saxon Stories series, I will say this: Wyrd bið ful āræd.

What?

It means ‘Fate is inexorable’.

And so it seems for Loops and I. Because despite our positive start to the new year; spending hours sat looking through RV magazine articles and making lists of all of the interesting places we might wish to visit, having a great holiday week at Disney in January (and getting to ride the unbelievable amazing Avatar ride – I was born to be a dragon rider), me being able to pass my Humanities CLEP exam, having been confirmed for a 3rd season at Amazon, and of course all of the friends and family we have managed to spend time with; we have now been sat stationary for 4 weeks and 6 days in the car park of an RV repair shop.

Fate has dealt us a cruel blow.

It seems that somewhere along the line Belle has managed to develop a crack in her rear tag axle, and not a little repairable one either.

We have no idea how, or where, or when this happened.

All we know is that upon leaving The Villages after a visit with my grandparents at the beginning of February, Loops noticed that our tag tyres had developed a negative camber to them. For the non-mechanics out there, translated that means both of our tag tyres were leaning in slightly at the top, rather than sitting straight upright.

Having already scheduled an appointment to have the bus checked out due to a faulty (we thought) suspension dump light that kept flickering on and off, we limped our way slowly south towards St Petersburg. I followed behind Loops, driving The Beast, just in case I saw anything unusual from the back; but all seemed normal on the road.

Pulling in for another walk-around at a rest area, Loops shuffled himself slightly under the rear axle and used his phone at the full extension of his arm to point and try to take pictures, to see if he could gain any more insight. Which he did. He saw this:

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This is a bent and broken shock absorber. Hmm. Well, that sucks for sure, we scratched our heads as to how it happened, but it is a relatively straightforward fix we thought. It wasn’t until we arrived at the repair shop and Belle was raised on some ramps that the actual problem became apparent. Which is this:

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Yup, a big ole’ crack on the axle. Well, shit.

Now, in other circumstances this might not have been such a large problem as it really is. Let me explain why.

The Bluebird Company produced custom designed motorhomes for its clients. This custom designing was not restricted to the interior of the buses either; the underneath of the buses also has some tinkering done with them too.

In our case, the specific model of bus that we have has a liftable tag axle. This means when we get to into a tight spot and need a little more manoeuvrability, we simply flip a switch and tad-da, the rear axle lifts off from the ground and enables us to have a smaller turning radius. Not all buses can do this.

Due to this feature, the axle we have is actually not a standard straight axle, it is dipped in the centre in a U-shape. This is because as the axle is raised off of the ground, if it was simple a straight shape, it would ram right in to the drive shaft that sits above it. The U-shape allows the axle to fit snuggly next to the drive shaft when raised instead of crumpling it.

Now having explained that, you can immediately see that our first issue is that we cannot go with the fastest method of replacement which is to buy a straight axle, have it fitted and be on our way. Strike One.

So, why not merely buy another U-shaped axle to replace the current one? Hmm. Well, in their infinite wisdom and building specifications, Bluebird decided that the drop on the axle on the bus needed to be 8 inches. To create that drop, the company decided to custom make one – to purchase a straight axle, weld a U bend onto it, and then cut out the centre bar to make it fit the underneath of the bus.

We approached a local company specialising in axels and put this idea to them, to create a replica of what is on our bus now, and received a resounding ‘We wouldn’t touch that idea with a barge pole’. Strike Two.

Which leaves us with trying to find a one piece, already U-shaped axle, with an 8 inch drop. Can anyone say gold dust? While the theory is sound, drop axles are manufactured of course, the standard size is 6 inches, not 8. Strike Three and you’re outta there!

I’m lucky that I only have to deal with the theoretical side of this problem. I can offer no useful assistance to remedy our situation. I know nothing of mechanics, engineering, or the like. No, it has been poor Loops who has spent about 500 man hours researching every detail of axle makes, parts, and production to try and find us a viable solution for a 20 year old, no longer manufactured, motorhome.

We may have finally managed to come up with a plan, but it is not a quick nor financially happy fix. Loops has located a company in Canada who can provide us with a one piece drop axle in the size we require. However, it is created on a production line, and we must wait until the company rotates around to the production of the axle size we need. Potentially about 3 months from now. We will need to not only pay for it to be made, but for it to be shipped, and then fitted. Additionally we will need new bushings, shocks, and for good measure (admittedly they were a planned update in the future anyway) all new airbags for the suspension.

Oh and tyres at some point too. At least we already budgeted for those, right?

So that is where we sit. Literally.

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Belle – awaiting news of repairs – in posh company!

Fingers crossed that in the next week (or perhaps two) we get some positive news on timescales and costs for the repairs. But for now, we sadly are headed nowhere.

So, maybe all in all, that’s why I am feeling a little glum. A little stuck. Things don’t look so great right now. And it is hard to find the joy with no set end in sight to our current problems. While I know that in time this will pass, we will eventually move forward, it is sometimes hard to convince ourselves that in the midst of a quandary.

For now, I am off to make a list of things to do. Productive things.

I might try to find a local temporary job. I still have to study for a maths exam. I plan to go home to England again for a while. I really need to work on my diet. And yoga, I must do that too. I also have a sewing project that requires completion before the end of the year. And there are always books that I am planning to read.

And after I make my list comes the hard bit, actually implementing it. Getting on with doing things and not procrastinating. I’m such a fabulous procrastinator!

I also suppose I should add blogging to my list too. I have become so lazy with writing, I can feel the sluggishness in my brain and in my words. I will admit that I have become focussed on creating videos for YouTube, I have taken the easy way out in some ways, and my blog has suffered for that and inadvertently, so have I. That in itself makes me feel bad.

So I will take a deep breath now, push forward and hopefully the next time we meet (*putting a blog in the diary for next week*) I shall have more uplifting and interesting words to share!

6 thoughts on “A spanner in the works

    1. He tried getting some information from him regarding his stock, but I’m not sure Randy came back with the details he needed.
      We’ve decided to go with a brand new axle mostly for safety concerns, rather than taking an old one off another bus that might also have issues in the near future.

      Like

  1. Bunny

    Wow, the blog really made clear to me how complicated this repair. I took it too lightly from the video but seeing your dilemmas spelled out, yikes. Hope you get an answer that gives you some hope, and that somehow this unexpected mega-delay leads to better things. Still, love your fabulous writing style and you always leave room for our own introspection. You help us ask ourselves these same questions..

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    1. Bill

      Hi, I just seen you video on YouTube talking about your bluebird cracked rear lift axle. You were saying you will have to order a new axle and it will take months.
      I know you’ve decided not to weld it for safety reasons, but why don’t you do a temporary weld and drive the bus to the nearest rv park while you wait for the new axle to arrive. Best of luck, hope everything will work out soon for you.

      Like

      1. Hi Bill, thanks for the suggestion. I think mostly for cost we’ve decided against a temporary weld. The place where we currently are has been kind to let us stay and we’ve had them do some other maintenance stuff while we are here to even the costs a bit.
        We are hoping for some more news this week on lead times for our axle, so we will have a better idea of where to go from there. Ideally we would just like to get on with the repairs and hopefully just be trailered to where we need to be via our insurance.
        Thanks for the well wishes – we appreciate them! 🙂

        Like

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