Sunday, 29 August 2010

Magazine star!

Wherever it goes, the Blue Whale doesn't go unnoticed. I guess this blog helps somewhat: last May I was contacted via the french side of this blog by a journalist from the french-language Camping Caravaning magazine, published by Féderation Québécoise de Camping et Caravaning (FQCC - Quebec's campers and RVers federation, the largest campers and RVers association in Canada) who wanted to write an article about the "2nd life of RVs". I quickly put her in touch with Dad, a phone interview followed, and I sent a few pictures of the Blue Whale.

Once again, Dad was astonished by the interest for his works on his old motorhome. I was surprised too, since Dad is not even an FQCC member, but I was also proud of the recognition it brought on all the work he put into the Travco, and I knew Dad would be more than happy to chat with the lady about his old motorhome.

So we patiently waited til the August 2010 issue came out. And there it was, on page 73, an very well written article on Dad and the Blue Whale. Under the title "Second début pour un vieux VR" ("Second start for an old RV") the article tells the story of when Dad bought the Travco, all the work he put in it, there's a picture of the motorhome and the ULR of the blog.

Dad was glad, but he's kind of used to it now: this was not his first time in a magazine. Two years ago my younger brother wrote an article about Dad, for the Motoneige Quebec magazine, a french-language Snowmobile magazine. A long time snowmobiler, Dad had actually built his own snow machine back in the late 50's. My brother - a hardcore snowmobiler himself - tought this was no ordinary story, and he wrote the article, without telling Dad about it. His text was published in the January-February 2009 issue of the magazine. Dad was surprised to say the least, but then truly touched, as this came from his son.

Anyway... quite a few people since has met my parents, saying they saw the Blue Whale in the FQCC magazine, and a few left comments in the blog, which is always appreciated. Tnanks to all.

Summer vacations

This year's travel plans have been delayed a bit, Mom's health having played a few tricks on her. Once she felt better, the Whale left Quebec City, travelled in the Gaspé and northern New-Brunswick area for about 10 days. Nice relaxing vacations, not a single issue with the Travco on this 2000 km trip, and the Whale is always a favorite among other RVs.
The Blue Whale is back on the road as I write this, heading for Charlevoix and Lac St-Jean for another 10 days or so.


Friday, 16 July 2010

Summer 2010

About time for an update, isn't it?

We're already mid-July, and of course Dad has spent some time working around his motorhome.

Oil leak
There was a leaky oil seal on the Whale's engine. Nothing to worry about, however when Dad was visiting relatives or friends and parking the Travco in their driveway, he always had to slip a piece of cardboard under the vehicle to avoid oily stains on the ground. People already figure that a 35 year old motorhome must be an old leaky clunker, Dad thought lets not prove it to them, and replace that seal!

Simple enough, right?
Well, not quite...

First drain the oil, then remove the oil pan. Might as well clean it up and repaint it.

Then the seal itself.
It a two part seal that goes around the engine crankshaft. Being two parts means the seal can be replaced without having to drop the crankshaft.
The bottom half of the seal was easily removed once the oil pan removed. However, the upper half didn't cooperate as much.
Picture of the engine, oil pan removed:

Closeup of where the seal goes (where it's blue):

The seal is not rubber, it's made of some sort of braided fibers, somewhat like a rope or cable. The instructions to get it out are pretty simple: just thread an appropriate wood screw into the end of the seal, pull on the screw to take the seal off. Very simple, but it never worked. There was no way that a simple wood screw, no matter what size was tried, was going to hold strongly enough to that seal.

So Dad tried to remove it by pushing it around the crank. Using a small hammer and a brass rod, Dad hoped to get it out by pushing on one end so it would come out on the other side. The seal did slide slowly around, but the fibers got compressed and the more Dad pushed the tighter the seal was wedged against the crank. Dad finally got it out this way, but it took a long time, different pieces of curved brass rods in different lenghts to hammer the seal out.

Picture of the seal, the metal bracket that holds it, with the new replacement seal, made of rubber. The manual is the Haynes book for Dad's 1981 Dodge Ram van, showing the seal replacement procedure. The Travco's drivetrain is very similar to the van's.

Reinstalling the new seal was straightforward and caused no problems.
So no more cardboard under the Travco!

Dad also works on a few other items. I'll write about that later. This year's project is a good tune up of the genset, and cleanup of the genset compartment. However, Dad had other toys to play with last spring, as he finally bought his first ATV. He spent some time working on the ATV and building a trailer for it, then he went north to his cabin to try it out.

Again this year at the end of June we had our family camping weekend in Stoneham. The Blue Whale, the only Travco on the campground as usual, had a site in full view of anyone around. Some campers actually went to my parents and told them they had the nicest motorhome of the entire campground! Looking at the bunch of big shiny expensive rigs we had as neighbors, I'm not sure if they were serious or not, but in any case the Blue Whale is certainly noticed!

Save a Winnie

My uncle, Dad's brother, was supposed to camp with us in Stoneham, but his 1975 Winnebago broke down a few kilometers before the campground, engine problems. Once the Whale was back home, Dad and Uncle got the Winnie towed at Dad's home. Then they started to work on it. News were not good. It was an old tired engine, that had been rebuilt in the past, a botched job mostly. The head gaskets were blown, the resulting pressure increase in the cooling system made a coolant hose come off, then the engine overheated. Not nice.

The easiest solution was to replace the engine. Now comes the most incredible part: we were not able to find a good used engine!
Around here we have a very large car recycler, one of the largest in Canada if not in North America, Pintendre Auto. The engine we were looking for is a 318, one of the most common V8 engine ever produced. The car recycler probably has dozens of good used 318s, but when you cal them up the first thing they ask is the vehicle make and model. "1975 Winnebago" not being on their computerized list, they can't go any further, and they can't search any part if you don't provide them first the make and model, because that's how their computer system works. Totally stupid if you ask me, you can't just ask for "a 318 engine, anyone will do, from any vehicle between 1970 to 1985, they are all the same", it just doesn't work that way.
Totally ridiculous, but that's how they do business, and they missed a chance to sell an engine on that morning.

So plan B was to rebuilt the old engine. They bought new pistons, sleeves, bearings, gaskets, etc and did it. Took them over a week, they did it with the engine in the motorhome, during a hot and humid 30 degrees C + heat wave.
Meanwhile, the Whale was quietly sitting in the driveway behind the Winnie, waiting for Dad to start working on the genset. Not sure if he's going to start that job before their vacation trip. Mom was not feeling too good lately, so they may delay their trip for some time. We'll see!