Archive for June, 2012

My best friend died the day before yesterday. He was 47 years old and had a liver transplant having been diagnosed with a rare disease Primary sclerosing cholangitis sometime around 1994-5. Forgive me if I don’t remember the exact date; he and I were classmates at the University of California in Santa Barbara studying geography at one of the best geography campus in the country. We took all the earth system science classes before climate change hit the news ways. Forrest was brilliant, acing the complicated interweaving of our planet’s physical systems. His shortcoming was computers, but everything else melded together in perfect symmetry—he’d explain things to me, we studied together. Turned out he had a crush on me. We’d lope across campus at a quick pace to cover the distance between classes. It was there, right at the bike crossing when he told me about the diagnosis: PSC, but he made me say the whole name.

I got hit by a bicycle and bruised my arm and nicked my ankle.

Forrest was hit by something much worse.

The treatment for PSC is liver transplant.

Years passed with the diagnoses locking down. Lots of drugs and hospitals all of which Forrest hated. He sickened turned yellow, actually orange, bloated, weak, was often in pain, could barely eat, yet he’d smile, he’d laugh, he’d get out the telescope to study the sky. He was a geographer to the core. He never missed listening to Car Talk or watching an episode of Jeopardy. He had a child that loved dinosaurs. He moved to North Fork to be near his son and lived his life. He got sicker, and sicker and sicker. The medical social system was cruel. He had to fight for everything and Forrest is not a fighter, he was made of love and curiosity. They make you wait when you need a liver transplant until you’re almost dead before your turn is approved for the surgery. Forrest almost died on the table, we didn’t think he’d survive but he did.

He did!!! We were overjoyed! But recovery was difficult, Forrest needed frequent aftercare treatment, he needed a lot of pills….pills he didn’t want to take. He developed severe depression.  In a man who was inherently cheerful and full of life this was a shock. It was bio-chemical but it changed Forrest. They treated the depression and it helped but he wasn’t the same, he started to worry and fret about things. He started to over-do, he was everyone’s fix it guy, especially if it was mechanical. His collection of cars were like living creatures to him–each with their own soul, their complicated history that he cherished.

He finally found love, he was missing this for a very long time…romantic love.

A few years ago I was ready to purchase the 6 acres that Forrest lived on in North Fork. We decided to share the place. I wanted land and a home, Forrest wanted to remain where he was in an aging double wide on a gorgeous parcel. He’d help me build a house and he’d pay me rent. I made the seller / landlady a good offer, she laughed at me, demanding an inflated price which she never got (her final sale years later was lower than my offer.)  Lots of bad things happened, she drove Forrest off his home, she showed us how evil lurks waiting for expression, her devilment was the death of her husband, it unleashed a raging greed. Forrest had to leave and that drove him nearly crazy, he went to live with his girlfriend but was forced to give away too many of his precious cars and other vehicles and equipment. Honestly the place was a mess; Forrest had lost his neat gene, it  dissolved with toxic accumulation of ongoing medications and treatments. The place could have been cleaned up with some help. Believe me, I know how hard it is to do everything yourself, on your own.

Forrest and me looking at property for me to buy

Then finally things started to really improve, Forrest was able to buy a plot of land with the help of his folks. Forrest could not work a traditional money earning job, nor pursue a vocation, nor utilize his brilliant mind because of the enormous cost of medical treatments…it was necessary that he remain on funded aide to pay those bills. He dreamed of doing his masters, maybe more but it didn’t happen. Getting the land was an anxiety ridden tortuous process but he preserved. The land was inexpensive as it needed extensive clean up. He toiled, he labored, he joined work parties and shared, he did everything for others in the hopes they’d do a little for him. He’s the collective, cooperative, potluck, home-grown local music and drum circle bonfires with friends type. Honest, sincere, he meditates in silence; yes, sometimes moody and sensitive. He’s a go-getter…. oh I keep forgetting to say “was” Forrest will always be alive to me.

Forrest really hears a person when they speak, he asks questions rather than dictating what another thinks, he weighs things before giving an idea and his ideas tend to be brilliant or at least in line with a persons true self. There is laughter and goodness. He pays attention and uses his brain, his shortcomings revolve on his internal processes. I’ve seen him get bogged down working himself into an endless loop with a problem that requires a solution he doesn’t like.

So once he obtained his property something wonderful happened. Forrest became Forrest again, there was ground under his feet. Something to give him pride and confidence. This happened recently; he showed me how he cleaned up the parcels…two of them together making a 5 acre spread right in the center of California in North Fork. He had everything to live for, things were smoothing out with his girl friend, the future was looking bright. The last conversation he and I will ever have, he told me that I too needed to get property, it made all the difference, it gave him happiness and he was sure it was what I needed too. Working on your own place, building what you want, what you need.

Not yesterday, but the day before he planted roses on his land, he worked hard in the sun. It’s hot in North Fork this time of year; there was a lot of hard labor to be done. He came home to take a nap, woke around 8 o’clock feeling dizzy, then he lost consciousness. His girlfriend performed CPR heroically until the medics arrived; she was there with him, she said it was a peaceful death.

There are scores of us in shock, maybe hundreds, Forrest was well loved.

He got to see the LT, he liked it. I expected him to be around to continue to read my blog, to continue to share his rants, his joys, his discoveries, to continue to listen when I felt lost, to be the one who knows all about me and who understands. His girlfriend’s home is crowded, her family have gathered ’round, friends are pouring in support. I am alone. I miss Forrest and it’s only the beginning.

Only one more thing, Forrest and I had a falling out. there was a long time when we didn’t talk every week or every other week.  It only ended recently, I was sad about it, but now I know it was practice, it gave me practice for the long haul ahead.

Yes these walls are made of Straw Bale!

In his youth

He kept that look all his life. . . it would turn into a smile 🙂

The toe was out, the latest shop found an alignment adjustment the others had missed….  had the two rear tires rotated right to left to attempt to even out their capping. The front tires are now at 45 psi and the rears at 75….  I think I might pump the fronts back to 50…. they just dropped them another 5 pounds this morning in response to my comment….”it’s better but still a little off.” I meant the alignment adjustment they did to the toe.

The other wheel – you can see the (twice) new brake pad

Took a little jaunt to the local K-Mart. There were at least 7 RVs parked in the lot getting settled in for an overnighter. I wished them luck and drove on home.

No Barking!!! Or is that Parking?

Terrified Dogs

Never got to the test drive. Took the dogs for a run at City College then pulled out to do some testing of the steering. I was looking for a nice flat spot to determine which way the drift is taking the LT. Was thinking at this point to alter the tire pressure to eliminate the drift and/or have more tires (like the spare rotated and or in the extreme consider new tires.)  First I needed to check — maybe I’d be lucky and the drift would be gone or too minimal to worry about. I thought I’d try the upper parking lot which seemed flat. That parking lot has an archway, and as luck would have it there was a tree with heavy branch protruding below the archway. I can’t say for sure what I hit but it tore the dome lid of the Fantastic Fan and ripped away the HAM radio antenna, left some nasty scratches and bent the end of the luggage rack. The dogs panicked, climbing onto the dashboard and almost knocking me out of my seat, they scratched my already scratched glasses leaving a dead spot in the center of my field of vision and tore the electronics from their mounts.

Their terror did not abate just because the noise stopped. They didn’t believe me that they were okay. I attempted to drive home with dogs now on the floor looking green.  Olympia hunched over with her face to the wall and Mason trying to scramble to my lap. My head hurt and my vision was odd. I felt very discouraged. Mason couldn’t settle, deciding if he couldn’t ride in my lap he’d squeeze himself under my feet. We were moving  quickly down the road when he did this;  grasping him with one hand, the other on the steering wheel he let out a murderous squeal panting heavily as I pulled him out and pushed him back to his seat making Olympia cower even more. Couldn’t they see that the noise now was from the torn vent cover? That they were safe had no meaning to them, my encouragements to be valiant was falling on unbelieving warriors.  What goes through a dogs mind when there is a commotion from above?

A much newer model than mine. Hope they still have a lid that will work.

I’m beginning to think this van is cursed. I can see a For Sale sign plastered in its windshield but maybe what it really needs is an exorcism.

No more testing for today. Frans kindly got out a ladder and ducked taped the vent. Tomorrow I will try for a replacement. Hope I can accustom myself to the blurry spot in my glasses. Not sure I’ll have those pictures of Santa Barbara either….  too much stress.

Mason did his happy dance this morning over his breakfast! So good to see him joyful. . . he played with Olympia and me. He was so sick I might have lost him. Olympia was hiding under my desk chair and feeling neglected. Now we can get back to a test drive. . . .  and another romp. . .

Santa Barbara City College

Last week – playing at the college

Olympia taking in the view

A Technical Day

Mason was terribly sick yesterday….he’s still recovering so I’ve spent the day making him comfortable with breaks to redistribute the load in the LT. I’ve dropped the fresh water tank to ½ full. I’m leaving some so I can use the facilities on the road and to have a bit in case I decide to dry camp. I removed everything from the rear of the coach and deliberated its usefulness as opposed to its weight. Each item not so heavy on its own but everything adds up. For example I kept the 2 jugs for portable water but drained the water. If  I need to use them around a campfire or on a picnic table I can fill them. Stowed a box of miscellany in the already crowded house. The only item I’m truly wondering about is the metal collapsible dog crate. I never use it except at shows but it’s handy to have for that one time when I might want it; for now it’s in the living room. Other things I moved around, lighter items in the back, heavier in the front.

I readjusted the tire pressure – it wasn’t the same on both sides….  maybe the last shop was playing games.

Would like to find a truck scale and weigh the LT and see what’s on the front axle  and tires and what’s on the rear. Some RVs are at their max carrying capacity with only one passenger and no water in the tanks.  20 gals of water weighs 162 pounds. (Just for the record propane weigh 4.11 pounds per gal…I did fill the tank; gasoline weighs about 6 pounds per gal.

Going through The LT manual I notice it came equipped with Safety-T-Plus Steering Control. Maybe it’s worth getting another one; the replacement steering dampener may be suited to the Dodge van but not the Dodge  motorhome.

The LT has a Ride-Rite Air Convenience system to complement Ride-Rite helper springs with an air compressor. Interestingly the manual says to never exceed 100 psi, I’d been running it about 60… so I’ll try it higher. Superior told me to keep it at least 90. I also wonder if any of the suspension shops have inspected these to see if they need cleaning / adjusting, or any other maintenance. Looks like some have separate adjustments for each side, I’ve never seen that on my unit.

I’ve had  suggestions that interest me such as Timbren Rubber Springs and the Roadmaster Active Suspension? Anyone have a comment? Read on a Ford Van site that rear bushings could be causing wander….  if the rear does not track well then one can get an oversteer. Another useful input was that a vacuum leak could be causing the slightly rough idle which has popped up recently.

There are two shops I want to check, one is C and S RV and Truck in Oxnard   …they handle the Safe-T-Plus another is a mechanic  in Camarillo that was recommended ….  just wish they weren’t so far from town.

Okay, I realize I’m boring some of my few readers with this ongoing discussion of technical issues so tomorrow I’ll try being a tourist in my own town and snap a few photos of Santa Barbara, CA. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to start for Wyoming, Idaho and Eastern WA.

Yes, I’m still flirting with mechanics and shops. Took it back to Superior because the brake pedal was squeaking. It was a noticeable and definitive attention seeking sound. Of course this morning the brake pedal was back to being quiet. Bob at Superior was happy to fix it with a bit of lubricant just in case. He was unable to adjust the parking brake because the racks were full – he tried but could not reach the adjustment with only a jack. The hand brake as is seems to do nothing.

What I’ve found odd is that after the steering stabilizer was re-installed on the front end and the front tire pressure dropped to 55 (as it says on the door) from the 65 psi the brake pulling became unnoticeable. I won’t go as far as to say that the brakes no longer pull.. Who knows what they’re doing. But if it’s the rear brakes why would this help? I decided not to ask…. Really I’m not inclined towards mechanics.

Test drove it some more—- it’s a little better but seems to wander to the left and to be sorta jumpy, at least I’m always correcting it and those corrections are jiggly. Filled the propane tank at the 76 Station and asked the clerk who he thought was the best shop for an alignment. He told me about his car and how he thought it couldn’t be improved until he tried Big Brand. I remember going to Big Brand last year, they were the last shop before my trip and they did help. So tomorrow at 9 am…. that’s where I’ll be.

To do list: adjust emergency brake, check alignment, check tires, check front end steering stabilizer…. idle is still a bit rough too.

In need of a genius

Was hoping to pull out of here tomorrow – now unsure <sigh.>  The LT was running well and handling decently before I stared prepping it for a trip. Drove fairly well down to Palm Springs last winter. Mechanics change things thinking it will be safer, better, etc….  I just want it to handle nice again.


Just cancelled my motel reservation for Kalamazoo MI and withdrew Olympia from the Top Ten, UKC Premiere. She will not have this opportunity to shine. A lot of wasted money. . . too much for my mind to grasp. . . still hoping I can get the LT back on the road.

Still in the shop

I can feel the wind, see the road and trees, landscapes blurring, flat, then windy, long straight ways, then curves and it feels good. My dogs cuddled into their seat, stopping to walk, to look at the grass and wonder about the countryside. The happy bustle of the dog show, the surprises, waiting and visiting, prancing in the ring. It feels so real and I long for it sitting in my too familiar desk chair; the LT is still in the shop. Adrienne offered to help, if I could make it to Tucson by Saturday she will squeeze us into her car and we can travel to Kalamazoo together. I’ve already called lists of people here in Santa Barbara. Yes, I can volunteer at the Nose Work trial, my RV broke down, it’s in the shop; yes I can come to the Flyers meeting and help plan the agility demo, my RV is in the shop; I called the photographer to have Olympia’s photos taken, I will go to my art class tomorrow and tell my story, as I did at my kennel club meeting last night, I will answer questions, I will show up at obedience practice this week and visit a friend at the art walk tonight. What happened to your trip? I will build the website for my training business. I will pick up the LT when it’s ready and then take it to the body shop. In my angst yesterday when the brakes still did not function a truck with a square bed tore a piece of the fiberglass from the door and left black streaks. It was the deciding factor as I’ve sat here working my calculator, how many hours a day could I be on the road and make my destination? I could do it. If I get the LT back today and forgo the bodywork, I could divide the driving 415 miles a day for 6 days, in an RV allowing a little time to stretch and gas that would take about 9 hours a day. Up at 6 am, on the road by 7:30, find  a spot for the night by 4:00 or 5 pm, eat, walk the dogs, get to sleep by 10. It’s doable. If nothing goes wrong, if I can find places to camp, or a motel, if the dogs don’t have trouble, if the RV actually is fixed. If my headaches settle down. I could groom Olympia late at night when I arrived. If I couldn’t leave until Saturday that would still give me 5 days, I could hurry the rest stops, drive faster, drive longer. So why have I given up? Why do I feel this panicked feeling? Why have I told friends that I’m not going? It’s the “sensible” me. Ripping the little hole in the body was a terrible shock. It’s so easy to have an accident, to lose control even for a moment. If I could get that fixed

My 1996 19′ Freedom Wide Leisure Travel has suffered greatly from handling problems and stability. I was ignorant of how extensive the problem was when I bought the RV. I assumed that the “loose steering” could simply be tightened or adjusted–that the problem was in the steering. Last year I had mechanics telling me to just live with it, that’s the way these things were made inferring that, I as a woman, had no idea what driving a big truck was like. So, as a woman I just nodded my head and took my rig elsewhere; never even mentioned that I’ve driven diesel work trucks, caterpillars, tractors and an assortment of pickups. Such handling issues without corrections are a danger; sway and wandering can make an RV tipsy and unable to hold the road in a straight direction. In the beginning, driving my RV was white-knuckle, back-straining ordeal.  In the wind it was terrifying. The solution is complex involving shocks, rear anti-sway bars, the necessity for wheel spacers, adjusting tire pressure, choice of tires including looking into wider tires and rims, condition of steering linkage and ball joints, and perhaps adjusting the steering gear box. The big Dodge Ram 3500 Van used for the Leisure Travel, Road Trek, Pleasureway and other, mini-RVs in the 1990s have an inherent issue as the weight falls heavily behind the rear axle.  On my Dodge, the rear tires were inset a few inches inside the track of the outer tires.

Increase in caster, what Superior is doing to the front end alignment, could be a better solution than the steering damper. Here’s an explanation from Wikpedia : caster is adjusted to achieve the self-centering action of steering, which affects the vehicle’s straight-line stability. Improper caster settings will cause the driver to move the steering wheel both into and out of each turn, making it difficult to maintain a straight line.

The next thing Superior will do is replace my brand new front brake pads. Lucky me I get to pay for two brake jobs in one week!