Mar. 2nd, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
We spent most of the second day driving through PA, ending up in Cleveland OH. Our original plan was to head due west past Pittsburgh, but we committed to a detour to make a bit of money doing furniture delivery, which is a thing we're doing along the way to recoup the cost of the trip. Dropping that shipment off was exciting, including a cop following us along a meandering trip through a mostly-closed warehouse complex. We decided to call it a night in Cleveland, where I am currently writing this post the next morning. This stop put us a bit less than half a day behind schedule, which I think we can make up.

We got to see a huge old prayer house in Brownsville PA that is being renovated by a woman and her partner. It's a small town, presumably/apparently supported by the local coal industry. The building might be 200 years old, with original wood almost-everything, perhaps 4000sqft in two floors including 14ft ceilings in the basement. She got it for $7500!

We stopped at an adult novelty shop on the highway. This was primarily because one of the passengers never had. However, oddly enough, we actually needed provisions of a non-sexual nature that they could provide.

Good news:

We've put 500 miles on the bus and it's still going. The oil leak I was warned about has not made itself apparent yet. The dipstick depth hasn't changed noticeably, the oil pressure gauge hasn't moved outside of its apparently normal noise, and I haven't spotted a puddle. I'll be checking for a puddle again after parking it on clean pavement for the night.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the bus came with a mostly full tank of diesel, perhaps 60 gallons. That's $100+ off my expected trip cost right there.

I added fuel for the first time. I confirmed that the gauge does go up to 100%, and seems at least vaguely linear. My first estimate of our fuel efficiency is 6MPG, which is better than I feared and not as good as I hoped. I will have more accurate numbers on the second fill-up. I am hopeful that more efficiency can be gained by not climbing mountains, and by aiming for 50-55MPH more often than 55-65 as we seemed to want to do over the first two days of driving. I'm also much-more-vaguely guesstimating that it's burning one gallon of fuel for every 40 minutes of high-idle time.

I got some initial measurements. The interior width is about 94". The height at the ceiling peak up front is 98", estimating 86" at the walls which I can't measure at all yet due to ducting/conduits. The rear walkway is 16" shorter and the rest of the rear area is 22" shorter. I've taken a crack at measuring the length of various sections, but all my storage stuff is currently in the way. Roughly speaking, the rear "room" is about 9ft long, the rear door area is 5ft, the front "room" has 10ft of floor-to-ceiling length and 4ft above the wheel wells. Another 4ft for the front door, 1.5ft above the dash, and there's approx 2ft of rear window bay. Allowing 1ft for the bumper and accepting the nominal length of 34ft there's about 2.5ft missing from these measurements, so I missed something. Overall, I am very pleased at the amount of space, which amounts to about 14x8x8ft for the living room, 9x8x6ft for the bedroom, and 3x5x7ft for what I currently plan as storage+shower. If I give up the rear door entirely, that gets me another 3x5x7ft space.

Bad news:

Twice while climbing the Appalachians the gauge cluster complained with an unlabeled red indicator and a displayed icon that I failed to photograph due to not being at the front of the bus at the time. We stopped for a minute, rebooted the bus (ha!), and it went away each time. It did not recur after the mountain climbing portions of the trip. I predict we will see this behavior again as we climb the Rockies, and I'll pay more close attention then.

The bus is extremely and exceptionally drafty. At highway speeds in freezing weather, especially with snow+sleet and 20MPH+ crosswinds, we could not keep the interior comfortably warm. Some areas were uncomfortably cold and windy, including the driver's feet. I identified and closed at least two legitimate vents bringing in cold outside air, despite the primary heating system being fully engaged. I found one window that won't stay closed on its own and taped it shut. That leaves a lot of mystery leaks around the "dash", the walls holding the wiring panels, the edges of all the windows, and worst of all the doors which not only have wide brushes as sweeps but also have fist-sized gaps. I'll be trying to cover a lot of those with tape, cardboard, plastic, blankets, curtains, etc along the way, since it looks like we've got at least three days of cold driving ahead of us before reaching relative warmth around Denver. I'm also going to attempt to figure out if and how the baseboard heaters work. Despite being passive, every bit of heat will help.

We are spending more time on comfortable overnight stops than I anticipated. I decided that I am quite willing to spend the ~$400 it will take to keep us in hotels every night. However, hotel stops tend to involve hours of not-driving that could otherwise be spent doing interesting things along the trip. I'll be bringing this up with my copilot(s) and passenger(s) to see if we can find a mutually beneficial solution.

The bus refuses to idle for more than 30 minutes. This might be a simple timer, or it could plausibly be some over-threshold condition like overheating. I don't see anything on the gauges that is rising or falling before the shutdown, so I'm leaning towards the former, thankfully. Annoyingly, regardless of the cause of the shutdown, there seems to be a ~5 minute off-on-cycle lockout on the climate control system, which means 1/6th of the idle time is spent with no heat :/


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