Monthly Archives: October 2008

Bearings and Brakes

Did you think bearings and brakes were related? It’s easy to agree they are in the same vicinity, but I think of one as going and the other as stopping. More than thirty years ago, when I hitchhiked from Chapel Hill, NC, to San Diego, CA, the Corvette I was riding in (maybe my tenth or eleventh ride of the trip?) suddenly had a rear wheel lock up and start skidding. A case of the bearing stopping the car, you see.

Wheel bearings, some say, can roll hundreds of thousands of miles without service if properly installed and kept clean. Remove the drum to inspect the electric brake parts and you have disturbed the clean environment of the bearings. It was the hard steel bearings and races separated from the dusty brake drums until a human opens the seal between the drum and the shaft.

Brakes can die from any number of causes, apparently, at any time. Springs can break, subsequently allowing the adjuster to fall into the drum and ruin linings and the drum surface. Wires (for electric brakes as on many travel trailers) wear and sever in two, rendering the brake for that wheel temporarily useless. Brake shoes may last 20,000 miles to 50,000 miles but if worn through the linings will ruin the drum surfaces, necessitating drum replacement.

Annual inspections of the electric brakes can allow easy detection of a number of faults or weaknesses. Skip the inspection and the owner is playing roulette with an expensive and, perhaps, unwieldy missile on the highways. We really do need to inspect our brakes annually. The wheel bearings will just have to accommodate this inconvenience. And we’ll do our very best to perform a technically sound job cleaning, repacking, and reinstalling the bearings.

It was with this sense of duty I began the chore of taking off our wheels and drums two days ago. Loosen the lug nuts while the tires are on the ground. Pull the front wheels onto blocks so the rear wheels are above the ground. Remove the rear wheels, then the drums. Clean the accessible old grease from the axle spindles and the drums and bearings.

Now I inspect the electric brakes wiring on the wheels. Look for continuity on the wires, and test the circuit to ensure the parts are all working. And guess what I found? Three wheels show damaged wiring, threatening proper operation now or in the near future. One wire was completely severed, one was nicked, and one was chafing. Locating and correcting these three problem areas makes the entire job worth the six hours I spent working on it. And this commits me to another careful inspection a year, at most, from now.

The most lengthy part of the job is removing all the old grease. Meticulously clean the bearings in solvent to remove all the grease, then blow them thoroughly with compressed air to drive out bits of grease, then clean in solvent again, and compressed air again, until no more grease comes out and the bearings are dry. Then the fun begins. Take a large walnut-sized ball of wheel bearing grease into my palm and press grease into the edge of the bearing until it squeezes out the other edge. Repeat all the way around the bearing until it is fully packed with grease and ready to remount on the axle spindle.

I remounted the hubs and adjusted the bearings for sufficient end play on the axle spindle. This allows the bearings to wiggle around just a little bit and not feel too tightly squeezed between the drum and the axle. I’m ready to reinstall the wheels, after rolling them down to the lower driveway where the air compressor is ready to check their air inflation pressures. Now a visitor drives up and asks if my father-in-law, John, is home? We talk a little while and I explain John is fishing at the NC coast with my brother-in-law and a few other men. The fellow says he’ll drop by Monday and talk to John then.

No sooner did I start mounting a wheel on the trailer than I realized I hadn’t checked the inflation on this tire and I didn’t install the hub cap in the wheel before remounting on the drum. I allowed myself to get distracted by the visitors and didn’t recenter myself before starting again. No big deal this time, but it may speak volumes for why some products are made better than others. Humans still make many things we buy and use. And we might sometimes forget just what we were doing. Then what happens? It could have had a bearing on our brakes this time. But I caught a lucky break.

Better lucky than good.

Down time or Real time?

I’ve rethought describing our status as “downtime”. We worked in health care almost our entire careers. Family and friends worked in the mills in Kannapolis. Down time was a very bad thing. Life -saving or revenue producing equipment was out of order, or down. When I wrote the previous post I was thinking of down time as away time, rather than non-producing. Still, I was equating not moving with being out of order.

Do you see what happens? This isn’t down time from full-timing, it is real living. We are driving and towing less. We are living in another mode of full-timing. We were traveling too fast for our tastes and just seemed to over-program ourselves. It was time to plan departure upon each arrival. Our master plan was to stay two weeks somewhere to explore then move two hundred miles and explore again and over and over again. Our revision is, how about a month or two, instead?

Want to go to Florida for a couple weeks? Sure. Stay at the Outer Banks on the coast of North Carolina a couple weeks before we go to Myrtle Beach with our local WBCCI Unit? Sure. Distance and time have been slippery concepts for us. When we retired last year we were, for the first time in over thirty years, freed from the many and varied deadlines of work and home obligations.

Grass and shrubs won’t need trimming. We don’t need to meet the plumber or hvac service folks for a repair to the house. No one need check on the newspaper or mail collecting on the side porch. Drive to the bank? Nah, we’ll take care of this and much other business securely on-line. We owe no projects to any employers this week or month or year.

Destinations and attractions beckon to us from all over North America and beyond. We’ve felt, each time we visited and departed, we’ll return to see more of a city or region or National park. Why do you suppose we so consistently left these undone? Our mantra became, “We left something to return for.” I call it rationalizing.

A couple of months this year we participated in an Airstream caravan touring all over the Northwest. The caravan was a wonderful experience for us. We met wonderful people on the caravan and enjoyed getting to know them over the fifty days together. But in two months we traveled 2,800 miles and stayed nowhere more than a few days.

Other than the caravan period, we are solely at fault for almost all the times we left before fully investigating an area. We told ourselves or someone else we would leave by a certain time. Or we didn’t commit to sufficiently long site reservations to allow staying longer. The longest we stayed anywhere was two weeks in each of Punta Gorda and Melbourne in Florida.

It seems to me we have been wrong-thinking all along and are slowly recognizing this. We’ve stayed in Kannapolis more than two weeks, to date, with a potential to stay here ten more weeks. Why would we consider this a betrayal of, or shortfall in, our full-timing program?

We, incorrectly, have thought full-timing means “on the road”. A useful definition I found is, Full-Timers -or- Full-Timing: The term used for people who live in their RV full time, or at least the vast majority of their time. People whose year round home is an RV. [, referenced Oct 21, 2008] We’re living in our Airstream full time. Wherever our Airstream is, we are really enjoying time in it. Not down-time, real time.

Downtime isn’t lost time

I mentioned in our last post we are taking time off from caravanning. Gas prices, relative difficulties obtaining fuel recently in North Carolina, and the disproportionate number of miles traveled, compared to nights spent in state or national parks, all have dampened temporarily our need to drive down the road. We’re still living in our wonderful 25′ Airstream. The truck is immediately in front of the trailer. We continue to perfectly enjoy living like this. We’re looking forward to finding ways to enjoy this new period of full-timing where we don’t need to move the trailer to enjoy it.

We left Cross Country Campground and enjoyed a beautiful Sunday afternoon drive from Denver, NC, to Kannapolis. Kannapolis is Greek for “City of Looms”, and was a mill town for over 100 years. Cannon Mills, named after the founding father, J.W. Cannon, started and run from Kannapolis. It’s funny, the things we take for granted in our lives, and terry cloth is one of these. Cannon Mills manufactured terry cloth in Concord and Kannapolis and was the first company to manufacture it.

The trailer is securely parked on nearly flat concrete just outside the carport in the driveway of Debbie’s parents. The truck fits ahead of the trailer with my workbench (really it’s the tailgate) folded out. The driveway drains nicely, is partially shaded, and has a very comfortable and cool carport just behind the trailer. Work awhile, sit awhile, work awhile. . .

We’ve been in Kannapolis one week. We’ve regrouped a little and started making moderate plans for downtime projects. Home Depot has seen us twice, Harbor Freight has seen us once, AutoZone once, and we plan to hit Home Depot and Lowes several times more. We have small projects inside and outside the Airstream in addition to helping as much as we can with housekeeping and yardwork at the house.

The knife drawer is complete and looks much better with three coats of polyurethane satin sealer. The bed platform now sports a dark gray painted edge instead of the white primer edge I painted over a year ago. The bed platform sits on foam weather seal and fits to the trailer outside walls against a rubber weather seal. These are tiny but meaningful improvements, and warm-ups to the bigger work.

Time with less travel affords us the opportunity to take things apart and not hurry to reassemble. We have more time for trimming, smoothing, cleaning, sealing, painting. And redoing, if we want. The wheel bearings and brakes want service. The brakes’ wiring needs careful scrutiny and possible renewed reconnections. The under-belly pan needs reattachment at one end. Amateur radios and antennae want installation and tuning.

We want to take some short backpacking trips while the weather is moderate. We’ll take a short trip to the beach and to Chapel Hill to see good friends. We want to spend time with family and with friends. The 1979 Argosy 24T needs a little cleaning up and to be sold since the organizers canceled the 2009 Africa Caravan. And we can plan trips and organize our gear. Downtime from towing doesn’t mean nothing to do. Downtime means we have time to choose what to do.

Downtime is time for us.

Cross Country Campground

This is not another story about our travels across the United States. We are camped at Cross Country Campground with our WBCCI Club, Carolinas Unit of NC. This campground’s name is apropos for a couple who just crossed the USA twice in their camper. This campground is located near Lake Norman in Denver, NC, and has been a favorite local retreat for us. The rally section of Cross Country sits atop the campground at the far north end. A conference hall in this section serves indoor needs for rally groups. Mature trees abound, rv spaces are large, and a rock campfire ring is in each campsite.

We arrived here Thursday from Ann’s & Jerry’s after a 45 minute drive. Meeting up with our WBCCI Carolinas Unit friends has been wonderful. I scrounged the adjacent woods yesterday for firewood and we enjoyed a fire from dark until after ten p.m. Friday night. Saturday morning the Club cooked grits, sausage, and pancakes before our meeting. Thankfully the Club elected officers so I won’t be President next year. There really was no doubt since the Club does a good job with succession planning every year. We enjoy our WBCCI Club, Carolinas Unit of NC, and all the people. Debbie and I have both served in offices for the Club and will take a break from service next year.

Ann & Jerry Hall participated in the meeting Saturday and we ate lunch with them. Yea! We agreed we’ll caravan together to the Myrtle Beach next month. I told Jerry, we’re not going to let them travel alone any more after what happened last time we tried it. We ended up putting them on a plane from Los Angeles. No more! Ann looks wonderful and seems to be feeling so much better. They’re both very glad to be home and getting back into familiar routines.

Our weather has been superb, our Club cooks have fed us very well. Tonight we feasted on fresh-cooked barbecue, beans, slaw, fruit salad, and peach cobbler. The food was freshly prepared by Scott Caskey, Joe and Janice Caskey’s son. He worked on it Friday night and all day Saturday. His pork barbecue is as good as I’ve enjoyed anywhere, it was just wonderful.

Saturday night, Evanna, daughter of noted magician and performer Celeste Evans, performed for us. We had already watched her teaching a young camper, Matthew Trexler of China Grove, wood turning and finishing of a pen on a small Delta wood lathe. While Matthew’s dad, Stacy, watched proudly Evanna showed a lot of patience with Matthew and skill in wood turning.

Saturday evening we saw another side to Evanna, that of performer. She demonstrated her skill in twirling four illuminated Poi balls in a totally dark room. I somehow was selected as her subject, to stand just in front of her, as she rapidly spun these four balls very very close to my head and face. She insisted I must keep my eyes open so she could reference her distance from me by the reflection from my eyes. I felt my hair moving and I sensed the air from the flying balls moving my eyebrows. She’s a pro! She didn’t hit me at all.

This morning we had coffee, doughnuts, and morning devotions before everyone said their farewells and “See You Down The Roads”. Debbie and I are glad to let everyone pull up their stakes and leave us. We pick up a Charlotte Observer at the campground’s front desk and enjoy a very quiet morning to ourselves before we head to Kannapolis. Debbie’s parents, John and Betty Shaver, will let us park in their driveway with connections to water and electricity.

We’re ready to slow down our activities, settle in one place for a little while and take care of ourselves and our equipment. Kannapolis seems like a perfect place this Fall.

What are our Routines?

We all do things as habits. We have our little systems or patterns to help us achieve consistent and predictable results. Accelerate as if an egg is between your foot and the accelerator pedal. Sleep at least eight hours nightly. Perform the numerous steps to hitch and unhitch the trailer and truck in the same order each time. Place things in their correct location. These are helpful routines we adopt because we believe we benefit from them. Some routines we learn from other people, test the method, and adopt it as a routine. Perhaps many routines we adopt unconsciously. Someone asks, “why do it this way?” and you sometimes have to answer, “I just do”. We all have routines.

Are we looking forward to establishing routines pertaining to our full-timing life? Even in our footloose lifestyle we already have routines. Most are good, some are less so. One of the good ones is seeking a local Methodist Church for Sunday worship, wherever we are. Another is learning about the area we are experiencing. We enjoy studying the history, geography, and other aspects of areas we visit.

We’re also dedicated to revamping less desirable routines. Don’t move the Airstream so often. Yes, it does have wheels. The wheels don’t have to continually move, and the Airstream and we both benefit from settling down a little between movements. Set our anchors a little deeper, when we can. Enjoy the area as fully as we can. Don’t overbook our calendar for disparate locations. Cancel our three reservations in Florida for this November and December, so we will already be in NC where we want to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas. Travel less, explore more in our area, wherever it happens to be. We want to modify the habits we find are less consistent with our goals.

Keep in touch with friends and family. Our favorite times to reflect on almost always center upon time with friends. A funny twist many of us recognize is how funerals reunite more family than weddings or other celebrations. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom paints an almost ideal way to get family and friends together BEFORE you die. Why miss all the sweet reminiscing because you don’t get around to visiting friends while you’re alive? Visit friends and family along our routes, and plan our routes to visit them.

Exercise more. Recertify our CPR and perhaps First Aid training. It’s not difficult, takes one weekend every two years to stay current in CPR training. Why wouldn’t you want to know how to help each other or friends in an emergency? These are good things to do.

Upgrade our amateur radio licenses. We learned this summer how useful and easy to use the radios can be, and how the radios led us to new friendships. Hopefully, the new licenses won’t be much more expensive than the license fees. We have all the radio equipment we need for now. Until I find something else I need, anyway. We like amateur radio and it keeps us learning.

Thoroughly sift through our belongings in the truck, the trailer, and in the Shaver’s basement. Evaluate every piece of clothing, every book, each cleaning fluid, and every piece of equipment. Do we use it? Do we need it? Is it really worth it’s weight? Move it to our storage unit if we think we may use it another time, or get rid of it if we don’t use it. Let’s simplify our life.

We are list makers. We are planners. We assess and reassess what we do and what we plan. These behaviors are the basis of many of our routines and activities. The biggest change is in trying to establish our new and slower lifestyle of full-timing. Stay longer where we land whenever we can. Reduce our overall mileage. Be where we want to be. Stop over-committing ourselves to be somewhere else. And, routinely Slow Down!