Trials and Setbacks

We’ve hit another roadblock. These past week or so has been difficult, and if not for the support of our parents, I’m not sure where we’d be or how we’d be surviving. We have had a few trials and setbacks, and its led me to reevaluate what is important and what we need to do with Sleipnir. I have so many things I want to do, but I’m finding out the things I’d like to do are neither needed, nor does Tiffany have any interest in them. There are a few things that she wants to work on as well, so starting now, I’m going to be focusing on those things.

First, we have to get the engine in better condition. We had an issue last week Thursday. It was bad, like “could have been disastrous” bad. We left our campground on Wednesday morning with the intention of stopping at a boondocking host’s land near Savannah, GA. That did not happen. I decided to take a longer route through Vero Beach, FL and to I-95 so we could take 95 north and not have to worry about traffic in and through Orlando. That’s the first decision that turned out to be really a good idea. Everything was running fine, we stopped at Tiffany’s parents house and had lunch, and it was there that I decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel somewhere between Vero Beach and Jacksonville, FL. We left in the afternoon and headed north.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something just felt wrong. The RV had a very slight hesitation that I could feel through the gas pedal, but that was about it. I couldn’t really put into words what was happening, but it just didn’t feel right. We stopped at a Walmart about an hour north of Vero Beach and went inside. I told Tiffany my thoughts and how I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it didn’t feel right. Went back outside, started the engine, and it seemed fine.

Then there was good decision #2. Tiffany called the Cracker Barrel that was right next door and asked if they allowed overnight RV parking. They did, so we drove there, had dinner, and crashed for the night. We slept fine, woke up the next morning and got ready to head out. We drove about a block, weren’t even out of the parking lot, and there was smoke coming from under the RV. Someone next to us jumped out of his car and said there were flames under the RV. I killed the engine and jumped out, Tiffany grabbed the fire extinguisher, handed it to me, and I put out the flames under the RV. I didn’t take time to get photos obviously, but it was right by the transmission. I went to the other side, sprayed that a bit too, the fire was done. Called to get a tow truck and called the non-emergency dispatch for an officer to help us with traffic control.

AAA wouldn’t tow the RV until the fire department confirmed it was out, so they had to come and check it as well. They said there looked to be no damage at all, it wasn’t even a little bit hot. If that guy hadn’t yelled at us about flames underneath, Sleipnir might not be here. Hell, if it had happened on the highway, we would be in a shit storm of problems.

So we got the RV towed to the second mechanic I found. Took awhile to get towed the ten miles to them, but they were waiting for us when we arrived. The mechanic, Larry, said it was probably a transmission leak from a hose that hadn’t been attached properly or had come loose. He pulled it into their garage and started working on it. They were very accommodating, letting us wait in their office, providing us with extension cords so we could plug in our phones and laptops, and they updated us on the progress every time they found something new.

Turned out it was not a transmission leak, but an oil leak. Either when the transmission was taken out or put in, the oil sensor had been damaged. We can’t tell for sure when it happened, but I’ll bet my money on when it was taken out. It had been leaking oil since then, dripping down and into the exhaust system, which had heated up and burst into flames. I told them about the other issues, the backfiring and misfiring, and they said a tune up would be our best bet. I agreed to that and let Larry do his work.

The owner, Jason, had gone to the parts store to get what was needed for our engine. But that turned out to be more difficult than expected, so by 4pm, they said they wouldn’t be able to get it done that night. Since we were close to family, we had Tiffany’s dad come pick us up and we went back to their house for the night. We took Odin and Rain with us, but Zoe was difficult and still in a dog crate for her safety and ours, so we left her there since they had the RV indoors and cool anyway.

Friday, the tune up and oil repairs were done so we went up to pick it up. The cost was pretty much what I expected, so no shock there. They explained everything they had done, even showing me on an engine that had been removed from a different vehicle to explain to Tiffany and I what they had done, what we need to do in the future, and how it all worked. We left in Sleipnir then and headed back to Vero Beach. The RV ran perfectly. It sounded quieter and didn’t have a single misfire or backfire. I thought we were in business and could leave Florida in a few days.

And then comes time to leave.

Sunday morning (today) we got up early and got ready to leave. Something felt wrong again. The power steering was not working right, the brakes were weak but working, and the engine started backfiring a lot. We got gas and coffee in Vero, got on the highway and took it slow, ready for it to work out the issues from sitting for a few days, or ready to pull over in case something happened.

We texted the shop’s owner and told him what was going on. Tiffany was able to record the sounds it was making when it backfired and sent that to him. He said we should bring it in Monday morning and they’d check it out for free. Since we were already partway there, I asked him if we could just park in their lot for the night and be there when they got there in the morning. He gave us permission and even told us where to get electricity so we weren’t running on batteries the whole time. Much appreciated, and we arrived with no new issues. I pulled in, hooked up electric, and sat down for awhile.

In the morning, I think Larry the mechanic gets here at 7am, so we’ll probably be woken up early so they can figure out what is wrong with it. Jason the owner said he’d like to do the exhaust work on it now as well and that would help tremendously. It might take awhile, but it needs to be done eventually anyway. I’m not sure how long we’ll be here, but at least we have electric and can watch TV and listen to music and use the internet.

Tomorrow we’ll know more. I have to figure out how to pay for this all, my dad has been loaning me money for a lot of this and I’m greatly in his debt. I’ve been paying him back every month and will be doing that for awhile. We wouldn’t be able to do this without his help, I really don’t know where we’d be without him and I’m grateful for that support.

Moving forward.

Now where does this all leave us? When we were stuck in Kentucky, I started the Smart Home on Wheels project. I needed something to keep me busy, give my mind something to focus on, and have something to do other than sit in the cold all day. I didn’t spend any money on it, just got donations from companies for sponsorships, but I had these lofty goals of what could be done. I wasn’t sure how to do it yet, but I knew I could do it eventually.

For now, that project is officially on hold. Sleipnir needs to run first, be comfortable second, and be smart third. I am going to finish the projects I have, but I’m going to wait on others. I have so many ideas, so little money, and a lot to learn. I’ve also found that the Smart Home on Wheels project really isn’t all that interesting to others. Some people read it, but the page that gets the most hits on Bubba On The Road is actually the review I did for a mini router that turned out to be crap. I had dreams for the project, but until I can reliably put it all together and put a piece together that details and explains it all, its too infrequent and hit-or-miss to make a full-fledged feature of it.

Instead, we are going to address the engine first, the cosmetics second, and the technology third. The engine is being fixed now. If we can afford to get the exhaust fixed, we should be in good condition. It’ll drive much smoother, be quieter, more efficient, and hopefully not having any other issues. We are getting there a little at a time, but hopefully this week we can get the bulk of it taken care of.

Then we are going to deal with the interior cosmetics. Tiffany’s eyes gloss over when I start talking about smart tech and computers and such. Its not that she wouldn’t like it when its all done, but when I start talking about things I’d like to add and incorporate, she doesn’t care about the details. She does, however, care about things like the color of the interior, building a desk for more storage, putting a backsplash in the kitchen. Those are things that interest her and she feels like she has input on. If we can turn on all the lights with the tap of a button, sure, she’d like that, but its not even remotely needed when flipping a switch is just as easy.

Then we are going to work on adding devices. We’ve received five items since I started the Smart Home on Wheels project: Rear View Camera, Satellite Dish, Cell Signal Booster, a macerator, and an inverter/converter. Three of those five are almost done, though we still need a receiver so we can use the satellite dish. The macerator will be hooked up soon, the inverter/converter may take some work. I’m going to finish the work for all of those, put together the posts and videos, and put it on pause. There are many other devices I would like to add, but really, none of its needed. A working engine is needed. That’s about it.

And then there is the money thing.

For the first year, I’ve been trying to use Bubba On The Road to make a little extra money. That has not happened. Through Amazon links, I’ve made a whole $14 in the past year. Through AdSense, we’ve made $32 in one year. And since Google doesn’t pay out until you hit $100, we’ve actually made nothing. I thought I could build it up to be a decent site with lots of readers and bring in a few hundred dollars a month extra, but so far that’s not working out. So while I want to add to my income through the blog, I’m not going to depend on it. I have to write what I want to write about, what is interesting to me, what we are doing and where we are going. Would I like to earn a little extra money each month? Of course I would. But I’m not going to make that the end goal.

So for now, I’m going to finish what we started and get everything working together and running smoothly. Then we’ll start on the cosmetics like replacing the floor with click-lock floor panels, putting up peel and stick tile for the backsplash. Figuring out our mess of storage and where we can put things. Not on things that will make this RV badass, but instead on things that will make Sleipnir our home for the long term.

We will also be using most of our tax refund to get a Thousand Trails Elite membership. It will cost us a little more each month for dues, but it will also mean we are driving less and thus spending less on gas. The money should at least balance out then, if not outright leave us with more money. That will allow us to save, pay off our debts, and prepare ourselves for a future where we aren’t dependent on everyone else. We will be traveling much less since we can stay for three weeks instead of two, and we’ll be making our reservations closer to each other so we don’t have to drive across three states to get to the next one. In the end, it will save us money on gas and we should be better off. If we can do little projects along the way, that’s an added bonus.

The other thing the Elite membership opens up is the ability to go to any of their parks in the US. So instead of being stuck roughly from Wisconsin to Florida, we can go all the way to Maine in the northeast and California, Oregon and Washington on the Pacific coast. We won’t go their right away, but the option to go there eventually is great to have.

So with that set, yes, we’ve had trials and setbacks, but its caused to to reevaluate what is necessary and what just sounds good. We’ve been doing this for seven months now and we are still figuring things out. We’ll get this done soon, hopefully by the time we hit our one year anniversary in July.

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