Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Bigness.

So, I have begun to feel very overwhelmed with the BIGNESS of this project.


I said it.

I got about 2.5 hours of sleep last night. I was in bed by 9:30pm, exhausted and worn-out by a long night in the shop, waiting for a customer who never showed and working on a set of the bus's heads. But yet for some reason, the sleep wouldn't come. I tossed about in my crumpled blankets until almost 4am, wondering what the hell I am going to do. The alarm went off at 6:30 reminding me it was time to get to the shop to face my battle once more. Nothing worse sometimes than being in the same room with the motor - the elephant - and not being able to touch it. Not during a busy work day.

It sat there, ominously, taunting me.

Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself with that picture. I'll start from the beginning: vacuum testing.
So, a quick and simply vacuum test is a great way to check if your valves are good and seating properly and whatnot. There were a few valves that seemed a bit depressed into the head and needed to be checked out.

First, the valves were removed from their keepers and springs:

With a little bit of creativity, and a lot of help from Dave, the bus's right head was mounted onto the Rottler.


kind of...



A little tapping on the valves and the vacuum would spike a bit and then fall back down... augh.

A little inspection of the valves revealed... blech! Pitting and nastiness. Some of these valves are no good... but HOW un-good are they?
Well, they have to sit down in the seats all nice to create a nice seal. Dave gave me a quick lesson on how to "lap" the valves.

It goes like this:

1: clean the valves.

2: apply the lapping compound.

3: suction the tool thingy to the head of the valve and rub your hands back and forth like you're trying to start a fire, and put a significant amount of downward pressure onto the tool.
Here's a video so you can see what I'm doing. Yes, it was pretty cold, even indoors and I am wearing like 3 winter jackets. Yes, it made it kind of difficult to move my arms!

4: repeat with all of the valves in question.

Then what?
Do the test again and see if anything changed.
Things changed, but not quite enough. And honestly, the pitting on the valves was lousy enough that I decided that I didn't want to use those valves anyways. Thus, the sad faces on the tops of the valve surfaces.
They need replacing.

I mean, I am all for doing it right - I mean, do it once, do it right, no matter what. The struggle is the financial burden. This is part of the reason why I couldn't sleep last night. I currently have a little under $1,500.00 to my name. Not bad for a young female with minimal responsibilities, a cheap apartment, fuel-efficient car, and no cell phone bill. BUT!! How about a girl trying to get across the country in a bus?


That's not going to do it.

Not with diesel being $3.30 a gallon, my bus getting 6-8 miles per gallon, and 3,000 miles to go. It's just not happening.

Let's say that the fuel prices go up more.
Let's say ~$4.00
Let's assume the worst.
Let's say Urge will get 6 mpgs.
Let's say that I get lost more than twice,
So let's estimate that it will take 3,500 miles.
_ _
3,500mi / 6mi/gal = 583.3gal X $4/gal = $2,333.3

So, it will take more money to drive to Oregon than I currently possess. HOWEVER, I will be selling my Mercedes in the spring when the salt is no longer poisoning the roads and I can drive my Rabbit on the road once more.

That's $1,200 to add to that.
Well, no (let's make it less to be on the safe side) $1,000 for the Benz.
That's $1,500 + $1,000 = $2,500, which will be enough for diesel.

But let's not forget that I need some new valves, and that I also need some new guides. Let's also not forget that I need to have some travel money for campsites as I drive across the U.S., that I won't be working in that time period, and will need a stash of savings to feed myself and provide the basic necessities... so that, plus however much it is going to take to get the bus in safe running condition. I definitely need some replacement valves to fix the leak in my air system, as well as a new gauge on the cluster that leaks, may need brakes, definitely need new batteries, both an engine bank and a house bank, need electrical components, need rust-inhibiting paint to finish the floor install, insulation, and flooring material, stainless steel plates to fasten above the rear wheel wells of the bus, a water tank or two (gray water and clean water - I already have a black water), a wood stove and fittings, and some plumbing materials to install my sink and the in-line shower heater (though the electric heater can come later) and the foot pumps to operate the sink and shower water... who knows what else... the broken windshield wiper and missing wiper motor... who knows how many other engine components (gaskets that I don't yet have, pistons, bearings, o-rings, etc.) I will need to do the job "properly" and (oops - almost forgot, sorry mom!) can't forget a carbon monoxide detector for above the wood stove... heh.

And no, I am not going joy-riding, I have an absolute NEED. I !!MUST!! get out of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and all of these East Coast states... I need to get home, to Portland, Oregon, where my soul is free and my spirit is satiated!!

Oof. So this is the conclusion that I came to after hours of processing and talking it over with a friend: the most that I can save each month to dedicate to the bus would be $1,000.
I make $400 a week, cash in hand.
That's 4 X $400 = $1,600 a month.
There are only 2 unwaivering expenses that I have each month, $200 for rent and $50 for the minimum payment on my student loans. $1,600 - $250 = $1,350

Now, I set aside the $1,000 per month, and now I have $350 a month to spend on food, fuel for my Mercedes, and whatever other necessities are needed in that time span, be it toothpaste or toilet paper or one of those things that you need that life would be very difficult without it.

Doable? For me? Absolutely.
It just means giving up a few luxuries that I, like many other people, indulge in. This would be the cup of coffee that I get out every now and then, kombucha tea in the bottles, buying everything organic, and some specialty gluten-free vegan foods that are nichey and really expensive. I mean, I don't want for much; I hate shopping, I get almost all of my clothes as hand-me-downs (or that I buy with store credit that I get from trading in all of those leftover hand-me-downs), don't go to movies, don't drink beer at the bar (and I don't like gluten-free beer), don't get my hair cut or my nails done or whatever else people spend their money on... movies, video games, I don't know. Nothing I spend it on.

I can do this.



  1. Wow, you have so much more gumption than me! That's a lot to do, but your attitude and planning is awesome. I'm rooting for ya! I know all about those sleepless nights thinking "what the hell did I get myself into?!!?!" but then there are the times when you look at your bus and inside you are just beaming at how awesome you are! Keep it up! U will make it!

  2. Jordan! Hooray!
    Why thank you :)
    That is one funny thing - all the bus vets laugh at us, I can imagine. Both with pity and admiration, knowing exactly where we stand: so much passion, so much spirit, not having the slightest CLUE what we have gotten ourselves into! Such is the life of a busnut! Hehehe.

    It's true that we all think this at one point! I know I have thought it several times, like, "I should just sell the bus now and cut my losses oh my GODDDD!!!!" but then, reality dawns and I know that I can accomplish this, I CAN DO IT!!!
    Thanks for the support, it helps!

    I figure, can't be much worse than the other crazy things that people do... get houses and mortgages... get married.... have kids... *shudders* now THATS commitment and crazy talk! And... some people do all 3 AND have a bus on top of it all!!

    Me? I think I'll be sticking to my bus and my rabbit... and call myself crazy enough!

    Best to you!