27 October 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 3

27 October 2012

Santa Fe

It took over a week to get in the queue, but on Thursday 10/25 we drove the truck to Spear's Auto Center in Cedar Crest, NM to get the exhaust system fixed. I had talked quite awhile to Scott and took his advice to install a DPF-delete kit plus an H&S XRT-PRO tuner. The great part about this approach is that all of the Banks gear stays in tact. The XRT-PRO, as setup by Scott, operates in the Ford tuner to shut off regen. The Banks system still adds/reduces the fuel flow as an adjustment to what the engine is commanding. He set the XRT-PRO to 0 HP gain (stock) so that I can run all 6 Banks power settings as we have always done. Very interesting concept. H&S has many optional tunes available (all the way to over 500 HP) if you don't have a Banks system already, but I don't want to make any smoke out the exhaust, so he kept it conservative. For us, it's all about fuel conservation.

Edit: H&S makes it clear on their site to not "stack" tuners (e.g. Ford + H&S + Banks) as we have in our F-350 unless you know what you're doing. You really need someone involved who has worked this out already because a misstep will lead you to a dead end where you can't operate the truck.


We wanted to get the truck serviced while Scott was doing everything else, so I asked for that to be added to the service order without really knowing what that might entail. When The Day arrived, Scott stripped out the old parts, then when he received & installed the delete kit and tuner, road tested everything before the day was over, then was ready to start the maintenance work at the end of the day. Great start.

Then Michelle handed him the printed 75,000 mile service instructions... all 18 pages. Yikes!

As he went thru the service he discovered that our rear shocks were leaking. Typical shock life is 50,000 miles on these trucks, so they did good. I asked that he replace just the rear shocks and he got them on order along with any filters he needed. And that's when things started getting messy.

The first set of shocks they sent were for a Jeep, so they had to re-order. They also ordered the internal transmission filter which was a challenge cuz there are 10 different filters used for this transmission. The right one depends on the truck's VIN. Our truck was built the day they started using the 2nd choice, but the filter turned out to be the wrong one. We needed the oldest filter choice which was supposed to be for the day before our truck was built. By the time Scott had to leave (he also races radio controlled cars professionally!) the filter hadn't arrived. But he said if it arrived before Michelle went home on Friday, he would come in on Saturday and finish up. And that he did.

Btw, when he walked me around the truck before we left he said the Banks exhaust (the last section of tail pipe) was so blue and dark, it had to have been heated to well over 1,500° F, maybe even 1,700° F. That's pretty scarey! I think what saved us is that the exhaust hit those temps while we were moving which helped dissipate some of the heat. Still, it points out the danger of the recommended repair that Ford wants done when the sensor is corroded in place.

The bottom line

We retrieved the truck mid-day Saturday for a grand total of almost $3,500: $2,000 for the exhaust/tuner mods; $1,500 for maintenance. Don't ever let anyone mislead you- diesel trucks are expensive to operate!! But if you need torque for pulling/hauling, nothing else will do.

We happily paid the bill- what a relief when Scott assured us there is nothing wrong with the twin-turbo. We had lunch at the Greenside Cafe in town (try their Sangre de Cristo sandwich!) then drove back to the RV park.

I reset the mileage calculator on the dash as we took off. There was no issue whatever with the engine... ran like a noisey top! Also, I heard no strange turbo noises like I heard on the way over. The exhaust note is not loud which is a relief. And by the time we had covered the 40+ miles of constant grade change the calculator was reading 20.1 mpg. That's a great number for the 6.4L F-350 when running solo (no load; Ford says maybe 9-13 mpg), but the number we want to know is mileage under load. That will have to wait till we head for Benson on Tuesday morning. We've got our fingers crossed!

Btw, I always ask that the engine get full synthetic motor oil (AMSOIL if I can get it- 15W-40 CJ-6). I was shocked the first time I drove our truck after having it installed... the engine becomes much quieter!

Computer issues

You probably noticed there haven't been any photos recently. My laptop is struggling and I haven't been able to process images for a couple weeks now. Like everything else, it'll get fixed in Benson!

19 October 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 2

16-19 October 2012

Santa Fe, NM

It was a white knuckle flight all the way from Tucumcari, but the truck made it with flying colors. As a precaution before leaving Tucumcari, I called Spear's Auto Center (Crestview, NM) to see if I was doing the wrong thing by towing the rig to Santa Fe. The folks at Spear's are the ones that got our Banks tuner, etc. working for us last May. The mechanic who answered the phone said he understood the circumstance and that we should do the least damage by keeping the exhaust gas temps (EGT) below 1,200°.

So that's what I tried to do: I limited our speed to 50 mph initially, then later to 45 mph with the emergency flashers going. But there's a 3,200 foot grade change from Tucumcari to Santa Fe and speed had little effect on the EGT. It was still better than it would have been otherwise had I not made the adjustments I did. It'll be a long time before we know for sure.

Setting up repairs

I rented a car right away so we could do errands without having to drive the truck.

Then on Wednesday I called Spears Auto Center and talked to Scott. I explained everything again and asked what he thought we should consider doing. His suggestion was to install a DPF-delete kit which will  eliminate regeneration altogether and just side-step the problem. To help me make a decision I asked Scott to give me an estimate to replace the DPF (which is now apparently leaking exhaust gases) and another to install the DPF-delete kit. It was about $3,700 to replace the DPF (DPF, sensors, clip (?), labor) vs. $2,000 for the DPF-delete kit (pipes, S and C tuning kit, labor). So it looks like we're going to go with the DPF-delete kit and hope for the best. Not only is it cheaper initially, it will provide another boost in fuel economy and will avoid future engine shut-downs from a bad sensor (I'm told they are a frequent failure, though this was our first occurrence in over 30,000 miles).

The work isn't scheduled yet, but hopefully we'll get it started next week. Scott just needs to receive the parts.

14 October 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 1

13-14 October 2012

Getting to Tucumcari, NM

Well we made it to the KOA here but not without a very high level of anxiety. Aarrrggh!

Mileage has definitely deteriorated and exhaust gas temps are very high... running at the maximum allowed temp (1,250° F) even with straight & level pulling. What's more there is a very strong smell of diesel exhaust in the coach and in the storage compartments of our Montana every time we stopped along the way (115 miles). I had to run the kitchen exhaust fan just to step inside.

At one point I got out and looked under the truck to see what the new sensor looked like and was shocked to see that it's simply clamped to the outside of the diesel particulate filter (the so-called DPF). You gotta be kidding me! This is Ford's solution for replacement of a corroded EGT sensor?

There may be something additional wrong, but my guess is that the replacement sensor is reading very low since it's not inside the DPF. I'll further guess, and I admit this part is a little weak, this causes the Engine Control Module to use too much fuel. Too much fuel makes the EGT higher than normal. Our truck, as delivered, won't display EGT for the driver. You have to have a separate readout that accesses the internal data bus, and that's what the Banks does (in addition to modifying the fuel-delivery commands if you're running in non-stock power levels). In Stock mode- that's what we use 100%- the Banks tuner doesn't modify the engine fuel delivery commands, but it does display the data being sent to the internal computer. So the average owner would be driving in ignorance of just how hot the exhaust gases are.

Btw, I saw a puff of white smoke on at least 2 occasions on the driver side. The exhaust, however, is on the passenger side. So I haven't a clue where that's about. I thought maybe we had a locked trailer brake and I was seeing a tire skid and smoke but that proved to be wrong.

The plan was to find a Ford dealer here in Tucumcari. No joy. We either have to drive 115 miles back to Amarillo, TX or drive south about 80 miles to Clovis, NM. At this point it seems to make more sense to drive to Santa Fe and get it looked at there.

Enough whining. Mea culpa!

Tucumcari KOA

This little guy is a chi-weenie... chihuahua/Dachshund mix.
He does a good job of getting diners to share their food!
This stop has been a surprise. I wouldn't begin to call this a garden spot since this part of New Mexico is very dry. But the campground has what a traveler needs if they're just stopping for the night. This KOA has an on-site restaurant with food that's made here... not just something re-heated in the microwave! We had both had the Mexican plate which had a choice of 2 of the 3 entrees offered: enchiladas, tamales, or chile rellenos. I had a couple of very good cheese enchiladas (you can ask for cheese, chicken or beef) plus black beans and a very good New Mexico-style Spanish rice. I wanted green chile salsa which was mild enough that most diners wouldn't notice anything but the flavor.

Cindy & Layne are the owners and Cindy makes everything except the tamales herself, including the tortillas. We were very pleased with our meals and don't hesitate to recommend eating here if you happen to stop. And they'll deliver the food to your site if you want. Pretty cool!

Oh... and we had breakfast there this morning which was every bit as good as dinner last night. We had pancakes (a stack of 3, mine were 6" pancakes). But I was pissed at myself for not remembering they have biscuits and gravy on the menu! I doubt I'll be able to convince the Admiral to eat out again, so that was a missed opportunity.

The campsites have a few trees, but they're struggling
with the limited water.
Tucumcari is in the high desert and, as you should expect, it's very dry. The rule of thumb is that anything green that isn't grass probably has a sticker on it or is poisonous. They had about 1/2" of rain a few days ago and almost overnight it greened up a little, but that will soon be gone. And there's a steady 15-20 mph wind blowing during the day. The kind of wind that can wear on you. You can't be a wimp to live around here!

Click on the image to get a larger one, then check the
ridge of the distant hills. You may be able to pick
out the wind generators.
All the pull-thru sites were full last night, but they tell me that by tonight we can have a pick of any site in the park. The spike in visitors is because of people who have been to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and are now heading home. Sure enough, by 4:00 AM I was hearing engines start as people began heading out. When I went over to arrange to have a propane tank re-filled there weren't more than a couple other campers left in the park.

We should be on our way tomorrow to Santa Fe (west on I-40 to Cline's Corner then north on US-84/US-285 to El Dorado, then west about 20 miles to the NM-599 turnoff). We'll be staying at Santa Fe Skies RV Park again while we see all the usual doctors.

And oh, btw...

We've been trading notes with RV'ing friends Mike & Susan about the current truck problems and possible repairs. Susan reminded us "If it has testicles or tires, you know it's going to be expensive!"

12 October 2012

Postcard from Texas- 1

11-12 October 2012

Amarillo, TX

The truck got us here without a problem, though it seems like we are getting poorer mileage and exhaust gas temps are higher when running. Still it had plenty of power and ran smoothly, so it's probably just the elevation change... we're at about 3,300' here in Amarillo.

This KOA is on the Northeast outskirts of town, so a simple job like getting groceries took a 12 mile drive each way. But it was an Albertson's so we were able to buy familiar brands again (Yea! Oroweat again!).

Great burgers!

The Admiral is doing her best to ignore
the locals peeking over her shoulder!
It's a mural painted from an old photo
of patrons of this 1946 establishment.
It's been 6 months, but yes, the Golden Light Cafe on 6th Ave. still has the best burgers and fries we've found anywhere, bar none! We went for lunch and it was crowded but not impossible. Friday nights, as I recall, are a little chaotic. We've been thinking about this hamburger for a few thousand miles. Does that qualify as obsessive? or just anxious anticipation?

So now we're fueled up ($4.26/gal... Aaarrrggh!), stocked up, moneyed up ($3.50 for an ATM charge?!), and the address is in the GPS for Tucumcari, NM. Should be there tomorrow if we don't get blown off the road. They really didn't need to order up all this wind to welcome us back. Yikes!

11 October 2012

Postcard from Oklahoma- 3

11 October 2012

Canute, OK

Or maybe it's Foss, OK... ?? Google & Garmin disagree about where we are. Happens a lot in the boonies.

Good news: the truck is fixed. First I got a number for Jerry Tosh (580-821-2520) who is a mobile repairmen for trucks, oil field equipment, RVs... whatever. If it has an engine, he'll work on it. He took a quick look, then jumpered across the starter solenoid with the ignition on and the engine sprang to life. He told me "Don't shut it off!" and said I should go to a Ford dealer. I called a Ford dealer in neighboring Elk City, but they were too busy to look at my problem.

Doug Gray Ford came to our rescue!
The good news, though, is they gave me the number of Doug Gray Ford in Sayre, OK (580-928-3369). Doug Gray Ford is about 25 miles from the KOA and Dennis, their service adviser, agreed to have the guys take a brief look at our problem.

It took their diesel tech all of about 5-minutes to figure out that one of the 3 exhaust gas temperature (EGT) sensors (yes, 3!) had failed and that they had the sensor in stock. I felt confident about what he said about our truck since all but 1 of the vehicles in the 8 service bays was a truck of one flavor or another. A good clue he probably spoke with authority.

You should have heard the lift groan as all 6,800# of our
truck moved up in the world.
The tech got started right away. They pulled one truck out and ran our truck in... literally stopped working on it to take care of us! It souinded so simple I thought I might be out of there in 10 minutes. But then things seemed to grind to a halt. Turns out the sensor was so corroded they had to cut it off the diesel particulate filter (DPF). Ford has an approved work around for this problem. To me it seems like a temporary solution since it involves a hose clamp, but it's supposed to work till we can have a new boss welded into the DPF and have the sensor mounted as it was originally. Hopefully we can wait till Benson, AZ to get the work finished.

So tomorrow we should be on the road to Amarillo, TX for a couple nights, then on to Tucumcari, NM and finally Santa Fe, NM. We're getting close to putting Paid! to this season.

10 October 2012

Postcard from Oklahoma- 2

9-?? October 2012

Canute, OK

This was supposed to be a 2-night stop on the way to Amarillo, TX. Sort of a wide spot in the road that is I-40, but for a KOA it's unusual. They have a small restaurant for breakfast and dinner and they have fuel. Never heard of re-fueling before in a KOA. And this KOA has the trademark A-frame office, so this full service park was built by the corporation. I can only guess that at some time there was very little fuel available in this stretch of road.

The park has a lot of trees which will come in handy tomorrow when the temps get to about 80° F. We thought we were through with all that, but... !!!

The truck

This is the note I was afraid I would eventually have to write and sure enough, it happened. Our Ford F-350 truck just died. I fueled up, drove back to the park, and as I finished backing in to the site I noticed the Engine Check light was on. I figured it was probably because we're about due for service so I didn't give it a lot of thought. We came back out an hour later to take a ride and I found I couldn't start the truck. The dash lights come on, but nothing happens when I turned the key. Not a sound, not a blink. Nada.

The KOA office gave me the number of a mobile repair service and I called. Jerry Tosh will be here in the morning to have a look. I won't rule out something easy, but my gut tells me we're going to become very familiar with the Clinton/Elk City area of Oklahoma before we get on the road again. There go our appointments!

Stay tuned...

08 October 2012

Postcard from Oklahoma- 1

6-8 October 2012

Claremore, OK

This KOA says it's in NE Tulsa, but it's actually in Claremore... about 30 miles NE of Tulsa.

The track was a stone's throw from our site.
And it's a bit of a surprise. The description on the KOA site talked about horse racing and a casino which I took to be somewhere nearby. Not so: This KOA is on the grounds of Cherokee Casino which is co-located with Will Rogers Downs race track. After checking in at the KOA desk in the casino we got parked... about 50' from the race track. Amazing stuff. I tried to get a couple shots of the horses launching from the starting gate (they were racing quarter horses when we were there), but it was so cold I gave up! Still, it was a great site and something we'd not have seen had I understood the park.

Setting up the starting gate for the next race.
And not a grown tree in sight anywhere. It looks like KOA planted a few sticks when they took over the park, but they're hardly noticeable. Maybe in 10 years!

The Admiral was delighted about the casino. She loves to play the nickel slot machines and  wasted no time getting over there on Sunday afternoon. Lost her bank roll in a couple hours and came home broke and smelling like an ash tray. So much for paying for the trip with her winnings. It's been 4 years since the last time she satisfied her urge to gamble, so we should be good for at least another 4 years... she really hates to lose. Almost as much as she'll hate reading about it in these pages!

Will Rogers slept here

But none of this is why a traveler should stop in Claremore, OK. What you should come here for is the Will Rogers Memorial Museum which is also the burial site for the the Rogers family (except Will Jr. who is buried with his wife in Arizona). This was sort of home base for him and his family. They had a ranch about 13 miles away in Oologah, OK. The ranch tour is free but the Memorial Museum costs $5 or $4 for seniors. We settled on the museum and lunch out.

I don't think of myself as having heroes. People I admire, yes; people that are heroes, no. I suppose I did as a kid till I got over the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers. If I had to pick a hero today, I suspect Will Rogers would be on my short list (guess I still look to cowboys for inspiration). After listening to recordings Rogers made during the depression trying to gain support for Hoover's plan for feeding & employing the down-and-out, and then later supporting FDR's plans to put America to work, I realized that not much has changed since then and that Rogers had some good thoughts on what needed fixing.  I heard many of these recordings when I was young, so much of it was familiar.

If you've never seen his private production film Ropin' Fool as well as the Ropin' Fool Outtakes, you owe it to yourself to find and watch it. He was truly amazing. It ought to be available thru NetFlix... ??? It was one of the very first uses of slow motion photography in a production film.

A genuine Remington just sitting in the rotunda. Yikes!

A bronze by Charley Russell picturing
Rogers in a typical setting... typing
his daily column.

A model of the Lockheed Orion in which Will Rogers
and pilot Wiley Post crashed. I was surprised to read
there was a witness. They had landed, asked directions,
stretched their legs, took off. About 100' off the ground
the plane pitched forward and 'somersaulted' to the ground
landing on the canopy. Seems a very odd behavior. Now I'll
have to research what the suspected cause was.

An 8' or 9' bronze of Will Rogers
dominates the rotunda. I'm guessing
this too is a Charley Russell.

He did fund raisers all over the world to
help people in need, this one while he
was still with the Ziegfeld Follies.

A patio just outside the theater where his movies play
continuously. He made 50 silent films plus another
21 'talkies'. Rogers was a slacker compared to Tom Mix
who turned out over 300!

I guess you know you've had an impact when the Navy
names a Poseiden submarine after you!

The veranda where the sarcophagus is located with yet
another bronze of Will Rogers. This overlooks the area
where Claremore is located and is across the street from
Will Rogers State University.

A portrait done by Charley Russell. Rogers & Russell were
both Oklahoma cowboys and close friend.


Oh, and Will Rogers' full name is William Penn Adair Rogers. I also have a Penn heritage (my paternal grandmother was a Penn) and they lived awhile in Missouri & Oklahoma before moving on to Arizona and later to California. I need to poke at that a bit to see if there's a common ancestor. Now wouldn't that be cool!!

Recent reading

Btw, if you share my disappointment in what was- and still is- taught to US high school students in American history, check out Lies My Teacher Told Me by  Loewen. He teaches college level history and has been an outspoken critic of the content of American history textbooks as they attempt to establish certain people as "heroes", whitewashing the distasteful parts of their 'history' or ignoring inconvenient accomplishments. And it's a fun read... like history should be.

On the road again

Off to western OK next, then Amarillo, TX; Tucumcari, NM; and Santa Fe, NM.

05 October 2012

Postcard from Missouri- 2

3-5 October 2012

Springfield, MO

We stopped here for another visit with the Admiral's brother and sister-in-law, Steve & Eileen, as we wind our way along the Interstates toward Santa Fe. We got laundry out of the way, did the shopping thing at Dillon's (another Kroger-owned market), and got fuel. Probably the lowest price we'll see the rest of the year at $3.80/gal.

And we suffered through our first cold weather of the season. Yikes! Had to get my wool socks out of the storage bag cuz the floor where the desk is located in a slide got really cold while I was sitting here typing. Even had to do the hookup in the morning wearing my polar fleece vest the whole time. What happened to endless summer?!

All the great looking oak trees rained acorns the whole time we were there. The concern is that when I close the slides they would get crushed against the slide seals. So I had a brain storm the morning when we pulled out: fire up the compressor and blow the acorns and leaves off the tops of the slides. Cool, huh?! Yeah, right. Turns out the air would blow everything away that was within about 3-4 feet and did nothing to any acorns or leaves beyond that. It was like an invisible wall. So much for the brain storm. I had to squeegee them off with the window cleaner I have for the truck.

Here's a few park shots plus a gratuitous shot of Annie the Super Dog...

Great looking park...

... with lots of oak trees...

...that rained acorns the whole time we were there!

Annie the Super Dog. Kelly ran and
hid: "I don't like cameras!"

02 October 2012

Postcard from Missouri- 1

30 September - 2 October 2012

St. Louis

We're cheating a little here. The campground was actually in Granite City, IL. But it was relatively close so we could easily visit the Gateway Arch. This was the Admiral's first visit and my second. Pretty amazing piece of work and the view from the top of the arch is unlimited all the way to the distant horizon.

The project was actually started in 1937 with a design competition which was won by a guy named Saarinen. The construction, however was delayed many years since a couple wars got in the way. The 2 halves of the arch didn't join till 1965. For the faint of heart, you don't walk to the top of the arch which is something like 632 feet above the ground... about 28 feet short of an 1/8th of a mile. There's a tram of 8 'pods' that carry 5 people each up to the top. 4 minutes up, 3 minutes down. The interchange of people leaving the pods with people boarding them is more of a collision, but most folks happily shifted as necessary to let folks pass. I doubt there's the same feeling of friendly cooperation on a hot summer day!

And since this is a federal facility, there are no weapons allowed including knives over 4" overall. My little pocket knife (1.5" blade) with opening-assist was marginal. Since they couldn't get it to open completely with the assist they let it slide. A different guard on a different day might not be so helpful.

The day was pretty much ugly with a little bit of rain and solid cloud cover. So the photos are a mixed bag that I'm not so proud of. But that's how it is sometimes.

It's an old park but adequate. WiFi is a joke.

The Arch is essentially on the Mississippi River.

The arch has a stainless skin with
structural steel inside.

Like heading into a subway. The underground
area is cavernous.

Here's the ticket counter (museum store in the

... and the information kiosk.

The Admiral was doing her best to not
look claustrophobic as we all sat bent
in half inside what is not much more
than a very large oil drum!

View from the top out across the river.

One of the bases.

And the stairs from the street.