Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Hitting a flat spot? Apathy? Burnout?

The S.O. and I had been sheltering in place in Arizona for longer than we really wanted to, especially once daytime temperatures crept into the 90s. With the sun shining directly on the Guppy, the interior walls felt warm -- there is effectively zero insulation in the beast. Still, given the COVID-19 situation, we were kind of stuck. Couldn't head for home until we knew snow levels in Upper Michigan had dropped to the point where we could drive into our place. So we hunkered down, invested in a small window air conditioner, and were quietly grateful the electricity at the fairgrounds RV park isn't metered. The original equipment a/c on the Guppy wasn't working when we bought it, but it was never an issue until this year.

And then, commensurate with the rising temps, the Kid mentioned she could smell gas when sitting in a lawn chair next to the Guppy. The S.O. checked and, oh shit, gas was visibly dripping from the top of the gas tank. A fuel line was leaking -- higher temperatures apparently pushed enough gas up or through the line to make the leak noticeable. Okay. Definite problem. Need to fix that.

Fixing it kind of implied dropping the gas tank, not an easy thing to do while the Guppy was parked with limited maneuvering room under it. Still, the S.O. figured out a way to siphon the contents of the tank -- there was a fair amount of fuel in it because we'd gassed up in Lordsburg on the way to Safford, and Lordsburg is only about 70 miles away. He gets the gas out, and then goes to work on trying to drop the tank. Bolts are suddenly rusted in place, of course. Everything under the Guppy is solidly rusted in place. After fighting with it for a few days, spraying on penetrating oil, getting a longer breaker bar, trying with a chisel, he decides maybe just smearing some sealant on the area in the line that's leaking would work as a temporary fix. So he does that.

He then starts putting fuel back into the tank. Gets enough in that it should be possible to get the Guppy running again. Except it won't. It's fuel-injected and it's now air locked. So he spends more time trying to eliminate air from the fuel line. Nothing's working. . . and then it hits him. Maybe the problem is the leak in the fuel line still exists and that's how air is getting in. What to do. . .

Well, the Guppy has two fuel lines. One from the gas tank to the engine; one from the gas tank to the generator that would provide power to the "house." Except that generator doesn't exist; it was a basket base when we bought the Guppy 7 years ago. The gas line is still there, but it's not being used. The S.O. re-routes it, and, voila, success! The Guppy fires up and all seems to be well. We're now into May, so it's safe to head north. We proceed with getting ready to leave.

Departure day comes, we get everything squared away, and we head out. Stop at a gas station to fill the tank, and then aim for New Mexico. Barely 20 miles out of town, the Guppy starts losing power. The S.O. pulls over, tries to figure out just exactly what has gone wrong this time, admits defeat, and we call AAA. Several hours later we're back at the fairgrounds.

And that's when we decided maybe it was time to cut our losses. This was the third time we'd called for a tow truck on this trip; I had no desire to experience a 4th any time soon. We'd list the Guppy on local sales sites, the equivalent of Baraga County Stuff for Sale, and let the Kid handle it for us. At first we considered leaving the Guppy at the fairgrounds, but it turned out we'd have to pay the regular full monthly rent. They had no provision in place for allowing seasonal residents to leave RVs in place at a reduced price. The S.O. figured out the problem with the Guppy was electrical -- a relay of some sort was heating up and cutting out -- so he was confident he could get it running long enough to move it to a storage lot. Which he did. When the day came, with the engine cool, the Guppy fired right up and ran just fine the two miles down the highway to where it's now parked. 

Next step was figuring out what to do with the ton of stuff that was in the Guppy. We rented a UHaul truck and a tow dolly. Minor glitch with the UHaul, of course. We made the reservation on a Saturday, went to pick up the equipment on the day specified, and the incompetent woman working at the Thatcher Chevron had managed to lose the reservation. No truck or dolly available. Holy fuck. Pissed doesn't begin to cover how angry we were. We had reserved a 10-foot truck; the idiot woman tried talking us into renting a 26-foot one instead. And no tow dolly.

Fortunately, the UHaul dealer in Safford did have a truck and tow dolly available. After we told him what happened with the Chevron station, he rented us a truck and tow dolly at the rate the original rental would have cost us even though the truck was bigger (a 20-foot, still a lot bigger than we needed, but not as ridiculous as a 26-foot would have been).

We decided to totally empty the Guppy even though there is a possibility we'll be back in it in the Fall. The S.O. thinks he may have figured out the problem -- the ignition control module -- but we were out of patience. It is really hard to work on anything when outside temperatures are hitting triple digits. If the Guppy sells this summer, we'll call it good, and if it doesn't we'll try getting it on the road again in November. But for now we're heading home.

As a side note, emptying the Guppy was a revelation. We had an amazing amount of stuff stashed in it, way more crap than we actually needed. I think it was a rolling example of what happens when there are empty spaces. The storage existed so we felt compelled to fill it. If we go out in the Fall to spend the Winter in the Guppy, it's going to be a lot emptier. We'll just have what fits in the car. I have a hunch this will be a good thing. Less clutter, less claustrophobia. But of course whether or not we ever see the Guppy again is unknown at this point. The Kid might get lucky and have a buyer materialize. After all, the Guppy does run. It just doesn't run far.