Day 10409

After several days of packing, securing and brainstorming, the bus was ready for it's journey to the North country. The solar panels were strapped down to the roof, the chimney pulled off the elbow, and all loose items were stowed.

The fuel gauge was at about a quarter of a tank. It's a big tank, but I don't know how big, and I didn't want to run out on the trip. To err on the side of caution, I dumped 20 gallons of fresh diesel in. At ~6 mpg, from what I found online, this would give me enough fuel to get there, and then have a good reserve.

I registered the bus for the trip, which gave me ten days to drive it to get it inspected, so I was "legal." The registration cost a bit more than I remembered, but I felt better knowing I did the right thing and could avoid any Police trouble along the way. Still... 2018 stickers on Veteran plates, and OIF & OEF campaign ribbon bumper stickers can only do so much to hide a guy driving a home-made camper up I93 from State Police. 

My Mum volunteered to chase me up there in my truck. Between the bus and the truck, I hoped I would have enough tools and "stuff" to repair anything that stopped working en route, but it was still a little nerve-racking. This is only the fourth time I have driven it on the road, and it would be the longest trip. It runs smooth in the yard... but that's not chugging up the Notch.

I left work early on Day 10406, and around 1:00pm we set out for the highway. It was hot. I had the roof hatches open, and most of the windows down for some ventilation. With all the airflow, I couldn't hear the radio at all!

I started off slow, and picked speed up to about 55mph on 93. Everything was looking good. I picked up to 65mph. Going up the big hills, I had the gas pedal on the floor, and the speed would steadily drop. The motor was working hard. Coming up over a hill into Ashland, I got an illuminated master caution with beeping tone. Low rotor? Stabilator out of Auto mode? Worse. "LOW OIL PRES / HIGH WATER TEMP." Two separate issues that share the same caution light on this bus.

I brought the speed back, and the tone went away. The light went out. Well, which one was it? Oil pressure was a bit better than 30 PSI on the gauge. Water temperature was in the middle of the gauge, around the 210' mark. Is that high? It occurred to me that I didn't know what normal ranges were for these things; nothing else I drive has values on the gauge! 

My first thought was that oil pressure was low... but I knew the oil was clean and full. Could I push a motor with low oil pressure another hour, through the Notch, just to get it there? I could feel the hot air coming from the vents... and the bus was losing speed on hills... maybe it's overheating?

I nursed it to Lincoln, slowing down to 55mph or so. Climbing hills set the alarm off again several times. If I was low on coolant, I could add some water, there. I pulled into a gas station, where no one paid any mind to a big blue and green bus. My camouflage pattern works.

Mum went in to get the Caledonian Record, and I fired up the laptop, scouring the internet for a cause for the indications I was seeing. Data for the International 3800 online is as varied as the jobs that this engine and chassis perform. We sat in the cabin with the hood open. My Grandmother called to check in, and I asked for my Grandfather. After telling him what I was seeing and what conditions the bus was driving in, he admonished me for working the engine too hard on a hot day, and to slow down; always a humbling experience!

It made sense. This isn't a highway bus, this is built and geared for picking kids up in the suburbs, not for bombing up mountain passes at highway speeds. The coolant and oil were both fine; I was working it too hard.

We let it cool for half an hour, then continued North on 3, through the Parkway, and down from the Mountains, all at about 45mph. No issues.

We had passed five Staties without getting pulled over (I had forgotten a bag of coffee, so I couldn't even offer the Trooper a cup if I got stopped.) Despite overheating my motor, treating the bus like my truck, it had made the climb into and out of the mountains. Now we came to the final challenge; 150' of muddy driveway.

My Grandfather showed up to help, bringing extra logging chains. I fired up the backhoe, and left it idling out of the bus's path. We were planning on it getting stuck. Pa and I surveyed the wet driveway. He seemed reasonably sure that it would make it through, but I was skeptical. He also had plenty of experience driving 2 wheel drive dump trucks into roads like these.

I backed the bus up, so I could turn wide at a constant speed into the skinny driveway. I had the transmission in first gear. I pressed the gas pedal and descended into the muck. 

The key, when you're in soft stuff, is to maintain traction. If you can't do that, maintain forward motion. If you stop, don't jam on the gas and spin the tires; you'll just dig yourself deeper. I maintained pressure on the gas pedal by ear, and rolled through the first wet spot... the tires were spinning... then the second wet spot... the third spot at the turn up... and I was through! I was amazed. I thought for sure the next few hours would be spent hauling the bus forward a few feet at a time with the backhoe, but it made it.

We spent the next few hours leveling the bus, unstrapping the furniture, deploying the solar panels, and installing the chimney.

The bus is now in the field, doing the job it was built for. Zeke and I spent the night, to be greeted by a pink sky around 4:30am, then a misty sunrise around 5:30am. We had coffee and oatmeal together, and spent the day catching up on these blog posts.

An Outhouse would be handy. And water. 

Day 10401

The Case 444 hydraulic project took some research. I measured the fittings I had removed, and lacking a "hydraulic parts store" in NH, I went online and ordered what I thought I needed. It turns out I ordered a bunch of the wrong size fitting... but then I could measure my new wrong fittings, and figure out what sizes I actually needed. I ordered 1/2" fittings, when I really needed 5/16" fittings.

Everything I need to make this happen.

First, a primer on hydraulic fittings for the prospective tractor repairman. There are three main types of fittings; SAE, NPT and JIC. These are all different engineering standards for the threads that connect the fittings.  SAE has typical threads, and a packing to keep fluid in. JIC fittings are flared for a tight seal. NPT fittings have tapered threads that lock together as the parts are tightened. The yellow, top-most fitting in the picture is off of the Case 580 backhoe; it is an SAE male to JIC male. Bottom left is NPT male to JIC male. Bottom right is NPT female to JIC male. All of these fittings need to mate to another fitting of the same standard, or they will leak, or not even fit at all. This took several hours of Googling!

I couldn't find a "new" hydraulic cylinder, so I ordered one that was similar in fully retracted length and stroke. The bore, or surface area of this new cylinder was much smaller, but I did the math and it should still lift half a ton (more than enough on a tractor this size.) The only modification I had to make was to the top link of the piston; it came 1-1/4" wide, and it needed to be cut down to 1-1/8" to fit the attachment on the tractor hitch. I set the piston in the vise, and trimmed it down with the angle grinder a little bit at a time, to keep it from getting so hot that it would melt the internal packings.

With the piston link cut down, the new piston could be installed. The holes in the piston are 3/4", and the pins on the tractor are 1/2". I ordered bushings off of a Jeep website to make up the difference.

I plumbed the connections...

... changed the oil (running "Rotella" 15W-40 in both the engine and the hydraulics) ...

... and attached the back drag blade. The new piston lifts it just fine!

The new hydraulic lines at the spool, under the driver's seat.

 With the tractor running, and implements reattached and operational, the 444 is now ready for delivery to the North Country. My dad still has the trailer up north... how am I going to get the 444 into the 150?

With the 580, of course.

I backed the F150 under the hanging tractor. I've said it before; the backhoe is a crappy crane, a poor excuse for a bulldozer, an awkward loader, and a crummy excavator. It does everything!

In the North Country, my dad helped guide me down a set of ramps on a hill to get out of the truck. I went to town mowing the wet, heavy grass, which is nearly 6' high in spots. 

I cleared an LZ for the bus. Writing this weeks later, it has helped significantly with the amount of ticks I'm pulling off myself and Zeke.

While mowing, I found some thick ferrous cableus root, which took a few minutes to untangle from the blades.

Putting along the field in the tractor, I explored parts of the property that were somewhat inaccessible with the height and thickness of the grasses in the savannah. I found another, relatively new, deer stand.

On foot, with water and rifle, and a dozen deer flies, I trekked the quarter mile in on the wooded side to the edge of the property line. An abandoned old road marks the limit of my property. Along the way I found many nice birches and maples, and a few white pines. This birch is growing up from the turned over roots of a wind-blown tree. I saw two deer. No moose, despite lots of evidence in the Spring-time, and no bear (hence the rifle.)

Back down South, I called a buddy from the unit to see if he could move the 580 North to the property. He couldn't, because his trailer wasn't big enough, but he said "hang on, let me call a friend." That friend called a friend. The town of Deerfield came together, answered the call, and Dan hauled my 580 up North. Thanks for the help, Dan!

I'm sure my neighbors were perplexed by that guy that had been clearing felled trees on the roadside a few weeks ago driving by in his truck... then peddling by on a mountain bike... then chugging along at 8:30AM in a five ton yellow dinosaur without a muffler, with a bike sitting in the bucket...

The 580 at it's new home.

I put it to work immediately, slicing drainage into the mucky driveway.

Then I went into the field, and picked what ought to be a good location for an outhouse, and dug a pit. The rich black soil was about 9" deep here.

I made a rookie move. I never put the breather plug back in after servicing the hydraulics. I heard a "tink-tink!" of the plug falling off shortly after, working in the muddy driveway, but didn't connect the dots at the time. After some searching, I'm writing it off. I fashioned this new plug out of a Maple branch.

With the 580 up North, I now have a lot more muscle for moving trees and dirt. I can also pull a bus through a muddy driveway...

Day 10391

I have been behind on posts, because I have been busy doing post-worthy things! It's nice to move forward with things, but it's going by in a blur because it's all happening so fast. The next few posts will probably be picture heavy, and light on description, as I didn't sit down to describe what happened while it was still fresh.

A few weeks ago now, I went down to Nashua to buy a Bolens lawn tractor on behalf of my Grandfather. The tractor was listed as a parts machine, but when I got there the seller was cleaning things out with an air hose, had a battery charger on it, and was adding fresh gas. After 20 minutes of tinkering, we had it running on it's own, and it drove onto the trailer. This was one of those craigslist transactions where you wish you could leave 5-star feedback; the buyer and seller both got what they wanted, no petty haggling, everyone showed up on time, etc.

My dad was taking his Kubota North on the trailer, so we loaded the new old Bolens into the bed of his truck by dropping the gate of the trailer onto the gate of his truck, then ratcheting it up with the farm jack. Since it's still running, I imagine my Grandfather will just add this machine to his collection, instead of using it for parts, as any true Yankee would.

On the bus, I have been tweaking things for the departure North. I added two more tie-downs on the roof, so that a ratchet strap could go over the top of the stowed solar panels for transport. I crafted brackets out of some leftover furniture parts to hold the level, level, on the back wall above the door. So now the level is safe and secure, and still works as a level. I also got a terminal stud for my negative solar power cables (previously the leads were bolted together and wrapped in electrical tape,) and the correct "MEGA" fuse for the positive lead fuse block.

At the property, I cleaned up the remnants of a maple and a poplar which were blown down in a storm. The town had moved the brush to either side of the road, but it wasn't the most attractive, so I spent a morning with the chain saw cutting the remnants into logs, and hauling the brush. This also gave me the opportunity to greet most of my neighbors driving by. I used my truck as a tractor (trucktor?,) hauling two beds full of logs, and pulling several bunches of strapped-together branches through the mucky driveway. I really need a tractor up here.

I erected a small shelter, with some simple survival items (hatchet, wool blanket, rice and beans, toilet paper,) just in case. It's also a place to hide from rain showers. More to follow...