Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Day in Puebla


It’s apparent that we’ll be spending more time in and around Puebla, a very beautiful and lively city. Yesterday we ventured  into Pueblo Centro and it was quite a ride. Helen talked about taking a taxi, but I nixed that idea. I have seen the way Mexican taxi drivers drive in the traffic and it terrifies me. The thought of careening around in the back seat as the very small ( by my girth and standards) taxi negotiates it’s way through traffic was not appealing to me. I let Helen drive while I navigated. It took a little effort even with the GPS set to a street in the Centro. When the GPS says to take a left in 300 feet, Helen is ready to take the next left. I had to explain that 300 feet was probably at the traffic light about 300 feet ahead and not the next left 50 feet away.

There is considerable gridlock in parts of the city, but the natives know how to adjust.


Here the traffic is backed up on this side of a divided street. The answer is to swing across the median at a gap and drive into oncoming traffic. And that is just what we did. Fortunately, just a hundred feet in the opposing lane, we found an underground parking lot and quickly made our escape, following that white car you see below.


We took the stairs up to a market where there was a guard. I showed him our tourist map and asked him to mark on the map exactly where we were. X would mark the spot of the parking lot. It took him quite a while to mark a spot, and as it turned out, he was wrong. As we left the building, I noticed that we were at the corner of  11 Norte and 6 Poniente. In a short while I realized how everything was laid out and it was a breeze finding our way.

Our first order of business was to find an ATM, but we found a park and church first. The park had a lot of fountains and trees and was across the street from an ornately tiled church.


Helen in front of one of the water features and below is a picture of the church across the street.


Next we set out for Puebla Centro via an ATM. Not a problem as there are ATMs everywhere. With cash in hand we continued we continued to what we think is the main plaza But stopped at a cafeteria for a bite. I was dazzled by the prospect of a club sandwich while Helen couldn't resist quesadillas (sp?). We both drank a Limonada.


This is a picture of the lush growth in the park opposite the state administration building. It was being spruced up while we were there as they prepare for the Noche de Muerte Festival that starts Thursday. Helen has been doing a web search on where to be for the festivities and this is one of the major places.


It seems that no matter where you go, you run into the low life of the area.


There was much to see and too much to post about the sights of the Centro district. When ever we had to make contact with the population, we always succeeded, partly because we are learning a little Spanish, but mostly because the people all want to help as much as possible.


In several locations we saw where some kind of meat was being roasted on a vertical spit. The coals are on the shelves behind the tower of meat (beef perhaps or pork, we’re not sure). The tower of meat is made of thin layers, one on top of the other and the spit is constantly turning.


As it rotates, the “cook” slices off the cooked portion and it drops into a pan on the bottom, so what he ends up with is shaved meat. We didn’t stop there yesterday, but tomorrow……….

Today I went out on my own to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and the TelCel regional office. I was surprised to see that the regional office was not as spiffy as the office in Saltillo. Saltillo was spotless. The staff was well groomed. I was able to find someone who spoke very good English. Here, the grooming was not quite as good, one girl in a sweater and jeans. The office, though not dirty, was not as spotless as Satillo. However, I went there to find out how to determine how much time I have on my cell phones and internet stick. More important, I found out how to get the information myself. The papers that came with the phone say to key in *333 and it will give you your balance. It does, very quickly and in Spanish. No help. Now I know that if I press*133#, I get the results printed on the screen. It works for me. As for my other two stops, if you’ve seen one Super Wal-mart and Home Depot, you’ve seen them all.

In Mexico, the driver use their directional for two purposes. one is to signal an actual turn. The other purpose is to tell you to pass them. So I’m coming up on a truck, he’s ahead and to my right and he puts his left turn signal on. Does he want me to pass or is he going to turn? If I start to pass and he turns…………

In a similar situation, I was almost at the entrance to Wal-Mart and I was in the right lane and there was heavy traffic. I turned on my right turn signal to let those behind me that I was turning right. The woman behind me apparently thought I was signaling her to pass,because she passed me on the right, even though she had to drive partly off the road.


That’s it for now.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Staying in Puebla, Puebla, Mexico

That’s the city of Puebla, in the state of Puebla, country of Mexico. We drove from Queretaro and had a great trip. In the past, we were cautioned to KEEP OUT OF MEXICO CITY, yet all my mapping programs routed me through there. I had to adjust the route to take the new Mexico City bypass, the ARCO NORTE. What a pleasant drive, easily the best road we’ve encountered in Mexico. The toll is a bit steep, 470 pesos or $36.00 US, but it is worth it. There was a story on RV.NET a week ago where a woman claimed that a friend passing through Mexico City was hassled TWICE by the local police and they eventually took all his cash. On our trip we always felt safe and secure. As we travel, we also get the information of where to go, what to see, and what to avoid. It’s the latest news and so far it has been accurate. Last year the US Travel Advisory said to avoid Culiacan because of cartel violence, and we did. When we got to the campground the next day, the Canadians were talking about visiting friends in Culiacan and said that the US information was a month old. In Laredo, we got the word right away, border closed, take the crossing two crossings upstream.

Back to our trip.


Leaving Queretaro, we passed under the ancient aqueduct, still in use today. However, Queretaro is a large and still growing city and may need more water sources. At least this is my theory. North of Queretaro and running for many miles is a project that is putting large diameter pipes underground. I mean miles and miles and miles of two to two and a half feet in diameter. I noted that the connections have three rings of rubber “O” rings and doubt that it would be for something other than water. It’s a massive project, but this is just what I surmise.


This is the Arco Norte, a very fine highway, equal to anything you’d find in the US.


Here we are in the campground in Cholula, a suburb of Puebla and the closest one can get to Puebla. Below are a few pictures Helen took of the campground.




Last night we had an awesome thunderstorm and rain poured from the sky. Thunder shook the motorhome more than I would have thought possible as we’re on leveling jacks. We expected to be living in mud this morning, but all the rain has been absorbed and there is no mud anywhere, a most pleasant surprise. Now, I’m going to do some web surfing on Puebla so we can make the most of our time here.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

From Saltillo to Queretaro


I went to the main Telcel office in Saltillo to get the phones and internet connection I needed. On the map it looked easy as the street that our campground was on extends to the street where Telcel is located. Can hardly get easier than that. Plus, I have my (sometimes) faithful GPS. Put a ruler on a map and you can see that the two streets form a straight line. What my map didn’t show was that the office street is one way and the wrong way for me. The GPS showed me the way going straight, so when I had to turn it “recalculated” and brought me to the other end of Cardenas Ave. I couldn’t see a Telcel office so I made another trip around the block. Still nothing, so I parked in front of a museum or courthouse. An older gentleman in uniform waved me away as there was no parking allowed there, even though I saw no sign. I jumped out of the Jeep and he marched toward me and I showed him a piece of paper with the address on it. This is the address as shown on the Telcel website. He couldn’t figure out where that would be on the street. Then I mentioned the Telcel office. This was different as he knew just where I could find the office. Drive down the road past cuartro semaflors y la officina is on the left. Go through 4 traffic lights and Telcel is on the left. This would be a snap in Inverness, but in Saltillo I had to deal with Mexican drivers and I missed the office. Just past the 5th light there was a fireplace business on the right with a few parking spaces.

I went inside and asked where the Telcel office was and an older gentleman, who spoke excellent English, showed me that it was across the street and up about half a block. He’d allowed me to leave my car there. I entered Telcel and thought I was in a bank, with tellers all over the place. I approached a manager looking man at the front and told him in my best effort in Spanish that I wanted to buy to cell phones and an internet modem. He took me to the young lady who was the receptioist and had her help me as she spoke English. This was not a bank and the people behind the counter were not tellers. This was the main office for Telcel in a moderately sized city. There was a steady stream of cell phone owners coming in to buy more time for their phone or buy a new phone. All the “clerks” were dressed in spotless black suits. The women wore whit blouses buttoned almost to the neck and the men all had pure white shirts and conservative ties. All wore jackets. The atmosphere was extremely professional and everyone was well groomed. Alma, my agent, worked quickly and efficiently and soon I had the two phones and the internet connection, connected and ready to be used.

The ride back to the campground was easy as it was straight this time. All in all, it was after 11:30 AM before we left the campground. We had no idea where we would end up for ther night, but continued heading south. As the driver, I have to keep my eyes on the road, but I often see interesting thins that I point out to Helen. Most of the time Helen doesn’t look in time to see what I found. On the drive from Saltillo it was a good thing. All along the highway there are horses, burros, and cows staked on the side of the road or median to graze. We also saw a lot of shepherds tending their flocks. What Helen missed and I did not mention was the group of men trying to load a dead horse onto a flat bed pickup. It was right beside the road and if it wasn’t hit by something it died of the heat. Still, a sight better not seen by the wife type person.

Continuing on, Helen was glued to a map and Churches Camping in Mexico book. Eventually we reached a point where we knew we could reach Juriquilla Inn and Campground where we stayed last March. There is a certain joy in arriving someplace familiar and I’m savoring the feeling because it will not happen again for several months. The campground is located adjacent to the motel and behind a Pemex station and restaurant. We chose to eat out last night and had chicken with salad and french fries, bread and butter and salsa and crackers included. Oh, and two cokes. $10.77 in US dollars. Our last meal in Laredo was $50.00, and honestly, it was not as good.

Oh, I have to go back to getting into the campground. Before I tried to make the turns into the campground I wanted to remove the Jeep. However, it was at such an angle that I couldn’t remove the tow bar. Helen jumped in the Jeep and I pulled it a little way to straighten out, but it still wouldn’t budge. I decided to just pull it into the campground. As I started forward Helen started honking the horn and waving out the window, I stopped to find out what was wrong. She said that I was dragging the Jeep, the wheels were not turning. I asked how that could be with the gear in neutral. Helen, when she got in the Jeep just before that last move put the gear in PARK. When we go out, I can see the drag marks in the street. Thankfully, it was covered with dirt so the tires slid very easily.

We’re here for another night and expect to be off to Puebla tomorrow.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Time in Laredo


We got into Laredo yesterday afternoon and the ride was quite an adventure on it’s own. Route 59, from Houston to Laredo is a two lane road, often with no substantial shoulders. In addition, most of it could sure use a new paving. In spite of it’s shortcomings, the speed limit was 75 miles per hour almost all the way. I could manage 60 to 65, but that was about all. I fell in with a group of trucks and when there were passing areas we would all pull to the right lane, but no one ever passed until we were just a few miles outside Laredo. I was following the directions of TWO GPS units and when they told me to take a right onto Lake casa Blanca Road, I did. It was not a real road and there was no way to turn with the Jeep attached. I took the Jeep and drove further up the dirt path that was once an alternate route to the park. I crossed the boundry abd finally found a ranger who could give me directions. He laughed because all the GPS units take people to the wrong road and you could see where a number of vehicles had to turn around to get out. The real entrance was just a few hundred yards up the road. Helen says that we will not be coming this way again, but of course, we will be coming back through Columbia Crossing and will not see Laredo again.

Our original plan was to spend a day or two in Laredo, running across the border to Nuevo Laredo to buy Mexican Telcel phones. We find out this morning that the border here is closed because of shootouts on the other side. That works for us. At Columbia Crossing there is no city or town, just the US and Mexican border guards and customs. We can get the phones later. We are starting to wonder about all the fireworks we hear in the distance. Last night we were sure it was just 4th of July type  fireworks, but now……………

We are camped at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park and it’s a bit barren compared to the last few camping spots. However, we were very close to the water and the dogs got in a swim last night. Helen had a few tennis balls and when she threw the first, Sandy leapt right off the shore into the water. This is a special moment because Sandy will only enter the pool  via the steps.The point she jumped from was nearly three feet above the water and it caught her by surprise. After that first jump, she would walk to the side of the point and enter without the jump.


Our Campground.

Since the above was written, I’ve been running errands around town, got our dollars exchanged for pesos, picked up a few things at Wal-Mart, and visited a local O’Reilleys Auto Parts for a second spare fuel filter. At the parts store there was a DOT agent working his second job. He also works at the DOT station at Columbia Crossing. I told him that I was not crossing at Laredo due to the violence across tha border. He told me not to take the next crossing either, which is just a few miles to the north as it will still take us through the violent parts of Nuevo Laredo. Columbia Crossing is fine as it bypasses all the congestion of Nuevo Laredo. I also heard from someone on RV.NET that he came through Columbia Crossing on Friday and has had no problems and has seen nothing of consequence. I guess our purchase of Telcel phones will have to wait until later.

This continues from above. Now we’re in Saltillo, Mexico. HOWEVER, I was awakened in the middle of the night when Helen screamed because she saw a mouse. SHe must have scared the poor little thing. When I got up in the morning, Helen had one of the dogs out so I grabbed a banana. Thee was a bunch and one separate. Naturally I took the odd one. Helen came back and asked what happened to the banana that the mouse got into. Well, that was the one I ate. Helen dug the skin out of the trash to show me the hole he had gnawed. Little…whatever. I was soon off to Walmart to arm myself with mouse catching tackle. A coupld of traps and a few sticky pads. I hope it works because I wouldn’t want to get in trouble for not declaring another pet.

It was hot as blazes earlier hitting 98 at one point. Thought I’d have to run the generator all night, but it cooled off quickly and there is a nice breeze.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Couple of Lucky Days


In Beaumont waiting to get into Freightliner we were almost next door at Hidden Lake RV park. Freightliner said that we could overnight in their driveway which is about 200 feet long and 40 or 50 feet wide. Plenty of room for a number of trucks or motorhomes. We actually considered it, but it was hot and we wanted the comfort of air conditioning. It was a good move. Sunday afternoon I walked over to Freightliner a few minutes before closing time and talked to them about the work I wanted done and then I returned for a good evenings rest. They open at 7:30 AM, and I was back there at 7:32. The gate looked strange and an inner gate looked strange. A few police cars were there and I could see that the gates had been smashed through from the inside. I guessed that somebody stole a truck during the night. I was sure glad that we were not parked on the driveway. While waiting for our RV, we were in the Driver’s lounge and a female employee came in and chatted with Helen. It turns out that THREE large Freightliner trucks and a load of tires had been stolen. I’m really glad that we were not witnesses.

We spent much of the day at Freightliner before anyone got to actually look at the coach. A fellow who looked and acted intelligent came to do and inspections to determine how they would wrire up the work order. He poked and prodded for about 20 minutes then reported back to the foreman. I was there when he discussed the situation and he didn’t feel that work was necessary. There is no short in the system, so ther is no chance of fire. What we have is a bad connection, but the system is now adequately powered from another source. The motorhome is perfectly safe. The foreman told me also that under the circumstances he could not see any reason to delay our vacation. If we chose, he WOULD write out a work order and they would find the real problem, though it may take a couple of days to find it and he couldn’t even get to it until Thursday or Friday. I thanked him for his advice and said by Thursday we’d be in Mexico. I asked what the bill would be , he said “nothing’ as they never wrote up a work order.

I used the time to work on the dash air conditioning as it is not working properly. There is a small leak and I lose Freon over time. I went to our friendly Wal-Mart and bought several cans of Freon and three cans of A/C stop leak and finally got the system running nice and cool.

I was deep in a great sleep around 6:00 AM when Helen “gently” screamed……loudly…that there was a beast in the motorhome. She said she saw “something” running over the stove, possibly a rodent of some kind. On the counter near the stove we have fruit and a dog cookie, but nothing had been gnawed or molested in any way. Our three intrepid dogs have shown no interest in any area of the coach and I’d think they would detect the scent of a mouse or squirrel. IF IT IS HERE………you will hear of this again. In a short while, we will be off to Lake Casa Blanca International State Park in Laredo…….hoping for the best and expecting just about anything. I promise myself that I will not jump when Helen screams again.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Waiting in Beaumont, Texas


We’ve had excellent weather and made good time getting to Beaumont where we are camped at Hidden Lake RV Park. This is another super clean park with brand new bathrooms, complete with sink, toilet and shower. The folks who run the campground are super friendly and there is free Keurig coffee with snacks. It’s also another Passport America park so the tab is $17.50. We are waiting to get a call from Beaumont Freightliner to have our electric system checked. Freightliner is next door. How convenient is that? Being the antsy person I am, and not patient to wait a few hours, I called Houston Freightliner to see when they could get me in…………Oct. 29th is their first chance. Obviously I’ll stay here and bide my time. Of course, I’m playing on the computer while Helen is doing some of the heavy cleaning that must be done from time to time.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

We’re Actually Away


Today dawned bright and clear and we were really able to leave. The serviceman arrived right on time and though I was a bit skeptical about a general serviceman, he WAS recommended by the Freightliner dealer. He had me start the engine and it started right up. Then I turned on the headlights and everything died. I left the key on, and in a minute some relay reset and I again had power. The fellow went out to look at the breaker panel and told me to turn on the lights again. I did and everything died for a second and then came on. The engine had stopped during the short spell, but I had all the gauges and the headlights stayed on. “I’ve found it” he said.

Now, going back to my work on that panel, I had no power to that particular point, so I added power from another source and disconnected the original cable. Well, that cable was actually supposed to power two blocks in the panel and when I ran the new wire, I disconnected the original cable preventing the second block from getting power. His solution was to use BOTH cables. With both cables connected the motorhome runs and acts like normal. He did suggest that if HE were driving this to Mexico, he would have it checked out by Freightliner to find and fix the original fault. It make sense to me, and I made a list of the Freightliner Oasis (Motorhome friendly) dealers on our route, starting in Mobile, Alabama. If my timing and plans work out, I should be able to use the dealer in Houston, Monday morning


This is a picture of the 130 amp breaker that I had such a hard time finding. It’s the “thing” in the middle, on the passenger side of the chassis and about even with the engine-transmission connection. It was not the problem though and I’ll give the final results later.


This is the way I leave the Lincoln for the duration, up on jack stands and with a trickle charger on the battery.


This is our campsite at Azalea Acres RV Park, a Passport America park, so we paid $14.00 for the night with full service, 50 amp electric, and the thing you see sticking above the roof is the Wifi antenna.

It was a great day and I hope this continues.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Off to Mexico, Oct 17th, 18th, 19th, or ????

The plan, such as it was, was to leave home the day after I got my last per-travel shot, so we were going to leave the morning of the 17th. The evening before, I wanted to back the motorhome around and attach the Jeep. All was fine as I backed the RV out of the driveway, blocking the street. I pushed the shift button for drive and EVERYTHING died. The engine stopped and I had no lights, gauges, or anything that ran off the chassis batteries. Before we could get in any more trouble, I got Helen and the Jeep and a tow chain, and with the Jeep in 4 Low, we got the RV back in the driveway.

Nothing I did could restore powerand I called the Freightliner Help Line. Jon told me that it sounded like the 130 amp breaker, though that breaker usually resets automaticly. OK, something to check in the morning. Of course it was impossible to sleep, so at about 2:00 AM, I was out in the motorhome taking panels apart to access the breaker. It was not to be found and I went back to bed.

Later, I called Freightliner again and Glenn told me what to look for and where it could be. I’m not nearly as bright as I was at one time and I couldn’t be certain what I was looking for. I drove up to COMO RV to see what such a breaker would look like. I was shown the only one they had which was a 50 amp breaker. OK, back to my cave under the motorhome where I WAS able to see the breaker. There was still no power to the ignition, lights, etc. SO if the breaker was at fault, there would be 12 volts on one terminal and nothing on the other. Well, there was 12+ volts on BOTH sides of the breaker.

Back to Freightliner where I got Joe. He had some ideas about a  “stud” that passes through the firewall or the floor. I could not find it. However, I did find a place that should have had power in the front fuse/breaker panel. Odd, too, was that there was chassis power to a solenoid on the other side of the panel. I ran a jumper between the two and the engine started and ran fine. Since both of these places were supposed to come from the same “power post” I figured that it wouldn’t matter how the power got to where it had to go, so I bought a new cable and ran it from the solenoid to the other side of the breaker panel. SUCCESS!!! HURRAH!!! I moved the motorhome further up the driveway and we finished loading it up.

Now it was time to back it around again to attach the Jeep. It started right up, all the gauges were in the proper operating range and I shifted into reverse. IT DIED AGAIN!!! No power to anything chassis related. I got my probe light and opened the front panel again. I had chassis power to everyplace on the panel. How could that be???

I went back inside and turned the key and I had dash gauges. I started the engine and it started instantly. I DID NOT shift. I turned on the headlights and EVERYTHING DIED again. I called Glenn again at Freightliner and he was fresh out of ideas, suggesting that I have the rig towed to Ocala Freightliner. Out of the question! I called Ocala Freightliner to see if they had road service and the answer was a definite “NO”, but…they recommend the road service across the street.

Now I’m sitting here waiting for our serviceman to arrive. He is expected within the hour, and I really hope he finds the problem because I have passed my wits end a while back.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunday Whining and Monday Smiling!

Continuing on from my rant of Saturday, I worked on the water system several more times, and finally got all the leaks fixed. Surprisingly, the problem areas were all where I had a threaded PVC fitting going into a brass valve. The problem could be that I’m hesitant to put too much pressure on the fitting as I have known the PVC fitting to snap, and when it does it breaks flush with the brass connection and is so hard to extract. In the end all was fine. No leaks not even the smallest of leaks. The entire water line from source to control valve (outside in the yard) was pressurized, but I was afraid to turn on the A/C because when the A/C comes on, the outside valve opens, and when the A/C shuts down, the valve snaps closed, causing something of a water hammer that will increase the pressure quite a bit, but only for a very short part of a second. Finally, I closed the breaker to the heat pump and went in the house to turn the unit on at the thermostat control.

AS I walked into the house, Helen was on her way out to see me. “Did you shut off all water to the house” she asked. “No!” I replied. Helen said “We have NO water in the house”. We have encountered this problem before so I got a volt meter and checked for power. We had power at the breaker and we had power at the pump. In fact, I could hear the hum of the pump motor as it was running freely. It has always been the same problem, the connection between the pump and motor shears and there is no water. I got in my Jeep and ran to Lowe’s where I procured a replacement pump. The pump and a few other things cost just under $400.00. The last time I paid to have the pump replaced it cost $900.00 and that was November 1992, so you can imaging what it would cost today.

So it’s Saturday afternoon and we have a 14th birthday party to attend for my grandson. I’ve been working hard all day and I’m pretty sweaty. Helen has been working in the yard and she is also looking forward to a shower. Now, we have a motorhome with water, A/C, a shower, etc. There would have been no problem except that I had drained the water and had intended to fill it with fresh water when a hurricane approaches. There is plenty of lead time to prep for a hurricane. Unfortunately, when a pump dies it’s over in a second. My next door neighbor, Gunther, is always willing to help, but he was camping in Crystal River. I called his cell phone and his wife’s cell phone and finally got permission to “Borrow” some water. I ran three hoses from an outside faucet on my house to and outside faucet on Gunther’s house and we had water. A quick shower for Helen, a quick shower for me, a quick addition to the tank in the motorhome, and we were done. I disconnected the hose from Gunther’s house, but didn’t pull the hose back until later. I’d just had a shower and I didn’t need to work up another sweat.

The Birthday Party was a success with a number of pre-teen boys actively playing video games of one kind or another. We returned home to find much cooler temperatures and we were very comfortable with the indoor temperature.

Sunday I awoke with the intent to get the well repaired and working properly. I have the tools. I have the knowledge. I have the new pump and supplies. In the past, I removed the old pump and installed the new one in an hour and a half. I was MUCH younger then and the weather was cooler. This time it took me most of the day as it was too hot to do very much at one time. I took my time to make CERTAIN that I wasn’t going to mess anything up. It all went well though and I soon had the new pump pumping like crazy. When you disturb the pump and casing, you leave a GREAT AMOUNT of rusty water down in the well casing. We ran the water for about a half hour before it ran nice and clean. Success!!!

With everything back to normal, I couldn’t resist tweaking the beast. The pump, a Utilitech Pro, failed after only 16 months of service and I thought that was much too short a life, so I called the company. They have an odd warranty, two years from the date of manufacture (February 2011) or one year since installed (June 15, 2011)  whichever happens FIRST.  A warranty is a warranty and the girl at the company said “that since it was more than a year since it had been installed, I was out of luck, thank you very much for using our product”. That’s not exactly like she said it but that was the gist of our conversation. She said that Lowe’s might help, but her hands were tied.

My next call was to Lowe’s manager and I explained the situation to him. He told me that he Utilitech policy was ridiculous and to bring in the old unit and he would give me full credit. Could my luck be changing????? I sure hope so, I could use a period of calm right now.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

But it’s just a little leak!

Yes, the leak is small, but it has been persistent. Long ago I lost count of the times I have made the connection at a brass globe valve in the pressure line running into the A/C heat exchanger. Last night I ended up with the tiniest leak and figured that it  was small enough to live with, at least for awhile. Therefore, I opened all the other valves and turned on the A/C to the main part of the house. Aaah, the cool air was most welcome. A part of me was not trusting the system, so every 15 minutes or so, I’d go into the garage to check the leak. Not quite perfect, but it was a small leak that I could live with for a few days, at least. Actually, it was so small, that evaporation would have taken care of the leak, probably one drip every ten minutes. This lasted for hours! Just before turning in I had to check one more time and was struck by the number of leaks that had started. OK, I isolated the water supply and opened the breaker to the main heat pump.

This morning I AGAIN worked on the connection, which is the inlet to the A/C heat exchanger. That connection is the first one down stream of the new isolation valve I installed days ago. Since it’s all held together with union joints, I was able to get to a point where I could tighten up that connection a little more, wondering how much pressure I could put on the wrench before the PVC shattered. After another half turn, I reconnected the plumbing, opened the isolation valve and ,voila, I STILL had that same leak. Isolate again and take it apart. This time I used a little pipe dope (the BIG pipe dope is ME) and wrapped about 8 turns of teflon tape. I opened the isolation valve and …..NO LEAK. ..NO LEAK….NO LEAK.

Then I opened the inlet valve and pressurized to the outlet valve. Aha….some small leakage. Close the valve, take another turn or two on the outlet valve and  pressurize again. MORE SUCCESS!!!!!! Now for the final test, open the outlet valve and pressurize the system to the electric valve out in the yard. This is the valve that is controlled by the A/C system, opening when the system is running and closing when the system turns off. Oops, another leak. This time it’s a cemented fitting and will require a bit more work. Fortunately, I have more  parts….oh do I have more parts. So, after finishing my coffee, I will go back out to the garage that I have become to hate and complete, (I hope), the job I started so casually several days ago. I hope I’ll have more of a success story later.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It all depends on how you look at it!

Helen woke me up out of a sound sleep  a couple of nights ago screaming that a pipe had burst in the garage.  It is NOT my preferred way to wake up. As it was, I was in a REALLY deep sleep and waking up was like rising out of the depths until I could actually understand what was being said.

We have water-to-air heat pumps (two), one for each side of the house. Now they are called geothermal heat pumps and they have been very efficient and have given us excellent service. Our heating and air conditioning bill is significantly lower than our friend who have a conventional system.  In the summer, most systems have to cool the outside fins with air 95 degrees or higher. We cool with 73 degree water which is much more efficient. In the winter, the typical heat pump is trying to take heat out of cold air, quitting around 45 degrees when the very expensive resistance heater turns on. Our pumps get the heat from the same 73 degree water and neither pump has a back up resistance heat source. Many of our contemporaries have already replaced their A/C units due to the degradation of the outside unit. We have nothing outside and our system has not given us any trouble until now.

I have to confess that the source of our problem is due to a poor job I did when I installed the plumbing. Of course the first thing I had to do was stop the flow of water and I was almost able to do that by closing a valve. That slowed the leak to a slow but steady drip. When I looked at the fitting that had failed, I found that instead of engaging the PVC fittings all the way, in this case the connection was only a quarter inch. ME BAD!!!!

So, I made a visit to my local Lowe’s and procured the fittings and cement needed to repair the job. Fortunately, yesterday was a cool rainy day and the rear A/C unit was able to all our cooling needs. That was good because I was never able to get it fixed yesterday. I still had a little leak where a threaded PVC fitting mated with a brass valve. Giving up at last, I quit for the night.

First thing this morning I was back at Lowe's for more supplies. I decided to replace ALL the fittings and be done with it. Cut, fit, cement, fit, cut, fit, cement, fit. Soon I was done and all I had to do was give it time to set up before I opened the vale to pressurize the system. When the time finally came, I opened the valve, and I had THAT SAME LITTLE LEAK!!!!!

NOW I’M FURIOUS, and make ANOTHER trip to Lowe’s. This time, I also buy PVC unions so I will NOT have to hacksaw the parts apart again. I bought couplings by the bag, I bought elbows by the bag, and I bought more than enough unions. I also bought another valve to put in the line so I can isolate pressure before it gets to where I’m working. It works! There is no water leaking by and I can take my time and ensure perfection. I CAREFULLY assembled the whole thing and then went to my reading chair and finished a book I was reading, giving the system PLENTY of time to set.

After about an hour and a half, I opened the valves and voila……..there was still that damn little leak in the same damn spot!!!! Well, it was only a very small leak and the house is a bit warm as it’s not cool today as it was yesterday, so I figured that I’d run the air conditioning in the main side of the house and cool it off before I take it apart AGAIN. So I set up a container to catch the drip and let the A/C run for a while as I caught up with my daily on-line crossword and my email. SUDDENLY, Helen rushed in to tell me that the pipe has broken again and this time it had been broken for a spell before she found it because when I hit the button to open the garage door, it looked like a waterfall as the water flowed onto the driveway. At least I had that new emergency shut off valve and THAT worked perfectly.

As I sit here writing, the system has NOT been fixed. I DO NOT have the patience to attend to the plumbing today and I’m going to make Helen take me out someplace to eat, Italian I hope. If I go back out there to work on those pipes again today, it will be with a sledge hammer and not a hacksaw and cement. And do you know what is really funny????? We can’t help but think how LUCKY we are!!!!! It is a royal pain, to be sure, but this could have happened a few weeks from now when we were on our vacation to Mexico. Can you imagine getting an email from a neighbor to tell us that water is cascading out from the garage and down the driveway? There, I’ve vented and put things in perspective. I WILL do better tomorrow.