Saturday, August 24, 2013


Saskatoon is a bit of a dead zone for decent RV parks – I guess Regina isn’t much better.  Property values in the two cities are likely high enough that it isn’t worth bothering with running an RV park when you could make more money with less hassle by building a strip mall or a Tim Hortons.  So when we heard that there was a new campground just outside the city on the road to North Battleford we thought we should check it out. 

That’s how we ended up at “Campland RV Park”.  Marilyn says their laundry is worth coming back for but I’m not convinced and I’m not sure how she’d know because she couldn’t use it this morning.


It’s your basic “line ‘em up in rows with pull thru sites” US resort-style campground, complete with pages of rules about not parking on the grass, etc.  The difference is that in the US the sites would be concrete pads and the roads would be paved.  Here every time they water their grass the roads and sites turn to mud.  That wasn’t a problem this morning because their water was shut off.  I thought I just hadn’t bothered to turn on the tap but when Marilyn went to the office to do laundry she quickly came back to announce that the whole park was dry.  Score 1 point against them for not making some effort to advise us – we’ve been in parks with water problems before but they were courteous enough to let us know.  Not so here and that failure alone would keep this place off my top 10 list.  It appears that the water is back on now but it was out for over 6 hours and at $37 per night I expect to at least be advised if we aren’t going to have water for that long, no matter what the reason. 

Other than no water for half a day there hasn’t been a lot of excitement in our lives lately.  We got moved here from Outlook on Thursday.  It would have made more sense for my work logistics to go to Swift Current but Murray & Jill’s oldest daughter is getting married today.  We’ve got an agro gathering organized for supper and then we’ll likely bug out early from the wedding dance.  Its hard to believe that our friends are old enough to have kids that are getting married but I guess that explains why we will likely come home early from the dance. (on edit: we didn’t actually close up the hall but there weren’t very many people left when we left so I guess we’re not as old as I thought)

From here we’ll likely move first to Regina or maybe Avonlea and then west to somewhere south of Swift Current.  Next weekend Marilyn has a drunken reunion planned with two girlfriends in Calgary.  I have a concurrent appointment with a mad Dutchman who thinks European style socialism is the answer for North America.  I don’t think he can feed me enough beer to convince me but it will be fun letting him try.  I’ve given up on banging any sense into his stubborn engineer’s head.  I’ve heard it said that when they put the iron ring on their finger they take the brain out of their head.  I believe that is true.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Last week we moved from Nipawin to Outlook.  I’ve got a stack of Palliser/Assiniboia files with a bunch of new ones located around Diefenbaker Lake.  We had a little misunderstanding in that we thought the Regional Park here had full hookups.  It doesn’t.  Fortunately it does have 30 amp power because its been pretty hot the last week.  We’re finally getting some summer weather and, miserable excuse for an air conditioner that it is, we need to be able to run the air conditioner.

Marilyn dug out her easel and has been doing a bit of painting.  


Its a really pretty spot.  We can see the river behind the bus and most evenings that’s where we have dinner.  I’ve been taking off in the morning and returning late in the day but I took Sunday off.  Tomorrow night Marilyn has lined up a visit to Jorgito at his new home.  He’s a travelling cat – it turns out that if we don’t hook up with him tomorrow night he will have moved on to Swift Current.  Evidently one of his new mom’s daughters has taken a liking to him and he is about to move in with her in Swift Current.  The damncat has travelled more than 75% of the people in North America.

Right now it would make a lot of sense for us to move to either Regina or Swift Current but we’re going to stay put here all week because we have a wedding to attend in Saskatoon next weekend.   It will mean a little more driving for me this week but I’ll survive.  After Saskatoon we’ll likely move down to Swift Current.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fools, morons and partsmen

Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s some incredibly good partsmen out there.  Sometimes you can walk up to a counter and you just know the experience is going to be good.  Other days – not so much.

I finally got around to changing the air filter on the bus the day after we arrived here at 16 West.  I had been procrastinating doing it because I wasn’t 100% certain that it really needed to be changed.  I couldn’t exactly remember when I last changed it and when I finally got it out it turned out we’d only been using it for less than 18 months and maybe 10,000 km at the most.  So there was no way it needed changing. 

The reason I was changing it however was because we’ve been blowing a lot of black smoke for the past couple of trips.  I’ve noticed that I have to be really careful with my right foot or I end up smoking out the poor sod behind or beside me.  Sometimes both.  I was also getting very low turbo boost pressures.  The only reason I could think of was a plugged air filter.  It didn’t make sense because I was sure we had replaced the last one roughly 2 years ago but I couldn’t think of anything else that might be causing the black smoke and it was definitely getting worse. 

When I was getting ready to change the filter I was staring at the back (front actually because the damn engine is in there backwards) of the engine and I noticed that something looked funny on the turbo.


That shiny band in the centre of the photo is a clamping v-band that holds the two halves of the turbo together.  It was ever so slightly off kilter and when I looked closer it was obvious that the clamp bolt had sheared clean off.  Not good.

But I figured, no problem, we’re in Saskatoon and there’s a Detroit Dealer here.  So off I went, prepared to spend maybe $50 for a new clamp.  Enter the idiot.

I walked up to the parts counter at Wajax Equipment carrying the old clamp.  “What’s that?” queried the parts guy and I thought to myself “this might not go well.”  But I pressed on, explaining to him that it was a clamping ring off a turbo.  “What engine is it on?”  Now that shouldn’t really matter – its a turbo, I’ve got the old clamp for sizing, there’s nothing special about it, its a v-band clamp ring – but I told him anyway.  “Oh you can’t buy them.  They never have been available.  You have to buy a new turbo."

I was dumbfounded.  Not by the news he was conveying because it was such patent bullshit.  I was dumbfounded that some moron who two minutes earlier couldn’t identify the part I was carrying now expected me to believe anything he said, let alone something as preposterous as this. 

Its a long story from that parts counter to the picture of the fixed turbo in the photo above.  In hindsight I probably could have fixed it without ever leaving the campground because I think I’ve got a spare t-bolt clamp in one of the bays.  What I ended up doing was to buy a new t-bolt hose clamp, cut out the t-bolt, spread the old clamp apart sufficiently that I could extract the broken t-bolt and replace it with the t-bolt from the donor clamp.  It likely took me longer to type this story than it actually took to repair the clamp.  It still astounds me that I couldn’t buy the v-band clamp but it turns out to be a relatively hard item to source in Canada.  Not impossible but hard.  I know where there are several of them in the US now and if I actually need one I’ll get one shipped to me but I think my fix will hold.

Then I changed the filter because I had already bought a new one.  As I expected there was nothing wrong with the old one.  I can’t test the fix until we get out on the road and put some backpressure against the turbo but I’m sure it will be fixed and we’ll prove that with a move to Outlook tomorrow.  That road is pretty flat so it won’t be a real good test but I’ll know before we get out of the city.  And the drivers behind me will appreciate the improvement in their air quality.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Electrical Stuff

We spent a couple of nights in Nipawin doing some socializing and I did a few field visits for Palliser/Assiniboia.  We counted ourselves lucky to get into the Nipawin Regional Park because the Premier’s Walleye Cup was on this weekend.  The Walleye Cup is a big deal for Nipawin with some serious prize money.  Its not unusual to see license plates from across Canada and as far south as Texas for the week preceding the derby as fishermen scout the river for the best spots.  I think we got the last full service site at the Regional Park.

We watched the Roughriders get shellacked by Calgary Friday night with Grace and Al.  Then we met Darrel & Tammy for breakfast and ended up seeing plenty of other folks that we knew from our time in Nipawin.  This morning we decided it was time to head out and I (foolishly) thought we could hook up in the site.  I had walked the exit route but evidently misjudged how tight the first corner was because I just barely made it and didn’t get set up in time for the 2nd corner.  Fortunately there was an escape route but I did manage to rub my curbside Ramco mirror on a power pole at the 2nd corner.  No damage was done – the mirror just neatly folded back and I was able to stand it up again once I got stopped.  Which was when I discovered the first electrical gremlin – no power to that mirror head at all.  I assumed I must have damaged something when it folded over although that seemed unlikely.  We carried on and every time we stopped I nudged the mirror closer to where it needed to be because I couldn’t do the electrical adjustment thing.

When we got to Saskatoon Austin met us at the Flying J on the north end of town to return our 30 amp electrical extension.  I had lent it to him at Candle Lake and told him to keep it when we left because they were staying the whole week.  So that was electrical item #2.  While we were waiting for him on the parking lot I opened up the dash behind the mirror controls and wiggled the wires.  The mirrors immediately started working again.  I don’t like that kind of fix but as long as they are working its pretty hard to troubleshoot the problem any further.

Once we got done with Austin we headed out west of Saskatoon to some acreage dude who has built a little campground in his front yard.  It was kind of hokey but kind of cute and we’d have probably been OK there but it quickly got too complicated.  First he offered to move his 5th wheel so we could park where it was but we assured him that one of the gaps in the trees that he had for sites would be fine.  I inquired about power and he assured me that the 250+ feet of (at the most) 14 gauge extension cord stretching out from his shop would be just fine.  I warned Marilyn that she would have 15 amp service if she was lucky despite his assurances that he had a 30 amp breaker in the shop.  Marilyn said she was OK with that but then it got worse.  When we tried to back into the closest site there was a big old dead poplar branch at just the right height to scrape some new paint off the side of the bus.  Not wanting to get even further from the breaker we suggested that Ron should maybe move his rig after all. But that got complicated because he couldn’t find his power cord and his batteries were dead so he couldn’t pull in his slides and there were used cars parked in front of the site and and and …..  Finally we just said “look, its been great visiting with you but we think we’ll go somewhere else”.  So that was electrical situation #3.

“Somewhere else” turned out to be 16 West campground north of the airport at Saskatoon, where we’ve been many times before.  They had one 30 amp full service site left – after that it would be no services or 15 amp only.  So I started hooking up and immediately the smoke came out of the end of my electrical cord.  I knew right away what had happened but I got out my VOM and checked the outlet – sure enough the hot and neutral wires were reversed in his outlet.  Explaining that to the 14 year old at the registration desk didn’t seem to be getting us anywhere so we phoned a new park that has opened up just a few miles further west and got ready to move.  When Marilyn went in to get her money back however the girl at the desk suddenly got much more cooperative and actually called in Richard, the owner.  Richard is a good guy and as soon as I explained to him what was going on and offered to fix the problem he was more than willing to have me do that.  So that was electrical situation #4 – it took about 5 minutes to pull the cover plate, pull the outlet, swap the hot and neutral wires and put everything back together. 

If you’ve followed along this far then you may be interested to know this: many RV pedestals are in fact wired backwards and most people never realize it.  If you are ever entering your rig and notice that you get a tingle when you touch the door or the frame of the trailer you need to tell the park owner to fix the problem.  And you need to unplug IMMEDIATELY.  If you touch the frame while standing barefoot in wet grass you could get killed.  In our case our power goes though our inverter in what is called pass through mode.  When we are unplugged if the inverter is turned on then our ground and neutral wires (white and green) are bonded inside the inverter.  When we encounter reversed polarity like we did today with the inverter turned on it shows a dead short to the reversed outlet so that’s why I got smoke this afternoon.  Without the inverter you’d never know unless you used a polarity tester to check the outlet before you plug in.  I should have done that today.  Sometimes I remember to do that but often I don’t bother.  Obviously today I should have bothered.

Outlet_Polarity_Tester If you RV, get you one of these and use it regularly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stepping back

If you drive east out of town on 2nd Ave in Shellbrook you will end up on a rural road that eventually will take you through a wormhole and back about 40 years in time. 

I consider Shellbrook my hometown despite the fact that I  spent close to twice as much of my life so far in Nipawin.  I grew up in Shellbrook and it still seems like home when we go back there.  We’ve been “home” for a few days now, parked in the time warp 4 miles east of town and a mile south.  That’s where my best friend farms, on the land that his grandfather homesteaded after the 1st World War. 

The farm is a little more connected to the 2oth century now than it was when Ken’s mother was alive but I still wouldn’t suggest that it has moved into the 21st century.  When Margaret was alive she hand milked several cows every day and picked eggs from a large hen house.  Ken’s father has continued the egg route but he refuses to pull tits so the milk cows are gone. 

Yesterday there was hay to be made and more tractors available than they had operators for so I offered my services.  I ended up driving an International “M”.  You won’t need to look too hard at the photos to determine that the M wasn’t built recently.  If you look closely though you will see why it is a fascinating piece of machinery – it has spark plugs and a distributor on one side of the engine and on the other side an injection pump and filters.  This model of engine starts on gas and runs on diesel.  And like most of the machinery around the yard, despite being over 60 years old, it is in perfect running order. 

Ken’s father was a heavy duty mechanic for a local road construction company prior to moving back to the farm in the late 1960’s.  In later life I ran into a farmer at Armley who had worked with Reg and he described Ken’s father as “the best damn mechanic Potts every had.”  Ken says that his father doesn’t have the patience to pull wrenches anymore but the ability must be genetic because Ken certainly is capable of fixing anything that moves.  The vintage machinery on the farm provides lots of opportunity for him to practice his craft.  Right now there’s a WD9 International (circa 1950) that is in late stages of reassembly in one shop and a riding tractor with a blown up Tecumseh engine torn completely apart in another shop.  Apparently the lawnmower blew up and Ken’s 10 year old son had it apart before Ken got around to looking at it.  So perhaps Grandpa’s mechanical genes have already entered another generation.