Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Treasure Chest for Vandwellers (reposting)

Great Information written by a friend in Australia.

This little web site http://vandwellers.org written by a friend of mine, sees very little traffic.

ALL the information there for vehicle dwellers and homeless people, including the Vandwellers guide (http://www.vandwellers.org/vandwellersguide.pdf),

Homeless Guide (http://vandwellers.org/guide/ozhomelessguide.pdf) and (there is a password for this one, contact charlene.swankie@gmail.com for password),

and a 2-page "living in your vehicle flyer" (http://www.vandwellers.org/guide/quickguide.pdf) is free.

Please help get the word out by sharing the link -  http://vandwellers.org on your blog or Facebook page.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Valley Repair, Inc.–Meeker, Colorado

Worst of Times & Best of Times.

If you are ever in the Meeker, Colorado area and need help, I can not say enough good things about Valley Repair, Inc.  24 hr. towing and mechanic service.  431 East Market St., PO Box 292, Meeker, CO 81641.  Phone (970) 878-3316, email: vrepairmeeker@yahoo.com.

August 2016 found me working as a Camp Host at Nortfork Campground 35 miles east of Meeker CO.  I spent most of that month coughing uncontrollable, each day off I was back to doctor, E.R. or Urgent Care.  None of my normal cures for COPD were working.  Later I learned it was most likely an allergy to blooming sagebrush, but that is beside the subject of this post. I knew my job would be coming to an end early in September and I was concerned about the way my van was running. It seemed to have no power and I seldom was able drive over 40 mph.  I got to Meeker pulling a heavy cargo trailer and going mostly uphill (or I should say up-mountain), generally unable to go over 25 mph and having to stop often to let the engine cool down.  I knew I could not hit to road again, pulling that same load without fixing my van.  But what was wrong and what would it cost? (I was working to save money for my AZ Trail hike… but would it take my last penny just to fix the van???)

In the Spring 2016, before leaving my desert winter home, I took it to a Chevy dealer to have “Check Engine” light diagnosed.  They found Bank 2  O2 Sensor 1 had failed causing van to run very rich on right side. This was creating a rough running and engine and mis-firing.  Recommended replacing Bank 2, 02 sensor to correct.  They noted Truck Operates Normally.  This knowledge cost me $300.54.  And that was only for diagnostics and replacing the 02 sensor, not the catalytic converter.

At that time I decided to go ahead with a tune up in hopes that would help improve how the van was running.  Spark plugs, spark plug wires so they checked compression, replaced spark plugs, and adjusted ignition timing and idle speed. That cost another $650.00 (get this $118.72 for spark plugs, $121.48 for plug wires and $307 for labor, plus other shop supplies and hazardous materials fees.)  Geez, this van is getting expensive.

I left Quartzsite and headed out to begin inspecting sections of the Arizona trail, but the van was still running rough.  Visiting with friends in the Tucson area, I got a recommendation to go to Exhaust Works.  They confirmed that the front Catalytic Converter on Bank 2 was bad and so it was replaced with an after market converter.  Cost $290.80 (parts and labor).  He said ALL he does anymore is exhaust systems, no other mechanical work… he just specialized in exhaust systems.  I felt good about him and his work, until a little later.  That was April 2016.

I drove on to Meeker Colorado the next month…. as stated above, having a very rough time gaining that altitude, but I didn’t have the funds to get any more work done on the van.  During the summer, I used it only when I had to and saved my money.  Check engine light kept coming on, sometimes flashing, sometimes staying on solid, sometimes staying off all together.  Finally, Aug. 29, I took it in to Northwest Auto in Meeker, a GMC dealer for diagnosis… they found Bank 2 rear catalytic converter was plugged and charged me $46.77 for that knowledge.  Throwing codes of P0101, P0300, and P0171.  I asked for an estimate.  Lee told me it would be $628.44… to replace the Bank 2 rear catalytic converter.  He insisted that my van had 3 cat converters, when the man in Tucson had taken me under the van while it was on the rack and showed my the four converters on my van.  Lee insisted that ONLY federal vehicles had four converters, and he even sketched out the 3 he insisted I had on the back of the estimate.  See below sketch by Lee at GMC, Meeker, CO.

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Wow… $628.44… is a big chunk of what I had been saving all summer to buy my AZ Trail hiking gear.  I felt crushed.  I even asked Lee how accurate his estimate was and he assured me of how careful he is in pricing things out and he would be surprised it is was more than $40 off.  Well, I had to think about that and crunch some numbers.

Two days later Lee called me back saying they sent him the wrong part (which he had said would take him five days to get as it had to come from Virginia, but he had it in two days????) and that the price was actually $1,080.00.  My boss actually took this message and turned out there was a misunderstanding in the way he said things and what he meant was it was an additional $1,080.00 on top of the $628.44.  I did not learn this until I stopped by GMC to pick up a copy of the estimate… and the grand Total was $1,780.64.  WHAT????  Well, Lee, that is a bit off on his $40 guess.  Things came to a screeching haul for me.  I had coughed the entire month of August and was exhausted.  Then I fell and cracked 3 ribs that week and was in a great deal of pain.  This was just too much. I was devastated and ready to give up.  I thought I might be stranded in a wintery cold snowy Meeker.  Now GMC was insisted that my van has four catalytic converters (like I told them in the beginning), but the estimate is for more than just the rear cat converter, it is the front and rear converters and the entire manifold pipe on the passenger side.  The front converter was only five months old????

I questioned them why I needed to replace the front catalytic converter when I had just done that in April… and they gave me some line about the van being registered in CA and CA emissions requires that factory parts be used.  I explained it was no longer registered in CA but in SD which had no such requirements.  They argued with me that it didn’t matter, I still had to met CA requirements and use factory parts, not after market parts.  I said it already had an after market converter on it… so what did it matter?  They held their ground.  They were also now arguing with me that they never said it had 3 converters (who made the sketch?).  I was really sickened by all the lies and the fact the were trying to take advantage of a woman.  I walked away and didn’t even cancel the work they had schedule.  I left them hanging and I didn’t feel bad about it either.

I was in too much pain to want to deal with it all, but my job would be ending the next week, and I would have to leave the campground soon after that… and snow was in the air.  Someone had given me the business card for Valley Repair, Inc. and at the insistence of a friend, I called them for a second estimate.  I gave them none of the history, other than that the front converter had been replaced in April.  I asked them to check the check engine lite.  They charged $20 for that, which my friend paid.  They understood that my funds were limited but that I urgently needed my HOME fixed so I could leave soon. 

They thought that a tune up could fix the problem… at that time I had forgotten that I got a tune-up in the spring … so they did that Sep. 15… ($206.31… compared to the $650 I paid for the same job in AZ six months earlier).  They charged me $32 for spark plugs, and $42 for wires, compared to  $118.72 for spark plugs, $121.48 for wires charged by Bradley Chevy in Parker AZ.  Wow.  I could have skipped this work had I remembered the spring tune-up. I just didn’t remember that tune-up until later… thinking I had never had a tune-up in the seven years I had the van,  and I thought it still had original spark plugs.  I think it was the pain meds affecting my brain!  LOL  But anyway, I had a comfort level with these guys at Valley Repair in Meeker… and trusted them.

But, the tune up did not help… and on the way back to camp, the check engine light came right back on.  Sept. 19, I took it back in… and they begin checking everything over and found exhaust leaks all round the front catalytic converter that Tucson put on in April.  The gasket was leaking too.  The previous converter was not welded without leaks and it did not look like Tucson had replaced the gasket.  I actually was allowed under the van and helped the mechanic by holding a flashlight.  I felt the leaks all around the old weld.  Felt like a very hot very strong hair dryer blowing on my hand.  They plugged up the tailpipe and ran the engine, and you would feel all the air coming out all around the Tucson welds. 

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So they welded all that (left photo), replaced a gasket ($6.50) went in the joint (right photo). One of the nuts got cross-threaded and had to be cut off and the bolt re-threaded.  I helped with all that. Total came to $176.92.   And off I went down the road…  15 whole miles.  I was loosing pressure and power mile after mile.  By mile 17, I was stopped on the shoulder with zero power and the van would not move.  I called them to tow me back to the shop ($150.00 for the tow, 100% refundable by my auto insurance).

By this time, my motley crew at Valley Repair had adopted me and were invested in getting me back on the road at the least additional cost possible.  I slept in the van all night in their lot – my ribs killing me.  Next morning they came out and got the van, with me still in bed, and drove it into the garage and up on the lift we went… me still in bed.  They were still puzzled, but thought they would have to cut the rear catalytic converter off and replace it.  They already had the new one ($129 for after market… when GMC wanted to charge me $1,450 for parts).  I was in a great deal of pain from the ribs… so even turning over hurt.  I could not think.  The guys were right under my bed talking about what might be wrong when I suddenly I hear the buzz of a saw cutting through the pipe.  I thought, “guess we are cutting the old one out.”   I hurt too bad to move.  A few minutes later they call me to driver window and hold up the old one… full of gung that that blow out of the front converter that Tucson replaced… and had slowly been clogging up the rear converter and once the welds were fixed, it blew the rest of the gunk in the pipe into the rear converter, TOTALLY clogging it.

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Within 1/2 hour, they had the new part in place and I was on my way back to camp.  Cost $222.39.  So all total, for all the work they did, I spent $605.62 at Valley Repair in Meeker, CO.  I drove from there to camp, got my trailer and hauled it back to Valley Repair dropped the trailer (where they stored it for free for 10 days), drove to Dakotas and back… picked up trailer, drove around Colorado some more, up and down mountains, and then on to Arizona.  Check engine light has not come back on once, not once… and van is running better than it has in a couple years.  I can’t be more pleased with Luke Pelloni, owner, and his mechanic Joe.  Great guys, great new family… I love these guys.  I trust them.  If you are ever in the Meeker, Colorado area and need help, I can not say enough good things about Valley Repair, Inc.  24 hr. towing and mechanic service.  431 East Market St., PO Box 292, Meeker, CO 81641.  Phone (970) 878-3316, email: vrepairmeeker@yahoo.com.

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Owner Luke Pelloni on right, Joe in middle, and young Justin on left.  My new family.

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Coming soon:  Have you ever been stalked?  Do you know what to do about it? 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Getting lost to find myself... No worries.


With all that has happened to me the past couple of months, a failed relationship, a real bad episode of COPD, 3 cracks ribs, and a whole lot of driving, I feel the need to drastically change my plans. I believe I will skip Quartzsite this year, and wander... maybe see grandkids, maybe just hide out in the boondocks. I don't know yet what changes will happen, just know I am safe, I will continue to use my SPOT tracking device so the key people in my life will know I am O.K. Just need some serious down time to take care of Swankie.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Beautiful Colorado–enroute to Colorado Springs

After a very rough season of Camp hosting, I am having some much deserved down time, all to myself.  Time to enjoy nature, and find my wits again.  The last month on the job, I suffered a severe case of RAD (never even heard it before – Reactive Airway Disease).  I knew I had COPD, but none of the normal cures were helping me. I could not stop coughing. The last six days on the job, I finally found a cure.  Fell and cracked 3 ribs… let me tell you, you WILL stop coughing.  And Lordy, I think it hurts worse than having a baby… sure takes longer for the pain to stop.  LOL

So, it’s off to enjoy some wide open spaces, and I am loving every mile.

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I have friends and family in Colorado Springs… so I am SLOWLY heading that way.  Brother, and sister-in-law, nephew, great niece and great nephew, good friend from “vandwellers” tribe, and who else???? 

And on the way, this….

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Swankie’s wits… where are you?????

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on https://www.facebook.com/swankie.wheels. In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.

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