Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...



I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Car trouble

Two days ago, after Happy Camper fixed my AC, I finally headed off westward on I-10, towards Lafayette, La.  I happened along in a jolly way and came upon a tourist info center in the Atchafalaya Basin (at-ch-fa-LIE-ya), America's largest swamp river delta wetland.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atchafalaya_Basin)  From among the bounty of available pamphlets, each one folded to the exact same 3 3/4" x 8 1/2" dimensions to fit in info center display racks, I selected a 4 hour boat tour catering to serious photography, and using my cell phone, which to T-Mobile's credit works in America's largest swamp, I arranged to join the next morning's 9:30 trip.  With a few hours remaining before sundown, I drove an hour to Abbeville, a town in an area just inland of Pecan Island, where Alicia had noted there would be interesting little fishing villages.  On the way I passed through towns with light industries like sheet metal folding, printing, and furniture.  It was nice to see communities with a fabric of real small businesses, not franchises, although the mix on the larger road also included Auto-Zone and the the fast food places, etc.  I stopped for directions at Auto-Zone, as a matter of fact, and helped a woman carry a fender to her pick up truck, and she gave me detailed directions to Abbeville.

I have pictures of Abbebille to upload, but my camera gear is stashed in a hidden way below my bed; more on that later.  Abbeville is a very picturesque little town with a lovely church, tree lined streets with closely spaced Victorian houses, and a town square where this afternoon the residents were setting up sound equipment for a local band.  I met Mitch, the Mayor of Abbeville, and David and his wife collected $3 from me for the Jambalaya being served by the Jambalaya Team, six middle aged men in aprons encircling a gas heated skillet about 4 feet across, full of Jambalaya.  The event was part of the ongoing Abeville revitalization, one event in a series of weekend events intended to draw tourists to the town.  The proceeds for this one are going to the restoration of Frank's theater, which was being orchestrated by Onezieme Mouton, (http://onezieme.com/) a thirty-ish architect who had returned to and settled in this, his home town.  This afternoon, he was accompanied by Laurie Ryker (http://www.studioryker.com/directory.html)  I was happy to be able to offer some tools and screws for Onezieme to use to put up a sign describing the event.  (Pictures and more later.)

That night, I drove back to Atchafalaya, parked in the tourist info center, met miraculously healthy 80 year old tour guide, Kirk, in the morning, and went on the tour with his son Ken, veteran helicopter mechanic, outdoors-man, and non stop story teller.  (Pictures and more later.)


Forgive my brevity.

I headed out west on I-10 again and soon my transmission went nuts.  The truck engine raced, the speedometer went to zero even though I continued at about 40, then 30, and then started to loose power.  My overdrive indicator light flashed and the engine chugged.  I made it up a little hill in 2nd gear, and rolled into a truck stop.  I chose a place to park that was visible and well lit, in case I would have to stay the night in what looked like a rough place, complete with a sleazy mini casino, a fixture in this kind of truck stop.  (Pictures and more later.)  I hid my camera stuff under my bed and went inside the convenience store, where I got lot's of advice from folks (Pics and more later) and with the use of Brenda's phone, I spoke to two mechanics.  As advised, I added 3 quarts of transmission fluid, but rather than getting a tow to a Ford place in the previous town off I-10, I tested the the truck by circling the truck stop a few times and headed back on the service road.  I made it to the Ford place, and pulled in, prepared to wait until morning.  But it turned out there was a young mechanic, Erik, 24, working on his motor cycle now at about 9:30 p.m. in a rear building, with is girlfriend watching.  He checked and pronounced that I had plenty of transmission fluid, and then noticed a puddle under the truck, which he sniffed and said was diesel fuel.  He advised me not to drive anymore.  He gave me a few phone numbers to call in the morning and said the dealership would open in the morning, too (Saturday) and that I could spend the night where I was parked.

It's Saturday morning here now.  I'm going to walk down the road a bit for some breakfast.  (Pictures and more later.)

UPDATE:

Soon Corey came to work on his own car here at the Ford place.  He diagnosed the bus' problem after a short test drive.  "It's a wheel motion sensor.  The two for the front wheels are out, so the transmission is using default info to change gears and it's a little erratic.  We don't have any, but you could try over in Jennings' Ford," and he gave me directions.  He thought the diesel fuel puddle was a red herring, probably not from my truck.

I found the Ford place in Jennings, 12 miles further down I-10.  Keith was sure the front wheel sensors have nothing to do with the transmission, but thought the one on the rear must be the culprit.  He replaced it, but the problem persisted.  Then he researched on Ford's website and determined that there is another speed sensor on the drive shaft, which he then changed, and then still found no improvement.  "It has to be in the wire or the PCM (Power Controll Module)." So, using an Ohm meter, he traced the wire from the transmission sensor back to the PCM and found that the wire had no break.  "You need a new PCM.  Ford will charge you $1,000, but you can go to O'Riely's and get one for about 200 bucks."  "How about Auto-Zone?"  "Sure," he said "but you'll have to order one."  "Ok, and if I work it right, I could order one in one town, for pick up further west."  So that's my plan now, with one lingering doubt.  What if Kieth is still not right about the PCM being the culprit?  I'll have a new one and no way to return it.  Still, if I let Ford order one on Kieths say so, and he is right, I'll have a new Ford PCM, but be out an extra $800.  I think I'll try the Auto-Zone approach, risking just the $200.  Oi.

Time to use the net...

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