Monday, September 19, 2022

1000 Mile Roadtrip!

We successfully travelled with Myrtle over 1600kms/1000miles, 9 days, 2 provinces, 4 campgrounds, 2 national parks, 1 provincial park and 0 breakdowns (mechanical or marital)! One thing to be mindful of on  a long trip through rural areas is the availability of gas stations! 

Our first stop was 2 nights in Waterton Lakes National Park, which is the Canadian side of the US Glacier National Park. Waterton is a favourite park with a gorgeous lake, surrounded by mountains. The townsite campground is fun with nearby shops and amenities. The Bear's Hump hike is a fave with a great view but we opted to take it easy and relax with easy bike rides around town.




Next stop was 2 nights in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park where were we visited the interpretive centre and then explored the amazing hoodoo rock formations. Walking through these towering rock formations felt like being on another planet. There is also a river with a sandy shore. 



Next we set out to Saskatchewan where we spent 3 nights at Grasslands National Park in the Frenchman Valley Campground. We were sceptical at first as the park is quite faraway and we generally seek out mountain areas to camp versus prairie. We were pleasantly surprised by the sheer beauty of Grasslands with diverse vegetation, rolling hills, valleys, interpretive walks and bike rides, and way more wildlife than we expected. We saw bison, pronghorn, deer, coyotes, beaver, black tailed prairie dogs, and a huge assortment of birds. The prairie dogs were particularly interesting and we visited both large colonies. These prairie dogs only exist in Grasslands. They are very social animals and we had a great time watching them interact. The Ecotour Scenic Drive was another great activity, we did part by bike and part in Myrtle. The two prairie dog colonies are on the drive and there are great interpretive displays and walking trails at each stop. Right from the campground there were also some nice walking trails where we spent time bird watching and observing two beavers building their lodge. Grasslands was the highlight of the trip!


As we headed home we stopped for the night at the Medicine Hat Gas City Campground a nicely equipped and handy place to stop. The highlight was meeting a couple in their vintage GMC motorhome on a cross country trip! We also got a great photo of Myrtle with The Saamis - world's tallest teepee



This length of a trip gave us a good opportunity to iron out details of living on the road and making Myrtle extra cozy. We were unable to get our old fridge running so as a temporary measure we brought along the bar fridge and cooler. Normally we only camp for short periods so a cooler is fine. The bar fridge worked out well and we have a RV fridge on order. 

We finally got the bathroom all set up with a Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater Tronic 3000 T 4-Gallon, new shower head and hose, shower curtain, 3M hooks to hang to toiletry bags and a Toolitries organizer on the wall. With COVID-19 we decided to primarily use our own bathroom and this was the first time using the shower. It all performed great! 

We spent the days bike riding, walking, cooking and resting and evenings we watched downloaded shows on the laptop. The newly installed Lagun pivoting table is awesome for meals and watching shows. We installed a vintage table top on the Lagun device. 

Another great addition is the Japanese Noren Curtain on a tension rod. We hung it up in the rear just before the bathroom which gives a great bedroom area and doesn't require us to always put up the windshield curtains. It is nice to have the windshield uncovered for the great views. 


What are your comfort must haves in your camper?





Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Double Feature

It was true a Double Feature of a camping adventure, as the poster collage illustrates; Caprizilla VS Mothra, featuring Jason and the Shit Show. 

But let's start at the beginning; Monday we loaded up Myrtle and headed out for for a two nights of camping in the foothills of Kananaskis, Alberta. Myrtle and her awesome rebuilt engine (her original 318 poly stroked and bored to a 408) performed perfectly tackling the highway and mountain passes. You can really feel the extra torque and she purred along easily. We arrived at our first come first serve, off grid, provincial park campsite and found a perfect spot surrounded with large trees and lots of spaces between sites. The sites are basic with a gravel pad, fire pit and picnic table. There is no water, no electricity but there is an outhouse and water pump at the central part of the campground. But no worries, Myrtle is fully self contained with a kitchen, bathroom, running water, solar power and even an Jackery portable solar generator. 


There are some great hikes around and a short walk to the river, which came in handy later. We came for the peace and quiet and time in nature so it was perfect! We enjoyed a nice lunch of potato salad I had prepared at home. We spent the afternoon lounging and organizing Myrtle for a future planned longer trip. Supper was BBQ vegan hot dogs, grilled peaches and snacks enjoyed by the campfire. A great day!

Then it began.... Jason was washing up the dinner dishes and when finished it sounded like the water pump was still going off and on. He inspected the washroom and found the toilet leaking clean water from the inlet and as he reached back to try and fix it, it sheered off in his hand leaving a jagged edge that made a 2 inch cut on his hand. He was bleeding now while trying to stem the flow of water. Due to the way the lever sheered off it was stuck inside the inlet hose making it impossible to cap. The pump was turned off while he continued to work on the inlet hose. I on the other hand was blissfuly unaware of the chaos happening inside while I was enjoying the campfire. Jason finally called me in, with a hand wrapped in tissue secured with electrical tape as we surveyed the scene. Jason performed a miracle and was able to get the stuck piece out and cap the line. We were contemplating heading home but with water restored we realized would could just water bucket the toilet and continue on the adventure. I fixed up Jason's hand with our well stocked first aid kit (well stocked due to the last fall's misadventure). By now it was dark and all the lights where on inside as the water was being restored. The lights are an important detail. Lessons learned in this chapter; travel with an extra toilet valve and a drill to make drilling out the line easier.

Oh did the adventure continue... I had been distracted by the toilet drama but now I started to notice the uncomfortable number of moths inside Myrtle, like forty of them. I started catching and releasing them outside over the next hour or so, sometimes releasing some of them multiple times as the flew back in to attack the lights. Some of them would watch me through the window, taunting me, as I carefully opened the door to toss out their compatriots. We came up with a system of lights on while I caught one, then Jason would shut off the lights and fling open the door while I sent them back into the night. We finally got out the last of them and settled down to go to bed at about 1AM. We were stewing all night wondering if we had an infestation in the camper or if they had invaded while we were distracted with the lights on working on the toilet. Lessons learned in this chapter; keep your doors shut and your lights off or you too may suffer the fate of Mothra.

The next morning was spent ripping apart the entire motorhome, every cupboard, every drawer, every bag of linens, under and being everything looking for any signs of an infestation. We have always kept our interior well sealed up with all linens in bins or sealed bags, no food left in it and we liberally use peppermint oil which is supposed to deter mice and so far it has. We found nothing and breathed a sigh of relief thinking our luck had changed. 

We were wrong... After a nice breakfast, which included using the Jackery and Nespresso machine on the picnic table for mountain espresso, I noticed that suddenly the toilet was no longer flushing with the water bucket method. This was not good news. Jason spent a great deal of time plunging in the stifling hot little bathroom, with the bathroom window we don't open as its the only one with out a screen and we didn't want a return of Mothra. At this point he sent me out to find a long thin stick to try and auger out the block. In the terrible heat Jason decided to strip down to just shorts. This proved to be wise when the toilet decided to back flow and explode on one of his vigorous plunges, covering him and the bathroom with last nights BBQ. It was a shitty situation and to make matters worse, nothing, I mean nothing cleared the blocked toilet. We were again left surveying the scene and deciding what to do. We cleaned up the mess and decided a freezing cold bath in the mountain river was in order. After the arctic dip we headed back to camp, had a nice lunch and weighed our options. We decided we would go to another full service campground about 10-15 minutes away and try to clear the block at the sani-dump. Spoiler alert, that did not work. Lessons learned in this chapter; travel with a snake tool, use only RV toilet paper and less of it, get a better plunger, add digester to your tank.



It was now Tuesday evening and we decided to call it a day after 1 night of camping and 2 very full days. We had plans to stop in a nearby little town on our way home to visit cute vintage shop, so we thought we might as well do that one day early. We were wrong... closed Tuesdays. 

So we headed back home and I jokingly said wouldn't it be funny if the block cleared on the bouncy winding trip home? And that folks is exactly what happened. We unpacked Myrtle and headed home to very hot showers. Today we picked up all the items from Canadian Tire that we wished we had on this trip. I hope we don't need them. 


Friday, September 10, 2021

Parking Brake Mishap

Do not drive with the parking brake on or you too can spend the night camping in a parking lot waiting for a specialty tow truck. The motor is so powerful now it took a few minutes to realize the brake was on! Big thanks to AAA Towing LTD. and AMA - Alberta Motor Association for their kind and prompt assistance, getting us safely home. If your Travco needs a tow get a landoll trailer.


But I am happy to report that Myrtle is back on the road! A big thanks to Fleet Brake http://www.fleetbrake.com for relining the shoes on the internal expanding transmission parking brake. The transmission seal we used was from NAPA part #15620.

Hot tip; dry fit the shoes into the drum with the shoe adjusting sleeve/nut/screw and the anchor shoe guide to ensure they fit. The thickness of the pad must be less than 0.156 einch as per the specs listed in the manual below.  Extra dry tip; when you remove the brake drum from the transmission tail shaft it will spill some transmission fluid (about 2 quarts). Drain some out before hand, or jack up the rear of the motorhome to reduce the spill.

Below are some helpful excerpts from our vintage shop manual that cover the parking brake







Sunday, April 4, 2021

Engine Update

After two years of set backs, Covid, emergencies, parts issues and so on, Myrtle’s engine is nearing completion. We are taking her original 318 Poly to a 408 cubic inch stroked poly. We explored many options before this including Hellephant / Viper / Demon / Magnum crates, restoring a street Hemi and even just a simple rebuild of her current engine. 


Ultimately we decided to save her original, low mileage, strong engine that has served her well for over 50 years. The re-built motor will give more torque and horse power for those mountain roads and is totally bad ass. When the motor was stripped we discovered it was John Deere green! As you can see in the photos  her block has been painted red in line with 1964 poly engines and converted to a vintage 4 barrel Weiand intake manifold. The engine is still being finished - updates to come! 


Anyone can buy a new motorhome but I fell in love with this old girl Myrtle and I wanted to save her heart. We knew this would not be the cheapest and easiest route, but the best adventures are on the road less travelled. 💙






Sunday, January 5, 2020

Engine overhaul!

Last year Myrtle went into Dale Adams Automotive Specialists for a major engine overhaul. The goal is to stroke and bore her original 318 poly engine to a 408. This article gives an idea of the plan: How To Give A 318 Poly Engine More Power – Mopar’s Rodney Dangerfield Part 2 ! Below are two before overhaul pictures. 






This kind of build takes a lot of time to collect and machine the necessary parts (and a good dose of cash). We have brand new forged aluminum pistons from Ross Pistons.



There has been a long wait for the cam core which has delayed the build, but the cam manufacturer finally got them delivered and will soon grind it with our desired poly lobe profile. It also took a while to find someone to rebuild the rockers so they will be suitable for the rest of our rebuild.. This means almost all parts are here and Myrtle is expected to be ready in May! Stay tuned for more updates!





Monday, July 2, 2018

New front wheel cylinders and brake shoes

The wheels are notoriously difficult to remove on the old travcos with the lower fibreglass skirts. It involves: Jacking up on frame and letting suspension sag, on passenger front wheel turn wheels left, repeat the other way on left and lots of wiggling. Also it was jacked up quite a bit but that still doesn’t help with the tight clearance front to back and side to side around the bolts. On ours the driver side is also reverse lugs. It’s a tough removal!

We replaced the front wheel cylinders and brake shoes. The parts were from Napa Canada; wheel cylinders 28720 and 28721 ($55.00 each), and brake shoes TS-33a Proformer ($52.00 a set). Our vintage manual is great help for mechanical work and copies can sometimes be found on Ebay. Some photos of the manual and work below. 
















Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pump Problems

This season we needed to replace two pumps. The first was the fuel pump. There was some difficulty in getting it as the person working at the first place we tried was unable to look anything up with out a part number and insisted they were all electric, even though the mechanical fuel pumps are common on older trucks. Thankfully we found educated staff at the local Auto Value and got a Carter mechanical fuel pump replacement (part number M6866), which we installed ourselves. The pump was inexpensive, under $40.00.

The second pump was the water pump, which we discovered was broken, as we were heading out for our first camping trip of 2016. We apparently left it on for months with an empty tank, thus burning it out. The new one auto shut off. We found a SHURflo brand one (part number: 4008-171-E65) at an RV store on our way, planning to install it once we got set up at the campsite. A warning to others, confirm if your current water pump is wired for AC or DC. Our pump was DC and we bought an AC one. With some extra effort, we were able to make it work as we re-routed AC instead of DC. This pump was unfortunately far more expensive than the fuel pump, coming in at $330.00.




So now Myrtle again reliably pumps both fuel and water!