Monday, November 12, 2007

The [Great White Mobile] Office Saga: Part Deux, Ohio here I/we come

...we join the story in progress...Stephen has won the bidding on a 35 foot long mobile classroom that was up for sale on eBay, allegedly built in 1987, supposedly equipped with a 460 Ford engine , and less than 1800 miles on the clock. He plans to use it as an office in New York but first has to get the thing from Ohio to Florida where he will equip it...

Landed late in Columbus. Met by anxious Pastor Dan who drove me to the church parking lot in Urbana where the thing has been sitting. Looked it over best I could in the intermittent rain. Dan was keen to get to the Friday night high school football game that was in progress nearby [apparently attended by a huge crowd--cheers and band noise could easily be heard several miles away--the type of high school game where the ball is dropped from a helicopter].

I handed over a banker's check and...Dan handed me the title. I let Dan go to the game while I remained in the lot to practice my RV driving. There's loads of loose stuff rattling around but the steering and brakes work. Drove about 30 miles to nearest hotel with vacancies (lots of school sports going on that weekend). Landed in a mall near Dayton, at a Residence Inn. Enjoyed fireplace and popcorn and good night's sleep [many of the running lights on the thing were not working and I had no papers besides the title, so did not want to go far].

On Saturday morning I had my first chance to really see the thing. Soon found that the white surface was powdery and rubbed off on clothing. Hence: Great White. Headed around the mall parking lot to a Sears and bought tools and tape to fix up the lights and other stuff that needing fixing [Sears had most of the running lights I needed]. Seeing my purchase in daylight was an eye-opener. The interior is well-appointed, better than expected. Actually set up as two rooms with a solid wood dividing door that slides out pocket-style. Each of the two rooms then has its own door to the outside [with a big drop to the ground if you don't have a set of steps].

Got a major workout climbing in and out to adjust mirrors [not a great job to do by oneself at the best of times]. So I bought a Sears folding stepladder that helped [only $19.95]. Here's the deal with the doors...the school district that owned the thing had keyed the side doors to match their school doors and would not let the buyer have the key. So, you have to pull these doors closed as you exit and then open them from inside. You get inside by vaulting up four feet through the driver door and climbing across the driver seat. Apparently, the original mobile home version had steps built on the driver side. I will need to find and install.

I worked until about one and then drove to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Centerville, just in time to get the papers I needed (they close at 2 and I was the last customer). I came out, did a bit more taping up of loose stuff, and got ready for the drive to Florida. Turned the key. The thing wouldn't start.

Tried the usual stuff. No luck. Lifted up the big engine cover and poked around. Nothing. Barely turns over and doesn't catch. Called AAA and they were useless. Apparently I needed RV coverage which I don't have. Called Chey. She said she will drive out from New York on Sunday, with Layla and tools, a 10 hour drive. What an angel!

Amazingly there was a wireless AP available in the BMV parking lot and I tried contacting several RV dealerships. While waiting for answers to questions like "Can you help me?" I was as able to get down with the engine and determine definitively that it is a Ford 460 big block, a 7.5 liter behemoth that can put out 400 horsepower and 470 ft-lbs of torque (in the seventies it was a police-only option on some Ford Torinos -- this is an engine people enthuse over, big web sites in praise of, like www.460ford.com).

Finally it was time to leave the thing for the night. I got a taxi to a nearby Fairfield Inn. Left the beast in the BMV parking lot. Called Centerville police to let them know [their office is literally around the corner]. They were very sympathetic and helpful. Said they would keep an eye on it. Thing does not really lock up [there is no key for the driver side door--I used a bike cable lock wrapped around various fittings].

The delay was okay because Fairfields have free WiFi and breakfast and so I was able to keep working through Sunday evening when Chey and Layla arrived [hooray!].

Tada! The Great White Mobile Classroom started up Monday, thanks to a jump start from Chey's Jeep. We were able to fix up the headlights and tie down a few more lose bits that I missed on Saturday. Then, as we left the hotel this afternoon, all checked out and ready to roll, the Great White Mobile Classroom stopped being mobile again, this time in the middle of the road, dead, wouldn't turn over.

Thanks to Chey, we were able to jump start it, again, and get it to a parking lot across the road. Then, after Chey figured out that the alternator belt had broken--leading to a lack of charge in the batteries--we wandered into the Lincoln Mercury dealership next door to the parking lot we were stranded in. Very nice people located us a Ford dealer who would work on the 460 and a reliable towing company so, with the help of a tow truck [see pic below] we eventually got it to a garage by close of business Monday. It will sit there tonight, ready to be fixed Tuesday.

RV Wrecker

We will get up Tuesday and work in the hotel until the garage calls, hopefully with good news. Then we will drive to Nashville to stay with Winn and Sherra for the night. Probably get there Wednesday. Then we will probably drive on to Florida on Thursday, getting there at night.

I have to say people hereabouts have been very helpful. Layla has been incredibly well-behaved, charming everyone with her orange Service Dog jacket. Spirits on the Great White team are high but we are pooped and going to bed early.

Here we see Chey confer with Richard the tow truck driver...in fact, we did not tow the truck. He charged the battery enough for me to follow him to the dealer [with no lights on]. He cut us a deal on the tow rate.

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