Red Flyer
2000 Volvo VNL-770 HDT (Heavy Duty Truck)
conversion to a motor home

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Maiden Voyage

Unlike our previous trips in the minivan that was usually loaded to the brink with camping gear, too full to crawl in back for a nap during the 22 hr drive to Lakeland Florida, this time minimal camping gear in the minivan.

The day before we loaded up Red Flyer we discovered the source of that pesky air leak. It was one of the air bags on the forward axel. It was slight but annoying. We picked up a pair and replaced them. We also ordered another pair for the rear axel for when we returned.

Randi also noticed the passenger seat squeaked. We pull the seat off to lube the many pivot points and while it was off we broke one of the T-fittings in the airline. Fortunately we had some better ones used for drip irrigation lines. One of the air tubes needed to be replaced and we replaced it with some tubing we had, it would bite us later.

We packed up Red Flyer, loaded the minivan on the Kar Kaddy SS tow dolly and headed South to Lakeland.
Woo Hoo! We're on the road a'gin.

The Kar Kaddy SS (KKSS) tow dolly requires the steering wheel be locked or fixed in the center. We made the assumption it would lock in center but it does not, only off to one side or the other. We took a cargo belt and hooked one end over one of the floor anchor points for the back seats, the belt ran under the drivers seat, up to the steering wheel, back down through a figure eight knot, over the wheel again and hooked to the figure eight knot. This way the wide belts were softly over the wheel grip on either side of the lower spoke. The load binder gets ratcheted down to hold the wheel centered. Harbor Freight has some good inexpensive magnetic tow lights that fit right on the roof at the back of the minivan.

The untried and previously unknown item was the air ride tag hitch we had designed and fabricated. It should be good for tongue weights from 200 to 3400 lbs.
The KKSS was a joy to use. Quick and easy to load, tracked like it was on rails and we liked the additional lights on it. We'd hit the first rest area to re-tension the tire belts a notch and give everything a once over. The air ride hitch seemed to do it's job well.

Weigh Stations...
Our rule of thumb is if the sign says "All Vehicles over XXX Tons Must Exit" then we will grace them with our presence, otherwise "Trucks" "Trailers" etc does not apply to us.
Just for good measure I told Randi "Think real small and uninteresting" when we pass the weigh station, meanwhile I am doing the Jedi Mind Trick(tm) on them; "This is not the truck you are searching for..." So far it has been a successful technique.

Our average speed was about 60, fuel mileage pulling the minivan was 9.8 mpg. We departed with full tanks but had high winds on the nose for the first four hours otherwise the weather on the way down was flawless and getting warmer.

Somewhere about Nashville <<<PSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHH>>> under my seat. I get up and get a zip-tie out of the drawer, double the line over and tie it shut. Silence. I get on the phone to a local friend who keeps his plane in Smyrna  and he says take the airport exit and there should be a Home Depot and Lowes there. Stopped in Home Depot and all they had was some stiff plastic hose for running water to the icemaker so I got that then off to Lowes and they had heavy wall rubber tube plus more T-fittings just in case.
Out in the parking lot we took the seat apart again. The flexible airline we had used had blown off and all the small zip-ties had broken. Small zip ties do not like to do small diameters. All the flexible tubing we had replaced was leaking under the pressure.
We replaced almost all the flexible tubing with the stiffer water line tubing from Home Depot and zip-tied it just for fun. It would bite us later.

Navigation was via a Garmin Nuvi GPS that I had downloaded all the rest stops, truck stops and weigh stations into, also low clearance data though there would be none on our route. I followed the route via my laptop running MS Streets and trips because I like the control I have over the detail though since reformatting the HDD I forgot to add the GPS driver to it so I was not able to have GPS running on it. The backup was a RM Motor Carriers' Road Atlas.

Our halfway stop was in a rest area I had Identified just above Macon Georgia. They had a nice quiet spot for us where we were able to shut down and open the winows. Slept like dead. Made a double cappacino on the espresso machine in the starboard luggage compartment and headed out for Lakeland.

We arrived in Lakeland, got our volunteer camping pass and headed over to the airport campground. We were early so we had the pick of spots and took our time setting up camp for the airshow. Most of the setting up was a large Easy Up with a field kitchen. I was overjoyed when we hung the five gallon bucket from the upper handrail on the back of the cab and I had great water flow in my field kitchen sink.

We picked up our volunteer wristbands the next day and wandered around a little while the vendors and exhibitors were setting up for the Sun-N-Fun air show. We also went back to the highway in the minivan to check out some of the RV vendors. We toured a couple of used toter homes as well.

Our friends began showing up and we eventually had six people at our campsite for the week. Red Flyer was quite a landmark, the only HDT in the campground and an object of curiosity for many. It was fun watching Randi field all the questions; she loves to talk... a lot.

Brilliant weather all week. After a midwest winter it is a great way to get the cobwebs out and get motivated for the new season.

Packup day we wake up to rain. Note to self; monitor weather closer.
Not too difficult under a 10 x 10 Easy Up. First we fed our fellow campers before they blasted off in their cars, motorcycles and aircraft. Then we took our time cleaning and packing each item in the minivan, took a shower and hit the road after one last check.

We did not depart till 3:30 pm. No rush it was raining all the way to the Georgia state line. By the time we were that far North it was blown out and cloudy. Our goal for the day was a rest area above Atlanta.

On the way down we were very careful to detour around Atlanta. Trucks are not supposed to go through Atlanta even though the highway system is more than adequate for it. On the way up it was late at night and the person towing the Harley trailer in front of us in a moment of indecision made a lane change trying to make up his mind forcing us to miss our exit. After making a lot of disparaging remarks about male drivers, male trailer pullers and male Harley trailer pullers we continued on up through Atlanta without any troubles.

We made our intended rest area at 2:30 am, set the alarm and slept till 7:00 am.

The fuel gauge is amazingly inaccurate. I checked the tanks in Lakeland and knew we had more than half tanks. The gauge said 1/4. It said empty by the time we were in Atlanta again. We stopped in Smyrna on the way back, Home Depot again to get a yardstick to stick the tanks. They were out of yardsticks! Paid $2:35 for a piece of screen window trim, broke it in two and stuck it in the tanks. We had six inches of greasle each side, drew the tank in the CAD program, removed all but six inches of the bottom, did a MASSPROP command and got cubic inches, multiplied by two, called a lifeline on the cell "Jerry, google Gallons=Cubic Inches", got the number did the math and found we had enough fuel to get home... just.
Stopped in Paducah and took on 30 gallons of greasle insurance.

Home again! We pulled straight up the driveway, drove the minivan off the dolly, put the dolly away, and unpacked the minivan and Red Flyer.
First big trip down, 2115.8 miles round trip.

We Love our Volvo!