What a Crazy Weekend!

Hello and welcome to the blog.  It’s been one of those weeks…  At least it’s a 3 day weekend.  🙂

Bubba’s Sports Bar in Mechanicsville, Iowa

Thursday had gone pretty well – just hectic and stressful – like a new job can be.  On the way home from work I stopped at Bubba’s Sports Bar in Mechanicsville (20 minutes east of Cedar Rapids).  Someone had told me about a terrific deal there.  After a “week of Mondays” I needed some kind of treat.

Taco salads are such a nice comfort food!

The taco salad pictured above is only $4.25 as a Thursday special.  I’d already eaten it down a ways before taking the picture…  Compared to $7 nd higher at other places, Bubba’s pricing is amazing.  I’ll be there every Thursday night from now on!

Well, I’d been planning to announce some good news.  Sorry to leave another cliffhanger but that’s the way it is right now.  We’ll see where things go.

Friday was kind of the fifth Monday in a row… but doable!  On the way home I stopped at a familiar fast food place (the only one in Jones County) and while sipping on an iced tea, a cockroach fell out of the ceiling vent and landed on top of my head.  Everyone in the restaurant heard the uncensored comments…   🙂  A teen aged manager came out and was telling me loudly about how they just sprayed for them, etc…  She said “I’ll kill it!”  It was fun seeing the faces of the other diners.

Partially torn down. The alternator is under the back of the engine compartment.

For the last couple of months, the van has been making some noises and concerning me a little.  This week before our nasty snowstorm (about 7 inches in this area), the squealing / screeching sound was getting worse.  During periods of high humidity the noise was scary.  I told friends it was as loud as “two hungry tomcats fighting over a chicken wing”…

Overflow tank and air intake removed.

On Sunday I headed into town to the auto parts store to get a new alternator.  It was zero degrees on the drive there.  Sis had texted and asked what I was doing; then she asked where I was getting the parts.  When I got there she was already speaking with an employee and authorizing a charge for the repair parts.  Wow!

A handy diagram to have on the cell phone… Then the cell phone battery crapped out right in the middle of the repair… 🙁

There was only one problem – locating a part.  The old alternator (which has had bearing issues twice so far in 124K miles) was a small 104 amp model.  Friend James, a Chevy mechanic, told me he’s seen them die as early as 30,000 miles.  The parts store didn’t have the small alternator in stock.  But they did have the 145 amp model (basically 40% more capacity) for a CHEAPER price!  That decision was a no-brainer!  I did have to get a larger serpentine belt due to the difference in case sizes.

40% larger than the old one… This one might last longer.

Bear in mind it was 3 degrees this morning.  Our high temperature was about 8 degrees around 3PM.  It took about 1/2 hour to put the new part in… and about 2 hours to wrestle the serpentine belt into place.  When I would get the belt around the crankshaft, it would come loose around the top pulleys… and vice versa.  The auto parts guy finally helped me and between the two of us, getting the belt in place went so much easier!

Just a side note, when turning the pulley on the old alternator, the bearing growled loudly – exactly what I was hoping for.  🙂

The van is purring like a kitten once again – not the angry, screaming tomcats it had sounded like before.  I’m glad the repair job is over.  It was one… well… The picture below describes it perfectly.


Sis insisted I eat something warm after the nearly 3 hour job.  The $28 core charge refund paid for some Chinese food… I also took a small carryout container of baked salmon home.  Jennifer turned up her nose, opting for Fancy Feast.  Duke was one happy kitty.  He LOVES any kind of fish.  Here is a recent picture of him.  He’s turned out to be a terrific pal.

Duke snoozing on top of my arm (the polka dotted shirt)

Tomorrow is Monday and finally a day free from adventures.  It will be so nice to have a day to actually rest up… followed by a four day work week.  We’ve got more snow and cold weather on the way for Wednesday.  But for now the van is one less thing to worry about!  It’s been an amazing machine.  And what an amazing Sister who did something so kind!

Take care and thanks for visiting.  I’m still anticipating some winter camping when things warm up a bit.  There are more dishes to try in the great out of doors.

Safe and happy camping!

Brad, Jenny, and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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8 Responses to What a Crazy Weekend!

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Oh I love taco salads and that one looks great. Haven’t had one in a very long time.

    Your sis is a charm for sure what a great gal. Your lucky you can fix your own van but of course not in 3 degree weather.
    Hope you have a much better week. Stay warm

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! It’s helpful having decent hands and a brain that likes to solve problems. It was another cold day. We’ve got a rain/ ice / snow storm hitting tomorrow in the middle of the day. That could be fun! (not) I have the work camping option though. 🙂

  2. Laurie says:

    Sweet! Aren’t sisters great! Doesn’t it feel great when you add something to the van?…I’m about to add about 3 things when this temperature goes up a little! Glad all is well with you and the kitties!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Laurie! Like you, I enjoy the little additions. 🙂 I hope this van lasts a long time. When it dies, I’m certain there will be another one day. This van has provided immeasurable joy! I hope your weather moderates soon. We’re set for more bad weather tomorrow – right in the middle of the work day.

  3. my_vantasy says:

    We had our own Snowmagedden here in Ohio, too. It was supposed to start 7am Saturday, so I got up at 5am to go to Starbucks and be back before the ice storm. Gotta have my Starbucks! Glad you got the van fixed and running smoothly again. Reliable transportation is a must! You’re killing me with this unending cliffhanger! I hope you can share it next post. Stay safe out there.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! Thanks for the comment. It’s been a crazy busy week. I’m going to send you a private email with an update on the cliff hanger. I hear ya about Starbucks. We’re set for up to 6 more inches of snow… the worst of it during the morning commute. Take care! — Brad

  4. Oye Mi says:

    Oh I love taco salads and that one looks great. Haven’t had one in a very long time.
    Your sis is a charm for sure what a great gal. Your lucky you can fix your own van but of course not in 3 degree weather.
    Hope you have a much better week. Stay warm

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi and thanks for the note! It’s great having a nice sister. I’m working on a Valentine’s idea for her. We’re now looking at -30 to -35 degree weather this week… That is not even the wind chill temperatures. 3 degrees would be preferable. 🙂 Take care!