After Mexico 15, 9th November 2004

I reached Natural Bridge Caverns soon after they opened at 9 am, they offered 2 tours so I booked for both..........

I took the rather pretty River Road around Canyon Lake, stopped and looked at a couple of viewpoints, and
parked for the night in a picnic area where cat had another play in the trees.

Sam Houston lives near Lake Travis, I called by to say hello, we went for a pleasant lunch, Sam paid, which he shouldn't have...........In the afternoon I explored more pretty roads near Lake Travis and stopped for the night in a secluded picnic area near the Longhorn Caverns with more trees for Little Cat to climb and a view for me to look at.

Around 5 am there was a banging on the van. It was the police! How long had I been here they asked, had I heard anything, had I seen any cars? I'd seen and heard nothing. What happened I asked? It seems that there was a
car over the edge of the car park. In the morning I looked, there were muddy tracks all over as the driver had tried to get back on the paved area. I'd heard nothing!

I rang Greg Winker, we arranged to meet for dinner, I took more scenic drives around Lake Travis, and called in at an aviation museum where the centre piece was a restored DC3. We met for a good dinner, half a dozen more balloonists came along too. Again they wouldn't let me pay - I like this Texas hospitality! I stayed in the restaurant car park for the night and headed towards Palestine to see Bob and Cristy Redinger.

I'd been having more problems with the check engine light and connected loss of power, I had some time to spare, and I had heard some suggestions that the problem might be the catalytic converter breaking down so I called in
at a muffler shop to have it tested. Nothing wrong with the catalytic converter they said. They suggested I called in at a nearby repair shop. It turns out it was a one man operation, run by Joy Hassell who been 30 years a motor mechanic. He listened to my tale of symptoms, and thought it could be the TPS sensor which controls the fuel flows. Another mechanic had suggested that might be the problem so I arranged to return first thing in the morning when he would have time to run his engine computer to check over the problem. He seemed to know what he was talking about.

I reached Bob's safely, it was good to see them again, Cristy produced a really good dinner, I parked for the night by the house and headed for the repair shop in the morning. Joy ran his computer test, scratched his head, and said it's not at all what he expected. He ran more tests then set about adjusting the timing. It needed very major adjustment but when he had finished I took the van for a spin. Wow! It was a different vehicle. When I put my foot on the accelerator it felt like I really had 5.8 litres of engine under the hood. Joy said the timing chain had jumped a link or two and needed replacing urgently but he did not have time to do it. He suggested when I got the job done, the clutch on the fan should be checked also since it would then be easily accessible. Hassell's Automotive Centre, 404 W Palestine Avenue, if you break down in Palestine you can do much worse than visit his repair shop. Remember, over the last 3 months 3 different repair shops had run computer checks on the van without finding any problem, he found it, correctly!

I continued on the Marshall, on the way the engine ran really well. I reached Micki's, really good to see her and son Adam again, another friend Glen Moyer was there visiting. Micki's cat Lucy was around in the shop but sadly seemed scared stiff of Little Cat who wanted to play. I parked the van by the shop for the night but it was very cold in the morning so I decided it would be better, while I was here and it was still cold, to sleep in the shop, it's lots warmer!

Next day I caught up a few things, had the oil changed on the van, and also had the annual state inspection made. Tony, Micki's husband, suggested Kahuna's for the timing chain to be replaced, and I booked the van in for the morning. Dinner was at Micki's sister Susie's with a couple of other friends.

I drove to Kahuna's early in the morning, Micki picked me up, brought me into the shop and took me back in the evening so I could collect the van. Kahuna's is very close to their home. The van was running even better! Tim, at Kahuna's, had also replaced the fan which had not been working. Actually I don't think it has ever been working for the 40,000 miles I have driven the van, I have always had serious problems with overheating, but I didn't realise there was a clutch on the fan and that it could stop working, I just thought the van was like that. I remember I have never been able to use the air conditioning when it was hot because it made the engine overheat so all I could do was drive around with all the windows wide open. Of course, it's cold now, I don't need the air conditioning, but it's there for when I do!

On Saturday John Good from Baton Rouge arrived, by coincidence I met him back in February when I was starting his trip, he has a small repair shop and was calling round for some tips on sewing from Micki. I started looking over my balloon which has been in store here. The evening was a trip to Shreveport with Mick, Tony, and family, for a seafood buffet at a casino there. The meal was good, I didn't bother to look in the casino, which is on a boat moored on the Red River. It seems Louisiana allows Casinos but only in boats on the Red River.

Best regards

David Barker

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