My trip to the desert

Tell any of your adventures and Le'Sharo road trips here.

My trip to the desert

Unread postby Terry » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:13 pm

One of my toys is a Dodge Ram 3500 5.9L Coachmen conversion with a nice Onan Micro 2800 under the rear deck.

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I am about to drive this thing with a tow dolly attached to the desert where it was 120F today to pick up my new Lesharo project . On the way back I am probably going to drive at night to keep it cooler and simpler, so I might be generator camping during the day somewhere in the 120F and I'm curious how the Onan will handle the extreme? It doesnt seem to move much air when its running. I dont expect the little roof unit will do too well either. Perhaps I should hang a swamp cooler in one of the windows.

It will be interesting to see how the V8 handles the heat as well as the return load. And I am very curious about the gas mileage along the way. At any rate, from Dallas I think I'll go up to OKC and hang a left and take 40 all the way to the Nevada/AZ border. I expect interstate 40 is a safer, cooler bet than taking 10.

When I picked up my previous Lesharo from Oregon, I got stuck in Ehrensburg, AZ for the day when it was about 120F out. The little rig had cab AC but it just couldnt make it in the daytime heat. At least this Dodge has the generator so I can blast both air conditioners if I feel crazy.
1984 Lesharo, 3.8 Chrysler, Plano, Texas, USA
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Re: My trip to the desert

Unread postby Terry » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:20 pm

I picked up a well-used Demco steering dolly for $300 and threw new wheels and tires onto it. I spent hours troubleshooting the lamp wiring and also added a through-plug on the trailer to connect the extra set of lights on the back of the towed vehicle. I also picked up new bonnet straps and a spare tire holder from Harbor Freight down the road. I swapped out the turn signal flasher in the van for a heavy duty electronic and now everything flashes right. I am hooked up and ready to hit the road.


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Re: My trip to the desert

Unread postby Terry » Sat Jul 30, 2011 1:00 pm

The trip was absolutely miserable. On the way there towing just the empty dolly, the van was getting hot, so it has an issue I was unaware of right out the gate.

I slept overnight as planned at the Walmart in Flagstaff where it was 51F which was very welcome. There were perhaps 40 other rvs crammed into the lot all next to the sign that says "no over night parking."

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Early the next morning I did the three hours to BullHead City, AZ which is away from the interstate and over a couple of mountain passes and then down, down, down, into the heat. The city rests along the river that dumps out of Lake Meade, I think, so it is very humid there and the mountains keep the hot bubble right on top. At that last pass you can immediately feel the crossing of the heat bubble barrier as it simply just gets hot as heck and then you descend into a hot pit of despair where gas is cheap, gambling is everywhere, and everyone is towing a jetski.

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I got there as planned right at 8am when the storage guy opened and my intent was to hook right up and go before the sun got very hot. Well it didnt happen that way. The vehicle was not accessible even though he knew I was coming and in a hurry. The only way it was getting out of where it was parked was on its own power, uphill with lots of back and forth maneuvering. It was somewhere on the bottom left side in this old satellite picture of the lot, but there was much more crammed around it. I almost had to drop my trailer and hook up to some boats to move them, but luckily I was able to get it running to move itself.

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Lo and behold there was no battery in the Winnebago. The lot owner wanted to jump it with his machine and then let me drive it with no battery which is insane. So now I wonder what kind of damage this thing has. I left and found a Walmart and spent another $100 on a battery. I finally got it loaded and then spent the next hour or more figuring out my after-market straps and chains which didnt fit right the whole trip.

By then it is 117F, the sun is burning me and I have over exerted myself with a nervous fervor. But, I got it rolling. I didnt put the rear lights on as that would have taken too much effort and I would have died. I waited until a cool flagstaff to do that work.

Now, the drive out of Bullhead City is a very difficult 50+ miles 6% uphill. I did it about 30mph most of the way in second gear, floored, with the engine overheating. So naturally I had the heater blowing hard to help exchange heat.

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So basically, the entire trip home, being mostly uphill until Texas, was slow, hot and hot. I had to run the heater all the time and I think it fried my brain a little.

I was stuck in San Jon, NM right near the Texas border all day because it was just too hot to drive like this with the sun directly radiating death onto me. I huddled in back of the van with the generator and roof air running and I made a little nest by opening the bathroom door and stuffing a pillow under the microwave to seal off the front of the vehicle. Even then the coolest I could get it under the hot sun was 88F. My head was pounding, I felt sick and lonely and I just waited. The gas station let me use their hose to refill my onboard water reserves and I reloaded the leaky cooling system with a jug of coolant and water.

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I waited until sunset to take off and then did the next 12+ hours all night long, heater blasting, me sucking down gallons of liquids, stopping every 100 miles to reload the radiator with mix, and I made it back to Dallas just at morning rush hour which was miserable, especially since I kept falling asleep behind the wheel and also had a heat induced migraine.

I am very glad that I had the smaller/narrower dolly because there were many places roadwork was happening and I had to drive miles with a concrete barrier actually in my lane on the left, riding a zip strip to the right and then the occasional narrower bridge concrete barrier that makes you wonder if you are going to make it through at all. I do have respect for the big rig drivers at times like these, yet, their loads dont pendulate as much as what I had going on with this steering dolly thing.

I barely made it home, I feel like crud, and I really have to wonder if I was an idiot for not only doing this in the hottest days of summer, but perhaps for doing it at all.

So my van needs some work. I am guessing that the water pump needs replacing as it is eating a gallon or more of water per 100 miles, but I cant find the leak and it is pressurizing still. And there is still the issue with why it isnt cooling. Perhaps its time for a radiator swap and all that goes along with it. I'll be doing this myself once I feel a little better.

The Winnebago is far from being legal or safe to drive, so I have some exploration and figuring to do if I want to even proceed with the project. It has a V6 swapped in which is why I was interested in it at all. The interior is worse than expected, but if mechanically solid and cleaned up inside, these things can be rather comfy.

Of course I'm sure it wont take long for the city to see my project and then bitch at me for having a non registered vehicle in the driveway.

So, I am recuperating.


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1984 Lesharo, 3.8 Chrysler, Plano, Texas, USA
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Re: My trip to the desert

Unread postby mloganusda » Wed Aug 03, 2011 8:01 pm

Terry; Congrats on your trip as I have about done the same in the past. I drove a Corvair van from California to Mississippi and broke down in Texas just south of Armailo. This was in December but was in the mid 70's. The tow service garage let me work on the van to repair and then on down the road. On the day before Christmas I broke down again with the same problem, broken input shaft. Got a motel room and called my parents to come tow us to their home in southern Mississippi. Purchased a new car and towed the van all the way to California, need the corvair engine.
Mike Logan
Formerly 1986 LeSharo 2.2 gas
Now 04' Rialta
Smyrna, TN
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Re: My trip to the desert

Unread postby davidscar » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:12 pm

I know its an old thread in the Lesharo forum but I love the Dodge Coachmen
1984 LeSharo TD w/ 4spd
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Re: My trip to the desert

Unread postby Terry » Thu Aug 07, 2014 6:01 pm

I sold it to a guy from Canada. It was in really good shape, but being a big guy, it didnt work so good for me. The V8 and the towing ability was sure nice.
1984 Lesharo, 3.8 Chrysler, Plano, Texas, USA
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Re: My trip to the desert

Unread postby theboar17 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:57 am

Awesome modification. This is the kind of reference that I am looking for.
Current truck project: fender flare removal and ready lift installation. Waiting for my customized bumper to arrive.
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