Just before Mardi Gras we had planned to head up to Lafayette, LA. There was a nice county park there that would have put us walking distance to some of the Mardi Gras things we wanted to do, but on the way there the brakes went out on the bus. I found a shop, put in a new master cylinder, but to accommodate that we ended up staying in Palmetto Island. Not a big deal, but it did mean we missed out on a couple things we wanted to do in Lafayette.
The main one was visiting Vermilionville, so on our way to Grand Isle we swung north to Vermilionville for the morning. Vermilionville is a little bit like Pioneer Farm near Austin, except that instead of Texas history, Vermilionville is preserving some of the Cajun and Acadian culture that once dominated the area. There’s a bayou, some old bayou-style acadian homes that have been brought here, restored and once again face the bayou.
The brakes still weren’t quite where I wanted them, so I spent a bit of time in the Vermilionville parking lot tinkering, testing and mostly failing and sighing a lot. Eventually I decided to just go for it. We were only planning to go about a hour down the road, to a campsite we’d been told about by someone at Bayou Segnette. It was all highway driving, so the stop and go would be minimal. I made it, but by the time we got to our camp I’d died several times and knew what my problem was — vacuum leak.
It was too late to run anywhere for parts so I just parked it in our campsite and took the kids over to the playground. When in doubt it’s best to relax and think things over.
The next day we set out for Grand Isle. Corrinne and kids went ahead to run some errands along the way while I limped along behind them. I pulled into a Walmart parking lot to see if I could track down the vacuum leak. I ended up spending a few hours under the bus, running around getting some new hoses, failing to find new hoses and just generally failing. I cut down the main rubber hose that connects the engine side to vacuum line running back to the booster, reconnected it. Hit all the connections toward the back with starter fluid, hit the engine connections with WD40 and nothing ever sent the engine revving up or otherwise indicated I’d found the problem.
By then it was 3 o’clock and we still had a good hour of driving to do so I fired it and when it didn’t immediately die, decided that was good enough for the day. Clearly my standards have slipped. At the time I was thinking well, if I have to spend all day under the bus, in the heat, at least I want to be able to jump in the ocean when I’m done, so let’s get to Grand Isle and then I’ll work on it some more. It was a pretty good plan, except that I didn’t anticipate the mosquitoes.
Grand Isle is a strange little place, one of those places whose heyday is well in time’s rearview mirror, but has managed in the mean time to develop a dilapidated charm all its own. Certainly an impressive amount of engineering and roadwork went into making it even possible to get out here. It’s way, way out here. From here the next point south is the Yucatan. On the drive out you pass through some gorgeous marshland and get a tour of all the various efforts to stop the effects of rising seas and increasing hurricane frequency.
The first day we were there I ignored the bus and spent the day at the beach like a regular tourist.
The next day I got back to work on the vacuum lines. Or rather I work my day job in the morning, waiting for the wind to pick up and then once it did, it drove the mosquitoes away and I could get to work on the bus. The mosquitoes on Grand Isle were the worst we’ve seen anywhere. They were massive, flew in swarms so thick you could see them coming and seemed totally immune to all the bug repellents we own. At times they made an otherwise quite nice place into a pretty miserable one. Fortunately during the day there was enough of an onshore breeze to drive them away.
I started by checking every hose on top of the engine and found a cracked heater hose I’d been avoiding dealing with for some time. When I bent it back to get it out of the way it ruptured and dumped a considerably amount of coolant all over the engine. Fortunately there was plenty of slack in the hose so, after giving the rest of it a thorough inspection, I was able to cut off the bad end and reattach it.
Then I decided to replace the fuel filter because I’d been meaning to for about 1000 miles now. I started to do that realized one of the small rubber fuel hoses was cracked, so I swapped that out as well. Then I went rhough tightening all the bolts I could find and, by the end of the day, I’d done next to nothing to fix the vacuum leak, but had put in a good few hours of repairs.
The next day when the breeze kicked in again I got serious and pulled out the entire main vacuum line from engine to rear booster and inspected it thoroughly, finding nothing. However, when I put it back together again I had 20in of pressure and the engine was purring right where I like it to be. Alas, the brakes were still soft and would lock up sometimes, which probably means there’s still a vacuum leak in there somewhere. I also knew we needed new shoes, which I wasn’t about to do on an island in the middle of nowhere.
That, combined with the mosquitoes, made the decision easy. We left Grand Isle after three nights. It’s a nice place, well worth a visit, but we needed to get to New Orleans.