Mojave National Preserve, California
This morning we are scheduled to depart 1,000 Oaks and the Spa at Three Palms (the familial name for my brother's house on knoll looking out over the Santa Monica Mountains)) however the water dripping from the bottom of the camper can no longer be ignored. It has not gone away, and actually is getting worse. Since our fresh drinking water supplies are limited it seems foolish to head out into the great american desert with a known leak diminishing our supply. A quick investigation reveals that the three way valve used to drain the water heater to protect it and its associated plumbing from freezing has somehow malfunctioned and is no longer shutting completely. I clear out the stored supplies stowed in that compartment and study the installation. After several skinned knuckles I have the valve itself loosened from the mounting screws, but the vinyl hosing is stubbornly holding tight despite vigorous tugging. I use a box knife and carefully cut the attachment hoses and study the exorcized component. It is molded into one piece, offering no rebuilding opportunity. A quick call to Airstream informs me that the part can only be ordered from Germany , costs over $130 before shipping, and takes over a month to order. We move to plan B and trudge on over to the nearest home depot. With 5 hose clamps, a tee fitting, a 1/2" brass ball cock valve, and a section of replacement reinforced vinyl tubing we are out the door at a fraction of the cost of the elegant German alternative, and 20 minutes later have fabricated and tested the replacement assembly. Just as I am finishing things up Diane, who was playing with the old valve, asks what this funny protrusion is inside the old valve. Some pounding, and blowing discharges a small chunk of metal which had been lodged in the valve seat. The culprit in the leak. It seems that a chunk of the sacrificial metal in the hot water heater must have broken off and traveled down the tubing, jamming in the narrow part of the valve seat when we drained the tank last. Once removed, a quick air test proved the valve was still working fine. Rats, we could have simply blown it out and replaced in instead or rebuilding the whole assembly. However, the new system, has a larger valve opening, which runs straight instead of with a 180 degree bend, so overall, it will be an improvement. An, at last we have no leak, the tank volume is holding. One last quick dip in the pool, and we are off heading west towards the great american southwest.
By dinner time, we pull into the Mojove National Preserve, the vast northern continuation of the Mojove desert which route 40 bisects. We drive 20 miles into the preserve to get away from the highway and find a secluded, and very empty campsite at Hole-in-the-wall. In every direction we are surrounded by landscapes reaching out 20 miles broken only by volcanic outcroppings and the spindly texture of Yuca, Joshua Tree, creosote bush and other desert foliage. As we set up camp a white tailed rabbit hops by to greet us, the scurries off into the scrub. It is quiet, and at sunset the wind dies down and all I can hear is the slight ringing in my ears left over from the day's drive. The sky is dark dark blue fading to black and I look forward to gazing at some stars in the mild temperature before calling a night.