Goodbye Harvey.

A couple of months ago, as the last of the snow was vanishing into gray and gritty puddles, I pulled the cover off Harv with a sigh, knowing it was time to spruce him up and find him a new home. I had envisaged a difficult couple of months with internet ads, tyre kickers and lowball bids. But what actually happened was that the moment Harv’s cover crumpled to the ground, our next door neighbours Frank and Peggy looked over the fence and asked whether we would ever consider selling…

To be honest, that sums up our experience of GMC ownership. We have been blessed with good luck throughout the whole process of finding, buying, travelling in and ultimately selling our GMC. From the moment the Michigan snows melted just enough for my Dad and I to drive him down from Traverse City Michigan, to the parts and advice that were all in easy reach on the ‘net as I tidied him up, to the community of owners who got us going again in a matter of hours in Halifax Nova Scotia when we lost a CV joint, to the house in Cambridge that came (by chance) with a drive just big enough for Harv, to the people next door who had admired him from afar from the moment we drove in. And as much as anything our fun with this old boy has been about the people he has introduced us to along the way; the Jerrys in Michigan who got us going in the first place, the unbelievably knowledgeable enthusiasts at GMC.net who were never short of advice or humour, Jim and Elly Brennan and the kindhearted folks in the Tidewater Crabs, Paul and Nancy in Halifax wwho opened their home and garage to us, and the many, many unnamed people along the way who made space for us at busy junctions with a smile and a wave, or who came to chat on a garage forecourt, or in a newly found campsite. What a delight to drive something that seems to kindle warm feelings in those around you.

Harvey has taken us into places popular and quiet, mountainous and flat, wooded and barren, coastal and inland. He became a part of our lives in a way we hadn’t expected. Philippa found it hard to be inside our GMC when she knew it was about to be no longer ours – there were too many good memories embedded there. I found it impossible to believe that the motorhome I had spent so many hours in, under, and on top of’, wrestling with, being perplexed and occasionally soaked by was not going to be ours forever. But he isn’t. In fact he isn’t even ours now. Peggy and Frank have already taken Harv on an inaugural drive and will park him in their own back yard just as soon as they have made it ready for 26 feet of seventies gloriousness.

So, thanks for everything Harv. The journey that began in a musty GMC in Virginia when Philippa and I looked at each other and “just knew”, went on to a chilly Michigan barn and Harv, followed by a great roadtrip with my Dad through the backwoods of West Virginia, then to Washington DC, the mountains of New York State, Quebec, Gaspe, Nova Scota and Maine, has ended with our next door neighbours driving our pride and joy off into the sunset in Cambridge, Mass. There was a lot of fun on the way and hopefully too the inspiration for a book I will write one of these days…

And what of this site? Well I think the GMC-related posts have probably come to an end, but this blog is really about a state of mind and the story of a journey – many journeys in fact. So I will keep writing here about other trips, other adventures and other ways to ride the Magic Bus. Thanks for coming along. We’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Upgrades…

So when we first got Harv I had a list of things I wanted to do to ease our seventies classic into the modern world, and I went out and bought a load of Bits to install. It was the usual story of ambition over ability and most of those bits travelled around the Northeast with us last summer, hidden away in boxes as I ran out of time to put them in before our big trip. Now though, they are all in. All those little jobs are complete and I am rather proud of the result. Why the sudden fixing frenzy? Well, that will be explained further on. For now though, feast your eyes on the quality workmanship…

First up, a backup camera! This was fun and fairly easy to fit. I knew the in-dash dvd/radio had connectors for a backup camera so it was just a case of buying the camera and about thirty feet of the relevant leads. I found a great little camera on Ebay which even had infra-red LEDs for backing up at night. How can something so sophisticated cost less than $25?

Well it did and once it arrived the next question was where to fit it. I didn’t want to start drilling into Harvey’s bodywork and luckily I didn’t have to. There was a readymade housing already there.

At some point a previous owner had fitted universal mount thing for adding a bike rack or a tool box or a more sophisticated towbar. I don’t need any of those things, so I got a $2 tube plug and cut a circular hole in it to fit the camera. All the connections fit right inside the metal tube and it works really well. There is an independent power source to the camera so whether the radio is on or not, it turns on and lights up the screen whenever you select reverse. Now THAT is satisfying…

 

OK, on to the next job and this too was surprisingly easy once I had worked out where all the bits went. Using the McMaster Carr catalog and the parts list set out by someone on GMCnet (and I forget who it was – send me the name and I’ll credit him) I got all the makings for adding gas struts to the propane and generator doors. I wish I had done this before our trip last summer. No more balancing the blooming doors on my head or fiddling with the bungee to get them to stay up. Nope, they now slide up smooth and easy. if you haven’t done this upgrade, do it! Er, that’s if you have a GMC if course. If you don’t, well you are probably already asleep.

OK, moving right along here, we get to what was the biggest pain in the arm of everything I’ve done to Harv. The Saga Of The Blinds, soon to be a mini-series. They were a real nightmare to put in, and the expensive valances from Applied GMC came with minimal fixings: ie some pieces of bent aluminium (I am sticking with that spelling as we are going back to England soon). They arrived so late that I didn’t get a chance to put them in before we left on our two month road trip and we lugged the big box they came in for four thousand miles, before ultimately stowing them in the basement. Well I got them out and bought some neat little pre-drilled brackets, an assortment of screws, rivets and drywall anchors (which worked very well in the carpet-like sidewall insulation). I got a rush of nostalgia going to Home Depot to get the fixings, remembering the many hours I spent there last spring when Harv was but a new arrival. Anyway, it all worked very well, and even though I had to cut the pre-cut valances down to size in most cases, they actually look rather fine.

The blackout blinds are honeycomb and have a layer of aluminium foil for insulation and they match the valances perfectly.

The back was a little trickier but the job that had weighed most heavily over me turned out to be really rather straightforward once I’d found the right fixings. Actually, that’s usually the case with a lot of these kinds of jobs, until you break something in the course of fixing something else. Thankfully that didn’t happen this time…

 

I also tidied up some wiring under the bench seat and around the digital tv box given to me by a nice lady at our first GMC rally with the Tidewater Crabs.

  
So Harv can face the next 33 years with the confidence that he is fully in step with the younger generation; TV, backup cameras, gas struts, fitted blinds…

He is your favourite Uncle with an iPod.

What fun its been. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to metaphorically straighten his tie and brush his shoes before handing him over to his new owners. Yes, new owners. What prompted this sudden flurry of DIY is the fact that we have sold our beloved GMC. But he won’t be going far. More on that to come.

He’s back!

Mike did a great job on Harvey, replacing some front end components and rectifying a small transmission leak. Well more of an ooze actually, but anyway, it isn’t any more. I drove back on the freeway with Harv going better than ever. I went back to Jim’s in Somerville for a re-inspection and “Bustah” handed over the sticker with a smile and a handshake. The GMC effect again…

— Sent from my Palm Pre

 

Wot no Harvey?


Nope. He’s still in New Hampshire, where Mike the mechanic has just got back from his week’s vacation. He tells me that the autoparts shop next door is inexplicably out of a part they usually have in stock, and it won’t be in stock until tomorrow at the earliest. So Harv should be ready to come out swinging late Tuesday or Wednesday. But I can’t get to him until Thursday, so our drive will remain eerily empty until then. Its rather strange coming home and seeing an open space instead of the comfortable rear end of our GMC. 

— Sent from my Palm Pre

 

Inspections and front ends

Like death and taxes, some things are unavoidable. One of those things is the Inspection required to register your vehicle in the place where you live. Harv has been sitting in the driveway on “Taxation without Representation” plates (DC) since we got here last August; a kind of poke in the eye at the state where that slogan gained some traction back in the late seventeen hundreds. But there was to be no Massachusetts insurance without Massachusetts plates so eventually I had to go down to the RMV and learn to say “Motah-home”. And that brings us to the picture on the left; Harv suffering the indignity of being poked about at Jim’s Heavy Duty Inc in Somerville to get his inspection sticker. Well all was fine, er apart from some play in the front end which was enough to get Harv branded with the scarlet R of rejection. This is good news to whoever eventually buys Harv because now I have to make sure that his front end is rippling and beefy like an Olympic weightlifter so he can get his inspection sticker. But where to go for such attention? To GMCnet, that’s where! After a quick inquiry about where to take our pride and joy I get a reminder about the Black List which contains all the information you need about GMC Mechanics Near You. Sure enough, just forty five minutes up the road, Mike at New England RV Service has been working on GMCs since they were new and has one himself. Brilliant. I arrange to drive up and in the meantime the sun is out, the temperature has risen into the high sixties and I can have a proper look at Harv for the first time since the snow melted. The two batteries at the front were on their last legs when I got Harv last February so I fit two new ones (one is a backup) along with a new clamp. The generator was still dusty from when we finished our big trip so I clean it up and find a loose wire. After fitting a new connector, the generator starts at the first click of the starter rather than the usual two or three seconds so I feel unfeasibly pleased with myself. I have also worked out what extra connection I need to wire in the digital TV receiver more neatly and I wire brushed the hob back to its original gleaming stainless steel. There would be pictures of all this, but yesterday I drove up to New Hampshire and left Harvey with Mike the Mechanic to have his front end sorted out. Mike is on vacation next week so it will be ten days or so before I can go back up to collect Harv, and in the meantime I am having tinkering withdrawal…

— Sent from my Palm Pre

 

Awwww

How about that? Harvey painstakingly re-imagineered as a throw cushion. It’s the work of a very clever lady in Scotland called Lucy Moose http://www.lucymoose.com who will make your 2d photo, doodle or sketch into 3d soft-cushion reality. My amazing sister Helen had the idea to send her a photo of Harv and this is the astonishing result. Thank you Helen and thank you Mrs. Moose.

— Sent from my Palm Pre