Travels With Charlie Brown (Downs) travel blog

Sony 1st shot

Sony 2nd shot

Sony 3rd shot

The vehicle I chose to take with me on my journey is a Jeep Wrangler. It can be towed “flat-four” with all wheels on the ground. Advantages include the elimination of the weight of a tow dolly along with the hassle of storing the dolly. The 4x4 utility may come in handy and the convertible makes my “TOAD” a fun vehicle, as well.

Until my departure, the most I drove the Jeep was around Charleston, SC generally below 60 mph. In Texas, even the secondary roads often boasts speed limits of 70 mph. Driving at or near that speed recently, I discovered a most disturbing flaw in the design of the 2010 (actually the 2007 – 2010 so I’ve learned) “JK” Wrangler. The JK’s (model designation) hood will flutter at either high speeds or during strong wind gusts such as when passing an eighteen wheeler on the interstate. Sometimes the flutter can be so violent it seems the hood is going to unlatch and fly up into the windshield. Scared the hell out of me!

Jeep designers specified too long and too cheap rubber links on the hood latches. Though the hood feels tight, at high speeds the force is great enough to cause the links to stretch allowing wind to buoy under the sides of the hood which in turn causes the flutter. At times the only thing keeping the hood from flying off is the center safety hook.

Don’t despair if the JK is your vehicle of choice, too should you want to do what I am doing traveling America. There are three fixes. Removing the hood spring may eliminate some or all of the flutter. That will be the first thing I try this afternoon. Installing “zip” ties around the hood latches will inhibit the stretch that allows the flutter to occur. Getting the zip ties installed correctly takes some trial and error and they will become dry and brittle…breaking over time requiring replacement. Daystar makes replacement links requiring minimal mechanical skills to install. These are made of higher quality material and are slightly shorter than the OEM parts. They are available from many sources online for about $23 plus shipping charges. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, there are 4x4 specialty shops in most larger communities that can probably help.

Removal of the hood spring was extremely simple taking less time than it took to get my toolbox out of the rear compartment of the coach. Charlie and I took a test drive speeding to seventy miles per hour. No flutter! We went to Walmart about 12 miles from the RV park and experienced no flutter whatsoever. I breathed a great sigh of relief.

This was an expensive trip to Wally World but I got some things that were definitely needed and a few things I wanted. A new coffee maker and toaster will make mornings a bit nicer. A new belt will hold my pants up! Zip ties will back up the spring removal Jeep fix. Finally I purchased a pocket camera by Sony. I’ve got a great Nikon D-90 however being unable to secure the Jeep I wanted something cheaper to carry with us on our excursions away from the coach.

This little camera is fantastic. I hadn’t researched the Sony Cyber-shot prior to purchasing it. I had looked at both Nikon and Canon the night before on the internet. The Sony is smaller and fits well in any pocket. It features a 14.1 megapixel resolution, a three inch LCD screen and 4x telephoto along with many features found on much more expensive cameras.

Charlie was ready to head back to the coach after greeting Walmart shoppers in the parking lot for over an hour. We experienced some hood flutter when three loaded dump trucks passed headed in the opposite direction. It was fortunate we purchased the zip ties and will install them on the JK after it warms up tomorrow.

It was like a game of musical chairs. There were a half dozen of the monsters parked in the first row of the park. That is the row closest to the lake, the one with premium views. Each motor home was at least 42’ long. All were diesel pushers (rear engine configuration). All of them had full body paint which is usually about an $8,000 option.

At nearly the same time Sunday morning, men of varying ages ranging from the mid-sixties to late seventies emerged from their very similar motor homes. They opened the outside master panel revealing meters, cords and storage areas for sewer hoses. Opening valves they stood and then each man walked around their individual homes eyeballing potential hazards around slide pathways. Confirming pathways were clear they stepped back almost in unison and watched as the slides whirred into motion apparently operated by a significant other remaining inside.

One by one, the men completed the task of cleansing sewer hoses and storing them in proper compartments. Then as I watched from my perch inside my own little coach, they unplugged and stored shore cords as precisely as a well-choreographed dancers. The troupe then disappeared within their respective coaches and a single diesel engine hummed to life. Then another started. And another until all began humming a displeasing cacophony.

While Charlie and I listened and watched the show unfolding before us, the parade began. Slowly the monstrous machines backed out of their prime spots and lumbered toward the park’s exit. We continued to watch as the convoy disappeared over the Livingston Lake bridge bound for their new adventures. Charlie seemed happy to see them go and looked at me as though I could understand. He looked towards the lake and back at me and it was then I realized we now had a magnificent view of the lake.

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