Our first flat tire experience

Saturday, April 13th was the Cypress Creek High School Prom at the Berry Center.  The itinerary read as follows:

7:00 PM – Pick up group from Campioni Restaurant and drop off at Berry Center for Prom

10:00 PM – Pick up from Berry Center and drop off at Sugarloaf Ranch in Hearne, TX

12:15 PM – Drop off at ranch in Hearne, TX

Needless to say, the itinerary had a few last minute changes. 

As we were driving through Bryan, TX at approximately 11:45 PM at the Boonville Rd exit, my rear passenger side inside tire blew out.  Luckily the exit from Highway 6 to Boonville Rd was a few hundred meters ahead so we quickly slowed down and exited to a safe location.

The safe location was the Kroger parking lot that was well lit and out of harms way.  Once we were safely parked, I called the parents of one of the passengers to alert them of our situation.  They said that they were on their way to come pick the group up in 2 of their vehicles and it would be about 20-30 minutes before they arrived. 

While we waited, I allowed the kids to get some snacks and sodas from Kroger as my treat for the inconvenience.  Once I had a plan for the kids and their transportation for the remainder of the trip (aka their parents picking them up), I was able to concentrate on getting the actual tire fixed and get the Cool Bus back on the road. 

After about an hour of phone calls and going back and forth with various service companies, I was finally able to get a hold of Martinez Heavy Truck and Tire out of Huntsville, TX.  They were able to dispatch a service truck to my location with a new tire.

After the phone calls and finally confirming with the service company it was about 1:15 AM.  They didn’t show up till almost 3:15 AM.  The service tech on site was Billie.  I don’t think I could’ve asked for anyone better to help me in my situation. Billie was great and he was very knowledgeable.  He was very patient with me as I am sure I annoyed him with all my questions. 

He finally finished around 5:00 AM and, after a quick stop to get some coffee and snacks, I was back on the road to Houston.  I finally got home at 7:15 AM Sunday morning. 

It was a very long and arduous process, but in the end, everyone was safe as it could’ve been a much worse situation.  The flat tire happened at the perfect spot on the highway and it happened to the tire that allowed us to still drive to a safe location. 

I never really knew how I would react to an emergency situation like this, but now after going through this experience myself, I feel comfortable that I can put together a strong plan of action and emergency protocol for my future drivers. 

Annndddd we're back!

Well, after about 8 days on the shelf, we are back and the brakes are working to perfection!  The brakes no longer lose air pressure in stop and go traffic and the brake chambers even fill up with air faster upon the initial engine start up.  It takes approx. 3-4 min to get the tank full of air, when it would previously take about 8-10 min to completely fill with the necessary amount of air. 

Now its time to take it out on the town again!  This time I am trying to get more of a feel for a what an actual night out on the town will be like.  So more bar hopping and hitting up different areas of town as opposed to the video shoot night when we were mainly in the Downtown and Midtown area.  

Since it seems as though a lot of people are busy this weekend, I am going to set the next ride up for next Saturday, August 20th.   Thinking we will hit up Kay's Lounge one last time before they shut down the legendary Houston establishment and the iconic Texas-shaped wooden table will be no more. 

Just when I thought I'll get out...they pull me back in!

Just when I thought all was good with the bus, another repair popped up that needed to be taken care of.  

Last time I dropped the bus off at DI Performance to address a situation with the brakes, I was under the impression that it was fixed.  Apparently, after they fixed that issue, this new issue popped up and now I had to get that fixed.  

The issue being that the air brakes would lose air pressure the more and more I was in stop and go traffic.  In fact, on the way home prior to our filming of the promo video a couple weeks ago, the bus actually locked up on me as I was sitting in the lovely Houston rush hour traffic around 5pm.  Luckily we didnt have any other issues that night, but I knew that I would need to get that fixed ASAP before I did another ride. 

The issue is that one of my air valves was leaking along with the brake chambers, my slack adjusters were worn and the air dryer was leaking.  So I have turned it back over to DI Performance for yet another repair.  

I can tell you this much, when it comes time to by my next bus, I will be looking for something a little newer than a 1994 school bus.  So, now I wait and see how long the repair will take.  Stay tuned! 

Interior work, A/C install and yet another issue...

After 3 1/2 weeks of waiting, I finally got a phone call saying that the interior of the bus would be ready.  Well, at least most of the interior would be complete.  The guys working on the bus said that they were going out of town for a week and said I could pick up the bus if I wanted.  This worked out perfectly because I was able to get the A/C installed during this time.  

The work that was completed on the interior to-date was:

  • Paint the interior black
  • Add lighting above the seats
  • Install new upholstery
  • Install security cameras and rear view backup camera
  • Hookup new radio with Bluetooth and USB charging outlets

They still need to install the handrails, connect the cameras to the DVR, and add lighting under the seats.  But that should only take a day or 2 at most.  

I picked the bus up on Wednesday, 4/20 and dropped the bus off to get the A/C installed Friday, 4/22 at Camping World of Houston. 

But another hiccup would be revealed on the way to get the A/C installed.  As I was heading down I-10 to Camping World, where I would get the A/C from, about 10 minutes from my destination, I started to smell something from the engine and my brake light came on.  In addition, the pressure in my air brakes had dropped significantly.  All of the sudden, my brakes locked up and forced me to pull over on the side of the road.  After shutting off the engine, I let the bus rest for about 45 min. I started it back up and the pressure rose back to sufficient level as I was able to drop the bus off to get the A/C worked on.  

I picked the bus back up Tuesday and immediately dropped it off at DI Performance for an inspection.  A few days later, I got the call that the air compressor was faulty and there were multiple leaks in the lines.  They estimated that the repair will take about a week.  

As frustrating as it has been for issue after issue to pop up, I am glad that I am identifying these now as opposed to when I have customers.  I just have to keep delaying the start date of The Cool Bus, so now it looks like the bus won't be ready till Memorial Day weekend, depending on how long the paint job takes.  

As the repairs and fabrication work have been taking place over the past few weeks, I have also gone through DOT (Department of Transportation) training.  I have learned quite a bit of information that will allow me to properly operate under the federal and state rules/regulations as a commercial motor vehicle.  I knew that there would be a lot of information to consume, but I didn't realize how much I would be responsible for as I am running this business in the coming weeks, months and years.  

Timing is everything...

Well after close to 4 weeks of the bus being in the shop, the mechanics have finally started making progress on the repair.  They had to replace the lift pump and rebuild the injection pump.  I spoke with the technicians yesterday and they said that the injection pump was in bad shape once they started to rebuild it so it took longer than expected on the repair.  

This should fix the issues that we encountered a few weeks ago when it just died on us when we were driving around one night.  The same issue also caused the engine not to turn over once we shut it off and tried to crank it back up again with in a few minutes.  

They think it will be ready to go by the end of the week.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, its been good timing for this to happen now while the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is taking place.  Since I am heavily involved with the Rodeo, unfortunately a few things with the bus have been put on the back burner over the past couple of weeks.  

So while I would've liked to have the bus up and running, I know it would've been difficult to do any kind of test runs with friends trying to find time in my own personal schedule.  

The good thing is though that with Rodeo taking place, I am able to spread the word about the bus to a lot of people I only see this time of the year.  The friends and peers that I have told are all really excited about it and already want to book rides.  

I have a feeling that once I do "officially" open my doors for business and start utilizing social media in a more meaningful way, things will pick up very quickly.  I am going to have to get used to saying "no" to things that's for sure! 


Playing the waiting game...

Well it has now been 2 weeks since I dropped the bus off to get repaired and I am still waiting to get it back.

The diagnosis is that I need to replace the lift pump and the injection pump.  The problem is that the shop I dropped it off at, Diesel Innovations, is having a hard time finding the parts.  They said that it should take about 3-4 days to complete the repairs once the parts have arrived.  Now they just need to get here.  

Since I would be going to diesel mechanics from time to time, I figured it would be a good idea to have someone on my side with thorough knowledge of diesel engines.  Mainly to help me understand the various issues that would come up and also help me confirm or deny the things the mechanics were telling me was wrong with the bus.  

I turned to one of my good buddies, John Boerstler for some assistance in finding such a resource.  John is the Executive Director of NextOp, an organization that serves our nation’s hardworking veterans by providing job placement assistance, mentorship and support. 

He sent me a couple of resumes and I was able to make contact with a former Army sergeant, Steven Beattie.  We discussed my plan and took a look at the bus while at the shop and visited with the technician working on the bus.  

Steven was able to confirm the diagnosis of what was causing my issue and also validate the repair shops suggested plan of action to correct the issue.  He also researched online and found out there were actually a few recalls on this particular bus which helped us to identify other issues.  

I am looking forward to my continued relationship with Steven.  Just based on the communication we have had and the information he has shared, he will be a valuable asset to the company and will hopefully help me save a lot of money on repairs by not letting mechanics take advantage of my lack of knowledge on engines.  

As soon as this repair is completed, I will be immediately taking it to a one-stop shop for party bus customization's.  They will eventually do all of the following:

  • Reupholster the seating
  • Paint the interior black
  • Install handrails on the roof of the interior
  • Install a new radio with Bluetooth capabilities and change the location of the radio
  • Install cameras for security - Over the hood, facing the driver, facing the interior, and at the rear to be used as a backup camera
  • Install LED lighting beneath the seats and on the ceiling

While these all sound fun and I can't wait till this type of stuff is taking place, I need the engine parts ASAP!!!

Let's get this party started...kind of..

It's...About...To go....Down! 

The Cool Bus has been a dream of mine since 2008.  And now it's finally happening! 

I purchased the bus back in November 2015 and have been making repairs and adjustments to it since then.  As soon as I bought it, I took it to get some electrical work done to Ronny's Auto Repair.  On the way to the repair shop, I could not have been more scared driving the bus.  I had no idea how close I was to other cars when I was switching lanes and how far back they were in my rear view mirror.  But I made it safely...whew!  

Upon completion of that maintenance and repairs, I took it to Heitman Truck Repair to get the suspension and shocks repaired.  Still a little scared while driving, there was a little more comfort as I was behind the wheel.  

Heitman called a few days later to tell me the work was completed and it was time to take this bad boy out on its own.  I went and picked it up and drove it from the east side of town all the way up to Jersey Village...in rush hour traffic, which took about 2 hours.  While I was going at a glacial pace for the majority of the time, there were moments when I was able to cruise around the 50 mph range for a few minutes and I noticeable felt much more at ease while driving.  

Over the past few weeks, I have been taking the bus to/from various businesses to get quotes on things like a vehicle graphic wrap, new paint job, interior lighting, upholstery, and the most important thing if I want to be operating in Houston any time between March and October...Air conditioning.  

I am hoping that things will be wrapped up by the end of March/early April.