In the Studio with Elephant Revival – Woodinville, WA


Edna at Bear Creek Studio

Edna at Bear Creek Studio

Bear Creek Studio
is a paradise for musicians. This live-in recording studio was built out of an old barn buried in the forest northeast of Seattle on a small creek. Edna and I were lucky enough to spend two weeks there.

In building a relationship with Elephant Revival over the past 6 years, we have come to a place of knowing that when we come together we live symbiotically in many ways. I have worked for them doing graphic design/layout, being their bus driver, and shooting video. They have embraced my friendship and given me community, adventure, and work. But one great underlying beneficial relationship has been with tea.


Bridget and Bonnie probably love tea as much as they love each other.

One might think it silly that tea is an underpinning to a group, but it just may be with these folks. When Sage’s throat has been in rough shape, he’s needed it to sing. When Dango or Dan have needed a pick-me-up, they’ve needed it to get through a long day. When Bridget or Bonnie have, well, done just about anything, they needed it to live…

My work space (note tea)

My work space (note tea)

Even though my trip to Woodinville had a main purpose of shooting a video for these guys, my unspoken and often times favorite duty was to make sure the pump-top thermos was full of hot water and the tea stash was full of the most delicious, healthy, and sometime caffeinated teas.

I planned on staying a week, which turned into a week and a half to finish editing the video… BUT, that turned into two weeks because Edna wouldn’t start! Oh no!

(scroll to bottom for more non-mechanical talk)
The last time I had started the bus was four days before I tried to leave, but now the starting batteries was drained completely (and I mean COMPLETELY: 3.9v). Oh man! This had happened to my solar batteries just a few weeks before due to a cheapo battery charger that overcharged and killed the batts… Man!

After jumping and starting the bus and charing the batteries a bit, I shut her down to figure out the problem. Disconnecting the batts, I ran my multimeter (set on Amps) from the positive battery terminal to the positive wire lead. This gave me a reading of 1.5 amps, which meant that somewhere in my system there was a power drain of 1.5 amps. Something was drawing power when the bus was off – no good! Tracing the power draw down the line, I found that when I disconnected the main power lead off the positive side of the starter relay (where most of the electronics for the bus run off of) that I heard a clicking from under the bus. Tapping the lead wire to the relay post made this clicking sound.

With Dan’s help tapping the wire, I shimmied under the bus and found the sound coming from the transmission (model: E4OD). I disconnected the main wiring, but the sound didn’t stop. On the other side of the transmission was another plug of wires. Disconnecting these stopped the clicking. There was some moisture in this plug, which was disconcerting and may be a contributor to my issues.  With the plug disconnected, I retested my current draw. Yes, this was my issue (although I still have a small power draw from somewhere else in the bus – still figuring this one out).

After posting on an online forum (see it here), I was pointed to the EEC (Electronic Engine Control) relay, which people thought might be sticking in the ON position (it should be off when the bus is off). I took it out and tested the continuity between the IN and OUT poles and sure enough, there was super low resistance (continuity). $20 and a new relay later My power draw was gone – yay!

Now, however, my glow plugs had mysteriously stopped working. Shoot, and now the bus wont even crank (no power) from the key – only from jumping the starter solenoid or relay. And jeez, no headlights, blower, cigarette lighter,  brake controller… What the??? Okay, had I blown a fusible link while jumpstarting or pulling wires? I couldn’t recall crossing jumper cables or grounding any wires out. What was going on?

After retracing some steps, I found that I had missed a crucial wire that connected to the starter relay. It ran to most of my bus electronics (that was dumb). I hooked it back up, and now everything worked except still nothing happened when trying to start the bus.

No signal was coming from the ignition to the starter relay. This could mean that my ignition switch was bad, a fuse was blown (nope, check that), a fusible link had burned, or the Nuetral Safety Switch (NSS) was malfunctioning. The NSS AKA Manual Lever Position Sensor (MLPS) doesn’t allow the signal to go from the ignition to the starter relay unless the bus is in Park or Neutral. Realizing that the MLPS was the first set of wires I had pulled from the transmission, I went back under the bus and pulled the plug. It looked clean and I pushed it back on – this time much more firmly and snugly.

I let the glow plugs cycle and went to fire her up. Vrrrr vrrrr VROOOOOOM. Yes! She started without a problem. Ah, my heart was warm! It had taken me several days of research, tinkering, and thinking, and now I was able to leave…

I was thankful in the end that my breakdown was at Bear Creek Studio of all places – I had  friends, a shower, food, cars to borrow, and lots and lots of love. I hope that the Elephants and I can continue to meet up and down the road, to bring each other love and community and inspiration and help. Thanks, again, and as always, my friends.

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