Weekly Wandering – Woes of Westward Travel

Life on the road is just like life at home – stuff breaks, plans get derailed, and things change unexpectedly. However, life on the road adds a few unique challenges to these situations, sometimes ones that are downright dumb.
After finding out my assignment in Il was delayed, I opted out and headed West to be with Family for Christmas. I figured it would be an easy 3-5 day trip with a stop or two along the way to visit friends, but boy was I in for a surprise!

My first layover was Albuquerque, where I wanted to spend 2 or 3 days working out some other kinks and visiting, but my first problem was booking a site somewhere. The RV parks that I called were either full, staffed with very rude people, or just didn’t answer; even the RV park I frequented in past travels had given way to newer, ruder people handling the calls, and that was quite the disappointment!
I made it into town late in the evening, and headed towards the first decently rated RV park, only to find myself in a neighborhood of apartments and houses, no RV park in sight! I marked it as such on the map, and moved on to the next one.
I ended up in a park on the West end of Albuquerque, which turned out to be a very nice park indeed!

I stayed and visited for a few days, ran errands, gathered goodies, and made some repairs to the undercovering on my TT. I had previously re-installed it of course, but I had also taped it up, and that tape didn’t hold at all, since the pieces were flapping around. I opted to make the repairs with a board screwed in across the seam and attached to the frame, which turned out nicely.
While in Albuquerque I made sure to give myself plenty of space from other drivers, as my last visit here was punctuated by a crash from an aggressive driver, and that worked out quite well for me as people here drive as if they own the roads. At the end of my visit I tallied up 13 places visited, and only one gave me hassles about the mask thing, but that one involved a very angry lady with an attitude and a gun, both of which got her into quite a bit of trouble when she called the police on me, only for them to arrest her (I later found out, I had been allowed to leave prior to the police arriving). What a mess!

I left Albuquerque, heading west, thinking i’d make it well into Western Arizona, perhaps even to the AZ/CA border, but a crash on I-40 stopped those plans cold, and I instead spent an hour discovering a detour I thought would be viable was just a dead end, so I had to go back to where I started. I then made my way to the Loves truck stop, topped off my tanks, parked my rig (something professional truck drivers would do well to learn to do, instead of blocking the fuel lanes with their selfish behavior), and pondered my options.
I left Loves intent on making it across the freeway to a small dirt pad ahead of the on ramp, thinking i’d just sit and wait until the freeway re-opened, but after an hour I had only made it to the overpass, where I ended up settling down in the closed-off turn lane with a hot truck. Another hour passed there with me poking and prodding in the engine bay, punctuated by a snack break (thankful to have an RV!) and then a little time watching youtube until the freeway re-opened, and I got on it, about midday. I hoped to make it past Flagstaff, but the traffic build up and the terrible attitudes kept me moving slowly, so I set my sights on Flagstaff, and kept on driving.

Next stop: Black Barts RV park and Steakhouse. Honestly, as soon as I saw ‘steakhouse’ in the description, I hit the ‘start’ button and drove blindly there. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I was tired, hungry, and willing to give it a try. I am very happy with that decision! Joanna got me checked in quickly, and was even nice enough to let me borrow a 50 to 30 amp adapter since their sites were all 50 amp connections.
Water pressure was a wonderful 85 PSI, and while the site was more than 2″ off level side to side, the gravel was loose, the dirt was soft, and my shovel made quick work of digging out levelling holes for my tires.
I had a WONDERFUL steak caeser salad there, enjoyed the show tunes and musical review, and even managed to squeeze in a couple more errands! I chanced upon an RV shower head, the Oxygenics showerhead, in the clearance aisle, so for $10, I decided i’d give it a try.
If you’ve been thinking about one, and haven’t tried it yet, it does work quite well, my only remark is that it feels like i’m being pelted with water, instead of showered, but that is the point of this device.

I woke up early, refreshed, and excited, ready to hit the road and make it to my destination, and even more so since I discovered that I was a day early! For some reason I had it in my head that I was waking up to Friday, but I was greeted by my watch face calmly stating ‘THU’, which, after I verified on my phone, was rather exciting indeed!
I was on the road by 0800, certain i’d be enjoying a cold beverage and a warm fire with family that evening, and that feeling carried me all the way to…

9 miles from Barstow, my truck, which had been running smoothly and powerfully, up and down the hills and mountains, across the straightaways without any issues, quickly came to a halt as the engine sputtered, stuttered, coughed, hiccupped, then died. I managed to get truck and trailer completely into the emergency lane, but only had a foot or so between the TT and the little white line. Ok, so, no big deal, right? We’re broken down, but safely out of traffic, so now it’s time to figure out the next step. As if on cue, in came the rain, a light drizzle at first, then just a tease. The cloud cover, ominous as it were, had gone from ‘some’ at the border, to, ‘everything shall be mine and it shall all be in darkness’ by the time I had to pull over.
I spent an hour or so troubleshooting the issue, narrowed it down to a fuel delivery problem, and decided to call for a tow since traffic was rather… close.
Side note: If you see someone broken down on the side of the road, SLOW DOWN AND MOVE OVER. There were a few times people went past me with only inches to spare at 70+ MPH, and more than once I considered tossing the tool I was holding up and out a bit… assholes.
So, I get on the phone with my insurance company to setup a tow, only to find out that they don’t *OFFER* roadside coverage. This was quite a shock to me since i’d spent several hours across many conversations with my insurance agent to ensure I had all the best coverages for me needs, including roadside coverage. Turns out, she lied, which is part of the reason why I fired her. Regardless, there I sat, needing some help to get off the freeway, and stuck, so I called 911, asked for Highway Patrol dispatch, and then requested the next available tow in rotation (I’ll detail what that means in another post), and then I waited.

It took about two hours for the tow to show up, but once he did, we got right to work. Once we got truck and trailer hooked up to tow, I called around to find an RV park I could settle into the for the night, and found that most were full, but the KOA up in Yermo had room for me. The trouble was, I couldn’t make a reservation on the phone and deal with the tow driver and navigate all at once, so I asked the nice lady to please just give me a spot number to put the trailer in so the tow driver could carry on, and then I would come into the office and fill out the reams of paperwork (it seems like much more of a hassle to reserve a spot these days, especially over the phone; maybe it’s just me) and so on. She obliged, the tow driver got me in and levelled side to side, and after paying both parties (one a LOT more than the other!) I was able to finish setting up my rig and start to relax.

I had to let my batteries charge overnight since they were severely discharged from the fuel issue and repeated starting attempts, but once they were full I was able to quickly diagnose that my fuel pump had gone bad, and then it was off to the internet to find a replacement. What a mess that was, too, because all the stores, 15 miles away in Barstow (I ended up in Yermo) had fuel pumps for my truck, but for the GASOLINE engine, not the DIESEL, so I had to call every one of them and double check the part numbers. I finally found a shop that had one, but they were closing shortly at noon, so I started looking for a ride. Uber? Nope, none. Lyft? One driver on the map, and I couldn’t confirm a ride. Taxi? Nope, none around there. I shared my plight with the office lady, who shared it with the other attendant, the maintenance man, and even her friends, all while I was tracking down leads as fast as I could. My effort put me on the phone with people in Victorville, Apple Valley, Riverside, and even Texas before I finally got a call from a nice lady, Lisa, who said she could be there in 15 minutes, and let me tell you what, I was VERY excited!

Lisa made it out to the park, picked me up, and rushed me off to the auto parts store, where the ladies were kindly holding the store open, waiting on me. I got in, got my hands on the pump, and after some discussion and pondering, decided it should work fine, so I bought it, and headed back outside, where Lisa took me back to the park and I was able to get the new pump adjusted and installed in much less time than I had been sitting roadside the day before!
I was very hesitant to turn the key, but after two cycles to prime the fuel system, I turned it to start and the truck fired right up, ready to go! A quick test drive suggested to me that all issues were resolved, so I cleaned up all my messes, said thanks again to the fine folks at the KOA who had helped me, and made my way West once again.

I made it all the way to Mojave before I was on the side of the road again… this time with the undercovering of my TT hanging out and dragging on the road. The parts I had repaired with boards had held up just fine, but the rest of it had apparently ‘let go in a jealous rage’, and I quickly determined that salvage was not an option, so I just got work removing the damaged pieces and getting back to travel ready. Once again, on the side of the road, under my trailer, watching cars and trucks pass too fast, too close, and too stupid, I think to myself, ‘Assholes’.

A few hours later I found myself camped, hooked up in an RV park at my destination, showered, dressed, and sitting down to dinner with family and friends for Christmas Eve. As the shock of my trip wore off and the excitement of seeing family took over, I decided that all of that was worth getting to the table, and the food was just an added bonus.

Here’s hoping you, too had a very Merry Christmas!


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