Monday, January 23, 2017

On the road again ..... for better or worse

Two posts ago I whined about being stuck in particularly bad weather, when one would think we COULD have just rolled on down to a more tropical climate.  Moveable house and all.  Over two months in our parking lot, waiting out three ... THREE(!) ice storms, and having to chisel the ice off our slides (the walls that move outward to give us space inside) so that we could close them.   (You can't drive anywhere with your slides out and sometimes ya gotta -- 1. go to the dump station, 2. fill up on propane, and 3. get to the repair shop to fix some leaks we discovered in the very wet weather. )  Once we successfully freed up the slides to close them, we kept them closed for fear of more ice ..... reducing our living space to a hallway.

After said repairs, an oil change, and outfitting our Jeep with special brakes to be legal in California, we waited for a break in the weather.  In our corner of the Pacific NW, you cannot go far without encountering mountains that are equipped with passes, that tend to fill with snow.  Now our Jeep can practically climb trees in icy weather, but the motorhome ... no.

Finally, after wrapping up some last minute business, we had what we thought was a brief window and made a break for it.   We got as far as Grants Pass where we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot to assess the notorious Siskiyou pass ahead.   Our little weather window had slammed shut, so we left I-5 and headed southwest towards Crescent City, keeping to lower, non-snowy elevations.

T'was a narrow, winding road, but Husband handled it well and we finally put the snow behind us.  We were reminded, later that day, why we don't like congested city traffic when driving a 40 foot beast and towing a Jeep, as we crawled through the Oakland/San Francisco evening traffic on a six-lane freeway.  Again, Husband did well and we made it to Los Banos and another Walmart.

We had set our sights on Palm Springs where it's supposed to be warm.  And dry.  In fact .... isn't most of California supposed to be dry?  I mean, aren't they having a drought or something?  If so, they are taking a good, solid vacation from their drought with plenty of rain and not enough drains and ditches to keep it off the road.

So here's where the fun really began .....

Day three, just after dark, after covering a significant amount of distance out in the lone and dreary boondocks of southern California to avoid the San Bernadino and LA traffic, we had barely rolled into the town of Yucca Valley when suddenly a warning light popped on and the motor died ...... in about the same about of time as it took you to read this sentence.  We couldn't even get off the road.  And we were blocking traffic, which, thankfully, was not heavy and there was an open lane to get around us.  A friendly police officer named Wayne, stopped by, hung around for a while, and gave us some flares.  We called our roadside assistance people (Coachnet) who began the search for a tow truck.  And we waited ..... still blocking traffic.   When we learned there would be no tow truck until morning, we were left to fend for ourselves.  Coachnet did their best, but there simply was nothing available within 200 miles.

I took off in the Jeep to buy more flares.

While I was gone, Husband came up with a gutsy plan to roll the motorhome backwards about 300 feet, into an empty lot off the road.  (We were on a slight incline.)  He would be at the wheel steering, and my job was to be out on the road directing him.  Needless to say, I was a bit freaked out.  Remember, it was dark, and he wasn't sure what to expect with air brakes and no power steering.

It worked.  We got off the road.  We then called the police to let Wayne know, so that no one would show up at two a.m. to complain about us being on private property.  Apparently by then, the entire local police force knew about us and were all very supportive.  So there we spent our third night.

The road where we were stuck:  

 In the empty lot.  

The next morning we learned an available tow truck had been located and (eventually) we would be towed some 50 miles to a truck mechanic named Smitty in a town called Indio.  His was probably the only place they could find that was open on a Saturday.  (Why do these things always happen on weekends??)

While we waited (the tow truck finally arrived around three in the afternoon), Husband bought a 5 gallon container to buy some fuel so that we could run our generator ..... our fuel level read 1/4 full .... an important point in this story.  Fortunately we were next to a Circle K station, and he went back and forth about six times with the container.  This was over 25 gallons WHICH is about a quarter of what the tank holds.  Again, another important point.  Husband noticed the gauge level hardly went up.

T'was here where we noticed a small cluster of "Not-my-president" protesters (part of the anti-Trump women's march) had gathered a couple of blocks away.  With nothing else to do, I walked over.   There I noticed across the street from the sign-toting group, a guy holding a Trump/Pence sign.  So I went and stood in solidarity with my new friend Carl, waving at the Trump supporters who drove by.

When the tow truck arrived, I took the Jeep and headed to Smitty's.  Husband rode the motorcycle, followed by our towed beast.  I arrived about 45 minutes ahead of them, located Smitty's place which was guarded by fences, barbed wire, and a pit bull, in a rather sketchy neighborhood.  And there we spent the next night, parked on the side of the street, next to Smitty's and my second new friend, Winchester, the very sweet pit bull.

Parked next to Smitty's.  

Winchester.  Such a good boy.

As it turned out ..... we had run out of fuel.  Now before you laugh, remember the gauge did say a quarter full.  Somehow, as we came down the hill into Yucca Valley it had probably sloshed the fuel around, letting a little air into the system which, with a diesel engine, must then be primed or something (I'm really out of my league here) to start again.  You can't just pop in some gas and go, like with regular motors.

So all in all, after a free 50-mile tow (yay for insurance!) and $100 to Smitty, and some cheese treats for Winchester, we finally made it to a lovely RV park in Desert Hot Springs near Palm Springs.   After nearly three weeks of living in a hallway with our slides in, we could set up with all the amenities.  Power.  Cable.  Space.  Etc. Etc.  Once again life is good and once again I remember why on earth I ever wanted a motorhome.

Lessons learned:

Never again let the gauge read less than 1/3 full.

California isn't all palm trees, beaches, and sunshine.  It can be brown, barren, and wet.

Pit bulls aren't all bad.