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Terry & Dave Taylor

On the Road Again

Red Bluff, California:  First, let me mention, the past three Aprils have been unkind to me. April 2000, I cut my hand requiring a trip to emergency and seven stitches. Last April, I fell off a ladder in the garage, landed with my head on the cement, requiring a trip to emergency, a CT scan and left me unable to remember nouns ("Honey, would you please hand me that thing you drink water from?") for several months. Then, three weeks ago - total abdominal hysterectomy.

So, with the above disclaimer, I must say this has been a totally krappy day, with a Capital F.  It started out so well - we left home about 8:30a, so happy to be on the road again after a 4+ month hiatus due to my poor health and surgery. The weather was beautiful - warm and sunny. We are listening to a crazy, fun book on CD, "Isles of Dogs" by Patricia Cornwall. We stopped in Medford at Harry & David. We just love this shop and loaded up on gifts, fruit and goodies. We had a light lunch at a deli nearby. We headed south again after our break, everything seeming wonderful.

We should have known better. I thought Goldie would be so happy, out on the open road again after such a long break, but she was NOT! Maybe Goldie was not happy being in California again? About 25 miles over the border, the "Check Engine" light lit-up the dash. Seconds later the "Stop Engine" light glowed. This is not good news. With these complicated, computerized, huge diesel engines, the "Stop Engine" light means: Stop your engine right now, or in 30 seconds we are going to do it for you. We pulled over onto the shoulder of I-5. I stood up and a shock of pain ran through my gut - probably the result of me doing too much yesterday.

Goldie and I were both pitching fits.

Immediately behind us came a C.H.I.P.s car. Of course, a deadly-handsome officer stepped out of the car (gotta love a man in uniform) and offered his help. Noticing his total lack of a tool belt, we knew this would be a case for the cell phone. He did give us the name of a mobile service in Weed. We waited there for about 10 minutes, checked all the fluid levels and restarted the engine. The telling lights came on instantly. We phoned Cummins (our engine manufacturer) and waited on hold... and waited... and waited... and waited. After about 30 minutes, I hooked Dave up to the headset and he restarted the engine. The lights did not illuminate. We pulled on the freeway, still on hold with Cummins. Finally after about 5 miles, he was connected to a consultant and they discussed our problem and while they were speaking, the lights came on again and we pulled over again! (Are you enjoying this yet?)  We knew there was a rest area about 5 miles up the freeway, so we literally inched our way down I-5... sometimes going 40 miles per hour, sometimes pulling over and waiting, sometimes driving in the break-down lane. We had another C.H.I.P. officer stop and offer his help. Finally, the rest stop was visible in the distance and even though the "Stop Engine" light was burning red, we continued at a snails-pace and it never did shut down, but did reduce our power. (Ah! Our first clue!)

We pulled into a big RV/truck parking space at the rest stop. I was not sure we wouldn't be living there for the rest of our lives. We phoned our fancy roadside service and they told us they would arrange for us to be towed to REDDING - 80 miles! I had a sneaking suspicion that it was another of those "computer" problems and not actual engine trouble, since the engine did not shut down on its own. We phoned the mobile service at 6p and the man answering the phone said he would be "right there". I could not believe our luck, but "right there" meant about one hour, we figured. I broke out one of those new "instant hot" pads and put it over my newly hysterectomized abdomen. (ThermaCare - they look like a mini-pad, complete with adhesive strip, but they are a 6-inch oval and as soon as the pad is exposed to oxygen, they get hot and STAY hot for 8 hours - absolutely WONDERFUL!)

As it turned out, our mobile mechanic was very close by and he showed up in 10 minutes! This was completely surprising to us, as we were seriously in the middle of nowhere - look in your atlas for the location of the rest area just north of Weed, California on I-5 and you will understand. Mark, a handsome young guy, whipped-out a laptop computer (Dell Inspiron 5000, to be exact) and plugged it into a socket under our bed and in 5 minutes had it all figured out! (I need that program!) It was just the oil pressure gauge, as first suspected. The gauge could be unplugged (violating our warranty if we were wrong), and we could continue on to the Cummins dealer in Redding, without the warning lights blaring and without having our power reduced. $136 - and he would follow us through Weed.

So, off we headed to Redding, enjoying a beautiful drive... Ha Ha. I was asleep in the recliner with the heating pad stuck to my tummy. Through squinting eyes, I can report the Lake Shasta water line is full to the max! We arrived at Cummins after dark. Dave went into the shop and I went to the fridge and poured myself a cold beer. (Medicinal use only.) I finished the beer and had actually fallen asleep on the sofa when Dave returned about 45 minutes later. Anarchy was brewing in the Cummins office. The manager told us we needed not only a new sensor, but also all sorts of wiring. (All still covered by warranty, by the way.) The parts manager, whom we had been warned about by our drive-in mechanic, looked-up our engine and part, and determined that we only needed the replacement part and - VOILA - he had it in stock. The manager told us he would look into it AFTER HIS LUNCH... so Dave came back to the camper and poured a beer for himself. It was 9 o'clock.

The manager must have come from a huge family, because he finished his "lunch" in about 7 minutes. He changed the part in about 2 minutes. We filled-out the paperwork (warranty) and he told us to drive down the freeway for about 10 miles and if everything was working well, he had fixed the problem and then we could return and he would check it with the computer-plug-thing.

We left the Cummins garage, heading south. It was dark and we rarely drive Goldie after dark (football tailgates being the exception). Redding after dark is most interesting. It was as if we were transported back to the 50's - the neon signs were impressive! It took us a few miles to FIND the Interstate entrance and then we drove the required 10 miles down the freeway, called Cummins and said all was working and we would not be returning to have him check it out on the computer. We drove to the nearest RV park - in Red Bluff - and had to just pull into any open space, as the office was closed since it was well after 10 p.m. Luckily, we have stayed here several times before and knew where the long, pull-through-no-need-to-unhook-the-BC2 spaces were. We have only plugged into electricity and are calling it a night.

Well, okay, not quite. Here I am typing away... and I have a pie in the oven. Why do I have a pie in the oven? Because I told my Mother-in-Law that I was bring a pie and I went to a lot of trouble yesterday (the day I over-did-it) by making a lovely apple pie filling and crust and if I didn't bake it today, it would go all smushy and all my efforts would go to waste. So here we sit, trying to relax, trying to forget this awful day! We never did have dinner.

Goldie is, however, happy once again. My pain is fading. The pie smells divine, is out of the oven and is a thing of beauty.

Tomorrow is another day. 

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