Monday, June 09, 2008

Home Again, Jiggety-Jog...

When we last posted, (not counting the fabulous Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup win), we were leaving Cabela's in Wheeling. We stopped that night at a campground just off I-68 in Maryland. That allowed us to fill in another state on the Express-side map, (conveniently ignoring the fact that we crossed the PA border about a mile and a half... their mailing address is Flintstone, Maryland!).

Prompting our stop was I-68 itself. Mountains. If this trip taught us anything, it's that the Express needs a new radiator. We boiled the coolant once between Wheeling and the campground (which was just past Cumberland). We figured to let it rest overnight for the remaining climbs before the descent into Virginia.
We were only about 125 miles from the site of the ASFA II now, and we got an early start to take advantage of the cool morning. We were halfway up our second climb of the morning, the transmission had dropped to 2nd, and our speed to 30mph when there was a loud "BANG!!", followed by a rhythmic "bang-bang-bang-bang...." etc. Margaret, believing I am all-knowing said "What was that?". Proving I knew a little something, I replied, "Uh, nothing good". We kept climbing, the temp didn't rise, and other than the noise we kept rolling until we could get to an exit.

Being prescient, we had decided to finally renew our RV road service plan about 5 days earlier, (it had expired last November). Fortunately, there was cellular service at this particular remote exit, so I called them up and told them what had transpired: After getting out I went around to the driver's side where the noise was the loudest, got down, and was hit square in the face with pulsing hot air mixed with oil. It was coming from the back cylinder, where the spark plug used to reside. Half of it was hanging uselessly from the wire, while the rest was still in the cylinder head. It just decided to blow up. Inspecting the remaining pieces, it appeared it had worked itself loose over the months since we'd had the plugs replaced last August.
Had we been in a normal part of the country, where roads are flat, we could have driven it, but the road service determined this..

...was the wisest option. We'll try to post some video in the future to show why I couldn't disagree. And they were paying anyway.

But the fun was only beginning! The tow truck company was located up in Pennsylvania, about 45 miles away. The road service folks, in their infinite wisdom, tucked away from the realities of the world somewhere out in Phoenix,
decided "Bill's Auto & Truck" in Hedgesville, West Virginia was the place to go. "They're only 17 miles from where you are now", the road service tech told me. Not even as the crow flies was it that close! 60-some miles later, we were parked on a rural two-lane, at the foot of the steepest driveway I've ever seen. It was 20 degrees if it was 1. I drove the car up to the garage, where a hand-written sign on the window proclaimed, "Closed today for doctor visit. Sorry for the inconvenience".

This was more than a little confusing, as the road service people had talked to "Bill", and so had I. He was expecting us. I wanted to call him and find out WTF? what was going on. But there was no cell service. Big surprise.. look up Hedgesville, WV on a map sometime... the garage is up in the hills, 5 miles west of the town. I returned to the wrecker driver who stated the obvious: he couldn't pull the RV up that driveway.. and he couldn't turn around with the Express attached.

I kept trying my phone, and finally found that if I stood up on a stone block next to the driveway, and held my head perfectly still, facing in a northwesterly direction, I could manage 2 bars! First I called the road service folks and told them, as civilly as I could manage, that this was bullshit. If the truck had towed us up to PA to his garage, we'd be back on the road already. Next I actually got hold of "Bill", who told us about an alternative driveway, (not unlike an alternate universe) right next to the steep one. It's actually a "road" which showed up on my map program. We explored it, and I wasn't crazy about its possibilities either.

At this point, the tow driver said he had to go. So there the Express was left, on the side of the road, in the hopes that Mr. Bill would arrive soon.

Margaret drove off towards Hedgesville to do business at the post office, get gas in the car, which was nearly empty, and to try and get a better signal with which to speak to Bill, the mystery mechanic.

About a half hour after the tow truck left, Bill arrived in his vintage Ford Escort.. (popular item.. his neighbor was driving one as well!). Here is where things speed up; finally! Bill decided he could do the work right on the roadside as long as I turned the rig around so his legs wouldn't hang out on the road. He didn't have the right plug, or wire, and couldn't find one locally, but he had acceptable substitutes, which he magically modified. We fired that sucker up, as Charlie Daniels would say, and I swear it sounded better than it did before the explosion. The bill was $40. The tow was covered. We were on the road by 3:30, and got to Morven Park in Leesburg, VA way before dark!

It's now more than ten days later, we're back at the Holiday RV Park in Michigan, with the II and the Saluki National Specialty under our belts, and nowhere to go for over three weeks, and frankly, we can use the rest.

We'll post some pictures from the II and such in subsequent posts.. Meanwhile, I'll be searching the internet for a suitable radiator... it's got to be installed before we make the brutal drive to Lompoc, CA in July!


  1. Hey Dan, is your friend. Your P30 chassis is pretty common, I bet they can hook you up pretty reasonable. Too bad you aren't close, I could change it out for you. Anyways, they are the cheapest and best game in town, super fast shipping, and a good product. Here's hoping you have no more problems on the road. See you down here this fall.

  2. Dan: when you described the situation and the noise, I said to myself... blown spark plug... unfortunately I did it myself on my Tacoma a year ago. Now I managed to drive mine to my dealer (which was testament to my truck), where it became a giant cluster.... you know the rest... they ultimately took care of everything to my satisfaction, but I tell the story as a reminder that sometimes 'Bill and his alpine driveway' turn out to be our best solutions.

    glad the Express is up and running again.



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