An epic fail, advice from a stoner, and how we ended up with a new truck

A funny thing happened in March, on our way from San Antonio, TX, to Elkhart, IN, for a service appointment to take care of some welding issues on The Toad: the BFT is the one that failed us.

Irony: the dependably cooperative BFT dies on the way to having the notoriously lemony RV repaired.
WHO THOUGHT IT WOULD BE THE TRUCK???

Not what we were expecting.

Our incredibly reliable, tough-as-nails, much adored 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500 dually sputtered and quickly died while we were driving on I-35 just south of Dallas — a mere 225 miles into our 1300-mile trip.

We are very thankful that despite the scariness of the incident, the travel gods were indeed watching over us.

We were on flat ground instead of a hill.

There were no vehicles riding too closely behind us.

We were not in a construction zone.

We had a wide shoulder to pull onto.

And I was smart enough to start veering toward that shoulder at the same time I was saying, “That didn’t sound right.”

Why did that turn out to be a smart move? Because we had mere seconds before the truck shut down. All power: gone. On an interstate.

The tow truck driver took Tim and the Silverado to a service shop, leaving me on the roadside with the RV until they returned.
Why?
Because Tim can talk truck to the garage gurus, and I shouldn’t ever do that.
We both know I’d say, “You know what? Just burn it. We’ll walk.”

From my personal Facebook account that day: So I sat all alone in the grass next to I-35 for more than 2 hours, waiting for the tow truck to come back for the RV, and this is the only person who stopped to make sure I was OK: stoner on a fucking bicycle.
Said his name is Mondo.
He was riding to Austin for his birthday.
I don’t know where or when he started (and I rather suspect he didn’t either), but he had about 145 miles to go.
Mondo offered me use of his cell phone to make an emergency call, in the event I didn’t have one.
Clearly he’d never met me.
And then, in the way only the perpetually stoned can properly pull off, he told me I should just relax, and not stress out about it.
He then literally rode off into the sunset.

To make a very long story a lot shorter, the problem turned out to be what is rather evocatively known as “grenading” of the fuel pump. Upon its death, it sent shards of metal through the entire fuel system, leaving us dead in the proverbial water.

As Tim described it “The critical part seemed to be the Bosch-built CP4.2 HPFP, the exact same pump used in the Ford F-series Light Duty diesel trucks. If you google ‘F350 CP4 failure,’ you’ll find plenty of discussion on the issue. Same if you google ‘Duramax LML CP4 failure.’”

Tim, who is not an industry expert by any means, but merely a consumer who’s always trying hard to get smarter, further surmised, “A major culprit appears to be the quality of diesel fuel in the U.S. (i.e., the mandated ultra-low sulfur blend plus other things), combined with what might be less than acceptable engineering by Ford and GM. Reportedly, Bosch has been saying for some time that the lubricity of the fuel needs to be higher for these pumps to last, and U.S. diesel fuel doesn’t meet these standards.”

Within ten minutes of meeting our new BFT, Tim was underneath it, checking all the things.

What that meant for us was a $10,000 fuel system replacement (GM paid for part of it) that left us stranded for two weeks outside a really small Texas town. Middle of Nowhere was still a good 10 miles away. We were there so long we painted our RV’s interior!

And then, after the truck repair was complete, and we were finally sitting in Elkhart waiting for the work to be finished on The Toad, we realized that we needed to make a big decision: test our luck by keeping the BFT and its fresh new fuel system with the exact same type of pump that had gone spectacularly belly up, or upgrade to a truck that wouldn’t have that issue.

To make the second part of the story shorter as well, we knew we couldn’t live with the uncertainty of driving a truck that might croak again, any more than we could change the U.S. diesel fuel composition standards that were probably part of the cause.

The Silverado was our only vehicle, and it pulls the Bighorn, which is our only home. We couldn’t stomach the idea of going through a second catastrophic failure, or having it happen under far more hazardous circumstances than the first one.

We opted to upgrade.

Y’all say hello to our 2017 Dodge RAM 3500 dually, which we picked up at the end of May, just shy of 3 months after the Great Fuel Pump Grenading Incident of 2017.

For those who are wondering why we didn’t go with the 2017 Chevy Silverado, which does not have that same iffy fuel pump as the 2011-2016 diesel models, there were three factors that put the RAM on top.

  1. Shorter turning radius for easier maneuvering
  2. Larger payload and axle weight ratings for higher towing capacity
  3. More competitive pricing for better value

We look forward to thousands and thousands of miles together.

My birth announcement.
I figured our sons should know.

12 miles on the odometer, and it definitely does not make my butt look big.
What a great purchase!
Also, we had a terrific experience working with Jeff Taylor, Commercial/Fleet Manager, at Glenn’s Freedom Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Lexington, KY. Holler if you’d like a personal referral!


Author’s note: A version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.

Backpackers stink! And so does Yosemite in July. OMG, just… don’t do it.

Emily "You Can Embroider That Shit on a Toss Pillow" Rohrer

~ Emily “You Can Embroider That Shit on a Toss Pillow” Rohrer

Close your eyes and place yourself in your favorite outdoor setting, be it a state or local park, hiking trail, beach or lakefront cabin, wooded grove, waterfall, even your own back yard. Then…

Open your eyes and contend with a DisneyWorld-esque crowd of tourists who are trying to enjoy the exact same spot with you, stopping to consult their maps right in your path, posing for selfies in front of everything, dealing with children who have obviously just had it, and/or driving with one arm out the window to shoot video that nobody will ever want to look at — because every single one of them spent significant time, effort, and money to get there, and they are going to have the Experience of a Lifetime, dammit, same as you.

That’s what Yosemite is like in July.
Squirrel! This is one of the thinner ones you are likely to encounter if you walk more than a mile on a trail. The ones closer to more popular areas are both tame and fat. Quelle surprise.

Squirrel!
This is one of the thinner ones you are likely to encounter if you walk more than a mile on a trail, at which point the human traffic decreases considerably.
The squirrels closer to more popular areas are both tame and fat.
Quelle surprise.

By 2:00 in the afternoon, it was not hungry bears that park visitors had to worry about. It was me. To quote late comedian John Pinette, “I’d lost my cherub-like demeanor.”
Although I managed to keep most of my words in my head, under my breath, or inside the truck while following others, I did uh, quite a lot of swearing and name-calling. On the plus side, my expletive-filled rants rather seem to have impressed my 19-year-old!
These are bear lockers. Your supposed to put your food items in there, rather than leaving them in your car for bears to tear apart. By mid-afternoon, I say we take the food out of the lockers, and put half the people in.

These are bear lockers.
You’re supposed to put your food items in there, rather than leaving them in your car for bears to tear apart while you’re gone.
By mid-afternoon, I say we take the food out, and put half the tourists in.

We know what summer crowds are, and yes, we know how to avoid them. However, if you’re hiking the John Muir Trail, you have to do it when there’s little or no snow, and if you’re hiking the whole thing, you have to go through Yosemite.
Since Tim (husband) and Dane (our younger son) hiked the northern third of the trail this week, they had to exit there, at the Happy Isles Trailhead, which meant I had to depart our home in Lee Vining by 0530 to get into the park by 0730, in order to get a parking space in the closest lot to their exit point.
Due to jumping a little late into the permitting process, my guys had to start their hike there inside the yellow circle at Red's Meadow last weekend and go north. Next week, I'll drop them off at Red's Meadow again, and they'll complete the southern part of the trail.

Due to jumping a little late into the permitting process, my guys are unable to hike the trail end to end. They had to start their hike inside the yellow circle near Red’s Meadow last weekend and go north.
Next week, I’ll drop them off near Red’s Meadow again, and they’ll complete the southern part of the trail. Total mileage: 211

It was awful — awful for me with the hordes of domestic and foreign tourists in the valley, and also awful for Tim and Dane out in the “wilderness.” Tim said that three years ago when he came through while hiking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, he could go hours and hours without seeing another hiker. This year? Minutes. It has clearly become a thing, and that’s kind of a shame, and it’s difficult to reconcile the happiness of knowing more people are getting out there and enjoying back-country hiking, with the utter dejection of having to share.
Rant over. Sorry. I know I have issues.
But I still got some cool photos, with minimal numbers of people in them. My apologies for not labeling all of them. I have a terrible sense of direction, so even if I were to look at a map to try to figure out what I was looking at, I won’t remember exactly where I was or which direction I was facing, so it’s kind of a lost cause. No pun intended.
Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

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Upper Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

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IMG_7243

Mirror Lake

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Mirror Lake, the other direction

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My Guys (Dane refused to smile. In many ways, he's still the 2-year-old we know and love.) Since it was Tim's 50th birthday, I hiked in to meet them. They'd put in about 62 miles in 6 days, with the stinkydirty clothing to prove it! But because of some crossed signals about our meeting point (they took the high road, I took the low road), I in fact put in a longer hike than they did that day! Boys: 11 miles. Emily: 12 miles.

My Guys
(Dane refused to smile. Boy might look like a man, but in some ways he’s still 2.)
Since it was Tim’s 50th birthday, I hiked in to meet them. They’d put in about 62 miles in 6 days, with the stinkydirty clothing to prove it!
But because I’d been exploring the park for a few hours already, and there were some crossed signals about our meeting point (they took the high road, I took the low road), I in fact put in a longer hike than they did that day! Boys: 11 miles. Emily: 12 miles.

Yosemite, we will visit you again, but we’ll shoot for early May or late September next time, mmmkay?


After a lengthy cool down period (like, almost a year), I revisited this post and wrote a somewhat more helpful — and a lot less snarky — version, for those who might be interested in a summer camping trip to Yosemite. It’s here.

The other half of Castroville — this time via pedal power

As promised yesterday, in this post, we rode our bicycles 5 miles into town to finish exploring today.

(Note: we are not cyclists. We ride our bikes on the right side of the road, we wear helmets, and we use turn signals, but any similarities to serious, or even knowledgeable bikers, end there. I am simply too nervous and uncoordinated to make anything other than a leisure activity out of it. You know what I hear in my head when I ride my bike? The theme music for Mrs. Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”. The whole time. Tim’s a better rider, and he knows how to fix a fair amount of bicycle-related stuff, but really, they’re just alternate forms of transportation for us.)

And now that you know that it takes every bit of focus I have just to stay upright and moving forward on the thing, you’ll understand why I was unable to juggle my phone into my hands and get a photo of Tim riding in front of me on our way home, when a cowboy came out of his driveway a little too quickly, and Tim spooked his horse.

That’s right.

Dude was on horseback, and horsie-poo apparently has bigger issues with bicycles than I do. It was a true “Wow are we ever in the country” moment.

Anyway, the north side of Castroville included antique store finds, more historic homes and wildflowers, a gourmet shop with free samples (!), and lunch at a locally owned restaurant.

Not a piggy bank. A Miss Piggy bank! Unfortunate coin slot placement, but still a steal at $9.95. (Breakable. We left her there.)

Not a piggy bank. A Miss Piggy bank! Unfortunate coin slot placement, but still a steal at $9.95. (Breakable. We left her at the antique store.)

The original 1845 homestead of Castroville's founder, Henri Castro, is now a guest cottage.

The original 1845 homestead of Castroville’s founder, Henri Castro, is now a guest cottage.

This place is abloom!

This place is simply abloom!

We bought these two items, pear & fennel butter and a delicious fresh salsa, after sampling them at Taste Elevated. We also learned that they quadruple in weight on a 5-mile bike ride back home, uphill, in the Texas afternoon sunshine. Next time? Tim wears the backpack.

We bought these two items, pear & fennel butter and a delicious fresh salsa, after sampling them at Taste Elevated, a local success story of the “hometown girl makes it big” sort. (Whole Foods carries her stuff, y’all. Whole Foods.)
Then I learned that full jars quadruple in weight on a 5-mile bike ride back home, uphill, in the Texas afternoon sunshine.
Next time? Either Tim wears the backpack or we stop and eat our stuff at the halfway point, because I’m pretty sure I came across as uncharitable when I shouted, with a mile still left to go, “Oh my god, how many fucking jars of salsa did we buy???”

Lunch at Nemo's Seafood Grill. The fried oyster po'boy was tasty, but became not-such-a-good-choice on that steamy ride home afterwards. Urp.

We ate lunch at Nemo’s Seafood Grill, a little later than planned, because I followed the wrong GPS coordinates, which took us a mile and a half in the opposite direction. I swear I don’t know why Tim continues to let me navigate. I’m 47. I am not going to get any better at it. Anyway, the fried oyster po’boy was tasty, but became not-such-a-good-choice on that steamy uphill ride home afterwards.
Urp.

Tomorrow’s adventure: Golf for Tim, laundry for me. There will be no photo essay.

And the left rear tire falls off. It falls off. It falls. the fuck. off.

Not kidding. (And also not willing to claim that line as my own. It belongs to comedian Ron White, and I thought of it immediately). Here ya go:

The drama started yesterday, about 3 hours into what was supposed to be an 8-hour driving day, taking us south from Portland, over the mountain passes, and into northern California for the night.

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We were here, southbound on I-5, just north of Roseburg.

Tim was driving, and here’s something you need to know: The man thinks out loud when he drives. He says things like, “Huh,” and “Seriously, lady?” and “That’s interesting,” without ever specifying exactly what, in the 180-degree view in front of us, he’s actually talking about. Since we are not often looking at the same things, I’ve given up trying to guess, and mostly I ignore him. But when the guy at the wheel says, “Uh, I think a tire just fell off,” that’s an attention grabber.

Neither one of us felt it. I mean, we’ve got nine others, right? But Tim sensed a disturbance in the force, and noticed two things simultaneously:

  • Hey, there’s a tire rolling down the highway behind us, and
  • Oh, shit. We’re missing one.

Thankfully, we were already in the left lane, and that left rear tire came to rest along the median, rather than careening across traffic and causing further mayhem. We pulled to the shoulder about 1/4 mile beyond it, and while Tim was on the phone with Good Sam Roadside Assistance (a call that took nearly an hour), an Oregon State Trooper pulled up behind us and made sure we were OK. Senior Trooper Gorman also went back to the tire, and rolled it over to the right side of the highway for easier pickup by the emergency assistance dude — who finally arrived at 3:00. We’d pulled over at 11:30.

Yeah.

I was bored. Really bored. So I created this series:IMG_4561 IMG_4562 IMG_4563

And there it lies.

And there it lies.

The emergency dude, Joel, worked for half an hour, in the rain, in the strip of shoulder between our rig and interstate traffic, and then had to leave to find… uhh… let’s just go with lug-related parts. He was gone for two hours. Lola was not the only one who looked like this:

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Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been kids in the back seat.

I scrawled BRING WINE, in the rear truck window, facing traffic. I know what to do in an emergency, people.

I scrawled BRING WINE in the foggy truck window, facing traffic.
I know what to do in an emergency, people.

While we awaited Joel’s return, not one, but two Kind Old Men pulled over to offer assistance, and sympathy too, I’d guess. One was pulling an RV, so he definitely felt our pain.

Old Man 1, in yellow jacket

Old Man 1, in yellow jacket

Old Man 2, on left. Both gentlemen gave Tim that hearty handshake-back slap thing that men do, before heading off.

Old Man 2, on left.
Both gentlemen gave Tim that hearty handshake-back slap thing that men do, before heading off into the night.

Joel returned at 5:30, by which time it was dark, and put in two more hours of work to affix the spare, and charge our truck battery, which had died at oh, maybe the 4-hour mark. Good times, y’all. Good. Fucking. Times. For which we are now out half a house payment, but hey, I got a blog post out of our seven-hour sit-down on the shoulder of I-5 in Oregon.

So now we’re parked at a fairgrounds complex, and the good news is that Tim was able to find a compatible wheel at a nearby dealer this morning, so we won’t have to cool our jets here through the weekend, as we’d feared. Yes, we could have continued driving on the spare, but then we wouldn’t have had a spare, and we’ve got mountains and desert to cross before we get back to San Antonio. Safety first.

Guess we’ll have to save exploring the Umpqua Valley — which is known for wine and ice cream, and is hella fun to say out loud — for another visit.

Also, as my clever and hilarious friend, Mark, pointed out, Umpqua answers the question, “What sound does Emily and Tim’s RV make with a missing wheel?”

Perfect.

Trying to embrace the beauty of a PNW winter, but mostly just drinking more

Scenes from our soggy week, with unmitigated gratitude for in-laws who share wine.

Our campsite overlooks Padilla Bay, with a view of several of the San Juan islands. Every 25 hours, it turns into something like 8,000 acres of mud flats. I literally can't even.

Our campsite overlooks Padilla Bay, with a view of several of the San Juan islands. Every 25 hours, the tide goes out, and the bay turns into something like 8,000 acres of mud flats. Mud. Flats
I literally can’t even. Also, nobody would buy shoes called mud flats.

Regardless, I stepped into my big girl boots (Not my cowgirl boots. OMG, not for this), and took a walk down to the shore when the tide was in. This is a typical Washington beaches in winter. Want to know what it looks like in summer? Keep staring.

Regardless, I stepped into my big girl boots (Not my cowgirl boots. OMG, no. Not for this. For this I’ve got an old pair of snow boots.), and took a walk down to the shore when the tide was in.
This is a typical Washington beach in winter. Want to know what it looks like in summer?
Keep staring.

I kept staring. And as if to slap me with a big old neener-neener lesson on life, Mama Nature rewarded me with this bit o' magic. Sorry, Puget Sound. I get it now. Again. Temporarily.

I kept staring.
And as if to slap me with a big old neener-neener lesson on life, Mama Nature rewarded me with this bit o’ magic.
Sorry, Puget Sound. I get it now. Again. But probably only temporarily, I’m thinking.

Later that day, look what else I found!

Later that day, look what else I found!

But the sunshine shut down 15 minutes later, and once again I was back to, "Seriously, why did I even bring these?"

But the sunshine shut down 15 minutes later, and once again I was back to, “Seriously, why did I even bring these?”

That's fine. We get it. If I had to clean a public restroom, I wouldn't allow pets in there either. But...

Meanwhile, back at the park: a common sign to which I have no objections.  If I had to clean a public restroom, I wouldn’t allow pets in there either. But…

... look what's conveniently located outside! Now *that's* dog friendly. I wish more public places would offer hitching posts for pets. Thanks, Bay View!

… lookit what’s conveniently located outside! Now that’s dog-friendly.
I wish more public places would offer hitching posts for pets. Thanks, Bay View!

We have no Christmas tree inside. Plenty outside, though! And thanks to Tim's mom, we've got a string of lights there across the front of the house. All is calm. All is... OK, mostly it's *gray*, but the twinkles help. A little.

We have no Christmas tree inside. Plenty outside, though! And thanks to Tim’s mom, we’ve got a string of lights there across the front of the house.
All is calm. All is… OK, mostly it’s gray, but the twinkles help. A little.