Days 163 - 178
As I began writing this, we were tying to stay in front of a storm stopping freezing rain. We had been on the road for 12 hours.
Forget all the plans. That's what so many are having to do right now. Since my last post, we moved into Alabama and quickly saw that our plans were going to have to be adjusted. After our first day, the beaches closed. Followed by many other closures. Thankfully, we got to walk on the beach that first day. We were at Dauphin Island... very cool place... except for those rotten No-see-ums. I despise those little creatures. We did discover lemongrass is supposed to be a natural remedy so next time we head south, we'll give that a try.
We stayed there, beaches, trails, everything (except our pool) shut down. I got some painting done and started exercising. There was nothing to do except sit around otherwise... just like the rest of our friends and family.
We finally made the decision (right before Florida did) that we weren't going to go east again on this trip. You see, we had spots reserved in Florida through the end of May. Including a spot inside the Daytona speedway for Rockville 2020 (which, of course had Metallica headlining 2 of the 3 nights). We were going to head north after the festival and tour all the east, then go across the northern states back to Idaho.
The plan had to change thanks to COVID 19. This awful virus was turning everyone's lives upside-down. My gut said it's time to get moving but our heads, and hearts, wanted to keep traveling. It was a very difficult decision to make so, once again I asked the universe for a sign. Blue birds again.
I saw three but we still didn't want to pull the trigger and start heading west. So, I asked the universe for a living blue bird to show up as we walked a trail we had found. I told Jordan I asked to see it. He said, "I think the universe is more discreet than that"... or something along those lines. I said, "nope, I do this all the time when I want confirmation of a big decision. I get an answer, every time."
So we walked down the trail, stopping to snap photos... checking out cool trees... and suddenly there's commotion in the trees. A bunch of birds making noise. Two come swirling in a bush I'm front of us. Spinning, squawking... then they land.
So, I cancelled our FL reservations (except Rockville, we figured they'd cancel soon enough as beaches, schools, all non-essential businesses were shutting down). We decided we'd still take our time getting back to Idaho but see some natural sites along the way. I booked us really cool spots in the rest of the southern states. We planned to even hit Jackson Hole Wyoming before returning to ID. That way, I'd have taken the RV through 25 states in 9 months.
Plans had to change.
Suddenly, we're hearing from RV groups that more and more parks are closing. Groceries were ok in Alabama but who knew as this all got crazier and crazier. People were starting to steal TP from rest areas in Nebraska for crying out loud.
So, we start our planned slow journey home. Our first stop in Mississippi for Mr. D:s fried chicken - The food network said it's the best fried chicken in the south. We disagree, Coop's in NOLA was SOOOOO much better.
Anyway, we're the last customers before they're shutting down for quarantine. The whole state of Mississippi was shutting down at 3. The workers said we better get out of there as quickly as possible and skip Louisiana altogether.
We were going to spend a day driving around Lecompte, LA because my Papa grew up in that area. Well, we made the decision to get out and head back to Idaho.
Once again, I'm calling and canceling plans.
Friends, these plans take several days to coordinate so I'm not happy about this at all! I asked and received that damn blue bird to confirm. Again.
So, the new plan... get out of Louisiana as quickly as possible. There were rumors that states were setting up checkpoints and if you were traveling there from Louisiana, you'd have to quarantine for 14 days.
We were only stopping for gas.
Unfortunately, all the diesel pumps were the big semi nozzles... which don't fit in normal truck tanks and cause spills. We drove as far as we felt comfortable and found a sketchy looking place in the middle of nowhere (I didn't want to touch anything ... it was filthy ... and after looking at the splatter on the toilet I decided I'd use our toilet - it was that disgusting.) We got the gas and drove on... we really could have gone farther but didn't know if we'd find a regular size nozzle again. So we topped off.
Down the road, about 1.5 to 2 hours away from the Louisiana border...almost made our escape and my truck beeps - check engine light comes on and the message "engine power reduced" flashes.
We're barely going 30 mph as we reach the next exit. I pull off the interstate, onto the shoulder of the exit... trying not to freak out (which means tears and hyperventilating for me). We think, maybe we burned through the DEF that Jordan had filled before leaving that morning (diesel exhaust fluid for those who don't have a diesel). Nope, still almost full.
I'm nearly in tears. Trying not to panic. Stressed beyond belief. We aren't sure what to do. We're in the middle of nowhere. Then a pickup goes by, stops and backs up along the shoulder.
I wonder if he saw me with my face in my hands?
I ask Jordan to talk to him because I'm on the verge of a meltdown.
After hearing what's going on, the guy calls his friend wh is a diesel mechanic. The mechanic is in quarantine so he can't come but he walks Ray - the kind samaritan - through how to bleed and prime the fuel filter and pump. This man, who doesn't know us from Adam, crawls under my truck and gets to work. He says it looks like water comes out of the filter. Bad gas maybe?
Meanwhile, I'm calling my mechanic in Boise (Levon at Long Arm Mechanics) who gets his team to find a repair shop and towing company. I also call the dealership in Cottage Grove, OR to see if they replace fuel filters when they get a trade in (I haven't had my truck for a year yet). Nope. So who knows when it was last replaced.
We turn the engine back on. It sounds great. Ray says the engine is the best out there... and it's immaculate so he's surprised we're having issues. Betting it was bad gas.
He tells us of the Auto Zone about 20 miles up the road. So, after letting the towing company know (they called me) that we're currently ok, we hit the road. We try to give Ray some cash for helping. He won't take it. Instead, he says (with his LA accent so you hear it right in your head),
"What we need right now is good folk helping good folk."
Truck running fine, we get to Auto Zone. We have to run the diagnostics ourselves because the guy says "they won't let us go outside" ... then we see him outside helping someone else.
Cool. Jerk. Whatever.
An error code comes up - Levon explains what it means. Easy option, a sensor clean or replacement.... not so easy, replace the turbo booster. The auto zone doesn't have the sensor...could order it if we want. We're decide to try the mechanic Levon found. It's after closing time so we find a place (last spot in town) to drop the trailer. We got lucky, some gal just up and left the previous day.
On top of this, the roads were so bumpy, things were thrown all over inside the RV. In a freak of events, the little BBQ shifted into the broom which had fallen against the faucet handle and somehow turned it on. So, besides the stress of a possible lengthy (and costly) repair on my truck, my studio had water all over. Ruining my good drawing paper which had fallen because of the roads. I'm not a happy camper. Jordan tries to keep me grounded but, with the exhaustion and all, I'm not my usual self. The fighting Irishman in me is easily aggravated.
Next morning (just so you see the timeline, we left Alabama Tuesday the 31st of March, possibly stuck in Mansfield, LA for an indefinite amount of time on Wednesday evening, the 1st of April) I call the mechanic that Levon had found. The diesel guy doesn't have experience with newer diesels (it's a 2012). 🤦♀️ So he gives me the name of a place closer to us. Not good reviews for them so I do research and find another. Their diesel guy is out on a two week quarantine. They say "try this place"... where I get no answer. I finally find a place in Shreveport... they say they're booked up but if we get it in soon they'll get eyes on it. So, we jump in the truck... and the check engine light is off.
Uh... ok. I chat with Levon... he says that's good and maybe it WAS just bad gas. We go to the mechanic to run diagnostics and... all is clear. Everything's perfect. We buy a fuel treatment - he doesn't charge us for the diagnostic test - and we're back to pay for our night's stay and hit the highway (they're so back woods they only take cash or check..."none of that plastic stuff").
We are SO thankful that it wasn't anything that needed repair because Louisiana was about to issue a 2 week stay at home order. We would've been there a while. We decide to drive straight through, until we can't drive anymore.
Well, Kansas decides to have a crazy freezing rain storm come in. The gal at the gas station (where we stopped at midnight-ish) said at 3 PM it was 70° out... it was well below 20 with the windchill. There was ice all over everything. So, we find a Walmart outside of Wichita and park to get a little sleep and wait for the sun to dry the roads a bit. We had gone north because of the virus and the fact that tornadoes were coming in the south. But, we are not prepared for cold weather...DEFINITELY not freezing temperatures.
Well, the generator doesn't like cold weather. So, we're dressed in as many clothes as we can and all the blankets we have (3 of them) are thrown on the bed to try not to freeze all night.
The cats weren't locked up because it was sooooo cold. We thought we'd let them sleep with us.
Another sleepless night. And cranky girl. No good.
We hit the road early. They're dry. Thankfully. But still crazy bumpy. Awful roads day 4. We finally get some smooth roads once we cross into Wyoming in the evening. We watch the sun set for the last time on this trip. Booked a spot to hook up and sleep in Rawlins. It's still around 20°. Snow on the ground where we park. We don't have our winter clothes. That wasn't part of the plan.
Heat on and turned up as high as possible got it to 56° inside by the morning (62° in our bedroom). Cats got locked up so I could put the fighting Irishman in me back to sleep. Jordan definitely wasn't enjoying this side of me.
We're on day 179... Saturday 4/4/20. 179 days being on the road, living in warm temperatures for most of it. As I write we're getting close to Ogden. Not far from Boise. We're both worn out. We're ready to sleep and be still for a while.
So are the cats. They were wound up last night!
It'll be nice to not worry about getting stuck in some random place during this virus. We're disappointed we had to go back almost 2 months before we planned.
But what a blessing to have somewhere to go back to. I'm so grateful for all of it. Good will continue to flow into our lives... and eventually, we'll visit all the places we missed.
For now, this #travelingartist is going to be pretty stationary thanks to the rotten Coronavirus. More time to paint now that I won't have so many cool places to explore.
Still a blessing even though it wasn't the plan.
I hope you can find the blessings in your current circumstances. I'll be back on the nation's highways, no question about that. Until then, this blog may shift a bit in content but I'm sure I'll still have fun RV experiences to share. After all, it's our home!
TTFN. Love you all!
I had a dream that I was traveling all over the world. In less than 6 months, I sold almost everything I own...bought a Toy Hauler (the "garage" is my art studio) and am now living wherever, whenever...just me, my art, and my cats.