Tuesday, February 8: We left Jojoba Hills before 9 this morning, amidst sunny skies and warm temperatures. Our destination is Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Forest, but as luck would have it, I’m updating the blog while we’re broken down on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.
Despite road construction, we were making good time and reminiscing (once again) about our PCT hike. We saw the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, and were chatting about Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs when our morning got exciting. Climbing a steep grade, Fester noticed the diesel was sluggish and having a tough time making it up the hill. His gauges didn’t display any issues, so we kept driving. Somewhere in between Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley on Twentynine Palms Highway, we started up a slight hill when Fester yelled to me “it looks like we’re on fire… grab the fire extinguisher.” The extinguisher was right next to my seat, so I had it and was pulling the pin as I raced down the passenger side of Zephyr. There was white smoke everywhere at the back of the coach, and I initially thought the Jeep was on fire because the brakes had locked up or something. But Fester came down the driver’s side of Zephyr and saw small flames and a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. He handed me the Jeep keys and told me to get it in gear and ready to back up while he unhooked it from the coach. Once the Jeep was backed safely away from the coach, I grabbed Sadie, along with Fester’s wallet, my purse and our phones and iPads and put everything in the Jeep. With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the fire/rescue trucks showed up in no time, thanks to a good Samaritan who pulled in behind us and made the call to 911.
Working with the folks who handle our Family Motor Coach Association’s Roadside Assistance Program, Fester was able to line up a towing service and a diesel mechanic. We were told to expect the tow truck in 60 to 90 minutes. Two hours later, we called FMCA again and explained no one showed up or called. They contacted another (local) tow company and said they’d be there in 30 minutes.
Thirty-minutes later, we were impressed as “Big Red” from Lefevres Towing approached us, and the driver expertly pulled in, turned around and backed up close to Zephyr. Once the driver, Casey, assessed the situation, he got down to the business of hooking Zephyr up to be towed. The process took about 45 minutes, and we felt very confident with Casey’s expertise and trusted he would tow our home on wheels safely. As we followed Casey to the repair shop, we saw that even with 15 speeds, Big Red struggled to pull our coach (weighing 33,ooo pounds) up two steep hills, including an 8% grade on Old Woman Springs Road.
Fortunately, Fester had called Bill’s Diesel Truck and Equipment Repair Services’ owner earlier to let him know we were running late. Bill left the truck yard gate open for us and Casey backed Zephyr into a designated space. Because it was already after hours, we told Bill we would return when they opened at 9am to figure things out. We ended up spending the night the Best Western in Yucca Valley.
Wednesday, February 9: We arrived at Bill’s truck yard around 8:30, and the gate was already open. Fester met John, the head mechanic, and they started discussing a game plan. We were told to just hang out until John had a chance to look at the turbo and access the damage. Sadie had a chance to meet Twiggy, the yard dog (I keep wanting to say junk yard, because it kind of looks that way with broken trucks and RVs all over). Little Twiggy is a scrapper and let’s you know she’s got her eye on you. We hope to eventually make friends with her, as we’ll be dry camping here while Bill works on Zephyr. It’s generous of him to let us stay, and we are happy since we’d probably be boondocking anyways.
Sadly, my first task was cleaning out the fridge and freezer. Because we were parked unevenly along side the road, we had to turn off the fridge/freezer because of the propane gas. When we arrived at the truckyard, we weren’t level, so we left if the propane off overnight, knowing everything would spoil. On the bright side, we had been “eating down” the contents of fridge and freezer so I could defrost it, so it wasn’t very full.
Sadie and I set out to explore the desert just down the road, being sure to observe any and all “No Trespassing” signs. It seems folks around here don’t want you on their land, even if that land is nothing but desert scrub. We found a nice loop path that allowed us to get some exercise and sunshine, while exploring the desert area which was scattered with Joshua Trees and Yucca plants.
Thursday: February 10: Did I mention that the truck yard gates get locked after 6pm. Until we manage to earn a key, we are destined to end our travels by 5:30 so we don’t get locked out. It is a strange feeling knowing you can’t leave.
To hurry things along with the repairs, we volunteered to take the turbo to their “turbo guy” who’s in San Bernardino, about 1.5 hours away. We dropped it off around 10:30 this morning and after a quick look, the turbo guy thought that something must have hit the air side of the turbo and damaged the fins, which induced a vibration and ultimately caused the exhaust side of the turbo to fail. The turbo guy said he would examine it further and let us know if he can do a rebuild. If so, we should be able to pick it up on Tuesday. At least we have some idea of how long we will be at Bill’s truck yard. We can plan some day trips and start working on our next destination. That was the highlight of our day. We spent the rest of it driving around town while Fester checked a few auto parts stores and Tractor Supply for some fittings. And, we did go grocery shopping to re-stock the fridge. Tomorrow we plan to visit Joshua Tree National Park.