There were a number of firsts on this leg of the trip. The first time we had the truck and RV towed. Cathy’s first ride in the back of a police car. Our first overnight stay on a residential street with the slide in. And the first time we’ve had so many injectors replaced in so few days. Maybe we should start at the beginning.
However, once Dave accelerated to enter traffic, the smoke came pouring out of the engine. We weren’t going to risk it. There was no Ford dealer in Livingston, so a call to the Dodge dealer was initially discouraging. It would take a couple of days to look at the truck. Luckily for us, he was quick to suggest we call a local shop called ATS. Ryan at ATS listened to our description of the problem and told us to bring it to the shop, less than a mile away. And yes, they had a place for us to park the fifth wheel.
Shortly after arriving, two mechanics were looking at the truck, but determined we would have to disconnect so they could put it on the lift. Verifying we could leave the fifth wheel parked on the street, we separated the fifth wheel from the truck and waited for their diagnosis. The news was good and bad. Injector 4 had failed, and we were very lucky we hadn’t driven further or we could have damaged the engine irreparably. All that smoke was a mixed blessing. It was due to a cracked “up-pipe” for the exhaust. Given its condition, it had probably been failing for a long time, but the fact that it was broken generated a lot of smoke with the failed injector that got our attention and caused us to stop before more damage was done. There was discussion about replacing the other injectors, however once number 4 was replaced all the even injectors on the same side tested fine and they had been replaced three years ago. The odd injectors on the other side were still original, but they still tested OK. We decided to just replace #4. Although the repairs were not going to be cheap, especially replacing the “up-pipe”, we felt very good about the work being done and the truck should be ready the next day. Since the fifth wheel wasn’t going to move without the truck, we were assured we could stay in it where it sat, but it wasn’t in a good position to open the slide. That was a minor inconvenience considering what could have gone wrong.
So, it was with a sense of disbelief that we found ourselves a thousand miles down the road and were finding the truck stalling at a light in the small resort town of Walker MN. It was all Dave could do to keep it running at the series of red lights in the short downtown street. When he spotted a city park with other RV’s a short distance later, he pulled in to assess the problem. Again, it wasn’t clear what the problem was. The symptom was nothing like what we experienced when injector 4 failed or when we had problems 3 years ago. We found a local Ford dealer, which was less than a mile away. Although it was mid-afternoon, Joel, the service manager, said his diesel mechanic could look at it if we could bring it in. But now, it would no longer start. We needed a tow.
A quick call to Coachnet (the road hazard insurance that accompanied our Puma purchase last October) started the process of locating a tow for the truck and the fifth wheel. While that was happening, Dave walked down to the Ford dealer and Cathy crossed the street to talk to City Hall about the rules for parking overnight in the city park. When we reconnected, Dave felt reassured that there was a place for the fifth wheel to park while Ford worked on the truck. Cathy learned that we could leave the Puma where it was, but we couldn’t stay in it there. Our contact at Coachnet was having trouble finding a local provider who would tow the truck attached to the Puma. By putting her in touch with Ford, we had a solution and the tow truck was dispatched.
However all of the questions to City Hall had prompted a visit by not one, but two police cars. Very friendly, they were there to explain that we could not stay in the RV in the park. We explained we had a tow to Ford and would be staying there. For the next 20-30 minutes, we talked about RV’ing and our travels by boat and RV. When the tow truck arrived, he had us hooked up quickly and professionally. However, it was going to be a tight ride for all 3 of us in the tow truck. No problem, one of the police cars was going to tail us down the road. Cathy could ride with him. That was a backseat ride. A little disconcerting.
At Ford, it was confirmed that the problem was once again an injector – number 7 this time. ( If only it had failed last year, it would have been under warranty.) We were once again lucky that the failure didn’t permanently damage the engine. At any rate, we signed up to have all four of the odd injectors (that sit on the same side) replaced. They were the same age and just as likely to fail. Plus once you were in doing one, the incremental labor for the rest was minimal. With only time on our hands, we offered to drive to pick up the parts at the neighboring town’s Ford dealer. That bought us some goodwill and by the time we returned, the mechanic had most of the job done. By mid-afternoon, we were back underway and making our way further east.
Our truck problems didn’t really slow us down too much and we found the trip through the western plains interesting and scenic. One stop that had eluded twenty-five years ago was a visit to Little Bighorn. This site interprets the battle that was the last attempt of the Plains Indians to recover their way of life after decades of having European settlers take the land and game that had once been theirs. We arrived just in time to hear a park volunteer give an engaging description of the battle, with attention given to the perspectives of both sides in the battle and how events evolved over the course of the few days.
We caught sight of our first Great Lake on our eastward journey late afternoon as we made our way from Minnesota to Superior, WI. It was – you guessed it – Lake Superior of the Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald fame. We traveled along and just south of this lake for another couple of days through Wisconsin’s northern border to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After spending a night in Marquette, MI of basketball fame, we followed the lake to Munissing before turning south to Lake Michigan’s northern shore and across to our stop for the night at St. Ignace on Lake Huron. Wow! Three Great Lakes in a day.