Bushwhacked in Texas

I knew before I even left the parking lot this morning that it was not going to be that great of a day. Any day that starts with me having to prime the fuel filter of my truck isn’t shaping up to be a good one.

My worst fears were confirmed about 15 miles into my trip near Sherman, Texas when my truck started chugging pretty badly going up a slight grade in the road. I just primed the dang thing, what is the problem now?

I made it over the grade and on the back side everything seemed to go back to normal but a few miles later was another grade and my truck chugged a bit then quit just before I crested the hill. I used my momentum to get over the top while I tried restarting the engine. No go, and now my power steering is out and damn these trucks are a bitch to steer with manual pressure only.

It was a bit scary for a short time as I guided her gently over to the shoulder and held my breath as I straightened her out. A light pressure on the brakes and I came to a stop just in front of exit 57 towards Sherman, Texas (along highway 75).

Blinkers on, I carefully climbed out of the cab in the early morning hours and tried priming it again several times. No go. Finally, I called in to our breakdown folks and had them send someone out. A few hours were spent changing filters out, priming, cooking franks & beans around an open campfire, the usual. Nothing we tried seemed to make any difference and in the end the problem was either a blockage of the fuel line in the tanks or a malfunctioning lift pump. Since my APU was chugging along quite nicely using the same fuel it seems that the pump is where the problem lies.

The closest Volvo dealer from there is back in Dallas, but our breakdown guy almost sent me (via wrecker) to Oklahoma City instead. Turns out they haven’t had the best experience there before but it was a hundred extra miles (at the low, low rate of $185 an hour *cough*) out to OKC and Hill Bros would have to eat the tow bill if we didn’t take it to the nearest dealer. Woe is me.

A jolly fellow named John showed up about an hour later with his truck-sized wrecker and started hooking up the rigs. Quite a lot of things to do, including the removal of my truck’s drive shaft. Eventually we hopped in his truck and I brought Snowie along in her cat carrier.

Miss Fancy Pants wormed her way out of said carrier in short order, right after John mentioned another trucker with a cat that sat on his lap most of the way in when he towed the other guy’s truck. Wouldn’t you know it, Snowie spent most of the time roaming the cab, jumping on our laps and complaining about lack of attention. Some cats.

About $825 later we show up at the dealership only to find out that trailers aren’t allowed. This mostly due to the small, jam-packed lot they have. Naturally, this isn’t determined until we’ve already turned the wrecker, my tractor and the trailer into said parking lot and there is no exit other than the entrance we just came in. Oh, and no place to turn around a Yugo much less the football-field length of our rig.

After some conferring, small bribes, hair pulling and other pish-posh we were given the keys to a day cab they had sitting around. The original plan was to have me use the day cab to hook up to my trailer after John pulled my tractor out from under it but the day cab turned out to be two sizes too small for this driver and John gracefully slid behind the wheel. Queue a thoroughly amusing back through the narrow parking lot then on to a busy 6-lane city street with me helping him and directing traffic. There was a spot along a nearby side street — a crappy spot that had the trailer leaning over at a pretty good angle, but a spot — and we parked it there.

Back into the dealership to my truck where John gets everything unhooked and stowed, and I find my catwalk ripped to heck. Looks like the last turn we took into the dealership had enough of an angle at the curb that the front left edge of the trailer ripped right through it leaving an impressive divot. The mechanic at Iowa 80 who spent all that time getting it to work just right with my chain box must be crying about now (sorry dude).

The final indignity of the day comes when I get told I can’t spend the night in my own truck because I’m parked on their lot. If I could move the damn thing I’d park on the street but noooo, my fuel pump is hosed. After some quick packing me, some clothes, the cat and her stuff are stuffed into a hotel shuttle and shuttled off to an EconoLodge about ten miles north. Don’t ask.

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