Sunday, November 6, 2016

LaFong Lampoon Vacation

We were invited to our nephew's wedding in Boise, Idaho. We both were in the mood for a road trip, so we hitched up the trailer and headed north, up Highway 395 to Reno, where we then drove to Elko and then north, again, into Idaho. Very nice drive. We attended the wedding and took off the next morning for eastern Oregon. We camped along the way for about a week until we found ourselves in Bend. We camped, again, for a few days in La Pine at a nice state park. We thought we would head over the Cascade Lakes region, but after just 4 or 5 miles, it began to snow pretty hard, so I whipped a U turn and drove back to La Pine and got back on the interstate. We decided that we would try Crater Lake. Now, what made me think that it wouldn't be as bad, or worse, weather than we encountered in La Pine will remain a mystery. I'll chalk it up to wishful thinking. As we were going uphill to the park entrance, it began to snow. We were only about a mile from the lodge, so I figured we've come this far, how bad could it get? Wrong question. As we came around a curve, I slowed down a bit, since the road was getting a dusting of snow on it. Once around the curve, I hit the gas to downshift for the grade ahead. The truck lurched hard and there was a loud "POW", and then nothing. There we were, sitting in the traffic lane, dead in the water. I had no gears that worked. I think I snapped the input shaft of the transmission. After a bit, two or three people came by and asked if we needed help. I asked then to notify the ranger at the park of our dilemma. Some time passed and no ranger appeared. There is, also, no cell service, so we couldn't call 911 or AAA. Another person drove up and said he would drive me to the lodge. So I jumped in and off we went. When we got there, it was a ghost town. Closed for the season. We saw UPS delivering something at the store, so we knew there was someone there. We found someone to let us in and I was able to call AAA. We returned to the truck and the Samaritan headed off. After several hours, panic set in. It was pitch black and snowing and no tow truck in sight. Finally, I saw emergency lights in the distance. The driver had gotten bad directions, but looked until he found us. After getting hooked up to the tow truck, we climbed into the cab and he drove us to Klamath Falls and dropped us off at an inexpensive motel. 80 bucks a night, minimal cable TV, worst WiFi ever and cereal, bagels, weak juice and coffee for breakfast. I guess southern Oregon's definition of inexpensive is different than SoCal's. Anyway, the next morning, I called the local Ram dealer and told the salesman that if he wanted to sell a new truck today, to pick us up at the tow yard. About 15 seconds later, he shows up and it's off to the dealership. I finally settle on a Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel, Crew Cab, 4wd with a 6 speed manual transmission. Papers are signed and we write a big ol' check. Now, we still have to get the fifth wheel hitch installed so we can get the trailer home. They tell us a day and a half. Too long, sez I. I go across the street to U Haul and they say 5-7 days to get the hitch and another day to install it. A large U Haul dealer and they don't have a hitch in stock?? So, we head to an RV dealer in town and he says, 2 1/2 weeks!?!?! Now the day and a half is starting to sound pretty good. As promised, the hitch is in and we're good to go. We bid a fond adieu to The dealer and go to the tow yard and fetch our trailer. We make a bee line for home and get there in, about, 11 hours. Now, how to get the old beast home? I go online and find an auto transport outfit that sounds perfect. 600 bucks and they'll deliver it to my door. They have several drivers in the Klamath Falls area and can get on it right away. I say, "Do it". the next day, I hear nothing from them, but I do hear the same BS story from 20 other people in an endless stream of emails and text messages. OK, I see what's going on. A bunch of flim flam men, basically brokers, who have no trucks or drivers of their own, hoping a desperate driver will take the load at their, cheap price. You know what they say about getting a job done right? Yup, do it yourself. I call U Haul and tell the lady on the other end what I need to do. She takes all of my info, what I'm hauling, what I'm hauling it with, where it is, where it's going and so on. She says everything is set and the trailer will be waiting in Klamath Falls. She will text me the location. So, we fuel up and back to KF we go. We arrive late in the afternoon and there is, still, no text. I go back to the same U Haul that I went to for the hitch. "Nope, we don't have it. Gimme your name." he enters it into his computer and tell us the trailer is at another dealer a few miles away. It's too late to pick it up, at this point, so we drive by the other dealer to see where they are. No problem, we'll get it in the morning. We drive to WalMart, the cheapskate RVers campground and try to sleep in the truck. That works about as well as you might expect, but we do manage to get a few hours of shuteye. Back to the U Haul lot to get the trailer. The guy says, no problem, the trailer is here, I just need to get the information from you, again. I give him all of the same info that I gave the lady on the phone when we were home. He says that he cannot rent us the trailer. The old truck won't fit and the new truck won't haul it. I tell him, while pointing at the new truck, that it would pull his building off of it's foundation and why won't a regular cab, long bed truck fit on his trailer. He tell me that his hands are tied and the computer won't allow the deal to go through. This just keeps getting better, moment by moment. There we are, 800 miles from home, without a clue. I go to the tow yard and ask if they ever deal with this sort of thing. Nope, we are just a towing and retrieval service. I go back to the dealer and ask if they do dealer trades and if their guy could help us. They said they could get the truck to Chico in a week. That's only half way home, not good enough. They suggest I go to the RV supply that quoted us 2 1/2 weeks for the hitch. They also rent trailers, he says. Back we go and I tell the guy what I need to do. No problem. I sign a few papers, hand him the debit card and we're off to the tow yard. Of course, by now, it's raining. Still, they get it on the trailer for us, we pull out the debit card again, and we're homeward bound. Again, we drive straight through, just stopping for fuel, food and to pee. We hit the front door around 11 pm. and hit the sack. Next morning, I roll the old truck off of the trailer, safe and sound, though it's seriously wounded. Here's where it gets even worse. The trailer is a two way rental, unlike U Haul, where I would drop it off at a local dealer. You guessed it. The next morning, we're on I-5, headed back to KF. We, wisely, decide to sleep in a motel, this time. A stop over in Redding and we're back at the RV dealer by 11 am. A quick unhitch and we're southbound before noon. An uneventful drive home and we're in bed before midnight. A tick over 3600 miles in one week. I have to say, that this truck is twice the truck as the old one. Quiet as a Cadillac, pretty smooth ride, especially with our trailer hooked up, tons of power, decent mileage, really cool Sirius XM stereo and a back seat to store all of our road necessities. I like the manual transmission. Just feels right. Turns me from a steering wheel holder into a truck driver. Real trucks have three pedals and no spark plugs. In all, it was an expensive, frustrating, tiring vacation. It also was fun and a bit exciting. It all worked out well. I got a spanking new truck. I thought I'd never do that again. Our trips, from now on, should be without incident, at least a far as mechanical issues

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