Driving in Reverse • 7/28/18

I think I jinxed myself when I said we have one major crisis a day. Today, we had two. That's assuming we're counting driving days rather than calendar days.

The first was almost a repeat of two days ago. Remember the whole "low fuel means priming" thing? Well... Last night I had no problem starting Buster up after leaving the pump. But this morning was another story. I found out afterwards these particular vehicles are notorious for having air settle in there overnight while parked. This might explain why it takes so much cranking and pumping to start Buster up if he's been sitting too long. He just didn't want to move.

I asked two different bystanders to help me by pushing the valve, but both freaked out since there was a good amount of fuel coming out when they did. So... AAA again.  I can't believe I've wasted two of my roadside calls on this!  Especially in light of what happens later. 

Once we got rolling, we made some good progress for quite a while. I was being super hyper diligent about fueling up every chance I got, so I never even got below half on tank one. On a fuel stop in Lexington, Nebraska, shifting felt funny. I'd had the transmission fluid checked and topped off before I left Torrance, but yesterday was a tough day, so I figured it might be low. It was.

I couldn't figure out how to add transmission fluid at first, until a friendly trucker named Steve helped me. He told me you actually have to pour it into that tiny spout where the very long transmission dipstick comes out.  Two different funnels later, I finally figured out how to do it, and filled it up. 2.5 quarts did the trick, and I didn't want to over fill it so I decided just to keep my eye on things.

I wanted to cover a lot of ground to make up for the late start, but unfortunately, I did not get my wish. I got the exact opposite of my wish, and this was crisis number 2. Stopping for fuel in Des Moines, the transmission went out entirely, so that Buster was able to move only in reverse.

As I waited for the tow truck, I went over everything in my head. Why hadn't I listened to Mike, and gotten on 40 instead of pushing Buster up over 12,000 feet? I-40 tops out at less than 8,000. But the truth is, if I really think back, I was worried about the transmission back in Los Angeles. I took Buster to not one but two transmission shops. Neither had time for a full check-out, but both dismissed my concerns, when I explained them, as me just not being familiar with the sounds and movements of diesel vehicles. They'd said the flashing "overdrive off" light was probably just a malfunction of the light, since everything came up clean on their computers.  My friend and mechanical savant Neal had changed the sensor on the differential, and that seemed to have worked. I don't know if this could have been predicted or prevented, or if it's just something that happened. I'm hoping the problem turns out to be something as simple as the solenoid, and not the full-on tranny. I don't know what I'll do if that's the case - I don't have the time or the money for a rebuild!

I'm stuck in Des Moines, anyway, for a couple of days, since it's the weekend and the repair shops won't be open till Monday. The tow truck driver was so super nice. He actually agreed to tow Buster twice for the cost of one AAA call, first to the WalMart parking lot, then to the shop on Monday morning. That way, I can spend the day tomorrow organizing Buster's interior, so at least the day won't be totally wasted. Then... Monday... we find out the verdict. 

Oh hey! In all the excitement I almost forgot to mention that I got stopped by a Nebraska state trooper today. Made me feel all Springsteen. Hit play below if you want to see what I'm talking about, or if you know what I'm talking about and feel like jumping in the way-back machine for a second. Don't worry, he didn't haul me in.

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