Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Road Trip Nightmares

Yes, **it happens!  And boy did it happen to me!!

Before I started this road trip, I did a couple of test camping trips to Oklahoma (as I mentioned in my Camping for Non-Campers blog).  My daughter joined me on the first trip.  I left the doors open as I removed item after item for my camping needs from the Jeep.  The next day, I decided to drive the byway for some fantastic views only to find that my Jeep wouldn't start.  My daughter jump started it and off we went.  A couple of weeks later, I decided to do a solo run to a gorgeous campsite that I passed on my way home.  I was the ONLY camper out was March, after all.  My Jeep wouldn't start...twice!   Both times, I got lucky!  People came out to fish and ended up helping me.  On the way home, I stopped at AutoZone who tested the battery and alternator.  They said, "They're good but the battery connectors are loose!".  Once I got back to Dallas, my mechanic replaced them.  All is good, right??

Maintenance on the road is a definite requirement; especially with the miles I put on a vehicle!  I knew my tires had been out of alignment for a while on the road and I had been told prior to departure that they only had a few more miles left in them.  I'd say that I'd gone around 3,500 miles when, after breaking down camp and loading up, I happened to look at the tires.  Three of them looked like they could go another couple of thousand miles but the front passenger tire was down to the steel!  I set out in search of a tire store and was lucky to find one just 40 miles down the road in Florence, OR.  $800 later, I was riding smooth and safe!!  You have to replace all 4 tires on all-wheel drive vehicles.  Ugh!

Jump to Portland, OR.  It was time for an oil change.  They took my keys and, several minutes later, returned to tell me that the Jeep wouldn't start.  Though it was very odd that it wouldn't start for apparently no reason, I told them it was the battery and to just jump start it.  They did.  They checked the battery and it was "excellent".  They offered to check the battery wires for a short but I didn't want to take the time. Three days later, it wouldn't start.  I opened the hood, jiggled the battery wires and, boom, it started!  Ha!  I got this!!

The next day, I headed north along the Pacific Coast Hwy and was afraid to turn the engine off.  I did though, once I reached Port Angeles, WA where I stopped for the night.  Fingers crossed, the engine started right up the next morning.  While waiting on the ferry to take me to Whidbey Island, I didn't turn off the engine nor did I turn it off on the ferry!  That was over an hour of idling.  Once on the island, in search of a restaurant with outdoor seating (for Lillie), I found an auto repair shop that wasn't busy so I pulled right in.  Two hours later, after much argument from me that the battery was good, they sold me a new battery for an outrageous sum!
On I drove, heading for the Canadian border.  Along the way, Lillie deserved a little exercise so I stopped in a rest area where we wandered for several minutes.  You got it!  When we were ready to leave, the engine wouldn't start.  Luckily, there was one man still there who was happy to help.  It didn't appear that the jump start was going to work at first, but then it caught.  Rolling on, we arrived at Peace Arch border crossing to Canada where I was told to park and was questioned and the Jeep was searched.  Then I was told I was not welcome to Canada for a number of reasons which I find extremely bizarre!  Anyway, sure enough, the Jeep wouldn't start!  Over an hour later, a tow truck arrived to haul me a whopping .9 kilometers to an auto repair shop in Blaine, WA (this was around 10pm).  That tow was costly but there was a cheap motel right next door to the repair shop, so Lillie and I got some rest and my electronics got charged.

THIS mechanic informed me that there was a loose connector to the starter that he fixed then sent us on our way, lighter of pocketbook!  I had no further problems for the time I spent in Seattle but once I was back on the road, my Jeep started speaking again.  I made it all of the way to the Utah/Nevada border...Wendover is the town...where the Salt Flats are.  I stopped for gas before hitting the salt flats and the Jeep refused to start.  I lucked out that a repair shop mechanic was there visiting with the manager.  He tried to figure it out on the fly but I ended up having the Jeep towed to his shop (this is on Labor Day, folks!!  I felt beyond blessed to have met him!).  Guess what he came up with after proudly announcing having owned his own business for over 30 years? got it!....Battery!  Give me a break!!  He talked so convincingly so I agreed to paying for a used battery then was on my way to the salt flats where, no way in hell was I turning my engine off until I stopped for the night!!!!

Well, I stopped for gas and decided to trust the mechanic had an actual clue!  He didn't.  It wouldn't start.  The gas station manager came over and looked at it while I repeatedly turned the key in the ignition.  Suddenly, it started!!  He claimed that all it needed was a look over from him! LOL  I continued on to Salt Lake City only to realize that I didn't need to go past where possible help was available because I couldn't trust the Jeep to start!!  Again, it was Labor Day.  I put out an SOS on Salt Lake City's couchsurfing group, parked in the Walmart parking lot, fixed myself a nice stiff cocktail, and cried.  An old friend on Facebook suggested I go to AutoZone.  I had just assumed they were closed but decided it was better than what I was doing!!  I found the nearest one and, not thinking, I shut off the engine!!  I then walked into the store crying.  I couldn't stop!!!  An older gentleman offered to come see what he could figure out for me.  Two more employees came out to help him.  They replaced a connector on the battery and the Jeep started right up!!  I started bawling again and, though all he asked for in payment was a smile, I couldn't muster one so gave him a huge hug!!

Arches National Park
I continued on to Arches National Park and the tears finally abated.  Only a few  miles down the road, I received a call from a Salt Lake City couchsurfer offering to help.  I told him that it seemed the problem was taken care of.  He said that he and his girlfriend got a good laugh from my post as I had listed the hell I was going through in a humorous way (I figured that I'd have more of a chance of someone appreciating it so much that they would help me!).  Anyway, once at Arches, I found a campsite and reluctantly turned the engine off and, fingers crossed the next morning, I turned the ignition switch.  Success!!  I site see'd my way down the mountain, leaving the engine running when I got out to take pictures or explore for a little bit.  We were almost to the bottom when I decided that Lillie deserved the opportunity to explore and get some exercise while we were in a location with no signs stating, "No Pets Allowed".  Of course, once we returned to the Jeep, it wouldn't start.  A lady was kind enough to try to jump start it.  That didn't work nor did the attempts of several men to figure out what the problem was.  We were between 2 giant rock formations so I had no cell phone service so the lady offered me hers so that I could once more call a tow truck.  Lillie had to remain in the Jeep while it was towed, this time, because the driver was allergic to dogs.  Yes, she's having quite the adventure herself!!

Once we arrived at the repair shop, I again told the entire history of this electrical nightmare and I insisted that I would NOT buy another battery!  A few minutes later, I was informed that the starter was the problem.  It made sense but I required every detail to know what convinced him that a new starter would fix my problem.  Satisfied, I earned more air miles by pulling out my credit card once more.  After $800 in towing, motel, batteries, and labor, my Jeep starts every far.

Just a few miles from the Salt Flats, I was bee bopping down the highway, hopeful in my latest battery when I suddenly smelled something burning.  I thought, "Oh no!!  It IS an electrical issue!"....but then I looked over to see that the passenger seat head rest was on fire!!  I screeched to a halt on the shoulder of the road (almost being rear ended in the process), grabbed my bottled water, and poured water onto the head rest.....I grabbed a dish towel, soaked it, and patted at the hole to make sure the flames were out.  Then I jumped out, ran around to the passenger side, and tried to remove the head rest from the seat (with no success) in hopes of keeping the rest of the seat from catching fire in case I didn't get it completely out.  
Sure enough, it started smoking again and that's when I noticed the beam of sunlight hitting my magnifying mirror and directing that beam to the head rest!!  That mirror has been on the seat the entire trip; however, it had been covered by my cowboy hat!  I had slept in my Jeep the previous night so had designated the hat to the back seat so I wouldn't crush it.  Good Lord, what a freak thing to happen!!  I covered the mirror with SEVERAL items, just to be on the safe side, and was on my journey south once again.

I can certainly laugh about the head rest thing now and I have met so many people due to the electrical nightmare, therefore have some good stories.  However, I really could use a FEW months of no more road trip nightmares!!!  I'm sure that Lillie agrees!

Lillie enjoying good rest at the cheap motel in Blaine, WA


  1. Great job... and I love that your towing photos have such great scenery. LOL