DAY TWO – Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock
Strumming our fingers and idly watching boring TV was pretty much the order of the day. It was Sunday, so the garage wouldn’t be open to work on Katunk. It was also pouring rain outside, so an exploration ride on Silver Rain was also out. A few visits to Friendly’s Restaurant next door increased our weight in general and my blood glucose level in particular (Friendly’s is known for their ice cream). The clock ticked agonizingly as I pondered what could have happened to Katunk and Annette pondered how much this was going to hurt our wallet. The hotel has wireless internet, but our laptop is so old we don’t have that capability, so we couldn’t even while away the hours yakking with our brother Venturers online. This had to have been one of the longest days of our life!
DAY THREE – The Diagnosis, Repair, and Return To The Highway
The next morning arrived with trepidation and impatience. We wanted to get going, but we didn’t want to hear how much “getting going” was going to hurt. I gave them some time to work on Katunk before placing the call.
“Uh, hi, this is Bob Edwards. My truck from Rhode Island was brought into your shop Saturday night….”
“Oh yes, Mr. Edwards! We have it up on the lift and discovered the problem! It is a broken tie-rod! Can you believe it? You folks were very lucky….huh? Oh….hold on Mr. Edwards, my boss wants to talk to you…”
“Mr. Edwards, have you ever replaced that tie-rod before? This is very strange….the backing plate broke also, and quite frankly, you need new brakes and rotors. I recommend you have a new tie-rod, backing plate, rotors and brakes installed while we are working in the area!”
“Hmmm, my truck passed inspection just before I started this trip. If the brakes and rotors are that bad, they shouldn’t have passed inspection, and I’ll go right back to my dealer and find out what’s what! Of course, I’d need a complete report from you folks with all the measurements and such to illustrate their incompetence.”
“Well, uh, have you noticed any braking problems? I mean, they DO pass inspection, it’s just that they are very worn. But if you haven’t experienced any problems, then there really isn’t anything to worry about…” His voice trailed off in disappointment at the failed attempt to wrangle some more money out of the hapless tourists.
“Well, we’ll take note of your observations, but because this is a vacation trip we’ll have to pass on the brake job. There have been no braking problems. How long will it be before the truck is ready? I need to know if we’ll be on the road today so we can check out of our room before 11 am.”
“Definitely will be ready this afternoon for you!”
We checked out and loaded the trailer with our luggage, then relaxed in the hotel lobby for a while. After a couple of hours the waiting was too much, so the hotel called a taxi for us and we went over to the shop, which was about six miles down a tight four-lane road congested with shopping centers, mini-malls, stores, banks, and restaurants. Another hour of waiting in their very pleasant lobby and we were ready to go. After everything was said and done, this little episode drained our vacation budget nearly $600 from parts, labor, hotel room, and meal expenses.
41 hours after Katunk first shuddered in pain we were back on the road, rolling into New Jersey on I-287 south. Everything was once again running smoothly, as if nothing ever happened, but now my nerves were sensitive to every little bump in the road and squeak, rattle, and burp the truck would emit. It was late afternoon, but Annette stayed wide awake well into Pennsylvania and the Poconos on I-80 before she finally relaxed enough to close her eyes. Numbers and figures ran endlessly through her head as she pondered how to make the rest of this vacation work on a greatly-reduced budget plan. I just kept my eyes peeled for deer prancing across the highway as we cruised through the nighttime air. We were now entering the “drone” phase of the trip.
DAY FOUR – The Miles Roll By
Despite the setback from the breakdown, we decided to continue the plan of following I-80 all the way to Cheyenne, WY. That also included the Ohio and Indiana Turnpikes, of which we knew there would be tolls involved, but really had no idea of how much. Towing a trailer meant some nice added revenue for both states, with Ohio requesting nearly $14 and and Indiana asking nearly $8 for the use of their thoroughfares. Were they worth it? Well, I had to admit the traffic was lighter and the road conditions were better, and the Indiana rest stop we pulled into in the wee morning hours was very nice, but I doubted we would be doing that route again.
We approached the Chicago area as the sun rose in the morning sky. You’d think I’d learn by now about big cities and rush hour traffic, but there we were, slicing and dicing with the morning rush hour traffic on I-80. Soon we came to another tollbooth, stopping behind a tractor-trailer with Ontario plates on it. Another big rig placed themselves behind us, seemingly a foot off the trailer’s ramp door. As Annette was searching for some more money for the toll, the Ontario truck started rolling backwards. We watched in horror as the big menacing trailer bumper came closer and closer to Katunk’s grill. I couldn’t roll back because of the truck behind us. Just as I was about to sit on the horn the driver realized what was going on and the truck slammed to a stop, inches from Katunk’s bumper. I started counting the heartbeats again, as well as the minutes until the time we were far away from ChicagoLand. This trip was becoming very stressful!
Familiar names flashed by as Katunk’s tires rolled mile-after-mile through Illinois…Joliet, the home of a raceway whose name escaped me, Lasalle, the home of JC Whitney, and Moline, where Venturer Lumpy calls home. We didn’t miss the Iowa “rocking horse” road surface, which created a “pogo-ing” effect for miles and definitely got on my nerves. Last year we rolled past Des Moines in the middle of the night and didn’t see much, so this year we went through the area in the middle of the day and still didn’t see much. The rest of Iowa was equally uneventful as we rolled into Nebraska and uncharted territory for us. The sun set as we rolled out of Omaha, continuing our trek westward on I-80.
As we approached Kearney (pronounced “Carney” on the local radio) a large structure loomed over the highway. It was magnificent, appearing to be a covered walkway spanning the road, with towers on both ends, and magnificent winged horses adorning each peak. A large sign proclaimed this to be the “Great Platte River Road Archway Monument”. It looked interesting, so we took the next exit and made our way back to the site, finding it to be a museum honoring those who passed through the area in the 1800s along the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails, all of which followed the Great Platte River through Nebraska on their way to other places. Unfortunately, it was closed as the day was growing old, but we got some nice pictures of the outside.
After that rest it was back to the highway and the grind. Annette also managed to get a nice sunset shot over some trees before we pulled into a rest stop with a place to park amidst the truckers and catch some much-needed sleep.