Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: A Crazy Day

This one is actually worthy of a full blog post, but I’m too lazy to go out in the rain to fetch my laptop right now, so I’ll use the WordPress app on my iPad and let the photos do some of the talking.

Camped out at the Anzio-Borrego Desert State Park’s Palm Mountain Spring primitive Campground last night. Great, quiet site among cholla cacti and ocotillo. Expecting rain that never came.

After a beautiful sunrise

I made a plan to visit a scenic overlook farther down the road and then head back to Borrego Springs with a few hikes along the way.

I had breakfast, packed up, put on my new hiking pants and hiking shoes, and put Penny, my camera bag, and my rain jacket into the truck. Put the key in the ignition, waited for the seat to move and the chimes to stop, turned the key to get the glow plug thingie working, and then turned the key to start the engine.


No hearty vroom of a starting Diesel engine.

I did some troubleshooting for a while. No success. I was pretty sure it wasn’t the batteries, both of which are less than a year old.

I had no Internet connection. This was actually my first campsite all month that had absolutely no Internet.

Barely a cell signal at all. 

I texted my friend Jim and asked him to look up the phone number for the Ford dealer in El Centro, CA, which was the closest big city to where I was. I was actually able to talk to him by placing my phone in a specific spot on my windowsill and not touching it. I had to use the speaker. He sent the phone number and I called. I chatted with a service guy. He confirmed what I suspected: it sounded like an electrical issue. He told me to have it towed in.

I managed to call AAA. I also managed to describe my exact location for a tow truck to come get me. I explained that I had a camper on the back and if the tow truck was a flatbed, the rig would likely be too tall to fit under overpasses and traffic lights. I knew that in a pinch, I could take the camper off the truck and leave it behind.

And then I waited.

A volunteer ranger came by and I flagged him down to tell him that I might need to leave the camper overnight. He had a beard like Santa Claus. He asked me if I knew what Ford  stood for. We said in unison “found on road dead.”

I saw the tow truck pass by on the paved road. I figured he’d realize he gone too far and would turn around so I decided to walk down to the road with Penny. We were about halfway there when he saw me waving and pulled in.

Fortunately, he didn’t come with a flatbed. He hooked up my truck, lifted it, and then disconnected the driveshaft — it’s a four-wheel-drive and apparently that’s necessary. He moved it far enough forward for me to retrieve the plastic Lego like blocks that I used to level it overnight. Then we both took pictures, 

climbed aboard, and headed out.

Along the way, we discussed how fortunate it was that I’d backed into the spot.

He took us to the Ford dealer, which was about 50 miles away. I was prepared for this tow — I had AAA membership that entitled me to up to 100 miles of towing per incident for free. And because I also paid for the RV coverage, I wouldn’t have to pay anything extra for having the camper on board. The driver told me that the tow would probably have cost around $900 – $1,000. So once again, my AAA membership has paid for itself. All it cost me today was the $20 tip I gave the tow truck driver.

The service center was short handed, but they promised to look at it today. They made me sign off on a $120 diagnostic fee. I signed. Did I have a choice?

Meanwhile, I knew I had the extended warranty I’d bought with the truck. I didn’t have the information about it that I needed, however. So I looked up the phone number for the dealer in Oregon where I bought the truck, called them, and left a message for the finance guy. He called back a little while later with the information. I passed it on to the service guy who was helping me. By that time, they had the verdict: I needed a new starter. It would cost $770.

The service guy called the warranty people. The starter was covered. They could pay the same day. The part was in stock. The service guy told me they’d be done by 4:30.

I waited with Penny.

They were done before 3 PM. I signed some papers. The total cost was $750.18 but I didn’t have to pay any of it. 

So yes, today I got a brand-new starter for my Ford pickup truck for a total out-of-pocket cost of $20.

Of course, I had lost most of the day. My plans were pretty much shot to hell and I had to come up with a new plan. I decided to spend the night at a primitive campsite on the east shore of the Salton Sea, a large inland body of salt water that’s about 275 feet below sea level. (I can’t make this stuff up.) I programmed the location into Google maps and headed north.

When I reach the campground an hour later, it was raining and the campground was closed.

Undaunted and knowing that there were more campgrounds farther up the shore, I kept going. I found one less than 5 miles away that was open. By this time, it was raining pretty hard. I backed into a spot along the shore so that I could see the lake through my back and dining area windows and parked.

The sun, which was now quite low in the western sky, poked through the clouds. A magnificent double rainbow appeared to the east. I took a picture, of course. It was so big that I had to use the panorama feature on my iPhone.

Outside my back door, the wooden picnic table gleamed in the sun. Waves were breaking on the shore of the lake as seagulls flew by. I took a picture, of course.

And that’s with Penny and I are right now. I had dinner, the sun has set, and now I’ve managed to write a very lengthy blog post about my very unusual day. Rain is pattering on the roof of the Turtleback but Penny and I are warm inside. 

Let’s just hope tomorrow’s adventure is a little more predictable.

3 thoughts on “Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: A Crazy Day

  1. Clever problem solving. You are an advertisement for the benefits of ‘belt and braces’ insurance.
    I had a Ford Ranger 4×4 pickup for a few years (imagine your truck scaled down as a child’s toy). The turbo diesel was actually made by Mazda. The glow plugs would fracture and drop into the cylinders. This ruined the engine. It happened at 8k miles and again at 24k. New engine each time.
    That photo of the double rainbow was a sort of benign and more hopeful visual ‘echo’ of the famous trinity test image about 3 milliseconds into the explosion. (Google ‘trinity test’, it’s the first image).
    Looking at the map I see you are only an hour from Mexicali. Why not drive down and take a last look before the ‘Great Wall’ goes up….?

    • “Belts and suspenders” here. LOL. I knew what you meant, though. English is definitely more than one language.

      That sounds like a design flaw on your truck’s engine. I had a Toyota MR-2 with a design flaw in the exhaust. Condensation would gather in the tailpipe when the engine was shut off and over time would rust right through. Like clockwork when I lived in New Jersey: every two years. Moving to Arizona “fixed” it. Too dry there for the pipe to stay wet.

      Considering what went on in Washington DC that day, thinking about the Trinity Test isn’t too far-fetched, even when looking at something as benign as a rainbow. :-(

      I did think of going down to Mexico, but I was definitely not interested in having my truck/camper possibly searched on the way back into the US. Border patrol has a huge presence here and I have to think any camper coming north is scrutinized. Next year, maybe. I haven’t been to Tijuana for years and was thinking it might be a nice day trip.

  2. The language thing is always a cause for confusion. The gears sometimes grind. My Dutch BIL (excellent formal English) described my wife’s dinner as “quite nice”. ‘Quite’, in this context, to a Brit, means ‘barely edible’ (it failed even to be ‘nice’, a horrid, bland word). He meant that it was nearly “exquisite”. 20 years on they have started talking again.
    So, you had an MR2, eh? A surprisingly fast little beast. The handling was superb but trips with luggage were more problematic. I did not know about the exhaust rusting away but since everything made from steel is always rusting in this climate, it’s a case of which part you notice first.
    As for Washington this last weekend…I am expecting Sean Spicer to claim that the ‘The group of women’ on the Saturday were Trump supporters delayed by the rain on Friday. We enter the world of ‘alt facts’. Orwell would have loved this stuff. All his predictions have come to pass. ‘Newspeak’ has arrived….and it is ‘double-plus ungood’.

What do you think?