Thursday, May 06, 2010

November until now (Part 7)

When I got in on Thursday, Sandi and Thane were still in Wasilla so I met up with them and we went out for dinner. Sandi said her Yukon heater wasn’t working very well again (three months before it did the same thin and I thought it had a bad thermostat but it ended up being low on coolant) so I checked the coolant level and it was really low. I wasn’t sure what the problem was but I knew it wasn’t good. After I got back to work on Tuesday I called my import mechanic hoping to find the best place to take it to because our GM dealer is terrible to deal with. Luckily the import guys had a mechanic that works on the Vortec engine so I made her an appointment thinking she had a leaking head gasket or worse. They told me it probably wasn’t that bad because these engines are notorious for having leaking manifold gaskets and would probably be an easy fix. I told them I hoped so because my luck with all things mechanical were pretty poor recently. They called the day after Sandi dropped it off and said that it was worse than feared, and even worse than a leaking head gasket. Apparently two of the valve rocker arms broke and there was metal all in the engine and it was cheaper to replace the engine with one they had found that had 50k miles on it than to buy replacement parts for the existing engine. I was just thrilled., an engine and transmission all in one month. The only major component I had left that hadn’t failed was a rear end. Luckily when I paid the bill for the transmission I took it in the rear end so I don’t have to worry about that any more. All I could figure was that I’d better try to stay at work for about eight weeks to get caught up on all of our mechanical catastrophes.

On the bright side I did get a few days of riding in good snow before I headed back to get the truck. Amazingly when I called on Tuesday to see what the status of the truck was they said that they got it done on Sunday like they’d estimated and was sitting in their yard ready for me to pick it up. I wasn’t sure how long it would take them to finish when I booked my ticket so I booked a flex ticket so I could change it without an additional fee if necessary. When I called Alaska Airlines to change my ticket the agent told me that there was an additional $230 fee. I told her I booked a flex ticket so I shouldn’t have to pay a change fee. She said that only my northbound flight was flex and I’d have to pay. I’d say I was hemorrhaging money at this point but I was only hemorrhaging my visa number. The outpouring of actual cash was going to have to wait until I actually had some cash to pour out.

I flew home from work on Monday; I was originally planning to come home on Sunday to spend Thane’s whole spring break week with him but those plans were pretty well shot due to everything going wrong as of late. I did get all day Tuesday at home to go for a two hour ride in almost two feet of fresh snow and hang out with Sandi and Thane until they dropped me at the airport that night for my second flight to Kelowna. Wouldn’t you know that every time I left for either work or to go on this trip we got fresh snow. I wasn’t upset about getting to ride on Tuesday but was really wishing I had the rest of the week to play in then new snow. I’m not sure where but somewhere in there I finished my Stephen King novel and swore I’d never download another one.

I guess since I’d paid $1500 for a ticket to Kelowna Alaska Airlines took pity on me and gave me a first class seat to Seattle. I was happy about that, I like having room to stretch out and sleep especially on a redeye flight. This flight left Anchorage at 12 am instead of the 2:30 flight I had last time. It figured that the guy I sat next to wanted to talk and did, all the way. I got almost no sleep the whole flight so when I got to Seattle I went and found a little piece of floor to sleep on. I prefer the 2:30 flight to the 12:00 because when you get to Seattle before 5 am almost everything is closed. I got a few hours of sleep on the floor then made my Kelowna flight without any issues. When I went through Customs the officer asked me why I was in Canada and I told him I was picking up my truck which broke down on my way through. He said “they still haven’t got that thing done yet?” It was the same Customs Officer I’d had before; I told him that I had been assured it was ready this time. I once again jumped a shuttle to the Greyhound station and then waited for my 2:30 bus to Merritt.

I arrived Merritt a few minutes before 5pm and called the mechanic shop for a ride from the bus station. They sent a driver and had actually washed my truck before I got there. By the time I got all the paperwork taken care of and the trailer hooked up it was a little after 6:00 so all I had to do was top off the fuel tank and start driving. The rest of the trip was long but mostly uneventful with the exception of me cutting the corner too short turning into my friends driveway in Fort St John British Columbia. The trailer caught a snow bank and went off the side of the driveway which in turn broke the drain pipe to the grey water tank and popped out most of the rivets on the running board on the drivers side of the trailer. This just meant a little added maintenance when I got home. I took a long layover to visit as I hadn’t seen Saunderson’s in a few years, and hadn’t been to their farm since Sandi and I drove our ’97 F350 up from Washington in 1999. I left their house at about 6:30 the next morning and pushed fourteen hours to Whitehorse where I grabbed dinner, slept five hours and then made a fifteen hour push for home. I’d left Merritt on Wednesday evening and was home Saturday evening, a day earlier than I thought. Who could complain about that?

I still had a little over a week off so I spent a day skiing in Girdwood and two nights at Clay’s cabin at Honolulu creek riding snowmachines and the rest of it with Sandi and Thane. Then I went back to work for two weeks of recuperation before coming home to do two days of trailer maintenance before driving Sandi and her horse back to Washington…

Saturday, May 01, 2010

November until now (Part 6)

I flew out of Anchorage at 2:30am on the return leg of the ticket Dale set me up with. I arrived Seattle at 5:30 and had plenty of time to have a coffee at Starbucks and some fruit for breakfast while visiting with a friend that was on the same flight into Seattle. The flight to Kelowna was at 9:00 and a little less than two hours flight time. I arrived Kelowna and when I went through Customs the officer asked me what the purpose of my trip was so I told him I was just planning to visit his country for a few days. He wanted a little more information so I gave him the Readers Digest condensed version and said I was headed back to Merritt. He seemed ok with this answer and let me through. When I flew out on Thursday I asked the rental car companies if they offered a one way rental and they all said no so my only real option was Greyhound. I didn't really want to have to fork over another $25 to a cabbie since the Greyhound ticket was only $28 and I got lucky and found a shuttle into Kelowna for $12. The bus was pretty full with people headed home after a weekend of skiing and enjoying Kelowna. Luckily Merritt was the first stop so I had less than a two hour ride. The Greyhound station in Merritt is about 2.5 miles from where I had the trailer parked and there wasn't a local bus to downtown for an hour so I decided to walk. By this time it was pushing 5:00pm so I called the shop to check on my truck and they said they were still working on the transmission and to check back Tuesday afternoon. Not overjoyed I pondered what to do the next day as I walked into town. I got back to the trailer park opened up the trailer and turned up the thermostat on the propane heater that I had come to really like. I relaxed a little, did a little Internet surfing and just as I was thinking about going to sleep early the heater kicked off because I had run out of propane. I went out and tried switching to the other bottle but it was empty as well. There was a guy standing by his trailer across the way drinking a Budweiser so I asked him if he knew the nearest place to get propane and I quickly determined he was French Canadian as I could barely understand him. He wasn't sure if anyone would be open this late was about all I understood. I went back inside and turned on my GPS and looked under services and determined that the nearest gas station with propane was 2.5 miles away. I wasn't really excited about walking 2.5 miles with a propane bottle to find the station closed so I climbed into my sleeping bag fully clothed and went to sleep. I don't know how many times I woke up but I know I was pretty cold for several hours.

The next morning I walked to the coffee shop and had my morning latte and muffin. I called the shop and they weren't too optimistic about anything happening very soon. I decided to try the rental car guy back and he said he had one minivan available but he hadn't had time to wash it yet. He seemed surprised when I said that I didn't care if it was dirty but I really didn't care because all I wanted to do was drive to the gas station to fill my propane tanks and not have to carry them. He met me at the coffee shop and drove me to his office to do the paperwork. Essentially it cost me $168.00 to rent it for twenty four hours. After I filled my propane bottles, I headed over to the shop to check on the progress of the transmission rebuild but they didn't seem to be making much headway for some reason. I went over to the shop where my truck was and talked to the owner about having an additional transmission cooler added when they put the transmission back in to help avoid this situation in the future. I also was able to get my towel, camera and a few other things I hadn't seen since the night I broke down. After that I figured I might as well drive the two hours up to Sicamous to see if my SkiDoo dealer friend was open. Kind of ironic that for something to do I ended up going on a five hour drive.

I'd never actually been into Kamloops so I got to drive through the city, which looked to be a pretty nice place although I didn't stop. The next town was Salmon Arm which is on a series of lakes in what they call the Shuswap and is a very beautiful area. I got to Sicamous around 3:00pm and the dealership was actually closed because they went to the annual SkiDoo meeting in Florida. I'd called several times before leaving Merritt but just got their normal answering machine stating their hours. I wasn't too upset because I at least got to see the area, but I was surprised that they didn't have any snow on the ground. From Sicamous I drove south through Vernon into Kelowna, and headed over the pass back to Merritt. I decided that night I'd go out for dinner, a beer and see if I could watch some of the Olympics. I was really glad that my heater was working when I woke up on Wenesday and there was about two inches of fresh snow on the ground. I drove over to my new favorite coffee shop and had my morning latte and muffin and wasted a few hours doing nothing.
Again I went to the shop and they were still working on the transmission but for some reason weren't done with it. They said it was looking more like the end of the day at this point. I took the minivan back to the rental place and decided to get my things packed and ready so I could start driving early on Thursday morning. I spent a lot of time at the coffee shop. Wednesday evening around 4;30 I walked back over to the shop and there sat my truck, it was a very good feeling to see it sitting there. The mechanic appeared to still be checking some things out and I wasn't getting a warm fuzzy feeling after talking to him. Apparently the truck has an auxiliary pto that is not used but had a gear ring that was damaged when I burned up my transmission. When they priced a replacement drum it was $750 and two days shipping as it was only available out of Ohio. They decided that since there wasn't anything on the auxiliary pto they could remove the damaged gear ring and reinstall the drum. After they put the transmission back in, the trucks computer kept giving two different check engine light codes that ended up being from the sensor that detects the speed of the ring gear that they removed. None of them thought it would be an issue and were trying to save me a little time and money but they didn't think it would have an adverse affect since there wasn't actually anything connected to the pto. At this point it was almost 5:00 on Wednesday night so when they called three different Ford dealerships to talk to a Ford transmission tech they were told everyone went home early to watch the women's USA vs Canada hockey game. Who'd have thought, hockey in Canada would be an excuse to go home early. We decided that we would call them on Thursday morning and see if we could take the truck to a Ford dealership and just have the pto speed sensor programmed out. Until morning there was nothing we could do. That night I went out for dinner and beer again and watched a little Olympic hockey. I had a few too many beers which contributed to me sleeping a little later on Thursday than I would have but I didn't really care as the dealerships didn't open until 9:00 anyway. After my now routine stop at the coffee shop for my latte and muffin I walked back to the shop where they were still waiting to hear back from two different dealerships. When they did finally get the call the news was less than good. Both Ford dealerships said that the transmission had to come back out and they had to replace the old drum with a new one with a new pto drive gear. The mechanic estimated that if we got the new drum ordered it would be two days minimum to get it and probably until Sunday to get the transmission rebuilt and back in. This was with guys working Saturday and Sunday which they normally didn't do. Even if I got the truck on Sunday I had to be back at work Tuesday afternoon so I wouldn't have enough time to make the drive. This meant I had to fly back home so I could make it to work on Tuesday. It also meant that I wasted five vacation days doing nothing. I wasn't happy about any of it and I was even less happy when I booked a ticket for that afternoon out of Kelowna that cost $1200. We hauled my trailer out of the rv park and moved it back into their yard where it would be locked in a fenced yard at night. Then it was back to the Greyhound station for the ride back to Kelowna. At the bus station I couldn't find a shuttle so my only option was a cab but I remembered what the community bus driver said about haggling and just asked the cabbie if he'd take me to the airport for $20. He said yes so I was wishing I'd have said $15 but it was still better than the $25 I paid the first time.

I flew back to Seattle and caught an evening flight home where I picked up my Dad's suburban at the airport in Anchorage and headed home.

One of the many beautiful lakes near Sicamous BC