1. THE CHRONICLES OF THE TRIP FROM HELL
In early July, 1999, I bought my used RV and took it to an RV shop to have anything and everything fixed, before taking it on a trip planned for September. It is a 1977 EXECUTIVE (top of its class in those days) driven by a DODGE 440 7.2 liter engine. So it was 22 years old with an indicated 50,000 miles, but its appearance and price of $8000 sucked me in like a hot looking hooker. An additional attraction was the seller I bought it from said it had a rebuilt engine and that it got 10-14 miles per gallon. The mechanic effectively had 2 months to work on it, but he diddled around doing nohing for the first month and a half, because he said he was waiting for a new speedometer cable. By the time September rolled around, he said he had everything fixed except for two things. First, despite his rebuildng the carburetor on the 110 house generator, it would only start for about 2 minutes and then die. And second, he said there was a small 12 volt system electrical leak that he could not find. Oh well, neither of those was a show stopper. So our trip was a go.
We (Marlene and I) took off intending to take 2 weeks going to see my son, Kevin, in Colorado Springs (via Zion & Bryce in Utah) and then proceed north to the western Dakotas, and back through Yellowstone, to the Great Salt Lake and home again. The first 3 days of our trip took us to Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Grand Junction, Colorado, all without a major incident. There was one small mishap in Zion where the battery compartment door came open and got knocked off somewhere along the bumpy road. So while in Zion, I managed to find some scrap material to construct a temporary door. Aside from that I was very pleased with the way the engine was running and staying cool in the hot Utah desert.
The 4th day that old RV even took us up to 11,000 feet to visit my cousin in LeadVille, but she wasn't home. Gong on to Colorado Springs to see my son, we were approaching Woodland Park (near Pikes Peak) when I decided to switch over to my 25 gallon reserve gas tank, because my 35 gallon main tank was empty. This was the 1st time I ever tried to use the reserve tank, but I had every reason to believe it would work. Wrong, it did not. I found myself running out of gas just on the outskirts of Woodland Park. Fortunately, I only had to walk a mile back to get gas. The reserve tank was full, but inaccesible, because the switch was not working. But we got out of the trouble and headed down the mountain into Colorado Springs to stay with my son.
Not one to put up with the things not working, I decided to take the RV to a mechanic in Colorado Springs and get the "minor problem" fixed. Right !! The next morning, Marlene & I took the RV to the mechanic, a father and son shop, the father saying he could fix it without problem. All he had to do was get the small electro-magnetic valve switch. It was 10 am, and he said he would be right back with the part. Now this was a Tuesday, so we had every reason to believe that he would be right back. Marlene and I took an hour walk. When we got back to the shop, the father still had not come back with the part. So we waited, & waited....etc. In the meantime, the son ask me if I wanted to get my fuel lines cleaned out and checked, just to be sure that it was the switch and not a clogged line. He said it would not take very long, so I said "sure". At 1pm the father had not returned yet, & the son summoned me to come look underneath the RV where the main gas tank sits. He said 'Do you see that?". I said "What"? He said "That rear gas tank bracket?" I said "So?". He said "Look at how that bracket is holding your gas tank in place". OH MY GOD!! The bracket was barely under the gas tank, craddling it in place by just a small corner of the tank. One good jolt & the whole damned tank would have fallen off. Okay, so now he had to blow out the fuel lines & resecure the gas tank, still no big deal to do. RIGHT !! We sat there, & we sat there, & we sat there until 4PM rolled around. Finally, the father showed up with the fuel valve switch. Meanwhile, the son was still struggling with what was suppose to be a matter of minutes. By the time 5:30 pm rolled around, my son was off work & came to get Marlene for dinner. I would join them latter. RIGHT !! I did not leave that damned shop with my RV untill 7:30 pm and $600 poorer. That evening, as we started to bed down in the RV, Marlene was smelling gas fumes and unable to stand it. So we could not sleep in the RV, & had to take it back the next day. In repositioning the gas tank, the mechanic's son had taken off and incompletely put back the fill hose to the gas tank, leaving it possible for fumes to escape. Another day and another $300 seem to fix the problem.
Here it was Wednesday, & we had wasted precious time getting a mechanic error corrected. We decided we had to change plans, spend another night with my son, & then head south for the Grand Canyon, instead of going north to Yellowstone. Thursday came, & we said goodbye to my son. Marlene went to get in her seat and buckle up, when I heard a loud CRASH. Marlene was laying on the floor. Her whole damned seat had come unscrewed from its base and came crashing down with her in it. Fortunately, she was not injured. I subsequently learned that the prior owner had installed new carpeting but failed to secure the passenger seat to the floor adequately. It was beginning to look like this whole RV was a death trap. I resecured the front seat to its base, & we headed south through Pueblo & Wasserville. Now heading west to Alamossa out in the middle of nowhere, I decided to switch over to the reserve tank. Need I say more?? THE SWITCH FAILED TO WORK AGAIN. I took matters into my own hands, & figured out how to manually switch lines around, thus bypassing the switch valve. We made it to Alamossa for the night. WHEW !!
The next morning (Friday) we had breakfast & then went to continue on our way westward. BUT .... the damned RV would not even start. Now I was really pissed. I called that idiot mechanic back in Colorado Springs, & he said to bring it back where he could fix it for no additional charge. So we drive 200 miles back to Colorado Springs. By this time Marlene had had it. She decided to fly back home. Who could blame her? So Saturday came, & we parted ways, with her flying back & me bringing the RV back via the Grand Canyon. RIGHT ?
That day I drove all day, making it all the way passed Wasserville, Durango and into the little inhabited territory known as FOUR CORNERS in the Arizona sector. Having passed a little indian community known as Kayenta, I journeyed on 14 miles more to a VERY REMOTE inn, where I spent the night. The next morning, I awoke, had breakfast,& then went to leave. Do I need to say anything more?? That damned RV would not start for love or money. I screwed around with it for about 1 hour, & then I decided to call the Auto Club. They said that they had to come about 100+ mile from FlagStaff & that it would be a couple of hours. By this time, if I had a stick of dynamite, I believe I would have blown that damned RV to smithereenes. The Auto Club tow truck actually showed up within 1/2 hour. I was very surprized. He hooked the RV up, & we started back to that little indian community, Kayenta. On the way, I ask the tow driver if there was any public transportation available. I told him that he could have the RV. I was that mad. He said that he would give me $3000 for it, BUT THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS GOING TO FIND ANY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION & HE COULD NOT TAKE ME TO ANY PLACE WHERE THERE WAS TRANSPORTATION. I had already called Marlene about my situation, but as far as she was concerned it was my problem. So, in short, I was going to become a permanent resident of Kayenta.
When we reached the one gas station in Kayenta, an indian greeting service man came out excllaiming, "Oh my, we have a sick RV". He then summoned another indian mechanic yelling "Hey, Medicine Man come over here". The Medicine Man came over, asked for the keys, and went inside the RV. Meanwhile, the tow truck driver was still scratching his head over how to get me out of town. Five mintes passed, & then....WHOOOOM... the RV engine was running. I went inside the RV & asked the medicine Man with wonder "What in the hell did you do to fix it?". He replied, "The choke was frozen in place". DUHHH !!! I could not fiigure that out, because I was so intimidated by this piece of cr_p. Also, I had believed in two IDIOT MECHANICS, ie the one back home & the one in Colorado Springs. I asked the Medicine Man how much I owed him, & was floored when I saw the bill. $15..., practically nothing. I went in & paid the bill. On the way out, I gave the Medicine Man a $20. His friend, the greeter, yelled, "Hey, I referred you. Where is mine?". I told him, "Ask the Medicine Man". I was on my way and OUT OF THERE. All I wanted to do was get home, forget the Grand Canyon. I drove that sucker like a bat of hell for 10 hours straight, from 12 noon to 10pm, at which time I pulled into my RV lot at home. For weeks after that, I was still thinking about those sticks of dynamite.
A Word About The Indian People Of Kayenta and The Four Corners Area. Years after this trip, an interesting story emerged on TV regarding the people of this area. Back in the late 60' or early 70's, the electric company built the coal operated generating plant in Laughlin, Nevada. To produce the coal to run the plant, the natives of the Four Corners area were encouraged by the electric company, along with Peabody Coal Company, to mine the area for coal. This was seen as a great economic advancement for what had been the poor Navajo indians. However, after 20 years of operation it was found that the electric plant was polluting the air in the Grand Canyon, so much that you could not see the bottom or other side of the canyon. That's how dirty coal is. BUT, on top of this a very stupid method of transporting the coal from eastern Arizona to western Arizona was employed, whereby the coal was dissolved in water to form a slury which would flow though a channel (like an aquaduct) across the entire state to the generating plant. This means of transporting the coal resulted not only in a reduced water supply for the indians, but in the contamination of what water was left. As a consequence, the indians, along with environmentalist, correctly protested and won their case against the two companies, causing them to cease or change their energy handling. Very oddly, the electric company just shut down the entire plant, rather than convert it to gas-fired electric generation. No matter, I vote for the indians in this case.