The Day Facebook Saved Our Lives

I try pretty hard to keep my posts in order, even if it means getting behind by weeks (sometimes months) where we actually are in real life. But, something happened recently that  I think is too important to wait.

We’ve been meandering our way back to Florida. My last post was about Yellowstone NP and since then, we’ve visited Grand Teton NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Staircase NM, Carlsbad Cavern NP and finally Guadalupe Mountains NP. This found us once again in Texas. Our plan was to catch up with some friends from our job last summer then head to NOLA to check out the WWII Museum before making our way to Crystal River, FL to visit with Daddy. We were unemployed at the moment, so taking our time was fine.

Just outside of Odessa, TX our plan, and Waldo, came to a screeching halt. We were broken down. Naturally, this happened on a Friday afternoon. With the weekend looming, no one had any interest in getting us on our way. One company Steve called said sure, they’d come look at Waldo, but “Be prepared to pay ALL the money.” Gee thanks, but no thanks.

What do you do when you are broken down in a strange place and no one seems to care? You reach out to whoever you can think of, anyone you think *might* know someone in the area. Last year, when we were working at Wind Point Park, we met Ben Miller, the promoter of Turkey Drag. I was hoping with all of his car club connections he might know someone who could help. I reached out to him via Facebook and then something incredible happened. Ben posted a “looking for recommendations” on our behalf on his page and within minutes, people started leaving suggestions, tagging friends and offering help. Someone sent Ben a screenshot of a contact on their phone. It was Jake from DropTine Auto in Midland, Texas.

Steve called Jake and explained our situation. Despite the fact DropTine is a very busy shop, Jake said we could bring Waldo there. When Steve explained he was a mechanic and could do some of the work himself, Jake said – “Great.”  To make a long story short, not only did Jake allow Steve to do 99% of the work himself, but he let us stay in Waldo in the yard. It turns out the problem was related to what caused us to break down in Alaska, only this time, there wasn’t a “band-aid” fix. The gear which runs the hydraulic pump is located on the mainshaft of the compressor and it was toast! Steve called Caterpillar and they said sure, they could get a new one for $2200 in about 6 weeks. I just cried. “6 weeks, stuck in Midland? $2200 we can’t afford that!” Jake called the manufacturer of the compressor to see if there was a replacement available. The unit had been discontinued. WHAT? But, they offered to rebuild ours for $250 plus shipping.  All we had to do was get it to them in North Carolina.

In the meantime, I had been looking for winter work. I found a seasonal job in Fort Lauderdale selling Christmas trees. Would Waldo be repaired in time for us to get there? We had already been broken down for 15 days, now we had to ship the compressor to NC and hope for the best.

DropTine is a busy shop with several great employees, but Jake allowed Steve to help out in the shop when he wasn’t working on Waldo. That was awesome! It gave Steve something to do and helped make us feel like we weren’t just taking up space in his yard.

The rebuilt compressor showed back up on Monday the 5th…

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with its shiny new gear. Isn’t that sexy?! It took until Tuesday afternoon to get everything back together. When the work was complete and we were ready to hit the road, we asked Jake for our bill. He said we didn’t owe him anything. He took into account the work Steve had done around the shop and called it even. I was floored. He also said if the shop was still busy in the spring, Steve could come back and work for him for a month or so before our next workamping job. It makes my heart happy to know there are still people in this world like him.

Happiness through the windshield…

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We have since arrived at Daddy’s house and are leaving on the 14th to head to Fort Lauderdale. I’ll keep you posted on how selling Christmas trees goes and promise to eventually go back and write about the places we’ve been.

A heartfelt thank you to Ben, his friends and all the guys at DropTine Auto!

(Wild) Life on the Road

After spending 4 1/2 months in Alaska, it was time to return to the lower 48. I spent weeks reviewing our route. We had already driven the Alcan, so I wanted to travel other roads. It was a horrible year for wildfires in British Columbia, so I changed our route several times. BC has a great website I used to make sure the roads I wanted to take were open. Eventually, I settled for returning on the Alcan. It just seemed safest.

We had seen some pretty cool wildlife while we were in Alaska, but we always want to see more. Not long after we crossed into the Yukon, we got our first chance…

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These wild horses were contently munching on the grasses along the highway. I felt pretty lucky to see them, apparently there have been efforts over the years to capture the remaining wild horses. I don’t know how many are left, but it can’t be many.

When we crossed into BC, the first thing we saw was a highway sign warning us of bison in the road near Muncho Lake. Herds of wood bison move pretty quickly and we spotted them long before the lake. At first we saw lone males hanging out by the road…

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Or in the road…

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It’s always a good thing to remember, these are wild animals and to always keep your distance.  Steve did that by taking his pictures out the window…

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A short while later, we came across a herd of wood bison. We stopped and watched as a calf nursed…

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After a while, we had so many pictures of bison, we didn’t pull over to watch the next few herds we saw.

What there weren’t any warning signs for was the herds of mountain goats. Early one morning, as we were driving along, we had to stop because they just wouldn’t get out of the road…

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I took this picture looking through the windshield…

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Mooned by a mountain goat! Finally, they moved off the road. One stopped to look back at us as if to say, “NOW you may go”…

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I liked seeing them on the upper slopes better than in the road…

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We had seen a couple bears along the way, but they were always heading into the woods. By the time I got the camera, they were gone. Until this guy came along…

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We saw more wild animals in 4 days in Canada than we did in 4 1/2 months in Alaska. And that’s the wild side of being on the road!

Up next, the wonders of Yellowstone.

Have you ever had to stop because an animal wouldn’t get off the road?

We Made It!

As we passed from the Yukon back into the USA, not much changed scenery wise.

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One thing was certain, the road conditions turned to crap. The Yukon has done a great job of road repair and Alaska – not so much! But that’s okay – we were in ALASKA!!! After two months and over 6000 miles we were within a day or two of being at our summer home. Or so I thought. We woke up on May 1st, our first full day in Alaska, to some seriously ominous skies. Then it began…

Snow so thick we could hardly see the road. This wasn’t what I had planned! But, you know what, it was the 1st of May and had to be expected. We were trying to reach Anchorage, where we would resupply before heading to Moose Pass. Once you get on the Kenai Peninsula, shopping become more expensive in two ways: 1 you have to pay the tax and 2 you have to drive at least 45 minutes to get to the nearest store. We were just about to crest a big hill we’d been climbing when Steve got very serious looking. He pulled over as best he could and I asked what was wrong. Waldo had lost it’s power steering – completely. We got out to see what had happened and found a giant puddle of oil under Waldo. Oh man, this isn’t good! We were in the middle of nowhere! Glenallen was an hour behind us and Anchorage was 2 1/2 hours in front of us. We called for roadside assistance from Good Sam’s and waited. And waited. And argued with them on the phone about exactly where we were. I gave them our GPS coordinates and told them we were at mile marker 37. Yes, 37 – I can see it from here! Finally, the tow truck arrived and Waldo got carted off…

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We were towed back to Glenallen, the closest “qualified repair center”. I was not a happy camper! Despite the bad luck of being broken down, we had the good luck of being towed to Glenallen Fuel and Service. First thing in the morning, the lead mechanic, Dawson, came out to talk to Steve. While the 2 of them conversed, I sat in Waldo and stewed about our situation. It could have been a lot worse. GF&S let us stay in Waldo in their parking lot, so we weren’t “homeless” When Steve came back inside, he explained what had happened. A bolt had come backed of the power steering pump and broke the other bolt holding drive on the pump. I just nodded my head as if it meant something to me. How long to fix it – that was my question! The part we needed was in Anchorage, naturally. But again, luck was with us. Scott, the tow truck driver, had to go to Anchorage anyhow, he’d pick it up for us. Dawson was quite happy to let Steve do all of the work he was capable of and loaned him any tools he didn’t have.

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All in all, we ended up being there 3 days and with Steve doing most of the work, it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been. We were back on the road and I was just blown away by the scenery. Every time I thought the view couldn’t get any better, it did!

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We finally made it to Anchorage and got all the shopping out of the way. Only an hour and a half until we are home for the summer! Yea! I wasn’t prepared for the amazing scenery yet to come…

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The Seward Highway leaving Anchorage
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Driving along Turnagain Arm

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Well, here we are in Moose Pass. We parked at the bottom of the driveway and walked up to meet our new bosses, Gary and Treva. They pointed out our spot and Steve brought Waldo up the hill. I wasn’t sure Waldo could make the turn and get enough traction in the dirt drive, but he made it…

Whew, that was a climb. But what a view…

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Our backyward
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Our front yard

Wow. Now that we made it, it’s time to go to work. Up next – settling in.

Thanks for coming along. I’m getting caught up on posts, I’m only 4 or 5 behind now. If you want the latest, follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

Hanging Out the Window

Time was getting short and we still had almost 3000 miles to go. We were due to arrive at our job in Moose Pass as close to May 1st as possible. Here it was the last week of April and we were only half way there. Of course, we had taken the really long way. From here on out, it would be one night stops, often not even unhooking the Jeep. Our planned travel route would take us through about 13 miles of Idaho. What could possibly happen in 13 miles? Just before we crossed the state line, I saw a sign stating all boats MUST stop and be checked for invasive species. My first (and only) thought was “Gee, glad they are taking it so seriously.” What I never gave a thought to was our 2 kayaks strapped to the roof of the Jeep. I mean they hadn’t been in the water since we left Florida. We were half way though our 13 miles when Steve pulled over to give the car with the red flashing lights pass by. Much to our surprise, they pulled right in behind us. What had he done? He wasn’t speeding or driving erratically. Nope – kayaks are boats and we hadn’t stopped. The sheriff was very pleasant about it, but we had to turn around and go back to the state line. The kayaks were inspected and we got a little sheet of paper stating so. I threw it on the dash as we began our 13 mile drive though Idaho again. We breezed through Oregon and Washington state before I ever thought about that little scrap of paper again. Several times I remarked to Steve that the landscape wasn’t what I had pictured. There were no tree covered mountains or lush forests. Only more of what we’d been seeing all along, giant rocky mountains with little or no vegetation. We finally got to the border crossing, produced our passports and were welcomed into British Columbia, Canada. For the first hour or so of the drive, we passed grove after grove of fruit trees. Every kind you could imagine. Apples, peaches, plums, pears. All in bloom, waiting for pollinators to do their jobs. I didn’t get any pictures because there just never seemed to be a good spot to pull over. We knew our biggest problem would be finding campgrounds that were open in April, most of them don’t open until May. I had picked out a few possibilities and figured we’d just stop in rest areas or truck stops if they didn’t work out.

We got to see our first wildlife in BC. Large herds of wood bison hanging our on the side of the road…

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As the scenery began to resemble more what I had expected, I spent a lot of time trying to capture it…

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Our best stop in BC was at Liard River Hotsprings. The provincial park wasn’t open yet for camping, but they had a large parking lot we were told we could dry camp in. In the morning, we headed over to check out the springs…

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The boardwalk to the springs

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Taking a nice soak

In a word – it was awesome! We were so tempted to spend another night, but we really did have to move on. We got to see a little more wildlife…

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We didn’t see near as much wildlife as I thought we would. Maybe it was too early in the season.

We crossed into the Yukon and stopped for the obligatory picture…

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I spent much of the next few days hanging out Waldo’s window. Every time I thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, it did!

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Yes, that’s me with my camera out the window

When we got to Watson Lake, we stopped at the Sign Post Forest. It’s hard to describe and the pictures don’t really do it justice…

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I don’t know how many signs there are, but I can tell you, it is A LOT! It took my quite a while to go through all of the pictures and here are some of my favorites from the Yukon…

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And finally, we were heading back into the USA – Welcome to Alaska…

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Well, we made it to Alaska! Up next…Oh Waldo, you’re so……..

Our Hinkey Summit Adventure

Page had told us about another drive we would enjoy. “If you follow the road through Paradise Valley, you will come to the base of Hinkey Mountain. There is a road to the summit, your Jeep wouldn’t have any trouble,” he said. Frankly, the prospect of getting to do a little 4-wheeling really appealed to me.

First we had to find the road to Paradise Valley. Page had said it was easy. “Head out Hwy 95 for 25 miles or so, when you see a gas station in the middle of nowhere, take that left. That’s the road to Paradise Valley.”  Seems simple enough. Steve and I were enjoying the drive, just chatting about our adventures the previous day (you can read about that here) when I noticed these tiny heads popping up along the side of the highway. “Did you see that? What are those? Look, there’s another one. Slow down, I want to see what it is.” Well, there were cars coming up behind us so slowing down wasn’t an option. Lucky for me, our “middle of nowhere” gas station was just up ahead. Hopefully when we made the left, there would be more heads popping up. Sure enough, as we made our way down Paradise Valley Road, there they were. Steve pulled to the side of the road and I waited anxiously for the critter to makes its appearance. I didn’t have to wait too long…

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They reminded me of the pocket gophers we had seen in Texas but these were prairie dogs. It was comical to watch them pop up and scurry around, only to disappear into another burrow. We watched for a bit then resumed our drive. All the sudden, without a word, Steve banged a u-turn. Huh? What had he seen that I missed? He pulled over again and pointed to one of the prairie dog holes and said “Isn’t that an owl?” We got out the binoculars and sure enough, it was a burrowing owl. The problem was, it wasn’t feeling like being social. Every time we tried to get a picture it either dropped back down into the hole or it would fly off to a fence post just out of camera range. With a little patience we were finally able to  get a few shots…

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Leaving the owls to their activities, we drove on. I was thinking “Wow, Hon, get catch with the owls!” when a pheasant flew into the road. Naturally, it didn’t stay long enough for either of us to get a shot. Now it was my turn…”Pull over!” I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I wanted a closer look. When I walked over to the fence line, this is what I had seen…

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Hey, it’s still wildlife, it’s just long dead wildlife. As I was getting ready to get back into the Jeep, I looked down the fence line and saw something a little more photogenic…

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Wow, I was loving all this wildlife! Once again, we started back towards Paradise Valley. Finally, we made it and had to get a few pics while we were there. It is another ‘has been’ town with more abandon houses/businesses then occupied, but it has a saloon too…

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We finally found Hinkey Summit Road. It wasn’t going to be 4-wheeling unless the road got a heck of a lot worse further on. With no other vehicle in sight, we crawled along, ever ready for our next wildlife encounter. Steve stopped by a pond and I got out to check it out. Lots of ducks and geese and a couple birds I couldn’t identify at the time…

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American Avocets – Thanks Google!

We came to the entrance to Homboldt National Forest where the road to the summit truly began. I oohed and aahed at the scenery…

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I took pictures of the winding road…

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As we neared the summit, I noticed a natural bridge…

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At the summit, we almost got to go 4-wheeling. There was still snow to play in…

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OK, not really enough snow to 4-wheel in. Perhaps it was the elevation getting to me but I had an idea – I would take a video on the way back down the mountain. Maybe not my best idea ever, but what do you think…

Thanks for coming along.

I am almost caught up. I have one more post about our trip then I will start on arriving in Alaska and our adventures so far (there have been some cool ones!)

Searching For A Cold Beer

We left Beatty (and hopefully all of Waldo’s troubles) and headed north. So far, most of our getting to Alaska trip had been west. Now it was time to go north. The drive from Beatty was hundreds of miles of absolutely nothing but breathtaking scenery. Once again we were on the side of the road, but this time for a good reason. I wanted pictures of the amazing landscape around us…

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We were traveling on Hwy 376 when the GPS said to take the next exit onto The Loneliest Road in America. I looked at Steve and asked “What did the GPS just say?” Sure enough, the stretch of Route 50 through Nevada is called The Loneliest Road in America! Some day, I’d like to travel the entire 3000 mile of Route 50. It goes from Ocean City, Maryland to West Sacramento, California.

When I was researching our stops, I found a New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca. Originally, we were just going to spend the night and move on, but it looked like there were lots of things to do and see there. I had picked up a bunch of brochures at the office and we spent our first evening there trying to decide what adventure would be first on the list. In the morning, we decided to visit some of the ghost towns in the area. While I was pouring over the brochures, Steve was searching AtlasObscura.com. What he found sounded way cooler than what I had found. A ghost town that wasn’t a ghost town! And, it had a saloon! Before we headed out to find the saloon, we had to pick up some supplies. We were looking for a hardware store and someone said there was an ACE Hardware nearby. Now, that doesn’t sound all that exciting I know. You are probably wondering why I’m mentioning it at all. But…the ACE Hardware was inside of Riddley’s Family Market. Yep, a hardware/grocery store. The only place where you can get pipe fittings and pickles all in one stop. (Thank you Josie) I loved it! With our shopping done, we went in search of a cold beer.

Midas can’t truly be called a ghost town because there are still 9 full time residents. As we made our way further into Nevada’s back country, we passed all sorts of places. Some where beautiful scenery, others made me scratch my head a bit…

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I wonder how many people drive down this dirt road and think “Yeah, I want to buy that”

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We had to stop for the free range cattle a few times

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We were almost to Midas when a tumbleweed blew by us. I’ve seen lots of tumbleweeds in the movies and wanted to see one up close…

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So, the funny thing about this picture is while I was standing there holding a tumbleweed, some of the “locals” drove by. I can only imagine what they were thinking.

With only 3 miles to go, we wondered what we would find in Midas. Was there really a saloon in the middle of nowhere? Here are some of the things we saw when we got to “town”…

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And YES, the saloon…

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Notice the open sign!? Woohoo! Inside, the owner, Page, popped open a couple cold ones for us. We spent the next several hours talking with Page. He was a retired electrician. He had spent 30 years working for a gold mine operation and now owned the saloon. He told us Nevada is the worlds 4th largest gold producer. An article I found confirms this…

4th largest gold producing country 

In fact, if Nevada was a country, it would be the world’s fourth-largest gold producer, behind China, Australia and Russia, according to the US Geological Survey. Reported gold reserves (resources that are economical to mine) at the end of 2015 were about 70 million ounces, enough to sustain gold production near current levels for the next 12 to 15 years, reads a 2016 report from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG).

Wow! I went out to check out more of the town while Steve continued to chat with Page. And who did I see? The folks who had driven by while I was chasing down the tumbleweed. They were nice enough to let me take a picture of their truck…

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Page told us about lots of things we could find near the town, but in the end, we spent so much time chatting with him, we only had time to go to the far north end of town. Here we found the abandon part of town…

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One of the entrances into the mine

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You know I had to go inside and look around!
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An old star drill bit
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Mr. Bunny was kind enough to pose for me

I think this sign was one of my favorite things I saw in Midas..

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With the light and my energy fading, we began the drive back to Waldo. I wondered about the people who had once lived in Midas. Had they found their fortune? Or did they give up and leave everything behind? The town was such a strange mix of abandon, fixed up, new and cold beer. Our final run in with the locals came just as we were nearing the highway back to Winnemucca, riding off into the sunset…

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Up next, our visit to Paradise Valley…

Have you ever gone to a ghost town for a cold beer?

Oh Waldo – You’re SO Hot!

Unfortunately, it isn’t near as sexy as it sounds. If you’ve following our travels, you know we have had a long time problem with Waldo overheating. There were travels days we spent more time on the side of the road than motoring. This has led to some very frustrating days, tears and more than my fair share of unlady-like fits of screaming.

I’ve tried to keep my posts happy and full of America’s breathtaking scenery,  but I’ve decided that isn’t really a fair way to describe our lifestyle. Yes, for almost a year now, we’ve been exploring new areas of the country and having the time of our life. But – it isn’t all beauty and magic.

When we arrived in Beatty, it was in a fit of overheating. We are extremely fortunate Steve is a mechanic by trade. He has been working on cars, trucks and motorcycles for 40+ years. RV maintenance comes easy to him. Changing the oil and filters doesn’t require a trip to a shop. This has saved us countless dollars. But, this nagging overheat issue obviously wasn’t going away. He had already changed the thermostats, checked hoses and replaced the overflow tank, all to no avail. He came to the conclusion Waldo needed a new radiator. UGH! To make matters worse, we had taken Waldo to an oversized carwash to clean away some of the grease and grime which has accumulated around the giant CAT motor. Using the high pressure hose, he began spraying away, only to watch as parts of the fan blades fall to the ground. Great, now not only do we need a radiator, but we also need a new fan. Thanks Steve. But, to be fair to him, the blasted thing is 18 years old and has 190,000 miles on it.

We had only planned on staying in Beatty for 6 nights, but ended up staying for 9 nights. The 3rd day there, Steve called around for parts. We could get a new fan from Freightliner in Las Vegas, a mere 2 1/2 hours away. They could get us a new radiator as well, for the low cost of $2200. When he gasped at the price, the parts guy suggested he call a radiator shop, not far from Freightliner. The woman who answered the phone was beyond helpful! She was pretty sure she could get us a replacement for about half the cost. The catch was, she needed Steve to bring her the defunct radiator so she could check some measurements.  So, with the limited tools Steve brought with him, he set out to dismantle Waldo’s cooling system. The camp host loaned us two 5 gallon buckets to drain the antifreeze. We were lucky the park let us work on Waldo there. Lots of places wouldn’t have. Once the radiator (and all the other miscellaneous crap was removed), Steve set off for Las Vegas. I was feeling more than a bit cranky and was content to let him make the trip alone. By the time he returned, a little before 10pm, I had calmed down – some. Both the fan and the radiator had to be ordered and wouldn’t be in for several days. We spent those days exploring Death Valley.

Wednesday finally rolled around and we headed back to Las Vegas. We picked up the fan and 15 gallons of antifreeze from Freightliner and called the radiator shop to check on the arrival status. It wasn’t in yet, but was on its way – another hour or so. Since we had time to kill, we went to WalMart and did some resupplying. As we were coming out of WalMart, I was nearly deafened by the sound of F-16s flying overhead. It was the Thunderbirds from nearby Nellis AFB. How cool is that?!?!? Since I hadn’t brought my camera, a crappy cellphone pic will have to do…

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With the excitement over, we headed to the radiator shop. They were just taking it off the truck when we arrived. Perfect timing. With the Jeep loaded to capacity with parts and supplies, we headed back to Beatty. We had just dropped over $1500 in Las Vegas and never set foot inside a casino.

Thursday, Steve got right to work putting Waldo back together. New fan…check…

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New radiator…check…

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It took a little longer to put things back together then it did to take it apart. It always amazes me when Steve can take a pile of bolts and know which one goes where. I mean seriously, when he took it apart, he threw all of the bolts into a bucket. When I take things apart, I label everything and take pictures so I can put it back together, maybe that’s why I’m not the mechanic! Soon enough, Steve was ready to start the motor. I have to admit, I might have been holding my breath. But when the “Wait To Start” light went off, Waldo fired right up. We let it run for a while, satisfied everything was good. The real test wouldn’t come until we drove down the road. We have since traveled to Alaska and Waldo hasn’t overheated once, thanks to my wonderful mechanic, husband and best friend. His ability to handle the mechanical problems has saved us thousands of dollars. It is a comfort knowing he can do these things, but it doesn’t help my anxiety in the moment things fail. I’m working on handling things better, but for now, if you hear a scream of panic, it still might be me!