Days 8-10: The Old Motorhome That Could

Another day, another adventure!

After retrieving the TQ and her newly minted transmission from A1 Transmission in Red Deer, we (and by we, I mean Sean and Russ) proceeded to drive through the night till 6 in the morning to a little town called Pink Mountain, where we were forced to stop and sleep to wait for the gas station to open. Our stop wasn’t because we were out of vegetable oil, but rather we needed diesel because our fuel filter was done. When that happens, it’s usually no big deal… if you have another fuel filter, which we didn’t. We could have also just switched to diesel and kept on driving… if we had diesel, which we were low on.

Also coincidentally, on one of the coldest nights to date, we noticed that all our important fuses on Yeti had blown in Red Deer (and not by any fault to the Yeti). How did this happen? Well, you see the TQ is a finicky old woman with many quirks about her—namely, the fact that you can’t just hop in and start her up. There is a green switch that needs to be flipped on that gives power to the injection pump, and THEN you can start her up. However, the guys at A1 misunderstood that fact and ended up draining the battery trying to start without the green switch and finally decided to jump the TQ to get her started, blowing the fuses in the Yeti, and driving her into the shop for the repair (while we were at yoga and the skatepark). Nothing against A1—those guys were awesome, and nothing against Goal Zero’s Yeti—that thing is a god-send and the fuses are there for a reason.

However to our credit, we didn’t put two and two together about the fuses until 6 in the morning when we were bundled up, extremely tired, and cursing the fact that both the heater and the stove have electric starts, and as such, without fuses, we couldn’t start either one.

Essentially, we were experiencing what its like to go tent camping… in a motorhome. Thank god for Pink Mountain.

Once fully fueled and with new fuses installed, we ran on diesel for a few more hours till we reached Ft. Nelson. And if you were there the day we rolled in, you couldn’t miss us… unless you were deaf. Our brake pads were literally ground down to the rotors. How is that possible, you ask? Even though we had a brake technician specifically inspect our brakes in Red Deer because we had a suspicion that could happen? We’re not quite sure. The guy in Red Deer assured us that we had a lot of pads left, and we’d be fine. Perhaps we encountered another road block to add yet another story to our adventure—and another car technician to the growing list of mechanics who have had their hands on the TQ since we left Utah. Whatever the reason, we needed new brake pads, and we weren’t going anywhere until we got them installed.

Here’s the part where many of you are wondering how much is too much when it comes to the TQ. When do we get to a point where we give up, sell the thing and buy flights home? I think it’s safe to say unless something catastrophic happens, we’re past the point of no return. She’s not perfect, and she’s never been perfect—but neither are we. We are on this trip for a reason—many reasons, it seems—and we’ve each invested enough that we’re bound and determined to get the Travel Queen to Alaska. And so… we set out to find some brake pads.

Finding brake pads for a 1977 Dodge Travel Queen is a funny thing. It would make sense that the auto parts stores in far north British Columbia don’t carry such obscure parts all the time—and in fact, the Napa there does carry them, but coincidentally didn’t have any in stock at the time. They could get us the part by Wednesday, which would leave us stranded in Fort Nelson for 5 days, meaning if we left there Wednesday, we’d have 1900 miles to drive in 1 day to get me to Anchorage on time for a flight I booked on the 15th for my best friend’s bachelorette party in Chicago. In other words, that situation was not an option. We needed brake pads asap.

It took us 2 hours, a billion-and-one phone calls, and some strategic planning and begging, but we located a pair of our brake pads in Edmonton at a Bumper to Bumper store. There, a gal by the name of Christine (hi, Christine!) was able to bend the rules and allow us to purchase them over the phone, and then put them on a Greyhound Bus which—coincidentally—left Edmonton at 10:30 that evening (Friday) and was to arrive in Fort Nelson the following day (Saturday) at 1:45 in the afternoon. Miraculously, after calling every shop in town and having them tell us that they don’t work on Saturdays, we found a nice man by the name of Al who agreed to work on the TQ on a Saturday and install our pads.

We spent the evening slacklining in the local park, I took a bike ride around town, and Britt took a yoga class at Blissfit Yoga in town (great class, BTW). Then, after visiting him Al yesterday, and with a quick swipe of the credit card, we were on our way into the great unknown on the Alaskan Highway.

As I sat, typing with the fumes of veggie oil and brake pads commingling in the air yesterday afternoon, I can tell you without a doubt that we wouldn’t have made it this far without a new transmission and new brake pads. Sure there are things in life that require you to invest money—sometimes more money than you’d like to admit—but you know what? At the end of the day, it’s just money. We’re fortunate to be able to take this trip and have a little wiggle room here and there. Sean and I are grateful to have such adventurous, go-with-the-flow friends like Britt and Russ to take this trip with us—we couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else!

Last night’s destination was the Laird Hot Springs where we met many new friends, and we’re headed to Watson Lake today for some climbing. Apparently, the main/only road to Whitehorse from here is partially washed out (meaning cars cannot pass through) and crews are working hard to get it cleared. Lots of flooding, lots of unhappy people. Cross your fingers we make it through in the next few days…

Onward and upward…

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