This is turning into somewhat of a disaster blog. But then again, disaster makes for the best comedy and creative writing. Raise hands anyone who has read a story of the Lusitania that went along the lines - boat left dock...floated along...we landed and departed. Nope, disaster is a better story but I digress.
So we reworked our feeble pre-planned itinerary to head through Moline IL. Childhood home of Corky - mother of Jen and all around great mother in law (give me a break, Christmas is just around the corner). We had two items on our Moline agenda, Loose Meat Sandwiches at Maid-Rite (and yes for those of you wondering, I too giggle any time I say loose meat sandwich) and ice cream at Whitey's. Both were great, per the recommendation of previously mentioned outstanding mother in law (I have birthdays too you know) I also had a deep fried pork sandwich which was larger than my youngest child's head. Stuffed to the gills with meaty goodness we paused between dining and ice cream for some serious park play. Mind you, it's showing over 100 on the thermometer and the heat index resides somewhere north of there - for the sake of argument let's call it unfreakinbelivably hot. So I after dropping several pounds in water weight we get our ice cream and head back to the RV. Leaving Moline, the plan is to head up through Iowa on our way to South Dakota and Rushmore in a couple days.
We made good progress with the AC on high and the thermometer reading between 93 and 102. Before I continue it probably bears mentioning that the only real issues my parents and owners of the RV had while driving out from west to east was an intermittent issue with the RV just stopping. Sounds bad I know, and not something they were able to fix on the east prior to turning over the keys to us. Oh well, press on regardless I say. So this issue seemed to only occur when it was really hot out and the best guess was the main computer was overheating. Guess what...it's as mentioned, unfreakinbelievably hot and somewhere in the middle of Iowa between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo we hit our first hiccup in RV forward progress.
At first, no real big deal. Heading up a hill I realize we no longer are maintaining the forward progression that my foot is encouraging. My diagnostic skills kick into high gear. Temp seems ok, oil pressure, check, wife...not so much. Houston we have a problem. After turning off the AC and a couple seconds of head scratching, things return to normal and we are not run over by the semi truck bearing down on us. OK, that was interesting. Lacking in any real diagnostic capabilities at 65 mph we continue with a new sense of heightened awareness to the various noises a 20K lbs vehicle makes while running down the road.
Several mile later, you guessed it, it happens again. This time I am more determined to diagnose if it is engine or transmission. My sloth like reflects kick into high gear and I quickly determine that either through some of my switch flipping or gear changing the engine is no longer running. Sweet Baby Jesus in a tiny canoe we're coasting! First slightly up and then slightly down, then up hill again.
Now for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of playing soap box racer with a 20K lb vehicle let me describe the experience for you. First, you must try to restart it while barreling down the highway after flipping on those hazard lights you really hope are working right about now. Nada - Zip - Zilch, that didn't work. So you note you have a nice wide shoulder and the next exit is in sight - yet somewhat, no really actually uphill from your current location. Next you will note that the steering has become - how to describe..."somewhat heavy". You see apparently power steering was indeed invented for vehicles for whom their steering axle supports not just my own ample girth, but things like refrigerators, microwaves and let's not forget a couch. So yes, somewhat heavy would be accurate. Brakes? Yep still got some. Good news, coasting needs little braking effort. So we now have the beauty of coasting down the side of a rural highway somewhere in central Iowa.
To tell the truth, I would have bet against us making that next exit. But Sir Isaac Newton would have B-slapped me for that one. We were one giant object in motion and in motion we stayed, coasting all the way up off the highway and off the edge of the off ramp. I quickly tried to restart the engine (sloth like reflexes remember?) and with luck it fires. It was at this moment, as I pulled away to move further off the ramp I noticed the state trooper who was riding behind me. As I pulled away I saw him raise his arms in that universal gesture denoting, WTF. We pulled several yards up the off ramp to a wider spot and decided, indeed, this was the perfect spot to stop for a bite to eat. Actually it was my youngest who decided this for us by declaring she would in fact perish at that very moment without some form of sustenance. [editors note: She actually says "This is important. I might expire."] We flipped on the generator and AC and I quickly heated some hot dogs - the requested sustenance of the youngest clan member. Of course the minute the dogs were done, no one wanted to eat them. Being over 100 degrees and humid does things to your metabolic processes, namely makes you want to gain your sustenance via intravenous form factors. Lacking a round of chilled saline solutions, ice pops seemed to be the next best thing. None of those fancy Otter pops for us, these were the best in food colored and artificial flavors water my hard earned dollars could buy. I think Katie downed at least 3, Jack 2 and even mommy and daddy got into the act. Mine was blue and both my wife and daughter informed me I was eating it wrong. Despite my ice pop ineptitude, icy dinner was better than no dinner (those things are nutritious, right?) and everyone felt a little better for their frozen colored water intake.
Several minutes and a couple of shirt changes later we are set to try it again. Everything restarts and we are off in a flash - if a flash is somehow slow, like perhaps a tortoise or turtle names Flash, you know the one. Everything seems to be operational, but we decide that quitting (I mean discretion, of course) is the better part of valor and we would look for some place to spend the nice. Apparently north central Iowa is not chock a block with RV campgrounds with full pull through access and pools (last being youngest child request) so we find and settle on a local park campground and the last pull through site, right next to the lazy river. After settling in for the night which involves pleading for the boy to go to sleep and reading 3 stories for the kids, I decide to check my phone to see what the weather has in store for us. I have the Weatherbug app on my phone and I recommend it, especially for hopefully needless fear mongering. You see dear reader we have set ourselves down in the middle of a flood watch zone on the banks of a lazy river. After many minutes of web searching and Google mapping, Jen and I have a plan. Wake up around 3-4 am to get out of here before the rain hits. Tune in next time to see if we have to swim for it, or if weatherbug was just full of it and we should have listened to bedbug instead (shout out to @bedbug1038).