Since it was pouring down rain the day we planned to leave we sat it out at the Elks in KC for another day. It’s a good thing we did.
We hit the road and dumped and fueled up in Oak Grove before heading to Marni and Eric’s place in Hartsburg. I was driving the car behind the bus and all went just fine for about 20 miles. Traffic was heavy but started to thin out a little once we got away from the city. It wasn’t raining but was supposed to later that night. The rain has been following us.
The bus had been running fine before we went to get some maintenance done at Inland Truck in Olathe. This was the first time we drove it since then.
We only had about 100 miles to go and figured we would arrive in time for Happy Hour. A few miles more and Jim pulled off onto the shoulder. I stayed in the car as he came back to the engine compartment. I could see that the engine belt was loose and he tightened that up. The guys at Inland must have bumped the switch that tightens up the belt. Jim has fixed this before; it is on the every travel day checklist. So is checking the oil which was at just the right level in the morning before we left. Inland Truck had changed the oil too.
Once the belt was tight he checked the oil again. I could see his shoulders slump when he did and it looked like he was cursing. Uh oh… Then he got on the phone while I watched and waited. He was calling Howard, his bus guru. Then he came back to the car. When he checked the oil this time it was way high on the stick. WTH? He figured some fuel must have gotten into the oil, overheated because the belt was loose, and the engine wouldn’t start because of it.
What to do? We put out triangles to warn traffic while he got on the phone with Coachnet, our roadside service. They have always been very responsive. This time he got on hold and that was it.
Meanwhile, finally the Highway Patrol pulled up. I had been waving traffic off but once he showed up, everybody moved over. He was on his way to a wreck up the road and couldn’t stay but he called Jackson County Tow and got them to come get us.
Jim was still on hold with Coachnet and tensions were rising as was the volume of traffic. I went back to waving off the traffic and he continued to be on hold with Coachnet. As I was waving away the traffic, an RV flashed his lights at us, in a show of solidarity I assumed. They pulled off on the shoulder ahead of us and walked back to the bus. It was some friends from our winter park in Texas! They had been going in the other direction and saw us on the shoulder. Jim and Renae said “Is that The Mighty Bus?” We took a quick pic and they moved on. It was very thoughtful of them and boosted our spirits. A little.
Finally the tow truck arrived. They said they worked with Coachnet but we hadn’t gotten the go-ahead from them so we weren’t sure if Coachnet would pay for the tow. And it would cost $550! Yikes!
Meanwhile traffic was picking up. We had been on the side of the road for a couple of hours by the time another Highway patrolman pulled up. Officer Shubert stayed behind us for quite a while but he stressed that we needed to get off the road as it was getting closer to rush hour and a storm was coming. The tow company sent out another truck to back us up on the shoulder when he had to leave. We found a diesel shop in Odessa, just a few miles down the road and they proceeded to hook us up. Oh, and the drive axle needed to be removed because otherwise the transmission would spin during the tow and that is not a good thing.
The second tow truck ran interference for the eighty plus feet of rig that was the bus and the tow truck. We followed in the car and they pulled us into a bay.
John, the elder statesman of the garage took a look at the oil and determined that it was just oil, not contaminated with fuel or anything else. That was good news but why was the oil level so high? All they could figure was that the guys at Inland Truck had overfilled the oil. GRRR…
They told Jim to try and start the engine and guess what? It fired right up! And it sounded right. They let it run for a while and then the oil level was back up. Jim called Howard again and nobody had any idea what was going on. They couldn’t find anything wrong. They put the drive axle back together and said we could stay in their lot that night. By this time we were more than ready for a cocktail.
That night the rain caught up with us and it rained all night. By the next morning it was overcast but not raining. The shop only charged us a half hour of labor to replace the drive axle. Howard told Jim to just go down the road and check the oil every 50 miles or so.
In the morning we took off again and decided to pull over and check the oil periodically as Howard suggested. By this time it was raining hard. The first time we stopped, Jim came back and said it was not overheating and the pressure was fine so we just kept going.
We made it to Marni and Eric’s place without further incident and settled in. It was finally time to relax by the river. And concentrate on getting back to normal. Whatever that is….
We know. We are BIG BIG Lucky. And thankful for our good fortune.