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‘Bucket List’ adventure turns into nightmare


This is a true story that is too good to keep to ourselves. My husband and I made out a “Bucket List” a year or so ago and one of the things on the list was a trip out West in our RV. On July 18th we rolled out of Buckeye Lake and headed to Las Vegas. We planned to take the Southern route out and a Northern route home.

Our RV is almost new with only 33K miles on it. We took it in for service and even put two new tires on the front just to be safe. Off we went just full of excitement, wondering what was over the next hill, cameras ready and lots of plans for exploration of cities and places we have never been.

The first few days were great! We stopped at a beautiful winery in the Ozarks, stayed in several different KOAs, and met some nice people. All of a sudden when we reached Oklahoma it all changed! Our air conditioner stopped working. Fortunately we found a Freightliner dealer close to our campground. The service manager said “totally impossible, we’re too busy!” but a mechanic did come out and took a look. He told us it was frozen so we sat there and waited for it to thaw. $340 later (for letting us sit in their lot to thaw) we were on our way. We figured, oh well, things happen, not everyone is nice, it’s life!

Next we started smelling something like a burning odor. We thought it was the brakes on our trailer which was hauling our Smart Car so we could really go exploring. My husband kept adjusting them, but the smell continued. We stopped for fuel and noticed that our beautiful Dynamax RV was just filthy and kind of oily so we saw a truck wash and stopped to get a wash, Little did we realize that this truck wash specialized in cattle stock trailers (PU!) Off we went but the odor got worse.

We stopped again because we started getting a sense of gloom and doom. I went back and felt the brakes on the trailer which were cool, my husband lifted the hood on the truck and yelled, “I found it!” We had lost our oil cap! Mind you this is a diesel Caterpillar C7 engine that holds 29 quarts of oil. We called Fosters in Columbus where we had it serviced. Their recommendation was put aluminum foil over it and wrap a rubber band around it, which we did and it seemed to do ok. They said they would overnight another oil cap to the next KOA where we had a reservation.

We made it to our next stop in New Mexico and were very relieved. While waiting for the UPS truck, someone came running over and said, “You have a terrible oil leak!” Sure enough we did; we had been parked in two different locations and there was oil everywhere – what a mess! The UPS truck finally came with our new oil cap. We put it on and it seemed to work so we went on leaving our horrible mess behind. We googled “Freightliner repair garages” (Thank God for i-phones) and found one nearby. They were great; a young man laid on the ground under the truck and found nothing. He even steam washed the engine and found no leaks and didn’t charge us a penny. So we went on our way thinking it was the oil cap only.

On we roared toward Las Vegas where we had business. The mountains and the heat were testing any machinery, but in Laughlin, Nevada as we came down a seven percent grade about three miles long we lost our brakes! Finally at the stop sign we had just a touch of them left and came to a stop. My husband had used the transmission to hold the engine back while coming down the very long and steep hill. We pulled into the only gas station for miles around to let the brakes cool and immediately started Googling for another truck repair mechanic.

We found one and he told us to meet him about 20 miles away, telling us, “It was all uphill so not to worry!” By the time we got there we had brakes again so after calling the mechanic we continued on our way.

Finally we got to Las Vegas and it was 115 degrees. Our RV air conditioner could not keep up with the intense heat so we had to smuggle our dog into the hotel for our meeting and got away with it. We left ASAP!

We headed north thru Utah and into Colorado. We passed Aspen and headed through the Aspen Pass which is approximately 11 thousand feet altitude. We came down and down and down! We finally reached Copper Mountain where we stopped for fuel. While we were fueling, the station manager came running out yelling we were gushing oil! Oh yes, this time we really were gushing oil! We had to call a wrecker and it was a big one too! Imagine a wrecker that can pull a Motor Coach with a 20 foot trailer on it through the Rocky Mountains!

Well, we waited and waited and finally the wrecker arrived. He towed us to Dillon, Colorado, for a mechanic to make an assessment. The mechanic looked and said it was over his head, so we waited for the wrecker to come back and tow us to Denver where they told us they probably couldn’t even look at it for two days. The tow bill alone was $1,010 and we were frazzled! My husband happily took me to the Denver Airport and sent me packing while he waited for the diagnosis.

Long story short, it was an O ring in a high pressure access port in the head! The old O ring – you know the same as the one that caused the Space Shuttle to blow up! It was a $4 part that cost $460 to install! So my husband and our dog, Angel, took off for Ohio. You all know Angel. She’s the Chihuahua that barks at everyone walking down the towpath.

My husband drove almost straight through driving 19 hours on Friday to arrive in Buckeye Lake at 3 a.m. Saturday morning. He got up at 7:30 a.m. to get the RV out of the yacht club parking lot and get it unloaded. I went with him to drop the coach and trailer in Newark to have some paint touched up. He unloaded the Smart Car and we headed home finally to relax and start doing laundry and recover from this trip from hell!

Just as we were 200 feet from turning into Tanner a police cruiser stopped us and gave us a $127 ticket for not having a license plate on the front of little Schmartie! What a WELCOME HOME! Officer “Justice” (what a great name for a police officer) acted so angry and upset you would have thought we had hit a pedestrian on purpose or something even worse! What was really funny, as we sat in the police parking lot my husband noticed that the police cruisers do NOT have license plates on the front of them!

Moral of this story, be careful what you put on your bucket list or as Mick sings “You might not get what you asked for but you always get what you need!

Happy we are home safe travelers!
Connie and Mike Lang

Buckeye Lake

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