Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How we ended up in the farmer's driveway

When we travel, a couple things are almost always true.  We don't go far (usually average about 175 - 225 miles).  We go interstate highway whenever possible.  We plan ahead and we stick to the plan.

There are a lot of reasons for all these things, but that's the premise behind today's post.

We woke up Tuesday morning in Amana Colonies, IA and it was cold.  Plus, it was going to be colder the next morning in Utica, IL (about 167 miles) where we were going to do an overnight stop, then on to Plymouth, IN (about 190 miles) and stay two nights.

About 80-90 miles into it, I called an audible.  We're not stopping in Utica, because its going to be too cold to set up and too cold the next morning to tear down.  Let's go straight to Plymouth (about 357 miles total).  Not only that, I don't want to drive I-80 between Joliet and Gary, let's take the state routes that looked like a pretty straight shot.

We'd stay warm in the truck.  We'd only be running about 50-55 mph, so not much wear and tear on the tires.

There's a thing about the GPS.  You can get in trouble following it.  And, you can get in trouble NOT following it.  Suddenly, somewhere in Illinois, we were on County Roads, not State Routes.  Roads were narrower with not much berm, and farmers use those to move their equipment.  Not a biggie, but it was going to be old for the last 100 miles or so.

We got on a road that was being paved and there were signs for "hot oil".  Great.  Got through it OK, single lane with a flagger and a little ways down the road, it looks like my driver's side tires are putting off a little steam.  Weird.

I stop.  Being a veteran of tire failures, it wasn't that at all.  Tires looked fine, that "smell" wasn't there.  Must have been the hot oil.

We go a little further, plenty far enough to wear off any oil, and I'm still seeing light smoke.  I stop again.  This time I touch the hub and its hot.  REALLY hot.  I'd shot a bearing.

Where I stopped along the road was at a house in the country, but about 250 yards up the road was a farm.  We should go to the farm.  We both grew up in a farming community.  Farmers are good people.

As I turned left into his driveway, I looked at the tire in the mirror and it was like crooked.  Not good.

Connie called Good Sam Roadside Assistance around 4p, told them we had a bearing problem and they would have to send someone out (couldn't be moved, couldn't be towed).  While she was on the phone, I was meeting Jerry.  Jerry ran the cattle farm.  Spectacular guy.  Offered us to stay in the drive as long as we needed, offered us gas for our generator, water for our tank.  Farmers are good people.

When I would go to my friend's farms when I was young, they always had farm dogs.  Not house dogs, these were dogs that ran the farm.  They were always around that farm.  Jerry had a couple farm dogs, a shepherd and a lab.  Everytime I stepped out of the rig or the truck, I had two shadows.  The lab wanted petted, the shepherd wanted me to throw something so she could bring it back.

Didn't go well with our dogs.  Carmen was terrified of the Shepherd and Sloopy wanted a piece of her (which would not have been a good idea).  Jerry was worried for our girls, and so was I.  Our girls are good at dog parks, but these were farm dogs and this was their farm.  Give them a week or so, things would have worked out, but the welcome to the pack message was a bit harsh and direct for our girls.

Around  6:45p, here comes our boy.  J.D.  And his boy.  About 2 years old.  Mom had to work, so junior came with dad.  This kid scared the bejeezus out of both Jerry and I.  Wouldn't sit still, kept playing with the tools, always in and around the wheel and the jack.  Not my kid, but wanted to step in there.

I about feinted when J.D. jacked up the rig and took the tire off the hub.  Just lifted it off.  I was moments away on the road from having that tire pass me.

Basically, J.D. said we'd need a new hub because the bearing had toasted most everything.  Not enough grease in there.  The good news was the spindle was OK, so we wouldn't need a new axle.  (A new axle???)  But it would have to be tomorrow because parts store is closed.

We went into Wal Mart/Rest Area/Truck Stop overnight mode.  Out came the generator.  Slid out one slide.  As we're doing this, I notice J.D. hasn't left.  In fact, he's laying under HIS truck.  I go out to see if he's OK.  He doesn't have reverse.  We try to push him up the hill to the road.  No good.  We have to get Jerry to bring a tractor out, pull him out of the drive so he can get home.  Why is it mechanics have the biggest POS vehicles?

Jerry and I chuckle about that, and he tells me about the coyotes that are everywhere.  I wish he hadn't of told me about them, but sure enough around 11:30p out came the howling.  And it was close.

Around 3a, I wake up and the generator (which only has about a 1 gallon tank) was still running.  I got up and filled it with the gas I had left in my little 1 gallon tank.  About 4a, I wake up in a panic.  "When was the last time I checked the oil?"  I screwed up my bearing by not greasing it, now I was going to toast the genny?  I got up, shut the genny off, put in all the 2 cycle oil I had, and fired it back up.  By 5a, I was up for good.  Too much mind spinning.  Can't keep making dumbass mistakes that were costing us big bucks.

By 6a, I was greasing the other 3 hubs in the rig.  Spraying WD-40 everywhere I could.  I unhitched the rig and drove in to town.  Filled Jerry's 5 gallon gas can for him and our 1 gallon can.

J.D. made it back to the farm around 12:45p.  Had all the parts.  And a different truck.  Another POS truck.  Pretty quick, pretty painless.  He puts the old tire on the new hub.  He's kind of struggling with the lug nuts.  He takes the tire off.  Wrong sized studs on the hub for our lug nuts.  The phone calls back to where ever were not pretty to watch or hear.'

We're back on hold.  Jerry tells me about his daughter.  Finishing up her first year as a Band Director.  Small world.

Finally, by 3p, J.D. is back with lug nuts, we pay the rather sizable bill, and by 4p on our way.

Our 24 hours on the farm, in the driveway were over.  Had we of gone I-80 through the suburbs of Chicago, this would have been an ugly, ugly story.  Why went longer than normal, went state routes instead of interstate, skipped the plan, all is why this was just an expensive story.  Not an ugly one.