Head West, Young… People?

A bit later than we had hoped but we made it on the road!

We are traveling lighter this time, probably because our packing was not nearly as rushed as the last two times. And unlike the first two times, we are actually traveling together. Third time’s a charm, eh?

It’s funny, all the worries of the past few weeks melted away as soon as we got on the road. Everything turned out, and everything seems so small in retrospect.

Of course now anything can happen…

Shut up, brain…

Two-thirds of this wagon train

We stopped for the night at a friend’s house near Pensacola. Maybe we’ll get out of here before tomorrow. Stay tuned!

A Day Late and Few Dollars Short

Well… It’s Tuesday afternoon. And we’re still here. Thanks to an Amazon Prime snafu the tape to fix our roof didn’t arrive until today.

She fixes roofs too!

As soon as it arrived, on it went. Now we have to wait for it to cure.

The whole thing was probably a good thing since I noticed that the plate on the trailer was expired. It seems we forgot to renew it back in December. Woops. So now I’m sitting here paying the government for permission to have a trailer, which leaves us with a bit less gas money. Good times.

At least the DMV is a great place to people watch. It’s almost as classy as a Social Security office. Almost.

I feel ya, kittie…

Exhaustion levels are pretty high right now. We aren’t even on the road and I feel like curling up for a nap and sleeping until the summer’s over.

But alas, there are things to pack and miles to cover. So stay tuned, mayhaps we will actually get this show on the road tonight.

A Slow Down Of Sorts

I promised I would keep up a report for you of our various preparations for the summer season and I intend to keep that promise no matter how boring I may think developments are.

Not a lot happened the past couple of days, mostly just cleaning. Lots of cleaning. The mountain of laundry on top of the dryer is a symbolic reminder of the mountain we’ll be living on for the next six months. And that’s just the clean laundry, the dirty pile is a picture of Everest itself.

Not my laundry pile but from my Steemit post yesterday. I got mountains on the brain ya’ll…

There was also some schooling and some calling around looking for medical records from our retired pediatrician. Did you know they recommend that pediatricians keep records for 28 years from a child’s birth? The things you learn from Googling all day.

In fact it has been so calm I have had time to contemplate matters both political and religious. When I have time to head down those rabbit trails, watch out!

I might make some posts about those thoughts once things settle down some more. Perhaps it’s a little too calm…

I will say this though: I am so glad that this year we actually get to go out as a family. I was never made for the bachelor life and despite Nicole’s introversion neither was she. We need each other for so much. Companionship is one of the best blessings of marriage.

Even though we travel in separate vehicles, there is something to be said for shared experiences, especially the difficult ones. There is no one I would rather be stranded in Savannah, GA with a peeling trailer roof than her.

Did I mention our temporary tag also blew off?
When stranded in Savannah, get sushi!

No one else could keep me as cool and collected as she did when we had to hunker down for a day in the parking lot of the Artesia Wal-Mart while waiting for spark plugs to soak.

And with outfits like this, who wouldn’t want to be stranded at a Wal-Mart with her?!

When I am alone I think too much. And it’s always worst case scenarios. Thank God for the sanity of a companion.

Oh look, Hobby Lobby. It’s like she planned it…
It’s always the Ford isn’t it?

Enough of this deep stuff, I have a mountain to… fold?

Mending Of Broken Things

‘Twas the fuel pump that did her in.

Almost a month to the day and we fixed the broken truck!

Over the past two days I’ve completely emptied and cleaned our trailer, did several loads of laundry, organized some very irritatingly cluttered tools, and replaced a fuel filter.

That last one was no small feat. Thanks to some brilliant engineering, the fuel pump of our “trusty” Expedition is buried inside the fuel tank. With much wrenching (and a couple fuel soaked shirts) I managed to get the tank down and out.

Then came the fun part…

The same brilliant engineers (I assume) decided that a rusty piece of steel was needed to hold the pump in place. According to the Haynes manual one should use a special tool to get this off. Or… a brass tap and a hammer.

Why brass? “To prevent sparks.”

I was not deterred! Armed with a hammer and very non-brass screwdriver I laid into it.

Thankfully no death occurred.

The ring popped off and the old pump was removed. Determined to make sure it was the pump that died, I plugged it in and had the wife turn the key just to see what happened.


Aha! It was the pump!

After running the same test with the new pump and finding it in working order, in went the new pump. With the same deadly hammer and screwdriver combination the ring was tapped back on.

Again, no death. I think those Haynes folks are a bit too cautious.

After the successful pump installation came lots of cussing and bruised knuckles as the tank was reattached to the dead truck.

Then: The Moment of Truth.

Sputter, sputter, give it some gas…

It’s alive!!!

I have not been this happy in a long time. Not that I showed it. But you know, there was a moment where I danced a little on the inside. It was awesome.

This was going on… In the fuel tank… Eek.

And then I was thoroughly exhausted. The wife suggested that I do a manly thing and take a bubble bath and drink a little wine to celebrate.

So I did (minus the wine). Then to be really manly, I enjoyed a cigar and a Kentucky Mule (the only good kind of mule IMHO).

No shirt to boot. Oh so manly!

Not a bad way to end a day.

The best part of the experience was my very excited nine year old exclaiming “You fixed it! Now we can get out of the ugly house!”

She’s looking forward to western adventures.

As am I.

Ownership of Broken Things

Fixing a broken thing…

It’s official: We are now the proud owners of a broken vehicle!

It’s tax return time, which in the US means that with five children and a low enough income you get enough money given to you to pay off a truck. (Commentary on this eventually…)

Said truck is still currently not running. I think I have it narrowed down to a fuel pump issue. So while the new fuel pump is in transit I get the fun task of removing the fuel tank to get the old pump out. Good times.

After several hours of frustrating work attempting the tank removal (i.e. siphoning the tank and not much else) the wife informed me that the alternator on the other owned vehicle was officially kaput. Yay. So yesterday instead of finishing the pump removal it was alternator replacement day. Thankfully the wife has small hands and I didn’t have to do much wrench turning.

You should have seen my hands.

After a successful replacement we spent our core return money on new spark plugs, oil, and some entirely-too-fancy wiper blades (apparently seeing is important to driving). Those are all today’s jobs. After pizza delivering. And schooling the kids. And cleaning up something.

Come to think of it, this is going to stretch out over the whole weekend…

Even though things break, it does feel good to own something instead of dealing with payments every month and trying to make money stretch. Instead we just become mechanics at the YouTube School for Those Who Can’t Mechanic Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too.

There is more to life than really really really ridiculously good mechanicing…

A Haynes manual is helpful too…

We have done the summer season out west twice already. Both times we had to travel separately and spend weeks apart while waiting for issues to resolve. The first year was a horrific RV experience, last year was a terrible buying experience for a truck to pull our trailer. This year we hope to beat our record and actually leave together. I plan to document the experience as much as I can this year, just so I can look back later. And maybe entertain some folks in the meantime.

It’s a slow adventure, but it’s happening. At least I don’t have to make any more car payments… For now.

Sit Rep February 21st

I haven’t done much since my last report. Panic set in a bit and induced me to turtle a bit. After a good shouting match with the wife and some tears (and a great makeup) I broke the coma and actually accomplished some things.

I replaced the fuel filter. That was a ridiculously tough job. For some reason Ford thinks that pulling and pushing at the same time is a physical possibility. After much yelling and a few chemical burns the old (rusted) filter was wrestled off and a new one installed.

I finished the spark plug replacement. Again, no simple car repair task is ever simple for me. The 5.4 Liter motor in Fords is notorious for having the plugs break during a change. Thankfully we had the tool to get the broken parts out. Of course the tool did this:

For those of you unfamiliar with Ford’s brilliant “100,000 mile” spark plug, this is missing a bit of the tip. We had a fear that the tip bits might be down in the cylinder. So we bought a shop vac and sucked away on the plug holes, occasionally stopping to check the vacuum for metal bits. No metal bits were to be found.

Somehow we needed to inspect the cylinder for the bits. Enter cheap endoscopes on Amazon! If you are not familiar with endoscopes, basically they are tiny cameras on the end of a cord that you can shove in any hole and see what’s going on (usually these are holes in the body, but we won’t go there).

I ordered a cheap one with Prime shipping. It came in two days. This was the image I got:

Well… That’s helpful…

As far as I can tell those metal bits aren’t there. So everything was out back together. Then the moment of truth came.

And nothing.

The engine won’t turn over. After some troubleshooting we narrowed the problem down to the fuel system beyond just the filter. Stay tuned for updates on that…

We did get some good news though. After working out pretty much every day for a month we got our fat levels and weights checked. I have lost over two percent of my body fat and three pounds to boot. It pays to have a wife who needs to work out for her job!

Anywho. Today is cleaning the trailer day and getting fuel pump stuff sorted out.

It’s always an adventure around here! Keep checking back for more updates. This should be a good one.