January second, we pulled out of Sumter Oaks onto a messy road of construction with fresh tar being poured as we squeezed by many steaming, crusty construction vehicles. “Hope this is not a bad omen,” we said! We drove about twenty minutes north on Interstate 75, turning off to begin our journey East and realized that we were headed in the wrong direction. When driving a car, a quick U-turn solves everything quickly but in a motorhome and towing a car, a proper turn-off and lots of space is needed to get sorted. We lucked out about fifty feet before we jammed into another line of construction and easily turned around in a large parking lot thinking, “Oh no, things happen in threes, what’s next?” At this point I told myself to take a few deep breaths and relax and I did.
About ten minutes later Chris made a quick turn onto a country side road just off the highway and pulled over as far as was safely possible. The Check Engine light had come on and the Stop Engine light quickly followed. Dixie and I piled out into a grassy ditch while Chris was able to pull up fault codes on the dashboard digital display,then he called the Freightliner Help Line to have them diagnose the severity of the problem.
John the freightliner tech, looked up the code and said that it was a faulty sensor in the exhaust afterburn system and that it was probably still ok to drive but we may experience engine shutdowns with the Stop Engine light. We mulled a few things over and thought it best to just have it towed. We then called CoachNet our breakdown service for a tow to the nearest Freightliner or Cummins Service center. After calling around, Chris learned that there would be a week’s wait just to look at our coach in Orlando but Freightliner in Ocala could possibly see us that day if we got there early enough. We found ourselves unhappily calling the RV Park where we were headed to explain that we would not be there that night and settled in to regretfully wait for a tow truck.
The road that Chris had pulled along side of lead to a garbage disposal site so as we waited, Dixie and I watched and gagged from the disgusting smells as huge transports wheeled around the corner carrying their loads of rotting trash and sped past us, often just missing oncoming trucks. The situation was nerve-wracking to say the least. I was now in some sort of mental shock where things seemed to slow down and numerous negative thoughts began whirling around and passing each other in a jumble in my brain.
A kind woman from the business we were parked in front of came over to see if we were ok and offered us the shelter of their waiting room as well as parking in their field where we could avoid the dangerous traffic. She and her family were all RV’ers and she understood well the predicament we were in.
Meanwhile, Chris had contacted another mechanic from Freightliner who helped him walk through some tests and try a few things to see if the Stop Engine light would go off. He confirmed that it would be ok to drive the motorhome to test it out and with only the Check Engine light on at that point, things seemed promising.
The kind couple opened their gates so we could pull off the road and as we chatted, she mentioned that she’d grown up in PEI and she had recognized our Canadian accents before seeing our Ontario license plates. She shared her views that Canadians were more patient and polite in general than Americans. When they returned to work, Chris, and I set up our lawn chairs in the grassy field and Dixie lay in the shade of our large umbrella. We waited and watched hundreds of vultures making lazy circles in the sky above the mammoth garbage dump not too far away. At this point in our day we had expected to be settled in and enjoying our new digs near Titusville close to the ocean. The circling vultures above us did not provide a positive prophecy!
It turns out that “things” happen in fours, as after our 2 1/2 hour wait, a tow truck arrived that was Way Too Small to tow us anywhere, even though Chris had emphasized to the dispatcher, the length and weight of the motorhome and therefore our necessity for a large tow vehicle. Another could be ordered but with no clue as to when it may arrive. With the Freightliner Garage as our destination and based on the advice of the mechanic that Chris had conversed with, the decision to attempt the drive towards Ocala was agreed upon. I would follow in the car so that the extra weight of towing would not be adding any more stress to CC. So now I felt as if my heart had sunk somewhere in my chest cavity where it did not belong and was creating great pressure on the other “things” in there. My stomach had also closed off and would only accept water, which was probably a good thing.
We gingerly merged onto Interstate 75 with Chris in the lead and me following closely behind. I gripped the steering wheel with bravado grimacing at the piles of traffic moving slowly. One lane ahead was closed so many vehicles were merging into the two open lanes. On one hand, I felt safer that everyone was moving slowly and on the other, I knew it would take much much longer to reach our destination. Holding my breath, I waited for any signal from the walkie talkie and repeated out loud, “This is going to be ok!” Of course it wasn’t and soon Chris was pulling onto the shoulder and relaying that The Engine had Stopped and he would let it rest a bit and see if it would start again. I resigned myself to the idea that we would now be waiting for a tow truck here on the edge of danger and was very relieved when Chris relayed that we were carrying on. Did I mention the traffic jam?
Soon we were heading back out thanks to the angelic gesture of a trucker letting us in. With Dixie trying to help me relax, we moseyed along a bit further until we had a repeat of our last stop, this time weaving to the edge of the highway through traffic cones, oh such fun. Chris decided that we should exit the highway and let the engine rest for awhile. Those words were music to my ears and soon my chest cavity was back to normal as I walked Dixie on some lush grass pretending that we were having a great day.
Of course Chris would not even attempt to limp CC along unless he had the assurance of the Freightliner professional and his own personal experience as a licensed mechanic. When he proposed that we get off the interstate and head up a minor highway 301, to the east to get closer to Ocala I agreed, only this time we hooked up the car so I would be aware immediately of anything untoward. Off we headed stopping at regular intervals of about 5-6 miles, then the Stop Engine light would start flashing with engine shutting down shortly after. We would pull to the side let it rest 5 minutes then restart the engine and carry on until the next shutdown, rest, wait, repeat. (sounds like a new fitness program). I searched for an RV Park along the way and we successfully pulled in to Suburban Mobile Home and RV Park in Ocala around 6:00 pm. If the tow truck had worked out earlier, we would have had to find accommodations at a motel which is always more trouble when travelling with a large dog. We had thrown a few items in our back packs in preparation but were so happy that we did not have to follow that plan of action. What a relief it was to open up CC and settle into our lawn chairs, with much needed cocktails in hand, Chris had 2, at a pleasant, quiet park. As our nerves calmed down, we faded fast and were in bed asleep by 9:00 pm!
We were told the service center opened at 7am so we were up before the sun and coffee in hand, headed the fifteen minutes up the road to Ocala Freightliner without incident. I am lucky that I can sleep through anything so as I was well rested but Chris was totally wiped out. He had spent the entire night tossing and turning playing and replaying all possible scenarios for what may happen at Freightliner including them finding a part that needed to be manufactured and would take so long, that we’d have to return to Canada and come back weeks later to pick up the coach; the tricks a stressed mind will play on you.
We arrived on the dot of 7:00 am to find out that the service center was open but the mechanics actually started work at 8:00. Chris made a connection with the service advisor, an expat-Canadian, Bob, who had previously worked for FORD, the same company that Chris had worked for as a mechanic.
We parked and settled in to read and check email expecting that perhaps sometime around 2:00 pm, someone might be out to have a look. Our our work order number 7888 hung on the windshield as we waited. A while later I spotted a young technician from the shop, with a laptop computer under his arm strolling in the general direction of our coach. Could it be? Hoping against hope the closer he got the more sure we were that he was OUR technician and as approached the front door and said he was ready to plug in we were surprisingly shocked. It was 9:00 am! Perhaps the contact Chris made earlier with service guy Bob helped but we will never know for sure. It took little time for Josh to plug into CCs brain and read the fault codes and complete history of starts and stops we had made on the way to the service center the day before confirming that the problem was a defective sensor and we needed to have it replaced. A Cummins parts distributer was close by and the the sensor would be couriered from there. WOW! We were settling up the bill of just over $400. by 11:00 am. Shouting loud words of praise and thanks to Bob and Josh, we headed east towards Titusville as happy as Atlantic Ocean clams!!!
We enjoyed a beautiful drive beside the Ocala National Forest and were checking in to The Great Outdoors RV Park by 2:00 pm.
Sadly, we learned that the traffic congestion that we had experienced on Interstate 75 the previous afternoon was a result of the horrific accident and fire involving two cars and two transport trucks, killing eight people, six of whom were children on their way to Orlando’s Disney World. Our sympathies go out to all involved.