The Truck Saga (pt. 2)

October 19, 2009

[This is part two. Part one is here.

But all was not well with the new truck. We rumbled through back country roads that day, stopped by to visit some friends, and then headed home. Things started to get a little troublesome going up one of the steep hills about a two miles from home. The truck barely made it up the hill, and stuttered, and sputtered, and finally gave out, as we coasted down the other side. The gas gauge read low, but not nearly empty, so I figured we had enough to make it. After sitting dead at the bottom of the hill, and unable to get moving, I swapped to the other tank. It read full, but still no dice. After a few attempts, I figured we were out of gas and that the gas gauge must not work.

So I ran home the mile or so in flip flops, grabbed a handy gas can (always keep some in the garage!), threw it in the trunk of one of our cars, and drove back over. I put about 4 gallons in the front tank, and was able to get the truck started. We rumbled home and I parked it in the barn and figured it just had a bad gas gauge.

A couple days go by, and my dad stopped by the house on his bike. I gave him a ride back into town in the truck noticing that I had to give it a lot of gas just to get going in first gear, almost like trying to get going from a stop in a higher gear. Once I got going things seemed normal, I didn’t worry too much about it. It’s a 20 year old truck, right?

The trip to town was uneventful. I filled up the front tank with a surprisingly-low 14 gallons when in town, dropped my dad off and headed home.

Once again, I had trouble getting going from a dead start, lots of gas, but then finally rolling. I needed to stop and drop off some library books, so I headed out to the mid-town highway, and was going to turn left from the left of two turn lanes. I pulled up to the stop light, waited my turn, the light turned green, and I gave it gas and…the truck died. I tried to start it, it started up. Thinking the tank choice switch was somehow reversed and I was running on the tank that I had not filled. I flipped to the other tank, started it up, it idled roughly. The light turned green, I gave it gas, and…the truck died. People behind me were giving me dirty looks, I frantically searched my the emergency flashers, and finally just put up my hood as the universal “something’s wrong” sign. After a few more attempts and a light cycle or two, people went around me and I found a friendly person who put their flashers on for me a couple car lengths back. After a few more awkwardly panicky minutes, I got it started again, and was able to back up into a nearby parking lot, not daring to try and head down the highway.

I was able to slowly take residential streets back near my parent’s house, and things seemed rough but running. I figured I should just head the 12 miles home, park in the barn, and figure out what was wrong. I was able to get on the highway out of town, and at around 45 miles an hour, suddenly my RPMs went up and the truck was slowing down, as if I was in neutral. I put in the clutch and, try as I might, I couldn’t get into gear. ANY gear. I put on my blinker and got off at the first road I could. I turned the truck off, and tried to start up and get going again. I couldn’t shift at all when the truck was running. I found I could shove the transmissions in first when off, start up in gear and roll along in first gear, but I didn’t want to drive at 10 miles an hour along a relatively busy country highway. (I have learned since it is possible to shift without a clutch, to feel the RPMs and ‘slide’ into a higher gear…but I didn’t know that at the time. Not to mention the combined feelings of shame, rage, and panic at the time.)

After several more attempts to get things going and failing, I also discovered that I did not have my cell phone with me. (This, in particular, is an oddity. I don’t normally leave the house without it.) And, in addition, I discovered that the road I had pulled off onto was the private drive entrance to a dump truck company. Several dump trucks came in and out, two different drivers warning me about being in the way. I attempted to explain the whole “not running” thing, with varying degrees of success. I attempted to flag down a couple drivers for cell phone help, but the truck was just out of sight of the highway until cars were nearly passed, and I guess the guy waving his arms wasn’t clear enough to get folks to stop. I walked a ways down the road and found a small radiator shop where the two employees let me borrow a phone to call my wife.

My wife came and picked me up with her cell phone, and we then went through the usual paces to call AAA and get a tow. An hour, 10 miles and a $20 “extra mileage charge” later I was back home and the truck was dropped off in the yard.

To be continued…

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