St. Louis, MO – evening

I’m tired.

I didn’t get a particular lot of sleep last night.  Kind of a stressful drive, too.  The longest one I’ve had yet (but read on for dire tidings in that department), and out in the middle of it, as far from anything as I was all day, the RV starts acting strange.

It got loud.  I thought the gas pedal had gotten stuck to the floor.  But I wasn’t going faster, it was just louder.  I know there are fans that kick in and make the engine a bit louder, but I’m used to that.  It was more than that.  I decided to pull over, but no exits.

I slowed down a lot, because a really loud 45mph sounds nominally better than a really loud 65mph.  After what seemed like forever, with me knowing the engine was going to explode in a huge fireball that scatters debris for miles and miles, with me wondering every 12 feet if I should just pull over here on the side of road and call AAA, finally there’s an exit.  I pulled off, stopped the engine, and popped the hood.

No, I have no idea why I popped the hood.  I know nothing about cars.  Hell, if someone told it needed it’s tonsils out, well, I really couldn’t argue the point with them.  Maybe, just maybe, there was something obvious, a Tab B hanging half out of a Slot A (preferably with the legend: insert Tab B into Slot A if engine gets really loud).

What to do.  I decided not knowing what to do while moving in the general direction of St. Louis had slightly more appeal than not knowing what to do sitting still in Off-Ramp, USA.

So off I go, noisy as all hell.  I’m going the highway minimum speed, wondering what’s wrong, wondering should I stop, wondering how much this is going to cost me, wondering how many pieces my sister was going to chew me into for burning her RV to the ground.

Suddenly, it went away.  I would love to have seen the look on my face.  It just plain went away. And I started feeling so relieved and no no NO there it goes AGAIN!  I pulled over again at the next Rest Area.

What did I do first?  Pop the hood, why not?  I’m sitting there thinking “I don’t know anything about cars (I reach down and pop the hood), there’s nothing under there I can even recognize, let alone fix (I get out of the RV and walk around front), why I am even wasting my time (reach under the hood and pop the latch) a monkey poking at the engine with an umbrella in his tail has a better shot at mechanical success here (prop the hood open with the hood-standy-up thing. [See what I mean?  You see? “Hood-standy-up thing.”  Dear Lord, I shouldn’t be allowed to drive Barbie’s Dream Corvette without an adult present]).

To no one’s great surprise, I find myself baffled at the array of dirty, greasy, and OW, son-of-a-bitch, quite warm parts (yes, I really did touch the just shut-off engine.  I know, I told you so myself.  Just stay clear of me, my car’s bound to go off like a roman candle someday, and you don’t want to be around for it).  Not being humbled enough with the existing evidence of my ignorance, I get back in the RV.  I don’t know if you’ve been in a motor home before, but certain ones (like the ones built on the Chevrolet 454 chassis.  Did we all pay attention to Wednesday’s chassis lesson?) have a console between the two front seat that allows access to the engine

Oh, yes I did, too.

Without going into overly much detail, my trouble-shooting was just precisely as successful from this angle as from the other.  I did manage to re-attach the console without hurting myself, though.

So I did the only thing I had left to do.  I went up to the Rest Area building and took a whiz.  My confidence bolstered by a completely error-free urination procedure, I sat down to decide what to do next.  I obviously wanted to just drive on ahead (It really shouldn’t be making that noise), after all, if something happened, I had my AAA card (seriously, that noise is not a good sign), and, besides, except for the obvious, there were absolutely no symptoms, the thing was running just fine (STRANGE NOISE BAD!  BAD, BAD!).

Just at that moment, I felt an ant on my arm and went to flick him off of it.  Not an ant.  Red and black spider (I know what a black widow looks like, this wasn’t one.  But bright reds and yellows are warning signs for Mother Nature.  Like if you ever see that bright yellow frog RUN!).  I accepted this as a perfectly appropriate sign that I was to get out of there as quickly as possible, and I started up the RV.

The noise was gone.  The RV ran as well as it has since I’ve been in it, all the way into St. Louis.  I have no explanation for what happened or why it stopped happening.  It’s almost frustrating, I can’t even take it in someplace now (“It was making this noise that it doesn’t make anymore…”).

Well, that story took longer than I intended.  I had just wanted to explain that I’d had a stressful day and didn’t feel like writing an update tonight.  But now that we’ve come this far, it doesn’t seem as though that’s at issue anymore.  So I’m going to do some thinking out loud, or on paper, or whatever this is.

When I made the rough cut itinerary, I used a bunch of AAA maps, partly because they gave them to me free, and partly because they all have these little sub-maps with driving distances and times between major cities and Interstate junctions.  So I apparently knew right up front what I was doing, I just can’t for the life of me recall why I did it.

Most of my eastern trips had driving times of three to four hours.  Most of my western legs are eight and nine hours.  Like I say, I have _no_ clue why I thought this was a good idea.  So here’s what I’m thinking now.

I’m going to blow off my second day in St. Louis (I think mostly what I was going to do here was go to comic stores, and with San Diego coming up, that seems less of a priority at the moment) and spend two days driving to Denver.  I was intending to do St. Louis to Denver in two days, so it’s not that much of a change.  What that should do is get me back to my original schedule upon arrival in Denver.  Then I’m going to spend only two nights in Denver, rather than the alloted three.  That should give me a day to play with between Denver and San Diego, which I’ll probably need considering the distances I was looking to cover on some of those days.

One thing this means is that there won’t be any updates until Denver.  I plan on staying over in Salinas, Kansas tomorrow night, and even if they _do_ have a modem outlet, the office will be closed by the time I roll in.  So it might very well be Monday morning in Denver before I get another update published.  There’s a peculiar kind of time warp that happens on these trips, and “Monday morning in Denver” seems eternally far away from here.  But you might see multiple updates that I wrote on the road appearing at the same time.  Or you might not.  Okay, I’m officially babbling at this point.  What do you want from me, I told you I was tired when I started this thing…

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