Road Trip – Chapter 7

It’s raining gently when I wake. I take off the BIPAP and go to the bathroom. When I get back in bed it’s no longer raining but it soon resumes. This is no climate for the clinically depressed. 

My Sidwell grandfather who suffered from depression said his ideal job was a golf caddy. The tournaments are scheduled where rain is unlikely and you keep moving from one to the next so you always have good weather. 

We, the weather and everything else appear from the ever changing energy field that is the universe. I don’t understand what enables us to make choices but whatever it is, it’s a great blessing. Among other things it enables me to not live in a rain forest. 

Driving south on the highway through this swirling blend of air and water that forms rain and cloud I realize how lucky I am that I’ve never been entirely certain about anything. My mind is open to the implications of experience, information and hypotheses. Relatively, at any rate. 

I wasn’t always happy about change.  Depression makes you fear that change will make your situation even worse, which would not be the best frame of mind on a long road trip. 

We head west on highway 30 aiming for Seaside as Alison recommended. I hope to see ads for lutefisk when we go through Svenson but it turns out to be off the highway.  Many folks came here from the Nordic lands for the fishing. 

Lutefisk is by far the worst tasting food I ever had. It was on the menu in Oslo so I had to try it and, having been raised in immediately post-war England, I then had to finish it which was possible only by washing every bite down with schnapps. By the end of the meal my lips were completely numb. 

We stop off at the Columbia River Maritime Center. The river brings huge amounts of sediment down to where it meets the Pacific and the sediment is deposited as fast changing sand banks, which makes entry to the river very dangerous. Many, many boats have foundered here. 

Since it wasn’t possible to build a lighthouse on the Bar they moored a lightship there and provisioned it with enough food and other supplies so the crew could survive long spells when the waves and winds made reprovisioning impossible.  

The ship would bob up and down as much as 40 feet and roll from side to side. Everyone aboard was likely to get seasick. Felicity asks why anyone would choose to live that way. The guide says: “In the military you don’t get a choice”

We arrive at a campsite and find we’d have to make a booking by telephone and the site is very expensive so we set off for another one close by. The speedometer starts to flog up and down, the odometer flickers and the RV can’t stay in gear. 

It’s a bit better when I put it in 2nd instead of Drive. An electrical problem caused by the rain?  It’s Sunday so not much we can do today. We’ll see if it’s any better in the morning and call for help. 

Later, after researching possible causes online, I text my son Steve the symptoms. Low transmission fluid, he replies, and if it’s not low the transmission died. I remember how it’s been feeling for the last few days, definitely not right. 

Next day – Felicity begins calling around. The place nearby that Google points to and whose customers rave about it doesn’t deal with transmissions. A place further away couldn’t fix the rv today but they could take a look.  If we can get there. 

Felicity calls our rv travel insurance. She’s told the insurance the rv dealer sold us only covers cars. Felicity is very nice and at last Taisha the representative says maybe they can help us anyway. Eventually she says they will arrange a tow for us. 

The tow truck arrives late in the afternoon. It takes a long time to get Henry hooked up but we do get to the AAMCO hospital before they close. The owner, Scott, is an ex-cop who bought the business five months ago. He says the previous owner stole a lot of money from many customers but he is building a business to benefit his community. He seems honest and competent. For sure he has a high opinion of himself. 

Scott says the transmission fluid smells fine and when he takes Henry for a drive all seems well!  The speedometer is what tells the transmission when to shift, he says, so that could account for most of the problem.  They’ll investigate in the morning.  We can stay here in Henry tonight.

We’re up earlier than usual and leave Henry to be made well again. We go for a walk along the harbor front to where seals and sea lions are basking in the mist, barking like a pack of big dogs.  

Felicity feels the need for exercise so we walk along the harbor wall. I walk slowly so I won’t run out of breath. She alternates between a normal pace and stopping to take pictures. She says we are the tortoise and the hare. 

We go to a coffee house then the cannery museum. There is no staff here, just photographs and canning objects, especially cans, and a couple of small screen videos. One is a collection of oral history recordings, the other a respectful TV documentary from the ’50s about Bumblebee Tuna and Salmon. 

Many young men came here in the late 1800s, especially from the Nordic region, to work in the fishing industry and the Columbia River became one of the great fish canning centers. Cannery owners at first had complete control and life was very precarious for the fishermen. They unionized and got better conditions and prices for a while, then the industry relocated to Alaska. 

We amble back to AAMCO. Scott very much does not want us to bother him. He will call when he has something to say. We should let him work. And so on. Felicity goes for lunch. I sit in the waiting area. 

A couple of hours later I take a casual walk to the other side of the shop. It looks like they’re working on Henry. 

The sun comes out!  I go to join Felicity in the Rogue Bar where she had fish and chips which, since the local fish is salmon, was fried salmon and chips. She says it was delicious, the batter having the same taste and texture as English batter. Then she apologizes because I can’t have any. But I really don’t mind. I’m happy she enjoyed the meal.

Late in the afternoon Scott explains what they’ve been doing.  Henry’s computer gave them three codes about problems. Two were obviously spurious. The other indicated that he needed a new VSS sensor. When that was replaced Scott went for a test drive. The transmission worked fine but the speedometer needle didn’t move and the odometer was dead. 

They then walked the diagnostic decision tree, took off the dashboard, and found none of the potential problems was present. Either the dashboard console or the computer is defective. We’ll have to go to a Ford dealer. 

Scott calls his buddy at the local Ford dealer. Too late to go today. We should go first thing in the morning. 

Scott feels bad that he can’t entirely fix the problems so he charges us only for the sensor and one hour’s labor. All the other hours are on him. We thank him effusively for his help and generosity. Later, I post very positive reviews on his website and Yelp. 

Scott is what Christine, my extremely smart last boss, referred to as a “look at me” guy. He wears two diamonds in his ear, a big gold bracelet, a Rolex, and a massive ring with sapphires.  He’s an ex-cop and he carries a pistol at all times. His car is bright red. He comes across initially as a hardass but he is very friendly once respect has been sufficiently demonstrated. 

Felicity made a great effort to win his approval. She learned the techniques while dealing with frightened patients when she worked as a dental assistant. When we check out she comments on the huge bullets standing on the counter. “50mm” Scott says, “The largest you can legally own”. He goes into his office and returns with his enormous 50mm caliber revolver. 

“I built a handgun shooting range at my house” he tells us. “I practice a lot. If I do ever have to use my weapon I want to be sure nobody else gets hurt”

We spend the night at a very good campsite. It’s still not raining so Felicity celebrates with a campfire. 

Next day – we’re at the Ford dealer just after 8. Scott’s contact didn’t book us in but they have an open slot at 10. We settle in the waiting room. 

Just before 11 we’re told the console containing the speedometer and other instruments needs to be rebuilt. They don’t make new ones for this 23 year old truck any more. It will probably take a month all told. 

I ask if it’s okay to drive. It is. We just won’t know how fast we’re going and the odometer won’t track our mileage. We can’t wait here for a month so we’ll drive on.  I could get a GPS speedometer but I drive slower than everyone else so it doesn’t seem worthwhile. Henry won’t pass inspection unless the odometer is working so we’ll try to get it fixed when we get home. 

I’m a little skeptical about the diagnosis and I’d like to be more confident that the new sensor completely fixed the transmission.  If I could I’d avoid steep hills and minor roads where a breakdown would be a problem but that’s impossible round here. 

So we rejoin Rte 101 and start down the spectacular coast. Felicity is very excited. Then the GPS takes us on a short cut through narrow valleys among the hills. The grass is astonishingly green. Beef cattle grazing on these small fields look very happy. How could anyone not be happy in this beautiful, verdant place?

Henry does fine but we’re tired so we camp earlier than usual. One benefit of that is I can sit in the sun (that’s right, sun) with a beer.  It would be better still if I could join Felicity with the pita chips, but a Guinness is very welcome even on its own.

Anticipating the arrival of my Guinness


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