Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sometimes a new truck is the only way to go

      Here’s a couple of pictures nobody wants to take on their vacation: Your broken-down vehicle being loaded onto the back of a tow truck. This picture on my vacation was taken about a mile outside of Oshkosh, NE. 

  I had tried to get coffee in town, but the coffee shop was closed on Saturday morning. Just out of town, the truck stopped running. The ignition would crank and by giving it lots of gas, the engine would run – for a second or two. Nothing to do but walk back to town and hope there was a mechanic around on a weekend morning. That’s when Deputy Sheriff J. Fisher of the Garden County Sheriff Department pulled over and gave me a ride into town.
            His help did not stop there. First we visited Valley Tires, where the diagnosis on the truck was bad fuel pump. The owner called into Ogallala to Schmidt Motors, which he figured was the nearest place to get a new fuel pump installed. They were open until noon, said they could not fix it today and they didn’t have the part.
            Deputy Fisher helped make calls to locate a fuel pump. He seemed to know everyone in the county.
“Garden County is the size of Rhode Island but only has 2,000 people living in it,” said Fisher, who spent five years in the Army and did two tours in Afghanistan. He and his wife had their first child four months ago. He’s working in Nebraska but says he’s a fan of Colorado State, near where he spent his childhood. I told him I was an Ohio State fan.
            “Nobody’s perfect,” he said and ran my license through the computer system.
The sheriff department consists of four deputies and a sheriff. Plus, a dispatcher who radioed Fisher a couple of times trying to locate the sheriff and another deputy, who were both at a branding (as in calves) somewhere with no cell coverage. Given that Fisher was the only deputy on duty Saturday morning, the time he spent helping me was even more remarkable.
Two places in Ogallala had the right fuel pump, but no working mechanic could be found this sunny morning. So Schmidt Motors seemed like the place for me.
            What choice did I have? Sooner or later, the truck needed to be at a place where it could be fixed. So the owner of Tanner Coating and Collision was called to bring his flatbed to my truck and haul it into Ogallala. It was 10:30 by the time Gary and I got started on the 42-mile drive, but we were there by 11:30.
            The news from Schmidt had not changed. In fact, it was worse: No room for a repair until May was the first word. But Kimberly and Brenda in the service department got to working on the problem and said they might be able to get it in by Monday or Tuesday, which wasn’t going to help me get to the Kansas City Airport by Sunday afternoon.
            Other options had to be considered. They had a van I could rent, but the kayaks would not fit on top. I could rent the van and leave the kayaks with the truck. I called Jerry and left a message for him to see about our renting kayaks on the Buffalo (as many of you suggested a long time ago).
            Then another option occurred to me: Buy a new truck.
            This is not as impetuous as it might seem. I had been thinking about parting with my 16-year-old Dodge Ram for about a year, and Kathy has been telling me I should get a new vehicle. I’ve pondered van vs. truck, but the decision got made for me Saturday.
            The kayak racks would fit on a 2014 Dodge 1500 Ram pickup they had on the lot, my credit was good and Kathy gave me the go-ahead when I called her in New Orleans.
            I spent Saturday afternoon transferring the racks and kayaks to the new truck, cleaned out the old one and was amazed at the crap I had collected. Signed the papers and headed out.
            Salesman Ryan Dye (I owe him a box of frozen seafood when I get back to Seattle) said I was eight hours away from the KC airport and had a full tank of gas.
            Drove for an hour straight into a hellacious rain, thunder and lightning storm. I pulled off at Lexington, NE, and got a room. Up early Sunday morning and completed the drive to the airport. I’m here two hours early but have tried to rearrange and make sense of all the stuff I piled into the new truck, which drives like a gentle, gentle dream and got 15.5 miles to a gallon on the first tank through it.
            The old truck had 216,000 miles on it and I had hoped to get to 250,000 with it. Hate leaving it behind and I don’t look forward to 72 months of car payments, but I figure I can keep this truck for another 16 years and when I’m 82 I can trade it in on an electric wheelchair.
            Ain’t she a beaut?

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