Small House Big World


Stuck Between a Rock and a Taco Bell

Anna Edgren • September 13, 2015

It’s been a while since I have written an update! I am going to be better about writing more, I promise… Since our last post, we left Glacier National Park and travelled through Idaho and on to Washington, where we currently are residing. Unfortunately the trip out here was not without its complications, which I will detail below. 

We left Montana in high spirits. At this point, we have been on the road since April, which puts us just over the 5 month mark.  How are we holding up so far? Fantastically. I feel like I have discovered a secret life hack. Finding a way to work and travel and have a relatively normal life while being on a kind of permanent vacation, where there is always something new and exciting to see – it feels too good to be true. Now that we have been at this for 5 months, I think I can officially take a deep breath and say: Yes, it is this good, and yes, it is true. 

But of course, as with anything in life, there are two sides of the coin. We have to deal with inconvenient complications we can never foresee. Which is what happened as we crossed from Montana into Idaho. 

We had been driving for about 2 hours on the highway without issue, when we came upon the outskirts of Sandpoint, Idano, where I spotted an elusive Taco Bell. After living in the wilds of Montana (sort of) for a few weeks, Taco Bell was calling my name. I stopped at a stoplight, the first we’d seen after about 2 hours of highway driving, and planned to make a little pit stop up to grab food ahead.

Unfortunately, when I stepped on the gas, the RV did not react in the way a vehicle is supposed to react. Instead of a low rumble and steady forward motion, I was greeted with what can only be described as a wheeze and a lurch. The gas pedal was… ineffective. Obviously, the first words out of my mouth were a loud: “UMMMMMMMM. WHAT?” As I very timidly rolled into the middle of a giant intersection. Luckily, the RV was moving forward, it was just doing so in a pained and clunky manner. Something was clearly very, very wrong. 

I kept after it, and made it into the parking lot. I got out and informed Kelly of our problem. He didn’t seem to understand the severity of the issue: “Well it’s still driving, isn’t it?” Yeah – barely. It took about 10 seconds of him behind the wheel to join me in grave concern. He even managed to get it to stall out! The RV was for all intents and purposes undriveable. 

Of all the places to be stuck, the parking lot next to the Taco Bell is really not such a bad place to be for Anna and Kelly. We went in and got a couple of treats to try to take our mind off of our troubles. It took us a surprising amount of time to realize that on the other side of us was an auto parts store. Now we’re talking. 

Camera 1.

Camera 1.

Camera 2.

Camera 2.

Kelly started furiously googling about our problem, and I called my dad for advice. We weren’t able to come up with much. I decided it may be time to start calling repair facilities in the area. Even just to get some expert opinions on what the problem COULD be. I called M&S Engine Works by randomly selecting a phone number from a list of repair places. Almost 8pm on a Thursday and a man answered the phone. He said he was closed and didn’t have any idea what was wrong, but asked for a detailed explanation of where exactly we were parked and said he’d see what he could do. He then said don’t hold your breath, and try calling back in the morning. 

Just as we were starting to despair, two strapping young gentleman pulled up next to us in a white sedan. Sent by the repair facility, they had been just down the road working on one of their own cars and were able to swing by and take a look. Amazing!

The engine in the RV is accessed from the front, but also from the interior. If you open up the center console, you can peer down into it (as demonstrated below). 

Max helped. He always helps.

Max helped. He always helps.

The nice man pictured above had us turn our engine on, and he then proceeded to thrust his hands inside of it, grabbing onto the fuel lines to feel them firing. It was like watching a surgeon muck through the intestines of a live patient – riveting! His diagnosis: could be as simple as needing a new fuel filter. He recommended that as our first step we replace the filter, then run some fuel cleaner through the lines and see if that did the trick. 

I was skeptical. A fuel filter can shut down your whole operation in a matter of seconds? That suddenly? It was driving just fine for 2 hours prior, remember, and showed no signs of a problem. 

Nevertheless, we went on down to our trusty neighborhood auto parts store approximately 30 steps away, and were able to pick up a fuel filter and the necessary tools to replace it, along with our Seafoam fuel cleaner. The people at the auto parts store were EXTREMELY NICE AND HELPFUL and it was so encouraging to have them there giving us advice. The woman helping us even called her mechanic husband to talk to Kelly on the phone about some of the finer points of fuel filter replacement. Kelly – ever up for a challenge – got right to it, and got completely and totally mechanic-dirty and covered in spraying fuel, but managed to get the job done. Miracle of miracles – it worked. Runs like a charm. Who would have thought? (Probably someone who knows a lot more about cars than I do). 

With our fixed rig, we drove through Couer de Alene, Idaho, which is amazingly beautiful, and stayed for a few days just outside of the city. Couer de Alene is also very close to Spokane, Washington. We crossed over into Spokane where we found a great free campsite to stay in nestled in the trees.

2015-08-16 08.53.53

We had a nice quiet week and got a lot of work done. Then we were driven out by the fires. As you may be aware, Washington State and the Northwest in general have been plagued by fires this year. Neither Kelly nor I have ever experienced anything like it – this amount of smoke in the atmosphere. We had multiple days with eerie hazy yellow light. It felt like the apocalypse. On Friday morning, we woke up to even thicker smoke. It was penetrating. It stung the eyes and made it difficult to breathe. At that point we had enough. We figured we must be too close to one of the many fires in the area. Sure enough, as we were leaving the campsite, a forest fire truck rolled by to scope things out. We looked on the map and saw the nearest fire was about 15 miles west of us. We must have been downwind. Too close for comfort!

The haze was tragically very difficult to catch on camera. This does not do it justice, but at least you can get a sense of the weird lighting. This is in the middle of the day, no filter. 

2015-08-21 17.09.34

Outside of Spokane.

After Spokane we arrived to Seattle where luckily the smoke cleared! More on that to come 🙂 

fuel filter repairfuel filter symptomsidaholibby montanasandpoint idahospokanespokane campingwashington fires

Anna Edgren • September 13, 2015

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  1. rivke reid September 16, 2015 - 7:43 pm Reply

    yep a piece of rust busted loose getting caught by your fuel filter can stop it. without the filter that same piece of rust could do far more damage.

    congrats on working it out and learning more!

    • Kelly Reid September 16, 2015 - 7:50 pm Reply

      we did our best. it was fun getting covered in gasoline and rust. but i’m really glad that it was a $10 part and $20 worth of seaform to fix, not “new engine time”. we learned!

      having fun on the app trail??

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