The good RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM) embarked on its third official cruise on October 21st. Unlike the unofficial emergency evacuation adventure, Monte’s Bug Out Buggy to the Rescue, this two-day expedition was thoroughly planned and prepared well in advance. The crew was ready to check out ECDM’s heating system and experiment with some new RV-friendly menu items. (Did someone say “Boeuf Bourguignon”?)
With the exception of Mr. Monte, who displayed some displeasure in leaving his familiar surroundings, the crew was in fine form and good humor – it was time to disconnect from current events and the agitation of this world.
Uncharacteristically, ECDM was a bit hard to start. At one point, there was a three or four word message on the dashboard, but it vanished before yours truly could catch the words or meaning of the phrase.
With engine running smoothly, all crew members safely secured, and GPS showing the way, ECDM began the trek toward the main highway. We were on our way!
Unexpectedly, there it was, quietly, alarmingly, disturbingly, confusingly telling us that something was wrong – the dreaded “CHECK ENGINE” icon. No, it didn’t say what was wrong. No, it didn’t say whether it was serious. No, it merely laid out an omen of terror on our day, on our safety, perhaps even on our lives.
How should one interpret this masterpiece of information, misinformation, disinformation, designed solely to destroy one’s inner tranquility? Of course, the “experts” are in diametric disagreement.
If the check engine light comes on: Look for a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Check your dashboard gauges and lights for indications of low oil pressure or overheating. These conditions mean you should pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can find a safe place to do so. (See full text here.)
Regardless, you’re safe to drive for now as long as the car isn’t performing strangely. Just have the Check Engine Light checked and the problem repaired. (See full text here.)
There you go, “imminent doom” or “no biggie”, the choice was mine to make. Beautiful, trusting spouse asked quietly, “Is this a problem, Sweetie?” I, with a great big, hardening ball of concern in my gut said, “No biggie, dear.”
ECDM made the steep climb through Shenandoah National Park up to Skyline Drive without a whimper, a sputter, or a gasp. Despite the weight of our heavily loaded coach, she made the climb seem like child’s play. That big ball of concern in my gut began to loosen. But, the “CHECK ENGINE” icon continued to glow threateningly.
With the steep ridge behind us now, we made our way to the RV camp thoroughly enjoying the glorious, albeit windy, Autumn day. Our assigned site was, however, somewhat disappointing. Very short and uneven, we found it difficult to level out ECDM. We had a distinct lean to the left that would cause water in the shower to flow away from the drain and attempt to flow over the side. I decided that first thing next morning I would correct that problem.
The RV camp was almost completely filled. There were virtually no empty sites. Dogs were barking, RVs were pulling in and parking, others were leaving, and the farmer next to the camp was target shooting. Each and every sound alarmed and frightened poor Mr. Monte. It took him a full six hours to come out from hiding.
Dear, wondrous, and capable wife made a simple but excellent supper consisting of soup and grilled cheese on ciabatta bread. She was saving the more challenging Boeuf Bourguignon for the second day of our trip. Later, with popcorn and tissues at the ready, lovely, sentimental spouse and I watched the timeless chick flick Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Mr. Monte, setting aside his normal macho, alpha male, Main Coon demeanor, watched with riveted attention.
Meanwhile, that little ball of concern in my gut began to grow slightly and tighten. I knew in the morning I would have to start the engine in order to re-level ECDM.
Mr. Monte, perhaps attempting to cover up his indiscreet show of emotion during the chick flick, ensured that a minimal amount of sleep was had by all. Dear wife, had the Monte watch duty from midnight to 4:00 AM. Outside, the temperature plummeted to a chilly 28 degrees, but the RV heater, much to Mr. Monte’s displeasure, came on, somewhat noisily, several times throughout the night.
Morning came, fresh coffee was brewed, breakfast was eaten, and showers were taken. It was now time for re-leveling. We unhooked, water, sewer, and electric. Wife took station in front of ECDM to guide me off and back onto leveling blocks. Mr. Monte quietly watched me as I made my way to the driver’s seat, placed my foot on the brake, and inserted the key and watched lights appear.
Another twist of the key. Another nothing!
Another twist of the key – sputter, gasp, whimper, wheeze, vibration. Engine started, but engine sick. The evil “CHECK ENGINE” icon appeared and laughed at me – “See! I told you so!”
Then the most ominous phrase appeared on the dash, “ENGINE POWER IS REDUCED”.
Drat! Double Drat!! Triple Drat!!! – – Formerly trusting, now confused wife looked at me, the guy who said “No biggie, dear.”
“Serendipity, we have a problem!”
Mr. Monte looked at me from inside his carrier and said, “Well, Fuzz Face, what are you going to do now? You’ve brought us to this forsaken refuge of dogs and cows and now we are stranded – perhaps forever.” (That cat has no mercy when it comes to me.)
I turned off the engine, then restarted it – same result. I turned off the engine again, then restarted it – same result. I turned off the engine and waited. Wife looked at me questioningly, but with love. Mr. Monte looked at me accusingly and without love.
The great big, hardening ball of concern in my gut had grown to planetoid proportions. Would I have to call for a repair service or towing and all the problems and expenses that go along with that?
One more twist of the key – the big engine inside ECDM started. It purred, it hummed, it idled gently – it was alive again! Everything was perfect except the “CHECK ENGINE” icon was still there.
Instantly, wife and I conferred while the engine continued idling. We packed up the sewer hose, the power cable, the water hose, and secured all doors and hatches. We made sure all things were fastened down inside and we drove out to the RV camp office. Amazingly and unexpectedly, the very cordial attendant gave us a full refund for our second day.
Then we were on our way back to SFH, or were we? There was still the steep, curving, treacherous road over the ridge between us and home. Should we dare make that drive? The “CHECK ENGINE” icon was still there. The great big, hardening ball of concern in my gut continued to grow and tighten.
ECDM made the steep climb through Shenandoah National Park up to Skyline Drive without a whimper, a sputter, or a gasp. Despite the weight of our heavily loaded coach, she made the climb seem like child’s play. That big ball of concern in my gut began to loosen.
We made it home safely!
We immediately called our local garage, and John said he thinks he knows what the problem is. Tomorrow or the next day, El Camino Del Monte will go in to be serviced. At the same time, it will be winterized then stored in our yard to await next year’s RV season.
El Camino Del Monte has made three shakedown cruises and one emergency evacuation trip this year. There was a story to be told every time. A wife, a husband, and a cantankerous Maine Coon cat living a strangely wonderful life together. This story is just one small part of the serendipity at our little farmhouse. We prayed, we prepared, and in this story we have preserved the memories.
Pray, Prepare, Preserve!